24 July, 2015

On Magic in FUBAR (Part 5)


One of the things I love about the latest incarnation of Mage (M20, the 20th anniversary edition) is a more clarified interpretation of paradigms. These are the thought patterns that underlie the beliefs of a Mage, they describe an interpretation of magic and a understanding of what it can and can't do.

This sort of thing is easy to accommodate within the existing rules of FUBAR, simply by applying this concept to relationships, and going back to an old idea I was toying with. This idea stated that relationships had a positive side and a negative side. For example, if you had a relationship defined as a friendship to someone, then attempts to heal them or assist them came with bonus successes equal to the relationship level while attempts to harm them or create obstacles against them came with penalties equal to the same level. Conversely, if you had a relationship defined as an enmity to that person, these situations would be reversed (it would be harder to bring yourself to heal and enemy, and easier to inflict penalties on them).

Relationships to paradigms make perfect sense in this context.

If a mage's mystic understanding says that certain things should be possible with magic(k), then they gain a bonus to achieve these tasks. If their mystic understanding states that such things are hard, then they gain a penalty on these actions. Relationships only play with the number of successes, not the number of sacrifices, otherwise they get too unwieldy.

Paradigms are vague concepts, best handled through a simple relationship (which is actually better than we have presented to us in the Mage rules). The important thing to remember is that a paradigm is a different way of looking at reality, and this can often get a Mage into trouble. I'd consider applying a series of points into a paradigm, every time the Mage accepts a mundane complication due to their unusual beliefs in the structure underlying reality, they get a point on their paradigm relationship. They may expend these points on magic(k)al effects when they try to manifest them. (The maximum pool might equal to Arete score, where Mages may transfer a single point at a time if they have a loose relationship to their paradigm, or two points at a time with a tight relationship). Even this might be getting too complicated for such a freeform system, but a lot of people have complained that Mage is simply too freeform, so a it more structure might be a good thing. More mechanical effects manifest when the paradigm links to reality through a magic(k)al practice.

A practice has closely associated focal instruments for the magic(k), a couple of allied spheres, a deficient sphere and an equal number of bonus and penalty effects (maybe 3 of each).

A Mage may closely adhere to the tenets of a single practice, typically acquired from their mentor, but they might deviate from that path. From a FUBAR perspective, we'd say that a  

Here's an example:

Superficial Alchemy:
A student of superficial alchemy is the traditional apothecary and herbalist who concocts potions, and transforms materials from one element to another. Those who study it long enough begin to understand how these alchemical effects transform not only base elements, but also living beings.  
Traits: Academics, Crafting, Investigation, Research, Science 
Foci: Lab, Obscure Chemicals, Textbooks, Designs, Devices
Allied Spheres: Matter, Forces and Life 
Deficient Sphere: Time
Bonus Effects: Manipulate Physical Properties, Poisons, Energy Enhancement
Penalty Effects: Spiritual Manipulation, Temporal Effects, Communication

   (This whole example is VERY subject to change)

Text in bold must be chosen by a Mage following this practice. A character might choose to blend two practices (thus having a loose relationship with both), or may focus on a single practice (and thus have a tight relationship with it). Characters with the loose relationship gain the emboldened traits, and a single bonus/penalty effect; those with the tight relationship gain access to all the traits and effects. I'm also thinking that this practice trait might be an integral part of characters, and that's why I've applied five traits to it.

Since FUBAR uses four core elements to define a character (what they do, who they associate with, what their reputation is, and what their edge is), we could easily substitute the edge for the character's magic(k)al practice.

Filtering this idea across the other four core elements, a character's general day job fills the first category (what they do), their tradtition/craft/convention/etc. fills the second (who they associate with), reputation still works as something to define a quirky aspect of the character's persona and what that brings to the story.

This gets me closer to what I hope to achieve with the Arete and spheres.

Since the whole FUBAR system was only really designed to tell one-shot stories of revenge and redemption, it never really had much of an experience system, but maybe that's one of the next things to address. Especially since one of the main themes (inherent in the title of the game) is Ascension, which implies improvement and advancement.
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