YMMV: Mage: The Ascension

  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Are the Technocrats authoritarian bastards out to crush imagination, or are they trying to make the world safe for humanity the best way they know how? Or both, given what a Crapsack World the World of Darkness is?
    • In-Universe, this applies to how the Solificati reacted to Heylel Teonim's betrayal. Was it, as Heylel claimed, a way to show how powerful the Traditions could be if they set aside their differences? Was it a case of Heylel being Out-Gambitted by the growing power of the Order of Reason? Or was it a clear malicious act that Heylel tried to cover up with a weak excuse? The arguments over this ended up splitting the Solificati completely, leaving the Seat of Matter empty for centuries until the Sons of Ether defected from the Technocracy.
  • Broken Base:
    • Mage the Ascension has been described as everything is YMMV, due to the nature of the setting, but two topics stand out for just how easily they generate arguments, and how often discussions derail into them: 1) How does the Consensus actually work? And 2) What is the morality of the Technocratic Union? The best answer for both is what ever your group decides.
    • Revised Edition's drastic changes to the setting and reduction in its scope. Some liked the tighter focus and Character Development on the part of various factions, others likened it to throwing out the needlenose pliers and torque wrench from a toolbox. The lack of options in the core gamebook, most notably playable Technocrats after making them the most sympathetic as any edition ever did, was another bone of contention.
    • The use of "magick" instead of "magic" in the 20th Anniversary Edition. Callback to the older editions of the game that underlines the exotic, otherworldly nature of what mages do, or needlessly-pretentious bit of snobbery that's only going to take up space in the book.
  • Crazy Awesome: The Taftani, a craft of mages hailing from the Middle East, uses the ancient Arabian legends of genies, magic carpets, magic lamps and myriad other fantastic things pulled straight out of the Arabian Nights as the basis for their magic. They see Paradox as a badge of honor for imposing their will on the universe and practice magic as blatantly as possible to change the Consensus. And they live lives of opulence and luxury, lavishing feasts and gifts on honored guests while regaling them with tales of bottling djinn or retrieving their assorted Wonders. At least until Paradox blows them up.
    • All mages have a bit of this; they live reality by their own rules.
  • Designated Villain: Sure, the Technocrats are greedy, amoral bastards who want to bend the world to their will by erasing all magic and spirit... and they do this because the (guys who would become the) Traditions were megalomaniac sociopath assholes during the Dark Ages. Ultimately, while their version of reality may be bad, good things have come of it: Medicines, education for many instead of few, science not being considered a tool of the Devil, toilet paper...
    • Mage runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe. From the Technocracy's point of view, the Traditions (read: Order of Hermes) are still megalomaniac sociopaths who will bring back the Dark Ages if they win. From the Traditions' point of view, the Technocracy is a group of conmen who convinced humanity to sign a contract with reality while hiding the consequences in the fine print.
      • Ultimately, who is the villainous side depends on your beliefs about which outcome is, ultimately, the better one. The Technocracy outcome, which results in a world devoid of dragons, spells, trolls, demons, angels and wuxia, where Muggles are free to make their own decisions and are protected from the rise of Sorcerous Overlords... and not knowing about the vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and things-that-defy-explanation who don't give a damn about Paradox and so are still running around amongst a populace who don't realise they exist and so can't properly defend themselves against them. Or the Traditions outcome, which is having assorted magical creatures and things running around, and the populace being able to defend themselves against the aforementioned Paradox-immune gribblies, at the cost of potentially having Sorcerous Overlords rising up left, right, front and center, grinding Muggles into the muck for their own selfish reasons.
      • Arguably, the most significant difference between the Technocracy and the Traditions is that the Traditions run on gnosis (in the non-World of Darkness sense of the word) wheras the Technocracy runs on repeatability. The new Progenitors book talks about how virulently the Progies hate homeopathic mages: Of course, homeopathy works in Ascension, but only if the mage is standing there forcing it to work. The Technocratic Paradigm of repeatability enables solutions that don't require the presence of an Enlightened individual to use in a way that few Traditionalist Paradigms do. All the megalomania and powermadness is (or can be, depending on your game) secondary to the group's ability to bring "supernatural" solutions to ordinary people.
  • Game Breaker: Mages in general can wipe the floor with almost any other supernatural creature in the World of Darkness if they get in the first shot. One of the reasons why White Wolf was notoriously less than helpful when it came to running crossover games was that it becomes incredibly difficult to challenge a mixed cadre of supernaturals; a mage or two with some vampires and/or werewolves running interference for them can make mincemeat out of what are supposedly world-threatening encounters.
    • Like most of the first-edition games, White Wolf left a lot of unfortunate loopholes in play for truly ridiculous min-max crossover characters, such as the Skin Dancer ritual that could be used to make a Kinfolk mage into a full (albeit heavily Wyrm-tainted) Garou. By the time the third-edition games reached store shelves, most of those loopholes had been rather enthusiastically closed.
  • Misaimed Fandom: The Technocracy were initially portrayed as pure evil, hunting magical creatures to extinction and ruining lives, having procedure and propaganda lifted straight from 1984 and Stalin, wanting to destroy the very concept of "creativity." But enough fans still liked them and tried different things with them that the game designers began to incorporate their ideas and made them much more symapathetic. By the end, a still a significant number of people (including as the actual authors of the gameline) celebrated them as the unsung heroes of the World of Darkness.
    • See: Guide to the Technocracy, a sourcebook made to both support and subtly parody them. The Technocratic Union wasn't an evil organization, it's a well-meaning one gone horribly wrong. Their actions do monstrous things, but they have also done good: they lifted mankind from the Dark Ages, and while the WoD is certainly a Crapsack World, they can be credited with stopping it from being even worse. White Wolf themselves said that the majority of Mage books were written from a Tradition viewpoint and were thus biased against the Technocracy, while the Technocracy's own books portrayed them as heroes. The real answer, says a sidebar, is somewhere in between. The question: Is it better to be a relatively safe but controlled drone, or to be free in a world of monsters? Furthermore, the Technocracy wants imagination, creativity, and breakthroughs; they just want it to be completely within their own paradigm. While the Traditions certainly want everyone to Awaken, it's almost always with the implicit idea that "Once the Sleepers Awaken, they'll follow the paradigm of my Tradition because it's the right one." In the end, the two views (and factions) aren't all that different.
      • The post-Revised Convention Books have come to embrace this view of them; the developers have gone on to state that the primary reason the Technocracy is still antagonistic is because they haven't realized they are in dire need of reforms and a respect for freedom as a concept, while the Traditions have actually undergone some soul-searching and asked themselves why they have skeletons in the closet.
  • Totally Radical: The Virtual Adepts and Hollow Ones, somewhat, based on some of their flavor text. Good players can avoid playing them this way easily enough, and one of the stated goals of 20th Century Edition is to remove problems like this and avoid them in the long-term.