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Dark Ages: Mage - pagan Fellowships seem messy

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  • Dark Ages: Mage - pagan Fellowships seem messy

    I’d love if someone experienced with the line could help me out with a pretty simple problem: the Old Faith, the Spirit-Talkers, and the Valdaermen all seem to have a lot of overlap, compared to how distinct the Hermetics, Voices, and Batini are.

    Maybe I’m missing the pitch for these pagan Fellowships, but they seem sort of ill-defined? The Valdaermen have a cultural identity in being tied to Norse beliefs, but their sacrifice angle seems to step on the toes of the Old Faith, who are sort of an umbrella “European paganism pre-Christianity” group without a clear central point. Then the Spirit-Talkers seem like a mess, without any real identity beyond “they do animist stuff” that feels already well covered by the prior two. It basically feels like there’s one pagan group too many, and that either the specificity of the Valdaermen or the frustrating broadness of the Spirit-Talkers is the outlier.

    How have you differentiated these groups in play? What am I missing? And is there anything interesting and unique to the Spirit-Talkers, who I’m currently inclined to just cut?


    Remi. she/her. game designer.

  • #2
    Throughout history awakened groups have gathered, split, gather, split, and reformed.

    This is a portion of history where the magical groups are gathered in specific lines, the Term Tradition to me fits better in this era then modern in my opinion. So they split on the specifics, Norse Mages as a separate thing, spirit talkers which is a more generic phenomenon and the Old Faith somewhere in between. Eventually some Valdermen will fold in with the Old Faith and some Spirit talkers will jump in and they will form the Verbena. The disparate spirit talkers who don't lump in with the Verbanae will then be lumped in with the Dreamspeaker heap, which represents a world wide basic spirit handler phenomena.

    Look at it like this era the Mages are specific lines Mages, like Werewolf Tribes and Vampire clans they have a more concrete belief, culture and Pillars. Later they don't coalesce based off of their Religions but based off of the underlying philosophy of how they interpret their beliefs. Its like Trekkies and Star Warriors are separate Fellowships in this model, but eventually in the coming centuries they will reshuffle and the lions share of the Trekkies and Star Warriors will gather into one Sci Fi tradtion, but a handful of say the Jedis will decide they have more in common with Monks and martial artists then Sci Fi scientists, and some of the Trekkies will similarly feel hey lets instead join with an explorer Group we have more in common with then these sci fi nerds.

    I'm pretty ranty tonight. :P


    It is a time for great deeds!

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    • #3
      Some of the issue is that as a Dark Ages line, it has to meet up with Sorcerer's Crusade and the main game line.

      In the setting, the formation of the Verbena and the Dreamspeakers (and the splintering of some groups into other Traditions) is supposed to be really messy. The pagan Fellowships were fare less organized, unified, or distinct than the more organized Fellowships. It's supposed to be plausible that at one point all three Fellowships were going to become one Tradition (and for the most part two of them did). So.... if DA Mage was just it's own game, it would probably not have ended up the same way. As a prelude to the rest of the Mage timeline, it makes sense.

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      • #4
        It's also worth remembering that, when it comes to mysticism, Themes, Symbols, and Motifs have a habit of popping up everywhere. Whether this is due to actual exchange of ideas across geographical areas, or because of some kind of "convergent evolution" of beliefs/practices that arise organically from shared aspects of the global human experience. (Not all cultures will have a god of a specific vegetable, but many will have a deities of the sun, storms, and love).

        For example: the Chaoskampf. A mythological motif wherein a figure - usually a god of the sky - does battle with a great reptillian beast associated with chaos. It's a pretty specific motif, but it shows up everywhere from Norse myth (Thor vs Jormangandr) and Greece (Zeus vs Typhon), to Egypt (Ra vs Apep) and the Middle East (Yahweh vs Leviathan, Marduk vs Tiamat, etc.), and even all the way to India (Indra vs Vritra) and Japan (Susano-o vs Orochi).

        Myth and magic are complicated subjects, and the study of world mysticism is more a study of trends and motifs. See also James George Frazer's The Golden Bough, for a classic (if dated and at times problematic) view of comparative mythology, religious practice, and magical thought.

        My point is that while the Old Faith, Spirit Talkers, and Valdaermen were their own distinct cultural entities - or rather loose conglomerations of many cultural entities each - there is inevitably going to be overlap in Practice and Ideas. Whether this is due to cultural cross-pollination (mystics and laymen both are not above talking to one another), or because their magic users and priests came to some of the same conclusions about how to harness and wield magical power.

