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  • Initiates game.

    I was thinking about making my next Mage game one where they start out as Initiates--Arete of 1 or 2, 2ish Spheres with Sphere ranks no higher than 1, etc. I wanted to see if anyone here had done this before and if they could give me any advice. There is one player in particular who I could see being really resistant to starting out with less power than the default. Has anyone encountered that sort of reaction? How did you deal with it?

  • #2
    I once made a game which lasted for five years. People started out as mere humans, then onto the awakening. It started gaining momentum little by little and in the end was very good. When people refused to play as humans, I just talked with the player a little. Some answers that could always work are to let him understand what your chronicle is about and understand what HE is about, what he wants to play and so on. If he likes to become powerful, tell him that you can work on that with him and that chronicle won't impede him from getting to the goal at all. You could even give a wonder of high power to him, that he uses, and the cabal has to protect.
    But if he likes a more powerful game, you could let his character use the spirit plus prime sphere to do some very powerful effects, calling umbrodes, with a high cost. That way he can blow things up, as long as he has tass, which will be hard for him to get.
    Hope that helps?

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    • #3
      Thank you, that is very helpful.

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      • #4
        Lower power games can still be super fun and interesting. To do this just change the challenges to things a mortal would find very difficult but a mage would find moderately difficult. Use a lot of mortals, some sorcerers, and a few mages. Make a lot of challenges solvable with regular abilities, but then maybe 1/4 or 1/5 that require magic. Write up some sympathetic NPC's and realistic villains that cause problems for Sleepers.

        For example, dealing with a pissed off local drug dealing $yndicate-run gang would be incredibly difficult for mortals, but a mage has a decent chance of handling. You'd have addicts, dealers, gunmen, lieutenants, suppliers, maybe an amoral lawyer, and the 2-4 Awakened $yndicate and Progenitor Technocrats who run the show.

        I like comparing it to superhero power levels. You've got street-level heroes like Daredevil, Spiderman, and Batman (sometimes, depends on the story). Then you have national/global stories like those of Wonder Woman, Flash, Iron Man, the X-Men, & Captain America. At higher levels you have truly powerful heroes like Superman, Thor, and Dr. Strange.

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        • #5
          Another tack to take might be to point out that Mage characters start WAY ahead of the curve of power of starting characters in the other White Wolf games. A starting vampire has 3 dots (pre- Freebies) in Disciplines. Admittedly they also have a suite of other vampire powers, but, added together, the total doesn't even begin to match what a Mage character can do with 6 dots (barring some person who wants to be ineffectual.... like taking 1 dot in each of 6 Spheres then never using sensory effects). One of the problems with Mage is that players are almost always completely unaware of what their starting can actually do. A character build up from a mortal, through Awakening and having low Arete and a couple of dots in Spheres who is built up to a Disciple REALLY knows a chunk of the infinite wonders at their fingertips.

          Also, make sure that the player in question starts off with two dots in something. Two dots is coming to the table with an infinitely usable Swiss Army knife of one sort or another. Particularly if those two dots are in something like Spirit or Forces or Matter as opposed to Prime. But, seriously, 2 dots in Correspondence is AMAZINGLY useful. "I'm Daredevil, but I can also have pretty much anything I thought might be useful and laid out on my table at home in my pockets whenever I want to, or want to not have whatever I just shoved into my pocket because it's now back at home on my table or I can have whatever is in your pockets in my pockets, not yours.... Oh, and I can find you ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD whenever I want. And then drop a grenade or a rose or some Kleenex right next to you (or in your pocket)...."

          Also (again) note the option mentioned a few times in Mage20 to allow characters to "overclock" their power levels, particularly during and for a limited time after Awakening (when things get emotional or overwrought). Even if your character can only "go Carrie" a few times when they REALLY REALLY need it, it can assuage some of the "I'm powerless" feelings until they actually master said power. Plus it can be GREAT role-playing.
          Last edited by Ajax; 11-27-2017, 12:42 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Ajax View Post
            A character build up from a mortal, through Awakening and having low Arete and a couple of dots in Spheres who is built up to a Disciple REALLY knows a chunk of the infinite wonders at their fingertips.
            That's the idea! And hopefully their Foci will be more developed if they don't have to account for so many different abilities right at the beginning.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Faradn View Post
              That's the idea! And hopefully their Foci will be more developed if they don't have to account for so many different abilities right at the beginning.
              Yes. I think the hardest thing for my players when making new characters is getting all their focus tools together. They come up with 3 or 4 then struggle.

              I let them develop focus tool over the first few sessions and that so far has worked well. I do the same thing with Nature and demeanor. I know for me I will have an idea of how I want to play a character but things always change a bit from development on paper to the table.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tuch View Post

                Yes. I think the hardest thing for my players when making new characters is getting all their focus tools together. They come up with 3 or 4 then struggle.

