Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Character creation and progression: What is optimal, what's a trap?

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Character creation and progression: What is optimal, what's a trap?

    Hey, so I'm relatively new to Mage the Ascension,and so I was looking for some help on the topic of character build choices, optimization and progression. I know that I should consider the flavor of things and it depends on context and the game, and a million other detractions, but even still I would like to ask.

    For a slightly investagatory game with only a moderate expectation of combat, what sphere's and merits and skills are probably good, which are bad? What will I find the most consistently useful in your opinion and how do I make the most out of any given ability? Is there any particularly broken combos that exist that are fun to be aware of, even if they might not be used?

    Any and all input is appreciated, and while I understand that some people might be opposed to what I'm asking on principle please understand that it is intended to help me fully grasp the framework of the game and not harm my ST or the other players experience, and any actions that might do so will exist only in the realm of "a fun idea, in theory." Thanks.

  • Inertial Frame
    replied
    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
    Most of the WoD games (aka using the same exact engine) struggle with a lot of the Abilities you're talking about fun for the play style you are describing. A vampire with Science doesn't really have anything they can do with Science that they couldn't do as a normal person.
    For the most part, I agree with this sentiment. That said, a Tzimisce with specialty in Biology for Science is that much scarier in concept. And for stereotypical modern Ventrue and (some) Giovanni, Finance should get at least a dot or two. But yes, a lot of the aesthetic Abilities get the back burner treatment in one way or another in pretty much every other iteration of the WoD, unless pains are taken by the storyteller to include them in the mix.

    Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
    In an old game, we used graffiti to defeat a Nephandus. Not magical spray paint (on our part!). The Nephandus was using street art to monitor and sway local gangs, and on of our mages went on a tagging spree that constantly outdid and got more attention than the Nephandus' little things, reducing it's corruption as people ignored it's pieces, and freeing the other mages to investigate without people noticing.
    That, sir, is an incredibly creative* action. I applaud your troupe for thinking of it and then acting on it.





    *Not originally intended as a pun, but I'll totally own it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    Originally posted by PixelPuzzler View Post
    To address the thing I struggle with is that many of the abilities that might be expected to be associated with a given practice or instrument are, in my opinion, quite boring in play.
    OK, again, I'm not sure what we can do besides say to put this aside... but Mage is a unique beast of a game and you're going to have a lot more fun with it if you try to set aside these preconceptions.

    Now, I'll put in a caveat: I hate the Ability bloat in Mage, and M20 in particular. When I have a say in things, I cut M20's Ability list down to 10 in each category (like the other 20ths games), and toss every last Secondary Ability out (I use the Well-Skilled Craftsman rules and just make them Specialties of the closest Core Ability).

    But Mage is a game where the Abilities are what you make of them. Most of the WoD games (aka using the same exact engine) struggle with a lot of the Abilities you're talking about fun for the play style you are describing. A vampire with Science doesn't really have anything they can do with Science that they couldn't do as a normal person. For a mage though, every Ability is a battleground for the fight over reality.

    In an old game, we used graffiti to defeat a Nephandus. Not magical spray paint (on our part!). The Nephandus was using street art to monitor and sway local gangs, and on of our mages went on a tagging spree that constantly outdid and got more attention than the Nephandus' little things, reducing it's corruption as people ignored it's pieces, and freeing the other mages to investigate without people noticing.

    That's the whole thing about Mage in general. It's a fight over reality and every part of reality matters. In most games something like street art would be a quirk that doesn't even need to be a trait on your sheet. In Mage, it can save the day.

    Leave a comment:


  • PixelPuzzler
    replied
    I will accept my short-sightedness and mistakes with regards to certain abilities, like finance, and i suppose I should have clarified that I find meditation, research, computers and investigation can all fit within the category of useful earlier, but having played games that are similar to mage, at least in settings and skills, I've come to a bit of a conclusion that while finances or occult or technology are useful to have, they're also the skills that are most easily outsourced as well. Rare is the situation, imo, where you encounter someone's tax records or need to run down a money trail, and you have to do it *now*, and relying on favors or networkig is unfeasible.

