Backgrounds Explanations - Mage

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This page contains detailed descriptions of Backgrounds available in the Mage venue of World of Darkness: Gotham. Please note that in the descriptions D = Differential and S = Stackable.


Mage Backgrounds


Arcane – Perhaps no other Background in all of the oWoD is treated with more disdain than Arcane. STs hate it because it is so widely abused. Players of non-magi hate it because it is so abused. Mage players hate it because other mage players abuse it. So here in WoDG we are going to try and shed a little light on Arcane and dispel the mystery around it so it doesn’t get…abused.

Arcane doesn’t make a mage invisible. It does not, for example, mimic Unseen Presence or Blissful Ignorance. In some ways it is similar to Blur of the Milky Eye or Cloak of Shadows as it’s a power about misdirection and inconspicuousness. Instead of having to rely on shadows and staying still, the mage is limited to not doing anything that would call attention to themselves. They are subtle, inconspicuous, and just...unmemorable. Looking at an Arcane mage is like looking at someone without your glasses on and trying to recall details about them or like looking through a really fogged up window. You know someone was there, but the memory is blurry around the edges. You really can’t put your finger on enough details to matter.

Aside from those types of bodily misdirection properties, Arcane also misdirects traces of the mage in society. Records get lost and misfiled, video camera signals might get wonky for a few seconds, a photograph might come out unclear, etc.

To characters affected by Arcane, nothing appears amiss. The mage with Arcane simply doesn't register as consequential enough to remember. Minds are bombarded with thousands of trillions of bits of information in the span of a few minutes. Therefore, all minds have to decide what is important to keep and what isn't. Magi with Arcane fall into the bits that aren't important to keep; just like it's not important to keep in memory facts about the kid who shoved the drive thru order from Taco Bell into your car a couple weeks ago. You may remember you got Taco Bell and you know that someone must have passed your order to you, but you'll be damned if you remember any details of that drive thru attendant.

Ok so what does that mean in mechanical terms? Mechanically, Arcane gives an auto success per level of Arcane on Stealth rolls. For rolls using Perception and Investigation/Alertness dice pools made against the mage, each dot of Arcane subtracts one die from the dice pool being rolled against the mage and adds +1 Difficulty. This only applies when the mage is being inconspicuous. If they are in combat, running around screaming, or otherwise calling attention to themselves, Arcane gives no mechanical benefit. However, after events the mechanical benefits will apply as details of the mage will be harder to recall by mortal witnesses and in supernatural creatures who have no understanding of what it is like to have influence over the minds of others.

So who does Arcane affect? Well Sleepers are completely at the mercy of Arcane as they are with most other supernatural powers. It’s a new precedent set by Revised Edition that Arcane only works on Sleepers, but really that makes little sense for a Chronicle not obsessed with the metaplot. We’d rather allow Arcane to be resisted by supernaturals with the ability to influence the minds of others or steel their own to have a chance to roll to retain events in which an otherwise Arcaned mage called attention to himself. To do this, the supernatural in question rolls Perception + Investigation Difficulty 5 + Arcane Rating. Each success gives the supernatural retention of one specific detail about the mage during the incident in question – permanently. The supernatural may roll repeatedly to recall more detail, but each roll after the first is at a +1 Difficulty with an increasing threshold of +1 success per attempt to mimic the mental exhaustion and frustration one experiences trying to remember things that are just out of reach.

So what about magi? Where do they fit in? Well it takes a Jedi to know the Jedi mind tricks. Magi with the Mind Sphere are completely attuned to their own minds and have an uncanny understanding of when it is not working as it should. Arcane does not affect them. Magi without Mind are affected by Arcane like other supernaturals who have the ability to resist Arcane. They may not have the Jedi mind tricks, but they are still Jedi and know about the Force.

So wait what happens on Awareness rolls for magi without Mind? Are they still subject to Arcane since they use Perception + Awareness to detect incoming magick? Short answer, yes and no. If the mage is not a direct target of an effect, then yes. If they are the subject of a direct magickal effect, no because they automatically feel the magick coming at them. Awareness is the Ability to sense the supernatural. It’s those little hairs that stand up on the back of your neck. Those hairs tend to raise a lot higher when it’s the mage himself who is at risk rather than the guy next to him. See Awareness and Detecting the Supernatural.

Werewolves as well have the chance to sense if something is amiss via Primal-Urge. The roll is Perception+Primal-Urge Difficulty 8 and the amount of successes required is equal to the Arcane rating of the mage. This roll will not tell them what is amiss or where an arcaned mage is located in a setting, or that there is even an arcane mage at all. It will not convey any specific information. It will only make the hairs on the back of their necks rise. To gain specific information, they must use the system above.

Magi can consciously dampen the effects of Arcane. They do not have to continually concentrate on it. However, it’s an “on” or “off” thing. Magi cannot indiscriminately dampen Arcane for some individuals, while undampening it for others.

  1. Your character blends in with the crowd.
  2. Your character is easy to forget.
  3. Your character is difficult to follow.
  4. There are scant photos, papers, or records of your character; and people can't even agree on what he looks like.
  5. In other people's minds, your character doesn't even exist.

Eidetic Memory, Your Character's Memory, and Arcane

Eidetic Memory is a 2 point Merit, folks. It does not, nor should it overcome Arcane.

