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Mage Made Easy

Advice from

That Damn Mage Guy

Place cover image here

A Guide for Mage 20th Anniversary Edition


Mage Made Easy
Advice from

That Damn Mage Guy

By
Satyros Phil Brucato
AKA

That Damn Mage Guy


Credits Special Thanks to:
Written and Developed By: Satyros Phil Brucato Matt McElroy, Dhaunae De Vir and Meredith Gerber, for
Edited By: Sandra Damiana Swan the existence of the Storytellers Vault; Josh Heath, for his
tutorial videos; Victor Joseph Kinzer, for the shared-screen
Layout and Graphic Design By: Satyros Phil Brucato assistance; and Zach Wilson, whose introductory Mage
Art By: Echo Chernik, John Cobb, Darryl Elliot, Michael game inspired me to sit down and finally write this book.
Gaydos, Jeff Holt, Mark Jackson, Leif Jones, Eric Lefgren,
Larry MacDougall, Ken Meyer Jr, Steve Prescott, Alex
Sheikman, Ron Spencer, Preston Stone, Joshua Gabriel
Timbrook, and Drew Tucker
Brain Trust: Hope Blood, Michael Alexander Bourbon, Bill
Bridges, Hiromi Cota, Antonios Galatis, Karl Erik Larsen
Hoftaniska, Chance Jason Kallisti, Victor Joseph Kinzer,
Travis Legge, Rafael Mastromauro, Harris Mkali, John
Rintamaki, James F. Sambrano, Thaynah Leal Simos,
Brian Ward, Zachariah Wilson, and Kristen Leigh Wood

Quiet
Thunder
Productions /
Silver Satyr
Studios

© 2020 White Wolf Entertainment AB. All rights reserved. Vam-


pire: The Masquerade®, World of Darkness®, Storytelling System™,
and Storytellers Vault™ are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of
White Wolf Entertainment AB. All rights reserved.
For additional information on White Wolf and the World of Dark-
ness, please, visit: www.white-wolf.com, www.worldofdarkness.com and
www.storytellersvault.com.

2 Mage Made Easy


Table of
Contents

Introduction 5 Devotee 30
Keeping Things Simple 6 Ecstatic 31
Gadgeteer 32
Chapter One: The Easy Way 9 Healer 33
Playing to Heart 10 Mad Scientist 34
What to Keep, What to Change, What to Toss 12 Magus 35
Intimate, Immediate, and Personal 12 Martial Artist 36
What Ascension War? 12 Necromancer 37
Discard Metaplot 14 Reality Hacker 39
Approaches, Not Societies 14
Shaman 40
Stick Mostly to the Mortal Realm 14
Limited Metaphysical Power 15 Technician 42
Focus Over Spheres 15 Tycoon 44
Common Magickal Effects 16 Witch 46
Subtle, Uncanny, Extreme 16
Limited Paradox 18
Chapter Three: Telling Tales 49
Mage’s Complex Elements 18
Keep Mage About Mages 23 Where Do We Go from Here? 50
Start Simple, Then Add More 23 The Mundane World 50
Supernatural Entities, Predators, and Allies 51
Chapter Two: Arcane Approaches 25 Arcane Cults 53
The Monsters Within 54
I Am What I Am 26 Internal Struggles 56
Format 26 13 Chronicle Concepts 58
Agent 28
Cyborg 29

Table of Contents 3
Introduction:
Dear Gods, What
Have I Done?
Someone once told me to not bite off more than I can chew.
I said I’d rather choke on greatness than nibble on mediocrity
— author unknown

Strength
Associations: Intensity; lust; passion; enthusiasm; love for what
you do...
Where do I even start?
The tools spread out in front of me cover an entire table. Tomes.
Candles. Blades. Vessels. Papers scrawled with arcane equations. Bits
of herb, wood, small rocks and bits of bone. A few stoppered bottles of
who-knows-what. A weird little machine or two. What does that damn
thing over there even do, and why the hell did I agree to this in the
first place?
Aria chuckles as she watches my dismay. “Looks complicated,
doesn’t it?”
I sigh. “Yeah.”
“Then don’t worry about it,” she tells me. Aria reaches over
and lightly taps my forehead. “All that stuff on the table is just
window dressing. Everything you need is right in here.”
“Really?”
“Well, sure,” she says, picking up an especially elaborate
medallion. “It’s pretty. I’d be lying if I said I’m not a bit in love
with all the pomp and circumstance here, and you can do a lot more
with the tools once you get the hang of how to use them best.”
Introduction 5
I have to admit, if only to myself, that there is some finishes. “The props are just props. The magic is in you. It
neat stuff laid out on that table. always was. It always will be. Got that?”
“But here’s the trick,” she tells me, setting the I nod.
medallion down. “Let go of what you think you need to “Good. Now close your eyes, take a deep breath, and
do, and instead invite yourself to think of what you want to let’s get started…”
do.” Aria makes sure I’m looking back at her before she

Keeping Things Simple


Mage is huge. Epic, even. So, if you want Edition line. Trying to reconcile the various editions of
to run a Mage chronicle, or simply play in
the game into one book is the polar opposite of “easy”; I
one, how and where do you get started? The
answer – like Mage itself – is a lot simpler know this because I already did that in the M20 rulebook,
than you might think it is: which is why the damn thing is 700 pages long. You won’t
Start small. need to read those 700 pages (or the hundreds of additional
Focus on the human element. pages of material featured in the M20 sourcebooks)
Leave out the big stuff until you’re yourself in order to run or play your Mage game, but you
ready for it. should probably be working with a single edition of the
Or perhaps just leave it out entirely. game in mind. Although much of the following advice will
You don’t have to run a worlds-spanning chronicle work with previous editions, those rule systems differ and
filled with metaphysical intrigue. A handful of new initiates often contradict themselves. Attempting to bridge them is
and a local setting will do just fine. truly the stuff of nightmares.
As for Mage’s infamously expansive magick rules, Despite its epic backstory, thematic complexity, and
we’ll get to that shortly. Easy solutions, though, already confounding rule systems, the core of Mage is simple:
exist in the Mage 20 line, and you can avoid hour-long Human beings both blessed and cursed with the
arguments by sticking to a few dozen Common Magickal power to change reality.
Effects (found in Mage 20, pp. 508-510. and condensed Blessed because such abilities empower them.
in The Mage 20 Quickstart, pp. 21-22) and leaving the Cursed because change has consequences, and other
Sphere-crunching stuff for later games. people possess that power too.
Hi. I’m That Damn Mage Guy. Since the summer You can throw out the backstory, avoid esoterica, use
of 1993, Mage has been my work and my play and stripped-down rules, and yet still play Mage.
occasionally my albatross. I love Mage and the people Mage isn’t about the Traditions; hell, half of them
who play it. I play it too, sometimes. It’s fun. It’s also a didn’t even exist in Stewart Wieck’s original draft, and
complete pain in the ass. Trust me, I know that last part some were changed literally weeks before Mage 1st
more than anyone else on earth. For almost 30 years – Edition went to editing. It’s not about the Technocracy,
even during times when I wasn’t officially working on the either, or the Spheres, or an Ascension War. Mage, at its
series – I’ve heard from people who’ve been inspired and heart, is about people whose actions change their world.
infuriated by Mage’s many complexities. And so, when The simplest kind of Mage game, then, puts a handful of
people tell me, “I don’t even know where to start with people into a world desperately in need of changing, and
Mage,” I totally understand where they’re coming from. asks those people, “Now what are you gonna do about it…
This little book features my personal advice for making the and how will your choices change you, as well?”
game far simpler and a lot more fun. By offering it up for This book offers suggestions about how to run that
you here, I hope to inspire more joy and fewer headaches. sort of Mage game – generally at the beginning of your
For simplicity’s sake, the following book presumes chronicle, and then continuing that stripped-down chronicle
that you’re working with the Mage 20th Anniversary your way if that’s what you and your players want to do.
6 Mage Made Easy
What This Book is Not
Before we go further, Mage Made Easy is not:
● An introductory module. For that, check out the Mage:
The Ascension 20th Anniversary Quickstart. The PDF
is even free on DriveThruRPG.

● An overview of lore and /or systems. A “Mage for


Beginners” sort of book would be much larger than
this one; besides, plenty of internet groups and pages
already provide that information, in varying amounts
of detail, likewise for free.

● A set of alternative rules. Although this book’s Chapter


One features several modular options for simplifying
Mage’s infamous Sphere and Paradox systems, this
book does not contain alternate rules. As far as I’m
concerned, the last thing Mage needs is yet another set
of rule-systems, and even a streamlined version of such
systems would run much longer than this book does.

● An FAQ. For that, see The Book of Secrets, pages 253-


272 and (for focus-oriented questions) 171-174.

● A collection of lore, rotes or Wonders. Again, such a


book would be far larger and more extensive than Mage
Made Easy, and it would not actually make Mage easier.
The whole point here is to whittle down complications
and make the game more accessible than it generally is.

What This Book Is


What, then, can you expect to find in
Mage Made Easy?
● Chapter One: The Easy Way contains a list of optional
suggestions for simplifying your Mage chronicle, followed
by a detailed breakdown of how each option could work
if you employ it.

● Chapter Two: Arcane Approaches features a lore-neutral


collection of character concepts.

● Chapter Three: Telling Tales offers ideas for metaplot-neu-


tral chronicles and story hooks.
So, then – where do we begin?
As ever, at the beginning…

Introduction 7
Chapter One:
The Easy Way


Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.
—Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Ace of Swords
Associations: Action; intention; mental focus; beginnings;
cutting away distractions...

“How much of this stuff do I have to memorize before making up my


character?”
“None of it.”
“NONE of it?”
“Well, you need to know what your character’s like, and what he
believes in, and how he does what he does. But the rest of this stuff is
backstory, and I’ve decided not to run with it.”
“You can DO that?”
“Of course, I can. This is Mage. We can do whatever we want to do
with it…”

Chapter One 9
Playing to the Heart
Stripping Mage Down
To strip Mage down to its foundations, employ your
Thematically and otherwise, Mage is deep.
choices from among the following suggestions:
Its themes invite people to ask questions
about reality, ethics, humanity and ● Keep things intimate, immediate, and personal.
belief, among other things. Its metaplot ● Ignore the Ascension War.
reaches through millennia of real and
fictionalized occult history. Its rules ● Toss out most, if not all, of the metaplot.
emphasize personalized improvisation over
literally rote spell Effects, and its books are ● Use Approaches, not societies, to describe and define your
bloody huge tomes. characters.
How can you approach such a game “the ● Set your stories in the mortal world, with occasional
easy way”? excursions into stranger Realms.
Keep the core and set most of the rest of it aside.
● Establish a small, localized setting with newly Awakened
Start with the heart of the game: the all-too-human
characters who share obvious common ground.
mages themselves.
Introduce complications if and when you want to, ● Cap starting Arete and Spheres at 2. (Perhaps cap certain
Background Traits as well.)
whenever you and your group feels ready for them. Until
then, stick to small, intimate stories about people who ● Emphasize focus (how a mage enacts magick) over Spheres
have just begun to understand what they’re truly capable of (the magickal powers of that mage).
doing. ● Use the Common Magickal Effects chart (Mage 20, pp.
If a certain element of Mage seems overwhelming, 508-510) instead of freeform Sphere Effects.
don’t use it.
● Substitute subtle, uncanny, and extreme in place of coinci-
Go with what seems like the most fun for your group. dental, vulgar, and vulgar with witnesses.
As I often say, Mage belongs to its fans. All RPGs
● Limit Paradox manifestations; two or three forms of
do. Although various corporations might own intellectual
backlash should be enough for a simple game.
property rights, the stories you and your friends gather and
share around your gaming table belong to no one other ● Downplay or discard Mage’s more complex elements:
Avatars and Essences, Quiet, Seekings, Resonance and
than yourselves. I can be opinionated in the pages of my
Synergy, perhaps even Ascension itself.
books but I’m not going to be looming over your shoulder
snarling, “You’re doing it wrong!” We may offer advice on ● Avoid crossovers with other World of Darkness crit-
ter-types; keep Mage about mages.
forums online, but no Mage author or designer dictates
what happens around your table. ● Start simply, adding elements and complexities if and
In that spirit, please take the following suggestions as when your group seems ready for them.
just that: suggestions. All these suggestions, of course, are subject to change. As
I’m not telling you how to, or not to, play Mage, except the chronicle develops, you can add in whichever setting and
system elements you please. Every element above is part of
in one respect: Mage’s epic tapestry; it’s easier to enjoy them, though, when
I want y’all to enjoy it. players and characters get to discover those elements through
If you’re not enjoying it, then why bother playing Mage the course of a story, rather than by having to shotgun a 700-
at all? page rulebook before the game begins.

10 Mage Made Easy


Communication, Boundaries, and Consent
Deep as it might be, Mage is a game. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone involved, and when I say, “everyone,” I
everyone..
mean everyone
No player in your group should feel unsafe when you’re sharing a game. Mage deals with heavy topics, and certain
elements of the setting – especially the Nephandi, the Marauders, and the nastier elements of other factions – can
detonate psychological land mines among certain Mage players.
Because roleplaying games are interactive media that demand direct and sometimes intimate participation from the
“audience,” they can bring up strong feelings among the participants. Those feelings can be even stronger if the game
hits a raw nerve in real life, and so it’s vital to employ communication, boundaries, and consent when playing any RPG.
Communication: Pay attention to one another, express yourself with as much honesty as you feel safe about using, and
respect the safety of the space you share with others.
Boundaries: If you feel like some element of the game is not okay with you, or it’s emotionally unsafe for you to
experience even vicariously, then you have the right to express that boundary. Your fellow players have that right as
well, and everyone involved has the right and responsibility to hold those boundaries for themselves and to respect
those boundaries for others.
Consent: All participants have a right to feel safe within the game. If someone’s being bulldozed into accepting something
because “It’s only a game,” then that person’s silence is not consent. It should go without saying that bulldozing people
into silence is Not Okay, but I’ve seen it and heard about it enough times to say that here anyhow.
Speaking as someone who’s gamed for over 40 years, and who’s been a professional RPG designer for almost 30 of
those years, I understand the potential emotional power of RPGs. At best, they can elevate us with vicarious heroism
and give us stories to tell for decades afterward. At worst, they can hit us hard in unexpectedly painful ways; folks tell
stories about those experiences too, but they’re not the kinds of stories you want to tell… or hear… or be a part of.
As I write this book, communications, boundaries, safety and consent (in and outside of gaming space) are damned
contentious topics. Underneath all the debates and terminology, though, it comes down to a simple rule:
Don’t act like a fucking asshole.
Some folks might enjoy gaming with assholes, but it’s not a choice I recommend.
For more about this subject, see Mage 20,
20, pp. 344-345.

Chapter One 11
What to Keep, What to Change,
What to Toss
Mage is filled with Big Ideas, and it’s easy to
What Ascension War?
get lost in them. One of the biggest challenges, The Ascension War presents an epic conflict dynamic
when I first took stewardship of the series for Mage and its participants. This globe-spanning,
in 1993, involved making Mage accessible centuries-long “battle for reality” offers built-in adventure
enough to be artistically and commercially potential, an “us vs. them” mentality, a thematic depiction
successful. Cool concepts, after all, mean
nothing if no one can wrap their heads and of how good intentions go wrong, and a satirical reflection
hearts around them. of our current socio-political malaise.
Let’s look at the preceding suggestions in That said, it’s totally dispensable.
more detail: If you want to run an easy Mage game, then ditch the
Ascension War entirely.
It might still be raging in the shadows (which was
Intimate, Immediate, the original idea anyway), becoming obvious only after the
and Personal player-group has been involved in the Awakened world for
The first few months of Mage’s existence saw pallets a while. Or it might not exist at all. Instead of venerable
full of returns coming back to our warehouse. My continued factions wrestling for control of global reality, you might
employment depended upon getting people to care about, have instead a low-key occult setting where small sects or
even love, that pretty purple book full of unconventional individuals pursue personal agendas, similar to the turf wars
ideas. My mantra, then and now, is this: Make it personal. within domains in Vampire: The Requiem. While local
Make it human. Make it matter. Make sure people care. reality zones (see Mage 20, pp. 432 and 611-617) might be
The same is true around your table. While there contested territory between Awakened sects and individuals,
might be people who want to spend Game Night debating the idea of a globe-spanning secret war could seem utterly
Techgnositic Futurism vs. Dianic Wicca, most folks I know absurd in your own chronicle.
of want vicarious adventures with characters they care about. In place of the Ascension conflict, your chronicle
As an author and designer, I focus heavily on the could focus on:
personal experiences of people in Mage’s world. As a player ● The challenges of having metaphysical powers in a mun-
dane world where rents must still be paid, laws must
and Storyteller, you can focus on the personal experiences
be observed (if only to avoid inconvenient visits from
of your character group, their inner circles, and the people the cops), and loved ones must be protected from your
whose paths they cross. Build stories on their needs, their rivals and enemies.
fears, their loves and rivalries and confusions and beliefs.
● “Mundane” yet dangerous enemies (criminals, witch-hunt-
Add intimate details – meals, hobbies, quirks, relationships ers, dangerous wildlife, conspiracy theorists, law
– and concentrate on settings and events close to those enforcement and Armed Forces personnel, etc.), and
people. Sure, Horizon might come up occasionally in “friends” (cultists, churches, New Age devotees, hang-
ers-on, family members, and so forth) who drive your
conversation, but unless you’re setting a story there (which
mages up a wall yet cannot simply be blasted into oblivion.
is rarely a beginner move), the affairs of distant mega-wizards
mean little, if anything, to a group of young Awakened folks ● Other Night-Folk sharing and perhaps invading your
mages’ territory.
on the fringes of the everyday world.
And on that note… ● Occult rivalries between small yet dangerous arcane cults.

