This guide is a Work in Progress. There’s a lot of useful information here, but also much more useful information that isn’t compiled yet.
I'm not saying that thinking is bad. Like everything else, it’s useful in moderation. A good servant, but a bad master [...] That’s to say we confuse signs, words, numbers, symbols and ideas with the real world. - Alan Watts
Awakening defines the mage. Whether she refers to it as some mystic inner god or the scientifically explainable Enlightenment of higher consciousness, her Avatar or Genius (as the Technocracy understands the concept) allows a willworker to do the things she does. Every Mage character has an Avatar of some kind, although some are more potent than others. The mage’s Awakened Avatar doesn't just grant them the gift of magickal power; it also shapes that mage’s approach to magick through its Essence. Therefore, mages harness their powers through enlightened will and belief, even as they are influenced by the patterns of the universe echoed in their own souls.
Traditions: Avatar Essences
Tradition Mages classify Avatars according to their perceived differences and place them into broad categories. As with all things magical, there is a wide range of beliefs regarding the true natures of Avatars and their actual categorization (or lack thereof). Although the Avatar is generally seen as a shard of Prime energy possessed only of whatever consciousness and drives it’s picked up through previous incarnations, there is no denying that Avatars do seem to have certain intrinsic characteristics. As such, most mages can agree on four general directions to Avatars: Dynamic, Pattern, Primordial and Questing
These various Essences describe an Avatar’s specific composition in Prime terms. Although Avatars carry different sets of memories or goals, most (if not all) can be classified according to the way that they operate. These methods, fractured as they may be, form Essences. Your mage’s Essence determines the basic motives and methods of her Avatar, and it determines what sorts of metaphysical systems she’s most comfortable with.
Technocracy: Genius Eidolons
As true scientists and Technocrats understand, the power some call “magick” is actually a combination of Enlightened will and advanced science. A flash of brilliance, literally an inner Genius, allows a person to comprehend things the Masses could never see or accept. As an upstanding member of the Union, you know this to be true. Even so, a little voice occasionally speaks up from the back of your mind, telling you things that you really shouldn’t understand.
Like most Technocrats, you probably dismiss this voice as an “eidolon”: a phantom voice from your subconscious, or possibly an archetypal image connecting you to the Universal Unconscious. The superstitionists call such things “avatar essences,” and they define them as restless souls driving them along some “mystic path.” Nonsense. You understand what this Eidolon truly is: an inner voice telling your conscious mind what your subconscious mind already knows.
Character Creation: Avatar & Genius
An Avatar or Genius is best thought of as an inner mentor who guides your mage’s Path. That can be a complex relationship that no one else will share. As your mage advances along her Path, that relationship might grow and change. The Avatar may become more insistent and demanding, pushing the mage to new extremes in pursuit of Ascension or a Fall.
As such, a character's Avatar or Genius is a major motivating factor when it comes to deciding which Abilities, Backgrounds, Merits or magickal powers your character will lean into and pursue in their post-Awakened life. It is a central plank for helping determine your character's goals and how they go about accomplishing them.
RP Guide: Portraying your Avatar / Genius
In Mage, a character's Avatar or Genius is the link to the reality-altering power that a mage has; its Essence colors how that power is employed and adds the mage’s personality quirks into the mix. It defines the style underlying a mage’s power and choices, even in learning new skills. This is what truly can define the differences between mages from the same sect and their slightly differing views of the path of Ascension.
Most mages have some affiliation: a faction to which they belong. In player terms, you can choose from among the Traditions – mages belonging to the Council of Nine Mystic Traditions; the Technocracy – agents of the Technocratic Union. There are several factions who are primarily represented by NPCs in Los Angeles. The Disparates who refuse to join either of the other supposedly important factions. Marauders are too chaotic and bizarre to fit in with groups of other willworkers. The Nephandi are hellish agents of ruin and blasphemy dedicated to bringing the other groups down.
Affiliation gives your characters common ground and a basic reason to cooperate. Although mystics from the Traditions and Disparate sects might reluctantly cooperate with each other, the Technocracy has little tolerance for Reality Deviants. However, all three groups agree that only the most depraved, desperate or insane individual would ally with any Marauder or Nephandi.
Harmony is found in the flow of What Is. To attune one’s self to that flow is so simple that it can take lifetimes to master. It is, perhaps, the lot of man to strive against that flow; certainly, the modern world is filled with distractions from such purposes. And so, the Akashayana, commonly known as the Akashic Brotherhood in the West, seek harmony in a world filled with chaos.
History & Philosophy: Deeply misunderstood among the Council as “peaceful warriors,” devotees of the Akashayana Sangha (“Order of the Vehicle of Akasha”) strengthen their bodies to cultivate their minds – and, by extension, the Sphere of Mind – in their pursuit of harmony. And yet, harmony often demands conflict. Just as the strings of an instrument must be struck before they can vibrate harmoniously, so too has the Brotherhood endured millennia of war. In the process, the Akashayana refined Do (“the Way,” pronounced doe), the primal martial art from which all others descend.
Do, however, is more than mere war techniques. Encompassing a range of spiritual practices from tea ceremonies to Tantric union, Do focuses a person’s essence, form, and intentions. Through relentless training, the student (or Akashi) develops the concentration he needs in order to discern the essential dissatisfaction of Samsara, the perpetual cycle or flow of existence. A Harmonious Brother (an honorific used regardless of the mage’s gender) strives to help all beings realize samadhi (enlightenment, Ascension) and liberate each Bodhicitta (Avatar) from the cycle of rebirth.
The Akashayana teach that in a Time Before Time, humanity’s world was a single Mount Meru; there, the Meru’ai people lived in harmony. It’s been said that the Celestines Dragon, Tiger, and Phoenix taught the Meru’ai the disciplines that would become Do. Eventually, however, the imperfections of this world sundered Mount Meru from its celestial foundations, scattering the Meru’ai throughout the mountainous region later called Tibet. From there, they supposedly brought their language and ways to India, Nepal, China, and points east. Those origins have followed them wherever they go.
Over the millennia, countless teachers – notably Gautama Buddha, “the Awakened One” – have incorporated elements of Do into Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, hatha yoga, and folk medicine. Akashi helped build Shaolin Temple and Angkor Wat; they overthrew tyrants, and their monasteries reached across Asia from Nepal to the Ryukyu Islands. In modern times, echoes of their teachings have spread worldwide.
The shunyata (primal emptiness) that underlies all things holds karmic traces of all past thoughts and actions. This imprint has several names –Merumandala, Akashakarma, the Universal Consciousness, shared memory, and more; modern Brothers, though, call it the Akashic Record. A quiet mind, freed of ego, can sense the Record, in which all consciousness joins in a single stream. Once immersed in Akashic mind-space, a seeker’s awareness helps him parse the collective memories of Akashayana throughout history.
That history includes awful times: the Himalayan Wars against the early Chakravanti; conquests and revolutions; the sect’s murderous rivalries with the Wu Lung, Dalou-laoshi, and rival Akashic groups; the Boxer Rebellion and its opium trade beginnings; Mongol invasions and Kamikaze Wars; the Screaming Ghost Purge and Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. Akashics have trained samurai and disemboweled themselves for honor; they’ve raised katars with the Rajput, stormed the Forbidden City, starved in Pol Pot’s Killing Fields, and turned to ash at Hiroshima. The outer calm of an Akashic masks deep pains and passions from every age and every conflict, and the dreadful karma from those times lingers even now.
Several constants link all Akashi, regardless of culture: discipline, which the study of Do demands; empathy, nurtured by connection with the Akashic Record; fitness, honed by the pursuit of Do; respect, sharpened by intense apprenticeships; and focus, without which one cannot attain even the most limited understanding of Do. Across the globe, they share the same terminology even when divided into different groups.
Today: The popularity of martial arts culture has brought many initiates to the Akashic Path; sadly, the modern world’s various distractions make this a difficult Path for all but the most dedicated aspirants.
Organization: The Brotherhood is essentially led by the Kannagara, monastic ascetics of the Phoenix Robe sect. Today, however, lots of power resides with the Shi-Ren (“Benevolent Aristocracy”), a faction of politically active traditionalists who want to expand Akashic influence in world affairs. Tradition mages in the West most often encounter warriors of the Vajrapani (derisively called “Warring Fists”) and the eclectic iconoclasts of the Li-Hai, who seek enlightenment through heroic experience.
There are many regional factions within the Akashic Brotherhood, and in the past, they have not been shy about going to war with each other or in the waging of epic vendettas. It is a great misconception to think of the Brotherhood as having anything remotely resembling a united front except on the deepest philosophical pillars of their existence (such as opposing the Technocracy).
Initiation: At temples, ashrams, and dojos across the world, Sifus (Masters) and Sihings (Adepts) accept disciples who display open minds and serious purpose. Each teacher typically teaches only one pupil at a time. Akashic doctrine maintains that every person must find his or her way to enlightenment; as a result, Akashayana receive very little guidance or encouragement. Many frustrated pupils give up on this Path; those who persist, however, cultivate impeccable fitness of mind, heart, and body.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "The engaging illusions they construct distract them from the transcendence they strive to achieve."
Affinity Spheres: Mind or Life
Focus: “Magick” is actually self-perfection and cosmic harmony. To master such Arts in the proper Way (Do), a person must expand awareness in all things, clarify thoughts, focus the body, and subdue emotional confusion. Asian alchemy, craftwork, faith, yoga, social dominion, and martial arts training allow a Brother to channel life energy (chi) toward astounding feats of physical, mental, and energetic achievement. As a result, common paradigms include Bring Back the Golden Age, Everything’s an Illusion, It’s All Good, and occasionally Might is Right.
Heretics and idealists from the world’s monotheistic creeds, the increasingly embattled Celestial Chorus heeds the voice of the Divine. All living beings, conjured and animated by the One – by whatever name that One is known – can join that Song and shape Creation. Defying their varied orthodoxies, Choristers teach that the Song has many harmonies. A person of faith can hear it and approach the One through different creeds. And for their tolerance, the Singers have endured a bloodied history of martyrdom.
History & Philosophy: Chorister liturgies tell of unity and division, triumph and heartbreak. The oldest plainsongs recount the First Age, the Shattering, when the One’s pure unity was broken, and the First Singers, mortal heroes of boundless faith, who confronted and subdued the broken spirits of flawed entities.
Pentatonic chants resurrected from Egypt’s 18th Dynasty recall the blind priest Mentuhetep, who brought Pharaoh Amenhotep IV to the worship of the Sun god, Aton. The Pharaoh’s city, Akhetaten; his new name, Ikhnaton; his fellow worshippers, the Sacred Congregation, of disparate lands yet living in harmony – of all these things and more the Chorus sings. Then their chant becomes a dirge: jealous priests of the old faith destroyed Ikhnaton’s city and tried to wipe him from history. The Congregation dispersed across the Middle East.
And then, a rising melody, its counterpoint low and dark: For 16 centuries, diverse and fractious groups of Congregants grew in strength. First came Mithraic mystery cultists, guarded by Roman shields; later, after the Christ’s Ascension, a sect called the Messianic Voices. To suppress corruption in the nascent Roman Church, Messianic mage Claudius Dediticius founded his Knights of Archangel Gabriel, Messenger of God. He could not have imagined that the Gabrielites would eventually become the Cabal of Pure Thought, forerunners of the Technocracy’s New World Order.
Discordant notes herald the War Song: through simony and indulgences, king-making and cruelty, the Cabal amassed temporal power. Its rigid ways and rampant abuses, such as the barbarous Albigensian Crusade, drove away “heretical” magi. During the Western Schism, these Antinomians fostered new movements: Waldensians, Hussites, and the Heresy of the Free Spirit. They reached out to like-minded spirits in Isma’ili Islam and the Bektashi Order; to the Majestic Kings of the Zoroastrians; even to the Hindu nationalist scholar-warriors, the Vishnudharadhara (“Vishnu’s Sword”). Such ecumenism was heretical, but Antinomians knelt to no Earthly authority, whether Church or State. And for this, they were hunted. The flames of the Inquisition burned hot. Meanwhile, in wars of words among themselves and of magick against Hermetics and the witch-folk, the Congregants faltered… if never in devotion, then certainly in progress.
A new harmony: Valoran, a French bishop hiding from the Inquisition, reunited the Messianic Voices and made peace with the Pagans. In 1461, with their gravest breaches healed, Congregants from every monotheistic faith presented a unified face to the Council of Nine as the Choeur Céleste.
Slow descending chords: as the Order of Reason rose, the new Chorus declined through persecution, massacres, and intolerance. To divide and conquer, the Cabal – and later the NWO and Syndicate – fostered centuries of culture war among the western faiths. And though fundamentalism strengthens the Chorus’ paradigm (many Sleepers still believe in miracles), it also destroys the message of divine unity.
Even so, Choristers still preach that message. More to the point, they live it. Among the Traditions, the Chorus is perhaps the most compassionate… and it certainly speaks loudest, as a whole, for the welfare of the Masses. Although certain members can be fanatical, not even the primitivist Singers are religious fundamentalists in the way Sleepers understand that term. To hear more than the simplest notes of the Song – and then survive within the Council – a Chorister must transcend dogma and embrace faith.
It’s not all peace and love, of course. Old wounds linger between this group and its companions. Out of necessity and faith, the Chorus still wrangles with this tricky alliance, debating where and when to draw lines with “friends” who practice loathsome Arts. Still, the Tradition’s visionaries present the Council with proof of what united tolerance can bring. “We Sing in harmony,” they insist, “and so might we all.”
Today: With regards to stickier theological nuances (the gender of Divinity, the limits of tolerance, the roles of Christ and the Prophet in the Divine plan, ethno-cultural implications, 'holy' wars and that sort of thing), modern Choristers deliberately avoid taking an official stance (having nearly shattered their own sect by trying to find one right answer for every question in the past). This careful ecumenism has disillusioned the more zealous (some few of whom have turned to more dangerous, resurgent philosophies and creeds that many hoped were extinct in the Modern Age), and left others unsettled yet with nowhere else to turn. There’s plenty of tension in the ranks as a result, but at least no one’s getting burned alive over it anymore.
Organization: Hierarchical since the Roman Republic, the Chorus was lead by its Curia for much of the last 1500 years, a 17-member synod of Chancellors and associated finance officers, tribunes, notaries, and liturgical commissioners. The most respected (or best connected) Chancellor would be awarded the ceremonial position of Pontifex Maximus. In the past, each Chancellor would themselves ideally command a territorial staff of Exarchs, sometimes called bishops. Exarchs would then supervise local leaders called Presbyters (priests or elders), who present this Tradition’s human face.
It is difficult to discern as of 2020, especially since the events of the Avatar Storm, how much of this sacred hierarchy has truly preserved itself. The Curia's handle on events seems patchy at best in the last decade of a world descending into ever more vicious religious and sectarian strife. It has become comparatively rare to find an Exarch who can undeniably trace his authority to a Chancellor, and no way for younger Choristers to audit just who elected that Chancellor whatsoever. This lack of transparency has also fueled a drifting towards smaller yet better organized and more zealous splinter groups.
Initiation: Presbyters seek recruits through social outreach in church organizations. Some worshippers spontaneously Awaken through powerful religious experiences, particularly those involving music. Each new apprentice, or Catechumen, undertakes rigorous instruction from an experienced mage called a Præcept. Like many forms of religious training, this instruction involves matters of doctrine, personal discipline, and – obviously – lots of singing lessons.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "'My father's home hath many chambers'. Though I might not understand them all... might even, God forgive me, hate a few... I choose to remember that we all receive Divinely guided grace."
Affinity Spheres: Prime; Forces or Spirit.
Focus: The Arts flow not from personal achievement or intent but from faith, unity, and harmony with the Divine Will. Singing – especially many voices joined in harmony – provides this Tradition’s oldest and most important instrument. Chorister magick tends to manifest in light, fire, warmth, harmonic vibrations, and sublime music. Faith and High Ritual form the core of Celestial Chorus practices, so the group’s paradigms include Creation is Divine and Alive, Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, and, of course, It’s All Good – Have Faith.
Consciousness is both a playground and a trap. Infinite in possibility yet limited by necessity, the human mind is the seat of everything real… at least as far as human beings are concerned, anyway. And so, the Ecstatic Tradition expands reality by expanding consciousness. If you rearrange perceptions, they believe, you also rearrange potential.
History & Philosophy: To members of this “cult,” magick flows from altered consciousness. A mind unfettered is a mind released from limitations and thus capable of anything. Because consciousness depends upon limitations in order to function, though, a mage must be able to slide in and out of an open state. Thus, Ecstatics have crazy eyes and eccentric manners that seem compelling yet frightening.
Despite their image as snuggly hippie-kids, Ecstatics can be the scariest mages around. For starters, they’re intense and unpredictable. Many are not, as the saying goes, good with boundaries, and they tend to say and do inappropriate things, like kissing enemies and laughing at pain. They’re reckless by normal standards and often pull stunts that unAwakened folks could not survive. Passion is a sacrament they indulge to exciting and often uncomfortable extremes. “Extreme,” in fact, is a good way to sum these mages up. They are, by definition, ex: outside, beyond, no longer a part of what has come before or after.
Often linked with the 1960s – perhaps the high point of this group’s influence – ecstasy is among the oldest Paths on Earth. Primal humans, according to Cult lore, ate psychedelic mushrooms and thus opened the conflux between spirit, animal, and homo sapiens. Even now, Ecstatics see themselves as living gateways between flesh, spirit, and imagination, bound to all three and transcending each; in honor of their ancestors, many employ entheogens – drugs that “open the god within” – not as vices but as tools of sacred illumination.
For a while, especially during its psychedelic heyday, this Tradition wore its 'cult' moniker with pride, despite the term's sinister implications in the popular imagination of the West. However, there have always been just as many who preferred the more mysterious and melodic name of Sahajiya (sa-HA-gee-AH, or “the Naturals”) among many other variations. Indeed, to most people, they are simply guru, yogi or teacher.
Since those origins, Ecstatic mages have lived beyond the bounds of respectability, devotees of a left-hand path that embraces sex, drugs, music, dance, pain, pleasure, risk, and even death in the name of divine madness. Seers and shamans, rake-hells and prophets, these mages run with Sleepers who aren’t afraid to go beyond. And yet, largely thanks to their reliance on extremity, Council Ecstatics have powerful ethics. The Code of Ananda – the Cult’s commandments – forbids these mages from forcing their Path on unwilling partners. “Passions,” the Code declares, “are the seat of the Self, and if they bleed, so too does the Soul.”
Today: More than their esoteric peers, Ecstatics enjoy the company of unAwakened folks. Challenging Sleepers to shake off that sleep, these mages favor art, music, and bohemian and neotribal subcultures – environments where they can reward courage and inspire creativity.
Organization: Informal and nomadic, this Tradition’s loose structure reflects its focus on individual transcendence. It has several subsects but few leaders as such. Cultists tend to congregate at festivals, raves, concerts, and other tribal gatherings, mingling with “sleepwalkers” who tread the line between Sleeper culture and full Awakening. For the most part, this group favors influence over organization. Each Ecstatic is encouraged to follow his or her own Path, so long as that Path doesn’t violate the sacred nature of other people. The only rigid element in the Sahajiya Path is the Code of Ananda and its emphasis on compassionate respect. Everything else is negotiable.
Initiation: Five Steps to Ecstasy: 1: Surrender your fear; 2: Focus your intentions; 3. Open yourself; 4. Attune yourself; 5: Repeat Step 1. To help a new Ecstatic into Step 1, a mentor challenges that person to leap beyond his fears and then use his intentions to fly instead of fall. Diksham – the mentor/ student covenant – provides a safe space for the initiate to learn magick and control. Often, mentors and students become lovers, opening a channel of intimacy and trust that goes beyond mere sex. That’s not a rule, though, and compulsion is considered the worst sin an Ecstatic can commit.
After initiation and initial training, a mentor often pulls away from her student, trusting him to find his own way. She’ll provide advice or secondary helpers, but she refuses to become a crutch. In order to grow along this Path, a mage must shape his own triumphs and mistakes.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "A bunch of tight-assed academics who're often scared to push beyond the obvious limits of their disciplines and embrace everything they could be on the other side of those expectations."
Affinity Spheres: Time; Life or Mind.
Focus: “Get out of your own way” sums up the Ecstatic paradigm. To touch the Lakashim (“Divine Pulse”), a person must blow open the doors of inhibition and fear. Magick is the communion between a focused mind and the Lakashim – a dance of possibilities directed by crazy wisdom. To perform it, an Ecstatic guides Ojas (life force) energy with conscious but flexible intentions. Ideally, a mage operates in a flux state in which neither time nor inhibitions block the life force – aware of what she’s doing and yet open enough to do anything.
The Cult’s infamous substances and stimulations are meant to blow open mental doors and blast away obstacles to Enlightenment. That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, those same tools can become obstacles in their own right. Smart Ecstatics, then, keep shifting their tools around to avoid stagnation and dependence on “the same old shit.” Crazy wisdom is the core of this group’s many practices, which include everything from gutter magick, yoga, and martial arts to cybernetic hypertech. And so, paradigms include Creation’s Divine and Alive, Everything is Chaos, It’s All Good, and quite often Everything’s an Illusion.
Earth has a voice. Not many folks can still hear it. Long ago, all people listened to that voice – the beat of Life and the song of Spirit. Pride, however, has driven wedges between our world and the spirit realm. It takes strength and vision to hold on to that primal connection in spite of all the distractions of modern life… even more so when that modern world has tried everything in its power to break you. And yet, the Dreamspeakers and their people refuse to be broken.
History & Philosophy: Endurance is perhaps the best word to summarize the Society of Dreams. Its vision has endured. Its people have endured. The Tradition itself has endured ignorance, slavery, division, oppression, betrayal, marginalization, stereotyping, and a simplistic view from outsiders that has likewise endured long past all reasonable expectations. Aside from the group’s staunch allies in the Verbena and Ecstatic Traditions (and often including them as well), the Council’s view of the Dreamers has remained paternalistic and patronizing for over 500 years. And yet, they endure.
It’s appropriate that this Tradition had not one founder but two. Naioba and Star-of-Eagles both heard the call of their spirits in very different lands, yet they transcended their differences to fall in love with one another. The sacred marriage between these female and male devotees inspired a diverse confederation of African, Native American, and Asian visionaries, for while that marriage was a ritual, the love involved was real. Although their romance ended with Naioba’s assassination by a Vision-Mocker, that love, with its many symbolic ties, still holds the group together.
With few exceptions, the Kha’vadi (“those whose vision shapes the world”) come from indigenous cultures or their technological descendants. Some embrace modern fashions and technologies, whereas others favor their ancestral ways. Though the Tradition holds a handful of European, Oceanic, and Asiatic spirit-workers, the vast majority of the group hails from Africa or the Americas. Often referred to by the Siberian word shaman, they’re more properly thought of as medicine-people: folks who use natural healing gifts rather than selfish magick. Instead of bending reality to their will, the Kha’vadi work with reality… not the twisted reality of the Technocratic world but the deeper reality of the World Spirit in its many forms.
Thanks in part to its healer nature, this Tradition gets stereotyped as a bunch of bongo-beating throwbacks. That impression is absurd. Kha’vadi are spirit warriors fighting to save a sick world from itself. Especially in recent years, the Dreamers have become more militant than they’ve been for centuries. Groups like the Red Spear and the Ghost Wheel Society defy the Tradition’s “stoic savage” image, with a newer faction, the Akinkanju (“Unbroken”) believing some wounds can only be cleansed with fire.
Today: These days, a new vista offers fresh hope: the Internet – a global connection network with its own spiritual aspect. Computer-minded Kha’vadi realize that the Digital Web has a consciousness… and by extension, a soul. The practical tools of social media allow Dreamspeakers from across the world to meet up and reconstruct their roots, and the spiritual side of the Digital Web nurtures a growing technoshamanic movement whose possibilities and repercussions reach further than anyone, even the ’Speakers themselves, can imagine…
Organization: Although the shamanic Path tends to be solitary, medicine-people can be quite social. And so, this Tradition combines a respect for autonomy with the supportive network of a (albeit somewhat loosely defined) tribe. For centuries, many Dreamspeakers preferred to wander their own roads; in recent years, however, the group has returned to the community-centered focus of many pre-imperial cultures. Separation, after all, has been a liability. With stronger bonds between them, the ’Speakers share a greater voice.
In previous ages, Dreamspeakers met in distant corners of the spirit world – even forming Realms where the Old Ways remained untouched. Recently, however, the Unbroken Folk have turned their focus to the material world, meeting in both rural and urban settings, often gathering at powwows, hip-hop shows, block parties, and neotribal festivals. Social media groups, too, provide meeting grounds for the new breed of Dreamspeakers. In all cases, the previous solitude has shifted toward a more social focus.
Even so, Kha’vadi remain distinctly informal. Elders are respected by their younger peers, but youthful vigor feeds the future and earns its own sort of respect. The longwinded titles favored by “the White Council” sound stupid to the average ’Speaker. Deeds and wisdom speak louder than laws.
Initiation: Like his Tradition, a Dreamspeaker survives apparent death. Part of his initiation involves ritual (sometimes literal) demise; that passing brings the shaman into the spirit realm, where he faces trials and challenges. Assuming he survives that ordeal, the kaimi (“initiate”) becomes a so-cha (“disciple”) and returns to the mortal world with fresh insight and greater vision.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "Despite all their admirable qualities, I trust the ones I must, consider a rare few of them my friends, and keep eyes in the back of my head open for the next inevitable failure."
Affinity Spheres: Spirit; Force, Life, or Matter.
Focus: Medicine, not magick, is the essence of Dreamspeaker Arts. An avatar is Howahkan: the mysterious voice that speaks to those who are ready to hear it. Sorcery is an egotistical and ultimately destructive Path that leads people away from the Good Road of harmony with the World Spirit. To reach past the illusions of mortal life, one must listen to Creation’s heartbeat, face death, and remain open to the voice through which all life speaks.
Practice-wise, ’Speakers favor medicine-work, craftwork, shamanism, crazy wisdom, and faith. A few pursue cybernetics, yoga, Voudoun, and witchcraft, but their companions often shun them. Common paradigms include A World of Gods and Monsters, Creation’s Divine and Alive, Bring Back the Golden Age, and sometimes Might is Right.
Death is not an end but simply part of a larger cycle. Life picks up where death leaves off, and death finishes what life begins, bringing it back around for another go at things. Sometimes, a life becomes toxic to everything nearby. At that point, death becomes a blessing… a blessing the Euthanatos Tradition is ready to bestow.
History & Philosophy: The Euthanatos… or, more correctly, Euthanatoi… see themselves as keepers of the Wheel. That’s a problematic duty, with fear and corruption its perpetual companions. The will to live is strong, and so the “good death” mages often find themselves cast in the murderer’s role. Even the kindest of them – the ones who become medical professionals, priests, grief counselors, and so forth – spend most of their time around death and its complex passions. Each member of the group has himself died and been reborn. In a literal sense, the Euthanatoi carry a bit of death everywhere they go.
The most common names for the Thanatoics outside North America and Europe is Chakravanti (“people of the Wheel”), or Niyamavanti ("people of our Rule"). These names have become increasingly common as immigration from regions like South and Southeast Asia have greatly accelerated in the last few decades.
Reincarnation forms a vital part of this Tradition. These mages don’t just believe in it – they know from personal experience that reincarnation exists. Rooted in a fusion of reincarnationist creeds from India, Greece, Africa, Tibet, and elsewhere, the group keeps the Great Wheel spinning. In the old days, this was easier. People lived, they died, they joined the Wheel and returned to live new lives. But between the spread of one-life creeds, materialist atheism, resuscitation techniques, titanic wars, and the sheer number of living and dying people, the Great Cycle has been jammed.
Today: Abominations like vampires and other undead things have multiplied. The material and spiritual realms have been packed with ghosts of many kinds, and although the Avatar Storm might have offered a housecleaning of sorts, the Wheel has required… shall we say, more direct forms of maintenance. And so, the Chakravanti have, all too often, been forced to become killers. Even so, life, not death, is the true heart of this Tradition. Above all things, the Wheel must be maintained.
Organization: Like their Verbena and Ecstatic allies, the Chakravanti pursue a sometimes sinister Path that other mages often fear and rarely understand. Yet among the Traditions, this group is perhaps the most ethical. Their awful responsibility demands no less. The group’s strict code – the Dharmachakra, or “Eight-Spoked Wheel of the Law” – emphasizes the Cycle (Samsara); unity of all things (Advaita); acceptance of mortality (Kala); responsible guardianship (Pravitra); self-control (Dama); compassion (Daya); avoidance of temptation (Tapas); and the personal experience of death and rebirth (Punarjanman). Although the group itself lacks rigid hierarchies, all members of this Tradition are expected to know and follow this code, on pain of final death and removal from the Wheel.
This strict code requires strong bonds between mentors and initiates. As a result, although the death-Tradition contains many different sects, the relationship between a teacher (Acarya) and her student (Chatra) is essential. The Chatra swears a Vrata (“life-oath”) to both his mentor and to the Tradition as a whole. Breaking that oath disgraces not only the student but the teacher as well… and compels the Acarya to hunt her student down for punishment.
Initiation: Each Thanatoic mage undergoes the Diksha: a ritualized physical death. Returning from the Shadowlands, that person undergoes a long apprenticeship that includes memorizing the Niyama and learning the many arts of healing, fate, and murder. Such apprenticeships can last for years and typically involve quests, tests, and challenges in which the student confronts the awful implications of his Path. Without that awareness, after all, a “death-mage” is exactly what people think he is: a monster who’s everything this Tradition has sworn to destroy.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "The most fascinating parade of visionaries, misfits, bastards, and heroes ever to walk the Earth and survive the experience for long."
Affinity Spheres: Entropy; Life or Spirit.
Focus: As masters of life, death, Fate, and Fortune, the Euthanatoi view magick as an extension of the Cycle. By turning the Wheel, these mages control probability as well as the forces of mortality. That turning focuses on the cyclical nature of existence, and so a Chakravat uses practices and instruments like crazy wisdom, faith, High Ritual, medicine-work, reality hacking, martial arts, shamanism, and occasionally Voudoun to direct those energies toward the desired end. Yoga has an essential place in this Tradition’s Arts. Divine Order and Earthly Chaos might be the group’s most common paradigm; others include Everything’s an Illusion, Creation’s Divine and Alive, and even, believe it or not, It’s All Good – Have Faith.
Just as Solomon bound spirits to his bidding, as Merlin raised a stable boy to kingship, as John Dee named Elizabeth’s realm an Empire and then anchored it in time and space at Greenwich, so too do the Houses of Hermes turn the hidden wheels of the world. Their Arts are the most refined, their knowledge the most exhaustive, their Wills the most dedicated to excellence. In many minds (most especially their own), the Order of Hermes defines the word mage.
History & Philosophy: As the largest and most organized Tradition, the Order of Hermes has influenced – they would say “defined” – the Western experience of magick. Hermetics command a huge range of secrets and wards. Their wealth is vast, their Wonders potent, their libraries breathtaking. The Order boasts the greatest number of Chantries, Masters, and Archmages. Its achievements include the first codification of magickal study, the formulation of the Spheres, and, indeed, the formation of the Traditions themselves.
Still, the Order has faced setbacks and catastrophes: the loss of both its greatest Chantry, Doissetep, and its leading Master, Porthos Fitz-Empress; the extermination (some say “self-destruction”) of its most powerful luminaries; the devastation of priceless archives. Yet the reaction from other Traditions appears to be a collective sigh of relief. Why?
Because Hermetic wizards are, to a one (and to a fault), meticulous, pedantic, majestic, and haughty. The Preface to the venerable Hornbook – a thick volume presented to each new apprentice – captures this attitude in one paragraph:
“What mage in any rival Tradition, of whatever skill, can boast the comprehensive knowledge of our least Adept? What other mage can offer any shred of theory to support his magick? The aboriginal shaman with his drums and rattle gives over his body to a spirit he knows not. The cleric with his song begs like a child for the favor of deities. The Ecstatic with his vice burns like a meteor and vanishes, and the witch with her blood-rites aspires only to procreate. Even the Akashic with his meditation and exercise seeks passive contentment in false belief. Meanwhile, the Hermetic with firm Will commands, ‘Do!’ And it is done.”
This bombast reveals the Order’s obnoxious confidence; the average Hermetic can back it up, too. Among the Traditions, only the Verbena and Dreamspeakers have as violent a history with the hated Technocracy. It’s no accident that the Craftmasons (themselves formed from a renegade Hermetic sect) chose to initiate hostilities by blowing up one Hermetic citadel and to stage the Convention of the White Tower in another. Nor is it an accident that Master Baldric LaSalle chose to host the Mistridge Tribunal – the first step toward the Grand Convocation – in the ruins of that first attack. An Ecstatic might have provided the inspiration, and the Verbena might have secured new allies, but the Order of Hermes forged the foundation upon which the Traditions have been built.
Even rival Traditions accept the Order’s vast and spectacular history. In ancient Egypt, two auspicious precursors invented the alphabet. Archmagus Solomon bound many spirits that still serve the Order today. Pythagoras founded the cult of Hermes in Greece. The Corpus Hermeticum, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus (“Thrice-Great Hermes”), forms the basis of the modern Tradition. Even Sleepers recall a few Hermetics from those storied times: Merlin. Paracelsus. Saint- Germain. Cagliostro. From Gandalf to Crowley to Potter, the popular acceptance of magick has arisen from Hermetic archetypes. In the new millennium, the group enjoys more popular acceptance than ever before.
Today: The Masses might not pursue the Hermetic Arts, but in a subconscious sort of belief, they accept the Order’s ways as the face of Western wizardry. And so, though their various setbacks have cost the Order dearly, Hermetic mages greet this age with renewed vitality. The loss of the Archmages, the destruction of Doissetep, the war against vampires, the purge of corrupt House Janissary… they’re all like the collapsing Tarot Tower: the shattering of bondage that compels transformation. This age’s Hermetics are rolling up their sleeves and remaking the Order from its foundations while keeping those foundations – confidence, knowledge, excellence, and Will – intact. Guided by a vision of the City of Pymander – the ideal of global Ascension under Mystic Will – Hermetics remain committed to perfection. Given their high purpose, they can accept no less.
Organization: The Order is rigidly hierarchical, disciplinarian, and regulated. The Code of Hermes and its Peripheral Corrigenda dictate behavior, protocol, rules for certámen challenges, and the proper inscriptions for Chantry doorways. At least thirteen Houses still exist as factions in the Order’s endless, brutal infighting. Some Houses predate the Norman Conquest (Bonisagus, Flambeau, Quaesitor, Tytalus, Verditius, and the catch-all Ex Miscellanea); others are newer, less established and even quite recent (Fortunae, Hong Lei, Shaea, Skopos and Xaos).
Initiation: Recruited from academia, esoteric religious orders, science, or the military, a student must survive a punishing apprenticeship under an unforgiving mentor (a mater or pater). The Order recognizes nine Degrees of mystic advancement: Neophyte, Zelator, Practicus, Initiate, Initiate Exemptus, Adept, Adept Major, Magister Scholae, and Magister Mundi. The training aims to provoke, by the conclusion of the Third Degree, a gradual Awakening more akin to a process than to a single jolting moment.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "Despite venerable practices and occasional insights, our allies lack the discipline to achieve lasting power or control. Even so, they have stood with us for centuries, so they remain worthy companions."
Affinity Sphere: Forces provides the core of Hermetic training. Certain Houses favor Life, Matter, Mind, and Spirit as secondary pursuits, but Forces is always essential.
Focus: A Hermetic mage commands nothing less than the keys to the universe. And so, these consummate scholars master ancient and arcane rituals through constant study and intense practice. Tapping elemental currents through incantations, signs, seals, paraphernalia, and secret languages, the Hermetics are – by necessity – secretive and suspicious. They command tremendous power, after all, and their rivals lurk everywhere.
Alchemy, dominion, and High Ritual form core practices within the Order’s ranks. No Hermetic mage lacks such training. Certain Hermetics add chaos magick, the Art of Desire, hypertech, craftwork, weird science, yoga, and occasional malficia to that core, pursuing such paradigms as A Mechanistic Cosmos, Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, Might is Right, Tech Holds All Answers and, naturally, Bring Back the Golden Age.
The only thing holding humanity back from achieving its yearned-for Utopia is the smallness of its imagination. So long as individuals allow society and its rulers to dictate the size and extent of their dreams, mundane boredom and all its attendant suffering shall persist. Even the magickal imaginations of most of the Nine Traditions are hampered by what was allowed them in times past by the Powers That Be, whether those powers were shamans, pharaohs, or priests. Only the future is free of these chains, unset and as yet undreamt of. Only the truly bold can make the future real in the present, and the Etherites are nothing if not bold!
History & Philosophy: A society of radical technomantic dreamers, the original Sons of Ether proved unfit for the confined and suffocating paradigm of the Technocracy. Although they adopted their current name at the turn of the 20th century, these Enlightened Scientists are both sons and daughters of their rallying theory: that of Ether, that subtle substance that lies behind the guise of all phenomena in the universe. Sometimes criticized as a boys’ club by modern mages due to its early Victorian customs, the Society of Ether has always valued brilliance over gender.
The Etherites trace their lineage back to ancient Troy, although few outside the Tradition accept this claim. Their foundation of natural philosophy was reputedly established among the pre-Socratic thinkers of Greece and the Mediterranean, recorded in a book titled (by its Islamic translators) the Kitab-al- Alacir, or Book of Ether. As the first Inspired (that is, Awakened) attempt at a systemic natural philosophy, the Kitab is revered by Etherites, many of whom Awakened when reading it.
From a loose intellectual tradition practiced by disparate individuals, the group finally gained a societal foundation with the establishment of Hermetic House Golo in Medieval Italy. This eventually became the Natural Philosophers Guild, and then, in the Victorian Era, the Electrodyne Engineers, whose fascination with the novel power of electricity promised to liberate the common man from physical and metaphysical darkness. Such idealism remains the heart of this Tradition. The Technocracy could not crush it. World wars could not purge it. Neither skepticism nor failure nor claims that Etherites are all mad and reckless can prevent these luminaries from bringing their magnificent Science to the world.
Yes, by the standards of most people (even those lunatics with whom they share company), most Etherites are eccentric. Bizarre. Perhaps even mad. But such madness is the flare of a nova encased by an all too human shell. In a world determined to be small, the Society of Ether breeds heroes. If those heroes demolish labs, companions, even… um, cities… upon occasion, such casualties are the cost of true Enlightenment. And the world is improved thereby. Is not the current age proof of this? Flying machines! Recording technology! People no longer die by the thousands from plagues or starvation! (Well, perhaps except in those lands without much Science… a pity, that.) And so, despite its costs and obstacles, the Sons and Daughters of Ether remain dedicated to the advancement of wondrous Science!
As far as their fellow Traditions are concerned, most Etherites seem like selfish egotists, pushing paradigms wherein individuals can excel while leaving the Masses behind. Only the Etherites (so they insist) seek to bestow the benefits of Awakened Science on everyone. “All, or none!” is their creed. As a result, they strive for recognition – not only from their Enlightened peers but from the Masses most of all. Such acceptance, they know, reflects the striving human spirit – a spirit that looks toward Tomorrow and the many marvelous Things to Come.
Today: In the 21st century, this Tradition has come into its own. The influence of science fiction – especially its Etherian offshoot, steampunk – in popular culture allows them to stand proudly at the forefront of human endeavors. Among all Traditions, only the Virtual Adepts (and sometimes the Akashayana) enjoy similar allowances from Paradox. Modern reality favors this weird Science, and although Etherites occasionally overreach themselves and suffer the Paradox Effect anyway, the Society of Ether manages to get away with… well, “murder” is such an ugly term. Let us say, instead, magnificence.
Organization: Etherites, despite their boisterous talk about society, are often fractious and competitive. Fellowship exists as an avenue for seeking praise; criticism merely prods you to go back to the lab and do better next time. Although many Etherites bury themselves in research for weeks on end with very little companionship, they eventually seek the company of their peers, no matter how obsessive their work becomes.
Initiation: Prospective Etherites tend to be selected by true Scientists, based on some sign or evidence of latent genius. These prospective initiates receive a test designed to force them to confront the implications of their ideas. Most often, the would-be Scientist is left to discover a copy of the Kitab-al-Alacir, whose concepts often serve to Awaken the spark of bigger, brighter accomplishments to come.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "Fascinating allies, I suppose... but they call us mad?"
Affinity Spheres: Matter; Forces or Prime.
Focus: Science! Or, more accurately, an imaginative grasp of natural principles channeled through established physical and energetic technologies. Earthier than their Virtual Adept colleagues, these technomancers prefer to employ Science that can be seen, held, demonstrated, and confirmed even by the eyes of fools. To that end, Etherite Science is showy, romantic, and gracefully futuristic, even if that future looks more like classic science fiction than like mundane science fact.
As a practice, an Etherite may use anything that seems to work. Most Scientists, however, favor gloriously esoteric variations on alchemy, craftwork, cybernetics, hypertech, reality hacking, and, of course, weird science. Paradigms focus largely around concepts like A Mechanistic Cosmos, Everything is Data, Might is Right, and Everything’s an Illusion, but they usually boil down to Tech Holds All the Answers.
Life is shit and piss and blood. Pain and pleasure are inevitable birthrights. Our spirits are not some transcendent separate thing but are instead the raw vitality of Life itself. Drawing from among the oldest mystic understandings, the Verbena Tradition views life as a wondrous, implacable cycle – a dance of elements in which a mage calls tunes but cannot herself resist the dance. This view scares the living hell out of most folks, and that’s just how many Verbena like it. If you can’t hang with the truth, they figure, just get the fuck out of the way!
History & Philosophy: Like the herb for which they’re named, the Verbena (or, more correctly, Verbenae) excel at healing, divination, and purgation. No other Tradition understands Life magicks the way they do. Masters of shape-changing, animal affinities, plant craft, and weather work, Verbenae stay close to Nature in her truest forms… and some of those forms can be bloody indeed. Although it’s rare, the Verbenae have been known to practice animal and human sacrifice. More often, they carve runes in their own skins, endure hideous ordeals, subject themselves to painful deprivations, and perform other acts of self-sacrifice in order to avoid harming other beings. Every Verbena grove has a World Tree, the living symbol of Creation as a whole. These trees have been stained red by the rituals performed in those groves; the darker the red, the more powerful the grove.
Although the Tradition itself formed in the 1400s, Verbena roots run far deeper. Like many mystic societies, these mages trace their origins to primal humanity’s beginnings… and in their case, they’re probably correct. The primordial Wyck, they say, embodied the first fusions of spirit, mind, and flesh. Essentially gods, they soon guided the first human beings toward wisdom and magick. The Old Ways, say these traditionalists, are the inheritance left by those entities, and the Verbenae – and perhaps the Dreamspeakers – are its truest heirs.
These Old Ways are, by most standards, harsh. Blood, sex, passion in its rawest forms – these are the tools most Verbenae prefer. Cold iron, worked wood, fires kindled with your bare hands, natural clothing, organic foods… the simpler it is, the more powerful its effects.
Today: Although some Verbenae make concessions to the modern world – cars, guns, perhaps a favorite TV show or two – this Tradition, by and large, remains stubbornly archaic. And though they can be compassionate in their way, Verbenae have no time or patience for weakness. To them, the comforts of a technological world breed sickness and laziness. “Until you spend a month,” they’ll tell you, “in the wild with nothing but the clothes on your back… or better yet, without them… you don’t know jack shit about reality.”
Organization: Covens – often numbering 13, nine, seven, or three – make up this group’s foundation. Solitary Verbenae exist, but most members of this Tradition prefer to work in groups. Women outnumber men overall, and they’re granted more respect here than in most other groups. Many female Awakened gravitate toward this Tradition for that reason. Two leaders (taking priest and priestess roles although both might be male, female, or transgender) govern the larger covens, with a single witch in charge of three-person groups. Covens tend to favor older members over younger ones, and old-school covens can be quite autocratic. Although disputes often get resolved through votes, those votes might involve ordeals, tests, or combat.
This Tradition respects strong bloodlines. And so, whenever possible, Verbena covens follow family lineage. Each coven has a grove, though that grove might be a garden in the leader’s back yard. Large meetings occur eight times a year, during the two equinoxes, the two solstices, and on Imbolc (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1), Lammas (Aug. 1), and Samhain (Oct. 31). Plenty of Verbenae also gather at Christmas (Dec. 25) and on July 1, especially as shifts of climate and culture blur the distinction between Nature’s seasonal cycles.
Initiation: Verbena newcomers undergo a ritual death and rebirth. An intense period of study, testing, and meditation climaxes in a distressing ordeal – sometimes illusionary, often real. If and when the coven members are satisfied with the initiate’s trustworthiness and dedication, they call the elements as witnesses. As they were during the Burning Times, most Verbenae remain loyal unto death.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "We're siblings of the blood - quarreling, dysfunctional, often hating one another's guts... but we'll kick anyone else's ass if they mess with us. One for all, for better and worse."
