Tyler (blinovitch) wrote in roleplayers,

Unisystem Mage

Just wanted offer this up, if anyone's interested in an alternate ruleset for Mage.

Unisystem Mage

An alternate ruleset for Mage: the Ascension

by Tyler Dion

with RedFox Whiteruff

Version 1.1

Table of Contents

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Introduction

  3. Characters: It Takes All Sorts

  4. Qualities and Drawbacks: A Slight Flaw in Her Character

  5. Skills: She's the Best At What She Does

  6. Metaphysics: That Crazy Hoodoo

  7. Summary Tables
  8. Special Thanks
  9. Document History


This document presents an adaptation of Mage: the Ascension concepts
and mechanics to Unisystem rules, with particular emphasis on the version of
Unisystem presented in WitchCraft 2nd Edition. Mage: the Ascension and the
Storyteller rules system are property of White Wolf Game Studio.
WitchCraft and Unisystem are property of Eden Studios. This conversion is
purely an homage to two very fun games and their respective authors and publishers, written
out of respect and admiration. It is in no way intended as an infringement on
any involved properties. It must be distributed freely and without charge.


Our primary goal in this conversion is to present a viable alternate rules set
for players of Mage who are dissatisfied with some of the more eccentric
characteristics of the Storyteller system -- the various botch rules, the dice
pool mechanic, etc. To that end, we want to replicate the magic system presented
in Mage: the Ascension Revised as faithfully as possible. With the
baseline established, we will present occasional sidebars on how to tweak things
to your liking. We also encourage readers to enact their own modifications to
suit the needs of their individual games.

Entirely secondary to that goal is making True Magick an option for those wishing
to incorporate its mechanics or ideas into other Unisystem games and settings. Be
forewarned: True Magick may not always "balance" properly with other Metaphysics,
as that was not the primary intention. As the saying goes, try before you buy.

Thirdly, this is an evolving document. We hope to improve the mechanics with
testing and suggestions from you, our readers. So please feel free to make constructive
comments and criticisms.

So What's in This Document?

Overall, Storyteller and Unisystem interchange pretty well. Stats use the same
one to five scale, as do skills and metaphysical abilities. If we haven't
mentioned something here, like a particular Storyteller-based skill or ability,
it probably ports to Unisystem without any trouble. Also, we won't get into the
setting or concepts behind Mage. There are so many interpretations of the
game that trying to insert our own into this conversion would both be impossible
and hinder our main objective of providing alternate rules. The essence of the
game remains whatever you choose to derive from the source material.

What we cover in this conversion are those things that don't cleanly travel from
Storyteller to Unisystem, or vice versa, such as casting effects with the
Unisystem mechanic and certain sticky elements like Avatar and Quintessence,

Characters: It Takes All Sorts

True Mages

True Mages possess Awakened Avatars, which allow them to perform what has been
variously called True Magick, dynamic willworking and Enlightened Science. An
Avatar is part spirit-guide and part catalyst. It enables the Mage to bend
reality to her will, but also motivates and pushes her to attain her ultimate
potential: Ascension, whatever the GM wishes to define that as.

True Mage characters get 15 points to distribute among Attributes, 10 points for
Qualities (and up to 10 points in Drawbacks), 25 points for Skills and 30 points
for Metaphysics. For obvious reasons, Mages must purchase the Gift and True Mage
Qualities. The Gift is what defines them, and is the basic prerequisite for their
other metaphysical abilities.

Option: For high-flying super-mage action, you may wish to consider using
the Greater Gifted character type and its higher point totals for True Mages (see The Book of
or Armageddon 2nd Edition). Furthermore, the Enlightened Human
Quality would put True Mages on par with the supernatural creatures presented in Armageddon.

Sorcerers (AKA Hedge Wizards)

Sorcerers, sometimes called Hedge Wizards, are characters who practice linear or
static magic. To make up for their lower occult abilities, Cast Members who
select this Type are more accomplished in other areas. Although they are weaker
in the area of Metaphysics, Sorcerers have higher Attributes and skills than
their more supernaturally-adept counterparts. This is for game balance only. The
"run of the mill," non-Cast Member Sorcerer would have Attributes and skills no
better than the human average of 2.

These characters are less likely to attract the attention of supernatural beings
except when they actually use their special abilities. They have a better chance
of living a relatively peaceful existence, although their powers will often lead
them into trouble.

