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Streamlined and alternate metaplot, including elements from NWoD

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  • Streamlined and alternate metaplot, including elements from NWoD

    I've been playing Mage in one form or another since mid 90's and loved lots about both Ascension and then Awakening and then M20. But while i liked lots of the background of Ascension and find it has more substance and flavor than Awakening, I always found the metaplot to be ridiculously over complicated (and honestly kinda pretentious). And while i like the idea of the Ascension war it was never my focus in my my games. I also prefer certain elements from the NWod especially the simplified spirit world and the approach to changelings. So here is what i am calling the Amalgam Chronicles, which is an alternate and streamlined metaplot and includes elements of NWod.

    War, Huh, Yeah, What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing: A Short History of the Ascension War

    For millennia mages have sought to mold reality to will. In the late Middle Ages, however, this fight became clarified between two major factions – The Order of Reason (later to become the Technocracy) and the Council of Ten Traditions, each representing a sphere or Arcana of Magic. Although the precise identities of the groups within these two factions have changed, split, and merged in various ways over the centuries, the basics of the conflict have been the same since then.

    While the Tradition mages often look back at the time before the Middle Ages as a time of myth and wonder, for most sleepers it was a time of disease, hunger, and constant danger. This led the Order of Reason to take up arms against magic, seeking to create a rational and ordered world in which all were freed from the tyranny of superstition and the ravages of magical chaos. But this soon turned into a crusade to impose their beliefs on all, whether they wanted it or not and with increasingly little regard to the morality of method and how many eggs had to be broken to create the perfect technocratic omelet. In reaction the various magical traditions of the world banded together defend themselves and humanity against the Technocrats, and to keep magic alive in the world.
    All along, however, the Nephandi continued to work as the Traditions and Technocracy fought each other, carrying out their plans and corrupting the world and humanity, while convincing the fighters of the Ascension war that all this was the fault of the other and not the true culprits, the Nephandi and their dark masters. Worse, they succeeded in corrupting both the Council of Ten and the Technocratic Union, twisting their causes. The Traditions became aware of this and were able to (mostly) excise their foul corruption from their midst and maintained constant vigilance to ensure the Nephandi would not return to get their hooks in them again. The Technocratic Union, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Their leadership was slowly corrupted by Nephandic influence, encouraging ever greater atrocities of science and morality in the name of the greater good of science and order. And all along the majority of technocrats found ways of explaining it all away because they believed their cause was righteous.

    WWI was the first major crack. The level of death and destruction that had been caused globally by the technological “advances” that had been shepherded by the Technocracy was simply too much for some to reconcile with the ideal of a rational scientific utopia many technocrats for which many technocrats believed they were fighting. But it was with WWII that the dam truly broke. Witnessing the utter evil of Nazism that had been carried out with the express help of the Technocratic Union and the genocide that had been made possible through science and technology, shattered the resolve of a wide swathe of the technocracy. While many continued to make excuses and put forward blatant self-justifications, many simply could no longer look at the cause they had been fighting for and conclude that it was just. It was clear that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong and that the technocracy had to reckon with its sins.

    A civil war broke out and by the early sixties there was no longer one technocracy but two – the Technocratic Union and the Technocratic Alliance. The former were those who maintained everything was fine, had always been fine, and that the other faction were weak and unwilling to get the job done. The latter were those who understood that the Technocracy had become completely corrupted and sought to return to the funding ideals of the Order of Reason. The Union had become tools (witting and unwitting) of the Nephandi while the Alliance continued to fight for order and reason but also understood they sometimes had a common cause with the Tradition mages against the infernalists.

    A Note on Hitler and the Nazis: It would be easy to absolve mortals of culpability for the horrors of the Holocaust and WWII but after decades of investigation and research Mages have come to a sobering and perhaps more horrifying conclusion: Hitler and his awful ideology and the willingness of so many to follow it and commit atrocities in its name were not caused by infernal forces. Nephandi and the Technocratic Union fanned the flames and were willing to use the forces unleashed to move their goals forward, but Hitler was entirely mortal, and the vast majority of those who fell under his influence, did so for perfectly mortal and mundane reasons. Sometimes humanity is the worst monster of all.

