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West's Random Thoughts

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  1. #1
    West's Avatar

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    I <3 Rules

    In the past few days, I've had several players ask questions along the lines of "What sort of Storyteller are you?"

    I'm going to answer that here, since it pertains to the site as a whole (since I'm the admin), and not just the Mage venue.

    I'm a rules guy.

    Oh god, I said it; I admit it. But wait! There's more.

    To me, rules define the framework in which we let our imaginations roam. They exist to bring guidelines, boundaries, and parity to the setting and the characters. I've gone into this in this post, but by no means do I mean to discourage creativity.

    I love Stories -- the drama, the tragedy, the triumph, all of it. They're the reason we're here... not to argue about rules or even more vague guidelines. I know that seems contradictory, for someone who's just said they're a rules-first person; however, it's the rules & system which define the 'fourth wall' of what can be done.

    Every Storyteller can modify a roll; or even waive the need for one. I'm confident in saying that our STs all have the interest of the Stories at heart, and of the characters. Likewise, every ST can make a player 'prove their concept' by asking for a roll. As we also tread the fine line of crossover, so must we have a 'final' authority. In this way, the rules define what opinions sometimes cannot, and provide a 'STOP' sign. When all of it's said and done, we can all curse the White Wolf writers, and still be friends with one another

    Well, except for when you all curse me, but that's fine. I did my stint in the Army and understand the whole 'mutual enemy' thing

    Anyway, I hope that gives some insight as to why 'the rules' are important here, and that we aren't discouraging creativity. If you want to do a backflip, slice a guy in half, and throw a spell in one Turn because it's uber cool, you can. You just need to have Parkour 5, and Adamantine Hand: Star ^^ If you want to do something not covered by the rules, we will figure it out. Promise.
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  2. #2
    West's Avatar

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    Mage: Reality Is The Only Word


    "Reality is the only word in the language that should always be used in quotes." - Amityville 3D


    I had a conversation the other day about Mage, and one of the things that came up is that a lot of people like the idea of the game, but are uncertain how to play it. If that's you, read on. If it's not, skip This is my personal opinion on the game, and has nothing to do with the Mage Storytellers or site administration Hopefully someone might find it useful.

    Quote Originally posted by MtA, p.14:
    Wizards present a different kind of allure: the desire for power tempered with wisdom. Demons and monsters have powers, but great limitations and curses, too. Mages have the power of knowing when and how to use power. While this can be a limitation, it is a self-imposed one, betokening a discipline rare in this world.

    Mage: The Awakening is game about these kinds of mages, and the trials and temptations they face on the path of discipline and enlightenment. The allure of power constantly threatens to draw them from the path, away from wisdom. A mage is someone who has Awakened, whose soul has been freed of an ancient curse afflicting mortals. Most people’s souls are asleep, unaware of the raw power they can tap to remake their world. The truth has been hidden from them many lifetimes ago; all they know is a lie. Mages can see through the lie and enact humanity’s birthright: Magic.
    One of the things that I tell people when they ask about Vampire is to "Think like an immortal". It requires a drastic shift in thinking, but is integral to the character.

    Mage is similar.

    Read the excerpt above... then read it again

    Play the game as if reality is a Lie.

    Your Mage knows this. This isn't a question or conflict for them. The question and conflict of Mage is how to use power. Not "Can I" or "How Do I", but "Should I".

    The essential conflict of every game is easily defined -- all you have to do is to look at what I blanket label the Zen trait: Morality for vanilla Mortals, Wisdom for Mages. The price of power: how will it affect your character. It's not whether you'll use power, but how, and how it changes you.
    - This isn't just about good and evil. A mage can, for all the right reasons, use magic to stop a man from beating his children. This is still an act of Hubris (Threshold 6).
    - Do you have the right? How does it affect you?

    Reality is a Lie
    Everything your Mage sees can be altered, or undone, or new reality created. This is the Matrix: a prison for the mind and soul. You are Neo (or Trinity). You know it's all bullshit.

    You Can Alter The Lie
    It doesn't have to rain. Your coffee doesn't have to get cold. You don't even need to do laundry. Think about it. Reality is your fantasy: it responds to your whim. Have a favorite shirt that's blue and wished it were green? Tires on your car getting worn? Wait -- why do you have a car? Really... why? You don't have to exercise. Every meal can taste like the finest cuisine. That promotion at work is only a spell away. You can be beautiful. Every daydream you've had can be made.

