Content of the article: "Mage the Ascension Storytime"
So this is a story from my group's recent adventures playing Mage the Ascension (M20 edition). It may not be the most technically accurate playthrough, but we had fun, which is the Golden Rule.
I think it's a fun story, but I'm admittedly biased. So let me know if you enjoy, or just ignore me if you don't and I'll go away quietly.
Mage Storytime Episode 1: The Awakening(s)
This is the story of a group of gamers who became the characters of their own RPG. A group of friends who became wizards and set out to save the world.
We met for our usual Wednesday night gaming session at Telo’s apartment. Everyone was excited to start a new campaign in a new system: Mage the Ascension. No one had played it before, but Bard, the DM (or Storyteller, as Mage calls it) was abnormally excited to begin. To celebrate, the party had a potluck and Bard brought his famous lasagna and some brownies. A nice enough guy, Bard did have a known predilection for certain leafy green herbs, so everyone was a little suspicious of the brownies, but he assured them they were clean. So it was a bit of a surprise when the psilocybic mushrooms ground up into the lasagna caught everyone off-guard.
Everyone began to see disturbing images of fire, plague, death, and destruction, while a deep voice intoned “That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes and aeroplanes, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid.” On the plus side, the voice said it felt fine about everything. They turned to Bard, who helpfully informed them that: “The end of the world is coming. It’s been coming since 2000 and Y2K, but it’s really ramped up since 2012. It may not be a true apocalyptic end, but God told me to tell you guys that we’ve got to save the world. Or at least get it prepared to survive the changes. If we fail, it’s not the end, but a new Stone Age doesn’t sound too fun. And since you’re the only friends I have, sucks to be you. Congratulations.”
And with that, they began to awaken to their true potential, while Bard stepped out for a cigarette. Baker felt like she was made of brownies. And the world itself was made of brownies. And cosmic awareness was eating her whole.
Weeaboo started to focus on the blades and mall-shop weaponry that Telo displayed around her place, feeling himself melding with the Asian artwork until he stood on a mountain. Three red-haired, green-eyed women appeared from the surrounding woods, speaking in concert. Brigette, his personal goddess, spoke through the three, saying “You know how you’ve been trying to improve yourself and attain mystical power? Well here’s your chance. Careful what you wish for.” He continued in conversation with his goddess for a while, until she concluded by handing him a blacksmith’s hammer, patting him on the head, and returning him to normal reality. Everything seemed the same with the apartment, except that when he looked at Bard there was a second figure with the same face standing immediately behind the Storyteller. He looked like Bard, but cooler: trenchcoat, aviator sunglasses, massive joint. Bard noticed Weeb looking past him and introduced the doppleganger as Bard’s avatar. The avatar and Weeaboo exchanged polite waves.
Rocky was sitting on the couch with his dog Lana, when he saw Telo’s katana, placed on the mantle, glowing. He tried to stand up but couldn’t move, so the dog retrieved it for him. Staring at the glowing blue blade, he saw runic symbols appear. Although he didn’t know their meaning, he felt them being etched into his memory. And there he remained, staring at the sword.
Handy had never done drugs before this, so everything was new to him. Staring at the ceiling, he saw a beam of light descend. His first thought was of alien abduction, until an olive-skinned woman wearing a toga descended and began speaking in Greek. Handy didn’t speak Greek, or any language but English and Czech, so he stared in confusion. The woman laughed and placed a small, plain necklace over his head, whereupon he could understand every word she said. She said “You are very high right now, but that doesn’t change the reality of this situation. It is time to do what the fates will.” Handy glanced down and saw his rapier, which he thought was safe in his apartment, in his hand, and as the figure left, he awoke sitting at the gaming table.
Telo Teleo sat there, feeling strange, and hearing something just beyond the edge of comprehension. The whispered speech got louder, although it was still mostly unintelligible, and she noticed that it was coming from the tribal masks adorning her walls. She wasn’t sure, but one of them might have whispered “Oh. My. God. Becky, look at her butt,” but it was probably just something she misheard. When her eyes met the mask’s eyes, she found herself suddenly standing on an island in the middle of a blue ocean. At the center of the island was a mountain with broken pillars and ruins. As she walked the path going up the mountain, she recognized the place as a mind palace she had created as a precocious teenager. With another step, she found herself in yet another place, with giant shapes shifting and reaching from the shadows. She recognized them as dangerous, powerful spirits, and took a frightened step back, whereupon she was back in her apartment.