    Over the course of the late 20th C and the early 21st C the Ascension war has continued but in a different way than before. Most mages no longer seek to affect a global consensus but focus rather on more local realities. While it may seem that it many ways the technocrats won the war and we live in a world of science, in which technology rules everything that is merely how it looks on the surface and only really in the modern western world. In many places in the world the supernatural and mysticism are still strong and form a significant part of the local consensus, with faith and spirituality holding far more sway than science and technology being a tool not a philosophy. Even in the Western world, spirituality, mysticism and wonder continue to be a significant part of our existence and thus the consensus reality. Both the Traditions and the Technocratic Alliance have come to the reluctant conclusion that global consensus is impossible or at least can only be achieved by realizing that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single, local step. And so they are paradigmatic cold war that sometimes breaks out into a hot war in points of particular conflict over local consensus and sometimes breaks out in cautious peace as they join forces in response to the greater supernatural threats that threaten both their visions of reality.

    All the while Nephandi continue to work at creating hell on earth. And looking at all the death and suffering and hatred in the world, who can truly say that it isn’t they who have the upper hand in the ascension war after all. But while Mages may not be able to defeat them globally they can still fight as hard as they can in their own back yards and hometowns to defend against the encroaching darkness and eventually turn the tide. It’s a dark and nasty world out there and it’s the job of Mages to bring the hope and light the flame that will change the world.

    You Will Be Assimilated: The Technocracy, Union and Alliance

    Where once there was a unified Technocracy, arrayed against the wild and chaotic magic of the Traditions and seeking to impose order on creation, there are now two. The Technocracy started (in its own view) as a force for order and reason, protecting humanity from the supernatural horrors that threatened them and empowering them with tools all could use and not just the awakened few. But it did not take long for the authoritarian tendency of utopianism to take hold and for the Technocrats to become a ruling elite, imposing a “benevolent” order on humanity, whether humanity wanted it or not and, often no matter what the human and moral cost. Technocrats used their super-science to guide the Masses while they stamp out anything that could prove remotely threatening, incomprehensible or uncontrollable — including the mystics of the Traditions. And their hubris allowed for Nephandi and infernalists to insinuate themselves at the highest levels of the technocratic leadership, further corrupting the goals and methods of the Union until almost any moral atrocity became an acceptable means to bring about the technocratic vision for a common good for humanity, all the while ignoring the suffering and horror it was creating.

    The Union’s participation in the Nazi war machine and genocide wasn’t just the last straw for the Virtual adepts but beginning of the end for the unity of the Union. In defecting the Adepts ensured that all the information truth of the Nazi atrocities were made public and available to all and that truth about the Union’s corruption was made common and undeniable knowledge to all mages of both the technocracy and the traditions. This in turn led, over the course of the next few decades, to the irretrievable split of the union into the Union and the Alliance. The Union is made up of those who are still loyal to the original Union, either because they have convinced themselves that all the “facts” about Nephandic corruption is, essentially, fake news, or because they know exactly what is happening but don’t care or think they are using that corruption to “win” the war at all costs against the hated Traditions. The alliance is smaller but still powerful and is comprised of those technocrats who see the breakup of the union as a purification of corruption from their midst and an opportunity to return to the original vision of the Order of Reason. Of course they continue to debate within the alliance what that original vision really is which makes it harder for them to truly effect the consensus with the efficiency they had become used to in the old days of the Union.

    As both Union and Alliance technocrats see themselves as the “real” technocracy they maintain somewhat parallel structures and both are comprised of the same five Conventions.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes: Nephandi, Infernalists, and Marauders

    While most mages struggle for personal enlightenment or a chance to improve their lives with magic, some twisted souls succumb to a darker temptation. Things cast from primordial darkness wait beyond the stars or hover in the depths of a mage’s own heart. Some such overlords offer power in exchange for service while others tempt mages with the possibility of knowledge at a catastrophic price. Each serves a different master, but ultimately every Nephandus seeks the return of total entropy, the dissolution of the universe to seething primordial turmoil. While Nephandi and Infernalists serve the same kinds of masters but in somewhat different ways. Infernalists have sold their souls to horrific powers but believe they are still in the driving seat, believing they serve their own goals while really serving the goals of their masters. Nephandi on the other hand are all in. They have succumbed to a total corruption of their awakened soul which now cannot create or ascend but only destroy and corrupt.

