Wow. Forum seems a little dead. A little life, maybe?

This is an idea I got when I first read Postmodern Magic. The idea (which will probably be attached to a very insecure character) is that Cicatrixomancy (literally, "divination by means of scars") is the magic of fault, the art of dominance over failure.

The Cicatrixomancer

aka Victims

True power is there is no true power. There is only success and failure. Power is a moment, the moment of achievement, a transitory event that cannot be accumulated. But weakness, failure, and the like? That can be collected.

Failure is something that happens to everybody. It is an event religiously avoided by people, striving against inevitability. But, however inevitable it is, people still avoid it. They seek the inevitability of God and the afterlife, but avoid the inevitability that brings you to God or the afterlife.

And inevitability is magic.

Faults and failures are the influences that touch the face of God. It isn't a spigot (you certainly can't shut it), but more of a rend, represented by any system of sufficient complexity, a rip in the seams. And that seam gets a little wider every time the system falters. You have power over that seam, it opens wider at your desire. You can even stitch the edges to make it less potent. You can make it spew on someone else for a change.

Your magic is a failure. You are a failure as a mage. Hallelujah.

The fundamental paradox of Cicatrixomancy is painfully obvous - success cannot normally be attained through failure. More importantly, failure cannot be a success. Victims do not redefine success and failure, because to do so would be to demean the basic qualities of their art. They cannot try to fail, and so to succeed at their art they must honestly fail.

Cicatrixomancy Blast Style

Cicatrixomantic blasts are directed failures. These can be rather considerable, but are also entirely subtle. A gun accidentally fires and strikes the foe, the foe stumbles and twists an ankle, etc. Death by Cicatrixomancy is usually by fatal mishap or by spontaneous failure of health (sudden aneurism, fatal stroke, etc.). In some spectacularly subtle cases, it has been retroactive. One diabetic died when a Cicatrixomancer caused his insulin pump to have failed a few hours earlier. The diabetic immediately lapsed into a diabetic coma and never awoke.


Note: Cicatrixomancers break the normal rule that one can only gather charges on purpose. Cicatrixomancers typically gain their charges accidentally.

Generate a Minor Charge: Whenever rolling a significant or major task of some importance to the character (in other words, not one in which the character has no personal investment), or whenever rolling a minor task of some importance to the character in which he or she is rolling a stat at -30%, a matched failure will grant a minor charge.

Note that it is not allowable for a Cicatrixomancer to use a reroll in order to produce failure (though a Hunch can be used), nor may the Victim use Cicatrixomancy to engineer failure. However, it is perfectly permissible for a Cicatrixomancer to not use an ability to manufacture success when the matched failure occurs.

Generate a Significant Charge: This is similar to a minor charge, but the failure must be of a more personal nature. The character must be performing a significant or major task (minor tasks do not apply for significant charges) that acts on a Passion. Any matched failure will cause the gain of a significant charge. Note that if the character still has a reroll for the Passion, he or she must use it or he or she will only gain a minor charge.

Generate a Major Charge: No Victim, as rare as they are, has ever successfully generated a major charge (although a number of their efforts have produced significant charges). One theory states that what is required is for the character to have a certain number of minor or significant charges stored, and use them on a major task in which the character has a greater than 50% chance of success to try to produce success. The task must be driven by one of the character's Passions. If the task produces a critical failure, the major charge is gained. This hasn't happened yet.

The supposed founder of the art, on the other hand, espouses the belief that the magic of fault must, in itself, be faulty. He proposes that the fault of Cicatrixomancy is the low ceiling limit of power.

Taboo: Failure cannot be success. If a Cicatrixomancer purposefully fails at a task, he or she loses all accumulated charges. Note that "purposeful failure" does not mean "not working at full potential" - laziness is its own sort of failing, as is inattentiveness. You don't need to throw everything into everything you do, and not using your full potential in order to improve your chances of failure is a borderline case, but provided you are not purposefully attempting impossible (or obscenely difficult) tasks you should be fine. Purposefully attempting difficult but somewhat achievable tasks is the ordinary course of business for any adept, and certainly does not taboo the Cicatrixomancer for failure.

Random Magic Domain: Incidence and coincidence is the domain of the Cicatrixomancer. This is often interpreted as success or failure, but can also mean lucky (or unlucky) happenstance, or events happening in synchronicity.

Starting Charges: At the beginning of the game, the Victim's player rolls the Victim's Body, Speed, Mind, and Soul. Every failure grants one minor charge. Every matched failure grants two. Every critical failure grants a significant charge.

Charging Tips: Charging is both easy and difficult for Victims. They may do it without thinking, but they cannot do it on purpose. A Cicatrixomancer who lives a normal 9 to 5 day (yeah, right) may gain one minor charge every 1-2 days. Significant charges don't generally happen spontaneously.

However, drama in the Victim's life can increase the possibilities. If the Cicatrixomancer is living a life of drama (love triangles, family strife, messy lawsuits, etc.) in which he or she is personally invested, this will not increase the frequency of minor charges but will mean an additional significant charge every 1-2 weeks. Note that this also means a life of misery for the Victim.

Cicatrixomancy Minor Formula Spells

Cost: 1-5 minor charges
Effect: The victim of the Victim will suffer bland normalcy for a brief period. For the next 1 to 5 rolls the foe makes (equal to the number of charges spent), all matched successes and failures, as well as critical successes and fumbles, will become normal successes and failures, as appropriate. The target may make a Soul test to resist, with a minimum result equal to the result of the Magick test.

Essential Fuse
Cost: 1 minor charge
Effect: This is the Cicatrixomantic blast. It uses happenstance to strike at the foe.

