Please share tips and resources for Mage the Ascension

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I like the flavor and concept of MtA and have the PDFs for the 20th Anniversary version. But the sheer volume content in just the core book is daunting.

I'm thinking that I will have the players all be "orphans" in the sense of not having much knowledge of the wider world. The characters can learn more about the different factions, lore, etc. as I learn it though game prep. I do want to have a fairly good grasp of the mechanics but even the quickstart guide is taking time for me to absorb.

If anyone has any tips for how to get started in MtA, esp as a game master, and if there are any good resources with rule summaries and cheat sheets or other game aids, please share them.
 

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opacitizen

Explorer
I haven't GMed Mage for ages (even though it used to be a fav rpg of mine), so I can only give you only a basic tip or two that you probably already have thought of.

Anyway: if I were you, I'd start by extending the Prelude into a series of full-fledged, short one shots. I'd introduce the World of Darkness gradually, through the eyes of mortals, or as Mage calls them, Sleepers — that is, all the PCs would start out as mostly ordinary people, maybe with a sixth sense, second sight, or something similar, a basic and hazy magical perception. Then, after a relatively low stakes confrontation or two with the supernatural (and learning the basics of the game system without having to deal with casting and spells right away), they could all awaken, preferably in connection with and as a (partial) consequence of the previous confrontation -- and over the course of the next few stories you could introduce the advanced mechanics, step by step, with time to practice and without everyone having to learn everything right away.
 

It's been a long time for me as well, but I have fond memories of that game. Like all of White Wolf's products back then, it's got style.

If I had to share one bit of advice, I'd say be kinder when it comes to Paradox than I was. I enforced it very strictly, and I kinda feel like it made the game less exciting.
 

Voadam

Legend
GURPS Mage the Ascension is only 192 pages, I found it a good summary of the narrative elements of the world (factions, sphere concepts, individual traditions, etc.). It is set at an earlier period than the 20th edition though so no blowing up of the big guys yet.

Mage has a lot of factions so I would try and keep it more narrowly focused on core concepts to start. I'd focus on traditions and technocracy and leave Nephandi and Marauders vague and background at least to start. There is a lot of good stuff to explore within the allied traditions and with their traditional enemies of the technocracy.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Thank you all for your tips.

Its funny, although I started playing TTRPGs in the 80s, I now struggle with older, text heavy systems.

I've been thinking of making my own Mage-like game using the Cortex Prime system. I like that it will have modern on-line tools and ruleset that is has more modern design sensibilities.

Seems strange to write, but creating my own game seems like less work than mastering MtA. In particular, I hate hate hate PDFs but am working abroad and just can't lug around a 600 page tome.

I'm so spoiled with D&D Beyond and wikis and such that having to sit at my laptop and go through the Mage 20th Anniversary PDF is just a slog.

But I do like the flavor and I have a few players in my current group that are fans, so I want to make it work, but fact that it is feeling like a chore before I've even started planning out a the story arc doesn't bode well for the campaign.
 

Voadam

Legend
It is easy to translate most of the flavor.

In D&D Verbena are druids, Order of Hermes are wizards, Celestial Chorus are clerics, Akashic Brotherhood are monks, Progenitors can be a secret society of (mad scientist) doctors in Ravenloft or alchemists in Pathfinder, Void Engineers are Spelljammers, and so on. The concept of spheres and pattern and paradigm is easy to bring over as well. It is neat to think of Tinker Gnomes as technocracy working against the dominant paradigm.

In Delta Green or Conspiracy X the New World Order and Void Engineers can be big players while most any faction or tradition can be behind any specific weirdness the PCs deal with. I have a few books but no direct experience with the Cortex rules to say how it would handle playing the mages themselves.

The mechanics of the specific freeform magic and paradox would be the toughest part to port to a new system.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
The mechanics of the specific freeform magic and paradox would be the toughest part to port to a new system.
Which is the part that most interests me. What sold me on even looking into running a MtA campaign is how magic works.
 

Mark Hope

Adventurer
Check out Mage Made Easy, by the guy who wrote M20. It's a collection of advice and hacks to make the game easier to digest and run:

Well worth a look.

How Do You Do That breaks down the magic system with examples and systems to use:

These are some cheat sheets I gave to my current batch of players (they summarise stuff in M20):

Creating Effects: M20 Cheat Sheet.pdf
Sphere Ranks: M20 Sphere Summaries.pdf

This is a general index I found online (can't remember who made it - sorry). It pretty extensive and handy:

Your idea of starting as Orphans and learning through play is the perfect way to go. The M20 Quickstart isn't great at explaining the game - it's more of a collection of rules excerpts. Mage Made Easy is a better place to look. But you should definitely start small, focus on a particular area and theme, and just explore that through play. Set a scope that you and your players are comfortable with and just stick with that. Mage is a huge game, but your chronicle doesn't have to be. My chronicle just turned 25 this August, and we started out with stuff like "save this church from being demolished because it's a Node" and "rescue your brother from the Nephandus" and "accidentally blow up the Technocracy safe house with a tragic gas explosion" and the like. Tight focus works well - the story will grow organically from there.

Fire off any questions you have as you go - myself or another Mage fan will be happy to jump in and share our thoughts. They will all be contradictory, of course, but that's Mage ;)
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
Check out Mage Made Easy, by the guy who wrote M20. It's a collection of advice and hacks to make the game easier to digest and run:

Well worth a look.
I was going to suggest Mage Made Easy as well.

In my experience with the game, the very broad scope of the game, along with the scope of power tends to lead games to be very... disjointed. Characters need some reason to associate and work together, and "you're all members of the traditions" isn't very thick glue. Paradigm and power tend to encourage some very unique characters, sometimes with quite alien ways of thinking, which makes you wonder how such a person ever came to be in the first place.

Mage Made Easy has some good suggestions on how to keep the game focused.
 

It is neat to think of Tinker Gnomes as technocracy working against the dominant paradigm.

It does sound a lot more tasteful that they're working against paradox in Krynn's paradigm, than them being genetically incompetent.

When I've ran Mage, the one thing I try to impart to players is that the main conflict isn't Magic vs Science, it's which group of Mages gets to decide what is Science.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Check out Mage Made Easy, by the guy who wrote M20. It's a collection of advice and hacks to make the game easier to digest and run:

Well worth a look.

How Do You Do That breaks down the magic system with examples and systems to use:

These are some cheat sheets I gave to my current batch of players (they summarise stuff in M20):

Creating Effects: M20 Cheat Sheet.pdf
Sphere Ranks: M20 Sphere Summaries.pdf

This is a general index I found online (can't remember who made it - sorry). It pretty extensive and handy:

Your idea of starting as Orphans and learning through play is the perfect way to go. The M20 Quickstart isn't great at explaining the game - it's more of a collection of rules excerpts. Mage Made Easy is a better place to look. But you should definitely start small, focus on a particular area and theme, and just explore that through play. Set a scope that you and your players are comfortable with and just stick with that. Mage is a huge game, but your chronicle doesn't have to be. My chronicle just turned 25 this August, and we started out with stuff like "save this church from being demolished because it's a Node" and "rescue your brother from the Nephandus" and "accidentally blow up the Technocracy safe house with a tragic gas explosion" and the like. Tight focus works well - the story will grow organically from there.

Fire off any questions you have as you go - myself or another Mage fan will be happy to jump in and share our thoughts. They will all be contradictory, of course, but that's Mage ;)
Thank you! This is great! I'll definitely hit you up with questions as I get started.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
@Mark Hope Do you know whether there are any VTT systems or World Anvil templates that support Mage character sheets? We will probably just stick to the interactive PDF files, but I would be interested if there are any online-play assets for MtA 20th.
 

Mark Hope

Adventurer
@Mark Hope Do you know whether there are any VTT systems or World Anvil templates that support Mage character sheets? We will probably just stick to the interactive PDF files, but I would be interested if there are any online-play assets for MtA 20th.
I do not know that, sorry. There may well be but I am unaware of any - my online games are run using Zoom and Shoutcast and are quite light-touch when it comes to electronic assets.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Gah! I should change this thread to MtA20 support group. Never have I had such a love/hate relationship with a game. The core mechanics are fine, the magic system is unique and flavorful and the primary reason for me wanting to run a MAGE game. I've been outlining campaign ideas and am excited when I'm doing that. But every time I have to go to the rule book, I want to toss it and work on my Cortex Prime game instead.

First, Onyx Press pads the book with so much fluff--pages and pages of stories. I would would love to a reference that was only the rules. I can always go to the main book for setting material. Also the rules in the main book are just terribly organized. Even character creation is a confusing mess.