● The temptation to abuse your powers and become every-


thing you despise.

12 Mage Made Easy


And so on, and so on, and so on. homeless characters; as seen in Mage 20’s Orphans entry
The sourcebooks Initiates of the Art, Destiny’s Price, (pp. 214-215), unaligned mages could belong to tiny sects of
The Bitter Road, Gods & Monsters, and The Orphans like-minded individuals; struggle to remain sane and hidden
Survival Guide all feature characters, settings, and chronicle in a hostile world; hone their Arts in a rock band, church or
ideas for low-level chronicles set among the unAwakened urban tribe; or otherwise exist completely outside the notice
Masses. The Book of Secrets section “Storytelling, of reality-shaking wizard factions. You could construct a
Genre, and Mage” (pp. 272-286) features suggestions for small sect of your own (like the witches of Sabrina, The
chronicles based on genre, not metaplot. And The Mage Craft, and Practical Magic), a school for arcane students
20 Quickstart shows how you can build a chronicle around (like Brakebills University, Hogwarts, or Xavier’s School for
mages who have little or no connection to the metaplot and Gifted Youngsters), or an elite group where “technology”
its factions. Pages 23 through 46 of that book present an and “skill” are uncannily effective even if no one uses terms
array of characters whose connection to the Ascension War like “magic” to define them (see films like Wanted and the
is tenuous at best. Even the Big Bad is himself a renegade Mission: Impossible series, or the various incarnations of
from his own society, and his association with the Syndicate La Femme Nikita). None of those elements need be rooted
could remain hidden if it’s not discarded entirely. The in Mage’s metaplot, and you can connect them to the
Bridge Trolls are just young people with arcane gifts, trying Ascension War later if you like.
to survive in a world far stranger than most people ever see. Better still, you can…
Your own Mage chronicle doesn’t need to revolve around

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter One 13
Discard Metaplot focus; especially under Mage 20’s system of paradigm +
practice + instruments = focus, the Arcane Approach method
I say this as one of its primary architects: FUCK
provides a roleplaying template based on what your mage does,
METAPLOT.
rather than which group your mage belongs to.
It’s fun, but you can do without it.
The Book of Secrets (pp. 176-187) offers six examples
Yes, history’s important. Especially if you’re taking the
of characters built upon the Approaches model, rather than
grand scope of a centuries-long Ascension War into account,
on the usual society-based “splats.” For a selection of Arcane
the factions and events of that metaplot do matter in the
Approaches, see Chapter Two in this book, pp. 28-47.
grand scheme of things.
But Stick Mostly to the Mortal
You
Realm
Don’t
Mage’s cosmology is vast and confusing. Though such
Need
complexity suits “the affairs of wizards,” it’s damned hard
To
to keep track of, especially when you’re introducing new
Include
players to Mage.
Them
So then, back-burner it all. Save Horizon Realms
In
and so forth for later games, when the players and their
Your
characters desire more of a challenge.
Game.
That was the reasoning behind Mage Revised’s
If you want an easy, simple Mage game, especially with
Avatar Storm: To pare down the countless Otherworlds
beginning players, then throw all that stuff out. You can
and focus on the mundane world instead. You don’t need
introduce elements of it back into the chronicle as needed,
to incorporate the metaplot in order to do the same thing,
but you don’t have to build your game around the metaplot.
though; as a Storyteller, you can simply set your chronicle
In fact, I strongly suggest you don’t.
in the mortal realm, offering brief, occasional, mysterious
Which leads into…
glimpses into the Penumbra and, beyond that, a deeper
Approaches, Not Societies cosmos.
In place of the faction “splats,” define your characters Mage 20’s Prelude and Chapter Three depict the world

Place illustration here


by their approach to magick. That way, players don’t need to
know the difference between an Akashic and a Euthanatos,
with all the associated metaplot baggage that distinction
as seen from a just-slightly-more-than-mundane perspective.
Most of the genre options presented in The Book of
Secrets section mentioned earlier also concentrate on the
brings. Instead, you’ll define those characters by what they material world and its close spiritual counterpart. Once the

(recomended full colour)


do, how they do it, the sorts of metaphysical Arts they characters achieve greater power (see below), you can open
pursue, and the beliefs, tools and activities they use to up the greater possibilities of Mage’s Otherworlds; until
pursue them. then, a chronicle set in the shadows of the everyday world
In this book, I refer to that definition as an Arcane will make life easier for everyone involved.
Approach, complete with pretentious capital letters to make On a similar note…
things clear when I use that phrase. Local Setting, Common Ground
By defining Mage characters by their Arcane Set your chronicle within a small, localized vicinity
Approach, rather than by their society, your players and where characters share common ground and related
Storyteller can construct a setting which suits their preferred purposes. Have all the characters tied to one another in
play style. For new players, it’s easier to say, “I’m playing a some compelling way: same family, same cult, neighbors,
martial artist” than to say, “I’m playing a Dynamic Akashic coworkers, bandmates, and so forth. One of the major
from the Warring Fists.” Meanwhile, the Approach method headaches I’ve heard about, when Storytellers try to get a
also provides an easy and intuitive guide to the character’s
14 Mage Made Easy
Mage game together, involves players who want to have, game, emphasizing a mysterious atmosphere rather than a
say, an Ecstasy Cultist, a Black Suit, an Etherite and a super-heroic one. Bending the arc of a bullet or calling up
Templar within the same group. Why would such a weird a breeze, therefore, become more impressive, while feats
amalgamation stick together for more than a game session like turning someone into a frog become more frightening
or two before trying to kill each other or run in opposite than they’d be in a chronicle in which four or five Ranks in
directions? As a Storyteller, then, insist that each character Spheres is the norm.
shares some kind of common ground with the other mages I would also suggest limiting most Backgrounds to
in that group, and give them all compelling reasons to work three dots, with the exceptions of Arcane, Avatar, Dream,
and stay together. Library, Mentor, Past Lives, and perhaps Totem. Otherwise,
That sort of framework also averts the Mage pitfall the character might come to rely overmuch on allies, wealth
wherein the game’s tone ranges all over the map; Hermetic or fame.
wizards, after all, inspire different stories than assassins, Limited power makes the Storyteller’s job simpler in
mad scientists, or rock ‘n’ roll tricksters. By setting the early stages of the game, too. A chronicle in which the
parameters for the types of characters that will and will not players have to be clever and manage small powers before
be allowed as player characters, a Storyteller can create and they graduate to things like speeding or slowing time is
sustain a relatively consistent atmosphere. And for a simple easier to manage than one in which your players start out
chronicle, especially without experienced Mage players, that being able to conjure lightning bolts.
consistency is vital to a successful game. Eventually, of course, the chronicle escalates to greater
For suggestions about establishing common ground, degrees of power and achievement. By beginning below
see Mage 20’s Storytelling chapter (pp. 349-354) and the Arete and Rank 3, though, you limit the ways in which
genre section of The Book of Secrets (again, pp. 272-286). characters can break the game while also making the rise
Such games will be easier with… in accomplishment feel more dramatic than it would be if
everyone started a new game halfway up the power scale.
Limited Metaphysical And speaking of limited power, greater atmosphere,
Power and the innate headaches of Mage’s magick system…
The potential power of Mage characters presents a
headache for storytellers and players alike. The first three Focus Over Spheres
Sphere Ranks offer Effects that are more or less equivalent Mage’s most notorious problems come from the open-end-
ed nature of the Spheres. While limiting the sheer power
to the power levels of other paranormal critters and the allowed to your characters in the early stages of the chronicle
average urban fantasy characters. Ranks 4 and 5, however (see above), and sticking to the Common Magickal Effects
(to say nothing of the Arch-Spheres), kick that power to chart (see below), both go a long way toward minimizing
heroic proportions. At the same time, those upper Ranks the inherent headaches of the magick system, one essential
element of Mage 20’s constrains rules-abuse while enforcing
expand a character’s potential to a point where new players creative roleplay:
might have a hard time wrapping their heads around a
character’s capacities. The Focus Rules.
To avoid those problems, you could start play with In earlier editions, a character’s focus was a collection
a hard limit of two dots in Arete and Spheres, and limit of props, to be dispensed with as quickly as possible. Under
Awakened NPCs to three or perhaps four Ranks in the Mage 20’s rules, a character’s focus is a combination of the
Spheres. paradigm (belief system) that mage uses to justify his ability
According to the rules (Mage 20, p. 257), a beginning to use magick, the practices he employs when putting that
character can’t start the game with an Arete higher than paradigm into action, and the instruments he uses while
3. Even at Arete 3, however, a Mage character begins employing that practice to cast spells. Focus, then, is an
with a pretty impressive degree of power. By limiting the innate element the character’s concept. Although a mage
metaphysical power involved, you change the tone of the can dispense with instruments as he advances in Arete, that

Chapter One 15
belief system and its related practices remain important to If, instead, you and your group describe the beliefs, activities
his identity. and tools your characters employ, your chronicle becomes
(On that note: Please, by all that’s holy, please stop more evocative to play, and much easier to run.
saying “a foci.” Focus is singular, foci is plural, and That Mage As noted earlier, you can find six examples of
Guy has grammatical hissie fits every time he sees or hears characters whose magickal powers are defined by their focus
someone refer to “a foci.” Thanks, y’all!) in The Book of Secrets (pp. 176-187). Details about focus
Many arguments, over the years, have centered on the elements can be found in Mage 20 (pp. 565-600), The Book
potential abuses of Sphere-based powers. By emphasizing of Secrets (pp. 167-209), and The Book of the Fallen (pp.
a character’s beliefs, practices and instruments, however, 127-150), while Arcane Approaches can be found in Chapter
over the raw capabilities of the Spheres, you can head many Two.
such abuses off at the pass. Yes, your martial artist might On that note…
have Life 3; given that her focus involves combat disciplines
(practice), Buddhist philosophy (paradigm), and refined Common Magickal Effects
martial techniques (instruments), it doesn’t make sense that With clever combinations of Spheres, a skilled Mage
she could wish hostile microbes into an enemy’s digestive character or player can do almost anything. This, of course,
tract. The Sphere might permit such an attack, but the focus presents a major headache for the Storyteller. Likewise,
implies she’s gonna have to kick somebody’s ass in order to the broad range of potential Effects and combinations can
inflict Life 3 damage upon that character. puzzle a new Mage player. Even experienced players may find
For new players, it’s also easier to define a character’s the Spheres hard to work with, especially in the middle of a
capabilities through focus than through Sphere Rank game.
Effects. “What are you playing?” “I’m playing a martial For simplicity’s sake, then, you might stick to the
artist.” Cool. Now both the player and her Storyteller have Common Magickal Effects chart (Mage 20, pp. 508-510),
a good idea about how that mage works her magick. The using it as a “spell list” of sorts, and disallow improvised
player doesn’t have to memorize the Effects connected with spellcasting until the players and Storyteller have become
each Sphere; instead, she can tell her Storyteller, “Jace can comfortable with the full range of the Sphere system.
do X, Y, and Z,” and the Storyteller can help determine As noted at the top of the sidebar “To Be Clear About
which Spheres she needs in order to do those things. (See All This…” (Mage 20, p. 498), you can stick to the basic

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also the Arcane Approaches concept discussed above.) rolls and Effects charts if you want to play a quick ‘n’ simple
For obvious reasons, this approach also enhances the Mage game. For more elaborate situations, you can use the
roleplaying element of your game. To me, the game’s most various procedures explored in the sourcebook How Do You
revolutionary element is the way Mage presents magick as an DO That? Either way, I suggest leaving the improvisational

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extension of the mage rather than as a series of standardized element out of your game until everyone feels comfortable
mathematical tactical maneuvers. By positioning focus, not with a wider range of possibilities.
Spheres, as the defining characteristic of what your mage can Some groups might want to leave it out entirely.
do, your group emphasizes character and story over systems For another significant change to the rules that might
and splats. Lots of mages, after all, can share a particular make your Mage chronicle easier to run, you may also
group, but no two mages approach magick in exactly the consider changing the usual coincidental /vulgar without
same way. Even if they employ similar paradigms, practices witnesses /vulgar with witnesses rule into…
and instruments, the ways in which those elements fit
Subtle, Uncanny, Extreme
together remain unique to every mage.
The longstanding debate about coincidental and vulgar
Concentrating on focus, rather than on Spheres, also
magick (intensified by the definition of “witnesses” where
helps the group maintain a suitably occult atmosphere. It’s
such magick is concerned) remains a hallmark challenge to
easy, when defining your mage’s capabilities by Sphere X
running and playing Mage.
and Rank Y, to diminish the dramatic quality of magick.
16 Mage Made Easy
Want to make things easier? Change that system. ● Extreme magick just says “Fuck it” and throws its weight
In Victorian Mage and Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade, around. It doesn’t matter whether such acts are mystical
or technological – they tear gaping holes in the fabric
I replaced the coincidental /vulgar dynamic with a system
of Reality in order to let a mage enforce her will upon
based on the scale of the spell in question. Small, simple the world. Dimensional gateways? Summoned demons?
Effects are easiest to cast, with dramatic Effects becoming Stopping time? Levitating trucks? That’s extreme magick
harder and riskier, and drastic Effects being both difficult no matter what sort of gloss you put on it. Although
certain instruments might make an extreme act of
and dangerous.
magick seem uncanny instead (say, a lightning gun or a
VM and SC deal with historical settings, and so their “fireball” grenade), such feats displace so much Reality
systems aren’t entirely suitable for a 21st-century chronicle. that metaphysical consequences are inevitable.
For a modern variation on that idea, you might use the For simplicity’s sake, throw out the entire concept of
following system instead: “witnesses.” It doesn’t matter whether or not people see the
● Subtle magick fits into the established “reality” of our Effect, or what they might believe about its origins. Small,
media-heavy age. It can be an odd act of coincidence
subtle Effects are easier to cast than big, dramatic Effects;
(pulling the right card out of a shuffled deck, walking
across a squeaky floor without making a sound, opening they incur less Paradox, and risk less notice and potential
an “unlocked” door that was locked a moment ago); a retribution from Reality, rival mages, human authorities,
quiet, minor act of “occult” magic (suddenly changing and other occult forces.
your eye or hair color, stirring your coffee with a spoon
Don’t get too wrapped up debating this stuff. The
you’re not touching, making an uncomfortably accu-
rate reading with some Tarot cards); or an improbable whole idea here is to make Mage easier to run, not to
feat we’ve come to expect from decades of mass media provide a new topic for people to argue about instead of
conditioning (outrunning an explosion, scaring off having a good time.
a street gang with a single glare, punching someone
Rules-wise, the casting difficulties and Paradox risks
so hard you shatter his jaw, and so forth). Such acts
seem unusual but not unnatural. For guidelines, see the follow the rules given in Mage 20 (p. 501):
sidebars “Hollywood Reality” (The Book of Secrets, Subtle: Difficulty = highest Sphere + 3; one point of Paradox
p. 103), “Cinematic Damage” (Mage 20, p. 412), “Axis per dot in the highest Sphere used (on botch only).
of Coincidence” (Mage 20, P. 533), and “Cinematic
License” (Mage 20, p. 616). Uncanny: Difficulty = highest Sphere + 4; one point of
Paradox automatically, plus (if botched) one point of
● Uncanny magick seems unnervingly paranormal – pos- Paradox in the highest Sphere used.
sible, if you believe in such things, but not “normal.”
To most people, it looks like magic… or like technology Extreme: Difficulty = highest Sphere + 5; two points of
that does things which apparently defy the laws of sci- Paradox automatically, plus (on botch) two points of
ence. Uncanny magick throws into question our entire Paradox in the highest Sphere used.
idea of what is and is not “possible.” It’s the ritual that
Speaking of Paradox…
summons ghosts, or the unnervingly lifelike robot, or
the girl so tough she walks through fire without getting
burned, or the guy who levitates with the power of his The Domino Effect
mind. In reality zones that favor magical beliefs, more Because the subtle /uncanny /extreme option might lead
impressive acts of uncanny magick become possible: the to game-wrecking imbalances if players overuse their
witch can fly on a broom; the shapeshifter can become ability to cast subtle magicks, I suggest incorporating
(Mage 20,
the optional rule about “the domino effect” (Mage 20, p.
a wolf. In zones that favor modern technology, strange 539). Under this rule, minor spells add up, becoming
feats of hypertech – James Bond cars and Tony Stark more and more difficult to cast if too many of them get
power suits – are generally uncanny unless they clearly used in quick succession.
surpass existing physical laws and technologies, at which In this case, just replace coincidental with subtle
subtle,, and use
point they become extreme. the +1 difficulty for two spells /+2 for five spells /+3 for
seven spells / etc. rule detailed in that entry.
(Yes, in short, to Batman-style gadgets, but no to the wild As that entry says, ignore this rule unless the spells
antics from the Indian SF comedy Enthiran.) in question start pushing the boundaries of reality in
noticeable and significant ways.

