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  • Who is John Courage?

    Is there anyone who can explain who John Courage is to me? He is mentioned in the books as an example character and discussed here occasionally but only in small detail. I saw mention of his profile being in The Digital Web, but he was not mentioned anywhere I could see. Is he still NWO or is he a different paradigm now? Is he in any novels or is he just a one time character. I am curious because he seems to be one of the few characters that is focused on between multiple books and the character is very interesting from the little amount I have seen.

  • #2
    There are actually lots of characters focused on between the books - as a matter of fact, each of the bright, colorful full-page artworks in M20 that show one or two characters? Those are recurring Mage characters. Not all are equally presented between the books, but they are there - sometimes only in artwork, at other times in the book's intro/aftermath stories. Some even got their own Mage novels.

    The new M20 The Art Of Mage book actually talks about several of them.

    Hokay, John Courage.
    He is actually "Secret Agent John Courage" - and pretty much the quintessential "Good Guy NWO" icon character with a tragic past.
    He believes in the core mission statement of the Technocracy - help humanity, enlighten it and protect it - but is quite aware of the Technocracy's terrible faults.
    To such a degree that he sometimes actively secretly aids the Traditions, at other times aids Technocratic Amalgams. He's been a double agent, a triple agent, savior and friend of Lee Ann Miller (The Cult of Ecstasy icon character featured in a few books, including the M20 intro)...and he's a mess. The M20 intro hints at him having undergone quite a few visits to Room 101 in his time, but it never was enough to really break him. His past is utterly mixed up in his head however, unable to discern what of it is real and what of it is fabricated. His outward cold-as-ice behavior and combat training is NWO training through and through. He seems to be an expert at shielding his mind, and Lee Ann, despite being a powerful Cultist, states that he could utterly crush her if he wanted to.

    It's not quite clear why the Technocracy never really got rid of him - or what their official stance on him is in the M20 era, wether he is rogue or still officially part of the Convention. They used to be on the lookout, but it seems he now still pulls weight among the NWO - at least being able to call in favors, and he has access to the VDAS datacrawl - but why the Technocracy has left him alive compared to how some other people's transgressions have been dealt with is kind of a mystery. Perhaps he *has* a few secret friends in high places - perhaps even unknown to himself. That and he sort of is a literal icon among some Technocrats. The group "The Friends of Courage" is a secret cell within the Technocracy that tries to weed out the corruption that has shown itself here and there.

    Oh, and he's a powerful, enlightened badass.

    He gets mentioned in:

    Digital Web
    Hidden Lore
    Guide To The Technocracy
    Convention Book NWO (1st)
    Convention Book NWO (revised)
    M20 corebook
    M20 HDYDT intro - very worth it. Starts at the green VDAS output.

    And one, two other books, but only in mechanics examples, methinks.
    Last edited by Ambrosia; 09-19-2017, 05:57 PM.


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    • #3
      If you ever saw the list of "pulp era" Mage characters in Guide to the Traditions, there were supposed to have been Technocracy counterparts, with the original John Courage being the NWO signature, as an homage to period character Operator 5. (The others were homages to G-8, The Gladiator, Little Orphan Annie, and Flash Gordon.)


      What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly. That is the first law of nature.
      Voltaire, "Tolerance" (1764)

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      • #4
        He's the rogue technocrat who breaks all the rules, but DAMN IT he gets results! He's a Technocracy urban myth given form. A living hyper narrative.

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        • #5
          I suspect John Courage not being stopped by the Technocracy is a combination of several factors. First, like Ambrosia said, he probably has friends high up in the Union, both known and unknown to him. Some might see him as a necessary check to Union corruption (while providing a cover of plausible deniability), some might support him out of rivalry with other Union bigwigs, and others might have particular plans that factor Courage into, like a piece on a board.