Affinity Spheres: Life; Forces.
Focus: Verbena Arts concentrate on doing a lot with very little. Their tools are practical as well as symbolic, with uses that reach back to antiquity. “Pagan” in every sense of that word, these magicks hold deep ties to Nature. Shape-changing, transformation, healing and injury, divination, purification, growth and withering, natural cycles, and the tricky ways of Fate are witch-folk specialties.
To all Verbenae, Creation’s Divine and Alive. Because Creation, life, and divinity aren’t particularly nice, other common Verbena paradigms include A World of Gods and Monsters, Might is Right, Bring Back the Golden Age, and Everything is Chaos. Witchcraft is the group’s core practice, with certain individuals favoring Voudoun, dominion, weird science, chaos magick, yoga, martial arts, High Ritual, cybernetics, the Art of Desire, craftwork, medicine-work, and even organic hypertech.
What is real? When you see something, touch something, know something, is it real, or is it simply a collection of signals, bits of information, pieces of data that come together in your mind and make you think “This is real”? To the Virtual Adepts, everything– buildings, tools, plants, animals, people – can be represented as information. Figure out the code behind something, the Adepts claim, and you can figure out how to manipulate that thing, how to change it, improve it, or delete it. Since information is abstract, you don’t even need to touch the thing you want to change. If you know it, you can adjust it just by changing the code. And you can change the code from anywhere.
History & Philosophy: The youngest Tradition began as a Technocratic Convention that was alienated by its former allies. Too radical for their peers, these Difference Engineers questioned too much and aspired too far. And for their presumption, they were punished; Alan Turing, an elite mathematician and cryptographer, was disgraced and destroyed. His death created a martyr, and that martyrdom – combined with other persecutions – led to the Engineers’ defection and their rebirth as the Virtual Adepts.
That Technocratic past left a stigma that many mages remain unwilling to ignore. In return, most Adepts scorn the primitive methods of the other Traditions. Humanity, the Adepts believe, should not be subjected to limiting philosophies like religion, government, or nature. Instead, the Adepts strive toward a technological singularity in which humanity’s limitations get dumped as people remake themselves into something better, brighter, and post-human. Why focus on getting back to nature or praying to absentee gods, after all, when you can change the world – and yourself – so that you no longer need nature and can become a god?
As their moniker implies, Virtual Adepts spend lots of time in a virtual world. If you can interact with other people or even control objects of the real world from your online telepresence, then why bother with the dismal reality of a leaky apartment building and a body made of limited, mortal meat? Even in this banal Meatspace, however, Virtual Adepts surround themselves with computers, monitors, digital notepads, smart phones, and all the latest technological toys. The most elite among them, though, have learned to manipulate reality without tech… a feat that highlights the group’s command of the God Code inside Creation.
Today: For all their futuristic acumen, many Adepts have begun to consider themselves mages in the classic sense (in an interesting contrast to the Conventions they broke with in 1961). This is partly a result of increased exposure to Tradition philosophy. After all, do their Arts not remake reality through vision, technique, and Will? A modern Adept might not call what she does magick (though many of them do), but she regards herself as a child of Mercury, the Trickster/ Messenger God in the Machine. Like the Adepts, Mercury is everywhere at once, undermining assumptions with the audacity of his Arts. Especially in this era, when technology is both a road to freedom and an instrument of oppression, the world needs audacious tricksters. And so, the Adepts of the 21st century are growing far less virtual and far more real.
Organization: Merit-respecting anarchists, Adepts avoid standard organization and loathe conventional hierarchies. In the ‘90s, they based respect on eliteness: a form of peer recognition won through attitude and accomplishment. Though the tradition has matured and diversified since then, an Adept’s personal achievements – rather than titles or seniority – still mean everything in this group’s esteem. Cleverness, wit, technological creativity, and an astute sense of sociological reform mean more than a snappy handle or a keen online icon. There’s a special reverence for Adepts who tear down oppressive social structures… and a vituperative loathing for ones who support such structures in Meatspace or the online world.
Initiation: Virtual Adepts have a socially brutal initiation process. The idea of physical deprivation, master-apprentice challenges, or meditative spirit quests strikes them as absurd. Instead, Adepts typically give their aspirants and initiates cryptic missions to sabotage authoritarian structures, steal classified data, and create amusing pranks that undermine corrupt bastards and expose pompous windbags. At some critical juncture, the initiate gets left to fend for herself; a suitably imaginative (and hopefully stylish) resolution to the problem earns the accolades of peers and a place among the Adepts. In short, then, most Adepts enter the group through the grand Internet tradition of trolling.
Views on Fellow Traditions: "Ghosts in the machine - noisy, cranky, old as fuck, but haunting nevertheless. There's so much they have to teach, and so much more they have to learn."
Affinity Spheres: Correspondence/Data; Forces.
Focus: Everything is Data. Thus, in this Mechanistic Cosmos, every tool or practice an Adept employs focuses on shaping, altering, manipulating, gathering, storing, collating, influencing, or destroying information. Such tools range from the obvious computer gear (generations ahead of conventionally available tech), clouds, holograms, implants, nanotech, energy drinks, and sense-altering stimuli to the understated chic of dark hoodies, manga-influenced haircuts, fashionable androgyny, and provocative masks. All Adepts, however, keep the implements of their technomagick handy. For many Adepts, computers are a more important part of one’s identity than any attire or accessory. An Adept’s personal devices are almost always the most heavily customized and stylized elements of that Adept’s ensemble.
Perhaps the most accomplished reality hackers alive, this Mercurial Elite also employs various forms of cybernetics, hypertech, weird science, martial arts, chaos magick, gutter magick, and sometimes shamanism, Voudoun, crazy wisdom, or witchcraft with a technological flair.
Humans are weak, but technology makes us strong. Over generations, scientists have augmented humans with state-of-the-art tech, improving bodies and minds. Mass media disseminate news about these new inventions in order to uplift the Consensus; the greatest innovators of such enhancements, though, perfect their creations in absolute secrecy. Under the aegis of the “Clockwork Convention,” elite Technocrats create hypertech devices in secluded laboratories and then deploy them to the Front Lines of an improved reality.
History & Philosophy: Through many iterations of such progress, Enlightened visionaries develop integrated masterworks to surpass mere humanity, striving to meet their greatest challenge: artificial intelligences that can replace the flawed human mind. These Enlightened Scientists seek cybernetic perfection; with each generation, their creations improve. The state of the art is the current incarnation of Iteration X.
Refined over millennia from visionary artisans to posthuman mechanistics, Iteration X commands the most impressive firepower and most disciplined military capacities in the Union. Its military operatives boast weaponry as integral parts of their bodies, from energy-packed blasters to kinetic chain guns. Various enhancements make these agents faster and stronger than their all-too-human rivals. Meanwhile, clones conditioned in laboratories and trained as Kamrads bolster their ranks. Such operatives pride themselves on efficiency, each individual working as a part of a much larger machine. Despite the Convention’s military rep, not all Iterators are soldiers.
Iteration X specializes in innovation, hyperefficiency, mass production, and statistical prediction. Some of the group’s most visionary work is virtual, not physical, relying upon elaborate simulations and organic/ mechanical integration technologies. Enlightened analysts simulate endless variations of events to predict outbreaks of anomalous phenomena, supernatural deviance, and other chaotic disruptions before they occur. Some operatives refine diverse skill sets, coordinating various operations through interconnected thought processes. Others appear perfectly mundane but are anything but that when you get beneath their skins.
Today: The Convention’s most dangerous agents and weapons remain too advanced for Earthly Consensus; developed in remote facilities (off world, whenever possible), these armatures are shipped in from labs and factories filled with sublime hypertech. In the old days, the machine-realm called Autocthonia represented a near-mythic reflection of sublime perfection. New-millennium Iterators seem less dogmatic about cybernetic refinement – perhaps because Autocthonia fell victim to a Dimensional Anomaly, or maybe just because “Borging out” doesn’t seem quite as cool as it used to be. Even so, when humanity Ascends, they believe, all of reality will be recast in mechanistic perfection.
Organization: Iterators employ chains of command that dictate missions with mathematical precision. Ideally, the operatives and their Convention work as parts of a larger machine, setting aside autonomy and ego. Both agents and supervisors are expected to perform to their utmost ability, sacrificing themselves, when necessary, for the greater good.
Among the lower ranks, Socially Conditioned Iterators work exclusively with one another, refining their teamwork and proving their value. Successful agents gradually achieve free will, greater trust, upgrades, enhancements, and cross-Convention assignments that reward efficient flexibility. Experienced Iterators learn to critique and question their superiors but also to wait until the right moment to do so. For most Iterators, gray areas are unacceptable; instead, each action becomes a binary choice, swiftly evaluated as either success or failure.
Repeated failures condemn an Iterator to serve time as part of a mindless machine. The lowest-ranking operatives are little more than tools, and a powerful cyborg who cannot manage his resources must temporarily surrender his autonomy to more efficient external management.
Initiation: Sophisticated calculations (that is, Time-based Procedures) help Iteration X recruiters find likely personnel before those people reach Enlightenment. Soldiers, scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and even people with profound physical handicaps all provide suitable personnel, so long as they can accept an essential role in a greater whole. Previously Awakened recruits are rare, but they can be Socially Conditioned to accept assimilation. Once a potential initiate has been removed from the distracting imperfections of the Masses, a complex process of indoctrination, surgery, and enhancement shapes each Iterator into an effective and often Enlightened operative. Failed experiments, meanwhile, get deconstructed into Kamrads and Ciphers, creating an army of obedient workers and soldiers who act in unison toward programmed goals.
Views on Fellow Conventions: "Lacking our drive toward perfection, they do the best they can. Still, our Union would be more efficient if our comrades adopted our successes in place of their own limitations."
Views on The Traditions: "Forces of visionary chaos, doomed to be replaced."
Affinity Spheres: Forces, Matter, or Time.
Focus: The core of Iteration X science comes from the synergy between organic, mechanical, social, mathematical, and psychological elements. And so, cybernetics, craftwork and hypertech forge the foundation of this group’s practices. Innovative Iterators employ martial arts, social dominion, hypereconomics, and reality hacking – after all, even perfection must be flexible! A few even hold a demi-religious faith in the ultimate potential of The Machine; these days, though, they don’t often discuss that out loud.
A Mechanistic Cosmos presents the obvious paradigm for Iteration X. Clearly, Tech Holds All Answers. Math-inclined members of this Convention assure their comrades that Everything is Data. This group has no use for “fuzzy” paradigms, so the Sphere of Dimensional Science is an extremely rare discipline among its ranks.
Concepts: Heavy-weapons specialist, cyborg grunt, intelligence analyst, surveillance expert, fabricator, inventor, repair tech, clone supervisor, roboticist, tactician.
Knowledge grants power, and trueknowledge should be restricted to those with the appropriate respect for the power it contains. As masters of information and indoctrination, the agents of the New World Order alter data to enforce their vision of a perfect world. Masses, as these Technocrats understand, remain safest when they’re kept blissfully, ignorantly asleep. Humanity prospers best in a world where deviance is hidden, science is predictable, and controlled technology empowers those people who have the training to handle it.
History & Philosophy: The group’s now-infamous name comes from the philosophies of 18th-century idealists. Proposing a global state in which random elements such as primitive societies, art, magic, and even religion were abolished in favor of benevolently imposed order, these heretical masters began disseminating the concept through secret lodges and assorted allies across the world.
During Queen Victoria’s reign, this group consolidated its power within the existing Cabal of Pure Thought. Moving that group from a religious foundation to a secular one, the idealists purged their superstitionist peers through campaigns of truth reform and rhetorical intrigue. Reason replaced religion as the paragon of their newly ordered world. Joining forces with Inspector Rathbone’s Skeleton Keys, those idealists forged their metaphorical Ivory Tower with London at its center and Victorious Britannia its figurehead. By the time American conspiracist Robert Welch began spreading the term among the Masses in the early 1970s, the New World Order was many decades old.
The bedrock of this group involves control of information… and thus, of possibilities. To this end, the Convention employs a three-pronged strategy: eliminate dissent and Reality Deviance, consolidate information and Enlightenment, and propagate the image of a safely governed world. Using all three elements to reinforce one another, the Order strives to bring chaos to heel. It’s a titanic labor, to be sure, and one in which open conflict remains undesirable. Therefore, the NWO prefers covert action to overt action.
Beneath a cover of secrets and misdirection, the rampant elements of deviant reality can be taken down, erased, and revised to fit a more productive truth. Field-agent teams hunt down deviant elements for elimination or recruitment. Captured RDs get subjected to intense Social Conditioning sessions – refinements of the same Conditioning that errant members of the Technocracy undergo in order to bring them back into line. By the end of that programming, those Deviants either join the Union as productive citizens or else become will-broken ragdolls in the Order’s hands. Either way, they no longer threaten the Consensus.
Today: Information remains the currency of power and thus the cornerstone of all NWO operations. As such, the Order employs increasingly advanced surveillance techniques, enhanced field operatives, and sophisticated data-tracking processes to collect and assimilate intelligence throughout the world. And as ever, agents are standing by.
Organization: Reflecting that three-pronged strategy, the NWO employs three primary Methodologies to implement its goals. The Operative group sends agents – typically the Black Suits, though it employs less obvious agents too – into the field to address threats and collect intelligence. The Ivory Tower handles administration and implementation throughout the entire Technocracy and also disseminates controlled truths through Sleeper academia.
Meanwhile, the Watchers collect information, simultaneously circulating messages of control and complacency among the Masses so as to minimize chaos and dissent. All three agencies report to upper-echelon supervisors, who direct operations from safe distance. Meanwhile, two other Methodologies – Q Division and the Feed – provide support for the other operations. Technically a cross-Convention imperative, Q Division provides the field gear for Technocratic agents (NWO and otherwise), and the Feed assesses and guides the growing power of the Internet and its many social technologies. Within all NWO divisions, an ascending order of seniority (Black Suits/ Gray Suits/ White Suits) reflects what the Order calls the “purification of genius” and the formality of control.
Initiation: By reviewing standardized academic and vocational tests, scanning databases, and coordinating covert surveillance efforts, the Ivory Tower selects potential recruits. Generally, a new recruit dies to his oldlife and enters a newlife as a NWO trainee. Other recruits get converted from among the Union’s enemies, by way of the Order’s sophisticated Social Conditioning techniques.
Because these tactics can be very resource-intensive, the NWO bolsters its ranks with clones: unEnlightened constructs trained to act in unison, empowered with a telepathic hive mind, and chemically altered to disintegrate upon death. As a matter of course, the NWO subjects its agents to varying degrees of indoctrination and social conditioning, depending on individual performance and their roles out there in the field.
Views on Fellow Conventions: "We know their secrets; they do their jobs... or else."
Views on The Traditions: "A promising field of potential recruits poisoned by toxic ideologies and disruptive tendencies. Convert them when possible, exterminate them otherwise."
Affinity Spheres: Mind or Correspondence/Data.
Focus: In A World of Gods and Monsters, Might is Right and Tech Holds All Answers. Social dominion and the command of consciousness – that is, the influence, harnessing, programming, and reprogramming of the homo sapiens mind – provides the cornerstone of this New World Order’s techniques. To that end, psychic training, information manipulation, perceptual conditioning, and symbolic connections (like a man wearing a formal black suit and carrying a badge) provide the essential tools for NWO Procedures.
Physical media constitute the second level of manipulation, with the third and most brutal level – force – channeled through guns, armor, gadgets, hypertech vehicles, advanced weaponry, and the martial arts training all operatives receive.
Paranoia, however, is the Order’s strongest weapon. If people believe you can do something, after all, their belief tilts reality in your favor before you even begin to act.
Gods do not create and destroy life. Scientific laws do. With an understanding of such laws, then, nothing separates a man from a god. In fact, given the errant nature of gods, a dedicated scientist can improve on the decidedly unintelligent designs of natural selection and thus become greater than the capricious divinities of legend. The Progenitors – those Technocrats working toward beginnings – understand that the only things standing between flawed evolution and a new, improved strain of organic life are the understanding of organic principles and the willingness to reshape them to one’s own design.
History & Philosophy: Originating in the esoteric and often forbidden mysteries of life and death, this Convention retains the scary allure of its witchy forebears. From bloody-handed midwives and dirty-fingered herbalists to the hunters and domesticators of nature’s rough beasts, the Progenitors share their beginnings with the mystic Verbenae. But whereas the earthy Pagans kept their craft wrist-deep in entrails, the embalmers and physicians of the classical era studied the workings of mortality and the methods of transcending it. Medicine came first, followed by the manipulation of living organisms: adaptation, mutation, artificial limbs and organs, chemical enhancements… the possibilities seemed limited only by technology and fear.
But fear’s a powerful force. Despite their many victories and cures, these physicians remained pariahs among the terrified cattle they sought to save. Even when the healer Hippocrates established his Cosian Circle in ancient Greece, mortal terror haunted the practitioners of those fearsome arts. The descendants of that Circle joined the Order of Reason during the medieval era, but not even their tireless work to cure that age’s plagues could save some Cosians from flames and censure. Is it any wonder, then, that Progenitors tend to hold a chip on their collective shoulders?
When Darwin’s work popularized what the Cosians already knew – that life is organic adaptation, not divine providence – the Cosians adapted as well. Shedding their classical trappings in favor of Victorian formalism and the budding scientific method, these small-p progenitors continued to push the boundaries of healing and mutation. The First and Second World Wars gave them plenty of material to work with, and though some of those experiments were… shall we say, unethical… the data gained from 20th-century conflicts vaulted the Progenitors to the horizons of organic potential.
Today: These days, a Progenitor enjoys clean facilities and bleeding -edge technologies developed far outside Earth’s invasive ecosystems. Healing, cloning, genetic manipulation, viral evolution, chemical consciousness, biological mutation, animal crossbreeding, accelerated and controlled evolution, compound synthesis… their list of projects and accomplishments makes Iteration X look dull. Despite their reputation – even within the Union – as “Frankensteinians,” these visionaries retain the courage and imagination of their ancestors, bravely shaping new worlds from primal materials and fresh technologies.
Organization: Throughout its various Methodologies (Pharmacopoeists, Genegineers, FACADE Engineers, and the cross-disciplinary Damage Control), this Convention follows an academic hierarchy. UnEnlightened facilitators (janitors, lab assistants, receptionists) provide support for the ascending ranks of Students, Research Associates, Primary Investigators, Research Directors, and the mysterious Administrators. A ruthless but unEnlightened contingent of field and street operatives (backed up by the Conventions’ considerably more capable collection of clones, constructs, Victors, biomodified agents, and bestial projects) provides muscle when needed. The most versatile Progenitor agents learn techniques and Procedures from all of these disciplines, developing formidable arsenals of scientific knowledge.
Advancement through those ranks demands constant study, research, and innovation. Students must pass many tests, eventually providing and defending a thesis that demonstrates her mastery of Enlightened Science. Success means promotion to progressively higher levels, levels at which the various scientists contend for grants and resources. Investigators spend copious amounts of time working with teams of other agents to prove their loyalty and usefulness to the Technocracy. As one would expect, if they can’t publish successful results for the Union, they might perish for their failure.
Initiation: This Convention prefers to find potential recruits before they Awaken. Working with the Ivory Tower, Progenitor supervisors analyze standardized tests and search databases to find clever scholars with budding potential. (Recruiting Progenitors after their Awakening is more difficult… but the Union offers answers for troubled minds.) Promising recruits get tagged before medical school, sponsored with scholarships, and offered a chance for something more. If a recruit accepts, she receives training above and beyond what the Masses can offer; if she refuses, then the entire episode gets wiped from her mind and she just has a bad quarter, defined only by hazy recollections and a lingering feeling that she missed something grand. In the worst cases, the student ODs on recreational drugs or suffers stress-based suicide. The Progenitors hate to waste good material, but life isn’t always fair.
Views on Fellow Conventions: "The strong right arms of our scientific body."
Views on The Traditions: "A mud-smeared pack of evolutionary mistakes."
Affinity Spheres: Life and either Entropy or Mind.
Focus: The intricate enigmas and potential of organic life provide the foundation of Progenitor techniques. Upon that framework, an individual Progenitor can build a wide variety of innovations. Although specific applications must be scientifically defensible, the Progenitors employ a dizzying variety of theories and Procedures. That said, those weird science techniques typically demand the presence of a well-stocked lab and intricate, often time-consuming, labor. Any tool that a healer, scientist, or naturalist would use can yield miraculous results in the skillful hands of a trained Technocrat, but the Progenitors usually need time and space to work their miracles.
To certain evolutionists, Might is Right, paradigm-wise. Most Progenitors, however, favor the agnostic Gaia-hypothesis approach to Creation’s Divine and Alive. Cybernetics blend in with a hypertech approach to medicine-work, and the Convention’s eclectic methods often seem like weird science by the standards of other Conventions.
Money is power – not only because of what it can buy but because the very idea of money defines what people are worth. Words like “value,” “wealth,” and yes, “worth” reflect the influence money holds in human society. We define ourselves and view others in ways often based on fiscal ability. Notions of class and style depend upon the things that money can buy. And so, in many ways, the Syndicate is the most powerful group on Earth today.
History & Philosophy: In many ways, the Syndicate has always run the Technocracy. Where else, after all, would the Craftmasons have gotten the funds to build their cannons? How else could the Explorators have constructed their ships? Artisans and priests and knights all need money in order to purchase the tools and toys of which they’re all so proud. And since the earliest days, that money has come from the vaults of the High Guild. In return, the Guildsmen extracted taxes, tithes, and plunder at the same time that they set the agendas… and, quite often, the very realities… that governed the other Conventions. Though the Guild seldom got its own hands dirty, its operatives and funds spread the group’s influence across the human world.
Stripped of its gangland connotations, the word syndicate refers to “those who bring things together.” When the Order of Reason transformed itself in the 1800s, the High Guild (whose name, guild, refers to payment in gold) assumed that word as its name. While other Technocrats experimented in labs, chased Reality Deviants, or pushed the boundaries of science into the 20th century, the Syndicate brought them all together through the power of wealth. Bankers, tradesman, politicians, and the occasional criminal tied the world into a single profitable enterprise, linked by global commerce, diplomacy, and media.
From the international shipping companies of the imperial age to the pervasive corporations of today’s world, the Syndicate has literally banked on human progress. And so, although most of the Ascension War has pitted Black Suits and HIT Marks against desperate superstitionists, the Syndicate has consolidated the world into a handful of associated corporations… most of which it controls.
This sounds sinister… and yet, without trade and money, culture as we know it would be impossible. Language and mathematics evolved through trade; technologies spread through commerce; regulated monetary systems helped civilizations expand and prosper. Even Jesus understood the importance of “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Money and its attendant benefits are the rewards earned by hard work and imaginative enterprise. It stands to reason, then, that the people who understand those systems best should be the ones who benefit from it most.
Today: A common image of Syndicate operatives in the field depicts them as up-jumped gangsters at best – dangerous, certainly, but no match for true Enlightenment. And although there’s some truth to that impression (illegal goods, after all, are profitable - just as bullets are sure to be exchanged when a Tradition mage crosses an obvious Syndicate rep), it’s a carefully maintained camouflage that cloaks the true scope and power of this Convention. What that pitiful sorcerer never understands, though, is that the gun-toting bully they're ducking is as close to the halls of influence as most spell-slinging weirdoes will ever get. The real power rests comfortably in executive offices high above the fray. And those guys? The primitive wizards couldn't even begin to comprehend how the world and society is being moved and remade by them.
Organization: Organized like a corporation (or perhaps it’s the other way around…), the Syndicate descends in a top-down pyramid. At the apex sits a CEO and 10 Vice Presidents of Operations (VPOs) who head the Board; from there, the various Chairmen (or Vision Men) answer to the Board, supervising each Construct and Symposium. Managers answer to these Chairmen, and Associates (or Magic Men) answer to the Managers. Those Associates comprise the lowest rank of unEnlightened Syndicate ops, with Providers (a.k.a. Our Friends or simply Staples) rounding out the lowest duties and handling most of the busywork at the bottom of that pyramid.
Initiation: Talent, hard work, industrious imagination, and a gift for playing hardball mean everything in this Convention. Recruits often come from offices or business schools where scouts watch for rising stars… especially ones who are deeply in debt, incredibly skillful, or both. After a series of interviews, the would-be recruit is tested, employed as a Provider, and groomed for ruthless acumen and personal responsibility. If and when a prospective Associate reveals that she controls money rather than letting money control her, she receives a promotion to the head division. There, she begins to learn the secrets of desire and the means to manipulate reality’s bottom line.
Views on Fellow Conventions: "We've got a winning team so long as they remember which side their bread is buttered on, and forget who holds the knife."
Views on The Traditions: "Some gamblers don't know when to fold their cards and go home. If that means liquidating them entirely, so be it."
Affinity Spheres: Entropy, Mind or Primal Utility.
Focus: Ars Cupiditae, the Art of Desire, provides the heart of Syndicate methodology. Refined by the High Guild during the medieval period, this portfolio of techniques focuses on self-mastery and social psychology. Essentially, the practitioner disciplines his own body and mind, refines relationship techniques, and establishes a kingdom around himself that he gradually expands into an empire of subtle but compelling influence.
Except in the most desperate circumstances, a Syndicate rep never resorts to vulgar Procedures; even then, those Adjustments employ high-tech weapons, martial arts, or other stylishly technological methods. Most often, a Syndicate Associate manipulates people and systems with subtle yet effective nudges – phone calls, bribes, handshakes, perfumes, seductions, power lunches, PowerPoint presentations, hypereconomics, social domination, and so on – that get other people to pull the trigger while the Associate tallies up the profits. Might is Right in the Syndicate world; without it, civilization as we know it is on a One-Way Trip to Oblivion.
The universe is vast and dangerous. Like the savage frontiers of old, the many dimensions must be tamed, catalogued, and assimilated into a safely controlled cosmos. At worst, they should be sealed away so that the monsters on the other side cannot disrupt the Consensus… which they have a nasty tendency to do whenever they get the chance. That void must be engineered – not merely tolerated, but transformed. Since the Renaissance, the Void Engineers have endeavored to do just that.
History & Philosophy: In the tenuous balance between humanity and the Void, this Convention maintains a careful (and sometimes unsuccessful) foothold. Originally founded as two separate groups – the Celestial Masters and the Explorators (a.k.a. the Void Seekers) – the Convention discovered that the promise of Heaven Above was a lie; instead, a trackless Void stretched off into infinity, ripe with horrors that made the hells of Dutch painters look insignificant. As Explorators mapped out the mysteries of the human world, Celestial Masters began exploring that Void. In the late 1800s, the groups merged into a single faction. Its duty: to chart the mysteries and keep them from polluting the Earth.
On one hand, the Engineers pursue an imperial agenda of conquest and sterilization; on the other, they’re not wrong about the threats they confront. No Technocracy Convention has nearly as much hands-on experience with the unspeakably counter-rational Otherworlds and their equally ineffable hosts. The brain-twisting expertise of this Convention has allowed the Technocracy to shut down Nazi invocations, Marauder reality storms, and Reality Deviant strongholds.
The Void Engineers hold one goal above and beyond all others: defend humanity against everything beyond the Gauntlet. To that end, high-tech laboratories maintain barriers against unauthorized crossings; heavily armed marines seek and destroy anything that crosses that line. Alien incursions, mystical spirits, astral entities, and ghostly apparitions all pose threats to the safety of the human race, but the Void Engineers possess the tools and talent to oppose them all. And although most Technocrats hate to admit this, legions of extradimensional entities already hide throughout the human world, entrenched on the Front Lines of the battle for reality. Void Engineers track them down, using specialized training to hunt exotic prey.
To tip the balance between order and chaos, Void Engineers prefer to know their foes. They lead expeditions to extradimensional realms to study impossible creatures in their unnatural habitats. For the sake of survival, they’ll recruit Technocrats from other Conventions to assist them, but Void Engineers insist on leading the way. Research provides a common goal, of course. When the fate of the world’s at stake, however, a preemptive strike can buy a little more time for humanity.
Given these alien environments and pursuits, it’s not surprising that Engineers seem kind of odd. All too often, operatives return from off-world assignments as hollow-eyed malcontents in need of social processing. Indeed, the Wanderers have their own sanity division, the Descartes Institute of Mental Health, where Earthbound Social Processing is broken and replaced with a more suitable mentality. Despite their longstanding image as freewheeling space hippies or hammer-headed star-grunts, this Convention boasts many of the Union’s most dedicated and accomplished members. Each Engineer, regardless of her post, is a scientist; all other duties remain secondary.
Today: The Technocracy owes its remaining Horizon Constructs, ectoplasmic disruptors, dimensional specialists, and sentinel satellites to these Engineers, whose Border Corps Division steps in where cyborgs fear to tread. The Union also depends on this Convention for ensuring the raw supply of Quintessential energies, along with the Primal Utility of the Syndicate. And so although the Wanderers (an old name that still applies) might be the loosest cannon on the Technocratic gunship, they’re a damn powerful force, politically and otherwise.
Organization: Especially in the wake of the Dimensional Anomaly, Void Engineer groups follow military-style ranks: Technicians, Marines, and Cadets form the lowest echelon, graduating upward to become Enforcers (who guard the borders), Explorers (who chart new territory), Investigators (who pursue scientific inquiries), or Researchers (who develop new tech). Higher-ranking personnel within these levels assume command of individual units. At the highest level, a series of Coordinators handles the logistical and administrative responsibilities, overseeing the Convention as a whole.
Initiation: Recruiting personnel from among top-level researchers, tech geeks with an eye for unconventional applications of science, and folks who feel disappointed by science program cutbacks, the Engineers bring their Cadets off-world to specially designed training and research facilities. From that point onward, a Cadet is considered initiated whether or not she ever achieves Enlightenment – she’s seen too much to ever be considered mundane again.
Views on Fellow Conventions: "A fractured collection of useful allies to be guided, placated, feared, ignored, and occasionally destroyed as necessary."
Views on The Traditions: "An unstable bunch of cosmic riff-raff whose antics have done more to endanger humanity than every pack of aspiring Nephandi combined."
Affinity Spheres: Dimensional Science (Spirit), Correspondence, or Forces.
Focus: As every Engineer knows, only Tech Holds All Answers in A World of Gods and Monsters. Without imposed order, Everything is Chaos. And so, hypertech melds with cybernetics, craftwork, cosmic reality hacking, and a formalized type of weird science.
Mind-bending quantum physics, and the machines created to channel those physics, form the core of Wanderer beliefs. To that end, they adapt alien technologies and sanitized versions of ancient spiritual Arts, incorporated through reconciliation theories that bind those ideas and energies to scientific methods. In the Realms beyond Earth’s limited reality sphere, Void Engineer technologies have all the subtlety of a big-budget science-fiction film. Blasters slide out of holsters, power-armor suits become essential, and titanic Universal craft (that is, spaceships) are the order of the day.
A paradigm is a model that reflects the way something works. Mage paradigms represent the various belief systems that Awakened and unAwakened people use to understand the world they share.
Select one of the following paradigms:
That which we call “real” is a perception of a greater reality limited by our crude biological tools. By improving ourselves and our understanding, we learn more about what is beyond the window of our senses, and how to manipulate it.
“Matter” is energy, shaped by our perceptions into the illusion of solidity. What we perceive as reality is in fact a holographic illusion of a greater Reality that exists at the edge of human awareness. Every element of this illusion is preserved in every other one, resulting in an infinite replication from which nothing is truly lost or destroyed. Although we catch glimpses of the truth in fleeting phenomena (déjà vu, precognition, telepathic contact, synchronicity, and other related “impossibilities”), human existence as we know it demands limitations on what we can perceive. Awakening, however, removes the need for such binding and arbitrary limits. Ascension, then, involves opening one’s self to the infinite truth and realizing that everything we “know” is ultimately without substance, for All is One.
A scientific perspective of the Everything’s an Illusion and Creation’s Divine and Alive paradigms, the holographic reality concept draws from quantum physics experiments within the last few decades. According to neurophysiologist Karl Pribram, the world as we know it is a “world of appearances,” refined by human consciousness from a vast spectrum of interacting wave-forms. Although this world of appearances is “real” in most senses – inflicting boundaries upon what we can and cannot do within that world – it’s essentially a projection of a boundless interplay of energies that we set into “form” through our consciousness. Within this paradigm, “magick” (by any name) involves a recognition of, and an ability to manipulate, our world of appearances. Such feats, of course, are not supernaturalism, but science! Sure, ancient mystics may have first conceived of the truth, but it took science to prove its validity.
Whether or not you consider this concept to be a paradigm in its own right, or simply a new spin on an old idea, is really up to the player and her Storyteller. Even so, the holographic reality concept – detailed in Michael Talbot’s now-classic book The Holographic Universe – features a growing body of scientific research behind it. A character who embraces this paradigm (and who’s familiar with that research) can spin dazzling webs of implacable techno-logic to support her work… and since the theory has at least one example of conclusive proof in the existence of the Digital Web, this paradigm enjoys surging popularity among twenty-first-century mages – mystic and technomancer alike!
Associated Practices: Chaos magick, crazy wisdom, cybernetics, hypertech, reality hacking, weird science, witchcraft (in its newest forms), yoga (likewise)
Creation is an elaborate machine. Understanding how that machine works, either mystically or scientifically, allows you to work wonders.
Creation is essentially a machine. By understanding it, we can elevate ourselves to a superior state. All things possess an intrinsic sense of order, and chaos is an illusion that conceals a deeper form of symmetry. Although it’s most obviously identified with the Technocracy, this paradigm goes back at least as far as Classical Greece. The “divine watchmaker” concept from Enlightenment Deism, certain forms of Gnosticism, and the postmodern concept of reality hacking all stem from this image of a systematic and comprehensible cosmos.
To the mechanistic viewpoint, enlightenment includes a clear-eyed view of the cosmic machine. Through it might be perceived through lenses of godhead, those divinities are still part of the system. Magick, therefore, is an Enlightened Science through which a person tweaks the gears. Metaphysical practices are simply toolkits for the people who know how to tinker with reality.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Chaos Magick, Craftwork, Cybernetics, Dominion, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Investment, Legalism, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Weird Science, Yoga
The world is rife with beings both radiant and foul. The Awakened both channel and challenge these hidden powers.
In this view, Creation is fundamentally irrational, dangerous, and filled with powerful forces, most of which are hostile. Nothing makes sense for very long, and apparent safety can give way at any moment and plunge us into chaos. Magick, science, and faith are tools we use, like fire and steel, to keep the threats at bay; those tools give us a leg up on our ancestors, but in the end we’re all utterly fucked. Under this view, magick is a cosmic weapon, and using it makes you a monster too. Those gods and monsters hold the keys to magick, and if they like you (or if you kick their ass), they might share those powers with you… so long as your sanity holds out.
The dark side of existential philosophy, this model insists that everything is meaningless. Paradoxically, it’s both a very primitive viewpoint and a completely modern one. In the World of Darkness, it’s literally true – there really are vampires and evil spirits all over the place. Human beings are prey for beings that are essentially gods, and mages frequently become those godly monsters themselves. Although it often comes across as the mordant creed of Hollow Ones and other orphans, this model finds its way into the supposedly refined beliefs of many Tradition, Technocracy, and Disparate mages… and, of course, into the delusions of Marauders and the malicious truths of the Nephandi, for whom its reality becomes one of their greatest philosophical weapons. After all, when the werewolf’s at your door, the world seems pretty fucking irrational – and very obviously monstrous.
Associated Practices: Chaos Magick, Craftwork, Crazy Wisdom, Dominion, Faith, Gutter Magick, God-Bonding, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Malefica, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Mediumship, Reality Hacking, Shamanism, Voudoun, Witchcraft, Yoga
What the primitive call “gods” are advanced races and extradimensional beings. By understanding (or stealing) their secrets, the Awakened gain great power.
What we call “magick” is not magical at all. It is science – alien science. Advanced ideas advance humanity, and our ideas come from a source far greater than the human mind – not “god,” but the technology of advanced races from the stars. You can see their fingerprints all over human history: pyramids, ley lines, the weird coincidences that reveal more-than-human hands at work in our reality. Yes, you may call such things “divine providence” if you like, but the clear mind recognizes science when we see it. As for the idea of aliens – seriously, is the concept that much more absurd than the genocidal sky-faerie revered by the so-called “people of the book,” who worship Iron-Age mythology as if it had some relevance in a world that’s left such foolishness behind? Through mathematical probability alone, the idea of higher intelligences visiting here from alien worlds is infinitely greater than the probability of a raging father-god whose grand plans for humanity hinge upon madmen who wandered millennia ago through one of the least hospitable places on earth. You can have your superstitions – your earth-spirits and sky-gods and all that other nonsense. Higher beings do exist, the evidence for that conclusion is clear enough, but our benefactors and occasional enemies have been aliens, not gods!
To those who accept the existence of advanced intelligences but reject the quaint idea of gods, there’s only one acceptable paradigm: alien influence and technology. Certain folks who do believe in “gods” maintain that those supposedly divine beings are (or were) in fact, alien beings from a highly advanced world. On the darker and more nihilistic end of that spectrum, you’ve got the supposition (or worse still, the certainty) that our “gods” are illusions and that the true “lords of this world” are alien entities of malevolent intent… sleeping now, perhaps, but apt to awaken at any moment and plunge this world back into primordial chaos. The Latin root, alienus, means “of or belonging to (an)other,” and so regardless of the origins and intentions of these beings, the aliens are not us… and yet, something about us is reliant upon their presence and legacy.
The arguments in favor of alien technology that seems magical to us silly human apes include the apparently drastic uplift of humanity from all other primates, the staggering architectural feats of ancient peoples, the prevalence of alien-like presence throughout history, and the mathematical odds that there’s something else out there that’s not only intelligent but is far more intelligent than we are. For mages who’ve experienced the Umbral Realms (which many have), the presence of such unearthly landscapes proves the existence of alien worlds and entities. According to the Technocracy, all “spirit worlds” and “Umbrood” are, in fact, extradimensional alien realms and beings that seem, for the most part, to be malignant toward humanity. Alien influence and technology, then, feels like a far more rational and plausible explanation than “magic” or “gods.” As a result, this paradigm is especially popular among technomancers of all kinds.
According to this paradigm, Awakened Enlightenment is our perception of alien-inspired consciousness, and “magick” is an understanding of principles and technologies that un-Enlightened humans cannot grasp. The Avatar /Genius, then, is either an alien in telepathic contact with the mage, or else is a reflection of the mage’s own alien self. To some folks who adhere to this belief, we are aliens too… descendants, perhaps, of some greater race (which may or may not have had our best interests at heart) or their servitors. The legends we think we
know are actually stories about alien visitations, garbled by millennia of folklore and flawed, egotistical translations. The reputed Pure Ones were extraterrestrial voyagers or exiles, and they passed their knowledge down to us in a form we now consider to be magick. Those “magical treasures” uncovered amidst ruins and forgotten archives are technological devices and texts. Maybe Jesus or Lucifer were aliens. Or aliens parted the Red Sea for Moses, dictated the Quran, Analects, and Ramayana, or raised the pyramids with technologies humanity still cannot grasp. Those ideas may be blasphemy to most folks, but alien-intelligence experts consider them to be just the tip of an extraterrestrial (or maybe extradimensional) iceberg. From Atlantis to Area 51 and beyond, aliens guide us, direct us, perhaps feed on us, and may well destroy us. (All that “lizard-people” stuff seems pretty reasonable once you’ve had a glimpse behind the scenes at the World of Darkness, doesn’t it…?) As a paradigm, then, Aliens Make Us What We Are lays most, if not all, of the Awakened world and its mysteries into the oddly comforting embrace of advanced intelligences, with “ascension” as it were, being the final reconciliation between a human “mage” and the true masters of the human realm.
Associated Practices: Chaos magick (which has plenty of weird ties to Lovecraft and UFOs), craftwork (replicating alien manufacture, of course!), crazy wisdom, cybernetics, faith (in godlike aliens and /or alien gods), god-bonding (likewise), hypertech, invigoration, maleficia (especially of the “secrets from the Void” variety), martial arts (alien fighting techniques), mediumship (channeling alien entities), psionics, reality hacking, weird science, and postmodern variations on yoga
The Mage is a vessel for the divine. By petition, ritual, prayer, or even advanced technology(!) the Awakened can unleash the divine into the world.
“Awakening” is a lie. In reality, a mage’s power comes from God or His Adversary. A mage is merely the human conduit for Divine or infernal essence. All mages are thus pieces in a game of cosmic forces – favored pieces, to be sure, but still vessels of their patron’s will. A mage, then, must remain reverent of her maker, grateful for her powers, and open to the call of That Whom She Serves. By extension, though, a mage who does not serve the proper godhead probably serves a rival god… or worse, the rebel Adversary who opposes God and therefore becomes anathema to all good servants of the Lord.
In a slightly different light, that mage might draw her powers from a deep sense of love for her god. Rather than being a pawn, she’s a devotee – perhaps even, as with the Sufi saint Rabia Basri, a chaste “lover” of her god. (In certain Pagan and Hindu traditions, there’s nothing chaste about that love at all – it’s divinely erotic instead.) Divine power still flows through that person, but it comes as a gift of love, not a mark of ownership.
The obvious paradigm for deeply religious mages, this belief-system rejects the idea that magick comes from the mage herself. Under this assumption, Awakening, the Avatar, Seekings, the Spheres, and even the Willpower Trait all become manifestations of the mage’s divine patron. It’s the power of God, Goddess, or the Gods that flows through the mage; that human vessel can strengthen or weaken her devotion and belief, but the ebb and flow of power are beyond her. Although this view presents a radical departure from the self-oriented mechanics of Mage’s magick system, the character’s belief system rejects the idea that the mage controls her mystical abilities. Instead, it’s her bond with Divinity that allows her to employ those abilities. And while Mage’s rules don’t require a tie to godhead before a mage can access their magick, that mage’s own beliefs may deny her such access if she feels she has broken faith with her god.
Obviously, a player who selects this paradigm must have a comprehensive concept of the mage’s godhead and its associated demands. Roleplaying that set of beliefs provides an essential part of this paradigm; it’s vital to all of them, really, but most especially to a belief-system that asserts a deity’s favor as the source of a mage’s power. If the mage stumbles from her Path, then she’ll be called to task by her god(s), if only because her own mind insists that it must be so. And because many gods can be rather bloodthirsty (even the supposedly “good ones”), a true believer in this paradigm has another name to folks who might not share her faith: fanatic, with all the potential excess that word implies.
Associated Practices: Dominion, faith, god-bonding (obviously), gutter magick (those in the gutter are often those with the most faith in their divinity), High Ritual Magick (which often demands obedience to God as part of the ritual requirements), maleficia (so about those bloody-minded gods…), martial arts (“I kick ass for the Lord!”), medicine-work (often tied to faith in the Creator), Voudoun (in which most power flows from your connection to the Loa), witchcraft (the Old Gods)
All beings are acting out a cosmic script. The Awakened are primary players, or have been given room to improvise.
Maybe the Bard wasn’t being poetic when he expressed the idea of the world as a stage for actors playing our roles. Perhaps we really are acting out a pre-arranged show for the entertainment of cosmic voyeurs. Certain pre-determinist religious creeds, after all, insist that God already has a predestined plan for everyone and everything, and by such reasoning we are all playing out roles and stories that make sense only if you see the really Big Picture. On a more jaded note, it’s not inconceivable to think that the world as we know it is an epic reality TV show that’s being staged for the benefit of immortal viewers. We could be a huge Truman Show production wherein we remain stuck with a nagging perception that there’s more going on than we’re allowed to see. To all these variations of a paradigm, mages are the folks who get a glimpse backstage, and who get to chew the scenery in ways that few other “actors” can match.
A peculiar take on Gnosticism, the world-stage paradigm assumes that magick comes either from a favored place in the production, a realization that this is all a big show, or both. A mage might see himself as a dude who got a glance at the stage directions… or who slept with the casting director… or who’s especially good at upstaging everyone else while improvising
like mad. The improvisational aspect of Mage’s magick system fits this idea especially well, as Mage’s rules are based upon an improvisational approach to magick. (See the section about Improvisational Storytelling in Mage 20, pp. 342-343.) Even without improvisation, though, the idea that you’re an actor in a cosmic drama (or perhaps a really dark comedy) is a powerful one, most especially in this era of movies, TV, and other mass-media productions. Given the deliberately staged nature of life in the twenty-first century, doesn’t that paradigm make a frightening amount of sense?
If you really want to get meta, this paradigm literally is true for roleplaying game characters. Their world is a stage, and they are roles being acted out by players. Perhaps a few characters realize this, and – Deadpool-like – even comment on their situation. Sure, that seems insane to everybody else (see The Mad Masque? in Mage 20’s section about The Mad, p. 243), but when that conceit reveals the true nature of the characters’ situation, the mage who recognizes it certainly understands more about their world than one who does not.
Associated Practices: The Art of Desire, bardism, crazy wisdom (once you’ve seen the truth, you’re crazy), dominion, gutter magick (this puts the senselessness of life into perspective), hypertech, invigoration (“act well your part – there all the honor lies!”), mediumship (in connection with the real audience), psionics, reality hacking (“because I’ve got the script, motherfuckers!”), weird science
Those who have come before never really leave us, and when they pass on they become more powerful than we can possibly imagine. By communing with the Ancestors, they help and guide us.
Associated Practices: Bardism, Faith, Crazy Wisdom, Martial Arts, Mediumship, Shamanism, Voudoun
Lost civilizations and races had knowledge that eclipses our own, but time and cataclysm have buried their secrets. By discovering the shards of this Magick or Technology, the Awakened learn what the ancients knew.
The ancients understood more about reality than we ever will. Guided by profound insights –possibly also by alien helpmates, divine helpmates, or divine helpmates who were actually aliens – the primordial civilizations (Mu, Meru, Atlantis, Hyperborea, or whatever names those ancient peoples used to define themselves) employed advanced arts and /or technologies that have since been lost to all but a handful of modern folk. The mages who’ve uncovered those secrets, though, can use them to advance their understanding of reality and unlock the doors to vast understanding.
According to this paradigm – one that’s especially favored by certain Etherite factions, throwback technomancers, Theosophists, “ancient world” mystics, and, of course, the Akashayana – the decadent modern era has lost sight of true wisdom. Only by returning to the legacies of cultures that have been “lost” to the view of conventional history can a person achieve true enlightenment. Shortcuts exist, of course – otherwise all mages would pursue those ancient practices, which clearly isn’t true. Those shortcuts, though, contain the taint of corruption and the self-imposed limitations of decadence. Only the Revered Ancients possessed the purest sort of insight (see the Mage 20 paradigm Bring Back the Golden Age), and so only the mages who grasp such concepts may truly Ascend.
What sort of wisdom did those ancients possess? That really depends upon who you ask. Certain cultures, such as Atlantis, were renowned for advanced technology – tech that may appear “magical” to the uninitiated, and which might have caused the downfall of their civilization. Others, such as the “perfection” of Mount Meru, embraced metaphysical disciplines which brought fallible people closer to spiritual attunement. Psychic refinements, chemical compounds, achievements of musical harmony… all these tools are reputed to have been among the treasures of the ancient world. Some mages favor a single form of discipline (such as psionics – see pp. 203-204), while others employ a wide range of techniques and technologies that supposedly originate among the ancient culture of choice.
The Revised Edition Sons of Ether Tradition Book features Etherite scientists who favor ancient technologies, and the legendary Doc Eon included such secrets among his mental, physical, and technological arsenal. The Akashic Art of Do is reputed to preserve an unbroken legacy from the earliest days of human civilization, and the horrific Arts of certain Nephandi are said to employ the lore of demon-haunted cities and the implacable primal Void. The ancients, it seems, had a good many secrets… and if a modern mage can find wisdom among them, then that mage will light the shadows of the present with the fire of the past.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, animalism (“the Oldest Ways are best!”), bardism (Atlantean, Greek, and Chinese musicology), craftwork, crazy wisdom, dominion, elementalism, god-bonding, High Ritual Magick, invigoration, maleficia (those Old Gods could be pretty nasty…), medicine-work (“Your ‘modern medicine’ is lies and profits!”), mediumship, psionics (“ancient secrets of the mind”), shamanism, witchcraft, yoga
The world has fallen and is fundamentally disgraced or broken, but the Awakened can touch that lost ideal and briefly make it real again.
Once upon a time, goes this paradigm, everything was perfect. God or the Gods reigned in glory, and people held a valued, though submissive, place in this Earthly paradise. And then something broke it. Maybe that catastrophe involved disobedient human beings, rebellious gods or angels, an invasion of savage horse nomads, or some other upheaval that signaled an end to the Golden Age and the beginning of an era of misery. It’s an archetypal story that echoes from monotheistic scriptures to neopagan lore. We had a good thing once, it goes, and we lost it – so it’s up to us to win it back!
Magick or Enlightenment, in this system, comes from your connection to that Golden Age, its ideals, its ancient wisdom, and the power it once had and will have again. This belief finds its way into the Tradition stories about life before Technocratic rule… and also into the ideals of New Avalon, which are held by certain Technocrats. It provides the foundation for the Akashic Arts, which recall a lost sense of human perfection. In a warped sort of way, it even shapes a Nephandic point of view, wherein Primal Chaos was usurped by Light and so everything must be returned to the Dark before the proper order is restored.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Bardism, Craftwork, Dominion, Faith, God-Bonding, High Ritual Magick, Malefica, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Shamanism, Voudoun, Weird Science, Witchcraft, Yoga
There is a vital, living force behind all things, moving in a cosmic cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The Mage is attuned to the living world.
The world, perhaps even the universe, is a living entity. That entity is either part of Divinity or else is Divinity itself. Gods and monsters exist, as do pain, horror, and death; that’s cool, though, because in the end good things come from all the suffering. Death sustains life, life gives way to death, and the whole thing is a cycle that perpetrates itself in an ultimately beneficial way. Magick flows from an understanding of that cycle and your place in it as an agent of change. Everything, perhaps, has the potential of magick, but most beings never realize it.
Best recognized as a common perspective among Verbena, Dreamspeakers, Euthanatoi, Ecstatics, and other grimly affirmative mages, this model stresses pragmatic acceptance mixed with wild joy. Certain takes on Kabbalism gravitate in this direction too, with Creation as the infinite embodiment of ineffable God. Minus the god part, this paradigm has a scientific analog in the Gaia hypothesis, which insists that Earth is a living, vaguely sentient biomass. Certain Progenitors embrace this idea, especially in the 21st century, when that biomass appears to be fighting its human infection. Unlike the Gods and Monsters paradigm, this belief system essentially says that there is a point to the madness if you look at the Big Picture and accept that what we perceive as pain and horror are merely ripples across a larger spectrum of life.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Bardism, Chaos Magick, Craftwork, Crazy Wisdom, Elementalism, Faith, Gutter Magick, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Shamanism, Voudoun, Witchcraft, Yoga
Reality is created by our perceptions, but if our perceptions change, what is Real changes as well. Who’s to say what we call a hallucination isn’t real? The Awakened change perception, and so change reality.
“Reality” is the construct of our perceptual experiences. Rather than an objective existence that appears more or less as we perceive it whether or not we’re there to observe it (the old “if a tree falls in the forest” argument), the universe is actually an interplay of energies whose perceived forms come from the interplay of consciousness, perception, and interpretation. In plain English, we exist within a hallucination whose form is dictated by what we think it is, because “thought” is the only true measure of what is and is not “real.”
A scientific variation on the Everything’s an Illusion paradigm, this model of reality asserts that everything we experience as “real” comes from our perception of what’s going on. Because certain perceptions are commonly observed (rocks are hard, we walk on the ground, and so forth), our interactions within this mental construct are fairly constant, measurable, and communicable. Radical shifts in perception and experience, however, radically shift reality as well. I, for example, can say “I have a headache,” and you can relate to that experience because you’ve had one too; neither headache, though, can be measured by an outside source – scans can track dilating blood vessels, brain synapses, and so on, but only I know what my headaches feels like, and only you know what your headache feels like.
The reality of those headaches is “all in our heads,” so to speak. So are the color red, the sound of eagle cries, and the sensation of skin on skin. Memories are even more ephemeral, immeasurable by any “objective” form of observation or quantification, and yet “real” enough to cause physiological changes that are measurable. Such phenomena are all indisputably “real,” yet possess no material substance. Materialists assert that only the physical realm is “real,” but that clearly is not true. The existence of the Digital Web and its mundane shadow, the Internet, prove as much.
Jeez, no wonder we’ve got headaches!
Mages who assert this paradigm tend to be… well, “heady” is the right word for them! They speak in paradoxes, often employing terms that sound like a graduate student thesis on particle physics, as puked up by Carlos Castaneda during a midnight showing of The Matrix. Typically blending technological practices and instruments with brain-breaking mathematics and Asian metaphysics, these devotees of consciousness gravitate toward the Mercurial fringes of the Virtual Adepts, the more esoteric sorts of Etherites, and the tech-infused Ecstatic Cultists. That said, you’ll find this paradigm being argued among visionary Technocratic operatives too, especially on the fringes of Iteration X, the NWO, and the Void Engineers – Conventions whose sciences depend upon the interplay of physical and experiential realities.
Syndicate “magic men” have no problem accepting this paradigm either – money, after all, is a completely artificial reality structure whose entire value rests within a human comprehension of its worth. And so, despite the often confusing tenets of this paradigm, it’s a fairly common one among mages in the twenty-first century. “Magick,” according to such beliefs, is simply the Art and Science of adjusting one’s circumstances with the power of one’s consciousness, often by skewing one’s perceptions (and thus, by extension, consciousness) with drugs, music, meditation, mind-games, perception-altering technology, and similar methods of changing preconceptions to forge a new reality. And isn’t that more or less what Good Ol’ Uncle Al was talking about all along…?
Associated Practices: Alchemy (especially among all types of Solificati), Art of Desire/hypereconomics (“It’s all about what you think it’s worth…”), chaos magick, crazy wisdom (obviously), dominion (ditto that), High Ritual Magick (which is often all about changing one’s perceptions of “What is” into “What I want it to become”), hypertech, invigoration, martial arts, psionics, reality hacking (for which this paradigm is kind of a foundation), yoga (going back to the roots of the idea in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy)
The Earth is a flawed reflection of a superior order or ideal, which the Awakened can channel or realize.
According to the most prevalent belief system on earth these days, the material world is an imperfect reflection or creation of sublime Celestial Order. This paradigm covers the world’s three dominant religious creeds (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) as well as many strains of Confucianism, Hinduism, and other philosophies. Some believers see a cosmic Adversary opposing the Divine Order’s God or Gods, and others consider our miserable slab of mortal muck to be a corruption of godly Will or abstract Platonic ideals. (See Gnosticism in Mage 20, p. 39.)
Magick, in this perspective, comes from observance of and obedience to heavenly perfection, or else from the forces of adversity that oppose the Will of Heaven. Some believers, who may view the gods as archetypes that represent that Order, view this heavenly plan as the interplay of impersonal cosmic forces that are perfect in their own right; most, however, see Earth and its surrounding Realms as a titanic chessboard, with mages playing the role of valuable but ultimately expendable pieces in the game.
The obvious creed of monotheistic mages like the Celestial Chorus and the Ahl-i-Batin, this order and chaos model extends to polytheists (the Wu Lung), agnostic mystics (many Akashayana), and groups that straddle and blur the lines between mono- and poly-theism (the Bata’a, many Dreamspeakers). Even certain professed atheists, most notably among the Technocracy, accept a godless version of this idea, which merges the Order/Chaos concept with the Tech Holds All Answers paradigm below. With or without divinities, the core of the paradigm is that perfection exists, and although Earthly life falls far short of it, such grace remains attainable. Ascension, in this case, involves transcending our vale of tears and joining, if only as a servant, the grand Celestial Order.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Chaos Magick, Charity, Craftwork, Crazy Wisdom, Dominion, Elementalism, Faith, Gutter Magick, God-Bonding, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Maleficia, Martial Arts, Media Control, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Shamanism, Voudoun, Weird Science, Witchcraft, Yoga
Mankind is at the doorway of a vast change in consciousness and understanding, which the Mage is realizing before the masses. A belief shared by many New Agers who believe a new celestial Age is at hand and Transhumanists who believe the Singularity is imminent.
We’re on the cusp of transformation. That Which Is is giving way to That Which Will Be, and folks who can’t make the transition will be left behind. Power, then, belongs to those who embrace the threshold and ride the changes into a fast-coming dawn. The old will fall to the new, and all we think we know will become the lost fragments of a dying world. Generally, this paradigm fits into another broad model of belief – typically one based on gods, technology, or a “reality revision” enacted through changing consciousness or rediscovered wonders.
And because so many mages idealize a form of global Ascension, this threshold could be seen as impending Ascension on a grand scale.
A simultaneously ominous yet optimistic paradigm, this creed asserts that the world as it has been known is finished. Old magicks will be replaced by fresh miracles of faith or science. Apocalyptic monotheists view this as the End Times for a sinful world that will be purged of evil and set aside for the Chosen People. Futurists view it as the Singularity, wherein a buggy Reality 1.5 gets upgraded by a miraculous global paradigm shift. Transhuman visionaries see us shifting into an uplifted state and /or a significantly higher evolutionary stage, while oppressed peoples see their conquerors ground under the cosmic Wheel when the Ancestors return and everything is made right again. Hindu mystics look to the end of our Kali Yuga and the dawn of a rejuvenated Satya Yuga, when sublime truth and righteousness are reborn into our cosmos. Alien visitations, the unearthing of lost ancient secrets, psychic or physiological mutation – the threshold could be many different things. For mages who welcome the coming transformation, though, their Arts and Sciences tap into the coming shift and embody the new era.
Sadly, the current world first needs to perish – things need to get worse before they’ll transform. In Western alchemical terms, this process involves the dissolution of the old world (wherein the old forms are broken down), the separation of unworthy elements (during which the flaws are burnt away), and the conjunction of purified elements into a refined, superior form. Small wonder, then, that this paradigm is popular among alchemists, especially ones from the Solificati branches of both the Order of Hermes and the Disparate Alliance. Perhaps, through this refinement, the fragmented bits of that venerable order can finally return to a unified, and much stronger, state of being… one that, perhaps, will lead the survivors of other magickal societies into the rising glory of a transformed age.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, chaos magick, crazy wisdom, cybernetics, gutter magick (for obvious reasons), faith, maleficia (working to bring about that ending), psionics, reality hacking, yoga
There is no meaning to Creation, except that which we create or impose upon it. The Awakened will can dictate what is Real.
The core of existential philosophy, this paradigm insists that Creation is indifferent and possibly meaningless until and unless we choose to impose meaning on our small part of it. Magick comes from wrangling whatever cosmic mysteries or principles you believe in and realizing that your belief is the thing that gives them power.
Ultimately, then, magick comes from within. The Universe is an Etch-a-Sketch, and mages learn how to twiddle the knobs. At its extreme, this view maintains that nothing means anything… and that, perhaps, everything exists only in a mage’s head. Who’s to say this view is wrong? After all, the Universe might simply be a game played out in some mad god’s mind…
Associated Practices: Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Bardism, Chaos Magick, Crazy Wisdom, Dominion, Gutter Magick, Hypertech, Maleficia, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Witchcraft,
All that we call reality is an incredibly elaborate program. “Magick” comes from finding the code that allows you to hack into reality and change its parameters.
It’s all code.
That’s the theory, anyway. What we call reality is actually a simulation, a Matrix, a holographic projection that can be manipulated by anyone who knows the Reality Code. Variations on this idea include the concept of a God code that allows the Enlightened Elite to find cheats; a code interwoven into holy texts like the Bible, Qur’an, or Torah, or in divinatory systems like the I Ching or Tarot; a computerized take on the Mechanistic Cosmos paradigm; or the theory that everything is composed of waves and frequencies that can be adjusted with music or other methods. Regardless of the nature of that information, the paradigm remains the same: everything is data, and smart folks can work with that data.
For those who embrace this paradigm, the Digital Web is the ultimate smoking gun. Composed of living (or at least adjustable) data, the Web embodies this belief. The material world, of course, is far more complex, with eons’ worth of bugs and twists of code. Even so, a reality hacker knows how to scan that code, rewrite it, and tweak physical, social, and mental realities through a sophisticated understanding of essential data and the methods that command it.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Cybernetics, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Legalism, Media Control, Reality Hacking, Weird Science
Reality is a Lie, a quirk of consciousness or an illusion imposed upon us from without. The Awakened can push back against the Lie (or, more darkly, side with their jailers for power).
A dour yet prevalent view among mages is that Creation as we know it is a big fucking lie. It was created as a prison, a joke, or a project by malignant entities (Matrix-style Gnosticism); it’s a cosmic accident that only seems significant (a common view among Marauders, Virtual Adepts, and many Technocrats); or it’s an illusion obscuring a deeper Cosmic Truth that’s essentially benevolent or, at worst, indifferent (an idea often affiliated with strains of Buddhism, Hinduism, weird science, and existential philosophy).
In this perspective, magick comes from transcending the illusion and learning how to work the strings that bind up everyone else. Knowledge and understanding provide the ultimate Ascension from this painful shadow of Cosmic Truth. The flipside, of course, involves making pacts with the powers behind the throne. Many Nephandi view their Path this way. The entire world is a grotesque joke, goes their reasoning, so you might as well enjoy some perks along the way.
Associated Practices: Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Bardism, Chaos Magick, Crazy Wisdom, Dominion, Gutter Magick, Hypertech, Maleficia, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Witchcraft,
Everything is worth something to someone, and that worth can be perceived, understood, and manipulated.
Every economic system uses value as a concept. Everything is worth something to someone, and that worth can be perceived, understood, and manipulated. Value is more than just the amount of currency needed to acquire something, though many mainstream economists use it as their standard metric. It’s an intangible but vitally important concept to life.
Followers of this paradigm understand that and proceed to its logical conclusion. Everything, from the clothes on a person’s back to the beings that traverse the Deep Umbra, has an inherent value. When a practitioner tells a fellow mage “everything has a price,” they’re not engaging in cliché. They know that price, and understand its intricacies. Their magick comes from manipulating it.
While this can be used for traditional workings like the alchemical milestone of turning lead into gold, practitioners use it for much, much more. Enhancing their body increases its value, transporting to other realms is buying their way in, and summonings are nothing more than a business negotiation.
Exactly what determines an object’s inherent base value is a mystery among the paradigm’s practitioners. Their answers are based on the society they were raised in. Some believe that just as humankind creates its own reality, it creates its own values. Others claim a higher force imbues every object with a specific value at the time of its creation.
Associated Practices: Appropriation, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Charity, Investment, Legalism, Media Control
The world is dark, but there is a cosmic force or ideal of good. The Awakened has the power to make the world a brighter place.
This New-Age Gnostic conceit insists that Creation is ultimately benevolent. We suffer because we believe we’ll suffer; if and when we adjust our attitude, the world spills out its blessings upon us. Magick comes from refusing to be bound by common expectations. Energy is essentially a positive force, and a positive attitude can literally do wonders with it.
Although it’s easy to make fun of such a paradigm, such beliefs are remarkably effective in the World of Darkness. There really does appear to be a correlation between good fortune and an optimistic viewpoint. Maybe it’s simply the defiance involved – spitting in the face of hell, as it were. For whatever reason, this transcendent Pollyanna lends power to Ecstatics, Dreamspeakers, and other mystics (even the occasional technomancer!) who treat Creation more like a party than a funeral.
Associated Practices: Bardism, Charity, Craftwork, Crazy Wisdom, Faith, Gutter Magick, God-Bonding, Medicine Work, Mediumship, Psionics, Shamanism, Witchcraft, Yoga
The Awakened have power and knowledge that places them above others, that’s all that matters.
The Law of the Jungle rules a dog-eat-dog world. As we’re hurled through an indifferent cosmos, nothing matters beyond an individual’s ability to impose his Will. The truly superior man or woman excels because that person will accept nothing less than excellence. Anyone who cannot meet exacting standards is essentially agreeing to be fodder for the elite.
A ruthlessly popular paradigm, Might is Right takes its name and ethos from the book of that name by the pseudonymous author Ragnar Redbeard. Commonly called “social Darwinism,” it actually corrupts Darwin’s assertion that the most adaptable organisms survive. Ayn Rand and Anton LaVay cribbed this philosophy from a simplified version of Nietzsche’s übermensch ideal, and their adherents maintain that perspective through business, politics, and popular debate. Under this paradigm, truth is a useful illusion, fabricated and manipulated by society and those who govern or transcend it. “Right” refers less to a moral correctness (morality is for weaker beings!) than to the act of seizing your rights through superior might.
For mages, this paradigm heralds the triumph of the Will, rewarding Awakened Ones with a superior state of existence. Ascension, therefore, is an individual goal, with social Ascension being the ability to get lots of people to accept your dominion. Some versions of this paradigm acknowledge implacable gods; others forsake any form of godhood other than personal perfection. Ultimately, Might is Right challenges a person to transcend the herd and achieve excellence at the expense of inferior beings. Reality, to this perspective, is just one more bitch to be slapped around when necessary.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Animalism, Appropriation, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Chaos Magick, Craftwork, Cybernetics, Dominion, Elementalism, Gutter Magick, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Invigoration, Maleficia, Martial Arts, Psionics, Reality Hacking, Voudoun, Weird Science, Witchcraft, Yoga
Too much of a good thing is a great thing.
Accumulation of resources — especially valuable ones — is power. Sure, everyone claims they respect humble lifestyles. They participate in performative poverty challenges: feed your family on $5.00 a week; go a month without buying anything. But when the time’s up, they fill their shopping carts again.
Gathering things and keeping them for as long as possible makes life worth living. It doesn’t matter what you’re buying; simply having a higher collective total than someone else is enough. The man who only has more dirt than his enemies still has all the power he needs to bury them. Typically, practitioners collect liquid funds, real estate, grimoires, magical instruments, or whatever the mage feels would make them more powerful if they had it en masse.
If gaining things is an act of power, then losing those things is an act of weakness. Following this paradigm means holding on to gains, even if it ensures that others go without. In practice, their magick focuses on scarcity, whether it’s keeping the mage safe from it, or inflicting it on their enemies. When the mage casts spells, it is born from a place of superiority, every working the cosmic manifestation of the phrase, “I have more than you.”
Associated Practices: Appropriation, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Charity, Investment, Legalism, Media Control
One day all this shall end, either in a cosmic accounting, a squalid rancidity or a tranquil oblivion. The Mage might be an agent of the forces bringing about this end, or empowered to fight it.
A distressingly common belief attached to many of the other paradigms is that everything is doomed. Someday, probably soon, the whole house of cards will collapse, God will call us to account, and the heat-death of the universe will wipe away everything we ever valued, accomplished, or believed. For religious people, this End Times scenario means the extinction of this world and the beginning of a new one… preferably one where they’re in charge. Among agnostics and atheists, nothing fucking matters because it’s all dying anyhow. All that’s important is getting what you can, while you can, and enjoying the show before the lights go off for good.
Every faction has this belief among its ranks. The ticking clock that seems to define the World of Darkness reinforces a pessimistic view (Gehenna, Apocalypse, the Reckoning, etc). To these believers, magick involves taking whatever a mage can grab, from whatever source appears to work, and rattling those metaphysical keys in all the doors you can find, hoping to open a few. Time’s short, after all, so any tactic becomes fair game.
For obvious reasons, this is the ultimate Nephandic line. It encourages every sort of excess, from religious extremism to Randian selfishness. However, it also inspires the greatest acts of heroism. If Creation’s on a ticking clock, after all, then the greatest heroes may be the ones who can stop time, turn back the hands, or change the outcome when everything seems lost.
Associated Practices: Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Bardism, Chaos Magick, Crazy Wisdom, Cybernetics, Dominion, Gutter Magick, Maleficia, Reality Hacking, Voudoun, Witchcraft
The art of personal sacrifice — to take something that undeniably belongs to you and give it to someone who needs it — is inherently magickal.
There will always be people on top. Whether the wealthy believe they earned their way to that position or were lifted by their ancestors’ prosperity, they’re the cream of the crop. They have the money and power to prove it.
Despite being the de facto winners of the rat race, practitioners refuse to bask in their superiority. Those who have more have an obligation to help the less fortunate. This is for both emotional and mystical reasons. It’s difficult to enjoy a finer lifestyle when others outside their door suffer, and so it’s important to share the wealth — literally. The art of personal sacrifice — to take something that undeniably belongs to you and give it to someone who needs it — is inherently magickal.
Practitioners don’t settle for random acts of kindness. The difference between philanthropy and ordinary charity is simple: charity eases and soothes ills, whereas philanthropy seeks to eliminate those ills entirely. These mages walk a fine line, using wealth and power to create as big a change as they possibly can while ensuring they still have the means to make the sacrifices that empower them. Their preferred magickal workings tend to be large and dramatic, such as reviving old towns by restoring the Nodes that lay within them.
Associated Practices: Appropriation, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Charity, Investment, Legalism, Media Control
Adherents of this paradigm believe magick is a cosmic expression of social mobility.
At first, the followers of this paradigm, and those who follow Philanthropy in All Things seem alike. They both believe that they’re in a far higher standing than everyone else. They both agree they’re obligated to help the less fortunate. They believe in taking action to fulfill that obligation.
Adherents of this paradigm believe magick is a cosmic expression of social mobility. When the rich spend with impunity, their prosperity makes its way down to the lower classes, raising their overall quality of life and providing opportunities to elevate their social status. Trends in fashion, food, and entertainment start with the upper class and make their way down, creating new ways to get ahead. This same trickle down and upward push occurs over lifetimes, eventually leading to Awakenings.
Ensuring the safety and sanctity of mundane and mystical mobility is a slow and subtle process. Acting too fast or too bluntly not only makes the lower-class feel manipulated, it also attracts enemies. Instead, these mages act on a less dramatic scale, promoting magickal practices into Sleeper lifestyles or rebalancing a single person’s fortunes for the better.
Technology and Science allow us to understand reality and use that knowledge to achieve incredible things.
Technology is not a modern secular invention; really, it’s the other way around. The sciences we know of in the modern world are descendants of alchemy, sacred geometry, and other forms of refined knowledge with repeatable results. Most elements of modern science were once thought to be keys to God’s Creation, given to selected men (and occasionally to women) to enact God’s plans on Earth. Atheistic rationalism, therefore, comes out of inquiries made possible by knowledge once thought to come from the gods.
According to the dominant paradigm in the industrialized world, the universe is innately rational and understandable. Every question has an answer, and technology provides the tools by which we can understand them. Magick is simply science that hasn’t yet been accepted by the average person and may always be too advanced for most folks to understand. Although this is the default Technocratic worldview, the Technocracy isn’t the only faction that embraces it. Most Etherites, Virtual Adepts, Children of Knowledge, and even many Hermetic mages accept this belief. High Ritual Magick, after all, is just another form of technology, even if ritual magicians hate to think of it that way.
These paradigms aren’t exclusive, nor are they the only systems of belief among Awakened folks. Most of them cross over into one another, mingling End Times theology with Golden Age ideals and a Divine Order cosmology behind them both. When you decide what a mage believes, whatever she believes, you’ve got a good idea about what her faith, focus, affiliations, and goals will be. And considering how vital belief is in this magickal world, that’s a major – if often underrated – element of any Mage chronicle.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, Animalism, Art of Desire/Hypereconomics, Craftwork, Cybernetics, Dominion, High Ritual Magick, Hypertech, Martial Arts, Medicine Work, Reality Hacking, Weird Science, Yoga
The Awakened can transcend human limitations through Will and Skill. Nothing is impossible, with enough knowledge and desire. Don’t dream it, be it.
We are, according to this paradigm, beings of unfathomable power and potential. They more we believe we can do, the more we are capable of doing. Humanity’s blessing is its ability to change the circumstances of our existence, and our curse is to remain blind to that ability… or worse yet, to fear it and allow ourselves to be shackled by that fear. Perhaps the most coherent expression of the Ecstatic creed, this paradigm asserts that the greatest – perhaps the only – boundaries on our potential are the limitations we place upon ourselves or have placed on us by others. Magick, then, is the realization of greater potential, the willingness (and Will-ingness) to expand our selves, and the results of doing so.
On a lot of levels, this creed is obviously true. Humanity has consistently transcended our circumstances by innovating tools, language, culture, technology, and other instruments of change. When trapped, we look for ways to escape; when unsatisfied, we seek new horizons. Even now, in a world transformed beyond the dreams and nightmares of previous generations, we’re endlessly looking for new ways to hack our limitations and become even bigger and better than we believe is possible. Small wonder, then, that many mages accept this paradigm as a given whether they phrase their beliefs this way or not.
To live utterly without limits, however, is not just impractical – it is literally madness. The Marauders demonstrate that principle, and even they experience certain limitations even though the boundaries of the Mad are not the boundaries most mages understand. It’s been said that human beings (and other living organisms too) perceive the world through limitations simply because we need to be able to function in it. If Creation is infinite – as it apparently seems to be – then by definition it can’t be perceived as anything less than infinite unless you break it down into comprehensible – and thus, limited – divisions which can then be moved, held, stood upon, spoken of, apprehended and maneuvered in ways that we limited beings can understand… at which point, we’ve imposed boundaries on infinity again. The only way, it seems, to truly transcend our limitations is to stop being what we are and become something boundless and indefinable – that is, as far as many mages see it, to stop being human and Ascend to an infinite state.
On a far less grand scale, a life without limits is a life without laws, ethics, or concerns for anyone other than one’s own self. And that makes one dangerous. Sure, the outlaw ideal looks glamorous until some dude who “believes in living without limits” has stolen your wallet, raped your dog, and shit on your carpet because “there are no limits, man!” A large part of a sociopath’s charm is that she seems like such a rebel, and encourages you to be that way too… until you find yourself at the verge of becoming someone you don’t ever want to be, and she’s right there urging you to jump off that edge, no matter what it costs you or the people around you. (Yes, this author speaks from personal experience there.) A magick-using sociopath can be the most terrifying creature imaginable, because the only boundaries on such a mage’s behavior are the ones she places on herself, and the ones other mages have the power to impose upon her. The Cult of Ecstasy recognized this fact long ago, and the Code of Ananda exists because a person without any limits may soon become a monster, and a mage without them, even worse, destroying everything and everyone around him simply because he can.
To adherents of certain Left-Hand Path practices – especially those connected to Qliphothic High Ritual Magick, esoteric Satanism, and the adherents of Aghori-style yoga and Tantra – expansion beyond moral, social, psychological, and physical limits is essential to the Path of self-godhood. In this paradigm, the practitioner deliberately smashes every taboo, including his own, as a way to shatter boundaries and attain the Absolute wherein, as Hassan bin Sabbah is reputed to have said, “nothing is forbidden, and everything is permitted.” (That
saying often gets translated instead into Nothing is real, everything is permitted, which, if nothing else, shows how often the Beatles get drawn – justifiably so – into metaphysical discussions.) On many levels, this is simply a metaphysical extension of the Might is Right philosophy, taken to its cosmological extreme. By approaching all limits “without terror” (a rough translation of the Sanskrit word aghora), the devotee “breaks on through the other side” and experiences all Creation as a god. The Nephandi embrace this paradigm, of course, but they’re not the only folks who do. Even certain Akashayana and Chakravanti practice this forbidden Path… very secretly… and the Gnostic /Hermetic doctrine of antinomian praxis (the practice of breaking the law in order understand one’s self more fully) embraces it as well.
(Certain mystics who pursue a Kabbalistic approach to metaphysics point out that The One became the Many in a deliberate quest by Divinity to know Itself more thoroughly. Thus, to that line of thinking, even God breaks its own rules when seeking greater Truths – and so, by extension, must we. Saying such things aloud, however, is still a good way to get yourself into very hot water.)
For obvious reasons, this is a hard paradigm to pursue for long. Even so, the core principle – ironically, within limits – is a fundamental concept in many esoteric Paths. Living as if there are no limits other than the ones you decide to place upon yourself for safety and sanity’s sake, then, is a common ideal among the wilder sorts of mages… anathema to the Technocracy, of course, but tolerated within the Traditions and Disparates to a certain (again, limited) extent, so long as the mage in question doesn’t make a nuisance of herself. As Bob Dylan said, “to live outside the law, you must be honest,” and so this paradigm demands a clear understanding of one’s self, an acceptance of consequences, and the sort of compassion for others that will hopefully keep the mage from becoming an abomination to everything she reveres.
Associated Practices: The Art of Desire/hypereconomics, bardism, crazy wisdom, dominion, High Ritual Magick, invigoration, maleficia, psionics, reality hacking, Voudoun, witchcraft (shadow-work in particular), yoga (Left-Hand Path varieties)
Creator races, the Divine, or someone else left the keys to reality. Or maybe we’re finding them first. By finding the key and the lock, the Awakened can open the gate and bring Wonder into the world… or Horror.
Creation is full of wondrous keys, left by the Creator so that his favored children might unlock the secrets he has left for them to find. Rocks, plants, designs, calculations – such traces of the Great Equation become tools for the Awakened. Initiates into these sacred Mysteries may employ them to further the designs of God. Other mages, less aware and far less scrupulous, carve shortcuts or wrangle servants or enemies of God so as to steal those treasures and use them for selfish and unworthy ends.
Obviously an elitist paradigm, this creed assumes that a higher intelligence – sometimes known as the Divine Watchmaker, the Architect, or the Maker – created the cosmos and assigned certain human beings (other entities too, perhaps) to safeguard Creation and keep it running smoothly. This Creator probably has better things to do these days, hence the keys he gave his elect servants. Some mages regard themselves as chosen people, destined to serve the Creator through his specific command; others view themselves as seekers and finders of touchstones through which we were meant to guide the universe when we become wise enough to understand that inheritance. A variation on the Mechanistic Cosmos and Everything is Data paradigms, this mode of thinking assumes that the Spheres, practices, and instruments are deliberately crafted elements that a mage can use once she understands what they are and how they might be employed.
Most classical High Ritual Magick forms – especially those used by the Wu Lung and Hermetic Houses – assume a “keys to reality” approach, often merging it with other paradigms such as Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, All Power Comes from God(s), and the two creeds mentioned above. Technomancers, too, work this paradigm into their belief-systems, often regarding the sublime interplay of chemicals and physics to be the reality-keys in question. Modern Western science, in fact, originated in this belief; Catholic monks, far from being enemies of science, devoted intense study to natural phenomena, regarding such studies as a path to better understanding their Lord and his works. Islamic imams and Jewish rabbis likewise viewed science as a form of spiritual devotion, and Taoist alchemists did so as well. The Hindu discipline of Ayurveda, “life-knowledge,” is said to have been transmitted by the gods themselves. Thus, technology and spirituality become one within this paradigm.
Because the emphasis in this worldview is on the keys rather than the creator, this paradigm can be divorced from a spiritual context and employed in an atheistic or agnostic context too. In this case, the keys are objects, forces, and principles that contain power in and of themselves. A savvy person, then, can master these elements and unlock the deeper possibilities of the cosmos. Again, though, this essentially collapses the Mechanistic Cosmos and Everything is Data paradigms into a single model of reality.
In all variation of this creed, magick and /or hypertech comes from a proper understanding of the keys – the “turning” of them if you will. A mage then – by any label – is someone with a ring of keys that can unlock wonders the Masses will never comprehend. Paradox arises from a flawed understanding of those keys, or perhaps from trying to forces the locks and therefore breaking off the key in your hand. The practices and instruments of this paradigm access the keys… or even, in the case of certain instruments, are themselves the keys. Ascension, therefore, becomes a matter of comprehending on a soul-deep level that you are the ultimate key, and that all other keys are shadows of the power within yourself.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, the Art of Desire, craftwork, dominion, elementalism, god-bonding, High Ritual Magick, invigoration, medicine-work, psionics, reality hacking, yoga
Civilization is a lie. Technology is a crutch whose employment makes us weak. We are animals, meant to live by our wits and our strength.
The suffocating constraints of society and consumption are killing the human spirit and taking the rest of the world down with us. Only if and when we escape our man-made prison can we unlock our true potential. Until then, we’re on that One-Way Trip to Oblivion, and only the fiercest and most purely primal among us will survive the coming implosion of the current age.
Embraced by the most extreme Verbenae, Dreamspeakers, and Kopa Loei (and certain anarcho-primitivist Ecstatics and Adepts), this paradigm casts a baleful eye on the works of the mighty; instead of despairing, however, the folk who follow this perspective favor their animal state, forsaking all but the most basic tools and conveniences. Language is okay, as are herbal medicines and a certain degree of personal hygiene. (When left to their own devices, most animals – as such people point out – keep themselves as clean as their environment permits. Serious filth, they insist, comes from human cages, farms, and overcrowding, not from the behavior animals conduct in the wild.) Clothing and other tools are kept to a literally bare minimum, and high-tech toys – cars, computers, and so forth – are anathema to the most radical of such mages. Plenty of other people (Awakened and Sleeper alike) honor this paradigm through rhetorical observance but not actual behavior; they might spend all their time in front of computers, reading books, and eating fast food, but by all the gods, they’re ready (or so they claim) for civilization to fall so that they can return to an enlightened feral ideal.
Similar to the Might is Right paradigm, this creed stresses physical fitness, sensual awareness, connection to the natural world, and a renunciation of technological conveniences. In this case, though, the emphasis is on balance with Nature, rather than the conquest of everything in sight. This “romantic primitivism” often favors the most Pagan sorts of deities – Gaia, Pan, Ahsonnutli, and the like – but sometimes employs an atheistic “noble savage” ideal instead. (cf. Tarzan, Conan, Princess Mononoke, etc.) Magick, for devotees of this paradigm, comes from that connection to a primal birthright, and the potential of a human animal in her natural state.
Obviously, though, magick also comes from aberrations of that state – technological poisons contrived by up-jumped apes who’ve been too clever for our own good. And so, while this perspective denies the Manichean dualism that drives many religious paradigms, it does have a sort of Good /Evil axis that exalts primitivism while spitting on technology and the folks who use it. Tech-based mages, then – especially those from the Technocracy and other hypertech sects – personify everything that’s wrong with the world… and quite often wind up painted as the devils wrecking a primal paradise. At their very best, technomancers are considered lazy bastards tromping through Eden; more often, they’re considered a potentially lethal disease whose cure involves either renunciation or annihilation. Obviously, mages who subscribe to this paradigm avoid tech-based practices or instruments. Their Arts hail from the Old Ways – and the older, the better! At its most extreme levels, this creed demands a purely physical form of magick: meditation, ordeals, bodywork, sex, natural drugs, and many forms of sacrifice. Nature, ideally, asserts a balance, and the more you would demand from Her, the more you must be willing to give up to attain it.
Associated Practices: Animalism, crazy wisdom, dominion, elementalism, invigoration, shamanism, witchcraft, yoga
The human being is simply an advanced animal who foolishly decided that he wasn’t one. By rejecting civilization and embracing the beast within, the Awakened realizes their true potential. Alternately, the seed of a superior lost progenitor race is diffused among base mankind, but expresses itself in the Awakened.
Maybe we’re not human. Perhaps the Awakened are either the inheritors of a superior form of humanity – a Coming Race, a divine bloodline, an advanced mutation, and so forth – or they’re actually a separate race of people: aliens, maybe, or descendants of gods, or some other form of blessed exemplars who are inherently superhuman. Awakening, therefore, is not something that mundane people can attain, no matter how hard they try. Mages are members of entirely different human species or iteration, and are therefore better than the Masses by default.
According to this paradigm, the Avatar and its powers are proof that mages do not fit the standard definition of “human.” Like vampires and other paranormal entities, they’re some other form of being, and therefore are not bound by the usual limitations of ethics or mortality. It’s both their duty and their birthright to lead, transform, and conquer the Masses, and while they might look and act like those lesser beings, mages should not deceive themselves into thinking that they’re “just like everybody else.” They’re not human, and so they shouldn’t feel obligated to pretend otherwise.
A cornerstone belief for Übermensch types, “master race” adherents, transhumanism advocates, superhero fans, and alien-uplift theoreticians, this paradigm insists that a mage (or at least the mage who holds this belief in himself) is inherently superhuman, and is thus unbound by human concerns. Though related to the Might is Right paradigm, it’s less defined by one’s personal power than by the idea that the Awakened are innately elevated about mortal humanity by virtue of who they are, not what they do. Nevertheless, an innately superior being should act the part, right? Thus, many folks who assert this paradigm behave as if they’re elevated above the common herd – which, given the labels that many mages apply to the “Sleepers” and “Masses,” doesn’t make them nearly as unusual as you might initially assume.
An apparently “nicer” (though it really isn’t especially nice in practice) variation on this idea asserts that mages are the inheritors of “true humanity” – the heirs of a grander era of human accomplishment that was swept away by barbarism. Helena Blavatsky’s concept of Ascended Masters reaches toward this approach, though the Akashayana doctrine of Mount Meru and that group’s assertion that they’re the true descendants of that “first humanity” epitomizes it.
On a more ominous note, the proto-Nazi Thule-Gesellschaft embraced that idea emphatically… and we all know where that led. Throughout history, people who assert racial superiority and /or caste systems have maintained that they (of course!) belong to an elite strain of humanity that should not be subject to conventional limitations any more than human beings should be leashed like dogs. And while such elite people usually claim they’ve got humanity’s best interests at heart, those interests always seem to benefit those people more than they benefit the rest of us.
At the other end of the evolutionary scale, this paradigm also includes the transhumanists and mutant-theorists who assert – perhaps correctly – that humanity is evolving past its animal beginnings toward an increasingly advanced state. Plenty of Technocrats and other tech-based mages hold this paradigm, crediting their ability to perform paranormal acts to the fact that they have evolved (or have been upgraded by technology) to a new evolutionary state. Many Progenitors and Virtual Adepts – especially those Adepts who favor the Mercurial Elite identity – embrace this evolutionary paradigm, and view it as the source of their Enlightened abilities. The transhumanist label itself refers to this belief, and so although the idea might not make a mage popular among “mere” humans… many of whom might be her Awakened colleagues… it’s a paradigm with both primordial and futuristic appeal.
Folks with this sort of belief system tend to be elitist by default – after all, they literally do believe they’re better than everybody else. Phrases like herd, sheeple and monkey-mass are among the kinder things they’ll say about humanity in general. Even the more apparently altruistic individuals look down upon the Masses with pity, not identification. As a result, such mages really are rather “alienated,” and they don’t tend to be especially popular with most people unless they’re extraordinarily charismatic and well-versed in people-skills. Even then, those traits come from a position of assumed separation – perhaps compassionate, often contemptuous, and never truly connecting with most other human beings. Add to that attitude the idea that they could actually be right, and you’ve got a paradigm that explains a great deal about Awakened powers and yet puts a mage forever outside the mundane human realm.
Associated Practices: The Art of Desire/hypereconomics, cybernetics, dominion, High Ritual Magick, hypertech, invigoration, martial arts, psionics, reality hacking, weird science
The divine spark exists within us, not apart from us, and the Awakened know we have the power to bring it out.
Separation is an illusion. Behind that façade, we are all One, and that One is Divine. Magick is the acceptance of our divinity, and Awakening is the realization of that state. While the Sleeping Masses remain unaware of this sublime truth, we are able to recognize our innate godliness. Although imperfect understanding still limits our perceptions of inherent divinity (resulting in Paradox and other restrictions on our divine inheritance), we have begun to grasp our essential nature – one Spirit, one Enlightenment, one Ascension.
Shared by many members of the Celestial Chorus, Akashayana, Chakravanti, Verbena, and Sahajyia… even a handful of Solificati, and other members of the original Council… this paradigm provided the initial foundation for the Traditions as a whole. It was this recognition of shared godhood that allowed such a diverse collection of magical folk to join together in unity. Although similar paradigms – Creation is Innately Alive and Divine, and Everything is an Illusion – derive from this creed, the essential recognition that we are all part of the same Divine Essence provides a core of spiritual faith that the other paradigms often lack. Commonly expressed these days as “Remember, thou art God,” this sentiment reflects a faith in immanence (divine essence embodied in, and permeating, the physical realm), as opposed to transcendence (divine essence that is separate from a flawed physical realm). As a result, it’s often considered blasphemy by people whose beliefs involve a distinct and separate godhead. We might all be children of God, such folks insist, but to call ourselves God is an insult to the Most High. Folks with this paradigm beg to differ.
According to some interpretations of the Kabbalah, that Most High God once comprised all things into a single unity. Perhaps wishing to know itself better, this One split itself into many, and now inhabits the cosmos in an infinite self-aware form, of which we’re all a part. Certain interpretations of Buddhist philosophy dispense with the divine source and simply view the cosmos as a sort of god unto itself – again, a god of which we’re all a part. Some strains of neopagan pantheism draw from Robert Heinlein’s assertion “Thou art God,” adopting a declaration from Stranger in a Strange Land into a real-life spiritual belief; modern Verbena insist they had that idea long before Heinlein was born, but who’s to say? Today’s Pagans (Verbena and otherwise) draw inspiration from all sorts of artistic sources, and to certain postmodernist chaos mystics, pop culture is every bit as vital a wellspring as any hoary ancient creed.
