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[2E] Systemic Problem - Obsessions on Mysteries and powers of PCs

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  • [2E] Systemic Problem - Obsessions on Mysteries and powers of PCs

    Am I the only one seeing a systemic 2E problem where the system is "obsessed with Mysteries" and solving them - but characters can do anything on the 1-2 dot of Arcanum and become the best detectives in the world? There is no point in solving Mysteries if, in the top one scene, the characters are able to find out everything...

    It simply so not make good narrative story.

    1E was not having as much this issue, as game was more nebelous and not so hard fixed on Obsessions over Mysteries. It was hubristic display of power main shtick. In 2E almost everything is connected to uncovering Mysteries... That characters in good rolls can make go away in one scene... 😔
    Last edited by wyrdhamster; 04-22-2022, 12:03 PM.


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  • #2
    The intention seems to be that, only stuff that can’t be powered through via spells count as Mysteries.


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    • #3
      Mages have very effective tools for solving Mysteries, because Mages are supposed to be good at solving Mysteries. This isn't a really problem, it's part of the point - Demons are good at espionage, Werewolves are good at hunting their prey and Mages are good at solving Mysteries.
      Now, some Mysteries can be solved fairly quickly and easily with the application of Awakened magic, but these aren't the sorts of Mysteries you build a campaign around or generally should expect to last any more than one session. They're also not the sorts of Mysteries that will capture the lasting attention of a cabal. A Storyteller that wants to create a challenging Mystery that a cabal can really sink their teeth into has to put a little bit more effort in-...
      Generally, a good Mage Mystery needs to be full of complications. If a cabal is investigating a classical murder scenario, they might use Postcognition to see the crime as it took place, but the perpetrator might have been disguised as someone else, might have fled somewhere that the cabal would have difficulty pursuing them and might have created a variety of misleading red herrings to lead them off their trail. If a cabal is investigating something more abstract, like if they're trying to figure out why the Gauntlet in a certain area is unnaturally thin, Focused Mage Sight might let them determine that it's the result of Awakened magic, discover the Signature Nimbus of the Mage responsible and learn the rough age of the Mystery, but they might not know who that Nimbus belongs to or their reasons for thinning the Gauntlet. And that's not even getting into things that are the result of supernatural weirdness beyond Awakened magic.
      A Storyteller could also further complicate things by creating a time limit. You don't just need to find the killer, you need to find them before they kill again or successfully get beyond your reach. You don't just need to figure out what the Seers of the Throne are planning with the thinned Gauntlet, you need to figure it out before they do whatever nefarious thing they have planned.
      It's also very important that a Storyteller is aware of the tools and resources at the Player Character's disposal, taking them into account.
      Last edited by Kleptomania; 03-20-2022, 06:07 AM.


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      • #4
        There's also a large difference between how good mages are at solving mundane mysteries, and how good any particular mage is at solving supernatural and Supernal mysteries.

        Mages are occult detectives. They investigate the hidden mysteries of the world, which are a lot tougher nuts to crack than doing the police's job for them.

        Obsessions, like Aspirations, need to be judged by the Storyteller to make sure they're appropriate. If a Sleeper has an Aspiration to do a lot of walking, there needs to be some challenge to it. A character that's been bed ridden or suffered severe injury learning to walk again might be able to have "walk to the bathroom without help" as a valid Aspiration, where an already healthy person looking for a significant challenge wouldn't get any progress on an Aspiration just to walk to the bathroom and would need to get in a few miles or navigate some fairly tough terrain. If a mage is Obsessed with solving a mystery, it needs to be a mystery that can't be solved easily for them. A murder that requires overcoming six Mysteries that all range from 3 to 5 Opacity is not something a mage with Gnosis 1 and a few Arcana at 1-2 is going to be able to waltz through.

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        • #5
          To repeat from elsewhere: Mysteries are not the same thing as mysteries. There is some overlap, because the nature of Mage's metaphysics and antagonists are such that conspiracy and clandestine activities may serve as obstacles to accessing a Mystery, but the Mysteries are not the kind that you solve.

          The lexicon defines the term and the fiction is pretty clear what being "addicted to Mystery" entails:

          Mysteries, the: Manifestations of the supernatural in the Fallen World, which mages study in order to improve their understanding of the Supernal Realms (their Gnosis) and increase their mastery of Arcana.


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          • #6
            One thing I think is underlying some answers here, you shouldn't think a Mystery is just something in the face of the character for them to start magicking their way through it, with all the relevant Supernal Symbols right there.

