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In Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition, you need quintessence to create things from nothing.

With the life sphere 3 dots (+ prime 2 dots), you can create simple life (including plants) with a point of quintessence (page 516-517 in Mage the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition core rulebook).

With 2 dots, page 516 states:

Although he can’t yet transmute them into other states of being, he can cause flowers to bloom or wither, help trees bear fruit, and so on.

"Help a tree bear fruit" seems to imply that some limited growth also works without spending quintessence.

In the case of simple lifeforms like moss or fungi, them blooming would just mean that there is more of it there afterwards since those plants mostly only grow larger.

At which point of growth would you have to use quintessence to make the plant grow larger (if you use a Life 2 dot spell to bloom a patch of moss, for example)?

Is there precedent for this in a rulebook? Or is it just based on Storyteller discretion?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se. If you are looking for guidance in an faq style for rpg.se, then consult the help center. I hope you get an answer soon. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Mar 9 at 11:55
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You don't need to spend Quintessence, unless the task you want to do is too difficult (usually):

Quintessence does make working magic easier. As the mage reinforces his spell with the power of reality, it bends the cosmos more smoothly. Each Tradition has its own views on what, exactly, Quintessence is and why it serves as a power source like this. The upshot is that each point of Quintessence channeled into an Effect lowers the Effect’s difficulty by one point, to a maximum net difficulty modifier of three – so you can cancel some penalties and perhaps lower the difficulty by as much as three points.Source - heree is a handy table for difficulty levels which also confirms that

With Life 2 you can change the plants, this means that you can make them grow, change shape or type. So you could make the flowers to bloom suddenly which would be a coincidental, easy and safe type of magick or for example, make the flowers much bigger or change into another type of plant - small bushes, poison vines etc, which would be a vulgar magick. The latter one is much more difficult (hence dangerous), so your mage might want to spend the quintessence to reduce the risk.

If you'd like to do something even more spectacular, like turning a daisy into a tree, your GM would probably decide that all that plant mass cannot get from the daisy itself, so you'd have to add the Prime sphere to channel the loose Quintessence from the "thin air" (not one stored in you!) into creating the tree using Prime 2

Prime 2: Create Pattern: In conjecture with other Spheres, the mage can create a simple Pattern out of thin air, by diverging the flow of Quintessence in the Tellurian into the new form he wants to create. source

Again, you could spend your own Quintessence to make this extremely vulgar effect easier.

If instead of a regular tree you want to make a magical tree (which for example bears fruits that help healing), even that might not be enough and at least Prime 3 might be required:

Prime 3: Channel Quintessence: The mage can draw free-flowing Quintessence from a Node, Juncture or Tass into their pattern or transfer Quintessence from their own Pattern into another Pattern. ibid

This time you would be indeed using your own Quintessence not only to make the task easier but to make it possible in the first place.

Edit: As @Cornerfield pointed out, if you don't have enough skills in Prime, you can spend your own Quintessence to create "something from nothing" (like in the second example above)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ sorry for being a bit blunt, but can you add the sources and if you have them the page numbers? If you would do that I'll mark you answer as right away otherwise I'll have to check for myself where I can find those (and I'll mark it as right after I found them) \$\endgroup\$ – Cornerfield Mar 10 at 8:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cornerfield I've taken the info about Prime from MtA Wiki, the info about Quintessence usage to reduce difficulty is also found online. I don't have the book on me to check where it is, but I'm 99% sure that those rules apply to all editions of MtA. \$\endgroup\$ – Yasskier Mar 10 at 8:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you aware that you can use personal quintessence to create things from thin air if you don't have the appropiate dots in prime (page 537 in Mage 20th Anniversary Edition)? Your answer makes it sound as if you think that making magick casting easier is the only thing you can spend quintessence for. Everything else is completely correct so I did give it the checkmark. \$\endgroup\$ – Cornerfield Mar 10 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cornerfield, fair point, I'll add it \$\endgroup\$ – Yasskier Mar 10 at 22:49

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