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  • Mages and trading favors

    One of the things I like about Mage is the way their society is described to work. I love details like how it’s mostly based around channelling conflicts between mages into non-destructive outlets, and all the tools Mages have developed to help with that.
    I especially like the idea that Mages rely heavily on complex networks of owed favors, both big and small, to promote alliances and closer relationships.

    Thing is, over the last few months of playing I have increasingly noticed that I am unhappy how little characters feel like they are actually part of this network of favors. In actual play, there is a limited number of situations where favors come up. Mostly I have noticed just two: Players needing big favors, which often need several scenes or even a full session based around them, or NPCs needing big favors serving as story hooks for Arcs.
    These are fine, but they really aren’t enough to make Mage society feel alive and active enough for me.
    I thought about leaving this to players providing background by inserting some fluff about smaller favor trading they engage that doesn’t get any focus, but in my experience that just gets forgotten or feels like a waste of time.

    2e might fix this, but I haven’t seen any mechanic that goes in that direction yet. Requisitioning stuff from your Order is the closest, and IMO that goes in a very different direction.

    Also, brainstorming this stuff can be fun, so here are some ideas for houserules that might help. I am not looking to model big favors with this, just the many small ones that should be part of a Mage’s daily life.

    A. Conditions!
    One idea I had was using a persistent Condition, which you get for buying the first dot of Order or Consilium Status.

    Favors Owed (Persistent)
    You are part of a group that relies heavily on trading favors. While this can be a boon to the character, it can also mean they traded something away that they desperately need later.
    For Mages, this could mean they have a spell counting against their limit that they are sustaining for someone else. They could also lack points of willpower or Mana which they spent helping another Mage with her ritual, or be unable to access their Hallow because they allowed someone else use of it for a Ritual or Astral Journey. Many backgrounds can be used for this, maybe your character asked your Mentor to help someone you owe a favor and now she doesn’t have time to help you as well.
    Beat: Danger or severe inhibition because of something you traded away. To get the Beat the Player must describe the favor they did, and to whom, that leads to the present lack of critical resources.


    Pro: It rewards the Players for actively making their characters more invested in being part of Mage Society. It also lets them provide lots of background information on how they interact with other Mages.
    Con: The Condition purely models the negative effects. Which leads to…

    B. Using the CofD crafting system for the positive effects
    Basically, allow Mages a new kind of equipment, which they can create via the crafting system. This models the Mage calling in small favors to help with a situation.

    Favor: Your Mage has been active, doing small favors for others, which he is now calling in. Favors can be used to get a dicebonus on a wide variety of actions, but the Player has to describe what form the favor takes and who is doing him the favor. Favors are most commonly 'build' using Manipulation + Politics or Socialize.


    This also has the upside of using a preestablished system. Also, I’d really like it if Players were able to use this to craft stuff that is more than just a dicebonus. Like gaining access to a few extra points of mana or an extra spellslot for a limited time. But I have no idea how to balance this - how much is an extra point of mana or someone else keeping up a spell for you for a scene/chapter worth in dice on the crafting roll?
    Favors should probably be unable to provide direct diceboni to casting rolls, but I might allow players to use it to get access to Yantras. Like calling in a favor to get access to a resonant place, or get a few more Ritual participants than you could using just your Order Status. Though that might make it necessary to limit how often you can 'build' a favor using this system, maybe limit it to once, or the higher of the character's socialize or politics, per chapter.




    Any thoughts or other ideas? Again, I mostly just want to make Mage characters feel more involved and like they are part of a living society that is heavily based on trading favors.
    Last edited by Joker; 02-20-2016, 05:10 PM.


    My custom legacy (2e)- The Disciples of Rathma - Life/Death focused Moros/Thyrsus Legacy, comments appreciated

  • #2
    What do you mean by "spellslot"?

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    • #3
      I always liked using Tass as a type of currency.


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      • #4
        Tass never worked for us because It was so easy to literally drown in It.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by WHW View Post
          What do you mean by "spellslot"?
          The maximum number of spells a Mage can have active at a time. Couldn't find the correct term.


