From WoD Gotham
It’s True MagicK! Not Sphere Magic!
So What Did Happen To That K? And Why Should You Care?Mage: the Ascension was designed to be, is preserved. In our opinion, revised edition changed that essence fundamentally. It brought about a setting in which magic was literally no longer magick and meshed what used to be optional systems in with what was a basic principle of the game and made it much less creative than it had been in the past. It also further codified the system with all these extraneous options to further establish a market place for additional sourcebooks and to force feed the publisher’s metaplot on their customer base – essentially in a blatant effort to sell more books. Now that publisher’s metaplot has long since been outdated and what’s left is a game with a lot of extra crap that just muddies the waters in what originally was a very simple and elegant concept.
So we say the hell with all that and we’re going to get back to basics.
What is True Magick?
Well then what is magick? For those of you who have never looked at earlier editions of Mage or perhaps have and want a bit of reminding – here is the down and dirty…
Most mages agree that somewhere back in the dawn of existence before there were multiverses or universes or anything else at all there was one primordial thing. The nature of the thing is, well a debate among mages, but essentially it’s just one fundamental cosmic force called Prime. This force spawned a race of beings of some type called the Pure Ones. The Pure Ones are said to have had much wisdom and knowledge as they were so close to the original Prime. However, for some reason these Pure Ones were torn asunder and flung all over existence and for lack of a better term can be equated as something similar to a soul. These “shards” of the Pure Ones attach to living beings and become embedded in them and are Avatars. These splintered shards of the Pure Ones have very little wisdom left of the original beings, but they do remember that reality is not what just our human senses and intellect can perceive and understand, it is malleable and can be altered.
Fundamentally, Awakening is the event by which a character gains the extraordinary ability to see reality for what really is. To understand that by way of connecting with one’s Avatar, reality is beyond human understanding and perception – there is just more to it. The nature of the connection the Avatar and the mage share is his Essence – it affects the way the two communicate and therefore guides the mage as he learns and affects his life choices and even his personality. True Magick is the ability to take what one understands reality to be and actually change the very rules governing that reality. The Belief of a mage is the set of principles and codes a mage uses to define their rules of reality. The method by which a mage affects change on reality to conform to his beliefs is his Paradigm – or style. The flavor that Paradigm has is his Resonance. How malleable a mage thinks reality to be is their level of understanding or their Arete Rating – it’s how much a mage can bend reality to make it conform to his Belief. The different aspects of reality one can change are Spheres. The level of a Sphere indicates how much of that aspect of reality a mage can sense and manipulate. Coincidental magick is a type of True Magick that masquerades as a plausible (yet possibly unlikely) event based on the rules of perceived reality as a whole – it is a possible event in the reality of a given population or a consensus (aka consensual reality). Vulgar magick is a type of True Magick that defies the rules of perceived reality. Paradox is the force that is unleashed by perceived reality that pitches a fit when a mage defies its rules and tries to enforce his own reality on a given shared or consensual reality. It seeks to correct reality back to the consensus and marks the offending mage for making it have to do so.
Why Is That So Special You K Lovers?! It’s Still Altering Reality in Revised!
Um…well…to put it in rather rude and plain terms for everyone…
It’s special because no other creature in the World Of Darkness is able to actually change reality at it’s very core so that it may actually rewrite its rules. That’s exactly what True Magick does.
Vampires exist within reality. Sure they have special powers, but those powers are part of reality. They can in theory, be changed by the mage. Actually a mage can, given the knowledge and so on and so forth, actually re-write how a Vampire works in reality. This holds true for Garou, hedge wizards, and every other damned thing in the oWoD. As much as other players in other venues don’t like to admit this, it’s the basic idea behind Mage. It’s the reason why True Magick is special and why it had a K to begin with.
Then revised came out and decided that it should look more like hedge wizardry. By pushing it in that direction, the publisher created a convoluted idea of Mage, but they were able to publish loads of books with talismans and crazy rotes. The game became less about creativity and story and more about dependency on source material and the metaplot.
Ugh! But Revised Is Balanced!
No…it’s really not - especially not if you intend to crossover.
Mage revised watered down magic an awful lot and still provided a means by which others could resist mage magic (note the little c) very easily, making it impotent. At the basic level, any other creature could resist magic with a simple Willpower roll if they were “aware” of the effect and can soak normally. In most cases, STs would need to allow some sort of chance at resisting for other venues even if Awareness is not one of the allowed Talents. Why? Because it’s good form to allow players to have the fate of their characters in their own hands – call it the oWoD version of a saving throw! For Sorcerers and Psychics, well they have Awareness so they should be able to roll Willpower regardless, right?
Well let’s take a look at that. It takes how many freebies and experience points and work to raise Arete? How much does it take to raise Willpower? Hmmm…a slight difference in cost, no?
What is the average pool for Arete for starting characters in WoDG? What is the average Willpower for starting characters in WoDG? Right off there’s a terrible imbalance. A mage will start with only 2 Arete max in WoDG. Average starting WP in any of the supernatural venues is 6. Hrmmmm…2 dice vs 6? Does anyone see a problem there?
For effects that do direct damage, everyone (including Sleepers) can soak (unless it’s Aggravated Damage and in some cases Lethal Damage). All venues use stamina as a basis for that roll and still there are supernatural powers that enhance soak pools. Again, buying an Attribute is significantly cheaper than purchasing Arete. Hell, in some instances armor might add to the soak pool of a magical effect therefore even a Sleeper might be able to modify their soak pool. And add to that that to do either of those two things in revised is difficulty 6!
Then look at mage countermagic in revised and try to reconcile that a mage’s SPECIFIC ability to countermagic is at a HIGHER difficulty (diff 8) than a non-mage’s resistance (diff 6 on WP or Soak roll). Mathematically it makes more sense for even mages not to use their own inherent countermagic and just go with the static version of resisting. That’s so broken, that it boggles the mind where to even begin.
Add to all this that in Mage revised, players need to divide their successes amongst duration, effect potency, subtlety, range, etc. This means that their actual damage or potency is so negligible that a pitiful 1 or 2 successes on a Willpower or soak roll will cancel out their mighty magic (note the lack of k again) damage in many cases.
After all that consider what these supposedly potent will-workers are paying a butt-load not only for their Arete, but also for their Sphere levels in XP. Contrast that with the cost of Gnosis and Werewolf Gifts. Then also contrast that with the cost of Vampire Disciplines and Thaumaturgical Paths and Rituals. The conclusion is that the venue that was intended to be all about magic, sucks at progressing at it compared to the other venues that have claws and fangs and no Paradox to contend with and are not as frail and flipping mortals.
So REALLY consider the fact that mages are as vulnerable to attack as a Sleeper is and they have Paradox on their back as well so they have that added factor to temper their art, which they pay a butt load of experience for and can barely manifest it after assigning their successes and soon one understands why magic in revised is not so special after all.
Wait! I Heard That Older Versions Were Way Whacked!
No. They really weren’t. Well ok…maybe 1st was a little out there with the damage multipliers in some cases, but it did follow one really nice and sensible principle. The damage a mage could do was based on their level of understanding of that Sphere, not just his Arete.
We’ll be going back to some of those earlier principles and fashioning our own in a sort of blended version of Mage that preserves the essence of the game. It will be a game about power and temperance of that power with the threat of hubris or worse always looming over the mage. It will facilitate crossover while also giving other venues their fair “saving throw”.
In the end, we hope to have a system that works well for our crossover needs and respects each venues’ strengths and weaknesses. So please take the time to review the systems and the modifications here in WoDG and become familiar with them as you create your character and as it advances.