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The View from the Ground - A Sleepwalker's Perspective

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  • The View from the Ground - A Sleepwalker's Perspective

    Mage: The Awakening is a game about Mages. It is understandable that the game's books focus on things from the perspective of the Awakened. Here is how the Awakened exist, their secret societies, secret laws, secret libraries, secrets secrets secrets. It can give the impression that the secret world they inhabit is predominantly populated, thus, by the Awakened, walled off from all other people.

    This isn't the case. The books try and periodically disabuse us readers of the notion, but when everything about Mage is about Mages, the perspective of just what life is like for everyone else sort of gets left by the wayside. Despite the majority of people in the secret world not being Mages, we get precious little about them. This isn't a criticism, it's a necessary part of the books, but it leaves me wondering and thinking and that's the origin of this thread.

    What does the secret world look like to Sleepers? How "populated" is it? How much do people know? How connected is everyone? What's the "average" Sleeper or Sleepwalker like when they know something of the big secret? How do the Orders look from the outside?

    To start us off, I'm going to throw out a quote from Dave over at the RPGNet forums:

    CofD mages are semi-visible: anyone with a dot or two of Occult knows the Orders exist, even if only as shadowy groups intertwined with all the publically visible occult societies. There's more Sleepwalker members of the Orders than fully-Awakened mages.
    Two dots in Occult represents some pretty significant investment of time and effort into chasing the occult, and probably reasonable skill in performing real, if minor, occult tricks like making amulets or exorcising a spirit or ghost. This is more than just your average person who likes to hang on conspiracy theory forums (though, in truth, I imagine many do).

    (And Dave, if you're thinking of pitching a Sleepwalker Book, I'd definitely buy it, even if it's just a short 25-50 page supplement or something.)

    So, with that, the floor's open. What's the secret world look like in your game, from someone on the ground?

  • #2
    This is tangential to the subject, but I think it's still relevant. I've always wondered about the role of non-Supernal sorceries within the Orders. The most powerful tools Mages have at their disposal are cursed with Dissonance and Quiescence. They can't share them with the world without damaging Sleepers or having their Spells deteriorate. In most cases this doesn't stop Mages from getting things done, but when you want to cure your Sleeper loved one's congenital condition, there is nothing you can do. The Silver Ladder and Free Council would kill to be able to fix that. Mysterium hoards all knowledge on the matter of principle and even Guardians would appreciate assets that don't cause Paradox.

    Since Mage Sight reacts to all supernatural phenomena, Mages must have their hands on all sorts of creatures, objects and places of power. If there is anyone who benefits from or manages these resources, it's Sleepers and Sleepwalkers. Some Sleepers can swear fealty to an Order-allied Spirit, to gain its blessings. Mages should be more accepting of an un-aging Sleeper that a Lich. Others are qualified to use Cursed Items, once loopholes for their curses are discovered. "A beauty cream that makes ugly ladies pretty but also makes them blind" is a beauty cream for blind people. Still others can make use of a cabin in the woods where all surgeries succeed, and some even become Fallen spellcasters. What do Sekhem magicians do? I don't know, but it's probably awesome.

    If there is ever a Sleepwalker Book, I think it should cover this subject. It can even include allied Ephemeral Entities and other strangeness.


    Find my Homebrew Fangs of Mara 2ed update Here

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    • #3
      Not tangential at all, I promise you.

      Thaumaturgy is a really interesting thing. It's not necessary to perform non-Supernal sorceries - even just a few dots in Occult is enough to make an amulet or bind/abjure/exorcise a spirit - but it does feel like the sort of thing Mages would track closely. It feels like the sort of thing the Mystery Cult Initiation merit was made for, and something that mystagogues in particular would track with great interest.

      There is actually a note in the Mysterium book that athenaea were once places in which Sleepers could come to learn thaumaturgy, to become Sleepwalkers and eventually potentially Awaken. Whether this is actually the case or merely fanciful legend is up to the ST, I think, but I like the idea of thaumaturgical cults. Teachable magic seems like something that Mages would be all over, like flies to vinegar.

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      • #4
        Considering the direction that the Orders have taken in 2e I think it would be highly likely that the Orders employ thaumaturges as a matter of course. They easily fall into that fringe of people who can know about and not contaminate the Mysteries that Mages pursue while having just enough personal power to not always be relegated to the noble position of Mage Secretary.

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        • #5
          I always wondered about who actually runs the Orders. I mean, as powerful as they are, the Awakened get distracted very easily, and there's a fairly consistent trend in the books that the Orders are generally coordinated by the mid-ranking members whilst the magisters tend to disapear off for extended periods.

          So I've toyed with the idea that much of the practical organisation is carried out by sleepwalker retainers. Not disimiliar to the way the Arisen are treated by their cults; the mummy has a veto over the cult's actions but in practice the retainers are the ones making the everyday decisions.


