Monday, February 12, 2018

So Much New, All At Once

Greetings, magelings! Today's usual blog post is missing due to a whole lot of life happening all at once, and I apologize for that. I moved back to Los Angeles, started a new job, and my writing routine for the past few months is in chaos. I'm also going to be on a cruise next week, which means this place will look pretty sparse for the rest of the month.

But fear not! I expect to have a lot of writing time by the pool for 7 days, so I'll have blog posts galore when I return. Hang in there, mages, it's only for a few more weeks!

In the meantime, hit me up with your Mage questions in the comments below, and check out my previous posts for any Mage tidbits that you might have missed. Also, if you like what I do here and want to see me continue to feature more awesome Mage stuff on my blog, a small donation through my Ko-fi button on the right would make my day and help me afford a new keyboard for my desktop computer. The shift key has been sticking, making writing very interesting of late...

See you in a few weeks!

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Traditions Ascendant Chronicle, or "Hey, Let Me Tell You About My Game"

WORD OF WARNING TO MY PLAYERS: THERE BE SPOILERS HERE! If you're a player in my Traditions Ascendant Chronicle, close this page and go work on your character playlist or something!

I'm serious! Don't make me summon an army of Black Suits to scare you off!

Alright, you asked for it: IT'S BLACK SUIT TIME.

Roll Willpower, difficulty 10.

Good, now that my players have been scared off, here's a little peek behind the curtain of my Mage game, beyond the few hints I've offered in previous posts.

The Traditions Ascendant Chronicle is my take on the status quo of the current Mage setting, informed by the years of Mage games I've run for other groups. There have been some changes and updates to the history of Mage, mostly to reconcile my own Mage storyline with the official Mage metaplot, but a number of events are similar enough that anyone with even a passing knowledge of Mage's previous editions can jump right in. The Horizon War happened, the Avatar Storm happened, the Second Massasa War happened, the Rogue Council transmissions happened. The end of the world scenarios outlined in Ascension, however, have never come to pass. No calamity happened in 2012 that wasn't averted by the Traditions.

Major events in my Mage setting that might be a bit different from the Mage status quo: The Avatar Storm has dissipated, as have the transmissions from the Rogue Council. The latter is because the New Horizon Council has been around for the better part of a decade, formed shortly after the Los Angeles Convocation. At that convocation, the Traditions banded together and purged the Traditions of Nephandic influence, including the Nephandi who had impersonated Jeremy Case and led the Hollow Ones and various renegade mages on a campaign to destroy Horizon. Also different, the barriers between the living world and the realm of the dead almost vanished completely thanks to the efforts of the Orphic Circle, but their scheme was discovered and disrupted, and a sizable contingent of Spirit-savvy Traditionalists worked to restore that part of the Gauntlet and return the dead who had invaded when the barriers were at their thinnest.

Sorry, no zombie apocalypse today.

So, Traditions Ascendant is named because the Traditions are looking better now than they have in the past 15-20 years. They're reclaiming their old power, bit by bit, and adapting to a world that is not nearly as apathetic as some would think. Awakenings are on the rise, the Technocracy is in turmoil, and elections for the New Horizon Council seats are coming up soon. It's a good time to be a Traditionalist... at least, on the surface.

Unbeknownst to my players, not all is as it should be. The Technocracy is in the midst of great turmoil, divided between a Union that wants to protect humanity from supernatural evils and a sizable contingent that want to bring the world low under their brand of order. This is due to a great deal of Nephandic influence spreading through the Technocracy from the top down thanks to the Syndicate's Special Projects Division, and they're looking to reestablish their foothold in the Traditions. Add to that the reemergence of Voormas and the House of Helekar, the greatest threat that exists within the Traditions, and my players will soon have more to worry about than restless dead and newly rediscovered spirit paths.

The theme of this chronicle is "Preserve the past, save the future." This is at the core of most of my campaign's major conflicts at the moment. The players are recruited to help rediscover Wonders and protect nodes, all in service to protecting the Traditions and their power, or acquiring the tools and people necessary to survive and grow into the future. The mood in this chronicle is "Hope and wonder." The World of Darkness is a terrifying and dangerous place, but the Traditions bring hope to those who don't fit into neat little Technocratic boxes. The Traditions are given hope, as well, with each new mage who joins their ranks and every discovery that helps them to avoid making the mistakes that plagued them in the past. And through it all, from the hidden sites of nodes among their city to the newly rediscovered Horizon realms beyond their world, a sense of wonder and awe permeates each story in this chronicle.

