Mage: Ascension vs Awakening

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  1. #1
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    Mage: Ascension vs Awakening

    Assume you're new to both World of Darkness and Mage. You've read about Mage and want to read the material and start playing it. You don't know which to go with, Ascension (and thus oWoD) or Awakening (nWoD). You know people who are willing to play in a game, but first you have to pick which system to get going with.

    Which would you reccomend?


  • #2
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    Although I'm an Ascension player, I'd probably have to recommend Awakening, mainly because you'll find it hard to locate copies of the Revised Mage: the Ascension rulebook for sensible prices.

    However, it's not a simple question. Ascension comes in different flavours - there are enough differences between the various editions of Ascension to make that a valid factor as well.

    Playstyle is a factor - what kind of occult game do you like? The various iterations of Mage take different approaches to the subject matter and you need to look at that before you decide.

    How do you like your crunch? Awakening is crunchier than Ascension (although its systems are more streamlined and unified). You'd need to take that on board or be happy with stripping out rules that you don't like.

    Cost is a factor. None of the core rules are entirely complete (with, perhaps, the exception of Ascension 2e) - in all cases you really need some other books to flesh out the material in the core book. Are you willing to locate nd buy them, especially as some are out of print?

    That said, if you're willing to hack and mod and change, you can get equal mileage out of both. They're both excellent but flawed game systems. Although I'd be happy playing either, I'd be most happy combining the two into something else. I run Ascension but have incorporated rules and setting elements from Awakening. You could as easily do the opposite - play Awakening and incorporate stuff from Ascension. I stuck with Ascension as my base because I'm more familiar with it. Both approaches would work.

    No, it's not really a straightforward answer to your question, but I don't think that there is one. I'd need to know more about your tastes and desires for the game before being able to recommend one over the other. And even then I would probably recommend that you combine elements of the two.
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  • #3
    I found Mage: the Ascension went with the approach of occult practices of various cultures that existed out there. It was about belief and mysticism, and generally took a one-sided view of technology and modern society, until they bothered to show the Technocracy's side of the story. Some of the traditions were very strong in concept, others maybe needed a bit of work.

    Mage: the Awakening is more flexible and open-ended in the type of chronicle you want to run, but is more about Gnosticism and a mythical ancient civilization. There's certainly room for Ascensions detailed cultural practices. And the magic is a bit more codified in what you are and aren't allowed to do.

    There both good games, though each one has it's own strengths and weaknesses.

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    I always liked the flavor of the Ascension better, but the Rules and organization of Awakening. Ascension is an easy game from what I've seen to abuse. I haven't seen as much of that with Awakening though I've played it a lot less.

  • #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hope View Post
    Although I'm an Ascension player, I'd probably have to recommend Awakening, mainly because you'll find it hard to locate copies of the Revised Mage: the Ascension rulebook for sensible prices.
    Although for people who don't mind PDFs, Whitewolf has kept most of the old books (1st edition may be an exception) available through places like DriveThru and RPGNow at half the cover price of the hard copies. The Ascension revised core rules also seem to be fairly common used in the low $20 range.

  • #6
    Mechanically, I'd use Awakening 8 days a week. With some minor interpretations, I don't see how you couldn't use Awakening's rules with Ascension.

    That being said, the main issue is flavor. As has been stated above, Ascension is a grab bag of familiar mystical traditions, while Awakening is kind of a new age Atlantis feel. Ascension in my opinion has a more interesting if uneven flavor, but is very specific. There is a very definite war going on, and there are sides and armies, and you're a part of that picture. With fluff like that, the high points are interspersed with some real duds. Awakening lays out a background, and then lets you take it wherever you want to go. It doesn't have quite the compelling flavor that Ascension has, but it lacks the issues of the former and grants the game a lot more freedom.

    I'd recommend using the system of Awakening, with whatever flavor/setting you find more compelling/appropriate.

  • #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian View Post
    I always liked the flavor of the Ascension better, but the Rules and organization of Awakening.
    More or less this. Ascension has much better fluff, Awakening has more or less better rules...but I think Ascension's amazing fluff beats out the rule changes. I perfer oMage.

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    I haven't tried nMage, but own the majority of the oMage line. If I were to start a game of Ascension, I would use the Revised rules with the Second Edition fluff. Revised attempted, for reasons that are unclear to me beyond someone saying "You're having badwrongfun!", to constrain the focus of the game to Earth by making travel to the spirit world difficult and, eventually, fatal. As many Reality Deviants mages escaped into the Umbra to escape the Technocratic calcification of reality, this was a substantial shift.

    I, for one, loved the idea that there existed fully-explorable realms created by human belief, and that mages could find sufficiently sympathetic ones in which to set up shop. I enjoyed the idea that one side or another could still win the Ascension War. The post-Revised setting seemed to take all the cool, hopeful, and generally non-WoD elements of the game and smash them. This led to a game that felt to me to be counter to the spirit of the prior editions. While the mechanics were tightened up, I didn't think the tradeoff was equal.

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    I play a lot of NWoD and some OWoD and, to reiterate what others have said here, Awakening has much better mechanics and Ascension has much better fluff.

    The original magic rules were very poorly balanced and open to a lot of abuse and min/maxing; the new magic rules are very sleek and work well on the fly, as well as providing more reason to learn rotes. Conversely, if you just go by the core book of either iteration, there is very little impetus for adventure in Awakening, while there is tons in Ascension. If you get into the supplements for Awakening it becomes better, but still I prefer the Technocracy as bad guys to (at first) very vague shadowboxing with fellow mages in the current rendition.

    Then again, with very little work you can combine the two, so then you can have the best of both worlds!
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  • #10
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    I want to like Awakening, but first they would have to print it in something other than that illegible gold stuff.

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