I’m working on a hack now that combines White Wolf’s Mage: the Awakening setting with a Tarot-driven set of mechanics, taking advantage of the Tarot imagery already built into the setting. I’m trying to maintain some mechanical similarities to the White Wolf system, while cutting out the bits I’m not as interested in (and of course mixing in things that have no business being there, because this is a hack after all). Inspirations include the new Mind’s Eye Theatre mechanics and Malcolm Sheppard’s “Mage Garage” hack, but I’m also taking some inspirational cues from Sorcerer, while I’ll explain in a second.
So, I think the setting of Mage is great, honestly. (Setting does matter!) It took me a understand it all, especially because I was attached to the “old” Mage setting that preceded it. This review describes, best of all, the differences between the old and new Mage settings. Please do read it, but the quick version is: epic-fantasy/Matrix-style/cosmic-scale/idealistic to pulp-fantasy/Dark-City-style/local-scale/self-corruption. I think there’s something wise to see a Sword & Sorcery influence on the newer Mage setting, and the understanding that magic is a dangerous kind of power to wield.
And this does remind me in Sorcerer. The game isn’t perfect for me, but it has its focus on hubris and humanity versus the pursuit of power and knowledge. It definitely understands that magic must be fundamentally unworldly and dangerous. (Incidentally, this capability analysis of Mage nicely showed me that our protagonists are indeed operating by a different set of rules. The powers listed are the kinds of things any novice mage can do, and it turns out that this is quite enough.)
One key thing to understanding the setting is no trying to force some other concent of the Mage into this world without examining the setting first. Ben described Bliss Stage as “an original entry in the genre, not a pastiche”. This is the right appraoch to Mage as will. It has a lot in common with the culture/genre expectations around “sorcery”, but it has its own way in place as well. It’s not a blank slate, but it provides a powerful palette on its own.
What are the stories I want to tell with this setting? I want to reveal a magical underworld and explore its secrets. I want play through the politics of the group and the faction, and question whether the thirst for self-knowledge is a virtue or vice. I want to see characters changing the world with their magic, but also being affected by strong Influences beyond their own powers. I want to meet protagonists who balance their human responsibilities and their inhuman powers.