I mean, there's a reason she's called Wonder Woman, right?

And that's the foundation of my Traditions Ascendant Chronicle. While I've hinted at my chronicle in previous posts as they relate to the game I'm running, future blog posts will tackle individual sessions and the subject matter that comes up within them. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the Traditions Ascendant Chronicle, pop them into the comments below and I'll tackle them in short order!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mage and the World of Darkness, or "Vampires and Werewolves and Wraiths, Oh My!"

Shared universes are becoming a big thing in movies these days (thanks, Marvel!) but they've been around for a long, long time. Comic books are the most prolific form of the shared universe, but this concept also extends to books, TV shows and, yes, even tabletop games. So, let's talk about Mage: The Ascension and its place in the shared universe known as the World of Darkness.

Established in its flagship game, Vampire: The Masquerade, back in good old 1991, the World of Darkness (hereby abbreviated as WoD) came to be known as the collective setting that united White Wolf's various supernatural-themed game lines. Flavored heavily as gothic-punk urban horror, the WoD is commonly described as being a dark mirror reflection of our own world, one where supernatural creatures lurk in the shadows, preying on humanity while warring with each other. The animosity between vampires and werewolves was established early on, with additional game lines contributing much more to the fabric of that setting. Put another way, Vampire established the cityscape, Werewolf: The Apocalypse explored the wilderness and spirit world, Mage added a lot more layers to the spirit world and fundamental underpinnings of reality, Wraith: The Oblivion expanded on the underworld, and Changeling: The Dreaming explored the fae connections. Other game lines filled in the details of certain specialized areas like historical eras, other creatures such as mummies and demons, and the few humans who worked with or against these creatures.

So, how does the World of Darkness figure into a Mage game?

That's entirely up to you, really. There's nothing that says that you have to include vampires, werewolves, or anything beyond the spiritual denizens and realms described in the core rulebook. For that matter, the vampires you use in your game don't have to line up with those featured in Vampire, nor do your werewolves, fae, ghosts or any other supernatural type that has its own gameline.

Conversely, you can pick and choose how much of the WoD beyond Mage is applicable to your game. Maybe vampires as presented in Vampire don't fit your game, but you like the idea of Wraith's Shadowlands denizens and Changeling's Dreaming realms. Maybe you don't want to use Werewolf's Garou Tribes, but you want to pepper your game with the other Changing Breeds. Maybe the vampire interactions in your game begin and end with the Tremere, fallen Hermetic House that they are, or maybe none of that happened in your Mage. The possibilities to mix and match are endless!

Or maybe your Mage game just has mages. That's cool, too!

These days, I keep things firmly focused on Mage in my own campaigns, only lightly touching on the other supernatural types populating the World of Darkness. Thanks to integrating Critical Role's Vampire one-shot into my setting, my players have briefly encountered vampires due to the Geek & Sundry tragedy, and they're aware that other supernatural creatures are out there as well. My Chakravanti player has crossed over to the Shadowlands with his mentor and interacted with the wraiths who populate that realm, but wouldn't know a Deathlord from Steve, and I intend to keep it that way. Clans and Tribes and such have not been mentioned, and likely won't be, to avoid cluttering my game with non-Mage lore that has no real bearing on my players or the story we're telling.

Additionally, the flavor of my World of Darkness has evolved beyond the "gothic-punk" of White Wolf's heyday. It borrows far more from urban fantasy than anything else, with more psychological types of horror and a touch of cinematic flair. Mage in my World of Darkness is filled with wondrous things, sometimes frightening, sometimes awe-inspiring, and always crawling beneath the surface of the mundane. Spirits are everywhere, if you know where to look, and mages can venture into realms beyond imagining where they can interact with thought given form. My Mage is one of infinite possibility, but also infinite danger, and a careless misstep could spell disaster for even the most skilled master.

And sometimes, I throw something really creepy at my players...

When it comes down to it, your World of Darkness might not look anything like mine. It might be more of a futuristic dystopia, or a medieval wonderland, or might omit the "darkness" part altogether. Mage can be whatever you want it to be. The only question you have to ask yourself is, how does the World of Darkness figure into YOUR Mage game?

