The Phenomenon of ParadoxEdit

When a magickal Effect defies the Consensus, it slaps the face of reality- and reality reacts in an understandable manner: it slaps back.  Sometimes, it also kicks a mage right in the crotch.  This is known as the Paradox Effect.  Unlike lightning, it can absolutely strike the same target twice. Every mage, no matter how careful, will be put in situations where accumulating paradox is less dire than avoiding risky magick.  Further, defying Consensus is what a mage must do unless they are too afraid to push forward towards Ascension. The Technocratic Terminology for Paradox is Market Correction.

Characters have no Paradox at Creation, unless they have Enhancements which cause Permanent Paradox, as does severe  backlash and certain alterations to the character's pattern.  Permanent Paradox cannot be dispelled during backlash, but they are always taken in account and added to the Paradox pool that the Storyteller rolls.

It might baffle players that Paradox, to enforce Reality, causes bizzare things to occur that fall outside of Consensus.  A Storyteller may decide to limit the effects of a Paradox backlash to things that are coincidental enough not to scare any potential human witnesses- or postpone them to a time the mage is alone and no one can witness what happens.  Storytellers might also decide to ensure the results of a severe backlash reflect the fears of the mage or represent an ironic parody of what the mage did to earn the backlash.

Game Effects Regarding ParadoxEdit

  • Each time a mage employs vulgar magick, he gets at least one point of Paradox.  (see Casting Magickal Effects chart)
  • Botching a magickal Effect gathers Paradox at the following rate
  1. a botch with a coincidental Effect inflicts 1 Paradox point for every dot in the highest Sphere in the Effect.
  2. a botch with a vulgar Effect without witnesses inflicts 1 Paradox point for every dot in the highest Sphere in the Effect + 1 additional point.
  3. Botching a vulgar Effect with witnesses inflicts 2 Paradox points for every dot in the highest Sphere in the Effect + 2 additional points.
  • Large amounts of Paradox energy can backlash on the mage with hideous results- see the Cost of Paradox below.
  • A mage who builds up paradox can bleed it off slowly by avoiding magick for a while if Storyteller allows.  See p. 549 of M20 Core.
  • Accumulating 20 or more points of Paradox without backlash can result in unrecoverable events that include becoming a marauder, being cast out into the Void, or violent and instant death.
  • Avatars, sorcerers, and Night-Folk are immune to Paradox. Spirit charms do not invoke Paradox, for example, on either side of the Gauntlet even when there are human witnesses.
  • Paradox Effects generally follow a "punishment that fits the crime" motif and take the route that is least disruptive to Witnesses.
  • Paradox backlash can happen in the Digital Web, and include a special effect called Whiteout (see pp. 470-472 of M20 Core), but Paradox does not carry over between the Terrestrial plane and the Web.  Going off-line is for a minute is enough for a mage to dump their net-based Paradox.
  • Paradox is discharged during Paradox Backlash (see chart below) and also when a character enters Quiet. It it was Backlash that caused Quiet, the effects can be cumulative.
  • Paradox can be nullified with a Prime 5 Effect
  • Time effects that involve traveling backwards in time incur tremendous amounts of Paradox; see p.522 of M20 Core for specifics
  • Magickal Rituals are especially dangerous to botch.  The caster gains not only the normal amount of Paradox, but an additional point of Paradox for each roll made in the ritual after the first one.  The Paradox point accumulation does not reset after a botch; if you continue the ritual it will be at +1 difficulty and you would take additional paradox for each turn it takes to complete.
  • In collaborative rituals, if one caster botches a casting roll, everyone suffers the Paradox, either adding the Paradox points their individual pools or enduring a large-scale blast that affects everyone (Awakened or otherwise) who happens to be at Ground Zero when it happens.
  • If a mage gains five or more Paradox within a single event, the Storyteller may decide to roll for Backlash.


Resonance is often considered to be a minor manifestation of the Paradox effect.  It is a ripple in the Tapestry around a Willworker, visual proof of their Essence and/or Focus.  Resonance places a target on the mage's back as far as enemy factions are concerned, but does not invoke additional paradox.

Paradox FlawsEdit

  • Trivial Flaws (1-5 point backlash): short-lived and cosmetic distortions of body or circumstance that haunt the mage for a time period lasting between a few minutes to a few hours unless the mage continues to accumulate paradox and causes the flaw to increase in length and intensity.
  • Minor Flaws (6-10 point backlash): more noticeable, but still only inconvenient/embarrassing effects that might affect both the mage and material things directly around them.  Last a few hours, generally less than a day. 
  • Significant Flaws (11-15 point backlash): disturbing and debilitating changes to body and possessions which can last several days or even a week or more.
  • Severe Flaws (16-20 point backlash): Horrifying changes warp the mage and his/her circumstances, causing reduced dice pools, increased difficulties, and the need to hide in isolation from the Masses.  Any lower level flaws previously obtained are dramatically intensified.
  • Dramatic Flaws (21+ point backlash): The mages pattern is so distorted they may never recover his/her old, normal self.  Inhuman, almost Lovecraftian mutations happen, accompanied by chronic pain and disasterous luck.  The mage loses multiple dice from various pools and +2 or more to most difficulty modifiers.  Lower level flaws can last for months or even years.  An Otherworldly abomination, the mage will probably flee beyond the Gauntlet or hide in the remotest corner of the Eath they can find if they don't end their suffering via suicide.

Paradox SpiritsEdit

Paradox spirits are manifestations of metaphysical justice and retribution. They can be considered the Guardian Angels of the Consensus.  Each of them might be unique in appearance and personality.  They generally have an affinity with the kind of Effect that was cast, something to make them and actions "poetic justice".  Paradox spirits do not have to spend Essence for an Initial manifestation, unlike other spirits.  They all have the Charm SpiritAway which enables them to whisk creatures or characters from the material world to their personal realm.

