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Witcher Watch: The Mage Lifepath from Tome of Chaos

Hello to everyone walking The Path!

Today, we’re back again to talk about the wonders held within A Tome of Chaos! This week, we thought we would delve into the lives of mages. In the world of The Witcher, mages are often considered the most powerful magic users and they go through the most extensive mystical training. This training varies from one region to another but almost always takes a significant portion of the mage’s life, often sequestering them away during their formative years. This long and isolating training process usually has a tremendous effect on their personality and forever alters their outlook on the world.

In the Mage chapter of A Tome of Chaos we discuss the nature of magic in depth and talk about the primary ways a sorcerer or sorceress is trained, be it by a mentor or a teacher in one of the four magic academies of the Continent. In the interest of really reflecting the unusual lives of the mage of the Continent we created a unique Lifepath which you can use to create the custom background of your mage character in the TTRPG. Similar to the Witcher Lifepath in the Core Rule, the Mage Lifepath is a highly focused series of rolls used to determine what your character’s magical training was like, whether they mentored under someone, how they interact with magic, and what trials and travails they’ve encountered in their life as a mage. So let’s look at an example of a Mage created using the new Mage Lifepath in A Tome of Chaos!

We begin with the question of where our Mage was born. A roll of 6 tells us they were born in one of the Nilfgaardian provinces, either Cintra, Angren, or Nazair. After consulting those entries on pages 197 and 198 of The Witcher TTRPG core rulebook, we pick Angren, a thinly populated province full of forest harvesters. Inspired by visions of dark woodlands, we pick Willow as the name of our new Mage.

Next, we discover who Willow’s family was. This will consist of three 1d10 rolls. An 8 tells us Willow’s family was large. A 5 tells us their personality was generally depressive, and a 2 tells us they were artisans. Already, we can feel a story building. Given Angren’s vast forests, perhaps Willow comes from an extended clan of wood carvers but, as demand for their particular style of carvings has dropped off, the various family members fell into the doldrums. Their way of life is dying and they know it.

So far we know where Willow came from and a bit about their family but what about the most formative experience of a young magic user’s life? How did they discover their magic? A roll of 9 shows an interesting result: a Grudge-born Curse. Willow’s gift became apparent when they felt such animosity towards someone they instinctively called upon powerful forces from beyond and cursed that person. Looking back to the previous rolls about Willow’s family, we think perhaps there was a rival clan of woodcarvers who had stolen much of the family’s business. One of the children, a boy the same age as Willow, taunted her mercilessly about it. One day, her rage boiled over and the curse flew without her even realizing it. We’ll work out the specifics of the curse with the GM later, but it makes for a good potential plot hook! Was the curse lifted? How does Willow feel about it? Did it spark an inter-family feud? Is the boy now an enemy? There’s a lot of possibility here.

The next table reveals how people at home reacted to Willow’s display of magic and there’s a -2 modifier because of the results of the previous table. The table splits into different columns depending on if the Mage is from the North, the Elderlands, or Nilfgaard. Being from Nilfgaard, our result of 3 (a roll of 5 minus 2) means Willow was sent to Gweison Haul, the Nilfgaardian magic school, right away. Likely, as soon as the authorities realized what she had done, they stepped in and demanded her family send her off straight away or face serious consequences. And after all, they had plenty of children, so off she went!

The next part of the Lifepath doesn’t require a roll. Your Mage is, instead, assigned to a school based on where they come from. Mages from the North or Skellige attend either Aretuza or Ban Ard. Mages from Nilfgaard attend either Gweison Haul or the Imperial Magic Academy and Mages from the Elderlands generally apprentice under a specific teacher. There is a sidebar about attending a school “far from home” if you and your GM decide to tell a story, for example, of a Mage born in the North but who somehow ended up attending at Gweison Haul. For this Lifepath, Willow goes straight to Gweison Haul. As a result, she gains a dimeritium resistance, allowing her to spend 10 STA to gain a +3 to Endurance Checks when resisting the effects of the foul, anti-magic metal. Other schools will bestow different benefits upon a Mage.

The great statue watches over the students in a large corridor in Gweison Haul.

Willow, like most Mages, spends roughly the next twenty years in training. This allows us to roll twice on the Life in Academia table, which is sorted by school. We roll an 8, which tells us at some point Willow helped to harbor a renegade mage and gains a Mage Ally (which can be rolled on a chart from later on the Lifepath), and a 9, meaning Willow spent time helping at the Church of the Great Sun and gains a +1 to Charisma and Social Etiquette. As a side note, if she had attended Aretuza, instead, on a 9 Willow would have been leashed to a mage living outside the school and automatically made an apprentice.

 Speaking of apprentices, the next step on the Lifepath is to determine if Willow was apprenticed to a more experienced mage during their education. A roll of 1 tells us they were not, which is uncommon in Gweison Haul. Unlike at Ban Ard, most students of Gweison Haul become apprentices. There’s a story here – perhaps it has something to do with the renegade mage Willow sheltered earlier in the Lifepath?

Because Willow wasn’t apprenticed we skip the part of the Lifepath that dictates a mentor’s personality and style, teaching methods, memorable moments, and the way the apprenticeship ended, and move right on to a Mage’s life events.

The Lifepath notes human Mages can live for centuries. It asks us to pick an age and roll danger and an event for each decade of life lived after the end of Willow’s magical education. We decide she left school at 30 and is 50 now. Most Mages consider her rather young.

For each decade we’re asked to pick how we lived it: Cautious, Politicking, in Experimentation, or in Magical Studio. Each has a corresponding Danger level. We roll percentile dice and if the result is the Danger level of lower, we must roll on the Danger table to determine what happened. If it is higher we do not. In either case, we then roll to determine an Event that occurred during that particular decade.

For the first decade (Willow’s 30s), we decide Willow dipped into Politicking. Her experience with the renegade Mage while in school inspired her to try to change the system through political agitation . Politicking comes with a Danger level of 50%. We roll 72, well above 50, and Willow encountered no Danger. A roll of 8 for an Event tells us she gained Knowledge. Dipping to the Knowledge table, we discover Willow has become an expert in Divination and will begin play knowing the Hydromancy, Pyromancy, Tyromancy, or Oneiromancy Ritual.

Mmmm. Cheese.

For Willow’s second and last decade, we realize she has taken a turn. While she started off politicking in her 30s, her experience with divination has inspired her to spend her 40s in Experimentation. Unfortunately, Experimentation comes with a high Danger level: 70%. We roll a 45. That directs us to the Experimentation column on the Danger table. A roll of 6 tells us Willow has developed a magical allergy. Whenever she drinks a potion or elixir, she gains the appropriate effects but also suffers from the Nausea condition for the elixir or potion’s duration. Poor Willow spent a decade trying to enhance her powers of divination through alchemy and, instead, developed an allergy instead.

A roll of 3 for Events tells us Willow also gained a Benefit in this second decade. In fact, a roll of 5 on the Benefit table tells us it was a Love Affair! One more roll, a 10, tells us the love affair is still ongoing, though on and off. We’ll have to be sure to discuss this with the GM, to determine who Willow’s lover is! That’s another plot hook any clever GM can use to enhance the game.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of Willow’s Lifepath (we’ll roll information on her Mage Ally from Willow’s educational years “off camera”).

From the child of a family of wood carvers to the academic rigidity of Gweison Haul to expertise in divination and a love affair, we’ve certainly developed quite a lot of background for Willow and created several possibilities for the GM to bring Lifepath information into the game.

That’s it this week! Until next week, keep your swords sharp and stay safe on The Path.

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