I'm preparing my first Mage 20th anniversary campaign, and from what I understand, not putting any point in the Avatar background sucks. But I can't figure out how to explain it to my players if one of them do that, or how to roleplay it as a storyteller if one of them still decide not to put any point in it.

So here I am, asking "What does it mean to not have points in avatar" If possible I would love having the answer from the mecanical point of view as well as from the roleplay point of view.


3 Answers 3


What does the book say?

Avatar/ Genius – Embodiment of the Awakened/ Enlightened Self. 1

By the way, it’s worth remembering that every Mage character should have at least one dot in the Avatar Background. 2

Then there’s the Awakened Self: your mage’s Avatar (or Genius). How powerful is it? How does it appear to him, and what does he believe it is? A low-level Avatar Background of 1 or 2 reflects a compelling nudge or intuition. Higher-level ones at Avatar 5, however, take stronger and more obvious forms, topping out with spirits so real they seem like separate entities. Especially if you’ve got a high Avatar Background, it’s important to decide the form and inclinations of that Enlightened Self and to decide how the character wraps his head around its existence. Depending on his concept, affiliations, and beliefs, your mage’s Avatar could be anything from a nagging hunch to a full-blown imaginary friend leading him toward challenge and disaster. 3

How to interpret that?

An avatar rating of 0 is... almost typical for sleepers, but those also have Arete 0. They have no nudge, no intuition that pushes them to magic - and with Avatar 0 you are not much further. They have no driving force to ascension from your Avatar. There's only the Mage trying to push themselves. An avatar so weak that you are almost indistinguishable from a sleeper means that you technically might not even qualify for a mage on some masters' tests! Someone with an avatar this weak is most likely an Orphan that just... figured out how to get something to work, they never communed with their avatar, it might not even have a shape you really noticed.

In essence, such a Mage is barely enlighted, but he isn't entirely a sleeper. The Avatar is what makes a mage a mage, and the Avatar 0 one is so faint, that it barely registers at all. He's... just barely awake to the magical, but if he doesn't nurture the Avatar in Seekings, he'll always be slow and weak even compared to someone that has a single dot.

Sure, you have a tiny speck more than a sleeper, but whatever induction you took to light your fire of enlightenment... it did leave you with but a spark, the potential of a flame but not more. A single dot would compare to that as candlelight, shedding some aura into the dark, answering to your breath. To stay with the comparison: Two dots are a torch, three a bonfire, four a pyre, and five a house ablaze.

On the other hand, it's also the ability of your Avatar to answer to you... or how loud it haunts you to become a better you. With the speck of Avatar X, you feel alone in the darkness, the voice of it unhearable. You have no guidance but what you find yourself. With Avatar 1 it is faint, barely audible. At 2 it's about as audible as you and me, standing in front of one another while an Avatar 4 or 5 is so loud and powerful that you just can't not hear it, you can't drown it out or close yourself off from its desire to guide you.


  • Lacking an Avatar rating you start without Quintessence. 4
  • You can't use any dots of Quintessence to modify Arete rolls, even with Prime. 5
  • You can't store any personal Quintessence without Prime. 5
  • You can't soak Spirit Rage. 6
  • Pattern Spiders Calcify you instantly, as you can't resist the roll. 7

The rules technically do allow you to have 0 Avatar, but it is explicitly:

X An ephemeral Avatar hardly capable of magick. 8

1 - M20 p.252
2 - M20 p.254
3 - M20 p.259
4 - M20 p.250
5 - M20 p.332
6 - M20 p.417
7 - M20 p.491
8 - M20 p.305


Mechanically speaking, not having any points in Avatar means that you cannot spend Quintessence to lower your spellcasting difficulty numbers. (You can't spend it for other purposes, either, but that's the main reason why it sucks.) The number of Quintessence points you can spend or absorb per turn is set by your Avatar rating, and zero means zero.

On a roleplay level, although you are an Awakened mage due to your Arete, you have no connection to the shard of power that has awakened in you. People with high Avatar ratings can communicate with their Avatars and gain wisdom and information thereby, but yours is silent to you — "more an ember than a bonfire" of enlightenment, as the book says. (M20 Core, 305)


A low Avatar score doesnt mean a weak Avatar

Aside from the already mechanical implementations...

Not exactly in Mage20 but in older mage editions was stated that a low score of Avatar could also mean he/she/they/it doesnt care about you.

Maybe your Avatar was the one of a GREAT mage and now you are a total mess. Maybe you follow the wrong dogmas and It is ignoring you. Maybe she consider you too weak and she is not giving allí her power.

The previous logic allow a player more ways to roleplay its character and also allow, with Storyteller permission, increase the Avatar Background when the campaing already start.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ [citation needed] \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Sep 21, 2022 at 6:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ No citations ready here, but I also remember something like that - low Avatar rank not necessarily meaning weak Avatar, just a poor connection/association/synchronization with it. EDIT: Could conceivably be fluff from GURPS - Mage: The Ascension? AFB. \$\endgroup\$
    – From
    Sep 21, 2022 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please check that, because this is a M20 question, M20 does not support that as far as I can tell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Sep 21, 2022 at 7:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .