Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion



  • So just to be straight-up, this is another theoretical thread that may go nowhere because I have some free time occasionally at work and it might be fun in a "bang your head against the wall" kind of way.

    My end goal is sort of low-power "Mage Lite" that can be plugged into a non-WoD setting (for this example, The Magicians!) where:

    A) The majority of the player work in casting a spell is already done. The emphasis is not on improvised spellcasting -- it's an option, but rote spells are way more common and come pre-built with all the various factors determined in advance so a player can just pick the rote spells they want out of a big list, buy them and roll them. (Basically. There might be a +x/-x here and there depending on Conditions or whatever else.)
    The only thing changing here is that rote spells don't give you free reach, they just have default reach settings, and there would be a bajillion of them so people don't feel like they have to do all of the work on the fly and normally don't have to worry about all the Paradox rolls, unless they really want to tinker with one or more of the reach setting defaults.

    B) The need for staff oversight and headache re: spellcasting is lower by discouraging improvised spellcasting using the system itself - improv casting should just always be dangerous and risky. Easiest way to do this (I think, probably needs testing) is to basically just take away free reach even for Gnosis and Arcana level (at least at the student-PC level), always penalize with at least one Paradox chance die - or even just give Paradox one automatic success - and remove mana entirely (which I don't even think exists in settings like The Magicians anyways?) -- players can pay Willpower to reduce Paradox die down to 1, but that's a smaller point pool that is also used for other things and there are penalties for "running dry" IIRC. (And if not, I'd definitely make that a house rule.)

    That way, improv casting feels a little more dramatic, like casting a vulgar spell in oWoD maybe - it should be something dramatic you do only when your back is against the wall.

    C) Cap Gnosis, which caps Arcana. Nobody running around with multiple masteries, or even...one? Which makes sense for students in a magical school and keeps the power levels involved relatively low.

    D) Scrap Orders and Paths and make up new Arcana discounts based on the six disciplines/Houses at Brakebills, which might not fit as neatly but eh. Each discipline also gets access to unique rotes, like an Order. Off the top of my head:
    Physical: Forces (obvs), Matter
    Natural: Life, Death
    Illusion: Mind…..Forces? (This is kind of a weird discipline.)
    Knowledge: Prime, Fate
    Healing: Life, Prime(?)
    Psychic: Mind, Time

    Maybe they should all get 3, I dunno. The only really complicated thing here is that Spirit would need a lot of adjustment as an arcana.

    E) Use the setting to limit the kind of magic that gets used. Players are more than welcome to submit rote spells for review and eventual posting on the wiki as things their characters can be learning in class or from the primers, with obvious restrictions in place - Brakebills doesn't teach battle magic, for example, and casting forbidden spells is grounds for mind wipe and expulsion -- unless there's an actual staff plot or approved PrP justification, you're outta here! This would discourage the kind of player who's always like "I CAN TELEPORT A SOLAR FLARE INTO YOUR BRAIN" or whatever.

    Thoughts? Additions? Outright disgust?


  • Politics

    @wizz

    I think it's a good idea to go with rotes only, with Arcana describing what rotes you can use. When creating the rote, the author must be as specific as possible. To activate the rote, roll Gnosis + lowest necessary Arcana.

    Eliminate the Orders and Paths. No more favored or opposing Arcana. Or free point of Resolve of Composure. Just buy the Arcana and the Gnosis, and the rotes, and play.



  • Reskin spell building from Ars Magica, Masterbook, RuneQuest Sorcery, etc with WoD terms.


  • Admin

    For The Magicians in particular you may want to expand (greatly) on the importance of rotes. Getting access to spells was super important thematically, and often the real difference between street level casters and your more formally educated variants.

    Giving some teeth to improvised magic (or rather, its consequences) and maybe adjusting it so it's easier to fuck up a spell might also give you a way to keep the game low level, if you wanted to lend some rope to your players to hang themselves with.


  • Politics

    I contemplated this a while ago but I just didn't do it. I wanted to run a type of Brakebills-y Mage game where the focus was on LEARNING MAGIC and all the fun shit students could get into doing that.

    I was going to put a lot of emphasis on learning Rotes, put emphasis on courses of studies, etc.

