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What Type of Game is Mage the Ascension?

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  • What Type of Game is Mage the Ascension?

    The reason the question is that there seems to be wildly divergent viewpoints of what type of game is Mage the Ascension. Since I started playing it in 1995, I have always thought of Mages representing one of four failings of humanity, each represented by one of the four major factions, with the Conventions representing Hubris, the Marauders representing Insanity, the Nephandi representing Corruption, and the Traditions representing Nostalgia. The counterargument seems to be that Mage the Ascension is a game designed for the munchkins, by the munchkins, and of the munchkins, where every fantasy of power can be realized by the players, with the Mages walking as Gods among Mortals.

    Where does your viewpoint of Mage the Ascension fit? Is Mage the Ascension a game about the failings of humanity and, despite the power of the Mages, the inevitability that humans will fall to one of Corruption, Hubris, Insanity, or Nostalgia? Is Mage the Ascension a game about playing nascent Gods? Is Mage the Ascension something different for you?

  • #2
    I don't think Mage is about any one thing, rather it's a versatile system which can be used to make stories of varying themes. You can make is a Superhero Team story about protecting the innocent while simultaneously being condemned by them. You can make it about the war between Mysticism and Science, and how the distinction is ultimately meaningless. You can make it a story about survival alla Revised's setting, where magic is all but dead, but still you stand and fight because if you don't, no one will, then it's a story about the struggle against adversity. You can also make it about fighting against complacency. The Technocracy would prefer everyone be good little conformists. Being a Mage is about snapping out of this, and subsequently trying to snap your fellow man out of it too.

    But if you focus on certain traditions or cabals, it can be a game about politics. Focus on the Technocracy and it can be a game about the lengths necessary to keep the world safe and predictable, about how far is too far, and whether there is room for supernaturals in a society that craves for security (we know your opinions on the Technocracy Aya, no need to retread them here).

    You can also focus on the world itself, on the hole premise of "What if the universe was completely fluid" and design a campaign around new Orphans coming to terms with this idea, and how they avoid nihilism as they realise very little is set in stone. You can dive into mage society and think about how the interactions of sorcerer and mage parallel the disabled and able bodied people.

    Mage can be about all this things, because ultimately the entire premise is about Humanity. It's about the desire to seek change and all the foibles that comes with it.

    It's about the question: If you could do anything, what would you try to do and would you know when to stop?


    Keepers of the Wyck: A Chronicle I'm running FINALE: Chapter 39: Green Fairy

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    • #3
      oWoD in general is a game designed for the munchkins. You can't swing a stick without tripping over some sort of poorly thought out rule or power-set. Mage is probably the most balanced in practice simply because it's built into the rules for the ST to smack players who act up in ways that aren't fun with the paradox bat.

      In any case.

      Mage is about Humanity. Mages are just people like everyone else. Slightly more self aware than others, perhaps. But theoretically every human on earth could awaken as a Mage. Just like every human on earth could theoretically learn to throw a decent punch. And so, Mage is about humans. Humans in all their petty, vindictive, nihilistic, greedy, idealistic, charitable, conniving, and contradictory glory.

      It's telling that the primary conflicts in Mage are literal political wars. Skirmishes over ideology or over resources. But skirmishes that are largely caused by very human causes. Wars that would not look at all odd in the history books IRL.

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      • #4
        In Mage: the Ascension, players take the role of wizards who can cast spells using effects defined by various "Spheres." But watch out: regular people don't believe in magic, and casting spells in front of them causes dangerous "Paradox" effects that chill the bones of the most seasoned spellcaster! As members of the heroic Traditions, a typical session involves fighting agents of the evil Technocracy (see "The Matrix") or Nephandi (dark wizards who love Satan, Hitler, etc) while managing conflict between their allies, who subscribe to one of 9 magical philosophies based on subcultures that American nerds thought were cool in 1993. And Ars Magica.


        2E Legacy Updates
        Brotherhood of the Demon Wind
        Choir of Hashmallim (plus extra Summoning content)
        Storm Keepers

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Aya Tari View Post
          The reason the question is that there seems to be wildly divergent viewpoints of what type of game is Mage the Ascension. Since I started playing it in 1995, I have always thought of Mages representing one of four failings of humanity, each represented by one of the four major factions, with the Conventions representing Hubris, the Marauders representing Insanity, the Nephandi representing Corruption, and the Traditions representing Nostalgia. The counterargument seems to be that Mage the Ascension is a game designed for the munchkins, by the munchkins, and of the munchkins, where every fantasy of power can be realized by the players, with the Mages walking as Gods among Mortals.

