Mage: the Ascension Redux

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zenten
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Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:36 pm UTC

I had this idea this morning, and I thought I'd write it down. Let me know what you think, and if you have any ideas on how to expand or improve upon it (specific magic rules would be amazing).

http://www.google.com/notebook/public/15836640559062505377/BDQtHIgoQxu2KuYMj?hl=en

Premise of the game

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. -Larry Niven

This is a redoing of Mage: the Ascension to have it fit better with my own core ideas of the setting. It is not meant to fix mechanical problems that are not tied to that goal, nor is it meant to make the game at all compatible with the other World of Darkness games.

Defining Traits

Ascension Redux has no Spheres, Essence, or special magical backgrounds. Instead it makes extensive use of the skill system, which has been changed and expanded somewhat. It also changes the way Arete works.

Skills are a bit more open ended than in the standard Storyteller system. There are two types of skills, general skills, and specific skills. Examples of general skills are the spheres used in Ascension (Matter, Prime, Forces, etc) as well as generalized skills such as Science, Academics, and Crafts. Specific skills include things like Necromancy, Medicine, Carpentry, Physics and Swordplay. Any specific skill should fall under at least one general skill, but things are left deliberately vague. At least ten examples of both should be made up when starting a game, and the players will round things out further. Specific skills should not generally overlap, but general skills often will. There is no "Talent/Skill/Knowledge" distinction for skills.

Arete is just a word used for discussion here. On the character sheet the player can fill in any word that would fit their character, such as Enlightenment, Karma or Will. All humans (with the exception of strange, soulless beings) have at least one level of Arete.

Willpower functions normally, as do the Attributes.

Using Magic/Skills

Magic and skill use are really part of the same system. Any skill roll makes use of the magic system. A character can never make a skill roll that does not fit under their Paradigm.

Skill rolls follow the same Attribute + Skill model in the Storyteller system. They also use the Threshold system found in Mage: the Ascension Revised. Also, difficulties brought below three turn into rolls at difficulty three, plus an extra success for every additional modifier below three.

Base difficulty is determined by how hard a given task would be, and is determined regardless of who is attempting it. So the base difficulty of building a car is the same for a mechanical engineer or for a small child. Base difficulties can have a wide range, anywhere from below 1 (for tasks that only the truly incompetent faced with strong opposition could fail at) to well above 10 (for extremely difficult tasks).

If a character has both a general skill and a specific skill, then the player can chose which one to roll. If rolling the specific skill, then subtract the raiting of the (highest if multiple general skills are applicable) general skill from the difficulty, and roll the attribute plus specific skill.

If someone attempts a roll using a general skill, then it must conform to the consensus rules. No Arete is added.

If someone uses a specific skill, the roll is now Attribute + Skill + Arete.

If a character attempts a roll when they have no rating in the applicable skill, then their roll is considered a general skill, and is at +1 difficulty.

Foci no longer play the same role. Tools can definitely aid in skill rolls, and may sometimes be required (such as a normal mechanic needing tools to fix a car, or a Hermetic needing a binding circle to hold a Demon), but they do not have additional specific rules.

Consensus

If anyone is observing an action, be it directly, or through other means such as cameras, or through being able to find evidence later (such as impossible claw marks or substinces left behind that do not conform to their Paradigm) then they can affect consensus. If an action conforms to all observer's Paradigms, then there is consensus.

If any observer does not believe such an action is possible under their Paradigm, then there is no consensus, and they will roll their Arete in opposition, each success canceling the skill users successes. If this brings the number of successes into a negative number, then the person making the skill roll has now botched. If there are multiple observers, they all roll their Arete.

Characters can have a Paradigm change forced upon them through their Arete rolls. Should an Arete roll to oppose an action fail outright (not counting the opposed successes), then they lose a point of Willpower. Should the have no Willpower left, or if they botch their Arete roll, their Paradigm is now modified to accept that action as possible. Frequent or very odd Paradigm additions can lead to developing Derangements. Paradigm can also change through other methods, such as mind control or as a natural result of personal exploration.

Character Creation

Starting Mage PCs are made normally for the most part as per Mage: the Ascension. Essence is not used, nor is Resonance or Quintessence. The Spheres are changed, and the Backgrounds of Arcane, Dream, Destiny, Familiar and Node are not used. Wonders reflect any sort of special, hard to find item, and essentially just provide a certain degree of plot immunity.

A Tradition Sphere specialty gives one free dot in the general skill (so a Hermetic would get a free dot in Forces). That skill also costs 1 freebee per dot, not two, and costs new rating in experience to raise, not new rating times two.

A number of Merits and Flaws will no doubt likely need to be changed, or you could just forgo them entirely.

Characters get 27 dots in skills, to distribute among general and specific skills as they wish, as long as no rating is above 3 before freebies. A character sheet for it would probably want to have general and specific skills differentiated somehow.

Setting changes

Nodes do not exist, although there are places of power, because people believe they are places of power, and that belief creates strange effects that can be used. The Gauntlet does not exist, but many of it's effects are replicated by the consensus rules.

There are being the Hermetics have dubbed Banishers, who have a high Arete raiting, but who's paradigm is strongly entrenched in that of their local culture. In modern Western society they are often employed by the Technocracy, but rarely will be recognized as Enlightened Agents without a major life changing event for them.

What needs to be done

These are very general rules. Specific examples of how to go about raising a zombie or turning someone into a toad need to be developed, but they should generally be based on or identical to their mundane equivalents. So creating a magical carpet would follow the same rules as creating a normal technological flying machine, but just requires a different Paradigm, and possibly a different skill to roll.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby mosc » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:47 pm UTC

very similar to mage. The problem with mage is not the underlying system that you're working on here (the original does most of that just fine) but the underlying issue of what happens when you get successfully dis-believed.
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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:56 pm UTC

mosc wrote:very similar to mage. The problem with mage is not the underlying system that you're working on here (the original does most of that just fine) but the underlying issue of what happens when you get successfully dis-believed.


Um, it's a modification of Mage, so yeah, it should be simular.

As to what happens, it's in my post. You fail with a higher chance of botching.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby mosc » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:07 am UTC

so you'd use the standard bland as hell and non-specific approach to botching as regular mage? That seems like the best area to improve the existing system on to me...
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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:13 am UTC

mosc wrote:so you'd use the standard bland as hell and non-specific approach to botching as regular mage? That seems like the best area to improve the existing system on to me...


No, I got rid of the lame paradox stuff, and instead just have regular botched rolls.

Mind you, I tend to dislike botching for the most part anyway. It's very random and anticlimactic.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby Jessica » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:21 am UTC

I saw someone try and port Awakening rules to Ascension. It might be interesting.

Personally, I like awakening, and have no desire to go back to ascension (mainly because I never played ascension).

But, good luck with your project!
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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 12:25 am UTC

Gharbad wrote:I saw someone try and port Awakening rules to Ascension. It might be interesting.

Personally, I like awakening, and have no desire to go back to ascension (mainly because I never played ascension).

But, good luck with your project!


Thanks :)

And these rules should make it even less like Awakening. Which is sort of what I'm going for. Awakening is also a cool game, but Ascension always felt to me like two (rather excellent) different games meshed together in a haphazard way.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

No benefit for tools? That's iffy: shouldn't the game reward people for having neat tools and rules in their Paradigm?

Ie, the standard Paradigm requires that you need tools to fix a car. The Hermetic Paradigm requires you need a circle to bind a demon. These are awkward features of the entire Paradigm... weaknesses, as it where.

Having interesting texture or weaknesses in your Paradigm should be rewarded. Tools having some value and adding some dice, or changing the difficulty, based on how annoying the tools are makes some sense...
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 5:42 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:No benefit for tools? That's iffy: shouldn't the game reward people for having neat tools and rules in their Paradigm?

Ie, the standard Paradigm requires that you need tools to fix a car. The Hermetic Paradigm requires you need a circle to bind a demon. These are awkward features of the entire Paradigm... weaknesses, as it where.

Having interesting texture or weaknesses in your Paradigm should be rewarded. Tools having some value and adding some dice, or changing the difficulty, based on how annoying the tools are makes some sense...


Well, isn't it unfair then that you need tools to fix a car, but not to convince someone to come to dinner, under the standard system?

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:49 pm UTC

So we have to paradigms.

In one, you need tools to fix a car.
In the other, you don't.

Given that both don't align with the standard paradigm that most people have, isn't the one that doesn't require tools ... well, a better paradigm?

"My paradigm is that I do things with my mind. I think it hard, and it happens." becomes a strictly better paradigm than "I use magic, which requires books, circles, glyphs". Neither are very convincing to 90%+ people, and one has the disadvantage of needing tools. Heck, the "I can do things with my mind" paradigm even has the advantage that you can fake it easier! You do it with your mind, but make it look like you do it with your body when you have witnesses...

In mage, you'd think that the traditions would have figured this out and build the "ultimate paradigm" -- unless, say, doing things with tools is easier, having paradigms with vulgar visual effects, and other "negative" properties makes things easier or better somehow.

Ie, I think we agree: the toolbox for fixing a car is nothing more than a foci under the standard paradigm for fixing the car.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:00 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:So we have to paradigms.

In one, you need tools to fix a car.
In the other, you don't.

Given that both don't align with the standard paradigm that most people have, isn't the one that doesn't require tools ... well, a better paradigm?

"My paradigm is that I do things with my mind. I think it hard, and it happens." becomes a strictly better paradigm than "I use magic, which requires books, circles, glyphs". Neither are very convincing to 90%+ people, and one has the disadvantage of needing tools. Heck, the "I can do things with my mind" paradigm even has the advantage that you can fake it easier! You do it with your mind, but make it look like you do it with your body when you have witnesses...

In mage, you'd think that the traditions would have figured this out and build the "ultimate paradigm" -- unless, say, doing things with tools is easier, having paradigms with vulgar visual effects, and other "negative" properties makes things easier or better somehow.

Ie, I think we agree: the toolbox for fixing a car is nothing more than a foci under the standard paradigm for fixing the car.


Good point.

I updated the web page linked to at the top (I've posted this in two other places as well, and keeping them in sink is too much of a nightmare to try).

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

Faking it: +1 difficulty, or more (hiding it so that your action doesn't seem to be what you are doing)
Sneaky Paradigm Application: Half Aspect dice, rounded down (halves Faking it penalties)
Requires Tools under Paradigm: +1 die (stacks with Vulgar)
Using Tools: -n difficulty, depending on quality of tools

...

or something like that. That was just off-the cuff, but the basic idea that a paradigm is rewarded for certain restrictions...

So fixing a car under the standard paradigm is a "requires tools" task. Binding a demon under hemetic magic paradigm is also a "requires tools" task.

A mind-over-body paradigm is probably "sneaky" in most areas, except when you do things like grow claws, or have super-human strength/speed for your body size.

As you can see, Sneaky Paradigms are pretty crippled as your Aspect goes up.

Rules for "faking it" are needed maybe?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:23 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:Faking it: +1 difficulty, or more (hiding it so that your action doesn't seem to be what you are doing)
Sneaky Paradigm Application: Half Aspect dice, rounded down (halves Faking it penalties)
Requires Tools under Paradigm: +1 die (stacks with Vulgar)
Using Tools: -n difficulty, depending on quality of tools

...

or something like that. That was just off-the cuff, but the basic idea that a paradigm is rewarded for certain restrictions...

So fixing a car under the standard paradigm is a "requires tools" task. Binding a demon under hemetic magic paradigm is also a "requires tools" task.

A mind-over-body paradigm is probably "sneaky" in most areas, except when you do things like grow claws, or have super-human strength/speed for your body size.

As you can see, Sneaky Paradigms are pretty crippled as your Aspect goes up.

Rules for "faking it" are needed maybe?


I'm leery of "faking it" rules, just because I'm afraid it would get as stupid as that old Blatancy skill.

Your proposal also doesn't seem to cover paradigms where having a tool can be handy, but not necessary, or where better tools will server you better. Like say many things with the standard paradigm, where you can engage in seduction without tools, but having nice clothes can give you a bonus.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby Yakk » Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

The reduction in difficulty from tools would occur even if the act doesn't require tools.

For the most part, most acts in most paradigms admit the use of tools: it is just some paradigms require tools to do some acts.

...

One almost needs two numbers -- a "defensive" and "offensive" aspect?

Because under your rules, someone who is really good at pushing their reality on the world is super-competent within their reality.

Maybe that is what is special about the consensus -- Aspect in the consensus doesn't actually give you extra dice, while aspect is other paradigms does?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby FACM » Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:15 pm UTC

I don't see a need to mash spellcasting into the standard skill rules. I think Awakening did magic casting rolls fine, with the skill+stat+sphere check for a rote spell and sphere+arete for "im gonna make this happen by force of will". I also like that Awakening normalized what number of dots lets you do what effects for the most part.

I don't see why backporting this system to ascension wouldn't accomplish your goal.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:The reduction in difficulty from tools would occur even if the act doesn't require tools.

For the most part, most acts in most paradigms admit the use of tools: it is just some paradigms require tools to do some acts.



Yeah, using tools is fine. It's rating the relative difficulty of paradigms that becomes hard, and is outside of what I'm trying to do here (I have been thinking about that problem for years though).

Yakk wrote:One almost needs two numbers -- a "defensive" and "offensive" aspect?

Because under your rules, someone who is really good at pushing their reality on the world is super-competent within their reality.

Maybe that is what is special about the consensus -- Aspect in the consensus doesn't actually give you extra dice, while aspect is other paradigms does?


I'm assuming by "Aspect" you mean "Arete". As to the two being the same, that's the idea, as either application is pushing your paradigm onto reality.

FACM wrote:I don't see a need to mash spellcasting into the standard skill rules. I think Awakening did magic casting rolls fine, with the skill+stat+sphere check for a rote spell and sphere+arete for "im gonna make this happen by force of will". I also like that Awakening normalized what number of dots lets you do what effects for the most part.

I don't see why backporting this system to ascension wouldn't accomplish your goal.


Awakening isn't a game about paradigm, in that everyone has the same magical paradigm. Thus they have the same magical system.

The problem with Ascension is that this magical system does produce a paradigm, and individual paradigms are just sort of slapped on in a haphazard way. What's worse, there's an entirely different system for following the default paradigm in the western world, namely the skill system.

As to bringing things in through force of will, that is only one specific paradigm, and one I don't find to be terribly interesting or worth including in the rules.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby FACM » Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:16 pm UTC

I've not read Ascension in a while, so this might not be right, but I thought that the Avatar was the force actually doing magic/influencing reality, and that Paradigm was less of what you could/couldn't do and more of what you could/couldn't call a coincidence. Spheres and Arete are the limiting factors of what you are actually capable of doing with magic.

EX: I use flasks full of liquid as a focus, as I'm an alchemist. Throwing one that bursts into a fireball is coincidental, as there are plenty of chemicals that combust when enough kinetic energy, or exposure to oxygen, etc, and that flask was one of those. This is coincidental, as it falls into the laws of the world, even though carrying around several dozen bottles of odd chemicals is fairly inconvenient in many situations.

EX2: I use coins and symbols as a focus, because it's what I do. I trace a certain symbol in the air, and throw a marked coin to target where the fireball summoned by my symbol will hit. This is vulgar, as the consensus doesn't believe that ritual works.

Paradigm is fluff/flavor with a small connection to the actual game magic system. I think you're trying to blend these together a little more than they were meant to be.

Final aside: Force of Will casting is usually a last-resort, when magical tools aren't available. This is available to everyone in Ascension except for Technocrats, whose personal paradigm requires them to have their tools. Everyone that can accept their abilities break the rules can, with effort, get away with just willing the rules to be broken. Those who aren't breaking rules but exercising little known and extremely complicated clauses within those rules need to be able to exercise that ability, which for the most part can't be done by the human body/mind alone.

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Re: Mage: the Ascension Redux

Postby zenten » Fri Feb 22, 2008 4:41 pm UTC

FACM wrote:I've not read Ascension in a while, so this might not be right, but I thought that the Avatar was the force actually doing magic/influencing reality, and that Paradigm was less of what you could/couldn't do and more of what you could/couldn't call a coincidence. Spheres and Arete are the limiting factors of what you are actually capable of doing with magic.


No, what you can or cannot call a coincidence is based on the Consensus, not Paradigm (White Wolf likes capitalized words). Paradigm is meant to largely shape what you can do, with some writers also saying it should limit (and others saying it shouldn't).

FACM wrote:EX: I use flasks full of liquid as a focus, as I'm an alchemist. Throwing one that bursts into a fireball is coincidental, as there are plenty of chemicals that combust when enough kinetic energy, or exposure to oxygen, etc, and that flask was one of those. This is coincidental, as it falls into the laws of the world, even though carrying around several dozen bottles of odd chemicals is fairly inconvenient in many situations.

EX2: I use coins and symbols as a focus, because it's what I do. I trace a certain symbol in the air, and throw a marked coin to target where the fireball summoned by my symbol will hit. This is vulgar, as the consensus doesn't believe that ritual works.


For your first example, it depends, the rules are vague on that being vulgar or coincidental. For the second, it depends on the circumstances. By the book (based on examples given) you could blame the explosion on a "gas main" being underneath, and it ruptured and exploded. I don't tend to like these mind you, and what I wrote is a deliberate attempt to take the game away from some of the writers' visions.

FACM wrote:Paradigm is fluff/flavor with a small connection to the actual game magic system. I think you're trying to blend these together a little more than they were meant to be.


May be, but I am blending them more to my liking, and as long as I can find other people to at least play with me (or use it for their own games) who do like it, where's the harm?

FACM wrote:Final aside: Force of Will casting is usually a last-resort, when magical tools aren't available. This is available to everyone in Ascension except for Technocrats, whose personal paradigm requires them to have their tools. Everyone that can accept their abilities break the rules can, with effort, get away with just willing the rules to be broken. Those who aren't breaking rules but exercising little known and extremely complicated clauses within those rules need to be able to exercise that ability, which for the most part can't be done by the human body/mind alone.


But by the book all magic is "Willworking". After all, your Arete is capped at your Willpower. That was more of a 1st ed thing though, and had been kind of downplayed by revised. Either way, I'm also not to hot on it for a game about paradigm (but it would be cool for a game that's a different take on Awakening).


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