As a reflection of one of Mage’s primary themes, this paradigm is among the most “true” in meta terms. A character with this insight looks past the artificial divisions of Mage’s setting and views the fundamental unity expressed by the sentiment that “We’re all mages.” As expressions of the shared gaming group and its players, mages with this perspective are seeing some of the truth of their situation. How true it is within the gaming world itself is for the Storyteller to decide, but this creed certainly rings true for mystics and philosophers throughout history who’ve chosen to ignore our mortal separations in favor of the living miracle of Creation itself.
Associated Practices: Alchemy, crazy wisdom, faith, High Ritual Magick, invigoration, martial arts, psionics, witchcraft, yoga
Select up to a maximum of three practices from the table below. Try to choose practices which suit your concept best, and figure out how your character fits them together.
Most 21st-century Tradition mages blend two or three traditional practices into a single personal practice. Lee Ann, for example, crosses crazy wisdom with a bit of shamanism and martial arts; Jennifer Rollins melds craftwork with witchcraft, and Jinx mixes gutter magick with a fair amount of chaos. You can blend up to three of the practices below into a single practice, or even invent your own, so long as the practices in question fit a coherent belief system. Sure, a blend of shamanism, hypertech and alchemy is possible… but only if your character believes that such a practice could help him change his world.
From turning base materials into decaying messes and then moving them upward toward eventual perfection, the ancient art of alchemy has provided the basis for modern chemistry. Wrapped in elaborate codes, symbols, and metaphors that still remain open to interpretation, this Art depends upon the idea of transformation from lower to higher states of being.
The common perception of the Art rests upon its old claim of turning lead into gold; in reality, though, that claim is both metaphor and a way of scamming money to fund alchemical pursuits. Sure, a skilled alchemist might indeed use Matter magick to change lead into gold; on a deeper level, however, the lead is the alchemist and the gold represents self-perfection.
Although its common name comes from an Arabic practice, alchemy has several different forms: the Taoist Arts of sublime energies, the medieval European “lead into gold” vocation, the Islamic refinement-of-self through the keys left by Allah in the hands of wise men, the roots of those Arts in Classical Greece and Egypt, the early forms of modern chemistry, the complex pharmacopeia of South American mystics, the postmodern psychotropic experiments of transhumanist philosopher-chemists, and probably a few more forms as well. A 21st-century alchemist might study several of these disciplines, formulating new variations on ancient principles. Alchemy, after all, focuses on learning-based perfection. The practitioner’s mind and body transform themselves through practicing the Art.
Aside from its chemical applications (poisons, psychoactives, explosives, and so forth), alchemy isn’t really a fighter’s Art. Its techniques demand patience, time, and a dedicated workspace. As a result, Ascension War alchemists tend to craft Wonders and compounds that come in handy when things get tense. And because it’s not really difficult to turn lead into gold if you know what you’re doing, such mages tend to be quite rich… with all the resources that wealth implies.
In all its forms, alchemy demands discipline. An alchemist studies principles, experiments with materials, deciphers codes, puzzles over symbols, works in his lab, creates useful goodies, and constantly challenges and refines himself. For him, the practical applications of alchemy – drugs, acids, and other chemical compounds; quick wits; foreign languages; and other techniques of transformation – take a back seat to the self-perfection at the core of this venerable Art.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Data; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Art, Crafts, Cryptography, Enigmas, Esoterica, Medicine, Pharmacopeia, Science (chemistry)
Common Instruments: Books, brews and potions, designs, devices, drugs, formulas, laboratories
There’s something magical about our animal kin. The glow of eyes in the dark. The uncanny grace of a cat or stag. The rough power of bears and elephants. Flight, fangs, venom, speed – despite our many human gifts, animals possess abilities that naked humans can’t hope to match without technology, magick, or both. And so, from our earliest origins, human mystics and inventors have cultivated arts that allow us to access such birthrights and use them as our own.
Technically, the term animalism refers to a philosophical paradigm that says that human beings are just highly advanced animals. (See the paradigm We are Meant to be Wild.) As a catch-all term for an array of related metaphysical practices, animalism connects the essence of the human animal self with the essential selves of non-human animals. Among the earliest forms of magick, this practice includes several different, though related, forms:
* Requesting Aid: A common element of primal magick, this form of animalism calls upon animal spirits and /or totems in order to get aid from the animal in question.
* Invoking the Beast-Self: Invoking the Beast-Self: Recognizing the animal heritage within humanity, this approach taps into a human being’s submerged animal nature and then brings it to the surface. Tarzan is arguably the poster boy for this technique, which calls forth “the beast within” and sets it loose – a dangerous but potentially rewarding technique.
* Invoking the Essence: Sort of a cross between the previous approaches, this form of animalism invokes the essence of a certain sort of animal through spirit-magicks that embody that essence in the person of the mage. African animal-spirit medicine employs this approach, as do shamanic traditions from across the globe.
* Taking the Essence: Some folks just take whatever they want. Not bothering to make deals with animals and spirits, they simply kill a beast and then pull its power out through enchanted remains. A traditional tactic among the “skinwalkers” of Southwest Native American lore, certain forms of European shapechangers, and mystics of other hunting /warrior cultures.
* Radical Mutation: A technological spin on animalism employs scientific theories and instruments (regression therapy, genetic mutation, extensive surgery, hybrid clones, shapechanging serums, brain-switching, grafted implants, cybernetic enhancements, and other tools of science run amuck) in order to “bring out the beast” in human beings or change non-human animals into humanoid forms. Trope-wise, this is the 'Island of Doctor Moreau' approach - a favorite of rogue Progenitors everywhere.
Any or all of these variations can be combined into a single practice; a mad scientist could employ bestial regression drugs to invoke the essence of animalistic humanity, while a technoshaman might invoke animal spirits by way of metaphysical computing techniques. Such odd mixes are rare but possible with a paradigm that supports that sort of weirdness.
A practitioner of animalism typically combines this practice with others; you could almost consider this to be a sub-practice that shapes your mage’s approach to larger, less-specific practices. Most forms of shamanism feature at least a touch of animalism, while whole martial-arts forms (mantis style, tiger style, drunken monkey, and so forth) draw inspiration from bestial fighting and animal legends. Ancestral medicine practices – especially those from Central Africa and the American North- and Southwest – often feature appeals to animal figures and spirits, while Voudoun practices often evoke animal allies (roosters, gators, black cats and dogs, etc.), although they rarely include animal transformations except in the most forbidden sorts of voodoo. Weird science has a long history of turning men into beasts and beasts into men, while dominion actively encourages human beings to tap into their “primal selves” in order to command people and animals more effectively. Witchcraft and certain “witchy” forms of infernalism have perhaps the most (in)famous connection to animalism, though; changing into animals, turning other folks into beasts, and surrounding one’s self with animal companions are all acts that have been associated with “witches” of all stripes for centuries.
Associated Paradigms: Everything’s an Illusion, Might is Right, Tech Holds All the Answers, and We are Meant to be Wild.
Associated Abilities: Athletics, Awareness, Brawl, Crafts, Esoterica (herbalism, weird science, yoga, etc.), Hunting, Martial Arts (animal forms), Stealth, Survival
Common Instruments: An animalist mage could employ a wide array of instruments to forge that connection: armor (made of animal remains like leather, bone, fur, or even feathers), artwork (representing animals, perhaps including animal blood, bones, fur, and so forth), blood and fluids or bones and remains (from obvious sources), brews and concoctions (to “bring out the beast” through mystic sympathy or scientific theory), dances and movement (a common and ancient tool which a dancer, yogi or martial artist mimics the beast in question), eye contact (the “eye of the beast” technique in which a mage either hypnotizes a person or else glares like an animal while evoking the beast within herself), fashion (the jaguar pelts of Aztec warriors or a sharpshooter's coonskin hat), food and drink (through which the mage literally consumes the animal in an effort to feed herself with its power), voice and vocalizations (the legendary “beast tongues” that reputedly allow a human to speak with animals, as Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle can do), prayers and invocations (to the bestial spirits in return for their aid), social domination (which is often known as “Alphaing someone”), symbols (of the appropriate beasts – a common feature in heraldry, which connects the family with its favored animal), weapons (made of animal remains: shark-toothed clubs, jaguar or tiger claws). Tech-based animalism could also employ genetic manipulation (splicing, mutation, and other inside-out modifications), medical procedures (like the horrific surgeries of Dr. Moreau). All these tools hold close ties to the various forms of animalism.
No one becomes wealthy spontaneously. Even lottery winners and trust fund children obtained wealth from somewhere, but not everyone came by their riches honestly. Delving into the history of a person’s wealth often reveals to some form of appropriation. The mage’s great-grandfather leveraged the bank to foreclose on a neighbor’s farm so he could build a factory. A cherished family recipe was stolen, commoditized, and processed for maximum profit. One person looked at another’s assets, said “this is mine now,” and became extraordinarily rich.
Appropriation looks the same, whether it’s a Sleeper practicing it, or the Awakened. Council mages, Technocrats, and Disparates alike claim Nodes. Mages go to war with one another for rare magickal items. On a smaller scale, a mage may claim an ally’s rote for themselves or inflict a curse to steal from a Sleeper.
Some mages try to soften the practice’s blow by offering compensation or restitution for what they take. Some of these deals are even fair. Unfortunately, most incarnations of this practice are merely disguised as an exchange among equals or come with the threat of violence. For some practitioners, violently capturing rivals’ assets is the entire point.
Associated Paradigms: Everything Has Value, Might is Right, More is More.
Associated Abilities: Brawl, Firearms, Intimidation, Law, Politics.
Associated Instruments: Contacts, Sacred Ground, Social Domination, Precious Metals.
Known in the Renaissance as Ars Cupiditae, the Art of Desire focuses upon achieving your desires through finding out what other people desire and then using that knowledge to enact your Will. Like alchemy (and most other forms of magick, art, and science), this discipline involves plenty of self-perfection: athletic exercise, meditation, mental gymnastics, self-reflection, etiquette, and other social graces. Fashionable clothes, subtle yet influential cosmetics, poise and grace, martial arts, seduction, intimidation, and the trappings of wealth and refinement provide essential tools for this practice. Although it’s most readily associated with the Syndicate and its original form as the High Guild, the Art of Desire has adherents throughout the mortal and Awakened worlds.
Essentially, Ars Cupiditae converts desire to reality. What you want, you make happen. A devotee nurtures her desires and the desires of other people, then uses them to advance her agenda for Reality as a whole. An Art of value, this practice draws connections between people and places, reads emotions and influences thoughts, manipulates the physical and mental states of both the mage and her subjects, and directs probability and material toward a greater goal. As a result, this Art favors the Spheres of Correspondence, Entropy, Life, Matter, Mind, and Prime, using them as parts of a useful, interlocking whole.
An eminently cultured practice, Ars Cupiditae draws upon a mixture of Asian, European, and Middle Eastern social and philosophical technologies. A practitioner of Desire rarely comes across as a mage at all – she’s more Nikita than Hermione. Although certain Ecstatics and Hermetic wizards favor this approach, and modern Ngoma and Taftani use it to command urban commerce and culture, a devotee of this Art employs social influence, economic wizardry, and sheer personal excellence in order to get what she wants. Such mages rarely use violence themselves, leaving the dirty work to paid enforcers. If and when a practitioner needs to get her hands messy, though, her athletic prowess and advanced technology prove that she’s no corner-office pushover.
A related practice, hypereconomics, refines the Art of Desire into social and global control. By exploring and exploiting desires and values within a given group, a hypereconomist can sense the Primal Energies of want and need within that group and then turn them to her advantage. An arcane practice understood mostly by Syndicate reps and the occasional Virtual Adept, hypereconomics provides an excellent vehicle for Entropy, Mind, and Prime Effects, channeled through social and mathematical activities so subtle that few people even recognize that their lives are being altered. Almost always coincidental (gross violations of Consensus Reality are considered cheap), hypereconomics remains a closely guarded secret in the 21st-century reality wars.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; Bring Back the Golden Age; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything is Data; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics (culture, philosophy, psychology), Athletics, Awareness, Carousing, Etiquette, Expression, Finance, Intimidation, Leadership, Martial Arts, Media, Politics, Seduction, Subterfuge
Common Instruments: Cards and dice, cosmetics, (very refined) dance and gestures, eye contact, fashion, gadgets, mass media, money and wealth, sex, social domination, vehicles, voice, weapons
Oh, fiddle-dee-dee and hey nonny-nonny! I mean, no one takes a bard seriously these days, do they? Bards are those poufy-shirted sleazebags who hit on wenches while composing odes to screaming trees or something, right?
Wrong. Oh, so very wrong.
It’s been said that the secret of Atlantean technology involved a mastery of sound. Orpheus tamed godlings and charmed Death with the power of his songs. Celtic bards, Nordic skalds, African griots, jali, guewel, and iggawen, Sufi poets, Hebrew cantors, Chinese yin yueh jia, even popular music stars of today’s postmodern mystic soundscape – such people can command music on metaphysical levels, altering reality through the influence of song. Music, according to Hindu lore and Pythagorean theory, is the foundation of the universe. From the Big Bang to the cosmic OM, vibration is said to be the origin of all things as we know them, and musical magick involves the mastery of such vibrations.
True enough, a bard in the metaphysical sense understands that performance and charisma are part of the process. An audience, after all, is most receptive when you’ve engaged their attention, and artists (magickal and otherwise) to tend be fascinating by default. To a sincere practitioner of sonic magick, though, the key to one’s practice involves connection – connection to the audience, to the material, between intention and execution, flesh and instrument, will and effect, passion and performance. A true bard channels his intentions through vibrations that include sound and yet transcend mere sound. Such a bard understands how to weave poetry, music, passion, the audience’s attention, and the pool of energy that courses through all things. He does not use an instrument; he becomes the instrument, and so his music is an inextricable part of who he is.
Traditional bards tend to be historians, lorekeepers, storytellers, satirists, agents of news, and founts of inspiration. In the days before literacy, mass media, and recording technology, bards (in all their many names) were the primary sources of art and information. Most performed music, but others told tales, acted out plays, and otherwise engaged their audiences with performances that tapped into something deeper than mere craft. And so, even in our age of pervasive media, a metaphysical bard stands out from the Masses because he works toward a greater, deeper purpose than simple entertainment. He can be a healer, a killer, a lover, and a destroyer, shaping his Arts with mortal skill and metaphysical intent.
Although the Celestial Chorus and Cult of Ecstasy provide the most obvious examples of bardic magery (often by combining the practices of faith and crazy wisdom, respectively, with their bardism), musical mages can be found among almost any sect. Even the Technocracy employs specialists who explore musical technology, especially among the media-based divisions of the Syndicate and NWO. Traditionally, bardism tends to influence Minds, rouse Spirits, enrich or diminish Life, shift Time, and guide energetic Forces and solidified Matter. That said, it can alter Entropic flow and flaws, connect apparently disconnected things (Correspondence), and guide the flow of Primal energy. And while a traditional bard slings acoustic instruments and his own voice, a twenty-first-century one could employ electrified instruments, recording technology, massive audiences, and other tools that were impossible to imagine a century ago. He must, of course, be very good at what he does; traditionally, bardic training included intensive memory-training, people-skills, political intrigue, and a wary eye for the tenor of an audience. Beyond such skills, however, he also needs to understand the principles of musical technique and their connection to metaphysical forces… in game terms, the Abilities of Art, Expression, and Esoterica (with specialties in musical instruments, singing, and musical metaphysics, at the very least), supplemented with an array of social skills and a keen sense of opportunities to move Creation forward with a song.
Associated Paradigms: All Power Comes from God(s), All the World’s a Stage (of course), A World of Gods and Monsters, Bring Back the Golden Age!, Creation is Divine and Alive, Embrace the Threshold, Everything is Chaos, Everything’s an Illusion, It’s All Good – Have Faith!, One-Way Trip to Oblivion, Transcend Your Limits, We Were Meant to be Wild
Associated Abilities: Academia (history and politics), Art (several specialties), Awareness, Cosmology, Crafts (for traditional instruments), Empathy, Enigmas, Expression, Seduction, Technology (for modern instruments)
Common Instruments: Artwork, dances and movement, drugs and potions, food and drink (typically consumed by the bard), energy, eye contact, fashion, group rites (performances), mass media, meditation (trancing out while playing), music (duh…), ordeals and exertions, prayers and invocations (especially with sacred-music artists), sex and sensuality (damn musicians…), symbols (worn, or invoked in performance), tricks and illusions, True Names (which are, in many legends, the keys to bardic power), voice and vocalizations
It’s not what you think it is. Although the term “chaos magic” tends to be associated with demons and evil, occultists understand chaos magick as a postmodern and often improvisational Art. Like other mystic practices, it emphasizes knowledge, reflection, and other forms of self-improvement. This revolutionary inversion of traditional mystic disciplines, however, depends upon personal intuition and interpretation; individual freedom; a deliberately iconoclastic approach; and an often subversive use of pop-culture symbols, social behaviors, and improvised designs.
Chaos magick spits in the face of established dogma. Often regarded by outsiders as a Left-Hand Path, it’s a sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll sort of practice, raising and directing personal energy (that is, Quintessence) through extreme experiences. Obviously, this sort of thing appeals to Cultists of Ecstasy, whose more formal practices – Tantra, vision questing, ordeals, and crazy wisdom (see below) – have been integrated into the chaosmagick potpourri. Even that diverse culture, however, is too confining for many chaos practitioners, whose embrace of the Chaosphere – the whirling fractal of absolute existence – resists confinement in any form.
Playful yet serious, each chaos-magick practice draws from the individual practitioner’s experiences and desires. Depending upon the individual practitioner, it can integrate formalized ritual or involve spontaneous improvisation… or both, or neither. Flexibility and personal investment are innate elements of the practice as a whole, often connected to psychic thought forms called egregores: concepts given reality through extensive investment of psychic energy. (See the Instruments entry for Thought Forms) Some folks use toys and Tarot cards, whereas others draw sigils, craft graphic novels, run raves, stage flash mobs, and concoct elaborate pranks on society at large. Eris, Bob, the Flying Spaghetti Monster… these deities supplant the classic divinities in a chaotic pantheon whose figureheads are less concerned with worship than with inversion. Each mage, then, is a vortex of potential whose Will spins energy into being. And if this sounds too abstract to be useful, then you’re thinking about it too hard.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Art, Awareness, Carousing, Computer, Esoterica, Expression, Lucid Dreaming, Meditation, Pharmacopeia, Streetwise, Technology
Common Instruments: Whatever works, so long as none of it becomes too stable or confining.
At its best, charity is selfless. It uplifts the impoverished, brings comfort to the sick, and alleviates want. At worst, it’s an ego trip. It puts a person’s name first and foremost, convenient when he needs to knock an evil deed off the front page.
Sometimes, the act of giving is itself the work. When a mage commands her town’s yearly harvest to double its bounty, thus saving the starving residents, her concern for the plight of her neighbors powers the spell’s effect. Other times, charity is a means to an end. When a mage donates an immense sum to a local community center, his money enters their bank account, 58 The Rich Bastard’s Guide to Magick and thus he can track the comings and goings of each of the center’s leaders as they spend his money.
While many belief systems demand that charity should benefit everyone, as a magickal practice it’s always for the mage’s benefit. The mage who saved her town gets to continue practicing her art in peace. The patron gets to bring a pillar of the community under his power.
Associated Paradigms: Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, It's All Good - Have Faith, Philanthropy in All Things, Power Trickles Down.
Associated Abilities: Art, Cosmology, Crafts, Empathy, Expression, Politics, Technology.
Associated Instruments: Blessings and Curses, Governments, Money and Wealth, Physical Media.
There are reasons that Hephaestus is a metalsmith, Jesus is a carpenter, and Ogun is said to be the iron “who always eats first.” It’s no accident that Freemasons remain one of the most respected yet feared societies around – a society responsible, in ways, for the foundation of the United States. Many myths peg humanity’s origins to deities who fashioned us out of clay and then breathed life into their creations. That’s because craftwork – the Art of making miracles out of raw materials – is among the first metaphysical practices.
Craftwork’s mystique has been largely diminished in the industrial world… so much so that it’s often farmed out to sweatshop labor or performed by machines (which hold their own ominous metaphysical connotations – witness the Terminator and Matrix sagas). Even so, there’s something magical about that Geek Squad specialist who can fix your errant computer, the tattooed malcontent repairing your car, or that friend who forges swords or crafts costumes for the SCA. The heart of craftwork comes from an apparently supernatural expertise with materials and tools – the ability to take bits of rock or skin or tree and then make lovely, useful objects from them.
Many mystics bridle at the thought of crediting craftsmanship as a magical practice. After all, the Technocracy began as a bunch of disgruntled Craftmasons who shaped the machines that ended the High Mythic Age, so why should such people be considered mages? And yet, that prejudice ignores the legendary ties between craftwork and the mystic Arts: the legacies of Solomon’s temple and the masons who built it, of the temples whose sacred geometries invited gods to dwell within them, the shapers of iron, gold, and stone who brought humanity out of caves and into cities of their own design. Even the Industrial Era has a sense of magick – the sleek glare of glass towers, the hellish factory glamour, the enchanting pixel dance that comes from computers, TVs, and the Internet… all of which demand craftwork in their creation, maintenance, and eventual dismantling into recycled components. That Art might be taken for granted these days, but it’s still magickal to those who understand it.
As a practice, craftsmanship combines the physical and mental skills involved in various crafts (carpentry, metalsmithing, glasswork, plastics, leatherworking, and so forth), then combines them with Pattern Arts in order to make those materials better than they’d been before. Matter presents the obvious Sphere for such disciplines, but Forces (to command fire, air, electricity, gravity, and the like), Prime (to energize and strengthen those creations), and often Life (to work living or organic tissue) and Entropy (to spot, add, or banish flaws) are more-or-less essential too. Old-school crafters employ Spirit to Awaken or placate the spirits within the materials – an important process in ancient craftwork, which depended upon the goodwill of gods and spirits in order to succeed. And although the rituals of creation demand time, materials, and expertise, the results – from glass vessels to armored tanks – can last for centuries… or even, as with the pyramids, millennia.
A typical crafter-mage seems rough around the edges compared to her more academic peers. Often physically strong and personally abrupt, she can be perceived as boorish and dull. That’s a common but mistaken view. In her chosen craft, this mage is every bit as sharp and knowledgeable as her book-bound contemporaries… most of whom would be lost without her expertise. And although common prejudices view such mages as members of the Technocracy (not without some truth), a crafter is just as likely to be a stonesmith Verbena, an ironworking Ngoma, an artisan Hermetic, or a VA computer tech. The Taftani weavers earned that name from their physical skills as well as their mystical ones, and the Ngoma
preserve the practical skills as well as the magical rites from their Egyptian/ Nubian origins. Even Akashayana employ craft Arts in their martial practices – see the film The Man With the Iron Fists for several examples. Though often forgotten in the catalogs of magic, craftwork is as old as humanity yet as fresh as the laptop at your fingertips.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics, Arts, Computers, Crafts, Energy Weapons, Esoterica (sacred geometry, quantum mathematics, elemental pacts, stone and metal lore), Hypertech, Research, Science, Technology
Common Instruments: Artwork, blood, books, computers and IT gear, devices and machines, elements, gadgets, household and crafting tools, laboratories and workshops, symbols, weapons (hammers, blades, sickles, guns, etc.)
A mage who gets a little bit out of her head when performing magick might use what’s often called the crazy wisdom practice: deliberately irrational activities that supposedly grant wisdom by shattering established concepts of what is and is not possible and real.
Another sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll approach to magick, crazy wisdom often involves psychoactive entheogens, trance-inducing music, vision quests, risky ordeals, sexual excess, gender inversions, social misrule, mass ecstatic rituals, and solitary isolation in which the practitioner turns her own personal reality inside out and then ponders what that means. Although it’s technically undisciplined by the standards of more rigid forms of magick, such behavior provides a potent tool for enlightenment… assuming it doesn’t kill you first!
Although its obvious adherents come from the Cult of Ecstasy, crazy wisdom has a long and respected history as part of shamanism, voodoo, witchcraft, and even certain High Ritual practices. The Order of Hermes has its own variation – the Antinomian Praxis – in which a mage smashes taboos, violates her own standards, and breaks through constraints to find what lies beyond them. Drawing strength from its obvious contradictions, crazy wisdom is dangerous, disruptive, often scary, and potentially lethal. That’s kind of the point, though danger isn’t always involved. Mystic contraries and genderqueers, who deliberately invert social expectations about identity and gender, practice a form of crazy wisdom on a social scale, fucking with people’s preconceptions in order to show greater possibilities.
This is the Trickster’s Path, breaking on through like Jim Morrison in a mosh pit with Patti Smith, Br’er Rabbit, the Cat in the Hat, and several buckets of paint.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Art, Athletics, Carousing, Esoterica, Lucid Dreaming, Meditation, Pharmacopeia, Survival
Common Instruments: Blood and body fluids, bones and remains, brain/ computer interface, dance, drugs, music, ordeals, sex and sensuality, social domination, thought forms, toys, tricks and illusions, voice
When organic machines get wedded to mechanical machines, the synergy called cybernetics raises the human animal to a whole new level. On a broader plane, cybernetics reaches beyond mere flesh and machine to embrace the technologies of communication, language, electrical impulses, complex systems, and thought itself. Drawn from a Greek phrase meaning “to steer or govern,” cybernetic practices employ complex interactive systems – computers, electronics, prosthetics, mathematical formulae, linguistics, philosophy, even social dynamics – to extend the practitioner’s control… first over his own reality, and then over the reality of other systems and entities.
Essentially, the cybernetic practice views Creation as a vast machine whose systems can be understood and manipulated with sufficient dedication. For many adherents – like the members of Iteration X – that dedication includes merging their bodies with mechanical components. Other practitioners, though, use cybernetics as a theoretical construct – a model through which calculations, psychology, symbols, and external devices and machines (as opposed to implanted ones) can bend probability (through Entropy), change minds (the Mind Sphere), transform materials (Life and Matter), channel energies (Forces and Prime), and redefine temporal physics… or, in plain English, reroute Time.
Despite the dated overuse of “cyber” as an adjective, cybernetics remains a bleeding-edge discipline. Rooted in Chinese, Greek, and Arab technologies, this discipline blossomed during the Industrial Revolution and hasn’t stopped blooming yet. In the 21st century, whole nations are composed of cyborgs – smart-phone-using, video-watching, TV-nurtured, socially networked machine-people whose relationships and realities are defined by the 24/7 interface of our Information Era.
Although the science-fiction landscape of depersonalized drones looks nothing like the world as we know it now, every element of life in our new millennium depends upon a complex interplay of cybernetic forces that very few people truly understand… and that even fewer – aside from certain technomancers – can control.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; Everything is Data; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics, Biotech, Computer, Crafts, Energy Weapons, Hypertech, Media, Politics, Science, Technology
Common Instruments: Books, brain/ computer interface, computers and IT gear, devices and machines, gadgets, inventions, laboratories, languages, mass media, nanotech, numbers and numerology, weapons, writing and inscriptions
Social domination might just be the oldest form of magick. At its most basic levels, this practice directs animal instincts and human interactions toward the will (and Will) of the dominant party. Although other practices – notably Ars Cupiditae, shamanism, and High Ritual Magick – draw upon these techniques of domination, a raw assertion of command is the foundation of capital-A Authority… most notably among the New World Order.
Rarely considered “magick” in the usual sense, the dominion practice employs inner discipline, social control, a cultivated understanding of behavior and governance, significant words and symbols, the trappings of power and authority, and a host of verbal and physical tricks that keep the practitioner on top of a given situation. At its lowest form, it’s the art of the abuser, con-man, and pick-up artist. Its techniques come into play through office and sexual politics and often form part of any strong parent’s arsenal. On a metaphysical level, dominion taps into the primal need for leadership and parenting, then directs that need with a conscious eye toward overwhelming control. Through that control, in turn, you command Reality because you believe you do, and you make other folks believe you do as well.
A serious practitioner of dominion (that is, a mage) goes beyond crude intimidation, studying the deeper applications of social domination and self-perfection. Like a devotee of desire, he learns how to maximize his personal strengths and minimize his social flaws while taking full advantage of another party’s weaknesses and appealing to their need to be protected and led. Like Ars Cupiditae concentrates upon desire, the discipline of dominion concentrates upon command. The techniques can seem rather arcane, especially when they’re combined with religious and/ or philosophical beliefs; it’s through technology, however, that dominion finds its greatest influence. Queen Victoria was a master of this Art… and though she used technological instruments to get her point across, she exerted such a charismatic mystique that we still use her name to define the age she ruled.
Skilled dominion practitioners employ eye contact, body language, vocal tactics, peer pressure, social appeal, and resonant symbols (uniforms, weapons, parental behavior, religious iconography) in order to cow their herd. From there, these alphas enact their Will in both a mundane and Awakened sense. Lots of mages use social techniques, but a dominion master takes them to a metaphysical extent, wresting control of Reality itself through mass domination – an Art of Kings that has shaped past history and continues to do so today.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics (history, psychology), Art, Belief Systems, Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, Leadership, Media, Politics, Seduction, Technology
Common Instruments: Art, brain/ computer interface, eye contact, fashion, group rites, languages, mass media, music, social domination, symbols, thought forms, tricks and illusions, voice
More of an intuitive bond with material Reality than a practiced discipline of human craft, this connection to the raw stuff of Nature allows a practitioner to channel primal Entropy, Forces, Matter, and Life through the talented Will of a mage. Thus channeled, the elements can be shaped, guided, conjured, transmuted, weaponized, and apparently “destroyed” on a material, if not an energetic, level. Although it requires training and a close study of nature, this mystic vocation is less about theory and more about “practice” in the most active sense of that word.
This affinity, though, is less about relationships with spirits and gods than it is about the interplay between natural forces, human and animal consciousness, and the brute realities of flesh and bone. That said, it often involves a bond between the spirit of the mage and the spirit of the element in question, as described in the sidebar A Bit of Spirit? in How Do You DO That? p. 16. (The same book also has a section dedicated to element-based magickal Effects – see pps. 26-41.) Perhaps epitomized by the common image of Druidry – which, in fact, has several aspects and interpretations – an elemental practice is less spiritual than practical, with an eye toward immediate results like food, shelter, defense, and survival, in addition to the more sublime elements of spiritual observance and respect.
Although certain elementalists can bond with more than one element, a mage can spend lifetimes connecting to the deeper subtleties within a single element, and rarely go beyond the one that best suits their personality. In temperament, behavior, and often appearance, an elementalist personifies the element she favors. Mages with an affinity for fire will be hotheaded, flush in complexion, and often warm or outright hot to the touch; water-affiliated mages, in contrast, are cooler, mysterious, and often “deep.” A rough-hewn woodworker and a rugged earthworker would favor the solidity of their elements, while a flighty air-mage flits from task to task, occasionally rousing a storm-like temper. Resonance and Synergy grow strong around such mages, too – stronger and more obviously
than those forces gather around mages with less “elemental” connections to their Arts.
As the name suggests, elementalism favors a primeval approach to those Arts. Long before wizards used complex diagrams and long-winded chants to bend the spirits to their Will, initiates to the wild Arts used simple tools – blood, sex, bodily remains, effigies and paintings, hand-made weapons, bits of plant and stone, seeds and ashes, and the most primitive sorts of technology – to reshape their environments. In time, these practices inspired the more complicated Arts.
Associated Paradigms: All Power Comes From God(s), Creation’s Divine and Alive, Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, Might is Right, We Are Not Men!
Associated Abilities: Artistry, Athletics, Awareness, Crafts (involving the elements in question), Empathy, Esoterica (elemental correspondences, elemental spirit lore, lore of the associated element), Meditation, Survival
Common Instruments: Armor (formed from the element in question), Artwork (likewise), bones and remains, blood and fluids, brews and potions, dance and movement, drugs, elements, energy (for fire, air, and water), herbs and plants, household tools (used to work the element), knots and ropes (traditionally used to bind up winds), meditation (with and concerning the elements), music (to conjure the elements or call up elemental spirits), prayers and invocations, offerings and sacrifice (to elemental lords), ordeals (generally involving the element in question), symbols, weapons (formed from the favored element), writing (runes inscribed on or with the element)
Through faith, all things are possible. This saying underscores the essence of what might be the most common mystic practice in the world: devotion to a higher source. Drawn from the Latin word fides – “loyalty, trust, belief” – faith provides the foundation for many other practices, yet it stands as a practice in its own right. For although witches, shamans, Voudoun practitioners, and even scientists might be faithful to their higher power, faith itself provides comfort and power for those who believe.
Often regarded as the core of overtly religious sects like the Celestial Chorus and Ahl-i-Batin, faith can inspire and energize any mage. Even the demonic Nephandi maintain faith in their horrific Absolute or the Infernal entities they adore. Faith, you see, provides the believer with stability and purpose. And although magick is often seen as an egotistical practice, faith ideally removes the ego in favor of that greater Source. The faithful mage says “THY Will be done,” then acts as an instrument for that Divine Will.
For a mage of faith, the actions she takes and the Arts she pursues all represent the ideals of her higher power. In most cases, those ideals come through a religion – a binding that unites Divinity with the people of the faith. Not all faithful people, though, are religious; strictly speaking, religion is a social institution, whereas faith is a personal connection. Even science – often seen these days as an enemy of faith – can be a devotional practice. The foundations of modern science, historically, were laid by men and women of faith who used their discoveries to delve into, and then to reveal, the glories of their God.
A faithful magus follows the tenets of her creed, maintains contact with her source through prayer, and acts – as often as possible – as an emissary of her creed’s ideals. “Keeping the faith” means pursuing virtues that supposedly please the higher power, and although the particulars depend upon the specific creed (a Franciscan Catholic, a Shi’a devotee, and an Odinist spá-kona all have very different ideas about virtue!), the mage’s adherence to that creed is essential. “Faith” does, after all, mean loyalty.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith!
Associated Abilities: Academics (tenets of faith), Awareness, Belief Systems, Cosmology, Empathy, Enigmas, Esoterica, Expression, Medicine
Common Instruments: Blessings and curses, books (scriptures), cups and vessels, energy, food and drink, group rites, music, offerings and sacrifice, ordeals and exertions, prayers and invocations, sacred iconography, symbols, thought forms, voice, writings and inscriptions
The most practical magick practice is the one that uses whatever you’ve got to work with. Sure, wizards and cyborgs and Enlightened tycoons can afford all the best ritual gear around. What happens, though, when you’re more or less broke? Homeless, maybe? Living in a squat or stuck on the street or getting by as part of the working poor? Well then, you use gutter magick, the craft of making do.
Composed of odds and ends with symbolic connotations, gutter magick features coins, cards, toys, scraps, bottles, cans, nails, junk, graffiti, and things crafted out of the cast-offs of consumer society. Dead TVs, old magazines, cardboard boxes, gnawed chicken bones, sacrificed rats and alley cats, old clothes repurposed and restyled with feral urban flair… such instruments direct the Will of the truly destitute. On the next rung up the socioeconomic ladder, lower-class mages use cheap tricks, cheesy clothes, New Age books, action figures, and other tokens of postmodern mall-magic. When invested with Awakened intentions, these otherwise useless trinkets provide focus for orphans, Hollowers, and other mystics with more ambition than resources.
As with many other mystic practices, art forms a potent force in gutter magick. Hip-hop culture, Gothic rock, the various flavors of heavy metal, the blues, neotribal, techno-industrial, and even country/western music styles provide soundtracks for the mystic side of the urban scene. Inside the clubs, dancing and drugs create hypnotic atmospheres in which it often seems like anything could happen. A paranormal survival tactic, gutter magick skulks in the shadows of the alley between respectability and forbidden Arts. Gutter magick proves that you don’t need high wizardry and ancient tomes in order to get attention (if not necessarily respect) from the spirit world. In its darker elements, such magick employs guns, blades, cheap sex and cheaper booze, crimes and punishments, madness and desperation. Though not exactly new in form, it’s a common practice in the new millennium.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Animal Kinship (rats, cats, crows, etc.), Area Knowledge, Art, Crafts, Expression, Firearms, Intimidation, Pharmacopeia, Streetwise, Survival (urban), Technology
Common Instruments: Artwork, blood and fluids, bones and remains, cards and dice, dance, drugs and poisons, eye contact, fashion, herbs and plants, household tools, music, offerings and sacrifice, sex, social domination, symbols, thought forms, toys, tricks and illusions, weapons, vehicles
The age-old practice of looking for clues, following leads, and solving mysteries. You use a mix of uncanny insights, attention to details, clues, and most importantly, the facts, just the facts, to unravel the mystery that is Creation.
Some folks embrace Divinity not as an abstract to be worshipped but as a force within themselves. Tapping into a greater sense of power, these mystics use a god-bond to enact their patron’s Will on Earth. Such people might be priests or saints, devotees of a higher calling… or they might view themselves as children of their gods, avatars of unearthly powers, “cousins” to those greater beings, or perhaps deities in human form. Whatever bond they claim, however, these mystics seem tied to something far beyond humanity.
Holy people share a god-bond; so do crazy ones. Marauders, in fact, seem to favor this “practice” of magick over most other ones. Essentially, the god-bonded mage employs a Wild Talent (Mage 20, p. 527-528) or some very basic Arts, and then views his actions as extensions of his relationship to the divinity in question. This “god” may or may not exist outside the mage’s head – it might, in fact, be the Avatar as seen through the eyes of the mage’s spiritual devotion. Mythological “demigods” – Herakles, Atalanta, White Buffalo Woman – who share kinship with Divinity could be considered god-bonded mystics; so could priests who invoke the power of their patrons. A Catholic priest, a Nordic rune-worker, a Loa-ridden conjure-man… they all share a mystic bond with their gods. Celestial Choristers tend to see themselves as Voices of the One – more like a spiritual vessel than a Will-full “mage.”
Like elemental affinity, god-bonding is an intuitive, results-based practice. The devotee could spend lots of time and effort on research, but he’s more likely to dedicate his energy to prayer, meditation, and the preferred acts of his patron god. Note that this doesn’t immediately make him a nice guy; there are war-gods, after all, and gods of pain, disease, and corruption. (Hell, even “peaceful” gods rack up impressive body counts…) It’s likely, though, that’ll he’ll minster to the faithful, protect the innocent, receive visions, speak prophecies, and follow the wishes of his god even if they conflict with established religious authorities. Our mystic may have True Faith as well as magick, and in any case does not view his powers as Will-based Arts. No, the god-bonded mystic simply acts on his deity’s behalf, forming a bridge between the spirit and the flesh… which raises an interesting question: Will he lose his powers if he doubts his faith, or might he discover something greater within himself that came from inside him all along?
Associated Paradigms: All Things Come from God(s), A World of Gods and Monsters, Bring Back the Golden Age!, Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, Everything’s an Illusion (except perhaps for the gods), It’s All Good – Have Faith!, We’re All God(s) in Disguise
Associated Abilities: Awareness, Belief Systems, Cosmology, Empathy, Enigmas, Esoterica (appropriate theology and lore), Expression, Lucid Dreaming, Medicine, Meditation
Common Instruments: Blessings and curses, blood, elements, group rites, music, offerings and sacrifice, ordeals, prayers and invocations, sacred iconography, voice (songs, speaking in tongues), weapons (often symbolic, sometimes wielded on behalf of the god)
To achieve excellence, one must have perfection. To work one’s Will, one must have the discipline to master that Will and then direct it with utmost confidence. In an outsider’s perspective, the rigorous devotees of High Ritual Magick (all capitalized) are a pretentious pack of OCD pricks. For those devotees, however, the truth is plain: you must be strong, courageous, disciplined, and wise to unlock Creation’s power. High Ritual Magick demands those qualities.
In High Ritual Magick, everything has significance: the alignment of planets, the tone of words, the calculations necessary to discover the correct number of times to repeat certain phrases, the formalities of address, and the measure or angle of materials aligned just so for maximum effect. That precision has a dual purpose: in one regard, the relationship of those many elements is crucial for success. In the other regard, the precision tests and challenges the magician, forcing him to overcome his flaws and become the superior person whom such intricacies demand. This practice is both an Art and a Science whose expertise has withstood the tests of time. You cannot be weak or sloppy or stupid, goes the reasoning, if you wish to work your Will upon Creation. Only the smartest, the bravest, the most refined people are capable of True High Magick, and so the rituals and their elaborate preparations discourage everyone who lacks the excellence to succeed.
(This mindset also explains the condescending attitude for which High Ritual Magicians are so infamous. Although they don’t all feel this way, many such wizards believe that other practitioners have not earned the right to work True Magick. Lesser mages, to them, are like drunken kids speeding down dark mountain roads with Daddy’s car, an expired learner’s permit, and the wizard strapped in the back seat, unable to avoid the coming crash.)
Though often associated with medieval Europe, High Ritual Magick has many forms, all of them refined by civilized urban cultures. China’s ritual magick boasts Confucian complexity, and rites from Egypt and Mesopotamia provide the centerpiece for the Western occult traditions of Greece, Rome, Persia, Israel, and Arabia. Nubia’s ritual Arts remain a closely guarded secret, held by the Ngoma as a timeless inheritance. Tibet, India, and Japan all have sublime ritual practices, whereas North American occultism blends Old World sophistication with New World eclecticism. The rites of South and Central America have largely been lost, thanks to Spanish conquerors… and yet, in secret corners of Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, and Peru, sects preserve those Aztec, Maya, and Incan practices.
In all forms, High Ritual Magick demands preparation, discipline, and the finest materials a magician can acquire. Such practices connect the mage with greater powers – gods, angels, demons, elementals, and the faceless forces of the universe – and those powers demand respect. The wizard, too, must earn respect; such powers do not answer to fools. In practical terms, High Ritual Magick is slow and precise. The wizard might call upon the results of his prior work in the heat of the moment, but those results – enchanted wands, crafted staves, precious amulets, mystic scrolls, imprisoned demons, angelic favors, priceless statues, carved jade pendants, Otherworldly gates, fine robes, imposing tomes – must be prepared well in advance.
Despite all those trappings, an accomplished Ritual Magus understands that it is his Will that commands those elements. He does not hope or beg – he commands. Spirits can be bargained with, dragons might be conjured, God Himself might slip the mage a favor, but in the end all of those parties respect the High Magus because, ultimately, he has shaped himself into the true instrument of Will.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Data; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics, Belief Systems, Cosmology, Crafts, Expression, Esoterica, Investigation, Leadership, Meditation, Occult, Research
Common Instruments: Books, celestial alignments, circles and designs, computers (for modern wizards), cups and vessels, elements, eye contact, fashion, gems, gestures, languages (Latin, Sanskrit, Mandarin, Greek, etc.), meditation, numbers and numerology, offerings and sacrifices, prayer and invocations, social domination, symbols, thought forms, True Names, wands and staves, weapons (swords and knives), writing and inscriptions
A catch-all term for the hundreds of methods used to unite advanced technology with visionary ideas, hypertech represents a dynamic approach to science. Despite the rumblings of disgruntled old-school mystics, this approach has transformed the world we live in. Computers, obviously, reflect the most obvious aspects of this Art and Science, but the brute force of metallurgy, the explosive powers of internal combustion, the harnessed lightning of electronic technologies, and the heady physics behind it all drive hypertech and humanity to new and exciting frontiers. “Oh, THAT’S not magick,” sniff the critics… but actually, it is. It’s not Hermetic wizardry, after all, that gave us cars, phones, computers, and electronic power… all those things, and more, began as hypertech.
The hypertech practice reflects the genius of the human condition – that restless striving to perfect and understand. In earlier forms (like those employed by the Order of Reason), such “godless” Arts were reflections of deep reverence. Men and women of God sought the keys to His Creations, seeing divine glory in every twig or flower. The technologies of China, Greece, and Persia reflected mystic aspirations too. It’s no accident that so many scientific names come from old gods and Classical mythologies, and although modern science emphasizes proof over faith, there’s still plenty of room for wonder in this world.
At the core of this practice – in its many applications, from cloning and biotech to astrophysics, mechanical engineering, chemistry, theoretical physics, and far more – hypertech is about potential… finding it, recognizing it, expanding upon it to create something even better than what we had before. A scientist understands that she doesn’t have all the answers and so constantly seeks them out. She’ll spend endless hours in the lab or reading journals – not so that she can turn humanity into drones, but so that she can bring something better into being. Despite its apparent sterility, hypertech retains a visionary optimism.
