Saturday, August 12, 2017

Introduction to Running Mage: The Ascension, or "I've got a GREAT idea!"

"Hey, it's been a while since I've run Mage: The Ascension, maybe I'll get a group together and run my favorite game!"

The above words are how it always starts. It begins with the idea of running a tabletop roleplaying game, and ideally ends with a great story told by friends who sat around that tabletop and shaped the narrative with their own characters. But how do you get from the idea to successfully running a game?

When you figure that secret out, let me know, I'd love to hear what it is.

Kidding, just kidding.

Truthfully, I started running TTRPGs shortly after discovering them. I started out, as many do, as a player in someone else's game. I sat there as a moody teenager with my bag of dice and pencil-marked character sheet and thought "You know what? I bet I could do what that person behind the cardboard gaming screen does. How hard can it be?"

Incidentally, anyone who asks that question, ironically or not, has absolutely no idea how hard it can actually be.

Like any skill, the more you run a game, the easier it gets. I started running Mage: The Ascension games in 1997, and wow, that was 2 decades ago and I wasn't prepared for that glimpse into my own age. Ahem. In that time, I've run games for groups of various sizes, from one-on-one adventures to a table of six. I've run for players who were completely new to TTRPGs as well as veteran roleplayers. I've also played in more RPGs than I can recall (good gods, I'm feeling my age tonight) so I know how it works on both sides of that cardboard screen.

Tabletop RPGs have seen a resurgence of late. A great many Kickstarter fundraisers have centered around games, even the Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition by Onyx Path Publishing. TTRPGs can be found streaming live on Twitch channels, not the least of which is Geek and Sundry's own Critical Role and the Star Trek-inspired Shield of Tomorrow. (Incidentally, the GM who runs SoT was one of my Mage players in L.A. for several years, and he makes an excellent Akashic character.) With their uptick in popularity, folks may want to know how they can set up their own cardboard screen and start their own roleplay sessions, and I'm always happy to share what I know.

Since I recently started a new Mage game with new players (a brief overview of which can be found in this link to the Shadownessence forums), I'll use that as the primary focus for my advice. While most of what I've learned can be applied to any tabletop game, this will specifically address complications that arise in the course of running the Mage rules, of which there are so many that a new Mage Storyteller might feel overwhelmed. I'll give insight into the pre-planning of the game, making characters, starting the first session, and more. Expect some prose to give insight into the game itself, and maybe even a few "what if" scenarios to explore options that didn't happen, but could have. There might even be some crunchy house rules that you can use as-is or for inspiration to make your own house rules.

So, get comfy! We're about to explore one of the most complex but rewarding tabletop games out there - Mage: The Ascension!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Oh Hi There...

*knocks the dust off the blog*

'Bout time I posted in here again, eh? New blog series coming soon, and here's a teaser:

It's good to be back.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Productivity FTW!

You can always tell how well things are going with my writing by how often I post on this blog. Sorry for the lack of updates, but my absence means very good things for my trilogy! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

First Post of 2013!

Hello Blogger, my old friend,
I've come to write with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of BLOGGING.

Apologies to Simon & Garfunkel for butchering their lyrics for my own amusement, but HELLO LOYAL FOLLOWERS!!! In my efforts to put the fun back into my writing (Le gasp!) I've decided to cast Resurrection on my blog here and pull out ALL THE STOPS. Well, almost all of the stops. As many stops as I can pull out while keeping this a family-friendly blog!

Where did that saying come from, anyway? If you know, leave its secret origin in the comments below! (At least, I'm assuming the comments are still below. Have I mentioned that I don't like what Google did to change the Blogger interface?)

In any case, I'm going to be much less proper about how my blog writings will be presented here, because I think that was part of what kept me away from writing. I felt like I was censoring myself too much, analzying every line of every post I'd write, and crippling myself with more self-doubt than I want in my life. Well, NO MORE. It's a new year, and I'm going to write to you, my loyal followers, the way I'd talk to you if we met in person and I didn't have a world-class case of The Shy. Expect the same kind of stuff I'd been writing before, but with more freedom of word choice.

Of course, the downside is that I'm not going to go over every paragraph with a fine tooth comb to edit myself ad nauseum. You are warned.

So, 2013. I hear this year's theme for me is Let It Be Written, Let It Be Done. To that, all I have to say is...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Dead Yet!

Only mostly dead. (Kidding.)

But honestly, my sincerest apologies for my absence over the past few months. Between moving, starting up a new project, continued rewrites on my trilogy, instructing new writers on the importance of The Hero's Journey and such, my life got really busy of late. Also, the redesign of the Blogger interface is ugly and I dislike staring at it for any length of time. Even now, my urge to stop writing this and leave for another webpage grows...

I'm still alive, though, and still writing! I'll share what I've been up to soon... if I can stomach this bland, ugly Compose page on my blog again.

Until then, write on!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The End of an Era

For those who have been following my writer's journey for a while, you know that there have been a lot of roadblocks and pitfalls along the way. Distractions abound in the writer's life, not the least of which are earning an income. Add on a social life and a love life, and it can be a titanic effort to find time to write anything.

