Mage: The Awakening is a role-playing game developed by White Wolf, Inc. and based in their World of Darkness setting. The characters portrayed in this game are individuals able to bend or break the commonly-accepted rules of reality to perform subtle or outlandish acts of magic. These characters are broadly referred to as "mages". Mage: The Awakening is loosely based on a prior White Wolf product, Mage: The Ascension, which had similar game mechanics, though the terminology differs. While the games both focus on magic, the setting and themes of Mage: The Ascension have been completely replaced.
Mage: The Awakening won the 2006 ENnie Award for Best Writing.
Background & SettingEdit
As with the other games in the "new" World of Darkness (nWoD), the history presented in the game provides for some ambiguity. However, the "origin story" of magic and mages is less ambiguous (or at least more widely accepted) than that of the nWoD vampires or werewolves.
In the mythic past, a mysterious island existed with a single towering mountain, encircled by dragons which lived upon its summit. The mountain on the island called to humanity through dreams and visions. During this period, humanity was barbaric and tribal, and more importantly, its survival was under constant threat by stronger creatures. Over time, the dragons left and the mountain continued to call. Some humans answered the call and sought out the island. The humans who moved there discovered the first secrets of magic, and through magic they created the mighty city-state now known as Atlantis, though its true name has been lost to time.
Over time, the mages who remembered the struggles for survival had passed on, and those living on the island took it for granted. The mages became filled with hubris, and created a Celestial Ladder to reach the heavens and attain greater mastery over the world. Once the ladder was finished and mages began to climb it, those at the top began fighting over how best to lead the world. Over the course of the battle, the ladder shattered. This separated the Earth into the Fallen World and the Supernal Realm, with the chasm of the Abyss in between. The Fallen World is the world where humanity now exists in, and mages have come to understand that it is a lie. The Supernal realm is the realm of magic, where the mages who climbed the ladder now reside. The Abyss that separates the two worlds prevents most of humanity from awakening to magic, and hampers the power of mages trapped in the Fallen World. There is also a region known as the Lower Depths, even further fallen from the Supernal Realm than the Fallen World is, but little is known about it.
Mages believe that the Supernal Realm is the truth of reality and the origin of magic. It is ruled by the Exarchs, powerful mages who had successfully climbed the ladder and established themselves as rulers of it. The Exarchs wish to snuff out the memory of Atlantis and knowledge of magic so they will remain the supreme masters of reality. They are more god-like forces than human beings now, however this means that they must influence the Fallen World through servants.
Resistance against the Exarchs is possible because of the Oracles, a small number (probably five) of Atlantean mages who also climbed the ladder. They each created (or maybe are) one of the Watchtowers, which are both locations in the Supernatural Realm but can cut through the Abyss. They serve as paths towards magic, allowing Sleepers (humans unaware of magic) to awaken to it. Each mage visits a Watchtower during their Awakening, and their magical abilities are forever affected by that journey.
Fragments of the organizations, artifacts and writings of Atlantis survive to the present day, and mages hope to use this knowledge to further their various causes, by gaining a stronger connection to the Supernal Realm.
Mages "awaken" to the ways of magic. The setting states that it is unclear whether this is mostly accidental or as a result of a person's nature or understanding. The process of awakening can be slow or fast, but there are two major ways in which the event may manifest: the Mystery Play and the Astral Journey. In both sorts of "awakenings", the mage-to-be goes on a journey that culminates with them arriving at or in their respective Tower and inscribing their name upon it.
The Mystery Play is a waking dream, where the magical symbolism of their awakening is overlaid on top of the "real" world. Other people, places and real world events mesh together until the Mage arrives at a skyscraper, a phone booth, a grove or some other place that represents their Tower and somehow write their name in both the physical and astral setting, such as a hotel ledger or a statue's plaque.
Astral Journeys, which occur when the potential mage dreams, are common to those who deny or resist the "awakening". Astral Journeys feature strange settings, objects and people, in a full sensory experience.
Magic is simply the ability of a mage (or "willworker") to impose their will onto reality. Mages are able to do this because of their sympathetic connection to the Watchtowers in the Supernal Realm, because their names are inscribed upon it, and because they realize the Fallen World is a lie.
A mage's power, or level of awakening and understanding of the depths of the Supernal, is called Gnosis.
Arcana represent the understanding a mage has over particular facets of reality, and govern their ability to affect those aspects. Subtle arcana are those spells that do not outwardly appear magical, and therefore do not automatically risk backfiring (called Paradox.) Vulgar spells are unmistakably magical, and risk backfiring. All spells have a greater risk of Paradox when they are cast in the presence of non-mages.
Ghosts & SpiritsEdit
This system makes a strong distinction between ghosts and spirits. Ghosts are summoned, communicated with and manipulated via Death magic. Spirits are summoned, communicated with and manipulated via Spirit magic. The two may interact, but have little relationship otherwise, and spirits are not the souls of deceased humans, but rather the native inhabitants of the realms beyond the Gauntlet.
Chapters that PlayEdit
The following chapters are know to play, previously played, or open to playing the game: