Enter the Paradigm Project

Dave Chalker and I love the hell out of Mage: the Ascension, we love Fate, and we love a bunch of other games. You’ve probably seen he and I occasionally post our Mage Fate hacks on our respective blogs

Because we’re mad men, we’ve decided to join forces and jam out something in our copious free time.[1] This something is a cross-blog thing we’re calling Project Paradigm. This post is my intro, and Dave has his intro up as well. The reason we’re cross-blogging it is because we don’t share the same vision of Mage — which, honestly, we shouldn’t since Mage is largely a game about multiple paradigms coexisting and competing with each other. In fact, we’re being so bold as to not review the other person’s intro post before publishing, just synchronizing the posting times.

Our intro posts are about what we see as the heart of this Mage-inspired Fate build, which will be different! By “inspired,” we don’t mean to just make an adaptation, but instead a remix. And caveat: we’ll write about then when the mood strikes, because again “copious free time.

What I Want to Explore

Due to my intro, it should probably go without saying, but the paradigmatic in-fighting and paradigm as a weapon is hot. Allies who have a similar agenda but vastly different paradigms is great. Enemies who share a nearly common paradigm is also great. It’s messy political shit, shades of grey, all of that modern gritty television drama. (You see that all over the place in the Technocracy books I developed.)

The freeform magic broken down into vast Sphere concepts is also key to the experience, especially rated as what you’re magical sense of freedom and perception allows you to do. Creativity comes from restriction, and there was always something to (short) moments of metaphysical arguments among the people playing.

The world hitting you back with Paradox is pretty important. I like that it’s the Masses/Sleepers that unconsciously cause it, but I could also accept other reasons. (Or hell, just have “Consensual Reality” be one of many hypotheses.)

I want to see normal skills/aptitudes not become overshadowed by magic. This is super important to me — the dude with a Great (+4) Shoot skill is still a scary badass, even without magic. Coupled with that, I’d like to see mundane skills continue to be a way around Paradox.

I like the idea that magic can totally permanent curse you — like Marauders — but it doesn’t have to be about insanity. Magic should feel like playing with plutonium, not just because it could blow up in a major way but also because it can warp you.

The universe has got to be humanocentric, which is totally the Unknown Armies fanboy in me talking. Likewise, the history of the world shouldn’t be “mages were behind everything you can think of” — the world is still bigger than them, regardless of their hubris and beliefs that the converse is true.

What I Don’t Find Necessary to the Core

Caveat: I’m not saying that these things should be ditched or suck, but if they do or get altered in order to fit what we want to play with in Fate, that’ll happen. (I wrote a bit ago about some things to consider when hacking Fate.)

First of all, many such stories don’t involve vampires, werewolves, etc., so I think it’s fair to say that other supernatural entities aren’t important. But they’re easily modeled, so someone can tack them on after the fact.

I don’t see the nine spheres as being sacrosanct. In fact, I’m also looking at Ars Magica’s setup to see how it does things — I really like the noun/verb split it has.

Space and the Umbra is cool, but that isn’t the heart of the game. There are amazing stories to take place there, but if we’re hacking the setting as much as the system (which we totally are), I kinda want to scrap all of that and let it be a fruitful (pardon the pun) void to explore in play.

The Nephandi are on my personal cutting room floor, but that’s just my preference. They take some of the gritty gray out of the story (though that’s not always a bad thing). If we do the job right, they’ll still fit in. But their backstory gets a bit away from the humanocentrism I dig.

Mage’s cosmic scale is like Unknown Armies’s cosmic scale: it’s a neat thing to know exists in the world, and puts smaller scales in perspective, but isn’t the game I want to play. So I want to have that in the fiction (and somehow supported by the system for the GM’s toolbox), but I don’t care if the system doesn’t support it for players.[2]


My “Mage: the Coreing” and Aethertide posts. Dave’s Mage-in-Leverage hack (which is the first time he and I riffed on Mage using the same system around the same time period).

If you want to see a cool Fate hack for Mage: the Awakening, check out this series of posts from Peter Gates: http://peterjgates.blogspot.com/2014/02/lex-arcanum-summary.html

Is there any part of Mage: the Ascension I didn’t mention? What do you think? At the end of this process (if there is an end), I highly suspect that what Dave and I make will resemble Mage about as much as the Dresden magic system does (which it does, if you look closely).

– Ryan

[1] If you don’t get that this is a joke, you don’t know many freelance creatives.

[2] Though a secret project I’m working on would probably support it really well.