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  • GreenKitty
    started a topic Challenging Supernal "Truth"

    Challenging Supernal "Truth"

    I've gotten into a lot of White Wolf material for some time and more or less recently had been invited to Mage to play and potentially an ST.

    Please note I am not attempting to "challenge" canon-as there really is no strict canon. These are some musings and ideas about a possible re-interpretion if the metaplot especially if you want an even darker flavor of Mage.

    So as I read a lot about the metaplot of Mage, a nagging question keeps coming to me-and that is if the idea of "Supernal Truth" is even "true" at all. I guess the know-it-all atmosphere of mage society and perspectives seemed to have me thinking about its potential fragility. But then I was pleasantly glad to have found the Chronicler's Guide that did have some setting variations in which the source of magic was something different altogether, and quite horrible too.

    The question gets more compelling when considering one of the core themes of Mage is hubris. Some of the material such as Magic Traditions points out the idea of the supernal being present among sleeper lore and experiences, maybe even sleeper magic (why don't they suffer quiesense though?) yet most awakened are too arrogant to talk to them. Yet, they claim to be always chasing after more and more mystical knowledge, yet when they get it, they may also scoff it off as just another “Fallen” lie. So there can be massive holes in the understanding of magic, ones massive enough to challenge many beliefs hold dear, not just Atlantis but everything else. For example, most mages might be frustrated at paradox, and thus claim its a force meant to sabotage magic-but it could also be that its to keep mages in line and prevent magic from corrupting the world rather than being something often described as "evil".

    Then there are the other supernatural beings with their own perspectives and magic. The mummies especially speak of a different system of magic from their old empire. I see an interesting contradiction in which a mage's perspective seems rather privileged and special compared to the others, after all the "Awakened" have seen the "Truth" and the world is a "Lie"-even the Shadow and (changeling) Arcadia, while they revel in their own "Truth" realms. And they say that this is the true and natural state of humans. Yet beasts regard them as just another monster, and so do some other groups as well. If I can recall a snippet of the mage perspective of beasts from the Beast corebook is that they are just interesting sleepers, and don't prod much further than that, which probably indicates bias on the types of knowledge mages pursue-perhaps those kernels of knowledge that don't uplift their status and instead equalize it are ignored! One can interpret that both sides are flawed and unreliable of course.

    The Supernal seems to all about meaning, and that the world is meaningful and glorious in its perfection (at least before Exarchs), and yet somehow only mages are privy to it; the others, even the purified loose connection to the Supernal when changed, so there are a lot ways to explore the idea of Supernal Lies and maybe even Abyssal Truths-that maybe things really are meaningless and contradictions are part of the natural order of things, not from an “infection” of the Abyss. I also saw this thread about philosophical antagonists that got be intrigued, especially about the idea of a form of magic that runs on a completely different idea of “Truth” butting heads with “Awakened" magic.

    It would be a spectacular and horrid twist if say, the Abyss was right all along and it was the "Supernal" that was the infection. Or maybe both are and a third other is the natural state.

    So I am asking here if anyone has explored these ideas in their own games.

  • 21C Hermit
    replied
    Even if the mainstream perspective changes, the Supernal remains as the descriptive structure of Reality. No matter how hardly mages end up believing the Supernal is bad and/or wrong, it’ll still be there doing its job of defining reality. Remember, we’re not talking about Consensual reality here.

    EDIT: On the other hand, said description of reality being harmful to reality when in great amount of exposure implies interesting things about the world, specifically how Truth and Reality interact. I just sum it up with the old statement, “truth hurts.”
    Last edited by 21C Hermit; 04-19-2018, 12:06 AM.

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  • nofather
    replied
    Werewolf's forum has a lot of 'they're hosts' theories and, before Sundered World and a bit after (not everyone has Dark Eras), 'Pangaea was a myth, so what really happened?' That's before getting into the Pure/Forsaken divide. Questioning the given truths of a game isn't exactly new to this thread. Changeling posited that perhaps the True Fae were fallen angels, people keep attempting to attach Prometheus' Principle to the anti-God-Machine, or mage's Aether, and so forth.

    GreenKitty As a werewolf fan who has seen these kinds of threads, introducing your idea with 'You're wrong and your characters are actually negatively affecting everything' isn't exactly going to get an exceptional success on a social roll. If you really like the idea, feel free to flesh it out in an appropriate thread that lets people know you're theorycrafting or homebrewing, but as it is all we have is the books, and while they do portray things from a perspective originating from the gameline the book belongs to, that's so players and storytellers have a better grasp on what the game should be like, rather than an empirical 'This is the what all characters across all books know and believe.'

