Review Mage Made Easy

TL;DR: the book covers what the title says and has some useful suggestions. If you are a Mage fan this book has ideas for you. If players/STs are struggling then I definitely recommend this book. If you are a Mage expert, maybe this book is just a 3/5 for you, since experts likely have many proven dynamic pitches, plus the ability to quickly adapt and personalise chronicles; but maybe they’d still get something from this book, or enjoy reading more Mage things.

For those wanting more details, here is a deep dive. From my experience, players new to Mage typically fit into one of the following non-exhaustive groups:

A) Those that need help with the scale and implications of the setting. Character creation alone introduces a lot of Factions; does a player need an overview of each?

B) Those that struggle with the concept of what Spheres can do, plus maybe the rest of Mage’s metaphysics: Paradox and its many manifestations, the different realms, and in particular the topic of what counts as Coincidental / Witnesses / Vulgar magick.

C) Those that also that struggle with A + B.

D) Those that struggle with neither.

For people wanting more advice for dealing with Group B, I can appreciate why some might give the book a 3/5. However, from a certain P.o.V., Satyros does provide advice about the Spheres, from Focus over Spheres, ways to reconsider Witnesses and Vulgar Magick, different ways to use Paradox, to highlighting centring a game low level characters and stories, on more mundane but personal matters. My advice is don’t be quick to dismiss how these threads interact with each other.

Some might think advising people to strip back the scale of Mage, especially given the vast number of books, never mind just looking at the size of Mage 20th, is a simple and maybe even useless answer. I disagree, years ago I used to talk about the rich setting and the fun creativity of the Spheres, some of the players admitted to being intimidated before they began. When I returned to Mage I had an easier time persuading some new players to explore the game by focusing on the personal, not trying to summarise lots of factions, history, or metaplot.

I particularly liked the Arcane Approaches section. Whilst some may view this section as being weak or even obvious, maybe in hindsight it is. Personally, I think it helps make things easier, especially when combined with the rest of the book.

Will players in Group D benefit from this book? The title itself then should be an obvious indication to them about the book’s goal. It seems unlikely that Group D will see this book as a must read; I don’t think it is for them, but if someone enjoys reading Mage books, then I’d recommend this.

Could this book have gone further for those in Group B? Maybe, but I’m not sure more explanations will achieve what some are after. I’ve not experienced long-term problems with people in Group B, since over the course of a chronicle they have learned their characters range and explored different potential; but, I appreciate others may have different experiences. There are other products available that look at the Spheres, Nodes, etc., and maybe this work will inspire another product focusing on the details that some are after. I’ll be reviewing Sources of Magick next 🙂

I enjoyed the book and I think this book succeeds in its goals, 5* drivethrurpg, 4* on Goodreads. 😀

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/314476/Mage-Made-Easy-Advice-from-That-Damn-Mage-Guy?affiliate_id=11172 (Mage the PodcastMage the Podcast Affiliate Link)

https://www.patreon.com/philbrucato/

RPG Impact 9

Continuing with RPG Impact. I’m saving one of the best till last, leaving me with many choices for no.9. There are far too many RPGs I love, I could have chosen: GURPS, L5R, Aberrant, Nightbane, plus games in the last ten years like Blades in the Dark, Ryuutama, and the wonderfully adaptable system Powered by the Apocalypse, etc. After a lot of indecision, for my ninth RPG, I choose the Cypher System.

I finally got around to looking at the Cypher System because of Torment: Tides of Numenera. Initially, I was not a fan of the system, and the Numenera setting seemed too disjointed / dreamlike, however, I persevered, and both the system and setting grew on me. Monte Cook Games has made some impressive game settings, and whilst neither the system nor the settings are my favourite, they have left quite the impression on me in terms of accessibility, ease of play and most of all creativity. Thanks to Bundle of Holding and Humble Bundle I was able to purchase lots of PDFs for Cypher System, Numenera, and The Strange; hence why no physical book picture for this post. I’ve looked at the Invisible Sun preview, cool stuff; I know a few Mage the Ascension fans who highly rate Invisible Sun, so hopefully one day I can give the game a try.