Although the scientist might believe in some Creator, she’s not shackled to blind faith. Instead, she employs rigorous tests, complicated data, consistent verification, and an Art founded not on chance or outside whims but upon tested principles and concrete achievements. She’s the Progenitor, the Adept, the technomancer whose tools reflect the precision of her Arts. Unlike her deluded counterparts who practice their weird science, this visionary employs solid protocols for dependable results. In a way, she’s the High Ritual Magus of our age, making wonders with vigorous Science.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything is Data; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics, Computer, Crafts, Hypertech, Investigation, Medicine, Research, Science, Technology
Common Instruments: Books, brain/ computer interface, computers, devices and machines, household tools, inventions, laboratories, nanotech, writing, and the many tools of technological achievement
Stale money never grows, unimproved property remains a patch of dirt, and a lazy mage never achieves mastery. Anyone who’s lived among the Awakened long enough knows there’s no progress without risk. This makes things more difficult for a wealthy mage. When someone lives in a state that demands little to no risk in their daily lives, it’s easy to become complacent. So, many rich mages turn to one of the few things that put their wealth and life on the line: investing.
Investment as a magickal practice isn’t just plunking down cash. It’s using your will to change or improve a person, place, or thing to eventually reap the benefits. Sure, the magick may risk some serious Paradox when using Entropy to save someone from certain death, but one day that person will have just the information or resources they need to get ahead. Of course, that person may end up fated to die in a brand-new way before the mage sees a return on their investment, but that’s the nature of risk.
Some note this practice’s similarity to the Syndicate’s concept of Primal Utility. When this practice is applied to Prime, it can be used in a similar way, but those outside of the Conventions know that Investment has a far broader range.
Associated Paradigms: Everything Has Value, A Mechanistic Cosmos, Philanthropy in All Things.
Associated Abilities: Academics, Esoterica, Investigation, Law, Leadership, Politics, Research.
Common Instruments: Blessings and Curses, Contracts, Markets, Money and Wealth.
The human mind and body (and perhaps spirit as well, if you believe in that sort of thing… which most, but not all, mages do) are capable of feats far beyond what we believe we can do. Through vigorous training, however – perhaps helped along by an accident, procedure, or chemical that somehow manages to not kill us in the process – we can unlock that capability, essentially becoming superhuman when we do so. Ancient techniques supposedly allow us to do such things by accessing our forgotten potential; the Akashic Art of Do claims to be one such method, and obscure forms of yoga, Tantra, Taoism, and related disciplines make the same assertion. It is science, though, that provides the most commonly imagined forms of invigoration: a metaphysical practice that unlocks the vast capacity of the human being. The Etherite hero Doc Eon is the reigning poster boy for this approach, which he supplements with weird science, martial arts, and other disciplines. By pursuing such rigorous discipline, however, you too can “be all that you can be.”
Mages who pursue this practice endure intense regimens of physical and mental exercises that drive them beyond average human capacity, often supplementing such disciplines with strange diets, herbal concoctions, surgical modifications, gene therapy, alien technology, baths in odd chemicals or cosmic rays, and other things that test Nietzsche’s dictum about things that make you stronger. Meditation, too, is essential to such techniques, unblocking the mental barriers to ultimate capability. Invigoration means “to fill with life and energy,” and so practitioners of this approach channel astounding energies into legendary lives.
On a metaphysical level, many practitioners (not all of them, of course) view these disciplines as a way to break through the illusions of physical limitation. All existence, it has been argued, is energy, and so a mastery of that energy, combined with adept manipulation of physicality’s illusions, allows a skillful person to do apparently “impossible” things. All things, of course, are “possible” if you understand how to break down the walls of imposed self-delusion. And because certain quantum physics theories concur with ancient mystic observations about “reality’s” illusions and the capacity of consciously guided energy, invigoration can be considered a technological practice as well as a mystical one. If supposed “magic” is explainable as mutation, enhanced capability, and other forms of perfectly explainable (if unusual) human perfectionism, then there’s no reason a technomancer or Technocrat can’t employ such disciplines too; in fact, many of them do just that.
As a practice, invigoration is rarely considered to be “magic.” Nevertheless, it allows a practitioner to accomplish miraculous feats. Strength, endurance, healing, telepathy, mastery of other living things, adaptation to environments and situations that would kill a lesser human… whether or not such things are “magical” depends on who you ask.
Clearly, this practice best facilitates workings of Life, Mind, Prime, and Spirit. That said, an advanced “invigorationist” may command energies both physical (Forces, Matter) and otherwise (Entropy, Time). On its own, it’s not well-suited for Correspondence-based Arts beyond the first Rank – it’s pretty hard to argue that intense exercise can help you teleport or fold space, although the “all matter is really energy” argument might work for someone who’s achieved a truly exalted state of invigorated understanding. Certain instruments, like hypertech grappling lines, smoke bombs or teleportation bracelets, could be incorporated into a superhero-like invigoration practice; even then, a machine that helps someone break the laws of physics is generally considered a technomagickal Device unless the mage in question also pursues a practice like hypertech or weird science, as Doc Eon has done. Minus the intense physical discipline, a regimen of especially potent psychotropics could allow an invigorationist mage to expand her awareness, consciousness, and influential capabilities. A mage who wants to pursue invigoration as a practice must also hone the ability to perform miracles without destroying the all-too-fragile human illusions in which she exists… and that sort of ability requires dedicated exercise.
Associated Paradigms: Aliens Make Us What We Are, Ancient Wisdom is the Key, Consciousness is the Only True Reality, Embrace the Threshold, Everything’s an Illusion, Might is Right (of course), Tech Holds All the Answers, Transcend Your Limits (again, of course), We are Meant to be Wild, We Are Not Men!, We’re All God(s) in Disguise
Associated Abilities: Athletics, Biotech, Brawl, Esoterica (bodywork, yoga, Tantra, Taoist alchemy, energy-work, etc.), Lucid Dreaming, Martial Arts, Medicine, Meditation, Science
Common Instruments: Blood and fluids, bodywork, brain/computer interface, brews and concoctions, dances and movement (katas and other exercise forms), devices and machines, gadgets and inventions (employed to enhance the mage’s capabilities), drugs and poisons, energy, eye contact, fashion (“dressing the part of a superior human being”), food and drink, herbs and plants, labs and gear, meditation, money and wealth (which buys all kinds of training…), nanotech (again, as enhancement of human potential), ordeals and exertions (as described above), sex and sensuality, social domination, thought-forms (envisioning one’s perfect self), voice and vocalizations (which channel energy toward greater potency).
Every part of the cosmos works in a specific fashion so one gains authority (divine or otherwise) by abiding by the laws.
Certain magicks are deliberately cruel. Cast with malicious intentions, they’re intended to cause harm and distress. Medieval law called such Arts maleficia – “evil-doing” – and that’s appropriate. For though most conceptions of witchcraft are mistaken, there are people who use bad magick for bad ends.
When folks think of black magic, they’re referring to this deliberately obscene practice… although any form of magick can be hurtful, maleficia is intentionally crafted toward malignant aims. Curses; possessions; damnations; invocations to malevolent powers; infernal pacts, inhuman abilities; violations of body, mind, and spirit… such is the realm of maleficia. Other forms of corruption, too, can be invoked through this form of magick: wealth spells, sexual enchantments, techniques of social dominance, and all manner of metaphysical abuses can be conjured with help from sinister powers. These practices have no set form but range from the petty desecrations of teenage devilheads to the arcane ceremonies of ancient Infernal cults.
Although the Nephandi seem to be the obvious offenders in this regard, anyone with a sufficiently bent motivation can employ a form of maleficia. The evangelist who calls upon his congregation to pray for the death of some hated figure is invoking maleficia; the forbidden Hermetic rites for summoning demons employ it too. The Black Masses present pretty obvious examples; as are the 'Amatory Masses' said to be performed by renegade Catholic Priests on the streets of pre-Revolution Paris to compel unwanted affections for the benefits of their decadent patrons. Just as any mystic practice can inflict harm, so too can any mystic practice become twisted into maleficia.
As a practice, maleficia features deliberate cruelty and perversion. Sex, for example, is a sacrament in certain traditions, but malefic practices use sex in its most tortured and nonconsensual forms. Sacrifices become as brutal and horrific as possible; prayers are spoken backwards; sacred symbols and objects are deliberately defiled through acts of defiant malevolence. Technology might play a part as well, as an instrument of torture, a method of access, or a channel for disruptive acts and energies. Music concerts, computer hacking, media broadcasts, machines… all could be employed as instruments of black magic.
For obvious reasons, maleficia tends to leave nasty Resonance behind. That combination of sick deeds and ugly intentions poisons everything it touches. Rooms, tools, and people feel tainted after a malefic rite; even Sleepers can sense that something’s not right about such things. The mage can clean up every physical trace of the crime, but a metaphysical essence lingers… often attracting corrupt entities that pick up where the malefactor left off…
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Cosmology, Enigmas, Esoterica, Expression, Intimidation, Melee, Occult, Pharmacopeia, Seduction, Torture
Common Instruments: Artwork, blood and fluids, bodywork, bones and remains (often fresh), circles and designs, cups and vessels, curses, elements, eye contact, drugs and poisons, gems and valuables, group rites, music, offerings and sacrifice, prayers and invocations, sex (typically nonconsensual), voice, weapons
The human machine is a miracle whose vast potential is hampered by undisciplined habits and acquired behaviors. Martial arts expand upon that potential, unlocking the deeper physical and metaphysical abilities of body, mind, and spirit. Although such arts, at the basic levels, simply help a person strike or move more effectively in a fight, the higher reaches of martial-arts discipline go far beyond physical combat, into the realm of mental focus and spiritual refinement.
Although the obvious example of self-perfection through martial arts is kung fu (roughly translated as “hard work” or “auspicious effort art”), most martial arts have esoteric elements. Renaissance fencing features philosophy, psychology, and mathematics as well as physical skill; Greek pankration emphasizes being “all powerful” in all respects; capoeira relies upon the essence of freedom as well as on the acrobatic maneuvers for which it’s famous. Advanced martial arts, therefore, nurture the spirit, hone the mind, and turn the body into a focus for the powers of each.
At their most metaphysical levels, advanced martial arts attune a practitioner into the Quintessential life force, channel it through refined motions, and grant incredible – some would say inhuman – powers through the focus of an art. The Akashic practice Do is probably the most obvious example of this practice on a metaphysical level, but any martial art – even dirty fighting – can become a magickal practice with the proper mindset and devotion.
Essentially, the artist manifests her will through clarity, energy, and activity. In game terms, she uses that art as a mystic focus. Beyond their mystic elements, martial arts are also technologies: refinements of knowledge that can be studied, repeated, and employed with practical effect. Thus, Technocrats and other technomancers can employ martial arts as a focus too.
Regarding all that mystic nonsense as metaphors and mental techniques, a technomancer can divorce her martial arts training from mysticism and still retain its metaphysical potency. With such powers, she can direct Forces, alter Life, rearrange Matter, perceive Entropy, channel Prime, enhance Time, and – perhaps most of all – refine her Mind to sublime capacity. Although she couldn’t fly through the air or skip along tree branches by manipulating chi (“That’s just mythology!”), she can still rework conventional physics and biology through her understanding of the fighting arts.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Acrobatics, Alertness, Athletics, Awareness, Esoterica, Etiquette, Intimidation, Martial Arts, Medicine, Meditation, Melee
Common Instruments: Bodywork, dance and movement, energy, herbs, meditation, ordeals and exertions, symbols, wands and staves, weapons, voice
The privatization of media was one of the wealthy’s greatest boons. Figures like Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch loomed over the media for centuries, changing hearts and minds with newspaper headlines, television sitcoms, and Internet lifestyle sites.
Media is one of the fiercest battlegrounds in the Ascension struggle. While much of it is an inadvertent tool of the Technocracy, just enough alternative media exists for its enemies to thrive. The clash between programming and counterprogramming is what reinforces and weakens the ruling paradigms of consensual reality.
Using convenient media sources greatly expands the range and scope of a mage’s abilities. A sigil hides in a newspaper’s daily crossword, revealing an enemy’s location when she solves 21-down. A guided meditation on a video-hosting website siphons a sliver of each viewer’s lifeforce and implants it in its caster. A bestselling novel opens new concepts in the minds of millions, easing the Paradox of a future spell.
On social media, chain letters pass from account to account because sometimes they truly do what they say, so it’s just safer to always reblog. What seems like a bogus medical cure (10 Wild Cures for Poison Ivy! You won’t believe #3!) is a rote written by a Hermetic seeking its acceptance. Get a million people to click, and it just might catch on.
Associated Paradigms: Divine Order and Earthly Chaos, Everything is Data, Power Trickles Down
Associated Abilities: Art, Empathy, Expression, Intimidation, Politics, Subterfuge, Technology
Common Instruments: Artwork; Books, Scrolls, and Periodicals; Eye Contact; Fashion; Mass Media; Physical Media; Social Media; Writings, Inscriptions, and Runes
Next to parenting, healing might be the highest human vocation. Many mages – mystics and technomancers alike – view their Enlightenment as an obligation to heal. To heal the planet, heal the people, heal the spirits, heal the Earth… perhaps all of them at once, if that’s at all possible. And so one of the oldest and most sacred Paths an Awakened person can pursue involves the practice of medicine work.
Simply put, a medicine-person directs his skills and energies toward a healing practice. He might be the Progenitor physician, the Verbena root-witch, the Bata’a houngan, the Templar medic… it’s not the group that matters, or even the medical practice, when it comes to the abilities of a skillful mage. A shaman with Life 3 can fix a broken leg as well as a Progenitor with the same level of Spheres. For the purposes of magickal practice, the term medicine work refers to the intent to heal and the choice of techniques that enhance healing, not to the specific method a mage uses when healing injuries or disease.
Human medicine is an ever-evolving technology. Things we take for granted as medical facts were unknown half a century ago, whereas certain proven truths of conventional Western medicine ignore equally proven truths of alternative, non-industrialized medicines. A well-rounded healer in today’s world would probably understand Western technological medicine; Tibetan So Rig techniques; faith-based spiritual methods; Indian Ayurveda (“the science of life”); Japanese reiki and Swedish massage; the vast synergy of modern Chinese medicine; the Persian, Greek, and Arab roots of conventional medicine; current holistic theories; experimental machine technology, and other techniques besides. Few healers, of course, have the time or access to study such a broad range of disciplines – many of which clash with one another on a philosophical level. Instead, the healer picks a specific approach and then directs his attentions… and intentions… toward the path that works best for him.
Thanks to magick (especially the Life, Entropy, Mind, and Prime Spheres), any form of medicine can work for an Awakened healer who employs that medicine as a focus, so long as that mage BELIEVES in that form of medicine. An Iroquois member of the Society of Faces would feel as lost in a Progenitor biotech facility as a Progenitor would feel when hefting a medicine mask. Both techniques work in the hands of a mage who understands and trusts those techniques, but few healers trust both of those techniques with equal faith. And so, when choosing medicine work as a magickal practice, the player needs to define what sort of medicine his character employs. (We encourage players to research actual medical practices from different cultures.)
It’s worth mentioning that traditional Native American and African mages often abhor the idea of using magic. In many cultures, “magick” is either trickery or the influence of malignant spirits. Medicine is a more accurate and respectful term for what such people do than magick is… hence, the phrase medicine man. Many “shamans” actually consider themselves to be medicine men or women, using their Arts to nurture and restore the world, not to make it dance to their whims.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics (healing practices), Art (masks, dance, music, etc.), Awareness, Empathy, Esoterica (herbalism, energy work, bodywork, healing and meditative practices), Medicine, Meditation, Pharmacopeia, Science, Technology
Common Instruments: Artwork, blessings and curses, blood and fluids, bodywork, bones and remains, books, brews and concoctions, computers, cups and vessels, dance and movement, devices and machines, drugs and poisons, group rites (operations), herbs, laboratories, languages (Latin, jargon, and that weird script doctors use when writing prescriptions), meditation, music, offerings and sacrifices, prayers and invocations, social domination, voice, weapons (surgical instruments)
For certain people, “magic” means the ability to focus outside spirit-powers. It’s less a matter of Will than it is the distinctly mixed blessing of being an “open channel” for Otherworldly forces. Several mystic practices – most obviously the Spiritualism of the late 1800s and early 1900s; “voodoo”; and the popular, though potentially insulting, “gypsy fortune-teller” approach – focus upon opening one’s self to the Spirit World and then employing its powers for your gain. In such practices, the “mage” is actually a medium, acting as a passage between flesh and spirit. And although such people can be quite accomplished, a medium credits the spirits, not himself, for the power he commands.
As a practice, it concentrates on attaining a trance-state and then directing spiritual energies through physical bodies and conscious intentions. Certain mediums simply open themselves to the spirits and then surrender to the experience; others choose who they’ll interact with, how they’ll interact, and what they’ll get out of the bargain personally. Awakened mages, generally, fall into that second category, while un-Awakened “spirit-horses” let themselves be driven by the spirits within. (For examples of such dealings from a rules point of view, see the entries for Necromancy, Summoning, Bargaining, Binding, and Warding, and Uncanny Influence in the sourcebook How Do You DO That?)
Although mediumship tends to be spiritually oriented by default, certain “alternative” approaches to science consider this to be an advanced form of mental and /or alien technology instead. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s brand of Theosophy is often considered an esoteric technology, and many New Age “channelers” claim to be telepathically communicating with alien intelligences, not “spirits” as such. Of course, the lines between such things tend to blur into nonexistence in Mage’s world. Still, certain mediums vehemently resist the idea that they practice “magic” in any form, even as the things they do fit that definition far more than they resemble conventional scientific applications.
Those spirits don’t have to be human spirits either; many shape-changing practices involve channeling the essence of an animal, like the owl-witch who transforms through her affinity with the Owl totem. Mediumship has a postmodernist element too: the channeling of “departed souls,” “past lives,” “alien intelligences,” “Ascended Masters,” and even “demons,” all of whom offer advice, power, and inspiration of a potentially dubious nature.
While Spirit is the obvious Sphere for medium-based Arts, the Spheres of Correspondence (clairsentience), Entropy (necromancy), Forces (elemental phenomena and telekinetic command), Life (physical distortion, and transformation), Mind (uncanny influence), Prime (energy-work) and Time (prophecy) share traditional bonds with mediumship as well. Those spirits don’t have to be human spirits either; many shape-changing practices involve channeling the essence of an animal, like the owl-witch who transforms through her affinity with the Owl totem. Mediumship has a postmodernist element too: the channeling of “departed souls,” “past lives,” “alien intelligences,” “Ascended Masters,” and even “demons,” all of whom offer advice, power, and inspiration of a potentially dubious nature.
The problem with mediumship is that you don’t really know who and what you’re dealing with. A smart medium studies cosmology and his preferred class of patron, but there’s still a chance that someone else is using him as a pawn for their own agenda. The Atlantean scribe who speaks through a medium might actually be a trickster or infernal entity; “Dear Aunt Sophie” could be a different ghost entirely, and that wise philosopher from the Crab Nebula is more likely to be an Otherworldly prankster… possibly even another mage. Even so, the Art of channeling aliens and angels has dedicated practitioners all over the world, many of whom demonstrate obvious powers beyond scientific paradigms.
Associated Paradigms: Aliens Make Us What We Are, All Power Comes from God(s), Ancient Wisdom is the Key, A World of Gods and Monsters, Consciousness is the Only True Reality, Everything’s an Illusion, It’s All good – Have Faith!, We’re All God(s) in Disguise
Associated Abilities: Awareness, Belief Systems, Cosmology, Empathy, Enigmas, Esoterica (channeling, Theosophy, spiritualism, etc.), Expression, Intimidation, Investigation (things no living human should know), Linguistics, Lucid Dreaming, Meditation, Occult, Research, and other Abilities – especially Knowledges – the character doesn’t usually know (see the Background: Dream).
Common Instruments: Artwork (masks, drawings, “channeled writing”), blood and fluids, bodywork, bones and remains, brews and concoctions, dance and movement, drugs and poisons, eye contact, fashion (ritual garb, often made from the remains of dead animals or people), gems (crystal balls, geodes, focus-stones), herbs and plants, languages (speaking in tongues, foreign, alien or “dead” languages), meditation, ordeals and exertions (mediumship tends to involve physically demanding feats), sex and sensuality, social domination, voice and vocalizations (radically different voices than the character’s own), writing (automatic writing, alien transcriptions)
Every element of “reality” as we understand it comes through the psyche – that “sense of self” composed of consciousness, through which we process and influence our existence. And so, it stands to reason (which, again, suggests that it is true because we think it should be true) that the psyche is the ultimate wellspring of reality, at least as far as we humans understand what’s “real.” By extension, then, the ultimate form of magick should be that which flows from, and is focused through, the practice of psychic disciplines – a practice commonly known as psionics (or 'psychotronics' as some insist is the correct nomenclature).
Both ancient lore and horizon-edge science posit that consciousness (human or otherwise) is either the most potent force in Reality as we know it, or may even be the entirety of Reality as we know it. Thus, psionic disciplines cultivate that consciousness and expand its awareness of, and effects upon, a practitioner’s reality. Essentially, the practitioner – who may not consider themselves to be any sort of “mage” at all – applies consciousness as the ultimate tool. Depending upon that practitioner’s paradigm, their psychic talents could range from subtle psi-power manifestations (telepathy, pre- and postcognition, psychic influence and perception, astral projection, telekinesis, mind-based illusions, and so forth) to staggering displays of apparently impossible power (elemental psycho-manifestations, mass levitation, psi-mutation, psychic healing or annihilation, manipulation of time and space, and other miraculous feats).
Theoretically, the limits of psychic power are set only by what the practitioner believes they can do. And if “reality” is indeed an illusion or projection that consciousness can control, such belief could potentially move mountains and fold supposedly solid objects into dazzling puzzles of nothingness.
As a practice, psionics combines rigorous mental and often physical discipline with a handful of external tools that help the practitioner focus that person’s concentration. Mantras, songs, dances, chants, prayers, and movement-based forms (gestures, head-clasping, mudra hand-postures, dervish-style spinning, martial-arts katas, t’ai chi and yoga postures, and the like) are traditional tools for mental discipline, along with geometric designs either complex (yantras, sigils, Hermetic seals, etc.) or simple. Drugs, both legal and otherwise, open Huxley’s “doors of perception,” and symbol-laden props like Tarot cards, dice, and even toys help the practitioner overcome mental blocks and nagging distractions. Meditation, though, is the key to all psyche-based operations. Only by spending long periods cultivating internal focus and disassociation can a devotee of the psychic Arts transcend delusions and expand into a greater sense of consciousness.
In game terms, a mage who employs psionics as a practice is using exactly the same rules as any other Sphere-using Awakened character. The extensive psychic power rules given in certain World of Darkness sourcebooks apply to non-mage psychics, not to characters who channel Awakened Sphere-abilities through this practice. To the mage themself, however, a psychic focus is simply a highly developed psychic discipline.
By any name and definition, the psionics practice focuses belief through the mage’s mind. The various instruments described above serve as mental tools and techniques, but the power comes from within the mage. Considering that the root psyche refers to “breath,” “self,” “soul,” and – by extension – “mind,” this practice comes closest to the core of Mage’s magickal system: the idea that magick is an extension of the mage who employs it. Even so, an Awakened psychic still needs to rely upon certain instruments – meditation, eye contact, social domination, and other self-contained tools – until that mage can transcend the need for an external focus – in game terms, until the player can buy off the need for instruments.
A psionic mage could pursue intensive physical exercise as well (see Invigoration, above, plus the Akashic Art of Do and other forms of the Martial Arts practice), enhance their psychic faculties with mind-expanding drugs (as many Progenitors and Ecstatic Cultists do), and combine psychic powers with Dominion, High Ritual Magick or Yoga. Psychic discipline is an important element of ritual magick, after all, and essential to true mastery of yoga and the martial arts.
Associated Paradigms: Ancient Wisdom is the Key, Consciousness is the Only True Reality, Everything is Data, Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake, It’s All Good – Have Faith!, Might is Right, Transcend Your Limits, We Are Not Men!
Associated Abilities: Alertness, Awareness, Empathy, Enigmas, Esoterica (psychic phenomena, Thelema, Theosophy, yoga), Intimidation, Lucid Dreaming, Martial Arts, Meditation
Common Instruments: Bodywork, brain /computer interface, devices and machines, and nanotech (all of which can enhance psychic potential), cards and instruments of chance, dances and movement (as described above), drugs (again, as per the film Lucy), energy, eye contact, fashion (“dress how you wish to feel”), formulae and math, numbers and numerology (which can all be used to focus the mind), group rites, and music (likewise), languages (especially modes of “mental rewiring” speech, such as neuro-linguistic programming, non-violent communication, and glossolalia), management and HR (which combine mental influence with social activity), meditation, sex and sensuality (used in Tantra and some forms of High Ritual as a tool to expand consciousness and bond with other souls), social domination, symbols (employed for concentration), thought-forms, and True Names (to “set one’s intentions into form”), voice and vocalizations (chants and mantras), writings, inscriptions, and runes (again, to focus intentions and set them into form)
Imaginative people can do imaginative things with supposedly static structures. Hacking them apart to reconfigure those structures, these people use various tools – technology, philosophy, art, politics, and, occasionally, magick – to remake what was into what can be. With the correct gear and the right ideas, you don’t even need to be a mage in order to hack the dominant paradigm… just ask Osama bin Laden’s ghost. When you are a mage, however, you can employ those tools to remake Reality on a grand scale.
Typically associated with the Virtual Adepts (and, to a lesser extent, the Cult of Ecstasy), the reality-hacking practice can be used by any mage with the proper mindset and expertise. The core idea – reality is flexible – seems familiar enough these days. As a practice, reality hacking uses an array of technologies to rework the systems that govern our world: its commerce, politics, media, memes, connections, faiths, physics, and so forth. By concentrating on specific systems and ideas, the mage can start remixing expectations into some new and interesting shape.
Sound like anarchy? Sometimes it is. Many of this practice’s oldest adherents and principles, however, come from the Order of Reason and Technocratic Order. After all, it was early Technocrats who hacked the human concepts of the universe, God, governments, and other technologies. Technocrats shaped fencing (a sword-fighting hack), the physical sciences (an elemental hack), exploration (a geographic hack), mass media (a consciousness hack), and the space program (a planetary hack). It’s no accident that the Virtual Adepts and Society of Ether began as Technocratic Conventions. And despite their unruly applications of technology, they’re just keeping that old hacker ethic alive.
The postmodern reality hacker tends to employ information technologies – not simply computers, but also memes, media, and other forms of mass intellectual access. As demonstrated by 9/11, she doesn’t have to be a computer nerd – simply a visionary who notes the weakness of a structure and the method that exploits it. The transhumanist idea of reality as information – epitomized by the Data and Primal Utility Spheres (see M20 pp. 524-527) – provides leverage for a reality hacker mage. Channeling her ideas and energies through computer code, social media, videos, slogans, pranks, guerilla theatre, movies and videos, graphic novels, music, fashions, Internet memes, and the clever manipulation of vibrant symbols (masks, puppets, iconography, remixed media, and so forth), that mage can re-contextualize reality as the Masses understand it, then take advantage of those new perceptions. It’s not as quick or gratifying as a thunderbolt, but it tends to be a hell of a lot more powerful… and more coincidental, too.
Like cybernetics, dominion, and the Art of Desire (all related practices), reality hacking aims more toward influence than raw force. The reality hacker strives to modify the system to her advantage, rather than blast it apart. Even so, certain tools – like terrorism and atrocity – can be incredibly violent in both implementation and results. Even then, however, that violence serves as an extension and instrument of the hack; the power of terrorism, for example, comes more from the atmosphere of dread and fury than from the casualties themselves. Sphere-wise, reality hacking favors Correspondence (for drawing and exploiting connections), Entropy (for spotting flaws and arranging probabilities), Forces (directing or destroying electrical systems), Mind (influencing ideas and the folks who have them), Life (rewiring the human animal), Prime (drawing, raising, and directing energy), and Time (re-contextualizing the perceptions of time), and uses instruments that express and subvert those principles in the modern world.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything is Data; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics (history, philosophy, social sciences), Art, Belief Systems, Computer, Expression, Government, Media, Politics, Science (psychology as well as physical sciences), Subterfuge, Technology
Common Instruments: Artwork, books, brain/ computer interface, computers and IT gear, devices and machines, drugs, eye contact, group rites, language, mass media, money and wealth, music, nanotech, sex, social domination, symbols, thought forms, tricks and illusions, voice, weapons
We occupy a living world whose essence is greater and more intelligent than we recognize. Whereas common people stumble through material illusions, a shaman transcends both humanity and illusion. Moving through a world of layers and traps, he exists outside the everyday realm. And yet, through his guidance, the Sleeping People slumber more comfortably and the Awakened Ones remain more aware.
Perhaps the most abused word in magic, shamanism technically refers to a specific type of Siberian spirit-worker. Over time, however, it’s come to define anyone who employs old-culture traditions to walk between the sublime world and its often ridiculous material counterpart. Dying – sometimes literally – to the life he led before he felt Called by the spirits, the shaman is reborn in a half-outcast state… mad by the standards of his previous society, yet aware of (if not always clear about) the true nature of Reality.
Because the shaman traditionally lives between the worlds of flesh and spirit, human and animal, matter and essence, sanity and dementia, conventionality and chaos, he embodies a living crossroads in which those qualities intersect. In many cases, he suffers from physical and/or psychological ailments, a wounded healer whose infirmities render him more sympathetic to other wounded souls. A shaman often depends upon other people and spiritual allies whose aid and guidance help him survive his strange existence. In return, he grants his allies healing, insight, action in realms they might not be able to reach unaided, and a powerful intercessor with parties they may not address alone. A soul guide, a prophet, a medicine bringer and spirit warrior, our shaman walks a sacred… if often unpleasant… Path.
Thanks to noble-savage nonsense, shamanism has a trippy popular image that’s deeply at odds with the earthy and often bizarre nature of the shaman himself. In reality, shamanism is a gritty, anti-orthodox vocation, filled with deliberate contradictions and slippery concepts of sanity. A shaman often inverts ideas of propriety; cross-dressing, speaking in riddles, or acting in deliberately crude or obnoxious ways in order to shake up or demolish preconceptions. These tools – as well as the usual masks, dances, and trappings one expects from a shaman – form the instruments of shamanic Arts. Folks who expect the dewy-eyed dreamer of New Age romanticism are in for a shock when they meet true shamans… and that shock, too, is part of the shaman’s toolkit.
Although shamanism favors a naturalistic viewpoint, technoshamanic practices exist in the current era. Connecting with urbanized spirits (city-souls, electronic entities, machine-spirits, and so on) – frequently through computers, fast-food offerings, consumerism cast-offs, and other postmodernist talismans – the technoshaman blends ancient awareness with current technology, acting as a vessel to distill the essence of eternity into the power of today.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith!
Associated Abilities: Alertness, Art, Cosmology, Enigmas, Esoterica, Expression, Lucid Dreaming, Medicine, Pharmacopeia, Streetwise, Survival
Common Instruments: Blood and fluids, bones and remains, computers, dance, drugs and concoctions, elements, herbs, household tools, offerings and sacrifice, ordeals, sex and sensuality, thought forms, toys, True Names, voice, weapons
If “shamanism” is the most abused word in magick, then Voudoun might be the most abused practice. Drawn from a fusion of Central African faiths, Native American practices, European iconography, and the humid atrocity of American slave culture, the collection of “voodoo” creeds – Macumba, Obeah, Candomblé, Voudoun, Santería, Delta and Lower Appalachian Hoodoo, the various flavors of Urban-American Voodoo, and their many offshoots – continues to command uncanny fascination in the modern world. Distorted by a combination of secrecy, poverty, racism, psychological warfare, cultural marginalization, and certain unnerving elements that actually do exist within those practices, the popular image of Voudoun magick reflects its distinctly American character.
Essentially, a Voudoun mage’s practice revolves around finding and revering allies in a treacherous world. Arriving in chains for lives of forced labor after a hellish passage in seaborne underworlds, the Africans who were transported to the Americas had little to draw upon except faith, courage, and rage. Ripped away from their families, many of them lacked even a common language. From the bits and pieces of their new lives, these people crafted creeds that reflected the hopes and horrors of that world, peopled with new families to replace the ones they had lost. In that world, the worst thing that could happen was slavery beyond death… so the curses and creatures of Voudoun lore focused on imprisonment, servitude, crossings, hunger, defiance, and escape. Old gods, new spirits, and tales of elevated mortals attained the identities of Loa: the god-spirit kin of Voudoun practitioners. That synergistic survivor creed remains a vital methodology into the modern nights, where there can be found any manner of unjust force (supernatural or otherwise) that might seek to enslave or chain a mage in some fashion or another.
Characterized by prayers, offerings, shrines, designs, blessings and maledictions, physical prowess, psychic awareness, bright colors, and sudden violence, Voudoun practices reflect their eclectic origins. Whereas elaborate Arts like High Ritual Magick favor wealth and perfection, Voudoun remains eminently practical. Sure, certain devotees are rich, especially these days; the practice itself, however, employs whatever resources a person has to work with. Faith and trust outweigh arcane rituals and ostentatious displays. Loyalty means more than titles or gold. Rewards and punishments come swiftly… often with quirks of sardonic humor attached… and newcomers get tested with fierce irony and ominous threats. In many regards, the intentionally eerie nature of Voudoun presents a giant KEEP OUT sign to outsiders… most especially white ones. For obvious reasons, a practitioner wears many masks and keeps many secrets.
Beyond those masks and secrets, our Voudoun practitioner nurtures passionate connection. Priestesses become “Mama,” and priests become “Papa.” Far from being distant, sublime godheads, his Loa patrons are powerful yet accessible cousins whose touch is a prayer or offering away. Anyone who needs a favor can come asking for it… and although the price of that favor might not be as pleasant or easy as he might have wished, it does tend to be granted in one form or another…
Despite its shared roots with faith, shamanism and witchcraft, Voudoun has a distinct culture whose methods and doctrines don’t always play well with others. The Loa and related spirits certainly manifest through their human devotees, but those relationships are more familial than the ones often shared (and endured) between shamans and their spirit allies. That element of family is an essential, and typically neglected, element of the Voudoun mage’s Arts. Given that the practice originated with family-oriented people who were severed from everything and everyone they’d known before, it’s not surprising that blood – figurative and otherwise – holds such a vital place in Voudoun lore and practice.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Art, Athletics, Awareness, Belief Systems, Carousing, Crafts, Empathy, Intimidation, Lucid Dreaming, Medicine, Meditation, Streetwise
Common Instruments: Artwork (vévés), blessings and curses, blood, bones and remains, cards and dice, cups and vessels, crossroads, dance and movement, drugs and poisons, elements, eye contact, fashion, group rites, herbs, household tools, knots and rope, languages, meditation, music, offerings and sacrifices, prayers and invocations, sex and sensuality, symbols, True Names, voice, wands and staves, weapons, writing
Folks who think that “science is boring” know nothing about science. Underneath the lab coats and brain-cracking equations run currents of curious wonder. And though cold-eyed Technocrats favor a controlled approach to the Scientific Arts, certain visionaries refuse to be so confined. Would you call them mad? Perhaps… but their dedication keeps the hope of Science alive!
Unlike most other technomagickal Arts, weird science isn’t based upon repeatable results. Oh, sure, the mad scientist wants to be able to craft armies of robotic servitors or fleets of dirigible warships… and he may well be able to create them too, once a favorable prototype has emerged from his laboratory. However, that Inspired Scientist (don’t call him a “mage” – that’s ridiculous!) is more engaged by the spirit of inquiry and potential than by the devotion to repeatable craftsmanship. As a consequence, his creations often feature glaring flaws and Paradoxes that will be smoothed out, of course, in later iterations… if he ever gets around to making them, that is.
Weird science, by definition, defies the bounds of possibility. Its crazy ideas fuel crazy creativity. Theories that no rational scientist would entertain guide the creation of devices and creatures whose very existence violates the Consensus: jetpacks, death rays, quirky robots, outlandish vehicles, Atlantean sonic technologies, spacecraft, mechanical appendages, psychic enhancement gear, lab-grown allies, devastating war machines, and whatever other strange gadgetry a mad scientist can imagine. And yet, this isn’t some sort of “magic” – heavens, no! Every piece of odd technology depends upon theories so unconventional yet sublime that they MUST be true, if only for the sake of an imaginative universe.
As with other tech-based practices, weird science requires serious work in the lab before working results appear. An Enlightened Scientist might spend months or years honing his creation before revealing it to the world. Yet once that innovation has been achieved, he can often replicate it quickly, often with the help of skilled (if dispirited) minions. Weird science also allows the Scientist to alter tech with sudden bursts of inspiration, MacGyvering rickety inventions that last just long enough to accomplish a single task. And so – because he’s no sort of wizard, you imbecile! – the mad scientist needs tools and materials close at hand in order to work his wonders. True Science is indeed miraculous, but it’s not some kind of magic. No, not at all…
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; Bring Back the Golden Age; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Data; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Academics, Crafts, Esoterica (various so-called disproven scientific theories), Energy Weapons, Hypertech, Research, Science, Technology
Common Instruments: Armor, books, bones and remains, brain/ computer interface, celestial alignments, computers and IT gear, devices and machines, elements, gadgets, inventions, laboratories, languages, numbers and numerology, toys, vehicles, weapons, writing and inscriptions
Witch. One of the more venomous words in the English language, the label “witch” can send a person to a hideous death. Even now, when the Burning Times seem more like myth than history, the popular imagination equates witches with warty evil hags cackling over poisonous, foul-smelling brews. Why would anyone, then, want to use something as quaintly horrific as “witchcraft”? Because those who understand it know that it works… not only as a magickal practice but also as a form of reverence for the natural world.
The equally loaded term “witchcraft” covers a lot of ground, from the diabolical maledictions of medieval legend to the reclamationist neopaganism of the modern era. As a Mage practice, however, the term refers to a nature-oriented, practical craft, as opposed to the scholastic abstractions of High Ritual Magick, alchemy, and so on. Traditional witchcraft is a folk-oriented low magick practiced by common people who need discernible results: healing, fertility, divination, luck or misfortune, prosperity, clarity, physical prowess, and intercessions between the people and their gods that are far more intimate than what can be found at the local temple. The disputed origin of the term witch is “wisdom,” although other possibilities include words meaning “twist,” “knot,” or “knowledge.” And so, witches throughout time have been said to know things… often things that proper people could not or should not know.
Today’s witchcraft features a postmodernist brew of traditional European wise-craft; 19th-century literary occultism and 20th-century mystic fusions; pre-Christian elements from Greek, Norse, Celtic, Hindu, Slavic, Roman, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures (with prodigious cultural appropriations from Native American, African, Romani, and occasionally Asian cultures); repurposed Christian and Jewish practices (especially Catholicism and the Kabbalah); postmodernist philosophy, and New Age takes on quantum physics; mass-media iconography; and tons of pure invention wrapped up in a bright bow of fantasy media, political activism, and technological polyculture. This high-eclectic synergy often incorporates computers, the Internet, pop psychology, chaos theory, and other elements that would be entirely unrecognizable to old-school wise-crafters. Nevertheless, it speaks to people on an elemental level… and yes, as a mystic practice, it’s as effective as any other tool on a mage’s workbench.
In all its forms, witchcraft has an outlaw mystique – due both to constant persecution and a defiantly sinister stance. Today’s witch might practice holistic medicine and nonviolent politics, but she still exists outside of mainstream respectability… often with a Fuck You attitude. Whatever style of witchcraft she prefers, that Art/Craft incorporates potent symbols – Old Gods, nature spirits, blades, circles, wands, robes, very dark or bright colors, occult iconography, seasons, shadows, chalices, ashes, the four Classical elements, and so on – that reach into the subconscious territory beyond a mainstream comfort zone.
Our 21st-century American or Western European witch might favor dark clothes, body art, and a swaggering subculture image, or cloak her Arts in a middle-class façade that conceals her elemental devotions. She could follow a strict Witch’s Rule or proclaim herself a mystic anarchist. Tonight's Awakened, self-identifying 'witch' is more likely to revere Nature and diversity than other mystics, while perceiving what she does as channeling her Will through harmony with light and shadow, death and life. Though epitomized by the Verbena Tradition, she isn’t necessarily Pagan and doesn’t always wear her Art on her sleeve, so to speak.
Regardless of her tools or devotions, though, modern witchcraft retains a core of practicality, focused on everyday utility and addressing the most fundamental of human needs, insecurities and emotions. As such, a witch is far more likely to identify and integrate herself with her local community (whether they fully accept her or not), rather than seclude herself in the ivory tower of a High Ritual magician. A witch is always interested far more in the people around her than in dusty tomes or research labs.
Associated Paradigms: A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything is Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Might is Right; One-Way Trip to Oblivion
Associated Abilities: Academics, Animal Kinship, Art, Awareness, Crafts, Medicine, Meditation, Occult, Pharmacopeia
Common Instruments: Artwork, blessings and curses, blood and fluids, bodywork, bones and remains, books, brews, cards, celestial alignments, circles, crossroads, cups and vessels, dance, drugs and poisons, elements, eye contact, group rites, household tools, knots and ropes, music, offerings, sex and sensuality, social domination, symbols, True Names, wands and staves, weapons, writing and inscriptions
Beneath the popular exercise trend rests a potent metaphysical practice. Named from a Sanskrit word that means union, balance, joining, and (by extension) yoke, yoga employs mental, physical, and spiritual disciplines to refine a higher state of being. Through advanced levels of yoga, a practitioner unlocks the greatest human abilities, eventually transcending his human limits and achieving enlightenment… first temporary, and then perpetual. Dedication to yoga strips away the illusions of physical existence. In communion with Absolute Reality, the True Self – the center of consciousness (Atman or Purusha) – comes to comprehend the Unity of All.
Although its historical origins may be disputed, yoga derives from a collection of practices rooted in the Indus-Sarasvati cultures of ancient India. Collected into the Vedas – books of knowledge – these practices and observations refined several forms of ritual, meditation, vocalization, and physical exercise, all dedicated to mending the fractured state of human existence. In the Classical Yoga period, those practices mingled with the Upanishads: scriptures of dynamic unity. By 1900, Western occult traditions had begun to incorporate yogic disciplines into their own practices. (The Council of Nine, of course, understood such practices long ago.) Through mastery of those disciplines, an experienced yogi or yogini(male or female practitioner) can see the essential state of Reality… and can work with it as well. Yoga, therefore, isn’t simply a state of meditation but also a practice of conscious activity. The practitioner doesn’t just contemplate her navel; with deep awareness and conscious devotion, she commits herself to action.
Details about yoga could fill their own book. In a practical sense, though, a yoga practitioner pursues intense physical, mental, and spiritual study; combines learned wisdom with personal epiphanies; supersedes old limitations; and transforms herself into an instrument of transcendence. Through such refinement, she can attain superhuman abilities, project her consciousness outside of her body, and reveal the illusions of material reality as tricks of the mind… and, by extension, master earthly forces like gravity, time, matter, and the elements – in game terms, all of the Nine Spheres.
(A related tradition of practices that often incorporate yogic disciplines is known collectively as Tantra: “weaving,” “loom,” “activity,” or “essence.” Although many devotees of one still practice the other, however, yoga and Tantra are not the same things. Both share a heritage, a dedication to transcendence of physical and mental limitations, and a view of the Whole beyond the illusions of separation. Generally, though, yoga unifies apparently separate elements into a conscious, transcendent whole, whereas Tantra accesses transcendent energies through sublimating physical reality. For obvious reasons, various mages incorporate elements of both traditions into their practices.)
Often described as “the science of body, breath, mind, soul, and universe,” yoga can be considered a metaphysical technology. If nothing else, the physical and mental disciplines involved in yoga have proven benefits to the human organism. Thus, technomancers and even Technocrats can pursue a yoga practice, although its more esoteric levels defy pure materialism. By the early 21st century, the Technocracy has accepted the useful elements of yoga and incorporated certain aspects of yoga into its training programs. And so, although you won’t see Black Suits defying gravity and throwing bolts of pure Kundalini energy because of their mastery of yoga, the techniques of breathing, strength, and flexibility influence the new-millennium Technocrat’s pursuit of Life, Mind, and Prime Procedures. For traditional mystics (like Chakravanti and Sahajiya), such use of yogic discipline is anathema; for the devotees of Westernized yoga, however, that acceptance provides the punch line for a wondrous joke at the Technocracy’s expense.
Despite the utility of books, scriptures, designs, and various medical and sometimes psychoactive concoctions, yoga is a largely self-contained practice. The physical body becomes a vessel for the transcendent Self. A devotee tends toward extraordinary good health and vitality, incisive perceptions, and a big-picture perspective on things. She might be capable of apparently impossible physical feats of endurance and flexibility, and she can – at advanced levels – sidestep little things like physics. The foundation of her practice, however, involves correct breathing, centered consciousness, and reaching past apparent limitations. As the guru Bikram advised his students: This is going to hurt. Don’t be afraid.
