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Explain M:TA to a newbie

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  • Explain M:TA to a newbie

    Someone else has probably already had a thread like this, but I checked the first two pages before asking...

    So there's a new edition coming, and I thought I'd give Ascension a look. Basically, I'm here to ask all the "I'm new, explain the setting/metaplot" questions. Like, how does one become a mage? What do mages do? What kind of power level should I expect in a starting character?

    Or, even simpler, I'm an Exalted player with a thing for anime and anthropomorphic mythical creatures, sell me on M20. (Also, is there somekind of Corebook20 I'd have to buy?)

    Currently Playing: A large, mixed splat game of CofD. As: Seraph du Salomon, Voice on the concordance. Unsubtle man reluctantly participating in the business of Magi. Awakening 2E homebrew

  • #2
    Mage 20th anniversary is a standalone book with all the rules you need to run the game. So that will cover you quite well. It is a different setting from the nWoD and the Mage: The Awakening game, so any knowledge of that won't be very useful for you.

    I'm a huge fan of Mage and Exalted, so I think you'll easily find your way and elements to hang onto. I've actually tried to express myself in terms of Exalted, but I've concluded that's futile as it's a disservice to both of the games. So here's one explanation... it's true, but as you will learn in any Mage game, there is more then one Truth.

    The world of Mage postulates that humanity has a spark of divinity within them. This spark is called the Avatar. For most people their Avatars are timid, quiescent and asleep. They trudge through their ordinary lives only dreaming of greatness but never acting upon it. They will never know that within them was the possibility of changing what is reality based on what they wanted it to be. For some however it's different. People of extraordinary skill and great beliefs, willing to fight for their vision of the world and willing to seek knowledge in ancient teachings and modern technologies can sometimes... Awaken.

    Awakening is the one singular point in a Mage's life that defines him. It's the single moment of true Godhood and becoming one with the universe they first experienced. It is akin to the moment of Exaltation, but it's so much more, because the Mage from that point on has a goal and a companion. His goal is to experience this power again and become closer to that perfect moment of clarity and power, ultimately Ascending. His companion is his Avatar, an entity closely tied to his psyche that can take many shapes suitable to the Mage (from a dead Parent to a mythical being or just a sense of longing), and this entity will persuade, drag, seduce, cajole or prod the Mage forward and help him into becoming something more then he could ever imagine.

    What does that mean in practice? A Mage has a set of beliefs (a Paradigm) which he follows. These are values and concepts through which he performs Magic. You can have an old Magus with a library of dusty books, alchemical connoctions and summoning circles, you can have a cosplayer who becomes able to move masses when she dresses as Kamina, you can have a hacker that can hack reality, a witch that pray to the old gods and leads rites of blood, a sybaritic sex fiend who sees the future and the past at the moment of his climax, a DJ that can change the emotions and the minds of masses with his riffs and mixes, a master of kung fu who can make people's hearts explode and run on water, a Voodoo priest who lets the Loa ride him and tends to his flock, a innocent girl who knows Jesus is with her and who can heal the dying... and... and... and...

    This is done through a set of 9 spheres, these spheres are literally spheres of influence and work on a 1-5 scale.
    - Correspondence - mastery of space and relations in it - allows you everything from farseeing and teleportation to gating and colocation
    - Entropy - mastery of fate, chance, luck, failure and chaos
    - Forces - Forces, be it metaphorical like Flame or physical like electricity or kinetic energy
    - Life - Mastery of health, healing, shapeshifting and building or changing the body of yourself or others
    - Matter - creating gold from lead or impossible materials mankind could never imagine or maybe even turning your car into a giant death robot
    - Mind - from reading thoughts and influencing emotions and mindwipes to astral travel and creating whole new intellects
    - Prime - working with the fundamental energy of Creation and creating things Ex Nihilo (think of it as Exalted's Essence)
    - Spirit - crossing the boundaries between the spirit world and the physical world as well as working with or against Spirits *
    - Time - manipulating Time, seeing the future and even time travel

    *(there are infinite different spirit worlds that range from the land of the Dead, mythical realms and animist shadows of the real world, to alternate realities and impossible realms of pure concepts)

    So essentially you do Magic by thinking what is suitable to your paradigm and then using one or more spheres to achieve an effect. For instance Forces and Prime will create a Fireball, Life will shapeshift you into a raven, Spirit will allow you to summon and bargain with spirits, entropy and time will allow you to pick the most likely possible future while say mind and entropy will allow you to "encrypt" your thoughts and protect yourself from prying. It's kinda like Lego. Or Magicka

    If you can imagine a paradigm, a Mage can follow it. People with similar Paradigms congeal into groups called Crafts, and some of these groups united during the Renessiance into the Council of 9 Traditions. The 9 traditions are the most populous groups of Mages in the modern setting and are (usually) the main protagonists of the game.

