There is one aspect of Magick (yes, I'm using 2nd ed, but it applies equally to Revised and upcoming 20th Anniversary AFAIK) that I simply cannot grasp.
Lack of dice during a throw. High success requirements. High target difficulties. And most of all - multiple penalties for the same circumstance.
Arete, which is being rolled when trying Magick, usually ranges from around 3 to 4 in my groups. Beings with Arete 6+ are said to be godlike creatures banishing themselves from earth to run away from paradigm limitations. Not to mention prohibitively expensive XP costs.
On top of that, following the charts I come to this conclusion: In favorable conditions, coincidental magick is about 5-6 difficulty and vulgar 6-7 In unfavorable conditions, like casting in combat an improvised effect, difficulty reaches 9 very quickly (3 for arbitrarily chosen dot, +4 for vulgar, no witnesses, +1 for improvised, +1 for distractions).
All of the above are fair enough - magick is hard.
But then Magickal Feats and Damage and Duration charts happen.
A standard Magickal Feat, like a fireball, shapechange (from chart), Matter transformation, dodging an attack with Entropy, extracting Quintessence from a Tass, reading a person's mind (my examples) require 2 successes. Doing that remotely, without physical contact - +1. Making that last more than a turn (without "channeling" I presume) another +1.
Or a tad more difficult, self teleportation, 4 successes flat from just the Magickal Feats table.
How do I get 4 successes on 3 dice, that seem to be a standard for a mage that could reasonably attempt those tasks.
Or maybe even a ridiculous example of 3 successes required to ignite a gas main, that is naturally highly explosive and should be fairly easy in comparison?
I know the above tables are an attempt at limiting spectacular or outrageous effects like pulling the Moon from its orbit. But wouldn't such an act already taxed by Sphere requirements? Sure, for the Moon one, 9 difficulty would still be easy, but why not have "outrageously vulgar acts add number of successes at storyteller's discretion" rule instead?
It seems to me that either: a) Magick is never supposed to be used outside of the Mage's haven, or b) Magick is just SO HARD that no one under 5-6 Arete should attempt anything useful, or c) My players should have more Arete because 3 is really really low, or d) These tables tax low-power effects too harshly, or e) I'm doing something wrong.
Can someone please explain where am I missing it? I understand that Magick is never easy, not even for a godlike guru, but should actions described in 2nd or 3rd dot of a particular sphere be near-impossible for a Mage with 2 or 3 Arete?