            The world is complex, and frequently you need non-obvious context to understand some things. Is your Mystery a person? To understand that person as completely as possible reading them won't be enough, as you'll only see the end results of what made them how they are today. To get to the bottom of it you may need to look for the places, people and events that were formative for them, and then examine them.

            It goes the other way around, too. Your Mystery is a new spell? Learning the spell and studying it and its history won't be sufficient, you need to examine its effects as they unfold and a variety of its possible end results. You may need to cast it creatively just to scrutinize the end result.

            What if your Mystery is something somewhat abstract? Lets say it is the Cyberpunk genre. You won't look at any random or even any particular Cyberpunk book and learn everything about the genre from it. You must study several forms of it. You must study the classics of the genre and derivations. You need to study what people call Cyberpunk in several media, you need to study mixed genres and extreme cases, things that are traditional Cyberpunk, limit cases Cyberpunk, divisive cases that not everyone calls Cyberpunk but many think it is, you need every possible PoV and then crack them as individual Mysteries.

            So instead of just looking at the Mystery rules, think about what it takes to be in front of the Mystery in first place (it may be a hidden thing to begin with), and then what it means to solve The Mystery you want to focus your game on.


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            • #7
              There is a significant gap between understanding a Mystery and being able to act upon it well.

              A mage can figure out that his daughter was kidnapped by the Seers, sold to a Goblin Market and escaped. Its another thing entirely to navigate the Hedge in time to find her, especially with the hobs hunting her down for a Keeper that was already interested in making her into a Changeling.

              The cabal may figure out that a vampire caused an incident that trapped the inhabitants of a block in non-Euclydean geometry for 3 days. They may discover who are the spirit occultists blood bonded to him and what disgusting rituals they might attempt next. But it may dawn on them too late that the vampire ran into an Abyssal cognitohazard and that this was the best someone out of their depth could do to attempt to exile the Invader before things got much worse.

              Mages are equipped to be the very best supernatural detectives and to bypass problems with clever use of their toolkits. But they can still be blindsided by a detail they forgot to check, manipulated by opponents focusing their attention somewhere else or not have the time to uncover everything. Its in adapting to the curve balls that the situation throws at them that cabals forge their own identities.
              Last edited by KaiserAfini; 03-20-2022, 04:37 PM.


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              • #8
                Knowing and Unveiling spells on their own might be sufficient to understand low Opacity Mysteries on their own without needing to Scrutinise them with Mage Sight, but there are still higher Opacity Mysteries that I would say have a depth and complexity that require a more involved process to understand their ins and outs to a satisfying degree. You're not figuring out the Fleeting Worlds of Salamanca with just one information gathering spell cast on one.

                And mage Obsessions often go a bit beyond the scope of singular Mysteries, simple or otherwise. Look at some of the example characters in Nameless and Accursed: "figure out how Destiny chooses people"; "turn Sleepwalkers back into Sleepers"; "Contact a Celestine". Those aren't things resolved by figuring out a one off thing. That's before even considering the kinds of Obsessions that aren't really singular goals so much as categories of specialization. When you have an Obsession with ruins of the Time Before, that means you go out to find those ruins (of which there are many), use spells and Sight to figure out their secrets and workings, and every time you do you gain a bit of insight and fulfilment that can further your Path (and maybe you're the kind of mage who would gather that knowledge together into a broader thesis on the subject).

                Even if one's Obsession would only ever bring them to the most trivial Mysteries, it's not a game concerned with just acquisition of knowledge, there is a context in which that pursuit takes place. Mysteries can have creepy beings or moral dilemmas around them, and part of what makes the story is not just mages trying to solve them but what they're willing to do in the course of it. Not to mention engagement with other mages in the process, whether they have competing agendas or it's just necessary to resolve some permissions before you're allowed to get a look.

                Oh, don't forget Obsessions that would really take the form of finding out what happens when you initiate action in the world. Investigate the Mystery of the varied ways in which people adapt and react when you use magic to cause their life to arbitrarily completely collapse.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                  Oh, don't forget Obsessions that would really take the form of finding out what happens when you initiate action in the world. Investigate the Mystery of the varied ways in which people adapt and react when you use magic to cause their life to arbitrarily completely collapse.
                  Or, for that matter, Obsessions that serve the same purpose as the hunger-fulfilling Aspirations of bluebook Horrors, like those imparted to characters by the Rampant and Megalomaniacal Conditions (or, on the other end of things, the ones undertaken to gain Wisdom or transition from being Lucid to being Awakened).


