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Untangling Arcadia, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love (Both) the Fae

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  • #16
    Honestly, in a purely-2e world, it's pretty easy to reconcile the idea that Arcadia is a Changeling place, and that Merlin's fuckery resulted in the Acanthus symbolism shifting into one that looked extremely Arcadian. Which is why I thought this discussion had been laid to rest.

    I mean, with the whole "dream quests" bit, you're comparing Mage and Changeling, but you're frankly just talking about a generic Hero's Journey, the basic premise of which is baked in to pretty much the entire RPG industry. There's nothing particularly Supernal or Arcadian about it. That's not a thematic idea; that's just half of a plot structure.

    What makes it Mage is the specific conceit that the alien power is an overflowing font that compels the intellectually curious and ambitious for power. What makes it Changeling is that the alien power is a grasping, possessive thing from which you escape. Those are the bones from which the thematic ideas come. It's like saying, "They're all boy-meets-girl," when one's Gatsby, one's Romeo, and one's Bella Swan.

    I'm honestly a little curious to see what supporting arguments you have, because my problem with Arcadia=Arcadia is simply that it adds nothing to anything and makes everything it touches a little more boring. Like, yeah, it's fun to be nerdy and play tetris with all the otherworlds so that everything lines up perfectly, but I'm not a teenager anymore, y'know? Symmetry is neat at the level of complex maths and theories of everything, but for stuff that describes a world rather than a reality, I'd like to see more of a mess.

    ...and really, if you pitched an interesting idea or seed or something that relied on Arcadia=Arcadia, I'm willing to bet that few people would be all that bothered by it. The fiercest battles are over the smallest stakes, and this one is fierce precisely because it doesn't matter. Make it matter, and people won't fight about it so hard. So... what you actually got over there?

    I call the Integrity-analogue the "subjective stat".
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    • #17
      Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
      2) Mages know nothing about Changelings, which logically shouldn’t be the case if they encounter the Fae in the supernal and meet their servants. Mages regularly get basic aspects of other splats entirely wrong in trying to reconcile them to their own universe, but if they encounter the Supernal Fae then they should have some basis on the free Changelings and how their powers work. Likewise, Changelings show no knowledge of people who are not fae but wield powers that are approaching equal to their Keepers, which, considering all that they retain from their time in Arcadia without actively calling it to memory, seems like a very big hole. The fact that neither core book reference each other in anything but the vaguest possible sense really makes it hard to swallow.
      Most mages never actually enter the Supernal, and those who do generally only does it at their Watchtower. Those mages who do enter the Supernal under other circumstances generally does so in Emanations or by creating a Lustrum of their own.
      If we add that the domains of the Gentry either exclusively are Emanations directly into the deep parts of the Hedge or simply not tied to Emanations at all, and mages who create new Lustra never does it where one already exists, then mages would never stumble onto the domain of a Keeper and changelings during their Durance. Even without both of those stipulations, it'd probably still be too rare for there to be any proper research into secondary actors that only some of the Gentry has on staff. With how the Durance is in 2e, most mages who encounter changelings during their Durance might not even recognize them after they've escaped since the escape itself provides the last steps in the transformation to playable changelings.

      I'm answering to what I disagree with not because I fundamentally disagree with you, but because I don't have much to say about the points I do agree with nor about old Mage players as that was before my time and I'm stuck observing the aftermath.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Satchel View Post
        From a plain thematic ideas perspective, in other words, I'm still stumped for reasons to object to the Fae being the temporal face of distant, alien gods linked to a place whose experience in its original context was "through weird, symbolism-laden dream-quests, people seized the potential for godlike power from distant, alien places tied to a mythic cataclysm purported to have happened forever ago," particularly when that crossover is specifically built to throw a "there are more things in Heaven and Earth" wrench into things.
        Supernal Gods are Truths about the Universe.

        They are, of course, not necessarily kind or even desirable truths. The Exarchs are True, and they're horrible, and everybody else would benefit if they just all fell down a flight of metaphysical stairs for the rest of the summer. But the Supernal Realm isn't simply a distant, alien place of power, at least as of Second Edition Mage (but approaching it even towards the end of First Edition, such as in Imperial Mysteries). The Supernal Realm is the matrix of symbols from which meaning is wrought. Every supernal entity represents something about the nature of being, even some small sliver of it.

        Is this something you want to be true about the Others? This is not a rhetorical question; it's not definitively wrong to think that's a cool notion with which to characterize the Kindly Ones. But it's different from Changeling's basic pitch.

        The Others are pitched as glorious god-monsters, reality-warping overlords who sculpt the world to their liking. They're god-monsters, but that divinity-monstrocity isn't presented as deriving from some fundamental truth or connection to the way things are. It's usually not assumed that to chase the Tlatoani of Crashing Serpents down, exploit its vows and nature, and finally destroy it would be to somehow kill a part of the world in a way that might echo further outward. (Not that chasing down the True Fae and obliterating them is much more than a suicide mission, but success is not presented as an impossible ambition, merely a great and awesome one.)

        If they're supernal gods, though, they are on some level natural to the universe, a part of the world and a part of the way things are. They're not solely defined by their vows, or if they are, it's in a way that they couldn't have been any other set of vows instead. They're not empty and arbitrary, living and given form only through stolen authority, but elemental, many-faced expressions flowering from an initial statement that is true and unchanging.

        Thematically, do you want the Others to be alien horrors, or metaphysical horrors? Earthborn and awful expressions of the world, or tyrants whose monstrous dominion is of unknown provenance, who are gods simply because they willed themselves to be gods?
        Last edited by Stupid Loserman; 01-25-2020, 08:11 AM.


        • #19
          I just got Dark Eras 2, so I’ll have to read the Arthurian section and see if that changes my mind on the whole Arcadia issue.

          A lot of the arguments on this forum are too abstract for me, but THIS stuff I understand. This is why I hang out here.

          “No one holds command over me. No man, no god, no Prince. Call your damn Hunt. We shall see who I drag screaming down to hell with me.” The last Ahrimane says this when Mithras calls a Blood Hunt against her.


          • #20
            I just want to say that while I don't play either Mage or Changeling, I've found this whole discussion very enlightening about the worldview of the two game lines (or perhaps more accurately what some people view as the worldview). I wanted to thank the writers for taking the time to explain their opinions without much flamage.

            I would be interested in knowing what people think is the worldview of other game lines, because I am puzzled by the attraction some of the game lines hold for their players. (A recent discussion on Geist helped me understand that game better.) However, this probably is not the place.


            • #21
              Originally posted by KieranMullen View Post
              I would be interested in knowing what people think is the worldview of other game lines, because I am puzzled by the attraction some of the game lines hold for their players. (A recent discussion on Geist helped me understand that game better.) However, this probably is not the place.
              This would definitely be a good idea for a separate thread to start, especially if you (or whoever else) could launch it by being clearer what you mean by a gameline's "worldview." (That's not a criticism; it's just always good to nail down the starting point topic.)


              • #22
                Roger Zelazny's Amber series posited the idea that there was only one really true, actual world - Amber and that all other worlds were reflections/shadows. There further away from Amber you got, the less like Amber a place would be.

                So, apply that concept here, Changeling Arcadia is a "shadow" of the Supernal Arcadia. There are certainly links between the two. Perhaps on some level there is a hidden way that allows that could allow someone to physically enter the Supernal Arcadia from the Changeling Arcadia. Honestly it's a bit irrelevant given how terrifyingly dangerous even the Changeling Arcadia is.


                • #23
                  I have it that Changeling Arcadia is a different timeline of Supernal Arcadia for my fanfic. The victory of the Exarchs split it it off as a reflection of "a world completely controlled by the Ruin and Prophet's ideologies." Which is to say, a world of masters, slaves, and existential dread of action vs. death.


                  • #24
                    Well, color me surprised to find a reply on the day I'd planned to put up the Big Set of Supporting Arguments, but I'm glad to not be skirting thread-necromancy to do it.

