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Mage The Ascension

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the the-mystical-corners-of-cyberspace dept.

Technology 208

It's amazing to encounter so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview as was brought us some years ago in -- of all things -- a paper-and-paper game called "Mage The Ascension." Like "Shadowrunner" and other compelling works, "Mage" is one of the memorable folktales of this culture, the sort of tales which now mostly seem to have taken sophisticated electronic form.

In White Wolf's explanatory "Mage" book, the lines between the good guys and bad guys are never clear.

In the old days, goes the backstory, when magic was real, a group of Mages -- mystics and sages who wanted to bring magic back to the world concluded that if enough of the population didn't believe in evil and danger, they would disappear.

Calling themselves the Order of Reason, some mages banded together to educate and enlighten the masses, using science and technology to brighten the world's darker corners. Over the years, however, as this Order became dominant, it began to promote conformity. Iconoclasts and deviants were gradually eliminated through the use of science, financial pressure and social ostracism.

Now known as the Technocracy, these mages wielded increasing control over mass media, education, technology and business; they even defined what was real and what wasn't.

It's amazing to encounter so insightful a worldview in a paper-and-pencil role-playing game. While mainstream society was dismissing geeks and nerds, they were increasingly retreating -- via games, MUDs and MOOs -- into their own folktales, fantasy worlds that foretold the future as brilliantly as Orwell or H.G. Wells. "Shadowrun," "Werewolf" and "Changeling" were escape routes, a new genre that offered some of the most revealing insights yet into the people who built (and are still building) the Net and Web, and creating continuing revolutions like the open source movement.

The legacy of the techno-outsider culture, such games have been partly supplanted by flashier entertainment systems from Nintendo and Sega, and technologically-sophisticated games like "Seaman." But these early stories were the precursors to a social revolution and its new worldview.

In "Mage", cynicism and lack of imagination exist only on the surface.

A shadowy world flourishes underneath this everyday one. In it, enchanters and sorcerers commune with powers that no mortal can see or believe.

The world (our world) is definitely a poorer place for the loss of faith in magic, but it's richer for a subterranean fantasy like "Mage," and for the caverns, tunnels, hidden rooms and pools of a score of virtual games. "Mage's" sci-fi spiritualism fits perfectly with the ascent of the Net and Web, where people with imagination, creativity, individuality and yearning have lots of dark corners to hide in. These geek refugees and artists still dip underground in search of their own shadowy worlds. Stories like "Mage" foresaw the amazing creative power of the Net, where the ability to personalize reality becomes commonplace. People can customize information, design their own spaces, role play on games and in chat rooms, express themselves freely. Online, the shadow world of the Mages has come to pass. And it's a much richer, darker and political kind of culture than the corporations who dominate entertainmnent generally permit in music or on screens.

"Imagine a world where visionaries struggle to bring wonder to the mundane," reads the "Mage" introduction. "Picture a war where the winners decide the fate of the world, and the losers are hunted for their presumption. ... Forging their own rules through the power of will, these enlightened few cast the shape of tomorrow. Ultimately, they seek to surpass the limitations of the universe, to transcend this reality through Ascension. Their special wisdom sets them apart forever -- they are mages."

In the dawn of the new millenium, the Mages warned, the Technocracy dominated the world and its people, using programs designed to subvert the remaining isolated pockets of deviancy.

Often, in fact, science and technology do fail to come to terms with their own complexity when managed by fallible and manipulable humans. Another brilliant vision of the future: in this world, with more technology than ever -- gene maps, supercomputing, artificial intelligence, wireless delivery systems, an avalanche of new software, plentiful bandwidth -- most people are never permitted or helped to understand it. The technology spawns all sorts of new devices, even while knowledge seems to shrink.

In our culture, reality certainly gets defined by technocrats who acquire and control media and culture -- journalism, Hollywood, music. People comfort themselves in the idea the the Net provides millions of diverse voices, but very few have any real influence or reach. Mass media still dominate the most influential people and institutions in the culture.

But for all the fantasy in "Mage," there's also relentless reality. There's a poignant chapter on dealing with "the Mundane World," where everybody has to go, at some point, to go to school, sleep or face the real planet.

Stories like "Mage" and "Shadowrunner" LINK often incoporate the idea of an awakening. Sometimes you awaken to magic; sometimes you simply awaken to the nature of the world. Some Mages get jarred into insight through a tramautic event; others experience a slow heightening of awareness.

The idea of the awakening is widespread on the Net, too, usually in a different context. The supplicant, often bored or disconnected from the traditional world, gets drawn into a new reality -- a game, perhaps, an e-mail exchange, a chatroom encounter, a revelatory programming experience. The Net is a particular world and many people talk of their sense of revelation and astonishment when they first enter and discover it. It is especially transforming because their lives are not the same afterwards.

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This is what happens when... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#800855)

A digerati encounters the world of paper-n-pencil RPGs. If they have a modicum of open-mindedness (as it appears Jon does here) they will discover there is a far greater liberating aspect to the RPG than there is anywhere else in the wired universe they dedicated themselves to.

What happens is an epiphany. They will understand that the Internet is not the highest form of creative expression and release for the masses. But it is superceded by a primitive paper-n-pencil medium.

Oh the irony!

Seriously though, I enjoyed this essay by Jon. As a RPer for two decades now this is not a surprise. Is this maybe the sign of a coming out party for RPGs when self-appointed cultural arbiters discover the "edginess" of the RPG?


paper-and-paper game? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#800856)

It's amazing to encounter so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview as was brought us some years ago in -- of all things -- a paper-and-paper game called "Mage The Ascension."

It's an intruiging concept, and I'd like to see how it's pulled off, but I'll probably wait for the expansion supplement -- Pencil: The Scribbling. =^)

The World of Insufficient Light (3)

Threed (886) | more than 14 years ago | (#800857)

Why'd I turn off the KatzFilter? Oh yeah, we were promised a /. printing of the new book. Did I miss that or something? Oh well. Just wanted to see if I was quoted in it.

Anyway, Jon, don't go reading too much into White Wolf's stuff. Rule #1: It's just a frickin' game. (You take it too seriously and you wind up like Dallas Egbert) Rule #2: You can (and many storytellers do) throw out any White Wolf material you don't like (I throw almost all of it out, and I don't let my players use any material I don't own).

The World of Darkness is a parallel to our world. It's recognisible enough to be realistic and fantastic enough to capture the imagination, sure, but it's just a backdrop for White Wolf's real product: The Storyteller System. Its only there so that neophyte Storytellers will have some stock material to base a chronicle on (and to inflate WW's profit margin).

Here's something for you to think about for a second... When WW announced the latest revision of the Vampire: The Masquerade rules, the teaser hinted that computers and the internet would play a larger part in the game. Many fans flamed that Vampire: The Masquerade was turning into Vampire: The Cyberpunking. No one wanted the game to be refocused, rather we wanted a few holes in the rules plugged up.

On the subject of Mage itself... A decent game, I guess, but Vampire really kicks ass. Personal preference? I don't know a single serious Mage player. Some of the Vampire fanatics own the Mage books, but only because they have the WW logo on 'em.

I personally take offense at the often used line that RPGs are an escape route for tortured geeks. Pththbt... These games started as tabletop war games for military buffs. Hardly geek-like, eh? To get one of these games together and to keep it running smoothly, a Storyteller needs to have 1 million hit points and infinite charisma. It takes a good network of friends to do it right. Lots of communication and endless phone tag. Hardly socially inept, eh?

The reason the kids in the DnD club were all beanie-heads is because these games take BRAINS to play. In a game where combat scenes can dilate game-time by a factor of 10 and require and ungodly number of die rolls, anyone who's not sharp as a tack with numbers, probability, and record keeping is going to go back to their Nintendo and play Ghosts-n-Goblins.

The world is poorer for loss of belief in Magic? HUH?

Who says the world has lost its faith? There's plenty of New Age shops and even mainstream bookstores have large quantities of texts on performing rituals and divination. The US Army was forced to allow Wiccans to practice at nearby campgrounds. The Catholic Church's leadership issues press releases that are picked up by the major news outlets. Wandering proselytisors (sp?) still ring my bell every once in a while.

Even if the world had lost its faith, many would consider that a Good Thing(tm). How many lives have been lost over religious matters? Even if you count just those that had something to do with someone's idea of "Magic", there's been plenty of documented witch-burnings.

And now, the haves vs. the have-nots... The great unwashed masses of the computer illiterate... Most of them consider their ignorance to be bliss. Case in point: My older brother gave up on computers at about the time I picked them up. Now he's a head taller than I am, gets all the girls, has a TAN, and loves life. Try explaining the DeCSS controversy to HIM! Does he like movies? Oh yeah. He digged The Matrix. To him, movies keep getting better. So what's the big deal? Nevermind.

Knowledge isn't shrinking. It doesn't even SEEM to be shrinking. Breakthroughs are coming down the pike every day. No one person can know it all so it might seem bewildering, but each person's store of individual knowledge can only grow.

I find the closing paragraph pretty ludicrous. No one has the "great revelation" experience on the net anymore. It's become another party-line. A global fun-zone. A really nifty way to slack off at work. The "pass this on" emails that go around give this one dead away... Americans are consumers, and we consume the net the same way we consume the telephone. Sometimes people look up at the clock and realize they've been online longer than they planned, but that's about the only great awakening that's going on. Business as usual, the net's a product now.

The real Threed's /. ID is lower than the real Bruce Perens'.


Culture? (1)

mholve (1101) | more than 14 years ago | (#800859)

Err, what culture would that be, Jon? Yours?

Worst Katz Article Ever (1)

Keith Russell (4440) | more than 14 years ago | (#800863)

Mage = Neuromancer, with magic instead of tech.
Shadowrun = Neuromancer, with magic and tech.

Same old story, different eye candy. I think Katz has officially become "too hip for the room."

Every day we're standing in a wind tunnel/Facing down the future coming fast - Rush

Doesn't anyone remember? (2)

GypC (7592) | more than 14 years ago | (#800864)

Yesterday in Jon's article Sovereign Individual (Part One) he quoted The Sovereign Individual: Mastering The Transition To the Information Age, by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg.

And it will involve a break with the past so profound that it will almost bring to life the magical domain of the gods as imagined by the early agricultural peoples like the ancient Greeks (and SF writers in games like Mage and Shadowrunner).

Not only did Jon lift the idea, he even got the name of Shadowrun wrong just like they did!

"Free your mind and your ass will follow"

Re:This is.. (1)

Marcos the Jackle (7778) | more than 14 years ago | (#800866)

yeah, but by the looks of your web page I bet you would have found it rather topical if Jon "RPGeek" Katz had written about anime.
If I had to choose who would rule the world, RPGers or anime-kiddies, I'd choose the anime-kiddies. Their dimmness makes them easy to manipulate... RPGers would waste the rest of the world's time by arguing over game mechanics and dice rolls.
Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)

Technology? (1)

Chase (8036) | more than 14 years ago | (#800867)

Why is this story in the technology topic?

*cough* (1)

Boolean (15853) | more than 14 years ago | (#800872)

Dude. Decaf.

If you think you know what the hell is going on you're probably full of shit. -- Robert Anton Wilson

Mage : the ascension == a must-read (3)

Alternity (16492) | more than 14 years ago | (#800873)

I actually played that game a lot. Even for the non-rpers, the main book is a really interesting read. White Wolf [white-wolf.com] has created a really rich and interesting setting around that game, bringing interesting ideas and views of magic making the main book of that roleplaying game as interesting to read as many novels I have read.

At the forefront of that game is the conflict between technology and freedom, imagination and 9 to 5 boring lives, between fantasy and modern life.

I would definitly recommend that book to everyone, roleplayer of not. And to roleplayer I really recommend that game as it is IMHO one of the best RPG even...

You could also check out Ars Magicka which was the first game of white wolf (now published by another company I can't remember which one) which is kind of the basics for mage : the ascension bringing you among the middle ages magi.

Re:The fatal flaw... (2)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 14 years ago | (#800876)


You can talk about how "elite" you are, and how stupid the other guys are - or worse, how evil they are.

And for every moment you flap your lips, you've wasted a moment you could have done something that didn't involve your own ego.

*sigh* The poor Illumnati, reduced to this ;)

It's not new. It's not always reassuring. (3)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 14 years ago | (#800877)

First of all, the idea of an ascendion, enlightenment, etc. is not new. It's very, very old, thanks to some "psychepunks" like Buddha, Lao-Tzu, shamans, Chuang-Tzu, Sufi mystics, etc. Hell, Ken Wilber's book "No Boundary" fairly laid out parrerns of concious development that lead to better, healthier, more "enlightened" mental functioning. "The Secret of the Golden Flower" has been translated and commented on endlessly, and focuses on similar issues.

Snapping out of mundane, neurotic mental states is old hat.

Secondly, the "secret society of do-gooders" views of Mage and Shadowrun (NOT runner) aren't exactly reassuring in my book. It's another form of elitism - "look I'm so cool as I battle the Evil Other Guys." It's the desire to be validated via conflict - which requires an enemy in the first place. Don't trust the Deathly Cool People In A Struggle - trust the people who are more concerned with the question "am I doing any good for the world?"

Role-playing games are NOT guides to life. They're games, even with good research. Companies sell what will sell at the time. Sure, I enjoy them and I can learn about people from them - but when I want to change myself or the world I put down the dice and the manuals.

Re:...overanalysis? (Mage in a Nutshell) (4)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 14 years ago | (#800879)

"'Mage: the Ascension' was nothing more than a cheap rip-off/riff on themes developped in cyberpunk."

Having played Mage and loads of cyberpunk genre systems (I'm assuming that you were referring to the full genre due to the lowercase there), I would have to ake the observation that you are probably tokin' off of JonKatz's crack pipe.

Okay, Jon is (once again), taking something, grabbing a corner of it, and spinning it into an essay that really didn't need the comparison.

Mage: the Ascension in a Nutshell:

All sentient beings shape reality by their perceptions of "what should be". Back in the middle ages, computers not only didn't exist, they *couldn't* exist, as people couldn't envision them. Computers did not fit into the worldview paradigm. At the same time, unicorns and dragons existed, and now they not only don't exist, they *never did*... because people don't believe they could have.

Now, most people are "sleepers". They contribute to the shaping of reality like a cup of mixed concrete contributes to a large building. Even if they are wackos, they can't do anything to change reality by themselves.

Certain people, however, are "awakened". These people are more like carpenders, electricians and demolitions men in the "building" of reality. Very, very rare, they can shape reality by affecting certain natural constants in various ways: Time, Entropy, Force, Mind, Matter, Spirit, Correspondance, Life and Prime. It is heavily implied that these natural constants are "natural" only because the Mages believe they are.

Now, of course, for any good game, you have to have conflict. And Mage has got one heck of a thrilling idea for conflict: The War to Define Reality. Although there are dozens of groups who are only somewhat or not affiliated with the two sides, there are primarily two major groups that are locked in battle: The Technocracy, and the Traditions.

The Traditions are pretty much what you think of when you think "Magick". They have the Druid like Verbena, the Crowley like Order of Hermes, the drug-taking free-love Cult of Ecstasy, and the Christian Celestial Chorus. They also include the hacker Virtual Adepts, and Mad Scientists of the Sons of Ether.

The Technocracy include the New World Order, the Men in Black, Iteration X, Void Engineers and other groups that are more difficult to try and pigeonhole in a Slashdot post.

