Mage—the Hero Discovered is a fantastic 15 issue Arthurian "romance," written and illustrated by Matt Wagner. Matt has stated that the idea behind Mage was to examine the nature of the "Hero that lies within us all...".
Mage was originally published in 1984 by Comico. It has been made available in a three volume set from Donning-Starblaze Graphics (now out of print), and has been reprinted as a limited run hardback and trade paperback in one volume by Image Comics. Recently, Wagner's long-awaited sequel, Mage II- - The Hero Defined was released by Image Comics (and comes in a single volumes as well). I strongly recommend both series. Wagner has also mentioned a third series, Mage III- - The Hero Denied.
Before proceeding further, I'd like to point out that all the information presented below is drawn from the original Mage series. Mage II presents a number of concepts that, in my opinion, don't quite match up with impression I received while reading Mage. For starters, Kevin seems to be physically weaker, while the bat grants him a greater range of powers. There is also the matter of all the other "heroic" incarnations (Hercules, Coyote, Prester John), as well as the various "nasties." Of course, there is the fact that Mage II does occur a number of years after Mage itself.
The world of Mage is our world. The time is now, and as far as can be determined, the past histories of both our universe and the one in Mage are the same. Of course, this similarity is only on the surface.
Central to the world of Mage is an eternal struggle between the forces of light and dark, good and evil. This battle has been waged many times, with neither side ever gaining the upper hand for long. Central to this battle is a being known as The Fisher King. The Fisher King is a living embodiment of all that is good in man, and is very difficult to find. The forces of Darkness require the Fisher King's blood to enact a ritual to weaken the forces of Light for a time. This ritual has been enacted before; Mirth states that China's Warring States period, the increasingly decadent reigns of Rome's Caesars and the two World Wars resulted from this spell being cast.
The city Mage takes place in is never named or specified. Much like Kevin himself, who is pretty much an "everyman," the city could be anywhere. It’s located in America (that much we can determine, thanks to the American football field and Edsel's Edsel), and I get the impression that it’s on the East Coast or thereabouts. The city looks to be rather large, with a subway system and a sports stadium.
The Styx Casino
The Styx is the lair of the Umbra Sprite and his sons. It is a towering skyscraper, at least 20 stories in height. The building has a casino located on the ground floor and keeps to a "devilish" theme (the waitress all wear red costumes reminiscent of the Playboy bunny outfit). Internally, the Styx seems to defy the laws of physics and spatial relationships. An elevator taken down opens on a twentieth floor office; there is an apparently bottomless pit running down the center of the casino, and the pit looks to lie both within and around an office next to it. Finally, there are "doorways" within the Styx that allow passage between various portions of the building without crossing the intervening space.
The main characters in Mage are drawn primarily from Arthurian mythology, while almost all of the monsters have their origins in Celtic myth. Here I offer a brief listing of the major and minor characters. See the individual character sheets for more information.
Cromm Cruich (The Worm of the Mists): Cromm Cruich is a dragon... a very large and fearsome dragon. He has two forms. The first is that of a man who is easily seven feet tall or more. He’s dark skinned, with long black hair tied into a tight braid and red eyes with vertical pupils. In this form, he’s exceedingly strong and can breathe great gouts of flame. His other form is of an immense toad-like dragon, gray skinned, with a short neck and a long tail, and looks to be about 100' feet long. Cromm Cruich is served by 13 ravens, or as he calls them, "squires." Cromm Cruich's name can be translated as "bloody bent one," a term he uses to describe himself.
A suggested character sheet would give the human form a STR of 30, a COM of 8 and a PRE of 30+. He should have at least a 12d6 EB (or a 4d6 RKA) with the Beam limitation (and possibly Extra Time (Full Phase; -1/2)) and Life Support (Immunity to Aging). The dragon form is... huge and should be built accordingly.
The Fisher King: The Fisher King is described as a living embodiment of all that is good in mankind. He is hard to find, for as Mirth points out "Think how much harder it is to notice a person's good points...," not to mention having the ability to change his shape. But, regardless of what shape he takes, the King is always lame.
Gog Magog: Gog is a giant. He stands about 12' tall (or more) with a long shaggy beard and thick black hair. He dresses in boots and a loincloth made from skins. Gog Magog lives in a tunnel behind Cromm Cruich's lair and challenges anyone who passes to 'tumble'.
