Will Be Done: A Mage-y Cortex Build
I've been thinking a lot about the Cortex Prime system lately. The Tales of Xadia RPG is coming out in just a few days at the time of writing. But more importantly, I'm working on a few different Cortex designs of my own. One that I started building recently is a game inspired by Mage: the Ascension that I'm currently calling Will Be Done.
In Will Be Done, the player characters possess reality-altering magic, but every spell they cast leaves a mark on their soul or the fabric of the universe itself. The PCs are a lodge, a group of mages who have banded together to pursue mutual interests and share resources.
In addition to distinctions, Will Be Done has two other prime trait sets: Essence and Roles.
Essence reflects the three metaphysical laws that shape reality. Some mages live in a rough balance of these facets, while others lean more toward one and less toward another.
- Dynamic: Dynamism is the cosmic force of creation, change, and progress. A Dyanamic action seeks to improve or advance a condition, opposes the status quo, and compels motion or passion.
- Entropic: Metaphysically, entropy causes things to degrade or diminish, reducing everything to base substances or concepts. An Entropic action topples structures, breaks bonds, or causes people to question their firmest beliefs.
- Static: Cosmic stasis is inertia, maintaining states and shoring up systems. A Static action supports others in body or mind, reinforces the rules, or draws on the strength and solidity of structures or convictions.
Each essence gets a trait statment that represents a belief or philosophy the mage holds related to it. Challenging these statments may shift the mage's Essence.
Roles cover the types of activities the mage is best (or worst) at. Mages tend to tackle obstacles in a few broad ways. Informally, some mages refer to these approaches as a kind of shorthand for each other's roles in a lodge.
- Bravo: Bravos attack problems with physical force.
- Envoy: Envoys finesse problems with social grace.
- Sage: Sages solve problems with knowledge and thought.
- Scout: Scouts overcome problems with wits and awareness.
Roles are the home for SFX, starting with one SFX unlocked on each of the two highest-rated Roles. Roles can have Specialties as well. These are freeform traits that reflect a narrow focus of the associated role and add an extra die to appropriate tests.
Magic is divided into eight Realms that cover any effect a mage may want to perform.
- Force, controlling intangible energies from heat to light to electricity
- Life, altering living creatures, from the lowliest microbe to the largest beasts
- Magic, plucking at the metaphysical energy woven into spells and effects
- Matter, shaping or transmuting unliving materials
- Mind, sensing and influencing the thoughts of sapient beings
- Space, peering across distances and bridging far-away places
- Spirit, touching the immaterial world and affecting the denizens there
- Time, witnessing and adjusting what was and what is to come
To perform magic, assemble a normal pool (Essence + Distinction + Role), but add any Realm(s) needed to produce the desired effect. If the effect needs more than one Realm, step down each Realm except the highest in the pool.
Resonance & The Warp Pool
Resonance is the metaphysical residue of the mage's own magic. It clings to them and colors how the world reacts to them for some time. Mechanically, resonance works like a complication, but is a different trait set, so the GM can use both resonance and complications in the same roll against you. Resonance only steps down naturally after a whole session spent without casting any magic.
The warp pool works like the doom pool mod, but it only applies to magic rolls. (Mundane tests use normal difficulties, determined by the GM.) The GM can spend dice out of the warp pool to do any of the tricks described for the doom pool. They can apply normal complications or give a mage appropriate resonances.
Hitches on magic rolls add to the warp pool. In addition, doing any magic that is visibly impossible in front of non-mages will add a die to the warp pool equal to the highest Realm in the roll.
Will Be Done uses the Session Records mod to advance characters. You can spend sessions to change your Essence ratings, but it's easier to challenge your trait statements and then change your Essence for free at the end of the session.
Here's an example archetype, the Elightened Hacker.