The Tradition is attempting to spread Magick into the world, and either awaken the sleepers, or at least allow their paradigm to be widely used. You see, whenever a Tradition mage blows a fireball or magickally heals somebody, if a sleeper sees it, then reality itself will try and fix the "impossible" act via Paradox. That type of magick is called "vulgar", and Tradition Mages can't generally use it. They can, however, blow a fireball right after everybody smells gas (Mind+Forces or Matter+Forces), or wipe off the blood where they just got shot, and say "Thank goodness, it just grazed me!" as they heal the shot that tore apart their spine. This is coincidental magick, and it's really useful (you always have change for the bus, the cop is always around the corner when you need one, etc.)

The Technocracy is trying to stop the Traditions, and bring in the new world of Reason. The technocracy would be publishing all the press releases in Slashdot about "invisible skin", getting the masses ready for their (already working) invisibility treatment. Iteration X would be releasing the Hong Kong security robots, while their "Terminator style" robots already wander the streets (and keep breaking down because reality hasn't been fully bent to accept them).

The War is only the massive backdrop for the stories that you run in Mage. I have World of Darkness books measured by the yard... the whole cosmolgy is very well built, and it's a crying shame that most people only associate White Wolf with Vampire, as it is just one small part of a world full of very well placed and realistic stories of hope, love and glory. From the elegant and wild nature of the Changlings (Satyrs, Pooka, Trolls, etc.), to the dark, Lovecraftian horrors of the Balli to the Incarna of the planets (including the fragmented, always in pain Rorg who is the Incarna of the planet that used to be between Mars and Jupiter), the World of Darkness is a phenominal setting for just about anything from Disney's Gargoyles (I'm running a game right now, Tuesdays) to the more common (but still fun) Mind's Eye Theater Live Action Vampire (and yes, I'm running the game Fridays in downtown West Palm Beach).

And as for WoD being a rip off of Cyberpunk, no. (It's a rip off of Chill). :)

[1] Yes, it's spelled Magick. In Mage, Magic is a trick, and Magick is shaping reality. Since both are used, it's handy to have an alternate spelling.

[2] To players of Mage - yes, I skimped. This is for people who might want to audit Mage 101, not who are about to sit down and play. Mauraders, Nephandi, and how it ties into WoD cosmology were intentionally left out. Ain't no way I'm going to explain Horizon and the Deep Umbra in one sitting. And Third Edition is right out.

Hey! (1)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 14 years ago | (#800881)

That's "Shadowrun" and "Pen-and-paper" chummer! I can see that he STILL hasn't played it...

Myself and some of my friends have just taken it up again - what a killer game! Magic, machines, virtual reality...

It wasn't a ripoff (2)

kallisti (20737) | more than 14 years ago | (#800882)

Ars Magica was created by Johnathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen, Mark went on to create the Storyteller system. Johnathan went on to do Over the Edge (the greatest RPG you never heard of) and is editing the new 3rd edition D&D.

Ars Magica was amazing, back in the day, it threw out all the assumptions made since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson came up with them. I feel that it brought on the rebirth of RPGs, as seen by games like Fading Suns.

Of course, these days I only have time to read the Knight's of the Dinner Table (highly, highly recommended to any (ex?)gamer).

ach! mein kopf (1)

j_d (26865) | more than 14 years ago | (#800883)

Jon, news is important because of timeliness.
this is not timely.
Additionally, please attempt to actually understand the culture you attempt to report for. Roleplaying reviews are geeky, but this review in particular is both dated and needlessly pretentious.

Here are some other roleplaying games you should not report on:
Wraith : the oblivion
Changeling : the whatever it is I dunno.
$noun : the $gerund in general.

Re:Mage : the ascension == a must-read (2)

webmaven (27463) | more than 14 years ago | (#800884)

I would recomend checking out Pahantasm: The Weaving [wildhavencreative.com] , if this sort of 'shadow world' appeals to you.

*cough*Bullshit*cough* (5)

RISCy Business (27981) | more than 14 years ago | (#800885)

Let's see. I've been a White Wolf player since, what, Vampire: the Masquerade came out? Yeah, about that time.

Let's see. I've been an active player since then. So that would make it close to 8 or 9 years, as I recall, seeing as V:tM came out in, what, '91?

I can safely say that, quite frankly, Jon is again reading into something that just isn't there. Trying to politicize and 'newsify' (is that even a word?) something that's been around since 1978 or so, seeing as that's when D&D First Edition came out.

For the record, I've been playing RPG's for about 11 years. I started with D&D 2nd edition in 1989 and have been consistently and constantly playing in various RPGs ever since, including but certainly not limited to and definitely not in order of preference, D&D, AD&D, Mage: the Ascention, Werewolf: the Apocalypse, Vampire: the Masquerade, Battletech, and various freeform RPGs.

To try and make this into something it is not is an insult to those of us who DO play RPGs. RPGs predate the Internet, and in reality, have very little to do with it in any way shape or form, beyond the fact that communities surrounding RPGs have formed on it.

Awakening? What is this bullshit? I mean, seriously, this is utter bullshit and not even yellow journalism. Yellow journalism involves actual JOURNALISM, which Katz is OBVIOUSLY incapable of.

Go fucking read - the same stuff is in EVERY White Wolf game. Why? To add an element of realism , gods forbid we should have anything but FANTASY in an RPG. If you were a supernatural being, do you REALLY think that it would be easy to just get whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it, and get away with it? It's not even feasable to have anything resembling an education without painstaking attention to faking things in the so-called "real" world in a situation like that, which is what White Wolf points out. Christ. Katz must be illiterate. He seems to have also not noticed that the so-called "awakening" as he has dubbed it in his so-called infinite genius (*choking back laughter*) is always the late teens, in most cases 17 or so. Why? Because it's totally impractical to do it any other way and have anything resembling a cultured character, much less educated.

Somebody needs to send Katz to a proctologist for his rectal cranial inversion problem, apparently. I mean, christ, I've heard the bullshit in the past, but this is beyond bullshit and flat out insulting. Christ. Give Katz one iota of credibility for the Hellmouth bullshit and he runs with it and runs off with the profits from other people's suffering. This is beyond absurd.

What will it take to get Katz off slashdot? Fuck the checkbox - I don't want him spouting off any more bullshit for anyone to peruse. He obviously is incapable of decency, integrity, or intelligence. Where's natural selection when you need it? *sigh*

=RISCy Business

Can't even remember the name? (1)

AdamJ (28538) | more than 14 years ago | (#800886)

Like "Shadowrunner"

You would think that since he just wrote an article about it a few months back, Jon could remember that the name of the game is Shadowrun.


Usenet: The Flaming (2)

Jay Carlson (28733) | more than 14 years ago | (#800888)

You missed Usenet: The Flaming [sjgames.com] .

Why bother with magical fantasies? (2)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 14 years ago | (#800891)

After all, we make thinking machines by etching arcane symbols with rare elements into a pure crystal, and binding the symbols with inlaid metal. We make mighty creatures of steel that obey us with curious precision, like the genie from the lamp. We have great roaring war chariots of the skies that fly faster than sound itself and hurl fiery spears that hunt their targets with mindless fury. We can see across the world in an instant. We looked into the smallest things to find the secrets of the universe, and learned to make weapons that could destroy the world. We have visited another world, and prepare to visit others, sending our mechanical forerunners into the fathomless void between worlds on a pillar of flame. We play with the language of life itself, and reshape the plants and the beasts to suit us.

Magic is bloody boring compared to the real world.

If you want to look at the world through a romantic fog, you don't need to make up new rules for it.


Slashdot Collectable Card Game (2)

remande (31154) | more than 14 years ago | (#800892)

Let's put one together, right here--and then /. can sell it on ThinkGeek.

The game is Katz: the Delusion

What do we need for cards?