Sorcerers start out with 20 points for Attributes, 15 points for Qualities (and
up to 10 points in Drawbacks), 30 points for Skills and 15 points for
Metaphysics. Sorcerers must buy the Gift Quality.


Sleepers have no supernatural skills whatsoever. They may find themselves
disadvantaged in the world of Mage, because they lack the ability to face
(and in some cases even perceive) many of the dangers that hide beneath the
shadows of reality.

Sleeper Cast Members should be extraordinary individuals (perhaps with a few
Attributes near or at the human maximum), whose great physical or mental prowess
allows them to be of assistance to their Gifted allies and friends.

Sleepers start out with 25 points for Attributes, 20 points for Qualities (and up
to 10 points in Drawbacks) and 35 points for Skills. They get no points to buy
Metaphysics (and cannot buy any with extra points gained from Drawbacks), nor can
they purchase many of the Supernatural Qualities.

Option:Sleepers as detailed here are the same as Mundane PCs
in WitchCraft. They are extremely capable, possessing both high Attributes and
extensive Skills.

GMs desiring Sleeper characters more in line with those presented in
Storyteller Mage can start with the Sleeper guidelines presented here
and removing 10 points from each category, perhaps even 15 if Sleepers
are particularly less impressive than True Mages and Sorcerers.

Qualities and Drawbacks: A Slight Flaw in Her Character

Some Backgrounds, Merits and Flaws are best implemented as Unisystem
Qualities, while others would be better off as elements of Metaphysics. As a rule
of thumb, if the Background/Merit/Flaw is a personal trait that is always "in
effect" -- that is, it isn't turned off and on like a Metaphysical ability, such
as Arcane or even Dream -- consider it a Quality or Drawback, as the details
warrant. Storyteller Backgrounds -- and Nemeses, if using the system presented in
Guide to the Traditions -- cost 2 points per level during character


Variable Supernatural Quality, 1 level per 2 points

The Gift and True Mage Qualities

The Avatar is the core of the True Mage. Through her Avatar, the True Mage
works her will upon the world. It is also a measure of her ability to do so. Every
level of Avatar allows the Mage to channel 1 point of Essence per Turn for use
in working True Magick; so a Mage with Avatar 2 could channel 2 Essence points in a Turn.
True Mages automatically gain Avatar 1. Mages may further buy up to Avatar 3.


Variable Social Quality, see text on cost

Resources deserves special note as both Unisystem and Storyteller have their
own versions of this trait. The difference is Unisystem assumes characters are
economically stable by default, while Storyteller starts characters off as
destitute. For comparison's sake, Resources • equals Resources -3 (Poor), while
Resources 0 (Average) comes in just below Resources •••.

The scale the GM chooses should depend on what kind of game she wants to run.
For example, if it were the straight WoD setting using Unisystem mechanics, then the
Storyteller Resources scale would be appropriate. Either way, each level costs 2

True Mage

5 point Supernatural Quality

The Gift Quality

This Quality bestows all the abilities and other characteristics of the
protagonists of Mage: the Ascension. Knowingly or not, they exert their
will over reality, influencing and causing events and actions. True Mages
initially rely on procedures and physical objects to focus their will; these are
known as foci. With time and personal development, the Mage may learn to discard
or internalize her foci (see Abandoning Foci, pg. 203 of Mage Revised).

Skills: She's The Best At What She Does

As all Character Type point totals are taken directly from Unisystem, we
recommend using the skill list presented in WitchCraft 2nd Edition. Those wanting to
use the shorter skill list of Mage should think about reducing the number
of skill points available to all Character Types by an equal amount, to maintain
the proportions relative among them. Consult WitchCraft 2nd Edition for the complete
list of available skills. Listed here are a few skills worth special note.

Awareness (Special)

For those playing Mage with Unisystem rules, this skill is as per
Mage Revised, save that it's considered a Special skill in Unisystem.
Those who use True Magick in a WitchCraft game, the Gifted's ability to
perceive magickal workings adequately covers this skill.

Cosmology, AKA Umbral or Dimensional Navigation (Special)

As per Mage Revised. It's worth noting this is distinct from
WitchCraft's Occult skill and sub-skills, in that it deals specifically with
the realms and regions of the Umbra.

High Ritual (Special)

This is the special and highly formalized ritual training almost exclusively
practiced by the Order of Hermes. These rituals rely on both Intelligence and
Constitution and often go on for hours, or even days. A successful Test of this
Skill always grants a specialized focus bonus to spellcasting.

