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Mage The Ascension 208

Posted by JonKatz
from the the-mystical-corners-of-cyberspace dept.
It's amazing to encounter so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview as was brought us some years ago in -- of all things -- a paper-and-paper game called "Mage The Ascension." Like "Shadowrunner" and other compelling works, "Mage" is one of the memorable folktales of this culture, the sort of tales which now mostly seem to have taken sophisticated electronic form.

In White Wolf's explanatory "Mage" book, the lines between the good guys and bad guys are never clear.

In the old days, goes the backstory, when magic was real, a group of Mages -- mystics and sages who wanted to bring magic back to the world concluded that if enough of the population didn't believe in evil and danger, they would disappear.

Calling themselves the Order of Reason, some mages banded together to educate and enlighten the masses, using science and technology to brighten the world's darker corners. Over the years, however, as this Order became dominant, it began to promote conformity. Iconoclasts and deviants were gradually eliminated through the use of science, financial pressure and social ostracism.

Now known as the Technocracy, these mages wielded increasing control over mass media, education, technology and business; they even defined what was real and what wasn't.

It's amazing to encounter so insightful a worldview in a paper-and-pencil role-playing game. While mainstream society was dismissing geeks and nerds, they were increasingly retreating -- via games, MUDs and MOOs -- into their own folktales, fantasy worlds that foretold the future as brilliantly as Orwell or H.G. Wells. "Shadowrun," "Werewolf" and "Changeling" were escape routes, a new genre that offered some of the most revealing insights yet into the people who built (and are still building) the Net and Web, and creating continuing revolutions like the open source movement.

The legacy of the techno-outsider culture, such games have been partly supplanted by flashier entertainment systems from Nintendo and Sega, and technologically-sophisticated games like "Seaman." But these early stories were the precursors to a social revolution and its new worldview.

In "Mage", cynicism and lack of imagination exist only on the surface.

A shadowy world flourishes underneath this everyday one. In it, enchanters and sorcerers commune with powers that no mortal can see or believe.

The world (our world) is definitely a poorer place for the loss of faith in magic, but it's richer for a subterranean fantasy like "Mage," and for the caverns, tunnels, hidden rooms and pools of a score of virtual games. "Mage's" sci-fi spiritualism fits perfectly with the ascent of the Net and Web, where people with imagination, creativity, individuality and yearning have lots of dark corners to hide in. These geek refugees and artists still dip underground in search of their own shadowy worlds. Stories like "Mage" foresaw the amazing creative power of the Net, where the ability to personalize reality becomes commonplace. People can customize information, design their own spaces, role play on games and in chat rooms, express themselves freely. Online, the shadow world of the Mages has come to pass. And it's a much richer, darker and political kind of culture than the corporations who dominate entertainmnent generally permit in music or on screens.

"Imagine a world where visionaries struggle to bring wonder to the mundane," reads the "Mage" introduction. "Picture a war where the winners decide the fate of the world, and the losers are hunted for their presumption. ... Forging their own rules through the power of will, these enlightened few cast the shape of tomorrow. Ultimately, they seek to surpass the limitations of the universe, to transcend this reality through Ascension. Their special wisdom sets them apart forever -- they are mages."

In the dawn of the new millenium, the Mages warned, the Technocracy dominated the world and its people, using programs designed to subvert the remaining isolated pockets of deviancy.

Often, in fact, science and technology do fail to come to terms with their own complexity when managed by fallible and manipulable humans. Another brilliant vision of the future: in this world, with more technology than ever -- gene maps, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, wireless delivery systems, an avalanche of new software, plentiful bandwidth -- most people are never permitted or helped to understand it. The technology spawns all sorts of new devices, even while knowledge seems to shrink.

In our culture, reality certainly gets defined by technocrats who acquire and control media and culture -- journalism, Hollywood, music. People comfort themselves in the idea the the Net provides millions of diverse voices, but very few have any real influence or reach. Mass media still dominate the most influential people and institutions in the culture.

But for all the fantasy in "Mage," there's also relentless reality. There's a poignant chapter on dealing with "the Mundane World," where everybody has to go, at some point, to go to school, sleep or face the real planet.

Stories like "Mage" and "Shadowrunner" LINK often incoporate the idea of an awakening. Sometimes you awaken to magic; sometimes you simply awaken to the nature of the world. Some Mages get jarred into insight through a tramautic event; others experience a slow heightening of awareness.

The idea of the awakening is widespread on the Net, too, usually in a different context. The supplicant, often bored or disconnected from the traditional world, gets drawn into a new reality -- a game, perhaps, an e-mail exchange, a chatroom encounter, a revelatory programming experience. The Net is a particular world and many people talk of their sense of revelation and astonishment when they first enter and discover it. It is especially transforming because their lives are not the same afterwards.

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Mage The Ascension

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    A digerati encounters the world of paper-n-pencil RPGs. If they have a modicum of open-mindedness (as it appears Jon does here) they will discover there is a far greater liberating aspect to the RPG than there is anywhere else in the wired universe they dedicated themselves to.

    What happens is an epiphany. They will understand that the Internet is not the highest form of creative expression and release for the masses. But it is superceded by a primitive paper-n-pencil medium.

    Oh the irony!

    Seriously though, I enjoyed this essay by Jon. As a RPer for two decades now this is not a surprise. Is this maybe the sign of a coming out party for RPGs when self-appointed cultural arbiters discover the "edginess" of the RPG?

    Anondson
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's amazing to encounter so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview as was brought us some years ago in -- of all things -- a paper-and-paper game called "Mage The Ascension."

    It's an intruiging concept, and I'd like to see how it's pulled off, but I'll probably wait for the expansion supplement -- Pencil: The Scribbling. =^)
  • by Threed (886) <nowhere@a[ ]l.com ['tal' in gap]> on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @08:33AM (#800857)
    Why'd I turn off the KatzFilter? Oh yeah, we were promised a /. printing of the new book. Did I miss that or something? Oh well. Just wanted to see if I was quoted in it.

    Anyway, Jon, don't go reading too much into White Wolf's stuff. Rule #1: It's just a frickin' game. (You take it too seriously and you wind up like Dallas Egbert) Rule #2: You can (and many storytellers do) throw out any White Wolf material you don't like (I throw almost all of it out, and I don't let my players use any material I don't own).

    The World of Darkness is a parallel to our world. It's recognisible enough to be realistic and fantastic enough to capture the imagination, sure, but it's just a backdrop for White Wolf's real product: The Storyteller System. Its only there so that neophyte Storytellers will have some stock material to base a chronicle on (and to inflate WW's profit margin).

    Here's something for you to think about for a second... When WW announced the latest revision of the Vampire: The Masquerade rules, the teaser hinted that computers and the internet would play a larger part in the game. Many fans flamed that Vampire: The Masquerade was turning into Vampire: The Cyberpunking. No one wanted the game to be refocused, rather we wanted a few holes in the rules plugged up.

    On the subject of Mage itself... A decent game, I guess, but Vampire really kicks ass. Personal preference? I don't know a single serious Mage player. Some of the Vampire fanatics own the Mage books, but only because they have the WW logo on 'em.

    I personally take offense at the often used line that RPGs are an escape route for tortured geeks. Pththbt... These games started as tabletop war games for military buffs. Hardly geek-like, eh? To get one of these games together and to keep it running smoothly, a Storyteller needs to have 1 million hit points and infinite charisma. It takes a good network of friends to do it right. Lots of communication and endless phone tag. Hardly socially inept, eh?

    The reason the kids in the DnD club were all beanie-heads is because these games take BRAINS to play. In a game where combat scenes can dilate game-time by a factor of 10 and require and ungodly number of die rolls, anyone who's not sharp as a tack with numbers, probability, and record keeping is going to go back to their Nintendo and play Ghosts-n-Goblins.

    The world is poorer for loss of belief in Magic? HUH?

    Who says the world has lost its faith? There's plenty of New Age shops and even mainstream bookstores have large quantities of texts on performing rituals and divination. The US Army was forced to allow Wiccans to practice at nearby campgrounds. The Catholic Church's leadership issues press releases that are picked up by the major news outlets. Wandering proselytisors (sp?) still ring my bell every once in a while.

