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1000 Mage Plots

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  • [I wear my influences on my sleeve. This one's a send-up to the movie Redline.]

    198) The Ascension Race has returned, and the whole Awakened world is eager to compete.

    Having its roots in centuries of informal races between mages, the Ascension Race proper began shortly after the defection of the Sons of Ether to the Traditions. A member of what would become Iteration X challenged a prominent Etherite to a race, using the finest automobiles their respective Sciences could produce. They took their contest to the Umbra, where Paradox wouldn't get in their way. The results of that race were mired in controversy, and rematches would be performed several times during the remainder of the 19th century. The important part is that it did not remain contained to these two scientists, but spilled over into the rest of Mage-kind. Enthusiasts of speed and competition, from every walk of Awakened life (as well of other Night Folk, on occasion), began to compete in what became known as the Ascension Race.

    There were only three rules: 1) the racers had to stay grounded or hovering (not flying); 2) racers needed to complete a full circuit of the course, though the exact route was left open; and 3) weapons or other effects could not go beyond a certain threshold of destructive power (mostly to protect spectators from collateral damage). Other than that, most anything was permitted. Vehicles of all stripes have been seen (as have living mounts), and just as many different kinds of racers. The second most common racers behind Mages were Spirits, with the Ascension Race attracting many (sometimes literal) speed demons. Even vampires and werewolves are allowed, IF they can get to the starting line...and if they can keep up. (Certain vampire technomancers have made valiant efforts over the years, using black market Etherite tech or even materials of their own design; most werewolves dispense with vehicles, and just run or ride spirit beasts).

    The Ascension Race, naturally, was controversial to the extreme. For years, the Technocratic Union forbid any Technocrat from competing. Technocrats still did, they just had to be secretive about it, and the Union always sent agents to watch the race, to catch personnel. That said, enforcing this edict was not always consistent or unanimous, and great debate happened within the Union as to the merits of supporting it, if only passively. Some argued that the race was a chance to display the superiority of Enlightened Science. Others, however, considered fraternization with Reality Deviants (even in a competitive context) to be unthinkable, and the higher ups tended to agree.

    It all came to a head during the Pogrom years, when neither side was in the mood to tolerate each other long enough to idle by the starting line. The Ascension Race occurred sporadically during this period, and stopped dead with the Avatar Storm. This ended the Pogrom, of course, but left the Umbra virtually inaccessible. Only lesser informal races could take place, and only on earth (where the threat of Paradox kept the heights of Awakened racing severely capped).

    With the clearing of the Avatar Storm, though, talks of reigniting the Ascension Race started up. Moreover, the Technocratic Union's leadership skews much younger and less draconian, making them more receptive to inter-sect competition. Finally, with a 3-2 Convention vote in favor of the race, a formal truce was broached between Technocracy and Traditions. That was five years ago, and now all the racers are assembling on the traditional home of the Ascension Race: the Ashen Expanse, a blasted wasteland Umbral Realm, bereft of permanent residents and shaped by over a century of magickal combat.

    A number of complications could arise from any story incorporating the Ascension Race:
    1. Certain factions within the Technocratic Union are still bitter about the race, and may attempt to sabotage it...or commit forces to simply attack everyone. In the interests of keeping this secret, even from the rest of the Union, they can't marshal too many war machines or troops, and the Union itself wouldn't have many to spare even if they could dispense with secrecy. The Anomaly hit them just as bad as the Traditionalists. Still, it doesn't take much to ruin the race if a force comes in that doesn't care about the rules or about winning.
    2. Syndicate reps and other parties have aggressively started bids, with several fortunes total on the line. For this reason, some dishonest individuals may endeavor to cheat...or to fix the race. Many mages will already be on hand to stop members of other factions from unduly affecting the race's outcome (so it comes down only to the racers destroying each other), but even the precognitive have blind spots, and even wards can be circumvented. And no amount of mind shielding will help if a racer decides, of their own will, to take a dive at the last minute, in return for rewards promised.
    3. It's the Umbra, meaning any residents of the spirit worlds can get involved or interfere with the race. This can include powerful Umbrood with an axe to grind with one or more racers, werewolf packs who hate the presence of so many machines (and their Weaver-ridden drivers), and even Threat Null forces acting on old, anti-Ascension Race habits.
    4. With so many spectators come to watch the race, all from different walks of life (on both sides of the Gauntlet), violence or treachery happening in the crowd could spark chaos and bad feelings. With so much attention on the race, you could get away with murder...any number of parties may try just that. This could sow seeds of renewed discord among Mage factions, or between Mages and Umbrood, or between any sort of Night Folk. If tensions are diffused and perpetrators caught, a whole war could start up before the race even finishes.
    5. It's been over a decade since the Avatar Storm cut the material world off from the Umbra. Who knows what sort of things could be wandering the Ashen Expanse (or hiding beneath it)? With so many converging on the spot, and with the high speeds and high powered weapons going off, something horrible could be stirred into action. Something unlikely to be good, for anyone involved. A giant monster? The angry Specters of every racer to have died in the Realm? A forgotten Union superweapon? Something even more ancient and terrible?
    Last edited by Bluecho; 09-19-2019, 07:13 PM.