                    Some bits to address, though (with apologies for the rambling, rough-sketch nature of these points; it's nowhere near as orderly as the last time I threw together a bulleted list):

                    1. I think, particularly given the conclusions mentioned earlier in the thread, that "Faerie is Arcadia" ran into trouble in a similar fashion to Atlantis for Mage or lesson culture for Beast, in that it's an ultimately inoffensive element that got blown out of proportion by people who didn't like that it existed; the same thing happened in miniature back when the Dark Eras Companion came out and suggested outright that mages and mummies who've conversed on the topic may equate their respective Heavens despite the grounds for that going all the way back to 1e Mummy's talk of the Scroll of Ages. Faerie being Supernal doesn't have to be The Most Important Thing about it to justify its inclusion.

                    2. Prior to 2e grounding the Supernal in Mage and other gamelines putting bits of the volatile-core-of-the-cosmos magic nearer to player-character accessibility, there was still a thing that a lot of people missed about the Supernal: Mage doesn't actually own that slice of the cosmology. The Awakened deal with it in that establishing a connection to it is the origin point of their powers, but the realm of the gods has always been a strange and mysterious place/not-place to such a degree that even the unambiguously-Phenomenal part of the universe closest to it is terra incognita —the Aeons played fast and loose with expectations even before Changeling gave Mordred and the Old Man masked cameos in the Skein. The Exarchs rule from the Supernal, but given their habits and specific significance, that doesn't say much outside of their context as antagonists in Mage.

                    3. Talking again of Mummy, Changeling was doing the blurry-line-between-the-boxes thing and the fundamentally-different-perspective-on-part-of-the-cosmology thing years before Mummy or Beast presented those complications as explicitly; Imperial Mysteries squared that circle a bit way back when it made it plain that Emanation Realms were a whole yet-unconsidered layer of the cosmology and that changing the way something interacts with part of the world is stuff you can do with Supernal power of sufficient magnitude. Supernal summoning in Summoners and the alluded-to wrinkles of demonology in Inferno are both pretty clear that the particular magical means by which an entity sufficiently distant from the material world is given form affect how it can interact with the world.

                    4. The breadth of symbolism encountered in Faerie, coupled with the corebook's outright namedropping the other four broad types of Supernal entity and Imperial Mysteries' making it explicit that the Path Realms are a hazy categorization scheme at best when it comes to the gods, indicates that the diminutizing view of "Changeling Arcadia is just one fifth of Mage's main otherworld," (besides being flawed in calling the Supernal Mage's, as above) misses out on the notion that Faerie is an alien version of the Supernal. More things in Heaven, etc.

                    5. The entire point of Faerie being Supernal as it related to mages stands adequately rather than invalidating anything about the Fall: in an edition where "the raw Supernal will obliterate you if you're not a god or close enough to one" is not common knowledge, the existence of a semi-stable physical route to the realm of the gods is a trap. Setting aside the way that the Hedge being a bridge across the Abyss explains a lot about its unreality, its effects on the soul, and the ease with which it entraps wanderers, the Wyrd filters divine power in a way that is both more stable than the sorcerous framework the Awakened engage with as well as completely alien to a human perspective, and the endpoint that the crossing comes out at is hostile to physical life that can't make a deal. It's a rabbit hole.

                    6. The funny thing about Aponoia and archmasters making mages who know how they operate really paranoid is that these things are essentially a less widespread version of what changelings deal with via their Keepers and the difficulties of Clarity. You can say the Fae can't be Supernal because changing stuff in Arcadia doesn't change stuff elsewhere, but how would you tell? Even before getting into the way that the Fae's metaphysics operate under an alien-yet-heavily-structured system of constraints on a source of primal power, the Phenomenal domain of Arcadian in this discussion is most analogous to a) dreams b) the ephemeral forces of luck and destiny, and c) parallel dimensions so cut off from the rest of the world that "these make excellent prisons" is a thing that is said outright about them. There's a safety net against cosmic Paradox that humans don't benefit from without going native, and even in the Awakened framework we know that there's functionally no difference between "the Exarchs have made it so that there was a cache of resources here all along" and "the Seers got lucky and found a cache of resources," to say nothing of how the fae interact with dreams in a way that draws no distinction between human dreams and nonhuman dreams.