Associated Paradigms: A Mechanistic Cosmos; A World of Gods and Monsters; Bring Back the Golden Age; Creation’s Divine and Alive; Divine Order and Earthly Chaos; Everything’s an Illusion, Prison, or Mistake; It’s All Good – Have Faith; Might is Right; Tech Holds All Answers
Associated Abilities: Athletics, Awareness, Enigmas, Esoterica, Expression, Medicine, Meditation, Survival
Common Instruments: Bodywork, circles and designs, dances and movement, energy, languages (Sanskrit), meditation, music, ordeals, prayers, sex and sensuality, symbols, thought forms, voice (mantras, the Om), writings and inscriptions
You must have at least one instrument attuned to each of your Spheres, and each Sphere must be attuned with at least one instrument which isn't shared by any other Sphere. Your mage must start play with at least seven instruments that are associated with their chosen affiliation and practice.
No mage relies on each instrument equally. Certain mages employ personalized or unique tools – a lucky baseball, rowan wand, hand-built guitar, and so forth.
Note that to be used as an instrument armor must be created or enhanced by Magick or Procedure. Off-the-rack won’t do.
Protective devices can shield a mage and her allies from harm. Such instruments range from self-powered exo-suits and enchanted plate armor, hypertech fabrics, or specially reinforced clothing, to the bulletproof “ghost shirts” or woad body-paint designs intended to protect warriors in battle. As a tool for Awakened focus, the armor in question must be created or modified by the Spheres to provide additional levels of protection. One point of Quintessence, invested into the armor with Prime 2 or better, can make that armor resistant to aggravated damage.
Objects of age and history.
Age provides its own kind of power. A newly crafted violin and a genuine first-generation Stradivarius may sound the same when tuned correctly, but one commands more respect simply by its history. Rich mages use this to their benefit. Some other mage might strive for a chance to use a rare music box built by a storied Etherite, but a wealthy mage comes home with it after a fierce private auction. Casting spells while wielding these objects transfers their authority into a mage’s vision, which can overcome Paradox. Sometimes these objects are sacrificed in a working, trading their inherent energy for a burst of power.
Think about memes and how they burn through the zeitgeist. Art has power, power mages can use.
Drawings, paintings, CGI, sculptures, graffiti, and so forth allow a mage to capture his intentions in a visual medium. One of the oldest mystic tools (as shown in prehistoric cave-paintings and goddess figurines), artwork often draws upon the principle of connection: by depicting your subject, you attach your intentions and desires to it through the art. Artwork also influences the human condition by appealing to people (or disturbing them) when they recognize the symbolic energy of a piece.
Possibly the first kind of magick ever done by mankind.
Bestowing favor or inflicting bad luck – especially through the power of gods or spirits – remains a potent form of magick. And so, when people see witches, clergy, gamblers, and hoodoo-folk call upon God, Fate, and Fortune, they’re inclined to believe in the results. In game terms, blessings and curses tend to be coincidental. After all, superstition and religious awe are universal, even in these supposedly civilized times.
Connected to both the sacred and the profane, ancient ritual and modern medicine. Blood, semen, sweat, tree sap, dew, pure, clean water…
Sweat, tears, blood, semen, saliva, pus, urine, bile, marrow, sap… through such fluids flow the essence of life. Sure, they seem disgusting to most folks, but mages – especially ones who practice medicine work, biotech, or primal magick – recognize their power. DNA, viruses, life force, the generative capacities of living things – all manifest in such organic fluids, so many practices employ those liquid instruments… possibly distilling them down to Quintessential Tass, painting with them, drinking them, drawing them out of the body, releasing them in acts of gory sacrifice, or otherwise opening an organic vessel and letting the magick flow. (See also Brews, Food, Offerings, and Sex.)
Tattooing, cutting, piercing, etc. is grim, but can provide a rush some mages use, combined with the ritualistic use of blood. More advanced versions of this instrument can lead to Cybernetic Implants, see below.
Tattoos. Piercings. Scarification. Implants. Bifurcation. Branding. Constrictions. Suspensions. A body can be subjected to many sorts of modification, from the relative simplicity of modern tattooing to the squick-inducing extremities of genital torture and consensual amputation. To non-practitioners, certain types of modification appear positively demented: Why would someone do that to themselves?
Folks who understand the disciplines involved, however, recognize that the combination of endorphin rush, exquisite pain, radical artistry, and enduring results can focus concentration and awareness to a preternatural degree. Body modification has a rich pedigree among mystic societies. Tattoos, piercings, brands, and selective mutilations are among the oldest forms of initiation, especially when they’re performed as part of a ritual surrounding puberty, entrance into a secret society, important events, the sealing of agreements, or acceptance within a special caste.
Traditionally, such modifications become part of an initiatory ordeal (see the instrument Ordeals and Exertions)… and because endurance is part of the experience, such modifications tend to be done in prolonged, excruciating ways. Of course, such traditions also tended to result in infections, decay, and death too, so modern practitioners usually employ sterile conditions and equipment, specialized training, and other precautions. (Old-school shamans, witches, and Ecstatics turn up their noses at such refinements, though.)
Once created, the results of such initiations can be used as instruments of focus as well as marks of initiation; a bard could tug each of her seven earrings while chanting a song-spell, and a fire-eater might close his eyes and rub his tattooed belly before invoking a gout of fire and spiting it in an enemy’s face. More radical forms of modification – amputation, implanted hardware, extensive tattooing, bifurcation of tongue or genitals, and so forth – are time-consuming and labor-intensive. Often employed during rituals, such feats combine the instrument of modification with the instrument of ordeal.
Rules-wise, those operations demand extended rolls on the part of both the subject of the modification and the person who’s performing the operation. (Stamina-based rolls from the subject, Dexterity or Intelligence + Art or Medicine rolls from the artists… and don’t botch. Really…) Even the simpler forms of modification – tattoos, minor piercings, and the like – often involve extended actions and a certain amount of endurance unless the modification happens too fast to process (as with a shopping-mall ear-piercing), in which case it’s essentially worthless as a tool of focus. Story-wise, modification ordeals produce an altered state of consciousness as the body and mind struggle to process what’s being done to them. The resulting state of ecstasy has become an integral part of many postmodern mystic practices, and quite a few technomagickal ones as well.
The extent of the modification really depends on how extreme the character is willing to be… although considering the possibilities involved in Life-Sphere magick, even the most extreme forms of consensual mutilation can be healed with relatively simple Effects, so long as there’s something left to work with once the modification is performed. (Castration and limb-removal tend to be one-way streets unless a mage is very, very good at her job.)
Massage, acupuncture and other techniques. The dark side of bodywork? Torture and misalignment of the body.
Massage, energy-sharing, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture and acupressure, yoga, and other disciplines of body manipulation allow a person to influence mental and physical health, stimulate organic functions, establish or reinforce intimate bonds between the practitioner and his subject, and simply help people feel better about themselves. As a result, bodywork forms a centerpiece for several mystic practices, especially ones that – like martial arts, shamanism, witchcraft, yoga, and certain types of medicine work – favor vitality over external tools.
The use of the remains of sacrificed or harvested living animals (or the remains of the already dead).
Like bodily fluids, the physical pieces of a living (or once-living) thing contain potent magickal significance. After all, such remains facilitate life, and so they also focus the life of a spell. As a result, they often get converted into ritual instruments of many different kinds. Books might be written on flayed skin; dusts can be ground from powdered bone; items could be crafted out of organs or skeletal remains.
It’s gruesome, sure – but it’s also quite traditional. Creepy mystics aren’t the only folks who do this sort of thing, either… are they, Dr. Frankenstein? The literal structures of life play important roles in magick, science, and religion, no matter how macabre that role might seem.
The wizard’s spellbook, a Wiccan’s book of shadows, the Holy Bible, a copy of Guns & Ammo…
Is print obsolete? Not even close. Although e-books and PDFs comprise a wider range of texts now than they did even a decade ago, the printed word retains a mystic significance that those digital media have yet to achieve.
In older days, books were like magickal items: rare, expensive, exclusive to a certain class of people (those who could read), and able to transmit arcane lore through an apparently supernatural method. Mages, then, were an elite class simply because so many of them had, and could employ, books. Since the advent of mass publication in the late 1700s and mass literacy in the 1800s, most of the glamour has faded. And yet, when people seek deeper truths and fictions, they still turn to da Vinci codes, boy wizards. and Middle Earth. Even the rougher voices on the socio-political fringe publish books in order to seem more respectable. Talk is cheap; writing is respected.
21st-century mage periodicals range from e-books of shadows to SF/ fantasy lit, computer manuals, magazines and e-zines, occult tomes, aged grimoires, ancient scrolls, downloadable PDFs, print-on-demand texts, graphic novels, and even game books like this one. Many feature the occult lore of ages, whereas others present pop philosophy, subversive concepts, historical information, cataloged facts, and any other subject that can be presented in written form. Within the last 30 years, incredibly rare arcane texts have popped up on big-box bookstore shelves all around the world, so any mage who takes herself seriously has a library of some kind.
An instrument increasing in popularity with technomancers. Direct interface between technology and the human brain, including the ubiquitous “cyberjack.”
An emerging technology among the Masses, BCI is a common tool among certain Awakened factions, especially the Virtual Adepts, Iteration X, the Syndicate, and the NWO. Microtechnology – usually a bush of carbon nanotube bundles spread throughout the brain – transmits electrical signals from the brain, interprets them through a computerized interface, and allows for physical manipulations or virtual functions through brain power alone.
Enlightened BCI lets the user tap into computerized systems through mere thoughts, manipulate cybernetic gear, access wireless Internet networks, and record or transmit impressions into or out of the brain. Essentially a technological synthesis of telekinesis and telepathy, BCI requires specialized equipment and training to employ. Electrical surges can damage or even destroy it; neurotoxins disrupt its functions; and radio transmissions can hack into the interface, cause it to go haywire, or override the primary user’s commands. As an instrument, it’s invisible to the human eye but discernible to electronic monitoring gear. And although it allows for a hands-free approach, its limitations become pretty obvious when the user tries to employ it in areas without advanced tech, regions with tech-hostile realities, or places without net access.
Because it literally messes with your brain, many mages consider BCI anathema. Even among allies, the debate about such technologies can get pretty heated. Does BCI turn its user into a tech-addled posthuman, or is it simply another step in human progress, like language, printing, or the Internet? Regardless of such objections, brain/ computer interface is a viable tool for the 21st-century technomancer – borderline coincidental so long as it’s used invisibly, and potentially game-changing for the future of humanity.
A potion of healing, the green mist, ritually prepared wine or beer, a Progenitor’s weird elixirs with names you can’t pronounce.
Blending various ingredients into potent concoctions, the archetypal witch’s brew and its many permutations – goofer dust, corpse-powder, dragon’s blood, beer, wine, love philters, mystic potions, and the diverse medicines, foods, and beverages found across the world – present an obvious tool of magickal intent.
Regardless of the purposes or composition involved in a given concoction, the process of turning many things into one thing reflects a sort of magic. For that reason, mythology often credits gods and wise-folk with the creation of beers, foods, and medicines. In game terms, any sort of mage can use such refreshments. Holy water, love potions, hypermeds – they’re all refinements of the same basic idea: mix it up, drink it down, and watch things change!
Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or just eating someone to steal their mojo for yourself.
We are, as they say, what we eat. And certain practitioners consume the essence, or even the material form, of the thing they wish to become. Warriors eat the hearts of their prey; psychic vampires feast on vital energies; monks within certain Buddhist, Hindu, and even heretical Christian sects eat the bodies of their departed brothers, while a devotee partaking of the Catholic Eucharist consumes a supernatural sample of the body and blood of Christ. Such ritual cannibalism (which may not, strictly speaking be actually cannibalistic) signifies a sympathetic tie between the eater and the chow. The first takes the second into her body and attains, at least in theory, the qualities that exalt the meal.
Based in Spanish folklore about the Carib people – lore which may have been fact, slander, or a sign of desperation – the word cannibal specifically refers to eating human flesh. As a general term, however, cannibalize has come to mean “to eat something in order to gain something else from it.” Drinking the blood of a slaughtered deer, glomming vitality off your boyfriend, hacking apart a device in order to use its parts for something else… those deeds aren’t technically cannibalism, but we often use that word to describe them. And so, some mages – traditionally shamans, priests, witches, medicine-folk, Infernalists, Left-Hand Path yogis, and social dominators, among others – ritually consume the essence and /or physical forms of things they wish to absorb. Sometimes that involves subtle “bites” of energy or symbolic proxies; other times, it involves munching someone’s brain.
As an instrument, cannibalism could even be symbolic. Symbolic cannibalism involves eating something that signifies the consumed party but isn’t actually composed of that party’s physical being; communal bread and wine, for example, is considered by some a form symbolic cannibalism (although certain heretical strands of syncretic Catholicism, such as Santa Muerte take this quite literally...).
It’s not rocket science to realize that certain forms of cannibalism are more socially and legally acceptable than others. Cultural practices and traditions, though, can get pretty gory, and although it’s rarely acceptable to devour your own kind, it’s perfectly okay within certain groups to eat “those people over there” because they’re not like you… and a few outré forms of cannibalism do allow a practitioner to eat her fellow beings as a gesture of respect, victorious contempt, or even love.
That which is random can also be deliberate. A Gutter Magician might divine with dice, a Verbena might use tarot cards or runestones, a Wu Lung uses the I Ching, and so on.
Probability holds a sense of wonder, even for the Masters of Entropy whose Arts direct it, to a certain degree. The fickle hand of chance represents the randomness principles of the universe, so its talismans – dice, tokens, thrown bones, drawn straws, divination sticks, and, of course, the symbol-flashing cards – reflect command of destiny. Fate appears to speak through these instruments, and they become potent tools of omen and prophecy.
Traditionally, a caster mixes up the tokens into an apparently random selection, then draws a certain number of them in order to find out what he needs to know. That mage could cheat, of course, removing the random element from the task. Still, instruments of chance present a dramatic focus for intentions – witness the gambling-hall scenes in Run Lola Run or Casino Royale – especially when big things depend upon the turn of a friendly card.
Cards, given their visual focus, are especially vivid instruments – particularly the symbolic portents of Tarot or other oracular cards. Even normal playing cards, though, can be incredibly evocative, reflecting cosmic tales of sex, violence, desire, and royalty in a few simple icons that find their way into popular mythology.
While some might object to the link, this instrument covers Astrology, auspicious days and the prediction of celestial alignments to modern Astronomy’s attempts to understand cosmic phenomena.
What’s your sign? Long before books or machines became common tools, mages read, focused, and calculated the schedules for their rituals by the dance of planets and stars. Even now, when modern science has supposedly disproved the old cosmologies – at least on the mortal side of the Gauntlet – the old mystique of horoscopes, the brilliant possibilities of Hubble telescope photos, and the eldritch mysteries of deep space continue to influence mystic and scientific practices, conjuring insights and miracles when the stars are right.
The Faerie Ring, the Pentacle, the Pentagram, the Magic Circle, Pyramids, Veves, Sacred Architecture, the Mobius Strip…
As the archetypal symbol of unity, the circle shows up in mystic practices everywhere. Enclosing workspaces, sigils, ritual areas, and other regions in circles, spell casters secure that space within spheres of their intentions. Meanwhile, other circular designs – rings, belts, linked hands, dancing circles, even circular movements and sung rounds – provide similar enclosures that seal an intention with an activity.
Other geometric shapes – triangles, squares, hexagrams, pentacles, and so forth – seal different sorts of activities. Symbolically, those shapes (which appear in scientific formulae too) represent cosmic principles by mathematical designs. Squares reflect stability, rectangles present expansive yet secure areas, crosses signify intersecting forces, triangles direct energy, and combinations of those designs – as seen in yantras, mandalas, sand paintings, and other ritual diagrams – combine several forces into unified wholes… wholes often surrounded by a circle.
Certain ritual practices, especially in High Ritual Magick, demand elaborate designs that must be traced and crafted to exacting standards. Such designs can take hours or even days to create, and they often become permanent parts of a ritual space. In symbolic architecture, the space itself might be crafted into the design – a common practice among Freemasons and other artists of sacred geometry. Temples, cathedrals, Chantries, and other important buildings become massive works of symbolism… which, when you think about it, says volumes about the mystic dimensions of Washington DC. (See also Artwork and Formulae.)
What can’t computers do these days?
The essential tech of the 21st century, computers and other elements of Information Technology form the basis for Consensus Reality in our age. For obvious reasons, then, mages use computers for everything from data storage to social transformation. Not long ago, such machines were toys for a privileged few. Now, almost everyone within the industrialized world has at least access to a computer, and many folks use them on a daily basis.
Magickally speaking, computers store and manipulate data like handy household gods. Using arcane calculations and alchemical technologies, they transform every sphere of life they touch. The industrial world depends upon computers nowadays – they run cars, manage banks, link people, and allow for a global community that, within living memory, used to be impossible. These portals of Hermes let tech-savvy mages sidestep physical reality, not only through the Digital Web itself but through common miracles like smart phones, laptops, and streaming media. And so, in our new millennium, a mage can use a computer for damn near anything if she’s good enough at what she does.
Connected to the computers themselves, the ever-growing network of clouds, sites, sectors, and connections holds an expanding universe of virtual potential. And though the gleeful prognostications of early cyber-visionaries bear little resemblance to the Internet we know today, that technology is just a few decades old. What might happen when and if the Masses catch up to the Awakened in terms of Internet Enlightenment? That potential, and its practical applications, still seem very much like magic. For game rules dealing with computer technologies, see The Book of Secrets.
Reality is built on long-term agreements.
If reality is built on long-term agreements like consensual reality, then it stands to reason it should work on a more personal level. Understanding the intricacies of law and its many loopholes is an arcane practice even before magick is introduced.
What makes contracts an effective magickal tool is their finality. Just sign one, and it’s a done deal. Now that everyone knows what the score is, it’s time to shake on it and get to work. It’s a single moment that carries heavy meaning.
Contracts are perfect for pacts, hanging spells, and casting multiple Sphere spells. Each term in a contract could have its own effect. If nothing else, it’s an excellent target for sympathetic magick.
Sunrise, sunset, midnight, 3 AM, that spooky intersection where they have all the car wrecks. Papa Legba, the Solstices and Equinoxes, New Year’s…
Intersections are powerful. Areas and times in which one element or energy crosses over another one, or even several, herald passages, transitions, and transformations. Clearly, such transitions are magickal – liminal spaces where options and choices multiply. As a result, crossroads and transitional periods – midnight, dawn, New Year’s Eve, certain holidays – provide focus for mystic workings. Rituals often seem most significant when performed in such places or times.
Wealth without physical assets.
Society has progressed to the point where someone doesn’t even need physical assets to achieve wealth. As a decentralized, anonymous medium of exchange with a permanently set number of units available, cryptocurrency has made people rich, then poor, then rich again in timeframes as slim as fifteen minutes.
Unlike physical currency, cryptocurrency isn’t as useful a tool for sympathetic connection, due to its heavy cryptography. However, blockchains bind multiple computers around the world together, making it useful for casting spells over the internet and within the Digital Web.
The witch’s cauldron, the Holy Grail, test-tubes and beakers, just for starters.
Practically and symbolically, the many vessels we create to hold and carry things – especially water, the liquid upon which human life depends – hold potent significance for both mystic and scientific practices. Cups, goblets, chalices, and cauldrons have deep associations with birth and renewal, feminine energy and fluid potential.
For examples, look no further than the Holy Grail, the witch’s cauldron, Baba Yaga’s pot, or the singing bowls of Tibet. On the technical end, vats, beakers, crèches, and test tubes contain their own mystique… witness the phrase “test-tube baby” or the image of vat-brewed clones. And so, mages of many kinds use vials, bottles, pots, and beakers to work their Arts, often combining those instruments with brews, water, and various concoctions in order to turn one thing into another.
Where cybernetics just covers the use of/interface with advanced technology and not necessarily prosthetics, those who take it a step further replace body parts with enhanced prosthetics, becoming the machine. Usually practiced by technomancers.
Modern medical technology allows for new sorts of useful body modifications. And although certain primitive “cybernetics” – hook-hands, peg legs, golden arms, and other real and legendary replacement parts – have been around for centuries or millennia, the current state of the art allows for marvelous physical enhancements even among the Masses. Technomancers, of course, have employed such enhancements (and Enhancements, as in that Background Trait of that name) since at least medieval times. In the twenty-first century, though, you don’t need to bust the Consensus in order to employ useful cybernetic implants. All you need is the proper installation process.
From a story standpoint, a cybernetic implant can be anything that helps the character access feats that a human body either cannot perform on its own (like interfacing with a computer or hearing radio transmissions), or cannot perform because of an individual’s limitations (visual implants, for example, that let a blind person see). Implanted claws, embedded radio transmitters, artificial limbs and organs… technically, they’re all cybernetic implants. And although implants that could potentially violate the Consensus, and which have been designed to perform functions beyond the capabilities of Sleepertech (firing bolts of plasma, for example) are still counted as the Background: Enhancement, a subtle implant could be defined as an instrument so long as it’s not obvious (like small, subtle magnets implanted in the fingers).
A twenty-first-century mage, then, could focus unobvious Effects through cybernetic implants like the aforementioned BCI or claws, internal transmitters or sensory arrays. Regeneration cybernetics might function as self-repairing “healing spells,” and physical-boosting chemical implants may focus Attribute-raising Life Effects. Most Effects, actually, that could be considered instruments rather than Enhancements would fall under Rank 1 perception-based Effects, and certain Life Effects at Ranks 2 or maybe 3.
These days, subtle cybernetics could provide cosmetic shape-changing abilities (changing eye-, skin-, or hair-colors), protect against minor injuries (as in a Life 3 resistance to lethal damage), let a person see in the dark or breathe underwater, and command other acts of allowable “coincidence” that could be explained by the wonders of current technology. That said, wings, jump-jets, car-tossing strength, laser-blast eyes, and other sorts of heroic enhancement are still the purview of the Enhancement Background.
Naturally, cybernetic implants require extensive surgical implementation – an elaborate form of Body Modification, as described above. Once they’re implanted, however, such instruments can function with little or no time and effort on the character’s part. Severe injuries may impair or destroy those implants, though, especially if an attack has been targeted at, say, a surgically implanted set of claws. In that case, the character needs to go back under the knife… hopefully in the care of someone who knows what she’s doing with regards to those cybernetics! Hence, characters from the Technocratic Union have a distinct advantage over folks whose implants were designed by that whacko Etherite or the Mercurial Adept with a fondness for scavenged spare parts.
Dance is a core component of ecstatic belief and central to the human experience. Precise motion and gesture is a major part of magick and a big part of human perception. Superman doesn’t just put on glasses to become Clark Kent; he changes his whole posture and everything about how he moves.
Movement unites the body, mind, and life force into a flowing whole that breaks physical stasis and opens vital energies. Dance – often driven by Music (see below) – sends the body into ecstatic flight.
Postures and katas – specifically those taught in yoga, t’ai chi, and various martial practices – program muscle memory into efficient poses while freeing the mind to pursue focus or meditation. Gestures – arm waves, hand signs, mudras, genuflections, and so forth – direct manual dexterity into symbolic displays, as peaceful as the “fear not” mudra or as incendiary as Hitler’s salute. From bowing to ballet, such activities convey deep ritual significance through physical discipline.
In especially rigorous forms – advanced yoga, breakdancing, classical ballet, and so forth – those disciplines demand physical vitality and constant practice, channeled through cultural symbolism, aesthetic appeal, and just plain fun. And so, the various styles of dance, gesture, and movement form essential elements of mystic and technological practices, directing a person’s intentions and energies through the instrument of the body itself.
Ubiquitous to technomancers, but not unique to them. The Antikythera mechanism, spinning wheels, looms…
Humanity’s great gift is our use of tools. It’s clear, then, that such tools – from simple machines like bows and arrows to complex machines like death rays or printing presses – hold symbolic power beyond their practical utility.
Humanity’s machines are a form of magick, epitomizing the Will to transcend our limits and transform our world. Technomancers are literally defined by their reliance upon machines, but even the most traditional shaman can use a loom as a creative instrument, directing his intentions through whirring shuttles, levers, and gears.
The difference between medicine and poison, enlightenment and degradation? It’s all in the dosage.
Like the Brews and Concoctions described above, various drugs, poisons, venoms, and so forth change one state of being into another. In the case of psychoactive drugs, that state might involve radically altered consciousness. Practices from primal shamanism to psychedelic transhumanism use mind-altering drugs to cleanse the doors of perception and open a mage to new possibilities.
Poisons, meanwhile, harm or kill inconvenient people – a nasty but traditional practice among alchemists, witches, and assassins. Such substances make excellent tools for Entropy, Life, and Mind Effects and range from natural toxins to hypertech drugs. Chapter Nine’s section Drugs, Poison, and Disease features in-depth rules for the effects of toxins in your game.
The building blocks of creation: fire/plasma, air/vapor/gas, earth/matter, water/liquid.
Fire, water, earth, and air – perhaps adding metal, wood, glass, plastic, and electricity, depending on your point of view – all play important roles in almost every sort of practice. From their symbolic meanings (solid as stone, fiery passions, earthy groundedness, etc.) to their practical applications through Forces, Matter, and (for plants) Life Arts, the elements can become a mage’s primary instruments.
Depending on her practice, your mage might employ elements through spiritual connection, scientific physics, angelic and demonic control, sympathetic magick, or even a personal tie to the living world. Through her Arts, that character can shape, conjure, alter, manipulate, merge into, or otherwise control the forces that make up our world… a literally elemental talent that in many ways defines the Art of Wizardry.
Sometimes it’s best to hire the right people.
Sometimes the best way to get something done right is to delegate it to someone else. The rich can have a lot of people under their employ, and thus under their command. Since their employees are bound to rent, mortgages, groceries, and other constant financial needs, they’re more likely to look the other way if it means the money keeps flowing.
Employees can unknowingly acquire materials for rituals, set up spells, or even be used as components.
Chi, Quintessence, Mana, Ashe, Ether, or more grounded, less esoteric concepts: Force, electromagnetism, velocity, gravity, inertia…
The life force forms a significant element of mystic focus. Through practices like Tantra, yoga, and other forms of energy work, a person can perceive and manipulate that life force, directing it to his needs. That energy, in turn, fuels martial arts, sexual disciplines, bodywork, and other practices. For mages with the Prime Sphere, this instrument focuses Quintessence-based magick. However, characters without the Prime Sphere can also focus energy as an instrument, so long as that person’s practice includes energy work as a possibility.
For more details about working with energy, see the Prime and Primal Utility Spheres. For related instruments, see Bodywork, Dance, Eye Contact, Group Rites, Meditation, Music, Ordeals, Sex, and Social Domination.
A wink. The witch stare. The evil eye. A staredown. Bedroom eyes. There’s a lot of power in a gaze.
By using these windows to the soul, a mage can charm, frighten, seduce, bewitch, curse, intimidate, or otherwise enchant someone else. Folks have feared the Evil Eye for centuries and cultivated an extensive body of lore – banishment gestures, hex signs, spitting on the ground, and so forth – in order to escape its influence.
These days, though, people often want you to look them in the eye. And so, flirtatious glances, poisonous glares, dominance-establishing staring contests, puppy-dog eyes, and other optic rituals become potent instruments for magick and technology.
How you dress doesn’t just affect how other people see you, it affects how you feel. Put on a tailored suit and you’ll feel different than you would in a t-shirt and jeans. The little black dress. James Bond’s tuxedo. A ninja-yoroi. Or just being butt fucking naked.
Clothes can make the mage. From the social grace of a bespoke suit (that is, one that’s tailor-made for the individual) to the fierce warnings of gang gear or the playful flirtations of a pretty dress, fashion plays a subtle yet pervasive part in social interactions.
Your mage could craft reinforced clothing into armor; adopt disguises; don ritual gear (robes, skins, body paint, etc.); display a uniform; cosplay familiar or original characters; or simply use high fashion or street wear to invoke a particular effect. Especially when that clothing holds symbolic weight – like priest’s robes, biker jackets, military uniforms, or fetish gear – fashion becomes a potent focus for Mind powers, Spirit rites, and Matter-based protection from a dangerous world.
On that note, the lack of clothing – either bared body parts or total nudity – constitutes its own type of fashion. Witches and shamans often go skyclad (naked) in their rites, whereas other mystics take oaths to bare or cover certain parts of their bodies. Veils, burqas, scarves, headdresses, bare feet, naked chests, gis, saris, club fashions, turbans, clothes made from certain materials (silk, fur, even meat)… all of them evoke cultural significance, concealing or displaying certain elements of the wearer’s body while sending signals about the person underneath.
Bread and salt. A measure poured out for the dearly departed. An offering to the spirits. Deal with someone who’s hangry. Then feed them and get them good and liquored up. Note the difference.
Even mages need to eat. And beyond the good taste and practical nutrition involved with food and drink, those meals have symbolic significance as well. Sharing meals means sharing energy – it’s an intimate communion even in the age of fast food and store-bought chow.
Ritual feasts hold places of honor in every culture: Thanksgiving, Passover, potlatches, and holiday dinners combine spiritual significance, good food, and social bonds. Even alone, however, food and drink can be important, mingling bodily needs with mystical intent and chemical ingestion.
Mages have known that Math can reveal the nature of the universe since forever. Even today, some modern thinkers believe all human behavior can be predicted and anticipated with math (ex. Psychohistory).
Math has been called the universal language of the cosmos. Its esoteric applications can seem as arcane as any wizard’s ritual… and many mystic rituals do, in fact, feature complex numerology and brain-shaking mathematics.
For Technocrats – especially those from Iteration X and the Syndicate – advanced mathematical models help predict future events (in short, focus Time magick), plot out connections (the Correspondence Sphere), determine esoteric chemistry (Life principles), and employ physics in counterintuitive ways (that is, to use Entropy, Forces, Matter, and Prime).
Older mystic practices employ sacred numerology, angelic formulae, and the dizzying principles of non-Euclidian geometry. So if it’s true that mathematics bind the universe together, then it’s easy to understand why math plays such a vital role in so many practices.
A more esoteric elaboration on Devices and Machines, this usually represents one-use widgets or Personalized and Unique Instruments used by a Technomancer (see above). Less common for a Technocrat, but far from unheard of; Technocrats who get experimental Devices often develop an inordinate attachment to them, and fight like hell not to give them back.
Nothing beats the personal touch. As mentioned earlier, machines provide a vital edge to mages who want to get things done. Machines created by the mage himself, however, embody a bit of that creator’s Enlightenment, manifesting it as a potentially powerful device. Strictly speaking, a gadget is a minor machine that performs a specific function once and then burns out.
An invention may be any device that’s been hand-crafted by the inventor himself; a one-of-a-kind machine, it’s probably the experimental prototype for a planned line of similar devices, with all the bugs and quirks that such prototypes display. Unlike capital-D Devices, these creations don’t necessarily have innate technomagick built into them. As focus instruments, they provide mechanical vectors for the creator’s Enlightened Science.
Because such devices share a personal connection to their inventor, these tools count as personal and unique instruments (see Mage 20 pp.587-588) when they’re being used by the mage who created them. They count as simply unique instruments in the hands of allied characters. In game terms, a mage using his own inventions and gadgets reduces his difficulty by -2, his trusted associates reduce it by -1, and strangers find themselves unable to make heads or tails of the device.
Technocrats who enjoy a special relationship with Q Division might wind up with experimental gadgets and inventions – see the Secret Weapons Background in Chapter Six. Etherite allies and other mystic characters could be trusted (or tasked) with a special gadget from a technomancer whose imagination exceeds his courage.
Hopefully, that inventor takes the time to explain how the machine’s supposed to work; otherwise, the guinea pig might find herself with a lump of worthless junk in her hands just when she needs it most… Gems, Stones, and Minerals: Diamonds are forever. Gold is good, and jade incarnates Heavenly goodwill. The mystic properties of precious stones, ores, and minerals echo down through legend, slang, and alchemical lore. Mages who know how to tap into these properties employ them in rituals, build them into instruments, wear them as jewelry, and otherwise keep them close at hand. Technology, meanwhile, employs those properties too. Did you think it was an accident that gold is so vital to the world’s economy or that diamonds find their way into so many industrial machines…?
A specialty of the Progenitors, this involves genetically modifying yourself or another to produce post-human effects.
We live in a wondrous time, wherein miracles of medicine provide seemingly impossible feats: cloning, quick healing, resistance to disease and poisons, physical mutability, environmental adaptability, mutant powers out of a comic-book movie… the endless wonders of genetic manipulation make such things possible… don’t they?
Not really, no. Not with current technology, anyhow. Enlightened biotechnicians, however, are not working with mundane Sleepertech. And so, as an instrument of hypermedical practices, genetic manipulation can focus a wide range of Life-based Effects through the wonders of advanced medicine. Such wonders don’t come fast or cheap. Used as a focus instrument, genetic manipulation demands sterile lab facilities, specially prepared medicines and gear, and sufficient time through which the procedures can alter the genetic structure of the subject’s body. (See the instrument entries for Devices and Machines, Drugs and Poisons, and Labs and Gear.)
Once such treatments have been completed, however, the subject of the operation can manifest those Life-based Effects by way of the “instrument” of his modified genetic capabilities. Alternately, the biotechnician can create mutated critters – clones, hybrids, modified agents, Enhanced personnel – through the application of the appropriate Effects focused through genetic manipulation and other related instruments. (For examples of the rule systems involved in creating and modifying organisms, see Body Modifications and Cloning, Creating, and Impersonating a Living Creature in How Do You DO That?, pp. 21-25.)
Genetic miracles can do only so much. Not even the most advanced hypermedicine could, for example, bend a cityscape or open a portal to another world. As a general rule, assume that this instrument works only for Life-based Effects that modify or create a living organism. Other Spheres may be involved, of course – and usually need to be – but the core of a genetic Effect must be the Life Sphere and an organism who’s being suitably mutated. And although radical feats of fast-acting Enlightened Science remain vulgar even in tech-based cultures, the popular (mis)conceptions about genetic manipulation can let a lot of crazy shit slide in under the radar if the person involved with such manipulation manages to spin a believable web of scientific justifications.
When mere employees aren’t enough, it’s time to step up to the next level.
Governments are capable of accomplishing things that the private sector can’t. Protecting a city from the menace of a creature from the Umbra could be done with a few blessings at a major intersection, but that’s thinking too small.
With access to governments, a wealthy mage can create a more permanent solution, like commissioning a redesign of the city road system that just so happens to form a glyph that exorcises the creature for good.
Rock concerts. Sacred covens. a Masonic lodge meeting. A tent revival. A union gathering. A business meeting.
Smart mages realize that raising power in groups directs the collective will and imagination of that group toward a specific purpose. Circle-dances, music concerts, plays, protests, prayer meetings, and other gatherings provide focus for mystic rites. Technomancers understand the power of groups too – why else would factories and cubicle farms be so damned effective?
Generally, a mage whips her group to an emotional frenzy and then channels their energy into her intended purpose. As that energy reaches a peak, she plays the crowd like an instrument, bringing things to a climax as she casts her Effect. The Allies, Assistants, and Cults section (Mage 20 p. 532) and the Acting in Concert section (Mage 20 pp. 542-543) detail the in-game effects of sympathetic crowds; for certain practices, however, the presence of a group is not just helpful but essential to success. (See also the optional-rule sidebar for Management and Human Resources, Mage 20 p. 595.)
Purifying sage. Garlic. Roses. Kudzu. Poison ivy. Brambles. The secret meanings of plants – and their effect on others – is studied by kitchen witches and enlightened scientists alike.
Growing things hold power, especially when you want to perform Lifebased magick. Plant-based materials can be essential to other instruments like brews, laboratories, and drugs, and they provide the roots, so to speak, for practices like witchcraft, shamanism, and many forms of medicine work. By gathering, drying, curing, eating, grinding, or otherwise employing these botanical substances, a mage can distill the essence of Creation into her Arts.
Beyond its practical properties, each sort of plant holds symbolic importance; in most cases, the different portions of a plant have significance as well. Holly sprigs, elderberries, acorns, mandrake roots… even now, popular culture immortalizes ancient plant lore.
A creative player can learn about the properties of different plants and herbs, then bring both the practical and symbolic elements of botanical tools to the gaming table.
A witch in her kitchen, a Virtual Adept working on a souped-up hot rod in his garage.
Especially among the practical Arts, household tools – pitchforks, hammers, nails, brooms, ovens, horseshoes – hold traditional power as magical implements. The same holds true for technological tools, as well… witness the atavistic terror that’s invoked by a chainsaw.
Because magick so often depends upon directing energy and intentions toward a goal, household tools have all kinds of uses. Six silver dollars might be hammered into place around your property to keep the cops away; a specially brewed floor wash might cleanse tainted Resonance; a Roomba (with or without a shark-dressed cat) could patrol your Chantry-house. And when the spells are done, those tools serve double duty around the home. A witch, after all, can use her broom to fly to the gathering and then sweep the house clean once she comes home again.
A mage who works through the internet can achieve both subtle things (memetic manipulation, rapid fund-raising) or vulgar things (killing someone by causing their phone to violently explode).
Even without the metaphysical playground of the Digital Web, the Internet has become perhaps the largest instrument of magick in the history of human existence. The fact that its effects are almost always coincidental unless a user does something amazingly stupid, like trying to teleport his physical form from screen to screen (possible with enough dots in Correspondence, but seriously vulgar) makes it that much more useful. Hell, even a Sleeper can drive a person on the other end of the globe to commit suicide, give him all their money, or both with a clever application of Internet potential, so a mage can do oh so very much more…
Generally, Internet activity demands a computer, a connection, the proper knowledge, and time. With those materials, however, a savvy user can cast influence-based Effects through posts (see Uncanny Influence in How Do You DO That?, especially pp. 114-123), hack into remote locations and alter or access data (see Computers as Instruments of Focus in Book of Secrets, p. 121), disseminate some elemental chaos (again, see How Do You DO That?, and that book’s Elemental Mastery section, pp. 26-41), and possibly – if he’s willing to dare some vulgarity – employ a properly prepared computer as the instrument for some time-and-space-bending technomagicks (as per that book’s Mystic Travel section, pp. 70-83).
Again, this sort of thing takes time and typing, and it won’t work if you’re trying to access and influence places where the Internet can’t reach. But although Sleepertech computers aren’t capable of half the things that films and TV shows give them credit for, a skillful mage can bend those limitations around his little finger and take the world by storm. In our weird and wired world, that’s nowhere near as difficult as it used to be.
The Gordian knot. A spider’s web. Handfasting. Or just a good sturdy knot tied to hold it all together…
There’s a reason the phrase spellbinding exists. Long before Velcro, buttons, or carabiners, people had to tie or weave things together. Because the principle of contagion focuses on connecting spells, subjects, and casters by a single strand, knots and ropes (as well as thongs, strings, threads, and so forth) feature heavily in spells.
The metaphorical Tapestry and the concept of string-theory physics both draw upon that connection, and so the acts of binding things together, weaving intentions with materials, and undoing knots to release their energy all serve practical as well as symbolic purposes in magick. And once you understand that fact, you see deeper significance in Celtic knotwork, knitting, the arcane arts of rope bondage, and the pervasive imagery of mystic spiders and Pattern Webs.
Essential to the work of a research technomancer, but an Alchemist or High Ritualist might use a laboratory or workroom with specialized tools, too…
Although you can’t usually carry a laboratory around with you (although certain portable labs can be stuck inside a vehicle, trailer, or suitcase), such places of labor provide essential instruments for technological, alchemical, and elaborate ritual practices. Generally, a mage employs his laboratory to refine other tools and spells for his practice, then uses the results of that lab work as his portable instruments. Still, without that lab, he’d be more or less worthless. You can’t grow clones, install cybernetics, or refine base materials into perfection without a good lab.
By extension, lab equipment – beakers, crucibles, centrifuges, generators, analyzers, and other sundry (though expensive) tech that procures results – constitutes an essential array of tools for the practicing scientist or technician. Even old-school mystics use labs occasionally, though they might refer to them as dungeons, workrooms, sanctuaries, and so forth. Within such space, a mage can work through difficult puzzles, experiment with methods, and enjoy a fairly secure space where Consensus interference is a bad memory. (An established laboratory space makes an obvious Sanctum, as in the Background Trait of that name.)
In the beginning, there was the Word. Linguists know that you might say the same thing in two different languages and express dramatically different ideas. Enochian and Langaj and Tongues, lost languages, ciphers and programming code and encryption…
Words are a form of magick; after all, they shape abstract thoughts into reality by communicating them to other beings and thus opening their minds to your own. In a communal form, language shares thoughts and – by extension – broadens the potential of reality for everyone concerned. Words, it is said, opened the gulf between animals, spirits, and human beings… and although animals and spirits clearly have their own forms of language, the flexible precision of human words has certainly marked a major step in our development. But words are bigger than that.
According to many legends, the Divine Source (by whatever name you prefer to call it) spoke words in order to bring the universe into being. Certain words and languages echo that divine command and can thus make things happen. Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, Mandarin, and Latin (among others) supposedly capture the essence of godly speech, whereas other languages like Greek, Urdu, and Hopi encompass sublime concepts that elude other human tongues.
Mundane languages can alter reality too, especially when those languages get rearranged, re-contextualized, redefined, or otherwise altered in order to change the meaning attached to the words. Hip-hop rapping presents a perfect example of such remixed language, breaking down the expected rhythms, spellings, and context of words in order to invoke an alternative truth. Internet jargon does the same thing, as does legalese. By altering the common tongue, a person (mage or Sleeper) can change the realities it describes, making codes that admit or exclude certain people, seeding new concepts out among the people, or invoking certain states of mind by forcing the audience to accept unusual modes of communication. And then there’s the anti-language of unfamiliar babble that still sounds like it means something important. (See the Voice entry, below.)
Spoken words also have a sonic component that literally resonates throughout the world, changing the landscape in accordance with the speaker’s wishes. Words of power – amen, aho, ohm, and the like – convey both their interpreted meaning and the resonant power behind the sound itself. Therefore, language – both spoken and written – forms a vital element of all mystic practices. (Again, see Music, Voice, and Writing, below.)
Issue Enlightened instruction; have your underlings carry it out. Old idea, modern execution.
Certain folks extend their Will through the actions of other people. By managing and directing those other people, that sort of influence can turn human resources into instruments of magick. Now, we’re not talking about transforming code- monkeys into flying monkeys… although that, too, is possible, albeit really vulgar and a major violation of HR policies. Instead, an optional rule may – at the Storyteller’s discretion – allow certain Mage characters to use people as an instrument of their Arts.
A specialty of Syndicate bosses (see Convention Book: Syndicate, pps. 71-72) and other mages who favor social acumen and hypereconomics, the Management and Human Resources instrument gets a pack of underlings to perform your magick for you. Generally, these employees and devotees are Sleepers, not mages in the Awakened sense. What they do is totally within normal human limitations. Properly directed, though, they can change Consensus Reality in subtle yet significant ways: buying shares to tip the stock market, posting videos that promote an idea, revealing a theory or concept that tilts the Consensus through popular appeal, spreading rumors that destroy a target’s reputation, using skills (medicine, transportation, fighting, finance) that the mage herself does not possess, and other everyday activities that have larger outcomes than people realize. It’s a “just say the word and it’s done” sort of magick that parlays social influence into altered reality.
As an instrument, management and human resources demands time, patience, and connections. The average schmo cannot snap his fingers and have a magical cabbie deliver him instantly from New York to DC. Ah – but a manager with clout can call Transport Services and have a helicopter waiting nearby within minutes; two or three hours later, he’s gone from his executive suite in Manhattan to the steps of the Supreme Court, where an escort’s waiting to usher him into a meeting with the judges who’ll decide a case at the heart of U.S law… and thus, reality is changed.
In game terms, the player could say that he used management as a tool of the dominion practice, focusing his belief in political power to perform a Correspondence 3/ Mind 3 Effect. No Paradox, little risk – that mage plays by Reality’s rules, at the cost of a bit of time, indirect action, and some socially leveraged power. (No, that mage does not use magick to conjure a helicopter and pilot - he's using resources that already exist. For details, see the sidebar Axis of Coincidence, Mage 20 p. 533).
Markets are consensual reality in miniature.
The Syndicate would like to believe that it’s the master of the stock market, but the truth is any wealthy mage can use it for their magick. Some mages argue that markets are consensual reality in miniature: an immense, powerful force that only exists because everyone agreed to give it importance. This means that they’re fair game for everyone who can play.
Markets are constantly in flux. A mage could cast a spell during the early days of a bear market in the same way that one casts as spell during a certain time of day.
“A date which will live in infamy.” Man landing on the moon. Fake news and Russian bots.
