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Mage and the American Civil War

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  • Mage and the American Civil War

    I am spinning this discussion off from one in the 1899 thread. That thread deserves to stand on its own.

    What role do you think the different factions - mostly the Traditions and the Technocratic Union - played in the American Civil War?

    My own take is the Traditions supported the CSA, while the Technocrats supported the Union side. This is for a lot of reasons, but one right off the bat is it gives the Traditions a "Are we the baddies?" moment.

  • #2
    The plantation system was a feudal system in many ways - the master of the plantation functioning as the lord of the manner. The poor infrastructure and relative isolation of the plantations and town serve to isolate people and communities. Hermetics can easily set up in a plantation, and enjoy an old school life style. I can also see members of the Celestial Chorus justifying all their abuses of slaves, and Verbena witches practicing magic in valleys of the Appalachians, all siding with the CSA. Dreamspeakers in the Native Tribes in the Oklahoma Territory were also throw in with the CSA because they don't need white people from Washington DC telling them how to live. And so on.

    There is actually a Verbena, Alabama. It's an unincorporated community, not far from the Interstate.

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    • #3
      As I said in the other thread I seriously doubt that was the case, at least with the Traditions as an organization (individual mages of course would do whatever, I see potential traditionalist on both sides on a personal note). The picture the background points at the time is a Council growing more and more distant to the problems in Earth, adding to the whole idea that the Traditions were always kind of the guys at the fringe of society. Going with Union = Union and CSA = Traditions paints a very "science vs tradition" picture that is not really what the Ascension War is actually about the way was written over the years.

      Everything about the United States early history feels (and is kind of pointed in the lore) as a Technocracy thing. The United States were a very ambitious NWO project with the Paradox meaning that unforeseen flaws cropped up all the time, so I can see that and the Order of Reason restructuring into the modern Technocracy having a hand in the American Civil War.

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      • #4
        In general, don't have Mage factions universally take sides in Sleeper conflicts. We don't need the Traditions to be the "pro-slavery" group to give them moral grays and "what the hell?" moments in their history. We don't need to exacerbate the existing community flame wars around the Technocrats being the "real good guys" of the setting.

        There are plenty of reasons for members of both major factors to be on either side of the Civil War... a war of brother against brother after all.

        If anything, the Traditions should, largely, not give a shit beyond individual personal investment. The Dreamspeakers have the most stakes as a Tradition, and only because this is a period of rapid European expansion into tribal lands, as Europeans stop using the tribes as proxy fighters against each other; and neither the CSA or USA is a 'good' side to win for them.

        The Civil War is very much a Technocracy problem, as it represents to extremely different economic and social systems finally coming to a head since they really don't coexist well. The Lightkeepers, and Explorators, have the most investment in the social order the CSA repesents, with the technologists, and the Invisible Exchequer have the most investment in the social oder the USA represents. Oh look, yet again the NWO and Syndicate are at each other's throats over where to steer humanity.


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
          We don't need to exacerbate the existing community flame wars around the Technocrats being the "real good guys" of the setting.
          That's kind of the problem of people reducing the Ascension War to "new" vs "old" when the actual point is more about "control" vs "wonder". I mean, we have books going word of god on us saying that the control is more important to the Union than actual science, they just use science as a tool and to present themselves as the good guys. But I don't know how you can read a pre-Revised book and think "those are the real good guys" when only after the Avatar Storm came the more heroic operatives were free to their own devices and the Union started to feel nuanced.

          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
          The Civil War is very much a Technocracy problem, as it represents to extremely different economic and social systems finally coming to a head since they really don't coexist well. The Lightkeepers, and Explorators, have the most investment in the social order the CSA repesents, with the technologists, and the Invisible Exchequer have the most investment in the social oder the USA represents. Oh look, yet again the NWO and Syndicate are at each other's throats over where to steer humanity.
          I would go beyond that and say that I see the Lightkeepers not knowing exactly what side benefits them, making everything even more complex.

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          • #6
            I don't see the Technocracy as the good guys. This is the World of Darkness; there are no good guys. There are only bad people and less bad people. The Civil War only served to break Southern economic and political power. After the war blacks were shackled with a different set of laws and problems. The factory system of the North produced robber barons, industry giants, the final decades of the destruction of the Native Americans, and similar nightmares.

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            • #7
              I think what allegiance individual Mages have, if any, will be dependent on issues of background and personal politics. For every Virginian plantation dynast Hermetic looking to preserve some sort of vaguely feudal lifestyle, there's going to be a New England scholar of the occult Hermetic who doesn't care about mundane affairs, and a Philadelphia member of the Brotherhood of the Union Hermetic devoted to destroying slavery.

              Tradition-wise, the Ahl I Batin and Akashic Brotherhood are only going to be on the fringes. Likewise a fair number of Ecstatics. The main exception there will be those practicing voodoo in New Orleans and Louisiana. (That also includes those among the Dreamspeakers, Euthanatos, Verbena, and Bata'a.)

