If you aren’t a tabletop fantasy role-playing game fan, you probably know somebody who is. Certainly, everyone who tried a tabletop RPG at least once has to admit it is a pretty fun and immersive experience. Well, there have been attempts to bring the experience to gaming platforms, but with keeping the tabletop fantasy role play vibe, and it was done in various different ways. This time, the experience is brought to your mobile device with the Mage the Ascension: Refuge.
Published by Asmodee Digital, Mage the Ascension: Refuge is, as said, an adaptation of an FRP tabletop game Mage: The Ascension, which was published in 1993 by White Wolf Publishing. The books set the story in a World of Darkness, which happens in our actual time, so in the 90s. The storyline is quite catchy and appealing for all fantasy fans, but first, a word or two about the genre if you aren’t familiar with it, and the way it has been adapted to mobile.
If you don’t know, tabletop FRP games are played with only the player’s imagination, some pen & paper, and dice. Naturally, these games need to have a world in which they are played in and each featured its own set of rules, so there were numerous books and editions over the years. The first and most famous one of all is the Dungeons & Dragons, first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules Inc. It was designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
As the phenomenon grew and got more and more fans, more writers and developers joined in, and in 1993 Mage: The Ascension was released. As mentioned, this game is a part of the World of Darkness books, published in the late 80s and early 90s. The rules and the time period of the story set in the books are set in the actual time of their publishing, but players of Mage can update the timeframe to our present time.
As you might imagine, it greatly affects the way the game is played, in a sense that the world the players play in is different.
The Story and Rules
Regardless of when you chose to set your time period in, the main storyline is always the same – Mages are people who have reached such a high point of awareness and understanding of reality, that they’ve ascended and can now impose their will over it. So, these individuals are wizards who can basically use their will to mould their reality according to their design, and this is what separates Mage the Ascension from other FRP games, and what gives it its own allure.
In other RPGs, there are predetermined spells and rules about them, but here you create your own magic. You naturally need to discuss this with your Game Master (GM), who controls the world and the rules. The GM will then decide, based on your skills and abilities and the overall idea you have, if your idea can occur and what you need to achieve in order to cast it, which is rolling some dice in most cases.
Now, the plot in Mage the Ascension is further built around the chaos which occurs after people realized they have this power.
The first problem that you will need to worry about is called ‘the paradox’. As much as you, a Mage, can twist and sculpt the reality to your will, reality has a certain way it tends to manifest itself, based on what is called the ‘consensus’. It represents what normal people, called ‘sleepers’, expect the reality to be, and the effect their will has on it, regardless of whether they are aware or not if they can actually affect reality.
If you perform a magical act with a normal human present, a sleeper, he sees if it will affect the reality itself as both your power over the reality and that normal person’s expectations will be conflicted, and so you can suffer in various ways, which is called the ‘paradox’ and represents a kind of negative karma.
So, the main rule you need to follow is to stay in that gray area, working within the boundaries of the consensus, and making an effort of blending your own magic into the rules of reality normal people accept as the truth.
Furthermore, there are many different clans of Mages in this universe, and every clan has their own set of beliefs and rules about magic, and sometimes there is a conflict between different ideologies. Just such conflict, the biggest in the story, is between mages who are called ‘Technocracy’ because they call their magic science. They think plain magic is evil, so they want to exterminate all mages who do not use their magic in a way that it appears to be technology, as they do.
The mobile game’s storyline and gameplay
Mage the Ascension: Refuge is an interactive story game, about a volunteer at a shelter in Sweden, in 2015. This character is the player, naturally, and he awakens to Magick at the beginning of our story.
It was written by a critically acclaimed author Karin Tidbeck, and it represents a groundbreaking adaptation of the FRP game genre to mobile devices.
Set in 2015, Sweden, the story takes the player through modern-day social and political upheavals in Sweden, all the while you are a part of this Magick fantasy world at the same time. Many will try and recruit you to their side because the consensus war rages on here as well, and your actions and choices will affect the world, the people, and the reality itself.
The game is played by reading through the story and making choices based on the text.
The immersive and interesting story really does show promise for this type of gameplay style to become a constant thing, as the way it is done is pretty basic, but it has been presented and written fantastically.