Mage: the Ascension Sourcebook
White Wolf's excellent Mage RPG gives you an opportunity to play a Virtual
Adept, a sort of computer-wizard operating in virtual reality. This is a big
hook to the game but the rules tell us almost nothing about virtual reality or
how to handle magick in "the Net". If you fancied playing Virtual Adepts, you
either wrote the rules yourself, or waited to stump up the cash for another
supplement. To give them their due, White Wolf don't disappoint with this
I was prepared to be unimpressed - after all, many other RPGs have covered this
territory (Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Torg, etc.). True to form, White Wolf put a
new spin on things.
First of all, the Net isn't a place - it's an imaginary construct, a mental
event; it's an entirely distinct reality which, as more users come on line, is
growing all the time. Moreover, it's a fluid reality: it becomes whatever you
want it to be. Mages can "format" a sector of the Net, shaping it (consciously
or unconsciously) after their own desires. There are virtual heavens, hells and
everything in between, like virtual cartoon realms with Toon-like laws. Mages
can appear in the Net as "icons", or virtual selves: you can have new
identities and never know who you're meeting: other mages? artificial
intelligence? Glass Walkers? Sleepers?
The Technocracy are here, of course, but since the Net is infinite, there's a
state of truce. All mages are scrambling to find "virgin web" - sectors which
haven't been formatted yet. A lot of magick is more effective in the Net, but
Paradox is more risky: it doesn't just fry the user, it triggers a "whiteout"
that can annihilate a whole sector. On the bright side, it's difficult to die,
though "de-rezzing" is bad for your mental health.
The history of the Net is developed with lots of insights into both the
Technocracy and the Virtual Adepts, as well as kinky new colloquialisms to make
your gaming sessions even more incomprehensible.
The book describes the "Spy's Demise", a virtual bar where enemies can meet
peacefully, drink Tass, spy on Sleeper BBSs and trade data. Two scenarios
follow and these are (incredibly) quite good. The only drawback being that
both require either considerable preparation or immense powers of improvisation
by the Storyteller. System mechanics conclude, detailing the role of computers
in the game, new rotes for getting about the Net, Talismans, NPCs, a bestiary
of virtual nasties and some suggestions for virtual Chantries.
The whole book is written with clarity and humour: a pleasure to read. I'd
rather have seen one detailed scenario than two sketchy ones and noticed that
some of the systems rules contradict each other in places, but these are minor
quibbles. One for the shelf, definitely.