Archive for April, 2011

Given that the Awakening High campaign I was working on deals with teens, I decided to go through World of Darkness: Innocents, one of the most highly recommended books of the new World of Darkness line as it deals with playable children in the world of darkness.  What struck me as interesting as it was actually an alternate take on the core rulebook, with complete rules on character generation for kids, and slight scaling tweaks for stats like strength, so that a Strength 3 kid doesn’t necessarily equate to a Strength 3 adult.

That said, the book doesn’t exactly deal with teens, but I did find some interesting rules hidden in it that might be useful to me:

  • Skill dots for teens are rated at 10/6/4 with 2 specialties, instead of the normal 11/7/5 and 3 specialties that adults get
  • WoD innocents proposes an alternate system in place of Virtues and Vices.  Instead, children made in the Innocents variant get Assets and Faults, which are descriptors of dominant positive and negative personality traits inherent to the characters.  This makes for a lot of sense for kids, and I’d argue that they’ve quite usable for teens as well
    • Assets include: Brave, Calm, Creative, Dependable, Fair, Friendly , Generous, Honest, Kind and Optimistic
    • Faults on the other hand, are: Brash, Cowardly, Cruel, Dishonest, Dull, Egotistical, Greedy, Hyperactive, Irresponsible and Violent
  • The optional Character Flaws section of Innocents was also quite interesting as it zeroed in on the consequences of these flaws from a child’s point of view.  I’ll be allowing these flaws into the Awakening High game as well.
I’m hoping that the minor tweaks like these will be helpful in coming up with an interesting game for my players.  The Assets and Faults in particular seem to work very well in the context of a school setting.
Things are definitely looking interesting for this campaign, and I hope my players feel the same as well.

Well then, after a bit of asking around with the players, it seems that we’ve come to an accord on some things, like the fact that the game will be set in England.  I’ll be modifying a few items that I’ve spoken of before during my fleshing out the details post last year.

Campaign Premise:

The PCs take the roles of young mages enrolled in a mundane school that has been otherwise been taken over by a few secretive Awakened staff.  Whether by accident or design, these player characters are the first batch of a daring new experiment of cooperation between the Pentacle Orders, combining their strengths and knowledge to educate the younger generation of mages on the responsible use magic and the realities of the Fallen World.

Along the way the player characters will have to handle the dual stresses of living a life of a normal student with normal problems, and a Mage, which in itself means that they’d run into all sorts of problems that could only be best described as… weird.


While this is a World of Darkness game, it will still have elements of horror, but onscreen violence, depravity and overall tone will be much, much more PG-13.  People disappear, but can be rescued.  Some people may die, but always off-screen.  Conflict and tension will still be there, but without having to go full bore into blood and guts.

Special Character Creation Rules:

  • Attributes cost double for the fourth and fifth dots, except for a single Mental or Social Attribute, and one Mental or Social Skill to represent precocious ability.
  • No rotes and order-based advantages.  Rote Mudras and Atlantean Runes must be learned individually as if they were 1-dot merits, and never have them at character creation.  They purchase order-based Rote Specialties at the experience price of standard Skill Specialties.  Newly Awakened mages add one Attribute dot according to Path, just as standard characters do.  High Speech remains a free merit.
  • Standard Mage Arcana dots, but Gnosis starts at 1 and cannot be increased at character creation.
  • No Guns
  • No Fighting Styles Merits beyond the 3rd dot
  • No Order-based Merits

While this may seem rather weak to those used to playing stronger mages, we’re looking at newly awakened characters here, who haven’t been formally initiated into their respective Orders.  Consequently even some of their rivals will share a similar handicap, so there shouldn’t be any worries that Seer rivals might end up with access to higher level Prelacies for example.

Of course, now that I have broad strokes down pat, I think I can start filling in the details, starting with the school itself, and the mages in charge of it.  The tricky part here is that I want it to be interesting without being too overdone.  A few core mages forming a cabal of faculty to watch over the students, and a bunch of other normal teachers to work as a smokescreen of sorts.

Then I can move on to the various peers that the PCs will have both in the school and from other Cabals in the area, including their rivals from the various Seer Ministries and the occasional apprentice Banisher that they may have to contend with.

More thinking about the Awakening High campaign, using Mage: the Awakening to run a game involving young Mages in high school dealing with teenage issues and Supernatural weirdness.  That said, the school itself should technically be a character in and of itself.  I’ll need to work on fleshing out the entire school, its history and philosophy of teaching.

That said, location is another big consideration of mine.  Given that Rival Schools seems to be the prevailing popular opinion, I’d better start thinking of the institution.  I’ve outlined three possible options for a location for the campaign

New York – By far one of the most recognizable cities in popular culture, New York City is great way to put the Urban feel in what is technically an Urban fantasy campaign.

