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  • Sphere System

    Just curious as to how many people here actually enjoy using Mage's open toolkit. Do most here view it as a genuine pleasure or something that's a necessary evil when playing a Mage game? How does it stack up against the more defined parameters of disciplines, Gifts, and hedge sorcery? Do you find it easier or more convenient to use? I've read a lot of Mage fluff to be sure, but have never played a game with a system like this before; and in truth am a little intimidated by not having firmer guidelines in place.

  • #2
    It's the reason I play Mage, the openness of Magick. Hedge Sorcery is cool but being able to control any element as opposed to say, fire from Hellfire (Without spending 800 exp on learning other paths), is a freeness I like.

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    • #3
      I love it, but like any open/flexible system, who you're playing with matters a lot to enjoying it. If people aren't on the same page, it can really mess with how people react to it.

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      • #4
        I enjoy it, it has issues but I enjoy it. And different writers and authorities seem to differ on their interpretations and sensibilities though.

        I do wish they would address Archsphere in M20.

        And I would enjoy it, a pipe dream, to have some throw back Masters and Archmages who use Foundations, or some with unique spheres, like thematic spheres mentioned in the Storyteller's Handbook like a Fire Sphere that represents flame and passion and fire spirits.


        It is a time for great deeds!

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        • #5
          I've been coming up with a Death Sphere (Influenced by the Sphere I saw on here a while back) for a while now but so far I only have 1 dot of it done, it works well enough.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Jihelu View Post
            I've been coming up with a Death Sphere (Influenced by the Sphere I saw on here a while back) for a while now but so far I only have 1 dot of it done, it works well enough.
            Well lets see it!


            It is a time for great deeds!

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            • #7
              If you're going to add Death, why not just port over Awakening's Arcana?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by TacoTuesday View Post
                Just curious as to how many people here actually enjoy using Mage's open toolkit. Do most here view it as a genuine pleasure or something that's a necessary evil when playing a Mage game?
                I absolutely *love* it. To this day I'm impressed that a system that pretty much allows you to come up with any kind of magical effect imaginable, while also encompassing pretty much every aspect of reality around us, was implemented in such a relatively simple manner. Even if it *seems* complex.

                It it very confusing at first? Yes, especially since it's so out of the ordinary for most game systems with strict 'spells'. Does its flexibility mean that you have edge cases piled on houserules piled on a lack of handholding? Yes. Because it is impossible to make a rule for everything, in a system with infinite possibilities.

                But that's pretty much the price to pay for a system that lets you do everything, and over time you develop a very good sense and feel for it; It loses its daunting percieved complexity and becomes something surprisingly simple to use.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                  I love it, but like any open/flexible system, who you're playing with matters a lot to enjoying it. If people aren't on the same page, it can really mess with how people react to it.

                  Pretty much this.

                  I find it easy to use, and very satisfying too. It feels good to be able to invent new powers when you need them, being constrained more by your imagination than a set of specific RAW within the context of your power.

                  But much of this does depend of the group dynamics. The system requires interpretation, and it's boud to generate different opinions on how things work. It's a good idea, thus, to respect the ST opinion and not start arguments about the system in game. It also requires the ST trusting players and trying to not shut down ideas. What you're really going to be able to do with your character depends greatly on these interpretations and attitudes.

                  I'm also of the opinion that Mage requires to be house ruled. An ST that's constantly trying to respect hard RAW it's going to limit greatly what the system insinuates you should be able to do. But this is also an aspect of the group social contract

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                  • #10
                    While i love the Sphere system for it's openness and freeform aspects i must say that i hate the "purple paradigm".
                    Every single game i've either played in or STd i've seen players uttering the sentence "but he can do it, and we have the same dots". Just because you have the same dot's it doesn't mean you can do the same thing in the same way. Paradigm, upbringing, Tradition, all these things influence how your character views magick and what they think is possible to do with the dots they have.
                    I personally prefer the Foundation and pillar system (even if i think it could use a revision) as it somewhat keeps the openness of the sphere system but each "Tradition" is limited by their 4 Pillars, which are specially crafted to deal with that particular mages world-view and paradigm.





                    English is not my native language, so i apologize for errors in grammar or spelling.

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                    • #11
                      Mage's sphere system is a very interesting concept. On one hand it allows the players to cast various effects and they don't always have to care about "what spell does my mage actually know?" you can just wing it. On the other hand, it can be a tough challenge for a storyteller to design genuine Mage NPCs who have a casting style that feels unique or even "not standard".