                I let them develop focus tool over the first few sessions and that so far has worked well. I do the same thing with Nature and demeanor. I know for me I will have an idea of how I want to play a character but things always change a bit from development on paper to the table.
                This is the trick. You're going to have to make this part of it up. No matter how you slice it, one of the major points of an Initiates (and/or Awakenings) game is CREATING the Focus. And that's not something that has been addressed in M20. Focus is assumed to exist full-on with a full-on more than capable mage. I dunno, but, to me, winging it would probably be a bad idea. I would figure out how I wanted to address the development of the rules aspect of Focus and how that segues with how they articulate with however their Sects develop new talent.. When do they need to pin down a Belief (probably really early?). How and when does the adoption of a Practice (or Practices) happen and how much does that have to do with Sect? How do you decide how many Instruments are picked up and when? What's the progression? Pick a Practice and 1-3 related ones and then move outward until all 7+ are picked?

                And how do you set that up so it happens as organically as possible? A Mentor with a defined Focus will definitely help with that, but when does the individualized flare come in.

                I don't have the answers. I've thought up the problems as something to wrestle with down the line. Our next Mage game is going to definitely be an Awakenings/Initiates game. But I have a few more conceits in mind. Particularly I want them unconfined by notions of Sect, basically the setting with be a closed sandbox with the PCs Awakening and being pretty much on their own figuring out what magic is and how they each can do it. Effectively an Orphan Initiates game. So some issues just don't apply...And other, new ones, do....

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Faradn View Post
                  I was thinking about making my next Mage game one where they start out as Initiates--Arete of 1 or 2, 2ish Spheres with Sphere ranks no higher than 1, etc. I wanted to see if anyone here had done this before and if they could give me any advice. There is one player in particular who I could see being really resistant to starting out with less power than the default. Has anyone encountered that sort of reaction? How did you deal with it?
                  You could give each of them other True Mages as mentors, who would be mentors 4-5.

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                  • #10
                    Maybe compromise, I did a game with every character at Arete two and two spher d at the second level

                    It was kind of a midway between game and it worked well and kept everyone happy

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                    • #11
                      One thing, I DEFINITELY wouldn't start people off with a Sphere cap of 1 dot unless you want to play some large scale Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew evidence crunching procedural. 2 dots allows for a lot of latitude of being able to do something more than just SENSE stuff. Not that sensing stuff isn't amazingly cool, but it's going to be underwhelming if that's all your character can do( unless that's the character you want). And if that's all that everyone can do then the game is pretty two dimensional until someone punches their way out of the wet cardboard box that are their mage "powers".

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ajax View Post
                        How and when does the adoption of a Practice (or Practices) happen and how much does that have to do with Sect? How do you decide how many Instruments are picked up and when? What's the progression? Pick a Practice and 1-3 related ones and then move outward until all 7+ are picked?

                        And how do you set that up so it happens as organically as possible?
                        It could be done so that with each new Spell (Effect) or each new Rote that a new True Mage does - or with every second or third new Spell - the player(s) roleplay the choosing of a new Practice and a new Instrument, until you have seven or more pairs of a Practice and an Instrument picked. Each pair is a different Foci.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Muad'Dib View Post
                          It could be done so that with each new Spell (Effect) or each new Rote that a new True Mage does - or with every second or third new Spell - the player(s) roleplay the choosing of a new Practice and a new Instrument, until you have seven or more pairs of a Practice and an Instrument picked. Each pair is a different Foci.
                          If Rotes were in any way a meaningful concept in the crunch of M20 (or any version of non-COD Mage) that might be a path to explore. But they aren't. They just aren't. "Ad hoc" would be an overly generous description. Without a meaningful system of rules for Rotes that relates to their use, development, what they can and can't do, etc., etc., etc. they are a flimsy hook to try to hang this hat on. (More like a loose nail pointed down....) Rotes deserve a system of their own or they should just be forgotten as a concept. "Spells" (e.g. a set of consistent Instruments to produce a consistent effect) are a Practice thing for the sorts of Practice where such things would make sense.

                          Since I'm probably going to come at this from the direction of a group of Awakened folks who don't get picked up and processed into the existing Sect super-Practices, it could get VERY idiosyncratic. I guess I see the idea at the core of what you are proposing. What are their Instruments? Well.... What do the characters DO and what do they USE to do it when they try to make something happen? Which starts setting up a set of convenient "handles" for them to lever their magic into happening. Which in turn start developing into a working praxis that is both enabling (I know that if I do THIS and THAT with THIS STUFF then X will happen and I can extrapolate out from that....) and restrictive (in that once you start picking tools ,every choice starts excluding the universe of other possible Instruments).

                          That's why getting snarfed up by a Sect (if you Awaken independently) or are one of the lucky few who has been educated in the Practice/Instruments of a Sect prior to Awakening (whether it was just exposure to the fundamental bits or where able to actually DO something Sorcerer-y with the knowledge) is generally a good thing. They will spoon-feed you a Practice and associated Instruments. Which makes a "standard Mage" version of an Initiates game something fairly pedagogical. Mentor (or whatever the means by which the Sect is influencing the Initiates development of their magic) had Initiate try to achieve Effect X either through a defined method (THESE precise Instruments used THUSLY) or sets out some options and has the Initiate figure out their path to the end in question by choosing the Instruments that work for them. (The latter could be pretty narrow choices.... "For the spell to discern the presence of magical energies, you will need to choose either the chalice, the plate, the athame or the wand.... Your choice is important as that will be your Tool henceforth.... Here is what each of those choices will be", to "Yeah? You want to see through time? Well, we could have sex... or you could take these drugs... or meditate.... or dance.... or try a couple at the same time, where physically possible"....)

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