I'm primarily a Mage Storyteller, but I've run Vampire, Changeling, Hunter: The Reckoning, and Dark Ages: Vampire, and played in all of the others except for Demon: The Fallen. If you've got questions on how to integrate them - or any other World of Darkness game - into your Mage game, drop them into the comments below and I'll tackle them as soon as I can!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Player Departures, or "Teach Them How to Say Goodbye"

Breaking up is hard to do. It does happen, sometimes, that a player has to leave a particular game/group for any number of reasons. Maybe their work schedule changed. Maybe they're moving away. Maybe a conflict came up with another activity. Maybe they're not a good fit for the game or the group. Maybe two players were dating and now they're not seeing each other. Maybe someone just ghosts and gives no indication on why they left or if they're coming back.

Jon Snow: Pro at saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye.

Player departures in a game already in progress can be awkward even in the best of circumstances. Here's a few tips on how to smooth things over based on my own experience running games:

Don't Pry If They Don't Want to Give a Reason
If a player leaves, but they don't want to get into the specifics of why, it's not your job to pester them until they tell you. Sometimes reasons are personal and have nothing to do with the game, and badgering the exiting player isn't going to get them to open up or feel better. On the contrary, it can quickly make for a terrible situation for the player. If they want to tell you, they will. Just be understanding and empathetic, and don't try to guilt trip them into staying. It'll be better for all involved.

Let Them Decide If or What They Want to Tell the Group
Some players have no trouble announcing their departure, while others don't want to make a scene. Either situation is just fine, but it should be the player's choice how they want to tell the rest of the group. Don't try to steal their thunder if they want to make the announcement themselves, and don't force them to say goodbye if they don't want to. Give them the option to do so, absolutely, and offer to say something to the group after the player departs if that would make things easier for them.

Don't Do Anything With Their Character Without Their Approval
GMs: Just because the player is leaving, doesn't mean you suddenly get an NPC to do with as you please. Talk it over with the player and try to find an agreeable fate for the character together. Maybe they want to have the character go off and learn or find something, to leave the door open for a return. Maybe they're okay with having the character NPC'd to avoid depriving the group of a valuable party member. Maybe they want the character's story resolved with finality, to close the door on that aspect of the chronicle. Whatever the character's future (or lack thereof), it should be the player's call, not yours.

Don't Give In to Pressure
Players: Your group may try to get you to give up your valuable gear, or the GM may ask for your character sheet to run your character in your absence. Don't feel obligated to give in to their demands if you don't want to. If you worked hard to get that legendary artifact, don't just give it up because another player wants to keep it in the game. Likewise, if you're not comfortable letting someone else play your character, you're under no requirement to hand them over. Your character is yours, and you get to decide what that means to you, not someone else. You do you, boo.

Saying goodbye is never fun, but the tips above should at least help make that departure a little less awkward for all involved. Got any questions about how to gracefully exit a gaming group? Ask them below and I'll get to them as soon as possible!

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Players in an Ongoing Game, or "The More, The Merrier, Right?"

Let's set the stage. Your game has been booking along for a few months now. Your players have developed a rapport with each other, in and out of character, and they've finally started working together as a group and not just a bunch of individuals in the same scenario. You're more or less conversant in the rules, you've hit your stride, and things are running smoothly. Then someone says, "Hey, I've always wanted to play Mage, can I join in?" And then someone else chimes in, "Oh, you're adding players to your group? I have a friend that'd like to join, too." And suddenly your gaming group gets upgraded with additional members!

There are a few concerns to address when adding new players to a game already in progress. Here are a few I've encountered over the years, and how I've addressed them in my own gaming groups.

That's not how you make a new player feel welcome, Mike.

First off, make sure your new players are a good fit for your game/group. Since my current group of players are all over the LGBT+ rainbow and play characters who are of a similar mindset, any new players to my game should at least be tolerant of those views. The last thing I want to do is bring in someone who will butt heads with the rest of the players on a personal level. Despite the World of Darkness setting that we play in, my games are a space where my players can be free to express themselves in ways they can't outside of the game. Drama should stay between characters, not the players. (It also helps if they can commit to the established game time.)

Next, work with new players to fit them into your game as smoothly as possible. If a new player to my game wants to play a Progenitor in my Traditions chronicle, I'd suggest alternatives to help them fit into the game better. Maybe that player is simply drawn to the Life Sphere and making new life forms, in which case a Verbenae character would fit well with the other players. If it's the tech aspect they're going for, maybe the Society of Ether or Virtual Adepts would appeal to them. It also helps to boost that character with XP close to, if not exactly at, the level that the rest of the characters are at.

