The Sphere of Prime allows the Mage to control the flow of the raw stuff of Magick - Quintessence - through and around himself or any other Pattern (although it should be noted that since Mind is not a Pattern, Prime cannot be used to directly affect it). While Prime is not essential to Mages, it is a very useful Art, and most Mages understand it at its most basic levels.
QUINTESSENCE AND PATTERN: The ultimate building block of the Universe is Quintessence, existing at an even more fundamental level than that of the atomic particles and quarks of the Technocracy - indeed, it is the most fundamental unit of magickal energy. Nothing could exist without Quintessence fuelling its existence - no matter, no life, no physical manifestations of any sort whatsoever could exist. Physical reality is not however composed solely of unshaped Quintessence - the exact configuration of the Quintessence determines the physical form it creates; this configuration is known as a Pattern. All physical Patterns - Forces, Matter, and Life - have their own different configurations and sub-configurations that make them unique.
Mages theorise that a vast pool of Quintessence permeates all of reality - from the physical world to the Horizon - but that Quintessence manifests in two observed varieties; Raw and Free. The distinction between these two types is defined by the configuration they occur in - at their roots, however, they are identical in every way. Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin, but Raw Quintessence is much less accessible that Free.
Raw Quintessence is that which is locked into a Pattern. As a Pattern forms and grows, it draws Quintessence from the aforementioned pool to fuel its continuing growth and maintain its existence. This Quintessence is used to reinforce the Pattern's physical existence and so becomes an intimate part of the Form - as a result, it is very difficult to magickally manipulate.
Free Quintessence is that which is NOT locked into a Pattern. Instead, it flows around the universe, occasionally accumulating in special places (known as Nodes) or in certain Patterns. Mages can access this 'unlocked' Quintessence much more easily than Raw Quintessence.
TASS: Quintessence is not always an intangible pool of energy - in places where the flow is densest (usually in Nodes) it can become physically real. Such solidified Quintessence is known as Tass, and occurs in a form determined by the local physical environment - a Node on a rubbish tip would form Entropy (or Matter) Tass, while Tass in a verdant forest would be Life Tass. As such it can be carried around by Mages and can be tapped at Prime 1 to power effects. See below for details.
CREATING PATTERNS: Patterns can be magickally created only if the Mage has Prime 2 and the appropriate Form - Prime 2 is required here to divert Quintessence from the universal pool into the new Pattern to fuel its existence. The amount drawn from this pool at this level is sufficient only to maintain the Pattern's existence - that is, the Pattern can only be created with the Raw Quintessence that allows it to exist, but no extra Free Quintessence. However, if left for a sufficiently long period of time, Free Quintessence is absorbed naturally from the environment. At higher levels of Prime, the Mage can also increase or decrease the amount of Raw Quintessence that makes a Pattern real.
LIVING PATTERNS: The Raw Quintessence makeup of a living Pattern is two-fold. Like Matter and Forces Patterns, a Life Pattern contains the fixed Raw Quintessence that allows it to be real.
However, there is another component possessed only by Living Patterns - that component which makes them alive. This is a Flow of Quintessence, originating from the universal pool and returning back to it via the Life Pattern - this Flow is as much an inherent part of the Pattern as the Raw Quintessence 'locked' within it. The Flow maintains the Pattern's continuing living existence - without it, the Life Pattern is dead, inanimate matter - and ceases once the Pattern dies. On death, all that remains is a dead body containing 'locked' Raw Quintessence, which is itself eventually recycled back into the universal pool through bodily decay. At high levels of Prime, Mages can manipulate this Flow and thus cause serious damage to existing Life Patterns.
THE AVATAR PATTERN: While all Living Patterns are maintained by a Flow, they contain yet another component that actually defines them for what they are individually - this component is known as the Avatar Pattern, and is unique for every living creature on the Earth at a given time. Essentially, the Avatar Pattern is the medium through which the Flow travels, and it determines how the Flow passes through the Living Pattern and also its magnitude - thus the Flow and the Avatar Pattern are strongly interlinked.
In essence, the Avatar Pattern is the 'soul' of the creature - it is that which ultimately makes individual creatures unique. As such, every living thing on Earth - plants, animals, and humans (both Sleepers and Mages) - possesses a Soul of some form. However, Mages possess a variety of Avatar Pattern that allows them to perform True Magick - this is referred to specifically as the Mage's Avatar, to differentiate it from the Souls of Sleepers.
