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Mage Sorcerer

Paradigms Unleashed
High Magic meets Hedge Magic
by Jonathan Lang

Warning: this document is a work in progress.

This document attempts to open up new possibilities for both Awakened magi and their hedge brethren. In so doing, it erodes away some of what separates them.

It is written in a modular fashion; each of the major sections is designed to be usable on its own, so you can feel free to ignore just about any part of it without any nasty side effects. However, the sum is very definitely more than the parts; not only is each section written to be able to stand on its own, it's also written to be able to merge with the other sections to provide capabilities that neither section can manage on its own.

Notice: The guidelines provided here are not for most troupes; they demand adaptability on everyone's part that not even the traditional spheres do.


Philosophy: Categorizing Willworkers
the Path of Thorns: Creating a magical style
the Theory
the Practice
the Naturals: Commonplace Magic
Borderline magic
the Specialists: Alternate Paths and Rituals for hedge mages
Combining Paths
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Hedge Science
The Paths of the Night-Folk
the Generalists: Alternate Spheres for Magi
Non-Traditional Spheres
Discarding Foci
Incomplete Sphere Systems
Magics Great and Small: Bringing it all together
Magi are people, too: Sphere magi as hunters
Trading Spheres for Paths and Rotes
Paradox and Hedge Magic

Categorizing Willworkers

Throughout this article, I will be talking about hedge mages, magi, and willworkers. For the purposes of this article, I'm defining 'willworker' as any mortal who is capable of working magic, 'magus' (plural: magi) as any willworker who has an Awakened Avatar, and 'hedge mage' as any other willworker.

The fundamental difference between an Awakened magus and a hedge mage is that the magus has an Awakened Avatar; this is reflected in game terms by giving her a positive Arete rating. Arete acts as a cap on Spheres (so someone without Arete cannot learn Spheres) and makes the magus vulnerable to the scourge of Paradox and the power of Faith, whereas her unAwakened hedge mage friend has no such concerns. The only other trait exclusive to the magus is the Avatar Background; if your Avatar isn't Awakened, it doesn't matter how powerful it is - it can't do anything.

the Naturals
Commonplace Magic

Just as there are two types of Dynamic Magic (coincidental and vulgar), there are two types of Static Magic: commonplace and fantastic. Fantastic magic is the Path-and-Ritual system is presented in World of Darkness: Sorcerer, and is somewhat akin to vulgar magic in that it operates on the fringe of what mass consensus considers believable, making use of the mythic threads that many magi are attempting to preserve. Likewise, Commonplace Magic is similar to Coincidental Magic in that it conforms to the core of what mass consensus deems acceptable. It is so much a part of daily life that its practitioners can forego the study of Paths and Rituals entirely - simply make the appropriate Ability roll and perform the necessary actions and the effect has been produced; but it is restricted to commonplace occurrences.

Some readers will notice that the game mechanics of Commonplace Magic are identical to standard use of Abilities; this is because they are standard use of Abilities. Since the vast majority of commonplace magic in modern times is technomantic in nature, it is generally referred to as technology; but there could be other worlds or Realms where the consensus favors everyday use of alchemy and high ritual magic; such a setting would be much like the High Mythic Age, except that many of the Rituals could be reliably performed by virtually anyone with Metaphysics Abilities, and many relics would be as common as modern-day flashlights and cars. Just take one or more Paths or Rituals and declare them as Commonplace, removing the need for anyone to purchase them as Numina in order to perform them.

Borderline magic

There are times when a style of magic exists in a limbo between Fantastic and Commonplace; an example is Hearth Magic during the Renaissance (Mage: the Sorcerer's Crusade, page 267, "Commonfolk Magics"). In order to practice it reliably, one must study the Paths and Rituals as per fantastic magic; but even unpracticed Sleepers can use it on occasion - whenever the Storyteller deems it appropriate, it can be treated as commonplace magic.

the Specialists
Alternate Paths and Rituals for hedge mages

World of Darkness: Sorcerer recommends that you should avoid abilities that rival Effects requiring four or more dots in a sphere in power when you are creating a new path, since hedge magic should be weaker than sphere magic. This seems unnecessary, as hedge mages already need to deal with the fact that they can't improvise Effects the way that magi can; Storytellers should feel free to ignore this restriction.

A hedge mage has no Arete; as such, he is incapable of learning spheres. But he can create new paths that mimic aspects of the spheres, though in a very limited fashion. To define such a sphere-based path, choose a specialty of one sphere and select five effects of increasing potency that fall within that specialty; so one might define the Path of the Umbra as a specialty of Spirit, with the standard effects being Spirit Sight, the Spirit Kiss, Stepping Sideways, Breach the Gauntlet, and Deep Umbra Travel. Additional effects can be learned, but they follow the rules for Rituals; so the aforementioned hedge mage could also learn Gauntlet Prison, but since it is a Level 4 Effect, he would first have to attain four dots in the Path of the Umbra. Furthermore, these rotes will always require the use of magical tools ('foci' in Mage parlance), and their effects cannot be varied from their description.