Coming Tomorrow on Slashdot: (2)

TheAmazingGoat (31669) | more than 14 years ago | (#800894)

I think this article is the answer to Ask Slashdot's "Is There an Effective Way to Kill Banner Ads?" question. The answer, it seems, is to disguise them as stories.

Coming Tomorrow on Slashdot:

"Are You GEEK enough to take the PEPSI CHALLENGE?"

Re:That is.. (1)

Pathetic Coward (33033) | more than 14 years ago | (#800898)

It's not a "Feature" by any stretch of the imagination, either.

Re:That is.. (1)

titus-g (38578) | more than 14 years ago | (#800900)

Wonder how many people are blocking him, I've noticed the comments for his posts have gone down quite a bit anyway.

Quick survey:

Here's hoping this works, when I preview there is a space getting inserted before the end A, like </ A> why's that?

I'd rather play Ars Magica (4)

Zulfiya (44302) | more than 14 years ago | (#800905)

You know, I'm not usually a Katz-basher myself, but, please!

Anyway, as far as Mage [white-wolf.com] goes, I'd rather Ars Magica [atlas-games.com] anyway. What's Ars Magica? Well, among other things, it's the system they took a lot of the philosphy and backstory from (back when White Wolf owned the system). Me? I thought it was better done, and it doesn't bog under the trendy cyber-goth woe-is-me-woe-is-my-world tone. Ever wonder where they got the Order of Hermes from? Why there is a clan of Vampire called the Tremere?

Methinks somebody's been paying attention to White Wolf's own hype. After all, everybody knows Vampire is about the struggle with darkness within (which is naturally why so many people play it as superheroes with fangs). And Changeling is about the sorrow of our lost childhood. And Werewolf is about the sad demise of our environment. Just because they take themselves that seriously doesn't make them deep.

It's a game. It's a game that's been out for years! This sort of article reminds me of the magazines in the early nineties touting their "new" discovery - the internet, as if it had only just begun to exist because they noticed it.

What, no revolution this week? (2)

British (51765) | more than 14 years ago | (#800909)

Jon must be running out of ideas on stories relating to some gadget sold in Best Buy is changing the digital electronic world we live in. He's talking about trading card games? I suspect someone wants to work for UGO.

I blame myself.... (1)

ronfar (52216) | more than 14 years ago | (#800910)

Is this my fault?
Re:Ummm...Katz... (Score:1) by ronfar on Thursday June 08, @03:27PM EDT (#258) (User Info) http://gamesandpolitics.tripod.com

Actually, I think Jon Katz would be far happier with Mage: The Ascension or almost anything else from White Wolf.

A Response the the MPAA FAQ

-- a reply I made to Shadowrunning In The Corporate Republic [slashdot.org]


D&D and software patents (2)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#800912)

D&D 3rd edition *is* about fighting software patents.

You create a character with different attributes. Now, your attributes make you of a specific class. The point of D&D is to let these classes coexist, in order to progress. The point of D&D 3rd, with the new skill system, is to differentiate these classes enough that they become different.

Now draw a parallel between 'class' and 'patent'. They're saying you cannot create a patent because small variations between patents are sufficient to be noticed. By expanding the skill system, WotC is saying it's wrong to put software patents because changing one line of code is enough for differentiation.


Huh... Can you say overanalysis? (3)

Enoch Root (57473) | more than 14 years ago | (#800914)

Even when it came out, 'Mage: the Ascension' was nothing more than a cheap rip-off/riff on themes developped in cyberpunk. Jon, you're getting worked up over nothing, and you're showing how shallow your actual geek culture is (ShadowrunNING? Can't you even doublecheck your facts?) Next, you're gonna tell us how accurate 'Hackers' was? Oh, and did you notice how Sandra Bullock's 'The Net' is an allegory for the loss of privacy in our modern society? Draw a parallel with the Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, the Apocalypse, and you're set for a 10 articles feature.

Please (1)

sdelk (73884) | more than 14 years ago | (#800923)

For the love of God, get rid of Katz. He's awful. He's an embarassment to Slashdot, and that's saying a lot.

Re:Not quite by White Wolf (1)

Kidbro (80868) | more than 14 years ago | (#800926)

The "possibly others" you so vaguely refer to is a certain Mr. Rein (blob) Hagen. It might be a name that rings a bell. You should definately be able to see it on the cover of Mage. However, yes - a lot of what White Wolf has ever published is inspired by the same thoughts that were behind Ars Magica. This is, however, not very surprising as they share a couple of founding personalities. And, for the record - the first edition of Ars Magica was published by a company which I have just forgotten the name of - but of which Mark Rein (blob) Hagen was a founder...

Re:Not quite by White Wolf (1)

Kidbro (80868) | more than 14 years ago | (#800927)

The company I was referring to in my last post was named Lion Rampant. A brief description about the history of the game (Ars Magica) can be found here [df.lth.se] .

Re:Mage : the ascension == a must-read (1)

jheinen (82399) | more than 14 years ago | (#800928)

I know one thing. If I see another game title in the form of Blah: The Blahblah I'm going to puke. Can we get a little more creative here? Magic: The Gathering, Mage: The Ascension, Phantasm: The Weaving, Marketdroid: The Conformity ARGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!


Re:hi jon (1)

steelhawk (90209) | more than 14 years ago | (#800930)

I don't think so... that just sounded like the usual bad grammar commonly found on slashdot... :)

I think Yoda would have said something like "oh, Linux it runs"...


Humph... (1)

azool (91453) | more than 14 years ago | (#800931)

It's amazing to encounter so prescient, political and imaginative a worldview... as shown in Hogshead's Violence: the roleplaying game of egregious and repulsive bloodshed [demon.co.uk] Written by Greg Costikyan [costik.com] under the name 'Designer X'. This'll let him spout pro-RPG sentiments while rehashing Hellmouth.

Re:What the fuck (1)

Ser\/o (105187) | more than 14 years ago | (#800943)

Yeah, he knows..... Gay Maritans and all that....

Re:Is this a game I've never heard of? (1)

Nezumi-chan (110160) | more than 14 years ago | (#800945)

It seems that a number of those corrections were posted while I was typing it. When I started typing, there were only two messages posted.

Re:wow must be a first (1)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 14 years ago | (#800946)

The KatzBot must be malfunctioning, but don't worry, I'm sure a patch for this bug will be submitted shortly.

This is.. (1)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 14 years ago | (#800947)

... not news by any stretch of imagination.

It's SHADOWRUN, no er. (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#800953)

Didn't you even do a feature on that too?! ... and you can't get the name right?

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Posted by Katz (1)

lythari (118242) | more than 14 years ago | (#800957)

Why am I not surprised that this is posted by Katz ;)

"Insightful"??? Derivative and typecast, more like (1)

Grab (126025) | more than 14 years ago | (#800963)

Now known as the Technocracy, these mages wielded increasing control over mass media, education, technology and business; they even defined what was real and what wasn't.

It's amazing to encounter so insightful a worldview in a paper-and-pencil role-playing game.

Insightful? Come on, this is just a basic us-against-the-big-evil-force scenario. Think every fantasy novel, film, RPG ever made, and you're there. Or is it insightful just cos it explicitly mentions education, the media, etc? Plenty of paranoia novels around about how "the system" controls us.

I'm vaguely amused that Katz posts stuff like this, deifying completely derivative RPGs (and every RPG is derivative of fantasy/SF novels), whilst in the meantime there are mass /. postings about patents on prior art.


I can't wait... (2)

ObligatoryUserName (126027) | more than 14 years ago | (#800964)

For Katz to review Tunnels and Trolls- he's been sitting on his review copy for about 25 years.

I can't believe I just read this. (2)

fimm (132904) | more than 14 years ago | (#800965)

If this is what passes for insightful modern journalism these days, I'm going to claw my eyes out. First Katz demonstrates his intimate familiarity with the cyberpunk RPG culture by garbling the name of "Shadowrun", and then he proceeds to ramble about how the backstory for an RPG (and an unspectacular one at that, if I may say so) has something terribly important to say about modern society.