I’m a fan of fusing RPGs together, partly due to having played so many things; it keeps old systems from feeling stale or predictable. A Play-by-Email campaign I’ve been working, sort of Twin Peaks meets World of Darkness plus Call of Cthulhu, which I’ve nicknamed Lynchcraftian, has some Cypher System & Settings influences.

Part 10

RPG Impact 4

Continuing on with RPG Impact. The fourth RPG that had a big impact on me was Vampire: the Masquerade, then later all the World of Darkness. In early 92 there were only a few VtM books out, so we had to fill in a lot of the blanks. The emphasis on storytelling was not a revelation for most of the people I played with, we’d embraced that aspect of RPGs from playing deadly systems like WFRP and Cyberpunk as kids. What impacted me was the atmosphere, the stronger focus on internal character struggle with their beast within, and the lore, both given and promised.

Rich lore was no stranger to us. At that point I had read enough RPG books, magazines, and novels. I had learned enough bits about the history of RPGs at my local games store and been told stories about Traveller, Paranoia, etc. I’d explored different game settings, delved in to the various D&D lore, visited the planes (pre-Planescape). The same with the scale of the lore for Warhammer and Cyberpunk. I think the key difference is the blending of real life and hidden lore; although, even then I recognised this was a great cliché. I’d read Interview with a Vampire just a few months before playing Vampire, so the setting felt familiar to me. I recall talking to players in other groups about this mix of real and imaginary history, power and monster, of the familiar and the urban myth, everybody was interested.

I’ll borrow from my last blog, the Cyberpunk tagline about Style over Substance, and my claim that it has both Style and Substance. Vampire, the World of Darkness has lots of both.

As much as I loved Vampire, playing/running many games a week, I found the later additions to the World of Darkness to be even better. Since I was buying all the books, I enjoyed adding bits from each game line into another, but I was careful not to swamp the core game being played. I rarely ran games with PCs from different supernatural types (Nightfolk), preferring to keep the focus within each game-line.

Considering how much D&D and Cyberpunk I’ve played/run, it still seems weird to me just how much of an impact the WoD has had on me. I’ve had countless hours of fun; it helped me get a job at a games company. But, over the years I have wondered whether the whole WoD is over-hyped, some people believe so.

  • The debates about power levels.
  • Debates about when to roll.
  • The arguments over Rule 0.
  • Whether pretentious people tarnished the rep?
  • Whether the sheer amount of books produced swamped things?
  • Whether the power creep ruined things?

I typically feel that I also need to acknowledge that the WoD has problems. Like with D&D, Palladium, etc., some become angry at the mere mention of these games. I’ve met a lot of people that hate the WoD, or hate the players they’ve encountered playing the games. I’ve certainly played with a few players who loved playing FangedMurderHobos or SuperFangs, plus encountered some at conventions and a lot more online; whilst not my preference, if the players prefer a silly/crazy/etc., type of game, then I’m all for it.

When the Forge debates over GNS started, I understood why Vampire in particular was in the crosshairs of some, especially regarding it being confusing in its design, or some being annoyed by the writing tone. I’d like to avoid arguments, but decades ago I concluded that the WoD setting being messy is partly because it is myth, plus there are in-game effects confusing things, and the mechanics are supposed to be of a mixed style. The game’s financial and critical popularity somewhat validates my P.o.V., but again I appreciate why many think this is a cop-out, or even nonsense. For those that hate Vampire/WoD, I get it, likewise for those that love Vampire/WoD. I have long since grown tired of these chats, but cannot help but dwell upon them…

Have I been building towards a joke about being an Elder Role-player who is suffering from ennui? An old injured Garou Galliard circling Harano? Somewhat 😉 I hope this response encapsulates a fraction of my passion for this game series, and I’ve not even touched on my love of Werewolf, Changeling or Mage being an order of magnitude more than for Vampire. Mummy, Hunter, and Demon are cool as well 😉

Wraith? Well, even though Mage is my favourite, I think Wraith deserves its own entry.

Part 5

Prelude – Secret Rage PBM 6

This continues on from part 1 PBM Thanks & Secret Rage.

It has been a while since I blogged about my #SecretRage PBM campaign, Richie and I have been busy so it has been on the back burner. This at least allowed me to explore ways to link ideas about the potential psychology of spirits, something that relates to two other projects. I considered abandoning this campaign and playtesting my new setting, but since I’ve put a lot of preparation in to this campaign, plus Richie and I wanted to play Werewolf, I decided to stick with things. I participated in #RPGaDay again this year, I mentioned #SecretRage on several of the days. For Day 26 I talked about Ambitions.