          Where does your viewpoint of Mage the Ascension fit? Is Mage the Ascension a game about the failings of humanity and, despite the power of the Mages, the inevitability that humans will fall to one of Corruption, Hubris, Insanity, or Nostalgia? Is Mage the Ascension a game about playing nascent Gods? Is Mage the Ascension something different for you?
          Yes, to all three.

          I'm not sure what viewpoint you are describing when you say for, by, and of the munchkins so you'll have to elaborate on that, but for me Mage is about the power of the human spirit to change and reshape the world, and all the ways that it can go wrong. It is a game where might makes real, but does not make right. It is a game of castles on the moon and tyranny on the streets. It is a game where you can shed all limits and thus have to face the question "Just because I can, does that mean I should?" It's not about the power trip, it's about the consequences of power.


          For me the most perfect description of Mage will always be those eight words on the back of 2nd Edition: An Epic Game of Reality on the Brink.
          Last edited by Ramnesis; 02-03-2017, 11:43 AM.


          Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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          • #6
            Ideological and philosophical conflicts. The debates of which quickly escalate into literal flame wars.


            MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Enginseer-42 View Post
              oWoD in general is a game designed for the munchkins. You can't swing a stick without tripping over some sort of poorly thought out rule or power-set. Mage is probably the most balanced in practice simply because it's built into the rules for the ST to smack players who act up in ways that aren't fun with the paradox bat.
              Your first sentence seems inherently contradictory. That it was 'designed' for Munchkins, yet this is because the rules/powers are 'poorly thought out.' If the second is true, that's not necessarily by design.

              Regardless, I've always seen Mage about being largely centered on the themes of seeking enlightenment and power, balanced against the hubris of man. The human struggle on a grand scale.

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              • #8
                Ultimately, clashings ideals and those that adhere to them.

                The greatest draw to Mage however I see as it's abilty to be almost any kind of story you want. From Orphans in the gutter to Masters at play in the cosmos it all fits.

                I must say Mage has the apperance of munchkin style but I've not seen it in my personal experience. Though I've heard some rather obusive stories.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Saikou
                  I don't think Mage is about any one thing, rather it's a versatile system which can be used to make stories of varying themes.
                  This. I've found that Mage, more than any other cWoD game (that I've played, I didn't played them all), needs to settle for a theme. You can do almost anything with Mage, an urban wizard street game centered in th society, a "SciFi" traveling with the Void Engineers in a Void Ship, a conspiracy/political game with shady figures of the Technocracy or the Traditions.

                  Originally posted by Aya Tari
                  I have always thought of Mages representing one of four failings of humanity, each represented by one of the four major factions, with the Conventions representing Hubris, the Marauders representing Insanity, the Nephandi representing Corruption, and the Traditions representing Nostalgia.
                  ???
                  Nostalgia it's one of the failings of humanity?, in the same line with Corruption, Madness and Hubris ????

                  Then my friend was right, V20 it's a product of evil !!!!

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                  • #10
                    Nostalgia is a failing because it focuses the mind on the past instead of the present of the future.

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                    • #11
                      I'm not so sure if focusing in the past it's necessarily worse than focusing in the future or the present.
                      Last edited by Aleph; 02-03-2017, 03:28 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Monalfie View Post
                        Your first sentence seems inherently contradictory. That it was 'designed' for Munchkins, yet this is because the rules/powers are 'poorly thought out.' If the second is true, that's not necessarily by design.