    You can get rid of Paths and Orders and just have everyone pick ONE Arcana as favored at the beginning of their studies, and then let them pick a second later (it'd be nice if the choice had to come from the --shit, I forget the terms, but the way path arcana are divided, the two types of Arcana), once they've advanced, and each combination of two Arcana should have two "opposites", one of which is their Inferior.

    For example, maybe your student has Matter, they need to pick one of the ... uh... non-physical, I guess? I still can't remember the term--Arcana. So Maybe they have Matter and Mind. Opposite of Mind is Life and opposite of Matter is Spirit (EXAMPLES, obviously, do whatever). So the character developes one of those as their Inferior.

    You can fine-tune it a lot, but I think academicism in Rote-learning (like, your course of study gets you X Rotes per semester, etc.) would be neat, and a GREAT way to justify "auto-learning" stuff in the background. Like, e.g. have you finished the Intro to Ghosts Seminar? Well, that means you probably have 5 dots to spend in Rotes of Death 1-2, or something. Or at least X amount of Arcane Experience to spend on Death rotes of ratings 1-2. Whatever.



  • @ganymede said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    Eliminate the Orders and Paths. No more favored or opposing Arcana. Or free point of Resolve of Composure. Just buy the Arcana and the Gnosis, and the rotes, and play.

    Cutting Orders, Paths, and improv casting entirely would definitely be the easiest, most straightforward way to do this without really breaking anything.

    I just like the idea of keeping improv casting, haha, because it gives structure to those "oh shit, I need to blow a hole in this wall/stop this monster/go Away" moments.

    I also really like the idea (and might be the only person on the forum, haha) that improv casting with penalties could be used to experiment and justify spells unique to a character, or even roleplaying learning a new spell in class. There actually is a Down And Dirty Casting sidebar that could be used for this instead.

    @misadventure said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    Reskin spell building from Ars Magica, Masterbook, RuneQuest Sorcery, etc with WoD terms.

    I actually don't think Mage's arcana and spell system is a horrible fit, if you invert the emphasis on rotes vs improv, and it feels a little more versatile than Ars Magica, for example.

    @coin said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    You can get rid of Paths and Orders and just have everyone pick ONE Arcana as favored at the beginning of their studies, and then let them pick a second later (it'd be nice if the choice had to come from the --shit, I forget the terms, but the way path arcana are divided, the two types of Arcana), once they've advanced, and each combination of two Arcana should have two "opposites", one of which is their Inferior.
    For example, maybe your student has Matter, they need to pick one of the ... uh... non-physical, I guess? I still can't remember the term--Arcana. So Maybe they have Matter and Mind. Opposite of Mind is Life and opposite of Matter is Spirit (EXAMPLES, obviously, do whatever). So the character developes one of those as their Inferior.

    Making it a player choice makes a lot more sense than trying to lay it out by default by discipline, as I did above, haha. I like it! (ETA: Subtle and gross Arcana!)



  • So one of the big problems of mage is that people often forget that the Practices take years to learn, and for every arcanum they are different. More time needs to be devoted on-screen to experimentation with them, and learning to master them, and less time spent on just buying up arcana. Rotes are a great way to represent mastery of a spell, but a Practice is mastery of a -concept-. Instead of buying arcana, consider charging per Practice, with the low-dot versions all needing to be mastered before the high dot versions, and having a requisite number of rotes-per-Practice/Arcanum combo before you can Level Up to the next arcanum dot.



  • @derp
    That scans if you're sticking with the nature of magic in Mage: The Awakening, but I'd argue it doesn't make as much sense in The Magicians. The Practices are a handy OOC system way of categorizing and ranking the arcana, but to my knowledge there's no real equivalent way of thinking about it in the books or the show. Studying the nature of magic is something you do after graduating, as like an obscure hobby.

    "The study of magic is not a science, it is not an art, and it is not a religion. Magic is a craft. When we do magic, we do not wish and we do not pray. We rely upon our will and our knowledge and our skill to make a specific change to the world. This is not to say we understand magic, in the sense that physicists understand why subatomic particles do whatever it is that they do [...] In any case, we do not and cannot understand what magic is, or where it comes from, any more than a carpenter understands why a tree grows. He doesn't have to. He works with what he has."
    -Dean Fogg



  • @wizz

    Sure... but then why use Mage? It seems they aren'the really compatible. Even in Mage they don't really get -why- it works, just -how-.



