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  • The Disparate Alliance is a Bad Setting Element

    Continued from the earlier thread:

    Originally posted by False Epiphany
    There's already a faction for anti-statist traditionalist mages who want to preserve the old ways and keep their brand of magic alive in modern times. It's called the Traditions.

    The Disparates basically seem like inserts to give minority cultures their own faction. Even leaving aside the incongruity in the Dreamspeakers still belonging to the Traditions and the Knights Templar belonging to the Disparates (???), the four factions are meant to cover some really big ideas. The Traditions are the classic wizards keeping myth and wonder alive in a secular age. The Technocracy is the cold and sterile science relentlessly driving that secular age. The Nephandi are existence-hating nihilists who've given up on building a better world. The Marauders are mad wizards who've been shattered by hubris, trauma, and tragedy. Again, these factions cover big ideas that can encompass a wide range of belief systems and sociopolitical ideologies. The Traditions and the Technocracy can be left wing or right wing. They are bigger than that. They represent timeless ideas that were just as relevant in 1992 as they are in 2021.

    And then we have the Disparates. They don't encompass a timeless idea that feels like it could've existed in 1992. They feel pulled from 2010s+ Twitter woke culture that insists on greater representation for groups that were represented just fine in the existing four factions. And, on top, there are some author lines that say they're the best at fighting the Nephandi and better/more hardcore than the Traditions in various ways. They feel like an obvious author favorite and clumsy insert to make the game more culturally sensitive.

    I say this as someone who's pretty politically left-leaning.
    Originally posted by False Epiphany
    Incidentally, another reason I don't like the Disparates? They don't gel as neatly with the game's metaphysics.

    The Marauders are Dynamism. The Technocracy is Stasis. The Nephandi are Entropy. The Traditions are Balance. The factions represent each branch of the Metaphysic Trinity* (or the union of those branches) and the four types of Avatars. There's good symmetry there. It feels right from a game design and an in-universe perspective.

    The Disparates align with... what branch of the Trinity? I guess Balance too, but that makes them redundant. We already have a faction that covers Balance. It's just another way the new faction feels awkwardly tacked on.

    * It also raises interesting questions--the Marauders and Nephandi are obviously screwed up and can't be allowed to win the Ascension War, so does that mean the Technocracy is too, because any mage society aligning too closely with one Trinity branch is a bad idea? Or, is Stasis actually the only "good" branch? That'd mean Traditions are tainted for their association with Dynamism and Entropy, but less so than the Marauders and Nephandi because they still have some Stasis as a stabilizing influence. This is a fun debate mages can have and the Disparates just muddy the waters, because the Trinity is no longer clearly linked to the main factions in the Ascension War.
    Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
    See, to me, the Disparates all seem like they're highly traditional, natural xenophobes with an unwillingness to share or be subject to outside power and thus they want outsiders to fuck off.

    Why the fuck would such people make an alliance when the whole point was they don't want a fucking alliance? Strikes me as yuppie, virtue signalling bullshit of the highest order.
    Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post
    Do mages really work so well together globally that locals can't fend them off? They're not vampires who can send wave after wave of neonates at the problem till it goes away. Mages are hard to replace and nodes need to be defended. The Wu Lung, for example; Canonically sexist, very probably racist. But the fact that they're threatened by outsiders gives them very good reason to work together well, with other Wu Lung. How many other disparates have a presence in China? What use is a knights templar in shanghai? And why would a KT come to China to help with matters when he has more pressing issues back home? The two big-dogs are also less inclined to bother the Wu Lung when they're dancing with eachother.

    Anyhow we're wildly off topic.
    Originally posted by False Epiphany
    I always thought the Wu Lung and Ngoma worked just fine in the Order of Hermes. Some of the Crafts work fine as outsiders, but I thought Revised had a good idea moving more of them into the Traditions.
    Originally posted by Chris24601 View Post
    It was also the perfect antidote to the various bad racial stereotypes by saying “there’s more styles of magical practice in Asia than just mystic martial arts; not every magician on the continent of Africa is some tribal Shaman.” It’s acknowledging the practitioners as individuals and not just racial stereotypes.