    All that said, rather than looking at things like the Supernal is a disease, and noting as Satchel has said the Supernal is the symbols that define things, or things are defined by, a simple way to go would be to look at the Supernal as a form of order and structure. 'This means this.' With mages acting as the eyes and ears through which things are determined to be right, or not, and simultaneously gaining benefits from that relationship.
    Last edited by nofather; 04-18-2018, 11:27 PM.

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  • GreenKitty
    replied
    Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
    I don't understand why people are so much more interested in constructing frameworks that prove the metaphysical premise of Mage "wrong" than in doing the same to anybody else. I don't remember any threads about how changelings are actually steadily mutating the world into an extension of Faerie by signing onto their Contracts through the Wyrd, or how the Shadow Realm isn't actually the sundered remnant of an ancient time when men could travel into the lands of the spirits, or how the Duat is an interpretation of a hallucinatory death experience by mad immortals who have forgotten they actually all did this to themselves and recast the voices of their own inner ids and principles as Judges of Life and Death.

    The Mage books aren't lying to you when they describe the experience of Supernal truth and its role in existence. That doesn't intrinsically morally justify mages, or mean every influence of supernal truth is positive (the Exarchs are right there, and the Bound were bound for a reason), or make supernal sorcery better or more legitimate than other supernatural workings. But the premise is that Plato's forms influence the shadows on the cave wall, like how the premise of Werewolf is that each thing of flesh has its reflection in spirit.

    See the first post. Also it's a thematic way of highlighting the themes of hubris, mages-as-monsters, and injecting more horror into a cosmology that if true says "these people are gifted with the understructure of reality-all of it" which could put them seemingly above other splats, and yes even in those other splats it's good to put up some horrid ambiguity to set a specific mood if that's your thing. This is all just "what ifs", and it's a setting variant that is discussed in the Chronicler's Guide, and also the "what really is the Supernal?" question is asked again in another book(Dark Eras Companion) that presents a group of mages with an entirely different interpretation of magic being colonized by European invaders, among them other mages.

    Personally I see the books as presenting the cosmos in the perspective of mainstream Awakened society, which would be biased due to the way such organizations are generally in WoD/CoD, and of course the heavy anthropocentrism and the heavy use of connotations of magic being "holy"('consecrated', 'hallows' etc) despite magic actually having no moral bent. Also ties heavily with how the Mad and archmasters have things in common.
    Last edited by GreenKitty; 04-18-2018, 11:12 PM.

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  • Stupid Loserman
    replied
    Originally posted by Axelgear View Post

    Can you start them, though? These are actually kinda cool.
    Ain't nothin' stopping you. I'd be somewhat interested in what modifications, not just setting-wise, would be appropriate to make Mummy run that.

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  • Axelgear
    replied
    Originally posted by Stupid Loserman View Post
    I don't remember any threads about how changelings are actually steadily mutating the world into an extension of Faerie by signing onto their Contracts through the Wyrd, or how the Shadow Realm isn't actually the sundered remnant of an ancient time when men could travel into the lands of the spirits, or how the Duat is an interpretation of a hallucinatory death experience by mad immortals who have forgotten they actually all did this to themselves and recast the voices of their own inner ids and principles as Judges of Life and Death.
    Can you start them, though? These are actually kinda cool.

    Leave a comment:


  • Stupid Loserman
    replied
    I don't understand why people are so much more interested in constructing frameworks that prove the metaphysical premise of Mage "wrong" than in doing the same to anybody else. I don't remember any threads about how changelings are actually steadily mutating the world into an extension of Faerie by signing onto their Contracts through the Wyrd, or how the Shadow Realm isn't actually the sundered remnant of an ancient time when men could travel into the lands of the spirits, or how the Duat is an interpretation of a hallucinatory death experience by mad immortals who have forgotten they actually all did this to themselves and recast the voices of their own inner ids and principles as Judges of Life and Death.

    The Mage books aren't lying to you when they describe the experience of Supernal truth and its role in existence. That doesn't intrinsically morally justify mages, or mean every influence of supernal truth is positive (the Exarchs are right there, and the Bound were bound for a reason), or make supernal sorcery better or more legitimate than other supernatural workings. But the premise is that Plato's forms influence the shadows on the cave wall, like how the premise of Werewolf is that each thing of flesh has its reflection in spirit.