          Second, and also like Ambrosia said, the common agents love him. He's too great an urban myth, as well as perversely a good morale booster. While the Union would probably like to be able to take him down - or at least leash him - they've seen what happens when a popular figure to Technocrats is eliminated. The Technocracy doesn't want to see a repeat of Alan Turing and the mass defection of the Virtual Adepts, or that onerous Luminiferous Ether fiasco. Who knows how heavily the NWO and other Conventions could fracture if an icon like John Courage was taken down. Especially if the Friends of Courage decide to team up with New Avalon, and demand that the Union reform or they all walk.

          Third, if John Courage were to be killed, he'd probably be replaced by someone else claiming to be Courage. For all the Union knows, that has happened several times already; the "real" John Courage having died long ago, and his crusade carried on by a series or even concurrent group of copycats and Courage worshipers. The man himself is almost besides the point; the real threat to the Union is his legend, and what it represents. A man can bleed, but ideas are bulletproof.

          Fourth - and perhaps most importantly - it's a bitch finding John Courage. There's a reason John Courage is directly referenced by M20 under the Arcane/Cloaking background. He's the quintessential man of mystery - a ghost in the system, whose resistance to being found is comfortably exceeded only by members of the Ahl-I-Batin. John Courage probably has Cloaking 5, which is at the level where it's difficult for even people who know him to remember who he is. Data about him is lost or corrupted, camera footage gets hazy, people fail to notice him unless he wants to be noticed. Even by some miracle witnesses recall his presence, they'd be hard pressed to tell you what he looked or sounded like. And all that is while he's not actively covering his tracks; this is just his passive cover provided by the background. As a master NWO operative, Courage is also augmenting that Cloaking with Mind, Forces, Matter, Entropy, Life, etc. Even if someone remembered his face, it's probably not the same face he wore last week. Assuming he even bothered to visit a location in person.

          And then you remember that he's a former Technocrat himself, and knows how the Union's surveillance operates. And if their methods change, he has enough Friends and backdoors that he can keep appraised of the latest updates. If John Courage didn't believe in the fundamental mission of the Technocratic Union, he'd be one of its most dangerous enemies. A man with a veritable knife to its underbelly.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Ambrosia View Post
            He believes in the core mission statement of the Technocracy - help humanity, enlighten it and protect it - (...)
            Can this really be said at all to be the Technocracy's mission statement? After all, this mission statement of protect and enlighten is shared by many organizations, including many mundane human groups. Saying that this is the Technocracy's mission statement ignores their other core agendas, and the goals of the individual Conventions. And to me it feels like whitewashing the Technocracy, to an extent.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Muad'Dib View Post
              Can this really be said at all to be the Technocracy's mission statement? After all, this mission statement of protect and enlighten is shared by many organizations, including many mundane human groups. Saying that this is the Technocracy's mission statement ignores their other core agendas, and the goals of the individual Conventions. And to me it feels like whitewashing the Technocracy, to an extent.
              It is their core mission statement though. Always has been. Officially.

              It's the very precept the Order Of Reason was founded under back at the end of the Dark Ages - and they *were*, actually, the first global conspiracy to actually have that goal for the whole of mankind, instead of just their close environs or country.
              While everybody else was sticking to their own towers, trying to wage war aginst other countries, and not looking over the borders of their own fiefdoms, the Order Of Reason was thinking *big*. As in, *global*, wanted to protect humanity from the supernatural, fuel knowledge and scientific research, and pull humanity out of the dark and its lurking horrors into an age of enlightenment and technology. And that mission lasts to this day. Again...officially.

              The Technocracy nowadays has corrupt parts. Lots of them. The threat of internal civial war is brewing. It has done cruel, utterly horrible things in its crusades against the Traditions and the other supernaturals, and the sense of humanity and connection to the rest of mankind in many of its members is waning. The Schism between the frontline agents and Control, at least pre-Avatar-Storm, was getting huge.
              Which is exactly *why* people like John Courage, New Avalon, The Friends of Courage, Project Invictus and all the other Technocratic secret cells are actually trying to fight the corrupt elements, and restore the Technocracy to those old days of a more humane Order Of Reason, when it was helping mankind step up its game, And John Courage is a key figure in all that.