  • @derp

    Because it's a really compatible system if you think about it. Magic is hard, versatile, and dangerous and the ways Mages and Magicians actually cast spells and how the magic behaves are very similar. The what and why of magic is not, but that's just fluff.

    ETA: Maybe a tangent, but Mages certainly know more about magic in their setting than Magicians in theirs. Mage's magic is energy from a higher plane of existence leaking down into a pale subreality. The Magicians' magic, to the average Magician, is just sort of there and defies attempts to explain it.



  • @wizz said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    Mage's magic is energy from a higher plane of existence leaking down into a pale subreality. The Magicians' magic, to the average Magician, is just sort of there and defies attempts to explain it.

    I mean... maybe? Not really, I don't think. They're called 'Mysteries' for a reason. You might think you have a handle on it, but it's really just an educated guess. But I can see a halfway point, for sure.


  • Admin

    @derp They're called Mysteries in Mage. No one suggesting adopting anything from its theme, just the mechanics.

    There's nothing 'mysterious' about the mechanics. They're just dice rolls.


  • Politics

    @wizz said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    @ganymede said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    Eliminate the Orders and Paths. No more favored or opposing Arcana. Or free point of Resolve of Composure. Just buy the Arcana and the Gnosis, and the rotes, and play.

    Cutting Orders, Paths, and improv casting entirely would definitely be the easiest, most straightforward way to do this without really breaking anything.

    I just like the idea of keeping improv casting, haha, because it gives structure to those "oh shit, I need to blow a hole in this wall/stop this monster/go Away" moments.

    I also really like the idea (and might be the only person on the forum, haha) that improv casting with penalties could be used to experiment and justify spells unique to a character, or even roleplaying learning a new spell in class. There actually is a Down And Dirty Casting sidebar that could be used for this instead.

    @misadventure said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    Reskin spell building from Ars Magica, Masterbook, RuneQuest Sorcery, etc with WoD terms.

    I actually don't think Mage's arcana and spell system is a horrible fit, if you invert the emphasis on rotes vs improv, and it feels a little more versatile than Ars Magica, for example.

    @coin said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    You can get rid of Paths and Orders and just have everyone pick ONE Arcana as favored at the beginning of their studies, and then let them pick a second later (it'd be nice if the choice had to come from the --shit, I forget the terms, but the way path arcana are divided, the two types of Arcana), once they've advanced, and each combination of two Arcana should have two "opposites", one of which is their Inferior.
    For example, maybe your student has Matter, they need to pick one of the ... uh... non-physical, I guess? I still can't remember the term--Arcana. So Maybe they have Matter and Mind. Opposite of Mind is Life and opposite of Matter is Spirit (EXAMPLES, obviously, do whatever). So the character developes one of those as their Inferior.

    Making it a player choice makes a lot more sense than trying to lay it out by default by discipline, as I did above, haha. I like it! (ETA: Subtle and gross Arcana!)

    Subtle and Gross! Thanks.

    But yeah.

    As for the Disciplines/Houses, I would probably just scrap the way Houses work in Brakebills and retool it to fit the system you're using, largely BECAUSE some of them just won't make sense (like Illusion). You can even do it with Paths, but have paths be something each student chooses via which Arcana they choose. I mean I understand canonical adherence but it seems like a small sacrifice to make so that things are a little less annoying.

    In fact, my suggestion would be to compromise from both sides--you're getting rid of Paths and Orders, but you're sticking to Arcana, so the divisions of magic in Brakebills should adhere closer to that than what is canonical in the books, just for your own peace of mind and a lower degree of hassle.

    As for improvised casting, I would combine it with an experimental casting system wherein students can cast things based just on their Arcana knowledge, but the risk is huge--the difference between improv and experimental is basically "experimental is done within the confines of certain safeguards, i.e. in class, with a tutor, etc., whereas improv is done without such safeguards and can end up fucking. you. up. royally".

    Even minor improv casting should be really dangerous, and experimental casting should be the way in which they cast things that they will later have as rotes (so maybe a spell counts as "experimental" if they're currently coursing something that teaches it--re: Intro to Ghosts Seminar from my earlier example could enable the "experimental" casting of certain Death rotes the character is actively learning, while other stuff would fall under improv (and be more dangerous).