    Frankly, instead of the Disparate Alliance (the crafts of which had mostly joined the Traditions in Rev), I think a far better approach would have been, sorta like Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom, a look at how the principles of each Tradition can be found around the world (ex. just about every culture has some variation of the cycle of life and death the Euthanatos/Chakravati harness in their practices).
    I agree with this. If you stick more Crafts in the Traditions, they become more multicultural. I think some work okay staying independent Crafts, because they are just so isolated or intolerant they aren't interested in alliances, but some of them work great in the Traditions.

    I also don't have an inherent problem with Western mages having more power in mage society. Western civilization has, for much of modern history, dominated the world and it makes sense that would carry over to some degree.

    Obviously, there are factors in mage society that don't make it a complete analogue. Senex is an African archmage who's probably the most personally powerful figure left in the Traditions, if one assumes the fall of Doissetep is canon.

    But it feels like the Disparate Alliance was expressly designed to give minority cultures more power in the setting for contrived reasons. I think the setting is more compelling when mages from minority cultures are angry about about having less power/representation in the Traditions. (And even more so in the Technocracy.) I generally prefer not fixing real-world injustices in fictional settings.


    Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

  • #2
    I've always assumed the Traditions were meant to be a global alliance of people feeling oppressed by Western imperialism and economic pressures. Then again, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the Technocracy being treated as a progressive organization.

    Sort of like the new Star Wars EU making the head of the Empire after Palpatine into a gay black woman.

    I feel like it undermines them as a totalitarian authoritarian regime of conformity.


    Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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    • #3
      I thought that was stupid too. The old EU had the Empire as an expressly sexist and xenophobic institution. Women and aliens were discriminated against.

      Because they're the bad guys.

      It's just more stupid virtue signaling. Who cares about everything that's wrong with Disney as a company? We get more strong minority characters!


      Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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      • #4
        I can't comment on the motives of Disney and it may have just been, "Let's make fascism harder for Far Right individuals to co-opt like they've been doing." It is weird that the most prominent person of color they could make in the setting's heirarchy would be the head of the fascists, though.

        That's off topic, though.

        I don't hate the idea of the Disparate Alliance but I note that given the Knights Templar are members, they could easily have gone the other way and make it the "crazy intolerant mages."

        Imagine if the anti-vaxxers were unaccepted by the Traditions and went there.


        Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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        • #5
          My main problems with the Disparate Alliance are...

          A) How can an alliance of Xenophobics work?

          And B) If they've been downtrodden and oppressed for five hundred years, what the hell do they have for resources?

          I could see the Hollows Ones trying to build alliances with these groups, but not their being successful. Take the Alibatin, they presume all other Mages are slack fools and easy dupes of the Nephandi. How could the Hollow Ones get the Alibatin to treat them with respect when neither the far better organized Hermetic Order nor the profoundly pious Celestial Chorus never achieved that? The Hollow Ones would look like helpless kittens to the Alibatin.

          The Ngoma and the Children of Knowledge would be friendly, but weary. I can't see the Bata'a, the Sisters of Hypolita, the Templars, the Taftani, or the Wu Lung even speaking to them.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
            I've always assumed the Traditions were meant to be a global alliance of people feeling oppressed by Western imperialism and economic pressures. Then again, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the Technocracy being treated as a progressive organization.

            Sort of like the new Star Wars EU making the head of the Empire after Palpatine into a gay black woman.

            I feel like it undermines them as a totalitarian authoritarian regime of conformity.
            The Traditions are a political and military alliance, they have agreed rules, ranks etc, it is very loose, but it is there, so having a 'just leave us alone' faction forming makes sense, it happened in the cold war as well, with the Non-Aligned movement it really depends how organised the Disparates.really are.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by False Epiphany View Post
              If you stick more Crafts in the Traditions, they become more multicultural.
              If you reboot the setting with the Crafts as existing and long standing parts of the Traditions with political power, the Traditions become more multicultural.

              When you stick them in via metaplot, they become 2nd and 3rd class citizens as there's only nine seats on the Council and the Crafts would either have to accept joining a Tradition at the bottom, or not have a representative on the Council.

              I also don't have an inherent problem with Western mages having more power in mage society. Western civilization has, for much of modern history, dominated the world and it makes sense that would carry over to some degree.
              But this inherently comes with the alienation of mages that became a lot of the Crafts; esp. the ones that were once part of the Traditions or were offered a place in them.