    Even if the world had lost its faith, many would consider that a Good Thing(tm). How many lives have been lost over religious matters? Even if you count just those that had something to do with someone's idea of "Magic", there's been plenty of documented witch-burnings.

    And now, the haves vs. the have-nots... The great unwashed masses of the computer illiterate... Most of them consider their ignorance to be bliss. Case in point: My older brother gave up on computers at about the time I picked them up. Now he's a head taller than I am, gets all the girls, has a TAN, and loves life. Try explaining the DeCSS controversy to HIM! Does he like movies? Oh yeah. He digged The Matrix. To him, movies keep getting better. So what's the big deal? Nevermind.

    Knowledge isn't shrinking. It doesn't even SEEM to be shrinking. Breakthroughs are coming down the pike every day. No one person can know it all so it might seem bewildering, but each person's store of individual knowledge can only grow.

    I find the closing paragraph pretty ludicrous. No one has the "great revelation" experience on the net anymore. It's become another party-line. A global fun-zone. A really nifty way to slack off at work. The "pass this on" emails that go around give this one dead away... Americans are consumers, and we consume the net the same way we consume the telephone. Sometimes people look up at the clock and realize they've been online longer than they planned, but that's about the only great awakening that's going on. Business as usual, the net's a product now.

    The real Threed's /. ID is lower than the real Bruce Perens'.

    --Threed
  • The quote should be "Phenominal Cosmic Power! (Itty-bitty living space.)".


    --Phil (Some people say I'm anal-retentive. I prefer to think of myself as detail-oriented.)
  • by mholve (1101)
    Err, what culture would that be, Jon? Yours?
  • As a matter of fact, the principles of the Masons are close enough to this "Order of Reason" that it really beggars belief to claim that they did NOT model it directly on said organization.

    Actually, all Masons must believe in some form of higher power, a Supreme Architect, or they can't be a Mason.

    Any Technocrat professing such belief would very quickly be up for reprogramming.

  • ...of new ideas to our culture.

    Yes, Mage borrowed some ideas from the previous works of some of its authors (notably Ars Magica). Yes, it was set in the World of Darkness universe (a setting dominated by much more popular games like Vampire and Werewolf). Yes, it tried to incorporate elements of ancient myth into a game system (like most RPGs).

    And it even stole insights from various pop-culture metaphysicians like Robert Pirsig and Carlos Castaneda (in some ways improving on their philosophical rigor).

    But it also did some things which none of these did, attempting to integrate all of these into a coherent (but fictional) worldview and then using that worldview as the basis of a role-playing game. An ambitious and laudable project, whatever you think of the results.

    I enjoy it. I recognize it's not everybody's cup of tea. But it's my favorite RPG at this moment. The swashbuckling supplement should be in every gamer's library no matter what they play. There is nothing better available.

    There are some important things to be said about Mage in terms of the degree to which it actually seems to be written by people who believe they can say something important about the universe in a game. People with passion. People who care. And people with something to say.

    Maybe this is why Katz wrote about it. His article seems vague on exactly why it was done. I don't consider the cyberpunk element all that important in Mage, although it's certainly there and I use it in my campaign.

    I have little use, however, for Katz-bashers who cannot respond to a slightly-more-vacant-than-I'd-prefer piece with totally vacant flames. Those who are flaming Mage as derivative seem to break into two camps: those who know little of Mage and those who know little of intellectual progress.

    Those who know little of Mage look at some superficial aspects which it borrows from much less ambitious works (Ars Magica and Shadowrun) and say their preferred game is better 'cause it was first. OK, if that's your definition of "better."

    Those who know little of intellectual progress complain that it's based on ideas first propounded by the Greeks (or Pirsig or whoever). Well, yeah. But, if you're trying an ambitious philosophical work in a game format, you'd better take into account earlier ideas.

    So: ambitious game, worthy effort, and a good time was had by all.

    And: uninspired column, worthless flames, and a good time was had by all.

    That's what I love about /.

    BTW, does anybody know why all references to Pirsig were excised from the second edition of Mage? I've always wondered if he protested or something. Which would be too bad, since they actually made his ideas look good (not that they don't have some merit on their own).

    Hey, these guys even made Castaneda look good. Just think what they could do for Katz.
  • ...much original material of interest over the past couple years.

    But anyone who finds their recent stuff so repetitive they've given up should check out their new imprint: Arthaus. (Yeah, I know it's pretentious sounding, but it's really worth looking at.)

    The swashbucking supplement is really useful.
  • Mage = Neuromancer, with magic instead of tech.
    Shadowrun = Neuromancer, with magic and tech.

    Same old story, different eye candy. I think Katz has officially become "too hip for the room."

    Every day we're standing in a wind tunnel/Facing down the future coming fast - Rush
  • Yesterday in Jon's article Sovereign Individual (Part One) he quoted The Sovereign Individual: Mastering The Transition To the Information Age, by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg.

    And it will involve a break with the past so profound that it will almost bring to life the magical domain of the gods as imagined by the early agricultural peoples like the ancient Greeks (and SF writers in games like Mage and Shadowrunner).

    Not only did Jon lift the idea, he even got the name of Shadowrun wrong just like they did!

    "Free your mind and your ass will follow"

  • This is one of those columns where you know going in you have to put the asbestos on. Not being a gamer, I'm not announcing these things, but feel strongly that RPG's like Shadowrun and Mage should be taken more seriously as the cultural offerings that they are. I think there's a streak in some of the posts (I got lots of very nice compliments on this column, too, I should say. Be careful not to conclude from Threads that this is representative of /.) that simply wants to say "I know all about this," and that's a shame, because I'm not announcing the existence of these games.
    They mostly tended to be dismissed, and still are not taken as seriously as they ought to be taken. I've been bombarded by suggestions for other RPG's that are interesting in this way and intend to keep on writing about them.
    People who feel they know all about this stuff should obviously skip it, but I think these games were prescient and important -- and were definitely not recognized as such. So I will absolutely keep on writing about them, not in a technical but a cultural way. I think it's important, and yes, we know some of you are awesome and cool, so chill.
    This is a great subject and I'm sorry that the state of Threads is such a mess that you can't read the great posts from some of the many people who played Mage and Shadowrun and like talking aobut them.
  • yeah, but by the looks of your web page I bet you would have found it rather topical if Jon "RPGeek" Katz had written about anime.
    If I had to choose who would rule the world, RPGers or anime-kiddies, I'd choose the anime-kiddies. Their dimmness makes them easy to manipulate... RPGers would waste the rest of the world's time by arguing over game mechanics and dice rolls.
    Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)
  • Why is this story in the technology topic?
  • If online rape isn't rape, then online deletion or muting of the raping character isn't punishment.
  • by Jack9 (11421)
    This is an utterly worthless /. article. I would be embarassed to say I read /. if this is the only article that a friend read. Enough of the perpetual ponitifcation machine, Jon Katz.

    Often wrong but never in doubt.
    I am Jack9.
  • I have also played White Wolf games and other RPGs for many years. Perhaps your ire is more of an inability to look at what you do in a wider context. I have had the same thoughts that Katz has, looking at the games and their storylines.

    Shadowrun is about the rise of corporatism. The Whitewolf games tend to be about alienation from society. Mage, in particular, has a lot to say about media manufactured reality.

    Why do you think role-playing games are so vehemently denounced by certain segments of our society, and almost always recieve shoddy treatment at the hands of Hollywood. It certainly isn't because they're tales told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. If you want that, watch your average Hollywood action movie.

    I'm not some deconstructionist literary geek with my head stuck in my navel (or some other part of my anatomy). He has something interesting and important to say. Listen to it. Maybe you'll learn something.

