Friday, June 29, 2018

Character Creation: Mage: The Awakening 2nd Edition

Today is the 10th anniversary of my character creation project. It started waaaaaay back here with Mage: The Awakening 1st Edition.

June 29, 2008. Obama was president, my son was only a few weeks old, and my life was in utter turmoil and it was going to get more turbulent. I didn't know it, but in a few months, my father would die, and a few months after that, I would be deep in what was then the worst depression of my life. I had just finished my first year of being employed as an SLP, but I was still doing a bunch of freelance work for (what was then) White Wolf.

And now here we are 10 years later. My life is, again, in utter turmoil, and this last year has taken the prize as "worst depression of my life." My son just turned 10 (obviously), and has grown up into a brilliant young man, and for his 10th birthday, he asked me to run a game for him (which was this). I'm no longer freelancing for (what is now) Onyx Path, and that sucks, but I have my own publishing company and we're doing OK, and I've got some new freelance work that I'm excited about.

And there's this project. When I started it, I owned maybe...100 RPGs? At most? And then the bundles happened, and then I started actively collecting, and then there was Kickstarter, and here we are - more than 350 and climbing, and I'll probably never finish this.

I did think about packing it in. I mean, I have no idea whether or not these posts are useful to anyone, or even if anyone reads them. When I started them on LJ, I got multiple comments on each entry, but that's not how this platform works, and that's fine. So why am I still doing this? (And this, and this.)

I've always enjoyed the exercise of crossing everything off a list, and that's probably part of it. I also really like making characters. This is silly, but when I'm having trouble sleeping, I'll sometimes revisit the characters I've made for this project (the superheroes especially) and think about how they'd function in a story or play out scenes from "their" movies in my head, just to put myself in a different, more controllable headspace. The characters I've made in this project have shown up in games I've run, but I've only played one of them, as far as I remember.

Anyway, I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. If nothing else, this keeps me reading new RPGs, which, as a game designer, is useful. And if I'm going to remain a game designer, I should keep those muscles in shape.

So here we go. Ten more years, probably.

The Game: Mage: The Awakening 2nd Edition
The Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: I was very familiar with 1st ed, I'm pretty familiar with 2nd ed in general, and I wrote a bit of this book. I haven't actually run this edition, though.
Books Required: Just the one.

With 2nd Ed, Mage finally got the developer it deserved - Dave Brookshaw is pretty damned impressive in his understanding of and love for the game. I was really happy to get to write even the little bit of this book that I did (I wrote the Attainments and the Mage Sight rules, if you're interested).

Step One: Character Concept. I...don't actually have one handy. Reading through the Paths, I find that Moros really speaks to me (I wrote the Moros chapter of Tome of the Watchtowers back in the day, and, ooh, fun fact, Mayfly, who's mentioned and pictured in this book, was a character I made up for that book). Most of the Moros I've seen have focused on Death, so it might be interesting to focus on Matter.

Except, I've made sciencey characters before, and Matter leans that way. How else could I spin this?

Ooh, the book refers to Matter as "the world's skeleton." I like that idea. I like the idea that Matter is the "stuff" that makes up the everything, inert but for other forces (and Forces) that power it, but still, without, there's nothing. That puts a rather more mystical spin on Matter than I was thinking.

Looking over the orders, the obvious choice is Mysterium, but I'm actually leaning toward Silver Ladder. I want to make a character who's very into Consilium politics and magical law and procedure, because he's excited about magic in general. Sustained energy is the hardest thing (something I've said personally just recently, in fact) - it's easy to get excited at the beginning. It's hard to keep the energy going.

I'll say my concept is "Consilium Volunteer." My character is someone who got involved in mage society matters very early on, and so is pretty hooked in to that society. I don't necessarily want him to be a favor-trader or a negotiator, though. He's more the guy that shows up to every meeting, makes suggestions, and is ready to help set up the bake sale (or whatever the magical equivalent would be).

As part of this step, I need Aspirations, but I should really think about the character a bit. Since I'm Moros, my Awakening involved death. OK.

Casey Yost had a job as a shipping manager for a company that dealt mostly in lab supplies - industrial chemicals and the like. The job required organization and executive function, and he was good at that, but gravity makes fools of us all. A bolt sheared, a drum cracked open, the fumes burned his lungs, and Casey died.