              When the Traditions were founded half of the mages recruited for the Dreamspeakrs told the European dominated Council to screw off.

              The big point of the Crafts was to highlight how the Council's norms and procedures were harming some of its ideals by scaring off potential allies via the Western-centric nature of the Traditions.

              But it feels like the Disparate Alliance was expressly designed to give minority cultures more power in the setting for contrived reasons.
              How is, "minority cultures that don't want to bend to the Tradition's liberal melting pot, but still want the power to fend off the Technocracy, gathering together in a mutual defense pact," giving them significantly more power in the setting, or contrived?

              As I said in the other thread, the Alliance makes sense as a product of the metaplot: the Traditions, at their best point in opening up their ranks to the more amenable Crafts instead did the opposite, and the Technocracy was still being the Technocracy.

              I think the setting is more compelling when mages from minority cultures are angry about about having less power/representation in the Traditions.
              That's still the case with or without the Disparate Alliance.

              I generally prefer not fixing real-world injustices in fictional settings.
              What real-world injustice has been fixed?

              Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
              Then again, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the Technocracy being treated as a progressive organization.
              Because they're not progressive. But sometimes progressive politics and the Union's goals line up.

              Sort of like the new Star Wars EU making the head of the Empire after Palpatine into a gay black woman.
              I know we're trying to move off this, but I hate how revisionist Star Wars stuff has become.

              Have we forgotten the two big contenders to take over the Empire after Palpatine and Vader died in Legacy EU? Director Isard (a woman) and Grand Admiral Thrawn (an alien).

              In the old EU, and the new canon, Star Wars has always had the position that the Battle of Endor led the remaining Empire to become more open to people they'd formerly kept out of power taking charge because they took too big of a loss to disregard loyal talent. The new canon just changed the details of who got to the top.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                I know we're trying to move off this, but I hate how revisionist Star Wars stuff has become.

                Have we forgotten the two big contenders to take over the Empire after Palpatine and Vader died in Legacy EU? Director Isard (a woman) and Grand Admiral Thrawn (an alien).

                In the old EU, and the new canon, Star Wars has always had the position that the Battle of Endor led the remaining Empire to become more open to people they'd formerly kept out of power taking charge because they took too big of a loss to disregard loyal talent. The new canon just changed the details of who got to the top.
                I feel like that's a weird thing to bring up when both Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole made it clear in the books that Isard and Thrawn faced huge amounts of discrimination in their rise to power, so much so that Isard only became leader of Intelligence by executing her own father while Thrawn was exiled to the Unknown Regions.

                And the Old EU had that as the result of Admiral Daala who executed all of the previous Imperial leaders.


                Author of Cthulhu Armageddon, I was a Teenage Weredeer, Straight Outta Fangton, Lucifer's Star, and the Supervillainy Saga.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Astromancer View Post
                  A) How can an alliance of Xenophobics work?
                  The core five members of the Alliance aren't xenophobes.

                  And B) If they've been downtrodden and oppressed for five hundred years, what the hell do they have for resources?
                  As M20 specifically addresses, one of the unifying factors for many of the members of the Alliance is that they've gotten very good at hiding their resources from the Traditions and Technocracy, because it's easier for them to let the big factions think they're diminished into insignificance. They've spent a long time gathering resources because they've been doing it while trying to avoid being seen doing so (including making tentative contacts with each other more recently).

                  Take the Alibatin, they presume all other Mages are slack fools and easy dupes of the Nephandi.
                  The Batini are literally one of the core groups actively trying to make the Alliance happen because they need more allies to fight the Nephandi. They''re doing a lot of the outreach here. They were founding members of the Traditions because they want this sort of thing to work, but the Traditions were a failure in their eyes. The Alliance is they next stab at it.

                  How could the Hollow Ones get the Alibatin to treat them with respect when neither the far better organized Hermetic Order nor the profoundly pious Celestial Chorus never achieved that?
                  Easily? The Batini care about unity. The Hollow Ones rejecting the false unity of the Traditions and seeing the potential for the true Unity of the Alliance is all the Batini need. You seem to be vastly exaggerating the Batini's feelings about other mages.