  • @coin said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    As for the Disciplines/Houses, I would probably just scrap the way Houses work in Brakebills and retool it to fit the system you're using, largely BECAUSE some of them just won't make sense (like Illusion). You can even do it with Paths, but have paths be something each student chooses via which Arcana they choose. I mean I understand canonical adherence but it seems like a small sacrifice to make so that things are a little less annoying.

    I think you're actually on the right track and that there's a way to basically keep the Brakebills Houses without too much fuss, if you allow players to choose. I think maybe instead of keeping the pairing of Gross and Subtle, which is more of a Mage cosmology thing, you allow players to choose a Primary and then Secondary Arcana, with some XP discount for Primary and then a smaller one for Secondary (or something to that effect?), without restricting them based on the Gross/Subtle classification. (They could still be obligated to choose an Inferior Arcana, because Magic Is Hard.) The Houses function like Orders only in that they have unique spell lists, so a player who chooses Mind as their Primary (for example) will choose either Illusion or Psychic based more on what they want access to, and their Secondary just adds variety and expands on what they potentially experiment with and try out, maybe?

    ETA: On this note, and to expand on the "cut out Mana" idea, I think it'd maybe work to have a scaling Willpower cost to casting in a scene instead of a Mana cost based on ruling, common, or inferior Arcana. This would be based on a character's Gnosis, IE, Gnosis X gets you X number of free rote spellcastings in a scene, after which point the cumulative point count starts. Casting a spell that uses your Inferior Arcana could either have a flat Willpower cost or just start the counter early, again determined by Gnosis. This would give players another excuse to go exercise their Virtues, or indulge their Vices...most likely the latter, haha!

    @coin said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    As for improvised casting, I would combine it with an experimental casting system wherein students can cast things based just on their Arcana knowledge, but the risk is huge--the difference between improv and experimental is basically "experimental is done within the confines of certain safeguards, i.e. in class, with a tutor, etc., whereas improv is done without such safeguards and can end up fucking. you. up. royally".

    Yeah! :D
    This is basically what I meant above, and really why I want to keep improv casting more or less intact but ramp up Paradox (repainting it as Backlash or something like that). I'm not sure how much is too much, that might take some playtesting, but that genuinely seems like fun to me, and it's a way people can use the spellcasting guide in the book to build spells they want to try at their own pace, rather than feeling pressured to scramble through it in the middle of a scene.


  • Admin

    I think at a certain point reusing a very heavily modified existing system might actually make things worse - that is, harder and more confusing - than using a completely custom one. It's more complicated in a way to think "okay, this is Mage but this doesn't exist, this is different, that is called the other thing, and..." than to cope with something brand new from scratch.

    Perhaps take all the spells themselves - the effects, descriptions, etc but without any of their mechanics - from Mage and/or other similar products to form your initial library of spells then wrap a system around those.

    It can still give you a nice early boost without tying your hands or shoehorning your square-shaped intentions into a round-shaped result.


  • Politics

    @arkandel said in Mage 2.0 Conversion Discussion:

    I think at a certain point reusing a very heavily modified existing system might actually make things worse - that is, harder and more confusing - than using a completely custom one. It's more complicated in a way to think "okay, this is Mage but this doesn't exist, this is different, that is called the other thing, and..." than to cope with something brand new from scratch.

    Perhaps take all the spells themselves - the effects, descriptions, etc but without any of their mechanics - from Mage and/or other similar products to form your initial library of spells then wrap a system around those.

    It can still give you a nice early boost without tying your hands or shoehorning your square-shaped intentions into a round-shaped result.

    Yeah. You might just be better off using Rotes without Arcana or Gnosis, and making them learn the Rotes one by one, with Arcana being abstract, non-stat "broad fields of study" that can be used OOC to determine how Rotes are made and their rating. (So Magicians would end up functioning closer to Proximi, but obviously with a lot more power and a wider range of spells.)



  • I dunno, I don't think I'd need to change much else and I honestly think the only real hardcore mechanical changes I've suggested so far are cutting Mana and its associated ties to Arcana, and how reach works. Just the changes above would still basically be familiar and play more or less the same, I think, so maybe at this point I just need to write some crap up and test it and see how it feels.


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