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​How you do your Mage population

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  • ​How you do your Mage population

    So this is more of a under the trunk GM world building sort of discussion. I am currently writing out the list of NPC and cabals for my game. While doing this I am curious about your own strategies for brewing up your city? Do you build cabals and groups as you go, pre-plan them, a bit of column a and b?

    I am personally keeping the mage population small enough to manage but big enough to showcase a wide variety of personality. So I am keeping it at a population of 30 npcs (6 mages per path) in the collegium and then about 10 as outside advisories. Of the 30 I have 10 as mages that offer services, 10 as having secret plots that the PCs might stumble across, and 10 that exist as potential allies or rivals. I am also making the cabals themselves also be in their own way characters showcasing what that group of NPCS have in common as a group and what their collective goals are. I have done similar things in the past for other systems (numenera, fate) and I find it works well. One because I just print out a sheet of character names and basic info that the players can fill out with their own notes. Two because I can make plots that tick away in the background and let the players find what stories they find interesting and go with that.

    So how do you design your mage game’s population?
    Last edited by Snakesandsuns; 01-11-2020, 06:19 PM.

  • #2
    Mages are rare, many of them wear more than one hat. That's my first rule.

    I presume that a single Mage doesn't exist in a vacuum without special circumstances, so that means if I have an idea for a Mage I should think of a cabal that might support them, and vice versa that they might support. This also takes into account the political dynamic I want in my setting. That's my second rule.

    After that that I think of how a given Mage might be allowed to exist in whatever my base Setting is. That's out of my rules territory though and goes into political dynamics. I might come up with an NPC who has X goal, and go, "Eh, he can fit in with Y Cabal." or if they're especially notable go, "Sure, she's a solitaire, or apostate."

    I will draw on my PCs backgrounds as well as the second rule to create some Mages.

    After that...well, why am I making more Mages? Maybe I can slip in a Low Sorcerer or something. If I -need- a Mage I'll just make one up. Maybe they're new, maybe they've been off the PCs radar til now. Who cares? If it hasn't been on screen it may as well have not happened yet. If that means I suddenly have to make up a cabal on the spot, well, that's the price of improv.

    I did up Naples. Naples is a place where Vesuvius is still Supernally active. It counts as a Hallow at 6+ dots. Merely being at its base forces Mages into Active Mage Sight. Merely touching it's mana does that, even if far removed from the volcano itself. So I dreamt up how the Orders distribute themselves around this Mystery without assigning specific NPCs. I thought of an antagonist trying to leverage it. I got some NPC ideas from my players, namely a Proximus line tied to Vesuvius somehow and a couple of very concerned Obrimos parents to an Acanthus. I thought of the representative of each Order in the area. Then I called it a day. More details can come out in play.

    What I'd like to avoid is that the PCs interact mostly with other Mage NPCs which makes it easy to forget the rest of the world, and the Sleepers that inhabit it. So there have been some Sleeper taxi drivers and the like. This last paragraph is pretty much only worth mentioning though as you delve into themes of what you want your Chronicle to be. If you only want Mage on Mage action, go for it.

    TLDR, make up Mages that will fit specific purposes, don't make them otherwise. Be willing to play with your NPC cast makeup to fit your needs without expanding it beyond what your players will pay attention to and put "on screen."


    • #3
      I think the first thing to do is build a central Mystery, a well known property or phenomenon of the city that draws a Consilium to it.

      Next you need to calculate what you need for that infrastructure, adjusted by by how dense you want the mage population in the area. If your mages want to make a career in the Orders or Consilia, you scale it up a bit. But the key is to have a fallback structure. Call the Arrows or Sentinels if a dangerous cryptid shows up, ask the Guardians to help cleanup a supernatural incident MIB style, etc. As mages become less green, they will lean less often on this and more often become the people that are sought out.

      Once you have an idea of these numbers, its time to write broad ideas. Figure out themes for cabals (not that they necessarily have the Merit). The more you know the city, the better. Map a concrete territory for them and their main drive, then its a lot easier to figure out who would join them.

      Some broad themes:

      The negotiators: mages who focus on the political or economic development of the city. Maybe undermining Seer influence, using architecture to engineer ley lines, mediate with spirits, etc.

      The stewards: They focus on a specific location or quirk of the area. Maybe the abandoned coal mine has all kind of interesting properties due to shattered time, the pieces in the art museum have maps and portals only visible via mage sight or the derelict city block that is replaying the same day in Death Twilight.

      The defenders: They stand at the wall, protecting the Consilium from imminent danger. Perhaps they are focused on being ready for the worst, like by creating magic mech suits, portable bases (Space pocket dimensions), maintaining a portal network or cultivating all sorts of medicinal items (not all of them safe).

      In summary, start with general ideas and start zooming in one level at a time.

      Lastly, here is a sample Consilium:

      Hope that helps
      Last edited by KaiserAfini; 01-11-2020, 11:01 AM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Dave Brookshaw, SA Forums 2012
        Okay. So. Keeping track of your Storyteller Characters and creating your Consilium.

        The spreadsheet, once you're up and running, is reasonably simple. It's just a big table; Shadow Name, Gender, Path, Order, Gnosis, Legacy, Arcana, Order Status and Position, Consilium Status and Position, Cabal, who their Mentor is, who any of their Apprentices are, Brief Description and "notes". I've kept a similar table for every one of my games - I update it between sessions and bring a printout (in veeeery tiny type) when I'm running the game.

        It is also how I build a Consilum.

        First, what's your Consilium's theme? What are you trying to get out of your game's social model? Most Consilii are hands-off common-law courts of arbitration, but they range from utter tyrannies to barely-there, never-seen associations of powerful cabals, with several cabals in the city who aren't even members.

        (I apologize for the examples all being from my Actual Plays, by the way, but I haven't yet run Mage without putting the game out there)

        I like to put a central conflict that cabals either take sides in or are notable for not doing so - that way player characters come in as pivots and tipping-points, instigators of change.

        Examples - I wanted to portray the dichotomy between Washington DC as the Capital and as the one-time, probably still-is in the WoD murder hellhole. Which in the chronicle meant it had two City Father spirits, and there was a separation between the occult "grid" planned by the freemasons and the real city it's imposed on. So the cabals were divided between "Washington" cabals and "DC" cabals, with a well-meaning but ineffectual Heirarch who, in the manner of many a politician, tried to appeal to so many interests he ended up paralyzed.

        Durham and its close neighbor Newcastle in the UK are both very split between the large Universities and the locals - not so much as Oxford is, but close, especially in Durham. Newcastle's much, much larger and urban, though, so it's mostly "town", while Durham's mostly "gown". The Consilium covering both cities, then, is also rent down the middle between the cabals in the two cities, which barely mix. The Heirarch and most of her Council are from one (the smaller) of the two sides, so the majority of mages feel like belittled "townies".

        Las Vegas is a Consilium under siege. The Mammon Ministry killed most of the Consilium's higher-ups when someone let slip where the Consilium was going to be meeting. The new Heirarch enforces silence and hiding from the Seers - the Pentacle are the Mob to the Seers' Gaming Commision. At the same time, the Consilium technically covers the cabals who poke about in the Desert outside Vegas, but in practice they're a law unto themselves and do their own thing.

        So... Yeah. Once you know that, you'll have a few Cabal ideas. Add a few more. Then a couple extra for good luck. If you have any ideas for *characters* at this stage, whack em into your spreadsheet.

        Now comes the Demographics.

        Apply a pivot table to your Spreadsheet, so you have a running count of how many mages of each path, order, gender, Legacy, and Gnosis you have.

        These ratios are what would happen if your Consilium had no external influences on it whatsoever, and everyone was free to join whatever faction they chose. This never happens. You *should* adjust at least one of these to fit your theme. Probably more.

        That said:

        PATH: Each Path should have 18-22% of characters. There's a little bit of wobble room, but not that much. Unless something weird has happened. (In my Vegas game, Moros are more common, so I set them to 30%)

        GENDER: Awakening is genderblind. If you've got less than a hundred PCs, 50:50. If it's a *very* big setting, err on the side of one or two more women. Try not to dismiss the idea of transgendered characters out of hand, even if you never tell the players - there's two in my current game.

        ORDER: Here's where it gets a little more complicated.

        In a perfectly average city (which, again, never happens)

        The Free Council are the largest order
        The Guardians are the smallest order
        The Seers are the size of two of the middle-ranking orders
        There should be about a cabal's worth of Apostates

        So... If you've got 100 Mages you should have around 26 Libertines, 21 Seers, 13 each of Arrow, Thearchs, and Mystagogues, 10 Guardians and 4 Apostates.

        Once again - this never, ever, happens. But it's a starting point you can adjust from.


        Many Storytellers assume that Gnosis is like Blood Potency - that it's rare to get it over 5, that characters try to keep it low, that there are better things to spend xp on.

        Gnosis doesn't have any drawbacks apart from Paradox and Resonance, both of which Mages are inclined to see as badges of pride. Gnosis increases naturally as long as a mage acts like a mage. No one within a year of their Awakening should be at Gnosis 1. No one. Arcane Experience is simply too easy to come by.

        More importantly, we know from fluff that mages are seen as being lightweights if they don't develop a Legacy soon after they finish training - by the time a Mage is an Adept, they should either be Gnosis 3 and joining an established Legacy or Gnosis 4 and working on their own. That, in turn, means there needs to be enough Gnosis 5 and 6 mages to teach Legacies - and the 5s need someone with Gnosis 7 either in the Consilium or within access for them to have learned from. The Exceptions make plot, but they are exceptions.