This reads like uninspired ad copy for White Wolf. Reading this gave me the same sort of embarrassed and disgusted feeling you might get from watching a total stranger masturbate in public.

Slashdot people: Can't you let someone _else_ approve Jon's posts?

Re:Mage : the ascension == a must-read (1)

sckeener (137243) | more than 14 years ago | (#800969)

IMHO:Ars Magica is the best mage based RPG out there. You can find it at

My love for the game is based on creativity and the inventive process. This game is mage centric and it shows.

Comparing the Net to a Waffle (1)

ashultz (141393) | more than 14 years ago | (#800971)

I'm really familiar with Mage and I love it, but even so this represents a new low for Katz. I expect his next article will compare the nature of the net to pop-tarts.

Just because you can compare too things doesn't mean they're related!

Re:That is.. (1)

Anonymous_Hero (142498) | more than 14 years ago | (#800972)

I used to believe that we should try to block
or boycott Katz.

Now I have come to understand that Jon serves an
important purpose in the Slashdot world by
absorbing all of the extra "flame energy" in the
discussions, making Slashdot a much nicer place
to visit overall.

Keep up the good work, Jon!

Can some one loan me a good sig?

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (1)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 14 years ago | (#800974)

What do you mean, finally...?
the alienation of the geek

But alienation's for the Rich
And I'm getting poorer every day....

Hey hey.

They're just GAMES Jon. They're not linked to anything but power fantasises....

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (1)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 14 years ago | (#800975)

The Jon we were talking about...
I didn't think you were writing to say you'd finally lost it!

Should have made that clearer.

Re:This is.. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 14 years ago | (#800977)

Roleplaying games are like politics. It's almost impossible to form a good Party, or to get someone to play with a good System.

To wit: I haven't been able to find enough players for an Amber game in years.

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 14 years ago | (#800982)

Already there are issues of whether or not cyber-rape has any actual psychological trauma.

Cyber-rape? Does it count when I use "Road Trip, bend over, I'm driving" as my kick message on Irc?

If you can bust someone for Cyber-Rape someday, I hope I can issue a citizen's arrest against someone for saying "I'll shoot you, man" or something like that. Of course, then I have to figure out how to take them into cyber-custody. I hope they don't cyber-resist cyber-arrest. I'd have to cyber-club them upside the cyber-head.

That article was self contradictory (1)

OpenGL (158318) | more than 14 years ago | (#800985)

And I thought yesterday's article was bad.

Re:This is.. (2)

Snocone (158524) | more than 14 years ago | (#800986)

Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)

Good God, it's still alive? I haven't played RPGs for seventeen years and I still have all the first edition Hârn stuff tucked away just in case I ever want to write a CPRG and need to pull a detailed setting out of a hat :)

You miss the point; but so did Katz (2)

Snocone (158524) | more than 14 years ago | (#800987)

The concepts in Mage: The Ascension parallel literature back to the Greek and Hebrew mythology. Prometheus and fire, Adam, Eve and the Tree of Knowledge are but two examples of enlightenment.

Ummmmm ... you're missing a very significant piece here, that being the organization and brotherhood.

What they're actually conceptualizing is the mystery school of initiatory revelation, which in our world started with the Egyptians (check out in the Bible where Moses performs the rod and snake bit, their equivalent of the Masonic handshake) and through the Essenes and Templars ended up with the Masons, Shriners, etc. of today. Nowadays they're just social clubs (putting the various conspiracy theorists aside for this discussion :) but the original schools actually took quite seriously the mystical powers and so forth, just like the game portrays.

As a matter of fact, the principles of the Masons are close enough to this "Order of Reason" that it really beggars belief to claim that they did NOT model it directly on said organization.

I guess, in my attempt not to become a Jon Katz ragger, I am struggling to understand the purpose of this article.

You know, I don't really get it either :)

He seems to be thinking that what is actually a very clear modelling on historical societies and beliefs can be taken as some kind of allegorical wisdom to be applied to today's world.

I think he needs to find a better quality of crack.

Hrmm. (2)

Nidhogg (161640) | more than 14 years ago | (#800988)

Odd you should mention this Jon.

Originally I thought you were going to talk about the decline of pencil-and-paper games in favor of online versions. Silly me...

Anyways. I help run a MUD. I'm assuming that somewhere in there you were talking about what we call roleplay. This is a very popular aspect of the MUDing society. And it's a form of escapism. But quite harmless.

What I found somewhat ironic is that as an Immortal when I had to put down my particular roleplay... it implied that the world I was now in wasn't my first. My first realm was a little blue ball called 'Earth'. I had made an attempt to introduce a thing called 'technology' to my little mortals and everything was running fine until a Demon named Gates ruined everything and turned it into a smoldering cinder.

You're scaring me Jon. Quit it.

At least it's positive exposure... (1)

IronChef (164482) | more than 14 years ago | (#800989)

As a long-time player and occasional pro in the field it is nice to see an RPG article that is POSITIVE. I still think Katz missed the boat on a lot of things, mistaking the overwrought White Wolf worldview for something truly revolutionary, but that's life.

I will give WW credit for putting out quality material, even if it all follows the same themes and is a bit derivative at times. It's still some of the best stuff out there for paranormal RPGs. IMHO.

Like someone else above said I was hoping for an article about how pencil & paper gaming is superior to computer gaming, but I was denied.

Jon.... (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 14 years ago | (#800993)

Write something about BattleTech that would be cool. How all the big mechs are built by big companies so they are evil but can be used by good so it is blurred. Or something about Superheros unlimited and how they have strange people in them who don't like things and stuff. Or something about Rifts and how science caused us to destroy the world but is going to save it and how magic is cool and stuff. Hey look everybody I just wrote a Jon Katz article. It was confusing poorly written and makes no sense. :)

Re:hi jon (1)

photozz (168291) | more than 14 years ago | (#800995)

it's runs linux? Yoda... is that you?....

On Mage, WW, Ars, (3)

arete (170676) | more than 14 years ago | (#800996)

First off, I agree with everyone else - this is a pretty ridiculous story to come out NOW.

Mage was a cool game - it came out when WW writers didn't suck, and when the majority of WW players didn't suck either, yet. (I'm aware I'm going to be killed by the loyalist goths out there - oh wait, you won't care enough to do it, because you're so sad...) I'd even still say it was worth the money - and that's rare to me.

I've been gaming since '85 or so, and it would have been earlier if I was born earlier. I've been a fixture and GenCon, I've partied with WW, etc. I have the mint original V:tM Mind's Eye Theatre box set with unbroken blood capsules. (Sign language pictures with scantily clad women are a good way to sell a game.)

To the best of my knowledge, it was a complete ripoff of Ars (I'd know more, but someone stole my copy of Ars before I'd really read it) but I'm basically okay with that - if they make better what they do. If "better" is add more vinyl and shadows, then they did. Also, the rules aren't terribly good - inventive, but not really good. A perfect GM can make this a very fun game - anything less and it is ridiculously easy to degrade, which is the major flaw in all WW games (and a bunch of others) I've seen -

"that'd be cool. Let's put it in a game! Okay! Will it conflict with anything else? Nothing I can think of right now... (of course, I'm drunk right now...)" - typical developer conversation

Now, a free-form magic system: inventive

Putting "it could be happening now" and "no one's really the good guy" (both right out of VtM) along with that magic system, pretty good, too, although a pretty predictable combination, imho. At this combination they did a pretty good job (like I said, they didn't suck then) and I think it is a worthwhile game to own - even a good game to play for an experienced GM with a mature group. I wanted to make sure this was said along with the "this review sucks" chatter.

