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Challenging Supernal "Truth"

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  • #16
    I mean, there's something to be said for a few mystagogues feeling like they're sufficiently enlightened to dismiss their peers, and many Mages are definitely dismissive of Sleepers, but... Yeah, seeing the universe hold up a sign that says "You are completely wrong" in only a semi-metaphorical way once or twice is enough to humble most people.

    Something to remember about Supernal "Truthiness" is that the Supernal kinda functions as a sort of ultrastructure of reality. The Tapestry of the Phenomenal World is the output of the interactions of Supernal symbols; a collected layering of Mana in the form of Patterns, which dances according to laws of the ultimate reality. The Awakened claim to tap into the ultimate source of reality when they manipulate magic and this, at least according to the gameline, appears to be correct.

    Importantly, though, nothing about that statement being correct means other forms of magic are wrong. Magic is as much as part of the Fallen World as, say, rocks or trees are; the occult laws which bind the universe weirdly seem to hold no particularly special privilege in having a "Supernal-ness" to them, which means that nothing about the Awakened view of magic is incompatible with these things and, indeed, these things betray how complex the universe is and how much the Awakened still have to learn. When a Vampire says there is power in the blood, they aren't lying; a Mage can use Focused Mage Sight with Death and Life and see that Vitae resonates with certain symbols that tells them that it's condensed living energy or... Whatever. But having Life and Death dots doesn't instantly mean a Mage knows about how Vitae works without encountering it, or even that such a thing as Vitae exists.

    Mages are people who are uniquely equipped to investigate the world, but they definitely don't know everything about it, and they even benefit in their understanding by trying to examine the world. Things like the Alchemy merit represent an understanding beyond mere Arcanum dots that arises from studying how the universe actually works, just as an off-hand example; an understanding of new ways for Supernal magic to interface with the properly-prepared Fallen World.

    That's the kind of stuff I like experimenting with; with Mages discovering some odd facet of reality and going "... Huh. I wonder what happens if I do this....".

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    • #17
      Mages don't know everything, and they know that. Scientists say this too. The problem is, the most self-assured of people cling onto certain beliefs and ideas routinely, and being one of the "Chosen ones" (Awakened) is sure to get people self-assured. Mages love to pull apart mysteries, but what if these mysteries go against dogma? Perhaps most mages just back away from them quietly, go mad, or rationalize them away. Again, this according to what kind of game you like to play. If you want to run a "Fuck Yeah! Humanity!" game, your mages are well equipped to deal with mysteries and solve them and gain knowledge. If you want to run horror, then this strips away the horror elements, your mages will believe they are equipped to solve mysteries, but then come across something that they are not equipped to examine, or something that is evidence for a heretical doctrine such as an "Atlantean" artifact depicting the seven dragons, instead of five. Or maybe they come across an ancient monster who claims to come from the Supernal realms, but describes them in a horrifying manner rather than the "enlightened" manner.

      Interestingly, I did find a setting and hook that can call Awakened lore into question well. It's the Mutapa Empire from the Dark Eras Companion. In the Mutapa Empire, Awakened magic is understood very differently than the European colonizers understand it, they don't even believe in Atlantis or the Supernal Realms! Yet it still works, and is a fundamental part of the the religious understanding of the people of the empire and the Royal Mediums, which whom they called the Awakened understand their Awakening and magic very differently. This of course scares and confuses the European colonizers who are Awakened, and so there is inevitable conflict and the question of "who is right?" comes up.

      I was reading that thread linked by ArcaneArts, where it seems the Arisen share overlap in realms by the Awakened and neither will agree or budge from their views of it. According to the Dark Eras companion, Awakened will see Arisen as an anomaly, having Life and Death arcanum simultaneously and difficult to understand through their framework, yet even Arisen will find High Speech difficult to understand. Yet, if they are speaking of the same realms, wouldn't Arisen also know High Speech?

      These are questions not meant to be answered in a few sentences and there is no such thing as canon really. I am not trying to "debunk" canon or anything like that, just asking if people have explored this re-interpretation of "canon" and instead taken the narrative of Mage (the world is a Lie yadda yadda yadda) as completely in-character rather than objective. Or was it always meant to be taken in-character?

      Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
      Indeed. It pains me to say this, but the know-it-all atmosphere comes from, to be brutally honest, some players of Mage rather than the characters in Mage.