  • Why do you think role-playing games are so vehemently denounced by certain segments of our society, and almost always recieve shoddy treatment at the hands of Hollywood. It certainly isn't because they're tales told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. If you want that, watch your average Hollywood action movie.

    conspiracy theories aside, i think the problem lies exactly in the fact that they're not tales full of sound and fury - or rather, in that they're not tales at all.

    rpg games as such are a medium for participatory storytelling. they're not any form of a "folktale of this culture" - they're a form that requires the narrator and the audience to recreate the tale at every telling. and this process of recreation requires a level of participation and interaction that's virtually unknown in other forms of pop culture (well, maybe except for children's theater).

    as a social phenomenon, it's vaguely unsettling because it calls for the kind of a pretend-play that usually atrophies by adolescence. as a storytelling technique it's also very strange, embodying all the 'hot' postmodern ideas - interactivity, nonlinearity, author/audience ambiguity, and what have you. and it's impossible to capture this in any medium that doesn't share these characteristics - muds and computer games succeed somewhat, but movies or books really have no chance.

    so my point is, rpgs receive shoddy treatment not because they talk about revolution or totalitarian systems - after all, books and films that touch on the same themes (1984, brave new world, metropolis, the list goes on and on) are deservedly respected, if not revered. rpgs are distrusted by some people simply because they're a very unusual form of storytelling. and they get butchered in the media simply because it's impossible to give justice to this form in a medium that's inherently linear and presentational.

    but that's just one deconstructionist literary geek's opinion. i could be wrong. :)
  • Dude. Decaf.



    If you think you know what the hell is going on you're probably full of shit. -- Robert Anton Wilson
  • by Alternity (16492) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:26AM (#800873)
    I actually played that game a lot. Even for the non-rpers, the main book is a really interesting read. White Wolf [white-wolf.com] has created a really rich and interesting setting around that game, bringing interesting ideas and views of magic making the main book of that roleplaying game as interesting to read as many novels I have read.

    At the forefront of that game is the conflict between technology and freedom, imagination and 9 to 5 boring lives, between fantasy and modern life.

    I would definitly recommend that book to everyone, roleplayer of not. And to roleplayer I really recommend that game as it is IMHO one of the best RPG even...

    You could also check out Ars Magicka which was the first game of white wolf (now published by another company I can't remember which one) which is kind of the basics for mage : the ascension bringing you among the middle ages magi.
  • I think Jon should read GURPS, the Generic Universal Rule and Point System, sometimes also known as the Generally UnRecognized Political Statement.

    There, he will learn such truths as "All activities can be simulated by 3d6." So you assign Gore the appropriate numbe of points in the Political skill, do the same for Lieberman, roll a Quick Contest of Skills, and BANG! You just predicted the outcome of the election!

    With the mass combat rules, you can see if the newly elected president will survive the coming war with Iraq.

  • Don't you know what JonKatz is doing to the SOIL!?!
  • Agreed.

    You can talk about how "elite" you are, and how stupid the other guys are - or worse, how evil they are.

    And for every moment you flap your lips, you've wasted a moment you could have done something that didn't involve your own ego.

    *sigh* The poor Illumnati, reduced to this ;)
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @07:22AM (#800877)
    First of all, the idea of an ascendion, enlightenment, etc. is not new. It's very, very old, thanks to some "psychepunks" like Buddha, Lao-Tzu, shamans, Chuang-Tzu, Sufi mystics, etc. Hell, Ken Wilber's book "No Boundary" fairly laid out parrerns of concious development that lead to better, healthier, more "enlightened" mental functioning. "The Secret of the Golden Flower" has been translated and commented on endlessly, and focuses on similar issues.

    Snapping out of mundane, neurotic mental states is old hat.

    Secondly, the "secret society of do-gooders" views of Mage and Shadowrun (NOT runner) aren't exactly reassuring in my book. It's another form of elitism - "look I'm so cool as I battle the Evil Other Guys." It's the desire to be validated via conflict - which requires an enemy in the first place. Don't trust the Deathly Cool People In A Struggle - trust the people who are more concerned with the question "am I doing any good for the world?"

    Role-playing games are NOT guides to life. They're games, even with good research. Companies sell what will sell at the time. Sure, I enjoy them and I can learn about people from them - but when I want to change myself or the world I put down the dice and the manuals.
  • .
    Mage isn't a rip-off of anything.

    Whups -- yeah, you could read the last sentence like that. No, Mage is pretty much purely new ideas (with the realization that all RPGs pull from "folk material" like the Ether of the Sons of Ether).

    What I meant to say is that the whole World of Darkness (in it's very first version) was a "rip-off" (i.e., inspired by with no credit given) the Mayfair Games' Chill RPG. Since then, the WoD has grown far beyond what it was at the beginning, and has lost most relation to any other game.

    By publication dates, a friend who lived in Atlanta who knew the White Wolf people were playing Chill, the similarlity in genre, feel and system (one type of die, merits, flaws, and the Dark Ways match closely to the first Disciplines) and the early publishing plans (releasing books for each type of monster), I'd give good credence to the chances of the first World of Darkness being heavily drawn from Chill.

    Most of Shakespeare is based off of earlier stories, but that dosen't lessen the greatness of what came from the Scribe's pen. I'm not claiming WoD is equal to Shakespeare, but if"rip-off" implies a cheaper, lesser copy. WoD is not a "rip-off" of anything, but *is* heavily inspired by many RPGs, Chill undoubtly among them.

    --
    Evan

  • .
    "'Mage: the Ascension' was nothing more than a cheap rip-off/riff on themes developped in cyberpunk."

    Having played Mage and loads of cyberpunk genre systems (I'm assuming that you were referring to the full genre due to the lowercase there), I would have to ake the observation that you are probably tokin' off of JonKatz's crack pipe.

    Okay, Jon is (once again), taking something, grabbing a corner of it, and spinning it into an essay that really didn't need the comparison.

    Mage: the Ascension in a Nutshell:

    All sentient beings shape reality by their perceptions of "what should be". Back in the middle ages, computers not only didn't exist, they *couldn't* exist, as people couldn't envision them. Computers did not fit into the worldview paradigm. At the same time, unicorns and dragons existed, and now they not only don't exist, they *never did*... because people don't believe they could have.

    Now, most people are "sleepers". They contribute to the shaping of reality like a cup of mixed concrete contributes to a large building. Even if they are wackos, they can't do anything to change reality by themselves.

    Certain people, however, are "awakened". These people are more like carpenders, electricians and demolitions men in the "building" of reality. Very, very rare, they can shape reality by affecting certain natural constants in various ways: Time, Entropy, Force, Mind, Matter, Spirit, Correspondance, Life and Prime. It is heavily implied that these natural constants are "natural" only because the Mages believe they are.

    Now, of course, for any good game, you have to have conflict. And Mage has got one heck of a thrilling idea for conflict: The War to Define Reality. Although there are dozens of groups who are only somewhat or not affiliated with the two sides, there are primarily two major groups that are locked in battle: The Technocracy, and the Traditions.

    The Traditions are pretty much what you think of when you think "Magick". They have the Druid like Verbena, the Crowley like Order of Hermes, the drug-taking free-love Cult of Ecstasy, and the Christian Celestial Chorus. They also include the hacker Virtual Adepts, and Mad Scientists of the Sons of Ether.

    The Technocracy include the New World Order, the Men in Black, Iteration X, Void Engineers and other groups that are more difficult to try and pigeonhole in a Slashdot post.

    The Tradition is attempting to spread Magick into the world, and either awaken the sleepers, or at least allow their paradigm to be widely used. You see, whenever a Tradition mage blows a fireball or magickally heals somebody, if a sleeper sees it, then reality itself will try and fix the "impossible" act via Paradox. That type of magick is called "vulgar", and Tradition Mages can't generally use it. They can, however, blow a fireball right after everybody smells gas (Mind+Forces or Matter+Forces), or wipe off the blood where they just got shot, and say "Thank goodness, it just grazed me!" as they heal the shot that tore apart their spine. This is coincidental magick, and it's really useful (you always have change for the bus, the cop is always around the corner when you need one, etc.)

    The Technocracy is trying to stop the Traditions, and bring in the new world of Reason. The technocracy would be publishing all the press releases in Slashdot about "invisible skin", getting the masses ready for their (already working) invisibility treatment. Iteration X would be releasing the Hong Kong security robots, while their "Terminator style" robots already wander the streets (and keep breaking down because reality hasn't been fully bent to accept them).

    The War is only the massive backdrop for the stories that you run in Mage. I have World of Darkness books measured by the yard... the whole cosmolgy is very well built, and it's a crying shame that most people only associate White Wolf with Vampire, as it is just one small part of a world full of very well placed and realistic stories of hope, love and glory. From the elegant and wild nature of the Changlings (Satyrs, Pooka, Trolls, etc.), to the dark, Lovecraftian horrors of the Balli to the Incarna of the planets (including the fragmented, always in pain Rorg who is the Incarna of the planet that used to be between Mars and Jupiter), the World of Darkness is a phenominal setting for just about anything from Disney's Gargoyles (I'm running a game right now, Tuesdays) to the more common (but still fun) Mind's Eye Theater Live Action Vampire (and yes, I'm running the game Fridays in downtown West Palm Beach).