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          • #6
            I think it really depends on the Order. I guess that's kind of the cop out answer, but it's true!

            The Silver Ladder probably uses most Sleepwalkers as Mage Secretaries, even when they are capable of non-supernal magics. The goal is to free ourselves of the Exarchs' dominion, and the only way to do that is to Ascend. Everyone has their place in the Imperial Mysteries, and Sleepwalkers are Mage Secretaries.

            The Adamantine Arrow is probably one of the more egalitarian Orders towards Sleepwalkers. There's no reason that a Sleepwalker can't fight the good fight just as well as any Awakened Mage. There'd probably be pressure for them to figure out how to Awaken, but as long as they upheld the Adamant Hand, I don't see any reason they wouldn't be equal members.

            The Guardians of the Veil definitely have a large number of Sleepwalkers, way more than actual Awakened Mages. And unlike the other Diamond Orders, they're probably more than content to keep their Sleepwalkers Sleepwalkers. They are useful in the war against the Exarchs, free as they are of the Lie, and they don't have any of the ability to screw up Reality that a(n unworthy) Mage might. A non-supernal magic using Sleepwalker would likely be kept under close surveillance.

            The Mysterium almost definitely just relegates its Sleepwalkers to Mage Secretaries, and isn't even as nice about it as the Silver Ladder are. Sleepwalkers are tools to be used in order to test knowledge and uncover secrets. Non-supernal magic wielding Sleepwalkers are a curiosity, at least, as their magic probably has -some- kind of link to the Supernal in some symbolic way, and worth studying, but they're still not Awakened and therefore still not worth anyone's time.

            The Free Council probably sees no difference between a non-supernal magic wielding Sleepwalker and an Awakened Mage. You do you.

            Sleepwalkers have their place in the Iron Pyramid. And it is beneath the lowest Mages. Still above regular Sleepers, though. They are Mage Secretaries, sure, but probably very important in the scheme of Sleeper society. Mystery Cult Leaders and corrupt corporate executives. Etc.

            That's my take, anyway.

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            • #7
              I had a nice, long write up for this but just as I was typing the last sentence Windows 10 decided to do a Watchdog Violation and pissed it all into the wind, so this will be terse and short in comparison.
              ​In 2ed we are given the example of the Hototogisu in Tokyo and I will relate my ideas to this example.
              ​Most of these groups will be made up of four tiers, like concentric rings of reducing size until you reach the final one in the center.
              ​The first tier is made up almost exclusively of Sleepers. They are the lay members, the man on the street who only knows his part in the organization. Often times they won't even know they are part of a greater organization. In the Hototogisu example these are the employees of the different businesses. This is the public face, visible on the street.
              ​The second tier is made up of a mixture of Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, with Sleepers still being the greater in number. They are the mid-level managers that tie the activities of the different 'cells' together. These are the guys with two dots in Occult. They know they are part of a larger organization, they know at least the basic goal of that organization and they know about the supernatural, but probably not about the Awakened. In the Hototogisu these people still work for the individual businesses but they often coordinate with their opposites in other businesses.
              ​The third tier is still made up of a mixture but for the first time Sleepwalkers outnumber Sleepers. These people serve as a buffer between the Awakened and the uninitiated, protecting Supernal magic from Dissonance and the Sleepers from Breaking Points. In the Hototogisu these people make up the 'Friday Club'. This is the point where knowledge of the Awakened and Mage society comes in.
              ​The fourth tier is the center and it is made up of the Mages themselves. Most will hold nominal positions within the third tier for their interactions with tiers one and two.
              ​Not even the Vampires know about the fourth tier.
              Last edited by 2ptTakrill; 02-20-2017, 07:09 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by 2ptTakrill View Post
                I had a nice, long write up for this but just as I was typing the last sentence Windows 10 decided to do a Watchdog Violation and pissed it all into the wind, so this will be terse and short in comparison.
                ​In 2ed we are given the example of the Hototogisu in Tokyo and I will relate my ideas to this example.
                ​Most of these groups will be made up of four tiers, like concentric rings of reducing size until you reach the final one in the center.
                ​The first tier is made up almost exclusively of Sleepers. They are the lay members, the man on the street who only knows his part in the organization. Often times they won't even know they are part of a greater organization. In the Hototogisu example these are the employees of the different businesses. This is the public face, visible on the street.
                ​The second tier is made up of a mixture of Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, with Sleepers still being the greater in number. They are the mid-level managers that tie the activities of the different 'cells' together. These are the guys with two dots in Occult. They know they are part of a larger organization, they know at least the basic goal of that organization and they know about the supernatural, but probably not about the Awakened. In the Hototogisu these people still work for the individual businesses but they often coordinate with their opposites in other businesses.
                ​The third tier is still made up of a mixture but for the first time Sleepwalkers outnumber Sleepers. These people serve as a buffer between the Awakened and the uninitiated, protecting Supernal magic from Dissonance and the Sleepers from Breaking Points. In the Hototogisu these people make up the 'Friday Club'. This is the point where knowledge of the Awakened and Mage society comes in.
                ​The fourth tier is the center and it is made up of the Mages themselves.
                ​Not even the Vampires know about the fourth tier.