        Divisions of Fellowship (and, later, Tradition) are artificial and arbitrary distinctions, fueled as much by politics, proximity, and pragmatism as anything else. While the Traditions would have some groups that were inherently focused towards a specific culture, others would be united by shared interests (the Euthanatoi by death and fate, the Dreamspeakers by spirits, the Cult of Ecstasy for ecstatic revelation and pushing against limits, etc).


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        • #5
          As far as the Valdaermen go, my impression has always been that they are very much a Fellowship in Winter, inevitably doomed to die out and already in the process of doing so. Thematically, they're about death of old pagan Europe as Christianity triumphs, and the passing of the early medieval "Dark Ages" into the pre-Renaissance Late Medieval period.

          The Old Faith, at least my impression of them, is that they were a modern post-Wiccan/post-New Age interpretation of what hidden Medieval European pagans would be like, as well as proto-Verbena. They're more of a Summer-turning-to-Autumn Fellowship, as they can no longer do all of their "dancing in the moonlit glens with the Fair Folk" things (and yes, I'm being slightly facetious here; I realize that they're deeper than that) out in the open, but are still fairly cozy in their little villages and forests.

          The Spirit-Talkers always kind of felt like the Fellowship that Wasn't, a bunch of people who are united solely by the fact that they are Medieval European shamans who use the same Foundation and Pillars and little else. It's a group that could be anything from Finnish weather wizards and English cunning men to Italian benandanti and Bedouin fugara. Almost like the Orphans of Dark Ages: Mage. I may be completely wrong about this though.


          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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          • #6
            Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
            As far as the Valdaermen go, my impression has always been that they are very much a Fellowship in Winter, inevitably doomed to die out and already in the process of doing so.
            Well, it's doomed to "die" in the sense of no longer being their own group. But they're the core of the Twisters of Fate in the Verbena, with a few joining smaller factions in other Traditions. Their joining with the Old Faith into the Verbena is what brings them more on par with the other Traditions by allowing both groups to call on a wider array of cultures and societies.

            Almost like the Orphans of Dark Ages: Mage. I may be completely wrong about this though.
            It's not quite that bad. Like the modern day Dreamspeakers, the Spirit-Talkers aren't terribly interested in forcing a more unified front over leaving people to their own ways. They're not Orphans because they still have a method of magic built on teachers and students forming a group understanding. But they're not interested in the political side of things.

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            • #7
              Well, I think that we have to try to understand these groups keeping in mind that the medieval world was very different from our own in a way that it wasn't as connected and united as we are today. People rarely left the place where they lived etc.. So each group, would naturally use it's cultural and regional inheritance as its main motif for their magic paradigms (or should their cultural and regional inheritance stem from their magic padadigms? lol anyway...). The fact that the Hermetics, Batini and the Messianic Voices have crossed the borders of many different regions and cultures to form a more or less unified and coherent paradigm is what should be seen as outstanding and not the reverse.

              So the Vaeldermen paradigm is clearly rooted in their northern germanic origins and are more geoprahically tied, while the Old Faith and the Spirit Talkers are less tied to a specific region, but more to a wider variety of cultural legacies that tend to sometimes overlap each other, but each stem from a singular theme. In any case as I have said in the first paragraph, it's what the Hermetics, the Messianic Voices or Batini have done that is really quite an accomplishment. As they created a paradigm based on an amalgam of different beliefs that crossed the borders of both Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

              I know I haven't added much to the discussion, but in any case, using your example, one could ask instead why are the Hermetics, Batini and the Messianic Voices different traditions? They all have many similarities as well...

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              • #8
                Originally posted by No One of Consequence View Post
                The Old Faith, at least my impression of them, is that they were a modern post-Wiccan/post-New Age interpretation of what hidden Medieval European pagans would be like, as well as proto-Verbena. They're more of a Summer-turning-to-Autumn Fellowship, as they can no longer do all of their "dancing in the moonlit glens with the Fair Folk" things (and yes, I'm being slightly facetious here; I realize that they're deeper than that) out in the open, but are still fairly cozy in their little villages and forests.
                This was the impression I've had as well, more or less, a what if Margaret Murray were right?