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                    Or, for that matter, Obsessions that serve the same purpose as the hunger-fulfilling Aspirations of bluebook Horrors, like those imparted to characters by the Rampant and Megalomaniacal Conditions (or, on the other end of things, the ones undertaken to gain Wisdom or transition from being Lucid to being Awakened).
                    I think those Conditions represent interesting ideas about the state of mind of characters losing Wisdom and a basis to say that sometimes characters in the setting do some very arbitrary messed up things that don't really have to be accounted for, but I don't think the Obsessions they provide make for the most compelling or engaging ideas for what a given mage is doing with their addiction to Mysteries. Maybe the occasional character who comes away from the experience with a thesis of the insight they gained from it, but even that ends up being a bit after the fact; the actual process might end up being a bit one note if it's given too much attention.

                    I think characters having Obsessions that are mystically sophisticated while still morally dubious is more interesting because they probably entail a lot of moving parts that can themselves function as Mysteries for other characters to want to uncover. I like to think that the occasional issue with conflict between mages is that there are a lot of times when one becomes aware of the practices of another that it opposes on moral grounds, but it can be hard to take the direct action of derailing the plan rather than wait things out to give a thorough examination because you really want to understand the plan. You become aware of that low level Seer who has been stationed to befriend a family and eventually kidnap the daughter, and it wouldn't be hard to stop it, but... don't you want to know what it was supposed to accomplish?

                    I think an Obsession of throwing your weight around at other people gives a lot less to work with as a player or antagonist.

                    Besides, being Mental Conditions, any mage with either of them can opt to spend three Mana for Pattern Restoration when such fixations (and the associated ways they mess up Skills, Anchors and Willpower) seem like more trouble than they're worth.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                      I think those Conditions represent interesting ideas about the state of mind of characters losing Wisdom and a basis to say that sometimes characters in the setting do some very arbitrary messed up things that don't really have to be accounted for, but I don't think the Obsessions they provide make for the most compelling or engaging ideas for what a given mage is doing with their addiction to Mysteries.
                      How fortunate, then, that most characters will have room for more Obsessions than just one of those, most demonstrably so for the Tremere, who can maintain all three of those Obsessions and still have room for more long before a normal mage can.

                      People can be petty in this setting. Mages who lose perspective will often wind up steering their areas of focus toward using magic in ways it probably doesn't need to be used or asserting their wills over others', because the power-trip of leveraging the god-lore they have practiced makes them want to do so more often.

                      I think characters having Obsessions that are mystically sophisticated while still morally dubious is more interesting because they probably entail a lot of moving parts that can themselves function as Mysteries for other characters to want to uncover. I like to think that the occasional issue with conflict between mages is that there are a lot of times when one becomes aware of the practices of another that it opposes on moral grounds, but it can be hard to take the direct action of derailing the plan rather than wait things out to give a thorough examination because you really want to understand the plan. You become aware of that low level Seer who has been stationed to befriend a family and eventually kidnap the daughter, and it wouldn't be hard to stop it, but... don't you want to know what it was supposed to accomplish?
                      Obsessions are Aspirations. They're not complicated. They're specifically not supposed to be complicated, because, as goals you should be able to accomplish or work toward in the course of a session, it is detrimental to their utility as a game mechanic if they can be rendered impossible too easily by missed particulars. Obsessions can be concrete goals. They can also be things you do often in the long term, which was my point in bringing up the comparison to Horrors.

                      Mages investigate Mysteries, but their Addiction to Mystery is only tangentially related to the act of investigation; you don't Awaken without curiosity, but the ways in which that curiosity manifests can be "will turning this person half-dog have different results than the forty people I did it to previously?" or "with my knowledge of the Arcana, how long can I go about my daily life without needing to get up from this chair?" or "how many times can I cause a car accident at this intersection before somebody figures out that something's up?"

                      The Enraptured specifically get their Fault from one of their Obsessions, and they repeat it forever because that is how that particular endpoint of the Awakened condition turns out, completely divorced from the question of whether they're still learning anything from it. Obsession drives the Awakened into contact with Mysteries, but external Mysteries need not be the focus of one's Obsessions.

                      Besides, being Mental Conditions, any mage with either of them can opt to spend three Mana for Pattern Restoration when such fixations (and the associated ways they mess up Skills, Anchors and Willpower) seem like more trouble than they're worth.
                      I find this read dubious, not least because altering Obsessions falls under the ambit of three different Subtle Arcana, only one of which is Mind, and the ability is never mentioned anywhere else after the corebook, replicates a +2 Reach effect on a Disciple-level Mind spell, and runs directly counter to several established issues mages have specifically historically run into with poking cogitohazards in the course of their studies.

