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 Mage the Ascension

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yanamari

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PostSubject: Mage the Ascension   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:36 pm

Mage for Dummies, Part One
A beginner's guide to Mage: The Ascension.

Wow! Cool game! Now how do we play it?
What the hell is Mage?
Mage: The Ascension is a Storytelling game of modern fantasy; often described as the Hero’s Journey, as per the scholarly Joseph Campbell. Mage mixes metaphysics and folklore, belief and understanding, exploration and confirmation, adventure and the road to power, with the notion that with powers such as those a Mage has the ability to command comes tremendous responsibility. You, as a Mage, have the power to change the world, the universe, and reality itself.
Now: What are you going to do about it?
Mage is a game of personal exploration. To come to terms with one’s capabilities, to learn to control and contain one’s powers, and to try and make a difference in the World of Darkness in which the game is set; a world inhabited by countless horrors and monsters; a world where the struggle for survival is more than just semantics and something that happens to other people; it is very real. As a Mage, your role is to define and shape your own reality. You forge your own destiny through your actions; a destiny which not only encompass yourself, but also those around you.
To Define Mage
The principle behind Mage is that every (or most) sentient being possess an Avatar; a genial, quasi-astral force that guides us in what we do. This Avatar is supposedly a fragment of our souls that is the legacy of the Pure Ones - the primordial beings referred to as the original beings, celestial of the Tellurian (the whole of reality).
The Avatar is the “source” of a Mage’s magic. When it awakens, so do you. This Awakening can be a dreadful shock, or an elevation into utopia. Suddenly you understand it. Suddenly you see the world as it is. Well, almost, anyway. Hard training and practice will make you understand it all. As with everything else, nothing worth having is free, but suffice to say the world as you knew it will never, ever be the same again.
The Avatar lets the Mage tap into its dynamic power; the Mage’s OWN power and legacy to change the Tapestry of which all things are woven. With this ability, the Mage can comprehend the universe as it really is; she can see the threads in the Tapestry, and they are changeable and dynamic, pulsating with primal forces just waiting to be tapped into and manipulated… and who can resist?
All right, so they’re wizards, huh? What’s so special about that?
The Magi are Awakened beings, which is to say, those who are not Magi are unawakened; often referred to as Sleepers by the Awakened Magi or the Masses by Technomancers. On the other hand, that is not to imply that Sleepers are obsolete in a world built the everlasting struggle between change and stasis. In fact, in Mage it is the Sleepers’ (and everyone else, for that matter) shared belief in reality that defines it.
The actuality of Mage: The Ascension is based on the notion that belief is power, and that faith forms reality. If you believe in something strong enough, it may become real. This is also the basis behind the Magic-system in Mage.
Reality is a constantly changing progress that keeps evolving and evolving, taking shape around its inhabitants though their collective understanding of it. This is called a Consensual Paradigm. A paradigm is, quite simply, an example pattern or a way to describe what we perceive. In Mage: The Ascension, and in philosophical science in general, the paradigm defines reality.
The paradigm in Mage: The Ascension says that belief shapes the world. Within this paradigm; in this belief in reality; in this pattern, the paradigm defines itself. Seeing is believing they say, and in Mage what you believe is what you get.
Confused yet?
Primarily speaking, Mage is about believing in something so hard that it becomes real. Magical Effects can be fireballs being hurled down the street, or a cyborg created in a scientist’s lab. Mage: The Ascension differs from the other Storyteller games in how Magi have the direct ability to influence the very fabric of reality as we (or the denizens of the World of Darkness) perceive it. However, you cannot really change reality and not expect a consequence; this is self-evident. This will be discussed below.