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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Herr Meister View Post
                  I know I haven't added much to the discussion, but in any case, using your example, one could ask instead why are the Hermetics, Batini and the Messianic Voices different traditions? They all have many similarities as well...
                  They have similiarities, but it's not only the similiarities that make people fit into a tradition/group, it's also incompatible, harsh differences that keep them separate from others;

                  Hermetics are very much focused on individual power. They might be one of the most regulated and strict groups, but at the same time the Hermetics value personal achievements, power and magickal ability. They are very proud of their individualism as a counterbalance to their strict organization - and they are not afraid of political conflict among themselves. It's a stark contrast to the unity that, say, the Batini or the Messianic Voices seek.
                  At the same time, the Messianic voices pretty much differ from the Batini in the way that, while they are both religious groups at first glance, the Messianic Voices (At least at the time of the dark ages) are still very, very heavily christian-exclusive and very caught in those trappings. The Batini predate the rise of Islam, and while they found their home in some of the religion's tenents, their goal of unity is much older - their religion more a philosophy and tool for an end, than anything else.
                  I'm sure there is more, and I admit to not being quite well-versed in Batini lore, but you get what I am trying to say, surely;
                  While certain Traditions (or individual groups) might share a lot of similiarities, even at times in belief and practice, it's the other half of the spectrum - their differences in organization, politics, mindset or simply interal view of their magick - that might make them just too incompatible for becoming one coherent unit.
                  Last edited by Ambrosia; 06-11-2019, 11:53 AM.


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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ambrosia View Post
                    They have similiarities, but it's not only the similiarities that make people fit into a tradition/group, it's also incompatible, harsh differences that keep them separate from others;

                    Hermetics are very much focused on individual power. They might be one of the most regulated and strict groups, but at the same time the Hermetics value personal achievements, power and magickal ability. They are very proud of their individualism as a counterbalance to their strict organization - and they are not afraid of political conflict among themselves. It's a stark contrast to the unity that, say, the Batini or the Messianic Voices seek.
                    At the same time, the Messianic voices pretty much differ from the Batini in the way that, while they are both religious groups at first glance, the Messianic Voices (At least at the time of the dark ages) are still very, very heavily christian-exclusive and very caught in those trappings. The Batini predate the rise of Islam, and while they found their home in some of the religion's tenents, their goal of unity is much older - their religion more a philosophy and tool for an end, than anything else.
                    I'm sure there is more, and I admit to not being quite well-versed in Batini lore, but you get what I am trying to say, surely;
                    While certain Traditions (or individual groups) might share a lot of similiarities, even at times in belief and practice, it's the other half of the spectrum - their differences in organization, politics, mindset or simply interal view of their magick - that might make them just too incompatible for becoming one coherent unit.

                    I know they have their differences and my last questio/commentary was more to provide food for thought than anything. Specially regarding some commentaries that implied that the Old Faith/Valdaermen/Spirit Talkers could be one tradition instead of 3 different ones. What I mean basically is that it's the fact that some factions have managed to cross different borders unifying different cultures under one single paradigm is the one thing that should be seen as outstanding and quite an accomplishment and not the reverse. The World in the middle ages was not at all connected and/or centralized as our own and the very idea that even christianity managed to completely overcome regional boundaries is many times wrong as chistianity had to deal with regional differences as well, and more often than not had to adapt many different regional beliefs into its own weltanschauung. So, I wouldn't consider it so surprising that the Valdaermen, Old Faith and Spirit Talkers are different traditions, given the reality of the middle ages.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                      Well, it's doomed to "die" in the sense of no longer being their own group. But they're the core of the Twisters of Fate in the Verbena, with a few joining smaller factions in other Traditions. Their joining with the Old Faith into the Verbena is what brings them more on par with the other Traditions by allowing both groups to call on a wider array of cultures and societies.
                      (Perhaps oddly), I have used the Valdaermen as a modern day regional Sorcerer society, while when doing Mage: The Dark Ages games, not using any of the existing Fellowships - save for a heavily modified Voices that makes them more obviously Gnostic heretics trying to pass themselves off as Christians, and the completely European Subtle Ones whom no one suspects of being tied to a larger organization that spans the three continents.


                      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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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by atamajakki View Post
                        I’d love if someone experienced with the line could help me out with a pretty simple problem: the Old Faith, the Spirit-Talkers, and the Valdaermen all seem to have a lot of overlap, compared to how distinct the Hermetics, Voices, and Batini are.
                        That's intentional, for the most part. The "pagan faiths" are, in many cases by their inherent nature, more fluid/loose vs. the more highly structured/focused (T)raditions represented by the Hermetics, Voices and Batini.

