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I have several times been told that Mage: The Ascension is a rulebook written in a state of perpetual intoxication. There has been numerous allusions to it for years, and it has been argued the contents of the rulebook serve as the best commentary.

However, recently I have heard a remark that this state of affairs has been publicly confirmed by people involved. Was there really such a statement and if so, is there a source that can be quoted? When did that happen if at all?

Only an answer containing extant quote (Twitter etc.) or citation from a reputable source will be accepted.

For the record, I do not care what substance was the cause of intoxication amongst the writer(s) (alcohol, drugs etc.) and I do not care about other White Wolf products. That said, I will accept an answer that relates to World of Darkness as a whole, if it's mentioned this way.

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To give some background to the creation of World of Darkness, the initial idea was put forth by Mark Rein-Hagen in a car trip with Stewart Wiek and Lisa Stevens:

While Rein-Hagen was on the road with Wieck and Stevens to GenCon 23 in 1990, he conceived of the game Vampire: The Masquerade which became his main project for the next year, and was published by the new company in 1991. Mage (1993) was based to a certain extent on a game that Rein-Hagen had imagined back in 1989 as something like a modern-day Ars Magica, although this was the first World of Darkness game in which he was not explicitly involved.

Wikipedia on Mark Rein-Hagen, cited from the book 'Designers and Dragons'

While not a perfectly rounded quote, I have found a reference dropped at a panel talk uploaded in 2009 where it's said, of one of the panelists and writers of Mage (not the same author as WoD) while writing the rules,

He spent most of the time in this haze...

This sentence could be interpreted in a variety of ways and imply the writer(s) of this particular work were under the effect of a drug, overwork or sleep deprivation (or otherwise intoxicated). However, as noted below by @JackLesnie, there is a culture of 'mystic oracle' which is promoted around the development of White Wolf games.

It should be noted that much of the early written work for World of Darkness was written by a collaborative team of freelancers in an office at White Wolf - but the implication of Mage being a fever dream seems to be common among the writers.

I am confident that with another week of trawling through panel discussions one might find more references to the phenomenon - though my research leads me to believe this is an inside joke, an issue of overwork, a reference to the flavour of Mage and a running aura of mystique.


I've attained a response to my rather invasive tweet to Stewart Wieck. My question:

Could you settle a dispute? Was Mage:Ascension "written in a perpetual state of intoxication" or is it a comment on mechanics?

The response:

Only if a constant diet of Indian food is intoxication. Lots of solo dinners in Decatur, GA pouring over notes and ideas.

Re: mechanics, Storyteller was a given, but the wonky bits I did with it (Spheres, Avatar, Arete, Paradox) is all on me.

https://twitter.com/stewartwieck/status/701796775649103872

https://twitter.com/stewartwieck/status/701797600924545024

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that wherever possible WoD writers in general have worked to develop an air of mystique about their products. And that writing 'mystical' literature while in or through a 'trance' or 'haze', often drug-induced, is an extremely common trope amongst certain historical writers that are a large part of the inspirations for world of darkness. Ergo there's significant support for it being an in-joke. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Feb 23, 2016 at 3:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think I have to agree with you @JackLesnie. I've updated my answer with a response from Stewart Weick also. \$\endgroup\$
    – Polyducks
    Feb 23, 2016 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ This remembers me on the quote "What's the author of this book trying us to tell? -- dunno, lets call him and ask!" x'D the edit deserves the bounty! :'D \$\endgroup\$
    – Zaibis
    Feb 23, 2016 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like Wieck's Twitter account has been deleted. You may want to update the Twitter links with archived versions of the pages, if possible. (Seems Wayback Machine hasn't archived them either...) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Oct 26, 2021 at 5:20

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