Chapter One 17
Limited Paradox point increments. If the character exceeds 15 points, a
traditional Paradox backlash manifests and blows that
Among the most contentious elements of Mage, mage’s Echoes back to zero… assuming, of course, that
Paradox can be a headache for players and Storytellers alike. the mage survives. This optional rule alleviates the need
Some folks suggest junking Paradox entirely, but as detailed for most of the Paradox systems, substituting weird
narrative story elements in place of multiple rolls and
in the sidebar “Why Paradox?” (Mage 20, p. 552), the fiddly record-keeping.
Paradox Effect serves several vital purposes within the game.
That said, here are some suggestions which can make If you choose this option, then make those Echoes weird,
discomfiting, and often unpredictable. Minor Echoes
Paradox a lot easier to deal with in your game: should be annoying, and major ones are downright
● Storyteller “banks” Paradox until a dramatic moment: hazardous. This option should not become a “Get Out
Under the usual rules, the Storyteller rolls to check for of Paradox Free” card. A Storyteller who elects to use
a Paradox backlash. In place of that rule, I suggest that Echoes or (as below) Resonance in place of Paradox needs
the Storyteller simply hold off until a dramatically appro- to make certain to play such consequences to the hilt.
priate moment, and then unleash the Paradox in some
fashion that suits the story and character(s) involved. ● Replace Paradox Points with Resonance: If your group
employs the optional Resonance systems given in The
Although this suggestion demands a certain degree of trust Book of Secrets (pp. 128-138), you could use Resonance
in the Storyteller, it cuts out cumbersome die-rolling, in place of Echoes. This optional rule follows the three-
allows the Storyteller to tailor a fitting backlash rather for-one system given in the entry above, but it also offers
than make stuff up on the fly, and reveals Paradox as the a bit more direction and flavor than the open-ended
ominous force of poetic justice that, ideally, it should be. Echoes Flaw entry does. I’m not sure if substituting a
10-page option counts as “simplifying” the usual Paradox
Obviously, the Storyteller should not take this option as rules, but the tone of Resonance is more narrative than
an excuse to fuck her players over. There’s a difference mechanical, and so it might play out more intuitively
between “a dramatically appropriate moment” and “at than the normal Paradox systems do.
a point where it will trash everything the players have
worked hard to achieve.” If you follow this suggestion, On the subject of confusing elements of Mage…
please use fairness and discretion. As mentioned earlier,
Mage is supposed to be fun. Mage’s Complex Elements
Wizards are not simple people; it stands to reason,
● Select one to three Paradox backlashes, and then use
those backlashes only: The baffling range of Paradox then, that an RPG about such people will feature many
options can be a pain in the ass. For simplicity, the esoteric concepts. That said, the sheer number of such
Storyteller could choose her favorite backlash forms concepts in Mage may prove daunting for new players, or for
(or the forms she deems most appropriate to her game
groups that want a simpler game. Let’s examine a few of the
and players), and then stick with those phenomena
rather than trying to determine which ones to use at concepts that come up in critical discussions about Mage:
a given time.
Subjective Reality and the Consensus
● Replace Paradox points with the Echoes Flaw: Found “But what’s the real truth?” Mage fans and critics alike
in the Mage 20 rulebook (pp. 646-647), this Flaw marks have stumbled over the game’s concepts of subjective reality
a mage with growing amounts of paranormal phenom-
for decades. Given the debates surrounding the topic, it
ena. Although the entry suggests it might be used as
a substitute for Resonance (and was originally created might be tempting to discard this element of the game.
to show the effects of Resonance in game terms), an I wouldn’t recommend that.
ambitious Storyteller might use Echoes as a substitute Throughout this book, I advocate tossing out various
for Paradox instead.
complications for the game. This one, however, I feel should
In this case, every three points of Paradox represents one stay.
point of Echoes. (Six Paradox = two points in Echoes, Although a game of battling wizards would be simpler
nine Paradox = three points in Echoes, 12 Paradox = four than a game about questioning your ideas about truth, such
in Echoes, and 15 Paradox = the top level of Echoes.) a game would not really be Mage. I do recommend setting
The player fills in the usual Quintessence /Paradox aside the complicated lore of the Ascension Conflict, but I
Wheel on his character sheet, marking it into three- feel the wobbly hold of “reality,” and the idea that people

18 Mage Made Easy


shape their world whether we mean to Or not, are elements Avatar is a separate but intimately related character,
that are too important to remove. even if – from a cosmological standpoint – it isn’t one.
Stewart Wieck’s original draft of Mage was subtitled, “A
● Use the Avatar Background only for refreshing Quin-
Storytelling Game of Infinite Possibilities.” While that might
tessence points: While I personally would not use this
not be the most exciting subtitle ever, Stew’s vision for the
option, a beginning Mage player might find the entire
game depended upon the subjective nature of reality. Later,
concept of the Avatar too confusing. Thus, at least in the
when I took over, I chose the film Rashomon as the primary
early stages of the game, you could decide to downplay
inspiration for my approach. This concept – as puzzling as it
the story-based elements of the Avatar and simply use
might seem – is an integral element of Mage.
it as a metaphysical “fuel gauge.” The Storyteller works
Coincidental /Vulgar Magick the other elements into the game later, when the player
becomes more familiar with Mage.
Possibly the game’s biggest source of arguments and con-
fusion gets dealt with in Mage 20 (pp. 530-534). That said, While I think it would be a shame to set aside the
the subject remains a titanic pain in the ass around gaming rich dramatic potential of the Avatar, I also see where this
tables, especially for players who aren’t used to the idea that
magic(k) might be contingent on the beliefs of people nearby. concept could seem confounding to players who aren’t used
The simplest solution, then, may simply involve replacing the to abstract questions about the nature of a soul.
coincidental /vulgar spectrum with the subtle /uncanny /extreme Obviously, Avatar-based Merits and Flaws overrule this
spectrum detailed above. Although that decision flattens out option. A Manifest Avatar or Twin Soul must play more of a
some of the thematic richness of Mage’s metaphysics, it also
makes for a quicker, easier magick system. role in the story than, say, a one-dot “Quintessence battery”
Avatar would.
The Avatar Also, to clarify: No, your mage does not need the Avatar
“The Awakened Self” is an intentionally ambiguous aspect Background Trait in order to have an Awakened Avatar. Each
of Mage and its characters. Some mages (and players, and de-
signers) regard it as a separate entity inhabiting an Awakened mage’s Avatar is Awakened by default; the Background Trait
human shell, while others view it as a condition of that mortal reflects progressively stronger and more assertive Avatars,
human’s immortal self; still others (often technomancers and but all Awakened mages have an Avatar even if the player
Technocrats) view the Avatar and its Essence as psychological does not purchase the Avatar Background Trait.
constructs within an Enlightened human mind. Is there,
then, some objective truth in which one view is correct and Avatar Essence
the others are wrong? It’s easy to get confused about the various Essences
Not really.

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attributed to Avatars. For simplicity’s sake, just look at this
Although certain books and references suggest that the
way: The Essence is a roleplaying guide to your mage’s personality.
Avatar is a distinct entity, I favor leaving the subject open to
interpretation. In real life, we understand so little about human Although the player and Storyteller can go deeper into the
consciousness that all three perspectives might be simultane- metaphysical elements of a mage’s Essence, the quick and
ously true. Different metaphysical and philosophical paths easy approach is to simply let Essence inspire your character

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disagree about such things, and so I feel that an RPG about
concept and influence the way you play that character and
those paths should leave the question open to interpretation.
(assuming you run the Avatar as a character in its own right)
his Avatar.
To simplify your chronicle, you could do the following
things: For details about Essences (and, for Technocrats,
Eidolons), see Mage 20, pp. 266-267.
● Use the Avatar Background as a measure of the Avatar’s
“personality”: Although the Avatar’s ultimate nature
can remain ambiguous, the player and Storyteller should
take their cues from the Background Trait. One dot
represents a vague presence, while five dots essentially
represent a distinct “character” who seems like a different
entity as far as the mage is concerned. Whatever the
nature of the Awakened Self might be, an Avatar rated
with three dots or more certainly feels, to the mage, like
it is a being in its own right. Run it and play it like the
Chapter One 19
Seekings
Among the most difficult concepts Mage players and
Storytellers face, the Seeking is both absolutely integral to
the themes of Mage and yet too abstract and individual
to put into game terms. It’s tempting to simply chuck
Seekings altogether and just raise Arete with experience
points instead.
You can do that, but I don’t advise it.
Instead, I recommend that the Storyteller set
aside a solo game session when a player wishes to raise
their mage’s Arete. If that session takes place via Skype,
Discord, or some other virtual medium, you won’t need
to intrude on the group’s usual game session time. This
way, the player and Storyteller can take as little time, or as
much time, as they need in order to play the Seeking out
without boring the hell out of other players who get stuck
sitting around and watching the fun.
As part of the setup process for a Seeking session,
the player ought to answer the questions on the nearby
Seekings Checklist. You can do this either verbally or in
writing; talking the answers through might be quicker
than writing them down, but written answers will help the
Storyteller remember what those answers are. Whatever
method you choose, the Checklist helps the player puzzle
out her mage’s internal issues, while also giving the
Storyteller a toolbox from which to construct a Seeking
scenario.
Once the Storyteller feels ready to run the Seeking
session, the two players collaborate on the Seeking.
Other players can watch, of course, or even play roles
of characters within the Seeking, if the Storyteller and
Seeking player agree to that. The vital element, of course,
is the Seeking mage’s confrontation with her limitations –
limits that she either stumbles over or transcends.
For more guidance for portraying Avatars and
running Seeking sessions, see Mage 20, pp. 338-339 and
366-369.

20 Mage Made Easy


Seekings Checklist
What sort of worldview does your mage possess (scientific materialist, Pagan animist,
technological futurist, traditional occultist, etc.), and how does that worldview manifest in
their dreams, nightmares, hobbies, retreats, and so forth?
How does your mage view their Avatar? As a helper? A friend? A past /future self? A pet? A
boss, lover, parent or demon?
Name the five best and five worst things that Avatar could do to your mage.
Name five internal obstacles (family issues, phobias, personal insecurities, spiritual doubts,
social difficulties, psychological trauma scars, etc.) that your mage needs to face in life.
Name five people your mage would associate with those obstacles; for each person, give at
least one reason why.
Name five people your mage associates with comfort and security… and give at least one
reason why.
Name five things your mage fears most… and say why.
Name your mage’s five largest and most challenging personality flaws… and say why.
Name five places (dark cave, classroom, torture chamber, etc.) that terrify your mage.
Name five places (woodland grove, science lab, childhood bedroom, etc.) where your mage
would feel safe.
Name five things your mage would consider victories.

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Name five things that mage would consider disasters.
Name five things your mage regrets in life.
Name five missed chances or moments your mage could relive (or take back) if they could.

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Chapter One 21
Quiet Themes of self-discovery, empowerment, metaphysical
The metaphysical disconnection that comes from awareness and ultimate transcendence or ruin are
messing around too deeply in the world’s reality, Quiet fundamental elements of Mage. Modern wizards battling
might be a bit too esoteric a subject for a casual Mage in the streets and shadows make for a cool action movie,
game. Also, the equation of “madness” with metaphysical but Mage, ideally, offers more. How, then, can you keep
punishment risks evoking gross stereotypes about mental that element intact within a simpler game, especially if you
illness and the people who suffer from it. And so, although discard the Ascension War metaplot?
Mage 20 separates Awakened Quiet from real-life mental Early on, that won’t really matter. Beginning mages
illnesses, a strong argument can be made for discarding this rarely Ascend, although certain stories (the film Lucy
element from Mage entirely. comes to mind) provide exceptions to that rule. Generally,
If you choose to toss out Quiet, the Storyteller should Ascension is a process, not a plot point, and it’s an internal
also decide what to do with the Marauder faction. Do they journey, not a progression of dice pools.
still exist in your Mage game? And if so, what is it that As your characters grow in power and awareness,
distinguishes them from other mages? I’d suggest either though, the potential of Ascension – either personal or
discarding the Mad entirely, or else making them even more global – should become more obvious. It’s an ideal, of
alien and mysterious – not caricatures of mentally ill people, course: rumors of spiritual transcendence; mentors who
but rather mages who’ve stepped so far outside of the mortal reveal – through either good examples or bad ones – the
Consensus that they’re not even truly human anymore. promise of Ascension; a nagging feeling that mere power
is not enough; soul-deep spiritual experiences, visions of a
Resonance and Synergy
better world, or other such revelations… such things tease a
As suggested above, the optional Resonance Trait
mage with the promise of Ascension.
could be used to reflect the effects of Paradox. In its original
In time, those promises become pursuits. Through
form, Resonance was more of a dramatic story-element than
Seekings and conflicts and the lure of better things, your
a Trait, and so the Storyteller for a simple game could still
mages begin to recognize Ascension as a viable goal. Perhaps
use Resonance to influence descriptions while ignoring
that’s the personal Ascension in which a mage strives for
Resonance as a game-systems Trait.
individual transcendence; or maybe it’s the global Ascension
Synergy, meanwhile, can be discarded entirely. In Mage
of a theoretically uplifted world. Specific goals and storylines
20, that likewise optional Trait was created to reconcile
will depend on the characters and players involved, but a
two different phenomena that were both referred to as
long-running Mage chronicle should at least hint at such
“Resonance.” Without that contradiction, there’s no need to
ideals even if the player characters never achieve them
have Synergy in your game at all.
within the game.
Ascension It’s often easier to change one’s self than to change the
It’s literally the name of the game. Even so, Ascension whole world. Thus, personal Ascension appears to be the
remains one of the trickier elements of Mage. There’s no more achievable sort of transcendence, especially in a game
way to portray Ascension through rule systems or maxed- without the warring factions of the Ascension Conflict.
out Traits; by definition, Ascension involves transcending That said, changing your world’s reality is a core element of
limitations like rules, and so the very existence of a game Mage, and it’s often easier to play out stories about cleaning
about Ascension is itself… um, a paradox. up a city than it is to run tales of individual transcendence,
Should it, then, be junked? if only because the former goal favors teamwork and
I don’t think so, no. measurable results. Either Path is valid, and some mages
might pursue both.

