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Sphere variants for the Traditions

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  • Sphere variants for the Traditions

    So: the recent Revised Convention Books introduced a selection of variant Spheres: Data and Void Correspondence are variants of Correspondence; Primal Utility is a variant of Prime; and Dimensional Science is a variant of Spirit. In each case, the variant Sphere shifts the focus somewhat from that of the Sphere it’s based on, becoming better at a particular field of expertise but at the same time struggling with something the original Sphere finds relatively easy. In each case, the shift is one that’s informed by the Convention’s paradigm: Data applies the NWO’s surveillance and data-mining mentality to Correspondence, whereas Void Correspondence strips away much of the mysticism surrounding the Sphere and essentially treats it as a “Space” Sphere; Primal Utility shift Prime away from viewing Quintessence as a mystical energy or material and instead treats it as a cosmic measure of a thing’s value; Dimensional Science is especially well-adapted to crossing barriers to other worlds, but isn’t so hot when it comes to interacting with the denizens of said worlds.

    I’m looking to adapt this idea to the Traditions, with each Tradition having a variant of one Sphere (rarely, two) that shifts its focus in a way that’s in keeping with that Tradition’s overall view of reality. The degree to which a given Tradition embraces its Sphere variant, and the degree to which it treats it as a trade secret, varies from Tradition to Tradition.

    Some thoughts on this:
    • While Data was introduced in the NWO Convention Book, it’s mentioned there that it was invented by the Virtual Adepts. So the VA variant is Data.
    • The Euthanatoi (or Chakravanti, as they’re now being called) are an odd one in this regard, in that I tend to view Entropy as the variant Sphere, with the other Traditions tending to practice a Fate Sphere that lacks Entropy’s “death and decay” overtones.
    • I’m thinking that the Dreamspeakers should get a variant of Spirit that’s the polar opposite of Dimension Science: physical travel to the otherworlds is harder, but the ability to summon, bind, empower, ward against, and otherwise interact with Umbrood is enhanced. In a post-Reckoning setting, this variant is likely to take on more prominence, since its drawback is less of a drawback when the Avatar Storm already makes crossing the Gauntlet perilous, and its benefits aren’t weakened by the Storm in the least.
    • I’m thinking that the Celestial Chorus should get a variant of Prime that shifts the Sphere’s focus in a manner not unlike that of the Syndicate’s Primal Utility. But instead of the focus now being on, well, value and utility, the focus is on holiness. Like Primal Utility, Divinity can extract Quintessence from human activities; but where Primal Utility focuses on economic activities (its Primal Ventures), Divinity focuses on reverence and devotion. In a crossover with Demon: the Fallen, people with high Faith Potential would be prime sources of Quintessence for a mage versed in Divinity.
    • The Society of Ether often studies a variant of Matter that focuses on Machines: while it has more trouble messing with the material properties of substances, it excels in organizing matter into complex patterns with useful functions: i.e., machines. As an extension of that, the Machine Sphere goes so far as to co-opt some abilities normally found in Prime: the ability to create Wonders such as Gadgets and Devices. This greatly helps the Etherites’ reputation as gadgeteers, as they don’t have to split Sphere dots between Matter and Prime to make all sorts of cool Devices. In the same way that the Virtual Adepts’ Data Sphere is also in use by the New World Order, the Etherites’ Machinery Sphere is also known by many in the ranks of Iteration X.

    That leaves the Akashayana, the Cult of Ecstasy, the Order of Hermes, and the Verbenae. I’m not sure what to do with any of these. Should they have Sphere variants at all? If so, should their Sphere variants be based on the Spheres that serve as their Council Seats, or are there other Spheres that might be more fruitful sources of Sphere variants for them? And how should their variant Spheres be refocused? Thoughts?

  • #2
    The Akashic Brotherhood could have Mushin (or a similar term) variant on Mind that focused on self-control and overcoming illusions, but is much weaker at controlling the minds and emotions of others. This could make an interesting counter-point where an Akashayana is more likely to use Life to mess with your emotions by messing with your internal physical balance than Mushin, where most other mages would think of using Mind to accomplish such things.

    The Cult is kind of a tough one. I don't have a name, but if I was going to do something, I would give them a variant of Time that emphasizes effects that mirror Backgrounds like Past Lives and Dream, and down plays time-manipulation (like multiple actions, time travel, or locking people in time bubbles). Essentially the Ecstatics don't just look back and forth in time, but they become one with different moments allowing them to seamlessly experience moments as active participants instead of passive observers; and through that temporarily carry through that experience into the present.

