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Definitions of Magic and Coincidence

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Details of Magic and CoincidenceEdit

The Details of what exactly magic can do and how to determine whether a given example of magic is Coincidental or Vulgar can be both complex and contentious. In an effort to simplify this process, here is a discussion of these issues and also some suggestions for Ascension Nova.

Determining What Magic Can AccomplishEdit

There are two models for what magic was capable of in Mage: The Ascension - Result-Based Determinism (RBD) & Process-Based Determinism (PBD).

Using the first model for magic (RBD), magic is all about results – so since Correspondence is all about moving and seeing through space, Correspondence 3 can move you from point A to point B in a wide variety of ways. You can use Vulgar magic to teleport or you can use Correspondence 3 to arrange a series of coincidences that result in a taxi showing up just when you need it, whisking you to the airport, where a ticket, a plane that's loading, and a series of impressively short lines are all waiting for you, all making certain that you get from point A to point B rapidly and coincidentally.

Using the second model for magic (PBD), the magic you use must be able to account for every aspect of the desired result. So, the journey above would not use Correspondence, it would be a combined Mind/Entropy effect. In short, a rote can only accomplish actions that the Sphere is capable of.

In Ascension Nova, the default assumption is Process-Based Determinism (PBD), because that is how all of the Arcana and Rotes in Mage: The Awakening are written. While it's possible to run Ascension Nova such that magic works as Result-Based Determinism, doing so requires the GM and player to rework a number of the listed rotes. This can be challenging, but can also be rewarding. However, it's also beyond the scope of the Ascension Nova project.

Determining The Difference Between Vulgar and Coincidental MagicEdit

The other dimension of Magic is how the difference between Vulgar and Coincidental magic is determined. The harshest of these two models is the Hypothetical Omniscient Perceiver (HOP) model, where magic is only coincidental if someone with normal human senses who examined everything involved would be able to see nothing out of the ordinary. So, you can't make a business card or a set of lock picks coincidentally appear in your pocket, because someone who looked in your pocket earlier would not have seen them. Therefore, making either object appear in your pocket is by definition an act of Vulgar magic. However, if someone was standing nearby, a Mage who caused the business card to appear in their pocket would be performing Vulgar magic without witnesses, while a Mage who caused the business card to appear in mid-air would be doing Vulgar magic with witnesses.

The looser of the two models is the Hypothetical Average Perceiver (HAP) model, where an ordinary person with ordinary senses who was observing the scene would see anything out of the ordinary. Such a person would think nothing of someone pulling a business card or a set of lock picks out of their pocket, since both objects are perfectly reasonable objects to keep in your pocket, and the person could not see in your pocket. Under the HAP model, the world is effectively like Schrodinger's Box – until something is examined, the details about it are undetermined. A door could be locked or unlocked, a backpack belonging to a criminal might or might not contain a bomb or gun, and an old steamer trunk might or might not contain a large amount of cash. Under this model for Vulgar and Coincidental magic – magic is only Vulgar if it the circumstances don't allow for the coincidence – if the Mage causes the business card to appear in mid-air, or for lock pick to appear in their pocket after police have searched them for such items, then the result is Vulgar. If the hypothetical observer is instead a real observer then the result is Vulgar with Witnesses.

Because the combination of Process-Based Determinism & Hypothetical Omniscient Perceiver is simply highly restrictive, we recommend that Ascension Nova be run using the Hypothetical Average Perceiver model for coincidence. However, the combination of Result-Based Determinism and Hypothetical Average Perceiver makes magic exceptionally easy, if you wish to run Ascension Nova using RBD, we recommend that you use the Hypothetical Omniscient Perceiver model for coincidence.

However, regardless of which pair of these two variables that you choose, GM who run Ascension Nova should both be consistent and inform your players in advance, since these choices determines what magic can do and what is or is not coincidental.

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