      Well the corebook certainly pumps you up to be an arrogant know-it-all. Especially in a mixed game where you can easily end up being the Mary Sue of the group. And then hubris happens.
      Last edited by GreenKitty; 01-27-2018, 11:50 PM.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by GreenKitty View Post
        the narrative of Mage (the world is a Lie yadda yadda yadda) as completely in-character rather than objective. Or was it always meant to be taken in-character?
        It is completely objective. It is fact that there are things about the world that the vast majority of mortal human persons willfully ignore in favor of the polite and not-so-polite fiction of "monsters aren't real, there is no deeper meaning to the strange things that happen around you, and Jim from Accounting is totally not a skin-thieving collection of garden snakes with a bad sense of humor."

        It is fact that mages are people who seize upon the occult significance that lies at the heart of these and less overt oddities after being suddenly or gradually shocked out of accepting these diversions at face value. What they do with their findings is a different matter entirely.

        The Lie is not "material reality." The Lie is "the thing that uses material reality as a medium for telling you to look the other way."


        Resident Lore-Hound
        Currently Consuming: Demon: the Descent 1e

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        • #19
          Correct me if I'm wrong and making assumptions of you, but I believe you're taking this how Ascension deals with it; subjective truths and Paradigms. Nope. In Awakening 2E, the truth is objective. Distance is an illusion, death is a transition, etc. This "Atlantean paradigm" or "Diamond dogma" that often gets spoken of? The Diamond and the Seers, at least the smart ones, know damn well there wasn't a literal Atlantis. It's just a catchy name they gave to their symbol of an ideal society, based on the Supernal concept of the Fall From Paradise that appears in mythologies all over the world. Just like how scientists know that their theories can't explain every single phenomena but use it anyway as a point of reference, mages know that their model can't explain every single mystery but use it anyway. Which is why the book is called The Fallen World Chronicles; the entire Fallen World serves the same function of the "throw a wrench into your stable lives" that the Strix, Idigam, Firestorms, and Huntsmen do in their respective gamelines.

          Despite running on objective Truth, the thing is that mages are still people, and two people can have completely different interpretations of what they see together. Hence, ideologies and perspectives. Hence, Mutapa mages seeing their Paths manifest as ancestor spirits and not otherworlds. Hence, Neolithic Acanthus seeing a vast sky rather than Wonderland when peeking into Arcadia.

          Another thing is that mages seeing the Truth doesn't mean that they see the entirety of it. What they see is True, but they aren't seeing everything. And sometimes they never even know that there are other places to look at in the first place. Hence, oddities such as Sekhem and the Divine Fire. Hence, Libertine mages finding Supernal Truth in places where their Diamond peers don't usually bother to look at.

          Now, how does the Lie fit into this? Ever heard how a lie is more effective with a kernel of truth in it, rather than being built of straight bullshit? That's how the Exarchs' Lie works. The Lie is so insidious because it is still True, but geared to divert people from looking at the whole picture. It is still light, but light that blinds instead of illuminates. Yes, the weak fear the strong. But fear can be overcome, and the strong can learn to protect the weak. Yes, vision is power. But vision need not be unilateral, and power need not manifest as control.


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          • #20
            Originally posted by Satchel View Post
            It is completely objective. It is fact that there are things about the world that the vast majority of mortal human persons willfully ignore in favor of the polite and not-so-polite fiction of "monsters aren't real, there is no deeper meaning to the strange things that happen around you, and Jim from Accounting is totally not a skin-thieving collection of garden snakes with a bad sense of humor."

            It is fact that mages are people who seize upon the occult significance that lies at the heart of these and less overt oddities after being suddenly or gradually shocked out of accepting these diversions at face value. What they do with their findings is a different matter entirely.

            The Lie is not "material reality." The Lie is "the thing that uses material reality as a medium for telling you to look the other way."
            21C Hermit -no I am not talking about subjective reality as in Ascension, I'm talking about subjective as in "If one day you Awakened, and then asked the other Awakened what is going on, this is what they tell you" subjective, the kind you hope is objective. Subjective means "this is how it is according to X" subjective, not that subjective determines objective. Which you just explained as well, but it's ultimately up to the ST on what is really going on.

            Let me just quote what it says in Dark Eras Companion (please let me know if this is against the rules of the board due to copyright):
            "This section renders Mage, Mummy, and other aspects of the setting of the Chronicles of Darkness down to the basic principles they need to be consistent in their game systems and a setting with multiple perspectives on common, if enigmatic, truths. These principles may dig further into the fundamentals than you might expect. For instance, Shona mages possess a completely different approach to magic, but construct it based on the same universals expressed in existing game systems and Mage’s deep thematic currents. They believe in ancestor families, not Paths. There are no distant Supernal Realms.

            They aren’t necessarily wrong.

            This section isn’t intended to be the sort of “reskinning” where we add a layer to the ur-mythology, imply that everybody else knows better and move on. How do we really know there are Supernal Realms? How is a place with no relationship in space with our world, and no way to objectively measure, said to truly exist outside of a reaction to some profound mystical experience? The Shona method is reductive and conservative, recognizing states of being without turning them into enormous invisible kingdoms.

            This applies to the relationship between lines as well. Mummy’s “Underworld” consists of the “realm” of Neter-Khertet, which other Chronicles of Darknessgames call a “state,” Twilight, and reserve the term “Underworld” for the chthonic tunnel world of rivers and dominions beyond Avernian gates. But when we look at it through functional criteria, the difference begins to blur. Ghosts in immaterial form often interact with each other. If they share a frame of reference, is that a location or a state? Is a gate to deeper realms in the Underworld travel between planes of existence, or simply passing through an unusual barrier?

            The world of the Chronicles of Darkness isn’t created by the subjective opinions of its inhabitants, but it is described subjectively. Culture and history inform reactions to universal phenomena. It’s a wider harbor than you think, and unlocks new ways of thinking about the setting."
            I guess it's up to the ST whether or not any metaplot is objective then? Leaving the question open-ended rather than taking it face value. When reading the corebook I often had a feeling that what I was reading felt skewed in some way, and it was meant to be taken that way, especially all the very "Hallelujah praise the Supernal!"-sounding parts which led me to the creation of this thread. Then again you don't have to take this sourcebook material as canon either. Just I wondered if the whole story of the Exarchs, the Lie, The Supernal etc. should be taken as "This is what mages believe and this is how they explain their world." And yet it is also implied that it may not mesh coherently with what the other supernaturals (Especially mummies and demons) would say, so there is that room for re-interpretation there.

            Please let me also re-iterate my intent with this thread: There is no such thing as canon really, so my intent is not the "challenge" canon but to ask if anyone else has explored these ideas.
            Last edited by GreenKitty; 01-28-2018, 01:21 AM.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by GreenKitty View Post

              21C Hermit -no I am not talking about subjective reality as in Ascension, I'm talking about subjective as in "If one day you Awakened, and then asked the other Awakened what is going on, this is what they tell you" subjective, the kind you hope is objective. Subjective means "this is how it is according to X" subjective, not that subjective determines objective. Which you just explained as well, but it's ultimately up to the ST on what is really going on.
              Ah, then I was sorely mistaken. Sorry for that, it's a pet peeve of mine.

              Let me just quote what it says in Dark Eras Companion (please let me know if this is against the rules of the board due to copyright):
              "This section renders Mage, Mummy, and other aspects of the setting of the Chronicles of Darkness down to the basic principles they need to be consistent in their game systems and a setting with multiple perspectives on common, if enigmatic, truths. These principles may dig further into the fundamentals than you might expect. For instance, Shona mages possess a completely different approach to magic, but construct it based on the same universals expressed in existing game systems and Mage’s deep thematic currents. They believe in ancestor families, not Paths. There are no distant Supernal Realms.

              They aren’t necessarily wrong.

              This section isn’t intended to be the sort of “reskinning” where we add a layer to the ur-mythology, imply that everybody else knows better and move on. How do we really know there are Supernal Realms? How is a place with no relationship in space with our world, and no way to objectively measure, said to truly exist outside of a reaction to some profound mystical experience? The Shona method is reductive and conservative, recognizing states of being without turning them into enormous invisible kingdoms.

              This applies to the relationship between lines as well. Mummy’s “Underworld” consists of the “realm” of Neter-Khertet, which other Chronicles of Darknessgames call a “state,” Twilight, and reserve the term “Underworld” for the chthonic tunnel world of rivers and dominions beyond Avernian gates. But when we look at it through functional criteria, the difference begins to blur. Ghosts in immaterial form often interact with each other. If they share a frame of reference, is that a location or a state? Is a gate to deeper realms in the Underworld travel between planes of existence, or simply passing through an unusual barrier?

              The world of the Chronicles of Darkness isn’t created by the subjective opinions of its inhabitants, but it is described subjectively. Culture and history inform reactions to universal phenomena. It’s a wider harbor than you think, and unlocks new ways of thinking about the setting."
              Re-emphasized the bolded parts to show you what I felt were the imperative parts there.