The actual metaphysicks behind Awakening - the process by which the ability to cast True Magick manifests itself - is a matter of much debate. Some Mages believe that all creatures initially possess Souls, and that sheer force of will (or external influence) changes the very nature of the creature's being to that of an Avatar. The implication is that Awakening can happen at any time to anyone, given the right circumstances. Others believe that those that are Awakened are actually born with fully manifested Avatars, but that a conscious psychological effort must be made at some point in their lives to connect with their magickal nature - thus only those born with Avatars instead of Souls can ever Awaken. Both arguments have their merits and flaws.
Despite this debate, it is generally agreed that the Avatar Pattern - be it Soul or Avatar - does not die with the creature whose Living Pattern it is associated with. Rather, it is usually recycled and re-incorporated into a new body when a creature dies. Each Living Pattern that the Avatar Pattern is associated with may leave a Residue within - effectively, the memories and the sum of experiences that made up that individual's existence - which manifests itself in future incarnations as memories of past lives - however, the memories of those incarnations that Awakened seem to be more vivid than the intermediate 'Sleeper' lives. Sometimes, an Avatar Pattern is temporarily cleared of this Residue if an individual's will to continue his particular existence is strong enough - in this case, the Residue is 'dumped' in the Shadowlands and that individual gets his wish. Here, he continues his existence as an independent entity, but does so as a Wraith. The Avatar Pattern itself that contained that Residue is recycled back into the Cycle of Life and Death, but without the associated Residue. Eventually, the Residue is reclaimed into the Cycle via Oblivion or Transcendence in the Shadowlands, but this could occur after the empty Avatar Pattern has gone through many physical Incarnations. Note that the Avatar Pattern itself cannot be harmed or damaged in any way by mortal magicks - only the Gilgul can affect it (destroying it and any associated Residue), and only the Oracles are capable of performing this. What happens after death is described in greater depth in my treatise on The Nature Of Wraiths and the Cycle Of Life And Death.
True Magick can be wielded only by creatures that possess Avatars. Avatars are structured in such a way that the Flow of Quintessence through them is far in excess of the amount required merely to maintain the Living Pattern's existence. The Avatar Pattern itself is structured in such a way that the Living Pattern can tap and store this energy and use it to impose his Will on reality - i.e. to cast True Magick.
The Avatar Background of a Mage therefore represents the greater Flow of Raw Quintessence that passes through his Living Pattern. This enhanced Flow allows him to cast magick, and also determines the amount of excess Free Quintessence - the number of dots on the Quintessence circle on the character sheet - that his Living Pattern can naturally hold.
At least one dot in the Avatar Background is required for all Mages - if they do not possess this, they are Sleepers and cannot cast magick at all. Mages automatically start the game with a Quintessence score equal to their Avatar rating. Quintessence can be recharged by any Mage via the Avatar Background - should the Mage's Quintessence total drop below his Avatar rating, it can be recharged by successfully meditating in a Node for at least an hour (Perception + Meditation roll at difficulty 6). The number of successes on this roll determines the number of Quintessence Points regained, but the rating of the Node determines the maximum number of Quintessence Points that can be gained in one session. Also, Quintessence can never accumulate to a total greater than the Mage's Avatar Rating unless he has Prime 1. Any Mage with an Avatar rating can do this, and it does not require any ability in the Prime sphere.
Level 1: Perceive Quintessence/Store Quintessence. At this level, the Mage can perceive Quintessence Flows. This allows him to see concentrations such as Nodes, Awakened Creatures, and whether any Quintessence is being diverted to fuel magickal effects in the area. He can also use the Free Quintessence within his Living Pattern or Tass to lower the difficulties of his own magickal effects - note however that this is impossible for Mages without Prime 1.
Prime 1 grants the Mage the ability only to store more Quintessence points in his Pattern than his Avatar rating - it does not allow the Mage to transfer Quintessence into that space himself. Effectively, Prime 1 only gives the Mage the potential to store more Quintessence. If a Mage does not possess Prime 1, his Avatar rating acts as the limit for the maximum number of Quintessence points he can store in his Living Pattern. However, Prime 1 does allow the Mage to gain Quintessence direct from the Quintessence pool in the natural environment up to the limit of his Avatar Rating or Prime score - he no longer requires a Node. However, this is always a Vulgar magickal effect, since Free Quintessence is being taken from the environment in an unnatural manner. It also allows him to use Tass to power his effects, but not for any other purpose.
