Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games



  • I know this is very narrow, but there are few old WoD games out there, and nWoD games with Mage have their own problems, though some of them overlap.

    So we're talking about Mage: The Awakening 2nd Edition and other 2nd Edition games.

    The big question: How should Mage 2e be presented, changed, or run to work on a Mu* with other 2e games?



  • I know that I am probably in the minority voice here, since so many people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the system, but:

    There is no problem with the system, as is, running on a MU.

    The problems that happens with Mage on MU is twofold, but due to a common source:

    1. XP is gained far too quickly, leading to multiple high-level characters in a very short amount of time, all of them with competing interests and with enough power that they have no need to work well with others.

    2. There is very little in the way of active antagonism or storytelling, as Seers of the Throne and other external threats are almost entirely nonexistent, so they have little choice but to try and get into other active things.

    Both of these are frankly just due to lazy staffing. Mage staff on a number of games now have been of the opinion that the players will find things to entertain themselves with. When other staff come in and suggest changes, especially increased antagonists, those in charge have traditionally made a hullabaloo about how it doesn't make sense for antagonists to be there, or if they do show up they are only allowed in such small numbers that they are easily crushed. ETA Or, you get the 'mage war' kinds of things that Fallen World tried, which equally doesn't work. You need them to be in a constant cold war, worried about exposure and retaliation. Changeling is not the only game where a sense of constant paranoia is supposed to be the default.

    So the system itself doesn't need a single change to work correctly (in 2E the only change I would make is giving Proximi free Reach so that they aren't always risking Paradox, which goes against their prior theme).

    You just need a better class of staffers who recognize that mages need things to do and cannot advance so quickly that working with Orders/Consilium Officials/Other Cabals becomes optional.

    Nerfing the system just supports lazy storytelling, and doesn't actually get at the root of the problem.


  • Pitcrew

    Lazy staffing and storytelling is one issue.

    Another is that Paradox is never enforced. And lack of Paradox allows Mages vastly more freedom than they should have. Paradox is part of what keeps Mages balanced. Without it, they can do far more than they're written to be able to do.

    But what works, storytelling wise (see above, storytellers being lazy) for other spheres isn't going to work for mage. Just like you have to adapt a bit (though not always as much) between vampire, werewolf, changing breeds, etc for little quirks... you have to adjust for mage. Just more. You have to be aware of their capabilities and what they can do.

    It means getting creative and branching out. On a multi-sphere game, this may mean putting your foot down when a mage wants to join and either telling them: no, you cannot join my plot, it hasn't been rated for mage... or telling them if you join, you have to be willing to hold yourself back because I didn't rate it for mage.

    The joy of running plot for mage is you can think way, way outside the box. You can go wild. It's not just 'bad guys did bad things go fix it.' It's 'the space-time continuum broke and the elves are loose in atlantis let's go party.'


  • Pitcrew

    I just finished a post about this, which brought up a question that I will ask here.

    Is there something different about Mage between nWoD and CoD that draws out less of that...pedantic bullshit Mage players are known for?

    I recall taking forever to learn to cast without like, frantic notes and math and eventually I created a whole damn spellbook that was basically a quick guide to my abilities and how to roll and what I might use it for, etc. Alllll of that, but I don't remember having the same problems with other players on Fallen World as I did in nWoD games. I don't recall the awful fights over X spell or Y spell or extended hanging whatnot jobs.

    Amnesia? Rose colored glasses? Or did something change?

    I will say, word to @Derp. Mages need things to do. They have a lotta toys and accommodating those toys has to be just impossible for any storyteller.


  • Pitcrew

    @derp said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    There is no problem with the system, as is, running on a MU.

    The problems that happens with Mage on MU is twofold, but due to a common source:

    1. XP is gained far too quickly, leading to multiple high-level characters in a very short amount of time, all of them with competing interests and with enough power that they have no need to work well with others.

    2. There is very little in the way of active antagonism or storytelling, as Seers of the Throne and other external threats are almost entirely nonexistent, so they have little choice but to try and get into other active things.

    You just need a better class of staffers who recognize that mages need things to do and cannot advance so quickly that working with Orders/Consilium Officials/Other Cabals becomes optional.

