[Mage: the Ascension] For Old Times’ Sake?

Posted: October 30, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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I’ll have to admit that Mage: the Ascension still brings happy memories to my mind. Back in college, I picked it up as my first World of Darkness RPG, and I haven’t really looked back since. It was a strange mashup of all the things that I enjoyed: the urban-gothic nature of the setting, the high-minded ideals and philosophies at war and funky magic systems that let you go wild. I remember running games where I didn’t really have a concept of BadWrongFun, where anything goes. One of my players at the time had a character that was a Maurauder, a mage lost in a world of his own fantasy, seeing the entire setting as some sort of strange spy flick. I had to narrate certain scenes twice just for it to “make sense” in his world-view.

There was a lot of magic, lots of fighting, and not a lot of sense. But it was fun, and I enjoyed it.

Today, in the post-Awakening reality, I find myself looking back at Ascension with a mix of amusement and worry. I loved the game, and what I was able to pull off with it, but I want to do more with it. It has potential for all sorts of interesting stories much like Awakening did, and now that I’m older, I might just be able to tackle those. I’ve still got my M:tAsc books on my shelf, though I have to admit that the system has lost its appeal to me. I still prefer the new WoD system better.


That said, what would I run with it?

I’m thinking about it, and my recent holiday in Hong Kong is still fresh in my mind. I remember that I also used Hong Kong as a setting for my Mage: the Ascension campaign long ago, and I feel that perhaps a reboot might be interesting. I remember that I was quite happy with the Chinese factions introduced in the Dragons of the East expansion, and the Asian Technocracy just seemed to be a lot more interesting in my head.

So it’ll be a modern game, set in the modern times, things advancing beyond the apocalyptic tone of the old World of Darkness but still keeping with the themes of warring for the hearts and minds of the common man. The Virtual Adepts will be in a very strong position here, but the other Traditions still have powerful bases from which to work with in Asia. I’ll keep everything else, the Avatars, which jive well with my love for Personas and Jojo-esque Stands, and the Seekings which dictate how you evolve as a Mage.

Paradigms are a tough question, and one where I will have to put my foot down. If you can’t explain it via the character’s paradigm, it can’t be done, even if you have the proper Spheres. I know it’s tough, but at the same time, it’ll be a good way to exercise creativity within the boundaries of your own choosing.

The themes, as they always tended to be, will be the fight for the future. Control vs. Freedom, and the story of Ascension. No jaunting around in the Umbra however, I’d like to keep to the Mage: the Ascension Revised angle of keeping things on Earth, as it’s the only battlefield that matters. The Avatar Storm will probably be there, but to a lesser extent, as is it’s pretty punishing, but certainly can be used to spin off stories.

New Horizons sounds like a good campaign title to me.

  1. Uncle Asriel says:

    I was talking to a friend a week back about the contrast between Ascension and Awakening, and how the two work as very different games.

    We both felt that the Awakening rules were infinitely tidier, but the Ascension metaplot (and the mechanical consequences that implied, Consensus and Paradox in particular) was much more substantial.

    What specifically were your causes of amusement or worry with Ascension? The idea of the Marauder having a scene re-narrated for his specific worldview seems quite cool. What specifically weighed it down? The metaplot-centric focus of the the classic World of Darkness? The fact you were still getting your legs as a GM?

    • I liked Ascension a lot, so much that I probably had one of the few almost complete collections of the revised books back in the day in the Philippines. Ascension’s war of ideology made “real” and the role of culture and philosophies and faiths are one of the things that appealed to me a lot. That said, it’s often hard to teach new players about paradigms, and often trying to get them to stick to it was a difficulty.

      I tended to ignore the metaplot, or cherry pick at least only the parts that felt cool to use for my players, so I didn’t have any major issues with it. That said, it did help sell the books, as I found myself buying some of the books to get the “big picture.”

  2. Mage: the Ascension is, hands-down, my favourite RPG ever. I was so happy to find your blog and read that there are other people out there who enjoy it. I personally enjoyed the darker ambiance and bleak prospects of the setting and subplots; Awakening felt like a watered-down version. I like what you intend to do with Avatars and Paradigms in your reboot. I hope your game goes well, and look forward to reading how it goes.

    Cheers from Mexico (another third-world RPG experience)!

    • Hi Cintain and welcome to the blog!

      I’m actually very happy about how the cWoD is making a strong comeback, and how next year is shaping up to be the Year of Mage: the Ascension. I’m already saving up for the 20th Anniversary Edition corebook, and might run the New Horizons campaign as a way to celebrate the game that really got me into the World of Darkness.

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