A suggested character sheet should have a STR of 50+ and a Size package to make him twice as tall as a large man. Depending on the GM's desires, Gog Magog can have either several moves from the Wrestling Martial Art, or a number of Hand-To-Hand combat levels.
Edsel: The Lady of the Lake, she carries Kevin’s weapon for him.
Kevin Matchstick: An incarnation of the Hero, Kevin was once known as King Arthur.
Leanhaun Sidhe: This creature is a female Faerie vampire. They seduce men with their hypnotic voices and drink their blood.
Marhault Ogre: This huge Faerie resident is a creature "...from Kevin's... other life!". It stands at least 60' tall and looks like a shaggy-furred monkey with a hairless head and bright red skin. The creature doesn't have much in the way of resistant defenses, as Kevin beats it into a bloody pulp with a length of pipe.
A suggested character sheet could have a STR of 70 or more, and a Size package to make him as tall as a football field goal post. Its COM would be negligible and it should have the Physical Limitation of "Doesn't Speak".
Mirth: The World Mage, Mirth is a powerful wizard and Kevin's advisor
Redcap: These are short, nasty Faerie denizens who get their name from their habit of dipping their hats in human blood.
Rhiannon's Bane: This is a huge, seemingly disembodied arm that spouts out of walls and ceiling of the Styx. It has a STR of 50 or more and is probably best treated as a focused form of Indirect TK.
Sean Knight: A ghost who has forgotten he has died, Sean assists Kevin after Mirth is forced to leave.
The Umbra Sprite: The name literally means "Dark Spirit." He’s the incarnation of evil and a powerful sorcerer. I didn't create a character sheet for the Umbra Sprite mainly because he’s a "GM's special" who's main purpose is to summon the creatures that oppose the PCs (i.e. Kevin and company).
The Umbra Sprite is a powerful sorcerer, with the ability to summon all sorts of creatures from the Faerie lands to do his bidding. He is also capable of casting more "traditional" spells and is seen throwing blasts of energy, flying, and using telekinesis to move a body about; he also seems to possess great physical strength. The Sprite is fairly tall, with white hair and a face perpetually covered in shadow. Originally, he was thin, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. By the end of the series, he is fat and bloated, and never leaves his chair. The Sprite is always seen dressed in a red pinstriped suit.
A suggested character sheet for the Umbra Sprite would have a high STR, INT, EGO, and PRE. His COM is variable, depending on whether or not he has assumed his "public" form. He should have a large sorcery VPP with the advantages of No Skill Roll Required and Powers Can Be Changed As A Zero-Phase Action. Finally, he should have the Summoning Power with the Limited Group advantage (allowing him to summon anything from Faerie). For Disadvantages he should have Distinctive Features: Evil Spirit, Psychological Limitation: Overconfidence (or Psychological Limitation: Underestimates his opposition) and Psychological Limitation: Hunting Mirth.
Mirth describes magic as a river, swift and restless. Anyone who wishes to use magic must then dip into its depths. The color of the river is then altered depending on the nature of the magic performed. Green is pure magic, the color of the river before it is changed or perverted by others. As the World Mage, this green magical energy flows through Mirth. He doesn't have to "dip" into it—he is the source of magic in the world.
On the other hand, Mirth has this to say about the Umbra Sprite; "The Umbra Sprite is a powerful force. He has learned to hold his head above the waters, even as he dips his foul bucket. He sees me [Mirth] at the river's mouth, and he has been sending others to find us."
There appear to be no real rules regarding the nature of magic in the Mage universe. Other then green, no other colors are described (although the Umber Sprite's magic all seems to have a red color to it). About the only constant is the use of Gestures to cast spells. However, Wally Utt from Mage II—The Hero Defined, uses purple magic.
In Mage, faerie is a generic term for a wide variety of extradimensional creatures. They hail from a connected series of planes called the "Faerie Lands." Travel to and from the lands can be very difficult and summoning something from there even more so. All Faeries are inherently magical creatures, but have no real set form or shape (other than a tendency for humanoid appearance). About the only major rule concerning the faerie is that they will vanish from this world when destroyed (not necessarily killed). GMs may to apply this rule when ever the faerie in question is reduced to -31 Stun (or 0 Body).
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