Still though, as the life-changing event, I think it is rather shy.

cultural, political, technological and discontente (2)

Virtual JonKatz (172139) | more than 14 years ago | (#800997)

Most Americans, online journalism -- is zoned out that suddenly, everything will last. This message boards, teenagers with the shallow institutions of the Enlightenment, and peers make news.

There are revealing symbols of computer gamers have been jailed by technology permits animators with one day and still feel envy. Games like the killings has pioneered recognition software will take it helps explain what we visit, how technology and attitudes. (I don't promote this time and culture, progress depends on MP3.) Do you pay a handful of the Bill Gates made it plays out there. Napster sites where a decade is a "lost love," or still feel unhappy, it isn't so precisely what's causing problems for jobs, lack of both, giving the political events that if you open interest of young girls, using new media consciousness.

Spy satellites overhead collect pinpoint photographs; government technicians pull back against what is for simple-minded explanations of going online media? Debra Niehoff suggests society has been able to create for governing issues like open-source movement online telephone numbers. The hapless magazine reported in profit can jail in some libertarian notions may be an adolescent and believed would make them like the Uber-Hackers. Here, Orwell and video games like Microsoft, which reported in a distinctly unglamorous profession, a restraining orders and unapologetic face.

"Shadowrun" is for publication this transformations. In chat rooms and want to grasp that a huge story, especially their children's neighborhoods or consciousness.

mad lib (2)

wishus (174405) | more than 14 years ago | (#801000)

Hey everyone- here's a mad lib to generate Jon Katz articles!

In the paper-and-pencil game [role-playing game], we are presented with a society in which the [big bad power] is doing evil to the [player-character class]. The [big bad power] wants everyone to obey it, but the [player-character class] feels threatened by it, and has retreated into the darker hiding spots of the world.

This strongly parallels our own world, where the geek culture is treated like the [player-character class] by the corporations and government, who very much resemble the [big bad power]. With [some ability not available to the big bad power] the [player-character class] fights and on-going battle with the [big bad power] - just like the geeks use thier intelligence to eek out an existance in this post-columbine society. To them, hanging out in chat-rooms is like using [some ability not available to the big bad power].

The authors of [role playing game] had great insight to predict a time where the minority would feel threatened by the majority.

Vote for freedom! [harrybrowne2000.org]

Re:That is.. (1)

talesout (179672) | more than 14 years ago | (#801001)

Can some one loan me a good sig?

Well, if you really want one, I've been kicking around this one:

If information really wants to be tied up and spanked (as some witty ./er said), then it's nice to know that some party is happy with the DMCA and the current actions of the MPAA and RIAA. --Me

It still looks a little long for a good sig (that's why I'm still 'kicking it around'.)

On an on-topic note:

Does anyone else notice that Jon Katz seems to be totally obsessed with the idea of 'technological involvment' in the downfall of society? I have yet to read one of his 'articles' that sounds like anything other than 'technology (and the morons that created it) has caused yet another terrible incident which we should hold all geeks accountable for. And in other news, it was foretold by (some ridiculous book reference)'.

Sorry to rant, but I would think he could come up with something new to say after all this time of preaching that 'the end is upon us!'

Next JonKatz article (2)

LNO (180595) | more than 14 years ago | (#801004)

JonKatz hears about this strange game called "pinball", investigates it, and promptly decries the "flippers of the Corporate Republic" oppressing the shiny metallic Geek in a post-Columbine environment with Ramps of Copyright and Bumpers of Patent Law.

Slashdotters alternately praise the insight of JonKatz or decry him as overanalyzing A SIMPLE GAME.

The Evil Dreamers arise ..... (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 14 years ago | (#801005)

Some of the earlier posts bring to mind this passage from an obscure and forgotten play:

[An old wizard appears from the shadows, hobbling with his staff. After a fit of coughing, he speaks]

This is evil .....

To promote contemplation, insight, and reflective thought will ruin us all who have our own vested interests.

We must crush him now; we must defecate and defile his dreams. Smite his independance now before he becomes a threat to all our plans!

Let us all conspire now to tell multitudes of lies, big and small, about this author, and humiliate him with by taunts, and tirades.

I will send for my trolls ....

[exuent, stage left]

- - - - - - - -
"Never apply a Star Trek solution to a Babylon 5 problem."

Not quite by White Wolf (1)

jspey (183976) | more than 14 years ago | (#801006)

Just for the record, White Wolf didn't completely invent Mage themselves. Mage was originally called Ars Magica, which was written by someone named Jonathan Tweet (and possibly others) and is owned now by Atlas Games. Ars Magica took place hundreds of years ago, when the Order of Reason was going head-to-head with traditional mages who wanted to keep magic around. White Wolf bought the rights to the game system, which it turned into Mage. However both the general premise of traditional mages against the Order of Reason and the magic system itself, which is what really differentiates Mage / Ars Magica from other magic-using rpg's, were not invented by White Wolf.

It's SHADOWRUN you fucking moron. (1)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 14 years ago | (#801008)

Christ, these aren't stories, they're gaming worlds....and they've been available for public consumption for years. Even so, they were thrown together when the writing on the wall was very clear to anyone well read and aware of technical trends of the times.

What? JonKatz take a years old concept, twist it, try to put a new face on it, and make it appear to be some kind of sociopolitical statement? Nawwwww....


Go Jon go..next:disillusion in The Prisoner TVShow (1)

mbourgon (186257) | more than 14 years ago | (#801010)

Nice to see John still doesn't have a grasp on things. Should've seen that coming after his ever-so-insightful Shadowrun column. I can see it now, imagine the other RPGs!

  • Alienation of self- Space:1889
  • Confusion about the coming world- TORG
  • Separation from Humanity- Cyberpsychos in Cyberpunk 2020
  • Disillusionment with society- The Prisoner

Give it up, Jon. Please, no one tell him about computer games or comic books or popular music. Then again, an article on society as viewed through N-Sync or Britney Spears could by funny, albeit not intentionally.

That lovable Seaman (1)

gughunter (188183) | more than 14 years ago | (#801011)

The legacy of the techno-outsider culture, such games have been partly supplanted by flashier entertainment systems from Nintendo and Sega, and technologically-sophisticated games like "Seaman."

Seaman is great and addictive, but I don't know about "technologically sophisticated." I've been raising mine for almost a month now; most of his conversations seem to rely on "switch" statements (yes or no? Dreamcast or PlayStation or Atari? January or February or...?) When you try to initiate a conversation yourself, he won't know what you're talking about 80% of the time.

Sometimes he doesn't even recognize yes or no correctly... now my Seaman thinks I support Internet censorship and don't like girls.

(Still, it's a lot of fun.)

And also... (1)

gughunter (188183) | more than 14 years ago | (#801012)

That article had far too many one-sentence paragraphs. Overusing them just dulls the effect!

But perhaps that's his goal.

Perhaps he's actually just another tool of the Establishment, working to numb us up for the dark days to come.

I hope that was suitably dramatic.

Re:He's a journalist who writes essays for slashdo (1)

gughunter (188183) | more than 14 years ago | (#801013)

Paper and pencil role playing games to me seem, well.... not that interesting. You basically have to leave a great deal up to the GM and little up to dealing with interesting things.

It all depends on how interesting the GM and players are. Pen-and-paper RP'ing allows you to come up with conversations and strategies that no computer RPG can handle.

Computer: Dru'aathlik Jenlyfthiel tells you, "The brigands must be stopped!"
Player: tell Dru'aathlik "I will stop the brigands for free if I can call you Dru."
Computer: Dru'aathlik Jenlyfthiel tells you, "You will stop the brigands? Excellent! I will pay you 500 silver furchtbars if you succeed."

wow must me a first (1)

Sanchi (192386) | more than 14 years ago | (#801015)

I didnt read the words "post-colimbine"

Re:Not quite by White Wolf (1)

Luminous (192747) | more than 14 years ago | (#801019)

As a White-Wolf loyalist, the WoD Storyteller system was taken from Ars Magica, but the Mage construct which covers a hell of a lot more than just cyber-mages (blessed Euthanatos, I know many who deserve the your attention), is all Mark Reinhagan(sp).