                I definitely think this is an amazing write-up for Orders like the Guardians of the Veil and the Seers of the Throne, and maybe the Silver Ladder to some extent. I feel like the Mysterium is too busy chasing down secrets and being ~~*mystical*~~ to keep up such a tight front, and the Adamantine Arrow and Free Council have...less to hide, I guess? I feel like the Free Council is kind of like if the Safehouses in "The Magicians" were to unionize and demand equal rights with Brakebills, so it's more likely to be unique organizations ranging from clubs to straight-up cults that get together in Assembly and call themselves "The Council of Free Assemblies." The Adamantine Arrow is more about Individual Ability than organization, I think.

                EDIT: Following up with the Free Council, I'd say that with them, all of it - Awakening, the Supernal, etc. are all in plain sight and not hidden at all. You just have to know who to talk to and where to look, and be able to even understand it given quiescence.
                Last edited by RomulusGloriosus; 02-20-2017, 07:18 PM. Reason: Added more.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by RomulusGloriosus View Post

                  EDIT: Following up with the Free Council, I'd say that with them, all of it - Awakening, the Supernal, etc. are all in plain sight and not hidden at all. You just have to know who to talk to and where to look, and be able to even understand it given quiescence.
                  I'm actually not sure about this; I think there'd definitely be radical/militant Free Council groups who are totally at the other end of the spectrum, especially Legacies like the Blank Badges, who are very likely organised the way Antifa groups are. If your focus is on 'Destroy the followers of the Lie', you're going to want to minimise your mundane and magical footprints, minimise the damage a captured member can do, etc etc. Some of these FC members might also be active under different guises in more open settings, but once again, it's probably only select individuals because the risk of discovery is so great.

                  EDIT: As regards similarly-inclined Sleepwalkers (of all flavours), this kind of approach is probably even more important, because they typically lack many of the options Awakened Mages have for protecting themselves (Wards, Shielding spells, Veiling/removing Sympathetic links, etc etc).
                  Last edited by Eggs Maledict; 02-20-2017, 08:40 PM. Reason: Staying on-topic

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Eggs Maledict View Post

                    I'm actually not sure about this; I think there'd definitely be radical/militant Free Council groups who are totally at the other end of the spectrum, especially Legacies like the Blank Badges, who are very likely organised the way Antifa groups are. If your focus is on 'Destroy the followers of the Lie', you're going to want to minimise your mundane and magical footprints, minimise the damage a captured member can do, etc etc. Some of these FC members might also be active under different guises in more open settings, but once again, it's probably only select individuals because the risk of discovery is so great.

                    EDIT: As regards similarly-inclined Sleepwalkers (of all flavours), this kind of approach is probably even more important, because they typically lack many of the options Awakened Mages have for protecting themselves (Wards, Shielding spells, Veiling/removing Sympathetic links, etc etc).
                    1) I love your username.
                    2) I can get behind that mainly because, as I said, the Free Council is easily the least dogmatic of the Orders. They are the only major Order that 'canonically' didn't originate from a subconscious divine epiphany, so there's that. I think one of the fun things about the Free Council is that you can say "this is how the Free Council is" and then say the exact opposite and justify saying "this is also how the Free Council is." The only things they all have in common are "we hate the Seers" and "we generally think democracy is pretty cool." I still think MOST Free Council cabals would be totally welcoming of a thaumaturge or an alchemist, however.

                    3) My reasoning for the "Free Council are really open" argument is that I think if you walk into the right occult shop or meet the right weirdo, you could easily get brought into a Free Council cabal. It's just a matter of accepting the Truth, and most people might hear "so, we're actually wizards, and we have all Awakened to realizing the world is controlled by mysterious oppressive symbols, and we use the good symbols to fight the bad symbols" and go "okay you guys are nuts." It's all out in the open, you've just got to accept it.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RomulusGloriosus View Post

                      1) I love your username.
                      Thanks!

                      2) I can get behind that mainly because, as I said, the Free Council is easily the least dogmatic of the Orders. They are the only major Order that 'canonically' didn't originate from a subconscious divine epiphany, so there's that. I think one of the fun things about the Free Council is that you can say "this is how the Free Council is" and then say the exact opposite and justify saying "this is also how the Free Council is." The only things they all have in common are "we hate the Seers" and "we generally think democracy is pretty cool." I still think MOST Free Council cabals would be totally welcoming of a thaumaturge or an alchemist, however.