I've built up a MAGE character sheet in Role, which will be an ideal platform for running my on-line MAGE game and having to design the character sheet has forced me to work my way through the rules more. Even the quick starts and reference guides are heavy for a system that just does not seem like it needs to be so complicated.

The whole attitude of the Onyx Press seems to cater to uber fans and an attempt to create some kind of an in-group. Even registering for the Onyx Press forum to post questions to Mage discussion boards was annoying. The random questions to register are all reference to other Onyx Press products requiring me to Google the answers, which was a big turn off.

Do people buy this stuff for lonely play? Do they just like reading all stories that pad all the books? Does anyone actually play the game? There are so few resources for the game that I seriously question whether it is meant to be played.

Just venting here. I'm pretty solid on the core mechanics and am now focused on getting more comfortable with the magic system.

But I wish there were published adventures for MAGE I could reference. I could really use a bunch of NPCs I can work from as well. Most likely I would be tweaking everything for my own campaign, but it would be nice if I didn't have to do EVERYTHING from scratch.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Okay, so I found "God and Monsters", on DTRPG. This helps a lot. I wish I could filter on MAGE in DTRPG. Even after searching in DTRPG I didn't find this book until going through the Onyx Press blog posts. Not sure why they don't have a list of all their MAGE publications. They don't make buying their stuff easy.
 

Voadam

Legend
Okay, so I found "God and Monsters", on DTRPG. This helps a lot. I wish I could filter on MAGE in DTRPG. Even after searching in DTRPG I didn't find this book until going through the Onyx Press blog posts. Not sure why they don't have a list of all their MAGE publications. They don't make buying their stuff easy.
They do have a mage section on Drivethru, two actually. Here is the Mage20 one and here is their earlier Mage Revised one.

Go to the main Onyx Path publisher page on Drivethru (publisher pages are a category on the left on the main page), scroll down a little on the Onyx page and you will see icon entries for their currently 37 game lines, click on any one to see stuff just for that particular game line.

Also see the White Wolf page for similar things from 1e, 2e, and Revised before Onyx Path got involved.

There were never many pre-done adventures for Mage, Loom of Fate and the crossover Chaos Factor (Combined in Mage Chronicles 3) from 1e comes to mind.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
@Voadam Thanks, didn't come up in the system search in DTRPG. But I see that Onyx Path has a sub-category. Book marked!

I'll look at Loom of Fate and Chaos Factor. The Gods and Monsters book is actually very useful. I also got the DMs screen, which seems like it'll be useful.
 


Mark Hope

Adventurer
The whole attitude of the Onyx Press seems to cater to uber fans...
At least as far as the 20th anniversary editions are concerned, this is pretty much exactly what is going on. They're compilations/love-letters-to-the-fans that try to bring together the previous three editions under one roof. As you've seen, this is somewhat unwieldy. The writing style in M20 is quite florid too, so it's not always a book that's easy to leaf through in order to find what you're after.

As you've seen, there are some good NPCs in Gods & Monsters. If you want to look at older editions, there are a few sample mages in Guide to the Traditions, assorted mortals and critters in Destiny's Price (stat blocks for these were repeated in Tales of Magick: Dark Adventure). There are sample characters in all of the Tradition and Convention books as well.

As for adventures, there were about a dozen in total, but only three were stand-alone products - Loom of Fate, Chaos Factor, and Angel of Mercy. Loom of Fate is quite interesting with lots of detail and dilemmas to work with. Chaos Factor is a batshit insane crossover with Vampire and Werewolf - good fun but completely over the top. Angel of Mercy was the first adventure for Mage and is a simple affair about stopping a demon summoning - I quite like it.

When it comes to building a chronicle on a general level, you might want to check out Book of Mirrors and the Storytellers Handbook. These are, respectively, the GM guides for Mage 2e and Mage 3e. The former is very 90s in feel but has some solid thematic advice on building a Mage game, running a chronicle. The latter is more rules-oriented and gives lots of interesting ways to hack and mod your game. Both are good.

Yes, people do play and run Mage :D. It is easily the most challenging game I've ever run but when it works it's very rewarding. I feel your pain, though. I bought the game, tried to run a session and it was a disaster. It took me eight more months of reading and prep to feel ready to start again. Not the most accessible way to get into a game at all. Worth it, though.
 


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