              I do not see the "whitewashing" you speak of.
              Last edited by Ambrosia; 09-20-2017, 07:25 AM.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Ambrosia View Post

                It is their core mission statement though. Always has been. Officially.
                (...)
                I do not see the "whitewashing" you speak of.
                Stating that this - protect and help humanity - is their core mission statement misses the part when in the name of 'safety' they label and treat all that is non-scientific as something to be eliminated (and they aim to define what 'scientific' means). They call supernaturals "Reality Deviants" - including mystic True Mages. You might see someone like Secret Agent John Courage as one of the "good Technocrats" ; but from another perspective by remaining - even if partly - a Technocrat loyal to the Technocracy he is just another hostile human, and science, supremacist; the only difference with him is that he believes that his hands are clean.
                Constant repetition of the line that the Technocracy is about protecting humans carries an insidious implication that all the supernaturals and Nightfolk, that the Technocracy is trying to eliminate, pose a constant, unchangeable danger to humanity; which is not true.
                Last edited by Muad'Dib; 09-20-2017, 08:24 AM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Muad'Dib View Post
                  Stating that this is their core mission statement misses the part when in the name of 'safety' they label and treat all that is non-scientific as something to be eliminated (and they aim to define what 'scientific' means). They call supernaturals "Reality Deviants" - including mystic True Mages. You might see someone like Secret Agent John Courage as one of the "good Technocrats" ; but from another perspective by remaining - even if only partly - a Technocrat loyal to the Technocracy he is just another hostile human, and science, supremacist; the only difference with him is that he believes that his hands are clean.
                  It doesn't miss it. Mission statements are supposed to be ideals that a group holds in esteem. They are not a code of conduct or a complete philosophy. They are usually open ended, open to interpretation, and can be pursued in many more ways than the organization actually does. Groups frequently fail to live up to their ideals.

                  Hell, the mission statement of Turing Pharmaceuticals is "Dedicated to helping patients,who often have no effective treatment options, by developing and commercializing innovative treatments for serious diseases and conditions across a broad range of therapudic areas." That didn't stop them from buying the rights to a cheap decades old drug and raising the price over 5000%.

                  Giving the Technocracy a noble mission statement does not ignore or paper over the terrible actions they've committed. Instead it gives them the tragedy and depth to be something other than moustache twirling villains.


                  Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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                  • #10
                    Indeed. It's also worth to say that treating all that's "non-scientific" as something to be eliminated it's a relatively recent trend. Order of Reason had it's share of religious mystics and superstitionists. The Technocratic goal it's not so much a scientific world as "One Truth, One Wolrd, One Reality", where that world it's safe and good for normal people...
                    The high ups decided that this world it's one without monsters and ruled by scientific laws that can produce gadgets that everyone can use regardless of knowledge. If you think they're wrong about that, or if they are doing it wrong...well, no one said mages were infallible. Also, the majority of the Union was already working under scientific paradigm before they rejected the mystics, I think it made sense to have Sience as their "One Reality" to avoid internal conflicts, if nothing else
                    Last edited by Aleph; 09-20-2017, 12:03 PM.

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                    • #11
                      The Order of Reason has always been "We will kill all the Unicorns if it gets rid of the dragons"(Its right there in the opening fiction of Sorcerer's Crusade!). This does make them seem "Bad' From the perspective of The Traditions and ESPECIALLY other game lines that do not consider humanity a priority(changeling, Werewolf. The more you allow other games to come into play the worse The technocracy looks). Now I would argue the plurality of paradigms in the Traditions proves the core ideal of "One world One Reality" as a necessity for human safety and development wrong but the position is one that can be held logically and consistantly.