                        Originally posted by atamajakki View Post
                        Maybe I’m missing the pitch for these pagan Fellowships, but they seem sort of ill-defined? The Valdaermen have a cultural identity in being tied to Norse beliefs, but their sacrifice angle seems to step on the toes of the Old Faith, who are sort of an umbrella “European paganism pre-Christianity” group without a clear central point. Then the Spirit-Talkers seem like a mess, without any real identity beyond “they do animist stuff” that feels already well covered by the prior two. It basically feels like there’s one pagan group too many, and that either the specificity of the Valdaermen or the frustrating broadness of the Spirit-Talkers is the outlier.
                        Looking for a "clear central point" is missing the entire metaphysical quality/ies attempting to be addressed by the "looser" Fellowships : there isn't necessarily a "clear center", but rather a looser, more flowing ideology. [/QUOTE]

                        Originally posted by atamajakki View Post
                        How have you differentiated these groups in play? What am I missing? And is there anything interesting and unique to the Spirit-Talkers, who I’m currently inclined to just cut?
                        Similar to how the Spheres work in M:tA, the Foundation/Pillars of any of the Fellowships -- but in particular the "looser" ones -- can be painted/reskinned in-narratively in many different ways... the most important of which is to remember, on a meta-narrative/game-mechanic level, that even within any given Fellowship there can be very different views/interpretations of how x, y and z even exist, let alone are applied, both internally and cross-comparatively.

                        Examples: An old woman from a rural Chinese village uses herbs, entreats natural elements and the ghosts of those both recently and long dead; similarly, a cunning woman of the high-north lands of Europe calls upon similar powers, but with very different intent, methodology, as well as using very different tools and a very different mindset. Were they to ever meet, they'd differ greatly on descriptors of what powers they call upon, how/why such powers should be used, and when such abilities work best (time of day/month/year). Both, however, are Spirit Talkers, metaphysically and mechanically, even if the idea of the "totems" of "Trickster", "Chieftan", "Warrior" or "Wise One" would not be called such in their respective languages (nor, necessarily, even directly thought of as such; rather, just as an assortment of mystical powers sans any "title" at all).

                        Similarly, a brother and sister from The Tin Isles may share so many tools/applied structures of magic that not only do "outsiders" have difficulty telling them a part, so to speak, mystically speaking, but the two, themselves, don't see any real difference as about 90% of their "tools" (staring into flames, using the occasional old granny rhyme, calling out to the powers from beyond the Veil, etc.) are the same. However, whereas the sister is a keeper of the Old Ways, directly (a witch of the Old Faith, though she'd of course never refer to it that way -- capital letters -- but only loosely as "the old faith", meaning the old ways of many centuries past, and even then only if the most general of ways), the brother was seemingly born with "The Sight", noting where shadows, whirling dust, and lights-where-none-should-be speak directly to powers unknown to the common man (he's a Spirit Talker, the kind for whom magic has been with since literally before his birth).

                        Whereas the veneer is very different in the first example but possessed of an underlying (F)oundational similarity (the two Spirit Talker women), the second example shows how the same superficial trappings can be nigh-identical (and thought of as such, in many instances) but the underlying metaphysics involved be quite different (different Foundations/Pillars, but expressed respectively in superficial ways that are, again, virtually indistinguishable).

                        This is rarely/much less often the case with the more highly structured Traditions, due to their specific methodologies, but even in those cases there can be similarities/overlaps (the methods -- if albeit with very different intent -- of entreating a given angelic entity might be virtually identical for a given Hermetic and a Voice, as they cite the same ancient Hebrew prayers; similarly, a given Hermetic and a Batini might use similar symbolic/mathematical constructs to bring about changes in the mind/thoughts of another... but they still operate with different Foundations and Pillars, regardless).
                        Last edited by Just John, Forever...; 06-13-2019, 06:32 PM. Reason: Spacing


                        I have been around here for waaaayyyy too fucking long...

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post

                          Well, it's doomed to "die" in the sense of no longer being their own group. But they're the core of the Twisters of Fate in the Verbena, with a few joining smaller factions in other Traditions. Their joining with the Old Faith into the Verbena is what brings them more on par with the other Traditions by allowing both groups to call on a wider array of cultures and societies.



                          It's not quite that bad. Like the modern day Dreamspeakers, the Spirit-Talkers aren't terribly interested in forcing a more unified front over leaving people to their own ways. They're not Orphans because they still have a method of magic built on teachers and students forming a group understanding. But they're not interested in the political side of things.

                          I believe that one faction of the Valdaermen joined the Euthanatos. Forgot their name though

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mark View Post
                            I believe that one faction of the Valdaermen joined the Euthanatos. Forgot their name though
                            Yggdrasil’s Keepers?


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Michael View Post

                              Yggdrasil’s Keepers?
                              yeah that's them

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