One of the things that needs to be highlighted in Mage: the Awakening is the fact that it is essentially a horror game. Like many of the protagonists of the World of Darkness, Mages are monsters lurking among humanity.
While we can be philosophical about the whole thing about Mages actually being a potential force for good, a slightly more pessimistic angle to Mage can show just how utterly frightening Mages really are.
I’ve been putting a bit of thought into that way of presenting Mage: the Awakening and I’ve been reviewing the little things that most Mages players take for granted.
Let’s take Oblations as an example. In Mage: the Awakening, an Oblation is a small rite or ritual that a mage performs to draw Mana into themselves. While the book has the usual methods of meditation, I want to push the boundaries of the concept and highlight the magical concept of sympathy as a means of drawing down Mana into themselves.
For example, let’s take a Mastigos, a mage whose specialty is Mind and Space magics. One who awakened to the hellish realm of Pandemonium. A potential Oblation for him would be to take a pet project, to “adopt” a person and follow them, prodding at their emotions and their mental state, studying their responses to various stressors, from hallucinations to creeping stress. This isn’t because the mage has anything against the human, but the human makes for a beautiful canvas upon which to study the Mind and how it adapts and changes to the presence of the strange, the abhorrent and the absurd.
Wisdom is often at risk to these cases, but if we’re looking at monstrous mages, then we don’t have to look very far.
That said, if you’re looking at the possibility of other Oblations that aren’t wisdom sins, consider a mage whose oblation is that of self-mutilation, exploring the boundaries of pain and endurance. It’s not exactly a widsom sin, but self-mutilation is rarely a pleasant experience.
Mages are people who have been opened to the Truth of things, an awareness that leaves them different. They react differently to events as compared to other people, and DaveB’s conversion notes shows this elegantly with the rule that they do not roll to lose Integrity if they are exposed to horrors and atrocities committed by anything in the Fallen World. These are… normal to Mages. These instances aren’t something to run away from, but to witness, observe and perhaps act upon to learn more.
This view of Mages is perhaps decidedly pessimistic, but it ought to be tempered by the fact that the protagonists are meant to be much better people. Wisdom, the central “morality” stat of the game reflects this. Infinite knowledge leaves the responsibility to use such knowledge with care and consideration for the self and others. And while the player characters are usually the ones which are meant to adhere to this, NPCs are excellent characters to use to show just what happens when a Mage doesn’t have Wisdom to hold themselves back.