Me and Mage: the Ascension
This is my part in a multi-blog (and Twitter) conversation with Daniel Perez and JJ Lanza about our views on the older World of Darkness games and how we (in our relative hippiness) would retool them.
(This will be a short post just to kick things off on my end, as I have been properly egged.)
So, here the thing: I fucking fell in love with Mage: the Ascension. Hard. Like, school boy crush on the hot, smart cheerleader hard. But I didn’t know anyone who wanted to run it. And I didn’t think I had the chops then to run it. So, I just read. And crushed. And read.
What really got it wasn’t just the magick, it was the paradigm. When you looked beneath the surface, there was this amazing moral choice in the setting. There were these chaotic reality-fuckers who were trying to keep the collective spirit of humanity from being snuffed out. Your heroes, your Robin Hood-types. Then there were these harsh guardians of the status quo who were snuffing out the collective spirit of humanity…in order to protect them from the devastation these chaotic reality-fuckers brought. Your villains, your Sheriffs of Nottingham.
But Robin Hood was also a rogue, a villain in some eyes. And the Sheriff was upholding his station, even if not having entirely noble methods or interests. It’s all about perspective. That was hot. Both sides want to save the world. Both sides are wrong. Pick one to side with.
And that perspective leaked through to how to do magick. There were many different ways to see magick, many ways to do magick, and…well, if you’re reading this, I suspect you know the high points of Mage. I loved the paradigm, the different perspectives.
I could take or leave the system. Not a complaint, per se, but it was the setting that fired me off.
Then I finally got to play a one-shot, thanks to my friend Jerry. He ran this game where we were brainwashed former Tradition mages who had become Iteration X — what he called the Enlightened Shock Corps (I don’t know if that’s in the books somewhere or not) — and I loved it. It was exactly what I was looking for: perspective. That said, Jerry was surprised that everyone had bought in so hard to being brainwashed. I think he expected some of us to rebel against it, and none of us did. We had a tragic slaughter of our old Chantry. Badass.
Later, Jerry ran a short campaign, but at the risk of gushing about my character, I’ll save that. In short: I loved it, but because of the other players and plot, didn’t get to play with perspective as much as I wanted. (Briefly: I was a Son of Ether and fucking loved it.)
So, I have this thing in me that feels like it’s not done playing Mage. It’s not done playing with that world and those ideas. Naturally, I bought Mage: the Awakening when it came out, but it didn’t hook me. I’ll cop to how I didn’t give it a fair shake — I was looking for my school boy crush, and while this new girl was cute and totally down to hang out, she wasn’t who I was crushing on. (I should give it a shake again, though since then I have less time to devote to large systems, I’ll just have to grab a con game or something.)
Point being: what still fires me off is that moral ambiguity — that specific one, the Traditions vs. the Technocracy (or Order of Reason, I’ll take on some Sorcerers’ Crusade goodness) — and the way power was expressed as genuinely through perspective. You have these people that, for all intents and purposes, are reality-altering demigods. And they all want to make the world work more in their image, for whatever reason. Go.
I also had a lot of love for the detail in the magick system, the various spheres and levels. Made me feel like I could play a number of different mages with different perspectives and not have to work extra hard to not accidentally play the same character twice, if that makes sense. That’s probably what I feel is lacking in a number of indie designs these days, that the system doesn’t help aid me in playing a different role. That’s how I felt about Nine Worlds — it felt like it was a Mage loveletter, but there wasn’t enough there for me to have it feed my Mage fix. (Though, I enjoyed playing it for its own sake, so I’m not knocking it.)
Anyway, gentleman, there’s my initial post. Maybe there will be more. Maybe not. But, y’all have eggs and know where to throw them…