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How hard would it be to play a non-mage effectively?

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  • How hard would it be to play a non-mage effectively?

    This is mostly a curiosity post, but I was wondering how difficult it would be to pull off a functional feeling and/or enjoyable character in a Mage game without being awakened. They don't need to be completely mundane, but probably shouldn't be another major splat like a werewolf or vampire.

    Part of this thought process was in the vein of EXP and Skill efficiency. Such a character would be able to spend the exp that mages spend on spheres and arete on attributes, merits, backgrounds, etc. At a much faster rate. Further they wouldn't be nearly so "ability deprived" because they wouldn't need to invest in abilities that are *mostly* only useful for justifying a mages magick like Esoterica and Meditation often are.

    This is more of a thought experiment than something I'm planning on, but based on responses it might change my mind and incline me towards it lol.

  • #2
    Though I've never done such a thing as a player I think it would work fine. As you said you would have a lot of technical know how and being mortal many of you groups enemies might overlook you. On the other hand you could also become a liability just as easy.

    If the Mage's in your group set up a few enchantments on you, you can be just as defensive as they are. From that point normal combat situations shouldn't be much of any more of an issue than it is for a Mage. Guarding your mind would also be very important but a high Willpower (6+) would suffice as well.

    There is also the new stuff in Gods and Monsters that is soon to be released. I haven't had a chance to do much more than skim it but there are alot of good ideas and a character builder for consort type characters that would fit what you are looking at very well.

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    • #3
      It's not hard at all if you don't care for "game balance".

      *Magick provides solution to countless problems, not just combat, and you won't have that. You won't be able to bullshit your way trough problems by inventing yet another application of your Sphere like Mages do

      *Magick provides awesome power. You won't be able to cast rituals to nuke the oppostion, travel other planes of existence, control the minds and perceptions of others, etc...

      However you may be able to tackle better some mundane problems, especially as Paradox starts to wreck the body and mind of the others.

      IF the other players are nice (rather than douchebags that would wreck the mind and body of your character soon after meeting just 'cause they can) you may benefit from the magick as much or more than the mages. Your well trained mortal may be the perfect receptacle for all that cosmic power mages can summon. For instance, my mage that's a master at crafting magical katanas might not be so much of a trained samurai as your character is, and decide that you get to test the goodies.

      In the long run the power gap widens because there's a diminishing return you will get from increasing Skills & Attributes, because magick can make gaining backgrounds and other story related benefits much easier, and becuase magick get's WAY more powerful as Arete raises and lvl 4 start to appear in the map (Mage Players don't expend most of their EXP in magick for no reason)...but all of that it's irrelevant if you don't care about being weaker and depending on the wizards to survive the wizardly world.

      Also depending on the story your skills could be more or less relevant. In a Umbra/Ghost story or a high level wizardly intrigue with Scrying & counter-Scrying you would be, most likely, a fish out of water. But in a street level camapign your great skill & capability to swim the mortal world could be an asset.

      Bottom line:
      Much like playing a mortal in every other game, Mages exposes your character to forces that they just ain't going to be able to respond w/o SOME kind of special advantage. However, unlike other games, due to the nature of how magick works (it's hard, it's slow, it can benefit others) Mage may be uniquely appropiate to play a mortal - you will still have less "power level" than the splat, but not necessarily by such a huge margin.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Aleph View Post

        Bottom line:
        Much like playing a mortal in every other game, Mages exposes your character to forces that they just ain't going to be able to respond w/o SOME kind of special advantage. However, unlike other games, due to the nature of how magick works (it's hard, it's slow, it can benefit others) Mage may be uniquely appropiate to play a mortal - you will still have less "power level" than the splat, but not necessarily by such a huge margin.
        Honestly I'd say the versatility and lack of hard issues for Mages make it the other way around. They don't have to sleep half the day. They don't cause people to hate them and might flip out and murder people in public or have fundimental issues with mundane life...or are dead. Honestly a Medium in Wraith is probably the most useful you can do stuff the ghost can't rather easily and they can synergize pretty strongly.

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        • #5
          "True Magick" is very expensive exp-wise, that's true. However, it is also insanely powerful once you cross a certain threshold.
          In games that don't run a very long time, the Mage-characters will probably not gain as much experience to become this powerful. If you plan a longer chronicle or even an open ended game, then the non-Mage will feel that gap eventually.

          There are a few possibilities to gain supernatural powers without becoming a major splat, that also are more "cost efficient" or at least less costly. First, supernatural merits, as presented in the "Book of Secrets". One or two of these can go a long way. Then, there's Numina and Socerer-Paths (yes, hedge-magic!). Both options are valid for their own reason and could possibly be combined if they match thematicly.
          Sure, that's all much more limited than spheres and eventually these powers will be outmatched. But they can offset the power gap at least for a time.

          Then, there are a few things, Sorcerers, Numina users and unawakened with supernatural merits just can't do. Mage20 specifically states that being awakened protects the characters from effects like the "things men are not meant to know" or the Delirium induced by Werewolfes. Mages are more resistant to certain mind-based effects and possibly any magic than mundane humans. Being awakened makes the character become a supernatural being, while becoming a sorcerer doesn't. You're still a mundane human being, you just know some tricks.
          The effects some spirits may have on mundane beings can be very interesting and dangerous. Other splats (if you use them) become even more of a danger.

          In the end, it depends very much on the game and how the specifics are played out. The longer the game runs, however, the greater and more noticable the power gap will become.
          If playing a non-mage character is a thing someone wants to do in my chronicle I would probably let them do this, but there will be drawbacks. It would probably be better to play a real Mage and have a non-awakened Retainer or something.

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          • #6
            I can see the validity in the above points, but I definitely think there is a niche you could slot a mortal into nicely. That being the role of "person who uses the tools mages provide and has the skills to do so that the mages likely lack because they invested in the ability to *create* those tools." A rather lengthy sounding niche, but hopefully that conveys the point. Although I fully agree that you're probably going to have a tough time of things if the other mages in the group aren't willing to play ball and help you out in certain arenas. Especially the umbral stuff. But most mage games I've been in don't want to touch that stuff for one reason or another.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by PixelPuzzler View Post
              But most mage games I've been in don't want to touch that stuff for one reason or another.
              This is mostly why I said what I did. The majority of our games, of which I am usually the ST, tend to be street level games as my players always get nervous when we hit the Umbra and they tend to avoid it. That and I have a hard time pushing a story in a direction that my players don't tend to build for. Granted if the story is heavy in Umbral activity or is over the top magical (not that that is wrong) then a mortal would find themselves on the short end of the stick quite often.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Lian View Post
                Honestly I'd say the versatility and lack of hard issues for Mages make it the other way around. They don't have to sleep half the day. They don't cause people to hate them and might flip out and murder people in public or have fundimental issues with mundane life...or are dead.
                That's not a bad point, but assumes that you will split the party and your players will live different stories. A mortal that's active in the day can be useful for the coterie, but isn't going to relate with them as much (because you aren't very useful at night, and because you will want to sleep after a day's work) and Werewolf action it's often dashed with hard combat that even other supernaturals will have trouble surviving - you're not taking part in that (even as "support" it will be deadly) and the Umbra it's much more prevalent.

                Mages, on the other hand, don't have a lot of power when unprepared (compared with the other splats), and if prepared they can prepare their sidekick too. Mages can have their sidekicks with them at all times and travel with them in their adventures this way. True, the human will be very dependant on the mages, but still I think it would be more enjoyable than siting trough the adventure until my "special asset" comes to play

                Honestly a Medium in Wraith is probably the most useful you can do stuff the ghost can't rather easily and they can synergize pretty strongly.
                I fully agree on that, however. Hadn't considered Wraith. They do have tremendous synergy with mortals as long as the story doesn't go to the Tempest and beyond (and nobody wants to go there)
                Last edited by Aleph; 02-28-2019, 10:04 AM.

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                • #9
                  Generally it all boils down to "What does the ST think about it?"
                  If an ST is perfectly fine with the idea and the story doesn't drift too far into directions that unawakened humans simply can't handle (like a Horizon/Umbral Realm story with lots of Great Old Ones) it could be perfectly fine. If the ST wants to do all the weird stuff and really doesn't like the idea, you should forget about it.

                  It doesn't really matter what the rules say, when the ST thinks an idea should be possible, valid or just plain bad. I'd probably come up with lots of ways to make an Unawakened life miserable while still make the character feel like she is valid and playable. It doesn't exclude one another. Actually, these two elements really complement each other and make for very interesting concepts, as long as not being awakened is not the only trait the character has and the rest of the troup are really awakened mages. Nothing sucks more than a group of Drizzt do Urdens, each trying to be unique.

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                  • #10
                    Another option would be to grab another gaming system that doesn't necessarily run counter to Mage. My first thought would be to have a character that's something like a golem or such from Promethean or, if you're looking for more of a thematic inclusion, Scion. A mortal character that's part of a divine lineage with potent, nigh paradox-free access to some shard of divinity.

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                    • #11
                      A little late to this but this actually worked very well in one campaign I was in. We had one player who was having trouble getting his head around the magic rules so he asked if he could play a normal human. We were a little concerned he would fall behind the curve without magic but it was allowed and his character was built like a normal character but with 21 freebie points which he invested heavily into skills. His character was quite fun to watch him play, he would talk himself out of situations quite often and pull off some other entertaining shenanigans. Eventually the power curve did become a problem though but the ST solution was to have him secretly become Marauder who's reality shifting was very subtle and he almost didn't even seem insane. It boiled down to him accepting the supernatural existing but that he could "outmaneuver it" regardless of what it was. The consequence of that was that he would do more and more suicidal things as far as the supernatural was concerned because of that. The marauder effect basically boiled down to antimagic and luck based effects

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