Mage: The Ascension Revised F.A.Q.

Lots of people have lots of questions about Mage. Many of those questions have no black-and-white answers - after all, this is a game about dueling realities. Even so, some issues come up across the table - and on the internet, and in our mailbox - again and again.

First of all, what's up with those weird spine numbers that aren't the stock numbers? What was number X?

The numbers on the spines of various Mage: The Ascension, sort of reminiscent of the Halo numbers from various Nine Inch Nails CDs and videos, provide a method of keeping track of which Mage books you do and don't have. This is a list of all of them so far, including editions that are no longer in print:

01 Mage 1st
02 Mage 1st Screen
03 Book of Chantries
04 Loom of Fate
05 Progenitors
06 Digital Web
07 Book of Shadows
08 Chaos Factor
09 Iteration X
10 Book of Madness
11 New World Order
12 Ascension's Right Hand
13 Mage 2nd
14 Mage 2nd Screen
15 Void Engineers
16 Horizon: Stronghold of Hope
17 Book of Crafts
18 Book of Worlds
19 Book of Mirrors
20 Syndicate
21 Technomancer's Toybox
22 Digital Web 2.0
23 Orphan's Survival Guide
24 Tales of Magick: Dark Adventure
25 Guide to the Technocracy
26 Initiates of the Art
27 Spirit Ways
28 Masters of the Art
29 Mage Revised
30 Mage Revised Companion
31 Bitter Road
32 Dead magic
33 Blood Treachery
34 Midnight Dragons
35 Sorcerer Revised

Mage Revised FAQ

Additional questions will be posted with answers as they come up.

What happened to (my favorite stuff that wasn't in the book)?

Victims of word counts. Mage Revised clocked in with 90,000 words over what we could print. For reference's sake, that's about equal to an extra 160 pages of material that just couldn't fit in the main book. It's unfortunate but it's also a law of publishing. It's up to the developer to decide what's essential and what can be held until later. So, if you thought something was at the heart of Mage but you didn't see it in the core book, chances are that it was held for a later release. Material that will be covered in later books includes additional Backgrounds, additional Merits and Flaws, Do, spirits, the Umbra, Wonders (Talismans and other magical items), Familiars, Chantries and Sanctums. The Technocracy already has its own Guide. In the meantime, we'll try to make important notes accessible here on this FAQ.

I'm confused by the new Paradox system. Does Paradox always backlash? Does it always release the entire amount? The descriptions seem contradictory.

Paradox is a fickle force. Sometimes it backlashes; sometimes it waits. Sometimes it's a hammer and sometimes it's like sandpaper against your skin.
Paradox usually ignites as it's garnered, but not always. Figure about a one-in-ten chance that Paradox will hang on a mage instead of backlashing immediately. And, of course, the player can always spend Willpower to prevent the Paradox from going off all at once. Ultimately it's up to the Storyteller to decide whether the Paradox explodes as gathered or whether it hangs in the balance.

When Paradox backlashes, it's usually easiest to simply fire off all of the Paradox accumulated at once and look up the results on the appropriate damage and flaw tables. However, if you want to run with more uncertainty in your Paradox, you can roll a die pool equal to the Paradox rating of the mage; each success (6 or more) causes one point of Paradox to discharge from the pool in a backlash. (Permanent Paradox can still discharge in this case, but it doesn't go away.) Take the results for the amount of total Paradox that backlashes; the mage stores up the rest.

In the event that a mage has some hanging Paradox left in his pool, it still disperses at a rate of one point per week, as stated in the rules.

What are the differences between vulgar and coincidental magic? What happens when a mage casts coincidental magic, and how much does the player have to describe? The rules seem kinda sketchy.

Vulgar and coincidental magic are described on pp. 137-138, but the descriptions leave a lot of leeway. Ultimately, the full limits of what counts as "vulgar" versus "coincidental" is up to the game that the Storyteller wants to run.
In brief, coincidental magic is anything that could reasonably have happened without the intervention of magic. If a mage does some mojo and a couple of cars crash, well, they could've crashed anyway; it's a coincidence. Likewise, if the mage prays for intervention while an enemy is chasing him and suddenly the enemy's elevator gets stuck, it's a coincidence.

Vulgar magic is anything outside the bounds of coincidence. The mage hurls lightning from his fingers - that couldn't plausibly happen in the real world, so it's obviously magic! Similarly, if a mage steps into a bathroom in one city and steps out of one in another city, it's clearly something that couldn't have "just happened," and it's vulgar magic.

The boundaries of coincidence and vulgarity aren't set, though. The Consensus has some effect: What people believe is possible shapes what is possible. Thus, if a mage manages to convince people that he has some incredible gizmo that really works and lets him appear to hurl lightning, the effect may well be coincidence - the mage does his magic and waves his hands, but the device is doing the work, right? As far as people can tell, anyway. Similarly, a mage may have special knowledge about some little-known "fact" of science that he leans on, but if it's not widely-spread and believed, it won't appear to be a natural part of what could have happened, so it'll be vulgar magic or science.

When a mage does vulgar magic, (s)he cuts loose with an effect and fires off something that clearly violates the natural order. Simple. A coincidental effect is usually much more subtle, though. The mage sets magic in motion, but then weaves that magic into the Tapestry. The magic nudges events into a certain direction; those without magic can't even tell that anything unusual happened. The mage might not even know what is going to happen! The player should describe a plausible coincidence, but the mage merely sets up events and probably doesn't even know if the end result came from chance or from magic. For instance, a Hermetic mage could invoke the power of Forces to strike an enemy down coincidentally. The mage weaves the magic into the Tapestry and hopes that it works. Lo and behold, a severed power line hits the foe and shocks him. Unusual, but it could happen it's a coincidence, and nobody could really tell if it was magic or not. The player knew by rolling dice, and the player described the plausible coincidence (subject to the Storyteller's approval), but the mage only knows that he relied on magic, he believed and lo, his enemy was struck down.

Individual Storytellers should play with the boundaries of coincidence as it suits the nature of the game. Coincidence and vulgarity will shift from time to time, place to place and person to person, too.

When stepping sideways, does the Avatar Storm cause damage from failed Spirit dice, or from a separate roll of Arete + Paradox? And does the Storm affect anything other than mages?

It's Arete + Paradox. The Storm only affects enlightened individuals and creations - that is, mages and Talismans.

It seems really hard to build a fast Effect. With penalties for fast-casting, required successes and the like, most mages will have trouble getting more than one or two successes in a turn.

This is deliberate; mages should take time to prepare, cast their Effects wisely and use brains, not brute force. Magic turns the universe on its head - this is not something done quickly or lightly! And, again, magic is not an instant cure-all for everything. A mage can't rely solely on magic to fix every problem.
A mage under stress is probably better suited using some subtle magic to nudge events into her favor, or splitting dice pools to get a simple personal Effect backing up a normal action. Real titanic workings will take time and effort. If a mage just has to do something phenomenal in one turn, that's what Willpower and Quintessence expenditures are for. Remember, too, that if all that your mage wants to do is kill someone with vulgar magic, that successes on the attack roll do add to damage as with any other sort of attack, so even a one-success fire blast can inflict some hefty damage with a good shot.

If a Storyteller wants to let mages build faster Effects, then it's easiest just to get rid of the fast-casting difficulty penalty and to loosen up the success chart so that one or two successes can still score useful results.

Um, what are the Technocracy's Conventions, anyway?

Blast, that sidebar just didn't make it in in brief, the Technocracy has five Conventions: Iteration X, concerned with computer and material sciences; New World Order, which works with social engineering and information distribution; Progenitors, who practice medicine; the Syndicate, which works with money and economics; and the Void Engineers, who explore and chart unknown places and dimensions. Together they uphold the Precepts of Damian, a set of guidelines that exhort them to protect humanity and explore the cosmos.

What level of Life magic is required to heal other people?

As implied in Life 3, "To more complex creatures, she can exert change,
causing the entity to grow or change as she desires," a mage can heal or
injure other people (and complex animals) with Life 3. Transforming the
Pattern into something else requires Life 4.