Cost: 1 minor charge
Effect: The Cicatrixomancer may cast this spell as a free action. The target of this spell must immediately reroll a test. The reroll result sticks. If the Cicatrixomancer uses this spell on himself, the task cannot produce a minor or significant charge unless it is used to reroll a failure rather than a success.

Linked Functionality
Cost: 2 minor charges
Effect: The Cicatrixomancer makes a Magick roll. If successful, the tens digit determines how many people are affected (this can include the Cicatrixomancer, and all persons must be in the presence of the Cicatrixomancer). For a number of rounds equal to the ones digit, those every success rolled by one person grants a +1% bonus to all subsequent tasks by anybody in the Linked group, and every failure grants a -1% penalty. Matched results grant +/-2%, and critical success and fumbles grant +/-3%. This usually has little effect, but if it endures for a while and lots of successes (or failures) accumulate, it can seriously alter the chances of success later on down the line. The target may make a Soul test to resist, with a minimum result equal to the result of the Magick test.

Sense Fate
Cost: 1 minor charge
Effect: The Cicatrixomancer gains an immediate Hunch. This Hunch may be used to harvest charges (the test itself is unmodified by this spell).

Cicatrixomancy Significant Formula Spells

Deadly Fatality
Cost: 1 significant charge
Effect: This is the major Cicatrixomantic blast. This produces deadly happenstance, and can cause instant neurological collapse, spontaneous telomere breakdown, or simple catastrophic coincidence.

Interesting Times
Cost: 1-5 significant charges
Effect: The target of this power (who can be the Cicatrixomancer) will face interesting times for a while. Whenever he or she makes a roll, the foe must roll a single d10 and take it for both 10's and 1's. In other words, all results will be matched, be they successes or failures. This will last for a number of rolls equal to the number of charges spent. The target may make a Soul test to resist, with a minimum result equal to the result of the Magick test.

More Chances to Lose
Cost: 2 significant charges
Effect: The beneficiary of this spell gains an additional action on his or her next action. If the Cicatrixomancer casts this on himself, then the extra action occurs next round. This is in addition to any other multiple actions the target may gain.

Cost: 3 significant charges
Effect: The Cicatrixomancer and the target exchange ratings in a particular Skill (or closely related Skill, at the GM's discretion). For instance, say the Cicatrixomancer has no gunfighting skills, but the target has Shoot the Fucker Down at 50%. The Cicatrixomancer decides to exhange gun skills. Suddenly, the hoodlum has forgotten how to use his weapon, while the Victim can wield the gun like an expert. The Cicatrixomancer can use this to donate skills - if she has Trick Driving at 55%, she can exchange it with the driver's Drive skill of 15% in order to give the driver an edge. If the Cicatrixomancer has to take the wheel of another car, however, she will be at 15% skill. This will last for a number of rounds equal to the tens digit of the result. The target may make a Soul test to resist, with a minimum result equal to the result of the Magick test.

Wrong Way
Cost: 1 significant charge
Effect: The target of this power is misdirected. His or her current efforts are performed on the wrong target. He or she may suture up an uninjured patient (or an injured adversary), or go south on I-17 when he or she needs to go north. The Cicatrixomancer gets to choose the target of the action. This lasts for as long as the action takes to complete. The target may make a Soul test to resist, with a minimum result equal to the result of the Magick test.

What You Hear
The founder of Cicatrixomancy is a boy. He looks fifteen, but he's said to be responsible for the degenerate hippie movement and the career of extended-length suicide of such major figures as Janis Jolplin. Then again, he may just be blowing smoke. It also seems especially strange that a fifteen-year-old is responsible for an adept discipline nearly twice his age, and for the demise of artists from the 1960's.

Edited to correct a minor flaw. Appropriate, neh?

Haha, I don't even play this game but I gotta admit I love the idea of magic powered by failure! Well written, bravo!

Yeah, I'm thinking maybe not so many people play the game so much. I took note of the lack of postage, and thought I'd add something.

Thanks for the commentary! I've always been a big fan of the idea of flipping weakness and strength, which sometimes annoys my players when I turn their advantages against them. It amazes me how little they consider the possibility that if I can turn their advantages against them, then they can turn their weaknesses against me.

I don't think that the problem is that no one plays it: it seems to be quite well regarded on and gets a lot of new submissions and cool ideas. It does have a new printing coming up, after all. I just think that a lot of people don't even realize there is board for it here at Atlas: they go to one of the other boards instead to post their weirdness. :slight_smile: But still, this should not discourage you from posting here.

Regarding your school: it does sound very interesting, and definitely promotes the character diving into bad situations for the hope of a charge. The costs seem almost too reasonable for spells though...not really off, per se, but when I look at many spells in UA, I often feel like, "I have to spend HOW many charges for that?" Don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing...

Have fun gaming!

I'm not discouraged so much as suffering sporadic writer's block and also lacking my own computer (it's off to meet with its ancestors and hopefully to purify its soul, which is to say its BIOS).

You could be right. Is there anything in particular? I generally tried to match pace with other powers, but obviously some of these Spells don't exist elsewhere.

I'm also balancing the fact that the spells often cut both ways (appropriately to the nature of the power) - Banality diminishes success and failure, Sense Fate doesn't augment the Hunch in any way (and indeed there is a skill that does the same thing), Interesting Times enhances success and failure in the same way as Banality, etc. I think Spinwarp might be a bit buff, and Wrong Way I'm especially uncertain about.

Hopefully I wasn't too off in my costing, but hey, that's part of the reason why I posted, so people would comment and suggest!