I wrote about Aethertide’s character notes before, but something rang false with them. The Ars Magica setup didn’t jive with “Dude, we’re playing Mage.” So, I ditched the “have dice in Create, Manipulate, etc.” I also decided to ditch the idea that Mages had a die in every Sphere. Given the fact that in Cortex+, you can be very competency at something you’re not skilled at by bringing in other factors — and thus, other dice — that felt off. Mages are powerful-but-limited; they can’t do everything.
So I revised it to this setup.
The World in 250 Words
Two years ago, what the surviving Technocrats call The Assault happened. Hundreds of simultaneous terrorist attacks hit every major Technocrat installation and Traditional Chantry. There was no trace of who hit. Even stranger, the Sleepers didn’t notice hundreds of buildings exploding worldwide at the same time. The Syndicate was entirely wiped out. There aren’t many Earth-side Void Engineers. Some of those Iteration X, New World Order and Progenitors that were in the field were spared, but without the networks & hierarchy they’re used to, they’ve become fractures and scattered.
At the exact same time, the Umbra closed shut. Those with a strong connection to Spirit (and some Enlightened Citizens with a strong understanding of Dimensional Science) immediately went comatose. Most are still in a coma. Everyone else felt their connection to their Avatars damper, like it’s constantly drowning. It’s hell to be a Mage. It’s even worse to be a Dreamspeaker. Those who emerged from the coma have gone Mad, a danger to everyone around them. No one has reported meeting a sane Dreamspeaker since The Assault.
Anyone on Earth at the time has been trapped here. No communication has happened between us at the outside. An Etherite named Oliver Michaels has a plan he calls Aethertide. He’s looking for anyone, Awakened or Enlightened, to help him breach the Umbra, before the world gets worse.
And it’s about to get a lot worse.
Making an Aethertide Mage
Aethertide Mages, either Tradition or Technocrat, are Mages that were on Earth and away from major gathering spots with The Assault happened. No one is a first-hand witness. Each was a powerful Mage/Enlightened Citizen before The Assault, and either wasn’t comatose or wasn’t for long.
- At some point, pick a name.
- Pick your Tradition or Convention.
- Unallowed: Syndicate. They’ve been 100% wiped out by the unknown assailants
- Unallowed: Dreamspeakers. They went batshit crazy when the Umbra closed off for good.
- A d6 is similar to having two dots in Arete, perhaps on the verge of three.
- Aethertide player characters effectively used to have d10 Avatar, before the massive attack and Umbra shutdown two years prior to game start.
- The rating on your Avatar doesn’t cause a cap on your Sphere in this system. Fictionally, it’s because of the above. Mechanically, it’s just smoother this way.
- This is also your Prime rating. I like rolling Prime into this.
- One will reflect your paradigm: A part of the world that you strongly believe in, an ethos that affects your magick/enlightenment. It’s the cornerstone of why you are a Mage. (This is where a little bit of Unknown Armies bleeds in.)
- One will reflect the human or mundane element of your life.
- The other two are flexible.
- Just like in Leverage, if one of these apply and help you in a roll, you’ll add a d8 to your pool. If one applies and you choose it to hinder you, add a d4 to the roll and gain a Plot Point. Only one per roll.
- Pick from the following eight: Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Spirit/Dimensional Science, Time.
- Note: Spirit/Dimensional Science will be much harder to do in this setting. To reflect that, any scene where you want to do a Spirit/Dimensional Science roll, you must spend a Plot Point. (You need only spend one per scene, no matter how many times you use that Sphere.)
- Everyone knows Prime, at their Avatar rating.
- Correspondence is also the Sphere of electronic information.
- There is no “special” Sphere for your Traditional/Convention. I like the idea of just making the character you want, without being forced into a specialty that doesn’t interest you as much. (This comes from playing an Etherite that was a Forces guy much more than Matter.)
- You probably had more Spheres than this before two years ago.
- The Attributes are taken from the high-level ones in Mage: Physical, Mental, Social.
- You can choose to be a “Generalist,” in which case you have d8, d8, d6 to assign to your three Attributes.
- You can choose to be a “Specialist,” in which case you have d10, d6, d6 to assign to your three Attributes.
- Design note: this worked out pretty well. I did this intentionally to remember how such things work, and to get away from Use-Whenever Stats. Really happy with the results. It’s fast & simple, but still informs character.
- Your get six Options: three Mundane and three Magick. You may take one more than once for a different effect. (In fact, you have to, since you have six slots and four choices.)
- Mundane Options:
- Relationship: Pick a PC or NPC and describe in a few words that relationship. Whenever that person is at stake or involved in a roll you’re making, roll in an additional d6. This die can step up over time, as the relationship changes.
- Talent: Pick something you’re particularly good at. Link it to an Attribute. Whenever you roll that Attribute and this Talent applies, roll in an additional d8.
- Magick Options:
- Focus: Describe an item you have. Link it to a Sphere. Whenever you roll that Sphere, and you’re using the Focus, roll in an additional d6.
- Your Focus can be taken multiple times for the same item, to effect different Spheres.
- Design note: This used to let you add up a third die for three. But that turned out to be both confusing and way too unbalanced.
- Rote: Describe an Effect that has become second-nature to you, linked to one or more Spheres. When you are doing that Effect, you may spend a Plot Point to reroll all your dice (except any 1s). Normally, you spend a Plot Point to reroll just one die.
- There are some Advancement Options as well, but I’m not sure I’m sold on them. I’ll leave them for later.
- Everyone has Injured.
- Pick four from: Afraid, Angry, Hacked, Insecure, Intoxicated, Exhausted, Paranoid, Shaken.
The Player Characters of Aethertide
There are three characters: a disillusioned New World Order spook, an Iteration X assault cyborg, and a Cult of Ecstasy kindergarten teacher.
Disillusioned New World Order spook
Name: James Michael Smith, Operator 27
Concept: Disgruntled ex-NWO spook
Convention: New World Order / Grey Man
- Everything is Made of Information (paradigm)
- Perennially Overlooked (mundane)
- Everything is Business
- Disturbingly Composed
- Mind d8
- Entropy (aka Chaos Mathematics) d6
- Correspondence d4
- Prime d6
- Physical d8
- Mental d8
- Social d6
- Talent: Stealth d8 — Physical
- Talent: Investigation d8 — Mental
- Relationship: Operator 16 (contact and former partner) d6
- Rote: Predictive Fighting — Mind/Correspondence
- Focus: Broad-spectrum brainwave scanner (mirrorshades) d6 — Mind
- Focus: Probability wave scanner (mirrorshades) d6 — Entropy
Stresses: Injured, Angry, Paranoid, Exhausted, Insecure
Notes: Played by Liev Schreiber
Iteration X assault cyborg
Name: 0000::07A6 (Atlas Six)
Concept: Full conversion It X Enlightened Shock Corps (former Hermetic, brainwashed)
Convention: Iteration X, node 0 (Autocthonia)
- Nothing is Irreducibly Complex (Paradigm)
- Metal Fish out of the Oil Sea (mundane)
- Primium Laced Exoskeleton
- My Name is Frank and I Used to be a Man
- Forces d8
- Correspondence d6
- Matter d4
- Prime d6
- Physical d10
- Mental d6
- Social d6
- Focus: integrated thermal lance d6 — Forces
- Focus: tactical scanner d6 — Correspondence
- Rote: Quintessence detector — Prime
- Talent: Olympic equivalent gymnast d8 — Physical
- Talent: Freakomathematics d8 — Mental
- Relationship: My daughter Alyssa d6
Stresses: Injured, Angry, Hacked d8, Exhausted, Paranoid
Notes: possesses holographic projector that gives a human appearance (for ease of game play)
Cult of Ecstasy kindergarten teacher
Name: Miss Abigail Jean Martin, a.k.a. Miss Abbey
Concept: Kindergarten Teacher
Tradition: Cultist of Ecstasy
- A Pot Of Gold For Every Rainbow (paradigm)
- The Girl Next Door (mundane)
- Plays Well With Others
- Time d8
- Life d6
- Matter d4
- Prime d6
- Physical d6
- Mental d6
- Social d10
- Talent: Subterfuge d8 — Social
- Talent: – Medicine d8 — Mental
- Relationship: Ashley (BFF from college/drug dealer) d6
- Focus: Time pieces (clocks, watches, sundials. Cannot be digital) d6 — Time
- Rote: Alter Conductivity (alter how well an object conducts electricity) — Matter
- Rote: Cleanse the Body (purge toxins) — Life
Stresses: Injured, Afraid, Angry, Exhausted, Shaken
Note: Birth name is Agnieszka Tetrashenko
Now that I’ve got the pieces written down, next time I’ll get into how it all works in play.