                    7. Talking of Emanations, the fact that the Name of a Fae doesn't manifest unless it completely lacks Titles provides an alternative in the Arcadian map-smear that nevertheless gives that layer of reality something to do besides act as an obscure part of the cosmology in Mage prior to edition shifts putting those elements on the nearer side of the Abyss; free-willed alien subsouls moving pieces around to change their place in the nature of the universe hold up a funhouse mirror to the more obscure practices of archmages, and in doing so lend context to Changeling and Mage as operating specifically from the middle and endpoints, respectively, of two parallel divides between Heaven and Earth in a way that justifies their existing at odds with each other at all better than "the places share a name and the folks who normally jump the gap on their side won't listen when the half-elves tell them not to use their bridge because there's trolls under it." The Lost, having gone native in the place where magic comes from (or directly neighbors it, depending) and metaphors are handled physically, deal with the stuff of destiny differently than the Awakened, who link their souls to the place where magic comes from (through a filter) and can at best use metaphors as technical language and mnemonic aids, and that's a divide that's rough to handle even without the difficulties in communication that come from discussing the ineffable from mutually incompatible vantages.

                    8. When you have three different gamelines that all deal prominently with n/Names, f/Fate, the flow of time, the spoken and written word, the makeup of the human soul, addictive power, and magic-item-producing primordial magic, it's just possible that their approaching these things with different mythology is an arbitrary rationale to say they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. 2e's take on the Tremere as well as the weirdness of Arisen cosmology are worth remembering here.

                    9. Not by any means the strongest point to end on, but I'm been at this for three hours now and I'm getting tired: Everything in the Supernal is True, and everything in Faerie is beautiful. The "is it, though?" question raised by the end of Ode on a Grecian Urn has been in my head with relation to this topic pretty much since I first read Changeling 1e core.

                    A lot of that didn't come out as cleanly as I'd hoped and I'm pretty sure I missed some points, but it's been a minute. Hopefully that's at least coherent enough to serve as a battery of points to start with; I'm going to go eat dinner and take a nap while Fool's Day is still happening.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      Faerie being Supernal doesn't have to be The Most Important Thing about it to justify its inclusion.
                      Honestly, the biggest thing that I think people forget about OPP stuff is the toolbox approach. That Faerie being Supernal can be true at one table and false at another and that's okay as long as nothing that happens during the story depends on the opposite. (And even that's probably okay, if it works.)

                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      Faerie is an alien version of the Supernal. More things in Heaven, etc.
                      See, this is exactly what I mean when I say it has to bring something to the table. This is something, or at least the start of something.

                      There are a thousand and one implications that can flow from this essential claim, not least of which is that you could suggest that the entire Supernal is just a small part of Faerie (and possibly also a small part of the other otherworlds, too). Many of those implications can be broadened into a setting-building detail that's table-specific, and some of those can actually sprout into background details for this character or that, consequential weirdnesses that merit investigating, or premise some actual story. (And honestly, I've always been extremely bothered that Mages could just add Arcanum X to affect other major templates. I'd love a given reason to house-rule that away.)

                      I mean, yeah, I know that's not the direction you took it, but the fact that it can support my taking it in a different direction makes it worthwhile. If I were feeling more creative tonight, I'd try to actually build out some real ideas, but I'm not so all I've got is that one petty grievance.

                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      8. When you have three different gamelines that all deal prominently with n/Names, f/Fate, the flow of time, the spoken and written word, the makeup of the human soul, addictive power, and magic-item-producing primordial magic, it's just possible that their approaching these things with different mythology is an arbitrary rationale to say they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. 2e's take on the Tremere as well as the weirdness of Arisen cosmology are worth remembering here.
                      A lot of the problem with the usual arguments towards Arcadia=Arcadia, as I call it, is that the implicit goal is to collapse our understanding of a gameline into a miniaturized little colony of another gameline. It decreases how weird everything is by neatly boxing it up and putting it on a shelf.