22 Mage Made Easy


The steps and pitfalls of the Ascension Path can be
found in Mage 20, Chapters One (pp. 38-53) and Seven
Start Simply, Then Add
(pp. 369-371). For practical guidance about running stories More
of mages who work to improve their world, see the same Mage is the Dagwood sandwich of RPGs. If you try
book’s entries about “The Reality Challenge” (p. 432) and to bite down on the whole thing at once, you’ll break your
“Shifting the Zone” (pp. 615-617), as well as the sourcebooks fucking jaw. Instead of tackling this titanic “game of infinite
The Bitter Road, Destiny’s Price, The Orphans Survival possibilities” all at once, then, just select an element that
Guide, The Mage 20 Quickstart, and – for some formidable appeals to you, leave out everything else until your group is
enemies and obstacles – Gods & Monsters and The Book ready for those complications (if you bring those elements
of the Fallen. into your game at all), and break Mage down into bite-sized
On that note… pieces so that your group won’t choke on it.
Although it’s a good idea for the Mage Storyteller to
Keep Mage About Mages be familiar with the Great M20 Tome of Doom, you don’t
This suggestion’s simple: Don’t run a crossover game. need to break your table (or your players) by dropping that
No vampires. No werecritters. No changelings or wraiths or Tome on them and going, “Okay, folks – quiz on this next
other stuff. Sure, the Night-Folk can make guest appearances week!” That way lies madness. Trust me, I know.
as enigmatic NPCs, but your players should stick with mage
characters only.
Crossover chronicles can be fun, but they’re
complicated. If you want to keep Mage easy, then just
concentrate on mages.
In summation, then…

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Chapter One 23
Chapter Two:
Arcane Approaches


…the human being is the “Nay-sayer”…an eternal protester against all mere reality.
— Max Scheler, The Human Place in the Cosmos

Page of Wands
Associations: Seeking new directions; self-growth; daring; risking;
catalyist for change...

Who are you playing?


Well, I figured I’d play an Akashic Brother with three dots in Forces
and…
No, who are you playing? Who is this person? How old, what gender,
what sort of background, what sorts of needs? Why did they learn magick?
How did they learn magick? What sort of magick did they learn, how do
they use it, and what do they plan to do with that power now that they
have it?
I don’t know.
Let’s start there. Forget what you’re playing, and tell me who you’re
playing, instead.

Chapter Two 25
I Am What I Am
“Who am I playing?” For players who’ve never Approaches are not exclusive, nor must you choose just
played Mage before – who, perhaps, have
one. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a mad scientist healer
never played any RPG before – that question
is everything. Before one can assume a role, or a reality-hacking witch. While certain Approaches don’t
that person needs some idea of what role seem to mix quite as well as others, our own world features
she’s been invited to portray. technoshamans so there’s no reason your Mage chronicle
Traditionally (so to speak), Mage can’t have them, too.
invites its players to portray members of
The following entries feature several archetypal
the Nine Traditions, the five Conventions,
or the various Crafts. Although the option Approaches to the metaphysical Arts. These entries don’t
of playing an “orphan” has always been on reflect every imaginable Approach, of course – the pursuit
the table, the term itself suggests that the of such Arts is as diverse as humanity itself. Even so, this
character has no “proper” place within Mage’s
chapter can help you choose a concept that suits your vision
world.
for the tales and characters you want to play, and then
On the plus side, the Ascension War
enhance that concept as you wish.
factions present a wide range of potential characters, united
by a rich setting and its lore. Conversely, the Ascension War
forces certain types of stories and demands familiarity with Format
tangled metaplots and social baggage. In addition to a brief overview of the Approach itself,
each entry has the following elements:
That is an option. It’s not the only option.
Impression: The way such mages often appear to other
As mentioned earlier, Mage becomes a much simpler people.
game – especially for new players – if you avoid the metaplot
Approach to Magick: The forms their metaphysical Arts
and sideline the Ascension War factions, at least at the and Sciences take when employed.
beginning of your chronicle. An imaginative Storyteller can
build an entire new setting in which the “official” factions Associated Practices: The primary focus practices for mages
who follow this Approach. You can find more details –
do not exist, and yet still retain the essence of Mage in their including associated paradigms and instruments – under
game; a Storyteller who wants to employ the metaplot and the appropriate practice entries in Mage 20, The Book
its associated groups eventually can turn them into shadowy of Secrets, and The Book of the Fallen.
background elements, revealed gradually through the story. Associated Groups: The Traditions, Conventions, and so
Either option can employ Arcane Approaches: character forth that often attract mages who employ this Approach.
concepts which are based upon how the mage approaches her
Roleplaying Notes: Generalized guidelines for how such
magick rather than upon which group in the metaplot the mage mages tend to behave.
in question belongs to.
Media Examples: Characters and figures from history, film,
For that matter, any Mage chronicle can employ Arcane TV, and other media that fit this Approach even if they
Approaches. Even within the Traditions and Conventions, don’t employ “magick” per se.
you may find it helpful to define your character through Although they’re not referred to by the term “arcane
her Approach; not all Verbenae are witches, and not all approach,” The Book of Secrets (pp. 176-187) features six
witches are Verbenae. Within the “official” factions, there’s Mage characters built upon the Arcane Approach model.
still plenty of room for different Approaches united by the Check out those entries for further inspiration.
structure of their group.

26 Mage Made Easy


Again, the various practices mentioned below (and A variety of concepts for non-World of Darkness
their associated paradigms and instruments), can be found paranormal characters can be found among my own Arcane
under the appropriate entries in Mage 20, The Book of Paths series, published by Quiet Thunder Productions and
Secrets, and The Book of the Fallen. available on DriveThruRPG.

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 27
Agent
Certain organizations employ agents who employ Approach to Magick: Again, the agent’s role within
extraordinary powers in order to accomplish things normal an organization defines many (if not all) elements of her
people cannot. To that end, the agent Approach supports a focus. Training of some kind is essential, and versatility
larger group, often acquiring her powers, training, resources is a plus. Most agents practice intense physical and
and agendas from that group. This person could be an mental conditioning (reflected in the practices below),
assassin, an enforcer, a spy or infiltration expert… whatever supplemented by gear appropriate to the organization in
the job demands. Her methods are as subtle or harsh as question. Technomancer agents employ hypertech and
her group and circumstances require them to be, but they weird-science gear and instruments, while agents of mystic
inevitably take human potential and wild technology past organizations use arcane trinkets, magic wands, flying
the verge of what is supposedly “possible.” carpets, and other goodies appropriate to their group.
Because dedication to that agency defines an agent’s
Impression: Although
identity, her paradigms, practices and instruments
the name “agent” evokes
depend on the organization’s nature; an assassins’
the dreaded Black Suits of
guild would mix technology with mind-games and
the NWO, this Approach
martial prowess, while a Hermetic wizard sect
could be totally covert (like
would deploy agents who combine metaphysical
an authentic ninja), overtly
technologies and High Ritual Arts; both might
mystical (like the agents from
favor faith-based paradigms, but a modern
the Potterverse’s Ministry of
spy agency would supplant or enhance those
Magic), subtly metahuman
beliefs with tech-heavy paradigms and a creed
(Brixton from Hobbs & Shaw),
that reflects the agency’s ideals if not its true
supremely accomplished
character.
(M’Lady D’Winter), innately
technological (Birkoff from Associated Practices: Art of Desire, domin-
La Femme Nikita), or a ion, cybernetics, faith, hypertech, invigoration,
combination of most or all of martial arts, psionics, weird science.
those characteristics (James Associated Groups: All Technocratic Con-
Bond). The impression she ventions, the Euthanatoi, the Order of Hermes,
gives, therefore, depends upon the Knights Templar, the Sisters of Hippolyta,
her role, her organization, and the Ahl-i-Batin, the Virtual Adepts, and certain
the focus she employs when groups within the Society of Ether, Verbenae,
putting her powers into action. Solificati and Wu Lung sects.

Regardless of the details, an Roleplaying Notes: When you got a job


agent functions as a vital part to do, you got to do it well…
within a larger whole. Her Media Examples: John Wick, Kim
loyalty to that whole might Possible, Carmen San Diego, and the vari-
be compromised, perhaps ous agents of the organizations featured in
even rejected, but it’s that Assassin’s Creed, The Matrix, Dollhouse, Mis-
sion: Impossible, and the various Nikita series,
organization that has made her
plus other examples mentioned above.
what she is.

28 Mage Made Easy


Cyborg
Blending the seams between human and machine, demonstrations of technological potential, human
this Approach focuses on integrating modern technology consciousness, and the possibilities of a technologically
with human consciousness and physicality. In older times, enhanced human organism. Two of the three characters
this involved grafting cumbersome machines into living presented in The Book of Secrets are obvious cyborgs (Able
tissue; now, those machines tend to be miniscule – perhaps Ferox and Sanjay Sachdeva) are obvious cyborgs, but Dr.
microscopic – and the technology in question is more Hans von Roth could be seen as a cybernetic technomancer,
often biological and /or intellectual than mechanical. A too.
21st-century cyborg mage, then, often combines overt or
Associated Practices: Craftwork, cybernetics,
hidden machines with biotech and a literally transhuman
dominion, hypertech, infernal sciences, invigoration,
perspective. Not long ago, the word “cyborg” conjured up
psionics, reality-hacking, weird science.
images straight out of The Terminator. Now, any citizen of
an info-age culture is, to some degree, a cyborg; a mage Associated Groups: Though traditionally associated
pursuing this approach is just more extreme and obvious with Iteration X, Etherites, and the Virtual Adepts, any
about being one. group that isn’t devoted to purely “naturalistic” lifestyles and
Arts can have modern cyborgs among its ranks.
Impression: While the word conjures up images of
bulky machine-men (and still refers to practitioners of the Roleplaying Notes: “Magick” is what weak and limited
more extreme sorts of transhuman modification), a 21st- minds call technology that most people cannot understand.
century cyborg may appear completely “normal.” Hell, to
Media Examples: Tony Stark, Motoko Kusanagi,
some degree, you’re 21st-century a cyborg, especially if you’re
Terminator Model 101, Darth Vader, Y.T. and Hiro
reading this text off a PDF on your phone.
Protagonist.
Approach to Magick: While they might conceivably
use the term “magic(k) to refer to what they do,
a typical cyborg perceives their unusual powers as acute

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 29
Devotee
Bob Dylan said, “You gotta serve somebody.” Devotee Media Examples: Jue Yuan, Joan of Arc, Crazy Horse,
mages agree. Although the object of veneration depends Brother Justin Crowe, Tang Sanzang, and Father Andrew
on the character in question, the devotee Approach reflects Kiernan.
a mage who views her powers as an extension of religious
devotion to godly powers. This Approach covers anyone
from a Catholic priest to a Wiccan priestess, a santera, an
imam, a Lakota medicine-man or a Hindu tantrika. The
nature of that divine force isn’t important to the Approach
as a game system, but it means everything to the devotee.
Although often referred to as “clerics” in other fantasy
games, devotees don’t have to be ordained leaders of their
faith; that said, the faith itself provides the foundation of
their focus. As the sentiment goes, “I’m just the messenger
for someone greater than myself.”

Impression: The overall impression put forth by a


devotee comes mostly from the culture of that character
and the force(s) that she worships. Rarely, though, will that
source of devotion be hidden from even casual observation.

Approach to Magick: Unlike the egotistical


practitioners of “willworking,” the devotee views herself as
a living instrument of faith and a conduit of divine powers.
Therefore, prayer and ritual provide the core of her life,
magickal and otherwise. Even so, a devotee employs various
instruments beyond raw faith. Candles, bells, incense, rites,
invocations, fasting, scriptures, sacred vestments, symbols of
the creed, oaths taken in Divinity’s name… such instruments
remain essential tools of spiritual devotion.

Associated Practices: Elementalism, faith, god-


bonding, invigoration, High Ritual Magick, medicine-work,
mediumship, psionics, shamanism, Voudoun, witchcraft,
yoga; potentially (for malignant devotees) demonism,
maleficia, and the Black Mass.

Associated Groups: The Celestial Chorus, Bata’a,


Knights Templar and Ahl-i-Batin are the most obvious
devotee sects, but any mage with strong spiritual convictions
can embrace this Approach.

Roleplaying Notes: You are the vessel of your god’s will


on earth.

30 Mage Made Easy


Ecstatic
If reality can be transformed by human consciousness, Impression: By nature, ecstatics seem rebellious,
then it stands to reason that transformed human disordered, and sexy as hell. The saying “mad, bad, and
consciousness allows us to change reality even further. That dangerous to know” captures the spirit of this Approach and
reasoning provides a foundation for the ecstatic Approach those who practice it. Though they’re not all drug-addled
– an often-underestimated philosophy that advances hippie-types (quite a few avoid such things altogether), the
enlightenment by deranging the senses and pushing human mystique of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll shapes impressions
capacities beyond their limits. Going “outside stasis,” an about this Appoach even when an individual ecstatic mage
ecstatic mage (who need not belong to the Tradition of that wants nothing to do with those things at all.
name) strives to overcome internal and external boundaries,
Approach to Magick: For the ecstatic, magick flows
using excess to open greater doors of perception and
from enhanced perceptions and forbidden secrets. Dance,
accomplishment. That’s a dangerous Path, to be sure, but a
sex, ordeals, trance states, mass media, psychoactive
rewarding one with a surprisingly rich and ancient legacy.
chemicals, and self-altering feats of physical and mental
You can’t envision what’s over the next hill, after all, much
endurance… such instruments provide keys to magick
less procure its bounties, if you spend life stuck in your own
if you use them properly. To outsiders, this Approach
cave.
seems reckless and undisciplined; that perception isn’t
entirely wrong… yet, paradoxically, it is entirely wrong, too.
Contradiction is just one more limit to overcome. Ethics
are vital; otherwise, this mage becomes a monster. And yet,
moderation is anathema. All things – even sobriety – must
exceed prior limitations if they’re to be effective at all.

Associated Practices: Animalism, alchemy, Art of


Desire, chaos magick, crazy wisdom, dominion, demonism,
gutter magick, infernal sciences, invigoration, medicine-

Place illustration here work, mediumship, psionics, reality-hacking, shamanism,


Voudoun, weird science, witchcraft, yoga.

Associated Groups: In addition to the Cult that


bears its name, the ecstatic Approach can often be found

(recomended full colour) among Progenitors, Verbenae, Etheritres, Bata’a, Virtual


Adept transhumanists, Hollow Ones, Solificati, some
Dreamspeakers and Thanatoics, a handful of Akashics,
many Nephandi (especially Goatkids and the K’llashaa),
antinomian Hermetics, and the vast majority of Marauders
(whether they practice it intentionally or not).

Roleplaying Notes: Transform yourself so that reality


can follow.

Media Examples: Jim Morrison, Lord Byron, King


Mob and many of his Invisibles, Florence Welsh, Terrance
McKenna, and a certain Mr. Crowley.

Chapter Two 31
Gadgeteer
Invention is the greatest human art. Other animals use Associated Practices: Craftwork, cybernetics,
tools, but human beings invent new ones to suit our needs. hypertech, infernal sciences, psionics, reality-hacking, weird
For a gadgeteer magus, quick wits and visionary imagination science.
provide a bottomless toolbox from which she can change her
Associated Groups: Most commonly associated
world. While a technician labors to perfect technology, the
with the Etherite Tradition, gadgeteering is an essential
gadgeteer works best on the fly, inventing small, ingenious
Approach among Technocratic agents, most especially those
devices and then modifying them when necessary to
of Iteration X, the NWO, and the Void Engineers. Exie and
accomplish simple yet surprising things. Both Approaches
Ironhands factions of Nephandi, meanwhile, specialize in
employ mechanical technology, not absurdities like “magic.”
especially dire toys.
Even so, their wonders tend to violate conventional
understandings of physics, manifest powers well beyond Roleplaying Notes: Given a few odds and ends,
their apparent size, and seem to come “from nowhere,” work some time, and the space to run with inspiration, you can
near-perfectly, and change functions with a simple twist of accomplish damned near anything.
screws, a flip of the switch, and some creative swearing on
Media Examples: Batman, Angus MacGyver, Gyro
the part of the master gadgeteer.
Gearloose, and – of course – Inspector Gadget.
Impression: Although some gadgeteers perfect
an aura of cool competence, the archetypal gadgeteer is
a loose cannon in human form: brilliant, disheveled,
often mumbling esoteric theories while tinkering with a
miraculous device that might or might not function until
she needs it most. Naturally, the gadgeteer needs pockets,
utility belts, hidden pouches, and other places to store her
gear. Without some form of technology within reach, this
character is SOL.

Approach to Magick: Tech, and lots of it. Not big


bulky machines and endless calculations but the sort
of gee-whiz gear that dazzles the imagination and meets
immediate needs. Sure, the gadgeteer needs to spend plenty
of downtime in her lab, pulling all-nighters in a quest to
perfect the necessary tech. With a miniature tool kit and
a minute or two, though, she can modify that tech into
whatever circumstances demand. Again, such miracles are
not considered “magic” even if the gadgeteer embraces
a metaphysical discipline or two in order to supplement
her scientific acumen. Tools and materials, therefore, are
essential for this Approach. Although her gadgets perform
seemingly impossible tasks, such miracles do not occur
through the mage’s will alone.