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  • Errol216
    replied
    Mages as arrogant, intrusive, colonialist outsiders meddling in the affairs of other splats who know better because it's their indigenous sphere of concern is a perfectly valid narrative. For another splat to characterize their worldview as an infection, again, perfectly valid.

    That's basically what their monstrosity is.

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  • GreenKitty
    replied
    Originally posted by Satchel View Post
    Mages don't claim intimate understanding unless they've literally been doing the sort of work that justifies such a claim — the thrust of their intrusion is generally that they're addicts, and the fix they're chasing is seeing what happens if they poke the weird supernatural bullshit that may or may not be somebody else's pet project as part of an ongoing pursuit of personal power.
    That's how they get the knowledge to lay the claim they have a deeper understanding to expand their power.

    Also, again, the whole "the world is a Lie" thing is a distinct aspect of Awakened cultural positioning from "our magic taps into a deeply-buried and rarefied stratum of existence in which the things that define reality interact with our world."
    I think the descriptions of some of the Prime spells suggest something more spiritual and esoteric, such as Stealing Fire and Apocalypse which "remove the scales of the lie from sleepers". I do think that is a valid interpretation of material once all the spirituality/Atlantis(even as a metaphor) talk is removed.

    Outside of the context of Paradox and bad-idea spellcasting, the concept behind the Supernal has little to suggest it's an invasive force. Mages who are out to "extinguish" the Fallen world are generally regarded as self-destructive lunatics, not typical specimens of Awakened thought.

    "Everything in reality means something, and what it means can be broken down for power" indicates that the Supernal is a plague on reality in the same way that the existence of the atomic bomb indicates that the weak nuclear force is a plague on reality — you're suggesting that words being things is a legitimate curse.
    Okay maybe not so much extinguishing the Fallen, but extinguishing "The Lie" or "The Abyss".

    Again this is just a re-interpretation of canon material to twist it to ask certain questions about one's knowledge and perspective of the cosmos. This can be used in more of a "mad scientist that plays with radiation" narrative, in which the knowledge isn't invalidated-just that the methods of attaining it are reckless. I just liked how to tie in the idea of mages as antagonists and the sherpa metaphor as a way of asking players in character "do you really know what you're doing? do you really know what your magic is doing? do you really know where your power actually comes from?"

    Maybe words being things is a legitimate curse. Like someone who bestows a true name onto someone, and then those who learn that true name have power over that individual.

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  • Satchel
    replied
    Mages don't claim intimate understanding unless they've literally been doing the sort of work that justifies such a claim — the thrust of their intrusion is generally that they're addicts, and the fix they're chasing is seeing what happens if they poke the weird supernatural bullshit that may or may not be somebody else's pet project as part of an ongoing pursuit of personal power.

    Also, again, the whole "the world is a Lie" thing is a distinct aspect of Awakened cultural positioning from "our magic taps into a deeply-buried and rarefied stratum of existence in which the things that define reality interact with our world." Outside of the context of Paradox and bad-idea spellcasting, the concept behind the Supernal has little to suggest it's an invasive force. Mages who are out to "extinguish" the Fallen world are generally regarded as self-destructive lunatics, not typical specimens of Awakened thought.

    "Everything in reality means something, and what it means can be broken down for power" indicates that the Supernal is a plague on reality in the same way that the existence of the atomic bomb indicates that the weak nuclear force is a plague on reality — you're suggesting that words being things is a legitimate curse.

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  • GreenKitty
    replied
    Sorry about necroing this thread if that's a thing here.

    I just had to sorta pitch a thought.

    I saw this old thread and then I just had an idea.

    I think it's interesting to view mages through the eyes of the other splats, especially since mages are the ones with the banner of "TRUTH" going around.

    Taking the Sherpa analogy a little further it could easily be a colonial/crusader narrative: Here we have these worlds with their guardians who intimately know these places well such as the Sin-Eaters and the Uratha. The world is in balance as long as they can keep up with their respective enemies (like the Pure). Then here come some mages to mess things up.

