Virtual Adept rotes for Mage20

31 March 2016

Since the 20th anniversary edition of Mage: The Ascension was released by Onyx Path Publishing a couple of us have been playing around with it for old time's sake. You can take the players out of the game but you can't take the game out of the players, so of course things went real wild, real fast. So, to that end, here are a couple of rotes for the Virtual Adepts.

(Disclaimer: White Wolf Games came up with Mage and the (Old) World of Darkness originally; Onyx Path Publishing has the rights to publish and extend the oWoD; I'm just some schmuck who plays tabletop RPGs and comes up with stuff, I don't own any of it.)

Jack In (Correspondence-2) - This is the bog-standard technique for accessing the Digital Web using the character's devices of choice. The second rank of the Correspondence sphere is used to project the character's perceptions into the Digital Web where they are represented by the character's technomagical icon. Mages who are fond of this rote tend to use it in decidedly old-fashioned ways, channeling the effect through stick-on electrodes or well concealed brain/computer interface hardware. Newer-school Virtual Adepts always seem to have the latest and greatest MMORPGs running on their machines...

"I know kung-fu." (Mind-1 / Time-3) - Hackers have a reputation for learning highly complex systems in very short periods of time and making use of them almost immediately. For example, Eric S. Raymond (regardless of your opinion of ESR) is reputed to have inhaled much of the markup language LaTeX when typesetting an early edition of the New Hacker's Dictionary and astonishing the publisher in the process. Using software developed specifically to reformat information in such a way that it enters long-term memory as fast as the character can see and hear it, Virtual Adepts are capable of learning complex topics practically overnight. Time-3 is used to compress time and give the character extra actions while Mind-1 is used to temporarily grant superhuman mental capabilities for the purpose of absorbing and remembering the new information. This rote may be combined with Life-3 to rewrite the character's muscles and peripheral nervous system to implant muscle memory and reprogram the reflex arc to learn physical skills.

(Note: I strongly suggest to the ST that this rote be allowed so that the player can spend XP to increase ranks in Talents, Skills, and Knowledges in between scenes of a game session only. To temporarily gain skills the character doesn't have, use the Dream background.)

"Hello, computer..." (Spirit-3) - Even for the most mighty of mages, constructing an AI is a lengthy, time consuming process which requires months or even years of programming time. There are other ways of accomplishing much the same task. Virtual Adepts that are eccentric even by the sandards of that tradition that lean toward an animistic paradigm have figured out techniques for awakening the latent spirits within their computers to make allies of them (and occasionally even Familiars). This can take the form of hardware modifications, operating system patches, customized playlists of music, and hacked peripherals for the system in question. It is recommended that the ST or another player take the role of the awakened computer (without any of the benefits of a Familiar unless the player is willing to invest the XP for the new background) and play up the fact that, ultimately, it does not and may never have anything like a human personality.

"When this keyboard's a-rockin', don't come a-knockin'." (Entropy-1 / Spirit-2) - After awakening a computer, interacting with it around the less-elite can be problematic sometimes, and this includes figuring out the glitches and malfunctions that arise from time to time. The living spirit inside of the heavily modified computer also complicates the process of fixing the system because its thoughts don't often mesh well with the rigid forms of mathematical logic which underpin digital electronics. A savvy VA can hold a conversation with the computer (Spirit-2) while tinkering with it to determine where the root cause of the malfunction is (Entropy-1) so that it can be repaired.

Unusually Healthy Hacker (Entropy-3 / Life-3 / Time-3) - Many would expect Virtual Adepts to be among the least physically capable members of the Nine Traditions due to the fact that they spend most of their time behind keyboards. Wise mages understand that appearances can be highly deceiving... most Virtual Adepts consider their computers to be parts of themselves, not extensions and vice-versa. Thus, upgrades and patches made to their beloved computers sometimes reflect upon themselves as well in subtle ways. Entropy-3 and Life-3 are used to minimize and control the effects of biological senescence upon their bodies, in essence controlling the manner in which their cells age and break down. Time-3 is used conjunctionally to control the passage of time at the cellular level, slowing the rate at which telomeres shorten and malformed junk proteins build up and interfere with normal cellular activity. Of course, the paradox that can build up when a mage extends their lifespans greatly without taking additional steps to maintain a veneer of coincidence about it will add up over time...

Well Cared For (Entropy-3) - Ask a Virtual Adept what they most care about, and in the top five of each list will be at least one beloved computer and probably more than that. A VA's computer is a part of themselves, after all, and they often (but not always) take care of those systems better than they take care of themselves. Entropy-3 is used to minimize the effects of heat decay and alpha particle interactions upon their computers, giving them long work-lives than they would otherwise have in the hands of active Virtual Adepts. An optional conjunctional Matter-3 effect can be used to shunt that entropy into disposable devices which can then be discarded when they eventually fail (such as flash drives or cheap USB dongles of many kinds).