What do we need to know?
What do you need to know to run/play Mage? If it is only half as complicated as the impressions given here indicates it would mean that one would need a Ph.D. in Philosophical Science to be able to comprehend. Therefore, an effort will be made to try to make this as basic and comprehensible as possible, or at least, make it as apparent and clear as is achievable.
Magic
The first thing that is relevant to the Magic system of Mage is how it differs from other games:
Using magic in Mage is done by utilizing one or more of the systems’ Spheres of Magic to perform an Effect. The Effect must be conceivable and plausible, and must be restricted by the Mage’s level of understanding of the sphere (as usual in Storyteller games, indicated by dots from zero to five), and the Mage’s Awakened understanding of reality, called Arete, which is basically ones enlightenment in regards to the true workings of the universal forces around the Mage, and the very essence of the universe itself.
The roll is based on how many dots of Arete the character has. This, as has been noted, is the Mage’s magical enlightenment. Arete ranges from dots one through ten: one being a newly initiated adept with basic understanding of the principles, ten being the nigh-unachievable near-godlike understanding of the workings of the universe.
The nine Spheres of Magic, as defined by the Order of Hermes, are as follows:

·Correspondence: Basically the understanding of spatial relativity, locations, and interrelation between objects

·Entropy: The understanding of probability energies, anachronism, array, order and chaos.

·Forces: The understanding of the elements; water, fire, air, earth, and of the elemental forces; sound, light, heat, etc. (and their negative counterparts).

·Life: The understanding of living energies and living patterns

·Matter: The understanding of all non-living patterns

·Mind: The understanding of the subconscious, the mental, and the abstract

·Prime: The understanding of Quintessence (the stuff Magic draws from, the fifth element) and reality Patterns. With Prime, the mage can create out of nothingness by re-weaving the pattern of reality; she creates something by shifting the flow of Quintessence from one tangent to another.

·Spirit: The understanding of the otherworldly and the mystical the dealings with spirits and the workings of the transcendental reality.

·Time: The understanding of continuance, cadence, measurement and regulation.

Rumors have it that there is a tenth sphere, but no one seems to know in particular what this is; though most Magical fractions have their theories.