    On the flip side, even if you really can't outsource, call in favors for, or otherwise workaround a lacking ability in those, you'll find such a situation uncommon by comparison. That's if those abilities come up much at all, and an ST honestly might not have that happen for good reason. Even a well meaning one that tries to set up and give you those opportunities will often not be able to incorporate them as frequently as many other abilities, whether due to other players lack of ability to participate with them, their own difficulty in creating the correct story points for it, and stuff like that.

    In most games, in my experience, especially with a diverse PC cast, you'll frequently socialize or bribe, steal and sneak, and fight and run, and most often in situations where you're going to need to rely on yourself and your team in the moment, as contrasted with those others.

    I do appreciate and will try and work with the ideas suggesting I make a character who's skillset is the one I want and build a focus to match, as opposed to what I was doing approaching it focus first.

    And honestly, even if you take everything I said here and dismiss it as an incorrect opinion, which is fair, I think I can still offer a hopefully reasonable point in saying "I simply don't like those kinds of abilities"

    I apologize if this is aggravating or frustrating as well, I'm trying not to be too aggressive in my assertions or otherwise make it seem like I don't appreciate the help and opinions that have been offered, because I truthfully do.

    Leave a comment:


  • Inertial Frame
    replied
    Aleph, I took Saikou to mean finances as Resources in the context of one must have finances (as opposed to the knowledge Finance) to buy things, rent apartments, and generally live.

    Leave a comment:


  • Aleph
    replied

    A character without finances for example must constantly find ways to get food and somewhere safe for the night.
    That's quite a stretch.

    A character without Finances ain't going to enter the Forbes easily, but there's plenty of jobs that provide more than enough to live without being an expert at money administration.You need Finances to be an investor or to earn a lot with intelligent saving. You don't need Finances to earn a living. You don't make Finance rolls to pay tax, you make a Finance roll to evade/minimize tax.

    Leave a comment:


  • Saikou
    replied
    I remember thinking that streetwise was a fairly dull skill. Then one of my players used it to find a guy to sell him a gun, and another player got lost in the city because they didn’t have any dots in streetwise at all.

    This to me illustrates how abilities have two sides to their utility. How having them grants you extra options, and how not having them adds extra barriers.

    A character without finances for example must constantly find ways to get food and somewhere safe for the night. Any objects of theirs that break like clothing or bags, they are broken now, and mending them without magic is not going to be a simple affair.
    Last edited by Saikou; 04-24-2018, 04:29 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • 11twiggins
    replied
    Originally posted by Bluecho View Post
    Given that this is supposed to be an investigation-heavy campaign, you'd logically find that Finance is far more useful than many other "more interesting" skills. The biggest quality the FBI looks for in recruits is familiarity in accounting, after all. Financial records and spreadsheets can tell you a lot, assuming the Storyteller knows to leave clues there.

    Yeah, that's an issue. While your own creativity with Abilities matters a lot, so does how the Storyteller sets up their mysteries. Talk to your Storyteller about not just what Spheres you go with, but what Abilities you start play with as well. It will help them know what sorts of avenues for information gathering or problem solving to leave open, and maybe even inspire them when constructing their plot.
    I can say from experience that certain PCs at my table have been horribly unfulfilling because I have failed to set up challenges which suit them. A pacifist Tzimisce surgeon was left with nothing interesting to do because I failed to shape the chronicle to suit all of the PCs.

    As for Finances, mixed with Primal Utility and some complementary Attributes/Abilities it can be the most devastating ability. Money is the basis for most societies, and playing to people's greed and weakness isn't difficult when you mix Resources with Mind, Charisma, Manipulation, Expression, Intimidation...

    Another Mage makes themself your enemy? Well, bribes in the right places mean that their residence is scheduled for mandatory purchase by the city/council/state, for the construction of some new hospital/highway/residence. You can hide your influence behind 20 layers of red tape and go-betweens. And with Resources 5, you can establish as many level 1 Primal Ventures as you need. After all, investing Resources 1 is the equivalent to investing a TINY fraction of your income, and most of these investments will return more than you put in (before you even consider all of the free Quint). Now you can dine in splendor as your enemy's Sanctum is demolished.