As suggested by the name, media becomes a medium through which ideas and impressions spread from an artist to her audience. The bigger the medium, the larger its audience and the further the reach of that idea. Early on, media consisted of a storyteller and the members of her tribe; later, it expanded to sacred ritual theatres. Each new expansion of technology allowed ideas to go further and reach more people. With the advent of mass printing and distribution, followed by sound- and image-recording technology, radio waves, and rapid international travel, media become the dominant tool for shaping the Consensus. Memes can now spread across the world in seconds. And so, for the 21st-century mage, mass media becomes an essential tool when altering reality.
As a magickal instrument, mass media can take many forms: music concerts or recordings, TV and radio broadcasts, Internet posts, viral videos, roleplaying games, remixes, mashups, bestselling books, theatrical productions, movies of any scale… if they reach a large audience, then they’re all mass media. Such media provide excellent venues for coincidental Mind Effects – the audience wants to receive a message, and therefore they’re already receptive to it. Such messages can occasionally seed new Mythic Threads too – just Google Harry Potter, Twilight, or Obama. Since the earliest large rituals, mages have used mass media to make things happen.
The Syndicate, NWO, Cult of Ecstasy, and Celestial Chorus are the obvious masters of media, but any group or individual can employ it. (Rumors and evidence suggest that the Nephandi might be the greatest media masters of them all.) Given the vast reach provided by the Internet, data files, home-production technology, and the various things you can do with them all, anyone with a computer and Internet access can employ mass media. And though the Internet’s signal-to-noise ratio makes it hard to create large and lasting impressions, a savvy person can use a single cellphone picture to start waves rolling across our world.
An elaboration on Medicine Work, this can involve the healing traditions of various cultures, up to and including modern surgical techniques.
There’s always been something magical about the healing arts. The ability of an uncannily skillful person who can mend wounds, dispel sickness, and discern the hidden mysteries of a human body can seem positively supernatural. Thus, practitioners of medicine – any sort of medicine – occupy a reverent and sometimes fearsome role in human societies. And so, medical procedures form a vital sort of instrument when healers work their Arts.
Depending upon the practitioner and her specialties, this “instrument” (which is actually a collection of tools and activities related to that person’s healing methods) could range from prayer and a “laying on of hands,” to consecrated spirit-masks, hypnotic music, and prescribed dances and invocations, to hypnotherapy, energy-work, psychic surgery, conventional Western medicine, Taoist chi-balancing, acupuncture, hypertech regeneration processes, sports or battlefield medicine, and so on. Other instruments find their way into these practices too: drugs, herbs, meditation, bodywork, dancing, prayer, etc. etc. etc.
As an instrument unto itself, however, a medical procedure involves the process of treating the patient – a time-and-effort-consuming process that demands whatever sorts of attention, expertise, and specialized equipment the healer’s practice requires. As noted above under Body Modification, a medical procedure will involve extended rolls in all but the simplest of healing tasks. Most medicine-worker players would be rolling Intelligence + Medicine, although delicate surgery might involve Dexterity + Medicine instead. Psychic and psychology-based healing would be more likely to employ Charisma, Perception or Wits + Medicine, while a prolonged medicinal rite would use Stamina + Medicine instead. The patient might need to make Stamina-based rolls as well, especially if there’s an especially grueling and /or excruciating treatment involved. In-depth healing demands a ritual, as described in Mage 20, 538-543, during which the medical procedure itself becomes an instrument in collaboration with other instruments described above.
In many RPGs, the “healer” simply lays on hands, exerts some magical doodah, and restores lost Hit Points. Mage isn’t most RPGs. Sure, a Life-schooled healer could simply let loose with the glowy-hands thing… but that wouldn’t be in keeping with Mage’s emphasis on paradigm and practice. A Lakota medicine-worker versed in pre-European healing traditions won’t be using the same sort of medical procedure as an Ayurvedic physician, a Baptist faith-healer, a Frankenstinian surgeon or a Progenitor medic would. From a roleplaying standpoint, it’s a good idea to do some research into the type of medicine your healer would practice, and then base the specifics of her medical procedures and associated tools on what you find.
Focus, purification, the elimination of distractions.
An intrinsic part of almost every mystic practice (and many technological ones as well), meditation involves quiet reflection through which a person screens out everyday distractions in order to connect with her inner self. Through meditation, a mage focuses her intentions, sorts through her circumstances, and often arrives at the next step she needs in order to move forward.
Often simplified into mere relaxation, meditation actually runs much deeper than that. Given the hectic, distraction-filled world we live in, though, meditation’s certainly a useful tool for relaxation as well as focus on greater things. Mages use meditation to connect to Primal Force, bridge minds and emotions, reach out to higher (or lower) powers, perceive their surroundings on a sublime level, access their inner resources, and plan the next move in their activities.
As a tool, then, meditation works for just about anything, so long as the character has time to stop moving, focus on the meditation, and screen out distractions long enough to find what she seeks. It doesn’t work well, obviously, in high-stress situations, although – given time – a character can use meditation to reduce her stress.
Traditionally depicted as a person sitting in a lotus position while humming Ohm, meditation can take many different forms. Postures, katas, games, prayer, running, chanting, dance, sex, music, even certain forms of fighting can all function as meditation. The vital element is the mindset of the person meditating. If she views her practice as a meditative connection, and if it takes her where she needs to go, then almost anything can be a form of meditation.
Money might be imaginary, but it sure is powerful, and coins have very old arcane significance.
Money itself is a magic(k) trick. Essentially a symbolic token of trust, money defines a person’s val-you within society. Societies, too, get defined by how much they’re worth, so human and social realities are shaped by something that has no intrinsic value beyond what people think it means. (That trick’s even more profound when you consider virtual money; burning dollar bills generate very little heat, but numbers in a database generate no heat at all.) Obviously, then, money provides a magickal focus for folks who know how to use it… and no faction understands money as well as the Syndicate does.
As a magickal tool, money has two potential forms: physical cash and virtual trade. Cash – paper money, coins, tokens, and so forth – allows the mage to pass along an Effect by passing along the cash. A $20.00 bill could carry a mind Effect that reminds someone of his mother; a Spanish piece of eight could bear an ancient curse; a defaced dollar bill might feature the message THIS IS NOT YOUR GOD stamped in red ink, focusing a Mind or Entropy Effect that degrades people’s trust in social institutions. Cash often holds Resonance too, especially if it’s been tainted by criminal acts or emotional desperation. As any mage knows, blood money is a real thing when you understand Resonance.
Virtual trade focuses Mind and/ or Entropy Effects that get people to believe that abstract numbers determine their fate. Checks, credit and debit cards, credit ratings, bank statements, and approval processes reflect uses of virtual trade. Such tools can be extraordinarily effective and dangerous. At the time this section was originally written, in real life, the United States government was temporarily shut down over an imaginary crisis built around virtual values that have no physical counterpart, only the emotional reality of what people think a bunch of numbers mean. Societies can rise and fall over such ideas, so the practice of Hypereconomics (see The Art of Desire/ Hypereconomics) manipulates virtual trade on a scale far beyond the possibilities of physical cash.
Music affects the mood and alters perception, makes men solemn and joyous, soothes angry men or rouses them to war.
One of the oldest magickal tools, music harnesses the powers of sound, art, memes, social influence, voices, symbols, and – in one way or another – many of the other tools on this list. A full exploration of the esoteric potential of music runs far beyond this space, and although its most obvious adherents include the Celestial Chorus, Bata’a, Dreamspeakers, Cult of Ecstasy, and Hollow Ones, any group or mage can use music as an instrument of focus.
As a general rule, music’s vibrations carry the spell caster’s intentions into the world. That music can be broadcast to a mass audience, performed for a smaller audience, or created in solitude for personal Effects. For obvious reasons, music takes time to perform but makes an ideal instrument for rituals, especially when a number of characters are working together to weave the Effect. Depending upon the character, his audience, and the scope of the Effect, that music can range from quiet humming to a full-scale orchestral symphony.
Lullabies, rock operas, chamber music, plaintive solo flute, vocalized chants… if there’s a way to perform music, then there’s a mystical practice associated with that type of performance.
The masses are still exploring the fringes of Nanotech; the reduction of devices in size without reducing their function – its more extreme applications still lie in the realm of Hypertech and science fiction, such as self-replicating nanobots.
Composed of miniscule, self-replicating machines, nanotechnology involves the study and design of productive engines on the molecular and atomic level. To Consensus reality, such technologies are largely theoretical; to technomancers – most especially the innovators of Iteration X and the Society of Ether – they’re an essential tool for Enlightened Procedures. Although all groups have been holding back that level of technology from the Masses (the consensus is that the Masses can’t be trusted with it, and that’s probably correct), nanotech forms a common instrument for Life and Matter Effects… most especially those Procedures that either build or repair structures or organisms.
Technocratic healing Procedures often involve nanotech patches, and machines that grow out of nowhere actually spring from high-intensity (read: vulgar) nanotech clusters that create material structures faster than the human eye can follow. That speed, combined with the high level of energy and material resources involved (in game terms, the amount of Quintessence they consume), keep nanotech out of wider use.
Although favored Technocracy personnel employ nanotech instruments in many Threat Level A responses, the risks and requirements of existing nanotech… most especially the awful potential consequences of unregulated proliferation (read: someone else using the stuff)… assure that such innovations will remain restricted to certain agents and application within the foreseeable future.
Auspicious numbers and touching on sacred math. Three, five, seven, nine, unlucky 13, pi – call it superstition, but people can’t help but react to numbers or ascribe them secret meanings.
Numbers hold power. As mentioned above under the Formulae entry, that power can be unlocked through arcane mathematics. Sometimes, though, all you need is a single number – nine, for example – to seal your mystical intentions.
On a related note, the occult practice of numerology draws connections between specific numbers and the deeper levels of Creation. As such, it provides a venerable focus for Correspondence, Spirit, Prime, or Time Arts, acting as a tool for understanding the ties between one thing and another. And so, beyond the baroque patterns of number theory, simple numbers or numerical correspondences (Bible verses, racing horses, sports-team player numbers, etc.) can be remarkably potent tools when they get assigned to something you’re trying to accomplish.
To get something, you have to give something. Or make someone else give something for you.
Often, the best way to prove that you really want something involves giving up something else in order to obtain your goal. Thus, sacrifice (“to make sacred”) holds a precious, though controversial, place in mystic practices. Essentially, a person offers up something precious – property, behavior, living things, even her own life – in order to seal a deal with the Powers That Be.
Typically associated with maleficia, sacrifice has an understandably bad rap. Slitting Fido’s throat in order to summon devils is a terrible idea for all kinds of reasons. And yet, the custom of offering things up has deep spiritual roots in even the most virtuous traditions. Jesus, Raven, Odin, Prometheus… all of them sacrificed themselves in order to achieve a greater goal. Mortal devotees – Awakened and otherwise – use sacrifice as both a tool and a display of spiritual commitment. Even atheists understand the value of such offerings; it takes money, after all, to make money.
In game terms, a sacrifice involves giving up an offering as a tool in accomplishing the Effect. The nature and severity of that sacrifice depends upon the mage, her practice, and the goal she wants to achieve. Using the Prime Sphere, a mage could also harvest Quintessence from a sacrifice. But although live offerings have literally vital significance within many cultures, killing something in order to further your own ends raises obvious moral and legal questions, especially in our current era.
Trial, tribulation, pain, exhaustion, or just plain hard work.
Pain has a marvelous way of focusing your attention. From the gruesome splendor of the Lakota sun-dance to the more prosaic practice of cutting, people employ techniques of significant anguish as methods for either getting out of their heads or, in contrast, getting “under the skin” to find the deeper layers there. Many mystic practices (and certain technological ones, too) employ agony as a tool for focus. Athletic exertions, too, count toward such goals. Marathons, pumping iron, cage-fighting, extreme sports… they all take you out of the routine and into the moment and thus provide focus through intense experience.
Physically, such exertions are ordeals – challenges that take a person to her limits and show her how much she’s capable of doing. And so, for certain mages (especially Akashics, Thanatoics, Ecstatics, shamans, and Technocrats), the practice of intentional exertion provides a physical and symbolic way to “break on through” and reach new levels of reality.
In an ephemeral age, sometimes the physical is magickal.
Even with endless amounts of screens at mankind’s fingertips, there’s still an important place for physical media like books or discs. In an age where media is encouraged to be ephemeral, having something in a tangible form is a comfort. It can also be magickal. Some uses are obvious.
The printed word can contain grimoires and calls to action, and a Blu-Ray can hold a spell that activates when it plays. However, physical media can also serve as a sympathetic connection, or even a key to unlock a Gate.
A part of most mystical paradigms, especially religious or spiritual ones, but technomancers invoke too – “You have the right to remain silent.” “Nothing to see here, move along.”
Reaching out to higher or lower powers for support, a person can, with any luck, secure aid from the force in question. Among religious people, that force tends to be the god they worship or intercessors like saints, Loa, bodhisattvas, or guardian angels.
Certain desperate folks, however, pray to devils or rival gods – a heretical but surprisingly common practice. Prayer could be considered a form of meditation too, especially when it’s part of a daily ritual. For religious mages, prayer is THE instrument of choice. No other focus works as well or brings a devotee closer to his god.
Invocations aren’t always prayers, but they still call in potent forces. Essentially, the mage speaks names or words of power (see Languages and Voice) in order to make things happen. Materialist mages do this too; it’s amazing how effective certain phrases (“Nothing to see here,” “Death before dishonor,” “It’s a fact – you can look it up”) can be when you say them with intention. An invocation speaks Will into activity, so buzzwords and battle cries figure prominently in the Arts of Change.
Precious metals are one of the oldest ways of displaying wealth and power. Even now, we admire trinkets made from gold, silver, and titanium.
Large amounts of precious metals have plenty of magickal uses. They can be alchemically enhanced into powerful alloys to vehicles for protection. They can be consumed to grant a mage their inherent beauty. They could even be melted and molded into a familiar impervious to ordinary weaponry.
Some places are more magickal than others.
Perhaps an important moment of history occurred there (such as where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton or Cape Canaveral), or tass flows freely from it. Maybe it’s the location of a Portal, or it’s about to become one soon.
These places are sacred, lands where even Sleepers feel their power, even if they’re not sure why. While any mage could access these sacred grounds to power their magick, wealthy mages have an edge over the others. They can buy these places for their exclusive use, removing the public’s access and building sanctums or Chantries on the property.
The cross, the swastika (Maleficars know the power of this one well), bones of the saints, holy water, blessed earth, mandalas…
The Qur’an. The cross. The pentacle. The Tau. Icons and scriptures. Prayer wheels and hell-money. The rich iconography of human religions provides an essential focus for mages of faith.
Depending on the character’s creed, the symbols in question could be brandished while casting an Effect; employed in rituals; worn simply as a reflection of faith; or possibly – for enemies of that faith – desecrated or destroyed in order to insult the creed in question, mock the power of its god(s), or co-opt that religion’s resources in order to take them for oneself. In either case, those symbols contain potent emotional symbolism in addition to their potential mystic power.
Sacred materials almost always contain a strong Resonance from that faith. In certain cases – like the legendary power of the cross – that Resonance focuses the invested power of millions of believers… which may provide a metaphysical reason for the force such icons have against certain enemies of that faith (like, say, vampires).
Employed by a mage from the appropriate religion, a powerful instrument of faith – holy water, sanctified earth, a famous shrine, and so on – could contain a bit of Quintessence that it lends to the mage in question. Holy symbols tend to make certain Effects coincidental when they’re performed among faithful Sleepers, too; a group of devout Catholics won’t be surprised to see a priest perform a miracle.
What’s the world’s oldest profession again?
Sex is fun. Sex is scary. Sex is the most intimate thing you can share with another person, short of killing or giving birth. Hence, sex and sensuality (that is, close but not necessarily sexual contact) hold places of honor and shame among many mystical and technological practices. Certain disciplines – Left-Hand and Westernized Tantra, Gardnerian Wicca, Taoist sexual alchemy, the reclaimed Qadishtu tradition, and other forms of sacred eros – employ sex acts to focus life energy and dedicated magicks. Others simply stage orgies and Bacchanalia as tools for ecstatic worship, mysticism, and release. As the entries about Bodywork and Energy suggest, sex rituals provide intimate contact for mystics both Awakened and otherwise.
Sometimes regarded as communion between masculine and feminine polarities, other times used to break down concepts of gender and identity, occasionally corrupted into violation (especially in maleficia), and frequently employed as initiation (particularly in the Cult of Ecstasy, the Verbena, and certain Hermetic lodges and religious orders), ritualized sexuality mingles the primal essence of all parties involved. Given that level of contact, such practices share Resonance and make ideal instruments for Life, Mind, and Prime Arts… although, as certain lovers can attest, sex has a way of making Time move faster or slower for you, too.
A leader inspires others to follow him with the example she sets, for good or for ill. A Nephandus publishes “Red Pill” alpha male screeds on Reddit that inspire the weak-willed to violence against women. Both are practicing forms of Social Domination.
The superior person does not wait on the whims of others. That person – male or female – moves the world through force of personality. He might not be a tyrant – he might, in fact, be most effective when he isn’t one – but his word commands respect. Mages are superior people, and the most dominant of them use that knowledge to impose their Will upon the people in their lives.
The art of “alphaing” people isn’t necessarily what folks think it is. Although Alpha-Male/ Bitch types do tend to get their way in the short term, people resent them for it, often screwing them over out of vindictive spite. The most effective dominant people make people glad to be in their service. They inspire love as well as respect, and they garner long-term loyalty as a result. Sometimes, though, short-term results are enough to work with. A bully can impose dominance upon people, turning them into agents of his Enlightened Will. And really, let’s not kid ourselves: abusive bastards run corporations, governments, cults, and even Traditions. The word sociopath is so loaded these days. We’ll simply call those people movers and shakers: they move, and you shake.
As a magickal instrument, social dominance plays out through command of group situations. Rank, eye contact, imposing body language, and sometimes threats provide the obvious tactics, but a seriously dominant person evokes that impression by simply being there. Presence and eloquence work far better than brutality, so a mage who uses domination – a prized skill in the Technocracy, but useful in every other faction too – directs his Arts (typically Entropy, Mind, Life, and Prime Effects) through force of personality, social cues, and the ability to back up his commands with Will when need be.
For obvious expansions on this idea, see the Might is Right paradigm and the practices of dominion and the Art of Desire. Symbols: Technically, every instrument on this list is a symbol. As an instrument in its own right, however, a symbol takes a powerful image or omen – a flag, a glyph, a raven, etc. – and then directs a practice and Effect through that vehicle. The mage who unleashes a Mind Effect by unfurling a flag (or burning it) employs a symbol as a tool of his practice. Folks who wear significant symbols – like Captain America or Batman – evoke the power of that sign, adopting its mystique as their own. Mages do this sort of thing all the time; after all, doesn’t a wizard look more impressive in his brocade robes and runecarved staff than he would if he were simply wearing jeans?
The world is connected, for better or worse.
Hollow Ones communicate on long-abandoned forums. The New World Order has access to a continuously updating database. Anyone can share spells in the guise of a heavily artifacted picture. It’s even better for the rich.
They own entire platforms, establishing a thin but wide sympathetic net via its userbase. Their servers provide an easy access point into the Digital Web. Misinformation that “slips” by the fact checkers under the mage’s employ can form the basis of an insidious spell on numerous minds. As social media continues to bleed into non-digital life, who knows what kinds of magick it could assist in the future?
Memes, gods, egregores, meme-gods… maybe gods period – entities that attain a degree of reality because the masses will them so. Really you could argue about this one all night (money, anyone?), but some Mages use the idea to do magick.
Behind every potent symbol, there’s supposedly a level of psychic reality. The belief and life force invested in that symbol – and connecting it to the thing it supposedly represents – grants a level of reality to that symbol and the principles behind it.
In modern occultism, that reality is sometimes called an egregore: a “watcher” that attains a sort of sentience because people believe in it. Although various practices disagree about the nature of egregores (are they independent spirit entities, psychic constructs, imaginary concepts, quantum-particle activity principles, or simply human mind games invested with belief?), these thought forms become instruments for various practices, most especially chaos magick, crazy wisdom, shamanism, reality hacking, some forms of High Ritual, the Art of Desire, hypereconomics, and – as certain postmodernist mages would argue – every form of magickal practice, particularly the religious ones. (You could think of an egregore as a meme-god; some occultists, in fact, would argue that both memes and gods are egregores, and that no distinction between the three of them exists. Yes, mages argue about some pretty weird shit.)
In game terms, a character uses a thought form by constructing a symbol, either in her imagination or in some physical and/ or social form, and then meditating upon it. If she can convince other people to invest psychic energy into the symbol, so much the better – a potent egregore becomes a stronger instrument. By calling upon that symbol as she casts a spell, either through meditation or invocation, she can focus her intentions through it as she would any other sort of instrument. It works because her belief has granted reality to the thought form, creating something from nothing. And so, although the mage appears to be working without an instrument, that instrument is actually something she holds in her head, believing – rightly or otherwise – that it has external reality as well.
Beyond the egregores of various mass-media constructions (Mickey Mouse, Team Edward, even Axe body spray), an especially pervasive thought form rules the 21st century: the Corporate Citizen. Employed to devastating effect by the Syndicate, Nephandi, and other corporate-culture mavens (Awakened and otherwise), the Corporate Citizen has become the most powerful political force of our era. Wearing many different masks… one hopes… this thought form channels immense energy for the people who understand how to use it as an instrument. A CNN press pass can focus potent applications of the Mind Sphere; a Koch credit card could channel access to incredible amounts of wealth, and the Axe citizen might indeed facilitate Life-based enchantments. The idea that there could be many different entities spawned from Corporate-Citizen thought forms – each with its own powers and agendas – is too frightening to contemplate… and yet, it might also be the truth.
Chess boards, Ouija, corn dolls, teddy bears… creepy Victorian dollies, Chucky, Demonic Toys.
Magick need not always be serious. Playful items – tops, blocks, dolls, toy soldiers, little cars, games, and so forth – often find their way into the Arts, especially when those Arts are being practiced by Marauders, kids, street mages, Awakened parents, geek-culture mavens, and consistently young-at-heart folks like Willy Wonka or Mr. Magorium.
Toys can be creepy too, of course… especially the ones that come to life when you sleep, watch you after midnight, or seem to know a bit more than you’d like them to know about things you’d rather not have ANYONE find out about. Ouija boards, creepy dolls, action figures with working guns… such tools provide hours of fun for mages whose idea of play is rather sinister…
There is power in breaking the rules, as well as danger.
Breaking rules is a powerful thing, especially when it’s done with ritual intent. A specialty of chaos magicians, crazy-wisdom practitioners, reality-hackers, Left-Hand yogis, and even certain clerics and High Ritual Magi, the instrument of transgression involves intentionally shattering taboos in order to move past internal and external limitations. Known in occult and theological circles as antinomianism (from the Greek: “without law”), ritual transgression discards the strictures by which one is expected to abide. Instead, the practitioner places his faith in his ability to endure whatever the penalties for such disobedience may be. In Christian theology, antinomianism is an accusation of heresy; among magical societies, it’s a disreputable path to potential wisdom. Aleister Crowley was the twentieth-century poster boy for such practices, but the concept is at least as old as the Vedas, and might be as timeless as magick itself.
Transgression, as you might expect, has various degrees of severity. Simple transgression is relatively easy to survive: acting like a fool in front of people you respect, dressing like a member of a different gender or class, assuming an identity that’s drastically different from your own (say, an Ecstatic stripper becoming a celibate nun, or vice versa), using drugs if you’re straight-edge, or going straight-edge of you use drugs… that sort of thing. Dedicated transgression violates the laws and expectations of your society: stealing, attacking innocent people, undergoing torture, performing deeds that would normally disgust you (digging up graves and fucking the corpses, to use a Left-Hand Tantric example), and similar outlaw acts. Catastrophic transgression is the sort of thing you can’t come back from once you’ve gone there, and so it’s a rare and perilous course to take; rape, murder, blasphemy to the gods to whom you’ve been sworn… such transgressions change the person who performs them, and that radical transformation is the point of the exercise. It’s worth noting that other folks won’t appreciate being part of that sort of “exercise,” and tend to use all available methods to punish such transgressors.
As an instrument of focus, transgression demands a willful, deliberate, and often openly declared intention to forsake taboos in order to achieve a greater end. It’s not simply partying hardy and hoping to avoid a hangover, but an intense and painful discipline by way of in-discipline. Breaking someone else’s laws are easy; transgressing your own ethical codes is far more dangerous… and thus, more powerful. Transgression may have not only legal, moral, and physical consequences, but psychological and spiritual ones as well. A person who has thrown a rock through the figurative stained-glass windows of his own cathedral has to look at himself in the mirror, and then assess what he has seen there afterward.
“Oh, that was just a magic trick, I’m not fooled.” Think Zatanna, Mistress of Magic, here… “It’s an ILLOOOOSION!”
Mages who’ve learned how to hide their Arts in plain sight can at least try to pass off their Effects as stage trickery. If the magician in question has an arsenal of real-life tricks – ones that don’t actually employ True Magick but sleight-of-hand and misdirection – it’s far easier to then convince the Masses that the flying car or teleportation jump was simply another cool illusion.
On a similar note, pranks, gags, pratfalls, traps, con-jobs, and other tricks can be useful tools for the mystic or hypertech Arts as well. A well-executed prank or scam is kind of like magick to begin with; if the grifter just happens to employ real magick to make her tricks more effective, well, then she’s simply very good at the game. Gamblers and survivalists can put Correspondence, Entropy, Life, Mind, and Matter to good use by wrapping such Effects up in tricks and traps. And as for illusions, Mind excels at getting folks to see what they want to see, not necessarily what’s really going on.
Certain Social Abilities provide excellent dice pools for this instrument; Artistry, Blatancy, Expression, High Ritual, Seduction, and Subterfuge, among others.
Know the name, know the thing. Change the name, change the thing. …Erase the name?
To name something is to define it; to name someone is to have control over them. For this reason, among others, mages often hide their identities, taking on craft names and adopted monikers that differ from their full birth names.
The New World Order, of course, has access to any legal record they care to check… which gives them an edge when they want someone’s True Name. From a technomagickal standpoint, an American’s Social Security Number might work just as well as… or better than… her True Name if the mage wants to hold power over that citizen.
In game terms, the Storyteller may rule that an enemy with someone’s True Name – that is, her full legal name, perhaps with childhood nicknames attached – might act against that person as if the enemy has a unique personal instrument (-2 to casting difficulties). That option might be a bit too powerful for comfort; then again, such power could underscore the point that we take privacy too lightly in this era…
Harry Dresden’s Blue Beetle. James Bond’s Aston Martin. The Batmobile. Al Bundy’s Dodge.
KITT. Blue Thunder. Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and every car ever driven by James Bond. Modern mages know how to get the most out of that cornerstone of our era: the magic vehicle. And though such conveyances tend to be Wonders in their own right, a tinkerer or driver can work his Arts through any properly maintained machine.
Enchanted vehicles aren’t always modern machines. Coachmen used to be infamous for their apparent gift for driving coaches between worlds, and High Artisans gained renown for their devastating war machines. Sailing ships, ironclads, old diving bells, skates, even surfboards can provide a focus for transportation magicks.
Related closely to language, pitch and tone can work considerable effects. Consider the recent popularity of ASMR.
Vibrations from the human throat focus astonishing Effects. From singing or recognizable words (see Music and Language, above) to the wordless cries, gibberish, or evocative singing techniques collectively known as glossolalia (“babbling tongue”), vocalizations feature prominently in mystic practices. Both the terms gibberish and jabber come, it has been said, from the 8th-century Arab alchemist Jabir ibn Hazyan, who disguised his forbidden formulas in terms so incomprehensible that would-be translators referred to his work as “Jabir-ish.”
In mystic practices, non-linguistic utterances and nonsense phrases often evoke sublime states of mind because they seem significant even though they defy discernable language. The “speaking in tongues” so popular in prophecy and evangelism; the channeled speech or singing of mediums and trance-artists; the passionate cries of sex, euphoria, and pain… all of them work as tools of magickal focus.
Even primal sounds – snarls, growls, whining, and so forth – can contain mystic influence. And although hypertech practices tend to frown upon indecipherable words, the cyborg who snarls as he aims his chain-gun might not need Spheres in order to get his point across!
The traditional counterpart to the cup or vessel. Yeah. Think about that the next time you watch or read Harry Potter.
Harry Potter’s crew understands the mythic quality of wands and wizard-staves. Acting as extensions of the mage’s arm (and, symbolically, his Will and other parts of his anatomy), these instruments become common yet formidable tools. Best of all, they can be practical in the everyday world as well.
Although a wand won’t do much for you beyond directing mystic spells, a rod or staff could serve as a walking stick, prop, or weapon… especially for mages who spend lots of time in the wilderness, where hiking sticks get plenty of use.
A ceremonial sword. A witch’s athame. A Man in Black’s gun.
Weapons – from a witch’s athame to a Black Suit’s gun – are among the most popular tools for magickal focus. Even outside combat situations, a sword or dagger holds potent ritual significance.
Tools of ill omen tend to find their way into Awakened hands, often becoming channels for Entropy, Forces, Life, and Matter Arts. Any Sphere, of course, could manifest through a weapon: Spirit-crafted bullets to shoot at ghosts; Time-enhanced guns that fire at phenomenal speed; Correspondence arrows that fly impossible distances, Warrior-Princess throwing discs that seem to fly of their own accord; or swords or staves so imposing that only Mind magick could explain their mystique.
A canny mage doesn’t even need to enchant their weapon in order to use it as an instrument for Arts; a simple Mind-push tacked onto a witty soliloquy could do the trick. (“Drop. Your. Sword.”)
A protective ward, a seal of Solomon, a paper or wax seal, yellow police tape, a NO TRESPASSING sign…
Writing is a magickal act. Long before literacy became a common trait, the man or woman who could read and write understood the secret lore of texts and scriptures.
Even now, the act of physically writing something down (or carving or engraving it into a surface) gives that magick a sense of permanence. It was for this art that Odin hanged himself on the World Tree, that Chinese calligraphers spent their days in meditative bliss, that monks and friars, scribes and nuns devoted themselves to copying holy words in sacred texts. A smart blog post or text message can change somebody’s world.
True, there’s a huge difference between cutting bloody runes in your flesh, scribing an illuminated scripture, and texting a Twitter observation. Any and all of these methods, though, can focus magickal intentions. Hell, even writing a roleplaying book could be considered an act of Will…
Connections and Dimensions
Specialties: Conjuration, Scrying, Gates, Warding, Teleportation
Essence: Dynamic (reducing the sense of distance), Pattern (protecting a place or region), Primordial (excising chunks of the universe), Questing (exploring places to define that which does not yet exist)
By manipulating the ties between places, objects, and people, the Correspondence Sphere allows a mage to sidestep distances, sense things that would normally be out of range, pull objects out of thin air, levitate or fly, or connect an Effect to some other place or character. Some mages proclaim this Sphere is proof that distance is an illusion, whereas others view it as the Art of pulling strings between different places and people.
Because this Sphere deals with space and relationships, its Effects use a special Correspondence Sphere Ranges chart, found on (M20 p. 504). Most Effects require touch or close contact, but Correspondence lets the mage reach across distances and affect hidden or faraway targets. When adding Correspondence to an Effect, use that Correspondence Sphere Ranges chart to find the connection and then exploit it. Tenuous connections require several successes, but spanning close connections is easy for a mage who understands this Art.
On its own, Correspondence allows the mage to reach across distances, even to places she cannot see or touch. At Rank 2 or higher, she can grasp items and work with them from a distance. To manipulate other objects or beings in ways other than physical contact, however, that mage must combine Correspondence with another Sphere – typically a Pattern Sphere (Forces, Life, or Matter).
When combining Correspondence with other Spheres, however, the Effect is limited – in game terms – to the mage’s Rank in the Correspondence Sphere, not to the Rank of the other Spheres involved. A mage, for instance, who has only Correspondence 2 tries to use a Forces 3/Correspondence 2/Prime 2 Effect to try to start fires at a distance… except that she is limited to Forces 2, a Rank that’s too low to conjure fire. In order to boost that effect, she’d need to raise her Correspondence to at least 3.
Despite its ability to warp space and distance, Correspondence deals only with whole Patterns, unless a target has been altered by another Pattern Sphere; Correspondence alone, for example, cannot teleport someone’s head off – the mage would need to use Life magick to separate the head from its body. A gun, on the other hand, could be snatched away by a Correspondence/Matter Effect.
Mages who specialize in Correspondence tend to have a faraway look. To them, the separations of space and form are meaningless illusions that disappear when you understand how the universe truly fits together.
• Immediate Spatial Perceptions/Landscape of the Mind
Basic spatial understanding allows a mage to sense things in her immediate vicinity even if she can’t perceive them with her normal senses. Using that perception, she can estimate the distances between objects; intuitively find a direction (North, South, East, West); notice hidden objects or characters; and spot spatial instabilities – warps, anomalies, wormholes, etc. – especially the ones caused by other Correspondence Effects.
•• Sense, Touch, Thicken & Reach Through Space / Correspondence Sensing
That mage can now extend her senses across intervening space, sensing things in other locations. Such extensions, however, leave minor ripples in space… the kind noticed by Rank 1 Correspondence. Fortunately, she can also thicken space to cover her tracks; each success used in doing so deducts one success from the roll of a character who’s trying to spy on her or notice her sensory Effects.
By adding Life or Matter to Rank 2 Correspondence, the mage can grasp small items or organisms (housecat-sized or smaller) and then pull them through tiny holes in space. This lets her snatch business cards, guns, rabbits, and such from another location, apparently pulling them out of nowhere.
••• Pierce Space / Open or Close Gates / Co-locality Perceptions
Now the mage can tear holes in space, large enough for her to step through. These minor gates are small and temporary, but they allow that character to step from one place to another, so long as she’s alone and lightly encumbered. (Teleporting large items, or while carrying heavy loads, demands Correspondence 4.) Scoping out the new location is a good idea, of course. A close, familiar destination requires fewer successes than a distant, unfamiliar one.
Using the Co-locality Perceptions Effect, the mage can also perceive several places at once. Those locations all appear as ghosts overlapping each other, as if they’d been layered on top of the closest location.
Also, by combining Correspondence 3 with Forces, Life, or Matter, the mage can move things around from a distance, levitating, manipulating or teleporting them without physical contact.
•••• Rend Space / Ward / Co-locate Self
Creating larger holes in space, the mage can now open permanent gates between locations (10 or more successes); isolate forces, spaces, objects, or people into their own tiny realms (by combining Correspondence 4 with Forces, Life, Mind, or Matter); and ward certain locations against specific Patterns (again, combining Forces, Life, Mind, or Matter with Correspondence) or Resonance energies (combining this Sphere with Prime 4). This warding effect can impede or even block the forbidden elements from crossing into, or out of, the protected space. (For extensive details about wards, see the sourcebook How Do You DO That?)
Using the Co-location Effect, that mage can also appear in several different places at once. To function, however, she must add Mind 1 to that Effect. Each self mirrors the original’s actions unless she also adds Life 2 to that Effect, granting independence to every self.
••••• Spatial Mutation / Co-Location
Distance and dimensions become child’s play to a mage at this Rank. She can distort space; alter sizes and stretch or compress objects (Matter), bodies (Life), or forces (Forces); connect different Patterns to one another across intervening space; or even superimpose places or objects on top of one another (extremely vulgar). Combining this Rank with Life 3, the mage may also expand her senses to perceive many different places at once.
Chance and Mortality
Specialties: Fate, Fortune, Decay, Order, Chaos, Necromancy
Essence: Dynamic (following the path of fate & fortune), Pattern (strengthening the bonds of destiny), Primordial (acting as an agent of decay), Questing (finding weaknesses in the world and either fixing or destroying them)
Everything is mortal. Objects, people, even concepts decay over time. When you truly understand that principle – and more, when you can influence it yourself – such knowledge brings with it a sense of liberation… a bit of sadness, of course, but also the comfort of letting go.
Controlling the energies of probability and decay, an Entropy-schooled mage can manipulate random factors, observe and influence flaws within a system, tap into the energies of the Low Umbra, induce or remove corruption, and otherwise exert his Will through the inexorable process of mortality.
This is no easy discipline. The Entropic mage assumes some of the Resonance of decay within his own Pattern, and bears the weight of mortality within his mind and soul. Still, the powers of this Sphere – though less obviously destructive than those of other Arts – give that mage subtle but pervasive control over Creation as a whole.
Unlike most other Spheres, Entropy spells don’t inflict damage until Rank 4; after that, such damage is aggravated, as it breaks down the very Patterns of existence. Up until that point, Entropy helps a mage exploit or defer the effects of decay and probability… a gift that helps him use an opponent’s surroundings against her even when he doesn’t attack directly.
For obvious reasons, Entropy-schooled mages tend to be fatalistic, disassociated, or uncannily cheerful. To them, the saying “all things must pass” is no simple sentiment but an intrinsic fact of life.
• Sense Flaws, Fate & Fortune / Ring of Truth
Basic Entropic understanding allows a mage to see the currents of probability, spot flaws in Patterns, and note the subtle yet telling details in a person’s speech and behavior that suggest whether or not she’s telling what she believes to be the truth. Although he cannot yet control such phenomena, the mage can predict dice throws, card draws, and other apparently random events; spot weak spots in objects, people, or arguments; and use those imperfect yet profound insights to his advantage.
•• Control Probability
Now the mage can control the factors he could only sense before. Pulling the strings of apparently random events, he can influence activities and results – directing the fall of dice or cards, repeatedly hitting weak spots, and directing people and things toward a conclusion of his choice. Of course, it’s easier to control small events (the winner of a horse race) than large ones (causing a six-car pileup). In game terms, large alterations demand more successes than small ones do.
••• Affect Predictable Patterns
Things eventually break down. At this Rank, the mage can control the speed at which material objects fail or decay. That’s easier to do with complex machines (cars, computers) than it is with simple ones (walls, stones) – after all, more things can go wrong with complicated things.
At this Rank, the mage can also start controlling the fate and fortune of objects and people, giving them good or bad luck by controlling the probability of events around them. Again, large feats demand more successes than smaller ones.
•••• Affect Living Things
At this Rank, the mage assumes the awesome power of blessing, cursing, and conferring outright health or decay. By influencing the flow of entropy within a living body, that mage can grant outstanding vitality to, or inflict sudden disease upon, his subject. Such influence, as noted above, inflicts or heals aggravated damage and may grant long-term luck or misfortune. (Storyteller’s option as to how this manifests.)
••••• Affect Thought / Shape Memes / Binding Oath
The most esoteric applications of Entropy allow the mage to alter ideas, strengthening or breaking down concepts. Although he does not affect the actual workings of consciousness, he can cause synapses to misfire (thus confusing perceptions and mental processing, inflicting penalties on an enemy’s dice rolls), bind someone to an oath, or degrade the patterns of thought. By doing so, that Entropic Master can craft, perpetrate, reinforce, and undermine arguments, beliefs, and even memories.
To do such things, the Master merely speaks to, or glances at, the subject of his attention. Chaos Masters can scramble someone’s perceptions with a few weird utterances, and Masters of Order can present arguments with apparently perfect logic.
By offering compelling statements, the Master can create or destroy memes (M20 see p. 594), thus influencing whole patterns of belief. An oath, meanwhile, ties the subject’s fate to her loyalty; if she breaks the oath, then her luck goes really, really bad. In game terms, such feats demand a certain number of successes. Inspiring a whim requires only one or two successes, sparking a fancy takes three, setting or undermining a conviction takes four or five successes, and setting up obsessions demands five successes or more. Such activities are usually coincidental and are typically rolled against a difficulty of the subject’s Willpower +3 (threshold rules apply for Willpowers of 8, 9, or 10) if that character tries to resist the Master’s influence.
Specialties: Alchemy, Motion, Elements (any or all), Technology, Physics, Weather, Weaponry
Essence: Dynamic (altering the predictable), Pattern (maintaining a closed system), Primordial (catering to the destructive), Questing (imposing a change of state)
Although modern physics disputes the old lines between matter and energy, the venerable study of Forces transcends human politics. This Sphere commands the energies of Creation, and its specialists are among the most powerful mages alive. On a metaphysical level, the Forces Sphere commands energetic Patterns: fire, air, momentum, gravity, radiation, light, sound, and radio waves… the kinetic elements that shape and channel Earthly forces. Quintessence flows within such Patterns, so a mage can conjure new forces simply by adding some Quintessence to “empty space.” Different practices view such powers differently. Are they elemental spirits? Gods? Particles? Waves? Every Master has his or her own pet theory. In practical terms, however, this Sphere controls the Patterns of such forces – directing, transmuting, enhancing, or banishing their effects upon this world.
In game terms, Forces-based attacks inflict an additional success of damage. The nature of that damage depends upon the energies in question – see the Magickal Damage chart. Simple manifestations and manipulations are limited to the lower Sphere Ranks, whereas large-scale Effects demand higher levels of expertise. Most large Effects also demand plenty of successes and can become Paradox magnets for careless mages. Masters of Forces tend to carry a palpable aura of energetic command, with a Resonance that often alters their environments in uncanny, elemental ways.
• Perceive Forces
Unlocking basic perceptions of the elements, a Forces-savvy mage can sense the flow of forces in her environment. She can boost her perceptions into the infrared or ultraviolet spectrums, notice electrons, see in the dark, view X-rays, discern the flow of sound or radio waves, spot kinetic energies, and hear frequencies beyond the normal human range.
•• Manipulate Forces / Elemental Touch
Although she cannot conjure energies just yet, the mage may now alter the flow of existing forces. Sound can be muted or amplified; shadows can be gathered, shaped, or dispelled. The mage can warp light to make things invisible, change their colors by altering the spectrum of localized light, or render them silent by bending sound waves in their vicinity. With a wave of her hand, she can disrupt electrical currents; flare flames; or direct the course of winds, momentum, or gravity.
Combining this Rank with other Spheres, that mage could also make an object (Matter) or organism (Life) attract or repel forces. Thus, she could weave minor protection spells or force-fields… or, conversely, turn that target into a magnet (perhaps literally) for the forces in question. Despite its powers, this Rank is limited in scale. Assume that the mage can command energies around a single human-sized character or within a small area (20’ or less). To affect a larger area, you need a higher Rank in Forces.
••• Transmute Minor Forces / Telekinetics / The Dragon’s Touch
Now the mage can alter and invoke the energies she could only touch before. By adding Prime 2, she may conjure winds, fire, electricity, gravitational wells, and so forth. Combining this Rank with Life or Matter, she can transform people into electricity (Life 5/Forces 3); change water into air (Forces 3/Matter 3), or attach elemental force to material forms – making them fly, pinning them to the ground, and having other, similar effects (generally with Life or Matter 3). And by adding an ephemeral Sphere to this Rank, she might erode or enhance energies (Entropy 3); manifest thoughts into energies (Mind 3); transmute spirit-stuff into physical energies (Spirit 3); or set triggers for energy fluctuations at some later interval (Time 4).
At this Rank, the scale of effect grows larger, now encompassing several dozen yards or a handful of characters.
•••• Control Major Forces / Gift of Zeus / Weather-Witching
Larger Effects become possible. Our mage may now use the lower-Rank Effects over larger areas – a mile or more – to change weather patterns; conjure darkness; drop or raise temperatures; protect locations… or destroy them; and otherwise employ the previous levels on a much greater scale. For obvious reasons, such Effects tend to be vulgar and demand many successes to achieve.
••••• Transmute Major Forces / Conjuring Infernos
With godlike power, a Forces Master works her Will upon vast areas. She can conjure tornados on a clear day, calm tides, and ignite the very air into a firestorm. Such mages earn the title “Nuke,” though few of them survive long enough to enjoy it. It’s easier to invoke such forces under the right conditions, of course – a cold snap comes more easily in winter than in summer – and such radical alterations have repercussions that often outlast the original Effect. In game terms, massive Forces spells should disrupt the weather and leave massive Resonance echoes behind.
The Living Form
Specialties: Transformation, Shapeshifting, Healing, Improvement, Creation, Cloning, Evolution, Injury
Essence: Dynamic (leaving your mark upon the living), Pattern (sustaining life), Primordial (seeking birth and death), Questing (finding purpose for life)
Life grows, transforming over time until some final incident renders it into inert matter. Mages who specialize in Life, therefore, master the complex principles of organic transformation. Beginning with the simplest Patterns, he evolves his understanding toward godlike ends. A true Master, therefore, may end life, but he may also create it from pure energy (that is, from Quintessence) or turn it, literally, to dust.
Whereas other Spheres grapple with abstract theories, Life focuses on literally bone-deep facts. As a Life mage knows, however, those facts remain susceptible to change. In conjunction with other Pattern Spheres (Forces, Matter), lifeforms can be changed into elements, turned to stone or metal, or else created from such substances. Even without additional Spheres, however, Life allows a mage to transmute those lifeforms in startling, even apparently impossible ways.