But there's "dying" and then there's dying, after all. Casey woke up after a trip to Stygia, and had paid his Leaden Coin. He got scooped up almost immediately by the local Consilium, and he recognized its problems. Sure, these people could pull miracles out of their asses, but they were still people, and they had the same fights. Casey wasn't there to fix that (he's not actually great with people except in very specific contexts), but he could sure make himself available to do some of the work.

So, Aspirations, then. I think our short-terms should be "take on an official position in the Consilium." The long term one is going to be "form and lead a cabal." I need one more short-term, so I'll say that it's "find a suitable replacement for my job." (Casey still works for the company; he's got orders backed up and he's still got three guys out on injury leave...he can't quit.)

Finally, I need a Virtue and Vice. I think Casey's Virtue is Dependable. His Vice is Impatient.

Step Two: Attributes. Standard CofD array, 5/4/3. I'll put Social last, Physical first, and Mental Second. I'll put two dots into Strength and Stamina and one into Dexterity; two into Intelligence (again, good at schedules and executive function, which I think is best represented in this system by Intelligence) and one each into Wits and Resolve; and one each into the Socials.

Step Three: Skills. I think Mental/Physical/Social makes the most sense. Two each in Academics, Crafts, Politics, and Science, and then one each in Computer, Medicine, and Occult.

Two each in Athletics and Drive...and actually, I can't think of a reason to put dots elsewhere. Let's switch and say Physical is tertiary.

Social, then, gets 7 dots, not 4. One in Animal Ken, two in Empathy, one in Persuasion, and three in Socialize.

Step Four: Skill Specialties. Well, I know I want a Politics Specialty in Consilium. I think I'd like a Drive Speciality in Industrial...wait, how about just "Trucks." That's better. Finally, Casey is pretty good at sussing out how a group needs shoring up, so I'll Specialize Socialize in Support.

Step Five: Mage Template. I get a dot of Occult, a dot of Silver Ladder Status, and High Speech for free.

My Nimbus manifests as a chemical scent, and hints of steam of smoke in the air. My Magical Tool is my ID from work (now warped and unrecognizable from the chemical spill).

For Arcana, I think I want to go 3/1/1/1. So that's 3 in Matter, 1 in Death, 1 in Life, 1 in Forces, and 1 in Mind.

I start with three Rotes. Gotta go look at those. OK, we'll take Influence Electricity, State Change, and One Mind, Two Thoughts.

I get one dot of Gnosis to start, and I could raise it with Merits, but I'm not for sure on that yet. I get one Obsession, and one Praxis per dot of Gnosis. Just a moment. Huh, some example Obsessions would've been nice. As it is they're just "like Aspirations, only magic-y" and that's not altogether helpful. Well, we'll say Casey's Obsession is "Learn the Lex Magica." Casey doesn't want to be a rules lawyer, he wants to make sure the bylaws are practical.

Praxis, then. Well, it's easy enough, it's just a spell I'm capable of casting that I've cast so much that it's second nature. I'm gonna make it Cleanse the Body. Makes sense for his history, I think.

I get a dot of a Resistance Attribute; I think it should Composure.

Step Six: Merits. I get 10 dots (because I'm supernatural!) and I might spend 5 to boost Mana, but I dunno. Let's look. Well, I definitely want Consilium Status; I'll take two dots. I'll take Lex Magica as a Merit (seems appropriate). I'll take one dot of Contacts (Corporate), and I'll take two dots of Resources. Three more. I'll take Potent Nimbus at one, and put the other two into Destiny (his Doom is "Die gasping").

Step Seven: Advantages. Usual stuff. Size is 5, Health is 8, Speed is 10, Defense is 3, Willpower is 5, Initiative is 5, Wisdom is 7.

You know, one of the things I miss about the 1st edition of these games is the "spark of life" step - there's no discussion in this book about tying everything together, and no example of chargen. I understand why; this book is overstuffed as it is, but I miss it.

Anyway, I feel like Casey maybe doesn't have a Shadow Name yet, and it's not mentioned anywhere in chargen, so it can't be that important. I keep thinking of Atlas (doing the work to hold up the world), except Atlas was being punished, and that's not the vibe I want, here.

Otherwise, that's me done, though.