        My working assumptions, therefore, are that Gnosis is a bell-curve. A city should have a handful of just-Awakened mages, a whole load of mid-Gnosis people who are in the active stage of their magical careers and a handful of high-Gnosis people; the ones who have actually spent real XP on it, so are either dedicated Gnosis-chasers or very advanced, elder mages.

        So. Yeah. The Man Comes Around uses the following;

        8 1%
        7 4%
        6 10%
        5 29%
        4 30%
        3 21%
        2 3%
        1 1%


        About a third of Gnosis 2 mages should be angling for membership of a Legacy and already be set up with a mentor.

        About half of Gnosis 3 mages should have a Legacy. Those that do need either a Gnosis 5 or a Gnosis 6 mentor. Those mentors that are Gnosis 5 need a Gnosis 7 mentor.

        About two-thirds of Gnosis 4 mages should have a Legacy. They don't need mentors, but the majority of them will have.

        About three-quarters of Gnosis 5 mages should have a Legacy. About half of them will have mentors.

        If a mage doesn't have a Legacy by Gnosis 6 it's a plot point.

        Mages who learned their Legacies on the wrong side of the blanket (from Daimonica or Soul Stones) are plot points.

        I like to just plonk Gnosis, Order, and Legacy down almost at random at first. I have a vague idea which Legacies I want in the game, based on expressed player preference and the thematics of my Consilium. Once you've got those, it's time for Shadow Names and (extremely) brief descriptions.

        And then... Arcana!

        From Path (and let's not forget, order), everyone should have two or three favored Arcana. Pick one for each character that's their particular specialty.

        Arcana are strange things. Vampires, you can sort of pin to Blood Potencies, but Arcana? Not so much. You can be a Master at Gnosis 3 (it's just not very likely), or an Adept at Gnosis 8 (ditto).

        The only real way to do this is to eyeball how old and established a character is -

        Newbie - Apprentice (you have to be in the first weeks of Awakening, without your full template yet, for your highest Arcanum to be a 1)

        one month to five years - Disciple, depending on how many Arcana they have. If the character's been around years but you don't want them to be an Adept, they should have a *lot* of Arcana at 2 or 3.

        one year to ten years - Adept, again depending. Mages who study hard and really focus on only one Arcanum can hit Adept before they get to Gnosis 3. It's more common to raise a second, or third, Arcanum to 4 than buy one up to 5, though. Advanced, decade-old characters should just be Adepts in their three Ruling Arcana.

        Masters. If a character is well-established and in a Legacy that doesn't give them a third ruling Arcanum, they should be a Master of one of the two they do have around Gnosis 6. If not, they will either be a forth-degree Adept or a Master at Gnosis 7 (they have had more experience). A Gnosis 7 dual-Arcanum person or a Gnosis 8 mage should have multiple Mastery. A Gnosis 8 dual-Master should have thought about risking the Threshold to become an Archmaster. Thanks to the way the Threshold works, mages actually *becoming* Archmasters should only happen as plot points - the rest of the time, you won't remember them anyway.

        Fill out remaining details. Assign your Heirarch, according to whatever scheme you've cooked up to select her (she's probably one of the npcs you started out with pre-defined). Assign Councillors, Provosts, Sentinels, and Heralds according to whatever you've decided the local means of selecting them are. Figure out what the internal Order heirarchies are - the Councillors are *often* also the highest-Status members of each order, but they don't have to be. Using the Order books, plot out who has what Order Status - who's the Guardian Interfector? Who's the Thearch Lictor, or the local Thunderbolt Guardian? Are any of the mages heretics? (I have a bunch of Vidanti in my Vegas setting - Adamantine Arrows with no Status who are all forced into one of the cabals).

        Then do a similar job on the Seers. Ministry, Pylon and Status in both. What Methodology are the Pylons (there should be a roughly one-third split between them)? Are the Pylons Multi-Ministry, or is there a very strong local Ministry that's dominating and runs its own Pylons? If there's no Tetrarch present (and if there is, it's a plot point), which Tetrarchy do your local Seers report to? How many of them have Prelacies (Greater Ministry members of Status 3 or more always have them unless, again, it's a plot point. Everyone else might).

        Of your Apostates - who's Left-Handed and kicked out? Who's a Banisher? Who's an outlaw from either the Pentacle or the Seers?

        Fill in supplementary details.

        Run the game. If you contradict anything in your notes and your players don't notice, change your notes.
        I do this. And, ever since the Deviant Kickstarter, I use the Conspiracy rules to stat out the local representations of each order as if they were conspiracies, not to pursue the players, but so I can use the Conspiracy downtime and Conspiracy vs Conspiracy rules to track their actions in the background.
        Last edited by lnodiv; 01-11-2020, 01:40 PM.