Here’s a story / example of play from my Mage/Tarot hack. The story is a little dry here, but I’m mainly trying to demonstrate how a character would be defined, and what the mechanics would look like in practice. Note that there exists a mapping of Tarot Arcana to fictional elements in Mage. Also, the deck is divided into a Skill Deck (A-10) and an Influence Deck (Court Cards + Trumps).
The mage known as “Badger” was once a coach and aspiring professional athlete. (His uncompromising athletic regimen and practice may have put him on the path to awakening.) He follows the Path of Thrysus, and is a new member of the Adamantine Arrow. He uses his magic to affect Life, Time and Space. Traits: Athlete, Leader, Vice (Pride), Connection (Abrax, a Free Council mage).
The kicker: a late night call from Abrax. “You’ve got to get to the ER, right away. Our sanctum got attacked, and the rest of my cabal are dead or dying. Someone’s try to get to both of us.”
…Badger arrives to Abrax raving. “It has to be magic. The house literally crashing down around us, like it had rotted away within a matter of minutes.” Badger activates “Mage Sight: Life”. Immediately, he sees a some magically induced miasma within Abrax, causing him a hacking cough and worse. Will this magic strike down his friend, as well?
(He begins a spell: infusing Abrax’s body with Life magic to chase off the curse. He uses his Life and Gnosis traits to improvise a spell, providing a combined total of +3. He spends 2 mana and 1 willpower, providing another +3. He draws from the Skill deck: A of Cups. Five influence cards are drawn: 2 for the vulgar spell and 3 for the spent mana and willpower. Only one of the influence cards matches: Earth, representing the Free Council and the attempt to save Abrax’s life. This provides another +5. The total is 3 + 3 + 1 + 5 = 12. This is higher than the difficulty, so Abrax is healed.)
…Later, Badger argues to his cabal-mate, Fitz, that they must join forces to investigate the threat to Abarax’s cabal. Fitz is much more concerned without their cabal’s dwindling finances. “As an Arrow, your here to protect us, first and foremost. Your priorities are messed up, Badger.”
(Badger attempts to sway the cabal’s opinion. Fitz’s effort establishes a difficulty of 8. Badger uses Leadership for a +2, spends a willpower for +1, and draws a 5 of wands. This adds up to an eight; but he then draws an Influence Card for the use of Willpower. He draws “The Hierophant”, symbol of Fitz’s order, the Silver Ladder: that’s a -5 to Badger’s side. He loses, and the cabal refuses to help. Badger is on his own now. Despite the defeat, the player chooses to do the final narration, tying together all the suits and symbols in play now; he emphasizes Fitz’s tyrannical nature and his overly orthodox notion of what the cabal “should” do. Badger is rewards with recovering 1 point of Mana.)
…Later, Badger follows a tip and tracks the mysterious “librarian”. The librarian recognizes Badger immediately. He drops his book, and with a gesture, Badgers mind is flooded with static.
(Badger is trying to counter his opponent’s magic with his own. He gets +3 for Mind and Gnosis, and draws a 4 of Wands: a 7, vs his opponent’s total of 12. But, given all the magic flying around, five influence cards are drawn: “The Hanged Man” grants a +5 to the librarian’s side, but “The Moon” and “Knight of Wands” grant a +10 to Badger. He wins, and counters the librarian’s spell. Badger weights his option: engage in magical battle with such a powerful mage? Or draw his empty revolver, and try his luck with a bluff?)