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In New World of Darkness Mage, the Hierarchy of Sins is less than clear about some cases. Specifically, it is a Wisdom 4 sin to "Harm someone with magic".

In other sourcebooks, is there a more clear definition of what this means? Specifically, I'm looking at two examples:

  1. I use a Matter spell to enchant a gun, and then shoot someone for extra damage. Am I harming with magic? Does the answer change if someone else permanently enchanted that gun and gave it to me?
  2. I use a Life spell to increase my Strength and then punch someone. Is that harming with magic?

In both cases, I'm getting extra dice on an aggressive action, but they definitely feel like they should be different than hitting someone with a fireball.

Note: I'm familiar with the existing errata, but I don't feel it adequately addresses this issue. Also, I'm looking for cited proof of written rules, not how it should be, I already have an opinion there.

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I would guess that it depends on either the letter or the spirit of the "Harm someone with magic" rule. At low score, just the letter applies. At high score, you must take the spirit into considerations. But since I have neither played nor read the Mage v2.0 I do not know if this is a sensible answer or not -- thus comment. –  Sardathrion Apr 24 '12 at 8:25
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Tome of the Mysteries addresses this issue in two ways.

On page 116:

Using magic to cause direct harm to someone is an act of hubris against Wisdom 4 (three dice). For a sin to count as an act of hubris of this magnitude, the harm caused to someone has to be the direct, intentional result of the magic. Bolts of lightning or electricity, supernatural diseases, and psychic assaults are all direct magical attacks. More subtle magics which are intended to harm (causing points of bashing, lethal or aggravated damage) could also be considered directly harmful. Using telekinesis to fling rocks or hunks of scrap metal at a victim counts as a directly harmful magic, since the purpose of the magic as it is cast is to cause harm.

(Emphasis added.)

From this, and from supporting text in Chapter One, we can say that the Wisdom 4 sin is triggered by the Practices of Fraying, Unweaving, and Unmaking when directed against a person, and other spells whose intent is to harm or destroy. Your examples above — improving a gun with Matter or boosting one's Strength with Life — don't do that directly, so you wouldn't have to test on that scale.

However, there's another facet: Mages are not just subject to sins of Hubris, but sins of Morality, and any sin where magic is involved is tested at one level higher. (Page 114). If you're of a level of Wisdom where you'd ordinarily have to test for hurting someone with a punch — Wisdom 8, I believe — you'd test for it as a Wisdom 7 sin. Assaulting someone with a gun is either manslaughter or murder — Wisdom 4 or 3 — and that tests down as Wisdom 3 or 2, respectively. It's in these cases where your magic arm and gun would come in.

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