Magic isn't just spells and spirits, totems and talismans. There are places where mana swirls and eddies, and those special people who find them can bend them to their will...or be subject to the power of the place themselves.

Black Mana Pool
In the hidden Andes lie dusty places long forgotten, where the dust and moulder of ancient peoples lie thick on the carved stones. One such chamber lies within the hidden heart of a mountain, and can only be gained by passing through a long and darksome passage. The outer reaches of this descent are roughly eroded, the paving stones cracked and skewed, the images writ on the walls worn by time and the passing of ancient hands. In some places, the living rock of the earth may yet be seen, where the carven passage has partially collapsed.

Farther down, the stale, dry air has preserved the intricate stonework of the forgotten empire that crafted this place. Macabre scenes and skull-faced heiroglyphs adorn the walls between supporting columns of stone. Blind, albino cave-spiders spin their gossamer webs, and scuttle from any light that protrudes in that empty place. Half a mile down, this Tarterian road ends in an unlit chamber, swept free of the detritus of centuries by an unknown hand. It's walls are empty of arcane formulae, no crumbling mummy or oracle may here be found. The ceiling is stout and reinforced, but bears no gems to mark the stars in the sky. There is nothing in the the pool.

A circular pool of black blood, filled almost to the brim, still liquid and of unknown age. The astral resounds with the dark and terrible power within that pool, which sets horrible and still. A void darker than the surrounding blackness. Waiting to be used...

The pool of blood is a powerful power site (Rating 6), but the mana that charges it is aspected toward death, blasphemy and corruption. The blood itself is charged with this "black mana," and a magician must touch, imbibe, or utilize that dark fluid for their magics. The most common use of the black pool is as a scrying device, since any magician with Divination may use the Black Mana Pool's rating as their Divination skill by gazing into its depths and asking their question.

Corrupt mages, toxic shamans and twisted adepts may all use the Pool without penalty, even drawing on its power to enhance Enchanting Gathering tests (the materials gained are actually ampules of blood from the pool, charged with "black mana.") All other magicians who make use of the pool's power gain the Cursed Karma flaw automatically, and gain a Spiritbane flaw with each subsequent use.

The power of the Black Mana Pool maintains the "freshness" of the blood in the pool, but not the level. Some other does that, through the sacrifice of living metahumans and animals, or the blood of the recently dead. Rumors place this Other as many ancient albino proto-vampire, a great-form blood spirit, the irresistable urge for self mutilation and sacrifice that comes from the skull of a demon...but all agree, the Other dwells within the Pool.


Ludsgate Forge
Since the Awakening, the clang of hammers and the surge of sparks has sounded within Ludsgate Forge within at Ludsgate, England. The propetiers of the forge, the appropriately named Ludsgate family, have a long history as blacksmiths, tinkerers, and mechanical engineers. Before the Awakening, the stout Ludsgate Forge was simply an automechanic's garage, but when the Awakening came Tony Ludsgate found himself an Enchanter adept, and quickly changed his occupation. The trait has apparently stayed within the varied Ludsgate family, and Tony's heir Ludmilla (the prettiest ogre you've ever seen) continues the tradition with her half-brothers Vili and Ve (both dwarfs, Tony should not have been in charge of naming) and their cousin Carl (a giant). All four are initiated Enchanter adepts of no mean skill, and together maintain their "ancestral forge," supplying foci and telesma to any customer who can meet their price, no matter what race.

The family's quirks, however, gets weirder. All of them are Chaos magicians, and the Ludsgate Forge is much more than your bargain-basement Enchanting Shop. It is quite possible the Ludsgates hold the only Enchanting Facility not in government or megacorporate hands, able to handle any number of diverse applications, from acid-etching, monofilament edging and electroplating to Dikote™, growing crystals from chemical baths, and the manufacture of custom firearms or weaponry whenever the customer requests. The Ludsgates typically spend hours happily working in the forge and shops, huddling within mystic circles of glowing wire and crystal, or researching within the vast database of Enchanting formulae and alchemical lore they possess. The Ludsgates have been known to discretely rent out time within the forge to others, often in return for rare telesma, formulae and exotic materials. Ludmilla herself is also a known to raise and breed stone toads, taking their stones only after they have died naturally.