32 Mage Made Easy


Healer
Bodies are fragile. Without the healers to patch them Associated Practices: Alchemy, cybernetics, faith,
up and purge disease, our frail lives would be painfully invigoration, medicine-work, shamanism, Voudoun, weird
short. The healer, then, keeps our biological machines in science, witchcraft, yoga; certain martial arts also feature
order. He might be a traditional medicine-worker using pre- medical /healing elements, and a handful of healing
modern methods, a “miracle-worker” who takes modern disciplines (notably bagua and t’ai chi) have developed from
medicine to the next level, or a hypertech genius whose martial arts.
machines and formulas far exceed the powers of mundane
Associated Groups: Although the Progenitors,
medical technology. Whatever his specialty might be, our
Celestial Chorus, Verbenae, Bata’a, Solificati,
healer is dedicated first and foremost to the preservation of
Dreamspeakers and Hippolytoi are all renowned for the
life and health. The marvels he performs focus on healing
healers in their midst, Thanatoics, Templars, Akashayana,
(sometimes on harming) living things, and occasionally
Iteration Xers and Ecstatics have long histories with the
(as is often the case among the Progenitor and Iteration X
healing Arts and Sciences, too.
Conventions) on “upgrading” those biological machines into
more powerful and effective forms. Roleplaying Notes: Would you idiots please stop
running me ragged by testing the limits of your mortality
Impression: A healer’s impression depends a great
and my skills?
deal on the sort of medicine he practices. An Evangelical
faith-healer, a Voudu mambo, a First Responder EMT and Media Examples: Katara, Dr. Gregory House, James
an Ayurvedic doctor will come across in very different Wyngaarden, Mary Mason, and Dr. Stephen Strange.
ways. That said, healers tend to be sardonic, clinical, and
possessed of (or by) a sick sense of humor. Contrary to the
common stereotype of blissful caregivers, many healers
adopt a sarcastic demeanor, if only because their vocation
brings them into constant contact with suffering and death.

Place illustration here


No healer can save everyone, and a healer who cannot save
himself first won’t be good for saving anybody else.

Approach to Magick: The specific tools and beliefs


involved in a given mage’s medical skills and magicks will

(recomended full colour)


depend on that character’s approach to healing. Given the
extraordinary range of healing disciplines, a player who
wants to run a healer character should research the type of
medicine his character pursues. Some healers work from
deep spiritual conviction, while others view medicine as a
biomechanical discipline. Many medical practitioners hold
both views simultaneously. Years ago, I collaborated with
one of the world’s foremost heart surgeons on a book that
combined modern medicine with religious faith; for that
doctor, such faith was as essential to his practice as the
medical technologies he employed.

Chapter Two 33
Mad Scientist
Let’s be honest: All science looks like madness until cyberware, artificial lifeforms, psychoactive chemicals… every
its tenets become part of the accepted paradigms. Some mad scientist has their own pet theories, and individual
sciences, though, seem madder than others, and this… initiative is more important to such technomancers than
well, she’s obviously not a “mage” – that’s nonsense… favors social approval. Even so, the mad scientist is a scientist, not
sciences whose cutting edge seems bloody to everyone some mumbling nuisance with a garish book of spells. As
else. “Credibility” is the hobgoblin of tiny minds, and this deranged as her theories might seem to outsiders, they make
scientist would rather plunge bravely into the Abyss than perfect sense to her. (See the Mage 20 entry SCIENCE!!!, p.
limit her vision by imposed boundaries. From a more 290.)
objective standpoint, the “mad” scientist harnesses alarming
Associated Practices: Alchemy, craftwork, cybernetics,
technologies with an apparently reckless disregard for their
hypertech, infernal sciences, medicine-work, psionics, weird
potential effects. Some such scientists
science, and certain applications of
are outright malign – the Josef
animalism.
Mengeles and Victor von Dooms of
their respective worlds – while others Associated Groups: The Society
have altruistic aims but reap terrible of Ether appears to be composed
results. Whatever ethics they uphold, entirely of mad scientists, though that
such technomancers leave “reputable” impression isn’t entirely accurate.
science in the dust, striving for Every Technocratic Convention has a
Daedalus achievements without falling place for its mad scientists, although
from the sky. those loose cannons must at least
attempt to fit into the Union’s vision of
Impression: This Approach’s
reality. Other sects populated by mad
name provides cues for the aspiring
scientists include the Virtual Adepts,
mad scientist. She might be loveable
the Solificati, certain Houses of Hermes
and brash, cold and distant, gleefully
(especially Xaos and Ex Miscellanea),
cruel or boundlessly enthusiastic but,
technopagan Verbenae and
by definition, her obsessive approach
transhumanist Ecstatics, and the Exie
to science feels extreme even by the
and Ironhand factions of Nephandi.
standards of the average mage.
Roleplaying Notes: Vision is
Approach to Magick: Scientific
the ultimate validation of the human
technology of a most unorthodox
experiment, and your vision is keener
kind is the mad scientist’s calling
than most.
card. It might take the form of psychic
channelers, giant robots, death rays, Media Examples: John Dee,
accelerated mutations, transhuman Jillian Holtzmann, Nicola Tesla, Seth
enhancements, alien hardware, cross- Brundle, Egon Spengler, Karl Jung,
dimensional gateways, resuscitated Doc Brown, and the many incarnations
corpses, surgical extremities, nanotech of Frankenstein.

34 Mage Made Easy


Magus
Certain people make no apologies for their pursuit of way through his Arts is a hazardous disgrace.
magick. While other Approaches dither about the nature
As with the healer Approach, I suggest that a player
of what they do, the magus stands resolute: He practices
who wants to explore specific tools and paradigms for
the Arcane Arts, forbidden and often ridiculed techniques
his magus research the kinds of High Ritual Magick his
of mastery over this world and many others, besides. Such
character prefers.
studies demand discipline and surpassing intellect, and
so while he might appear old-fashioned to his peers, his Associated Practices: Alchemy, chaos magick,
dedication to mastery unlocks doors that other so-called craftwork, demonism, dominion, elementalism, faith,
“mages” don’t even realize exist. Goetia, High Ritual Magick, maleficia.

Impression: It’s not fair to paint every magus as a Associated Groups: The Taftani, Wu Lung and
wand-waving throwback; even so, there Order of Hermes personify this
are reasons that stereotype exists. Our Approach, but the Celestial
magus might not necessarily be a haughty, Chorus, Akashics, Thanatoics,
intense intellectual with a penchant Ngoma, Solificati, Templars,
for archaic fashions and melodramatic Hippolytoi, and Kopa Loei
pronouncements… but then again, he employ such disciplines, too.
totally might be, too. Depending on the Occasional Hollow Ones favor
type of magick he pursues, this mage this Approach, while Infernalist
could be a wizard of the Western High and Malfean Nephandi pursue
Ceremonial school, a Confucian mystic such Arts in their darkest, ugliest
sage, a Persian wizard-priest from the forms.
sect that gave us the word mage, a scruffy
Roleplaying Notes: Magick
malcontent with appalling secrets… even
is too powerful to be left to

Place illustration here


within such an archetypal category, that
amateurs.
archetype has plenty of room to move.
Media Examples: Harry
Approach to Magick: The trappings
Potter and his Hogwarts
of classical wizardry come from this
peers, Nico Minoru, Merlin,

(recomended full colour)


Approach: robes, wands, scrolls, glyphs,
Zatanna, Gandalf, Maleficent,
scrying mirrors, flying carpets, alchemical
Lo Pan, Harry Dresden, John
labs, Goetic pentacles, rituals of staggering
Constantine, and his creator Alan
power and complexity, spells of awesome
Moore.
elemental phenomena – such instruments
are the magus’ stock-in-trade; those tools,
however, also demand intricate rituals and
proper preparations. Given the powers at
his command, a magus who half-asses his

Chapter Two 35
Martial Artist
Danger changes your perceptions of reality. Stresses to Mundane applications of martial arts can be found
body and mind force organisms to transformation. And so, in Mage 20 (pp. 422-430) and The Book of Secrets (pp.
the martial artist – whose arts can hail from any culture, not 102-111). For an array of metaphysical Effects employed
merely Asian ones – uses techniques and disciplines of war through martial arts, see the section of that name in How
as pathways toward a greater understanding of herself, her Do You DO That? (pp. 57-69). For an example of martial
world, and Creation as a whole. Those pathways demand arts magery, see Tanisha Royale in The Book of Secrets
extreme, even superhuman, (186-187).
accomplishment; physical skills,
Associated Practices:
mental focus, and spiritual clarity
Dominion, invigoration, martial
are ideals of martial arts. And so,
arts, medicine-work, psionics; certain
beyond the practical applications of
martial arts also employ alchemy,
ass-kicking power lie esoteric goals
animalism, craftwork, crazy wisdom,
of self-perfection… goals where an
cybernetics, elementalism, feralism,
Awakened martial artist grasps the
yoga, and perhaps hypertech, as well.
keys to Reality itself.
Associated Groups: Akashics
Impression: All warrior
and Thanatoics are the obvious
cultures have martial-art disciplines,
practitioners of esoteric fighting
plus legends about heroes so
skills, but Technocratic field agents
skillful they became essentially
(especially within the NWO and
inhuman. Our martial artist
Syndicate) have employed such skills
mage, therefore, is not necessarily
since the Renaissance. Metaphysical
Asian, nor does she necessarily
warfare is literally the foundation
practice Asian techniques. Nor
for the Templar Knights, and the
does she necessarily come across
Wu Lung have their very own style
as a warrior at first glance. That
of kung fu. Any sect or faction can
said, a perceptive eye can spot signs
host an Awakened martial artist,
of martial training in a person’s
but those groups specialize in such
grace, posture, confidence,
things.
reflexes, muscle tone, and so forth.
Such arts refine the human animal, especially when a Roleplaying Notes: Mere
practitioner reaches the deeper levels of her art. violence is just the lowest application of the disciplines you
cultivate.
Approach to Magick: Secret techniques and intense
conditioning allow an Awakened martial artist to focus Media Examples: Ng Mui, Mani, Bruce Lee,
physical and energetic forces in devastating ways. Depending D’Artagnan, Lu Mu Bai, John Rambo, Amy Johnson, Jen Yu
on the arts and Arts in question, this can range from psychic and Yu Shu Lien, Brass, Blossom and the Blacksmith, and
defenses and dazzling speed and strength, to the ability to pretty much everyone in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
manipulate elemental phenomena, life-force, emotions,
and more. Such abilities get focused through meditation,
movement, shouts, and other aspects of martial dedication
which often go far beyond the ability to throw a punch.

36 Mage Made Easy


Necromancer
“Death is the road to awe.” For millennia, that Morbidity (pp. 558-559), and the death-perceptions of the
sentiment has inspired people to plumb the mysteries of Vidare Mortem (pp. 82 and 474). Although a necromancer
death. Some seek to resurrect the dead; others traffick with won’t necessarily suffer from such afflictions, avoiding them
ghosts or turn corpses into undead servants. The term all demands balance, introspection, and a very firm sense of
necromancer means “to view through death,” and different discretion.
death-mages have taken that phrase different ways. Though
Approach to Magick:
not as decisively evil as
Necromantic Arts in fantasy media
many fantasy sagas portray,
tend to deal with skeleton armies,
a necromancer does pursue
zombie slaves, bloody sacrifices, and
Arts and aims that make
blasts of necrotic essence; real-world
most people turn away in
occultism favors divination, spirit-
disgust. Such Arts range
channeling, seances, soul-capturing,
from Frankensteinian weird
near-death (or death-and-rebirth)
science to cruel favors from
experiences, and coming to terms
Baron Semedi, and while
with one’s own mortality. Both forms
such pursuits might not be
employ complex and often dangerous
malignant per se, they’re
rituals, mortal remains, the spirits of
certainly disreputable,
the dead, and a great deal of secrecy.
relegating the necromancer
to the fringes of mage society In game terms, a range of
and mortal company alike. necromantic applications can be
found in the sections about “Energy-
Impression: “Morbid”
Work” and “Necromancy” in How
is the first word that comes
Do You DO That? (pp. 49-51 and

Place illustration here


to mind when discussing
84-89.) Corpse-crafted servitors can be
necromancers. Even the most
found in Gods & Monsters (pp. 85-89
“normal” ones seem a bit
and 94-95). For details about the dire
odd and distant, and many
effects of death-magicks, see How Do
necromancers embrace the

(recomended full colour)


You DO That? (pp. 84-85).
sinister image wholeheartedly
if they feel safe enough to get Associated Practices: Abyssalism,
away with it. Granted, that ancestor veneration, demonism, faith,
morbid definition depends High Ritual Magick, infernal sciences,
a great deal on the cultural acceptance of necromancy; maleficia, mediumship, Vamamarga /yoga, Voudoun, weird
classical Egyptian magic focused heavily on the mysteries science, witchcraft.
of death. Among modern cultures, though, an obvious
Associated Groups: The Euthanatos Tradition literally
necromancer seems eccentric at best and – at the nastier
has “death” as part of its name, and many Hollow Ones
extremes – ripe for handcuffs or a rousing bonfire.
practice necromancy, if only for fashion’s sake. Contrary to
In Mage, three metaphysical factors weigh heavily popular culture’s stereotypes about “voodoo” and those who
on a necromancer’s impression: the death-Resonance Jhor practice it, most Bata’a avoid necromancy; certain devotees
(Mage 20, pp. 88, 478, and 560-561), the death-obsession of Le Baron and the Guedé Loa, however, know there’s a

Chapter Two 37
time and place for such Arts. (See Gods & Monsters, pp. other mages from African, Asian, Catholic European, and
171-179.) Occasional mad scientists display an unhealthy Latin American cultures.
fascination with mortality, too, and though they’d seldom
Roleplaying Notes: Death is a doorway, not a dead
consider themselves necromancers, death plays an innate
end.
role within their Approach. On a kinder note, Catholic
priests, Spiritualist mediums, and devotees of ancestor Media Examples: Dr. Kananga, Herbert West, Light
veneration (see The Book of Secrets, p. 193) employ a more Nagami, Miriam Black, Rowan North, “Papa Doc” Duvalier,
reverent form of necromancy; in this regard, you might find Ota Mae Brown, the Knights of Death Vigil, and The
such necromancers among the Celestial Chorus, Ngoma, Fountain’s Mayan priest.
Verbenae, certain Dreamspeakers and Akashayana, and

38 Mage Made Easy


Reality Hacker
Clever people can find backdoors and workarounds (body modification, chaos magick, Goetic sigils, alchemy,
to any system. Why should Reality be any different? By and so forth). Certain fringe group reality hackers favor
definition, Mage’s mages hack Reality through their Arts. anarcho-primitivist philosophies that paradoxically
This Approach merely throws a postmodernist spin on combine feralism with high technology; others integrate
that idea. A reality hacker employs sophisticated tools and High Ritual Magick and Goetia into their reality-cracking
theories in order to circumvent the apparent limitations attempts. Anything that seems like it might work is fair
of the world he’s been given. While it’s doubtful he’ll call game, especially among transhumanists, technoshamans,
himself a mage (though he just might, if only to get a rise out technopagans, ecstatic artist-types, and other metaphysical
of people), this IT-era malcontent uses his skills to rewrite insurgents. In The Book of Secrets, Able Ferox personifies
the code that binds lesser mortals to their fate. the cybernetic reality-hacker Approach (pp. 176-177).

Impression: The archetypal reality hacker is a tattooed Associated Practices: Chaos magick, cybernetics,
white dude with a hoodie, a laptop, bad social skills, and an domination, gutter magick, hypertech; certain techniques
unhealthy addiction to caffeine. So naturally, this person add in alchemy, hypereconomics, feralism, Goetia, High
might look nothing like that at all. Genderqueer people Ritual Magick, infernal sciences, shamanism, witchcraft,
hack social “realities” simply by existing. So do women who yoga, and other such practices.
refuse to fit into their assigned social roles. People who’ve
Associated Groups: Virtual Adepts are most obviously
lived their lives outside their cultural power structure learn
identified with this
to hack reality as a basic survival
Approach (especially
strategy, and so an Awakened
among their
reality hacker could be anybody
Mercurial and Reality
with enough wit and grit to get
Coder factions), but
the job done.
Ecstatic Cultists,
Approach to Magick: Iteration X operatives,

as a system that can bePlace illustration here


Although the idea of existence

circumvented if you have the


certain Etherites and
Verbenae, computer-
oriented Hermetics,
proper keys (see the paradigm “Bible Code”

(recomended full colour)


entry “Turning the Keys to
Reality” in The Book of Secrets,
p. 194) is not a new idea, the
Choristers, and other
mages from various
factions practice
tech-focused concept of using reality hacking, too.
computers to decipher and
Roleplaying
rewrite Creation’s code sits at
Notes: Everything
the heart of 21st-century reality
is data, and you can
hacking. To that end, our
change the code.
reality hacker probably employs all kinds of IT technologies
(computer gear, smart drugs, cybernetic enhancements, Media Examples: Kaden Lane, Morpheus, Genesis
mass media, internet activity, etc.), combined with older P-Orridge, Maelcum, Dozer, Grant Morrison, Henry Dorsett
instruments that may or may not be “occult” in nature Case.

