Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mage: The Awakening

What Is a Mage?
From the Quarterly:

White Wolf Quarterly: So, what is a mage?

Bill Bridges: A mage is someone who's Awakened, whose soul has been freed of an ancient curse afflicting mortals. Most people's souls are Asleep, unaware of the raw power they can tap to remake their world. The truth has been hidden from them many lifetimes ago; all they know is a lie. Mages can see through the lie and enact humanity's birthright: magic.

WWQ: Thematically, what is Mage about?

Bridges: Mage's core theme is power corrupts. There's danger in magic. Reweaving the Tapestry of creation can inflate the ego and overwhelm a mage in warped outlooks or lies that he believes to be true. Trapped in a world of his own misperceptions, the mage attempts to rework reality to match his new warped vision.

What's real and what's not? A mage's Awakening gives him the power to see the Invisible Truth — and to create new truths. But his own mortal failings might cause him to create falsehoods and virtual realities mistaken for real. What begins as a quest to strip away illusions risks becoming a process of substituting new phantasms for old.

WWQ: How about mood? What does Mage: The Awakening feel like?

Bridges: I'm going for a sense of ancient mystery. The true nature of reality is an enigma always beyond reach. This cosmic Mystery has a powerful pull on the minds of the Awakened. They're drawn to seek it out and solve it, even if solving one aspect only reveals a thousand more unanswered questions.

This mood is a more metaphysical version of the theme of the World of Darkness as a whole — a dark, secret conspiracy beckoning those in the know.

Instead of being a theme for Mage, it is a mood: a pervasive atmosphere of ciphers, secrets and looming cosmic revelations.

WWQ: What do mages do?

Bridges: There's a stereotype that mystics mostly contemplate their navels and the awesome secrets of the universe, but that's not what Mage is about. Mages — especially mages portrayed by players in a Storytelling game — are in the thick of things, always at ground zero for the next, great momentous event. They don't just think, they act — by casting magic.

Mage characters are the secret movers and shakers of the world. Their actions affect the tenor of the Tapestry itself — for good or ill.

And yet, they act unseen, their powers invisible to the Sleepers, who are shrouded in their curse, blind to the truth. Worse, if a Sleeper does get a glimpse of the Invisible Truth, the curse reacts to blind him once more — and to punish whomever alerted him.

Mages seek ever more cryptic secrets, the keys to greater power. Their quests take them into unimaginable realms and landscapes of the mind. As a mage grows in knowledge and power, he understands more about the world — and realizes that it's vaster and more unfathomable than he ever imagined.

Only a god could possibly master such a universe… and that's exactly what mages intend to become.

The small-mindedness of mortals, however, extends even to the Awakened. Only a select few are open-minded enough to realize that reality is pliable enough to accept multiple outlooks at once. Reprogramming reality brings a mage up against his rivals: mages who violently disagree with his goals and who seek to stop him.

Crossing the territorial borders of other mages can often be construed as an act of war.

Mythic History
A spoiler:

The sea of time grows murky as one approaches the distant past. Ruins, artifacts, cave paintings—all this evidence of history tells an incomplete tale. Even master mages cannot part the curtains of time so far back to see what truly occurred. The magical orders have a mythology about their beginnings, the legend of a fallen civilization and a war for the throne of reality. The names for that civilization are many, most of them lost over the years, but even the Sleeping know one of them and seek evidence of its truth: Atlantis.

In the far distant past, mortals suffered at the whim of monsters, hunted by spirits and preyed upon by bloodthirsty revenants. Beset by creatures stronger than they, culled by howling beasts whenever they migrated into territories whose borders they couldn't possibly perceive, mortals found it nigh impossible to advance above their need for survival, to envision ways of living outside of fear.

Then came the dragon dreams. Certain mortals, in lands scattered far and wide, began to dream of an island, a lonely land jutting from a windswept sea far from any known coast. A spire rose from the center of the isle, pointing at the pole star; it seemed to the dreamers that this was the axis of the world, the pole upon which the bowl of the sky turned. And upon this pole, at its apex, nested the dragons.

In the dreams, these great wyrms of legend would rise up into the winds, one by one, circle the spire with their beating leathern wings, and set off toward the infinite horizon, to places the dreamers could not imagine. No other creature stirred on the isle and no spirit hunted there; no being dared intrude upon the dragons' lair. As the dreams progressed, the dreamers came to realize that the dragons never returned. Each night, another dragon would leave, so that the remaining numbers grew small. Finally, the last dragon took wing and glided away, to the west, never again to be seen. The dreams continued to come, but now the isle was empty; nothing moved there. For many nights the dreamers saw the isle, abandoned and forlorn, and knew that it waited for them. The island had called to them, compelling them, seeking new inhabitants.

Portrayal of Magic
From Quarterly:

Mage presents a vision of magic somewhat different from thta portrayed in most occult literature, although it incorporates many famous occult elements. Mage hearkens to stories of high magic, mythic tales of wizardly might and awesome hubris, but set in the here and now, not in some distant Never-Land. Instead of assuming a character is a practitioner of a known magical practice, such as vodoun, cabalism, hermeticism, Taoist exorcism or any number of other forms, Mage posits a mortal who has become aware of a more real world than the one we line in - one from which we all once came. This Awakened mortal performs magic by connecting to this invisbile world. All the magical practices mentioned above hint at or in someway speak to the existence of this higher realm, but none of them fully prepares a magician to encoutner it. For that, he must walk down paths of sheer mystery, entering a reality unknown to mundane occult traditions, but one that completes and realizes their fragmentary knowledge.