Then there's been my work with Comic Booked. It's a dream come true to be working for a comic book news site, a goal of mine since I read my first Wizard Magazine. But the joys of reading and writing about comic books has distracted me from other writing as well, and there comes a time when you have to reevaluate what you really want out of life. The things you do should support your passion and build your future, and if it's not serving either of those two necessities, it's time to move on.

So, it's time for me to move on from writing.

It's been fun writing and publishing short stories, even writing and rewriting my first novel, and I'm proud of my work for Comic Booked. But at the end of the day, the frustrations of being a writer far outweigh the benefits, especially from the financial end of things. Your work should be something you love with all your heart, and I haven't been doing that at all. It's time I fixed that.

From here on out, my writer's blog will be a musician's blog. I've had a passion for it since elementary school, learning multiple instruments and even conducting my own school band, but I gave it up after high school to pursue this pipe dream of making it as a professional writer. No more. I'm pulling out my old clarinet and dusting it off, and I'll be diving back into my musical pursuits with the goal of joining the L.A. Philharmonic. I hope you'll stick around for the ride.

I appreciate all the support you've given me as a writer, and I hope you'll continue supporting me as I rededicate myself to becoming a musical virtuoso.

Oh, and happy April Fool's Day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

WonderCon 2012

Now that I'm mostly recovered from WonderCon, I might as well talk a little about my experience covering the convention for Comic Booked.

Although WonderCon is a comic convention in a similar vein as Comikaze Expo, the two couldn't have been more different. For one thing, Comikaze was a very new convention experiencing its first year and all the growing pains that go along with trying to establish an identity. WonderCon, while experiencing its first (and perhaps only) year in Anaheim last weekend, is a 26 year old convention that has firmly established a reputation in the Bay Area. It's a miniature version of the San Diego Comic-Con, which is to say that it's still a large and popular convention, just not as massive as SDCC has become in recent years.

Comikaze was small enough in size that it was pretty easy for one person (namely me) to cover all two days with little difficulty. Heck, I even played handler for one of the web series celebrities at the con and still managed to meet a number of people and pick up some interesting info to put up on the site by the time it was over. WonderCon, however, is large enough that it takes more than one person to cover the glut of information that the companies bring with them to the panels, especially with so many awesome panels overlapping. And while I know I wasn't the only one on Team Comic Booked at the convention, it sure felt like it from the cries of "MORE COVERAGE!" coming from some of the team members who weren't there.

Admittedly, it must be a bit dismaying to see another site posting news from WonderCon when you know there's at least two people there from the site attending these panels. However, coming down on the people in the trenches for not doing a better job while they're frantically trying to cover as many panels as they can and make as many contacts in the attending companies as possible for future news items can make an already stressful convention experience even more so.

It used to be that comic conventions were nothing but fun for me. Now it's a job, with all the accompanying stress. So when I mention the tiredness of the weekend in my official write-up of the convention, only part of that is the typical con fatigue after three days of a comic convention. The other, much larger, part of that is the anxiety of others breathing down your neck while you're working, with none of the pay to show for a job well done. And while I did enjoy the convention, I can't help but wonder: Am I really building my future as a writer by taking on these assignments, or should I scale back on my involvement with Comic Booked to further my own projects, like my long overdue trilogy?

Either way, you can read all about my convention experience in WonderCon 2012: Post-Convention Musings over at Comic Booked!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


"That’s where my motivation comes from, as a writer: curiosity. I want to know why my character said that. I want to know what they are about to do. I want to know where they are going, how the hell they are going to deal with what’s in front of them and why they can’t just walk away. No matter what complexities I weave over my creative impulses, or what poetry I try to attach to my explanation as to why I write, the simple fact of the matter is that I just love to play. Play my damn heart out."
Eric Collin Campbell, Screenwriter, Connect To

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's One of THOSE Months...

Every now and then, I have a month where I'm so crazy busy that I forget that I have a blog to write in. This is one of those months.

Mostly, it's because I've been gaining more and more responsibility at Comic Booked in the past couple of months. In addition to my usual reviews and editorials, I've been writing a weekly series called Story Mode: Justice League Alternates that is, at its core, a narrative retelling of my gaming group's weekly misadventures. I'm also their designated Aspen Comics liason, and I've been writing up press releases and overseeing staff review copies sent to me by their Sales and Marketing genius, CJ. So, between balancing comic books and gaming for the site, I'm pretty busy.

Don't think that means my trilogy is on hold, however. It's a fine balancing act between Comic Booked, the day job and my original fiction, but none of these are lacking these days. It does, however, mean that I've been focusing on other writing and neglecting my blog, for which I offer my deepest apologies. This is a new kind of busy for me, and I'm still trying to figure out how to fit everything in my day so I can still relax and unwind!

Friday, February 3, 2012


"But writing does, at least for me, require quite a lot of concentration and to concentrate, you must be prepared to face the terrifying spectre of boredom without fear."
John Green, Author, The Fault in Our Stars