Friday, April 1, 2011

Bargain Bin Find - Mage The Ascension Second Edition

I've always been intrigued with the World of Darkness long before I got into tabletop gaming. I'm a horror movie fan and other than Galactica, my favorite TV shows would have to be Buffy, Angel, and Supernatural. There's just something about the unknown dark corners of the world that trips my trigger and sparks my imagination. I can't get enough of the stuff. Throw it all together in a book or collection of books and you've pretty much got me by the throat.

Last week I got the urge to stop by the not-so-local Half Price Books when I was out of town for work to check what the local RPG selection looked like. I had extremely low expectations for anything at all to show up. Maybe I'd get some over-priced D&D 4e books or shelves and shelves of older D&D books (nothing collectible to be sure). I went in with an open mind interested in just seeing what selection they could have and what kind of pricing they went with the stuff.

I was happy to see that, although they did have several shelves of pre-3.x D&D stuff (stuff that tends to bore me terribly and that I don't have any real knowledge about), they did have a nice small collection of other odds and ends. They had some cool stuff like a couple Savage Worlds books, a copy of Monsters and Other Childish Things Pocket Edition (less than a year old!), and some Privateer Press Warmachine books mixed in with the RPG's.

Much to my delight, there was a nice small selection of World of Darkness products, both Old and New. For some reason both Old and New Mage had the most selection of books out of all the series. There really wasn't that much else there actually outside of a Werewolf: The Forsaken book and a couple of Vampire: The Requiem books. I did take a second look at the Monty Cook World of Darkness book for $20.00. It's a very fair price, but ultimately I remembered that although the concepts I've read about being in it sound awesome, the whole thing is d20 based, and as above, d20's not exactly my system of choice.

So what did I end up getting? They had two copies of Mage: The Awakening that I considered selecting from. Then I flipped through one of them and remembered how frustrating the book's interior is. The gold cursive writing they use all over are practically unreadable for me. Instead, I gleefully picked up the other Mage core book they had there - Mage The Ascension Second Edition.

I've never picked up an Old World of Darkness before as I am well aware of how complex and deep the meta story was and didn't want to fall right in the middle of it without a clue as to what I'm looking at. Still, I picked the purple tome up for a look. I paged through it, enjoyed the 90's art found throughout, and flipped back to the cover to check the price. If it was less than 15 bucks, I told myself, I would pick it up. The price tag was more than generous, and I left the store $4.98 poorer but with a piece of gaming history in my hands.

You see, I know this game meant quite a bit to a lot of people. I know that this game formed a lot of modern game designers and players into what they think gaming should be today. A big reason I know this is because, when I posted a thread to reddit/rpg asking for what other books I should be looking for, there was almost 60 comments and a good chunk of upvotes with people reminiscing and sharing their grief over the death of the game.

This may not seem like a big deal, but that's a ton of activity for /rpg on a random question thread. I don't mean to s'pose that a game's value and quality should be measured by the volume and quantity of the game's fans. The reddit thread (which you can find here) is packed with almost all positive memories and remarks. It's full to the brim with helpful assistance and guidance on how to get into the meta story of Mage and the overall Old World of Darkness. These people talk with a passion that isn't annoying but rather gives you inspiration to take a big swig of the story, swish it around in your mouth for a while, and spit it out with minty fresh enlightenment.

I came back to see what other Ascension books I missed out on after doing a little more research and found only a few books for the line. I ended up picking up the Storyteller's Companion for $6.98. It's a nice, compact softcover that first won me over with its timeline of the Ascension war, one of the main features of the story. Looking through it at home it seems to be a very nice companion piece (not coincidentally!) to the game giving some more NPC's, backstory, and cool objects to use in games.

Overall I'm very impressed and pleased with what I'm getting here for my twelve bucks spent on the game. I may end up going to Noble Knight to pick up a couple more supplements (I've heard in particular that the Books of Shadows is invaluable, and it's hella cheap at Noble Knight used). Do I think I'll ever end up playing the game either as a Storyteller or a Player? Probably not. That doesn't diminish the pure entertainment value I've already got out of it and am looking forward to continuing to squeeze out of this bargain bin purchase. A couple more pictures below show off some of the bitchin' 90's art from the core book which I find to be completely endearing.

Got a good memory of reading or playing Mage The Ascension? I'd love to hear it. There's just something about this game's fans which stand apart from any others I've read the comments of.



  1. As one of the people who was all over the reddit article, i cant stress enough how wonderful this system truly is. Personally i have to lean a little bit more towards revised edition (circa 2000), but anything from ascension is good in my book!

  2. The second edition Mage corebook has to be the most accessible of the three. That's a great find. Hope you enjoy the read.

  3. One of my favorite RPGs of all time. We played all the WoD games back in the late 90's, when 2nd ed. D&D had gotten stale, and Mage was the best of them. Overall, the game comes across a bit dated now, but still one of the all-time best systems for magic out there. I loved coming up with spells, or rotes, or (in the case of my Son of Ether) "Etheric Conversion Devices"!

  4. Has been my overall favorite rpg ever since I first played it nearly ten years ago. The concept and adaptability of the magic, or rather 'magick', system has been one of the most original gaming systems I've ever enjoyed playing. Great find!


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