                      Megalomaniacal and Rampant fall into the same approximate Condition-weight as Triumphant and Defeated. Would you argue in good faith that the consequences of losing a magical duel that determines who is More Right should be able to be shrugged off for the same price as a point of lethal damage?
                      Last edited by Satchel; 03-21-2022, 12:17 AM.


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                      • #12
                        Honestly, I don't really want to continue this conversation, because your whole "how fortunate" tone makes the experience unpleasant.

                        I've seen Dave talk about Pattern Restoration to shrug off Mental Conditions within the last couple of months as something that virtually immunises them against a lot of other supernatural powers, so there's some foundation. People can decide for themselves whether or not Conditions based on altering behaviour and perspective count.


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                        • #13
                          While this is Mage: The Awakening, a game about Mages and their obsession with Mysteries, it is played using the Story Teller system. Meaning it is meant to tell a story, one with a central conflict, protagonist, antagonists, a plot, a beginning, middle and end.
                          The mysteries in such a set up come in two forms, minor mysteries that can be quickly solved using the first and second dot of an Arcanum (these can be treated the way a game of Vampire handles the constant need to feed, being handwaved as things that happen in between the important events) and mysteries that advance the plot, bread crumbs that lead the characters down that merry trail.
                          It's like a good crime drama, it isn't enough to figure out the who, what and why, you then have to do something with that knowledge.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
                            Honestly, I don't really want to continue this conversation, because your whole "how fortunate" tone makes the experience unpleasant.

                            I've seen Dave talk about Pattern Restoration to shrug off Mental Conditions within the last couple of months as something that virtually immunises them against a lot of other supernatural powers, so there's some foundation. People can decide for themselves whether or not Conditions based on altering behaviour and perspective count.
                            That's a shame, because it really is a salient set of information regarding Obsessions and how they work in the universe and mechanics.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
                              That's a shame
                              Well, yes. I've had enough people tell me when I was being too abrasive to want to take part in conversation, regardless of the quality of points.

                              All right then, first off the Duel Arcane Conditions. I wouldn't really think of Defeated as a mental Condition, going by its own text and placing it into the context of what the Duel Arcane is described by. I don't read the inability to use magic on a particular person as being because the loser feels mentally compelled against it, I read it as a limitation that has been imposed into their magic, something metaphysical alongside the automatic Strong sympathy. I don't even see how Triumphant falls into it, it doesn't seem like something that a person would want to Pattern Restore to be rid of, but in any case that one explicitly says that it becomes a part of the mage's Nimbus that other mages get a sense for, so also not a Mental Condition. Megalomaniacal and Rampant are only described in behavioural terms, there's nothing innately metaphysical within them.

                              I agree that the Prime and Fate spells related to Obsessions are a bit informative, but still within the context of what Obsessions are described as in the character creation chapter, a system abstraction that covers a few different things. I would think that Forge Destiny is bestowing Obsessions (and Aspirations) that take the form of "player goal for something they want the character to encounter". Forge Purpose would seem to me to be starting with the intention of a spell that creates holy missions and is using the Obsessions system as the means to depict that, in a manner that is a bit atypical to how Obsessions tend to operate. But the most conventional take of Obsessions, particularly going by the examples attached to characters and the description given to them in character creation, is that they're conscious goals selected by a character. Like, you can argue about how much agency a given person has to choose what supernatural subjects they become aware of that they become obsessed with, sure. You can argue that about a lot of aspects of human psychology; a lot of the Mind Arcanum and the Astral Realms as a whole seem concerned with that topic. But I don't think it means any of them are sufficiently transcendent as to not qualify as psychological in a way that means Conditions that alter them don't qualify for the ability to use Pattern Restoration to remove them.

                              I just want to back up my assertion about Dave stating the intent of Pattern Restoration against Conditions by linking to the post (https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?thre...#post-24007396). I think that's sufficient to maintain that it's not some kind of artefact of editing that is contrary to intentions for the game.

                              It seems to me that the Enraptured are distinguished by the fact that Obsession has been turned into something that runs deeper and weirder, rather than revealing something about how Obsession functions with normal mages.

                              For the idea of complication... I think there are a lot of examples I could look at in Nameless and Accursed to reference, but it would get a bit excessive, so I'll stick to the one.

                              The Acanthus Gwydion has an Obsession with learning how Destiny chooses its victims. I would think that the process for investigating such a thing as that would be fairly complex; to put a lot of actions out into the world to observe reactions from which insight can be derived about how this big metaphysical process functions. The individual steps might be straightforward, but it's about putting them together to see the pattern of activity to understand the mage at the centre of it and what it is they mean to accomplish.

                              That's not to say Obsessions as something that take more than a short sentence to get across, but about the potential variety of activities that can emerge from that sentence.


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