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I remember the 90s when Mage players would tell Vampire players that a Mage can very easily transform a Vampire or Werewolf into lawn chairs, and that they could get quite a good collection. I didn't know much about Mage those days, and I always supposed that was covered in some supplement.

These days, after reading some Mage books, I'm not so sure.

Was that infamous rote published in an official book? Which?

If not, anyone knows its origin? How did it spread so fast?

It seems that M20 will cover that rote, as some kind of joke. But I'm asking about the old days.

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2 Answers 2

In first edition Mage, vampires fell entirely under the sphere of Matter, and changing the shape of matter was available at fairly low levels. (This was referenced in Book of Shadows, the Player's Guide to Mage, in a subhead: "Turning Vampires into Lawn Chairs and Other Works of 'High' Magick" -- although it wasn't a rote.) The notion that a starting mage could, with a wave of his hand/wand/athame, completely destroy a vampire — who, at the time, had no way to defend against it – was variously seen as a sign of how Mage was a broken system or that Vampire players were whiny gits.

As for how the meme got started, as with many things in the 1990s, it started on Usenet. In 1994, in a thread on alt.games.whitewolf, ironically, about how Wraith wasn't a sales hit (compared to games like Vampire), a poster named Jack Dracula wrote, in defense of Mage:

But this is also one of the best features. No D&D spell lists, this inspires creativity and role-playing, rewarding creative gamers for their quick thinking. What that does unfortunately do is attract powergamers who want to turn vampires into lawn furniture, but they are just as quickly turned away by either ST Balance ("The Nephandi turned -me- into a lawn chair?!") or the lack of Power-Gamer Reward (No new level to get, no dragon hoard to plunder, no next level of the dungeon.)

In Second Edition and beyond, this was changed so that Vampires required both Life and Matter, but the notion of mages dispensing with vampires easily by transforming them into patio furniture persisted thereafter. (Werewolves always required Life, and in later editions Spirit, so I don't know what the players were thinking in that regard. Still, as part of the question, it gets an answer.)

How did it spread so fast? At the time, a lot of the people who wrote and worked for White Wolf hung out with posters on a.g.ww and on various online game sites like the Storyteller Circle MUSH. Jack Dracula was a frequent inhabitant of both places, and it gained currency just like the "whiskey flask" problem with Paradox. It was an inside joke that grew, and that's why people still reference it two decades later.

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"just like the "whiskey flask" problem with Paradox." You're just going to leave that linkless to keep us in suspense, aren't you?! –  SevenSidedDie Apr 10 at 3:39
I've posted the answer to your question, and I'm linking it above. –  Jadasc Apr 10 at 11:02
After reading your answer (thanks) I figure that the Werewolf thing had no special reason, but was a derivation of the vampire story. Still a very powerful mage could do the thing if he has the appropriate spheres, I guess, but I also think that the number of successes can be ridicule. –  Flamma Apr 12 at 14:28

This idea goes back to the very first edition of the Mage: the Ascension player's handbook. Stephan Wieck discusses it as an example of how the loose rule system can produce unexpected results.

Title : Book of Shadows

Date: 1993

Page 203

Subheading: Turning Vampires into Lawn Chairs and Other works of "High" Magick

Edit note: The initial version of this answer cited "rulebook" instead of "player's handbook." I apologize for the lack of citation details.

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Do you've a page number? I can't locate the reference in my treeware Mage: The Ascension (1993), but its organization is... challenging. –  Hey I Can Chan Apr 10 at 6:38
I couldn't find it either, @HeyICanChan; it's why I didn't upvote. –  Jadasc Apr 10 at 11:03
There you go. :) I seem to recall discussion on the subject that took place online in various fora before Book of Shadows was released, but that seems to have codified it. I do stand by my answer, though, as to the way the section header gained currency and "spread so fast." –  Jadasc Apr 10 at 11:40
Sorry that I didn't give the complete citation - I was in a hurry a few hours ago. The Usenet community was very important, back in the 1990s White Wolf scene; I only regret that I was horrible at keeping backups back then, because much of the game evolved on Usenet. –  dataquerent Apr 10 at 11:43
Now I remember I read that article on the Book of Shadows. I forgot. But I had the impression that the article was using a reference instead of making up the effect. –  Flamma Apr 10 at 23:30

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