Critical found himself standing in a vast, infinite field of pure white, with the toll of bells in the distance. Confused, he started running, which accomplished nothing. Finally, he just laid down and gave up, allowing the experience to wash over him, whereupon he was back in the apartment.
Finally, Alvi Deiectiones traveled to the future and saw the total destruction and post-apocalyptic nightmare that was the world. Right as the panic and terror started to hit him, however, he felt time contract and begin to move backwards, dragging him into the past. Unable to control it, time jerked backwards all the way to the beginning, where the Big Bang slammed him forward to the present.
Bard: “Sorry for the rude awakening. Spiking food like that is bad drug etiquette, but we don’t have time to pussy-foot around. As you’ve seen, the world is ending, and it’s up to us to do something about it?”
Baker: “So what do we do?”
Bard: “Uhhhhh, for now, sit around and wait for something to happen I guess.”
Handy: “Well, the world has been ending for a while, so it’ll probably be okay for another week or two.”
Bard: “True. And like I said, the end of the world is kind of like Death in the Tarot: it’s about change more than endings. So you might think of the change and dramatic catastrophe as birth-pangs.”
Alvi: “Is this the world exploding, or just humanity?”
Bard: “Just humanity, the cockroaches and Earth will be just fine no matter what.”
Weeb (exasperated): “Okay, I’m sorry, but does anyone else see the dude standing behind Bard who looks just like him, or is that just me?”
Yeps all around.
Bard turned around to look as well, and the image waved. “Oh, good, y’all can see him too. That means I’m not crazy. In this specific instance. That’s my avatar. You all have one too, though it may not look like you.”
Telo: “Okay, I could really use an explanation about this whole thing.”
Bard: “It’s like this. Reality isn’t as real as people think. It’s a network of illusion built on a frame of common belief, or consensus. Money is a great example: a dollar is literally worth as much as a funky piece of paper. It only has greater value because society as a whole agrees to the communal lie that it is worth something. Reality is like that; built on a consensus of belief. If you know that, you can start to change it somewhat.”
Alvi: “So we’re Orks from 40K?”
Bard: “Basically, yeah. So if you know how reality works, you can change it through your avatar; your soul-link to a higher reality. You can see mine because he’s a showoff, but we all have one.” Looking around, Alvi noticed an angel and demon standing on his shoulder that waved cheerfully. Weeb, deciding to practice his newfound magical powers, sunk into a martial arts stance and started trying to channel chi, and had some success forming balls of energy, which surprised everyone present.
“Yeah, once you accept that reality’s an illusion, you can do pretty much anything,” Bard helpfully explained. “It’s like when we were kids playing make-believe. And as it turns out, this game called Mage is actually real magic and the details of reality disguised as a role-playing game.”
As the conversation and explanation went on, each of the newly awakened mages began trying to experiment with their magic. In Alvi’s case, he tried to use Time magic to rewind things back to before the lasagna was eaten, so he could eat more and trip again. We helpfully pointed out that he could just get seconds, as there was plenty left, but Alvi was having disgusting fun with his magic so we left him to it. He actually succeeded in mostly restoring it. The flavor was fine, even if it looked pre-chewed. Telo transmogrified it into a block of wood before he could take more than a single bite. Then Handy tried to shoot lasers out of his eyes to burn it, because why not? The power to rewrite the very lines of reality, and this is how the party uses it.
Telo: “So if Mage is real, does that mean we’re about to be hunted down by this ‘Technocracy’ and forced into an indoctrination camp?” At the words “indoctrination camp,” both Weeaboo and the magic chi-dragon he had summoned to curl around his arm jerked their heads up.
Bard: “Probably, but I don’t know. Till I awakened I thought the book was fiction, so it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. But I don’t think they’ll spontaneously identify us and attack. So as long as we keep our heads down, we should be good. I hope.”
We kept talking about the end of the world and how it would interact with magic. Unfortunately, Bard said that while he knew the world was ending and that they had to save it, he had no further information about timetables or what specifically to do, leaving the party in a reactionary state. Alvi tried to use his time magic to glance forward into the future and see when things would go down, but as he gazed into infinity, infinity gazed back at him, and Alvi blinked first. All he got for his efforts was a headache and a nosebleed. Weeaboo, who was trained in alternate medicine and acupressure before he became a Mage, came over and used his newfound abilities as a healer. Alvi sighed with relief as the room lightened and we could all smell fresh water and greenery, kind of like how you imagine an Irish Springs commercial would smell (not the soap itself, but the lush waterfall they always show in the commercials).
