Aethertide: System Notes

You responded to my Aethertide “Audience Participation Ransom,” so it’s time I returned the favor. I’m riffing off of Dave Chalker’s Mage the Ascension/Leverage hack, with a heavy dose of Ars Magica. I’ll post some initial thoughts about making & playing a Mage here, in the spirit of Half-Done.

Making a Mage

Major Parts of a Mage


These work like in Leverage, and are similar to Aspects in Fate. They’re short phrases that could either aid you or get in the way. You have three of these. One of these is your Tradition or Paradigm — how you view the world and magick.


These are about how you use magick in the world. (These are right from Ars Magica. Check out the Wikipedia page if you need more info.)

  • Create
  • Understand
  • Change
  • Destroy
  • Control


These are things you apply magick to.

  • Forces
  • Matter
  • Time
  • Correspondence
  • Mind
  • Life

(Spirit, Entropy & Prime are missing from here, similar to in Dave’s hack. Here, they end up fitting in as Techniques — Create is Prime, Spirit is Understand, Entrooy is between Destroy & Change.)

Foci, Rotes, etc

These work like Resources in Smallville. They start at 2d6 helping dice and are rolled separately, then they ablate. They refill at the top of each session.

Mundane Skills

You can assign a mundane skill under any Technique or Sphere, which will allow you to roll that when doing a non-magickal action. For example, you might put “Medic” under your d10 Life Sphere — because your understanding of Life itself meshes with your real-world sense of medicine. (This is the sort of thing you do when you don’t want to deal with paradox in front of people.)

Packages for each Tradition

Each Tradition has a set of Earn & Spend for Plot Points, like Smallville Distinctions. At the time of this writing, I only made one. But feel free to add more in comments!

  • Son of Ether: Earn a Plot Point and add a d6 to Paradox when you’re etheric devices dangerously malfunction. Spend a Plot Point to create or produce a d8 etheric device (useful detail/asset) for the scene.

There’s a chance that I have too many pieces here.

Stating up a Mage

  • Pick a Tradition Package
  • Make up three distinctions, again with one being about your paradigm.
  • Assign a to Techniques: a d10, d8, d6, d4, d4 (akin to Roles in Leverage).
  • Assign to Spheres: a d10, d8, d6, d6, d6, d4.
  • Make up three Mundane Skills (which you could leave open and filled in during play).
  • Make up two foci/rotes.

Notes on Basic Actions

Now, I don’t have much here, because I keep waffling on how much of Leverage or Smallville to steal from. But I do know what the players roll:

Magickal Actions

Add up the following dice and take the two highest:

  • Distinction if you can make one apply. d8 if it helps, d4 if it hinders. Take a Plot Point if you go d4.
  • Technique. If more than one Technique applies, use the lowest. Magick is hard now, yo. (If it’s a d4, take a Plot Point. Max on Plot Point per roll for d4s though).
  • Sphere. Same as with Techniques.
  • Add any relevant Useful Details/Assets.
  • Add a Foci or Rote if you want helping dice. Those are rolled separately, with the highest of those dice added to your overall roll.

1s generate Paradox, which the GM can buy to add to the Paradox pool a la Smallville.

You’ll be rolling against either a stated up foe/trouble or against Paradox, like Smallville. Because I like that.

Non-Magickal Actions

Add up the following dice and take the two highest:

  • Distinction if you can make one apply. d8 if it helps, d4 if it hinders. Take a Plot Point if you go d4.
  • If you have a mundane skill that helps, d6 + that Technique or Sphere die. If you have two skills that help, those two Technique & Sphere dice. If you have no skills that help, 2d6.
  • Add any relevant Useful Details/Assets.

1s here generate complications that only last the scene. Non-Magickal Actions are safer.

The GM is either rolling a stated up foe/trouble, or 2d6 is this is a random thing. Maybe 2d8 if it’s a hard random thing.


Anyway, that’s what I have for now. Any suggestions for things to add? If I get more comments, I’ll keep rolling with Aethertide! Yay Audience Participation Ransoms! :)

– Ryan


2 Responses to Aethertide: System Notes

  1. Dave T. Game says:

    The only thing that I’d quibble with is the Tradition package. It’s definitely more emphasized by your setting, but I’ve found when running Mage and giving more freedom in paradigms and such that most players (even those that are big Mage fans) often reject the Traditions altogether in favor of more interesting paradigms, so it’s a mechanic that many might reject. At the same time, some limited options for Talents (which I turned to Rotes in my hack) are important as well. So you could still get that same kind of effect but I’d slice it a different way, if that makes sense.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Ah, yes! Marrying what I’m trying to do with Rotes & Distinctions, that works. I like the “Earn” element of Smallville’s Distinctions. Maybe I’d start with coming up with more than one such of each Tradition, and then seeing where I go from there. As you could probably guess, having the Distinctions, Techniques & Spheres was the part I felt solid on in the writeup, and the rest was fly by the seat of my pants.

      – Ryan