    And as for WoD being a rip off of Cyberpunk, no. (It's a rip off of Chill). :)

    [1] Yes, it's spelled Magick. In Mage, Magic is a trick, and Magick is shaping reality. Since both are used, it's handy to have an alternate spelling.

    [2] To players of Mage - yes, I skimped. This is for people who might want to audit Mage 101, not who are about to sit down and play. Mauraders, Nephandi, and how it ties into WoD cosmology were intentionally left out. Ain't no way I'm going to explain Horizon and the Deep Umbra in one sitting. And Third Edition is right out.

  • Nice attitude, pal: "I don't care if I don't have to read Katz, I want to censor him so no one else can read him, either!

    For the record, I've been playing RPGs for even longer than you - I played the very, very first Basic D&D back in the early 80's. And I say that in the places where you're not completely incoherent, you're wrong. Who says White Wolf didn't intend their games to have even a hint of politicvs to them? Do you you think writers live in a vacuum? What makes you think that the game themes don't reflect the opinions of the writers at all?

    It's also very telling that your mailto is set to "Go flame someone who cares", while you're busy writing flames yourself. Just another indication of "I want to be able to do it, but not let other people do it."

    Good thing we have you around to decide what we can and can't read, and it sure is fair of you to spout flames at people but prevent any response by putting your fingers in your ears and humming "I can heeearrr youuuu!" like a 4-year-old.

  • by HunterZ (20035)
    That's "Shadowrun" and "Pen-and-paper" chummer! I can see that he STILL hasn't played it...

    Myself and some of my friends have just taken it up again - what a killer game! Magic, machines, virtual reality...

  • Ars Magica was created by Johnathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen, Mark went on to create the Storyteller system. Johnathan went on to do Over the Edge (the greatest RPG you never heard of) and is editing the new 3rd edition D&D.

    Ars Magica was amazing, back in the day, it threw out all the assumptions made since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson came up with them. I feel that it brought on the rebirth of RPGs, as seen by games like Fading Suns.

    Of course, these days I only have time to read the Knight's of the Dinner Table (highly, highly recommended to any (ex?)gamer).

  • Jon, news is important because of timeliness.
    this is not timely.
    Additionally, please attempt to actually understand the culture you attempt to report for. Roleplaying reviews are geeky, but this review in particular is both dated and needlessly pretentious.

    Here are some other roleplaying games you should not report on:
    Wraith : the oblivion
    Changeling : the whatever it is I dunno.
    $noun : the $gerund in general.
    ---
  • I would recomend checking out Pahantasm: The Weaving [wildhavencreative.com], if this sort of 'shadow world' appeals to you.
    --
  • by RISCy Business (27981) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:55AM (#800885) Homepage
    Let's see. I've been a White Wolf player since, what, Vampire: the Masquerade came out? Yeah, about that time.

    Let's see. I've been an active player since then. So that would make it close to 8 or 9 years, as I recall, seeing as V:tM came out in, what, '91?

    I can safely say that, quite frankly, Jon is again reading into something that just isn't there. Trying to politicize and 'newsify' (is that even a word?) something that's been around since 1978 or so, seeing as that's when D&D First Edition came out.

    For the record, I've been playing RPG's for about 11 years. I started with D&D 2nd edition in 1989 and have been consistently and constantly playing in various RPGs ever since, including but certainly not limited to and definitely not in order of preference, D&D, AD&D, Mage: the Ascention, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Vampire: the Masquerade, Battletech, and various freeform RPGs.

    To try and make this into something it is not is an insult to those of us who DO play RPGs. RPGs predate the Internet, and in reality, have very little to do with it in any way shape or form, beyond the fact that communities surrounding RPGs have formed on it.

    Awakening? What is this bullshit? I mean, seriously, this is utter bullshit and not even yellow journalism. Yellow journalism involves actual JOURNALISM, which Katz is OBVIOUSLY incapable of.

    Go fucking read - the same stuff is in EVERY White Wolf game. Why? To add an element of realism , gods forbid we should have anything but FANTASY in an RPG. If you were a supernatural being, do you REALLY think that it would be easy to just get whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it, and get away with it? It's not even feasable to have anything resembling an education without painstaking attention to faking things in the so-called "real" world in a situation like that, which is what White Wolf points out. Christ. Katz must be illiterate. He seems to have also not noticed that the so-called "awakening" as he has dubbed it in his so-called infinite genius (*choking back laughter*) is always the late teens, in most cases 17 or so. Why? Because it's totally impractical to do it any other way and have anything resembling a cultured character, much less educated.

    Somebody needs to send Katz to a proctologist for his rectal cranial inversion problem, apparently. I mean, christ, I've heard the bullshit in the past, but this is beyond bullshit and flat out insulting. Christ. Give Katz one iota of credibility for the Hellmouth bullshit and he runs with it and runs off with the profits from other people's suffering. This is beyond absurd.

    What will it take to get Katz off slashdot? Fuck the checkbox - I don't want him spouting off any more bullshit for anyone to peruse. He obviously is incapable of decency, integrity, or intelligence. Where's natural selection when you need it? *sigh*

    =RISCy Business
  • Like "Shadowrunner"

    You would think that since he just wrote an article about it a few months back, Jon could remember that the name of the game is Shadowrun.

    Adam

  • In a similar vein, he'll have a blast with Brave New World. Oppressive goverment, no elections for nearly 40 years, Kennedy still in power, mandatory registration for Delta's (Superhero's), people fleeing to independant island nations, resistance movements.

    Hell yeah, we're going right down that path for SURE!

    (Except for the fact that we don't have superhero's, therefore Kennedy wasn't saved by a group of them, and there's still elections every 4 years, and there's no mandatory registration for the non-existant superhero's.. but we're going right down that path!)

    Adam


  • You missed Usenet: The Flaming [sjgames.com].
  • this is exactly what i wanted to say, thanks.

    there seems to be a horrid fear of RPG players to acknowledge that what they are doing DOES in fact have SOMETHING to do with reality.
    it seems to be their nature to dwell in the idea that this is all fiction and purely for fun. i understand, i was the same way.
    i have not played for years now, and, looking back, i can say that RPGs were an escape for me, and a source of wonderful tales. tales shape your dreams and those who dare follow their dreams their entire life.

    shadowrun and consorts with their eery view on the corporate world and the media are like an attempt to understand and deal with these things.
    ... and the Seattle riots bring the whole thing into the real world.

    let go, ikea-boy.
  • After all, we make thinking machines by etching arcane symbols with rare elements into a pure crystal, and binding the symbols with inlaid metal. We make mighty creatures of steel that obey us with curious precision, like the genie from the lamp. We have great roaring war chariots of the skies that fly faster than sound itself and hurl fiery spears that hunt their targets with mindless fury. We can see across the world in an instant. We looked into the smallest things to find the secrets of the universe, and learned to make weapons that could destroy the world. We have visited another world, and prepare to visit others, sending our mechanical forerunners into the fathomless void between worlds on a pillar of flame. We play with the language of life itself, and reshape the plants and the beasts to suit us.

    Magic is bloody boring compared to the real world.

    If you want to look at the world through a romantic fog, you don't need to make up new rules for it.

    --------
  • Let's put one together, right here--and then /. can sell it on ThinkGeek.

    The game is Katz: the Delusion

    What do we need for cards?

  • "Hell is full of good intentions."

    That is something that I have often heard uttered out of the mouths of some people that I consider very wise.

    After reading the essay, and then the highly moderated responses, that saying came to mind.

    Katz made a decent observation. Some people got offended so they in turn tried or have offended him, in spades no less.

    I think he only meant to generate or provoke thought on the subject matter. He may not meet the standards of all in viewing distance of his piece, but he sure did get your attention, slashboxes and all!

    Anything you are capable of is a God given right.

    Take it light.

  • I think this article is the answer to Ask Slashdot's "Is There an Effective Way to Kill Banner Ads?" question. The answer, it seems, is to disguise them as stories.

