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  • System Complexity

    I really like 2e, but one area where I feel it's taken a step backwards is with regards to complexity.

    As a Mage veteran I love the changes, but I've introduced 6 people to 2e that never played 1e and to say that the system is daunting would be an understatement.

    It would be nice to hear from other players about how they deal with this issue.

    One thing I've done:

    I've done away with basic free Reach and made all spells instant by default and allow +1 Reach for ritual magic. I don't understand why this was done the way it was. Players at the table expect instant spells and to explain that you're giving them a free Reach just to take it away for instant casting is confusing and pointless IMO.

    I use quick and dirty where possible, but it's really not that quick when you still have to calculate Reach.

    The fact that Reach changes ranges and advanced tables and then you need to figure out penalties to move within tables and then get Yantras into the mix gets a little complicated for almost all new players.

    I've never had a player click with the system yet even after 5 sessions in one 3 player group and 3 sessions in the other 3 player group.

    Thoughts?


  • #2
    Players at the table expect instant spells and to explain that you're giving them a free Reach just to take it away for instant casting is confusing and pointless IMO.
    I suggested that was the case for most people not long ago in another thread and was talked out of the conversation by very offended Mage Fans. I expect them to either ignore this thread or jump to your throat until you realize oh how wrong you are and stop complaining since they don't see it as a problem. I hope I am wrong, but I don't have high hopes for polite conversation in the Mage part of the forums anymore.


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    • #3
      I’m not sure you could create a system like this without such a level of complexity.

      I also am not sure that the complexity is any more of a problem than players who don’t read the book to learn the rules which has been my experience with most games.

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      • #4
        I can see why they phrased it the way they did, even though your version is effectively the same thing. "Bonus reach" isn't really a thing in universe, and I would hesitate to introduce things that suggest that it is for fear of setting a precedent.

        But if it helps your players to think of it that way, go for it.

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        • #5
          So... Awakening is my favorite CofD game and pretty much my favorite RPG. That said, I do concur that, while 2e has made the mechanics much more integrated with the setting -- and Reach is an effective way of stimulating the whole "grasp for more power at your own risk" thing -- it has made learning how to play much more complex and enabled more book-keeping.

          The complexity is only a problem in 2 situations: 1) players are too lazy to read the rules 2) you're trying to ST a one-shot for new players.


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          • #6
            It is also a thematic reinforcement. Even though you say player's 'expect' instant casting to be the default, that doesn't mean that that is the intended feel of the system. You are supposed to feel like Ritual is default and that casting with Instant makes you sacrifice other parts of the spell to do it. Mages are meant to be powerful when prepared and less so when caught by surprise, making ritual the default and paying for instant is part of this. It may not fit your groups playstyle if they want or 'expect' a more actiony game with it easier to fling fireballs around and it is fine to houserule it differently, but it isn't a mistake or pointless.


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            • #7
              Originally posted by Johnny Awesome View Post
              I've done away with basic free Reach and made all spells instant by default and allow +1 Reach for ritual magic. I don't understand why this was done the way it was. Players at the table expect instant spells and to explain that you're giving them a free Reach just to take it away for instant casting is confusing and pointless IMO.
              While doing it this way around more readily fits the expactations of many player, its a backward way of doing things (in my opinion). It also would render the Time 4 attainment useless. It's however a valid way of explaining it to players who start the game, as its effectivly the same thing, just differently explained.

              But yeah mage is a very complex system and players who are not devouring the contents with obsessive fervor usually take quite a bit of time to get into the groove. But after a few sessions it usually starts getting better.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Johnny Awesome View Post


                The fact that Reach changes ranges and advanced tables and then you need to figure out penalties to move within tables and then get Yantras into the mix gets a little complicated for almost all new players.
                For this I would simply start without the advance tables with new players, that would help simplify it a bit without losing too much. You could just lock the ability to use advanced tables behind raising Gnosis to 2 or something if you want it more formal rather than just hand waved.
                Last edited by ElvesofZion; 10-13-2017, 01:44 PM. Reason: Fixed Quote block


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Flinty View Post

                  It also would render the Time 4 attainment useless.
                  It doesn't make it useless. It changes it to "the mage can spend one mana for a bonus reach on instant speed spells" which, yeah, sounds a bit weird.

                  Basically while everything is equivalent, the printed definitions are how it looks if you make everything go the same direction. You get so much free reach, and you can spend it to make spells more powerful or convenient. Voluntarily making them less convenient for bonus reach is functionally identical, but to actually phrase it that way in the book is, as you said. backwards. It goes against the grain and, in some cases, makes things seem to work in odd, counter-intuitive ways.

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                  • #10
                    Encouraging people to read the book has helped me in the past. There's plenty in the book that doesn't involve mechanics that is very engaging. I think that if you want people to be interested in the game then you want them to be interested in the roleplay and the themes and moods. The mechanics are there to enforce those ideas and to make it a playable game.

                    Beyond that, I would say that playing a session or two as a sleeper before awakening would help some so that people are used to the general mechanics of the game (e.g. extended actions being difficult or easy depending on the skill and attribute involved, using d10s instead of d6s or d20s, social maneuvering, etc).

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Johnny Awesome View Post
                      It would be nice to hear from other players about how they deal with this issue.
                      It hasn't really been an issue for me.

                      The biggest deal for me getting people into Mage (any of the Mage games really, they're all daunting to new players that don't 'get it' immediately), is setting expectations. "This game lets you make almost any spell you can imagine, so there's a lot of rules around building spells, that are a bit of a dense read and can seem pretty complicated. Do you have a preferred way to learn detailed systems?" Has gotten me a long way since way back in trying to introduce people to Ascension 2e.

