I haven’t gotten the book yet (still waiting on delivery, but it should be here later this week), but I’ve been reading a bunch of threads over on RPGnet about Mage: The Awakening, and a few thoughts have percolated in my mind about why the old game (Mage: The Ascension) never really gelled with me, while the new one has me quivering in delight.
The main point relates to the underlying metaphysical reality of each game, and how that clicks with my own philosophy on how the universe works.
The fundamental conceit of Ascension is that reality is ultimately malleable — and therefore, false. There is no objective, fundamental truth we can uncover. Anything that seems to be ‘true’ in an objective sense is held in place by the collective weight of popular opinion. Gravity only works because we believe that it works — that sort of thing.
Awakening, on the other hand, does have an objective reality. Reality happens to be deeper than ‘mortal science’ has been able to penetrate — those who unlock these deeper mysteries, or tap into the hidden energy can do things considered impossible by science (in part because science doesn’t have all the answers).
It is much closer to my own ideas about the world — I believe that there is an objective reality that can be studied, and measured, and (at least partially) understood. The relativist ideas presented in Ascension ran counter to my own ideas, and ultimately I couldn’t deal with it.
I understand, to a certain extent, why Mage was (and is) a game that provokes such passion among its fans (and detractors) — and why the camps are so divided. More than any of the other World of Darkness games (old or new), it dealt with one of the fundamental metaphysical questions we face as self-aware beings… and each version of the game (Awakening vs. Ascension) presents mutually exclusive answers to that question.
Not a value judgement on either game (by any stretch)… but it was an interesting idea that came to me in the wee hours of the morning.