All right. So how do we utilize these Spheres to perform magic?
M agi generally need some sort of handle to work their Magic. Some form of handle, channel, agency, medium, whatever, to perform their Magical Effects is normally required for a beginning Mage. This channel is, in game terms, called a Focus. Foci are terribly important, and need to be discussed in detail.
What is a focus?
A focus is the trigger for the Mage’s belief in what she does. The use of a Focus is, in fact, how she makes Magic happen… at least in her mind.
Classical foci are magical formulas and rituals in which the Mage feverishly wave her arms in complex patterns, invoke spirits with incantations, sacrifice offerings, and draw intricate symbols. This may not sound like a lot of fun, but role-played properly, it can be. Foci can be many things: The use of hallucinogens to gain the ability to view the Spirit world, draw or carve runes in ones appendages to increase their potency, or simply waving a stick around in conjectured or imagined occult patterns. A Focus can be anything, from an arcane formula to a “magic” gauntlet that “can hurl fireballs.”
Foci are important, because they are the physical links to the ability the Mage possesses and the faith she has in that her Magic actually works. The truth is, however, that her magic comes from INSIDE… but that is unimportant at this point.
All beginning Magi believe that their Magic works through some sort of implement, be that a bud of Peyote or a pair of boots. It’s that simple. You can’t cook without a pot or sew without a needle.
Strongly enforcing Foci is a sure way to annoy twinky players, but it must be done. If the Mage can freely go around re-weaving the Tapestry of Reality without having any form of restriction, Bad Shit™ happens.
Huh? Bad Shit™ ? Explain.
Above there was a mention of Consensual Reality Paradigm. This is how the vast majority of the inhabitants of the world perceive it, and, by the metaphysics of Mage, is the way it is.
The collective belief forms a static actuality in which the world customizes itself unto. Most people believe in electricity; hence it works. Most people believe in gravity, hence it works. That is not to say that some people denounce the notion of gravity and therefore don’t have to follow it, because the majority of the human population in the world believes in it, and therefore it exists. If we didn’t, who knows? However, this is perpetually a subject for discussion in Magical congregations; did consensual reality shape basic logic such as mathematics, paradigms, the composition of the atmosphere and gravity, or did the legendary Pure Ones (see Mage: The Ascension) create this when they took flesh?
The vast majority of people believe that technology works, and that is enough to make it an actuality; however, the majority of people disbelieves in Magic, and that is where things get icky.
When a Mage performs an Effect via use of Magic that changes reality too quickly (that is to say, that consensual reality denounces the Effect), the Effect causes reality to snap back at the Mage in an attempt rearrange itself to what is “proper.” This causes a backlash at (most of the time) the Mage who performed the Effect. Most of the time the Mage is “hit” with a punishment to “fit the crime;” which is to say that if the Mage throws a fireball down Wall Street (where consensual reality must be said to be rather strong), he might, for instance, be smacked back so badly that she believes there to be flames all around him for some time after the backlash (this is known as a Quiet, in which the Mage “enters” an alternate reality which only he can see. This is only one example of the phenomenon known as Paradox.
Why?
Interesting question. Reality is, in fact, static.
Though ever-changing, it attempts to stabilize itself to permanent stasis. This static reality manages to keep the world from being a chaotic quandary of confusion and aberration. If people could change the whole of reality at whim, it would cease to exist.
Without gravity or atmosphere we could not live in the world. Without mathematical logistics we could not build houses, farm, or even communicate. This is what a static reality ensures, and this is why it tends to snap back at results that contradict it. This backlash is known as Paradox, and has a nasty habit of giving Magi unpleasant surprises if they fumble their attempts to work Magic, or creates an Effect that is so contradictory to the consensual paradigm that it begs to be noticed. Paradox backlashes most commonly originate through Paradox Spirits which are attracted to ripples in the Tapestry created by Magi and their manipulations of static reality, and which manifest themselves in various ways. One such manifestation is known as Hobgoblins, malignant creatures that only the Mage in question can see, that causes mischief for the duration of the Flaw.
A sure way to be rid of a Paradox flaw is to stop using Magic for a while, but it is no small amount of fun watching players unaware of this fact attempt Magical Effects to shoo them away. This only nourishes them.
But what is consensual and what is not?
Hermetic Magi have divided this into two categories:

·Coincidental Magic: Changing the paradigm to such a degree that it could pass for being a coincidence (Entropy Magic can be very Coincidental by affecting probability to an extent that “luck” falls to the Mage’s benefit).

Coincidental Effects include building a device that can send a bolt of flame out of it, incidentally landing safely while falling off a car in high speed, or just happening to find just the book you were searching for “by coincidence”.

·Vulgar Magic: Contradictory to the paradigm (compare to “impossible”). Vulgar Effects include summoning Dragons, tossing fireballs from nothingness, creating a cyborg or a laser gun (consensual reality is not yet ready for these things; they are still Vulgar), or jumping from ground level to the top of a building.

Differentiating between what is Coincidental and what is Vulgar is often very hard, especially since consensual reality is stronger at some places (generally places like cities), and weaker at others (generally places like deep wilderness).

A good handle to use is that if the reaction from such a Magical Effect would be “That’s impossible!” and IS IN FACT impossible to rationalize, it is, by definition, Vulgar for game purposes. If it is perfectly rational, however, and people can dismiss it as coincident, it is, quite logically, Coincidental.
To understand the difference between the borderline instances is somewhat harder.

But where does coincidental “end” and Vulgar “begin”?
Perhaps the best way to comprehend this is to take a look at the nature of Paradox.