Hypertech (Special)

Hypertech is a specialized and highly evolved form of engineering necessary to
understand and utilize hypertech devices. This Skill is primarily used by the
Technocracy, though some members of the Sons of Ether and Virtual Adepts also
learn it. A successful Test of this Skill always grants a specialized focus
bonus to spellcasting.

Metaphysics: That Crazy Hoodoo

True Magick


Willworking depends on a trait of True Mages known as Arete. It measures what one
might consider spiritual development, the strength to bend reality or
enlightenment. In game terms, Arete controls a Mage's highest possible sphere
level, as in Storyteller Mage, and forms the basis of True Magick rolls.
Arete behaves and is noted on the character sheet in a similar manner to Anchor
for the Tainted and Anguish for Disciples of the Flesh (see Abomination
and Mystery Codex, respectively).

A beginning Mage gains Arete 1 by virtue of possessing the True Mage Quality.
During character generation, further levels of Arete cost 5 points apiece, to a
starting maximum of Arete 3.

The Nine Spheres of Magick

The sphere system remains precisely as presented in Mage Revised. Use
sphere levels and their abilities as written. A sphere level costs 4 points
during character creation. Tradition specialty spheres cost 3 points per level. As
their association bonus, characters receive one free
level of their Tradition's specialty sphere.

Creating Magickal Effects

By and large, the determination process described on pg. 147-153 of Mage Revised can be
used as written. The altered elements of casting effects are detailed below.


In Unisystem Mage, a mage's Arete rating acts as a bonus to her effect roll.
Specifically, the formula for a magick roll is Arete + Willpower + modifiers + 1d10.

Designer's Note: This is meant to put Unisystem mages roughly on par with their
Storyteller counterparts, if slightly less powerful to compensate for Unisystem's Rule of 10.
A typical starting mage with Arete 3 and Willpower 4
has an 70% chance of getting one Success Level (see What
) on a coincidental level 3 effect, while an Arete 3 Storyteller mage
attempting the same effect has a 74% chance of getting one success.

Because of the Rule of 10, Unisystem doesn't put a roof on
the results of any one die roll. A Storyteller mage can only hope to score
as many successes as there are dice in her Arete pool. Options to regulate magick
include capping the number of successes a mage can accumulate in one turn to their
Arete or Avatar ratings.

Difficulty Modifiers

Unlike Storyteller Mage, where an effect's base difficulty is calculated
according to the circumstances and sphere levels of the feat attempted, Unisystem has
a target difficulty number of 9. Alterations to the difficulty typically come in
the form of penalties and bonuses included in the standard Stat + Skill + 1d10
formula. The table below details common modifiers in casting effects
in Mage altered to suit the 1d10 mechanic. Other modifiers -- which includes
channeling Essence via the Avatar Quality -- detailed in
Mage Revised work per usual, including the total limit of plus or minus 3 to
the difficulty.

<th colspan="2" align="CENTER">Magickal Difficulty Modifiers</th>
Situational Modifiers
Coincidental -1
Vulgar without witnesses -2
Vulgar with witnesses -3
Sphere Level Modifiers
Level 1 +1
Level 2 +0
Level 3 -1
Level 4 -2
Level 5 -3
Other Modifiers
2 Essence Points +1

Designer's Note: In the spirit of Mage Revised's comments
that sensory magick should be easy, the sphere level difficulty
scale starts at +1 to level 1 effects.

What Happened?

You added your stats and modifiers, then rolled your die. How do you know if your mage succeeded,
and how well? First, if it all adds up to 9 or more, the effect succeeded. Determining the margin
of success uses Success Levels, as described in the Outcome Table, pg. 129 of WitchCraft
2nd Edition
. For the purposes of magickal effects, one Success Level in Unisystem equals
one success in Storyteller.

Damage and Duration

Success Levels are spent on damage and duration just as in the Storyteller version.
Damage-wise, one Success Level inflicts 9 Life Points of injury. Forces effects get one free
Success Level of damage. (This mechanic can be extended to determining injury inflicted by
the Avatar Storm, if the GM utilizes that setting element.)

Designer's Note: To determine a ratio between Storyteller Health Levels and Unisystem
Life Points, we took the weapons the two systems had statted in common and compared their maximum damage
capability. For example, a .38 revolver does a maximum of 4 HLs or 18 LPs. Since magickal effects
inflict whole health levels, without a chance for soak, it seemed best to average the maximum damage
ratings. Of the ten firearms in common -- other weapons were excluded because they rely in part
on strength -- the ratio averaged to 4.5 Life Points per Health Level. Double that, because one
Storyteller success inflicts two Health Levels, and you get 9 Life Points per Success Level spent
on damage.