This urge to keep changing projects is an ongoing problem for me, so I gave myself a deadline; following advice from The Bestseller Experiment. I finished up the comic pages and the introductory turn as well. Finalising everything for this project helped re-inspire my passion for #SecretRage, plus given me inspiration to run something else, Cyberpunk, D&D, Pendragon, Cthulhu, etc.

I won’t be posting the turn data since I’ve added another player, plus I am considering inviting other players to join in, maybe some of the people from the #RPGaDay community. Below are those comic pages, which once again I found the writing of to be an interesting puzzle to figure out, in part due to writing about a messed-up Luna, but also because comic writing is different.

#SecretRage 07#SecretRage 08#SecretRage 09+10#SecretRage 11#SecretRage 12#SecretRage 13#SecretRage 14#SecretRage 15+16

#RPGaDay2018 Day26 RPG Ambition

Gaming ambition for the next 12 months

Lots of people posting information about their quite interesting ambitions for their next 12 months, inspiring to see what people are thinking about. Due to limited time I’ve kept my video short, partly because I plan on more blogs and videos about one of my ambitions for the next 12 months.

I’ve not run an in-depth PBM game since working at KJC Games. I’ve done little bits but nothing major, mostly because I always come back to my main ambition: better GM & Player tools. I am still in the midst of writing a novel, plus a few short stories I keep playing with, too many things, so I decided that 2018 should be the year of Project Overlap. Scaling ideas back, managing health better and better time management are how I plan to achieve my ambition.

Since I touched on D&D and Pendragon in my video, here is Runeslinger talking about his plans. Any similarity between my video and Antony’s is entirely down to me imitating him 😉

So many plans:

Big plans at The GM Table

Plus so many more 🙂

#RPGaDay2018 Day18 RPG Art

Art that inspires your game

For day eighteen’s question I went into quite a deep dive, but I still managed to miss several things. I didn’t talk about movies, computer games, the art of gaming itself, writing, poetry, or the powerful access to imagery that the Internet provides; whether sites like Pinterest or character casting ideas from IMDb. Playing Cyberpunk 2013 and then 2020 helped highlight the importance of fashion to some characters, the settings tagline of Style over Substance helped emphasise this.

#RPGaDay2018 Day18 graph

I talk about maps and journeying in games multiple times in the video, but I’m not sure I did a good job of coherently summarising that my biggest source of art inspiration has always been maps. Lots of interesting post from the RPGaDay community, I link some of them below.

Mick Hand’s blog has a great list of art, and in particular cover art: https://igm4u.com/f/rpgaday2018-18

Nerdwriter1’s made a great video: “A look at the colorful history of sci-fi book covers”

IvanMike1968 particularly got my attention with this video:

Runeslinger giving an interesting overview.

Another interesting take on a question at Ede Sol Media channel:


Excellent UK costume designer Tom Roe runs WhiteStar Clothing.

The Wonderful writers, who are two of my favourites, are Ed McDonald and Gavin G Smith. I’ve posted reviews about their work on various sites, but I really should blog about them as well 😉

 

#RPGaDay2018 Day15 Tricky RPG XP

Describe a tricky RPG experience you enjoyed

Almost a brain-fog video today, but I think I managed to been coherent enough. I talk about anxiousness and the moment, LARP, Street Fighter and my Mage game; see #PieChartofIndecision below. I didn’t go with any thoughts about handling tricky experiences based around things like clashes of playing styles, system opinions or expectations. I’ve had a few tricky RPG encounters at Conventions in the Living D&D and Star Wars systems, thankfully those were rare. Not that those don’t count, but I went with experiences that were all positive, I think to better keep with the #RPGaDay focus, otherwise I might have descended into a confused rant about something negative; today has been a bad day! Keeping it positive, below is a bit more info about the L5R game event that I list.#RPGaDay2018 Day15 graphThis story is when we were new to playing Legend of the Five Rings. The party were mostly Dragon Samurai, two had Kitsuki training so were odd in the setting. The group were Magistrates and as part of their travels came across a village with a murdered Samurai. Unless the guilty party was found the whole village was at stake. The Kitsuki trained individuals along with their Crab friend proceeded to investigate the murder of a Samurai. Meanwhile the cold-PC decided they did not approve of the methodology and found out who the murderer was using traditional methods.