    And how do they fight back? Short of decent investigative abilities, they will see only The State as their enemy. Do they throw fireballs at the auditors? Do they assassinate the mayor? And if they do connect it back to you (some Coincidental Level 1 effects can make this VERY difficult; Entropy 1, Prime 1, Mind 1 etc. can make investigative rolls to backtrack to your involvement nearly impossible), then you'll still have the advantage of immense wealth behind you.
    Last edited by 11twiggins; 04-23-2018, 11:58 AM.

    Leave a comment:


  • Bluecho
    replied
    Given that this is supposed to be an investigation-heavy campaign, you'd logically find that Finance is far more useful than many other "more interesting" skills. The biggest quality the FBI looks for in recruits is familiarity in accounting, after all. Financial records and spreadsheets can tell you a lot, assuming the Storyteller knows to leave clues there.

    Yeah, that's an issue. While your own creativity with Abilities matters a lot, so does how the Storyteller sets up their mysteries. Talk to your Storyteller about not just what Spheres you go with, but what Abilities you start play with as well. It will help them know what sorts of avenues for information gathering or problem solving to leave open, and maybe even inspire them when constructing their plot.

    Leave a comment:


  • 11twiggins
    replied
    PixelPuzzler Abilities like Technology, Crafts, Art and Finance are far from useless. Without magick, a hypereconomist can investigate a spreadsheet and note anomalies, which is very useful when paired with Investigation or Computer. From there they might discover embezzlement, which may play a role in the story. With magick, they can strengthen their abilities temporarily, and with their abilities they can strengthen their magick.

    Taking an example like Technology, you can implant a small tracking device inside someone's phone while replacing the battery. You can disable an elevator, or a CCTV. Now, add Magick and things get interesting. Your careful examination of a circuit's design with Perception + Technology reduces the difficulty of the following Arete roll to alter it in some way. Or perhaps you find that a bomb goes beyond your understanding as a technician (not being a bomb disposal specialist), so you use your Level 1 Sphere effects to reduce the difficulty of the roll to disarm it.

    Furthermore, mixed with some Correspondence, any Ability can be used at range.

    It's a matter of simple creativity. No Ability is "useless", and no ability exists purely to give Focus. Art is the foundation of 7 figure incomes, legacies and historical renown, as well as being the focus for your great ritual workings. Technology (along with Computer) lies at the heart of most modern conveniences. Finances? Money makes the world go round. Remember that some skills lend themselves to Downtime as well; you won't set up a subtle tax fraud in a few rolls.

    Leave a comment:


  • Aleph
    replied
    As Heavy Arms said, Mage is a game the posits that non-magical Abilities are part of a character's foundation in magical abilities. How can you make an artist without Art?, How can you make a psychic without Meditation?, what kind of wizard doesn't have Occult and Esoterica?. That's why I say that, if you don't want useless skills, you should start from a concept that hasn't them and build from there.

    Leave a comment:


  • Aleph
    replied
    Originally posted by PixelPuzzler
    To address the thing I struggle with is that many of the abilities that might be expected to be associated with a given practice or instrument are, in my opinion, quite boring in play. I've experienced similar things in other systems. For all that medicine and academics and art make my magick posible or more sensible, they're also skills that are used infrequently in almost all game types, struggle to be especially proactive in use, and are frankly not fun because they're not often useful, again imo. It's not that I only want to fight, I'm content to invest in and utilize Investigation, Altertness, Empathy, Ettiquette, Stealth, and similar, and the combat skills, while things like academics, crafts, technology, finance, art and the like hold little appeal for me.

    On that topic, it was important to find a way to match my focus, more specifically my instruments, and my abilities together so that I could use the abilities I do like, and drop the rest. Although meditation taken as a skill is hard to avoid, but acceptable.[
    Then choose a Concept with useful skills, like a kung-fu investigator or something that appeals your adventuring needs a little more, and after doing that think of a Paradigm that fits that concept. Nobody it's going to complain if you do that.

    Keep in mind that, if you have time (i.e. not in combat or a situation where each second counts), rolling those skills you deem useless before rolling Arete can be used to net a -1 to difficulty per success. One of the neat things of Mage it's that you can make "useless" Skills useful by virtue of merging them with your magick (and M20 forces the issue with the whole Sphere cap)

    Leave a comment:


  • PixelPuzzler
    replied
    Regarding your hypertech comment, I should clarify that I was mostly using the plasma gun as a theroetical example of why I didn't want to use hypertech plasma guns as part of my character's focus.