Chapter Two 39
Shaman
Beyond our world of matter moves a greater world spirit-workers are viewed with a combination of awe, respect,
of spirit. The shaman provides a living bridge between and fear.
those worlds. Generally considered to be a healer, seer and
Approach to Magick: Animism – the understanding
prophet of the spirit world, the shaman becomes a channel
that the world is alive and aware in a spiritual sense – is
for Otherworldly powers. That role occupies a similar
the core of shamanic practices. Because animism is literally
social place as a priest or priestess, and the shaman might
true in the World of Darkness, a shaman has a front-row
be known by that name (or its cultural equivalent) as well;
seat at an aspect of Reality that many mages don’t really
unlike the priests and priestess of many churches, though,
understand. If your chronicle features the Avatar Storm
the shaman mediates personally with her patron spirits, not
metaplot option, a shaman might have a challenging time
through the auspices of a religious organization. This person
working with certain aspects of the spirit realms; that said,
enjoys – often endures – a personal relationship with those
shamans traditionally work through pacts, bargains, advice
spiritual powers, and their strange whims and unseen voices
and partnerships with spirit beings, so a spirit-worker’s
often make her seem strange herself. Hence, the shaman
powers remain strong whether she can cross over into that
exists in a liminal state both socially and metaphysically, a
world or not.
human borderland between the everyday people around her
and the sublime realm of ephemeral forces. As for the shaman’s tools and beliefs, they’ll depend a
great deal on the culture from which she comes. Many spirit-
Impression: The popular image of a shaman comes
workers practice their ancestral ways, often with help from
from a combination of romanticized Noble Savage stuff
the ancestors themselves. Many others, especially in our era,
and selective appropriation of “spiritual” garb and behavior
adapt elements from various cultures (which they might or
from pre-industrial cultures. (Yes, we WoD creators have
might not belong to personally), and combine them in a
been guilty of perpetrating that image ourselves.) In reality,
“whatever works” fashion. Either way, the shaman derives
a shaman can be anyone who has a close metaphysical
her Arts through contact with the spirit worlds (typically
relationship with animist entities. The name shaman
those of the Middle Umbra) and their inhuman inhabitants.
comes from the German form of a Siberian word for spirit-
working magician-priests, and so shamans are not innately Although a shaman character doesn’t need the
Indigenous American or African; many of those people, Background: Totem (Mage 20, pp. 326-328 and 633-636),
in fact, find that term offensive. That said, many shamans that Trait and associated spirit-based Merits and Flaws
do adopt the familiar “tribal” trappings, partly because it’s (see The Book of Secrets, pp. 68-99) are common among
familiar and partly because those instruments do have power, spirit-working mages. Ashpaw Ten-Sticks (see The Book of
if only because so much belief has been invested into the Secrets, pp. 166-167 and 178-179, and The Mage Cookbook,
symbolism associated with shamanism. In the 21st century, pp. 84-87) presents an example of the shamanic Approach in
growing numbers of Europeans embrace their ancestral a 21st-century setting.
shamanic traditions, too. “Urban shamans,” meanwhile,
Associated Practices: Ancestor veneration, animalism,
merge ancestral elements with industrial technologies,
chaos magick, crazy wisdom, elementalism, demonism,
and sometimes incorporate computers, cybernetics, and
faith, feralism, god-bonding, gutter magick, invigoration,
experimental hypertech into the more “primal” instruments
medicine-work, mediumship, shamanism, Voudoun,
and rituals of pre-industrial cultures.
witchcraft; technoshamanism incorporates weird science,
Regardless of their garb and instruments, shamans too, and certain forms of maleficia and martial arts include
tend to come across a bit spacy and strange by the standards spiritual connections to Otherworldly guides.
of the people around them. Even in pre-industrial cultures,

40 Mage Made Easy


Associated Groups: The Dreamspeakers, of course, Roleplaying Notes: Most people think this material
are most associated with this Approach, but it is not world is all there is. Those people are fools.
exclusive to them. Kopa Loei essentially employ shamanism
Media Examples: Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Korra, Bagi,
too, and although the Bata’a and Taftani would never
Black Elk, Nakoruru, Nobody, Tanya Tagoq, Amaaji,
refer to themselves as “shamans,” they often deal with
Nightwolf, Brother Christopher, and musical artists like
Otherwordly entities in the same ways a shaman would.
Wardruna, Heilung, Tanya Tagoq, and Soriah.
Ecstasy Cultists, Thanatoics, Verbenae, Hermetics, Hollow
Ones and “orphans” have many shamans among their ranks,
with the occasional Virtual Adept and Etherite perfecting
unorthodox methods of technoshamanism.

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 41
Technician
Magick is a technology, and technology has often Impression: Serious science is this Approach’s
been regarded as magick. From metalwork to computers, specialty. Of course, that science is too advanced for lesser
human innovation elevates us beyond our primal ancestry. minds to comprehend, but it is science, nonetheless. Our
If “magick is the Art and Science of causing change to technician probably isn’t a humorless jump-suited drone;
occur in conformity with Will,” then the technician’s science is pretty damned wondrous, and this character takes
Approach is no less “magical” than a wizard’s own. Oh, her joy in the things her technology can do. Even so, she often
tools and procedures seem modern enough: computers, lacks the bizarro persona that gives mad scientists their
weapons, vehicles, data, cybernetic interface, smelters, wires, name. Her achievements are “arts and sciences,” and she
mechanical parts and complex consoles and all the treasures pursues them with precise dedication.
of industrial scientific miracles. This technomancer, though,
Approach to Magick: Intense discipline and visionary
employs gear and theories that go far beyond what mundane
intellect are hallmarks of this Approach. Depending on
tech can do. Unlike the gadgeteer, she prefers stable and
the technologies involved, this person could be a biotech
reliable technologies; unlike the mad scientist, she believes
geneticist, a mechanical engineer, a quantum physicist,
that her hypertech must at least attempt to fit in with existing
an inventor, a crafter of advanced weaponry, a miracle
scientific laws and machines. Even so, our technician bends
mechanic, a creator of robots and artificial beings, a designer
physics to her will in ways that should be impossible… but
of radical innovations… the specifics depend on the player’s
only if someone who knows what’s going on looks closer
desires and the characters specializations. Regardless of
than usual at what she’s doing and how she’s doing it.

42 Mage Made Easy


the details, this Approach demands appropriate hardware, Associated Groups: Ideally, Technocratic operatives
workspace, and labor. Her instruments include tools, embody this Approach. Many of them go much further
theories and devices both mundane and hypertech. Though afield than this, of course, but their hypertech is more
she might integrate “occult” influences into her creations, reliable and predictable than the mad science of their
she’s not some stupid “wizard,” thank you very much. Her Etherite rivals. Even so, non-Union technomancers often
technologies follow established scientific rules, but they favor this Approach as well, especially those from the Virtual
take those rules further than unEnlightened minds could Adepts Tradition.
venture.
Roleplaying Notes: Spellcasting is for amateurs. The
For associated game-system details, see the Mage 20 real “magic” comes from a proper understanding of science
entries for SCIENCE!!! (p. 290), “Technocratic Backgrounds and an imaginative application of its principles.
(pp. 302-303), “The Technological World” (pp. 458-464)
Media Examples: Lucius Fox, Ada Lovelace, Seymour
“Enlightened Adjustments /Technocratic Procedures” (pp.
Birkoff, Acid Burn, Montgomery Scott, Dr. Henry Deacon,
601-607), and “Technocratic Hardware /Biotech” (pp. 655-
and the various incarnations of James Bond’s Q.
661), as well as the Book of Secrets entries for Computer
Systems (pp. 116-127) and Wonders (pp. 139-165), and the
Gods & Monsters entries for Constructs (pp. 78-96).

Associated Practices: The Art of Desire /


Hypereconomics, craftwork, cybernetics, hypertech, infernal
sciences, invigoration, medicine-work, psionics, reality-
hacking.

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 43
Tycoon
Money is the ultimate magick. With a proper to use mundane instruments than occult tools. Thus,
understanding of it, you can turn lies into truths, facts into unless he’s incredibly careless and stupid, an Enlightened
fictions, elevate or degrade whole nations, or send their tycoon escapes the obvious risks of Paradox and discovery.
people spinning into wealth or poverty. Wealth transforms He’s quite likely to stir up Echoes (as the Flaw of that
frogs into princes, and so a “money man” (or, more rarely, name), Quiet and Resonance, though, which explains a lot
woman) has his finger on the pulse of this world. Such about the eccentric behavior and uncanny aura accredited
tycoons (from the Japanese taikun, “great prince”) rework to wealthy people. And because social value is tied so
Reality not with vulgar spells or summoned beasties but intrinsically to energies of all kinds, tycoon mages specialize
with the vast influence of wealth. A skilled practitioner in working with energy and influence (as described in the
doesn’t need to get his hands dirty at all; with the right How Do You DO That? entries of those names, pp. 42-51
words or keystrokes, he can slash credit ratings, deny funds, and 114-136).
kick people out of their homes, send agents to teach brutal
For details about what this sort of magick looks like
lessons to his enemies, or manipulate popular opinion
in game terms, see Mage 20’s entries “Resources” (pp. 322-
against the target of his ire. On a more benevolent note,
323), “Fashion” (p. 591), “Mass Media,” “Management and
a money-mage can fund schools, repair homes, rescue
Human Resources,” “Money and Wealth” (p. 594-596),
people from poverty, support endeavors, dispatch aid,
and “Social Domination” (p. 598), plus the practice entries
and otherwise change lives on an individual, local or even
noted below and the character Malcolm Jamal Leonard (pp.
national scale. All this, he can do without sending up a
254-259).
ripple of Paradox energies! Money made the world as we
know it, and so wealth can change that world in ways that Associated Practices: Art of Desire /Hypereconomics,
don’t seem “magical” even when they absolutely are. dominion, hypertech, invigoration, and reality-hacking.
Malignant tycoons (like those of the Mammonite Nephandi
Impression: The old-school image of the tycoon as a
faction) might also work in maleficia, infernal sciences,
gaudy aristocrat or suit-and-tie smoothie have been largely
demonism, and the Black Mass; historically speaking, the
replaced by a cooler, hipper, or perhaps geekier impression.
atrocities attributed to La Voisin and Gilles de Rias were
In the 21st century, an absurdly rich person might be an
specifically aimed at generating wealth.
online influencer, a nerdy genius, a gorgeous film star or
ripped athlete, a traditional financier, or a young Midas with Associated Groups: The Syndicate are acknowledged
a literally magic touch. That impression, however careless masters of hypereconomic Arts, and they’re the only
it might appear at first, has been meticulously cultivated to Technocratic operatives who can refer to what they do as
appeal to the tycoon’s intended audience. For such mages, “magic” and get away with doing so. That said, the Order
social cache is as vital as financial acumen. After all, “value” of Hermes, Wu Lung and Etherites hold long associations
has many different elements, and charisma rates high among with wealth as well, and many Ecstatics and Virtual Adepts
them. use their Arts to become wealthy, too. The Fallen sect of
Mammonites, mentioned above, consider wealth to be
Approach to Magick: A money mage seldom employs
the ultimate form of power, and their fellow Nephandi
typical spellcraft. Instead, he’ll manipulate social appeal,
(especially Goatkids, Hobs and Ironhands) agree.
access resources, deploy agents, pull strings, encourage
risks, juggle probabilities, and generally act from a distance
when altering reality. It’s possible that he’ll call upon
demonic favors (see the infernal Investments detailed in
The Book of the Fallen, pp. 120-127), but he’s more likely

44 Mage Made Easy


Roleplaying Notes: The ability to conjure fireballs Media Examples: Bill and Melinda Gates, Gordon
is nothing compared to the ability to buy or bankrupt an Gekko, Donald Trump, Bruce Wayne, Elon Musk, Professor
entire city. Xavier, Don Draper, Winston and Evelyn Deavor.

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 45
Witch
Despised and exalted, the witch works close to the of choice mingle with simple symbols (as opposed to the
hearth. Where wizards traditionally perform elaborate rites dazzling complexity of Hermetic designs), earthly elements,
with expensive instruments, witches favor a more practical bodily remains, and everyday tools. Where the wizard affects
approach. The details vary from culture to culture, of course, a rarefied distance from mundane affairs, the witch gets
but the foundations of witchcraft remain intimate and often down and dirty with her Arts.
humble: herbs, earth, blood, crops, food and drink, dance,
household tools, bones and remains, the time of day or year,
and – most controversially – sexuality. Witchcraft is more an
Art of the body than of the mind; intimate and carnal, tied
to the seasons of the living earth and worked through the
connection of humanity, animal, spirits and the elements.
Often traced to root words referring to wisdom, bending
and shaping, connection or division, dancing, prophecy
and raising the dead, the word witch holds ominous
connotations. Though not specifically gendered, that
word’s so intrinsically tied to femininity that modern forms
of witchcraft favor a female perspective. Where a wizard
seeks to impose his will, the witch works with what she has,
bending and weaving her Arts through the hidden corners
of our world.

Impression: The popular image of a witch ranges from


a seductive young woman to a bitter old crone. The reality
could be as stereotypical or removed from that impression
as the witch herself wishes to be. Some witches cultivate
a sinister mystique, while others seem utterly mundane.
Behind that impression, however, a witch remains connected
to her surroundings. She might employ modern technology,
perhaps even a hint of hypertech, but the core of her Arts
remains earthy and pragmatic. Feet in the soil, eyes on the
horizon, she embodies the crossing between ephemeral
essence and the living world.

Approach to Magick: Many modern witches refer


to this Approach as “the Old Ways.” Though that’s not
historically true with regards to Wicca and other recent
innovations, witchcraft feels ancient even when its rites
are roughly a century old. Connection to the elements,
spirits, animals and Pagan gods are essential to traditional
witchcraft, although certain witches (both modern and
historical) favor the Christian God instead of Pagan ones.
Brews, herbs, potions, and prayers to elders and deities

46 Mage Made Easy


At least some of the inherent snobbery of the phrase Associated Groups: The Verbenae, of course, hold
“low magick” refers to the contempt that ritual magi hold pride of place in the witchcraft arena, although many
for common witch-folk. In The Book of Secrets, Corvia Hollow Ones, Hippolytoi, Ecstatics, Thanatoics, “orphans,”
Delbaeth (pp. 180-181) embodies this Approach. and Ex Miscellanea hermetics follow this Approach as well.
Nephandic Goatkids and Infernalists favor the bloodiest
Associated Practices: Alchemy, ancestor veneration,
forms of witchcraft, if only because so many of them enjoy
Art of Desire, chaos magick, demonism, dominion,
living up to the bad reputation witches have.
elementalism, feralism, gutter magick, maleficia,
mediumship, Voudoun, and witchcraft. Certain Roleplaying Notes: Nature’s secrets are your
technopagan witches add god-bonding, invigoration, sacraments. Standing at the threshold of her shadows, you
psionics, weird science, and /or yoga to the more traditional are not afraid.
Old Ways.
Media Examples: Sabrina, Kiki, Maleficent, Nancy
Downs, Gerald Gardner, Marie Laveau, Morgan Le Fay,
Willow Rosenberg, and the Owens women.

Place illustration here


(recomended full colour)

Chapter Two 47
Chapter Three:
Te
Telling Tales

So, what would you little maniacs like to do first?
— Lisa, Weird Science

The Lovers
Associations: Partnership; synergy; free will; cooperation; union
between heart and mind, conscious and subconscious...

“Okay, so a witch, a necromancer and a reality hacker walk into a


bar…”
“Um, no.”
“Okay. But what if they all work at the bar?”
“Hmmm… Maybe? What kind of a bar has three Awakened mages
working in it, though? And why are they working in a bar to begin with?”
“Uh, maybe it’s a tavern at a big festival?”
“Not bad. That might work. And…?”
“They’re probably fairly new at this ‘magick’ thing, and still need to
work mundane jobs to make a living.”
“That tracks. So, a festival like a Renaissance fair or something?”
“Yeah. I like that.”
“Works for me. Everybody else?”
*agreements all around*
“Okay, so who are you in this festival, how much do you know
about each other, and what do you do when, one night, things suddenly go
very, very wrong…?”