    The Marauders on the other hand just can’t handle the truth. Their awakening does not open their minds but breaks them, propelling them into delusion and madness. Marauders lash out without rhyme or reason to make sense of a universe that will never conform to their delusional expectations. What other mages build up, the Marauders tear down, solely because they cannot find a comprehensible purpose to their enlightenment

    There Are More Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than Are Dreamt of in Your Philosophy: Other Supernaturals

    Red in Tooth and Claw: Werewolves and the Changing Breeds

    Werewolves, or the Garou, are beings of two natures – human and spirit – which gives them both the ability to transform from human to wolf form and half forms in between. They are allied with spirits of the spirit world who serve them and sometimes command them and they fight an eternal fight against the Wyrm and its servants on behalf of Gaia. While Mages do not have in depth knowledge of the spiritual beliefs of the Garou, they understand that for Werewolves Gaia represents Mother Earth both in physical and spiritual form and the Wyrm represents the otherworldly and spiritual evils similar to, or maybe the same as, those served by the Nephandi and infernalists. That said mages also know Werewolves are equal part spiritual warriors against the dark and violent, brutal, rage-filled monsters who are as likely to rip them to pieces as parley with them.

    Mages are also aware that other were-creatures such as were-cats and were-crows exist but are very rare. Why they are rare they cannot say as the both the Garou and changing breeds seem very unwilling to talk about it and seem at best wary of each other, at worst very antagonistic. Mages suspect there is bad blood between Garou and the other changing breeds but if any have delved further into this mystery they have not shared it with other mages or they have not lived to tell the tale.

    Come Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly: Vampires

    Vampires are monsters. Sometimes they are tortured monsters who struggle with their bloodlust. Sometimes they cover that monstrosity with suave sophistication and enchanting grace. But under it all they are monsters. And to vampires mages, like mortal humans, are food, even if they are food that can fight back. Some mages do treat with vampires, understanding they have great temporal power through decades or centuries of building up power and influence, but until recently most mages tried to steer clear of them unless they started killing local sleepers or interfered in mage business. Recently the Order of Hermes have discovered that one of their lost houses, House Tremere, is not only not lost but became abominations in the Middle Ages by turning themselves into Vampires and the Order have become eager for war. The rest of the Traditions are far more wary of war with vampires and, for now, the cold peace between mages and vampires continues. For now…

    Oak and Ash: Changelings and the Fae

    The True Fae are awesome, terrifying, otherworldly, and often utterly inhuman. Few understand their nature or motivations, least of which the unfortunate souls who are whisked off to the Fae realms to serve and entertain the True Fae. After years, decades, or even centuries some of these mortal changelings escape or are freed to return to the mortal realms, transformed into creatures both mortal and fae and unable to truly live fully in either realm, although their fae magic provides them with a mortal “seeming” that hides their true nature from the sleepers. Changelings, like their erstwhile masters, are beings of glamor, dream, and fickle fortune and come in a wide variety of forms, each with particular abilities and affinities. Mages are aware that changelings are divided into courts representing the four seasons of the year, each of which reflects certain emotions and passions. The magic of the Changeling is based on fae contracts with elements of the world and with humans that provide magical power but also, as depicted in myths and legends of the fae, have loopholes and catches that can affect both the fae and the humans involved.

    Note: Are the True Fae evil? Yes… and no. Like humans the True Fae the morality of the True Fae covers the whole gamut from great good to great evil and everything in between. Or at least it does with respect to their goals. Their methods on the other hand are a different matter. The problem is that whatever the goals of the True Fae, no matter how much those purposes may seem to the Fae to be for the good of humanity or individual humans, and no matter how much the True Fae “love” their human charges, Fae are inhuman and alien. What a Fae may see as love could be understood and experienced as the most twisted form of emotional abuse by a human. What a Fae may see as a blessing and gift could be seen as a curse by a human. The True Fae simply do not understand human psychology and its limits and can do the greatest of harm thinking they are being loving and good.

    Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination… What we'll see will defy explanation: The Spirit World and Twilight
    The spirit world, also known as the Otherworld, the Shadow, the Umbra, the Mists, or the Dreaming, depending on who you ask, is a strange, terrifying, confusing, amazing, a crazy place. It is the home of spirits of all kinds, some benevolent and helpful, some antagonistic and bent on harming humanity and creation. The legends of the mages tell of a time when the spirit world was vast and filled with many realms spanning deeper and deeper levels of spiritual space but that is no more, if it ever was. Yet the Umbra is still vast. It is separated from the physical world by the gauntlet and is comprised of a layer of reality adjacent to it that both reflects and effects the material plane. This shadow contains aspects of the physical world but changed, sometimes for the worse sometimes for the better, usually turned up to eleven.

