Mage

“Then what is magic for?” Prince Lír demanded wildly. “What use is wizardry if it cannot save a unicorn?” He gripped the magician’s shoulder hard, to keep from falling.

Schmedrick did not turn his head. With a touch of sad mockery in his voice, he said, “That’s what heroes are for.”

-Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Los Angeles – City of the Future

Los Angeles has always lived one step ahead of everywhere else. Pre-colonial Los Angeles thrived because of the ley lines that fed mystic power centers, and indigenous mages used them to help build prosperous civilizations in the Los Angeles Basin. When the Ascension War came to what would become L.A., Traditions and Technocracy were quick to realize the inherent power of the region. Though the visions of L.A.’s arcane landscape they engendered were radically different no one can deny the quixotic power of the city.

While the Traditions pursued their individual paths towards Ascension, only banding together to resist Technocratic oppression, the Union pursued its mysterious Master Plan for mass Ascension. Playing both sides against the middle for their own gain are the Nephandi and the Marauders while the invisible Disparate Alliance hides plain sight in an attempt to balance the four extremes. If the Traditions and the Technocracy are right then Ascension is more possible in Los Angeles. Anyone who possesses Los Angeles may very well hold the template for mass Ascension. The question is can they keep it?

The War Has Only Just Begun

In the heated frays of the 1990s a Technocratic victory seemed all but assured, yet they let it slip through their grasp. The Traditions were backed in to a corner while the Crafts vanished under Technocracy Pogrom. Now that the dust has settled, the Union’s paradigm reigns, but is dangerously incomplete. This is the paradox of the modern mage. While Technocratic belief dominates certain Parts of the world, reality does not belong to any one faction. Reality has proven more flexible than the Union would have us believe, and magic’s flame once again burns like a candle in a patchwork of reality zones across the world. This seems to suggest that what has come before was merely  the Ascension War’s first act. Act two has just begun.

  • The Council of Nine Mystic Traditions – Always the underdogs, the Traditions have not just reformed, but transformed. With most of the old masters out of the picture due to the Storm and major war chantries like Doissetep and Horizon in ruins, the Traditions are lead by the more down to earth New Horizon Council. Better able to adapt their ideas to the modern world they now expand outwards from the hard won reality zones to stage the return of magic.
  • The Technocratic Union – Leaner, smarter, more efficient, more productive, dare we say… wiser? The Union has taken the lessons it learned from its mistakes, and put them into practice on the ground. No longer made up of an army of chain-gun wielding cyborgs, the Technocratic Union 2.0 now looks within to find Ascension, but it may not like what it seems. The Anomaly revealed fractures within the Union, and it was almost torn apart in a civil war of its own divisions. This new Union must confront its past in order to chart a new path Ascension.
  • The Disparate Alliance – Enraged by the Union’s attempt to exterminate them and exasperated by the Tradition’s chronic condescension, the Disparate Alliance is the sleeping giant of the Ascension War. Now that the giant has awoken, Union and Council must face the fact they are no longer the most important players, and no longer get to dictate all the rules of the game. This new Alliance has an outsiders perspective who see the Ascension struggle with fresh eyes. The Alliance see what the Tradition’s and the Technocracy do not, and play a deeper more dangerous game than anyone realizes.
  • The Nephandi – Union and Council would have you believe that the Nephandi are largely a problem of the past. That may have been true for a brief time after World War II, but the Storm has eroded the Technocracy’s barriers, and its currents and tides brought the Fallen and their masters closer to Earth. They now quietly creep in from the cosmic margins opened by the Storm.
  • The Marauders – Magick and Madness have always gone hand and hand. Where there is magick there will always be metaphysical insanity. There are plenty of reasons to go Mad when you can shape reality to your will, but in the 21st century presents unique challenges for those going up against the Mad Ones. The Awakened built a tower of hubris 500 years tall, and the Storm knocked it down in an instant. Many were unable to cope with the change, and retreated deeper into Madness. Those locked in their Realms along the Horizon were driven Mad from isolation or surviving the ravages of the Storm. The Nephandi creep in through the cracks in Reality, but the Marauders come openly bearing familiar faces. The stereotype is of an unhinged sorcerer chewing the scenery with a frothing mouth (literally and figuratively), but the reality is that many of the Tradition’s and Technocracy’s most esteemed leaders went Mad after they were cut off in the Otherworld during the Storm. The Storm is passed and these once beloved (or feared) elders wish to return to their former students, and expect to be welcomed back with open arms. Their former students must now assess the degree of Madness, and whether or not they can be saved…or if its even worth it.