Arcane is a supernatural power and so it will overcome Eidetic Memory. Mortals can take Eidetic Memory and it won't help them at all all. As per above, Supernaturals with any sort of mental acuity get a chance to recall certain details of events involving an Arcaned mage with a Perception+Investigation roll with the appropriate modifiers. Eidetic Memory qualifies as power over one own's mind. Note that in exceptional or stressful circumstances, characters with Eidetic Memory have to roll a check to recall things anyhow. Arcane is an exceptional circumstance. So the whole thing is moot. Again, as above, each success will provide one detail about the instance. For supernatural characters, note that your character won't forget about an instance or event, they just will have trouble recalling any specific details about it. A large man with a scar across the left cheek, dark hair, wide frame, dragon tattoo, Caucasian, with a limp running from a scene will turn into: a figure running from a scene. For mortals, it becomes less clear as events involving Arcaned magi don't stick out as particularly memorable unless that Arcaned mage does something extremely memorable. Even then, a mortal will be required to roll Perception+Investigation to have any chance of recalling details of events.

Arcane and the Magic Memory Hole

"My character never forgets anything. He remembers seeing (or talking) to this person and for some funny reason he can't recall anything about them. Something must be amiss! Time to investigate!"

This kind of cheesing around Arcane or similar logic is just not going to fly. Period.

In the real world, you don't remember every cashier you've dealt with, every waiter or waitress, every pizza delivery driver, every cable guy, every salesperson, etc. Arcaned magi are like those invisible helpers who assist you with goods or services and you have a fleeting encounter with them and then they are out of your mind for good. Unless they do something to stand out in a particular way, you don't remember them. You don't think that because you don't remember them that there's something supernatural or freaky about it. You just don't remember them because they aren't important. Period!

Even Eidetics will not recall them because they would have failed to come to their notice in the first place. So just stop with the cheesy shit already!


Avatar – Is unmodified. Those who take the Manifest Avatar merit may RP out talking to the Avatar no one else (without Spirit) sees. However, understand that STs will NPC any PC's Avatar from time to time.


Blessing (D) – Is unmodified.


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Chantry – There is only one Chantry in New York City available to player characters and players need not take points in Chantry to be members. Chantry is used in WoDG for cabals. It's a measure of the cabal's pooled resources for players to build up. They can build little cabal houses if their members so choose. For every point spend in the Chantry background, the players may purchase 1 dot in backgrounds for their Chantry. Players cannot purchase Node for their Cabal, but they can pretty much do anything else for their group. If the Background is purchased for use in building a cabal house, note “Cabal” next to the entry on your character sheet. Players need not purchase this background to be considered a cabal. This background is mostly used if they want to pool their resources as a team and/or carve a little meeting house out for their group over and above what is already provided to them in the Chantry or purchase any other property to be held in common.
  1. A cabal of n00bs. Initiates and maybe an Apprentice in there somewhere.
  2. A cabal of promising young magi. Mostly Initiates and all are members of the Traditions in good standing.
  3. A cabal of seasoned players. A couple Disciples are in the cabal and all are members of the Tradition in good standing.
  4. A cabal of influential magi. There might be an Adept or two in the cabal with significant resources the members are all well-known among local Tradition magi. 
  5. An über cabal to be reckoned with. There are a couple Masters among the members with vast magickal resources and knowledge. All members are well-known among the Tradition magi in the region.


Cult (D,S) – In WoDG magi can use Cult not only for ritualistic purposes, but as per the Followers Background as well. You will create 1 NPC template per dot in Cult using Mortal Character Creation rules.

  1. Tiny Cult: 3-7 people. Add one success to any rituals cast when the entire cult is gathered.
  2. Small Cult: 8-12 people. Add two successes to any rituals cast when the entire cult is gathered.
  3. Moderate Cult: 13-17 people. Add three successes to any rituals cast when the entire cult is gathered.
  4. Large Cult: 18-30 people. Add four successes to any rituals cast when the entire cult is gathered.
  5. Huge Cult: 31-60 people. Add five successes to any rituals cast when the entire cult is gathered.


Demesne – Is unmodified.


Destiny – Is unmodified, but limited to no more than 2 dots. Any dots in Destiny need to be approved by a ST and the player must justify the Destiny within the character history or leave appropriate ST hooks for possible Destinies within that character history. Destinies are a lot of work for STs. We don’t mind the work, but the player has to put in their fair share as well. Players not willing to do so, will have their Destinies taken off their character sheets or not approved in the first place.


Dream – Is unmodified. This is to glean intuitive information and to act as an Ability substitute once per day. Players should note that this Background is not to be used as a means to bully other players for information. Such rolls may likely require a ST to witness and report the results of the rolls to all parties involved.


Familiar – Is unmodified. Refer to Forged by Dragon’s Fire for Familiar creation rules pp. 84-93. Banned Charms: Paradox Nullification and Countermagick. You can create the Familiar in our NPC System.


Legend - This Background is not allowed at all in WoDG.


Library – Like Mentors, Library is used for both cutting down learning time and lowering the cost of Experience Point Expenditures for Sphere expenditures only. Please see Learning Spheres for more information.


Node - This Background is not allowed at all in WoDG.

Past Lives

Past Lives – Is unmodified.


Sanctum – Most sancta are provided by the Chantry to members. Additional sancta may be purchased if for some reason your character needs one outside the chantry. Each dot is described as follows:

  1. Barely adequate stock; no reductions for difficulties, although the owner's magick is all coincidental here. One point of Arcane.
  2. Small stock; difficulties reduced by 1. Two points of Arcane.
  3. Average stock; difficulties -2. Three points of Arcane.
  4. Good stock; difficulties -3. Four points of Arcane.
  5. Excellent stock; difficulties -4. Five points of Arcane.


Wonder (D)  No character may start with a Wonder rating of more than 2. For more on Wonders refer to the Wonder Creation System.

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