                  I can't see the Bata'a, .. even speaking to them.
                  Why? The Bata'a and the Hollowers have a lot in common as people disrespected by the Traditions for not being "proper" mages.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
                    I feel like that's a weird thing to bring up when both Timothy Zahn and Michael A. Stackpole made it clear in the books that Isard and Thrawn faced huge amounts of discrimination in their rise to power, so much so that Isard only became leader of Intelligence by executing her own father while Thrawn was exiled to the Unknown Regions.
                    It's not weird when you realize the Sloane's rise to power is basically a mirror of Thrawn's? She was probably going nowhere until she managed to impress Palpatine and Vader, who never cared about the whole "white human men" bias thing outside of using it as a tool for control, who then protected and guided her career as a valued true believer in the Sith imperial cause.

                    Her creator's specifically stated that one of the things he wanted to put into the stories with her that he felt was missing, was that the Empire lacked idealist true believers in the original films. The Moffs and Admirals were all portrayed as more political opportunists wanting power, even though fascist movements need a wave of true believers as well. Sloane was meant to add a true believer. She'd never get forced choked by Vader for mocking the Force, or failing to fanatically uphold the Empire's goals.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      I As I said in the other thread, the Alliance makes sense as a product of the metaplot: the Traditions, at their best point in opening up their ranks to the more amenable Crafts instead did the opposite, and the Technocracy was still being the Technocracy.
                      Most of the metaplot isn't my cup of tea, so that's moot for me. The setting as presented in 2e got along fine without a Disparate Alliance and was more thematically coherent for it.

                      I like some of the Crafts being parts of the Traditions all along, mainly because it opens more options for players. I like other Crafts joining later, but probably before the '90s, and some being sufficiently isolated and/or xenophobic to remain independent.

                      Have we forgotten the two big contenders to take over the Empire after Palpatine and Vader died in Legacy EU? Director Isard (a woman) and Grand Admiral Thrawn (an alien).
                      Thrawn and Isard both only checked one diversity box. Alien (probably straight) man, white (probably straight) woman. Gay black woman checked three. Four if you include her naturally long and Afro-textured hair.

                      The virtue signaling is strong in this one.

                      Thrawn and Isard were written as minorities because (I'm partly speculating here) the writers thought if they rose to the top anyway in minority-unfriendly institutions, that was a solid way of establishing their badass-itude. I'm pretty sure Sloane was written to check as many diversity boxes as possible, which is fairly consistent with the state of Disney Star Wars these days.
                      Last edited by False Epiphany; 10-07-2021, 06:15 PM.


                      Blood and Bourbon, my New Orleans-based Vampire chronicle.

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                      • #12
                        I think the Disparate Alliance has the potential to fill a much needed role in the Earthly setting. When you have two factions like the Traditions and the Technocracy facing each other in opposition, neither is going to care that much about what view their enemy has of them. It is like two people facing each other in hand to hand combat fought to the death with no witnesses. If one can win by the most underhanded tactic imaginable, there is no reputational cost to consider. In a Power Triangle, the conflict is going to be more interesting.

                        While Book of the Fallen (which I mostly enjoyed) presents the option of making the Nephandi a very present and Earthly threat, there are considerations a storyteller has to make. Given what you know about the past experiences of your players, IRL, how much do you want to rely on a villain group whose themes are brutality, abuse, child abuse, sadism and "fail a saving throw, lose your soul" - the Caul? Given what you Don't know about player past experience... same question. My answer is: very little and later on, when they have enough experience as players to deal with such themes. So, for the important foundational chapters of my story, I need a third Earthly faction, if only as a mental reference to explain why the Traditions and Technocracy don't engage in a full on war without worry of how their actions reflect on them on the "World Stage".

                        That said, I have some of the same difficulties with the Disparate Alliance that others described upstream. Luckily, there is an easier way to approach this than trying to map the relationships between Alliance members. There are three questions that could help any storyteller in planning to include the Disparate Alliance:

                        1) Given a vast geographic area, like Africa, that the Disparate Alliance is supposed to be dominant in, what fun possibilities can you you explore that are pertinent to that part of the world?

                        2) Can you imagine A Single NPC who is from one of the Crafts belonging to the Disparate Alliance that you would enjoy running in your Chronicle? Looking at it this way takes some of the pressure off that would come with calculating the politics of a DA Cabal.