              Verbena will be all over the place, usually rural people throughout the Southeast, Midwest and New England, and will behave largely as their neighbors do. While Dreamspeakers are going to be focused primarily out in the West among Native tribes, there's going to be handfuls of them here and there among various rural and immigrant populations.

              Thanatoics who do decide to get involved are probably most likely to serve as "choosers of the slain" on the battlefields.

              Regarding the Celestial Chorus, the abolition movement in the US (and in the British Empire) was heavily driven by religious groups, and the Chorus's ideas of all humanity being part of The One is likely to have difficulties squaring itself with mass chattel slavery. Not to say that there won't be some who try to do so.

              While the burgeoning Technocracy is probably going to largely side with the Union, as it seems a stronger bet in the realms of industrial advancement and centralized government powers, there are always going to be those on the other side. More than a few Progenitors, for example, are likely to have a vested interest in keeping a controlled population of human livestock they can use for experimental breeding projects.

              In general, I think your four major mystical types/paradigms are going to be High Ritual Magic, Miracle Working, Rural Folklore, and Voodoo (which is arguably a specialized version of all three of the previous). Then the Enlightened Science.

              Added: 1 would be primarily the Hermetics, some of the Gardener of the Tree Verbena, a small number of theurgist Dreamspeakers, and maybe some European Thanatoics, as well as Children of Knowledge. 2 would be the Chorus, some Dreamspeakers, Knights Templar, Lions of Zion, and some Batini and Ecstatics. 3 would be Verbena, Dreamspeakers, the Amazon group whose name I'm blanking on, and some Thanatoics. 4 would be the groups mentioned above.

              An interesting book tangentally related to this subject is Mark Lause's A Secret Society History of the Civil War, which looks at the influence of various European and American secret societies and fellowships and their influence leading up to, through and after the American Civil War.
              Last edited by No One of Consequence; 03-10-2019, 11:08 PM.


              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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              • #8
                Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                I think what allegiance individual Mages have, if any, will be dependent on issues of background and personal politics. For every Virginian plantation dynast Hermetic looking to preserve some sort of vaguely feudal lifestyle, there's going to be a New England scholar of the occult Hermetic who doesn't care about mundane affairs, and a Philadelphia member of the Brotherhood of the Union Hermetic devoted to destroying slavery.
                Very much that.
                The Traditions vs. The Union in general isn't "Pro Nice Sleepers" vs "Something else". It's "Mysticism' vs "Technocracy" (for the literal meaning of the latter word). Nothing else.
                Heck, the Order of Reason initially rose to power *because* they went full on Pro-empowering-sleepers. But in the end neither of those two groups in any way want more or less positive involvement with the sleepers than the other. They both want to *influence* them for their own goals. Certain Tradition groups had a bad reputation with certain sleepers in the olden days...

                Now, the Traditions are actually probably not very inclined to tell their members what sides to take in the civil war - quite the opposite, they'd be more worried about keeping internal Tradition affairs calm and non-violent, and the civil war *out* of such things.
                After all, when there's an Order meeting, a summoning of Covens, a shamanistic grand ritual etc., all efforts probably would be on keeping the peace in a situation where you know that people from both sides of the war'd be gathering for completely non-mundane happenings. That alone is also probably a reason for several to not get involved in the war at all, unless it hits their doorstep.
                And during those meetings, keeping the war out of the affairs at hand would probably be the equivalent of "Don't talk about RL politics" when you're having something like a gaming session - if that comparison makes sense - and what individual chantries, covens etc. side with and do during the war would be seen as their own business. And yes, that means conflicts between members of the same tradition - which is, I figure, very normal for wartime.
                Last edited by Ambrosia; 03-11-2019, 02:43 AM.


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
                  The plantation system was a feudal system in many ways - the master of the plantation functioning as the lord of the manner. The poor infrastructure and relative isolation of the plantations and town serve to isolate people and communities.
                  My understanding is that that's kinda an older way of conceptualising the South. More recent history seems to emphasis the degree to which the South was very much a capitalist society. It's economy was centred on growing cash crops and the slavery system itself was deeply integrated into the global financial system.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Michael View Post
                    My understanding is that that's kinda an older way of conceptualising the South.
                    None of the game runs on strict historical accuracy or careful socio-economic analysis.

                    I'm not defending the South - there is nothing worth defending in the people, history, politics, religion, or institutions. I just also don't see any heroes in the WoD - and that includes the Traditions. An interesting story for the war, on at least close to the war, would be something like Django Unchained. This would feature Django as an Orphan, Schultz as an Euthanitos, and Candy as a too-entitled Hermetic.

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                    • #11
                      What does the Civil War have anything to do with that story besides the time when you'd set it though?

                      The basic narrative structure could be told in multiple eras, and making the main characters mages comes off as extraneous in most of them.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Grumpy RPG Reviews View Post
                        None of the game runs on strict historical accuracy or careful socio-economic analysis.
                        Maybe yours don't. I tend to think it's interesting to actually look at what eras were like rather than just using Last Cause stuff.


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