Mage: The Ascension is a Role-playing Game based in the old World of Darkness, and was published by White Wolf Game Studio. The characters portrayed in the game are referred to as mages, and are capable of feats of magic. The idea of magic in Mage is broadly inclusive of diverse ideas about mystical practices as well as other belief systems, such as science and religion, so that most mages do not resemble typical fantasy wizards.
In 1996, Mage: The Ascension won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Rules 1995. In 2005, White Wolf released a new game marketed under the same name (Mage) for the new World of Darkness series, Mage: The Awakening, with some of the same game mechanics but with substantially different premises and setting.
The basic premise of Mage: The Ascension is that everyone has the capacity, at some level, to shape reality. This capacity, personified as a mysterious alter-ego called the Avatar, is dormant in most people, who are known as sleepers, whereas Mages (and/or their Avatars) are said to be Awakened. Because they're awakened, Mages can consciously affect changes to reality via willpower, beliefs, and specific magical techniques.
The beliefs and techniques of Mages vary enormously, and the ability to alter reality can only exist in the context of a coherent system of belief and technique, called a paradigm. A paradigm organizes a Mage's understanding of reality, how the universe works, and what things mean. It also provides the Mage with an understanding of how to change reality, through specific magical techniques. For example, an alchemical paradigm might describe the act of wood burning as the wood "releasing its essence of elemental Fire," while modern science would describe fire as "combustion resulting from a complex chemical reaction." Paradigms tend to be idiosyncratic to the individual Mage, but the vast majority belong to broad categories of paradigm, e.g., Shamanism, Medieval Sorcery, religious miracle working, and superscience.
In the Mage setting, everyday reality is governed by commonsense rules derived from the collective beliefs of sleepers. This is called the consensus. Most Mages' paradigms differ substantially from the consensus. When a mage performs an act of magic that does not seriously violate this commonsense version of reality, in game terms this is called coincidental magic. Magic that deviates wildly from consensus is called vulgar magic. When it is performed ineptly, or is vulgar, and especially if it is vulgar and witnessed by sleepers, magic can cause Paradox, a phenomenon in which reality tries to resolve contradictions between the consensus and the Mage's efforts. Paradox is difficult to predict and almost always bad for the mage. The most common consequences of paradox include physical damage directly to the Mage's body, and paradox flaws, magic-like effects which can for example turn the mage's hair green, make him mute, make him incapable of leaving a certain location, and so on. In more extreme cases paradox can cause Quiet (forms of madness that afflicts mages and may leak into reality), Paradox Spirits (nebulous, often powerful beings which purposefully set about resolving the contradiction, usually by directly punishing the mage), or even the removal of the Mage to a paradox realm, a pocket dimension from which it may be difficult to escape.
In Mage, there is an underlying framework to reality called the Tapestry. The Tapestry is naturally divided into various sections, including the physical realm and various levels of the spirit world, or Umbra. At the most basic level, the Tapestry is composed of something called Quintessence, the essence of magic and what is real, in game terms. Quintessence can have distinctive characteristics, called resonance, which are broken down into three categories: dynamic, static, and entropic.
In order to understand the metaphysics of the Mage setting, it is important to remember that many of the terms used to describe magic and Mages e.g., Avatar, Quintessence, the Umbra, and Paradox, Resonance, as well as the game mechanics a player uses to describe the areas of magic in which his character is proficient-- the Spheres, look, mean, and are understood very differently depending on the paradigm of the Mage in question, even though they are often, in the texts of the game, described from particular paradigmatic points-of-view. In-character, only a Mage's Paradigm can explain what each of these things are, what they mean, and why it's the way it is.
Chapters that PlayEdit
The following chapters are know to play, previously played, or open to playing the game: