How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

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How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby DracoDruid » Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:38 am

Hey everyone.

I am about to finally start a DA Campaign, including one Circle-Mage PC.

I came to wonder how I can possibly justify that a CM is part of an "adventurer group".

Aren't all mages asked to stay inside the Tower?
Especially the young ones, that just got through the harrowing?

How do/would you manage or justify this?
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby NickMiddleton » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:04 am

Well, you can gloss over it (as the CRPG's do to an extent)... But that's rather unsatisfying.

Basically, you have three options - either
  • times are sufficiently troubled that the character is being allowed an unusual degree of license (problematic unless your campaign is mid-Blight!) or
  • the character is regarded as sufficiently loyal and trustworthy that they have be allowed to travel unaccompanied (which might significantly constrain the player's freedom to play their character) or
  • Another character has to play the Templar chaperoning the mage (albeit as starting characters they'll be a "trainee" Templar who has yet to be fully initiated in to the scerets of the order i.e. doesn't have the Templar specialisation)

The simple fact is that the nature of Thedas (certainly prior to events in DAII / Asunder) means that outside of special circumstances, an adventuring circle mage doesn't make any sense... So the real question is, who ELSE is in the group, and what connections are their in the PC mage's background that might explain them being allowed away from the close supervision of the tower?

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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Scott McFarland » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:16 am

Since Wynne is given leave to travel I think it's not a problem for senior mages to be out and about.

We have two Circle Mages in our group. They're operating as the mage equivalent of knights errant, in effect looking into things on The Circle's behalf.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Arimmus » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:36 am

Both of those are really good ideas, but I have seen most of my players go the route of escape. They are still circle mages in the fact that they were trained in the circle and all that, and they just escaped, similar to Anders. You could also go the route of the Grey Warden and say they were conscripted and before they had a chance to undergo the joining the warden that conscripted them was killed and they are seeking out a new warden to train them
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Ghostdanser » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:37 am

This topic has been brought up several times in the past. I did a quick search and here are two of the results, but by no means the only ones. You may want to review what others have said in the past in addition to the new input in this thread.

viewtopic.php?f=33&t=8062&p=79957&hilit=circle+mage#p79957
viewtopic.php?f=33&t=8771&p=87520&hilit=circle+mage#p87520

As for my thoughts...something needs to be investigated that appears to be a minor problem, you have a blight on the horizon so the First Enchanter feels they can't spare an experienced mage, the pc has just finished their harrowing...blah, blah, blah...good experience for them...blah, blah, blah...will build character in them...blah, blah, blah...(you get the idea).

NOW...that is actually the easy part...if you want to add some spice see if any of your players is interested in playing a warrior that wants to eventually become a Templar. You can have the Knight Commander assign a trainee (because of the same reasons above) to escort the mage. How do they handle the relationship? Do they become friends? Do they respect each other? Do they grow to hate each other? Is the mage jealous of those fancy uniforms the Templars get to wear (not to mention the pillow fights)?

Whatever you decide, just make sure the players have fun with it. That's what it's all about.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby shonuff » Sun Feb 12, 2012 9:39 am

I believe that all mages are asked to stay in the tower unless they are on assignment for the Circle. That's the easiest way to give them leave to be outside the tower... a long, open-ended assignment.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Disemvowel » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:09 am

Have you read the latest novel? They touch on this subject, but I refrain from plot spoilers.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby shonuff » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:59 am

Mean to, but I haven't. And also one Circle can have different rules from another Circle (although that could be in the novel, as well).
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby DracoDruid » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:26 am

So far, thanks for the input.

There will be no Templar-PC in the group, so that's not an option.
(And I'm not happy about dragging an NPC along all the time)

I also talked about this with my group to come to a consensus.

Our idea:
At least in Ferelden (the "Land of the Free" :wink: ), Mages are at least partially free to travel alone, under certain circumstances:
Once they arrive in a new town, they have to report in the local chantry/templar order/mage circle/city guard.
They have to say why they are there, what they want and how long they will be staying.

While, this usually is only a formality, ill-disposed authorities have the (unwritten) right to confine the mage to an assigned quarter, which he may only leave when given an escort (and he might wait quite some time to get one...)


Sure it's not the "canon policy" but I think it's a good (and playable) compromise, which also might produce interesting roleplaying opportunities.

What do you think of that?
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Ghostdanser » Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:53 am

DracoDruid wrote:Sure it's not the "canon policy" but I think it's a good (and playable) compromise, which also might produce interesting roleplaying opportunities.


It may not be canon, but it's a perfectly legitimate solution. I've always been of the opinion that if it works for the GM and it works for the players, then it's a good solution. Sounds like you have a solution that works for you and your group.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Arimmus » Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:21 pm

GM does always have golden rule option. Its your story, tell it like you want to. After all this isn't the RPGA or White-wolf
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Loswaith » Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:33 pm

I work on the basis that the Circle sends out all it's mages, they have a limited level of trust gained at passing the harrowing. Though some are still kept at the tower if the turn of events during the harrowing give some suspission of the mage being/becoming a threat if given full freedoms.

The implication being that from the circles point is that keeping mages in a tower doesnt realy strengthen them from the lures of become an apostate or other temptations (and in some cases can build the resentment). They also have the mages phylactery, unlike those that have never been Circle mages (thus being far more dangerous).

I basically have the chantry being a little less zealous and more intelligent about the mage situation.

The chantry/circle however tell the poplous (even to most of thier own) that mages only stray from the towers on permission/missions (a half truth), and are restricted more than they realy are to make sure that its seen as mages are controlled.

This has the added bonuses of having mages about to notice new potential mages or possible apostates (be they threats or otherwise), and the ability to react to threats faster.

The chantry also has a zero tolerance approach to abusing this freedom or even the word getting out that mages are about as prolifically as they are, which in turn causes the Circle to somewhat police their own, lest these privileges be taken away from all mages or spurn a cleansing.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby empyrien » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:49 pm

The implication from Dragon Age: Origins with Wynne able to wander about, and for example the existence of the mages collective, is that mages who have passed the Harrowing are able to earn the right to leave the tower either on a specific mission or a more open-ended one.

I have one circle mage in my group; to enable him to work outside the Circle Tower I said that he was performing healing services for the Chantry in Denerim. In exchange for his years of service to the Chantry, he is permitted the freedom to travel Fereldan as he desires. Obviously if he did something to upset the Chantry, that freedom could be revoked.

In this way it is possible for a Circle mage to remain "within the Circle", even if they are physically located away from the Circle Tower.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby zanwot » Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:43 am

DracoDruid wrote:Our idea:
At least in Ferelden (the "Land of the Free" :wink: ), Mages are at least partially free to travel alone, under certain circumstances:
Once they arrive in a new town, they have to report in the local chantry/templar order/mage circle/city guard.
They have to say why they are there, what they want and how long they will be staying.

That is more or less what I would do (when I made it clear there was no free lunch to my Mage player he chose to play an apostate...), of course if there is an exception to the rule it should be the PC. And after all, with the blood vial thingy of each Mage the Chantry can track them, so it is not as if there is no solution for the Chantry if a travelling Mage goes rogue.
But with an extra element (no free lunch): He needs to have a special authorization nevertheless to leave the tower. Which means:
* whenever he arrives anywhere he is treated with supicion, including and especially by the local chantry, as these travelling Mages are very rare (Mages in general a rare, but travelling circle mages?). He will then usually gain either some guards "to protect him" or be spied, or both.
* To actually get this special authorisation, he needs to be on a mission (could be secret or open), or have falisfied something at the Circle.
* In general in gaming terms the burden should not feel too limiting for the player to have fun but should be enough to seriously tempt the player to try to break free. The bottom line is that the player wants to play a circle mage, and there is no free lunch (once again), so he needs to accept hard consequences.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby uhlersoth » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:45 pm

When three of four players in my troupe expressed an interest in playing mages, I decided to go all out and run a Circle campaign. I'm writing it up currently, but I figure it'll take place less than a year before Ostagar, and will encompass the drama of mages who are locked largely for life in the tower.

Could fail miserably, though, so I guess I'll have to keep you posted. :D
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Arimmus » Thu Feb 16, 2012 6:32 pm

You could have the non mage types play workers in the tower. Warriors cold be mage oppressors or sympathizers and the rogues looking for loot. This would be great idea and opportunity for ideas
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Disemvowel » Sat Feb 18, 2012 6:43 am

Re-reading Blood in Ferelden this morning, I cannot believe we all forgot about Marissa, who is in the employ of Bann Nicola. Her role away from the Circle in Ferelden is never explained, it is simply accepted she is living and working in the Bann's household. Now, given Bann Nicola's, aptitudes shall we say, it makes some sense Marissa would be there, no questions asked...well, I am sure some Templars would ask questions, but hey...

So I tried to stay spoiler free.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby shonuff » Sat Feb 18, 2012 7:18 am

Wilhelm has been left out as well. The Circle gave him to leave to fight for Maric, and then he settled in Honnleath, basically by himself.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Teryn » Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:31 am

I wonder did you play the video game? There is a point that you can have a conversation with someone in the circle tower about this issue. Mages are allowed to leave the tower as they please and return as they please. They are not trapped within the tower after passing there harrowing. Templars are normally not assigned to mages when they leave the tower on there own. Lets take a look at the encounter with the darkspawn attacking three mages on top of a hill that you can run into. One of those mages was more or less a teacher, he called himself a master, the other two where two students whom had just passed there harrowing not to long ago. I wouldn't worry too much about how your player whom is playing a mage got out of the tower.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Disemvowel » Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:40 am

Teryn wrote:I wonder did you play the video game? There is a point that you can have a conversation with someone in the circle tower about this issue. Mages are allowed to leave the tower as they please and return as they please. They are not trapped within the tower after passing there harrowing. Templars are normally not assigned to mages when they leave the tower on there own. Lets take a look at the encounter with the darkspawn attacking three mages on top of a hill that you can run into. One of those mages was more or less a teacher, he called himself a master, the other two where two students whom had just passed there harrowing not to long ago. I wouldn't worry too much about how your player whom is playing a mage got out of the tower.


It had been a while. You are 100% correct, how did THIS get past us all?
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Pytorb » Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:23 am

Disemvowel wrote:You are 100% correct, how did THIS get past us all?


It didn't ;-). As is mentioned by Mezinger in one of the previous threads staying in the Circle is not a reference to the physical location of the Tower where Mages are taught. It is reference to the philosphophy of the teachings carried out in the Tower. For example 'Magic is meant to serve man not rule over him', submitting to the authority of the Chantry, Templars and First Enchanter (within the loose bounds of Circle politics of course), not engaging in unsactioned research, no bargains with spirits, not practising Blood Magic and above all not turning into an Abomination.

There are probably safety measures if a full Mage decides to leave the tower such as getting a senior Mages written permission, checking in with any local Templars and the local Chantry, accepting unannounced visits from either, submission to tests of magical power and the other measures discussed in all the threads. But, at the end of the day, a Mage who has gone through their Harrowing can leave the physical location of the Tower.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Lynata » Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:03 am

Huh, du you recall the exact point where this conversation occured? I feel like this warrants some more investigation.

It's not that I would believe that Mages are kept locked up in cells all day long, but "leaving the tower at will" sounds a bit too liberal, given Anders' backstory. He wouldn't have been "forced" to run away if he could just walk away, after all.

The way I've always seen it up to now, any Mage wishing to leave the Tower would have to acquire permission from the First Enchanter, which would then only be granted if the petitioning character has (a) passed the Harrowing, (b) is seen as sufficiently loyal/harmless and (c) has a good enough reason to actually go on that journey. In some Circles, gaining said permission might be just a formality, so that Mages wouldn't be as rare a sight in the countryside as in other nations, but the requirements would still need to be fulfilled, as I regard the First Enchanter as being personally responsible for the conduct of his charges, much like the Knight-Commander would be held responsible for his knights.