                        Regardless, I've always seen Mage about being largely centered on the themes of seeking enlightenment and power, balanced against the hubris of man. The human struggle on a grand scale.
                        If you deliberately put out a few billion books, each of which contains vital setting information as well as powers for every faction, and don't rigorously balance each as they come out, then you might not have deliberately set out each individual rule for abuse, but you are still deliberately cultivating a mechanical environment conducive to munchkinry.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Enginseer-42 View Post
                          If you deliberately put out a few billion books, each of which contains vital setting information as well as powers for every faction, and don't rigorously balance each as they come out, then you might not have deliberately set out each individual rule for abuse, but you are still deliberately cultivating a mechanical environment conducive to munchkinry.
                          Design implies purpose, a plan, intent. I'm not saying World of Darkness doesn't have a system that allows for munchkins. Or even that the writers are not responsible for that for failing to balance it properly. But saying it was designed, as though there was any intent by the writers there, for them isn't accurate. It is negligence at best.


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                          • #14
                            I seriously doubt that any of the writers of White Wolf set out to develop a "munchkin" setting. There are a few games where this is not the case and in them things like an Awakened Abomination would be under powered. The first edition of World of Synnibarr (not up to date on later editions) being one example. This of course does not mean that Mage isn't open for considerable abuse by power-gaming/munchkining. But then again what game isn't? Especially one that allows for open ability creation on the spur of the moment. That's what the GM is for. If a game devolves into muchkinery its the GM that allowed it, end of story. Then again if that type of story is desired have fun. Who cares what other people think or say about your groups play style if your group is having fun with it. It's none of their business.

                            Balance between Mage books exclusively I don't see that they aren't. All Mage have access to the same spheres, only their way of invoking them changes. Some are able to do things quicker than others but ultimately they all have the same ability. Personally I find Mage to be the most balanced of all the White Wolf Games because of this.

                            As for balance between all White Wolf books, I'm not sure it was ever a priority. It's not like this is a competitive MMORPG. Reasonable balance is to be expected I agree, but Mage, Werewolf, Vampire, etc have no need to be balance between each other. The writers discourage crossovers in each of these and give example of how to handle the various supernaturals in each setting with their own rule sets (making a Vampire by using the Mind sphere instead of Dominate for example). So it's not like they didn't provide for a way to include everything if that was what was desired. But people being people we expect to crossover all the books as written then complain that it has balance issues. If full crossover is desired use the NWOD rule set. It much more balance than CWOD since everything starts with the same template then have their supernatural powers added on.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Tuch View Post
                              I seriously doubt that any of the writers of White Wolf set out to develop a "munchkin" setting. There are a few games where this is not the case and in them things like an Awakened Abomination would be under powered. The first edition of World of Synnibarr (not up to date on later editions) being one example. This of course does not mean that Mage isn't open for considerable abuse by power-gaming/munchkining. But then again what game isn't? Especially one that allows for open ability creation on the spur of the moment. That's what the GM is for. If a game devolves into muchkinery its the GM that allowed it, end of story. Then again if that type of story is desired have fun. Who cares what other people think or say about your groups play style if your group is having fun with it. It's none of their business.

                              Balance between Mage books exclusively I don't see that they aren't. All Mage have access to the same spheres, only their way of invoking them changes. Some are able to do things quicker than others but ultimately they all have the same ability. Personally I find Mage to be the most balanced of all the White Wolf Games because of this.

                              As for balance between all White Wolf books, I'm not sure it was ever a priority. It's not like this is a competitive MMORPG. Reasonable balance is to be expected I agree, but Mage, Werewolf, Vampire, etc have no need to be balance between each other. The writers discourage crossovers in each of these and give example of how to handle the various supernaturals in each setting with their own rule sets (making a Vampire by using the Mind sphere instead of Dominate for example). So it's not like they didn't provide for a way to include everything if that was what was desired. But people being people we expect to crossover all the books as written then complain that it has balance issues. If full crossover is desired use the NWOD rule set. It much more balance than CWOD since everything starts with the same template then have their supernatural powers added on.
                              I'd second all this (however I'd argue that in a crossover splats are more or less equal on the long run, just focusing on different things. It could be better, yes, but it's not tragic.). To me, the possibility of going for epic tales and playing powerful characters isn't the same as munchkining.

                              As for what Mage is about? To me, it's the most diverse of WoD, which allows literally any type of game. However, in the end, in my mind it always boils down, not surprisingly, to the concept of human hubris (aka, good intentions and the road to hell) and most of all, the conflict between freedom and safety. To me that's the very core of the game, just as much as Vampire's "The beast I am least the beast I'll became". Everything goes after those concepts.


                              If nothing worked, then let's think!

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