Awaken To A World Of Magic With Mage The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition
  • Awaken To A World Of Magic With Mage The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition


    Weighing in at 680 pages, Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition (M20 from here on out), like any forbidden tome of arcane knowledge worth the name, is a massive brick of a book.


    To be fair, M20 had to encapsulate a complex cosmology, intricate rules for reality-bending magic, and a decade of at-times controversial metaplot into a cohesive whole. Satyros Phil Brucato, long-time Mage developer, co-helms the project, partnering with industry stalwart Bill Bridges; Brucato and Bridges are in turn backed up by a host of luminaries from White Wolf's golden age, all of whom worked on Mage at one time or another.

    The book is broken down into three sections: Awaken, Believe, and Ascend. Roughly, these present (respectively) the world of Mage, the character creation system, and the game rules. The book is full color throughout, and the illustrations are gorgeous and well-placed within the text and layout.

    Like in all other World of Darkness games, M20 players create characters who are both endowed with supernatural powers and forced to exist in a secret world cut off from the vast majority of humanity (called "Sleepers" in M20). Mages are themselves mere humans, albeit ones who have unlocked the core secret of the universe: reality is plastic and changeable, dependent upon mass consensus. The ultimate goal of any Mage is to achieve Ascension: mastery of reality and transcendence beyond earthly limits. Every Mage sees their own Paradigm of reality, which informs their membership in one of a variety of Traditions: everything from mystical martial artists to pagan witches and warlocks to technomancers who use science as their form of Magick.

    The Magick system itself is, naturally, Mage's crown jewel. Both the game's greatest feature and weakness, it is a wide-open, high-concept toolkit system that allows players to try nearly anything they can imagine. Mages develop mastery of the nine Spheres, the building blocks of reality. By combining and manipulating these Spheres, Mages "build" their spells, warping reality to their will. The only real limit is the need for subtlety, for committing a gross violation of the "laws" of reality (as understood by the Sleepers) leads to Paradox, which is very bad news indeed.

    Mirroring the game's theme that reality is what you make of it, the book is sprinkled with "Future Fates" sidebars, which present narrative developments as a sort of buffet lunch, with individual Storytellers free to decide what could occur, what has occurred, and what hasn't occurred. There are many other references to the history of the game, fitting for a 20th-anniversary edition, though it does tend to make M20 a more rear-facing game than its sister lines, which more explicitly seem to update vampires and werewolves for the 21st century.

    A final note: The sheer size of the book may put off those merely curious about a classic World of Darkness game. Such folks may wish to first check out the free M20 Quick Start Rules, which weigh in at under 50 pages.

    contributed by David Larkins
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      It's a majestic book, perfect for any who have a philosophical outlook. It ought to remembered that it's original release in 1993 predates things like The Matrix and even Grant Morrison's The Invisibles which has very similar, occult-based ideas at their heart too. Mage was always my favourite Classic World of Darkness game, as the cast of antagonists were so varied and interesting while the core concept of a consensual reality keeps sucking you back in, periodically. So, yes, it's got a huge page count, but it's still bursting at the seems with setting ideas. The rules themselves, even the freeform magic system, are actually quite straightforward if you are OK with dice pool mechanics.
    1. AverageCitizen's Avatar
      AverageCitizen -
      Are there any improvements to the system in later interpretations of the Mage idea that are missing from M20?
    1. dalisprime's Avatar
      dalisprime -
      The book is basically Mage as it was in the 2nd edition with the full advancement of history to current day and includes the traditions, factions of the technocratic order and independent/lost Mage orders as character options. Nephandi are positioned as the big bads (even more so than they already were). The mystic traditions are no longer bound to a single sphere of specialty (each has 2 or 3 listed) and let's just say the prevalence of internet made life pretty easy for virtual adepts.
    1. Sunsword's Avatar
      Sunsword -
      680 pages?!? That's intimidating.
    1. dalisprime's Avatar
      dalisprime -
      Doesn't make it any less glorious. It's an amazing book.
    1. pickin_grinnin's Avatar
      pickin_grinnin -
      I'm reading a lot of conflicting reports about the binding and paper quality of the two hardcover editions. For those who have it, what are your thoughts on that?
    1. dalisprime's Avatar
      dalisprime -
      What paper quality issues would those be? I haven't run into any binding problems though to be fair it's not a book I take out very often.
    1. pickin_grinnin's Avatar
      pickin_grinnin -
      Quote Originally Posted by dalisprime View Post
      What paper quality issues would those be? I haven't run into any binding problems though to be fair it's not a book I take out very often.
      The complaints I have heard are that some people's copies of the standard edition have warped pages (from the ink) and/or that the bindings aren't very strong. The latter wouldn't surprise me, given the size of the book.
    1. dalisprime's Avatar
      dalisprime -
      I've got the premium print and no such issues are present. Binding like I said I can't really comment on - my book's in pristine condition but mainly due to not being taken out much.
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