The definitions of what exactly Paradox is have caused many a heated discussion amongst the Order of Hermes and in the conglomerates of the Technocracy. However, the essential principle is quite simple; Magic is, quite frankly, replacing one reality with another. If these two realities are contradictory, the difference becomes a paradox and the reality that is strongest (and bear in mind that the reality in Mage is defined by what the majority believes it is) will prevail. In practical terms, here’s an example:

Sarah’s character Rachel is at a party at her mentor, Christian’s character Edward’s, and decides that she wants to make some party tricks for the others, who are Sleepers. She waves her hands over a tray of seedlings that Edward’s wife Julia is trying to grow, and creates an Effect that allows one flower to mature faster than actual time (Time 3), making it flower in front of people’s eyes. This is a Vulgar Effect (because, well, quite frankly, everyone knows flowers don’t grow that fast), so she will suffer from Paradox. This is because she changed reality in a way that is “illogical” to reason. Flowers don’t grow that fast, everyone knows that. If she had applied some “special, experimental fertilizer that she got off a friend of hers at the biology department at the University”, it could easily have been dismissed as Coincidental magic, part because the guests at a party at Edward Helsing’s have probably had a few drinks, and therefore will more readily accept what they don’t understand (consensual reality is subjective; in other words, the border between what is possible and what is impossible is more fuzzy), part because people believe that stuff like experimental super-fertilizers can actually be real (to a certain degree, of course). The Storyteller determines the difficulty for this Effect as eight, because the difficulty for casting Vulgar magic with witnesses (see below) equals highest Sphere rating +4, and judges this to be a simple feat, requiring Sarah to only roll one success. Sarah rolls her Arete 3, and comes up with a 2, a 7, and an 8, which means Rachel managed to pull off the Effect without a botch. Thus, Rachel only receives one point of Paradox, which Sarah records on her character sheet. If Sarah had rolled a 1, a 7 and a 5, Rachel would have botched the Effect, which means that not only would the Effect have failed (because she didn’t manage the appropriate number of successes, in this case only one), but she would also have gained three points of Paradox; one for automatic Vulgar with witnesses, and two per die rolled by Sarah. Three points of Paradox isn’t usually enough for any manifestation of Paradox; instead, Paradox has a nasty habit of accumulating until the Mage receives a massive Paradox Flaw (Storyteller discretion; the Storyteller might allow the player to “burn” her Paradox dots away on small Flaws instead).
If Sarah had not been allowed to burn away Paradox Rachel had gained throughout the chronicle, her Storyteller might decide that it is time to let Sarah have a smack on the hand, and has designed a Paradox Flaw for her which backlashes with this Vulgar botch. As Sarah turns back to her audience, she notices that they are all plants. In fact, everything about her is plant. They try to communicate with her, but all she hears are smattering noises; she doesn’t understand Plant. Sarah just went into Quiet: a state where her mind does not longer respond to reality around her, but perceives it as something completely different. Quiet is, in all practicality, a form of “limited” insanity, and a quite common Paradox Effect. Paradox Effects will be further discussed.

Therefore, in an attempt to over-simplify Coincidental and Vulgar Magic, we can break them down like this:
·Coincidental Magic: Magic that can easily be dismissed as coincident, or can be “explained” as logical or natural. Bear in mind that causing too many Coincidental Effects in a row will also cause Paradox, because Reality hasn’t got time to readjust itself before another distortion is being induced.
·Vulgar Magic: Magic that cannot be reasoned away as natural or incidental; Magic that obviously is just that; Magic.
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PostSubject: Re: Mage the Ascension   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:37 pm

Mage: The Ascension for Dummies - Part II
Continuing a beginner's guide to the in's and out's of Mage.

Belief, Power and Paradox

Mage offers a panorama of possibilities, endeavors and fantasies. The belief that shapes reality also controls and limits it. Both psychoanalysis and physicists of various degrees offer floods of theoretical possibilities as to what should be determined and defined while regarding and discussing " what is real". Nevertheless, there is no set explanation that can recount for everything needed to know in order to fully understand reality, nor in Mage, where it is essential to master the Arts, so to speak, to manipulate reality itself. Mages inhabit the essence of change, the nature of command and the understanding of the bona fide. What is tangible in regards to the universe’s structure and substance? Is there a number that can define reality like the Iteration X believes? Like the motion picture "p” blatantly speculated in? Needless to say, there are not two mages in the world who share the same understanding of how the world is made up. Belief is a currency, and mages are stinking rich. Think of magic as the possibility to buy everything you want. You wield your credit card to fill in the gaps around you, to correct the flaws in your existence as defined by yourself. You see the universe for what it is, and this understanding � your understanding � makes it real. To you.