    I would argue these aren't just problems with Mage. Overbloated XP and lack of Things to Do are problems for any game, it's just that in mage the effects of these issues are greatly exaggerated.


  • Pitcrew

    There's one huge change (among a large number of less-huge ones) between 1e and CoD Mage:
    Successes don't automatically equate to power.
    It's simple, but it has a massive effect. To put it in other terms, in 1e you would establish your spell factors like range, power (damage/armor/et cetera), duration and whatnot then make your roll with whatever dice you had. You could buff those dice with boosted stats, 8-agains, Rote actions, cooperative casting or what have you... and get some pretty impressive pool numbers. The way 1e Mechanics worked was that every success above what you needed, at least for a good number of spells, would be applied to the primary spell factor. If that factor was damage, rolling 4 succs meant 4 points of damage. Rolling 40 succs meant, yes, 40 points of damage.
    In 2e, that doesn't happen. All your factors start at tier one except for the Primary, which starts at your Arcana rating <1-5>. Improving any given factor costs a Reach; you get a couple of these free based on a few things, but usually no more than one or two. Anything past the free ones docks 2 dice from your casting pool. Once you set the factors, they're set. Multiple successes only apply to how difficult it is to dispel or the flat 'Exceptional Success' bonus. This means things like 8-again or Rote Actions are far less impactful when casting.
    Another fairly important change is you no longer need Mastery to be good at a level 1 or 2 spells. In 1e, the more levels in an Arcana you had the better you could improve your lower level spells. That's still the case in CoD, but if all you want is a Life 2 effect, you can buy Life 2 and then a Rote for the effect you want - which provides many of the same benefits of a higher Arcana for that specific effect. It cuts down on the need for people to push towards multi-mastery just to maximize their bread and butter powers.



  • @derp said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    You just need a better class of staffers

    Emphasis mine. I think on the one hand, this is laughable. On the other, it really is the truth of it. Mage is exhausting. You need a group that's very committed to keeping the story going, so, just like Derp said, you can hit that sweet spot. Just, finding that group of active, motivated, creative staffers? Well...

    When @Coin @tragedyjones and I were working on a new CofD 2E game, I did put together some house rules.

    1. Paradox: As @Auspice says, paradox really lacks teeth in a game where there's so much downtime. We came up with a new system where each time you contain paradox, it doesn't go away, but stays in your pattern. Each time you would roll paradox dice, they get added to your personal counter, and you roll dice for each counter you have. This continues to build up until it's released.
    2. Arcana caps. Like we did in FW, I think a hard limit on Arcana by Gnosis is a great idea.
    3. Spirits and ghosts need to withstand with resistance stat, not rank. Rank is just way too easy, and a baby mage can toss around massive spirits with ease.
    4. Magic items... need to be deal with in some way that we never finished dealing with. They can be a serious pita.

  • Pitcrew

    XP bloat is bad for everybody, no question, though I think the way Mage characters progress makes it worse when they're around.

    I'd also argue that "requires exponentially more staff support and attention than any other sphere" is a problem with running the system as-is on a MU*. Most games demonstrably can't provide that kind of support, and it seems like one that did would pretty much become a Mage game, because that's where staff would be invested.

    As far as fixing it, I don't know. I actually like Mage theme, especially the 2E and late 1E stuff, so it'd be nice if it could be done. I've always thought you could still have fun with Mage if you capped Arcana at three dots, but I doubt most folks who want to play Mage would get behind that.


  • Pitcrew

    Capped mage? Cool with me. I need it



  • As a note, my comment about staffers wasn't directed at anyone in particular. Just a general observation. Almost all games have done a great many things right, and put in a lot of blood and tears trying to keep things going.

    As another note, I do not believe that Mage requires more work than other spheres. I believe they all require this sort of treatment. This problem is noticeable across all games in all spheres, as others have pointed out. Just with Mage it is more easily noticed.

    All spheres require dedication, and all of them can break if left to their own devices. I just believe that this is less to do with system, and more due to lack of oversight. Or a desire for less system so that less oversight is required. In the latter case, that is still not a system problem, and is a want rather than a need.



