Coincidental vs. Vulgar Magic

Reality, being fluid, will flow more easily through a subtle channel (coincidental magick) than through a sudden breakwater (vulgar magick). A wise mage uses the normal flow of events to mask her magick; simply yanking the Tapestry’s threads out is asking for trouble.

Coincidental magick is magick that could pass for some normal occurrence. The mage may know that she’s casting an Effect, but someone watching would see something that could conceivably happen. Exactly what things could “conceivably happen” depends on the form the magick takes and what the observer will accept.

If your mage’s Effect seems coincidental – a sudden Life-induced sneeze that just happens to distract a guard, a blast of energy that just happens to come from some high-tech weapon – your magick will be easier to cast and less likely to cause Paradox.

Vulgar magick is obviously extraordinary and wrenches easily out of joint. Even if a mage works vulgar magick in secret, that magick becomes more difficult than if she did something coincidental. If he does it out in the open, in front of Sleepers, it gets downright risky.

As you can see, it’s in a mage’s best interest to couch her Art in some way that disturbs reality as little as possible. Sometimes, however, pride, desperation or stupidity make a mystick push her luck. She may get away with it, then again, she may not…

Coincidental Magick: An Effect that could be accepted as normal, if unusual, by a mundane observer.

Examples: Strapping on a jet pack; influencing a cab driver to pick you up with Mind magick; firing a blast ray from a high-tech pistol; healing a sick man through the power of God.

Vulgar Magick: An Effect that obviously defies reality as we know it.

Examples: Flying through the air without assistance; creating a cab out of thin air; conjuring a ball of fire and throwing it; closing an open wound with a pass of your hand.

Coincidental Magick

Mages adept at coincidental magick are the true con-men of the Awakened world. Instead of taking the reality-bull by the horns (and hoping not to be gored), modern mysticks usually try to make their magicks appear coincidental. A mage who need cash could just create it from the air around her. No one could ever accept such a feat as normal, however. Instead of taking this quick and dangerous route, the young sorcerer could just trot down to her local convenience store and buy a lottery ticket… and goodness gracious, guess who wins the lottery that night! Static reality, and those who create it, find any particular person’s winning the lottery very lucky – but entirely believable.

The more unbelievable the coincidences, the harder it becomes to make reality bend for the mage. Too many “coincidences” can accelerate probability and create what’s called the ”Domino Effect.” A creative mage can often find a way to accomplish her magickal goal through coincidental Arts, and static reality rewards her creativity by allowing this magick to work more easily than other varieties. The collective unconsciousness usually accepts any magickal feat that most Sleepers could find “believable.”

The Domino Effect

Wise mages who wish to avoid the nasty consequences of Paradox will attempt to disguise their magick in coincidental Effects. As the number of wild “coincidences” rise, however, they become harder to pull off. As an optional rule, a Storyteller can impose an additional +1 difficulty to coincidental magick difficulty rolls for every two such Effects over the first that scene.

The effects of this penalty are cumulative; after five coincidental magick Effects the difficulty for such magick increases by +2. Storytellers should only count those Effects which cause some massive change – pipes bursting, tires going flat, exploding ammo dumps, etc. Coincidences that no one sees – sensory magick, Attribute increases, objects disappearing into pockets, etc. – should not increase the difficulty at all.

Vulgar Magick

Although it’s almost always wiser to use coincidental magick, most Awakened Ones sometimes find vulgar magick necessary. Vulgar magick includes causing a lightning bolt to fly out of an enemy’s television set and strike him dead, or calling a griffin down from the skies. Such actions rip the Tapestry of static reality apart, reforming it to the mage’s own personal vision.

There is no logical (by Sleeper standards) explanation for vulgar magick; its effects lie outside the realms of possibility. A mage who uses it can achieve truly awesome results, but puts herself at terrible risk. Vulgar magick is an obscenity to static reality, as is the mage who uses it. She may well find herself facing Paradox spirits or worse.

Why, if vulgar magick is so dangerous, does a mage resort to it at all? Sometimes the sorcerer falls prey to pride, wishing to glory in her true power. More often, the mage simply finds herself with little choice. She needs a spectacular magickal Effect, and she needs it now. A mage who does not know when to take risks will not be long for this world (or any other).