Rumors suggest a secret vault beneath the shop, which some say holds an ancient druidic standing stone, and others say a cache of powerful unique foci.

The Ludsgate Forge, aside from being an ideal work environment for Enchanting of any kind, is a rating 4 power site aspected toward Enchanting and Artificing. The Ludsgate Forge library is a Rating 10 Enchanting Library, and terminals throughout the Forge give access to it.

The Vault actually holds ten kilograms of natural orichalcum, as well as a number of rare natural metal radicals from Avergne, an alicorn, and the skulls of three stone toads. The Ludsgates treasure these precious resources, and never part with them.


Null Spot
A rare conjunction of manalines occaisionally results in a negation of mana, rather than a place of power. One such location lies in New York, in the penthouse suite of the Gosset Building. The various floors of the 30-story building are leased out to any number of A and AA corporation, but the top floor of the Gosset Building is retained by a professional, androgynous elf fixer who calls itself Gemini. Typically a dealer in information, Gemini utilizes the Null Spot to limit the abilities of magicians to interfere with its dealings...and, for the right price, will extend that protection to certain people or objects for a time.

The Null Spot is a rating 5 Void. Magical effects shut down within the Null Spot, enchanted items become dormant, and spirits and paracritters will not willingly enter the area. Magicians face permanent mental scars if they attempt to astrally project into the Null Spot, and even the metamagical technique of Filtering is insufficient to overcome the Null Spot, as a void is a lack of magical energy rather than an overabundance of it. Gemini enjoys the locale because magicians add the Void Rating to any divination or spell they might direct at it, or anything else within the Null Spot, while no spirit they conjure short of the Wild Hunt or the Morrigan would willingly enter that place.


The Rune Tree
A twisted, dead oak tree, lying within a desolate and gray plane of broken rock and permafrost in the northernmost reaches of the Scandinavian Union, in the state of Norway. The tree might have been dead for ten years, or for ten centuries. The Lappish shamans avoid it, as do the Grandfather Elk, but it holds a strange attraction to many Nordic cults and magicians, especially the Asatru. Some claim it was this is the Tree of Woe where Odin hung or nailed himself to gain knowledge of the runes. Others claim it is but a fragment of the Axis Mundi. One adept, long-struggling to reach the place, was heard to mutter a fraction of rhyme before dying:
An oak grows upon an upland plain,
Rain does not wet it, it rots not in the heat,
He has sustained a score of hardships...

The Rune Tree is often used for initiations. In this form of ascetic ordeal, the aspirant initiate must hang or nail themselves to the tree (incurring a light physical wound which cannot be resisted) and remain there for nine days, each day sufferring a light wound (which cannot be resisted). At the end of this time, the magician enters a coma, and is taught the secrets of Rune Lore by the spirit within the tree. They must test for Magic Loss as usual from incurring a deadly wound, but are released from the tree, having completed the ordeal for their initiation and with the knowledge of runes.

While on the tree, the subject cannot be healed in any way, or the ordeal must start over again. Once complete, the initiate has a Rune Lore skill of 1, and may increase it normally. Those who suffer magic loss on the tree typically lose a symbolic body part as well...the right hand or the left eye being most common, though emasculation is not unheard of. The tradition of the initiate on the tree does not matter.

Wood from the tree would make an excellent exotic material for a focus, particularly a weapon focus such as a staff, but the various Asatru bands and the spirit of the tree itself would object to this. The Spirit of the Tree is a Force 10 Manitou spirit in the shape of a black-furred squirrel.