Paradox rarely manifest for minor violations of Consensus.  A backlash of over 10 points, might draw a Paradox spirit- and a backlash of over 15 points tends to summon the more formidable and self-willed beings who are immune to most Spirit Sphere attacks lower than rank 5.

Paradox RealmsEdit

Sometimes Reality gives a mage a "Go Directly To Jail" card and literally kicks them out of the terrestrial plane to a personalized Paradox Realm, where he or she will remain trapped until they figure out why the Realm exists, exactly what they did wrong, and mollify Reality or the Paradox Spirit that acted at its bequest. In some ways, (perhaps many ways), a Paradox Realm works like a Seeking, filled with challenges and obstacles that have to be overcome. The only reward is freedom and achieving it typically involves a great deal of penance and soul-searching. An excessively long imprisonment in a Paradox Realm can cost a mage at least one point of permananent Willpower.

Magic cast in Paradox Realms, especially if its related to the Effect that got the mage exiled to the realm in the first place, tends to backfire easily and dramatically. 

See pp. 552-553 in M20 Core for additional information regarding Paradox Realms.

Paradox & TechnomancyEdit

Technomancers- both those within the Technocratic Union and those outside of it- have an advantage over Mysticks.  Their focus is generally more aligned with Consensus, giving them more opportunities to create Coincidental Effecs. 

But what technomagick can do far outstrips what the Consensus believes in.  The average citizen might feel a sense of wonder but not heartfelt disbelief if they are shown a picture of a cloned mouse.  However, seeing a cyborg enter the room is going to instill the same reaction as seeing someone start to levitate.  The Technocracy can create Artificial Citizens and use nanotechnology but these kinds of technologies are flawed and will dissolve or degrade outside of specially prepared laboratories and research facilities (such as Horizon Constructs) in no small part because of the Paradox Effect.  See the Enhancement Background for information about the price, in Paradox, for possessing technomagickal Enhancements.

Paradox & The MaraudersEdit

Their perpectual state of Quiet shields Marauders from a great deal of Paradox, but not perfectly. Some Marauders cannot enter terrestrial reality at all, banished to the Otherworlds, because their personal madness creates a personal reality in too much opposition with Consensus.  Marauders who do walk among Sleepers can (and will) cause Paradox Effects- but the Paradox generally bounces off them and instead strikes down an innocent target- usually the nearest mage of a different faction.  Worst of all, some Marauders are aware of this and willfully use Paradox as a weapon.  See the sidebar on p. 241 of M20 Core for more details on this topic.

Paradox & Familars/CompanionsEdit

There are a number of benefits to having the companionship of this kind of creature (see the Familar/Companion Background) but one that is relevant to the topic at hand. Familars and Companions are capable of absorbing a certain amount of Paradox from its mage when they trigger a Paradox Effect. The creature needs to be close (within 10 yards or 33 feet) and willing.  They can absorb or consume a maximum of 5 points of paradox for each point of rating they possess, and will harmlessly discharge/nullify this paradox at the rate of 1 point per week.  Devouring paradox is not enjoyable for the creature and they may rebuke or rebel against a mage who forces them into that situation too often.  In addition, if the Familiar ever reaches their maximum capacity, then the whole amount of Paradox consumed will backlash on both the mage and Familar.

Paradox BacklashEdit

Also known as the Burn, Physical Backlash manifests as intense pain at the lower levels and literally explosive (and fatal) levels at the high end of the scale.  A mage can try to soak the bashing damage with a stamina roll. Armor will not help, but cybernetics and Life Sphere magick might.

A physical backlash (of any time) that discharges 10 or more points of Paradox becomes a literal explosion that deals out damage in a radius around the mage, as per the Explosions rules.

The Storyteller rolls 1 die for each point of Paradox in character's current pool against difficulty 6.

Successes Effects of Discharge
 Botch All paradox points discharge harmlessly
None No effect; no paradox points discharge
1-5 1 point of paradox discharged per success + 1 point bashing damage per success;  character acquires trivial Paradox Flaw.
6-10 as above but character acquires a minor Paradox Flaw.
11-15 as above except character takes lethal vs. bashing damage or one of the following: a significant Paradox Flaw, a Paradox Spirit visitation or mild Quiet
16-20 Usual Paradox point-discharge,  Burn of lethal damage + one point of permanent
Paradox or two of the following effects: severe Paradox Flaw, Paradox Spirit visitation, moderate Quiet, banishment to a Paradox Realm.
21+ Usual Paradox discharge, plus a Burn of aggravated damage (one health level for every two successes) and either two points of permanent Paradox, one drastic Paradox Flaw, a Paradox Spirit visitation, a severe Quiet, or banishment to a Paradox Realm.

Postponing Paradox BacklashEdit

When a mage botches a casting roll or faces Paradox backlash, the event can be averted by spending a Willpower and taking an automatic failure to whatever action the character was attempting at the time.  The paradox points from the botched spell are still added to the sheet, increasing the risk when backlash does happen. This type of action can only be done once per casting.

Willpower can also be spent in attempting to dispell a delusion brought on by Quiet.  The player needs to spend a point of temporary Willpower, and then make a successful Willpower roll (dif 7 or higher).  Success both dispells the delusion and removes a point of Paradox.

Paradox Effects In the OtherworldsEdit

Magick is often but not always easier beyond the Terrestrial Plane.  Specific spheres might have an increased or reduced difficulty depending on which of the Three Worlds one is in (see p. 485 of M20 Core).  As a general rule of thumb, magick is easier in the Umbra, but when an Effect backfires, the result is even more catastrophic than it is on Earth.