There are two kinds of powerful mage: The dedicated kind and the talented kind.

To spot the dedicated mage, look for intense and constant concentration, lots of trappings and books, a devout seriousness, and probably an older person. It takes a while to become a powerful mage this way. You can always believe a dedicated mage, but they talk like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The talented mage is often younger. Look for amazing luck, impossibly fortunate "coincidences", and piercing eyes. Very often, a talented mage doesn't know that they're a mage, so beware of folks who can walk around raindrops and laugh at the "Occult". This talent often manifests in more ways than one, so look for another, corresponding talent to be present as well. Oh, and you can't always trust the talented mages; they didn't hone themselves to that condition, and they may be jaded with everyone else's lack of common sense, as well.

Happy hunting!

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the city bus on one of those wet days that smell like fish. Everyone is damp, the kind of damp that makes you wish you could blow-dry your bones. You and your friend at the back, sitting on either side of the farthest row of seats, watching either side of the bus like the bored scouts you are. You're tired out, a little psychic hangover, from tossing psi-balls around all day.

You both look up as he enters the bus, bringing the dirty sea ozone smell of the city with him. He wears black (half the damn city does), modest, nothing special. He looks at you. It's that electric zap, that feeling that there's a person looking at you, not just another drone with foggy eyes coming home from work. He glances to your friend, triangulating, testing.

To your right, the flicker of that same jolt, begging for reassurance, coming from your friend. He's put off by the stranger.

The newcomer doesn't even pause, there's nothing outside of the normal. You can feel his emotions; indecision, calculation, a mischevious ripple. He sits down with a sigh, between you and your companion.

He knows, of course. All three of you know. He has thrown down a tentative gauntlet, but nothing that could be misconstrued by an average person, just in case you can't trust that intuition. The bus lurches away from the stop, rattling and bustling through traffic. The interloper sits calm, grounded. You mentally raise an eyebrow to your friend. He responds with curiosity, but there's no way to communicate without talking across the stranger. Normally, this would be perfectly acceptable, but the awkward silence that only empaths can truly dread has settled like a cold fish.

You open your consciousness, feel the gentle winds of ether/firmament/energy (whatever they're calling it these days), filling your mind with a nice rocking hum. The travel spirit plods along, whispering of a bit of congestion up at the bridge, and of what if you kept going on the bus, and then on the next one and the next... but that's just wanderlust again. You refocus and observe your neighbor.

He has wings.

Giant, gauzy, like the fog collects around the piers at three in the morning. Filmy enough to avoid blasting anyone they pass through, but definitely there. And so unusual, you've never seen that before, how intriguing. You have to know. Curiosity buzzes in your ear. Torture!

Your stop is next. A minute to decide.

"Nice wings," you finally comment, as if you were complimenting a good pair of boots. He looks over without a smidgen of surprise, but with a gentle smile, and gratitude.


You and your friend rise at the same moment, share a grin, look down at the new friend, exit the bus.

Look not for the grand spell, but the aged grimoire. Powerful spells are short lived, attract attention and their users find a swift death. Aged grimoires are the sign of someone who has lived to tell the tale, not because of luck, but as result of careful considerations.

Look not for the blind follower of gods, but the quiet ponderer of nature. The powerful mage understands that she’s nothing but a conduit for forces beyond our understanding. The powerful mage respects the thunder before the thunder god.

Look not for those who offer cures for all ailments, for powerful mages understand that the same stomachache has different causes in different people. The talented mage learns to vanquish illnesses, the powerful mage learns to navigate life. The talented mage sees a foe to defeat, the powerful mage sees a network of lives, thoughts and wills.

Look not for the mage that moves mountains. The components for fire are everywhere and making a fireball is a matter of extracting them out of their natural states. The powerful mage works in minute detail to produce results without altering nature. Look not for the weightlifter, but the clockmaker.

The talented mage wrestles his food from a small, verdant patch inside a greenhouse. The powerful mage can be a permanent nomad. The talented mage has tamed nature, the powerful mage has aligned herself to it, with it, in it.

Look not for those who peek into the future, but for those who lament not remembering the past. The talented mage wishes to know what will be; the powerful mage laments remembering the future.

Look for the old in a profession where most die young.

And when you find them, ask not for power. They’ll tell you to be careful what you wish for.


The real key to spotting a powerful mage is using a good foundation before dabbing on the black or white paint. It doesn't have to be something stark, pure white (or stark, pure black, depending on skin tone). (Stereotypes aside, most powerful mages are not that goth.) But something that highlights the contrast. Also, depending on the mage's personal standards of modesty (and another stereotype: most mages are not into all that "dancing skyclad" or Aleister Crowley stuff), you might get them to wear briefer clothing, maybe shorts and a tank top, so they have more skin to spot. Ask them about allergies and sensitivities before applying foundation and paint.

With these simple precautions, you will succeed in spotting your mage, which is often a fun and ebullient thing to do for special events!

Brevity Quest 2021

Don’t. Not unless you are prepared to make a proper offering. Better to let them to pass by incognito, lest they take notice of your taking notice.

A 'proper offer' does not mean money, unless it’s lots of money, and untraceable. If you don’t know what would be suitable payment, you're not ready to spot a powerful mage.