After The Storm

The prevailing theory on all sides is that the war within the Vadum of Forces (known as the Conflagration) caused a cosmic backdraft known as Storm (or Dimensional Anomaly). It’s not a bad theory given the sheer number of Archmages present, but its just a theory. No one really knows. The Storm is possibly the most significant event in the history of the Awakened, but it is also one of the biggest enigmas. Was it divine judgment? Was it a natural force? Will it happen again? Mages grapple not only with the nature of the Storm, but its aftermath order to move forward.

A World of Gods & Monsters

Looking back the later half of the 20th century was an era of unprecedented safety for the Sleepers. Prosperity, safety, health and abundance were everywhere. The almost assured Technocratic victory at the turn of the Millennium turned out to be a mistake. Under the Storm’s hard shadow, the Sleepers became apathetic and Reality’s possibilities became exhausted from the previous era’s warring. Magic was dying. Even the Technocracy’s procedures and hypertech increasingly drew Paradox. Now that the Storm has passed magic is flourishing again, but that has its price. The Storm tore free the wards and protections that held long sleeping evils at bay. Monsters have awoken and once again stalk the shadows of the Earth. Forgotten gods have come to settle scores. The Fallen and the Mad have crept back through the Gauntlet. Shallowings torn open by the Storm allow wonder and horror to walk the Earth. It’s not the mythic age its something much weirder than what came before. Mages now have to contend with new threats, strange bed fellows, and a world that needs magical solutions more than ever.

Otherworlds

The Digital Web is broken, the Realms are in tatters, and the Deep Universe remains dangerous to travel. Once a haven  for the Awakened, the Storm barred the gates to the Otherworlds. When the Storm passed, the Awakened could once again cross the Gauntlet, but found things were not as they once were. The barrier may be gone, but new unknown dangers lay in wait beyond. Now that it has passed, the Awakened must decide to pick through the wreckage, blaze new trails, establish new Realms, or resign themselves to Earth.

Returning Masters

For a decade, the Technocracy and the Traditions were cut off from their long-lived leaders. While many perished in the War in Heaven, the Conflagration, or in the Storm, a few did survive. Now that the Storm has passed some of these elders wish to return to the fold. Have they changed? If so, how much? Some can’t cope with the changes and wish to return to the pre-millennium Ascension War. Others want to be returned to their position of power they held before the Storm, and resent their younger fellows for not according this to them. Some don’t want to be found at all, but prefer to live out their days in their distant Realms, and must be persuaded or forced to rejoin their brothers and sisters. More than a few have either Fallen or gone Mad or both. The returning masters represent the best and the worst mages have to offer.

The New Ascension War

The Ascension War never ended. The mages who were waging it just realized they were using the wrong theater.  Mages have realized that the war is fought on multiple fronts, not just the in obscure Realms or mystic Nodes. The New Ascension War is fought in the Otherworlds, in the realm of ideas, but most importantly, in the hearts and minds of the Sleepers. The Technocracy has a leg up on the mystics, but they are by no means winning here. The Sleepers have begun to reject the technocratic dream, or worse, chery pick from it to form some mystic, technomantic fusion. If the Traditions, the Crafts, and the Technocracy truly believe in their ideals, if they truly want Ascension, then they must somehow make the Sleepers willing participants in the war. That means finding ways to put their ideas in terms the Sleepers can not just accept but understand.

Setting