Of course, all of this is merely my opinion, but I feel that turning the Tower from a gilded cage into a simple place of learning takes a great deal of "grey" out of this setting, not to mention invalidating some dialogues in the games (anyone remember the talk about mage robes?) or David Gaider's comments about life within the Circles:

"Considering the sexual attitudes of most mages, I imagine your average Circle of Magi is like High School with all sorts of social politics, petty bickering, betrayals and a First Enchanter who constantly rubs her temples at all the things the mages get up to. After all, since they're generally locked up in there, what else do they have to do?"
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As for the topic at hand, the above is how we did it in our group as well. Just that when the Knight-Commander found out that the Mages' business brought her into contact with her old family, he subsequently sent a templar after her to watch over things and make sure the Mages' bond to the Circle isn't compromised - perfect justification for inserting a new PC at a later point in the game. ;)
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Pytorb » Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:28 pm

I don't think it is ever explicitly stated in one place as my summary tried to do.

Personally I do think the Tower is a gilded cage in which most of the mages will be locked up for years at a time. But what it isn't is a life sentance prison. As First Enchanter (not just a Senior Enchanter as I first thought as that would be far too easy) one of your major ways to reward a mage is to convince the Templars to let them out, to have a bit of autonomy and see the open sky. You wouldn't be able to convince the Templars to let out the mad, bad, or dangerous to know without a very good cause (if they haven't been slain by the Templars already) nor would you argue a case for frivolous reasons or for flighty mages (sorry Anders). Being a senior enchanter, or a recognised war hero, highly politically connected, harmlessly annulled or doing something esoteric with seeds and plants probably all helps :wink: , as would a call to arms by the King or being conscripted by a Grey Warden.

Whilst Mages can leave the tower whether they will is unlikely for many. Some of course will never want to leave and others will never want to stay and go Apostate trying.
Last edited by Pytorb on Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Lynata » Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:09 pm

Ah, our opinions aren't that much apart as it seemed on the first glance, then. :)

The only thing I'd stress would probably be that a "may leave" sounds more fitting than a "can leave", as the latter implies a much stronger influence on part of the individual Mage when it is in fact a privilege that must be earned, probably every single time a Mage wants to leave the Tower. All in all, it'd still be an uncommon (compared to everyday life) thing to occur, otherwise it likely wouldn't be such a big issue in the setting.

I guess permissions like this would also serve nicely as a prospective reward - something that "adapted" Mages can work towards, that serves as an incentive for the rebellious ones to relent and get back in line, and generally as a means to somewhat defuse the whole "prison life" perception (which surely is one of the chief contributors to the risk of unrest).

It's a pretty easy (and, if one were to look for things to criticize, wicked) system, come to think of it. Be a good obedient Mage and the First Enchanter is more likely to grant you leave for a few days, as he will have less to worry about than if he'd be asked by a notorious troublemaker. Likewise, to become First Enchanter, a certain degree of reliability would surely be one of the requirements imposed by the Chantry. A clever compromise used by the clergy to both keep the Mages under control as well as lessening their anxiety about it, though undoubtedly the First Enchanter would, for rebellious Apostates, often be the target for accusations of betraying their brethren by supporting the status quo - a topic touched upon in DA2.

Or that's my interpretation, anyways. ;)
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Re: How do you handle Circle-Mage PCs?

Postby Pytorb » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:08 pm

Indeed, for a claustrophobic political campaign, the Tower of Mages would be an ideal setting. There is the famous quip, attributed to many people "Academic politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small".

So you have jockeying for position within your fraternity, trying to catch the First Enchanter's eye without being seen as sycophantic, the constant struggle to get a better office, south facing room, away from the smell of the potions your colleague brews next door, to catch the eye of the attractive mage three doors down the corridor. On top of all that you have teaching apprentices, mastering your own studies and the doubt in the back of your mind every time you cast a spell that this might be the time you fall to the siren voices of the Demons in the Fade. And the icing on the cake, Templars everywhere, watching, distrusting your every move, some with hate obvious in their eyes and the Sisters of the Chantry some doubting your very right to breathe the Maker's air.

A war against the Darkspawn and a chance to really use your magic must have seemed like a relief for some, until Uldred of course...
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