                      And yeah. There's a lot of cultures with mythologies that mention a Flood. But humans also like to live near water, so floods aren't exactly unexpected occurrences. The important thing is less to put down fences in between mythologies, but more to not just shrug and go, "See, our mythology is right because yours references ours." Saying, "Hey, these two languages sound suspiciously similar; what if there was a proto-language they're both descended from?" is much better and feels like what you're trying to suggest in this bullet point. And to the extent that Contagion Chronicle has succeeded, it has been because it has added a new element rather than explaining elements through existing lenses.

                      I mean, we could have a Contagion vector that's built around having the exact same effects on JUST Mages, Changelings and Mummies, and dealing with it requiring digging deeply into their sense of self and discovering an even deeper layer of who and what they are that ties their powersets or souls or whatever together would be a genuinely interesting chronicle to play, provided that that final twist actually feels cool and pays off the premise. I'm not sure I could write that, but maybe someone else can. For added neatness, maybe it messes with spirits such that stuff said in First Tongue comes out wrong somehow, but there's no other effect on Hisil-type stuff. And then you notice that you can't find a single spirit of language that's not a magath, etc., etc.

                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      Everything in the Supernal is True, and everything in Faerie is beautiful. The "is it, though?" question raised by the end of Ode on a Grecian Urn has been in my head with relation to this topic pretty much since I first read Changeling 1e core.
                      Yeah, that's one of the places the horror lies, and it's one of the more cosmic horror elements, I think, because it's so conceptual. And it's also kinda why I lean towards classifying TTRPGs as an artform.
                      Last edited by Errol216; 04-07-2020, 03:02 AM. Reason: Extra word in the second damn sentence, geez.

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                      • #26
                        I'm not sure which side of the debate this falls on, but I wanted to add some considerations that reading this thread has me pondering:

                        The question of whether the Arcadia of Mage and the Arcadia of Changeling refer to the same place is born, obviously, from the fact that the two share the same name, and that the inhabitants of both places are called Fae. The surface-level argument against this connection would be that saying they must be the same would be like claiming that Georgia the country and Georgia the state must refer to the same place, since they're both called Georgia and their residents, both Georgians.

                        That said, an interesting nuance here is that the true name of Arcadia is unknown. Different cultures call the place different things: Faerie, Yonder, Annwfn. This seems to be a parallel to both the fact that the Gentry shield their own True Names behind Titles, and even that every name for the Others as a whole is at heart a euphemism to avoid drawing their attention. (And there you could maybe also include how 2nd Edition Mage presents the idea of drawing the attention of Supernal beings by poking your nose in their business as a scary proposition.)

                        In addition to this are the multiple literary-mythic references in the mechanics of Changeling (Bedlam, Cockaigne, Goblin Markets) to idealized paradises, places of madness, or, often, both. Cockaigne is a particularly interesting example if only because its presentation in medieval art and literature is almost as an anti-Atlantis (in the New Age-ish sense), where, rather than everyone and everything existing in their right place for harmonious concord toward a greater good, idleness and vice are given free reign, a land where nothing is true, everything is permitted, etc.

                        Perhaps interesting as well is that the concepts of both Arcadia and Atlantis were both subject to cultural shift over time. The former is a region of Greece, mythologically home to the pastoral god Pan, that by the Renaissance became a byword for unspoiled wilderness, while the latter began as an allegory about hubris, until idealization and textual misunderstandings led to the island becoming a stand-in for a shining Utopia and lost advanced civilization. Nostalgia appears to be a likely culprit in both cases.

                        Finally, and this is may be the most tangential and specious of points, but both Myrddin Wyllt and Tom o'Bedlam take part in the (very) long tradition of madman literature found throughout the British Isles.


                        • #27
                          One of those bits I missed in that first batch of points has returned to me, and I mercifully have some of the scaffolding in that list to build it out from. Accordingly:

