Mage: The Ascension Job

It’s no secret that I’ve been a bit Leverage RPG crazy for the past few months- in many ways, it’s a system that just flat out “clicked” with me as soon as I played it. One of the outcroppings of that is my desire to hack it into other settings. I’m a huge fan of modern settings, and while Leverage RPG scratches that itch, there’s lots of room for modern games beyond heists and capers. Enter my early ideas about combining it with Mage: The Ascension, to which I (and as I discovered recently, many other gamers) have very fond memories of.

With two sessions under my belt, with completely different players each time, I am convinced that this is a combination that works. In fact, one player of mine who was a big Mage fan described it as “note perfect.” Here now then, is my combination of Mage: The Ascension and the Leverage RPG. You will need both books for this hack to work, and prior understanding of both. 

Character Creation

Attributes are the same as Leverage, and are assigned the same way. Mages tend towards high Intelligence, Alertness, and Willpower, but there are some paradigms and traditions that rely heavily on Agility, Strength, and Vitality as well.

Replacing Roles are Spheres. For the purposes of the game, we use a stripped down list of 6 spheres. Each one encompasses skills that go along with those spheres as well, and I’ve given some examples.

  • Correspondence. Skills include: Drive, Stealth, Investigation.
  • Forces. Skills include: Occult and Science.
  • Life. Skills include: Medicine and Brawl.
  • Matter. Skills include Technology and Thievery.
  • Mind. Skills include: Subterfuge and Leadership.
  • Time. Skills include Intuition and Research.

Assign dice to the Spheres like you would Roles in Leverage, with an extra d4 for the sixth. Also assign Specialties as you would in Leverage: note that the skills listed make great Specialties, but magical Specialties work too (like Fire for Forces).

What about the 3 missing spheres? It’s assumed that each Mage in this version has enough Prime with which to create and Entropy to destroy, and the roles of Quintessence (explained below) covers many of these effects. Further use of those spheres, plus Spirit, are primarily covered through Rotes.

Assets are replaced by Foci. Each Mage starts with a Foci of their choice at d8. Further Foci can be made using Quintessence.

Each character has three Distinctions like in Leverage, but three specific kinds of them:

  • Paradigm. Possibly the most important aspect of a character, this is the statement that sums up how the character views reality and thus warps it. Like any Distinction, this cuts both ways: some magics work with this world view, and some are actively hindered by it.
  • Nature. Like in Mage, this is the core personality of your character. The ones in Mage are mostly appropriate, as are the sample personality distinctions in Leverage.
  • Demeanor. This is how the world sees you. In play, I’ve been running the first adventure, then having the rest of the players choose this for the character.

Choose 2 Rotes. These are the equivalent of Talents, but tend to be described as consistently working magical effects. You can reskin Talents from Leverage, or have the players invent their own.

Finally, Mages have Quintessence. These work like Plot Points. They can be used to keep extra dice after a roll (putting some extra prime into an effect), introducing a new Foci (enchanting an item), or having a flashback (subtly affecting reality through will.)

Choose a name, any aliases, and a tradition/convention (if you’re using them.) As might be evident, your choice of tradition has no mechanical effect on making the character and is purely for flavor. For my group that wasn’t as familiar with Mage, I dropped the idea entirely.

Congratulations, you have a Mage.

Sample Characters

Complete sample characters from the game I ran for my local group are available on my Obsidian Portal page. Additionally, the second time I ran the game, I had the following characters in the game:

  • Chatty DM played a Mind Mage who manifests his anxieties as physical manifestations.
  • Tracy played a Matter Mage who was able to reshape matter with his hands whose paradigm was “It’s all negotiable.”
  • Logan played a Correspondence Mage surveyor who believed the universe could be better ordered.
  • Quinn played a Time Mage demolitions expert with the belief that “Everything falls apart.”
  • E played a femme fatale Forces Mage who used her own specially blended cigarettes to affect the world.

Running the Game

In this version, I call the GM/Fixer “The Tapestry.” Because what else is the GM than the sum of the fictional reality, being messed with by the awakened?

When the PCs take an action that requires a test, they roll dice in a similar fashion to Leverage: Attribute + Role + other stuff that can be brought in.