Origins of the Magical Orders
From Quarterly:

The magical orders have a mythology about their beginnings, the legend of a fallen civilization and a war for the throne of reality. The names for that civilization are many, most of them lost over the years, but even the sleeping know one of them and seek evidence of it's truth: Atlantis.
For many years, uncounted in the far distant past, mortals suffered at the whim of monsters, hunted by spirits and preyed upon by bloodthirsty revenants. Beset by creatures stronger than they, culled by howling beasts whenever they migrated into territories whose borders they couldn't possibly percieve, mortals found it night impossible to dvance above their need for survival, to envision ways of living outside of fear.

Following visionary dreams of a distant island free from strife, small bands of mortals set out to sea from many different lands, each following the vision given to them in dreams. When they arrived at this Promised Land, their bodies entered deep sleep while their minds traveled to far astral realms beyond the ken of other mortals.

There they met the others, the Daimons of their own souls, the hidden twin of each soul traveler. These judges challenged them to prove by what right they came on astral roads to the Realms Supernal, and set them to a series of tests. The victors returned with their souls aglow, lit by a celestial fire. They could see into the Realms Invisible and ken the secret workings of creation, the principles and substances from which everything was wrought. With the Realms Supernal, and this knowledge they gleaned from studying realms visible and invisible, they could call down the ways of heaven, the higher principles that ruled over the lower realms of matter and spirit. They made their very thoughts real, imagination rendered into matter and flesh.

The loose confederation of immigrants to the island soon organized into a city-state led by the magi: Atlantis. Over time, the enlightened founded separate orders to fulfill the roles of governance, from mystical militia to scholars to a priesthood of mysteries to guide them all.
The power to warp the very skein of creation soon outstripped the wisdom of those who wielded it. The hubris of the magi rose unchecked. Many generations after the first had established Atlantis, their legacy turned sour, Mage turned on mage and so was born the first wizard's war.
The victors claimed Atlantis as theirs and drove the losers to the far corners of the earth. Then, combing their power, they wrought a great spell and erected a ladder to the Realms Supernal. The spurned the traditional astral paths by which a sorcerer could approach the higher realms by means of a soul journey, for they sought to walk the celestial reaches in their own bodies. They stormed the heights and claimed the thrones of the gods for themselves. Ruling from on high, no longer bound to the earth, even their petty dictates and whims became real, for they stood over the lower realm and influenced it with their very thoughts. The subtle veils were rent and the higher and lower worlds came together - the pure mixed with the impure and the universe trembled.

Spurred by the imminent destruction and corruption of the world, the exiled mages banded together and assaulted Atlantis, climbing the star ladder and wrestling with the Celestial mages in their heavenly palaces. Their struggles were terrible. The two sides clashed in a chaos of realms and the losers - sorcerers on both sides - were flung from on high back into the lower realm.

The ladder shattered, disintegrating into dust, leaving the victors beyond the reach of the earthbound mages. Where the ladder had been, reality cracked and fell into itself, creating a rift between the higher and lower realms, a terrible void that sucked life and energy into itself. The Abyss divided the realms once more, keeping the high, pure realm from the taint of the low. But this was no subtle veil, permeable to returning souls. It was a gulf of unreality, an aberration that was never meant to be. What was before a single world became two worlds - the Supernal World and the Fallen World with a vast Abyss between them.


Path of the Thistle

Abode: Watchtower of Lunargent Thorn:
The realm of Arcadia, kingdom of Enchantment,
Abode of the Fae
Ruled by the Arcana of Fate and Time.

Nickname: Enchanters

Tarot Card: The Enchanters epitomize the tarot card of "the fool" - relying on luck and intuition to guide their way.

Arcana: Fate and Time

Path of Scourging

Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet:
The realm of pandemonium, Kingdom of Nightmares,
Abode of Daemons,
Ruled by the Arcana of Mind and Space

Nickname: Warlocks

Tarot Card: The Warlocks epitomize the Tarot card of "The Devil" exulting in unfettered will.

Arcana: Mind and Space

Path of Doom

Watchtower of the Lead Coin:
The Realm of Stygia, Kingdom of crypts,
Abode of Shades
Ruled by the Arcana of Death and Matter

Nickname: Necromancers

Tarot Card: The Necromancers epitomize the tarot trump of "Death" remaining steadfast through a challenge.

Arcana: Death and Matter

Path of the Mighty

Abode: Watchtower of the Golden Key:
The Realm of the Aether, Kingdom of the Celestial Spheres,
Abode of Angels
Ruled by the Arcana of Forces and Prime

Nickname: Theurgists

Tarot Card: Theurgists epitomize the tarot trump of "Strength", pursuing a divine mandate.

Arcana: Forces and Prime

Path of Ecstasy

Abode: Watchtower of the Stone Book:
The realm of the primal wild, kingdom of Totems,
Abode of Beasts,
Ruled by the Arcana of Life and Spirit,

Nickname: Shamans

Tarot Cards: Shamans epitomize the tarot trump of "the moon" following the allure of passion and impulsive action

Arcana: Life and Spirit













The Adamantine Arrows
The Adamantine Arrows Defend Sanctums and Cabals with their Combat Magic.

Free Council
The Free Council seeks to escape the strictures of the past and modernize the craft of Magic.

Guardians of the Veil
The Guardians of the Veil protect the Mysteries from any who would despoil them or reveal them to the unenlightened.

The Mysterium
The Mysterium searches for valuable lore hidden throughout the material and invisible worlds.

The Silver Ladder
The Silver Ladder desires to establish a proper hierarchy of the awakened - with its members at the top.

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