Reality Zones

(5/5/2023): This page is currently undergoing revision. Don’t take any of it for granted.

The kind of Reality Zone the character is in will determine vulgarity. But there are a few tiers of zone. See Mage 20th pages 611-617 for the book’s fundamental overview of reality zones. What follows is an outline of how they work on this game.

Kinds of Reality Zones

Foundational Reality

Earthly Reality

The basic laws of the universe are virtually impossible to overcome. Hollow objects float and solid objects sink. Birds fly and stones fall. The sun shines and the moon rises. This is the Earthly foundational reality zone. On Earth, there is no escaping the shared belief that the world works a certain way.

Umbral Reality

The only normal way to avoid vulgarity penalties for such basic violations is to leave the Earth by going elsewhere, such as the Digital Web, a penumbra, the Hollow Earth, pocket realms, or someplace else.

However some Realms have rules and limits, and don’t treat all Foci equally.

Reality Zones

Technocratic Reality

There’s a reason the Technocratic Union claimed victory in the Ascension War: Most of the planet has stopped believing in Magick, to the point that Magick has stopped working in most of the world. The laws of science are the law.

However this is not the case to the degree that the Earthly foundational reality zone is real. It is possible for there to be hot spots that believe in alternatives.

Alternative Realities

As Mage 20th says on page 614:

“Localized realities extend from small areas (a house, a field, an underpass) to communities of several hundred people (a small town) or areas of several dozen miles. Higher populations – or really low ones – tend to lead a localized reality toward either Primal or Technocratic extremes. This localized reality syndrome allows mages to create Sanctums and Chantries, whereas Sleepers spread faiths, build churches, maintain cultural traditions, and use art, education, and technology to change their world in small yet significant ways.”

Urban decay, religions, borderlands and crossings, rural areas, regions of great faith, and areas of high resonance can create their own local pockets of reality. These are commonly thought of as “Reality Zones,” but in truth they are just a kind of reality zone that is rare and noteworthy. They stand out for being something other than the Technocratic Reality.

Hollywood Reality

Word has it that the technological paradigm rules the twenty-first-century industrialized world. And that’s sort of true. Sort of. But y’know who really determines what the average person in today’s world thinks of as “reality”? Hollywood and its associates in the mass-media industry.

Intellectually, we all know (well, maybe not all of us – lots of people clearly don’t know this) that Hollywood is in the business of selling illusions. Cars don’t really explode every time someone bumps into them; neighbors don’t really walk into one another’s homes without knocking, just in time to provide a zinger to their conversations; you can’t really hip-fire a chain-gun for five minutes without reloading, outrun explosions, or walk away from a 15-car pileup with a few streaks of dirt on your face and maybe a trickle of blood that you manfully wipe off as you swagger back into action. And yet, we do kinda expect real life to act like the movies and shows we see, even when we know they’re fake. There’s been several instances of ‘Reality TV stars’ making the transition to the ‘real thing’ as well, especially in politics.

Clever mages can exploit this illusory vision of reality. Especially in combat or other dramatic situations, the Hollywood reality factor blurs the boundaries of coincidence and vulgarity. Essentially, this is a variation on the Mythic Threads concept (see Mage 20, pp. 61 and 530), although in this case the Storyteller can rule that certain normally vulgar Effects are instead coincidental because they follow Hollywood reality. Obviously magickal feats remain vulgar (Harry Potter movies have not yet rendered flying broomsticks into the Consensus!), but many non-magickal feats that would be unlikely or impossible under strictly scientific principles might be considered coincidences if they fit into Hollywood reality tropes – wild car-chases, instant knockout blows, leaps from high places onto surfaces that would break every bone in your body, and so forth.

As always, your Storyteller has the final say regarding Hollywood reality feats. Also, Hollywood reality holds no sway in places where mass media hasn’t indoctrinated the populace into what is and is not “possible.” Technocrats consider Hollywood reality tactics to be fair game too, and such operatives are very good at using such tactics to their advantage – so good, in fact, that it often seems as though such absurd tropes are planted into films intentionally…

Primal Reality

What about places where people never trod, or places where the Technocracy never managed to conquer? These places manage to keep the old, primal reality from before the modern era. These places are said to be in the Primal Reality zone. Deep Wildernesses, communities of deep mystical belief, and places of power like nodes and wellsprings all hold out against the Technocracy.


Mages, through force of will, are able to create their own localized reality zones in confined areas. A personal sanctum or laboratory is the result.

The Rules

How they work

Reality Zones effectively have Foci. Some allow all Foci, such as most Umbras and the Primal Reality. The rest are restricted in some way.

Common paradigms will keep Magick working. Shared practices will generally keep Magick working. Merely shared instruments are not enough: just ask the Melanesians who cleared forested areas and built crude airports, hoping that they would attract airplanes full of supplies.

Because Mage Foci are relatively open ended concepts, gauging the similarity of paradigms and practices is a subjective decision that must be made by storytellers. Players should use their best judgement in casual scenes, and ask for help when it’s important.

The larger a Sanctum is in dots, the more flexibility it has in paradigms. A large Chantry-wide sanctum might support several related Paradigms perfectly well, but a small personal sanctum might allow no deviation from its Mage’s owner.

How they change

Reality zones change per the book. See Page 616-617 for a list of ways to alter reality zones, and convince people to think your way. These sorts of actions will be implemented on Liberation as Influence Actions and will use that system.

Conceptually, the Terranorming section of The Operative’s Dossier pages 90-91 describes how one might alter a reality zone. However, the scale of Terranorming in time and space is so large, these rules and requirements are beyond the scope of Liberation MUSH.

What can change

Foundational Realities cannot be altered, unless operating within a small realm controlled by Player Characters. They are too entrenched. Earthly Reality in particular has far too much social inertia.

A Sanctum’s reality an only be altered by its creator’s force of will.

The Technocratic Reality however can be challenged. This is a difficult task though, and may face resistance. Likewise the Technocratic Reality may be imposed, where it does not currently exist.