              I guess it's up to the ST whether or not any metaplot is objective then? Leaving the question open-ended rather than taking it face value. When reading the corebook I often had a feeling that what I was reading felt skewed in some way, and it was meant to be taken that way, especially all the very "Hallelujah praise the Supernal!"-sounding parts which led me to the creation of this thread. Then again you don't have to take this sourcebook material as canon either. Just I wondered if the whole story of the Exarchs, the Lie, The Supernal etc. should be taken as "This is what mages believe and this is how they explain their world." And yet it is also implied that it may not mesh coherently with what the other supernaturals (Especially mummies and demons) would say, so there is that room for re-interpretation there.
              Since my joining the debate was to argue against Subjective Reality in Awakening, I have to say that in the end it seems that I agree with you more than I thought I did. All's well that ends well.

              Please let me also re-iterate my intent with this thread: There is no such thing as canon really, so my intent is not the "challenge" canon but to ask if anyone else has explored these ideas.
              Well, to shamelessly promote myself, I do have homebrew 2E conversions of a 1E Legacy that says "Oh, screw all that 'Atlantean' nonsense!" right here...
              Last edited by 21C Hermit; 01-28-2018, 06:26 AM.


              MtAw Homebrew:
              Even more Legacies, updated to 2E
              New 2E Legacies, expanded

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              • #22
                Interesting discussion. My head-cannon is also basically the "Supernal is the Truth, but beyond it is God/Empyrean/Whatever that is the TRUTH!". The way I describe it is that the Supernal Realms aren't really realms at all, they're basically the file structure behind the source code of reality.

                Imagine you're a self-aware character in a video game. You receive sensory input that allows you to interpret the world around you, which follows (more or less) consistent rules. Now imagine that one day, you somehow glimpse the programming behind everything in your worfd. Now, this isn't like The Matrix where everything is a hologram made of ones and zeros. No, what you are seeing is completely outside your reference frame. Your "eyes" are programmed to receive 3DObject pointers, not theUniverse.py. You are seeing the logic behind the fabric of your reality. You see raw information and a cascade of logic switches, so much that the tiny amount of memory allocated to be your brain could never process it all. So either you get get a NullPoitnerException and crash (read: go mad) or you develop a paradigm of some sort, something in your reference frame that you can use to interpret it all. You picture a '~' key, and as your vision greys out you mutter: "toggle clipping". With this arcane knowledge, and the ability to access the fundamental aspects of objects around you, you become a god among men. You know the Truth of how the Universe works. You are Awakened. Meanwhile, the programmer/God smiles to himself as his watches his creation think itself so powerful and intelligent for glimpsing the rules behind one of his many worlds.

                Now, all of that was just an incomplete analogy that your brain can comprehend in order to try and understand the Supernal Realms . In short, mages can hack reality, but they can't change the operating system or add new hardware.

                In this case, the Abyss is the roiling mass of forgotten pointers no one cleaned up. Witnessing it causes a segmentation fault (core dump).

                I'm sorry if any coders reading that broke out in a cold sweat.


                The longer I study science the more I am convinced that it is functionally indistinguishable from what our ancestors would refer to as sorcery. And I would know, being both scientist and sorcerer.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Scriptorian View Post
                  Interesting discussion. My head-cannon is also basically the "Supernal is the Truth, but beyond it is God/Empyrean/Whatever that is the TRUTH!". The way I describe it is that the Supernal Realms aren't really realms at all, they're basically the file structure behind the source code of reality.

                  Imagine you're a self-aware character in a video game. You receive sensory input that allows you to interpret the world around you, which follows (more or less) consistent rules. Now imagine that one day, you somehow glimpse the programming behind everything in your worfd. Now, this isn't like The Matrix where everything is a hologram made of ones and zeros. No, what you are seeing is completely outside your reference frame. Your "eyes" are programmed to receive 3DObject pointers, not theUniverse.py. You are seeing the logic behind the fabric of your reality. You see raw information and a cascade of logic switches, so much that the tiny amount of memory allocated to be your brain could never process it all. So either you get get a NullPoitnerException and crash (read: go mad) or you develop a paradigm of some sort, something in your reference frame that you can use to interpret it all. You picture a '~' key, and as your vision greys out you mutter: "toggle clipping". With this arcane knowledge, and the ability to access the fundamental aspects of objects around you, you become a god among men. You know the Truth of how the Universe works. You are Awakened. Meanwhile, the programmer/God smiles to himself as his watches his creation think itself so powerful and intelligent for glimpsing the rules behind one of his many worlds.

                  Now, all of that was just an incomplete analogy that your brain can comprehend in order to try and understand the Supernal Realms . In short, mages can hack reality, but they can't change the operating system or add new hardware.

                  In this case, the Abyss is the roiling mass of forgotten pointers no one cleaned up. Witnessing it causes a segmentation fault (core dump).

                  I'm sorry if any coders reading that broke out in a cold sweat.
                  The Virtual Adepts approve of this Para- uh, paradigm.