                      3) My reasoning for the "Free Council are really open" argument is that I think if you walk into the right occult shop or meet the right weirdo, you could easily get brought into a Free Council cabal. It's just a matter of accepting the Truth, and most people might hear "so, we're actually wizards, and we have all Awakened to realizing the world is controlled by mysterious oppressive symbols, and we use the good symbols to fight the bad symbols" and go "okay you guys are nuts." It's all out in the open, you've just got to accept it.
                      I guess it depends on your setting, local politics etc. I can certainly see a big space for that kind of behaviour, but if you dial up the oppression/paranoia/Shadow Name stuff, you end up with a Free Council that's only out in the open insofar as they hide in plain sight. Especially if the Seers are ascendant, the FC is probably in full-on guerilla mode. They are still likely to try to recruit thaumaturges, mediums, psychics and so on, partly to try to keep them safe from the Seers and partly because they need a diverse arsenal.

                      They might also/instead have deliberate layers; an open front that'll pretty much take anyone, and then more secretive groups within that, or even supposedly separate from it in order to minimise repercussions against the public membership. Notably, they could end up looking quite similar to some Guardian arrangements, because of the desperate need for the protection of anonymity/pseudonymity.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 2ptTakrill View Post
                        I had a nice, long write up for this but just as I was typing the last sentence Windows 10 decided to do a Watchdog Violation and pissed it all into the wind, so this will be terse and short in comparison.
                        ​In 2ed we are given the example of the Hototogisu in Tokyo and I will relate my ideas to this example.
                        ​Most of these groups will be made up of four tiers, like concentric rings of reducing size until you reach the final one in the center.
                        ​The first tier is made up almost exclusively of Sleepers. They are the lay members, the man on the street who only knows his part in the organization. Often times they won't even know they are part of a greater organization. In the Hototogisu example these are the employees of the different businesses. This is the public face, visible on the street.
                        ​The second tier is made up of a mixture of Sleepers and Sleepwalkers, with Sleepers still being the greater in number. They are the mid-level managers that tie the activities of the different 'cells' together. These are the guys with two dots in Occult. They know they are part of a larger organization, they know at least the basic goal of that organization and they know about the supernatural, but probably not about the Awakened. In the Hototogisu these people still work for the individual businesses but they often coordinate with their opposites in other businesses.
                        ​The third tier is still made up of a mixture but for the first time Sleepwalkers outnumber Sleepers. These people serve as a buffer between the Awakened and the uninitiated, protecting Supernal magic from Dissonance and the Sleepers from Breaking Points. In the Hototogisu these people make up the 'Friday Club'. This is the point where knowledge of the Awakened and Mage society comes in.
                        ​The fourth tier is the center and it is made up of the Mages themselves. Most will hold nominal positions within the third tier for their interactions with tiers one and two.
                        ​Not even the Vampires know about the fourth tier.
                        The second and third tier are the same. They don't exist separately. Also, at the true second tier you don't have sleepers. Only sleepwalkers can view a spell without possibly causing paradox.

                        But yeah, how many people you have at the first and second tier depends on the order. I could see the Mysterium having fewer than the Silver Ladder and the Guardians of the Veil. However, the Arrow have fewer needs for Sleepwalkers than the Mysterium does. And the Council of Free Assemblies would vary drastically from assembly to assembly.

                        Also, that final comment makes no sense. Vampires would certainly know of the existence of Mages as being the leaders of these organizations. They're major players too, so it makes no sense for them to have no grasp on the political landscape of the supernatural world. Granted, any individual vampire/werewolf/template might not know much about mages and Mage society, but in a general sense other templates would know of the basics of Mage Society. That includes mages being at the top and in control.

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                        • #13
                          I think it was said once that the Orders are the crazy conspiracy theories that people in 'mundane' conspiracies suspect or believe in.

                          So while we're all wondering if the Templars really still exist or if the Illuminati killed JFK who was a lizardman, the people in the Illuminati are wondering if there really are Atlantean sorcerers who draw down angels out of heaven

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                          • #14
                            reseru - That's the sort of stuff I want to largely get at as well. I'm curious what the perspective of a Sleepwalker is, primarily from outside the Orders but also from within. What does the secret world look like to them? What, if anything, do they tend to know about Mages? The Orders?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RomulusGloriosus View Post
                              Sleepwalkers have their place in the Iron Pyramid. And it is beneath the lowest Mages. Still above regular Sleepers, though. They are Mage Secretaries, sure, but probably very important in the scheme of Sleeper society. Mystery Cult Leaders and corrupt corporate executives. Etc.
                              Evil butlers. They're evil butlers.


                              I call the Integrity-analogue the "subjective stat".
                              An explanation how to use Social Manuevering.
                              Guanxi Explanations: 1, 2, 3.

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