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  • Cumbersome terminology

    I really want to like Mage the Awakening, but what has been the biggest obstacle for me and my players when trying to use it is twofold: the layout of the corebook, and the incredibly cumbersome terminology. *eyes Yantras, Mudras, and so on*. I think Awakening would have benefited from using less...pretentious terminology to explain what is otherwise rather simple concepts.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Caedus View Post
    I really want to like Mage the Awakening, but what has been the biggest obstacle for me and my players when trying to use it is twofold: the layout of the corebook, and the incredibly cumbersome terminology. *eyes Yantras, Mudras, and so on*. I think Awakening would have benefited from using less...pretentious terminology to explain what is otherwise rather simple concepts.
    Demon is right over there if you want gnostic horror with workmanlike vocabulary.


    Resident Lore-Hound
    Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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    • #3
      I find it very strange that the two words cited as "cumbersome" and "pretentious" are both Sanskrit words as opposed to the Greek, Latin, or French words used in various places.

      Pretty much every term I can think of that might qualify for this criticism falls into two non-exclusive categories:

      1) They're words that don't have a direct single world translation in English. Mudra is a lot easier to say than, "a specific body posture used to evoke a mystic state," every time. There's no "non-cumbersome" word in English to have picked that has this specific meaning.

      2) There is a normal English word, but it has too many general meanings to focus one the specific game functions, or overlaps with specific game terms. Domain is a much broader term than demesne with lots of meaning in lots of contexts, where the use of demesne has only retained specific usages (the land around a manor that the owner is free to use for their own purposes and isn't subject to things like zoning; hence the metaphor for a mage's personal magical space). Domain is also already a term in Vampire.

      And, of course, jargon is part of the design attitude of the WoD and CofD. It's been the approach of how the games are written since 1991 to the point of being part of the brand. All the games do it.

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      • #4
        There's a few words Awakening has built up in its beefy Second Edition lexicon that I don't think it necessarily needed, some of which are legacies of Mage past. The distinction between acamoth and gulmoth is fine enough that it would probably be more useful to have a single fancy word for "Abyssal entity" and then append adjectives when you need to specify which are astral. "Imago" is the kind of fancy word mages would use and care about distinguishing in character, but the corebook lexicon is already bulky enough to absorb without including what is basically shop talk about the process of spellcasting. It still bothers me that the words for "Mana not suffused into a material form" and "Mana suffused into a material form" are of wholly different derivations from each other, and I'm really not clear on what good keeping "the Tapestry" as a running metaphor inherited from Ascension does for the lexicon.

        And then of course there are the nouns that come in sets: five Supernal Realms, each with both a generic name for its inhabitants and two subcategories thereof, each also attached to a Path name in Greek which has two sobriquets, a different word for a mage who's learned each dot level of an Arcanum. As a veteran follower of the lore I can keep up with this fine, but you do have to admit it's a little bit more to juggle than remembering that Ventrue are Lords. Even I regularly forget the different names of different levels of Arcana initiation, aside from "master" and "archmaster."

        You could make an argument that you could find a more plainspoken English synonym for "yantra," like "focus." "Mudra" is like... no, that's literally what a mudra is, it's drawing on a real life concept by its real life name.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
          You could make an argument that you could find a more plainspoken English synonym for "yantra," like "focus."
          "Instrument" and "Chain" are used primarily by the Free Council and the Seers, respectively.


          Resident Lore-Hound
          Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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          • #6
            That brings us back to branching lexicons, though. Having multiple words for the same thing for purely flavor reasons is an old tradition going back through the White Wolf days (how many words for "party of player characters" are there now?) but you do have to feel out where the point of excess is for different people.

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            • #7
              At most one per the major groups seems a legit cap: Diamond (standard terms the game will use), Free Council, and Seers. It's not like Ascension where they decided to have custom terms for certain things for each of the nine Traditions, the Union, and sometimes even some of the Crafts/Disparates had their own too.

              A game with a built in setting has to both communicate the setting, and the system. You can't communicate that the Diamond and the FC have different cultures despite being close allies against the Seers if the FC don't have cultural differences, like jargon, from the Diamond. But when righting system, it uses yantras for the rules regardless of which character type is being discussed.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
                That brings us back to branching lexicons, though. Having multiple words for the same thing for purely flavor reasons is an old tradition going back through the White Wolf days (how many words for "party of player characters" are there now?) but you do have to feel out where the point of excess is for different people.
                Regardless, I feel it's important to go back to the beginning of this discussion, which is that it's kind of weird to open up a game where you pretend to be wizards dealing with hubris and obsession, riffing on academia and drawing upon the symbolic underpinnings of reality (where "poetry is our technical language" is a thing that is said in its fiction anthology), and complain that the in-universe jargon those wizards use to refer to systems objects is "too pretentious."