Chapter Three 49
Where Do We Go from Here?
Okay, we’ve junked the metaplot, or at least Or perhaps the mage’s Path conflicts in some major
shoved it to the back burner for a while. way with the relative’s beliefs, violates family honor,
We’ve paired down complex elements and involves forbidden behavior, or involves some other
replaced familiar groups with character family taboo or exposes family secrets that have been
concepts. How, then, do you run Mage kept secret for a reason.
without many of the game’s signature
elements? ● Family Crisis: A mage’s family is faced with some un-
avoidable threat: financial ruin, spreading plague, trouble
By concentrating on people, not metaplot.
with the law, a relative who’s gone off the rails and taken
As mentioned earlier in Chapter One, a the whole clan with them. The crisis may already have
Mage chronicle that begins apart from the hit (a huge fire, for instance, that burned down the
Ascension Conflict has a variety of options: family home), or could be hanging over the clan like
the proverbial Sword of Damocles (foreclosure on the
family estate). Again, the mage should do something, but
The Mundane World drastic actions (killing a creditor) or simple solutions
(conjuring a bunch of money) would just make things
Both players and Storyteller can build their chronicle
worse. Maybe the crisis is a good thing (like winning the
around the intimate circles and mundane lives of newly lottery, or a big wedding) with significant consequences
Awakened mages. Instead of tossing lightning bolts at HIT that might not be quite as fortunate as the event itself.
Marks in Horizon Realms, the characters deal with family To complicate matters, family members might despise
the mage, fear supernatural powers, maintain strict
strife (as in the TV shows Charmed and Runaways), peer
religious beliefs, hold embarrassing information about
conflicts (the film The Craft), personal grudges (The Prestige), that mage, or resent that she went off and left them in
mysteries and rivalries around town (Riverdale or Veronica the situation which now needs to be resolved.
Mars), their own traumas and limitations (Jessica Jones),
● Magnificent Disaster: A non-Awakened person catches
or perhaps all of the above (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina). the mage’s attention in thrilling yet uncomfortable ways.
Many of the Social Merits and Flaws featured in The Book Maybe he’s a bad boy who’s too yummy to resist… or
of Secrets (pp. 53-68), and the “everyday people” featured she’s the living embodiment of the adage “crazy girls are
hawt.” Perhaps they’re a dazzling stranger who brings up
in Gods & Monsters (pp. 17-60) can provide inspiration
uncomfortable questions about sexual identity (they’re
for such tales, while the sourcebooks Initiates of the not the mage’s usual type), social status (they’re too rich
Art, Destiny’s Price, The Orphans Survival Guide, and or too poor for the mage’s comfort), political philosophy
especially The Bitter Road feature plenty of material (if a bit (that is, diametrically opposed to the mage’s beliefs),
or existing relationships (c’mon – an affair couldn’t
dated in some regards) for chronicles based among everyday
possibly be that bad… right?). The magnificent disaster
people. might be an old flame, a longtime friend, a relative,
or some other person with whom such a connection
Story Concepts would be A Really Bad Idea. Of course, as the saying
The following suggestions may inspire Mage stories goes, “the heart wants what the heart wants,” and mages
are used to getting what they want, even if the results
based in the mundane world, and they could be used with involve catastrophe. Obviously, this sort of story should
or without the larger metaplot: be staged only with the full, enthusiastic and ongoing
consent of the players involved. And although the same
● Danger is Relative: A beloved relative is in danger – concept could be used with a fellow mage, a vampire,
perhaps ill, arrested by the cops, abused by other family or some other attractive catalyst, it’s more challenging
members, suffering psychological breakdown, going if that object of desire is a normal human being whose
broke, homeless, or otherwise in a tough position. relative lack of power is offset by staggering chemistry
What can the mage(s) do to help that person without and the comparative fragility of a person who can’t alter
exposing them to the mages’ perilous secret life? Maybe Reality on a whim.
the relative is estranged instead of beloved, but the
mage feels some obligation to help them out anyway.

50 Mage Made Easy


● Bad Neighbors: Someone near the mage’s home (or ● The Reckoning Comes Home: The mage’s “extracurricu-
the mages’ Chantry, Sanctum, or other property) is lar activities” follow him home. Fans, enemies, life-debt
causing trouble. Maybe they’re dealing drugs, beating companions, annoying familiars, angry spirits, vengeful
their families, throwing loud parties at absurd hours, Night-Folk, Echoes or Resonance so strong that everyday
leaving dangerous trash in shared areas, or otherwise people notice its effects… the possibilities are as endless
being a total pain in a mage’s ass. Sure, a few subtle as the headaches involved. Once again, the mage must
Effects might end the problem for a night, but these address the problem as quietly and secretly as possible.
bad neighbors are nothing if not persistent. It’s likely, How possible is that, though, if a werewolf pack decides
too, that their activities are harming innocent people, to ambush the mage in his living room, or if Echoes
even if the parties involved all tell the mages to “mind turn the local gardens into small forests or piles of ash?
your own damn business.” Drastic solutions might A cackling Paradox Spirit or a Black Suit field team
seem necessary, but the mage who thinks she can just showing up when such things seem most inconvenient?
blast everyday people to atoms without unpleasant Even after the threat is contained (if it can be contained),
consequences hasn’t practiced magick very long. Those that mage has some serious ‘splainin’ to do…
consequences could include lawsuits lodged against the
mage, visits from the cops… or from gangs, or violent
strangers, or… or… or… The neighbors might retaliate
Supernatural Entities,
by spreading rumors about the mages, or by nosing Predators, and Allies
around in things the mages really do not want people While I suggest avoiding crossover games if you want
to know about. Religious groups picketing “those damn
to keep Mage simple, there’s no reason why a Storyteller
Satanists”? Landlords posting eviction notices for the
mage? Videos taken of a mage’s skyclad rituals, going viral cannot bring in supporting characters from other Night-
on social media? Sleepers can be more hazardous than Folk “species.” TV shows like Buffy and Angel, Sabrina, True
they initially appear, and mages with high-flown ideals Blood, The Magicians, American Horror Story, and so forth
of global Awakening might have their beliefs challenged
feature paranormal critters skulking around the fringes of
by the sheer obnoxiousness everyday people display.

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(recomended full colour)

Chapter Three 51
the mundane human world. The Gods & Monsters entries
about such beings (pp. 60-75) show how vampires and so
forth appear to mages, especially in a street-level setting far
from the epic conflicts our World of Darkness is infamous
for. That sense of brooding menace and occult violence
was a major element of the early World of Darkness books;
speaking as one of the longtime creators in that World, I
personally prefer that subtle mystery over the paranormal
arms-race approach featured in later books. You don’t
need weresharks and vampiric demigods to keep Mage
interesting. A pack of sly young blood-hunters is more than
enough to keep beginning mages occupied, while a spooky
haunt or a grizzled werecreature could be an unnerving ally,
an uncanny nemesis, or both.

Story Hooks
● Shared Territory: Wizard-types tend to be touchy about
privacy. So do other Creatures of the Night, especially
if (like vampires) said creatures are predatory hunters
who’d rather not become the hunted. Even so, it’s easy
to trip over nearby shadows if and when such beings
cross your path. Maybe the Chantry used to be the home
of a vampire who’s been away on business for a while;
or the werecreature frequenting the local Pagan book
shop takes an unhealthy interest in her new neighbors;
or the object of enchantment by a faerie seducer also
happens to be the trusted companion of a mage who
takes poorly to such attention. Your Sanctum is haunted?
Your familiar just peed acid on a dryad’s tree? That neat
sacred grove your coven just found belongs to a group
of snarling beast-folk? The ways in which Awakened
people cross paths with supernatural creatures are as
numerous as the Night-Folk themselves… and, as any-
one familiar with the World of Darkness knows, those
uncanny creatures are far more common than anyone
wants to believe they are.

● Uneasy Alliance: Despite their differences, such entities


might well stand alongside a mage or two, if only be-
cause some common cause demands a temporary truce.
Maybe wildfires threaten precious territory; perhaps an
organized crime group or government agency wants both
parties dead. A rival group of mages or Night-Folk might
have painted targets on the allies, or a sudden plague or
natural disaster forces them to put aside their differences
long enough to protect their loved ones and survive the
crisis themselves. Whatever the situation is, a common
sentiment is such cases winds up being, “When this ends,
you’re dead!” (See Mage 20, p. 353.) Though long-term
alliances are possible, the volatile nature of mages and
Night-Folk keep such bonds tenuous indeed.
52 Mage Made Easy
● Forbidden Bonds: Your mage develops an unhealthy the prey. That ancient vampire might have an awesome
fixation on a paranormal entity… or that entity develops library or the key to some occult enigma; that wraith
a crush on the mage… or both. Such tensions might could want a necromancer’s attention. Whatever the
prove irresistibly attractive, especially among creatures reason, the “prey” is not initially inclined to give the
whose nature breeds preternatural charms. Is it really hunter what she craves, and so the dramatic tension
that surprising that such exquisite creatures fall in comes from one party wanting what the other party
love or lust? Nope. The forbidden element just tends feels reluctant to share.
to make passions run hotter while judgement runs
screaming for the nearest exit. It’s really not that great
an idea to get intimately involved with, say, a literal
Arcane Cults
beast or a super-powered corpse. Since when, though, Occult history and culture are filled with real-life
have human beings displayed good judgement when it “witch wars” between rival sects of magical practitioners.
comes to affairs of the heart, loins, or other body parts? Aleister Crowley was a one-man witch-war himself, slinging
Your boyfriend’s an actual troll or a ghost inhabiting
curses, lawsuits and bad publicity with most of his fellow
a human form? That’s probably not gonna end well,
but such bonds are literally Romantic, so at least your associates. The films Night Watch, Ink, and The Sorcerer’s
lovers have tradition on their side even if no one else is. Apprentice, as well as many of the TV shows mentioned
earlier, offer great examples of supernatural rivalry in the
● The Enemy of My Enemy is…: Common foes make
strange bedfellows. As noted earlier, a shared threat shadows of our world. Your Mage game doesn’t need
can drive enemies toward unity of at least a temporary to feature Ascension War politics or factions in order
kind. A religious mage, for example, could find herself to spotlight conflicts between rival sects. As detailed in
holding the line beside a vampire in order to drive a
Mage 20’s “Orphans” entry (pp. 214-215), small groups of
demon back to hell. Mortal agencies of overwhelming
power, predatory spirits or city-ravaging beasts – the practitioners exist between the cracks of the greater War; in
threat posed by such enemies is too great for the mage a game without that War, those groups can still exist. Best
or rival night-creature to face alone. Sure, the night-crea- of all, this sort of “clean slate” approach gives the Storyteller
ture might be using the mage as cannon fodder (or vice
and her players license to invent groups that suit their local
versa), but for as long as it lasts, this crisis can put an
end to the usual hostilities. You don’t need the complex culture and personal interests, without having to tie them
metaplots of Werewolf or Vampire in order to bring into the “official” Mage metaplot.
such stories into play, either; a “generic” ghost or demon
can be just as much a handful as any Wyrm creature or
Story Hooks

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rampaging spectre… even more of one, really, because an
enemy created by the Storyteller is far more frightening ● The New Kid: A newly Awakened mage seeks guidance,
and unpredictable than one that players recognize from fellowship, and place to belong. Hey, maybe that grove
Page XX in Sourcebook: Whatever. /church /Pagan meetup /festival /whatever will have
what she’s looking for! The mage in question might be
● Stalking the Nightmare: Creatures of the night are a player character, which provides an excellent way to

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predatory by nature. Even the Fae Folk are dangerous introduce a new player to the game; hell, there might be
company, with many of them seeking mortal life-essence several “new kids,” each one a new player, which provides
and attention regardless of the cost to the mortals an introduction to Mage itself. Alternately, the player(s)
themselves. Mages have their own sorts of predatory might have a long history with the group, and the new
behavior (what else, after all, would you call it when kid is a complication to an existing storyline. Again,
someone’s trying to define your reality for you?), but this works well if you’re introducing a new player to an
when a vampire’s hunger or a werebeast’s fury impact existing group, as it provides common ground for the
on that mage’s family and friends, it could lead to a adventures to follow. Naturally, there’ll be personality
bloody hunt through the shadows of their home town. conflicts, crises of faith, differences of opinion and
The mages, on the other hand, might be the subject of perception, questions of loyalty, and all the usual fun
some other creature’s search, as shown by the character that comes when new members join existing groups. If
Hunts-the-Wizards in Gods & Monsters. And then there you want to get your Harry Potter on, this story hook
are “hunts” for knowledge, hunts for affection, hunts provides an opportunity to do so.
for secret lore or mystic favors. There are many reasons
mages or Night-Folk might stalk each other, and many
of those hunts won’t have anything to do with killing

Chapter Three 53
● Crisis of Faith: As I know from personal experience, join- Age hangers-on, and so forth; or perhaps they maintain
ing a metaphysical group often causes you to question discipline and loyalty among the ranks of the group, like
things you took for granted before that initiation. Maybe Inquisitors within the Catholic Church. Some threats
you’ll change your old convictions… or perhaps that are obvious, of course, but what happens if the threat
experience will inspire you to dig your heels in deeper isn’t overt – say, for example, a disgruntled member who
than before. For this story-hook, a character finds himself decides to expose the group’s secrets publicly, or an elder
questioning his previous beliefs, questioning the beliefs whose behavior shifts from “questionable” to Oh HELL
he’s been taught within his group, or maybe questioning no? An external attack can be exciting, of course, like
both. Because belief (paradigm) is such an essential defending the sanctuary from rampaging werebeasts,
element of Mage, this crisis provides dramatic conflicts violent rivals, or a SWAT team with a no-knock warrant.
for the characters in question. Sure, some groups are A more subtle yet potentially precarious adventure,
flexible when it comes to their members’ metaphysical though, could be made by presenting the players with
convictions, but others demand complete adherence a situation that can be resolved only with diplomacy or
and loyalty to the beliefs outlined within that group. discretion. “Defense,” after all, takes many forms, and
Especially if those beliefs come from a living authority the ability to talk a District Attorney out of his crusade
within the group (AKA, its cult leader), a personal against your group would be far more effective (and
crisis of conviction can kick off shockwaves between far less costly) than trying to fight off an army of cops.
members of that group. Imagine, after all, a member
of an Evangelical Protestant Christian sect pondering ● Challenges of Mastery: Your players have risen to the
conversion to Sufi Islam… or vice versa. Such crisis can upper echelons of their group. Now what? Sure, rank
have severe, perhaps even deadly, consequences for the has its privileges, but it comes with demands, as well.
person in question. When you’re talking about people As elders, the players must maintain group coherence
whose beliefs literally change Reality in a metaphysical and discipline, lead the rituals, secure the properties,
sense, those consequences can be even more drastic negotiate the conflicts, present good examples, and
than usual. (For game systems involved with such otherwise facilitate the survival and prosperity for that
transitions, see “Changing Focus and Allegiance” in sect. Temptations abound, of course: offers of wealth,
Mage 20, p. 339.) sex, power, favors, forbidden magicks and questionable
deeds. Why not use the group’s wealth as your personal
● Witch War: Schisms erupt. Lines are drawn. Alliances bank account? Why not create new protocols or “discover
form and grudges boil up. Curses fly – perhaps bullets, ancient rituals” that grant further powers over those who
blades and bodies do, as well. Loyalties are questioned serve you? Between the allure of abusive authority and
and oaths demanded. Secrets come to light… and they the necessity of keeping the group intact, a Storyteller
could be ugly ones. Perhaps those conflicts flare between can find plenty of ways to keep a mage or two occupied
rival sects; or maybe they fracture an existing group. with high-stakes stories that seldom leave the home front.
Such conflicts are common among real-life occult sects;
Aleister Crowley pissed off old colleagues and formed
new fellowships whenever the mood took him. Is the
The Monsters Within
current conflict the result of a relationship gone bad (as There’s a reason Mage 20’s tagline reads: “Pride.
happened in a real-life group whose members included Power. Paradox.” Despite the many external adversaries
That Damn Mage Guy), differences of doctrine, or the dogging a mage’s steps, the greatest enemies of Ascension
behavior of one or more members of the sect? Is this a
wait inside. When you possess the power to make Reality
mere clash of personalities, or does the war in question
involve real violence and real injuries? Most times, in dance to your tune, that power possesses you as well, often
real life, “war” is a figurative term, not a literal one. driving you to become everything you fear and despise in
Considering that Mage’s metaplot concerns a witch war other people. Our real-life socio-political climate features
on a global scale, however, it’s not unreasonable to think
countless examples of people so drunk with that sort of
that the conflict could have severe repercussions, both
for the sect’s membership and for anyone unfortunate power that they destroy everything and everyone they touch.
enough to be nearby when things go poorly. In an age where even the most obvious elements of reality
and truth (historical documents, the moon, the existence
● Defenders of the Path: Conflicts are inevitable, and so
certain people must safeguard the group. In this situation, of Australia) are open to argument, a mage’s ability to
the player characters are among those defenders of the manipulate Reality on a metaphysical level is heady stuff.
sect. Maybe they need to protect it from external enemies: And like all heady things, it’s liable to go to that mage’s
rival sects, witch-hunters, Night-Folk predators, New

