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I'm preparing for a Mage:The Ascension game as a storyteller. While my players and I enjoy many aspects of Mage and World of Darkness in general, we would like a much lower power level than seems baseline for Mage.

We aren't interested in traipsing through other planes of existence with seeming god-like powers. The chronicle is shooting for a grittier, low-adventure setting where many challenges are solved through mundane skills, perhaps supported by magic.

As a relatively new storyteller, I'm not sure how to create this effect in my chronicle. There are a few tools that seem readily at hand, but I'm not sure which (if any) are going to help reach my goals without breaking something else in the game. My current ideas:

  • Award experience more slowly than recommended (so powers don't get out of hand too quickly)
  • Place hard caps on magical spheres, arete, and probably other things
  • Limit freebie points, maximum spheres, and other things during character creation

How can I reduce the power of player-mages in my chronicle to create a low-adventure game without inadvertently hampering some other aspect of the game?

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There are a few ways you can go about this.

Enforce Paradox

The World of Darkness is a world where mere mortals are unaware of the paranormal, and that wouldn't be the case if mages were abusing Magick without consequences. Paradox is the natural way this abuse is stopped, and more powerful effects attract it more easily. If you use it well your players will use the Magick in more subtle ways. M20 had the Revised-edition paradox rules as optional, so you might want to look into those.

Remember Seekings

The spheres are capped by arete, and arete can't be raised without completing a seeking, even if the player has the experience for it. Given that a seeking is an adventure of its own, you might just award them sparingly so that your players don't get overboard. If you want to complement this with limiting the access to arete during character creation, you can slow this even more, or maybe introduce your players to seekings early if you see you overdid this.

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