As a whole, this Sphere embraces everything that has living cells within itself, even if that object is technically dead. As a general rule, assume that anything that’s still alive enough to transplant, preserve, or cultivate is governed by Life Arts. If it’s inert enough to be irrevocably dead, then it’s governed by Matter. Thus, preserved blood and organs, still-living plants, live-culture cheese, and so forth contain Life, but corpses, cotton fibers, withered organs, or cut wood become Matter.
When used to inflict or repair damage, Life deals out aggravated damage because it works directly upon the Patterns of living things. As a result, an organism that has been radically altered by Life magick (given new limbs or other characteristics that are not part of the creature’s original Pattern) suffers Pattern bleeding: an inexorable Quintessence leak that inflicts one level of lethal damage per day. Unless the caster uses Prime magick to refill that Pattern with fresh energy, or alters that Pattern permanently, the damage continues until the subject dies. Given their ability to heal illness, age, and harm, Life-skilled mages enjoy great health and vibrant beauty. Truly accomplished ones understand the mutable potential of organic existence and work to correct – or exploit – its ever-changing states.
• Sense Life
Basic Life knowledge allows a person to read the presence and health of nearby life-forms. With such knowledge, the mage can discern a living being’s age, sex, and overall health. By combining those perceptions with other Spheres, he can also sense distant organisms (Correspondence 2), guess their potential for sickness or misfortune (Entropy 1), perceive them through past or future states (Time 2), or read the streams of Quintessence that bind them to the universe (Prime 1).
•• Alter Simple Life-Forms / Heal Self
Simple organisms – viruses, mollusks, insects, plants, etc. – become clay in the mage’s hands. He learns to adjust their Patterns (giving a crab wings, for example), and heal or kill them. Although he can’t yet transmute them into other states of being, he can cause flowers to bloom or wither, help trees bear fruit, and so on. Focusing on his own Pattern, he can also heal himself or perform small alterations (hair color, skin tone, height, weight, and so on) to his basic form.
••• Transform Simple Life-Forms / Alter Self / Heal Others
Advanced understanding allows the mage to radically alter simple organisms (turning a tree inside-out); transform one into another (changing fruit into insects); or – with Prime 2 – conjure them from raw energy.
Working with his own Pattern, that mage can work substantial alterations on himself, growing gills, claws, armor and so forth. He remains essentially human, but begins to master the definition of “human.” Meanwhile, he also gains the ability to heal damage to other complex organisms, put them to sleep, or inflict harm upon their living Pattern forms.
•••• Alter Complex Life-Forms / Transform Self
At this Rank, the mage may enact radical changes on any complex organism – people, dogs, horses, and so forth. He can uplift other species with new limbs, opposable thumbs, increased brain capacity, etc., so long as he doesn’t change their intrinsic nature.
Working with his own Pattern, that mage can transform himself into other life-forms of similar size and mass; he could become a Great Dane, for example, but not a hummingbird. Special abilities of that form (flight, water breathing, and the like) do not carry over, however, unless he builds them into that new form with additional Life Effects, and the new body might require an adjustment period before the mind and reflexes reflect the new form.
••••• Transform & Create Complex Life-Forms / Perfect Metamorphosis
Now the Master of Life may adopt any form he wishes to achieve and may transform other complex organisms the same way. His expertise allows him to make permanent changes to life-Patterns, create complex life-forms from energy (with Prime 2), give them consciousness (with Mind 5), transmute them into other elements (Forces or Matter 3) or raw energy (Prime 5), radically age or de-age them (Entropy 4 or Time 3), or instill them with spirits (Spirit 3 or 5). Without such measures, however, his creations remain mindless, soulless sacks of life – alive, but nothing more.
Shaping the Materials
Specialties: Transmutation, Shaping, Conjuration, Refinement, Complex Patterns
Essence: Dynamic (altering and improving your surroundings), Pattern (making things that last), Primordial (recycling the ancient into the innovative), Questing (finding new uses for the old)
To a mystic, nothing is truly inert. Still, the Sphere of Matter deals with substances that possess no active agency of their own – materials, not life-forms or energies. The third aspect of the Pattern Trinity, Matter works best when combined with other Spheres. Prime and Matter create solid forms from energy; Correspondence and Matter connect objects across space; Entropy erodes or reinforces Matter; Forces transmutes inert elements into active ones. Life plus Matter bridges the gap between living and dead materials – an essential combination when dealing with vampires – and Spirit plus Matter renders ephemera into matter or matter into ephemera. Time alters the temporal state of Matter, and high-Rank Mind Effects (Rank 5) imbue inanimate materials with consciousness. Although Forces, Prime, and Spirit reflect primal energies and Life addresses organic animation, Matter represents the base of the physical world.
Matter-wise mages tend to share a literally hands-on approach to their Art. Solid workers of their practice, they favor practical results with even the most theoretical applications. Sometimes regarded as dull and simple by more esoteric peers, these artisans merge quality and integrity with surprising levels of ingenuity.
• Matter Perceptions
A Primary understanding of Matter allows the initiate to perceive the intrinsic properties of base materials – their underlying structure, innate properties, and integral stability or lack thereof. With that knowledge, she can view the material composition of an object, note its less-obvious structures, find its hidden layers or – when combining this perception with Entropy – spot its weak points. Combined with Life, this Sphere detects implants, enhancements, and other integrations of living tissue and inert materials.
•• Basic Transmutation
With advanced knowledge, the mage can transmute one substance into another, so long as she doesn’t alter its essential shape, temperature, or basic state (gas, liquid, solid). Depending upon that mage’s practice, she might reshape lead into gold through alchemy, wood into stone through a hyper-petrification process, or water into wine (and, with Life 3, wine into blood) through a sacred miracle. Rare and/ or complex materials are more difficult to fabricate than simple ones; it’s easier to turn stone into iron, for example, than into gold. To reflect that challenge, such refinement requires a greater number of successes than a transmutation into a common material.
(On a related note, the mage cannot yet fabricate radioactive materials. Such elements merge their essence into the Sphere of Forces, and thus demand a greater level of expertise.)
When combined with other Spheres, this basic level of understanding allows a mage to conjure base materials from energy or dissolve them into Quintessence (Prime 2), transmute matter into living tissue (Life 4 or higher), move an object through space (Correspondence 2 or higher) or time (Time 3 or higher), change ephemera into matter and matter into ephemera, or awaken the slumbering spirit within material objects (Spirit 3 or higher). In all cases, Matter 2 allows the mage to work with simple, homogenous, non-living substances. Complex mixtures of various elements usually require Rank 3 or higher, although simple combinations (like those found in bread, milk, paper, or gunpowder) are possible if the player rolls plenty of successes.
••• Alter Form
At this Rank, the mage can alter the shape of materials in whatever ways she desires, and she can temporarily transform their essential state into a different one – steel, for example, into fog or water into glass. (Permanent changes require Matter 5.) That crafter may change an item’s density, fuse broken pieces together, or rip solid ones apart.
By mixing Matter 3 with other Spheres, the mage can join inert matter with living tissue, disintegrate it into dust, shift objects with the power of thought, or otherwise perform amazing transformations upon apparently solid materials.
•••• Complex Transmutation
Complex and radical transformations now become possible, especially with the addition of other Spheres. Pumpkins can be changed into carriages (Life 2), people into thrones (Life 5), cars into robots (combinations of Forces and Prime), or thin air into banquets, so long as the mage doesn’t mind racking up a little (or a lot…) of Paradox. Different principles can be combined in complicated ways, creating cybernetic machines or electrified gold. Complicated devices (guns, cars, computers) may be conjured out of empty space if the mage understands the principles behind such things (in game terms, possesses the proper Abilities). As usual, though, complicated creations demand extended rituals and many successes.
••••• Alter Properties
With Mastery, the crafter can create substances that transcend the limitations of scientific possibility, conjure materials unknown to Earthly reality, or share the deadly legacies of radioactive matter. Such Masters can shape armor out of air (with Prime 2), turn vampires into lawn furniture (Life 5), or melt steel with a thought (Mind 3). Again, such deeds remain incredibly vulgar, but they recall the godlike feats of legendry.
Art of Consciousness
Specialties: Communication, Illusion, Emotion, Social Programming, Self-Empowerment, Astral Travel, Mind-Shielding, Psychodynamics, Psychic Combat
Essence: Dynamic (communicating high concepts with clarity), Pattern (correcting the mentally damaged), Primordial (censoring weak thoughts and broadcasting the strong ones), Questing (searching for truly original thought)
Human beings perceive reality through complex interplays of consciousness. The Mind-mage, therefore, alters the realities of his fellow beings. Skillfully applied, such Arts can make a sane man mad, soothe demented minds, or even shuck the boundaries of flesh.
Though limited in its physical capacities (Mind Sphere attacks inflict bashing damage unless otherwise noted), Mind is the ultimate coincidental Art. Its Effects remain essentially invisible unless they’re combined with other Spheres. And although Mind Adepts can leave their physical bodies behind, such abilities remain unseen by mortal eyes.
In many cases, offensive Mind effects – that is, ones that read or influence another character’s mental state – base their difficulties on the target’s Willpower Trait rather than against the usual coincidental/vulgar spectrum. (If the target’s Willpower is less than 4, the base difficulty is 4.) Drastic acts of mind control (suicide, for instance) go against the Willpower +3, as do Mind-based attacks against Night-Folk or other mages with the Mind Sphere. An unwilling character can also try to oppose such Effects with a resisted Willpower roll, using her successes like a mental dodge maneuver. And so, though weak-willed people may be influenced easily, determined folks can shrug aside the influence of all but the most dedicated Will-workers. (For details, see Resisting Psychic Assaults, M20 pp. 544-545.)
For attacks against multiple targets, the difficulty for a Mind-based Effect depends upon the usual coincidental, vulgar, or vulgar with witnesses situations. Such Mind-based Effects are generally coincidental, although especially flamboyant feats might be vulgar instead.
Literally “thought-full,” Mind-savvy mages possess mental clarity and unnerving perceptiveness. Some appear to drift in a sea of distractions, but the majority of them view the world with laser-focus intensity that penetrates illusions to reach their deeper truth.
• Sense Thoughts & Emotions / Mind Shield / Empower Self
With basic mental magick, the mage learns to sense the emotions and surface impulses of other people. Although he cannot read specific thoughts, he’s able to perceive psychic impressions about a person or (with Matter 1) a place or object. Through this perception, he can guess at the nature of weak Resonance signatures and read the stronger ones outright. Even without Resonance, that mage can scan auras, note mood shifts, discern truth from lies, or grasp someone’s overall state of mind by way of a successful Arete roll.
Meanwhile, the mage also learns to shield his own mind from the thoughts and emotions of other people, constructing mental barriers around his aura, emotions, and consciousness. Each success on a coincidental Arete roll removes one success from any other character’s attempt to read those psychic elements.
On a related note, he also learns how to multitask and absorb data with startling acuity. Each success he rolls allows him to either consider an additional subject or speed the processing time that a normal person might require. For scene or two, he can even raise one of his Mental Traits by one dot per success, thanks to a Mind Empowerment Effect that concentrates his mental faculties.
•• Read Surface Thoughts / Empathic Bond /Create Impressions / Mental Impulse
Now the mage begins to skim the contents of unshielded minds, discern emotional states, read memories that have been left behind on objects or places, and project single words or emotional impulses to other people. The simpler the emotional content, the easier it is to send or read; a flash of rage, for instance, is easy to project or receive, but the complex stew of reflective melancholy presents a challenge to inexperienced Mind-mages. (Game-wise, such complex feats demand more successes than a simple feat does.)
••• Mental Link / Project Illusions / Dreamwalk / Psychic Blast
With increasing skill, the mage learns to link minds, forge telepathic communications, read or influence another person’s thoughts, craft mental illusions, enter someone’s dreams and explore dream Realms, and blast psychic assaults into an unwilling rival’s consciousness. At this stage, Mind attacks can inflict painful – though rarely fatal – damage.
Combined with Correspondence, Forces, Matter, or Life, he is able to employ telekinesis, pyrokinetics, and psychophysical assault, influencing objects, elements, or people with the power of his mind. Unlike most other Effects, this sort of thing is not coincidental, although such talents do have a place within popular culture.
•••• Control Conscious Mind / Alter Consciousness / Astral Projection
The fearsome power of Black Suits and psychic assailants allows the mage to command another person’s actions as well as her thoughts, alter her perceptions or mental state, and project his own mind from his physical form. At this Rank, a mage can change someone’s memories, drive her crazy (or sane), overlay her aura with a desired impression, and set up posthypnotic suggestions and commands. (See Social Conditioning and Reprogramming, M20 pp. 605-607.) And by using internal rather than external powers, he can also project his astral form, as detailed in Chapter Nine, M20 pp. 476-478.
••••• Control Subconscious / Forge Psyche / Untether Consciousness
A true Mind Master commands not only his own conscious but other minds as well. He may alter someone’s mind forever, raising (or lowering) her Traits, rewriting her personality, changing her Nature Trait, or (with Life 4) switching her mind into another body. He can do the same things to his own mind as well, and he can untether that mind to explore the deeper reaches of astral space for hours or even days at a time. His greatest power, though, is the ability to fabricate entire consciousnesses, creating minds where no mind had been before.
Essence of all Things
Specialties: Resonance, Artifice, Perceptions, Channeling, Creation, Destruction
Essence: Dynamic (weaving the Tapestry in unique ways), Pattern (adding a lasting element to the world), Primordial (reducing the extraneous to concepts), Questing (discovering universal truths and secrets)
By studying the raw energy of Creation, a student of the Prime Sphere learns to understand, manipulate, and absorb the Fifth Essence within all things. Also known as Odyllic Force, Primal Energy, and Quintessence, this baseline energy fuels the Patterns of other forms – Forces, Life, Matter – and flows through the sublime essence of Spirit. A Prime-skilled mage, therefore, can create and destroy things at their essential level, power items of enchanted or Enlightened creation, and sustain her own life essence through her understanding of Primal Force.
Ripe with such energies, a Prime Sphere specialist pulsates with Primal Force. Unless she’s working to suppress it (or has wiped her aura clean with high-Rank magicks), her Resonance bears strong signatures from her deeds. (See Resonance and Synergy, (M20 pp. 560-561). For better and worse, such a person embodies the primal Otherness that most mages possess – the sense of being something more than most people ever dream of being.
• Etheric Senses/ Consecration/Infuse Personal Quintessence
A beginning study of Prime allows the mage to perceive and channel Quintessence from Nodes, Tass, Wonders, and magickal Effects. She may spot energetic ebbs and flows, can sense and at least try to read Resonance and Synergy signatures, and could also absorb Quintessence into her personal Pattern. Mages without at least one dot in Prime cannot absorb Quintessence beyond their Avatar Background rating. A Prime-skilled mage, however, may do so.
When infusing her Quintessence into an object, that mage may also consecrate the object with her personal energy. When she shapeshifts, steps sideways, or otherwise alters her Pattern’s metaphysical nature, that consecrated object will then change with her. In the process, it also picks up her personal Resonance… which, because it both identifies her and becomes essentially connected to her, is not always a good thing.
•• Fuel Pattern / Construct Patterns / Enchant Patterns / Body of Light
Attaining a degree of control over Prime energies, the mage may divert Quintessence into new or existing forms. Combined with other Spheres, this allows that mage to create new Forces, Life, or Matter Patterns (conjuring them from thin air), and to infuse existing items with Primal Force to strengthen them or enhance their protective or destructive power.
Weapons or attacks infused with Quintessence through Prime 2 Effects may hurt spirits or inflict aggravated damage, and substances infused the same way may protect against such harm. On a related note, she may also – with Life 2 for simple organisms, or Life 3 for complex ones – consecrate a living thing at this Rank, as if that life-form were an object described above. Through similar applications of energy, the mage can also conjure a simple Body of Light: an idealized self projected from ephemeral energy. Although this Body of Light has no substance or special properties (unlike the astral form described in Chapter Nine, M20 p. 477), it presents a glowing holograph of the mage herself.
••• Channel Quintessence / Enchant Life / Energy Weapon / Craft Periapts & Temporary Wonders
By tapping into the flow of Quintessence around her, the Prime-skilled mage can draw both free and raw Quintessence from Nodes, Junctures (special times), and Tass (solidified Quintessence)… and she may also channel that energy into new and existing Patterns as well. With such powers, she could (with Life 3) enchant a living thing so that it could inflict or endure aggravated damage; inflict aggravated damage by shaking up that organism’s life force; pull small amounts of life force from a living sacrifice or (with Matter 2) from inert objects; instill Quintessence into a vessel called a Periapt; or – with other Spheres – craft temporary Talismans or Devices by infusing them with Primal Force. (Permanent enchantments require Prime 4 – see Crafting Wonders on M20 p. 508, and Quintessence Amounts on p. 507.)
In desperate circumstances, a Prime-schooled mage can also create temporary weapons out of pure concentrated energy – blasts of Quintessence or swords of light. Such weapons inflict aggravated damage (as per the Base Damage or Duration chart) and cost one point of Quintessence per use… or, for weapons that last for a length of time, one point per turn. When the mage runs of out Quintessence, the weapon disappears. Unless channeled through energy-guns or conjured as miracles among the faithful, such attacks are inevitably vulgar.
•••• Expel or Infuse Energy / Tap Wellspring / Craft Tass & Permanent Wonders
The terrible power of draining Quintessence from objects or forces (though not yet from living things) can disintegrate those targets, consume them in Primal flames, or decay them almost instantly. Reversing that flow, the mage can craft objects that cannot be broken, or bond organic and inorganic materials together to create cybernetic implants, nanotech, and other Wonders. At this stage, she is able to enchant items permanently and draw Quintessence from the energetic Wellsprings of exciting events. By infusing her personal Quintessence into a Periapt, the mage might use Matter 4 to craft a Soulgem: a portable vessel that’s filled with her own Resonance and energy.
••••• Infuse or Withdraw Life Force /Create Node & Soulflower / Nullify Paradox
A Prime Master can draw Quintessence from anywhere, at any time, and channel it into other vessels as well. A dark, vulgar aspect of that power allows her to obliterate a living being by consuming all of his life force, whereas the reverse of that power infuses him with life force so strong that he’s essentially blessed. Combining that ability with Life 5, she may turn complex organisms into Soulflowers: living Periapts who become walking batteries of boosted Quintessence. Such Mastery also allows the mage to create Nodes in significant places, and to nullify Paradox as described under Nullifying Paradox, M20 p. 549.
Art of the Otherworlds
Specialties: Umbral Travel, Spirit Dealings, Gauntlet Manipulation, Primal Spirits, Tech Spirits, Celestials, Infernals, Possession
Essence: Dynamic (affecting changes across the worlds), Pattern (consolidating various realities), Primordial (birthing concept in its rawest form), Questing (making sense of the nonsensical)
Reaching into the essence beyond Earthly life and matter, the Spirit mage explores the Otherworlds and deals with creatures beyond mortal understanding. One of the most primal forms of the mystic Arts, Spirit Sphere magick traffics in the hidden side of the natural realm. As a result, its Effects typically use the Gauntlet Ratings chart to determine the difficulty of their associated rolls.
Often affiliated with the shaman, Spirit magick is more eclectic than it often appears. A mage who specializes in this Sphere could be a primal devotee, a sophisticated theologian, a medicine-worker deeply versed in cultural traditions, an eclectic metaphysician, a modern Pagan, or anyone else who comprehends the rich world beyond material physics. Almost inevitably, he’ll look deeper than most modern people do, grasping for the spiritual forces behind apparently mundane events.
• Spirit Sight / Spirit Sense
To most of humanity, the spirit world remains invisible. Not to a mage who knows the Spirit Sphere. Although he’ll be most attuned to spirits with Resonance similar to his own, that mage can read the local Gauntlet’s thickness, discern auras, sense spirits of all types, peek into the Penumbra through the Vidare, and determine whether or not a material object has a spiritual component (as mystic Fetishes do).
Combined with other Spheres, that mage can spot forces, places, or items with unusual ties to the spirit world, such as Awakened objects, elemental spirits, possessed organisms, Shallowings, Nodes, and so forth.
•• Touch Spirit / Manipulate Gauntlet
Perception moves to contact. The Spirit-savvy mage can now reach through the Gauntlet for a turn or two; call across the Gauntlet; speak to spirit entities, or touch them for a brief moment; and thin or thicken the local Gauntlet. In the latter case, each success lowers or raises the Gauntlet rating by +1 for each success rolled. (Four successes would raise or lower it by four levels, for example.) That said, a human mage cannot lower the Gauntlet to less than 4 within the mortal world.
By adding other Spheres, that mage could project thoughts across the barrier (Mind 4 or 5); stir up elemental disturbances within the Otherworlds (Forces 2 or higher); imbue material objects with ephemeral power (Matter 2); drain Essence from a spirit (Prime 3); or help other living creatures sense or contact the spirit realms (Life 2).
••• Pierce Gauntlet / Step Sideways / Rouse & Lull Spirit
Now the mage can cross over, transmuting his living tissue to ephemera. He may carry a few material possessions, although transmuting them as well raises both the difficulty of the roll and the number of successes required for the trip. (Normal clothing and items raise both factors by +1; bulky clothing and items raise them by +2.) That traveler must step sideways on his own; bringing large items or other people across demands a higher Spirit Rank. Meanwhile, a combined Spirit 3/ Mind 2 Effect allows the mage to read Resonance, Synergy, and other spiritual energies (Essence, a spirit’s place within a hierarchy, etc.).
At this Rank, a mortal mage can also harm an Umbral entity as if he was using Life 3 against that entity. While Spirit 2 allows the mage to touch that entity, Spirit 3 lets him actually damage its ephemeral Pattern’s integrity the way that Life 3 damages a physical creature’s form.
By combining this Rank with Matter 3 and Prime 2, the mage can also create short-lived objects from ephemera; such creations must be constructed as if they were material things, and they fade away at the end of the Effect’s duration. Finally, this Rank helps the mage rouse the slumbering spirits within objects or places, or else put active spirits to sleep. (See Awakening Substances in Chapter Nine, M20 p. 443).
•••• Rend Gauntlet / Seal Breach / Bind Spirit
As the mage approaches Mastery, he can tear Gateways in the Gauntlet, allowing groups or large objects to pass through… or close such breaches, too. Both applications, of course, are deeply vulgar.
At this Rank, the mage may also compel spirits to appear, bind them into Fetish objects, or tie them to certain spots or prisons. For obvious reasons, such bondage is risky, especially if the spirit is powerful. A brave or foolish Spirit mage can even turn himself into a temporary Fetish, channeling a spirit entity into his mortal body; in such cases, he loses his ability to use true magick, but he may employ the capabilities of the spirit inside him. On the flipside, he can also exorcise a spirit that has possessed a mortal host. In all cases, the mage enters a series of resisted rolls against the spirit, pitting his Willpower against that spirit’s own.
••••• Forge Ephemera / Gilgul / Break the Dreamshell
The Spirit Master is now able to command ephemera itself, creating, challenging, and destroying spirit matter as he Wills. With such power, he may craft Realms, imbue or drain a spirit of Essence, instill a soul within an empty shell of Life or Matter, and bestow the awful sentence of Gilgul – the destruction of a mage’s Avatar. Such powers are always vulgar and feature devastating consequences even when the mage succeeds. This power also allows the mage to break the Dreamshell and venture beyond the Horizons, wandering into the Deepest of Umbrae. Such tasks demand at least 10 successes, but a courageous Master can travel as far as his soul wants to go.
Tricking the Flow
Specialties: Perceptions, Prophecy, Triggers, Time Travel, Temporal Control
Essence: Dynamic (providing a second chance), Pattern (finding the importance of the moment), Primordial (preventing catastrophic futures), Questing (searching through the past)
The esoteric Arts of Time demand a flexible mindset. Possibly the most confounding Sphere, Time involves dizzying temporal metaphysics that defy the most apparently determined aspect of reality: time itself. And yet, initiates of this Sphere understand that time is fluid… difficult to manipulate, but not as rigid as it might appear.
In conjunction with other Spheres, Time allows a mage to set triggers on other Effects, stretch out their duration, see into other times and places, or otherwise warp the threads of time. When employing the Time Sphere to look or reach through time, a player checks the Time Sphere Timelines chart; when prolonging an Effect, she could either spend successes on increased Duration (see the Optional Dividing Successes Rule chart), or else add Entropy 3 in order to hold the Effect until a certain circumstance occurs.
It’s been said that time travel is impossible; however, that’s not entirely true… it’s just extremely difficult. Effects that involve going backwards in time add +3 to their difficulty, are always vulgar, and stack the effects of Paradox. A character who rewinds time by turns adds one layer of Paradox per turn; going back three turns, for instance, incurs three times the usual Paradox – three points for each point that might otherwise be earned by an Effect at that Rank. And a mage who travels backward according to the Time Sphere Timelines chart gets two layers of Paradox for each interval on that chart; going back 50 years (or four intervals), for example, nets eight times the usual amount of Paradox – eight points for each point normally earned. No wonder people who go back in time rarely return to speak of it! As one might expect, a mage who manipulates the Time Sphere tends to appear distant from the moment at hand. Although she might have excellent timing, her sense of the importance of past/ present/ future events seems to be a bit more… fluid than usual for a person living by the clock in today’s world.
• Time Sense
Temporal understanding begins with the mage’s own perceptions of time. At this stage, she develops a precise internal clock and can spot the temporal ripples left behind by (or, in many cases, developing ahead of) Time Effects. Other phenomena, too, leave disturbances in the time-stream, and the mage can notice them as well. Combined with additional Spheres, this Rank allows the mage to detect the influence of the Time Sphere on other spells or Patterns too.
•• Past & Future Sight / Thicken the Walls of Time
Now the mage can look forward or backward through time. Although those impressions are fleeting, hazy, not entirely accurate, and bound by the limitations of that time and place (that is, what a bystander in that specific time and location could sense under the circumstances), they allow the Time-seer to catch glimpses of the past or future.
By itself, this Effect allows the mage to see in her present location only. By combining Past/ Future Sight with other Spheres, however, she could read the probable past or future impressions of objects or places (Matter), living things (Life), and alternate locations (Correspondence). Entropy 2 even allows her to glimpse multiple futures and pick out the one most likely to occur.
Reversing her powers of perception, that same mage can thicken the walls of time, which makes other Time Effects more difficult. Each success she rolls deducts one success from the attempts of other Time-savvy characters.
••• Time Contraction or Dilation /“Bullet Time” / Rewind Time
Speeding or slowing her relationship with time, the mage can now gain multiple actions, slow other characters or phenomena, or rewind small snatches of time. In game terms, every two successes allow the character to take one additional action that does not involve casting magick (only one Arete roll may be made per turn); or else slow another character, object, or even herself down by one increment per success. (Four successes, for example, would slow a person down to a quarter of his normal speed.)
By rewinding time, the mage can also move her immediate surroundings back one turn for every two successes – an Effect that pulls her out of the normal flow of time and allows her to retcon an action or two. (See above.)
Combining this Rank with other Spheres, the mage can affect other Patterns (Forces, Life, or Matter 2), cast Effects across distance and time (Correspondence 3), move back in time while recalling events from the future she just left (Life 3/ Mind 1), or even invoke multiple probabilities (Entropy 3). Again, such attempts are Paradox magnets with awful longterm consequences.
•••• Time Determinism / Trigger Effect /Time Bubble / Anchor Point
Now the mage learns to withdraw herself from the normal flow of time, hold Effects until they get triggered by events, or – by adding in Correspondence, Forces, Life, Matter, and/ or Spirit – capture other beings or phenomena in bubbles of time. Thus, a mighty (vulgar) Time/ Forces/ Entropy Effect could capture a tornado and shunt it off into no-time space until some trigger sets it free. At this level of expertise, the mage can also set a temporal anchor point for herself for when she dares to travel through time at Rank 5.
••••• Temporal Travel / Time Immunity
The “Dr. Who Effect” allows the mage to exist outside of time; immunize people, places or things from time’s passage; or travel forward or backward through time. Such godlike feats… feats that often cause a mage to become forever lost to history… are often best left to the Storyteller’s discretion. Even for Masters, Time travel is a mysterious and maddeningly imprecise art. For extensive details about such things, see the sourcebook How Do You DO That?
Accessing Reality Metacode
Specialties: Co-location, Encryption, Fabrication, Firewalling, Surveillance/Sousveillance
Data is reality. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. Although this reality extends only about as far as electronic data or media, that reach is damned near worldwide these days. And through that connection, Data Sphere specialists can find, contact, and reach out to anyone on the grid. All it takes is time and a little bit of information, plus the knowledge and the Will to work it properly.
Data is a variation of the Correspondence Sphere pioneered by the Analytical Reckoners and most heavily utilized by the Feed Methodology of the New World Order. While originally confined to just that Convention, it slowly spreads to other parts of the Technocratic Union and even to other Technomancers like the Virtual Adepts. Like all Spheres, its properties are meta-physical, extending beyond the realms of conventional reality.
Those operatives skilled in Data excel in the relationships and manipulation of information. While typical Correspondence is an abstract concept, Data is highly specific; advanced operatives see elaborate imagery and processes where others see masses of code. Although the Data specialist is, theoretically, just using the tools at his disposal, the greater reaches of this Sphere extend beyond the bounds of what should be possible, according to the Masses. It’s not “magick,” of course – stop thinking such unmutual thoughts! It does, however, pull the strands of Information-Age technology in some pretty impressive ways.
In most regards, Data functions like Correspondence with regards to the powers at its disposal. The primary differences come through the elements of connection (see the chart below) and the methods of its employment. To use Data-based Effects, the technomancer must collate data about the person or location he’s trying to reach, and then have gear in place that can reach the subject of his attention. The more expertise that specialist brings to bear on the situation (that is, the more dots he has in this Sphere), the easier it is for him to establish a connection with minimal amounts of data.
For this Sphere’s associated paradigm, see Everything is Data, (M20 p. 570). Because Data depends upon technological methods of information and connection, a target who’s not on the grid cannot be affected by this Sphere. Given the current (and growing) extent of information technology, however, the Data can reach most people within the industrialized world… especially if they participate in social media, modern banking, or government processes.
One of the biggest advantages of Data is that its sympathetic links are nearly impossible to sever. While traditional Correspondence can be distorted or misaligned, Data cannot be destroyed and is readily reconstructed by a dedicated technomancer. Also, ranges work differently, since Data can target any electrical device regardless of its distance.
The Achilles heel of Data, however, is that it relies on technology. While cellphones and internet access points are nearly universally accessible in most developed parts of the world, there are still many parts of the world without such access. These are blank spots for users of Data. Also, a target can easily avoid any scrutiny via Data by simply abandoning every electrical object and retreating into the wilderness.
• On the Ones and Zeros
Through a haze of code, the Data initiate begins to see the interconnectedness of all things. Bringing that esoteric level of comprehension to the world beyond his keyboard, the specialist can determine the exact distance between points or the connections between visible objects. His understanding allows him to work on base-level projects without instruments, thanks to a growing familiarity with relationship information.
•• The Reach and the View
With a few quick calculations, the specialist can assess theoretical and practical space – assessments that allow him to perceive what’s happening elsewhere. Expanding the metaphysical elements of this discipline, this understanding allows the agent to see and touch places in other areas of the world, so long as he has instruments that allow him access to distant locations. Combining Data with other Spheres, the specialist can extend the practical range of Technocratic Effects. Matter allows him to modify Union tech from a distance; Mind lets him communicate with agents or targets worldwide; Forces lets him attack distant targets; and Entropy allows him to predict and alter probability patterns and spot flaws in objects that he can perceive. As with regular Correspondence, the operator’s Data Rank must be equal to, or higher than, the highest Rank in a connected Effect.
••• Quantum Teleportation / Firewalling / Surveillance Hub
Advanced Data transfer techniques allow the specialist to more or less sidestep conventional physics of spatial dimensions. In practical terms, this allows him to download himself into quantum teleportation mode; erect firewalls of particle physics that effectively ward objects, places, or people; and divide his perceptions across a multilocational surveillance hub. Combined with other Spheres, this expertise helps the agent move things, forces, and living beings through intervening space.
Again, however, these Procedures demand the appropriate gear on either side of the Effect. Such violations of conventional physics demand the proper technology.
•••• Between Space / Dimensional Cohabitation / Multilocation Access
With such technology in place, the expert specialist can open quantum gateways between locations, create pocket dimensions between conventional space-time continuums, and disperse holographic manifestations of himself into several concurrent locations. With the appropriate Life, Mind, and Primal Force Procedures, those manifestations can even become as solid as the agent himself and perform different tasks in the finest Agent Smith tradition.
••••• Redistribute Physical Properties
Fold Space/Hyperdispersed Perceptions Data Mastery merges conventional physics with sophisticated hypermath. The few specialists at this level can stack physical locations into the same space, alter the spatial dimensions and properties of a target, or disperse their perceptions into so many concurrent locations that a specialist may truthfully be said to have eyes and ears everywhere.
|Data Mastery||Successes||Time Per Roll||Operator/ Subject Connection|
|•||8||Four hours||Subject’s presence or body sample; source code; government ID database information|
|••||6||Two hours||A treasured possession or intimate companion; sample code; personal email or social media account|
|•••||4||One hour||Casual possession or associate; legacy code; Internet sock puppet; throwaway email or media account|
|••••||3||One minute||Acquaintance of or item from subject; derivative code; IP address|
|•••••||2||One minute||Operator briefly touched or met subject; code from same language; rerouted IP string|
Parsing Alternate Reality Spectrums
Specialties: Subdimensions, Anthropic Principle Applications, EDE Relations, Mapping, Applied Theory, Dimensional Anomaly
The technocratic equivalent of the Sphere of Spirit, Dimensional Science, sometimes simply "DimSci", is based upon the Tychoidian cosmology theories of the Void Engineers (see Chapter Four, M20 pp. 93-94).
Dimensional Science posits an Anthropic Principle Field in which the conscious human mind exerts a degree of control over its metaphysical reality space. Because of that Principle, lesser subdimensions have collected outside of Earthly space, losers in some contest of metaphysical Darwinism. The entities native to those subdimensions – extradimensional entities, or EDEs – strive to pass the Earthly barriers and infect the human world. And that’s where Dimensional Science comes in, a method of asserting the Enlightened elements of the Anthropic Principle and keeping those EDEs out of human space.
In game terms, Dimensional Science is largely the same as the Spirit Sphere. Like other Technocratic Spheres of Influence, however, its Effects are bound to technological gear and viewed through a lens of science, not mysticism. Although Void Engineers still apply the term Umbrae to these subdimensions (considering them mathematical shadows of the human Consensus), the Dimensional Specialist’s approach lacks animistic reverence, even though it features scientific awe.
Unlike Data, Dimensional Science remains largely exclusive to a single Convention: the Void Engineers. In many regards, it’s a well-kept secret, propagated only through intense training at VE facilities. The Dimensional Specialist, then, is a man or woman of intense focus within a multilevel framework of thinking and perception. By outside standards, she appears paranoid… but of course, if you knew the things she knows about the pervasive nature of subdimensions and EDEs, you’d be paranoid too…
• EDE Scan / Evaluate Gauntlet / Map Dimensional Region
Through applied principles and technologies, the specialist learns to perceive EDE presence and potential incursions, evaluate the characteristics of alternate dimensions and thickness of the barrier that keeps them outside the Consensus, and perceive the essential terrain in the pocket dimensions on the other side of that Gauntlet.
•• Dimensional Vibration / Modify Dimensional Gauntlet / Transdimensional Field
At this level of expertise, the specialist can use radiation pulses, hypermath, and samples of transdimensional matter to grant access to those alternate dimensions. With the correct instruments, that specialist can send out artificial ripples into nearby subdimensions in order to attract EDEs and leave signals for other Dimensional Specialists.
Thanks to the hyper-mathematical models and recordings involved in Dimensional Science, a specialist can also manipulate the Gauntlet, raising or lowering it, even as low as 0 – a feat mystic mages cannot duplicate. The Gauntlet 0 Effect lasts for only one scene, but it counters the punishment of the Dimensional Anomaly (that is, the Avatar Storm) if that phenomenon is still in play. However, the specialist herself still suffers feedback damage as she works the Effect. (In game terms, she takes the usual Avatar Storm damage, though she prevents other characters from taking it during that scene.)
On a related note, the specialist learns to also surround herself (or, with the appropriate Spheres, other people or objects) with a transdimensional field; this, in turn, allows her to interact with subdimensions on a limited level (brief touch) without suffering harm from the Dimensional Anomaly.
••• Dimensional Shift / Manipulate Paraphysical Phenomena / Phase Disruption Field
Increased understanding allows the specialist to step sideways into alternate dimensions, manipulate the paraphysical matter (that is, ephemera) of those dimensions, and – with the correct weaponry – send out destructive phase disruption fields of vibrations that disorient, injure, or disintegrate EDEs. (In short, her attacks can harm spirit entities.)
Thanks to the Stun/Kill/Disintegrate settings on those weapons, she can choose whether to inflict bashing, lethal, or aggravated damage on Umbral targets… and although EDE’s experience all forms of damage the same way, dimension-hopping humans and Deviant werebeasts do not.
•••• Alter Dimensional Topography / Dimensional Gateway / Stabilize Dimensional Field
Increased understanding and appropriate technologies help the specialist make lasting changes to alternate dimensions. Reworking the paraphysical constraints of a given space, she may craft pocket domains and dimensional walls in order to block or catch EDEs. A skilled specialist can do this even from the Earthly side of the Gauntlet, thus avoiding the effects of the Dimensional Anomaly. Using similar techniques, the specialist can also carve out rapid-transit paths; in game terms, this Effect cuts down the specialist’s travel time within the Otherworlds by (normal travel time divided by successes +1).
The specialist can also open large gateways into the subdimensions, although the people passing through those gates suffer the effects of the Anomaly unless the Gauntlet has already been lowered to 0 by a Dimension Science 2 Procedure. Channeling Primal Energy (Quintessence) through appropriate technology, the specialist can also strengthen the Enlightened Anthropic Principle enough to prevent Void Adaptation (that is, disconnection and disembodiment; see Disembodiment in Chapter Four, M20 pp. 88-89; and Disconnection and Disembodiment in Chapter Nine, M20 p. 483.) Each point of Quintessence allows one character to resist Void Adaptation for one week.
••••• Anthropic Field / Breach Spatial Horizon / Cosmogenesis
Utilizing the ultimate applications of Anthropic Principle Fields, the specialist can generate her own Anthropic Field (with the right instruments, of course) that allows her to venture beyond both Horizons and venture into the Deep Universe. By crafting a reality bubble around herself, that specialist can keep other Earthly beings alive with her as well (two passengers per additional success beyond the second) and can engineer and pilot vehicles for Deep Universe travel. For design and construction systems, see Inventing, Modifying, and Improving Technology in Chapter Nine, (M20 pp. 463-464).
Employing the arcane technologies of Cosmogenesis, that Master Specialist may also engineer and create Horizon Constructs and custom-designed and constructed EDE organisms. She must employ Primal Utility energies as well (often including Life and Matter if the EDE construct is to survive outside the subdimensions… that is, if it’s going to be more than simple ephemera), but these cosmic computations allow Void Engineers to harness powers not unlike those of legendary gods.
Investing Essential Energies
Specialties: Assessment, Investment, Wellsprings, Personal Value, Primal Ventures, Generating Energetic Capital
Primal Utility represents the Syndicate's unique take on the Prime sphere. It utilizes many of the ordinary Prime Sphere’s functions, but modifies them to fit the Convention’s economic paradigm. While Primal Utility opens possibilities that other approaches can't make use of, it also makes Procedures that rely on physical or psychological models of Prime more difficult to develop.
While other Technocratic Conventions stick close to the “essential energies” model of Prime, the Enlightened Hypereconomists of the Syndicate perceive Prime as far than some ephemeral energy bubbling up from the cracks of the world. Instead, it’s an energy field generated by Homo economicus: the ambitiously conscious human being who acts to further his or her self-interest. Related to the VE theory of Enlightened Anthropic Principle Fields (although they don’t know it by that name), the Syndicate’s hypereconomic theories see Quintessence energy rising from human interest and activity. People literally invest themselves in such ventures, and although they might not see the energy they create through such transactions, they can feel it… hence the sensations involved in feeling valued or worthless.
In game terms, the applications are more or less the same. For a Syndicate character, however, Prime flows through investing and withdrawing energetic currency through Ventures (value-generating Nodes – see the chart below) that manipulate the metaphysical economies of human value. By accessing what they call “creation’s credit rating”, the hypereconomist controls that currency, investing it where it does the most good… for him. Perhaps the greatest edge granted to those who understand Primal Utility comes from the aforementioned Ventures.
By investing in a Venture, the hypereconomist can draw Primal Energy (Quintessence) from a mundane business. In game terms, that business becomes a Node; if the character has a lasting personal connection with that Venture, then he’s got access to that Node as well. Only a character with at least one dot in Primal Utility can access the Quintessence from that Venture; another mage might sense the energies but remain unable to access their power.
Prime-savvy hypereconomists always watch for invisible bottom lines. Attuned to the effects of Market Correction (Paradox) and the perpetual exchange of energies conducted through human intercourse (sexual and otherwise), he can spot value – or the lack of it – in the least obvious situations, and he knows how to get the most for his investments in whatever form they might manifest.
• Assess Primal Utility / Deposit Primal Utility / Exploit Primal Venture
Assessment analysis gives the hypereconomist a view of Prime flows, Resonance signatures, and applied metaphysical processes (that is, magick) in his vicinity.
As with all other Technocratic Sphere Effects, this demands the correct instruments and training, although certain practices and instruments (especially dominion and hypereconomics) simply give the specialist a hunch about the energies in play. Some specialists see colorful flows of energy but dismiss such visions as simply mental constructs for an otherwise invisible process.
As with Prime 1, the hypereconomist can also invest such energies and can utilize the Prime Force generated by Ventures as well as other, more mystical sources of Quintessence.
•• Create Gadgets / Perfect Material Exploitation / Primal Innovation
Through sophisticated uses of instruments and principles, the hypereconomist can modify existing materials with an energized-value buzz; he can even create something from nothing, thanks to the principle of increased worth.
In game terms, this allows him to use the normal Prime 2 Effects, although the character still needs to have some technological source to facilitate his conjurations.
••• Create Stable Extraordinary Devices / Living-Asset Exploitation / Use Currency & Primal Storage
Utilizing energetic manifestations called Currency (in mystic terms, Tass), plus efficient managerial skills (see the Management and Human Resources sidebar, M20 p. 595), the specialist can employ a team to create permanent Devices with his Currency, restore his personal stock (Pattern) with Currency, and drain or refill Devices and storage batteries called Matrices (that is, Periapts) with his available Currency.
•••• Create Tass / Exploit Opportunity / Liquidate Assets
Skillful use of hypereconomics now allows the specialist to create Currency from free-flowing energy. Typically, this Tass involves precious materials, paper money, credit cards, or other items of value (paintings, stock certificates, bearer bonds, drugs, etc.). Unlike mystic mages (or other Technocrats), however, he can use only the energy generated by Primal Utility activities… and not, for example, charge up his Platinum card at the nearest Node.
By exploiting the Primal Opportunities called “wellsprings” in superstitionist jargon, that hypereconomist can also draw energy out of an exciting event rather than a consistent source. On the flipside, he can also destroy material objects while divesting them of their value (Quintessence). Although the specialist cannot access this energy, he can keep other people from utilizing those resources. (“I’d sooner burn this warehouse down than let you have it…”)
••••• Create Living Assets / Generate Primal Conflux & Ventures / Liquidate Living Assets / Market Compensation
Like Mastery of the mystic Prime, Mastery of this Rank allows the specialist to create permanent Devices, open new Confluxes (Nodes) and Ventures, liquidate living things (typically through vulgar applications of disintegration technology – although he could simply shoot someone and then burn the body), and negate the effects of Market Correction (Paradox) as if he were a Master of Prime Arts… though, of course, he has more technological finesse.
|Venture Scale||Equivalent Node Rating||Required Connection|
|Successful local business / small factory / large farm / street gang||•||Visit facilities, befriend gang, make purchase, or invest ••• Resources|
|City-wide marketplace / city mob / medium-sized factory / agribusiness facility / common resource-extraction company (coal, iron, oil, etc.)||••||Entry-level position, gang affiliation, establish contract, become stockholder, or invest •••• Resources|
|Regional market leader / organized crime council / rare resource extraction (gold, silver, diamonds, etc.)||•••||Lower management, made man, consultant, invest ••••• Resources|
|National market leader / major crime syndicate / ultra-rare resources extraction (iridium, tanzanite, etc.)||••••||Middle management, senior consultant, mob enforcer or senior brother, invest •••••• Resources|
|International leader or crime cartel||•••••||Executive, board member, or mob kingpin, invest •••••••+ Resources|