                      Early game Mage plays very much like most other WoD games. Mid game is when the game begins breaking the conventions of normal storytelling. There is a quote from Awakenings "Imperial Mysteries" regarding a high level playstile. It states that with becoming Archmages the characters no longer had to think about "how" to do things but rather "if" they should do it. This is even more true in Mage. Depending on how you and your party handles things like rituals or rotes, from the 4th dot of Arete and onwards the normal playstile will break down and the ST will have to think out of the box and in very interesting new ways.
                      "We don't have to storm into the building. I can just awaken it's spirit and ask it to kill everyone inside." <- This could be a solution the players (or their characters) can come up with. So instead of a dungeon crawl you'll have a visit to the umbral reflection of the spirit and a challenge to coerce the spirit to listen to your request.

                      The system also depends strongly on the players willingness to limit their characters powers! That's what the paradigm can do. It's why you should only have one praxis, even though you can make your own one if you really want to. Every characters has their own way of seeing the world and while two mages may have the same sphere dots and basically cast the same spell the consequences can (and should) differ! That's a challenge for players and storytellers alike.
                      I tend to be very serious about the metaphysics of Mage. For me, that's the main selling point of the game.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                        If you're going to add Death, why not just port over Awakening's Arcana?
                        The Death Arcana in Awakening tends to do more stuff earlier than what you would expect in M20. I think like, Death 2 lets you do something that would be something like spirit 3 in Ascension so I've dumbed it all down a bit. (I did steal from Awakening a bit for inspiration though)

                        Here's what I've got so far. https://1drv.ms/w/s!AlFDKQ1Lqjr_v21-tTxCDaAiBC15
                        I appreciate comments/concerns if you got them. Thinking death 2 is basically spirit 2 for all purposes, but with wraiths. Was intending on letting Death 3 have a 'fear attack' that invokes the fear of death into people and can get them to flee, was also going to give it the ability to damage, or heal, wraiths like Entropy 3 (Without Prime 2, not sure the fuck where that comes from). Death 4 I intended on letting attack Vampires, not fully dead or alive but close enough to dead, and Death 5 would be able to flat out hurt humans (Making it the worse damage in the game sphere wise but I was going to make it unsoakable Agg to compensate a bit)

                        Example rotes I had in mind:
                        Death 3 Life 3, make your body dead like a vampires but still living to soak like a vampire

                        Death 5/Life 3 (Or 4), temporarily make your body dead like a Lich, only agg can kill you for the duration.

                        Originally I was going to call this the 'necromancy' sphere but I view necromancy as one part life one part death.

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                        • #13
                          I've found that M20 summed up something about Focus/Paradigm that I've been doing for awhile and it's worked well: More useful paradigms out compete less useful paradigms even in the Traditions.

                          Humans have always been rather flexible in their beliefs and been willing to adjust them (sometimes slowly) when it becomes untenable not to. We put so many loopholes in our societal belief structures that there's very little you can't justify doing if you twist the logic just right.

                          The Order of Reason rose to power by disposing of the idea that magic is somehow for the chosen elite to lord over normal folks, and splintered from the Order of Hermes to bring magical power to the mundane and give it to the masses. This was useful because it gave them a resource their enemies didn't have and allowed them to survive and then overcome. The Traditions chose to abandon being strict traditionalists and adopt belief systems that viewed paradigms as individual journeys to the same end state. This created a group narrative that all magical practices come from a neutral equality and only the morality of use and wisdom of enlightenment tempers, and those the Traditions can function as a single entity against the Technocracy despite their wildly disparate ideals and practices.

                          Being M20 made this case, I already stopped worrying about "the purple paradigm" (a concept I think is dumb anyway) or using paradigms as sticks. Debates and arguments about whether a mage can't do this, or can't do that, or at least needs to do X first, but no Y first, or either... it's not fun and it's not the actual point of the game.

                          Magical style should be a carrot. It is a carrot in the system. Highlight this, make it clear that the more the players take their characters' magical styles into account when describing what and how they're doing it, the more bonuses they get thrown their way, rather than focusing on using paradigm as a stick to deny people things. Use it as a spectrum and let players have some fun taking risks with penalties for stretching beyond their character's norms rather than coming down with the Paradigm Hammer

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                          • #14
                            Per what Cadmiumcadmium said, the Sphere system is great but it's important to emphasize Paradigm from the very beginning, and teach it to players that way. Otherwise they just see the open magic system and think they can do anything, which isn't exactly true.

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                            • #15
                              I love the freeform style, to me, the more you can customize something, the better. And it is incredible how it can make sense in-game. My only problem with it is that sometimes it can be contradictory. Bur I guess this could be avoided by the authors, so it isn't something intrinsic to the freeform system.

                              Also, I have no problem with the purple paradigm or with mages being able to do anything. They're already limited by their dots somehow. And if you are creative, any paradigm can cast any effect.

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