Some notes to address and fix the vagueness and contradictions found in the Mage magick system (or for GURPS Mage).
Instead of “vulgar” and “coincidental” labels, instead look at the effect and and consider what a mundane would say if he directly witnessed the event. This step should resolve logical rules problems which allow teleporting objects into pockets as “coincidence” and risking Paradox by using mundane stage magic vs. magick.
Since mundanes cannot perceive Quintessence, Prime-only effects don’t fit on this scale (they are neither “vulgar” nor “coincidental”).
MINOR PARADOX: “That’s a lucky break”
The effect could reasonably be accepted as a normal outcome in a given circumstance. A successful mundane skill roll is often needed to justify mundane expectations. Things which happen once in 10 instances fall into this category. Also, these effects tend to take longer to realize; rushing them may make them more unlikely and thus risk a higher level of paradox.
These generate no Paradox unless the mage rolls a critical failure, in which case the mage gains one Paradox point per level of the highest sphere involved.
* Previously unnoticed details of a situation turn out to grant a person a bonus for a skill check (easy handholds, a book on the exact topic is found, a guard is sleepy; see GURPS Mage p. 131, but use magick check as bonus for skill roll instead of visa versa).
* Something mundane which the mage wished for suddenly becomes available (a taxi ride across town, a specialty item goes on sale, a sold-out hotel has a recent cancellation).
* Moving objects travel at the best possible speed. (Correspondence).
* A hasty measurement turns out to be exactly correct. (Correspondence).
* An attacker fumbles a weapon, drops his guard, trips, or is hit by a ricocheting bullet (Correspondence, Entropy, Life or Forces).
* A machine known to be in poor condition finally breaks down. (Entropy).
* A weak point in a structure breaks when put under stress (Entropy or Matter).
* The substance of an object is changed after subjecting it to work in a factory or lab for several hours (Matter following Engineering or similar check).
* Lightning strikes a target outdoors ONCE during a storm (Forces).
* A fire burns at its maximum intensely (Forces).
* A weapon does either its minimum or maximum amount of damage in one hit (Forces).
* A person under stress experiences a burst of adrenaline strength or speed (Life).
* A new medicine recently put on the market seems to greatly speed up recovery from injury or disease (Life after First Aid).
* A person with a known heart condition suffers cardiac arrest (Life).
* A person slightly inclined to think a particular way becomes filled with conviction following a persuasive conversation or performance (Mind following Fast-Talk, Bard or Performance check.)
* A person acts differently after undergoing a powerful religious experience lasting an hour or more (Spirit).
* A normally tedious process is resolved in the minimal amount of time possible (Time, typically in conjunction with Research, Writing, Computer Operation, etc.).
MODERATE PARADOX: “That’s kinda freaky.”
The effect is explainable to mundanes by factors no one can reasonably disprove – either the technology used is vastly superior to the norm or there is no outward affect which can be seen. Follow a variant of the uncertainly principal here – if no one knows otherwise, all things are true until perceived. Things which happen once in 100 to 1,000 instances fall into this category.
A successful effect at this level gives the mage one Paradox point. A failed attempt gains one Paradox point per point by which the roll was missed. A critical failure generates an immediate Paradox backlash.
* Things which were carefully confirmed by someone turn out to be slightly different upon further review, thus granting a bonus to a skill roll (a hostile NPC responds favorably after his favorite topic is mentioned, a guard on patrol doesn’t notice dropping his keys, a road which looks clean turns out to be slippery after all, etc.)
vSomething exotic or unique which the mage wished for suddenly becomes available (a snowmobile is found for sale in the tropics, a particular work of art on tour happens to be on display in this city, military-grade or experimental equipment is found in a warehouse).
* A person becomes aware of information through a “lucky guess” with no obvious means of investigation. (Most first sphere “perceive” effects and use of telepathy between mages fit here.)
* Moving objects travel slightly faster than is normally possible. (Correspondence).
* A well-maintained machine breaks down. (Entropy).
* A weak point in a structure breaks after a minimal amount of stress (Entropy or Matter).
* The substance of an object is changed after subjecting it to work in a factory or lab for only a few minutes, or by using a strange portable device for several minutes (Matter following Engineering or similar check).
* Lightning strikes a target outdoors more than once during a storm (Forces).
* A weapon does either its minimum or maximum amount of damage consistently for several hits (Forces).
* An out-of-shape person suddenly displays extremely athletic abilities. (Life).
* Over the course of a few days following some sort of biological contamination, a person’s body mutates (Life after Physiology or Genetics check).
* A person with no known heart condition suffers cardiac arrest (Life).
* A person suddenly gets an idea or remembers a forgotten or repressed memory (Mind).
* A person acts differently after undergoing a brief unusual experience (Spirit).
* A project or task is finished in a fraction of the time normally required, or a finished copy of the work is suddenly discovered (Time, typically in conjunction with Research, Writing, Computer Operation, etc.).
MAJOR PARADOX: “Whoa – That’s impossible.”
The effect openly violate reasonably accepted laws of normal reality. Things which happen once in a generation or have never happened before fall into this category.
If there are no direct mundane witnesses to the effect, a successful roll gives the mage one Paradox point. A failed attempt gains one Paradox point per point by which the roll was missed.
If there were direct mundane witnesses to the obviously “wrong” effect, a successful roll gives the mage one Paradox point per level of the highest sphere involved. A failed attempt gains two Paradox points per point by which the roll was missed, or one Paradox point per level of the highest sphere involved (whichever is greater).
In either case of observed or unobserved major paradox magick, a critical failure generates an immediate Paradox backlash.
* Things exactly confirmed by more than one person turn out to be different (empty boxes suddenly contain something, the wording of carefully reviewed documents change, disabled machines start working again without repair).
* Something known to be lost or destroyed is found (Van Gogh’s portrait of Dr. Gachet turns up in a shipping crate of bananas, Elvis reenters the building).
* Objects teleport (Correspondence) or fade out of reality (Spirit or Time).
* A structure disintegrates without any apparent cause (Entropy or Matter).
* Lightning strikes a target outdoors on a clear day (Forces).
* A substance behaves like its opposite (pure water burns, solid walls become immaterial; Forces or Matter).
* A person develops superhuman abilities – ability to fly, strength to life cars, bulletproof skin, etc. (Life).
* A dead person returns to life (Life, Spirit and Prime).
* Never-before-seen creatures walk the earth (Life or Spirit).
* A known healthy person dies of no apparent cause (Life).
* A person suddenly acts out of character and follows bizarre actions (Mind or Spirit).
* A complicated task such as building a machine is finished almost instantly (Time).