    Lie To Me... But Do It With Sincerity
    Some of you just read that "every daydream" line and thought "nuh-uh... you can't change the past, or cast lasting spells on living entities, or..." Sure you can. Some day. When you take your rightful place among the Archmasters. The only limits on your power are the ones you place on yourself.

    Think about the Matrix movie when you're in doubt. The Matrix is The Lie -- the world that most people see. The machines and humans that jack in are Mages, Banishers, Seers, etc. Did Morpheus have a 9-5 job in the Matrix? Hell no. His job was being captain of the Nebuchadnezzer. Was Trinity deathly afraid of some cop seeing her jump sixty feet? Hell no.

    Ultimately, this isn't a game about discovering magic.

    It's a game about using magic.

  3. #3
    West's Avatar

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    Mage: The Orders


    More thoughts I'd like to share, on my personal views/interpretations of Mage. I briefly talked about these things in chat, and have seen them passed on here and there, but thought I'd collate them.


    The Pentacle
    The Pentacle makes up the five Orders of the Awakened -- arising from the Diamond's union with the Free Council. It's important to note that there are beliefs and heresies that are native to each, and these are the things which should determine your character's membership.

    A combat-intensive character does not have to be an Arrow. A scholar does not have to be a Mystagogue. Do not confuse the archetype with the role or the Order.


    The Diamond
    The analogy I put forward in chat that got traction is to look at the Diamond like a big, fucked up religion. It's a church, with a belief system, that everyone in the Diamond espouses. Understand that. You don't walk into a church and spout heresies aloud, whether you believe them or not. You do walk into a church and toe the party line.

    To put this into real-world analogs, let's look at the Roman Catholic Church:

    The Adamantine Arrow are the Swiss Guard.
    Aside from their militant function (to protect the church and prosecute her enemies), they are the shining, glorious public face of the church. Splendorous, and magnificent, they espouse Honor to give an honorable face to their church. They should be feared, but most importantly, they should be admired. It is because of this role, that base acts, most notably cowardice, cannot be tolerated. If a mage cannot publicly adhere to this code of conduct, expulsion protects the integrity of the whole.
    The Adamantine Arrow whitewash the noble facade.


    The Guardians of the Veil
    These don't have a clear analog because they're closer to a faction or archprelacy. Opus Dei. Sedes Sacrorum. Ordo Verbi Dei. If the glorious battles of the Crusades were fought by knights, then all the dirty work was done by inquisitors. The Guardians exist solely to do what the other branches of the church (aside from perhaps the Mysterium) cannot, without impugning their own functions. Deeper than that, they are the caretakers of the two underlying beliefs of the church: the Abyss is Bad, and Someone Is Coming. Everything that Guardians do, serve these two holy mandates. It is because they are the caretakers of these beliefs, that they are tolerated, and allowed, to cross boundaries.
    The Guardians are the religion's Most Devout that will do ​anything.


    The Mysterium are the Vatican Archives.
    True power is information, and secrets. Whether those secrets are who blackmailed their way to Hierarch, or an Artificact that needs procuring before Bad Guys do, the Mysterium is in the business of information -- which they jealously guard, because the wrong secrets in the wrong hands are disastrous. Payment for information is both an extension of trust and more leverage. Information is how you keep from repeating the same mistakes, and if knowledge is power, then giving it away for free is the ultimate crime.
    The Mysterium enforce the keyholder paradigm.


    The Silver Ladder are the ordained priesthood.
    Everyone sees Thearchs as lawyers and politicians -- but their true function is to make sure that the church is eating, sleeping, and shitting the Silver Dream. Pass out communion. Pound the tenets into peoples heads. How do they do this? By enforcing the ruling and judging processes. Every time their methodology is followed, it's reinforcement of the belief state. It is also their job to convert the unbelievers (and doubters).
    The Silver Ladder tend to the flock.


    Where does that leave...

    The Free Council are all the other churches.
    Being a jerk is bad. Being nice is good. There are moral and ethical truths that the Libertines agree with The Big Fucked Up Church on, but they do not subscribe to their rabid beliefs. Might is not Right. Humanity needs to be given a chance, rather than kept in the dark and spoon fed.

    What does this mean?

    Fundamentally, the Diamond is a keyholder religion. Everything that they do, from the hoarding of rotes to the layers of secrets within their own beliefs, is designed to forward their belief: supernal power is the be-all, end-all. The Free Council disagrees, but, finds them the lesser of evils compared to the Banishers and Seers.