In summary, a Mage's Avatar only allows him to absorb Quintessence from Nodes, up to the limit of his Avatar Rating. Prime 1 allows him to use Quintessence or Tass to power his own magickal effects, and allows him to store more Quintessence in his Living Pattern than his Avatar rating (though not to fill that extra space himself). It also allows him to draw Quintessence from the natural Quintessence Pool up to the limit of his Avatar Rating without recourse to a Node, though this is a Vulgar effect. Prime 3 is required if the Mage wishes to break the Avatar limit and channel more Quintessence into his Pattern than his Avatar Rating would naturally allow, thus filling the extra space created by Prime 1.
Level 2: Fuel Pattern. Prime 2 allows the Mage to divert Quintessence from the universal pool into Patterns that he creates, thus giving them real physical form. When creating Life Patterns, a temporary Avatar Pattern is also created along with a Flow to allow the creature to exist and live - however, the Flow is entirely artificial and remains stable only for the duration of the effect; it collapses at the end, thus killing the creature. All Creo effects used to construct new Patterns are therefore Conjunctional, requiring the Pattern Sphere at the relevant level and a Prime 2 Requisite. Note however that Mind effects never require Prime 2 requisites, and that magickally healing or repairing Patterns requires only the appropriate Pattern Sphere - Prime 2 is not required here since the Pattern is repaired directly with the Pattern.
Note that Prime 2 cannot be used to 'enchant' items as described on pages 214 of Mage2 - this requires extra Quintessence to be channelled into them, which is only possible at Prime 3. In addition, Prime 2 only allows the Mage to set up the Raw Quintessence framework or Flow to fuel created Patterns - it does not allow the Mage to alter existing flows of Quintessence. By this definition, the 'Rubbing Of The Bones' effect on Page 215 of the Mage2 rulebook (described therein as a Prime 2 effect) is impossible at that level - it is now a Prime 5 effect.
Level 3: Channel Quintessence. At this level, the Mage is able to channel Free Quintessence from one Pattern to another, or from the Universal Pool into an existing pattern (including his own). This means that he can now fill the 'extra storage space' created in his Avatar with Prime 1 - he can now gain Quintessence above the limit set by his Avatar Rating. Prime 3 also allows the Mage to transfer Free Quintessence to or between other Patterns, thus allowing him to create Talismans and enchanted objects.
Enchanted Objects are Patterns that are charged with more Free Quintessence than they can naturally store. While they appear no different to the Unawakened observer, enchanted objects are rendered more 'real' to the supernatural world by the excess. As such, an enchanted object exists in the spirit world (i.e. the Three Umbrae) as well as the physical world and can therefore be used by or against the spiritual inhabitants there. In addition, enchanted weapons inflict aggravated damage on all Awakened creatures - be they Vampires, Garou, Mages, Wraiths, Mummies or Changelings - though they still inflict normal damage on unawakened creatures and other items. Ultimately, enchanted objects are physically no different to the normal variety - they are however more potent against supernatural entities; for example, an enchanted denim jacket would still behave like normal denim clothing in the physical world, but would protect against spirit attacks as well.
The Mage must roll at least five successes on his spellcasting roll for an enchantment to work - as a result, such a feat is usually an extended roll, requiring concentration throughout. The number of successes over (and including) the initial five determine the duration of the enchantment as shown on the Magickal Duration table - thus, if five successes were rolled, the enchantment would last only a turn (as if only one success had been rolled); twelve successes (i.e. an excess of seven) are required to make an enchantment permanent. Note that enchantment of items is never Vulgar. Also, the number of extra successes over five on the spellcasting roll determines how much excess Free Quintessence is present within the Pattern - this can be channelled out by a Mage using Prime 3, thus removing the enchantment.
Level 4: Manipulate Raw Quintessence. At this level, the Mage finally learns how to affect the Raw Quintessence that is within all non-living Patterns. By extracting it, the Mage can affect a Pattern's incarnation in this reality - Adepts of Prime can expel the Raw Quintessence from the Pattern, recycling it into the cosmic pool of Raw Quintessence. Without this Quintessence, the Pattern (be it Matter or Forces) simply ceases to exist. The Mage can also add Raw Quintessence to a Pattern above its natural state - this has the same effect as enchanting the object (as described in Prime 3), but is permanent and cannot be reversed using Prime 3 or less. Note that the 'locked' Raw Quintessence of Living Patterns cannot be affected at this level - however, this locked Quintessence can be drained at Prime 5 in the same way as the Matter and Forces patterns described here, and in addition the Flow through the Living Pattern can be manipulated at that level.