It may not be real to everyone, since this understanding is unique and individual in nature, varying from mage to mage. It’s like taste. No one has the same taste. The same way Rachel Black of the Black Cabal may enjoy chicken wings, her partner, Michael Black, may not enjoy it at all. In fact, he may be repulsed by the sheer thought of chicken. In much the same way magic is the truth for one person, yet possibly complete and utter impossibility to another. This is creates Paradox, because of, to put it bluntly, the fact that what is real to some is false to others. It is "does not compute." Two different understandings that contradict each other, one the more powerful, will win. Which one depends on if the will and belief of the mage is stronger than the consensus, as described in Part One. This will also be further examined below. Mages are generally more "open-minded" than Sleepers, though. Mages believe in magic, and most understand the notion of different paradigms.

That is what arete is all about, really. It’s primarily about understanding the workings of the universe; seeing things for what they really are, and being able to comprehend how the universe is "composed". Even though mages’ individual belief in this vary, and they all see things differently there is often a shared understanding. It’s an ability to reason what is happening in one’s own definitions, terms, and justifications. However, not always. If the paradigms contradict each other too radically, as those of a dreadfully stereotypical Verbena blood mage, who cuts herself with a knife to work her magic, and Bob the Technocrat, who has built a device to do exactly the same effect, though on different principles. This is an incongruity in itself. The two lack understanding of the other’s workings, and disbelieve in them. This can cause Paradox, but again, it may not. It heavily depends on the surrounding consensual paradigm. What determines this, then? That is one of the hardest definitions there is in relation to Mage. What determines the consensual paradigm of a location? Generally speaking, ST discretion and straightforward reasoning is the way to go. The Black Forest of Germany being a mythical and "magical" place. It would most definitely support a Traditional, or Mystical, paradigm. NASA or Pentagon, being both rigid, bureaucratic and modern, would certainly support a Technologic paradigm for sure. As stated, this boils down to discretion and reasoning.

Paradox can occur for more reasons than being vulgar. As stated in Part One, Paradox will also affect Coincidental magic should changes in the reality pattern be made (i.e. the mage tries to adjust the existing reality into a new one, speaking broadly) too fast for this to not cause notice. Think of it as sliding into water, as opposed to barge in. If done with ease and care, things may pass unnoticed. If a lot of noise and fuzz is caused, someone, something, is bound to notice. When Paradox is caused, it is really only reality that "heals itself again, though it often causes infections in the wound." Imagine that you have a sore on your finger. It goes all funny, itchy and agonizing if you don’t leave it alone. That’s how Paradox is, too.