Finally, make sure the original players have valid in-game reason to bring the new player into the fold. Sure, you and your group can hand-wave any suspicions or mistrust to immediately accept a new character into their cabal, but for story cohesion, it's much better to give them valid motivation to accept them. In my game, the players' cabal and their mentors visited a new chantry and were greeted at the door by my new player's character. While the mentors talked with the chantry leader in private, the new character gave the others a tour of the chantry (with informational assistance from me). Since this was a new location to all of my players, they were already on equal footing and were able to experience something new together right off the bat. At the same time, they were given ample opportunity to learn about each other and bond that a random encounter might not provide.

At the end of the day, adding a new player and making them feel welcome requires little more than clear communication and maybe a little extra planning than usual. To that end, check in with your new players after the game to see if they have any questions or concerns, and be open to adjusting the way things have always been in your game to accomodate feedback. The ultimate goal, after all, is to have fun with your friends. As they say, the more, the merrier!

Do you have any specific questions about working new players and their characters into an ongoing game? Drop them in the comments below, and I'll answer them as soon as possible!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Building A Marauder, or "The Secret Origin of the Game Master!"

Quick, if you haven't read last week's blog post, read it here before continuing on!

While designing the Marauder known as the Game Master for my chronicle's tribute to Critical Role's Thursday By Night one-shot, I was very conscious of walking a fine line between being entertaining and being aware of how I was treating mental illness. I didn't want this NPC to be a cartoon character, but I also didn't want him to drown my game in pathos. To my players, our few hours of Mage each week are an escape from whatever fire (metaphorical or literal) is currently raging in the world, and I try to evoke an emotional connection without getting too real.

Bringing a tragic example of mental illness into a game as an antagonist was going to be tricky but not impossible, as long as I could continue to strike that balance.

When creating a Marauder NPC, one of the most important things to keep in mind is what type of mental disorder(s) affects this character, as that will shape the landscape of his madness. Don't just settle on a bad Joker knock-off. Mentally ill doesn't automatically mean psychotic. Take the time to look up various mental disorders to find one or more that fit the type of character you're trying to build. Aside from the list already presented in the Mage corebook on pages 649-650, there are many online resources you can use, starting with Wikipedia.

For this Marauder, I chose a mix of fugue and megalomania from the list in the corebook, not necessarily in equal parts. This fit the origin I had in mind for this character - a die-hard Critical Role fan who had just Awakened to his power. Upon learning that the cast of his favorite show were apparently killed in an explosion on set, a mage who was already having issues coming to grips with his new reality suffered a mental breakdown and emerged on the other side of it with a new, if twisted, sense of purpose. Within the throes of a magickal disassociation from reality known to mages as Quiet, he retreated into the game world of his favorite show, seeing the world around him as the land of Exandria. Dubbing himself the Game Master, his first act was to wander Exandria and find the last known location of Vox Machina, which is how my players first came into contact with him.

Marauders are generally agents of chaos, and they have a number of ways that they go about screwing with mages and reality in general. One of them is a localized "sanity sink" in which the Marauder's view of reality overrides "normality" in an area, dragging Sleepers (and sometimes other mages) into the chaos mage's Quiet. In this instance, the game setting of Critical Role known as Exandria existed in an ever-expanding radius around the Game Master, and the poor hapless Sleepers caught in the path of his madness became part of the fantasy world that was at the heart of his Quiet. My players ran into children who had become goblins, police who were now city guard, and streets which now ran alongside castles and taverns.

Another tool Marauders use to sow chaos is called zooterrorism, the practice of dropping a mythical creature into a mundane setting and watching as mayhem ensues. As the self-styled Game Master, my chaos mage's response to the player characters approaching him was to present them a challenge in the form of something that the players of Critical Role might have to face... such as summoning a white dragon in the middle of the city to distract them while he tried to find Vox Machina's base of operations (AKA the LDN studios). As it happens, stats for all kinds of mythical creatures, including dragons, can be found in the Bygone Bestiary sourcebook.

Close enough to make me want to pee my pants!

Finally, as chaos mages, Marauders are able to pull off feats of magick that are otherwise beyond their capability. Officially, this is called Wild Talent, but you can call it Plot Device, Storyteller Fiat, or Rule Bending since that's exactly what it does. Since the Game Master believed he was traveling the high fantasy land of Exandria, his powers manifested accordingly, which is to say they were all very flashy and highly vulgar. Upon reaching the bombed-out remains of the LDN studios, he tried to bring Vox Machina (or at least, the cast of Critical Role) back to life with a Resurrection spell by praying to his deity (AKA his Avatar) to give them a second chance. The results, as befitting any act of Wild Talent, were not quite what he expected as Matt and Marisha were revived as their recently vampirised selves. Oops!