    To address the thing I struggle with is that many of the abilities that might be expected to be associated with a given practice or instrument are, in my opinion, quite boring in play. I've experienced similar things in other systems. For all that medicine and academics and art make my magick posible or more sensible, they're also skills that are used infrequently in almost all game types, struggle to be especially proactive in use, and are frankly not fun because they're not often useful, again imo. It's not that I only want to fight, I'm content to invest in and utilize Investigation, Altertness, Empathy, Ettiquette, Stealth, and similar, and the combat skills, while things like academics, crafts, technology, finance, art and the like hold little appeal for me.

    On that topic, it was important to find a way to match my focus, more specifically my instruments, and my abilities together so that I could use the abilities I do like, and drop the rest. Although meditation taken as a skill is hard to avoid, but acceptable.

    Leave a comment:


  • 11twiggins
    replied
    Originally posted by PixelPuzzler View Post
    So the upside to Enhancements is their reliability and permanency as relates to their effects, at the downside of permadox or genetic flaws and extra cost, which may or may not be worth it, depending? Have I summarized that right? And, since this thread seems to be pretty active still, I think now might be a good time to ask this question.

    I sat down with my storyteller today, and came up with a paradigm, and to summarize by picking from the list of stuff, I chose "Consciousness is the only true reality", "Psionics", and instruments like Meditation, Thought Forms, Dances and other Movements, Body Modification, Drugs, Sex and Sensuality, and similar internal or non-tool based stuff that were used to aid the character in focusing their will.

    My storyteller had a bit of an issue with this, with their argument being that it was too like the purple paradigm, whatever that means, and that any given paradigm should always place restrictions on what a mage can do with their magick, such that not every effect a sphere can theoretically pull off is something the character could actually accomplish.

    I'm wondering if this is the correct approach, just what the hell the Purple Paradigm is, and what if anything might be changed? I just wanted a paradigm that would be logically consistent with the mage universe and not require me to jump through hoops explaining why my plasma gun works just fine when I hold and shoot it, but pass it to the sleeper guy next to me after just firing it and suddenly things get fucky, or why my technology is limited in scope by a sphere system that doesn't always seem logical or consistent when applied through a technological lens. Similar issues can be extrapolated to magickal traditions too if they utilize alchemy or similar. Also I didn't want to have to take a bunch of skills just to justify my magick but that I would find little use for otherwise, such as science or high ritual or lucid dreaming. It also kinda fits the character, and I can probably expand on these details if I need to, but for the most part I'm trying to just get a larger perspective on what I did wrong.
    If your belief is that Consciousness is the only true reality, then that paradigm doesn't really fit with hypertech.

    It's a great paradigm, and your foci are really neat, but try and stay "on-topic" as it were. You should think through each effect logically. It's flexible, but most impressive things will be Vulgar, as a trade-off.

    For example, you could use sensation as a focus for a Forces attack. Strike a match or use a lighter, and let yourself feel the pain of heat against your skin. Focus your will on another, and watch as they burst into flames. This is usually going to be vulgar, but it's still a neat way of doing the effect. You can explain it as "I understand deep down that a single thought would reduce him to ash, if I were one with the greater consciousness, but I am limited by my inexperience and attachments. I'm going to experience the sensation so as to draw myself closer to the great idea, and inflict it upon another sympathetically." This will go much better than "I imagine him on fire, and he sets on fire." Now as your Arete increases you might shed the need to use such tools, but for now it's a great way to explain things.

    As for the purple paradigm, your ST is worried it comes too close to "Reality is shaped by Will, so my focus is Will", which is a very Vanilla "I am the Best Mage (TM)" Paradigm. All you need to do is carefully read M20's guide to casting effects, and think more about what you want to do and how your CHARACTER does it (more "I try and inflict the thought of burning onto him, through shared experience" than "I use my Forces 3 Prime 2 to set the mook on fire").

    Leave a comment:


  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    Originally posted by PixelPuzzler View Post
    So the upside to Enhancements is their reliability and permanency as relates to their effects, at the downside of permadox or genetic flaws and extra cost, which may or may not be worth it, depending? Have I summarized that right?
    Yep.

