Archive for the ‘Mage: the Ascension’ Category


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I’ve started planning for a game of Mage: the Ascension’s 20th Anniversary Edition. Unlike my previous campaigns though, I’m running it as a Technocracy game. The Technocracy, to those unfamiliar with the setting is originally presented as the antagonist faction of the game. Agents of control who seek to stifle the creativity and freedom of true magic and force mankind into the gray mediocrity of the mundane.

A lot has happened since then, and the Technocracy has had many years to fix their reputation, and now they represent a counterpoint to magic. In their world view, Science and Reason are the best methodology to do “magic” in the world, as they can be codified, measured and hopefully once the world in general has accepted it enough, replicated by common people without the need of an Enlightened practitioner.

The campaign concept is that of a modern Technocratic troubleshooting team known as Amalgam-X, who are sent on missions to deal with all manner of strange things stemming from the supernatural. What I’d like to explore though is a much more specific subset of supernatural phenomena that could happen in the world of darkness, those relating to modern superstition and urban mythology.

As the world gets increasingly more and more advanced, the normal person understands less and less about how things work. Some of us might have an inkling of how basic machines work, but some might as well be magic to us.

And that’s the opening that the world of darkness needs to add something freaky in the universe.

So, despite the rational, scientific paradigm “winning” in 2016, there are still far too many people with their own superstitions and odd beliefs that are horrific on their own. From modern day horror stories like the Slenderman to the various bizarre experiences as recorded in Creepypasta, there’s a ton of unverified (and unverifiable) experiences that could be associated to the supernatural living just underneath this mundane world of ours.

Amalgam-X is the team that has to deal with those shadows.


In celebration of the first mini-con game I’ll be running this coming January, I’m putting up an early pitch for the game I’ve got in mind. A bit premature, perhaps but still fun!

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Netrunner: The Hours Tick by Macarious

The world should have ended in 1999.

Since then, there have been no less than 37 other End of the World Scenarios that have taken place. But we took care of them just like we take care of everything else.

Welcome to Amalgam-X, a cross-convention team of Technocratic Union Enlightened personnel dedicated to confronting extinction-level events from whatever source. From the awakening of ancient slumbering proto-gods from the depths of the sea, to recent “weird” phenomena like Internet-propagating Mass Murder Memes, we’re always on the front lines keeping the end of the world at bay.

I’ll be running my first-ever Technocracy game for Mage: the Ascension, and I find that now that I’m older (and I have a child of my own), the Technocracy viewpoint is much more attractive than it was when I was a cocky young college kid.

2016 paints a different world of superstitionism and proto-occult belief systems, ripped straight from Creepypasta and the Dark Web. The existence of a continuously wired community becomes a breeding ground for demons born from the darkest elements of humanity and it’s up to Amalgam-X to stop these as they happen.

That said, I’ll be taking the Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary rules for a spin. First Impressions on an Actual Play of the rules to follow, I promise!


Mage: the Ascension remains relevant even in this day and age. While the Revised era rules and books might be a little dated to modern readings, I’m confident that the upcoming release of the Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition will remedy that.

The much-feared (or loved) Metaplot is still prevalent, but doesn’t really stop you from running something your way. Mage has always been a game of possibilities and stories, and even back in the cWoD days, they were quick to state that GMs have priority when it comes to the “Truth” of a given game.

In this age of new games, it’s hard to find one that hits the same niche that Mage: the Ascension occupies. It is the one game that really made a player wonder at their beliefs, and examine as many sides as they can to a situation. It brought the conflict of ideology to the forefront, bringing out the kind of conflicts that we see played out in real life, but in the relatively safe context of a game.

Maybe I’m going overboard on this, but Mage is a game that has made me a much better person in a way. It taught me the value of understanding multiple points of view on a given conflict, and the virtue of being open to multiple truths to a certain thing.

Overall, Mage is perhaps a difficult game to judge properly, so I’ll see if I can compress it all into a list of bullets:

  • Dense metaphysics offset by fantastic potential
  • Dated writing may make it difficult for younger players to grasp the tone
  • Mechanics are very loose, leaving lots of room for GMs and Players to end up arguing
  • Ambitious setting which stands unique even among games that talk about modern fantasy

I’d certainly recommend Mage: the Ascension, but at this point, it would be best to wait for M20 and go for that.


The funny thing about Mage is that everything could be your enemy. Tradition mages, the technocracy, other supernaturals, ghosts, other-dimensional threats, unexplained phenomena, they’re all there.

The trick to Mage is understanding that no matter what happens, a Mage cannot simply “unsee” what they’ve encountered. Their ability with the Spheres leaves them susceptible to seeing exactly where all the cracks of this broken world are, and that propels them with morbid curiousity to see what makes it such.

As such I’d recommend structuring a Mage campaign that doesn’t think in terms of opposition, as much as situations that they have to unravel. To “fix” something in Mage is easy, as they all have Spheres that can do all sorts of nifty things. However, the fallout of their actions is where the fun really starts.

While the most obvious example is the Technocracy going on an investigation to determine the source of magic in an area, I prefer to take the magic that they’ve cast and see what other interesting things might happen because of it. Not to discourage players to use magic, but instead to make them consider their options heavily before employing it. Messing with reality calls down paradox, but actually successfully casting a spell is a plot hook in itself.

Mages always need to find out new things, and that makes them ideal investigators. The trick is recognizing that as a GM, you don’t have to hide things from them, but rather make them wonder at what they should do now that they know… and worse, make them wish that they’d never discovered about it in the first place.


Mage: the Ascension is very complex game that can do all sorts of stories depending on the GM’s preferences. In fact, I would highly recommend that a GM who plans to run Mage: the Ascension should really take the time to decide what the campaign should be about in order to lend focus to the game.

One of the easier ways to do it is to look at two things: Scale and Conflict

Scale

This is where we discuss the scope of the game. Mage: the Ascension can go all out and tackle things like the far realms, alternate dimensions, fighting in the spirit realm and other locations and times.

This suits games of high adventure very well, but there’s also an opportunity to run games that run the opposite end of the spectrum. These are the low-key street level tales of mages who struggle with every day life and work to improve their immediate community rather than trying to change the world.

By selecting the scale of the campaign, the GM can then work on creating the kind of opposition, situations and conflicts that work within that range. Mood and tone of the campaign are likewise influenced.

Conflict

It is impossible to have a game about having an Ego strong enough to change reality, and not run into conflict. Mage is all about having people with powerful wills with agendas that don’t agree with each other. As such the conflicts that best suit a mage game are those that have valid motivations.

Nobody is truly evil in a mage game. Everyone just thinks that they’re the good guy, even the ones that sell their souls to demons to get what they need believe that they’re protagonists… in their own twisted way.

Mages are very good investigators, and can easily be exposed to all the sides of a conflict. My preferred methodology is to get the players to realize why the opposition believes what they do, and see how the players plan to resolve the conflict (through peaceful or violent means)

Specificity in a mage game’s Scope and Conflicts is a good thing. For the GM, it allows them to bring the game into better focus without being all over the place. Players also will appreciate the consistency of the campaign, as opposed to punching Cthulhu in the face one moment and then worrying about a marriage that is falling apart in another.