          My custom legacy (2e)- The Disciples of Rathma - Life/Death focused Moros/Thyrsus Legacy, comments appreciated

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Joker View Post

            The maximum number of spells a Mage can have active at a time. Couldn't find the correct term.
            It's quibbling, but it's really the maximum that they can safely hold. You can try to have as many as you like, but your going to get curb stomped by paradox eventually. You're right that it is an important resource though.

            I wonder if you can make this work on a very game mechanic level where you temporarily sacrifice merit dots in exchange for someone else's merits. My library for your contacts, for example.

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            • #7
              Instead of increasing spell Control limit, someone is sustaining with you. Thats a better favor.
              Problem with mage politics and favors is that a lot things that mage want are not physical Or finite. Once mage has acess to something, he can usually spam It without expending resources. So most important resources are TIME and ACCESS TO ARCANA. In First editiobn this is trickier due to spell releasing being actually pretty costly.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by solidork View Post

                It's quibbling, but it's really the maximum that they can safely hold. You can try to have as many as you like, but your going to get curb stomped by paradox eventually. You're right that it is an important resource though.

                I wonder if you can make this work on a very game mechanic level where you temporarily sacrifice merit dots in exchange for someone else's merits. My library for your contacts, for example.
                Soft leverage allows you to give somebody Access to your merits to make social manuevering smoother.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by WHW View Post
                  Instead of increasing spell Control limit, someone is sustaining with you. Thats a better favor.
                  That's what it's meant to simulate, though I should just write it that way. I went back and fixed some terminology.


                  My custom legacy (2e)- The Disciples of Rathma - Life/Death focused Moros/Thyrsus Legacy, comments appreciated

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                  • #10
                    I tend to just let NPCs help the PCs, assuming they're pleasant enough (being an RPG that's not garranteed). I mean, the thing with favour networks is that they're generally pretty good to use. You need something doing and you can find someone. Being able to ask for favours from other consilium members just goes with being a mage, I jut assume they do their part in downtime.

                    Also, a lot of favours from higher-up magi would probably be repaid with simple loyalty. The Hierarch probably doesn't need favours, but they do need the loyalty.


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                    • #11
                      Write up aspirations and obsessions for your npcs. Put them on a shared Space, like a sheet of paper. Look at conflicting ones., ones that pcs can Help with, and so on. Dynamics should appear on their own.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by WHW View Post
                        Write up aspirations and obsessions for your npcs. Put them on a shared Space, like a sheet of paper. Look at conflicting ones., ones that pcs can Help with, and so on. Dynamics should appear on their own.
                        Sure, but that doesn't help achieve what I want.
                        I don't need mechanics for the "big" favours that deserve actual game time spend on them. We have those in our game and the ST is very good at giving all NPCs their own goals and plans and having them clash.
                        I want ways to make the game feel more like there are many small favours and interactions that happen in a Mage's life even if they don't have screentime alloted to them. That's what I am trying to brainstorm mechanics for.


                        My custom legacy (2e)- The Disciples of Rathma - Life/Death focused Moros/Thyrsus Legacy, comments appreciated

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                        • #13
                          Take a look At services and equipment aquisition rules, then. They are in core rulebook.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by WHW View Post
                            Write up aspirations and obsessions for your npcs. Put them on a shared Space, like a sheet of paper. Look at conflicting ones., ones that pcs can Help with, and so on. Dynamics should appear on their own.
                            Any good software for this? I think I will need to hash my own London setting with this kind of mind map in recent weeks.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by WHW View Post
                              Take a look At services and equipment aquisition rules, then. They are in core rulebook.
                              Don't really do what I want either.
                              While a player can theoretically say that equipment they are acquiring with their politics skill is thanks to favours owed... that goes for everyone, not just Mages. It doesn't really help making Mage society feel different from how normal one works, and puts the onus of the work to include this purely on the player without any incentive or reward.


                              My custom legacy (2e)- The Disciples of Rathma - Life/Death focused Moros/Thyrsus Legacy, comments appreciated

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