Mage Against the Machine
A downloadable RPG
In Mage Against The Machine you take on the roll of time-travelling wizards attempting to stop the robot apocalypse. You will travel back to the moments in your lives you have the most connection to in the hopes of finding the events that set in motion the destruction of civilization. But meddling with reality comes at a cost. Each time you use your magic to alter the world you generate anomalies, push too hard and the things you care about most may no longer exist in the present.
Players will create their character by giving them a defining memory they are able to travel back to. Unlike many other games, Mage Against The Machine doesn't use a GM. Instead the player whose moment it is fills in all the details; this player is also unable to take any direct action to alter the timeline or risk catastrophic destruction. Each player will get a chance to take on the role of answering the other players' questions as you visit that moment.
In order to download this RPG you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $2 USD. You will get access to the following files:
Support this RPG at or above a special price point to receive something exclusive.
If you can't afford a copy of Mage Against The Machine right now you can download a community copy. More copies will be added for every purchase of the game.
Log in with itch.io to leave a comment.
I just played this game and it made me saaaaaaaaaaaaad! (It's very good and was very fun and I liked it a lot, but also, we didn't use our anomalies like we should have.)
We played this for Hope's Hearth )an actual play podcast) and it made all of us cry!!
This was definitely very fun to play! We had a few stumbles figuring out the rules, but were able to get started playing very quickly and made a good story together. I played it with three friends, so four players, and I used a dice roller to randomly pick memories and events from the cards. The cards were definitely helpful, as having some inspiration is always a good starting point. We played this game fully online, and I simply sent each player the cards they rolled.
I also liked that the memories were each tied to a positive emotion. It made the stakes very intimate and personal. You can save the world, but at the cost of your dearest memories. It's an unusual sacrifice that I haven't seen before.
In terms of playing the game, we ended up not really using the "If you know how it started/ended" rules. We just said what we were going to change with the scene and then rolled, changing the scene according to the roll. We figured out after the second scene that using magic was always better, since you get that +1, so we started trying to use magic for everything. By the time we got to the sixth scene, though, we definitely had to get clever to come up with new adjectives! That was an effective limitation that got more restrictive as time went on.
One thing we realized was that if the very first person who tries to affect the scene rolls a 6, the scene ends immediately. That can feel kind of frustrating, because then the other players don't get a chance to engage. We started doing rounds instead, where each player got to roll once to try and change the scene, and then at the end of each round we decided whether the scene was finished or not.
We enjoyed using the anomalies to screw around with the scene, and after we realized how to use them, were able to immediately spend every anomaly we gained, so ending up with unused anomalies wasn't really a threat.
Another thing that tripped us up, narrative-wise, was how going through each memory affected the others. This is partially because we built an interlocking timeline, where the memories all affected each other. If we managed to eliminate the very first memory, but the second memory depended on the previous one existing, it's unclear whether we should incorporate the changes or move forward without them. We decided that all the changes would take effect at once when we returned to the future.
At the end, it is mentioned that we have saved the day in the end of the Playing the Game instructions, but I expected it to be inside the Resolution, so I missed it initially. It's also unclear - and kind of boring - what to do when a scene didn't generate ANY anomalies. We decided to roll 2d6 with advantage if you had a lucky scene like that. Overall, this was a VERY fun game that I would play again! Definitely worth $5-10.
Cool concept! Curious who did the art. Did you do the art as well as writing this?
What are the cards for and are they needed
The cards aren't necessary. They're sample prompts that can be used to fill in the details of the game if you're having trouble coming up with your own
Wait, so you actually need them to play? I was planning to run this over discord.
Oooooh okay. Thank you.
Mage Against The Machine is fantastic. It's six pages, black-and-white, with exceptional art (seriously, the cover's incredible and the interior pieces are spectacular too) plus a fun, solid premise.
You play as mages travelling back in time to stop a robot apocalypse, in a sort of reverse-terminator setup that also nods to WoD's Mage.
For a game with this much pulp, it's a little unusual to see it take a rotating GM approach, but even so it does a really solid job of fashioning a hook out of pure story and using it to pull you in.
As part of character creation, you define memories that are important to your character. And then you tie them into the runup to the apocalypse.
Then you jump to those points in time, with the person whose memory you're intruding on serving as the GM for the scene.
Dice are used, and there's a little bit of crunch to them. You roll a d6 to determine how your meddling goes, and the result is slightly weighted towards failure and complication unless you use magic and describe how with an adjective. Repeating adjectives means failure, but using similar adjectives generates temporal anomalies, which anyone can use to add complications or change a scene.
Temporal anomalies ultimately change and pollute the timestream, so while the game will always end with you defeating the robots, it will often be "at what cost?"---making for a solid, conflicted beat to end on, or a potent sequel hook.
Overall, I think Mage Against The Machine is worth putting on your radar. It's fun, it plays quick, it works both as a warmup game or a one-shot, and the art is full of serious standout images. If you like pulpy time-travel stories, this is probably one of the easiest ones to play.
-When resolving memories, do you roll every time you attempt to resolve them? Or do you just roll once, and the memory is bricked if you weren't able to solve it?
You can keep rolling to resolve a memory, but you're likely to generate more anomalies the longer it takes, glad you liked it so much! This game was kinda experimental so people enjoying it makes me happy :)