    My storyteller had a bit of an issue with this, with their argument being that it was too like the purple paradigm, whatever that means, and that any given paradigm should always place restrictions on what a mage can do with their magick, such that not every effect a sphere can theoretically pull off is something the character could actually accomplish.
    The "Purple Paradigm," is a reference to the primary color of Mage (purple) and a character who's paradigm (old version, so Focus in M20) is basically the optimally flexible one as if the character had read the books.

    This was a bigger concern in 1e and 2e Mage, where Arete advancement was described as shedding your Paradigm along with your tools. Revised weakly, and M20 strongly, negate this by having Paradigm and Practice remain part of a character's Focus no matter how high their Arete gets.

    A more detailed thread (though gets a bit derailed) here: http://forum.theonyxpath.com/forum/m...urple-paradigm

    Really, if you have a functional Focus in M20, the Purple Paradigm shouldn't be an issue. The need to be concerned with "placing restrictions on what mages can do," is outdated, and was never really the point. Focuses don't dictated what a character can and can't do with magic, but how they do it. If your ST needs to be pointed a bit, at the end of M20's Paradigm section, it details some important things about Paradigms; including the idea that Paradigms that get used by characters are going to be practical and expansive rather than restrictive. As well Step 2 in Casting Magick discusses this. The Technocrat with Forces 3/Prime 2 doesn't toss fireballs by chanting over a staff, but they can pull on more appropriate tools for the same effect.

    I just wanted a paradigm that would be logically consistent with the mage universe and not require me to jump through hoops explaining why my plasma gun works just fine when I hold and shoot it, but pass it to the sleeper guy next to me after just firing it and suddenly things get fucky, or why my technology is limited in scope by a sphere system that doesn't always seem logical or consistent when applied through a technological lens.
    I think your concerns here are a bit unfounded, but if you haven't played Mage it's hard to really demonstrate how.

    What it feels like is going on, is that what you're trying to avoid is what a lot of experienced Mage players/STs consider an important aspect fo the game (aka reconciling individual beliefs having power in a world the disagrees with those beliefs in a direct way). That's where the Purple Paradigm issue comes in. To old hats it can feel like you're trying to 'cheat' the system instead of engaging with it by avoiding things instead of confronting them.

    Also I didn't want to have to take a bunch of skills just to justify my magick but that I would find little use for otherwise, such as science or high ritual or lucid dreaming.
    Ultimately, Mage is a game the posits that non-magical Abilities are part of a character's foundation in magical abilities. The character you've described should have dots in Abilities like Meditation, Art, Expression, Streetwise, Academics, Medicine, and the like. How can they meditate as an Instrument if they have no practice in the Meditation Skill? Where is that dancing, body modification, and drugs coming from without understanding Art and Expression to perform, Streetwise to get their hands on things, or Medicine to know which drugs do what? Without Academics or Esoterica, how do they understand how to use Thought Forms?

    As a ST, the red flag I see in what you're saying is the purposeful intent to avoid thing, rather than focusing on what you intend to do in a positive fashion. Building a character around avoiding things can make STs nervous about you trying to duck engaging in the negative consequences/costs of things in the game, rather than it really being about protecting what you find fun (though a I think you're being a bit presumptive about the usefulness of various Abilities).

    I have a mage I built for a game that didn't pan out that's not to dissimilar from what you've posted, but nobody's ever had an issue with the character design because everything flows naturally. He's a Cultist of Ecstasy that believe Everything is an Illusion, and alters himself to alter reality with a mix of Chaos Magick, Crazy Wisdom, and a bit of Yoga from his mentor's more traditional approach, using Instruments like Blood and Other Fluids, Bodywork, Dances and Movements, Drugs and Poisons, Meditation, Ordeals and Exertion, and Sex and Sensuality.

    He has decent ratings in all of the Core Associated Abilities (I don't like Secondaries, so I'll take Medicine over Pharmacopia any day) with all that... because it's all a natural fit. I never even thought about avoiding Science or High Rituals. I designed a cool character and investing in those wouldn't make sense for him.

    Leave a comment:

Working...
X