The Svartskoli
The Black College is a painful, but powerful school. Typically, students are beginning magicians who are tricked into entering by offers of forbidden knowledge...knowledge which the school willingly provides. For three years, the student is held in a room beneath a cellar, kept in constant darkness and surrounded by illusions and given only their schoolbooks to study. The hidden masters of the school are said to move it often, and to take no more than three students at once. Currently, it is believed to exist beneath Chiba in Japan.

Magical circles from around the world wish to destroy the Svartskoli and its dread masters, rumored to include some of the darker and more treacherous fae. By the same token, its students lead secretive lives, for other magicians covet their schoolbooks.

The Svartskoli is a dedicated initiatory group, and secretive. Although they have impressive magical resources, especielly glamours, illusions, mind magics and darksome enchantments, their monetary resources are few. Indeed, the Svartskoli is often located in a cellar beneath a cellar, stuffed with trash and cloaked in dark illusion.

Those who complete a course at the Svartskoli become day-blind, but gain low-light vision if they did not have it before; and may attain as many as three grades of initiation...although what they may lose from this to the horrible schoolmasters is horrible to imagine. Many students lose all memory of their past lives and names, and become horrible beings cloaked always in illusion and seekers of depraved lore. Few survive with their sanity intact, and even those who repent of the school's knowledge have reason to fear the dark.

The schoolbooks are highly prized by those graduates who survive mentally, physically and spiritually intact. They are theses, tracking the progress of the student through their three years underground, and grimoires holding all their spells and enchantments. Typically, the books are of three parts, covered with an unknown, hairy hide, and written in letters of cold fire.


Grimberg's Almanack
Not quite Poor Richard's, but a small and ubiquitous publication, covering various holidays, holy days, the lunar calender, important astronomical dates and conjunctions by various calenders, anniversaries of important dates in magical history, etc. A limited-use but possibly invaluable item, it helps a magician to determine when and where astral phenomena might occur.

Oh, any magician could probably tell you to that Stonehenge has a bit more juice on Samhain, but what about a crossroads at midnight under a new moon? Such temporary and localized magical locales might function as small power sites, or as nexi that attract paranormal phenomena.

The use of Grimberg's Almanack requires a bit of work on the part of Player and Gamemaster alike, but generally speaking it serves as a vehicle to carry the plot along.

First, the magician needs to decide what they're looking for, then consult the Almanack and make a Magic Background test against an appropriate target number:

local area (+1)
well known (-1)
world famous (-3, not cumulative with well known)
auspicious time (4)
auspicious place (5)
auspicious time and place (7)
aspected power site (rating+5)
power site or background count (rating +6)
free spirit domain or ghost haunt (2 x Force)

Dowsing or Astology may be useful complementary skills.

If the player is looking for something in the local area, they need a local map, to find the mix of features the Almanack suggests. Local places and times of power are easier to get to and less crowded in most cases than more well-known ones farther away, but are often harder to spot because, well, they're not as well known.

An auspicious time grants the magician +1 dice on a single specific spell, ritual, astral quest, or other magical activity.

An auspicious place acts as a rating 2 power site aspected for a specific spell, ritual, astral quest, or other magical activity.

An auspicious place at an auspicious time is a temporary rating 4 power site aspected for a specific spell, ritual, astral quest, or other magical activity.

Just a few examples of a use of the Almanack:

Mama Iaga, a mambo, needs to contact a ghost (at least Force 3), and consults the almanack. The almanack suggests going to a graveyard at midnight under a new moon, and walk widdershins around it. She decides on New Orleans Cemetary No. 1 as her best bet.

Johann Georg Hohmann, a hermetic mage, wants to know the best time and place to gather herbal mineral radicals, and consults the almanack. The almanack suggest gathering nightshade blooms by the light of Aldebaran at a crossroads. Johann needs to go out for a trip to the country.

Medaron Ti'Ailiu searches the almanack for a portent of things to come. She discovers that at noon on All Saints Day at Druid Hill in Massachusetts, something important will happen. Medaron marks her calender and hopes she can be there to aid-or stop-whatever will happen in time.