  • Most people are aware of the landmarks and “Feel” of the city from countless TV shows
  • Fertile place for lots of urban legends and a “supernatural underground”
  • Strong potential for crossover games involving Vampires and Hunters

London – Definitely a good option for the “old magic is still around us” vibe, setting the school in England puts a lot more focus on tradition, old mysteries and spooky cthulhoid entities from times before written history.

  • Easy enough to visualize given the popularity of Harry Potter and other shows set in England
  • A ton of supernatural myths and legends to play around with
  • Very watered down version of Hellblazer is a very good way to run it, meaning, no senseless death and actual victories

Tokyo – A city of contrasts that merges both the ultramodern and the ancient traditions, Tokyo’s rapidly evolving and complex culture encourages all sorts of strange experimentation.

  • Eccentricity is normal, so any sort of character concept could possibly fit
  • Spirit Courts of Tokyo are very, very influential and make for an interesting source of allies or opponents
  • Urban Legends and Conspiracy Theories rub shoulders with Ancient Superstitions

So now I’m sitting at a conundrum, which one of these do I go for?  All of them can dictate the tone of the campaign, as well as the kinds of NPCs that they might run into.  I’m currently mulling this over, but I think I’ll bring this up to my players and see where they’d like to play.

I came up with the idea of Awakening High last year and I’ve even fleshed out a few details for it, but I’ve not had a chance to actually run it yet.  It’s only recently that the idea popped back into my head and upon consideration, it really is a pretty good idea, but I still need a little more focus for it.  That’s what I’ll be looking at today, possible ways to spin a Mage: the Awakening Campaign centered on a group of High School Mages.

  • Make way for the Discipline Committee – Inspired by the Absurdly Powerful Student Council trope and the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) of Persona 3, the player characters could be special students taken from the normal student body to serve as disciplinarians and troubleshooters for problems that could occur in and out of School involving Awakened students.
  • Learning by Doing – They say that the best classroom is outdoors, and that’s exactly what this variant of the Awakening High campaign is about.  A small group of 15-20 students, all hand-picked from various Cabals are on a year-long traveling campaign to learn about the world and the magic of different cultures and nations.  Think of it as a serious version of  Awakening version of The Magic Schoolbus with much more dangerous situations.
  • Rival Schools – The Exarchs are well aware of just what the Pentagram Orders are up to, and have begun their own special education system for younger mages of the Seers, divided into the various Ministries.  Lethal engagement is not cleared with their higher ups, but having a cabal of rival mages of the same age can lead to some interesting conflicts as the Seer students interfere with the PC’s lives.  This is especially interesting given that the various Ministries have access to various spheres of influence that can make the Fallen World annoying for the Player Characters.

I have no idea which one my Players would go for, but I’m putting these down just in case there’s more interest in the campaign.  Do any of these catch your fancy?  Or do you guys have other permutations that I ought to consider?  Please, feel free to add your suggestions on the comments.  I’d really like to hear about what you guys think.

[Retrovision] Castle Falkenstein

Posted: April 12, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Castle Falkenstein, Roleplaying Games

Good friend and fellow Philippine GM the Armchair Gamer recently gave me his old copy of the R. Talsorian classic RPG Castle Falkenstein.  I’ve had only the barest experience with this game from being a player in a few one-shots back in college.  While I don’t remember much about the system except that it involved the use of playing cards instead of dice as a randomizer, I was very happy to get the book.

That said, I’ve managed to look over the book a bit and check out a few reviews and I have to admit that Castle Falkenstein is one of those games that immediately works with my GMing paradigm.  It’s a game that pretty much places itself far into the Storytelling sort with light rules and plenty of handwavium.  While it is a lightweight with regards to the rules, the book spares no expense in going into great detail into the world of New Europa, an alternate Victorian Era earth with Fantasy Races, steampunk technology and magic.

What I like about it is the fact that the game takes the whole Victorian vibe and cranks it up to 11, with little tricks like using cards instead of dice and the fact that players don’t have character sheets, but instead maintain a character diary to record their statistics, as well as to jot down notes.

In many ways, Castle Falkenstein joins Legend of the Five Rings and Fading Suns in the category of RPGs who put a remarkable amount of focus and detail to present a compelling setting with it’s own social restrictions and enforces them through the writing and tone.  I am particularly fascinated by games like these as they are very fun to read, and present many interesting social situations for player characters to get into without having to need guns and bombs.

Castle Falkenstein is a classic, and is a game I would highly recommend to anyone who likes the storytelling paradigm.  What’s more, the PDFs of the entire line are available in DriveThruRPG for very reasonable prices, including:

  • The Castle Falkenstein corebook, that goes for only $16.00 or roughly Php 704.00
  • Comme Il Faut, the highly recommended guide to Steam Age culture is available for $8.50 or about Php 374.00
  • Six-Guns & Sorcery details the Falkenstein take on the Wild West and is going for $10.00 or Php 440.00

Considering that the only thing you need to play is some paper, a pen and a deck of cards is a definite plus for the Philippine Gamer as finding a deck of playing cards is a whole lot easier than finding a set of Polyhedral Dice.