                      If people have an expectation of instant casting if they've never played the game before... where is that coming from? When explaining the idea of the game, you should be setting the expectation that the book does: ritual casting is the default. It's not like the media inspirations for Mage are consistently "instant casting is clearly the default."

                      I don't understand why this was done the way it was.
                      1) This actually reduces complexity from 1e. One of the biggest problems with the mechanics in 1e was ritual casting needing to be better than instant casting, without ritual casting becoming ridiculously broken. Every attempt to constrain ritual casting just made the system more and more complicated, but if you didn't it was super broken. Making ritual casting the default lets it be 'better' by having instant casting cost more to use (even if in a cheap resource).

                      2) The developers explicitly wanted to reduce the number of rolls for magic, and encourage smaller dice-pools for magic when mages are under duress. That's why the default is now one roll for rituals, and magic doesn't directly scale with number of successes rolled. If you want a Potency 10 damaging spell, you need to get your potency up to 10 by paying the price up front and hoping you can still get the success.

                      3) It pushes the thematic idea of mages reaching beyond their safe skills for more powerful magic. Grabbing a few extra Reach than you have for free to make a spell really powerful needs to be tempting, so there needs to be important things to spend it on.

                      I use quick and dirty where possible, but it's really not that quick when you still have to calculate Reach.
                      There's a Reach chart in the back of the book. I'm not sure why this is particularly time consuming (free Reach = Rating in highest Arcanum used), and players don't have to spend it if they don't want to. If you have three free Reach and only want to spend two, stop with the two.

                      The fact that Reach changes ranges and advanced tables and then you need to figure out penalties to move within tables and then get Yantras into the mix gets a little complicated for almost all new players.
                      Reach can be spent on Advanced spell factors setting them to a higher base level, though you still might want to purchase more on the better chart.
                      Spell factors are purchased with penalty dice to your casting pool.
                      Yantras is a catchall term for things that give you bonus dice to your casting pool. Some give you additional bonuses (such as reducing Paradox dice-pools).

                      Once I've explained that... it all generally seems to go well. Yes, the game has a lot you can do with those concepts, but once the concepts are there, the complexity is pretty simple. "I want to cast something that will last a year, so I use a Reach to give it Advanced Duration, take the dice penalties to get it to a year duration on the Advanced chart, and I use my Persona Yantra for +3 dice."

                      But I always start new Mage players with, "when you're going to cast a spell, always start with, 'what do I want the spell to do,'" because I can always help walk people through how to get to that result with what they have on their sheet. Trying to pour through all the rules to figure out everything you can do tends to not end well, so don't have them start there. Once you're in the mindset of using the rules to adjudicate how to take an idea and then make it happen, instead of a tense text of what mages can and cannot do, the complexity issue tends to go down because you know you can skip 75% of the complexity for any given effort.

                      Thoughts?
                      House rules aren't the solution to this (esp. since they're not changing anything that's really an underlying issue).

                      I think examining your approach to introducing people to the game might be more useful.

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                      • #12
                        Huh. As someone who was turned off by the mechanical complexity of Mage 1e and finally won over by what I perceived to be the streamlining of 2e, this sentiment is very strange to me. Like, don't get me wrong, 2e is still very complex and will still be too intimidating for a lot of players. But in my experience it's more streamlined and approachable than 1e, not less.


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                          Huh. As someone who was turned off by the mechanical complexity of Mage 1e and finally won over by what I perceived to be the streamlining of 2e, this sentiment is very strange to me. Like, don't get me wrong, 2e is still very complex and will still be too intimidating for a lot of players. But in my experience it's more streamlined and approachable than 1e, not less.
                          There may be a similar sentiment to "ChroD is more complicated than nWoD 1e because Tilts and Conditions exist" in play here.


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                            Huh. As someone who was turned off by the mechanical complexity of Mage 1e and finally won over by what I perceived to be the streamlining of 2e, this sentiment is very strange to me. Like, don't get me wrong, 2e is still very complex and will still be too intimidating for a lot of players. But in my experience it's more streamlined and approachable than 1e, not less.
                            I don't know if it's right to say spellcrafting in one edition or another is more or less complex, but what Mage 2E's system has different is that it's more involved. Now instead of just determining factors and firing to see how effective your spell is (which varied to annoying degrees even as a Master sometimes), now you craft the whole thing from the ground up, weighing the risks of how far down you reduce your dice pool, taking into account Reach and therefore Paradox and how much you're capable of reducing that.

                            There are more considerations that go into spellcasting than there were in 1E. It was both difficult to wrap my head around it, and it's been the trend to the friends I've introduced it to; spellcasting is always the thing they take the longest time internalizing. Worse, attempting to remove or significantly change parts of it for simplicity's sake can often de-emphasize certain important elements to spellcasting which define Mage's themes and aesthetics.

                            The free Reach you get when casting at a spell's level is a good sort of all this; it exists so that a player can elect to cast a spell instantly (since what's even the goddamn point of being able to cast Magic Missile if it takes three hours to go off?) or to instead augment a spell for broader purposes through ritual casting. The ability to sacrifice instant casting to be able to achieve a more useful effect with prep time is a good introduction to the idea of Ritual Casting and its usefulness--but the natural assumption, since a given session tends to take place in the immediate with the need for immediate action instead of over extended periods, people tend to think of immediate casting as the default, and breaking them of that very natural assumption is vital to evoking the ritualistic and symbolic trappings that make up a massive chunk of Mage's aesthetics.

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                            • #15
                              Maybe I'm weird, but I kind of picture it like a control panel. You got switches and sliders. The sliders all have two scales up the sides, except potency, and the switches switch between which one they use. Flicking a switch costs a reach, pushing a slider up costs 2 dice a notch. There's also a couple of switches that toggle casting speed and range and stuff.

                              And from there you just sort of arrange it until the spell does what you want.

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