54 Mage Made Easy


head in ways that become dangerous to everyone within his when other powerful parties view him as an obstacle to
reach. You don’t need to be Archmaster Porthos in order to be removed at any cost. “My way” situations can become
complex, especially if it turns out that the mage, in the
pose significant threat to your surroundings; as the malign
grand scheme of things, really is correct after all.
workings described in The Book of the Fallen reveal, simple
tricks of ruthless influence can spark riots, destroy lives, and ● Reckless Thinking: Power breeds recklessness, too. Why
bother being careful, after all, if you possess the ability
turn magick’s wonders into magick’s curse.
to make consequences seem to vanish? Conjure fake
money? Charm people into letting you get away with
Story Hooks stuff? Set up shop near a vampire’s haven because you
● My Way or the Highway: With great power comes great can just turn him into soap bubbles if he gets annoyed?
arrogance. When you can literally reshape Reality, after Sure – why not? With the vast potential of the Spheres,
all, through the force of your beliefs, then those beliefs a high-ranked magus can do whatever she feels like
must be correct! In this storyline, a significant character doing… right? Such presumptions lead to carelessness,
(perhaps a player’s mage, perhaps an NPC) decides and carelessness, when you’re working with Reality, can
that all forms of disagreement with his convictions are have very serious effects: Echoes, Resonance, Paradox,
wrong. That master commands the power to enforce his angry rivals, fed-up authorities, rising hubris, disgruntled
mandates, and so those who dissent must find a way to peers, disgusted friends, stupid mistakes, etc. etc. etc.…
escape his influence or change his mind. If the arrogant
● The Mad Mentor: Inner monsters often rise within the
mage is a player character, then he might be in for a rude
people we trust and rely upon most. In this story, a
lower-case awakening, especially if his convictions present
player-character’s mentor lets pride go to his head. It’s
a danger to himself and those around him. “Danger,” of
up to the players, then, to straighten him out or finish
course, assumes many different forms, most of which are
him off. For obvious reasons, this sort of thing gets
more social or emotional than physical. His demands
tricky, especially if the pupil owes her mentor a great
could shatter group stability, imperil his loved ones,
debt, the mentor commands respect within their shared
undermine cherished relationships, unravel Seekings,
community, that mentor has powers far beyond those of
alienate colleagues, perhaps even put him on a hit list

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Chapter Three 55
his subordinates, refuses all attempts at reason, or has could become a burden, even an adversary, to a mage
maybe gone totally Marauder or otherwise detached who has one; if that mage opposes someone else’s cult,
himself from the greater consequences of his actions. that conflict could escalate to murderous degrees. Gods
That mentor might retain affection for his young & Monsters features several examples of character types
apprentice, but he is the Master, dammit, and so he who serve within cults (see pp. 33-50 and 55-56), and
knows damned well what he’s doing, thank you very considering the Mage actually has a Background Trait
much indeed! The student, then, will face formidable called Cult, you can assume that this story hook will
challenges when bringing a mad mentor back into line. come into play eventually.

● For the Greater Good: Don’t you wish you could fix
the world? Feed the hungry, cure the sick, keep [insert Internal Struggles
“Those People” of your choice here] from fucking every- Even without fatal pride, a mage is still human. And
thing up? Mages can do that, right? Why not use such humans struggle with stuff that has little or nothing to do
power for the common good? It’s a noble goal… and
with metaphysical concerns: age, insecurity, depression,
as the Ascension War demonstrates, noble goals can
have awful consequences. That principle applies even if self-doubt, physical ailments, psychological traumas,
you’re not using Mage’s metaplot; after all, that bunch physiological conditions, love, hate, old grudges, PTSD
of hippies who think the solution to all of humanity’s flashbacks, addictions, hungers, physical and emotional
problems involves dosing strangers with hallucinogenic
scars… Being human is hard, and despite all their powers,
drugs doesn’t have to belong to the Cult of Ecstasy. For
this storyline, one or more of the player-mages simply mages are still human.
need to believe that they can, and should, use their arts
to make a difference in the world. Again, this in itself The many Physical, Mental and Social Merits and
is not a bad idea at all; the “Reality Challenge” entry in Flaws provided in The Book of Secrets provide rich material
Mage 20 (p. 432) shows what that effort might look like, for internal struggles, and several of the Supernatural ones
and how it can be a fantastic thing. Potential conflicts suggest internal conflicts, too – especially when the mage’s
include (but, as usual, are not limited to) the people
whose activities stand in the way of that improvement, Avatar is concerned. In the 1st Edition Cult of Ecstasy
differences between the mages about what should be Tradition Book, Cassie’s journey is essentially one long
done and how it should be done, and the ever-present internal conflict, with flickers of external ones hinted at but
danger of going all Don Cheadle is Captain Planet. It’s rarely portrayed. Inside, she struggles with her fears, doubts,
easy, in Mage, to become the good guy doing bad things
for all the right reasons. insecurities and self-loathing, prodded by an Avatar who
manifests as the woman she will become after she confronts
● Confronting the Cult: Where do cult leaders begin? and overcomes those obstacles. Such adventures are
Generally, with good intentions gone wrong. Although
some people do become cult leaders out of malice and especially fertile ground for single-player games. As the first
greed, the most effective cults begin with genuinely chapter for Mage 20 shows, an Awakened person’s greatest
positive intentions which become warped through adversary is often found within.
power, insularity, and people disappearing up their
own asses. Mages, especially, are prone to such things, Story Hooks
and so this story concept supposes that one or more
mages (perhaps player characters, perhaps not) has a ● Sort That Shit Out: Addictions, neurosis, insecurities, ter-
group of devotees so loyal that their devotion becomes minal hesitation, and many other internal obstacles can
potentially dangerous. Maybe the power has gone to a derail a mage’s Path. This story concept, then, presents
mage’s head; or that cult makes demands of the mage a player’s character with inner turmoil, plops him down
that she’s not willing or able to fulfill. Disciples might in the vicinity of another mage’s issues, or both. The fact
fling themselves at the mage whether she wants them that such issues typically result from trauma – may, in
to or not, or they could carry out crimes that the cult’s fact, have been the only way the mage has survived that
leader might or might not have approved. Cults demand trauma as well as he has – makes it that much harder
greatness from their leaders, too, and a leader who seems to face and subdue those secret demons. Fortunately,
weak or indecisive may well find herself displaced by a mages have Seekings which often force them to confront
more forceful, charismatic party. Leadership looks more and transcend such limitations. A “sort that shit out”
glamorous than it often is, and so the cult in question story presents an excellent opportunity for one-player

56 Mage Made Easy


sessions which take place in a Quiet Mindscape, a Seek- and, by extension, to the emotional weight of grief itself
ing vision-world, or a dream-based Demesne (Mage 20, (ditto that). In a “grief bacon” story, a mage feels so
pp. 310-311). If your player is dealing with some other overwhelmed with grief that the weight of it messes with
mage’s inner demons (perhaps those of another player’s his life. Perhaps he hallucinates about people he has lost,
character), this story inspires high drama and cathartic attempts to recreate them with magickal simulacra, tries
roleplay. As with other tricky storylines, this is the sort to use his Arts to undo their loss (as in Travis Legge’s
of thing you’ll need ongoing consent to work with; if story “Dabda,” from Truth Beyond Paradox), or otherwise
your players are into it, however, then this plot can reach behaves in irrational and potentially dangerous ways. In
into the deepest currents of your characters and bring order to head things off before they become dangerous to
powerful changes to your chronicle. the mage (and possibly to others near him, as well), that
mage must come to terms with his grief. As I can attest
● Imposter Syndrome: “I can’t possibly be as [fill in the from experience, that’s no quick or easy process; unlike
blank] as that guy is!” Sound familiar? For all their power, cathartic movie scenes, trimming down “grief bacon”
mages, too, can suffer from imposter syndrome: that is a long, complex, and challenging process, especially
nagging doubt that you’re really qualified to do that thing if the grief in question involves profound aspects of
you do. In this story element (which is really more of a your identity. Even so, the healing-and-dealing process
thread than a hook), a mage fears that his competence is is an essential element of the Path. Suppressing hefty
a charade that other folks will see through any day now. grief is like trying to tighten a belt across an expanding
Generally, imposter syndrome undercuts self-confidence waistline and wondering why the pants no longer fit;
in silent, unseen ways; every so often, though, it erupts you can do it for a while but reality catches up to you
as either a crisis of confidence (perhaps, in game terms, eventually – even when you’re a mage.
as a sudden reduction of Willpower) or – more drasti-
cally – as risky moments when the mage tries either to ● I Don’t Feel Human Anymore: Alienation, too, is an
prove to himself that he is competent (even if he’s not), inescapable part of the Path. After all, when you can
or else ducks an opportunity where he is competent and literally recode Reality on a sub-atomic level, how human
his competence is needed but he doesn’t believe he’s up are you, really? More fearsome than the Paradox Effect
to the task. Whatever way it manifests, this act forces is the simple yet implacable paradox of a human being
that mage to confront his imposter syndrome… possibly whose human nature allows them to do inhuman things.
when the lives of other people are at stake. Indeed, the gaudy trappings of practices, instruments,
and metaphysical societies could be seen as methods
● The Forbidden Urge: A mage with a secret vice can be for grappling with the inherent alienation of being a
monstrous indeed. In this decidedly dicey “No, really – mage. What, then, can take their place if your Mage
secure consent and practice safety” story hook, a mage game ditches most or all of the Ascension War factions
struggles with some awful craving. The details are best and the sense of greater purpose that they bestow upon

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left to the players /Storyteller in question, but the urge their members? In this story option, a mage either be-
should be something that will cause serious problems gins to realize he’s slipping away from his empathy and
for the mage if she’s discovered. It doesn’t have to be relationships with other people, or the players begin to
sexual; kleptomania, poaching, an unhealthy fixation realize that another mage displays signs of profound
with demons… anything the mage should not do and yet and disturbing disconnection with humanity. Although

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feels drawn toward doing anyway could bring out the ug- extreme alienation might lead a magus to the ranks of
lier side of Awakening. After all, why should masters of the Fallen or the Mad, more likely he’s simply going to
Reality be constrained by silly little things like morality become cold, distant, and apparently unconcerned with
and discretion…? other people. For some sects, like extreme ascetics of
a religious or philosophical path, such disconnection
● Grief Bacon: Every mage endures loss. Loss of loved ones,
might be desirable; among certain transhumanists, it’s
loss of comrades, loss of who that mage once believed he
a sign of status. Is metaphysical alienation a bad thing,
was but can no longer be. Despite the gifts of magick and
really? That depends on what the mage in question does
the clarity of Enlightenment, each mage loses precious
with it, what effect that has on those people he used to
things and people along the way. It’s natural to grieve
hold dear (or who hold him dear), and whether or not
those losses, and some mages (notably Robert Davenport
that disassociation has harmful consequences that might
and Archmaster Porthos) never truly overcome that
not be obvious at first but grow alarming over time (as
grief. The German word kummerspeck roughly translates
they do for the more unhinged archmages depicted in
to “grief bacon,” and refers to both the physical weight
The Book of Chantries, Ascension, Masters of the Art,
gained when comfort-eating during the grief process
and Horizon: Stronghold of Hope).
(something this author knows all too much about IRL)

Chapter Three 57
None of these approaches requires the Ascension War rules, and most work better without those elements. As
metaplot or its associated groups. Those elements might detailed in the “Storytelling, Genre, and Mage” section
become part of simple chronicles, possibly as ominous of The Book of Secrets (pp. 272-286), you can run mages
shadows in the background, but the emphasis of such tales through an array of stories that have little to do with magick
focuses on the personal lives of your mages, not on the epic and nothing to do with Ascension War politics. That section
sprawl of a complex metaplot. features suggestions about genre tone and substance, along
with potential story ideas. By taking your group down
Genre unexpected avenues, you can keep your Mage chronicle
As we noted earlier, when the right group’s involved, fresh, exciting, and far more engaging than yet another HIT
Mage can be anything: urban fantasy, SF, romance, horror, Mark battle capped with metaphysical angst.
metahuman adventure, hard-boiled crime, even comedy.
None of these genres demands a metaplot and complicated

13 Chronicle Concepts
Obviously, your chronicle concept reflects
the people involved in your group. As
suggested in Mage 20’s Storytelling chapter ● Members of a spiritual /religious order whose metaphys-
(pp. 349-354), you should seek common ical powers mark them as especially blessed, cursed, or
ground for that concept before beginning “called.” (This concept goes especially well with the
the game, so you don’t wind up with Background: Blessing and /or Merits like Mark of Favor,
incompatible characters crammed together Celestial Affinity, Oracular Ability, Spirit Magnet, and
under illogical circumstances. True Faith.)
That said, the following chronicle ● A pack of outlaws hunted by the authorities because of
concepts can provide inspiration for their special powers. Granted, this is the basic premise
such common ground, and they can be used either as part of Mage 1st Edition, but the concept doesn’t need to
be linked to the Traditions or Technocracy at all.
of the Ascension War metaplot or employed “generically”
without it: ● One or more children whose uncanny talents (and
perhaps occult heritage) have made them into objects
● Young students sharing an occult and /or hypertech of fascination, terror, and ambition. (See the Book of
academy, living space, and a fascinating array of per- Secrets entry about child-mages, pp. 115-116.)
sonality issues.
● A group of prisoners or “puppets” who resent their
● A group of metahuman “talents” brought together by a situation and now stretch out their unusual abilities in
shared metaphysical power that rival groups also enjoy. order to win their freedom. (See Dollhouse, Deadpool, the
Divergent, Hunger Games, Matched and Shatter Me series,
● A collection of family members whose clan features an and many other examples.)
ancestral metaphysical practice and a strong tendency
toward Awakening and other paranormal talents. ● Two or more lovers whose Awakened Arts and /or
Enlightened Sciences brought them together… and
● A band of musicians whose talents extend beyond simply may yet tear them apart, especially if their approaches
making mere music. (For details, see my book Powerchords: to magick /science are radically opposed to each other.
Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy.)
● World-traveling wanderers whose adventures begin at the
● A specialist corps of elite agents dedicated to facing and fringes of the mundane world and reach deep into the
removing paranormal threats to humanity. (As per the many Umbral Realms.
Men in Black series, Suicide Squad, or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

58 Mage Made Easy


● Survivors of an apocalyptic event, who’ve been left with offer guidance and suggestions, obviously, but in the end,
(or who survived because of) their strange metaphysical Mage belongs to the people who know it, love it, and use
powers. (As per Alice Hoffman’s Green Angel series.)
the game to inspire change beyond the table.
● A clutch of people (Awakened and perhaps otherwise)
inhabiting a distant Horizon Realm or Construct that Don’t overthink this stuff. Seriously. For all its
may or may not be associated with the Traditions or formidable scope and possibilities, Mage can be simpler and
Technocracy. After all, you don’t need the Ascension easier than you might expect. Trust me on that one.
War factions in order to dwell in a land that’s “second
star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning.” Whatever you choose to do, and however you choose
to do it, have fun.

Ultimately, Mage is what you make of it. I can

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(recomended full colour)

Chapter Three 59
Place cover image here

Mage? Made EASY?


For almost 30 years, Mage: The Ascension has delighted some and confounded others. With a scale that
ranges from intimate to epic, this “game of infinite possibilities” offers countless rules, endless options, and
a metaplot which challenges all but the most dedicated gamers.
Until now.

Keep, Change, Toss


Written by Satyros Phil Brucato – longtime author, designer, and co-creator of the line – Mage Made Easy
features a toolbox of suggestions that allow would-be Mage players to strip down the metaplot and rules. These
suggestions include:
Simplified rules for the coincidental /vulgar casting axis
Options for streamlining Paradox effects
15 Arcane Approaches
13 metaplot-neutral chronicle concepts
Story hooks, a Seekings checklist, focus over Spheres, and more…