                  MtAw Homebrew:
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                  New 2E Legacies, expanded

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                  • #24
                    1) Ha, no. "Truth" is a word. Mages, like any other line, have an extra glimpse of What The World Really Is, but it's nothing that special. They mostly just look really comprehensive because Awakened magic covers most of what we can think of. There's a reason this comprehensiveness sort of... cracks as soon as you crossover.

                    2) The programmer analogy is fun. Paths aren't file structures, though; they're higher-level languages that are compiled down into opcode imagos. Moros like to componentize and encapsulate their data structures as bundles of state, whereas Obrimos tend to essentialize things into declarative litanies of constant definition modified wholly through a centralized, eternal loop. Thyrsus break concepts apart into microservice structures that all have their own idea of how to do things, but sweep together into a great river of data flow that makes sense as a whole. Mastigos specialize in reflective designs that introspect upon themselves to dynamically generate self-propagating code that creates more code in subtle, fractal depth. And Acanthus build actor networks that race each other to completion, chaining timeshare across the quantum possibilities on processing units, tossing messages across concurrent, parallel worlds that may or may not make it to their receivers.

                    3) I've seen this explored a little bit in APs (there's a London-based game that goes exploring a parallel world, for example), but I haven't had a chance to play in one that pokes around in the question more directly.


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

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Errol216 View Post
                      1) Ha, no. "Truth" is a word. Mages, like any other line, have an extra glimpse of What The World Really Is, but it's nothing that special. They mostly just look really comprehensive because Awakened magic covers most of what we can think of. There's a reason this comprehensiveness sort of... cracks as soon as you crossover.
                      The organization, too. You don't have that much organization and research in other games, so it can seem like the Orders really know what they're talking about. Similar to the Lancea et Sanctum, a comparable group.

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                      • #26
                        The programmer analogy seems like something fun to have libertines start talking about, and abandoning the religious-sounding stuff. It would be no more of a deviation, actually its less of a deviation than the Shona's explanation and perspective. Especially since it may be interpreted that the "Lie" isn't really a Lie but just the output of that code.

                        If Supernal symbols are like high-level languages then some may bring up "why is this in a format WE can grasp?"

                        Taking this even further would it be fair to say other splats have access to the codes in some other fashion?
                        Last edited by GreenKitty; 01-30-2018, 05:16 AM.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by GreenKitty View Post
                          The programmer analogy seems like something fun to have libertines start talking about, and abandoning the religious-sounding stuff.
                          The Mysterium book has a short section on the analogies that the Awakened use. Of the six mentioned, only two are really religious. The foundational document of the Order for example uses the analogy of the human body.


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                          • #28
                            It’s not the Diamond but the Seers who will be offended by such ‘modern’ analogies. Remember, hide-bound and traditionalist the Diamond may be, but they aren’t the guys religiously worshipping the concepts of authoritarianism.

                            The Diamond will call the program analogy unorthodox. The Seers will call it heresy and condemn it as blasphemy.


                            MtAw Homebrew:
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                            New 2E Legacies, expanded

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Michael View Post
                              The Mysterium book has a short section on the analogies that the Awakened use. Of the six mentioned, only two are really religious. The foundational document of the Order for example uses the analogy of the human body.
                              That sounds pretty religious to me.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by GreenKitty View Post
                                If Supernal symbols are like high-level languages then some may bring up "why is this in a format WE can grasp?"
                                That's a good question.

                                Here's a counter: the only reason you can grasp it is because you Awakened. It's not enlightenment: your brain was literally turned into an alien's capable of understanding. Or is there a difference between the two? Maybe magic isn't for humans.

                                You get to pick if that's Banisher mentality or Seer mentality.

                                Originally posted by GreenKitty View Post
                                Taking this even further would it be fair to say other splats have access to the codes in some other fashion?
                                I think that that's reasonable. In coderland there's a concept of "Domain-Specific Languages", which feel like what Vampires and Werewolves have access to. The trade-off of a DSL is that, while it's much easier to say what you want, what you can actually do is somewhat constrained. Essentially, a grammar that's easier to work with in return for a more limited vocabulary. Alternately, you can think of them as built applications. Your internet browser is written in one language or another, but it doesn't really matter which as long as you can do what you want, yes?

                                On the other hand, at that point, we're basically using Mage-concepts to think about other splats, which is a recipe for hubris. There's a throwaway line in a novel by someone learning a new culture: "Use the foreign words; they are much less likely to deceive with false assumptions." Crossover is its own thing, and canon breaks down pretty naturally as a result.


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

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