    Now what the Mage learns through his growth and his interactions with his Avatar is that all these beliefs work because he believes in them. Through following up on this, highly englightened Mages are able to cast aside the trappings of their beliefs and achieve Magic through only their whims and desires. But what's even more important is that they learn that all other Humans are capable of the same power they are. And the more humans that believe in either their paradigms or in the ultimate revelation that reality is what a Mage wants it to be the easier it is to perform magic and force yourself upon the reality. Of course it's not easy Awakening humanity and the Mages do get sidetracked on this quest for enlightenment by trivial things such as temporal power or dominance upon other Paradigms. This concept leads to the Ascension War.

    The Ascension War is the secret War between different Mages for the collective fate of humanity. It started out as different paradigms going up against each other and fighting to establish dominance of their own beliefs, but in the Renaissance the threat of a highly organised group of Technology based Mages known as the Technocracy forced the majority of disparate factions to join together and form the Council of 9 traditions, hoping to collectively fight for a Humanity free of any yoke and with the ultimate goal of total human Ascension. Sadly, with all their hubris and diversity, they haven't managed to win the war against the Technocracy, but they are still fighting and there are battles for the freedom of thought and belief they are still winning. The Technocracy has on the other hand created a rational, scientific world where Science is the Truth, and where they have an elaborate Schedule of releasing new technologies while using their magic to power insane technologies from the future and preparing humanity for an Ascension through consumption and tool use.

    Mage The Ascension is a game about your Mages becoming more then they are and fighting for the fate of humanity while beset by monsters from the beyond, a misguided One-True-Way group of technological overlords, alternate realities, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, each other and ultimately the apathy and lack of caring about anything for something greater then themselves. In this chaos where reality is a lie, and every truth can be True, what will your story be?
    Last edited by Asmodai; 01-25-2015, 09:11 PM.

    What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.


    • #3
      The splats of Mage are a very colorful bunch and this is a short breakdown of what they are like. Do consider that they are much deeper then what I write here and allow infinite permutations and variations to your liking.

      The Disparates
      These are the manifold Crafts, individual Mages with individual Paradigms and the rebel tradition of misfits and outcasts known as the Hollow Ones. They are essentially not deeply involved in the Ascension War and mostly mind their own business and spheres of influence. Just typing up all the Crafts we know off would take up a better part of the page, but here's a couple of groups without going into details
      - Bata'a - Voodo Priests
      - Taftani - Pre-muslim Middle Eastern masters of sorcery and the Djinn
      - Wu Lung - Chinese alchemists and dragon sorcerors
      - Templars - warrior monks seeking an ancient secret
      - Solificati - modern day Alchemists attempting to become the ultimate being
      - Go Kamisori Gama - Magical Ninja
      - Hem Ka Sobk - egpytian judges of the unworthy, serving the God Sobek

      The Traditions, Aka The Council of Nine (Traditions)
      As mentioned above they are mutual help group organised by the Order of Hermes and collect a very large numbers of Mages among them. They have a general agreement to seek a way of jointly enlightening Humanity that everything is possible. How that will be done is a bit iffy, especially considering the Technocracy has been at their throats for the last 600 years. Ultimately they know that humans are capable of so much more and are willing to fight to protect and enlighten humanity.
      - Akashic Brotherhood - Masters of the martial arts, they know that through the mastering of oneself you can master all that exists
      - Celestial Chorus - believers in One (or multiple) Gods who is the source of all, and who through humility and service perform miracles in Their name
      - Cult of Ecstasy - a paradigm of people who seek to expand their minds through exertion, dance, sex, drugs and rock and roll
      - Dreamspeakers - animist spirit talkers, walkers between worlds and servants of the totems, who may as well serve Raven or the embodiment of a City
      - Euthanatos - Masters of Fate and Kharma. They seek to amend the wrongs and judge the ones cheating Kharma. Very similar to Chosen of Endings
      - Order of Hermes - classic wizards - books, robes, staves, codexes, initations, circles - one of the longest existing organized groups of Mages
      - Sons of Ether - Defectors from the Technocracy these mad scientists wanted people to freely indulge any and all technology, not just one approved by the Time Table
      - Verbena - witches and wisemen who practice the seasonal rites, blood magics and old animism based on implacable forces of nature
      - Virtual Adepts - Young Turks who really didn't like the technocracy party line. Information wants to be free, so let's let it run amok and let everyone interface with all of it

      The Technocracy
      These guys have been shepherding humanity for the past 600-700 years, helping science along and using science to get humanity to accept different ideas and technologies which are all ultimately stepping stones towards the Manifest Destiny of Humanity. They believe that humanity is not ready for a mass Ascension and seek to introduce it through careful nurturing and introduction of tools that make a predictable and safe life with access to everything they may need. They may have messed up, though as modern humans don't really care about expanding their minds and their future role as they do about what this TV star had for dinner, who this president fucked and why their boss is a dick.
      Arising towards the end of the Dark Ages, the Technocracy promised to create a safe world without monsters and crazy magicians doing whatever they want. This laudable goal was slightly misguided by some of them equating this with repression and genocide of Mages, and by the fact that some of their members lost perspective of what the means and the ends actually are. Like everything in the World of Darkness, they are not entirely wrong in their ideas... Mages can be horribly dangerous, humanity is scary when let off the chain and there really are horrible things that go bump in the night and against which the Technocracy fights.
      - Iteration X - Physicists, Mathematicians, Inventors and masters of gadgetry, the Iteration X creates many cool toys and impossible technology - From AI's to Terminators
      - New World Order - spindoctors, the Men in Black and manipulators of humanity, the New World Order makes sure humanity knows only what it needs
      - Syndicate - money magicians. They manipulate money and its flows to better the development of humanity, harness its power and develop the Technocracy
      - Progenitors - doctors, geneticists and masters of biology that create new and improved drugs, treatments, genemods, artificial limbs and horrific biological killing machines
      - Void Engineers - explorers of the unknown and warriors of all frontier. One part the crew of Enterprise, one part Colonial Marines, these guys are keeping the reality safe from Ghosts, undersea behemoths, alien Gods and insane spirits