Short-version: eventually both investigations uncover the truth, the murder was self-defence by the Chonin’s daughter who had been assaulted. The cold-PC is slightly ahead of the rest of the party, calls the village to hear the confession of the Chonin and immediately decapitates the Chonin; an innocent person. The rest of the party are quietly furious. During a drink break the others admit that they are a bit freaked out OCC, but appreciate Rokugan is different and complicated, but thankfully were loving the IC drama of it all.

A long IC awkward silence ensues, eventually the Kitsuki trained PC questions the cold-PC on their actions. The cold-PC is offended, but eventually gives in and explains that the Chonin was honourable, saved his daughter who would have been killed regardless of whether you believe her self-defence was warranted. The Chonin saved face for all, the Samurai’s family will not have their name tarnished, and the Chonin’s soul will gain from his honourable actions. Plus any parent sacrificing themselves for their child is understandable, and is worthy of respect. This way everyone won, whilst the Kitsuki’s methods would have revealed a truth, but would have undermined the Kami’s Order and Tradition. It was a wonderfully awkward session, both IC and OOC, and helped us all learn the tricky political and religious viewpoints about truth in the setting.

#RPGaDay2018 Day14 Failure Became Amazing

Describe a failure that became amazing

I go into some depth about a crazy game Vampire that I run back in the 90s, which become a disaster from a certain point of view, but most of the players loved it. It also led to an amazing game. No LARP stories, nor have I included tales about a critical dice roll radically altering a game, not that I have anything against those moments, just that the list I think I made is enough 🙂

Just realised I badly explain my point about high fantasy RPG, pesky sleep deprivation. I guess my foggy thinking was that high fantasy is typically about big failures and big successes, so many of the stories I know from others are the overly-epic type. Such as intentionally pushing scenarios to create guaranteed failures, invulnerable NPCs monologuing, which then requires Deus Ex Machina or there is a party wipe.

#RPGaDay2018 Day14 graph

#RPGaDay2018 Day12 Wildest Character Concept

Wildest character concept?

Sadly no #PieChartofIndecision today since I had a few obvious answers for today’s question. In my video I forgot to mention a twin-souled/twin-avatar Mage character idea I had, but since I’ve not played that yet I’ll keep ‘Quiet’; paradox pun spirits will be after me now 😉 In the Mage game I am currently running this idea might be used by one of the players as being secretly a twin, I briefly discussed it with them, but they wanted to see how the chronicle pans out before deciding on this. Their concept includes a sense of loss and displacement, so finding out they have a twin-soul could nicely fit as a possible answer.

I’ve come across plenty of wild concepts at LARP, particularly the big festival LARPs like Lorien Trust or Empire, but I was not involved so I decided not to talk about them. I’ve mentioned the party of independent Chaos Champions on Day 5. The concept of running that party itself was quite wild 😉

After posting I’ve remembered playing AD&D 2ed in 1992 at college, the Mage character was inspired by Simkins from the Darksword series. Wild concept but since I basically took it probably shouldn’t count 😉

More in video: Street Fighter RPG, not talking about work at KJC Games and what ideas customers submitted because that would be unprofessional 😉 Vampire (WoD), Werewolf.

#RPGaDay2018 Day11 Wildest Character Name

Wildest character name?

I mention a few character names that could count as wild on Day 05: Spat the Spider-Cat-God from Changeling The Dreaming 6 point Companion. The Goatface time travelling Chaos Lord from my old Warhammer Fantasy RPG party of Independent Chaos Champions of course had a Daemon name, as did some of the other PCs. Sadly I forgot their names and cannot find the character sheets from 1995.

I also forgot to talk about some of the crazy character names from Lorien Trust LARP. I even went for something silly for one of my character’s, which was supposed to be a throw-away one, maybe I’ll write/talk about them another time.

Otherwise I have nothing particularly extra to add to what I discuss in my video, I focus on my work at KJC Games. No #PieChartofIndecision but there is an #RPGDeepDive on today’s video.