The Storyteller decides an appropriate combination of Attribute and Ability that would be used to invoke an Effect; if the Effect requires an expenditure of Quintessence, the hedge mage will need some Tass on hand to empower the Effect. Optionally, the Storyteller can replace Quintessence expenditures with Willpower expenditures. Gathering and refining the Tass into a usable form is a level three Ritual of an appropriate path (most likely a specialization of the Prime sphere). Otherwise, use the normal rules for hedge magic as presented in World of Darkness: Sorcerer.

Combining Paths

If the Storyteller wishes, he may introduce Rituals that belong to several Paths at once; in order to learn such a Ritual, the hedge mage must meet all path requirements. Such Rituals tend to be rare, but are often quite powerful. It would not be inappropriate for the Storyteller to have such a cross-path Ritual count as two or more regular Rituals for purchasing purposes, generally no more than the number of paths involved.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
"Hedge Science"

Guide to the Technocracy mentions the possibility of "extraordinary citizens" (page 131, sidebar), un-Enlightened individuals who are capable of working with cutting-edge technology, and suggests using Paths to model their unique abilities. Unfortunately, the Paths have an underlying assumption of mystical origins which gets reflected in the Abilities required to use them (usually Occult). It is suggested that, for hedge science, the Abilities associated with the various Paths be changed: Chemistry (Science) for Alchemy, Research or Mathematics (Science) for Divination, Crafts or Technology for Enchantment, Paraphysics (Science) for Ephemera, Psychology for Fascination, Biology (Science) for Healing, Pharmacopoeia or Pharmacy for Herbalism/Brewing, and so on.

The Paths of the Night-Folk

Other sources of inspiration for creating new paths would be vampiric Disciplines, shapechanger Rites and Gifts, wraithly Arcanoi, and faerie Arts and Agendas. Each of these is, to a degree, dependent on the nature of the type of night-folk that they are associated with, but there are exceptions. The Risen, for instance, can learn a small selection of vampire-like Disciplines; these are actually specialized Arcanoi that mimic the effects of the associated Disciplines.

In a similar manner, a Storyteller might permit a hedge mage to create new Paths that mimic the powers of the night-folk; be warned that this would tend to reduce the uniqueness of the various night-folk. Vampiric thaumaturgy and shapeshifter Rites would be the easiest to translate, followed closely by faerie Arts and Agendas and then by other vampiric Disciplines. Next would come the rites of the shapeshifters. The wraithly Arcanoi would be among the most difficult to mimic, if only because it is so rare for a mortal to witness their use, and equivalents of shapeshifter gifts would have to be learned as rituals, or not at all. Fae Realms are probably better treated as the basis for a set of non-traditional Spheres.

If a given Discipline or Thaumaturgic Path calls for a Blood Point expenditure, its hedge magic counterpart would require an equivalent expenditure of Quintessence; likewise with shapechanger rites and gifts requiring Gnosis or Rage, Arcanoi that require Pathos or Angst, and Arts calling for Glamour (everyone has Banality, so willworkers simulating Agendas have no comparable problem). hedge mages will probably need Tass to supply this Quintessence, and the form of the Tass should relate in some way to the night-folk that the Path or Ritual originated with - a path that mimics a Discipline might require a vial of Kindred vitae to power it, while a Path mimicking a fae Art might require the destruction of a masterpiece. With the Storyteller's permission, the expenditure might be replaced by a Willpower expenditure instead.

the Generalists
Alternate Spheres for magi

No doubt about it; the nine traditional spheres are a very useful tool to the magus; in fact, they are so useful that when the Houses of Hermes invented them in the fifteenth century, even their sworn enemies, the Order of Reason, quickly adopted them. Over the next five centuries, the only significant changes made to them has been to one or two names; Connection has become Correspondence, and - for the Technocracy - Spirit has become Dimensional Science (Also, the Nephandi have mutated Entropy into Qlippothic Entropy - and they might very easily have done similar perversions to the other eight spheres).

But despite their wild success, the traditional spheres remain an artificial tool; most disparates never adopted them when they were first introduced, and even today many orphans and crafts don't use them.

Non-Traditional Spheres

When creating a magical style that uses nontraditional spheres, decide how many spheres are in the magus' style; there must be at least three, but there is no upper limit. Refer to the following table for further details:

Non-Traditional Spheres
Total Spheres 3456 789 or more
Starting Spheres 2234 456
Freebie Cost 21161311 987
Improving Specialty Sphere (× new level) 21161311 987
Improving Other Spheres (× new level) 24181412 1098
Gaining New Spheres 30231815 131110

There are no hard-and-fast rules for deciding what a non-traditional sphere can do. A few guidelines, however:

Discarding Foci

When do you start dicarding foci, and how quickly do you discard them? It depends: for renaissance magi and daedeleans, designate one third of them to be discarded for every level beyond six; if you're playing a pre-Reckoning modern mage, designate one ninth of your spheres as not needing foci for every point of Arete that you have beyond the first; for technomancers and post-Reckoning magi, designate one fifth of them for every level of Arete beyond five.