      Insane broken Mages who don't realise what is reality any more. They exist in a fugue state where their delusions and visions of reality are applied to everything around them causing utter mayhem. This is quite dangerous as their delusions cause normal humans to act them out and change local vistas and rules of physics to suit their broken perceptions of how reality works. Agents of Chaos and mayhem, these poor souls are lost in a solipsist hell they do not even know they have tossed themselves into.

      Some people just like to see the world burn. The Nephandi are the kind of people who prefer to see it bathed in acid, raped, skinned alive and forced to think they are having a great time. The Nephandi are the kind of people that the Ebon Dragon has nightmares (wet dreams?) about. They are Mages who have decided to consort with dark entities and beings from beyond and who concluded that humanity would be so much better of if it Descended. So they go into the world spreading lies and corruption and deeply enjoying the pain and suffering they inflict. Best of all the apathy of humanity is probably their biggest plus, since they live in a world where people won't care if someone is murdered and tortured next door.... now if they can only get more people to follow their ideas and get this whole destruction/abuse of Reality REALLY going....
      Last edited by Asmodai; 01-25-2015, 09:54 PM.

      What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.


      • #4
        I see the Batini are being subtle as always.


        • #5
          Originally posted by History View Post
          I see the Batini are being subtle as always.
          Would you really pick the Batini as a simple and straightforward group to tell a newbie about?

          What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Asmodai View Post

            Would you really pick the Batini as a simple and straightforward group to tell a newbie about?
            No, but they are definitely important enough to throw a line about them.


            • #7
              True, after all they, along with the Solificati, were of the original Nine Traditions, having left and been replaced by the Virtual Adepts and Sons/Society of Ether. Of course at the same time I'm not really sure if they could be done justice in just one sentence. Then again pretty much all of the groups can't really explained properly in one sentence. For instance calling the Order of Hermes the 'classical' wizards is a great disservice to their beliefs and organizations.

              Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.


              • #8
                Guys, I've put the caveat that the short descriptions cannot give justice to any of the groups at the beginning. I've also left out a huge number of crafts for simplicity's sake. I love the OoH and the Batini to bits, but there is no need to explain Porthos, Doisstep, the Houses, Tremere, the Massasa War and Ars Magica to someone who just wants an overview of what Mage is. And that's even before getting into what the Batini do. They're awesome, but are they something you'd give to a new Mage player?

                And since I'm sure Gryphon will be curious right about now what these Batini are, they are the Ahl-i-Batin Mages. They used to be one of the founders of the Council of Nine Traditions and were Masters of Correspondence. A group of Mages who intentionally made themselves forgotten and seek to manipulate humanity and other Mages into accepting true Unity while fighting an all out war against the Nephandi. They're essentially Sidereals with less baggage and less agenda.

                What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.


                • #9
                  @Asmodai thank you for your explanation! A lot of work put into it and for me who knows nothing about Ascension (only DA) was a huge help


                  • #10
                    I'm glad someone liked it. I could actually try and give some more details on the splats, rules and setting if people are interested.

                    What doesn't kill you, makes you... stranger.


                    • #11
                      I don't want to be offensive but the previous comments were a bit arrogant and self-righteous. Your explanation was very thorough and exhaustive. If AkatsukiLeader13 and History feel so strong about Al-ih-Batin why don't they write about them?

                      But to be honest I think this thread does not need anything else unless there are questions. It's supposed to be a summary and a general idea of MtA. If I want to get into detail I'll buy the damn book and read it (actually I bought it but have been too lazy to read it yet).


                      • #12
                        There is no need to be so defensive or paint this as something it wasn't, as it was just a joking note. Nobody here implied that Asmodai's explanation was bad and even less said it, and I doubt that Asmodai took it that way either.

                        Actually, I think it was pretty good.
                        Last edited by History; 01-27-2015, 01:54 PM.


                        • #13
                          I've always been Order of Hermes to the core and to me the only true Fellowship, but this

                          - Euthanatos - Masters of Fate and Kharma. They seek to amend the wrongs and judge the ones cheating Kharma. Very similar to Chosen of Endings

                          this made me drool! Saturn <3


                          • #14
                            Euthanatoi are pretty cool yeah.


                            • #15
                              I've been playing Exalted for many years and worship the Sidereals despite being almost unplayable in 2nd Edition. If something can make me do anything but a Hermetic is a Tradition that is similar to the Chosen of Endings.