                      But that's drifting from what is John Courage. John Courage is a Legend. He's a Legend created by the hopes and dreams of every Technocrat who's had the system bite them in the ass. He's the hopes and dreams of every Sleeper who wants some bad ass guy out there protecting them. He is a mantle, a hypernarrative that people fall into. its why his memory and records are contradictory. Every time a John Courage dies a new one is born and subtle bends of reality make it so any proof of death was clearly false.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Muad'Dib View Post
                        Stating that this - protect and help humanity - is their core mission statement misses the part when in the name of 'safety' they label and treat all that is non-scientific as something to be eliminated (and they aim to define what 'scientific' means). They call supernaturals "Reality Deviants" - including mystic True Mages.
                        The world can't hold all paradigms together. Not at he same strength anyway. The most saintly, most benevolent mage who does nothing but go around curing sick orphans is inadvertedly killing thousands, because each miraculous healing done weakens technocratic medicine that's used everywhere in the world these days.
                        Traditions love to claim that everything can be a happy little hugbox where everyone just does whatever brand chaos magic they like, but they are yet to show this being the case. And the human price of even trying that would be astronomical.

                        Back on topic. John Courage is a technocratic Big Good Gandalf NPC who is Better Than You, More Important Than You and is everything your whimpy little PC will never be. Like Shadowrun's Harlequin or Forgotten Realms' Elminster, Courage showing up means you should put down your dice and let the ST narrate exactly how John Courage one ups everything you'll ever do.
                        I don't really like most White Wolf NPCs is what I'm saying.
                        Last edited by Kammerer; 09-21-2017, 01:02 PM.

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                        • #13
                          My personal take on John Courage that I plan on using for my games, regardless of what continuity says, is that -you- are John Courage. John Courage is a folk tale and myth, and the role has often been adopted by NWO Mages who are deep in quiet, as well as by other Mages of various factions. He's a superman, a boogey man, and a myth. The John Courage role is used by various Amalgams and Cabals who need plausible deniability. John Courage is dead, long live John Courage!

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Robert Armsley View Post
                            My personal take on John Courage that I plan on using for my games, regardless of what continuity says, is that -you- are John Courage. John Courage is a folk tale and myth, and the role has often been adopted by NWO Mages who are deep in quiet, as well as by other Mages of various factions. He's a superman, a boogey man, and a myth. The John Courage role is used by various Amalgams and Cabals who need plausible deniability. John Courage is dead, long live John Courage!
                            Would explain his simple name and surname.

                            You could have this, while also having an actual John Courage. Both him and the ones going into the role of John Courage could be unaware of the other.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Kammerer View Post
                              The world can't hold all paradigms together. Not at he same strength anyway. The most saintly, most benevolent mage who does nothing but go around curing sick orphans is inadvertedly killing thousands, because each miraculous healing done weakens technocratic medicine that's used everywhere in the world these days.
                              Traditions love to claim that everything can be a happy little hugbox where everyone just does whatever brand chaos magic they like, but they are yet to show this being the case. And the human price of even trying that would be astronomical.

                              Back on topic. John Courage is a technocratic Big Good Gandalf NPC who is Better Than You, More Important Than You and is everything your whimpy little PC will never be. Like Shadowrun's Harlequin or Forgotten Realms' Elminster, Courage showing up means you should put down your dice and let the ST narrate exactly how John Courage one ups everything you'll ever do.
                              I don't really like most White Wolf NPCs is what I'm saying.
                              How very Technocratic, saying that limitless Magick is scarce. No, the world *can* fit it all. Objective reality is a myth and the fear based paradigm of the Union has failed, as Capitalism is destroying the planet.

                              The only limits are belief and will. Selfishness and fear are the chant of the Union and the Fallen, which is dooming the world. 90s cynicism kills fun in the game. Tragedy is ultimately failed storytelling.

                              But, you are dead on with Courage. That's why Courage needs to be a mask and a myth any Mage can take.

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