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Both Vampire and Mage mention the usage of damage dice pools which are calculated based on the attack's successes and are afterwards rolled vs. Diff. 6 in order to determine actual caused damage.

My issues came up while reading M20 in particular, the 20th anniversary edition of Mage, which only mentions them ~3 times in the whole rulebook. Do magical Effects with the purpose of inflicting damage work in the same way? Or is their damage "automatic" and only soaked by the target?

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Your second option is correct.

As per Mage: the Ascension Revised (p.151) and Mage: 20th Anniversary (p.543), the successes one gets on a Magickal effect translate into a number of levels of damage, modified by the Spheres used. The Base Damage for most Spheres is two lethal per success on the roll. (Forces adds an extra level; Mind is bashing; Entropy can't damage at all until Level 4.) The magickal reference charts on p.209 and 504, respectively, also refer to levels of damage inflicted, and not to damage dice rolled.

A relevant cite:

You figure the damage or resultant effect of a spell by checking the Damage and Duration table. Though once it was possible to kill with a single strike, doing so is much more dif- ficult with modern magic. Generally, each success left over from the Effect causes two levels of damage, healing, point-transfer or whatever. Therefore, if your mage casts a damaging Effect and scores two successes (after thresholds and other subtractions), the Effect scores up to four levels of damage. This limit works the same way for damage, healing and channeling Quintessence. You can “pull” your Effect to be less powerful, but only if you specify the limit of your Effect before casting! (MtA Rev., 151)

On page 504 of Mage 20, the Base Damage/Duration Chart shows how much base damage a successful spell effect does. A "fireball" takes three successes because that's enough for (2X3+1) lethal, enough to kill someone. As detailed, a standard spell either has damage or duration; if you want both, or some other variant effect, you'll use the Optional Dividing Successes rule instead. (p.504)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see, but the contribution of successes kinda confused me. M20 mentions (p.502) how different Effects have a minimum number of successes required. Do there contribute to the damage/duration or only the ones beyond base/required successes do? \$\endgroup\$ – Eldebryn Oct 15 '15 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eldebryn There are a few things going on. The Suggested Successes are in there for scale; a "fireball" takes three successes because that's enough for (2X3+1) lethal, enough to kill someone. The "effects" in the Notes section are there to give minima for spells not easily categorized. Your successes do contribute to damage, but as detailed, the standard spell either has damage or duration; if you want both, or some other variant effect, you'll use the Optional Dividing Successes rule instead. (p.504) \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Oct 15 '15 at 22:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, having read revised as well, I can honestly say they probably tried to "standardize" and limit the use of successes to form Effects but ended up making it more complicated than the free-form approach of the previous book :/ \$\endgroup\$ – Eldebryn Oct 15 '15 at 22:56
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On the same page where you claim it refers to dice for magic damage (which is never done in all of Revised, as this would make mages INCREDIBLY weak. Max damage is 9 dice of damage at Arete 3 for a targeted Forces blast WITH willpower is insane. Mages would just train in guns, they're a lot safer and more reliable.) there is an example of total scoring that reads

"Example of Total Scoring: A mage scores four successes on a vulgar fire blast. Two successes are used for damage, so it inflicts five levels of aggravated damage (four for the successes, one for a Forces effect, aggravated for fire. One success is used because it is affecting a target other than the mage, and the last success is used to strike an additional target. Two targets are struck, each taking five levels of aggravated damage."

p. 209 Mage: the Ascension (Revised)

(Emphasis mine on relevant text.)

I say that the targeted damage is up to 9 with Forces because the example here is using a success to directly affect a pattern (in other words, to bypass targeting). WIthout this, the fireball would need to be directed at a target with an attack roll (say, Dexterity+Athletics to throw). This roll is just like any other attack and can be dodged if it is noticed but it adds the additional successes as dice of damage like any other attack. (So, not a net benefit over a gun or something.)

The method by which you don't need a success for targeting is used in every example of a magical item dealing damage and is inferred through the rules but left unclear.

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Yes, in general you roll the damage even for magical effects, except for the extra bonus level for using forces. From p209 of M:TA revised edition, Damage and Duration table, Scoring Damage

Each success expended to score damage inflicts up to two levels of damage. ... Forces attacks inflict one extra level of damage automatically

(Emphasis mine)

The "up to" implies it could be less than two, i.e. it would have to be rolled. The extra forces level though isn't rolled, it's an automatic success on the damage role.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The reference to "up to" is followed up with "You can 'pull' your effect to be less powerful…" \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Oct 15 '15 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not in my edition. That must be something they added for M20. So, without that addition, the implication remains, and is also consistent with the way damage works in other OWOD systems. \$\endgroup\$ – sirlark Oct 15 '15 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I assure you that's from Mage Revised, page 151. Same paragraph as I quoted earlier. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Oct 15 '15 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, yes. I meant it's not on p209. Nonetheless, the rest of the rules make a clear difference between damage that has to be rolled and automatic damage. This distinction is also used for the additional forces damage \$\endgroup\$ – sirlark Oct 15 '15 at 22:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ For a crystal clear example of this, see the rules for suffocation and drowning \$\endgroup\$ – sirlark Oct 15 '15 at 22:25

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