Mage: the Ascension is one of the myriad of games by White Wolf Game Studios to be set in the gothic punk World of Darkness. In early 2000, a revised edition of Mage was released that included some changes to the metaplot that some gamers didn't like.

What is Mage about?

In second edition, Mage was officially centered around the Ascension War, the battle to control all reality. The major players in this war were:

  • The Traditions: our heroes, who fight to make the world a place that supports personal exploration, liberation, and magic.
  • The Technocracy: our main villains, who work keep humanity safe from harm and lead them to enlightenment en masse, eventually.
  • The Nephandi: our other villains, who are ultimately evil diabolists who work to make humanity Fall.

In revised edition, the Ascension War has ended. Humanity has given up on their dreams, and mass ascension is probably no longer possible. In other words, nobody won. In addition, consentual reality has become stricter as people lose their ability to believe in anything. Finally, all the most powerful mages on Earth have been cast into the umbra, making communication all but impossible. Revised edition Mage centers around the idea of personal enlightenment and trying to provide wonder to a jaded world.

What is magic?

In second edition, the magic that mages practice is spelled magick, to show that it is different from the magic practiced by vampires and sorcerers.

In revised edition, this distinction is discarded.

In general, Mage considers magic to be the ability to alter reality through pure will (See also: the law of contigation and the law of effect). The method by which this is done is moot. Science is just another type of magic, really (not that any real Scientist would agree to this).

Actually using magic requires that a mage work through their personal paradigm, that is, how the character thinks magic is supposed to work. One character might use arcane mystical formulae that are hundreds of years old while another carves Nordic runes into a piece of wood, and another charges up his Super Nutrino Blaster (patent pending). Because of this, not every mage can do everything magically.

In game mechanics, magic is divided into Nine Spheres: Correspondence, Entropy (fate and death), Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Prime (meta-magic), Spirit and Time, each of which has 5 levels of effect. Players can make up any effect that fits within their current sphere levels and their paradigm.

Magic that breaks the Rules of Consentual Reality (i.e. doesn't make rational sense) tends to draw down paradox, the Mage term for magical backlash.

How do mages fit into the World of Darkness?

Mages are often cast as the champions of humanity. They're not immortal (although powerful Life magic can render them very long-lived) or super strong, or anything. They're just people who can rewrite reality at the base level.

Mages hate vampires, and vice versa, because Vampires feed on and corrupt innocent humans. The Enlightenment-era precursor to The Technocracy was formed, in part, to combat vampires.

Mages usually don't get along with werewolves, because they tend to fight over natural power spots, or nodes. Mages say werewolves are notoriously cranky, and werewolves don't buy into the "reality is mutable" argument espouced by so many mages.

Mages tend to leave wraiths alone. The politics of the angsty dead usually don't mean much to the living. Besides, people who muck about with the dead tend to get haunted.

Mystical mages usually get along well enough with changelings and other faeries, but scientific ones can't stand the little buggers.

Mages probably could get along with hunters, but hunters tend to be a pretty paranoid bunch, not prone to making alliances with outsiders. Still, a mage that forgets about the greater good of humanity might find themselves on the receiving end of one of these fanatics.

Mages would get along with mummies, if they ran across them. Mummies tend to keep to the Middle East, so mages outside that area probably won't have much truck with them.

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