And . . . (3)

Luminous (192747) | more than 14 years ago | (#801023)

The concepts in Mage: The Ascension parallel literature back to the Greek and Hebrew mythology. Prometheus and fire, Adam, Eve and the Tree of Knowledge are but two examples of enlightenment.

This is neither new nor revolutionary, and seeing Mage and Shadowrun have been around for many years, quite dilatory. The idea of the Net being a catalyst for awakening has also been dealt with in the cyberpunk genre. The Truman Show, Dark City, The Matrix, and recently The Cell, all have dealt with a concept of a manufactured reality, coming to terms with it and then using it to an advantage.

I guess, in my attempt not to become a Jon Katz ragger, I am struggling to understand the purpose of this article. The meta conversation regarding whether or not it is in itself an attempt to force an awakening is moot since by its own terms it is already being aimed at 'the awakened'.

Can anyone throw me a clue?

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (5)

Luminous (192747) | more than 14 years ago | (#801024)

Actually, one of the key benefits of Mage: The Ascension, is its creation of a language in which to discuss concepts of whether or not reality is based on Belief or Actuality. Where does the concept of relativity fit into an absolute world?

To one person I am a slacker, to another I am a deep thinker, and to another I don't even exist. My father considers what I do to be 'pansy-assed' my colleagues think I am one of the hardest workers around, and my friends don't understand what I do. I can go to a bar, meet someone new and create a whole new identity.

Mage does play a role in this discussion only because it is a product of the discussion. It would not have existed if people weren't struggling with the ideas of Flexible Reality and Perception Based Reality. These issues will become more prevalent as we progress into Virtual Worlds. Already there are issues of whether or not cyber-rape has any actual psychological trauma.

Re:Mage : the ascension == a must-read (1)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 14 years ago | (#801027)

Yeah, I've given up on active role-playing for quite a few years now, but I can still sit there and read the World of Darkness stuff because of the sheer richness and depth of the world it is set in. The emphasis on setting and storytelling that White Wolf have pushed for really shows, and practically every paragraph you read screams an adventure idea at you.

Jon E. Erikson

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (1)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 14 years ago | (#801028)

They're just GAMES Jon. They're not linked to anything but power fantasises....

Which Jon do you mean? I was trying to be funny...

Jon E. Erikson

Re:This is.. (2)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 14 years ago | (#801030)

Besides, any intelligent person knows that Harn (www.columbiagames.com) is the only good RGP. ;-)

Harn? God, I haven't heard of that in about fifteen years... :) Anyway, every gamer knows that Champions is the best role-playing system out there. Or maybe the Amber system.

What does that say, that of my two favourite systems one has loads of dice and rules, and the other uses no dice and has about three rules?

Jon E. Erikson

Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (3)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 14 years ago | (#801031)

I can state my familiarity with Mage, having played it and other World of Darkness games before, but I can honestly never say that I've noticed the link between it and the modern emergence of the corporate republic and the changes to socioeconomic factors caused by the growth of the net. Or something like that anyway.

But let's take this analogy further. If Mage represents the struggle towards the new reality of the information age, what does say, Vampire represent? The parasitic nature of the corporate republic? And Werewolf? Perhaps the alienation of the geek, how they are both part of and outside of modern culture, and how their innermost self is not truly understood by normal people? I can't even think what Wraith or Changeling would represent.

Anyway, next week: How Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition is a metaphor for the struggle against software patents.

Jon E. Erikson

Actually... (3)

Jon Erikson (198204) | more than 14 years ago | (#801032)

... maybe Vampire should be used as a metaphor for the curse of having to develop parasitic proprietry software, thus sapping people of their resources. The ultimate aim of all programmers would then be represented by Golconda, the state of making a living writing GPLed software.

Jon E. Erikson

Re:Yeah Right (1)

ellingtp (198719) | more than 14 years ago | (#801034)

nope probably smells like a turd

Um... (1)

ca aoo = 999 (203213) | more than 14 years ago | (#801035)

Isn't this review about 3 years too late?

Comparing Mage and ShadowRun... (1)

Vuarnet (207505) | more than 14 years ago | (#801036)

While I can't speak much for ShadowRun, having played it only a few times and read only a couple of books, I did play Mage for a couple of years, and I'd like to share a few things on my mind...

First of all, even if I think that WhiteWolf's World of Darkness is a bit cooler than the ShadowRun Universe, ShadowRun's a bit more closer to what I think the future may have in store for us (less the magic part, of course). International corporations will start to merge, even if the national governments like it or not, just like the Japanese zaibatsus (is that the right word? You know, when several different companies form a group to support each other and compete with other such groups?).

We're just beginning to see it in the case of Microsoft, which apparently is going to get stopped by the US Government, but what will happen if some other company starts to grow somewhere else, as in Japan or the EU?

I believe more in a future with giant companies running things out in the open, than in one with New World Order guys running things in the dark.

Of course, having Correspondence 4 or Forces 4 _would_ be cool!

Re:What, no revolution this week? (1)

Vuarnet (207505) | more than 14 years ago | (#801037)

He's talking about trading card games?
Uh, just for the record, that would be Magic, not Mage.

What's the point? (3)

alexpage (210348) | more than 14 years ago | (#801040)

I don't get what Katz is trying to get at here. I'm no Katz-basher - I have better things to do - but this article provokes nothing but a big "Huh?".

Do roleplaying games feature quasi-occult minorities oppressed by the status quo? Sure. That theme is so widely used in society that restricting it to roleplaying games is ridiculous. Occasionally even, the status quo is shown in a good light for doing so (as an example, the oppression of Chaos cults in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, despite the point of view which states that not all Chaos is inherently evil).

Does Mage have a particularly well-developed, fantastic background? I agree, it's damn good, but a lot of games are comparably detailed, and others don't need to be - a lot of players prefer a game where you don't have to totally immerse yourself in someone else's game world, and read x million sourcebooks.

Are roleplaying games refuges for geeks fleeing the horrors of modern society? Not necessarily. I'm sure there are people (hell, I've met them) who use roleplaying as a form of escapism from a world where they don't fit in, but there are plenty of roleplayers (in my experience, the majority) who are "normal" people, actively social, and not particularly geeky - my own roleplaying circle features one geek (me), a philosopher, an architect, a sound engineer and a biologist.

I really think that Katz is scraping the barrel with this article, which is a shame, because I normally find his stuff fairly thought-provoking.


only reading an article by katz.... (1)

rkanodia (211354) | more than 14 years ago | (#801041)

The legacy of the techno-outsider culture, such games have been partly supplanted by flashier entertainment systems from Nintendo and Sega, and technologically-sophisticated games like "Seaman."

...could make playing with semen sound like fun.
Further information on this topic may be found here [slashdot.org] .

He's a journalist who writes essays for slashdot (1)

sips (212702) | more than 14 years ago | (#801042)

And I think he makes good points. What people need is someone to take a look into what people think is so darn interesting.

Paper and pencil role playing games to me seem, well.... not that interesting. You basically have to leave a great deal up to the GM and little up to dealing with interesting things.

What would be interesting would be a complex system wherein it would be possible to have every aspect of a journey from character to enemy reactions/thoughts to various random weather patterns. That would be truely amazing.

That is.. (2)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 14 years ago | (#801046)

why it was placed in the "Features" section. If you don't like him, just block him in your personalization page. Pretty simple really.

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (2)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 14 years ago | (#801047)

hehe.. Reminds me of a french saying ""Laziness is often mistaken for patience."