    Coming Tomorrow on Slashdot:

    "Are You GEEK enough to take the PEPSI CHALLENGE?"
  • [hits bong]

    So The Matrix is really this big metaphor, right, for like, college. You, like, go in and sleep in bunk beds and eat cheap gruel and the girls are hot but there aren't enough for everyone and stuff, but you like learn really fast about the way the world really is and, like, the way you are, get it? Then once you learn all the stuff you can, like go back into the stupid conformist zombie world everyone else lives in, but, like, you totally can do whatever you want. Not like flying or catching bullets or anything, but like, you can just be whatever and do whatever and you'll be good at it because you know how the world really is, get it?

    Hey, pack that shit again...

    -jpowers
  • Besides, M:TA, in its original incarnation, is more sophisticated than a lot of technology. It takes the problem of competing ideologies and worldviews and breaks it down in an elegant manner, then almost makes its solution believable. Very interesting, and all you Eternal Golden Braid fans might enjoy it to wrap your minds around.

    Actually, the newest version of Mage came out fairly recently.

    Yeah, but the original game was out in '93, when I graduated HS. I think Meester Katz would do well to get himself a copy of the 1st Ed game. Totally unplayable, but much more insightful. Really just a metaphysics thinly disguised with a couple of dice rolls. He might also enjoy Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which is to some degree the origin of the game's premise.

    -jpowers
  • The comparison to Shakespeare is interesting. You can argue to some degree with his stylistic choices, but his work shows a clear understanding of both human nature and the ideas behind the "culture war" of his day. Same with Mage.

    And it is a ripoff... of some great works of philosophy.

    -jpowers
  • It's not a "Feature" by any stretch of the imagination, either.
  • Quite the opposite. The Matrix is Mage when the Technocracy wins, with Neo and crew being the remains of the Traditions (namely, the Virtual Adepts).
    --
    These are *MY* opinions.
  • Wonder how many people are blocking him, I've noticed the comments for his posts have gone down quite a bit anyway.

    Quick survey:

    Here's hoping this works, when I preview there is a space getting inserted before the end A, like </ A> why's that?

  • I'm waiting for Mage: the Accountant, now that would be a scary game...
  • Yeah, compared to RPGs there are way more novels that are 'so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview' that they should be getting a mention.

    Anyone have an address so that we can start a 'Send Jon a Book' club...

    Not knocking RPGs etc, in fact after the comments here I'm kinda inspired to hunt down some fun MUD and partake, probably a better use of my scantily clad free time than posting bollocks here.

  • nice to know someone was paying attention :)
  • I think the article could've done with a bit more substance. It doesn't actually take things far enough.
    One of the things I found _extremely_ useful in Mage at the time it came out was the help it gave me in coming to terms with a number of completely contradictory opinions and worldviews that I had.
    Between the way I was raised, the things I saw at work and the subculture I'd become involved with there was _very_ little solid foundation left, it had all become rather rocky.
    The overall philosophies put across in Mage are made up, but there is still a lot of useful things in there that can be applied back to the real world.
    One of the largest is that, in most cases, it doesn't actually _matter_ what the truth is. The fact of the matter is that different people will have different perceptions of what is going on in any given situation and to accomplish anything it's usually the _people_ that you have to deal with to solve things.
    You accomplish nothing by fighting or by arguing with people, but rather from being understood and understanding others.
    Just because things _seem_ to contradict each other of the surface there is probably a deeper level at which they both make more sense and can coexist.
    The real depth in Mage comes not from the fairly stereotypical groups within it or the storyline, but from the philosophical glue that holds it together and from a questioning mind actively looking at things and thinking "How does this apply in the real world."
  • by Zulfiya (44302) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:45AM (#800905) Homepage

    You know, I'm not usually a Katz-basher myself, but, please!

    Anyway, as far as Mage [white-wolf.com] goes, I'd rather Ars Magica [atlas-games.com] anyway. What's Ars Magica? Well, among other things, it's the system they took a lot of the philosphy and backstory from (back when White Wolf owned the system). Me? I thought it was better done, and it doesn't bog under the trendy cyber-goth woe-is-me-woe-is-my-world tone. Ever wonder where they got the Order of Hermes from? Why there is a clan of Vampire called the Tremere?

    Methinks somebody's been paying attention to White Wolf's own hype. After all, everybody knows Vampire is about the struggle with darkness within (which is naturally why so many people play it as superheroes with fangs). And Changeling is about the sorrow of our lost childhood. And Werewolf is about the sad demise of our environment. Just because they take themselves that seriously doesn't make them deep.

    It's a game. It's a game that's been out for years! This sort of article reminds me of the magazines in the early nineties touting their "new" discovery - the internet, as if it had only just begun to exist because they noticed it.

  • To wit: I haven't been able to find enough players for an Amber game in years.

    Maybe you haven't been looking in the right places? Find an AmberCon [ambercons.com] and you'll find players. Or post on the AML (Amber Mailing List).
  • Sorry, I can't spell...
  • Why should be at all find it strange that games creating by and for a certain type of people might actually include themes and characters through which those people can live vicariously. Duh. I mean we have shoot-em-ups because it is nice to escape our mundane world of staring at screens, shuffling paper, answering phones, preparing food, etc., to go crazy and blow stuff up. We have race car games because fans can't actually race in real life. We have RPGs in which characters and themes are those which the creators, for whatever reason, would like to play out.

    This is surprising? If fantasy had absolutely no roots in reality, it wouldn't be very relevant or interesting would it?
  • Jon must be running out of ideas on stories relating to some gadget sold in Best Buy is changing the digital electronic world we live in. He's talking about trading card games? I suspect someone wants to work for UGO.
  • Is this my fault?
    Re:Ummm...Katz... (Score:1) by ronfar on Thursday June 08, @03:27PM EDT (#258) (User Info) http://gamesandpolitics.tripod.com

    Actually, I think Jon Katz would be far happier with Mage: The Ascension or almost anything else from White Wolf.

    A Response the the MPAA FAQ

    -- a reply I made to Shadowrunning In The Corporate Republic [slashdot.org]

    Sigh...

  • Clearly an attempt to try to build mystique around a genuine cultural change through the use of something which is completely irrelevant.

    Looks like someone has run out of good ideas for articles.
  • D&D 3rd edition *is* about fighting software patents.

    You create a character with different attributes. Now, your attributes make you of a specific class. The point of D&D is to let these classes coexist, in order to progress. The point of D&D 3rd, with the new skill system, is to differentiate these classes enough that they become different.

    Now draw a parallel between 'class' and 'patent'. They're saying you cannot create a patent because small variations between patents are sufficient to be noticed. By expanding the skill system, WotC is saying it's wrong to put software patents because changing one line of code is enough for differentiation.

    QED.

  • Huh... Someone has doubled his recommended daily dose of happy pills.
  • by Enoch Root (57473) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:20AM (#800914)
    Even when it came out, 'Mage: the Ascension' was nothing more than a cheap rip-off/riff on themes developped in cyberpunk. Jon, you're getting worked up over nothing, and you're showing how shallow your actual geek culture is (ShadowrunNING? Can't you even doublecheck your facts?) Next, you're gonna tell us how accurate 'Hackers' was? Oh, and did you notice how Sandra Bullock's 'The Net' is an allegory for the loss of privacy in our modern society? Draw a parallel with the Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, the Apocalypse, and you're set for a 10 articles feature.
  • When Ars Magica first came out there was a little gaming company called Lion Rampant. There was also an up and coming gaming magazine known as White Wolf. A close look at the staff sheet of the magazine and the credits list for Ars would show a lot of overlap. Eventually they made it official and merged the two groups into one.

    White Wolf games with a bad or mediocre GM are sucky games, but that's not the fault of the game system, any more than it would be in Amber. It's just that compared to D&D and its compeers, these are games that raise the bar for both game master and player alike.
  • Actually, Ars Magica was put out by Lion Rampant (though I believe Mark Rein*Hagen was also involved with Lion Rampant, and that the RPG was later also re-released by White Wolf).

    I don't think the subsequent releases (White Wolf's versions) were anything compared to the original Lion Rampant books...but still a good RPG, and definitely one to try if you tend towards magic in fantasy settings - this system is magic in Medieval Europe.