  • @derp I think it requires more work than some spheres. Some baddies are easier for a player to handle in PRP form. Some spheres have a lot more ability to perpetuate themselves. The classic example is vampires and their fighting and politicking and squabbling and all that. There's a lot of entertainment there that requires less staff interaction.

    That said, I personally think a vampire game would be a LOT more fun with more code elements, to manage your territories and blood pool and all that. Just the same, I think mage could benefit from it, too. Some mini-game like tools to keep players going when the big stuff from staff isn't in front of them.



  • @skew said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    The classic example is vampires and their fighting and politicking and squabbling and all that.

    Technically speaking, Mage has that too. The Orders are little more than warring religions that have called a partial ceasefire, but they still work to screw each other over, the Diamond Orders and the Free Council are in serious rivalries most of the time, even having distinct governments, both factions fight Banishers and Seers and other sorts of baddies in a never-ending shadow war. Cabals fight for resources and territory in order to keep their own little dominion, while the members of cabals face warring loyalties between their immediate family and their effective magical faiths. It has ample room for this sort of conflict.

    It has just literally never been presented that way. The Diamond and the Free Council are just one big thing in most games, and all of them are all kumbaya with one another, whereas they really should not be.

    So Mage has just as much potential for internecine conflict as any other sphere, its just that it hasn't ever been structured that way. Or at least not in the last decade. I seem to remember HM having some of this.

    This really depends on having a strong initial setup designed to do that, which means sticking to the books, and not just xeroxing what The Reach did.



  • The problem in Mu*'s is larger than Mage.

    Most PCs in other spheres don't worry about how/why they regain their power (mana, blood, essence). So handwaving it off its no big deal to blow through blood and essence and everything else then regain all and move on.

    When you play it by the rules it changes the game and adds a new aspect that (to me) is more fun. Mage just shows this aspect... of the game with Paradox/Mana rules when they aren't followed/used.

    As @Derp said the whole other side of it is that cold war aspect.


  • Pitcrew

    @skew said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    @derp said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    You just need a better class of staffers

    Emphasis mine. I think on the one hand, this is laughable. On the other, it really is the truth of it. Mage is exhausting. You need a group that's very committed to keeping the story going, so, just like Derp said, you can hit that sweet spot. Just, finding that group of active, motivated, creative staffers? Well...

    When @Coin @tragedyjones and I were working on a new CofD 2E game, I did put together some house rules.

    1. Paradox: As @Auspice says, paradox really lacks teeth in a game where there's so much downtime. We came up with a new system where each time you contain paradox, it doesn't go away, but stays in your pattern. Each time you would roll paradox dice, they get added to your personal counter, and you roll dice for each counter you have. This continues to build up until it's released.
    2. Arcana caps. Like we did in FW, I think a hard limit on Arcana by Gnosis is a great idea.
    3. Spirits and ghosts need to withstand with resistance stat, not rank. Rank is just way too easy, and a baby mage can toss around massive spirits with ease.
    4. Magic items... need to be deal with in some way that we never finished dealing with. They can be a serious pita.

    I dealt with Magic Items we just never got around to reviewing it.



  • Mage is meant to be collaborative but you sure wouldn't know it based on how most nWoD mage games tend to go. And that's not really so much the fault of players in that a lot of mage plots are run in a way that people feel unable to share plot for fear of being edged out or left behind. Or there are plots that are so 'this job requires a hammer and only a hammer, gtfo with your ruler' that a few PCs in the game might be able to handle the issue while everyone picks lint out of their bellybuttons.

    A thing I'd like to see but people will wretchedly hate is not only a cap on XP, gnosis, and overall the power is: a cap on the number of:

    1. Paths
    2. Number of arcana you're allowed to take
    3. Legacies
    4. No extremely snowflake or weird ass concepts that prove that you haven't opened a book and/or are stitching together some high nonsense (i.e. AA Blank Badge? Whu?)

    ...in any one game.

    I feel like the only way to get people to work together in a mage setting is to make it so they can't self-solve everything. Mage wasn't really written to do that but in practice, so many games end up in this position.