                          10. That valuable middle ground I mention in points 6 and 7, where Changeling deals with analogs to subsouls, Emanation Realms, and imposed templates? Wherein the Lost have good reason to harbor strong feelings about folks deciding they get to change what meaning means? That's changelings being the most personally-affected splat to partake in the power politics common to supernatural reality's movers and shakers — the Forsaken may engage with an entire dimension of symbolic actors in the name of the moon, and the Begotten may be standard-bearers in an ongoing field of hostile cultural dialogue, but the Lost frequently had their parts in the grand sweep of mystical conflict pared down to the ways those things affected them (often negatively) and seldom had reprieves from human frailty (or analogs thereof) unless their masters deigned to extend those benefits to their spear-carriers and fifth-business. Mages mostly engage with myths from an archaeological perspective, as a portfolio of symbols; changelings deal with myths from a lived-historical perspective, as ongoing narratives. Both have a certain degree of decontextualization in their engagements, but in Mage the symbols are presented in an atomized state and pieced together over the course of one's career, whereas in Changeling so much of the point is having been dragged into the middle of a story whose entire establishing sequence played out before you arrived. The gods play toy soldiers with the world regardless, but the one perspective gives one a much more pressing concern for chipped paint than the other. (Hint: It's not the one whose breaking point equivalent is equated with acts of blindness.)

                          11. Lesser commonalities between Mage, Changeling, and Mummy in various combinations, just for collection's sake: a universal magic-detector as a core ability (Unseen Sense/Mage Sight, kenning); in 1e, magically-backed dueling as a core ability (the Duel Arcana, Hedge duels); slavery as a major background or foreground concern (the Seers of the Throne and the Scelesti in rhetoric and often in practice, many loyalists and pre-escape changelings in general, the Shuankhsen historically and the Arisen currently); knowledge/memory or lack thereof as a specific and personal concern or issue (the pursuit of knowledge in spite of the pitfalls of obsession and the repeated aside notes that the cosmology is weirder than the maps shown to apprentices, the positive correlation between Wyrd and Arcadian memory, the negative correlation between Sekhem and Memory); in 2e, magic items with inbuilt exceptions that ease their use (Artifacts casting spells on their own, tokens having catches, vestiges activating for free when their bearers act in line with the memory they contain); primary-source descriptions of the characters as being "made of magic" (the Wyrded mien and the evolution thereof, the sahu as "a simulated corpse made out of congealed necromancy"); an unfortunate societal tendency to cover for the worst excesses their constituents' experiences with magic have instilled in them (the Enraptured's common capacity to keep engaging their Fault while tacitly supported by their peers and students/mentors, the darker parts of 1e Core's "Tolerance and Madness" and "Acceptance and Membership" subsections on freehold culture).
                          Last edited by Satchel; 04-08-2020, 11:20 PM.

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                          • #28
                            A breakdown of the relevant Mage metaphysics for those less familiar, since this is the Changeling forum and there have been direct statements of unfamiliarity voiced:

                            Mages gain their abilities after an encounter with the divine underpinnings of reality that is about equal parts luck and directed pursuit (dramatically moreso in 2e, where Signs of Sorcery outlines the preconditions for Awakening; 1e includes a couple less-than-helpful pieces of fiction that feed into a misconception that Awakening is completely arbitrary and happens in a subjective instant, but the literature is such that signing your name to a Supernal Watchtower is the culmination of at least one intervening scene where the character is experiencing a kind of journey that can — and often does — result in failure to grasp the Heavens and seize arcane power).

                            Perhaps the biggest change this wreaks upon their place in the world is their Path, the portfolio of symbols and concepts that their insight naturally enables them to use to work magic. What the Awakened call the Supernal manifests in less-rarefied form throughout manifest existence, but the closest expressions of it outside of pure magic entities brought about by summoning circles and esoteric confluences are found in the deepest parts of the Astral realms, where thoughts and ideas and concepts play out at levels descending deeper into the soul, from the shallow reflections encountered in dreams to the personal demons of individual psyches to the gods and cultural memes of the collective unconscious to the primordial and inhuman denizens of the world-soul to the foremost conceptions of the pillars of reality lairing at the shores of coherent thought; the Supernal is notionally across a great all-consuming sea of dragon blood, the Watchtowers calling souls to take an Astral journey in dreams both sleeping and waking alike, and while the Path the Awakening forges acts as a channel for their power it is not solid enough to allow a mage to return to the Supernal.