All right, this demands further in-depth explanation: Say you hurt your arm, leaving an open wound. This wound will heal, you do know that, and it pretty soon leaves a scab on top. It doesn’t look very nice, and it also itches. Well, imagine now Sarah the Verbena mage being followed by two NWO operatives, who do not intend to invite her to the Prom, so to speak. She runs into an alley, only to find it a one-way street. At the end is a tall wall. The mage turns quickly, to see the operatives just rounding the corner, and take aim with their weapons. As soundless rounds are fired at Sarah, and she makes an executive, yet vulgar, decision, in empowering herself to jump over the wall. She has no time to work her magic, there is no time to (being stereotypical here) carve the Rune of Flight onto her thighs to empower them, so she takes a chance, hoping that she might manage without, and leaps. Phil the Hobo, lying among the rubble along the wall, sees a woman leap 30 feet into the air and over the wall. Now, he has seen some weird shit, but dang! Never anything like that before! He looks at the bottle in his hand, but he hasn’t drunk that much! Operatives Lynch and Simpson arrive too late, and sees a Reality Deviant who certainly has no boosted endoskeleton (surely, the bioscanner would have picked it up), leap over a 30 foot wall. "Whoa, how’d she do that!" "Damn Reality Deviant bitch!" Now, Sarah actually did manage to pull through the effect, yet she did something vulgar (come on, how many women jump over 30 feet walls in a week?), she had witnesses, and she did it in a place where the mystical paradigm would be considered weak (i.e. in a city). This calls for reality’s intervention! The storyteller, Jason, determined the difficulty to be 8 (Sarah used Forces to empower herself, her forces rating is 3, difficulty for Vulgar with Witnesses is highest sphere used rating+5, hence Cool. Due to the circumstances, and because she did not have time to employ her foci, Jason decides that successes required will be 3; Difficult Feat. In terms, Sarah, having an Arete score of 3, needs to roll all successes on this roll to pull it off, difficulty meaning she needed to roll 8 or more on all three die, something she actually did. June rejoices as the Men in Black missed their opportunity to splatter her character, Sarah, against the wall. She lands heavily on the other side, and takes off. Now to the fun stuff: Vulgar with Witnesses invokes one automatic point of Paradox, plus two per die rolled, if player botches. She didn’t, so she only gets the one point. However, Sarah’s Paradox has been building up, so Jason decides that it is time to let her pay for it (and he laughs evilly, as Storytellers always do). He has waited for this, and has a neat Paradox flaw for Sarah; she notices how her legs change as she run, taking the form of gazelle’s legs instead of human! (appropriately suited for her anatomy, of course, hehehe). This causes a few problems; it can be hidden with clothing, yet her legs will look funny, for the duration of the flaw (which can vary). She just cut her arm. If she uses magic while the flaw is still present, especially magic related to jumping (being a kind ST, Jason may decide to cut her some slack), it won’t really be favorable if she wants to rid herself of the flaw. Akin to scratching it. See? Reality detected an infection, and sent its variety of blood cells to patch it up, leaving a funny looking scab for a while. A very blatant way of explaining it, but it should hopefully be easy enough to understand. Oh, and did we mention that Paradox Flaws cannot be removed with magic? Only with normal waiting and celibacy from magic.

Paradox often manifests as Paradox Spirits, weird and often inexplicable ephemeral beings on the Umbra. They flock to anomalies in the Tellurian and are applied as Paradox Flaws. They tend to be personifications of Paradox that deal with the Willworker on a more personal level than just gazelle’s legs or flaming eyes. They are quite often "ghosts of the past", lovers or dreams lost, projections of the mage’s inner fears, and so on. Here the ST should have a field day at designing and utilizing personal Paradox Spirits; in truth, they are nearly as fun running as Seekings are, if not more so. Paradox and Paradox Spirits are described in greater detail in Book of Madness (ISBN 1-56504-137-2), chapter written by Sam Inabinet.

The principal idea for a Storyteller to implement Paradox in her chronicle lies not in understanding it, though, it lies in its usage. While the nature, origin and true motivation behind Paradox remains mostly unanswered even to the most scholarly Hermetic master, it still pertains its position as the Universes way of getting even. Ideally, Paradox can be used to limit characters’ over-use of magic, interesting chronicle ideas, and even as a safe-guard against dangerous foes immersed in hubris (power-maddening rush; the mage «realizes» that she is master of all, and holds the world at her command, so to speak. Needless to say, hubris is the bane of many a pretentious Master), and much, much more. If the Storyteller has as much imagination as is expected of her, finding new uses for Paradox should not be a problem! Paradox, the players’ greatest peeve and the characters’ greatest fear. Use it wisely; the universe’s fate is in your hands!

Fit the crime!!!