The Tapestry opposes this by rolling one die for difficulty (from d6 easy to d12 really hard) and one die for the type of magic involved (d6 for non-magical, d8 for coincidental, d10 for vulgar without witnesses, and d12 for vulgar with witnesses.) The Tapestry can add other dice as applicable, whether it be the place, a character, Paradox, etc. As usual, add the top two dice together for a result on each side, highest result wins.

Speaking of Paradox, it takes the same role as Complications in Leverage. When a player rolls 1s, the Tapestry can hand him a Quintessence to create Paradox, of a strength depending on the amount of 1s rolled. This will often come up in relation to the magic used, although it can be anything that would happen in response to the magic being worked. Paradox works against a character wherever applicable, and lasts until the end of the session. (This means, by the way, that you can still succeed at a spell and have it generate Paradox, something that works especially well for Mage.)

Adventures

I’ve run two sessions of it so far, using roughly the same adventure for both, where a casino-owning vampire is using an ally’s blood magic on all the poker chips, siphoning all the gamblers’ luck into the chips themselves, to be used by him to take over and turn the clock back on Vegas, under his Princedom. I stated the big bad as a Mark, as follows:

Nicodemus “Nicky” Bett

  • 8th Generation Ventrue d12
  • High Roller d12
  • Ring-A-Ding-Ding d8
  • Nostalgic d4

I also used a location that factored heavily into the adventure:

Grand Destiny Casino

  • Brujah Thugs d10
  • Auspex Security Inc. d8
  • Old School d4

And a supporting character:

Lianna Strauss

  • Thaumaturgy d10
  • Forward-Thinking d8
  • My work is perfect d4

Between those and a loose story, that was pretty much all I needed. Granted, it played out like a heist, but with powerful Mages in the place of powerful characters. And boy, are characters capable in this- even when up against the vampire himself, there’s still a lot of damage they can do. It might not be ideal for those gritty struggles for ascension and control of reality, but it does make a damn fun game set in the same world where that’s happening.

Wrap-Up

That’s pretty much it. There’s a few ideas that I still need to play with: for example, I was thinking about using three kinds of Stress (Injury, Quiet, and Hubris) but haven’t nailed it down yet, and whether I want to use the Leverage experience system or not. However, it is fully playable, and thus I release it into world for you to try as you like. If you do, I hope you come back and let me know how it goes.

And one final thing: I created a character sheet for the whole thing, with character generation rules, and a brief summary on the page. It uses an old Mage sheet as its base, but no challenge is intended to any of the copyrights within.

Mage: The Ascension Job character sheet

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.

Comments

  1. TheMainEvent says:

    Looks excellent. I think if people are worried about the relative power levels of their Mages, maybe take a page out of old World of Darkness and give them lower Attribute arrays (more d4s and reduce their high stats to d10.) Overall though, I think its supposed to work as a cinematic take on Mage and sounds amazing.

  2. Hook, Line, and Sinker.

    Not only will I be getting Leverage, but I’m going to try out your mash-up. It looks too tasty to resist.

  3. Any chance of posting some PCs? This looks awesome. A way I can get my group to play Mage.

  4. Power level is pretty irrelevant as the Gamemaster has full liberty to set whatever supernatural opposition in our way. I was amazed at how smooth gameplay was. While I only really gelled with my character when I became the MIcheal Cera to Dave’s horribly awesome Frank Sinatra, the adventure was engrossing and the finale was worth it….

  5. L0N: Check out my Obsidian Portal campaign for the adventure I ran for my local group: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/the-ascension-job/characters
    There are six characters there, each written up in full.

  6. Thanks!

  7. I’m actually playing a game of old school mage at the moment, and one feature that would need to be in there to produce the mage “feel” is the tradeoff of “should I keep going to make a bigger spell” vs the risk of it backfiring.

    You could pop that in the game by sticking in rules for pushing your luck, escalating a success, with dramatic consequenses otherwise, that can’t be flashbacked away. Unlike other mistakes they cannot be retconned as plans, because they are hubris getting in the way. On the other hand they would also allow you to do even bigger stuff than you can normally do with magic.

    That would play nicely with leverage’s smoothing flashbacks, adding a note of chaos, and always giving you the choice between moving with the tapestry or just going for it on some crazy idea.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Characters will be made at the table. For a description of the hack, feel free to read my writeup: Mage: The Ascension Job : Critical Hits Everyone will play a Mage flown to Las Vegas to take down a corrupt casino owner who is stealing […]