Incomplete Sphere Systems

When an orphan Awakens, there is almost never anyone around to teach her how to wield her magic; as such, she tends to invent her own magical style as she goes. Such hand-crafted styles tend to be riddled with holes and inconsistencies, making the orphan's training even more difficult. Also, a young craft may still be in the process of perfecting its magical style, and could easily have overlooked something, resulting in an incomplete set of spheres. When the oversight is discovered, a new sphere is researched and added to the set; this often makes it easier to learn the other spheres, as the magus now has a more complete contextual structure to work from.

In game terms, any time that a sphere is added to the list of available spheres, adjust the experience point costs of all spheres to match the new count. This is not retroactive; freebie and experience points that have already been spent are gone.

Magics Great and Small
Bringing it all together

According to the official line, it is impossible for a magus to learn hedge magic. This has apparently been done as a way of avoiding "hybrid" characters, in an attempt to preserve game balance; it has the side-effect of making magi and hedge mages feel like two completely different groups. Yet, in the Book of Crafts, we are shown that there are a number of mystical societies that make little to no distinction between a magus and a hedge mage. Also, no one, magus or hedge mage, seems to have any difficulty learning the Technocracy's equivalent of hedge magic, science and technology.

Magi are people, too
sphere magi as hunters

The existing character creation process propogates the impression that there is something fundamentally different between sphere magi and hedge magi. This is due to the fact that there are three distinct character creation processes for humans; one for sphere magi, one for special Sleepers, and one for mundane Sleepers. Furthermore, the Sleeper creation processes provide the person with fewer Attribute and Ability points than the Sphere magus process provides, reinforcing the impression that Sleepers are somehow inferior to the Awakened.

Presented here is a single character creation process for humans, be they mundanes, psychics, Faithful, hedge magi, sphere magi, or some combination of the above. It is optimized for above-average characters, who are a cut above the average man on the streets.

Primary: 7
Secondary: 5
Trinary: 3
Primary: 13
Secondary: 9
Trinary: 5
Backgrounds: 7
Special Abilities: 6
Willpower: 3
Arete: 0
Freebie Points: 21

Arete may only be raised if the person has a Willpower of at least 5; it costs 4 Freebie points for every dot of Arete.

Special Ability points can be used to purchase Numina and Merits on a one-for-one basis; that is, one Special Ability point will purchase one dot in any Numina, or will count as one Freebie Point when purchasing Merits. Spheres are considered to be Numina, but they are still limited by Arete.

To design that most elusive specimen, the mundane human, drop the attributes to 6/4/3, the abilities to 11/7/4, and the Special Abilities to 0. This is useful for low-powered chronicles involving common people and dabblers in magic.


With Storyteller permission, a magus may learn a Rote that he doesn't have the requisite Spheres for a cost of 4 freebie points per required sphere, provided that he has sufficient Arete. Alternately, if the magus has studied a Path of magic that matches a given Rote's concept, the Storyteller can allow the magus to learn the Rote as if it was a ritual of that Path. Rotes learned in this manner are effectively hedge magic rituals until the necessary Spheres have been learned, at which point they can be performed with an additional -1 to difficulty.

The reasoning behind the pricing scheme suggested above is to keep the cost of sphere magic Rotes in line with the cost of hedge magic rituals. Alternatively, you can vary both pricing schemes so that more powerful rotes and rituals cost more than less powerful ones. One such scheme would be to charge one freebie point for every sphere or path required by the rote or ritual, and one more freebie point for each level required in the sphere or path. So a Mind 3/Entropy 2 Rote would cost 7 Freebie points: 2 spheres + 3 levels in the first sphere + 2 levels in the second sphere.

At the Storyteller's discretion, magi can be given a pool of "Rote points" during character creation with which to purchase Rotes. Each dot in a sphere would provide two Rote Points that can only be spent on Rotes that require that Sphere, while each dot in Arete would provide two Rote points that can be spent on any Rote. Additional Rote points can be purchased for one freebie point each.


If the Storyteller permits, a magus can learn paths of hedge magic. During character creation, they are purchased with Freebie Points, costing 4 points per dot; during play, they are gained and improved exactly like Spheres, except that they are not limited by the magus' Arete. They are, however, still subject to Paradox or the Scourge; any use of a Path is treated as coincidental or casual magic.

If magi can learn Paths, then Paths are probably not forgotten when a magus Awakens, although some styles may be exceptions to this rule. Also, if the Storyteller rules that a given Path effect can be performed by the magus using the Spheres he knows, the magus can do so with an additional -1 to difficulty.

Trading Spheres for Paths and Rotes

With the Storyteller's permission, a magus might start with fewer than the allotted Starting Spheres, trading some of them in for Freebie Points to be applied toward Paths and Rotes.

Paradox and Hedge Magic

If the Storyteller wishes, he can treat hedge magic as if it were coincidental magic, regardless of who is performing it. In other words, a hedge magician would gain one point of Paradox per Botch rolled in place of the usual results of a botch.


Alistair Young <>


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Jonathan "Dataweaver" Lang <>