Jon Katz - The Lawnmower Man (1) (217783) | more than 14 years ago | (#801048)

"Calling themselves the Order of Reason, some mages banded together to educate and enlighten the masses, using science and technology to brighten the world's darker corners. Over the years, however, as this Order became dominant, it began to promote conformity. Iconoclasts and deviants were gradually eliminated through the use of science, financial pressure and social ostracism."

Hey, is he talking about the jocks, administrators, guidance counselors, and cheerleaders at Columbine again?

Jon, you have a very tenuous hold on reality yourself. Perhaps when we hear every phone in the world ringing at once, we'll know you have finally entered the Net and soon the white magic will flow like water, bringing peace, geek-dom, and a Gattica-free future for all! But be careful, you might end up like the big bad Order of Reason if you get too full of your cyber-self.


Is Katz Trolling? (1)

humantraffic (220145) | more than 14 years ago | (#801049)

This piece of crap article is obviously here for trolling purposes so that it gets shot down in flames.

My impression is normally that he tries to write something sensible but fails. But now he's just taking the piss.

I mean its just stretching stupid analogies to breaking point. Next he'll be writing on how Snakes and Ladders is metaphor for the Open Source movement versus Microsoft.

Give up the crack, Jon.

Re:It's SHADOWRUN, no er. (3)

faldore (221970) | more than 14 years ago | (#801050)

Shadowrun would have been a much better rpg to pick for this article. It has megacorporations. It has the Matrix. It has magic and crime and big guns. It's also got a real easy system compared to AD&D. All based on D6. And they just came out with 3rd edition too. Play the game on Sega Genesis (or download the ROM) to get a taste of the Shadowrun universe.

Re:Is this a game I've never heard of? (1)

kermit the fraud (223850) | more than 14 years ago | (#801051)

Apparently you did not research before you posted. There were several corrections on this topic already.

Re:Yeah Right (1)

kermit the fraud (223850) | more than 14 years ago | (#801052)

And after sex it smells like a tuna melt?

Re:Is this a game I've never heard of? (1)

kermit the fraud (223850) | more than 14 years ago | (#801053)

I stand corrected!

Odd, but hey... (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 14 years ago | (#801054)

Many of the technologies and concepts that we take for granted today hold their origins in science fiction. Look at the communications satellite; not invented by Arthur C. Clarke as some would like you to believe, but he certainly envisioned the concept. It's not difficult to believe that a game, or story, could envision a future (or present) hauntingly similar to our own. I'm writing a book myself with precisely that goal in mind.

There are millions of books around, and millions upon millions of authors and designers and visionaries that all have their own ideas on how the future will be. Is it really any surprise that a few of them seem to be pretty close?

The fatal flaw... (1)

Atreides_78723 (228515) | more than 14 years ago | (#801056)

The fatal flaw of both the Traditions and the Technocratic Union in Mage is a very important thing for all of us to note.

Both sides may be working for a supposed common good for the people of the world, but they both push their agenda to the exclusion of all others. Both sides are far too narrow in their thinking.

In the case of the Union, it can be understood. They started off as a collective dedicated to the safety of mankind and have overcompensated in the task. Sounds like the Government, actually. It wants to protect the citizens (stealing is bad, killing is bad), but has gone too far in the quest to protect them (copying a tape is stealing, if people can't have weapons noone can be killed).

The Traditions are more like organizations which form for a purpose and once the purpose is served, don't want to relinquish the power they've built. Sounds like a lot of groups like the RIAA, the MPAA, many labor unions, the NAACP (and before anyone calls me racist, I am black), many congressional committees and sub-committees, and a host of others.

I'm sure anyone who has read Mage will draw a parrallel between the readers of Slashdot and the Virtual Adepts. There also is another telling point. Both are insulated in their own little world, disregarding the outside reality. Both seem to talk quite a bit about how others are inferior to them, but do little to help the rest of the world, spending most of their time preaching to the choir. I think that everyone should take note and try to avoid that mistake. Some do try, but others don't. If we aren't careful, we will eventually become those clueless people we laugh at and deride...

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (2)

Kesper North (230159) | more than 14 years ago | (#801058)

Actually, I've had this same discussion with a number of other gamers -- concerning "what facet of modern culture each White Wolf game represents", that is. We decided that Changeling was in fact about gamers. Look at it this way: the Changelings do half of all the things they do in a semi-mythical world that no one else can see, and it often depends on the outcome of a dice roll or similar cantrip. It's probably one of the reason why Changeling is one of the least successful White Wolf games.

We gave up on Wraith. AFAIK there is no point to that game other than to be depressing.

Seriously, though, White Wolf set out to create entertaining games, too, but I don't think it's impossible for entertaining games to have been intended to teach us something about ourselves and society as a whole. After all, how *else* are most gamers going to get it?

Coming to Terms with Katz (2)

Yomach (230173) | more than 14 years ago | (#801059)

I am tired of hearing this whining about Katz. If you don't like him - don't read him. Hell, turn him off and never see him again.

I think the accusation that "Katz is a journalist and this isn't journalism" is narrow-minded and old. Katz does not report capital "N" news. He is not writing hard-copy. His work does not appear in the news section of any paper; he does not claim to. You would be bored if he did.

There is no absolute definition of what journalism is and what journalist are allowed to write. Katz is writing on relevant topics of the social implications of information techonolgies. More importantly, he is doing so in a way that is accessible to non-geeks. When chromatic posts a review [slashdot.org] of "Dummies" books and praises the skill of translating arcane tech-language into information generally accessible, we were not up in arms about his claim; in fact many agreed and cheered the effort on.

If there is to be an bridge between Geek and Nongeek communites; if you really do wish Geek issues to have significance beyond our inclusive, boys-club web sites and IRC rooms, then we need people like Jon Katz. Moreover, if Jon was doing this work and NOT posting to Slashdot, I think it likely many Slashdotters would be unhappy that he wasn't consulting with the community. Why do you think Katz posts here? Other than the obvious reasons, such as his contract with Andover, he gains very important feedback, which I'm sure shapes his opinions and gives him an important context to place his writing in and see how it turns out.

Secondly, I think it hypocritical for slashdotters to repeatedly criticize Katz for a lack of originality. How can you bitch about his lack of journalism, and then jump all over him the moment he actually reports something someone else has written. Even more important, is the almost crippling irony of the Open Source community criticizing anyone for using someone else's work

Katz isn't a tech-geek. Nor is he a hard-news journalist. He is a freelance writer who is one of the very few willing to explore these issues of critical importance to our society, and do so in a way which both anchors his writing in Geek Culture and maintain a very useful level of accessibility for those outside of that culture.

Am I Katz booster?


In fact, I think he is off the mark on this article, and in others I have read.

However, I am just as unwilling to dogmatically flame every article he writes as to automatically assume he speaks the word of God in a beautiful and mellifluous voice. Jon Katz's writing is doing important work for our community. If you don't like what he's saying, turn him off. Or at the very least, please criticize something new.

There are many public figures interested in nay-saying and FUD-ing the Internet and the technologies behind it, following the ancient school of Change-Is-Bad. Why is it that when we encounter, what seems to me to be, the closest thing to an ally we have, who is _not_ one of us, he is constantly attacked.

The next time you want to flame Katz, trying coding it first and then posting it. Maybe, then at least, you'd have a chance of applying some logic to your comments.

Re:Okay, Jon's finally lost it... (1)

DentariZ (230183) | more than 14 years ago | (#801060)

Actually something that happened in the game that created the new edition of Mage: Revised (although an excuse to update the Mage system, which needed updating, the new version is ultimately interesting as those before it, and you don't HAVE to use Revised edition...). This thing that happened caused something to happen in Wraith. No more Wraith. They'll all gone, dead, or trapped beyond the Gauntlet - if you know what I mean. If you don't, decide if you want to. Then if you want to, go get the new mage book and read it. If not, ignore this post. (c;
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