mage the awakening 2nd edition

Investing In: Mage: the Awakening

“As you walk down the street, you feel it. Though the sidewalk is choked with people, they all remain oblivious, not one of them reacting to the building as they walk past it.. You were like them once, blind to the secrets beneath the skin of the world, but one day you Awakened.”

You were normal once. No, you were asleep. You were a lawyer trying to make clear both the letter of and intent of the law. Maybe you were a college student studying biology with a drive to unlock the totality of the human genome. Perhaps you were a mechanic who just happened by a house fire. You saw the Truth in the layered symbols of the law. The false construct of DNA fell away and you saw the Truth. As you struggled to save those trapped in the fire, all wood and brick fell away and the Truth was revealed. It might have felt like a dream, but you Awakened. That dream was the Truth, the pure power of the Supernal world, but now stuck as you might be in this Fallen World at least now you know and the Art of magic wells up from your soul.

You’re a Mage

mage the awakening 2nd edition logo

Terrifying now to look back to November and think about everything that’s happened in a short amount of time. There’s been a lot of anger (Wrath!), pain, sickness, a call for awareness and change (Black Lives Matter), and a need to come together even as we have to be distant. A special shout out to Alex’s amazing piece yesterday on racism in RPGs, specifically tabletop RPGs. It’s an enlightening and encouraging piece that’s important to keep talking about. I’m so thankful we’re having these discussions, that some are fighting to help, to learn, to be better.

I’m also thankful for the many games, GMs, DMs, Storytellers, MCs, players, actors, artists, gaming communities, streamers, and fans out there right now. Gaming – especially online – has helped me tremendously, let alone I appreciate the fun and the bit of escapism (and imagination) it encourages. While I haven’t run my Pathfinder2E game since COVID shut down the country (and I implore you now to remain distant and wear a mask), I have been trying out games like Monster of the Week with my friend Rich, playing games like Roll for Combat’s Three Ringer Adventure, and Monster Hearts 2 or SCION with Gehenna Gaming, and of course that time I WAS A TEENAGE CREATURE. More on IWATC, the Advanced Player’s Guide, and Gen Con Online next time! (I’m so excited for the APG!)

Back in November I’d written my World of Darkness article and I’ve been meaning to talk more Mage: the Awakening 2nd Edition. I have been running periodic sessions of my Mage game though likely less than my players would probably prefer! I find the World of Darkness / Chronicles of Darkness (2nd Edition that is) games a bit easier to do virtually, especially due to their heavy story and roleplaying content in a modern setting. Of course, I also cheat in a way by using my home state of Rhode Island for the setting of our game.

I Want To Know

Mage has a strong theme of mystery, but I wanted to let the mystery be in the story and not so much the place. My players are all local and thus, they know the towns or how downtown Providence is laid out. Mage is also about power, power to change and do anything. The more you understand, the greater your ability to see the Truth and past the Lie, the more power you have. That’s why every Mystery is key; explore and learn and your power will grow. There’s literally a mechanic of growth around aspirations and obsessions, which I love.

Also while any World / Chronicles of Darkness game could explore local areas, Mage really lets me lean into local mysteries. I’ve used real places, like an abandoned fairy tale park in south county or a closed off tunnel from the 90’s where police reported occult activity underneath Providence. It’s especially fun to creep out your places with mysterious places that are real. Of course, I also like using local legends and influences such as the religious equality and freedom of RI’s settling or the highly academic community due to the number of colleges and universities.

enchanted forest ri

Just can’t shake this compulsion…

I Know What’s Right

But despite the addictive nature of seeking out and solving these mysteries, it’s the hubris of the mage who might risk the sanity of normal people or threaten to bring in dark, dangerous things from beyond this world that I seek to exploit. When you’re a mage, it seems like anything is possible, and thankfully most players want to help or fix things even if what they think – what they feel they know – may be wrong. Did you really need to fly invisibly versus take a car? Are you sure saving that person was the right thing to do? Is using magical power to hurt someone right, even if the person was in the wrong?

Right there in the introductory chapter, it’s noted that many supernatural creatures can still pretend the world is fairly normal. You’re the special, different, monstrous one. But not a Mage. They sense magic at all times, can peer beyond the Lie with magical sight, and can pull the power of the Supernal realm – that magical power – into this one at will. Their will is literally manifested, and thus while it can alter reality, it can also threaten it. Some might not even care, especially when they consider it’s all a Lie of what once was or could have been.

Through any session – let alone a chronicle or campaign – the player must balance the option of a mundane solution or a magical solution. And even then, a magical solution can have consequences beyond simple intention. You can pull too much power and cause Paradox, which means some sort of backlash could happen like damage or a demon-like abyssal entity appearing. You might push the boundaries in front of normal people and their mind can’t handle what they’re actually witnessing. While the Paradox is tied to purposefully trying to do more than you should (and some rolls by the Storyteller), the mundane mind suffering a snap can happen simply from their presence. Their belief, what they Know of the world, pushes back and diminishes your power. There’s a roll around that called a breaking point, but still, they are beholden to the lie no matter how strong the mage’s knowledge of the Truth and the power of their will.