Option: To retain the randomized element of Unisystem, each
Success Level spent garners 1d10 for the damage roll.

Because Unisystem does not distinguish between types of damage, all damaging effects reduce
Life Points in the same way. The exception is Mind-based magick, which reduces characters'
Endurance Points.


Paradox accumulates and dissipates at the same rates described on pg. 194 of Mage Revised.
Paradox flaws can be applied using the guidelines described in the same section. In terms of inflicting
damage, when a mage gains five or more points of Paradox -- see the bottom of the "Creating Magical
Effects" sidebar, pg. 207 of Mage Revised -- the GM makes a Paradox roll: total
number of points of Paradox the mage has + 1d10. Each Success Level inflicts magickal damage
as per usual.

With regards to Essence, every point of Paradox reduces the mage's maximum Essence capacity
by one. So if a mage with a normal Essence capacity of 20 were to gain 3 Paradox points, her
capacity would reduce to 17.

Option: Those incorporating True Magick into WitchCraft games may wish to consider
turning Paradox into Taint. Taint negates Essence on a one-to-one ratio, as usual in the
WitchCraft setting.

An Example of Play

Suppose then we have an up and coming young Hermetic mage named Jane. Jane's
player wanted her to be pretty good at magick, so she has Willpower 4 and Arete 3,
as well as Avatar 3, Forces 3 and Prime 2.

Exploring the bowels of a reputedly haunted city tenement, Jane stumbles across
a group of pale, mis-shapen creatures that are decidedly hostile to her unannounced visit,
going so far as to lunge at her, claws out-stretched.
In her defense, Jane uses a rote to call upon the fire elemental living in the building's furnace
to strike out at her enemies.

The GM rules this is a coincidental version of the classic Forces 3, Prime 2 effect.
Calculating Arete + Willpower + modifiers + 1d10 yields the following:

3 (Arete) + 4 (Willpower) - 1 (level 3 effect) - 1 (coincidental) + 1d10

7 - 2 + 1d10

5 + 1d10

For the effect to succeed at all, Jane's player needs to roll a 4 or better. Whether the
effect actually does anything depends on how many Success Levels the roll garners.

Permutations of Magick

Acting in Concert

Mage Revised's group magic rules apply without alteration. As an option, or if
paradigmatically appropriate, the GM may wish to incorporate Essence or difficulty bonuses
for mystically significant numbers, as described in WitchCraft.


Countering another mage's effects works just as described in Mage Revised. Each Success
Level on an Arete roll with a -2 penalty negates one of the opposing caster's Success Levels.

Multiple Effects

As described in Mage Revised: every two effects incur a -1 difficulty penalty to further
Arete rolls.

The Crowd Effect

The thing to remember about WitchCraft's Crowd Effect is that it's written for
a setting in which magic freely exists. Disbelief, as expressed by the Crowd Effect, is
actually the subconscious group channeling of Essence as a form of countermagick. In the Mage
setting, however, the current reality is actively hostile to magick. Applying the Crowd Effect to
mages' workings as well as normal Paradox rules would be a double whammy not appropriate
for all games.

Summary Tables

Character Creation
Avatar 2 per level
True Mage 5
Arete 5 per level
Sphere level 4
Specialty sphere level 3

<th colspan="2" align="CENTER">Magickal Difficulty Modifiers</th>
Situational Modifiers
Coincidental -1
Vulgar without witnesses -2
Vulgar with witnesses -3
Sphere Level Modifiers
Level 1 +1
Level 2 +0
Level 3 -1
Level 4 -2
Level 5 -3
Other Modifiers
2 Essence Points +1
2 running magickal effects -1

Special Thanks

Thanks go to:

  • Frank Sronce of RPG.net, for his suggestion on incorporating sphere levels into
    difficulty modifiers.

Document History

4/14/2005: Unisystem Mage v1.0 published on-line.

4/18/2005: v1.1 posted. Changes include recosting Avatar, True Mage and Paradox's Essence-reduction effect. Added sphere level costs, sphere level difficulty modifiers, an example of play and a trait summary table.

5/23/2005: v1.2 posted. Changes consist of adding options for Sleeper characters.

7/2/2005: v.1.3 posted. HTML changes, and changeover to LiveJournal hosting.

© 2005.

All non-conversion-specific content remains property of its owners.
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