                        3) Is there a Plot that you can run with this NPC that would not be possible with the other factions?


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by False Epiphany View Post
                          The virtue signaling is strong in this one.
                          Your insistence in arguing "virtue signalling" as the beginning and end and only possible reason behind everything you don't like in those takes is annoying. What is even the problem if that was true? This is merely an Ad Hominem that tries to attack both the authors and anyone siding with them while trying to delegitimize any real perception of problems before they are even stated.

                          First of all, arguing the Disparate Alliance without considering the Metaplot is ridiculous, you're arguing that they're a bad addition to the story because they don't gel with your headcanon that ignores this same story. What is even the point!? The books have a metaplot, it wasn't as strong all the time but was there since day 1, and the canon lore is this metaplot. You can use the books without it, but you can't expect to have a meaningful conversation with others based on your use instead of on the book that everyone read.

                          Second, you may not have a problem with the game presenting "western" Mages not only as holding the power, but also the Mages from other cultures either accepting that or doing nothing, so they can uphold your fancy metaphysics. But other people may have a right to disagree without being called names. Europe, US and Russia became really powerful in the last centuries, but we at the rest of the world weren't just taking sides or digging holes. There are associations and alliances all around the world between countries and/or non-government entities to hold on their own against the most powerful, some of them pretty similar to the DA in some aspects, as the Global Governance Group.

                          If the setting existed in a form where the Traditions could represent every culture in an equal footing, it would make sense. But this isn't the setting we have. If the setting had the war in such a state that Crafts simply couldn't exist outside the Traditions without being obliterated, it would make sense, but this is also far darker than what we actually have. The setting we have always had disgruntled Crafts that didn't wanted to bow to the Council. With reason, because this same setting also always had the Traditions still having many structures that aren't so open to interpretation as you describe. Not only the Council as a whole have a strict power structure, the component Traditions too have theirs and are entitled to force newcomers into their own ways.

                          Another problem is that sometimes there are real problems behind the "virtue signaling" decisions you don't like. The Get of Fenris had a camp of Nazis, which just make sense. But irl there were countless LARPs and tables where real Neo-Nazis hid behind the excuse of playing their characters to harass everyone else. This was a real problem that had to be dealt with. The same happens in Star Wars, where the portrayal of the Empire also attracted a lot of white supremacist fans that get real angry if you spell it out that the Empire IS white supremacist, "because they don't want the franchise tainted by politics".

                          Mage is a game played the world around by all sorts of people, not only by WASP dudes. Presenting the player's culture as subsumed by European structures and incapable of standing on its own even after Awakening is a pretty shitty message, especially for a setting that was political since day 1 of its first release and stay openly political to date. You want to ignore other cultures fighting for self-advocacy and uniting for mutual protection because it harms your metaphysics? Sure, your table, do away with the DA. But don't use shitty arguments to invalidate others' opinions and make your headcanon seem as more valid.


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                          • #14
                            I wish I could upvote Monteparnas more, because WOW

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                            • #15
                              As I've said, I think Disparates can stand up on their own.

                              Mage is essentially about the battle of ideas, so a homefield advantage is huge. If the Local culture brings more people into your craft, and it also makes your magic less vulgar than your rivals, you are just going to be in a strong place.

                              Another issue with the Disparate alliance is that, well, mages don't really want to deal with people from other crafts. Mages covet natural resources and create technology that only they can use. Trade? Well that Gris Gris is useless for you, and how are you going to get the prime out of that battery when you're a Daoist scholar-mage ? OK, it might not be that bad, but remember you're dealing with a lot of proud, racist xenephobes and a lot of them will think of their practice as holy and thus won't be too keen on having their holy sites and holy objects molested by "allies".

                              Let's take the Wu Lung again.
                              Your conflict with the Akashics is more about... resources than anything else. Yeah, sure, you want to promote yourself over them so you get more recruits. Locally speaking there's little reason for them to be doing much better than you, and they're a lot less unified than you owing to their size.
                              Your conflict with the technocracy is more serious, but to them the Akashics are a more threatening enemy and there to take more of the brunt for you. The Technocracy has a decisive cultural disadvantage.


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