    • 199) For death-mages (Euthanatos, Hollow One, etc): the PC is contacted by a wraith, who says they were one of two people who died together, murdered by the same unknown person. As the wraith explains, the investigation into their deaths went cold (the murder weapon - one of their shared Fetters - was discarded, and lies at the bottom of a gutter). While the ghost who met the PC is understandably bummed by the situation, their partner in death has not taken the stalled investigation well. Seeing the police as lazy and incompetent, the other ghost has begun an escalating series of retributions about them. The ghost's darker impulses drive them to further and further malice, taken out on law enforcement officers whose only crime was a lack of leads.

      The first ghost fears their partner may eventually become a Spectre permanently, and that their lashing out will turn ugly, very soon.

      Hence this wraith's presence. Desperate for a solution, they've come to ask the PC to track down the original murderer. The police never found the murder weapon, but the victims know exactly where it is, and can lead the PC to it. From there, it would be an elementary exercise of Correspondence to trace the killer. Of course, what the PC does with the killer when they find them - and whether that will actually satisfy the Spectre-to-be - is another matter entirely.

      Not to mention that the killer could be anything, and facing them could be difficult unto itself.


      • 200) In a turn out of HP Lovecraft's The Temple, a submarine lost during the Cold War was discovered derelict on the bottom of the ocean. Despite the age and decay, pockets of air remained in certain sections, preserving (as well as they could be) materials that otherwise would be lost. A Sleeper research team was sent to investigate...under US State Department supervision. The Cold War is over and many elements of spycraft declassified, but the government wants to be safe. No sensitive matters could be found there, however. At least, none pertaining to mundane secrets.

        First, the submarine's engines were rendered inoperative, stranding the sub for a period of time. A number of crew on board were killed gruesomely in some internal struggle, of a distinctly occult nature. Evidently, a few of the sailors went made and began performing grisly rites to unnameable horrors. They tried to take over the ship and sacrifice their fellow sailors, and the resulting conflict killed large scores of the crew. Many of those that remained took their own lives, notes left behind citing terrible dreams and a voice calling them from beyond the hull.

        Much of this information was recorded in the captain's journal. While a skeptic and professional officer, he could not fully explain the events occurring on the sub. Nor could he ignore his own troubled sleep, with dreams that called to him from a nearby set of ancient underwater ruins. Having no other avenue open to him, he took the few remaining crew and led them out in diving equipment, to explore the ruins. The journal, as expected, stops there. The sub then spent several decades drifting with the currents, so the exact location of where the ruins are is difficult to trace (requiring a analysis of clues within the journal and of known ocean currents to pinpoint the site.

