Many have will, many have vision and many have purpose. Only an Awakened few, though, have true Arete -- the intuitive awareness of the universal ebb and flow, the channel for will through which the mage understands and directs the Tapestry. Once Awakened, a mage forever sees the universe through altered eyes. Arete is a measure of that understanding and mystic will. It is through Arete that the mage grasps the Patterns of the Tellurian and bends them in conjunction with his will and belief.
Not all mages have Arete. Sorcerers who practice static paths of wizardry invoke simple effects through their rigorous efforts. Only with Arete, though, can a mage truly reach the full power of dynamic magic. The Avatar stirs and the mage's Arete binds her mundane understanding with her mystic self to allow her to change the universe.
Awakening may come slowly or quickly, but once a mage finaly Awakens, she often experiences a sudden flash of insight -- the character gains an Arete of one to three dots. Further development of this enlightened state comes only with long effort and introspection. The mage must strive to understand the Tellurian, to delve into her innermost being and to overcome her flaws. Experience is part of the process of developing Arete, but an ephemeral wisdom is more important. By strengthening her resolve, unlocking sublime mysteries and passing through the gates of Seeking, the mage refines and improves her Arete until her magical will radiates like a shining beacon pointing toward Ascension.
Every mage has a personalized view of Arete. Some mages, like most of the Order of Hermes, try to quantify Arete as a base knowledge of mystic principles. More subtle magicians quantify Arete as a sort of harmony, the placid stillness of an internal self. Arete could be seen as the connection of the soul to the cosmos, or as the bond to the very powers of life. In truth, Arete is all these things. It transcends any simple categorization or limitation, for it is the enlightenment that surpasses the human mind.
Arete also serves to measure a mage's raw mystical power. While understanding of the Spheres is necessary to actually cause directed change, the depth to which a mage can study the Spheres and the breadth of her magical power stems from her Arete. A highly enlightened mage can discover more complex universal structures and turn reality on its head with greater force. Through a powerful understanding of herself, the mage reflects great change.
Game Effects of AreteEdit
- Arete measures pure magical strength. Almost all rolls for magical feats use the mage's Arete as the dice pool.
- Truly great understanding allows a mage to overcome her dependence on props and foci. A mage with a high enough Arete rating -- six or more dots -- comes to understand that it is his will that moves the universe, not his dependence on a particular form of magic. Once a mage's Arete rating reaches six, he no longer needs to use foci for one of his Spheres. For each additional point of Arete gained, the mage may discard the requirements of foci for two more Spheres. Of course, the mage may choose to continue using foci, and doing so can be helpful. Furthermore, the mage must come to some personal realization of this; the knowledge does not spring unbidden into the mage's mind. (Storytellers may alter this rate to suit their whims, though)
- A mage's practical understanding of the universe can never exceed her abstract, theoretical level of enlightenment. Thus, no Sphere rating can ever exceed the mage's normal Arete rating.
- A mage's ability to work magic stems from willpower as much as belief and comprehension. Thus, Arete cannot exceed the mage's permanent Willpower rating. If the mage's permanent Willpower rating drops, his higher levels of Arete and Spheres become inaccessible. He retains his mystic understanding, but he cannot exert the will to use it.
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