  • @gangofdolls said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    I feel like the only way to get people to work together in a mage setting is to make it so they can't self-solve everything. Mage wasn't really written to do that but in practice, so many games end up in this position.

    Agreed. Especially if you're adding it in as a sphere (when you want inter-sphere dealings), rather than having it on its own. If XYZ can solve every problem, why bother with anything else?


  • Pitcrew

    @tinuviel That's true. Hubris should be a thing and Magic, at least for most Orders, shouldn't be the go-to for answering everything (I could go on and on about how much of the Adamantine Arrow theme is ignored in favor of 'Combat-Mages-R-Us', but that's something else again). However, Wisdom in Mage is tantamount to useless - it's by far the most pointless of moralities, and you can pretty much afford to drop it to three before really having to worry about anything. Combined with Paradox being pretty soft-touch (better in 2e, but that's not saying much), while there might be rules there are no real consequences for breaking them.

    Edit - this sort of caddycorners into what @GangOfDolls said above, as well. Most of what you listed as needing limitation can be solved by reduction of massive xp <I don't advocate having a cutoff, but I do advocate having people earn what they have rather than just let it trickle in> and actually enforcing rules as written
    1 - Paths. I'm less inclined to see these limited because, frankly, it's one of those things that players don't really have a choice about in-character. It's based on personality and outlook, so restricting paths also means you're restricting how people play their concepts. A better idea in my mind would be to make the Orders as selective as they're supposed to be in the books. Guardians just don't take everyone, Arrows have some of the most stringent requirements to join of any group - Mage or otherwise - out there, and so forth.
    2 - Arcana are naturally capped by your Gnosis, both in how many you have and how high they can go. This is further adjusted by your Path, as that will always dictate your highest Arcana. Limiting Xp limits your Gnosis; or if you're spending on Gnosis, you don't have as much to spend on Arcana. It's not a cutoff, but it does slow progression.
    3 - Legacies in 2e are kind of ... odd. Then again, all tertiary qualities are kind of odd and unfinished-feeling. I've had a couple of CoD mages, and I've never had much inspiration towards a legacy (They also seem to do far less than they used to in 1e - in 1e you seriously hampered yourself if you didn't take one. In 2e, it doesn't seem to matter)
    4 - I'll just say hella yes on this last one. That 'exceptions exist' clause they tried to push into things was one of the worst design ideas ever. It really mattered more in 1e Legacies; some favored a path or order, some favored one or the other - but there were reasons for it. If you wanted to play one of those Legacies, play something of that path or order. It's not as if you don't have the option. Then again, in 2e - as I mentioned above - Legacies are just weird so it might not even matter as far as that's concerned.


  • Pitcrew

    @goldfish CoD stopped allowing extended rolls for ritual spellcasting. I think this was one of the best changes made between editions, as it cut out a lot of nonsense.

    I'm strongly in favor of a Gnosis cap for Mage games in either edition, and if I thought enough players would tolerate it I'd push for that cap to be below 5.


  • Pitcrew

    @autumn Power stats are far less important in 2e than 1, since they don't really contribute to pools. That said, I've always felt that 5 was a reasonable stopping point for just about any given sphere (And I really do believe that you cannot single any one sphere out - if you limit Gnosis, you have to limit things like Blood Potency as well. Harmony... can't, because it doesn't work anywhere remotely the same anymore) The only reason I ever saw to allow higher was, again, Legacies in 1e - since you needed it to get to the third level attainments.


  • Pitcrew

    @killer-klown said in Mage for Multi-Sphere WoDv2 Games:

    @autumn Power stats are far less important in 2e than 1, since they don't really contribute to pools. That said, I've always felt that 5 was a reasonable stopping point for just about any given sphere (And I really do believe that you cannot single any one sphere out - if you limit Gnosis, you have to limit things like Blood Potency as well. Harmony... can't, because it doesn't work anywhere remotely the same anymore) The only reason I ever saw to allow higher was, again, Legacies in 1e - since you needed it to get to the third level attainments.

    Harmony isn't the Gnosis/Blood Potency equivalent, though. Primal-Urge is. And it can be capped the same way the other two can.


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