                            One consequence of having a Path metaphorically running through their entire soulscape from their conscious experiences to the foundations of the world is that the Awakened can, under the right circumstances, perspective-shift themselves into the Astral realms for everything from literalized soul-searching to shifting public opinion at a small and subtle level to petitioning for worldly influence from e.g. the mind of major geography. Typically, this is accomplished by meditations of increasing difficulty that tend to be visualized consistently within a single journey while being infinitely variable otherwise; if you get to the Temenos by imagining the journey as a boat trip, you're going to arrive at a port, but that doesn't stop you from getting into your own Oneiros on a later trip through a weird recursive exercise in crawling into the back of your own head.

                            This is mostly important because most of the mages who manage to get back to the Supernal do so in a way that converts their Astral Path into their native plane of existence; an archmaster has converted their Path into a Golden Road leading from their beachhead into divinity (permanent residence is an ongoing project for archmasters, because while they can temporarily force the part of the world where Space and Time are made to behave in a human-parseable fashion, the raw power of the place will eventually overwhelm them and temporarily becoming the symbol of yourself can cause problems for you when you have to go back to avoid getting hollowed out and turned into a sock-puppet by a god) all the way back to material reality; they "move" along their Road through meditation in the same way as normal mages did, but their routes into the various layers of the Astral are rendered in consistent imagery based on how they feel about themselves, the world, and other people, and their exit back into the material world is some reflection of their self-image — technically speaking, any time you personally encounter an archmage outside of their own soul, you're interacting with a particularly solid astral projection.

                            Archmasters can link their Roads to more places than just the Astral; by spending enough time in a place or otherwise building up enough of a mystical connection to it, an archmaster can end their projection to form a (normally very obvious) gate to that place, which exists along their Golden Road at a point in the meditation "track" set by the archmaster for as long as they maintain that connection. If they're powerful enough to create or incorporate one of the personal soul-worlds known as a Chantry, they can instead make one of these gateways lead to that Chantry. (This is important mostly because, without powerful magic to rewrite the way a gateway works, gates into the Golden Road are purely mental and can play merry havoc with the usual rules of astral projection; entering a gate to a Chantry is usually a whole-body affair.)

                            Usually the scenery surrounding the literal-pathway portion of the Golden Road is indistinct but colored by the archmaster's current emotional state, with the territory running through the gulf of anti-reality before the entrance to the Supernal taking on a particularly terrifying cast; there's no exit placed here by default, but this is where an archmaster forms a gateway if they want to truck with stuff that can't exist and other divine mishaps made not-quite-real.

                            The Supernal, as mentioned above, will normally annihilate anything that isn't native to it or rocking enough godlike power and insight to make sense of it. Archmasters can, with substantial effort, create what's called a Lustrum — a contextualizing symbolic experience of the Supernal that can be interacted with like regular scenes. Supernal gods can create Lustrums for visitors that last as long as they want, and even the empty domain of a god cast down by the Titanomachy-equivalent can offer temporary shelter as well; the Awakening is the product of a Lustrum created by (and merged with — don't ask how, it's weird) the unfathomably powerful Artifacts that are the Watchtowers.

                            One important thing about Lustrums: They limit what can interact with you as much as they allow you to interact with the Supernal at all. Supernal beings whose symbolic nature doesn't fit with the Lustrum don't participate in it; two characters can be exploring the same part of the Supernal and never cross paths with each other, because synchronizing your experiences is a deliberate act.

                            We good so far? I've left out a couple of specialized terms here and there, but I think I've hit the bulk of the prep.

                            Where this fits into 1e Mage's view of the True Fae is this: The Old Gods of Thistle are Supernal gods — the description of how Old Gods act in the Supernal is fairly flush with how the Fae act. They are extremely weird Supernal gods — most divinities don't strictly need a Lustrum or a physical body (add whatever air-quotes around that phrase you need for it to make sense), because a Supernal god is more of a place than a person-scale being. The True Fae are symbols of Time-as-narrative-progression extended and constrained by Fate-bound oaths, and the way that manifests is that they are:

                            1. A "place" in the Supernal, occupied or otherwise (see the aforementioned domains of Titanomachy-equivalent gods).
                            2. A Lustrum conveying a narrative within that "place" (and again, Lustrums can serve as a barrier to inappropriate participants and it's speculated that the Fae can't even acknowledge each other without an existing agreement).
                            3. A "main character" in that narrative (this being what most of us are talking about when we talk about "a True Fae").

