I have just started GMing a Mage: the Awakening game, and I can already tell what my players like and dislike about the game. They like using their (limited) magical powers to the fullest extent, they like tangling with supernatural creatures and spirits, they like subtle political machinations, and they like screwing with Sleepers. What they don't like is Paradox, Atlantean history, Wisdom degeneration, and weird gnostic metaphors.

How do I make Mage feel more like a gritty, dark, superheroic game and less like a grimdark exploration of the human soul? My players don't want to live in a world of moral absolutes, or have easily identified villains. In fact, they are just as likely to be the villains.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is "shift to Second Edition" an acceptable answer, or should I stick to 1e as part of the frame? \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Dec 11 '16 at 1:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, that is the opposite of what I want! : ). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think 2E is even more grimdark and metaphorical. \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Dec 11 '16 at 4:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, I can't correct you on what your opinion is. :) I can say that Atlantis is relegated to a tiny chapter in the back, Wisdom degeneration is much less a thing — or at least it's a very different kind of thing — and that if you want something superheroic, the reinterpretation of the Seers makes them pretty good punchable villains. But if you want a 1e answer, I'd be happy to put one together. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Dec 11 '16 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes please! I'm really much more familiar with 1E. And the villains don't necessarily need to be punchable. The players don't want to be Superman and the Flash. They're totally cool with morally ambiguity, we're talking about a con man, a corrupt detective and a heroin addict here. \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Dec 11 '16 at 5:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get you. What I mean is that one of the things that makes a game feel "superheroic" is the presence of unworthy adversaries — foes you don't have to feel bad about opening up on. Zombies. Cobra troopers. Evil robots. In this case, there are some Agents of the Lie that you can use to fill that role. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Dec 11 '16 at 14:23

Don't be grimdark and angsty at the players. Create a storyline with some detail to it, and work through it, giving them things to do other than introspection. Give the villains motives that make sense, once they are uncovered.

Don't use the gnostic metaphors and Atlantean history, or make them something that just an NPC or two worry about - that will set your players wondering if they have plot significance. Don't worry about the wisdom degeneration.

You probably need to keep Paradox to avoid mages ruling the world. Treat it as the universe fighting back after being bent to their whim. So it's a natural phenomenon that is a nuisance, rather than something that should make them re-examine all their ideas.

This is the basic atmosphere of the Mage: the Ascension games that I've played, where we had plenty of fun, without feeling that we were missing anything by not having angst.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the response, but this isn't really what I'm looking for. Obviously, I intend not to be grimdark and angsty at the players. I'm more looking for actually rule changes that will get Paradox and things out of the way while still keeping my players in check. \$\endgroup\$ – John Doe Dec 22 '16 at 3:00

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