In an off-hand conversation about The upcoming Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary edition, I asked my game-gang whether they would be willing to "backslide" and play the original Mage as opposed to the new one.
Well, regardless of what they said (weird groan sounds, I think) I've nonetheless been totally obsessed with Mage: the Ascension ever since. I have been positively devouring every Mage book I stil have and every one which I can find and everything about them I can find online.
I'm a sick puppy.
You see, Mage was my first WoD game and practically my first RPG in general. (A White-Wolf Cross-over was my first RPG altogether.) But, in spite of Mage 2nd edition being the first RPG book I owned, I think there are plenty of things I never really understood about that game.
1. What the hell is the Horizon?
I think ownership of Mage and Werewolf gave me a pretty good sense of the general shape of the Umbra, but recent reading has given new undertanding to the frequently referenced term "Horizon Realm." I had labored under the understanding that this was a rare and remote thing, but recent review has lead me to the undertanding that a link to the Horizon is the main mystic force that allows Mages to experiment and learn without fear of devastating paradoxes. Very much the equivalent of the nea Mage: the Awakening's Demesnes.
2. Chantries are a political division.
My view of Ascension is colored by my love for Awakening, so the absence of concepts like the Consilium are hard to reconcile. But, one thing that was not terribly obvious to me at the time was the political purpose of Chantries. My experience in my youth treated Chantries the way the new Mage treats Sanctums. The way Chantries are characterized in the Ascension literature gives them the character of the broad, sometimes adversarial political entity to which a given character had to answer. You can start your own Chantry, but you are probably best off trying to participate in one with one or more other cabals for resources and solidarity. Some Chantries though, represent ancient, mythic and powerful cabals and sects which you are better off begging to join or ducking out of their way.
3. The traditions are supposed to be stereotypes.
Far from being DnD classes, the Mage traditions are designed to represent certain aspects of the supernatural history and culture of the world. Yes, it is easy to get bogged down by the image of a dusty old wizard in from the Order of Hermes, or the wise, old Kung Fu master from the Akashic Brotherhood. But, these stereotypes exist in the game world as well, because these people exist in the game world. The centuries old tradition founders and big-wigs are in many cases still alive and directing the Traditions with their antiquated systems of thought. Its not that every character of a given tradition is bound to be the same, but the pressure to conform and aspire to your predecessor's lofty heights is a force in the game as well as in the players' minds.
These are only a couple of the setting, system and general elements of Mage: the Ascension that struck me straight in the face since I have re-started my research into the game. I'm sure plenty will surface but, the main thing to not is that Mage, like many other games has tons of setting elements thrown at you. There are less than 1% of game designers who will tell you that you can't just take there setting and stuff it in a sack and play however you want anyway.
And, guess what? Eff those guys. Take any RPG that says you have to play one way and play it the second way. Or, the 256th way. Do what you want. Or, finally learn the first way and learn to love it like I have/am.