        As this was not, strictly, a matter of secret intelligence, the research team was allowed to take what it needed back to a university to study. Spies within academia have revealed this information to most major factions in the Ascension War, as well as to other parties.
        • The Technocracy has done its best to cover up the incident and its evidence, but were too late to quash knowledge of it completely. They did not realize the full implications of the derelict submarine until too late, and are running damage control. Meanwhile, the oceanic branch of the Void Engineers have started putting together a team to find and explore these ruins, and contain or destroy whatever Reality Deviance is behind the disaster on the sub.
        • Tradition members in the Society of Ether have similar thoughts, seeing the underwater ruins as a potential danger. But then some Etherites start thinking of Atlantis, and now they work with a fervor born of intellectual curiosity. Several members of the Order of Hermes have also been brought in (or forced themselves on the project), as consultants on strictly occult matters. They also think the ruins might have a wealth of arcane artifacts and art, which attracts their antiquarian interests. Chorister exorcists and Euthanatos ghost-talkers may also be on board, in case the location plays host to a number of unquiet spirits and foul, antedeluvian demons.
        • Members of the Disparate Alliance have made inquiries into the matter, and plan to send a team to the ruins. If for no other reason than because they assume the site is Nephandic, and they cannot trust either the Traditions or Technocracy to be without infiltrators. Depending on where the ruins are located, this matter may be of personal interest to one or more specific Disparate Crafts. If by Asia, the Wu Lung. If off the coast of Africa or the Middle East, the Ngoma, Batini, and/or Taftani. If in the Mediterranean Sea, the Sisters of Hippolyta. Etc, etc.
        • Speaking of Nephandi, these ruins are of obvious interest to the K'llashaa, since the occult activity aboard the sub seemed eldritch in origin (or inspiration). They may send agents or horrors to the site - even as double agents within other groups - assuming the K'llashaa have not maintained a presence there the whole time. If the latter, other teams may find themselves swimming into an even more dangerous situation than they realize.
        • Most of the US government has written off the submarine incident as a case of the crew members having gone stir crazy. This impression was encouraged by Technocratic plants within the departments. Nonetheless, certain individuals - most likely members of SAD or isolated agents who know more than they let on about the supernatural - cannot let the matter go. As such, they've pooled personal resources to mount an expedition of their own. If the state will not investigate matters, these hard-working agents will have to do it themselves. They have no idea what they're getting themselves into. (Nor, indeed, will the presence of these Sleepers necessarily affect Paradox down in the depths, which is its own Reality Zone).
        • Mortals aren't the only ones with an interest in this case. Vampires from the Followers of Set - mostly occultists and anthropologists - have prepared their own trip to the site, in their eternal search for ancient knowledge. A wealth of lore (and possibly occult power) to be claimed for the glory of Set. Other vampires also potentially take interest, if only in the interests of maintaining the Masquerade, or under the hunch that the ruins might be the resting place of a powerful Methuselah (or even an Antedeluvian). Vampires have one advantage other groups lack: they do not need to breathe.
        The PCs could be members of one of these groups (minus the Nephandi, of course). Even the presence of a few of these groups, at the same time, could make things interesting.

        Far more interesting is the fact that it takes place underwater. If the characters aren't equipped with Magick capable of letting them breath (and protecting them from pressure), they'll need to rely on personal submersibles, drone subs, or diving equipment. PCs may be challenged by ocean currents, hostile sea life, murky water, equipment malfunction, and near total darkness. All before the supernatural threats hiding in the depths come into play.


        • 201) News of an alleged medieval manuscript have been making the rounds, first in academic circles and now on social media. The manuscript being a thoroughly enciphered text with mysterious and surreal illustrations, with vague allusions to herbology, astrology, and alchemy. Memes being memes, people are beginning to call it the next Voynich Manuscript, after several scanned pages were leaked to the Internet.

          While the full meaning of the text eludes Sleepers, the Awakened have taken notice. Those with even elementary understanding of Mind are able to decipher the contents of the leaked pages in short order, and have concluded it had obvious and actionable occult significance. Some even presume the text to be a Grimoire, or even Primer. As such, it is now to the benefit of various Awakened groups to track the original manuscript down and confiscate it. These include the Technocratic Union - who don't want another high profile occult text potentially leaking into the public discourse - and the Children of Knowledge, who assume the text to be an alchemical treatise belonging to their history.

          A number of possible explanations present themselves:
          • The text is, as the Children of Knowledge presume, of Solificati origin.
          • Rather than Solificati, it may have its origins in the Cosian Order or the Celestial Masters. It may even be the combined efforts of a cabal of Order of Reason mages, ciphered to prevent it falling into the hands of ignorant Sleepers...or superiors/Ksirafai, who may object to sorcerous research within their ranks.
          • The work was the brainchild of a medieval Marauder, with the full text connecting true nuggets of "proper" occult lore with heaping handfuls of raw insanity. Anyone who reads the text in its entirety has a chance of going mad.
          • It's a Nephandi plot - whether old or new - to lure people into Maleficia.
          • It's all an elaborate prank by an Awakened Mage of some description, who created the text and illustrations, magically enciphered it to attract attention, and then used Time and/or Entropy to artificially age the book so it appears hundreds of years old.
          • Some Hermetic magus lost one of their reference materials, and may or may not badly want it back. (Bonus points if the magus is something weird, like a discorporated spirit in the Umbra or some kind of Lich).