Willworker Is Too Simple A Term

I say it’s a matter of will though there’s possible need or desire to chant, use symbolic items, gesture into the air, etc. You craft up your magic at need. This isn’t exactly Pathfinder or D&D where you choose from a preset number of spells though you can learn to do specific effects by rote. There’s 5 paths you choose from, i.e. where your soul wandered to get close to that magical realm and where there’s still a connection now. Acanthus tend to have a witch-like feel, dealing with Fate and Time. You might be the most Christian person in the world, but using curses, luck, and jumping your allies back in time after a dangerous situation is going to seem like witchcraft. The Mastigos tend toward the charming or seductive with a predilection for the Mind and bending Space. They’ll read your thoughts, summon ideas into creation, and also teleport right into your house! 

mage symbols

Alchemists and necromancers are found amongst the Moros who master Death and Matter, hence the colloquial terms. They’ll turn oxygen into methane, open holes in walls, call to the ghosts of the dead, or animate dead bodies. Did I mention they might toy with your soul too? Yeah, nasty stuff, maybe… The Obrimos are more akin to your classic wizard with Forces and Prime. Forces effects control light, fire, bend light, and turn away bullets! Prime is the quintessential magic, good for studying magical locations or objects or imbuing things with raw magical power. The Thyrsus are considered shamans for their Life and Spirit abilities. They’ll heal you, hurt you directly, or get a nearby spirit to attack you, or spy on you, or plague your every waking moment.

You also choose an Order when creating your character. The Adamantine Arrow are commonly militarily trained, but prepared to fight and protect. The Guardians of the Veil help protect the secret of the magical world, but also obtain dangerous magic and investigate mages who’ve turned to evil usage of their power. The Mysterium are your librarian adventurers, preserving works and seeking out artifacts. The Silver Ladder help lead, guide, seek higher purpose, and use the laws agreed upon by the local Awakened to govern and strengthen their union. Of course, the Free Council favor a freer, less strict magical society and sometimes find the Silver Ladder imposing their will rather than helping strengthen the collective wills of other mages.

Threads Of Fate

Our game has a diverse collection of all the Orders and Paths. Even before COVID I ran the game somewhat troupe style: try to find a day many people could attend and run then. Maybe not all would be there, maybe just a few, but some and we’d have a good game. The characters not there simply had something else to do and that’s okay. It’s made it easy to transition to online gaming, primarily through Discord. Additionally I allow downtime activities between sessions that could include research, talking to an NPC, or seeking out some info in another way. You can even work toward experience by pursuing things important to you (aspirations) or that you’re obsessed with!

There’s a Tarot theme running through my game and there was a bit of magical connectivity connecting them to a specific card (3 of Swords) since the beginning. Apparently an alleged master went missing with some other supernaturals but he left this card? And now people are forgetting him and the others he met with. The mages couldn’t let that mystery go so little by little they chip away at it while forming a cabal: the Threads of Fate.

3 of Swords

Right now they’re actually attending a pool/beach party (nice to live vicariously) hosted by Changelings celebrating the summer season and their sovereign. They’ve been worrying over the Slenderman sightings (they’ve seen him!), disappearances, a group of shadowy-abyssal vampires they actually helped move from Boston to Newport, and a smattering of other concerns like angry spirits, worried werewolves, hunters downtown… I love both the large and personal investments by each character, sometimes holding back and sometimes pushing too far. But that’s what makes Mage great!

Investing In:

The World and Chronicles of Darkness have that mature consideration, and often the games carry such a rating. There’s a lot to explore and reflect upon, optimally in a constructive and thought-provoking manner, all while being enjoyable to play and encouraging creative, imagination roleplaying and problem-solving. Mage: the Awakening 2nd Edition let’s you explore all that while wielding the power of the universe, even if sometimes maybe you shouldn’t. I highly suggest you invest in Awakening your mind to the possible!

I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!

About Investing In

I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

Sources

Banner – Mage: the Awakening 2nd Edition logo, Onyx Path Publishing

  1. Mage: the Awakening logo, Onyx Path Publishing & White Wolf Publishing
  2. Enchanted Forest RI, Creative Commons License, abandonedplaygrounds.com Flickr/muchadoville
  3. Introduction chapter art, Onyx Path Publishing & White Wolf Publishing
  4. Three of Swords, Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, art by Pamela Colman Smith

Rob Pontious

Rob Pontious works in web commerce by day and is a writer for KnowDirectionPodcast.com's #InvestingIn, a player for Roll for Combat's #ThreeRingAdventure podcast, and also a player for GehennaGaming's #GehennaValley MonsterHearts2 twitch stream. He's a lover of TTRPGs for over three decades, a gamer, and a GAYMER. You can find him on social media as @silentinfinity.