I used to run a lot of Mage: the Ascension. Nobilis has almost perfectly taken its place, but for a nostalgia trip, there is no replacing the original. Having tried Mage: the Awakening I feel like they are not even remotely about the same issues. Awakening has a nicer rule system (with its own problems and issues), but that’s about all it has on the older game. I really liked the metaphysics it was based on, even if some of it was really ad hoc.
With that in mind, I’d like to re-awaken the old Mage. But I don’t want to just grab the book and try to play it as it is. It is getting old and my tolerance for rules from the 90’s is probably going to stop me before we reach the play session.
Instead, I’d like to try to run a modern game of Mage. This is not the design document for that, but you can consider it a design document for the design document.
So, I have some ideas, some problems and some solutions. First, ages ago I bought the ingame-textbook Fragile Path: Testaments of the First Cabal, which I’d like to use. It has some nice background info on how the mages first organized. But I don’t want to force the players to familiarize themselves with fictional history just to play my game.
I thought about taking the original first cabal and positing that they somehow sent their avatars through time to an important junction in the future. It just happens that the player characters are the new incarnations of those avatars. That way I can tie the original source to a game set in a modern-day setting, playable by players who don’t know all that secret history behind the game. The feel I’m going for is something like FreakAngels - characters with a lot of power, but unsure about what is going on and what to do with that power.
Another way I’d like to follow FreakAngels is that I don’t want the player characters to end up in the middle of a well-organized society of mages. Instead, I will place my game in a time when the mages have all but lost and the Technocracy is the major player in town. That way I have a clear antagonist, and the player characters have room to figure out what is going on without anyone presenting them with answers. Except the Technocracy, of course. But they might not be the answers the characters want to hear.
There is also the issue of rules. I don’t want to use the originals, and rules from Awakening aren’t that much better - just different. Instead I’m tempted to use rules from Stalker. They leave a lot of room for the narrative, which what I think will work in this game. I’d rather the game be about the choices the characters make than about the what the die happens the favour. Now, Stalker isn’t a game about mages. It does have supernatural elements, but the player characters are more or less mundane. So, to run a game of Mage with Stalker rules would require some tweaking.
For that I have to either wait until I return to Finland and can borrow the book from a friend or buy the game online. Both sound like good options, so it will probably be decided by how busy I am in the next few months.