[nMage Musing] It’s not about being able to find stuff out, it’s about trying to forget what you saw

Posted: November 22, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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One of the trends I see in a lot of GMs when they run Mage: the Awakening (and arguably, even Mage: the Ascension) is the fact that it’s almost impossible to conceal anything from the players. Investigative plots fall as Red Herrings are immediately identified and discarded, and the true culprits are found in record time. Because of this, many GMs end up frustrated due to the fact that there seems to be no way of stopping the Mages from taking incredible shortcuts to finding the bad guys.

I think that this is due to the fact that the traditional format of the tabletop RPG is that of the mystery. An event happens, and the characters are sent to investigate the matter and find the clues necessary in order to determine the dastardly individual behind the deed. It’s a fine pattern, and one that works over and over again in most games.

Unfortunately Mage: the Awakening isn’t like most games in that respect. Mages possess the gift of knowledge. The very first dot of each Arcana in the game is devoted to being able to draw out information regarding the phenomena in their purview. This makes Mages supremely good at being able to find out the truth.

So rather than trying to frustrate them by putting up all sorts of ways to slow them down on trick them from finding the truth, let them have it.

But remember, the truth hurts.

It can be argued that Mage’s brand of horror stems from knowing things.

You know that the Fallen World is a prison.

You know that there are things from the un-reality that is the Abyss that are hammering at the gates of reality, just waiting for Paradox to let them in

You know that your father is dying of cancer and you’re afraid to tell them.

You know that the boy in your house wasn’t your son after all.

And no matter what happens, you’re not allowed to close your eyes.

Ignorance is bliss in nMage. All Mages at one point or another will wish that they’d never Awakened. But the situation is irreversible, and they’re stuck knowing things that haunt them in every waking moment of their existence.

Of course, the flipside of knowing is also the fact that Mages have the ability to try and do something about it. It helps that they have magic on their side, but just because they can do something means that they should. This is where Hubris comes in. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the Mage with insufficient proficiency with Life magics who bargains with a cruel Spirit to excise the cancer from their parent for a service is going to end up in some very interesting situations that could force them to do things that they would otherwise not do.

That’s where Mage excels. It’s not in the mystery, but what happens after and the consequences that follow from their decisions that form the meat of Mage: the Awakening games. Some stories are triumphant, others tragic, but ultimately Mages get in trouble because they can’t turn off their ability to perceive the terrible nature of reality.

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Comments
  1. janothar says:

    I largely agree with the fact that the horror in Mage is generally knowing things. Both painful, unsolvable things and things Man was not meant to know.

    Of course, with an opening like that, there’s a however. Here it is: mystery works in Mage, and often my best games have played on the dichotomy of knowing too much and too little at the same time (in different areas). Because if there’s one things that Mages are almost as good at as gathering information, it’s hiding it. You’ve got various sorts of warding and shielding, and then, of course, there’s the REAL fun. Things that they cannot know. And things that are VERY well hidden.

    This is why my favorite Legacy in nMage are the logophages, because especially when Mage PCs are used to finding everything with only a little difficulty, suddenly, sources dry up, information disappears, and (especially when one is Mysterium) they slowly get to realize that what they want to know was actively deleted from reality, and they CAN’T know it. Ever.

    • Hi Janothar!

      Excellent counterpoint to my post. I’m actually in agreement with you, though at times I tend to be sparse with my usage of the concealment and warding spells as sometimes players tend to start thinking that I’m just putting stuff up to frustrate them. To get around that I often just tell them that if something has been warded, shielded, obfuscated or erased then at least they know that it was important to *somebody*

      And yes, next to the Cult of the Doomsday Clock, the Logophages are scary, scary bastards.

    • Hikikkomori says:

      And the paradox of actually trying to hide something only makes it more visible.

      “Why can’t I see past this specific period in time?”

      • sheimaruen says:

        That’s not what happens with the tick tock men when they choose to “hide” something.

        alternatively you can conduction cast a trigger to make someone perceive a false past when they scry/postcog.

  2. The last Mage game I was in, the DM solved this problem with information overload. There were wheels within wheels within wheels, and so even if you saw something, you couldn’t be sure you saw the real thing, or that the thing you saw represented the intentions of the people involved. See an ally of yours making a bargain with the leader of the bad guys? Maybe they’re betraying you, maybe they’re betraying the bad guys, maybe the leader of the bad guys is actually working for a third faction and this is a side deal, and so on.

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