A Look At The Crunch Of Mage The Ascension
The last of the three “main” World of Darkness games, Mage the Ascension joins its fellows Vampire the Masquerade and Werewolf the Apocalypse to complete this trinity of modern Gothic horror games by White Wolf Publishing. While Vampire focuses heavily on the social elements of the game and Werewolf is nothing else if not physical focused, Mage the Ascension is a game of awareness, the potential for enlightenment, conspiracy, and the consequences of a materialistic focused society. In short, it is a game that focuses heavily on the intellectual. Many have believed this to be an intentional decision on the part of the creator, as the attributes of every character in the game are divided into three categories; physical, mental, and social.
When creating a character for Mage the Ascension, players select one of the ten Traditions, or orders of magi. Well, to be fair, there are actually only nine orders, but there is an unofficial tenth. Called the Hollow Ones, they have always been my favorite to play. Rather than belonging to an Order, they are a loosely, if at all, unified group of mages that share only one thing in common – that being that they do not belong to one of the nine Traditions.
Now, as you can imagine, in a game about wizards, magic plays a crucial role. Well, you would be right. Rather than have a long list of spells for players to chose from like many other games, Mage the Ascension utilizes an improvisational magic system based around various spheres of influence. These include Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Mind, Matter, Prime, Spirit, Time, and a rumored tenth sphere that the final book of the series, Ascension, revealed to be the sphere of Ascension. These spheres can be use on their own or combined with others to create almost any effect that a player might want. The only limits to this are an individual’s skill with the sphere in question, how much power they are willing to put into it, and how much Paradox they are willing to accept.
Speaking of Paradox, that is one of the greatest dangers of magic. Paradox is the world saying “no” to whatever changes your mage is trying to make to reality. The more people around you who are not awakened create more Paradox. The more obvious your magic is, the more Paradox you acquire. There are many other factors in play as well, but these are the strongest sources of Paradox. The more Paradox a mage acquires, the less able that mage is to hold Quintessence, the very essence of magic. Also, the greater the risk that the mage’s magic will backfire upon them and cause something terrible to happen. The more Paradox, the greater the risk and the greater the backlash.
Magic is both powerful and wonderful, and the mages of Mage the Ascension are more aware of that than most. The world itself seems to reject them, despite their uncontested mastery over it. The game is tricky to run and to play, but well worth the experience. While not my favorite of the World of Darkness games, it is one of the most intriguing.
Image Credit: White Wolf Publishing