Altogether, this makes the Game Master a very dangerous and unstable antagonist, one which my players survived after nearly giving themselves over to his Quiet toward the end of the encounter. They reported back to their mentors, informing them of his last known location and direction of travel, hoping that others might be able to save this poor young mage before he's truly lost.

Want to bring the Game Master to your own World of Darkness game? I've provided his stat block below. Please note that these are stats befitting a relatively new Marauder for a "low level" chronicle, and you should feel free to change up his stats to fit your own game. Need to feature a more experienced Game Master whose Quiet has fully consumed him? Bump his listed stats up by 2 ranks and let him drop a piece of Exandria into a populated area to see who heeds the call to adventure. Let me know if and how you use him, and if you have any questions about Marauders in general or the Game Master in particular, post them in the comments section below and I'll address them lickety split!

Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3, Charisma 1, Manipulation 3, Appearance 2, Perception 3, Intelligence 4, Wits 3
Abilities: Academics 2, Alertness 2, Art 2, Athletics 1, Awareness 2, Computer 2, Cosmology 1, Crafts 1, Enigmas 3, Etiquette 1, Expression 3, Intimidation 2, Melee 1, Stealth 3
Willpower: 5
Health Levels: OK, -1, -1, -2, -2, -5, Incapacitated
Armor Rating: 0 (three soak dice, total)
Arete: 3
Spheres: Entropy 3, Forces 2, Life 2, Mind 2, Prime 1
Equipment: Crown Royal bag filled with assorted dice, TTRPG rulebook, mechanical pencil
Image: See below.
Roleplaying Notes: Matthew Mercer set a high bar for your ideals, and you're determined to live up to the legacy he and Vox Machina left behind. Mind helps you find "adventurers" best suited to your style of "play," and Entropy is useful for random encounters along the way. Life helps you survive those encounters, while Forces provides a powerful weapon to fell your foes. Prime provides the building blocks to create what you need for a given encounter. Remember, you are the Game Master, and your word is law.
Focus: All the world's a game, it all depends on how you play.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Marauders As Antagonists, or "This Is All Critical Role's Fault"

If you'd asked me a month ago if I've ever used Marauders in my game, I would have said, "No." I primarily run Tradition games, so I make gratuitous use of the Technocracy as antagonists and Nephandi as villains. Hell, thanks to the Mage Revised era of the setting, I would frequently use the Traditions themselves against my players as antagonists, to highlight how flawed and messed up the Traditions can be.

But now if you ask me if I've ever used Marauders, I'd say, "Yes. Yes, I have, and it's all Critical Role's fault."

Maybe I should give some backstory on that, and what Marauders are in the world of Mage: The Ascension.

To quote the Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition core rulebook, Marauders are "Metaphysical schizophrenics whose impressions of reality are so disconnected from the Consensus that they effectively exist in their own reality wells." But what does that mean? In simpler terms, they're mages with strong mental illness. When you can reshape reality with the power of your will, a disconnect from the reality that everyone else can observe - where up is down, the sky is blue, and the laws of physics rule - is a very dangerous thing. Putting that power in the hands of someone who sees reality differently than others, whose mind works very differently from those deemed "normal" around them, can warp reality into something unrecognizable, and that's something that both the Traditions and Technocracy do not want.

Mental illness is a touchy subject, and it's part of the reason why I've never used Marauders in my game before. Personally, I've struggled with mental illness in the past, and some of my friends and loved ones are dealing with their own illness as I write this. In some media, the presence of mental illness in a character automatically classifies them as a villain (see just about every Batman villain ever), and while I do lean on some archetypes in my game more than others, I tend to avoid using mental illness in such a way. Marauders just seemed like something I'd never tackle in my games.

And then Critical Role came into my life.

For those unfamiliar with Critical Role, it's an online show that streams on Geek & Sundry's Twitch and Alpha channels every Thursday night at 7PM Pacific. In its 3-4 hours, a bunch of nerdy voice actors get together, roll dice and play D&D in a campaign that started off-screen years before they decided to add cameras and mics to the mix. They're a group of amazing players who use their platform to show how much fun TTRPGs can be, but also to support a number of charities and causes. Most recently as of this writing, Matthew Mercer, the group's GM, joined a stream on Patrick Rothfuss' Twitch channel to talk about mental illness and how he deals with it in his life.