But if you do have a fortune to spare, or a preternatural object, properly cleaned, contained, and with the proper certificates of authentication, then maybe you are ready.

They are not doing magic; those are grifters and stage magicians. Powerful mages don't do magic that you can see, and don’t do it in public. They are not wearing robes. Powerful mages wear comfortable clothing that does not stand out, and robes meet only one of those two essential criteria.

Magic sets mages misaligned with our world; you will not find them by looking at it directly. They can only be seen if you aren’t distracted by the mundane. It is best to find them when you are alone; you cannot find them by attending, but only by having nothing else to attend to.

They will have a second face; one is not enough. If you are not open to this, you will not see them as they are, and may as well not see them at all.

It’s better to empty your mind of any expectation of human form at all; it will only distract.

Don’t think of the mage as a 'he' or a 'she' or a 'them'; try ‘it’.

Don’t have anything rotten on your person, although something dead may be appreciated. YMMV.

Have a totem. Have good posture. Have clean teeth. Very clean. Have an escape plan.

If you meet these criteria, precisely, turn around, it’s behind you now.


Rory read through the online forum posts with a mix of amusement and confusion, nodding in agreement with some of the advice, but mostly feeling bewildered. The topic was How to Spot a Powerful Mage and while some of it was good advice-- maybe not for him, but for other people-- some of it made no sense, or was strangely dramatic and clearly written by people who hadn't ever actually met a powerful mage before.

You could advertise free snacks and beer, he typed. But he didn't post; he enjoyed the forum and didn't want people thinking he was being snarky.

While he debated, his roommate Jasper wandered into the room, munching out of a family-size bag of cheese puffs. "We still on for Kel's BBQ later?"


"What's that look for?" said Jasper.

"Just thinking." Rory turned the laptop so Jasper could read the page.

"Ha," Jasper said. "Tell them to go to Emmerson's Books on Tuesdays. Emmer's started this book club thing that's got free pastries and a bunch of us have been hitting it up."

"Have you actually been reading the books?"

"I'll get to it. I just--"

Before he could finish, the world ripped open. The air in the room cracked, and reality itself tore apart in front of them, opening wide enough to reveal a number of grotesque, demonic figures fighting their way in.

"Oh fuck off," Jasper said. With a small gesture, the portal snapped shut, severing off one demon's hand. It hit the floor with a splat and oozed dark blood onto the hardwood.

"Not it," said Rory, barely sparing the hand a glance.

"But I just stopped a demon invasion."

"And now you get to clean it up."

Jasper scowled and went to get the dustpan.


In the days of old, when the angels walked the earth and the nephilim declared themselves kings, mages were easy to find. The universe was perfect, ordered. The old magick had not slipped through the cracks of the firmament and leaked away. Each village had a resident mage, and each mage rivaled a god. Many mages were gods, in fact, and many gods mages. Eventually, the angels departed from the earth, the gods guttered out and died, and the nephilim were slaughtered by lesser men who dreaded contending to dishonorable graves. All the magic in the world could not save the mages of old; they lived long, but as the centuries passed, even they slowly flickered out. Tragic, but inevitable. Mortal gods fall like mortal men.

The universe has fallen to disorder and chaos. The angels hide behind high-walls, far beyond the furthest reaches of the firmament. Not even the greatest of the mages of old could reach that far. 

Mages are no longer gods, but there is some magick left, residual magick, magick that has not departed the firmament.

Novice mages can be found at the gravel crossroads at night, summoning lesser spirits, creating servitors, channelling their energy to manipulate the world around them. Most do not make the next step; they do know how to harness their energy, only how to manipulate it.

A more advanced mage draws from the energy around them, integrating it with their own. They do not manipulate their energy; they are their energy. Freed of the bondage of normativity, they drift up and outward. Dynamic, pulsating, expanding, contracting. Their presence mingles with the energy around them; they can feel beyond their body. They can feel everything around them.

A powerful mage, however, does not need to harness their energy at all. Their presence permeates the psychic aether. Those more sensitive to it can feel it; a prickle in passing, a feeling of being watched. You are under the scrutiny of their psychic gaze.

You don't spot a mage, nor see a mage. The mage sees you, and you can do nothing but feel it.

I've never had to spot a powerful mage because there aren't any who work out at the gyms I've been to, but I would guess that you'd spot them just the way you spot anybody else. First determine what kind of lifting they're going to do, how much weight they're going to lift, if they're pushing ahead of their usual limitations, and how many reps they plan to do. Then stand in a position that will allow you to carry enough of the weight to help them out if they get stalled, while not being positioned in the way of the lift. Since spotters are most typically needed for the bench press, this is standing behind their head with hands coming under the weight, inside their own grip. A truly effective spotter does more than simply take a bit of the weight to allow the lifter to keep going; they encourage the lifter, and if they have the experience they perhaps note improvements to be made to the lifter's form.

The only thing I'd worry about with a powerful mage is that they might have some self-protection spell that kicks in automatically if they're in danger, and which might be triggered by a sensation of losing control of the weight, and which could knock you away at a critical moment. Just make sure to keep communicating constantly so they don't have the sensation that your focus is not on the task of spotting, and you ought to be good to go.

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