    It also probably means your character is in the wrong Order.

    Do not look at what an Order does. Look at what an Order believes. If your'e playing a morally ambiguous combat monkey, you probably should be a Mystagogue or Guardian rather than an Arrow. And so on. But most importantly? If you don't believe what the Diamond Church believes, you should be a Libertine or Apostate (or Independent). If you're a Diamond mage who thinks Duel Arcanes are silly, you're in the wrong Order. This is why a true representation of the Pentacle should put the Free Council at equal, or greater to, the numbers of the Diamond.

    The Diamond needed the Free Council because they're a dying religion.

    I see players, and characters, struggling (whether they realize it or not) because they picked the wrong Order -- because they picked their Order based on the pictures in the book. Maybe not, but close enough. Orders will represent themselves as their public functions, but will vet candidates for their belief states before allowing membership.

    Anywho, hopefully, this gives a different, more clear, outlook on the Pentacle, and might help understand the Orders and how to choose the proper one​.

    TL;DR

    Orders aren't about what you do, they're about what you believe.
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  4. #4
    West's Avatar

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    Your Venue & You

    I recently had the wiki calculate character ages (on site) to figure out retired avatar info. But it also got me thinking. If your character is six months old, she's older than 1 out of 4 PCs. When you hit the year mark? Every other PC is newer.

    So let's talk about Taking Ownership.

    Most of you depend on your loving, caring ST staff to provide everything. And that's okay. Sit, have something to eat. But when it comes time for that second helping? It's probably time to help yourself. In a recent opinion poll, I saw some people comment about wishing their factions were emphasized more. I ask you this:

    Emphasized by who?

    In a game like this, players are the bulk of interaction. We can provide Things To Do, and a Framework, but everything gets a lot more fun when you're a part of that framework. This is also where those numbers above come in. You may not realize it, but a quarter, or a half of the venue might be looking at your character as an established leader type. Why? Because they've Been Around A While.

    Think about it.

    Want some detail of your Court/Covenant/Order emphasized? Do it yourself. Push it on the other characters. I promise, it'll be fun, and everyone will benefit. Step up and grab a spoon. Heap some goodness on the newbies. Or other oldies.

    You're waiting on us? We're waiting on you
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  5. #5
    West's Avatar

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    Your Very First Post

    This isn't directed at anyone in particular. Every now and then, I blather about a random topic -- usually one that has coalesced from watching hundreds of characters come and go over the years.

    So, let's talk about Your Very First Post. You've run the gauntlet; learned house rules, filled out forms, argued discussed things with your Storyteller until ding Achievement Unlocked: Character Approved. You're excited. You're ready to jump in. Ready to show the world what you've created, who your toon is. Ready to make a splash.

    Maybe your Mage could fly into a Scene. Or your Changeling could run into a Scene being chased by (imaginary) Privateers. Or your Vampire could Cloak themselves and SUDDENLY APPEAR. Or maybe you could tail someone or even pick their pocket. That's all good RP fodder, right? That's fun, witty, and shakes things up, right?

    No. Just... No. Stop right there. Please.

    Because here's what's going to happen. You're going to provoke an IC response that might get your shiny new toon thugged, imprisoned, or killed. Or just flat out ignored. Indefinitely. You're going to provoke an OOC response that you're a special snowflake attention whore. And if that doesn't just put everyone right off, you'll spend a while overcoming those initial bad impressions.

    At the end of the day, we've all got amazing powers. Or Skills. That's not going to impress anyone. What might impress people is a smooth, intelligent entry.

    Pick up the phone. Call your Priscus, or Order head, or whatever. Join a Scene (don't start a new one) and just introduce yourself. Dazzle your fellow players with some good conversation. I promise, a good convo is a heck of a lot more interesting than stirring shit just for the sake of calling attention to yourself. You think anyone's going to invite you to plot or other socials if the first impression you make is that you can't behave?

    Want love and respect? Show some first.

    There will be plenty of time for shit stirring and dazzling later. Promise
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

  6. #6
    West's Avatar

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    Creating A Character

    Let's start by saying some of this is going to sound like condescending bullshit. It's not. It's what I've learned from my own mistakes and watching hundreds of characters pass through here. I've seen a lot of dropped characters. Lots. Either players get bored with them, they've written themselves into a corner, or they see a new shiny they want to tinker with in chargen again.

    So let me start with: Most characters fail at character creation, not in play.

    Who, Not What
    I can't tell you how many characters I've seen 'built' around a mechanic. I really can't. The percentage would probably be totally wack. Maybe it's a neat sounding Kith, or Gangrel Claws, or a Legacy. There's nothing wrong with Having A Plan. Where the problem comes in is when that's the Whole Reason for the character. When you have a character thats a What (Telluric, Perfected Adept, etc) and not a Who, you're going to have massive issues role-playing them. If you've put more thought into What your character is than Who they are, there's going to be a void when it comes to motivation. Which presidential candidate would your character vote for? What are their views on gun control? Legalizing drugs? If you can cite your character's powers quicker than you can answer those? You've got a What and not a Who. Again, I'm not saying having a favored mechanic is Bad And Wrong, I'm saying it shouldn't be the character's primary reason for existence. And the thing is? You'll use that mechanic maybe 3 times year. Maybe. You'll be role-playing the entire rest of the time.

    Solution: Every character was a person first. So how does this Thing you want them to have affect that? Want Combat Marksmanship 5? Great. Does having that mean the character is hyper-competitive? Does it mean they like to mentor fledgling shooters? Does it mean they got it in the military and have demons?

    A Merit Isn't A Goal
    Sometimes I ask people what their character goals are. Sometimes I get good answers. Sometimes I get answers like: To Get Rich, To Be Influential, To Master [Fighting Style], etc. Those aren't goals. Those are things you buy with XP. And most likely? They're things you'll have bought in your first few months. Then what? You bought Resources 5, you're rich. Life's Work: Done. But not really. Buy Merits and what-not to further a goal, don't make them the be-all end-all goal.

    Solution: Figure out what comes after you get the Thing. So you Mastered an Arcana. Ready to go buck-wild on Banishers? Want to start policing the Twilight? Understand that line items are tools and you need to figure out what you're building or fixing with those tools.

    A Schtick Isn't A Character
    We've all seen it. That character that talks funny. That character that has some ridiculously convoluted backstory. Shit that is basically shoe-horned in for attention-seeking. It's dumb. Nobody gives a shit, and it's probably just going to annoy all those people that don't give a shit. Now, again, there's nothing wrong if you have unique elements to your character -- as long as they aren't the sum total of your character. It's an easy Yes/No check. Here's how. Describe your character in, say, 10 words or less. If your 'foible' is in that description? You got a schtick.
    - Pandora is a three-legged dwarf who fights crime <--- Fail

    Solution: Use these elements to drive who the character is. Got half your face burned off? Ask Why. Does it make your character obsessed with physical perfection? Or seek a way to regain their former appearance? Awesome. Pass. If you don't have an answer and you really just want people to notice your character? Fail. So either have a Reason, or skip the schtick.


    When You Define What You Can Do, You're Probably Defining What You Won't Do
    NWoD loves a min-maxer. Character creation is set up to award an advantageous array of starting dots. We all know it, we've all been there. But I'm going to tell you something I've learned. When you build your super awesome dice pool for Your Thang, you're going to pull dots from everywhere else. And the thing is? We avoid the things we suck at. We avoid those situations, we avoid those rolls. Which means every dot you put into one thing means there's something you're going to not do. There's nothing wrong with being specialized. It's even super spectacular when you're in a group and everyone has a different niche/focus. Unlike the other things here, this isn't a Bad And Wrong Stop point -- it's just a consideration.
    - Made a great Brawler? Great, can they Run? Can they tell a Lie? Apply First Aid?
    Just food for thought. There's a good chance when you Max, you're going to Min yourself out of a lot of fun and opportunities.

    Solution: Crew up. Or have a set of secondary disciplines. Or realize that there's probably already an older toon that can do what you want to do, and better. Just understand from the beginning that you're imposing limitations on yourself, and how you're going to deal with those limitations.


    What does all of this mean? It means that 99% of your play here is going to be talking to other toons. Even in plots. It's not going to be throwing that mad dice pool, or regaling people over and over about how you were kidnapped by aliens and raised by wolves, or describing how your breath stinks like mildew on vomit, or bragging about how many dots you have in [merit/power/etc].

    The most fun you'll have here, the threads that you'll race to see if they've updated, are just good conversations.

    And it usually takes a good character concept, a Who and not a What, to have a good conversation.
    Don't hate the player, hate the game.
    The Zeroth Law & the Burden of InteractionThe Devil is in the DotsGreat ExpectationsPlaying MagePlayer Run Plots
    If you have a question about your character, please post it on your character sheet

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