Level 5: Affect Raw Quintessence Flow. The Master of Prime is now capable of increasing or decreasing the magnitude of the Flow of Raw Quintessence through Living Patterns. Most living beings do not store Quintessence - instead, a stream of Raw Quintessence flows continuously through their Patterns. Only those with strong enough Avatars (i.e. Mages and Awakened Creatures) are capable of storing some of this flow within their Patterns.
Reducing the Flow of Raw Quintessence through a Pattern can give a Master great control over the magickal abilities of other Mages. The Master can reduce the Flow through a target's Avatar Pattern so that the Flow is too weak to allow it to wield Magick - the target essentially becomes a Sleeper (albeit one who does not count as a Witness for Vulgar magicks). It is possible to decrease the Flow even further, to such an extent that it is extinguished completely - this will kill the target, but note that the Avatar Pattern is still be recycled unharmed. In addition, the Raw Quintessence 'locked' in a Living Pattern can now be drained in the same manner as described for Matter and Forces in Prime 4 - this inflicts aggravated damage on the Living Pattern itself, discharging the Raw Quintessence back into the pool and effectively removing the target from existence.
The Flow of Raw Quintessence through an Avatar Pattern can also be increased, which acts to increase the Mage's rating in his Avatar Background (effectively without limit) - this allows him to spend more Quintessence on his magickal effects (this replaces 'Recharge Gift', which as defined here is now a Prime 1 effect). Note however that this cannot be used to Awaken a Sleeper - Awakening is a natural event and cannot be forced. Metaphysickally, a Sleeper's Soul is structured in such a way that it cannot sustain a larger Flow - effectively, increasing the Raw Quintessence through a Soul would only create a Quintessence 'bottleneck' as it cannot accommodate the increased Flow. To Awaken a Sleeper, the Mage would have to artificially alter the structure of the Avatar Pattern such that it is transformed from a Soul into an Avatar - such a feat is beyond the limits of mortal magick. The most a Mage can do is to 'encourage' Awakenings through other means - for example, the Euthanatos believe that a near-death experience acts as a catalyst for Awakening their acolytes - but such encouragement is by no means guaranteed to work. In truth, no-one really understands what causes Awakenings to occur naturally - the fact is that they do, and this cannot be duplicated artificially by mortal magicks.
In addition, Prime 5 can be used to increase the maximum amount of Free Quintessence that the Mage can store in his Pattern to above even the limits set by his Paradox rating - however, this has the effect of 'supercharging' the Mage, manifesting around him as an aura of unbridled power. Objects merely touching the Mage may be sent hurtling away at high speed, and devices may spontaneously explode in his presence. In addition, Paradox is often drawn to such a large collection of Free Quintessence and may attempt to rectify the situation by striking the Mage.
It should be noted that attempting the Gilgul is beyond the ability of mere Masters of Prime (and, to further contradict Mage2, it would be wholly a Prime effect and not a Spirit one). Prime 5 affects only the Flow of Raw Quintessence through a target's Living Pattern - Gilgul however is the complete destruction of the Avatar Pattern itself, such that it is lost forever to the Cycle of Life and Death; all Residue within the Avatar Pattern is also destroyed. Masters are completely incapable of affecting the Avatar Patterns of living creatures, though they are aware of its existence at this level - the Gilgul can only be attempted by Oracles of Prime. The Avatar Pattern itself can never be affected by any Prime 5 magick, and should death result it will always recycle, completely unaffected by non-Oracular magicks.
Also, Masters of Prime become aware of a connection between Paradox and Quintessence similar to that between positive and negative forces. Masters of Prime can also channel Free Quintessence in such a way that it cancels out Paradox energies that have not yet coalesced within a Pattern - i.e. remove incoming Paradox Points from an effect before the Mage gains them. However, channelling and focusing of Paradox into other Patterns is not possible until Oracular levels of Prime.
|***||Affect Free Quintessence.|
|****||Affect Raw Quintessence.|
|*****||Affect Raw Quintessence Flow.|