Flashback! The Wizard of Boston Common was originally posted to the newsgroup alt.games.whitewolf — now a howling waste, as is most of Usenet since the advent of cheap forum hosting — in the summer of 2004. It was my first attempt at writing and sharing any RPG-related material, I think. It shows, natch. To make things even better, at the time I had never run Mage: The Ascension. I repost it here for completeness’ sake.
The Wizard of Boston Common
James Cadwell is an uncertain man. He’s also very popular with the children who frequent Boston Common.
One afternoon a week, James tapes an episode of Doctor Wisebottom’s Science Lesson, a ten minute bumper program that airs on WGBH, the local PBS affiliate. He leads his audience — five to eight year olds, drawing off the audience built up by Zoom — through a fairly elementary experiment, always one easily replicated in the kitchen. It’s not unlike other science programs geared towards children, but James does his best to inject some of the basics of Etherite thinking into his dialogue, particularly the concept that the things people do not believe exist may still yet. His lesson on the coelacanth is a case in point.
James would never admit it out loud, but sometimes, when he tapes an episode, he secretly hopes the experiment will go wildly right. He’s not sure what he means when he thinks this.
Saturdays, when it’s warm out, James goes down to the Common. Dressed the part of the dapper stage magician, he enthralls the enthrallable (a group which seems to growing smaller as time passes, James notes sadly) with sleight of hand and mentalist feats. Then, he enthralls them even further by teaching them how to perform the illusion for others, showing that anything is ultimately explicable, and appreciated all the more for it. James is actually unsure about the former, but he’s decided to err on the side of optimism.
Neither of his audiences have made the link between Doctor Wisebottom and the Wizard of Boston Common, thanks largely to the bushy white eyebrows, wig, and old man voice that James dons to play the good doctor. He feels silly, but enjoys both roles all the same. He enjoys the balancing act between deceptor and illuminator, never staying on one side or the other for long.
The rest of the week, James spends either at his job as an assistant librarian at Boston College, or pursuing some project or other in his own time. Lately, the topic of choice has been consciousness, whether it depends on inhabiting a body, and whether consciousness is fundamentally unalterable. Can we become other people? James wonders.