    Here come these outsiders who are humans with special powers. They come in from seemingly out of the flock of normal humans and claim to want to prod and explore these other worlds. They claim they have an intimate understanding of the forces they tamper with such as the Shadow and life and death. Furthermore they claim that their powers come from a higher, superior reality that is perfect, that is the truth of the universe, and everything else is part of a corrupted lie that they are on a crusade to extinguish. They barge in but only seem to have interests in some things here are there they claim are connected with their "higher truth", even those who are connected to the spirits are more interested in finding the "supernal" aspect of the Shadow. From the perspective of the others whose jobs are made harder by these invaders, they aren't spreading a "Supernal perfection" but rather a "Supernal infection".

    And this can be the road that starts the idea: What if the supernal realms are not what mages think they are. What if the Supernal is actually a plague upon reality?

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  • Axelgear
    replied
    Originally posted by nofather View Post
    I think the Orders, at least the Diamond and some Seers, are all very religious, but the Guardians and Mysterium are explicitly called out as religions.
    All Orders are mystery cults. This is explicit. All the Orders are religions, all of them are conspiracies, all of them are secret societies; they are all these things mashed into one. How much emphasis is placed on any particular aspect is a local concern. The Silver Ladder, though, emphatically praises the Avatar and worships human divinity; they call themselves an Order of philosopher-priests.

    Originally posted by Michael View Post
    So you didn't catch my reference to those kinds of bodily religious analogies? Maybe I was being too oblique.

    I'm not claiming that bodily analogies can't be religious, but that the Corpus Author's analogy has a distinct feel to it. I mean, look at that image you posted as example, it's not particularly anatomically accurate; whilst the Corpus Authors has a pretty good grasp of what bodily functions do what. There's a precision and a concreteness that's not usually present in the religious analogies.

    I suppose there's an argument that the difference comes merely from the Awakened having better knowledge of biology, but seeing as we're talking aesthetics, that'd be missing the point. I mean, magic as programming isn't a million miles from platonic ideas.
    I'd say that any sense of being clinical or secular on the part of the Corpus Author is just because of the game book giving a description of a description. Saying that the Rigveda describes the order of the cosmos through anatomical analogy is true, but the text itself is clearly mystical in its description.

    Remember, for the Awakened, religious analogies are precise and concrete; those ideas are descriptive of Supernal Truth. Even if the Corpus was exactingly clinical, it's still an analogy, and it'd be no more accurate in being so than any flowery mystical version would be. Perhaps even less so.

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  • GreenKitty
    replied
    The religious elements I see include divine personage, divine good vs. evil, humancentricism, spiritual ascent, and well even the bad stuff associated with organized religion on the more social level rather than what is preached.

    In the sourcebook with the Sona people it speaks of European mages as being like missionaries and colonists.

    There is also social isolation from "normies" or "nonbelievers". When they start talking about "we know the Truth" all the time and if it weren't for quiescence they'd be knocking on people's doors.
    Last edited by GreenKitty; 01-31-2018, 08:25 PM.

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  • Michael
    replied
    Originally posted by Axelgear View Post
    I'm just gonna link this image of Purusha.

    I feel like I'm being smug here but I'm trying to get across a point: This imagery is distinctly religious.
    So you didn't catch my reference to those kinds of bodily religious analogies? Maybe I was being too oblique.

    I'm not claiming that bodily analogies can't be religious, but that the Corpus Author's analogy has a distinct feel to it. I mean, look at that image you posted as example, it's not particularly anatomically accurate; whilst the Corpus Authors has a pretty good grasp of what bodily functions do what. There's a precision and a concreteness that's not usually present in the religious analogies.

    I suppose there's an argument that the difference comes merely from the Awakened having better knowledge of biology, but seeing as we're talking aesthetics, that'd be missing the point. I mean, magic as programming isn't a million miles from platonic ideas.

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  • nofather
    replied
    You can mean that, but they're also the latter.

    Of the Mysterium, 'They’re a dedicated mystery religion devoted to the worship of magic itself.' And the Guardians should be more obvious but, 'They’re a true religion, zen-like in their acceptance of being damned by their own actions and with a tendency toward disassociation (which can be very bad indeed in Mage’s world – not for nothing is the main runner-up to the Tremere in “notable Reaper Legacies” stakes the exclusivly-Guardian (Legion).)' This is just from the open development but these are things repeated in the books, including the second edition core. That's without getting into the Silver Ladder, who are also very religious. Their religions are just focused on magic and Atlantis rather than a divine personage like most religions, though even that's a thing depending on your view of the Supernal.

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