So last night, I resigned my position as Mage Storyteller of New York City. For those who aren't members of the Mind's Eye Society, Storytellers are a volunteer position elected for a term of one year for the respective venue (longer if you're in a Regional or National position). I have been running the Mage The Awakening game here since October of 2012, closing out the Chronicle (the global campaign) and creating the setting for the new Chronicle .
Then August came, and burn out came and I stopped really caring. In retrospect, I should have stepped down completely in September when I first decided to take a break. I didn't, because there really was no one to replace me for Mage, and because I loved the venue. I continued, and my burn out continued.
Mage went from a larp in a studio to what really boiled down to a tabletop in the apartments of the DC or DST, run on sundays on the same weekend we have Changeling, Accord, and Requiem. It's the last game, and you can see just the exhaustion roll in when game time comes. It's also the one with the lowest interest in the club overall, so most of the people who were interested in helping were people who were playing, and I like plots that overlap with one another which leads to a lot of Conflict of Interest for my assistants. There was also a focus more on achieving personal goals than working together, which makes a live game so difficult since you're all in a group together during a live game.
So, in short, I was the only person running a venue that cannot be done by one person. Ever. Mage covers the entire cosmic structure of the New World of Darkness and consists of essentially ten different magic systems. You cannot be everywhere at once. And then when it gets to a live game and people are coming in to character simply because the schedule says so and they have no impetus either IC or OOC, it becomes murder to get them interested.
So, with some prodding by people who clearly have more invested interest in my mental health than I do (thank you guys), I resigned from Mage.
And that sucks. It sucks because out of all the venues in White Wolf's World of Darkness, I like Mage the most. It's a game that asks pretty existentialist questions. What is the soul? What is our connection to the universe. Are we defined by our abilities or do we define them? Mages are the only of the Higher Templates (Hunters and Psychics are considered Lesser Templates) that can be argued are still human. They have normal life spans (unless you're fucking with Life and Time magic pretty roughly) and can conceive children. They are human, they've just had their souls opened to the magic that exists in the universe.
I also liked Mage because, out of the whole bunch, it got the most flak from the other players. I've been in Mage for two-three years now, and I keep hearing 1) the mechanics are scary/confusing/too much and 2) it's predecessor, Mage the Ascension was 'their game'. Mage gets the short end of the stick because it can do everything...and oddly nothing at the same time. In Accord, which throws all of the various white wolf games into an adventure against an evil presence from beyond this dimension, Mages have the most restrictions in their abilities. In a survey, the Template that people felt needed fewer restrictions was Mage. In the same survey, the Template that people felt needed more restrictions was Mage. It's a polarizing game, and I have a thing for the underdog.
There was another point that some people have put in: Mage works best as a Tabletop, not a Larp. I will refute this kicking and screaming. It's difficult for it to work as a Larp, because so much of the White Wolf games relies on going out of character to use their abilities. This becomes a problem when every solution involves showcasing your powers. My stance now is that Mage can work as a Larp, just not in the culture it's currently being played in. There is a culture that focuses too much on their own personal things and not on the collaborative efforts of the club. This some times comes off as loan-wolf types just wanting to play their sheets, to being the most influential, to cliques forming up. It becomes more competitive than collaborative and that's what larping really is: a collaborative effort. There is competition involved, and it should be involved, but in order to push others to be their best, not to promote yourself. Some people have not gotten that message.
So, where do we go from here. I am going to enjoy being a player instead of an officer for once, haven't done that in a while. Or maybe I won't, maybe I'll just take that vacation I wanted to take in September and never really got to because of my work with Mage. I'm not really sure. People have already nudged me towards playtesting Dresden Lives, and I'm tempted to. I know that I'd like to actually work on Kensei, because dear lord that game needs to be born if anything just to see what happens. I also have a ton of ideas I want to do to run freeform or even Nordic style games, because in my time in MES I've gotten a craving for deeper role play and more immersive experiences.
Part of me would still like to work with Mage though, just not in the MES. A bunch of friends have gone off to do their own game of Werewolf, and the experience there is probably better than in a club, especially when it's all based on pack dynamics. I'd like to do that, build a game for a group of people that I know and we can all come to an agreement about what we're all looking for in a game like Mage and a group that is small but has some chemistry with each other. And, of course, actually want to be there.
Which leads me to some things I would love to have done differently if I could go back and do things differently during this Chronicle. The first would be to have an already running Consilium. The Government exists and none of the players are in it unless they want to. The players would need to join PC teams (called cabals, for those non-mages) or establish significant ties with one another. That didn't happen much, and even a year into gameplay there is little to no dialogue between players or PCs.
Another thing, and my major point, would be that for the first few games that your PC is in, they are a normal human being, maybe someone who is aware of magic, but they are mortal. The idea is that I want people to get a taste of their PCs normal lives, and then have their Awakening to magic horribly alter that normality.
But that's after Detox, and that's exactly what this feels like.