                Again, if I wanted unadorned descriptive prose I would go to the game where the Demiurge deals in literal tools, not the game where magic is consistently described as an Art, capital letter and all.


                Resident Lore-Hound
                Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e

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                • #9
                  Mage as a setting has always been pretty pretentious there's no way around it. You could always just rename the terms or just enjoy it for what it is.
                  Last edited by Epimetheus; 02-04-2021, 11:25 PM.

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                  • #10
                    The entire White Wolf oeuvre and its descendants has always had a jargon problem. Awakening is somewhat hyper-jargonized even by those standards; you either bull through it to accept the 'pretentious late 19th century Aleister Crowley Occultism' vibe or you don't. It gets easier over time.

                    There's also just a generally dense house writing style that doesn't help, either. It's a real problem, Mage is downright impenetrable at times, sometimes intentionally, given the subject matter is sublime mysteries of the soul literally beyond the ken of mere mortal minds, and half the inspirational source material was written by obscurantist con-artists hopped up on laudanum who lived before the internet.

                    The best way to get past this step, as someone who also went through the "I want to like this game, but I also hate it" process, is to compartmentalize. Most of the terminology doesn't necessarily need to apply in every scenario, every storyline. You need to grasp the basic concepts of a mage's condition, sure, but from there, you can pick one area with its fancy-schmancy terminology, and build a scenario around that.

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                    • #11
                      I think pretentious is getting tossed about a bit too loosely.

                      Magic is, by it's nature, a topic that's hard to talk about simply. It's not just the game, or the setting, it's the very subject matter at hand. One of the defining features of magic in cultural expression is that it's something beyond everyday understanding; something normal language can't adequately express because it defies normal. You can't talk about real world mystic practices with any sort of depth or nuance without ending up with a rather hefty lexicon of terms for people to have to digest to really get what you're going on about.

                      This has a lot less to do with how pretentious anything might be, and however we can make some sort of general judgement on that, and a lot more to do with what words we've simply internalized enough that they're no longer strange.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Professor Phobos View Post
                        half the inspirational source material was written by obscurantist con-artists hopped up on laudanum who lived before the internet.
                        What is the draw of a game about the occult and mystical to a person who holds the subject in such contempt? Why would one want to like a thing that they hate?

                        Is it really pretentious to use terms acquired from a variety of cultures in a game whose central thesis is that Truth is too big to be contained in any one viewpoint and a syncretic approach has merits to understanding it?

                        Is the fact that Second Edition made the origin story of the Orders the crossroads formed between three continents by Alexander the Great's empire too subtle?


                        I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                        Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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                        • #13
                          The only issue I've had is with the names of spells; a good few of them are cool but unhelpful to quickly assessing what they do.


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                          • #14
                            Now to be fair it is not the specific words that I mind it's the amount of jargon. It's not the word Yantra that I mind, but more the amount of jargon that awakening throws at you in a pretty messily laid out book. Yantra/Instruments/Chains, Mudra, Praxis, Rote, Attainment, Legacy Attainment(which is completely different from normal attainments), Supernal, Gulmoth, Acamoth, all the different supernal entities, temporal sympathy, sympathy yantra, sympathetic link, withstanding, goetia, all the different words in regards to the astral, the three different types of mage sight, the various kinds of magical materials, emanation realm, verge, imago, and so on. I played and ran mage the ascension for years and so far I have found Awakening to be even more cumbersome to absorb than Ascension. Like the genuinely most helpful part of the book is the casting chart in the back of the book.

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                            • #15
                              I feel as though when one groks what each of those pieces of terminology specifies, it's intuitive enough to keep track of them. Half of it is stuff that provides precision to spellcasting that I gather Mage: the Ascension distinctly lacked in a manner that caused all kinds of arguments, and the other half is a matter of mapping out the big cosmology that they explore (which I think is actually a good deal less complicated than what Ascension had).


                              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                              Write up as I play Xenoblade Chronicles.

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