[Mage: the Awakening] Endangered Species – Inspirations: Psychology

Posted: March 22, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

Whenever I run Mage, I tend to drift towards high-concept plot hooks. I don’t exactly know what it is about Mage that encourages this sort of thinking in me, but it’s happened enough times to be a trend.

One of the worries I have though is that I am always second-guessing myself before I introduce a potential plot hook because it might be either too pretentious, or seem strange or confusing to players. In my current campaign, Endangered Species, one of the players, Reimu ran into an individual whose own desire to be free from worldly responsibility and pressure tapped into something entirely wrong that was willing to give him what he wanted. I’m curious to see what Reimu would do now that she’s aware that such a thing exists and that it’s preying on the weak-willed and the despondent.

Some of the other plot hooks revolve around issues of conformity and the death of individuality in order to please a greater population. This issue of Groupthink was tackled by Masamune and Amaya in the form of the sinister Self-Help Seminars that promised greater success in life through the use of esoteric practices. It’s easy to fall to the trap of doing what a larger population says is right. Social pressure is a powerful force after all, and in a rigid and structured society like Japan, something like this isn’t rare as much as it is the norm… but what happens when it becomes harmful?

Speaking of harm, I also tackled issues of the dangers of a lack of critical thinking through Yasha, the mage that had committed a murder in Mikaboshi’s hotel. He was a textbook case of being a fanatic, blind to the faults of logic, and utterly committed to his chosen ideology. It was a short encounter, but it was also a warning of a sort with regards to new Mages. Just because someone gained the ability to twist and command the forces of the world at their whim doesn’t mean that they are actually mature and critical about that. In fact, that is one of the most frightening facts about magic in the World of Darkness: magic is amoral. It doesn’t care about good or bad.

One of the other interesting things I’ve been told about my games is that I tend to run Mage as a series of cautionary tales. I don’t deny that, and I think it’s rather apt. Think about the old fairy tales before they were sanitized… many of them were stories telling children to behave, be clever and be wise lest terrible things happen to them. The World of Darkness is a setting where it pays to be careful, because the bad parts of the real world is made even worse.

P.S.

For extra credits, can anyone point out the Deadly Sin of the Day for Episode 1?

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Comments
  1. I’m terrible at spotting the morality or sin, but I was really taken by how each of the characters had to balance humility and ability in a way that worked for the environment. In the case of the murder, the mage involved there had to go through channels to talk to the murderer; and while the ABILITY to do something to the killer was available, the knowledge that doing so wouldn’t benefit the cause was very apparent.

    The self help seminar situation was also very well done- on your part and the players. It seems obvious the players know your style and adapt their reactions accordingly (ie, the memory hole spell to be incognito); but following the many threads to an ultimate understanding and the restraint to act later after more information was gathered was a strength that many mages just don’t have.

    Being able to utilize self restraint and being humble enough to know “I can’t handle this YET” is a challenge and your players seem to have it well grasped. I’m interested to see how (or if) they move past this into the “poke it with a stick” curiosity that is what I envision Mage to be.

    • I guess it’s a different mindset. 🙂 As Mages in this setting, we understand that a healthy dose of paranoia is not only normal but integral to survival.

      One does not live this long, and had gathered this much knowledge by being reckless and stupid. 😀 Particularly around people who can do the same things you can do.

      A reckless mage is often a dead mage, especially in Pointyman’s games. 😀

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Mages may be able to rip reality in half as easy, if not better, as most of the other White Wolf’s supernatural templates, but they also suffer from the same concerns as they do — they are few, whereas the blissfully ignorant masses are many. Casually showcasing their abilities in public not only reveals their true nature for scrutiny, but also earns the ire of the political powers; not only of the Mage orders, but also the other Supernatural power structures.

      If anything, I think Mages are closer to Vampires but without the angst. Vampires have their entire immortal lives to contemplate on whatever they have done or should be doing. Whereas Mages, instead of angst, suffer more on Mania. Given their finite and mortal lives, it urges them to do great things, but in moderation, lest other they be taken before their time.

  2. I definitely agree that recklessness is something that will get you dead. I guess it’s just really refreshing to see Mages that “get it” that they can’t fix everything and maybe shouldn’t- at least not NOW.

    I also enjoyed the give and take of the game play; with the players trying to outsmart Pointyman and learn things without becoming endangered.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Yep. That’s how we roll.

      When the spells start flying, someone seriously messed up and I wouldn’t want to be part of it.

  3. Hikkikomori says:

    Sin of the Day: ENVY.

    A young mage murdering a fellow cabal member and schoolmate out of spite.
    A creature which feeds on internet denizens that seek an escape from the pressures of life.
    A self-help cult which aims to help people achieve their ideal selves — which is to be like someone else.

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