                            So we have a part of Heaven, which cannot be safely experienced without a filter, that is constantly under a filter (in much the same way that no mage's Awakening will obliterate them from existence because "approaching the Watchtower" is synonymous with "in a Lustrum"). This is good (well, "good"), because the Fae are in the habit of abducting people who are definitely not capable of parsing the immanent power of reality even after drinking the water and drawing a paycheck.

                            Speaking of those abductions, the Hedge is speculated by archmasters to connect Arcadia and Earth in a similar manner to their own Golden Roads — it has the tie to dreams and weird gateways and places of power down pat, along with terrifying soul-eating bad terrain — except that the Hedge isn't tied to one being and it's a lot more labyrinthine and hostile.* Considering the kind of weird semi-horrifying identity shenanigans that all three of the gamelines with notional real estate in Heaven partake of,** it's not hard to see how a bunch of story-gods hitched to an edifice of supernaturally-enforced agreements that makes 1914-era European diplomacy look like a Junior Jumble would result in a largely unpredictable-from-the-outside schedule of Hedge-gate-formation.

                            It's by no means a comprehensive explanation, but it doesn't need to be to help build out particular ways in which the two frameworks by which Heaven is encountered are compatible at the level at which they are likely to be engaged while also being specifically weird in ways that individual tables can explore as they like.

                            * There's a comparison that could be made (but isn't made directly within Imperial Mysteries, where this perspective on the Fae is mostly drawn from) between this and the soul-fortresses of archmasters who serve the Exarchs, the tyrant-symbols who (on paper, at least, although the Fae come at this weird and sideways and out of context) rule the Supernal as it currently defines the human experience of reality (they're the mythological winners of that Titanomachy I keep talking about). The Exarchs tend to burn through their chief slaves the Ministers, and a Minister will often have the Chantries of their predecessors grafted onto their own Golden Roads, which gives them access to powerful servants but also tend to make them effectively prisoners in their own souls.

                            **One True Fae can be fourteen people, a beach, and a cursed sword; "the father contains the name of the son" is a summary of one character's account of reclaiming their self-determination from the Judges of Death through the Nameless Serpent, as well as a summary of why the beings that created the Arisen are stuck in Hell; and a story in the Fallen World Fiction Anthology specifically concerns a character's attempt to take back his soul after an archmaster of Time introduced in Imperial Mysteries grafts it onto his own to skirt the rules he agreed to play by when he became an archmaster, to say nothing of the recurring variant of archmaster's-bid-for-godhood that essentially runs "I'll help a fallen god get back into Heaven, and in so doing hitch my star to that one."

                            Resident Lore-Hound
                            Currently Consuming: Hunter: the Vigil 1e


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Leliel View Post
                              I have it that Changeling Arcadia is a different timeline of Supernal Arcadia for my fanfic. The victory of the Exarchs split it it off as a reflection of "a world completely controlled by the Ruin and Prophet's ideologies." Which is to say, a world of masters, slaves, and existential dread of action vs. death.
                              I use something similar to what was suggested in 1E's Imperial Mysteries book, that Fae Arcadia was split off from Supernal Arcadia, and altered to prevent a repeat of another such event, so that it no longer bears much in common with the original, and that's part of why The Hedge exists, as a defense against the next bunch of arrogant wonder workers who think they can do the same. The Fae that were left behind in Supernal Arcadia had their nature altered and now conform to human expectations, while the modern Gentry are the descendants of the original "Wild Fae" who were never conquered. According to Imperial Mystereries, The true Gentry are something like a Rank 6 or 7 Spirit. This refers to the actual Fae, not their avatars, in the form of Actors that most encounter. For my part, I prefer the Lovecraftian, cosmic horror that the original 1E Gentry offered, as opposed to the 2E take on them.

                              Edit: I think that Satchel pretty much has the right of it in their above posting.
                              Last edited by Van Owen; 10-12-2020, 09:37 PM.