[Mage/Hack] Example of Play

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?)

[Mage/Hack] Infused with Arcana

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.