    As for Mage: the Ascension, though, I have to agree with the majority, here - it's an interesting RPG, however much I might dislike the WW system. And it's interesting seeing MUDs and MOOs mentioned - some of the best RPing I've ever done was online, either as a player or a Storyteller (Judge/Game Master/etc.) on White Wolf MUSHes. The Mage system, however, doesn't lend itself well to automation (which the other systems can do, to an extent)...maybe that's both a benefit and a drawback to including it in online roleplaying systems. On one hand, you know that your results are being handled by an actual judge/storyteller...on the other hand, you can be left waiting around if there isn't someone neutral to handle your magical needs.

  • by vbrtrmn (62760)
    I noticed this quote on the bottom of SlashDot tonight. I didn't notice it before, though I wonder if it is about Katz.

    He is considered a most graceful speaker who can say nothing in the most words.

    --
    you are not what you own
  • Card suggestions:

    1. Go to jail - the Pinkertons picked you up from an 'anonymous' tip.

    2. You become a simple cobbler to protest the Corporate Republic. You lose everything.

    3. Say 'Geek Culture' 25 times and advance 3 spaces!

    4. You turn that trenchcoat-wearing depressed kid in to the Pinkertons: you win a free hat!

    5. You send an email to Rob criticizing Jon Katz's review of the movie 'Ghostbusters': Lose 4 Karma points.
  • Go fucking read - the same stuff is in EVERY White Wolf game. Why? To add an element of realism , gods forbid we should have anything but FANTASY in an RPG.


    I got back from Chicon [chicon.org] Monday night. There were a number of panels discussing exactly this, although in the context of fiction rather than games. They had titles like:

    • The Physics of Fantasy
    • The Fantasy of Physics
    • The Sources of Fantasy: Folklore
    • The Sources of Fantasy: History


    The point of this is that even fiction that is acknowledged to depict the impossible must maintain a certain amount of internal consistency. It must make sense within its own context.
  • I went to the con but not to any of the panels I listed. There were at least a dozen simultaneous program tracks during the middle of the day. Between the overload and attending some of the children's programming with my 6 year old son, I missed a lot of interesting sounding panels.
  • Why should that matter? If what "Jon Erikson" posts is "insightful" or "informative" or whatever, then why should a reader with points to spare spare him one? Do you have some reasion to pick on "Jon Erikson," or (if you insist on the distinction) his "parent," "real-life" identity, where his comments become automatically dismissable, though they might be praiseworthy if uttered by a non-troll, that is, someone with a less well-developed sense of humor?

    Hell, the other day I myself bopped up one of those "Anonymous Emily Dickinson" posts [slashdot.org] with a point for "insightful." (Of course some kneejerk illiterates promptly moderated it right back down. Too damn bad they couldn't be bothered to read the thing first.) Why? Because the poem actually was intelligent, on-topic, and closely pertinent to the question at hand (how hard it is to get the attention of the Kernel hackers). In fact, I'm grateful and I feel lucky to enjoy the "company" here of someone literate enough and clever enough to have picked out so felicitously apposite a poem.

    Don't let your patellar tendon do all your reading for you, OK? that's your cerebrum's job.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

  • by sdelk (73884)
    For the love of God, get rid of Katz. He's awful. He's an embarassment to Slashdot, and that's saying a lot.

  • Look, whether you agree with Katz's analysis or not, it's still great to see someone taking RPGs seriously.

    I've held onto a hope that they could be a very powerful form of literature for years and years, but it's gets harder and harder. There's so much potential for terrific storytelling and interaction; and it's so rarely achieved. I like hack and slash and level gaining as much as the next life-long geek - but as you get older, and discover more subtle forms of myth and story, it wears thin. It seems to me as though Role Playing could be a lot more than it usually is.

    Part of its becoming a fuller, richer form of literature/art has got to be these types of discussions about how it fits into the culture at large. Whether or not you buy the analysis, I think it's terrific to see this type of discussion. This is the kind of thing which might manage to convince those of us struggling to fight the good fight that there's hope, it's not all 12 year olds killing cliche monsters and giggling about NPC barmaids.

    The other thing is whether it can ever be a less overwhelmingly male pastime.
  • I bet you would have found it rather topical if Jon "RPGeek" Katz had written about anime.

    If he'd writtne about it as if it was something invented yesterday, I'd have laughed at it just as loudly.

    If I had to choose who would rule the world, RPGers or anime-kiddies, I'd choose the anime-kiddies. Their dimmness makes them easy to manipulate...

    This belief is what will make taking over the world a piece of cheese. Go on feeling safe...

    RPGers would waste the rest of the world's time by arguing over game mechanics and dice rolls.

    Apparently you've never been to an anime NG or newsgroup. We can endlessly discuss minor details with the best of them!

  • Uhm, I hate to break this to you, but the Traditions aren't the "Good Guy Mages". They're the anchors that are holding humanity back from being able to advance past our current state of psudo-religious hooey (the technical term), to a more advanced form, a form where we can:

    Easily enhance our bodies and minds with technology

    Where medical technologies are safer, more efficient, and allow us to cure any disease

    Where we explore space far beyond our moon, and the deepest depths of our oceans

    Where money no longer controls us, but rather that we control money, and it does our bidding

    Where there is One World Government, equal rules for all, to stop madmen from controling the world, and killing innocent peoples.

    We are the Technocratic Union. We are the desires of all of humanity. If we were not wanted... If we were not needed... then we wouldn't be the Guardians of Humanity.

    The Technocracy -- You Need Us.
  • What is strange is how the notions of escape and awakening interminge.

    The notion of illusory reality is nothing new it dates back thousands of years to Buddhism and Chinese philosophy. E.g. a Chinese sage was dreaming he had become a moth which was dreaming about him. So who is whose dream? Interestingly one of the names of Buddha is "the Awakened".

    Also compare Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Black Queen is dreaming about Alice, who in term is dreaming, of course Carroll, no doubt was aware of the earlier writings.

    What was different about Orwell (and others) is that reality was not just illusory, it was consciosly manufactured with a certain purpose in mind.

    So it is hard to attribute the stir made by movies like The Matrix (fairly crude and not particularly believable, nice special effects), to anything but ignorance about literature and history.

    In fact most of the genre is a primitive interpretation of Buddhism. Dark City provides an excellent example. The senseless interminable cycle of reincarnation on a vast space station controlled by evil aliens from the outer space is broken and Nirvana (somehow associated with the sea) is reached... Hm, I think the original teachings were rather more imaginative.

  • For Katz to review Tunnels and Trolls- he's been sitting on his review copy for about 25 years.
  • If this is what passes for insightful modern journalism these days, I'm going to claw my eyes out. First Katz demonstrates his intimate familiarity with the cyberpunk RPG culture by garbling the name of "Shadowrun", and then he proceeds to ramble about how the backstory for an RPG (and an unspectacular one at that, if I may say so) has something terribly important to say about modern society.

    This reads like uninspired ad copy for White Wolf. Reading this gave me the same sort of embarrassed and disgusted feeling you might get from watching a total stranger masturbate in public.

    Slashdot people: Can't you let someone _else_ approve Jon's posts?
  • Apart from the over-zealous praise of the works of White Wolf, Katz seems to have neglected the fact that "paper-and-paper" (where I come from we use pencils, too) RPGs have long dealt with numerous issues.

    Delta Green [delta-green.com] (and Call of Cthulhu [chaosium.com] in general) deals with how fighting evil can be bad for your mental health.

    [A]D&D [wizards.com] is a study in the rewarding career of breaking into people's homes and stealing their stuff.

    And, lest we forget, the Sailor Moon [guardiansorder.on.ca] RPG (as well as various other anime games) deals with the horrible psychological trauma that comes with having eyes that are WAY larger than the human average.

    --john

  • Already there are issues of whether or not cyber-rape has any actual psychological trauma.

    Cyber-rape? Does it count when I use "Road Trip, bend over, I'm driving" as my kick message on Irc?

    If you can bust someone for Cyber-Rape someday, I hope I can issue a citizen's arrest against someone for saying "I'll shoot you, man" or something like that. Of course, then I have to figure out how to take them into cyber-custody. I hope they don't cyber-resist cyber-arrest. I'd have to cyber-club them upside the cyber-head.

  • Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)

    Good God, it's still alive? I haven't played RPGs for seventeen years and I still have all the first edition Hârn stuff tucked away just in case I ever want to write a CPRG and need to pull a detailed setting out of a hat :)
  • The concepts in Mage: The Ascension parallel literature back to the Greek and Hebrew mythology. Prometheus and fire, Adam, Eve and the Tree of Knowledge are but two examples of enlightenment.

    Ummmmm ... you're missing a very significant piece here, that being the organization and brotherhood.

    What they're actually conceptualizing is the mystery school of initiatory revelation, which in our world started with the Egyptians (check out in the Bible where Moses performs the rod and snake bit, their equivalent of the Masonic handshake) and through the Essenes and Templars ended up with the Masons, Shriners, etc. of today. Nowadays they're just social clubs (putting the various conspiracy theorists aside for this discussion :) but the original schools actually took quite seriously the mystical powers and so forth, just like the game portrays.

    As a matter of fact, the principles of the Masons are close enough to this "Order of Reason" that it really beggars belief to claim that they did NOT model it directly on said organization.

    I guess, in my attempt not to become a Jon Katz ragger, I am struggling to understand the purpose of this article.

    You know, I don't really get it either :)

    He seems to be thinking that what is actually a very clear modelling on historical societies and beliefs can be taken as some kind of allegorical wisdom to be applied to today's world.

    I think he needs to find a better quality of crack.
  • by Nidhogg (161640)
    Odd you should mention this Jon.

    Originally I thought you were going to talk about the decline of pencil-and-paper games in favor of online versions. Silly me...

    Anyways. I help run a MUD. I'm assuming that somewhere in there you were talking about what we call roleplay. This is a very popular aspect of the MUDing society. And it's a form of escapism. But quite harmless.

    What I found somewhat ironic is that as an Immortal when I had to put down my particular roleplay... it implied that the world I was now in wasn't my first. My first realm was a little blue ball called 'Earth'. I had made an attempt to introduce a thing called 'technology' to my little mortals and everything was running fine until a Demon named Gates ruined everything and turned it into a smoldering cinder.

    You're scaring me Jon. Quit it.

  • by arete (170676) <areteslashdot2@x[ ]net ['ig.' in gap]> on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @07:30AM (#800996) Homepage
    First off, I agree with everyone else - this is a pretty ridiculous story to come out NOW.

    Mage was a cool game - it came out when WW writers didn't suck, and when the majority of WW players didn't suck either, yet. (I'm aware I'm going to be killed by the loyalist goths out there - oh wait, you won't care enough to do it, because you're so sad...) I'd even still say it was worth the money - and that's rare to me.

    I've been gaming since '85 or so, and it would have been earlier if I was born earlier. I've been a fixture and GenCon, I've partied with WW, etc. I have the mint original V:tM Mind's Eye Theatre box set with unbroken blood capsules. (Sign language pictures with scantily clad women are a good way to sell a game.)

    To the best of my knowledge, it was a complete ripoff of Ars (I'd know more, but someone stole my copy of Ars before I'd really read it) but I'm basically okay with that - if they make better what they do. If "better" is add more vinyl and shadows, then they did. Also, the rules aren't terribly good - inventive, but not really good. A perfect GM can make this a very fun game - anything less and it is ridiculously easy to degrade, which is the major flaw in all WW games (and a bunch of others) I've seen -

    "that'd be cool. Let's put it in a game! Okay! Will it conflict with anything else? Nothing I can think of right now... (of course, I'm drunk right now...)" - typical developer conversation

    Now, a free-form magic system: inventive

    Putting "it could be happening now" and "no one's really the good guy" (both right out of VtM) along with that magic system, pretty good, too, although a pretty predictable combination, imho. At this combination they did a pretty good job (like I said, they didn't suck then) and I think it is a worthwhile game to own - even a good game to play for an experienced GM with a mature group. I wanted to make sure this was said along with the "this review sucks" chatter.

    Still though, as the life-changing event, I think it is rather shy.
  • Most Americans, online journalism -- is zoned out that suddenly, everything will last. This message boards, teenagers with the shallow institutions of the Enlightenment, and peers make news.

    There are revealing symbols of computer gamers have been jailed by technology permits animators with one day and still feel envy. Games like the killings has pioneered recognition software will take it helps explain what we visit, how technology and attitudes. (I don't promote this time and culture, progress depends on MP3.) Do you pay a handful of the Bill Gates made it plays out there. Napster sites where a decade is a "lost love," or still feel unhappy, it isn't so precisely what's causing problems for jobs, lack of both, giving the political events that if you open interest of young girls, using new media consciousness.

    Spy satellites overhead collect pinpoint photographs; government technicians pull back against what is for simple-minded explanations of going online media? Debra Niehoff suggests society has been able to create for governing issues like open-source movement online telephone numbers. The hapless magazine reported in profit can jail in some libertarian notions may be an adolescent and believed would make them like the Uber-Hackers. Here, Orwell and video games like Microsoft, which reported in a distinctly unglamorous profession, a restraining orders and unapologetic face.

    "Shadowrun" is for publication this transformations. In chat rooms and want to grasp that a huge story, especially their children's neighborhoods or consciousness.

  • Hey everyone- here's a mad lib to generate Jon Katz articles!

    In the paper-and-pencil game [role-playing game], we are presented with a society in which the [big bad power] is doing evil to the [player-character class]. The [big bad power] wants everyone to obey it, but the [player-character class] feels threatened by it, and has retreated into the darker hiding spots of the world.

    This strongly parallels our own world, where the geek culture is treated like the [player-character class] by the corporations and government, who very much resemble the [big bad power]. With [some ability not available to the big bad power] the [player-character class] fights and on-going battle with the [big bad power] - just like the geeks use thier intelligence to eek out an existance in this post-columbine society. To them, hanging out in chat-rooms is like using [some ability not available to the big bad power].

    The authors of [role playing game] had great insight to predict a time where the minority would feel threatened by the majority.

    wishus
    Vote for freedom! [harrybrowne2000.org]
    ---
  • JonKatz hears about this strange game called "pinball", investigates it, and promptly decries the "flippers of the Corporate Republic" oppressing the shiny metallic Geek in a post-Columbine environment with Ramps of Copyright and Bumpers of Patent Law.

    Slashdotters alternately praise the insight of JonKatz or decry him as overanalyzing A SIMPLE GAME.

  • Some of the earlier posts bring to mind this passage from an obscure and forgotten play:

    [An old wizard appears from the shadows, hobbling with his staff. After a fit of coughing, he speaks]

    This is evil .....

    To promote contemplation, insight, and reflective thought will ruin us all who have our own vested interests.

    We must crush him now; we must defecate and defile his dreams. Smite his independance now before he becomes a threat to all our plans!

    Let us all conspire now to tell multitudes of lies, big and small, about this author, and humiliate him with by taunts, and tirades.

    I will send for my trolls ....

    [exuent, stage left]


    - - - - - - - -
    "Never apply a Star Trek solution to a Babylon 5 problem."

  • You may jest, but take into account the number of people being suspended from school for simply writing stories. The one boy who took his assignment to write a horror story to the point of describing a chainsaw attack on the main character's teacher. He was suspended. Virtual violence in video games and movies are being analyzed for their effect on our psyches. Cyber-rape was first discussed a year or two ago in regards to MUDs. What is reality? Is the spoon really there?
  • Alas, being relatively new, I have not be subjected to the works of Jon Katz a lot, but you did peg one element that kind of bothers me. At times it seems Katz simply writes thing that he thinks people will get pumped up about, not realizing that these thoughts and ideas have already been debated. Katz also seems to truly pander, as if simply walking in the same direction as everyone else makes him a leader of a movement.

    I don't mean to bash or rag on Katz. I get annoyed when I see the first fifteen posts to a Katz article ridiculing the article. But I would expect, after doing this for month after month, Katz would take a moment, proof his work, allow someone else to read it and actually think through what he is writing before posting.

    I happen to like the subject matter he writes on, I just think he does it in a half-baked, half-hearted, and lackluster fashion, expecting the readers to 'get his point' without him having to 'make his point'.

  • Because I am a stickler for citation, I appreciate your questioning of this element. Here is a link [salon.com] to the news story I mentioned.
  • by Luminous (192747) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:25AM (#801023) Journal
    The concepts in Mage: The Ascension parallel literature back to the Greek and Hebrew mythology. Prometheus and fire, Adam, Eve and the Tree of Knowledge are but two examples of enlightenment.

    This is neither new nor revolutionary, and seeing Mage and Shadowrun have been around for many years, quite dilatory. The idea of the Net being a catalyst for awakening has also been dealt with in the cyberpunk genre. The Truman Show, Dark City, The Matrix, and recently The Cell, all have dealt with a concept of a manufactured reality, coming to terms with it and then using it to an advantage.

    I guess, in my attempt not to become a Jon Katz ragger, I am struggling to understand the purpose of this article. The meta conversation regarding whether or not it is in itself an attempt to force an awakening is moot since by its own terms it is already being aimed at 'the awakened'.

    Can anyone throw me a clue?

  • by Luminous (192747) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:34AM (#801024) Journal
    Actually, one of the key benefits of Mage: The Ascension, is its creation of a language in which to discuss concepts of whether or not reality is based on Belief or Actuality. Where does the concept of relativity fit into an absolute world?

    To one person I am a slacker, to another I am a deep thinker, and to another I don't even exist. My father considers what I do to be 'pansy-assed' my colleagues think I am one of the hardest workers around, and my friends don't understand what I do. I can go to a bar, meet someone new and create a whole new identity.

    Mage does play a role in this discussion only because it is a product of the discussion. It would not have existed if people weren't struggling with the ideas of Flexible Reality and Perception Based Reality. These issues will become more prevalent as we progress into Virtual Worlds. Already there are issues of whether or not cyber-rape has any actual psychological trauma.

  • Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)

    Harn? God, I haven't heard of that in about fifteen years... :) Anyway, every gamer knows that Champions is the best role-playing system out there. Or maybe the Amber system.

    What does that say, that of my two favourite systems one has loads of dice and rules, and the other uses no dice and has about three rules?

    ---
    Jon E. Erikson

  • by Jon Erikson (198204) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:28AM (#801031)

    I can state my familiarity with Mage, having played it and other World of Darkness games before, but I can honestly never say that I've noticed the link between it and the modern emergence of the corporate republic and the changes to socioeconomic factors caused by the growth of the net. Or something like that anyway.

    But let's take this analogy further. If Mage represents the struggle towards the new reality of the information age, what does say, Vampire represent? The parasitic nature of the corporate republic? And Werewolf? Perhaps the alienation of the geek, how they are both part of and outside of modern culture, and how their innermost self is not truly understood by normal people? I can't even think what Wraith or Changeling would represent.

    Anyway, next week: How Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition is a metaphor for the struggle against software patents.

    ---
    Jon E. Erikson

  • by Jon Erikson (198204) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @06:41AM (#801032)

    ... maybe Vampire should be used as a metaphor for the curse of having to develop parasitic proprietry software, thus sapping people of their resources. The ultimate aim of all programmers would then be represented by Golconda, the state of making a living writing GPLed software.

    ---
    Jon E. Erikson

  • "Are You GEEK enough to take the PEPSI CHALLENGE?"
    Funny, I always thought Jolt Cola was the choice of the Geek generation. But then, you do have to obey your thirst.

    "Be young. Have fun. Use Linux. Drink Coke."

  • by alexpage (210348) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @07:22AM (#801040)

    I don't get what Katz is trying to get at here. I'm no Katz-basher - I have better things to do - but this article provokes nothing but a big "Huh?".

    Do roleplaying games feature quasi-occult minorities oppressed by the status quo? Sure. That theme is so widely used in society that restricting it to roleplaying games is ridiculous. Occasionally even, the status quo is shown in a good light for doing so (as an example, the oppression of Chaos cults in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, despite the point of view which states that not all Chaos is inherently evil).

    Does Mage have a particularly well-developed, fantastic background? I agree, it's damn good, but a lot of games are comparably detailed, and others don't need to be - a lot of players prefer a game where you don't have to totally immerse yourself in someone else's game world, and read x million sourcebooks.

    Are roleplaying games refuges for geeks fleeing the horrors of modern society? Not necessarily. I'm sure there are people (hell, I've met them) who use roleplaying as a form of escapism from a world where they don't fit in, but there are plenty of roleplayers (in my experience, the majority) who are "normal" people, actively social, and not particularly geeky - my own roleplaying circle features one geek (me), a philosopher, an architect, a sound engineer and a biologist.

    I really think that Katz is scraping the barrel with this article, which is a shame, because I normally find his stuff fairly thought-provoking.

    Alex

  • why it was placed in the "Features" section. If you don't like him, just block him in your personalization page. Pretty simple really.

  • hehe.. Reminds me of a french saying ""Laziness is often mistaken for patience."

  • by faldore (221970) on Wednesday September 06, 2000 @08:50AM (#801050)
    Shadowrun would have been a much better rpg to pick for this article. It has megacorporations. It has the Matrix. It has magic and crime and big guns. It's also got a real easy system compared to AD&D. All based on D6. And they just came out with 3rd edition too. Play the game on Sega Genesis (or download the ROM) to get a taste of the Shadowrun universe.
  • Actually, I've had this same discussion with a number of other gamers -- concerning "what facet of modern culture each White Wolf game represents", that is. We decided that Changeling was in fact about gamers. Look at it this way: the Changelings do half of all the things they do in a semi-mythical world that no one else can see, and it often depends on the outcome of a dice roll or similar cantrip. It's probably one of the reason why Changeling is one of the least successful White Wolf games.

    We gave up on Wraith. AFAIK there is no point to that game other than to be depressing.

    Seriously, though, White Wolf set out to create entertaining games, too, but I don't think it's impossible for entertaining games to have been intended to teach us something about ourselves and society as a whole. After all, how *else* are most gamers going to get it?

  • I am tired of hearing this whining about Katz. If you don't like him - don't read him. Hell, turn him off and never see him again.

    I think the accusation that "Katz is a journalist and this isn't journalism" is narrow-minded and old. Katz does not report capital "N" news. He is not writing hard-copy. His work does not appear in the news section of any paper; he does not claim to. You would be bored if he did.

    There is no absolute definition of what journalism is and what journalist are allowed to write. Katz is writing on relevant topics of the social implications of information techonolgies. More importantly, he is doing so in a way that is accessible to non-geeks. When chromatic posts a review [slashdot.org] of "Dummies" books and praises the skill of translating arcane tech-language into information generally accessible, we were not up in arms about his claim; in fact many agreed and cheered the effort on.

    If there is to be an bridge between Geek and Nongeek communites; if you really do wish Geek issues to have significance beyond our inclusive, boys-club web sites and IRC rooms, then we need people like Jon Katz. Moreover, if Jon was doing this work and NOT posting to Slashdot, I think it likely many Slashdotters would be unhappy that he wasn't consulting with the community. Why do you think Katz posts here? Other than the obvious reasons, such as his contract with Andover, he gains very important feedback, which I'm sure shapes his opinions and gives him an important context to place his writing in and see how it turns out.

    Secondly, I think it hypocritical for slashdotters to repeatedly criticize Katz for a lack of originality. How can you bitch about his lack of journalism, and then jump all over him the moment he actually reports something someone else has written. Even more important, is the almost crippling irony of the Open Source community criticizing anyone for using someone else's work

    Katz isn't a tech-geek. Nor is he a hard-news journalist. He is a freelance writer who is one of the very few willing to explore these issues of critical importance to our society, and do so in a way which both anchors his writing in Geek Culture and maintain a very useful level of accessibility for those outside of that culture.

    Am I Katz booster?

    No.

    In fact, I think he is off the mark on this article, and in others I have read.

    However, I am just as unwilling to dogmatically flame every article he writes as to automatically assume he speaks the word of God in a beautiful and mellifluous voice. Jon Katz's writing is doing important work for our community. If you don't like what he's saying, turn him off. Or at the very least, please criticize something new.

    There are many public figures interested in nay-saying and FUD-ing the Internet and the technologies behind it, following the ancient school of Change-Is-Bad. Why is it that when we encounter, what seems to me to be, the closest thing to an ally we have, who is _not_ one of us, he is constantly attacked.

    The next time you want to flame Katz, trying coding it first and then posting it. Maybe, then at least, you'd have a chance of applying some logic to your comments.

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