The game revolves around the campus of the American Institute of Wizard Arts, the USA’s foremost university for wizards. The time period is today. The university is not hidden from non-magical types, but it does not intersect with their universe. They just don’t notice it.
The campus and the city surrounding it are created by the players, a piece at a time. The person who creates a given piece is it's Owner, in charge of its properties.
Each player gets a Primary Character (PC) that he creates, Owns, and roleplays. PCs must be students at the Institute. Everybody also makes a bunch of Supporting Characters (SCs) -- other students, faculty, people in town, etc.. You Own SCs that you create, but you can't roleplay them; you must hand them over to someone else.
Characters are defined by four pieces: Traits, Arts & Lore, Bonds, and Rumors.
Traits are in the form of adjectives and describe a quality or faculty considered useful by wizards that the character possesses. They are chosen from a fixed list. Each Trait has an Ideal form and a Corrupt form. The Corrupt form is useful in more-or-less the same ways as the Ideal form, but it’s self-destructive, negligent, harmful, manipulative, or otherwise imprudent. Each Trait has a die associated with it. They go down a die size each time you use them (d6 is smallest, after that you lose the Trait permanently). You Refresh them with special scenes that involve the Trait in some sort of leisure with another character, and absolutely no conflict (I cribbed this mechanic from The Shadow of Yesterday).
Arts & Lore are your acquired skills and knowledge. They are player-defined. They are described in dice just like Traits, and are depleted and refreshed in a similar manner.
Bonds are relationships. Not just to people, but to objects, materials, forces, concepts, etc. Also described in dice, depleted, and refreshed.
I’ll explain Rumors in a minute.
PC development has three prongs: Experience, Prestige, and Karma.
Experience is earned through intense, edifying, and/or harrowing situations. Failures are more commonly worth Experience than successes. You spend Experience at will to increase your Arts & Lore (increase die size, or buy new ones starting at d6)
Prestige is earned through accomplishment. The grander and more public the accomplishment, the better. But public failures cause you to lose Prestige. You spend Prestige at will to increase your Bonds.
Karma comes in a good and bad variety. You earn good Karma through acts of creation, healing, support, and charity. You get bad Karma through acts of destruction, violence, manipulation, and negligence. It doesn’t matter what your motivation was or how you feel about doing it; bad Karma is bad Karma, period. At the end of the session, if you have more good than bad, you can change a Corrupt trait to Ideal; if you have no Corrupt traits, you can remove an Ideal trait and put its die into a special new trait called Transcendent, which can be used for anything. Transcendent can eventually have multiple dice. If you have more bad Karma than good at the end of the session, you must change an Ideal trait to Corrupt.
You don’t track development for SCs. They can change at the beginning or end of sessions at their creator’s whim.
Things have stats much like characters. They are called Properties, and they are depleted & refreshed like others.
Anybody can create a Rumor about any person, place, or thing in the game. Just say, “I heard that blah blah blah.” This gets written down somewhere. The Owner of the thing that got Rumored will decide if the Rumor is true, but not yet; we cross that bridge when we come to it. In the mean time, you may freely assume that characters you control have heard this Rumor going around campus.
If someone does something you like, give them a die from the bank. Whatever size you want. Reward your fellow players when they do cool stuff. Or bribe them to do stuff you want. I don’t care.
When you think someone needs to roll for something, say so. They must describe how they’re doing the thing, and can then claim dice from appropriate Traits, Arts & Lore, Bonds, and/or Applause that they’ve earned. For each effect they are trying to accomplish, they must roll one success. A “success” is a 6 or higher. The other players should feel free to introduce Complications and Interference that add to the number of effects needed. If you don’t roll enough successes, you get to choose which of your effects don’t happen.
If a character is directly opposing you, his player rolls dice, and successes from those cancel out your successes.
Once you’ve rolled and figured out what does and does not happen, other players should feel free to introduce Unanticipated Consequences.
If you rolled more successes than you needed, they go into a special pool called Momentum, which you can roll for anything in the current Action Sequence (a series of related rolls).
Remember to put hashmarks or something next to your stats on your sheet, to indicate which stats have been depleted and how many times. You can use the same stat twice, and it gets depleted twice, with each depletion being immediate. That is, if you’ve got Vigorous d20, and you take two dice from it, they will be a d20 and a d12, and your Vigorous is now down to d10.
If you suffer some sort of unpleasant fate (including but not limited to injury) as a result of failed effects, you will later have to either roll for effects to ignore it, or roll for effects to undo it. Such things are called Detriments.
Magic is freeform, but based on principles of Arcane Theory that are created collaboratively by the group. It's accomplished using the same resolution rules above.
Part of the American wizard ethos is Ritual Is Dead. So they will very rarely, if ever, be performing rituals – including casting spells. American wizards almost always improvise their magic.
Listed in the form of (ideal / corrupt)
Affluent / Opulent
Alert / Paranoid
Assertive / Belligerent
Attractive / Vain
Audacious / Insolent
Brave / Foolhardy
Calculating / Cold
Calm / Relaxed
Careful / Anxious
Composed / Aloof
Confident / Arrogant
Cunning / Conniving
Driven / Compelled
Endearing / Enthralling
Flexible / Tractable
Frank / Callous
Graceful / Precious
Hip / Trendy
Intellectual / Pedantic
Noble / Aristocratic
Nonchalant / Flippant
Open-minded / Credulous
Patient / Passive
Punctilious / Finicky
Quick / Hasty
Receptive / Consuming
Resilient / Numb
Resolute / Stubborn
Ruthless / Cruel
Sensitive / Delicate
Shrewd / Cagey
Suave / Manipulative
Subtle / Obtuse
Thorough / Obsessive
Thrifty / Stingy
Vigorous / Brutish
Witty / Facetious