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?

You can find the rote on page 610 of M20 as a kind of a joke. But I'm asking about the old days.


3 Answers 3


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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    \$\begingroup\$ "just like the "whiskey flask" problem with Paradox." You're just going to leave that linkless to keep us in suspense, aren't you?! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 3:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've posted the answer to your question, and I'm linking it above. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lot of Mage players really didn't push the huge numbers of successes that should have been used for tasks like this. In addition, a Sanctum made it a relatively rote task as an extended cast regardless. It was certainly a reference to the early Matter sphere distinctions. I recall vampire/lawn chair thing and turning an entire room in to silver being relatively easy and reasonable for a starting level mage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 22:17

This idea goes back to the very first edition of the Mage: the Ascension player's handbook. Stephan Wieck discusses it in “Turning Vampires into Lawn Chairs and Other works of "High" Magick” in The Book of Shadows (1993; p. 203) as an example of how the loose rule system can produce unexpected results.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you've a page number? I can't locate the reference in my treeware Mage: The Ascension (1993), but its organization is... challenging. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 6:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I couldn't find it either, @HeyICanChan; it's why I didn't upvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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." \$\endgroup\$
    – Jadasc
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 23:30

I was just discussing this with some internet friends.

I didn't use UseNet in college (94-98) but I did go to GenCon while there (sadly I honestly can't tell you which year we went in that 3 year span, but I was with the L5R RPG booth and a L5R RPG betatester etc, so, we were in the Exhibition room), and in one silly mindset, I went and had buttons made at the buttonmaker. We were big Mage players, and at the time only had the original book. We had been discussing how rediculously OP Mages were, essentially, to Vamps, (e - what would happen if you mixed two systems?) and as they had no Life (the stat, hurr), and weren't Sleepers, they wouldn't generate paradox if you cast completely vulgar spells on them, as long as there were no witnesses. From that discussion came "You'd only need three dots in Matter to turn a vampire into a lawnchair."

So the first button read "Matter 3: You are a lawnchair".

We then ran around Gencon finding VtM LARPers, and tried to turn them into lawnchairs. Because Pixie Sticks and Caffeine.

Some of the LARPers at the con got it and would play along wth the joke (which essentially was to awkwardly pose themselves like a lawnchair at which point I'd try to sit on him - after all, these were cons). Some wuold get insanely uppity and yell. Someone else pointed out "Well, you need matter and spirit, otherwise the vampire would stilll think it was a vampire."

Then my friend was wearing, after another visit back to the buttonmaker, "Spirit 3: You think you are a lawnchair."

Later after that Gencon I had heard that some erratas and stuff were published saying you can't turn vamps into lawnchairs. I'd never seen them myself and never researched it as I was busy at that point getting my degree and it wasn't that important, it was just a highfive to my friend Kris and a "Ha! We got them to make an errata!"

Now, whether we initiated it (news at Gencon can spread FAR to a lot of ears in what's essentially a tight knit community) or I absorbed by somehow unconciously overhearing it from someone AT GenCon, no idea. But I was pretty sure up till today that, to my embarrassment, that Vampires and lawnchairs edit; add "Being blown up into a way bigger deal than it may have been - I know for a fact I was not at GenCon in 93) is all my fault. :(

It was realistically, a hilarious con joke that confronted with people taking things way too seriously, went "horribly wrong".

  • \$\begingroup\$ So, basically, you are claiming the trope spawned from the joke you played at that GenCon, right? It would be awesome to see those pictures of you sitting in another player. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 6:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately we weren't running around with a camera when we did that - it was literally one afternoon during the con, I do have pics from that GenCon, but it's mainly the CCG guys, and us (minus me who took the pic0 at the Exhibition booth for L5R. They're not scanned in atm though, and are sitting in a photo album. But yeah, I'm pretty sure it was me, again, unless there's some chance I over heard it unconciously - but I never used Usenet. The only thing I used the dumbterimals at college for was to check emails and do research for my boss' grant proposal. \$\endgroup\$
    – user15421
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 7:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cause of char limit -- we did annoy quite a few at least a couple large-ish groups of people. So its possible they went home ragey a pair of girls ran up pretending to be mages turning them into lawnchairs and ruining their LARP .. dunno :/ for us it was innocent and we were young and insane, but there's always the other perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – user15421
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 7:29

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