All right, then comes the hard part. How to actually set it into play. So your player committed the «sin» that is Vulgar Magic (as several well-known characters would say, "What, there is something wrong with Vulgar Magic now?!" How do you punish her? The Book of Madness offers several examples and guidelines to do this. But is it enough? After all, you will most likely need a different punishment each time (and believe me there will be many..). A great Paradox flaw is Hobgoblins (see Book of Madness), as these are recyclable. You think you have finally lost it/them, and back they come. The best guideline that can be given is be reflective. What would be appropriate for the circumstances? As the example with Sarah proves, Paradox-flaws are often vulgar in outlook, but they do not give additional paradoxes. Hence, you can have a lot of fun designing your flaws. Has the character attempted to use Mind-magic to lie his way in somewhere he is unwanted, and botches, hence earning Paradox? Great! How is a long nose � la Pinocchio? Especially if the maneuver has been tried/failed time and again... (in which case the universe will make very sure that the Mage knows that what she did was, um, undesirable...). If the Mage earns it, punish harder. However, make sure that the punishment is not so harsh that the mage lays off magic permanently. After all, that would destroy the whole purpose of Mage! The point is, the Mage should learn that there are more than one way to skin a cat. And magic will never be more than a tool; the power lies in you. And with power comes responsibility. Callousness is rewarded by punishment. If used wisely it will grant you the Universe. If used carelessly, it will send your battered soul to Hell. Did Gandalf, despite being one of the most powerful mages in Middle-Earth ever go around ripping people apart with magic? Hell no! He relied on his wits and not on his powers. Instead of smiting every single goblin in the hall, he out-cunned them instead. Display of powers will, certainly, grant respect, but also enemies. People, and especially mages, don’t like potential rivals. So the sword of being flashy has two very sharp edges; one that is Paradox, one that is enemies. Relying on wits is far safer, and hiding one’s tricks as Coincidental will prevent more than just Paradox.

Goals - or: Ascension-what?!

All right, you want to know what’s up with this Ascension-stuff, eh? Most people have heard of Nirvana. No, not the garage band from Seattle, nor the sci-fi movie with Christopher Lambert, but the belief that the human soul will, at the end of the karmic wheel (i.e. when the soul has earned the right through living a righteous/pious/just life, thus being granted a grander existence in the next life, working towards final and total spiritual fulfillment. This is Nirvana, and being made one so to speak, with Creation. Divinity. Fullness. Infinity. Completion. You get the idea. At any rate, that is basically what Ascension is. The Mage attains complete and utter understanding of the Universe. In game terms, Arete 10. In essence divine enlightenment, the Mage becomes one with all; divinity in a lunch box. However, no one really knows if that is what Ascension is. How can one know? As everything else in Mage, firm belief in a matter is enough. It is doubtful that your players will achieve Ascension unless your chronicle has it as a goal. Many contemporary mages, like the now presumed deceased Porthos Fitz-Empress, are many hundred years old, and have still not achieved Ascension. Ultimately, Ascension is the goal every Mage has, knowingly or unknowingly; that road to true power, which must be said to be what being Awakened is all about. The Ascension War, a term that in Mage 2nd Edition is the penultimate theme of the game, has its roots in how the Nine Traditions and the Technocracy battle against each others united paradigms (the Tradition’s paradigm is that of mysticism and spiritual and inner enlightenment, in other words a dynamic paradigm. The Technocracy favors order, reason, technological advancement and a static paradigm. Both factions strive towards an ultimate Ascension, both on a personal scale, and one encompassing all of humanity. Both sides labels the other as terrorists, deviants, power-mad elitists, et al… Though the underlying goal that both strive towards is saving humanity, and mass-Ascension, elevating all of it to this mystical Nirvana. For more information on truly enlightened and powerful magi, see Masters of the Art. For information on the schisms of the Ascension War, see Mage: Sorcerer’s Crusade (ISBN 1-56504-489-4).

This concludes the second part of this introduction to Mage: The Ascension, 2nd Edition (NOT Mage Revised). The next part will detail the Traditions and Conventions that make out the Ascension War, as well as the enigmatic Marauders and infernal Nephandi. See also Children of a Spiteful God, last month’s feature Paradigm Shift article by The Lighthouse Keeper, regarding Nephandi.
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