As the evening continued, we kept screwing around with our magic. We also decided that we needed what was called a chantry in magic circles: a communal base with magical fuel and defensive capabilities. Several party members disliked the name chantry because of its connotations from Dragon Age, so we settled on calling it a secret-lair. We also discussed team names, such as the Baconators (from our previous D&D campaign), or the Rangers of Power. The latter was dismissed after someone mentioned the optics of the “White Power” Ranger. Plus we started fighting over who would be the Green Ranger and get the dragon flute. And thus our evening devolved into stupidity and jokes, as was the way of things. Nice to know magic doesn’t change everything.
Despite our newfound abilities, life continued mostly as normal for the party. We all went to our various jobs, lived our lives, and tried to learn about our new powers. It was some days later when Bard called, asking everyone to come to the Old Towne district in Dallas because something was going on. News reports and police radio chatter mentioned an active shooter or some other sort of serious situation going on, so we were a little hesitant, but ultimately showed after much cajoling. We met in the alley of a local shopping center. Several, showing remarkable foresight, brought first-aid kits and other medical supplies. Bard, who had several gun-nuts in his family, was able to bring a few pistols for self-defense purposes. Because Texas. Police did not have the area cordoned off, but were out in force as we assembled behind the buildings. Bard, who had called everyone to the scene, pointed to a bloody boot-print on the ground. Alvi quickly noticed the next print, which was about 20 ft away from the first and was a left foot instead of the right. The boots seemed to be about size 12, but the possibility of a giant was bandied about. We decided that someone probably would have noticed a giant and continued in our investigation. Given the situation, though, we were pretty certain magic was involved, which made it something the police could not handle. No one was happy with that point of view, but we pressed on.
We followed the prints through the alleyway where they continued onto the tree-lined avenues that surrounded a series of apartment complexes established around a centralized park space. Weeb started sniffing at the blood, using his life magic, and after getting down on his hands and knees he circled around and pointed, in bloodhound stance, back towards the police. It was quickly apparent that the culprit had come from back where the cops were and was trailing blood as he moved towards the park. Concerned that the culprit was getting away, based on his enormous stride, Alvi used his time abilities to speed up the investigative process, and we continued into the wooded enclave.
We tracked the bloody footprints down the sidewalk. Sometimes they were dozens of feet apart, sometimes they walked around like a normal person, but we ignored our misgivings and continued until we found the body. Some of us noticed that first, while the more magically minded (or those who were used to seeing weird things, at least) began to notice the screws. For some reason, they began to feel like the trees and buildings were bolted on, like flat set-pieces. Looked at straight-on, everything was normal, but from their peripheral vision it almost looked like they were on a stage. And they could just barely hear a light flute playing a jaunty tune, but no one else noticed anything.
The body was lying on the sidewalk. A quick check of the pulp where the head used to be found another footprint, although there were no prints on the sidewalk. Apparently, someone had stamped down on top of this poor woman’s head. Based on this, Weeb figured out that the perp was jumping around, explaining the distance between the prints, and this woman got in the way of a landing. Alvi, in an overabundance of caution, decided that magic being involved meant the possibility of zombies (despite the state of the body’s head), so he put a few rounds into the corpse just to be safe. Bard was not pleased, as the ballistics report could easily lead back to him, so Telo used her matter skills to alter the shape of the bullets to make them untraceable.
As we got closer to the park, the music began to get louder, while the feeling of fakeness about the surrounding scenery increased. Rocky’s canine familiar told him telepathically that things weren’t what they seemed, but that was all we could get from our non-human counterparts. As we approached the central area of the park, beyond the parked construction equipment, we saw a figure running around. The music was louder now, and we saw a figure in a red shirt and blue overalls running around the field. Alvi squealed and rushed forward to glomp his hero, shouting “It’s-a You!” With a “Woo-hoo,” the mustachioed figure leapt into the air, and the fight was on.
What is the meaning behind this jump-man?
What is happening to the world around them?
Will our heroes survive this fight?
Find out in the next Mage Storytime.
If you enjoyed this, let me know and I can post the continuing adventures. Like I said, if no one is interested I'll let it fade into obscurity, but there is plenty more. We meet Bugs Bunny and a few other interesting figures in our later adventures.
Or check out the audio recordings on Youtube:
- Mage Storytime Episode 2
- Deleted character, deleted apartment and spent money???
- Is there a way to have job-based JRPGs (FFV, Bravely Default) without grinding?
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