What does all this have to do with Mage? Well, their campaign ended recently and, in the space between making new characters for a new campaign to begin on January 11th, Critical Role has been featuring one-shots of other game systems, with each player running a different sort of game. Taliesin Jaffe was the first to step up to the plate, and he ran a two-part Vampire: The Masquerade adventure where the players themselves were turned into vampires and unleashed on the World of Darkness version of the Geek & Sundry studios (AKA the Legendary Digital Network studios). By the end of their adventure, the LDN studios had exploded and a number of names that G&S diehards would recognize were revealed to be some flavor of supernatural entity.

It was a weird, wild, sometimes silly but often thrilling romp through the World of Darkness played out to an audience of tens of thousands of viewers, something that I'd dare say is a first for my favorite game setting. It was so much fun, in fact, that I incorporated their one-shot into my own game:

Yeah, Taliesin RT'd me, so I guess you could say I've arrived.

Throwing their game into the background of my own chronicle was one thing. Setting up a true homage that played off those events from a Mage perspective was another, and it was something I wanted to tackle after wrapping up a long story arc with my players. I didn't want to get into the nitty gritty of vampire clans and such, but I did want to pay tribute to Critical Role and their Thursday By Night adventure in some way.

Then it hit me. What if a newly Awakened Mage was also a diehard fan of Critical Role? What if the demise of the G&S studios and the apparent death of the Critical Role cast drove that new mage mad with sorrow? What if that Marauder-in-the-making decided he was going to carry on their work and bring the world of TTRPGs to life, quite literally, by reshaping reality itself?

I finally had a Marauder concept worth creating: the Game Master!

(Continued here!)

Monday, January 1, 2018


Happy new year, folks! This is not my weekly post, it's coming on Tuesday so I can take a day to recover from NYE. I'll give you a teaser for tomorrow's post, though: Marauders.

Here's to 2018, may it be ever so much better than 2017!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

End of 2017 Holiday Break

Hi, all! No blog post this week, I'm spending time with family and getting ahead of my 2018 posts. Enjoy the holidays, and I'll be back with more Mage goodness in the new year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Gladius of the Defender, A Homebrew Mage: The Ascension Wonder

Wonders that instruct or help with mundane tasks are great, but sometimes you need something you can count on in a fight, am I right?

Below is a Wonder I made for just such a purpose. Created for the mentor of one of my players, it may get passed on to him in the course of our gameplay, should anything dire happen in the course of the chronicle. (Dire? In the World of Darkness? Bwahahahaha!) Feel free to use it in your own Mage game, along with any of the Mage creations I've posted previously and will likely post in the future. And if you do use any of them, please tell me all about it!

Gladius of the Defender
4-point Artifact

When Inez Lellouche first joined the Knights of Radamanthys in the Chakravanti shortly before the Reckoning, her mentor Aramus gifted her with a remarkable Wonder that she has used as both focus and weapon in the course of her duties. This blade, a classical gladius, was passed on to Aramus from his mentor, and Inez will pass it on to her student when the time comes. In the meantime, it is an essential part of her arsenal as bodyguard to her chantryleader, and as mentor to her young charge.

In the hands of a Sleeper, this is just a short, wide-bladed sword that does Strength+2 damage. However, when the blade is unsheathed by a mage, it guides the wielder's sword arm to block, parry, and/or deflect any incoming physical attack, whether from melee or ranged, bullet or energy weapon, up to a number of times equal to their Dexterity rating each round of combat. The mage may make a free reflexive defense action to roll Arete (difficulty 5) and add each success to any roll used to dodge or block a direct attack. If all successes of the incoming blow are negated, the attack is deflected harmlessly, but scoring additional successes means the sword deflects the incoming attack back at the attacker. Damage for the counterattack is rolled as normal, adding each success beyond those necessary to negate the original attack roll as extra damage dice. However, failing the Arete roll does not trigger the artifact's counterattack effect but still permits the free defense roll, and botching the roll prevents the free defense roll entirely.

Use of this weapon can become vulgar depending on the attack being deflected. While it is ineffective against non-targeted attacks such as fire, smoke or falling debris, it can potentially deflect attacks from military-grade weaponry, up to and including guided missiles. Care should be taken in regards to when and where the blade's power is used.