    Beyond this close shadow are a variety of realms representing various different aspects of spiritual reality. These realms are accessible from certain parts of the umbra and gateways from the mortal realms. Some realms are vast and old reflecting ancient and eternal aspects of human and supernatural experience while others are mere pocket realms created one supernatural, or another as a space in the spirit realm and to serve a specific purpose.
    Some of the best known realms include the Great Library (a vast library of all knowledge and ideas from all cultures and times), the Mythic Realm (an amalgam of every fantastic myth and legend mixed together into a massive fantasy realm), the Digital Web (a virtual spiritual realm of information and ideas that, unbeknownst to sleepers, was the true basis of the internet), the Dreaming (a confusing and ever changing collection of all the dreams of humanity) and many others.

    Twilight (or Sheol) is another matter altogether. It is the realm of ghosts and other spirits of the dead who have not moved on. Masters of death magic deal with the denizens of this realm and travel in it freely. Beyond Twilight it is believed that that there are further realms of the dead – Heaven, Hell, Hades, Duat, and possibly many more. Mages have seen ghosts move on to somewhere else beyond twilight but if there is a way for them to follow it has never been found, or at least not by anyone who has ever come back to tell the tale.

    Last edited by scifirabbi; 09-28-2018, 01:53 PM.

  • #2
    I like this a lot, but I think that in fleshing it out it will eventually end up just as complicated and detailed as the previous canon. That's just how these things go. Chasing after narrative simplicity just doesn't work.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Alucard View Post
      I like this a lot, but I think that in fleshing it out it will eventually end up just as complicated and detailed as the previous canon. That's just how these things go. Chasing after narrative simplicity just doesn't work.
      Not sure I agre that chasing after narrative simplicity just doesn’t work. But more importantly starting with this more simple setting narrative means that more of the plot and narrative will be built by the storyteller and the players rather than the meta plot of the game designers.


      • #4
        'Sometimes humanity is the worst monster of all.'

        This trope is a bit tired these days and really doesn't stand up against some of the splats outlook. Many Vampires, for instance, should be quite at home with genocide and would readily side with a Hitler even if they knew exactly what was going on. Werewolves have already committed genocide and are often quite keen to continue.

        It also has the effect of giving some players an excuse for bad behaviour: 'I might be a blood sucking fiend who has discarded his humanity like an old sock but I'm still better than that human Hitler, etc, etc'.

        It would be much better if you said that the reasons for the war were complex but no-one knows who the true inspiration for the 'final solution' was - that way you can put the blame where you like when you like. There would in fact, be different versions anyway.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Dogstar View Post
          'Sometimes humanity is the worst monster of all.'

          This trope is a bit tired these days and really doesn't stand up against some of the splats outlook. Many Vampires, for instance, should be quite at home with genocide and would readily side with a Hitler even if they knew exactly what was going on. Werewolves have already committed genocide and are often quite keen to continue.

          It also has the effect of giving some players an excuse for bad behaviour: 'I might be a blood sucking fiend who has discarded his humanity like an old sock but I'm still better than that human Hitler, etc, etc'.

          It would be much better if you said that the reasons for the war were complex but no-one knows who the true inspiration for the 'final solution' was - that way you can put the blame where you like when you like. There would in fact, be different versions anyway.

          Fair point and good idea. What i was trying to do was avoid the other tired trope in genre fiction of finding supernatural excuses for human evil and letting humanity off the hook for its worst atrocities and excesses. But i did make it clear that nephandi and technocracy fanned the flames of hatred and no reason not to have other supernaturals do the same. And just because the powers that be have concluded this doesn't mean there aren't lots of mages who are still convinced it was all the technocracy or vampires or whichever supernatural enemy they are generally convinced is behind all the evils of the world.
          Last edited by scifirabbi; 10-16-2018, 11:21 AM.


          • #6
            There are ways to vastly simplify the metaplot for almost all the WoD games of the form "someone did something bad several centuries to millennia ago, and we're trying to clean it up and failing".
            Changeling - We ignored the creeping banality, the shattering happened, now things are bad.
            Wraith - We focused on building power in Stygia rather than focusing on Transcendence, now things are bad.
            Mage - We ignored the peasants and things went sideways, let's deal with the fallout of the battle of mistridge, now things are bad.
            Werewolf - We tried to kill the other changing breeds and lost the white howlers, now things are bad.
            Demon - We let Lucifer's lieutenants out, they became the earthbound, now things are bad.
            Vampire - GG Caine, now things are bad.
            Hunter - Shit, dad's going to be home soon, we need to clean up.

            You can make an almost continuous choice of how complex you want the metaplot to be.