    The Order is rough because each of the Houses has their own particular style that makes an over-arching variant harder. The only idea I have is to, well, gang up even more on Prime and toss in a Hermetic variant that is focused on ritual instead of value or faith.

    The Verbenae are also, to me, largely in the same place as the Euthanatoi in that the Life Sphere is already pretty much what they would do, where everyone else would be practicing some variant on it. It might be easier to actually give them a Forces variant that goes along with more weather/environmental manipulation and such over direct expressions of energy.


    • #3
      I don't think I like these variant spheres. I can see some merit in the Divinity sphere, because I like the idea of cultivating faith to draw power from it. But really you could achieve the same effect with a rote that is available to chorists just like the progenitors have a rote to suck life energy from coma patients. It already fits well within the normal purview of the Prime sphere, which is unsurprising since the Prime sphere is in the purview of the Chorists and has been theirs to maintain for centuries.

      Matter is an entirely different matter, in this case I can actually see the Sphere idea work but it's the execution that seems unsatisfying. As described by you Machine is simply Matter, but with the added benefit of stealing effects from the Prime sphere. In this case why would anyone ever learn the Matter sphere over the Machine sphere? Granted you mentioned it being worse at manipulating material properties of substances, but what do you mean by that? Can it still turn lead into gold or a fork into a knife? If yes then how is it worse at these things? If no, then how is it still Matter? But all that being said I really like the idea of a Machine sphere in principle it just needs some tweaking away from Matter, but with a little Prime to something that is a bit more unique.
      For instance I could see it working a bit more like McGyvering where the SoE instead of transforming just the physical form of an object he instead transforms it's function. A copper wire for instance is a piece that should miss in no good electronic device. But any good member of the Society knows that you could easily replace it with a piece of string without risking more than a slight smell of burned hair. This follows the usual progression from simple to complex. Where the Initiate was substituting string for copper, the adept can make a toaster function as a phone.
      This is of course just an example, but what I am trying to say is that what a variant sphere can do should be fringe cases of the original sphere with a twist, not just things that already belong to other spheres.

      All the other cases appear to be just Sphere X but with a focus on Y, without even specifying what that means. I already mentioned this in relation to the machine sphere, what does worse actually mean? And to expand on that what does better mean? Can they do it earlier or later stages of their training? Can only a dream speaker master open a portal to the umbra?
      I think in most cases the suggested variant spheres seem forced at best and in some cases bordering on Forces as practiced by the Verbena which happens to be Forces as found in the rule book. Of course the way a Verbana uses forces is different from the way a Hermetic does, but it's no more different than the ways they deal with Matter or Mind.
      And really that is to be expected because the entire reason that variant spheres came up in the first place is because the 9 spheres as they are in the core book are already geared towards the nine mystic Traditions. The only exceptions I see here is the SoE and the Virtual Adepts because they took their seats on the council of the 9 fairly recently and thus haven't had the chance to sufficiently influence the way the other traditions see the spheres. Apart from them I really don't see any need for Sphere variants, because their variants are already inside the core book.
      Last edited by Bankinus; 03-11-2014, 07:30 AM.


      • #4
        You’re right that my summaries lack detail. In part, that’s because I haven’t yet worked out the implementation details; right now, I’m trying to get the basic concepts down.

        Machines: good call on the MacGuyvering thng. I had in fact been thinking along those lines already: while I’ve talked only of creating machines, the Sphere should cover the full spectrum of effects: analyzing a machine to determine its function; improving an existing machine’s efficiency (e.g., reducing a car’s fuel consumption) or otherwise enhancing its existing functions; changing the machine’s fnctionality to something else; sabotaging or suppressing a machine’s functionality; disassembling a machne. And parallels to all of these capabilities in terms of Wonders, so long as the Wonder in question is compatible with the mage’s paradigm.

        As for transmutation-type effects, I’m figuring that Machines can still do such thngs; but it usually requires an extra dot to do so. I haven’t looked at the particulars to see if it’s feasible; but that’s what I’m aiming for.

        Divinity: I’m patterning this loosely after Primal Utility, so it would help to have an understanding of that Sphere variant. Primal Utility has some difficulty dealing with Nodes and Tass; but i has access to a different kind of source of Quintessence that practitioners of ordinary Prime aren’t even aware of, let alone able to tap: Primal Ventures (businesses or enterprises that embody the human spirit of enterprise, creativity, and industry) can be invested in, at which point they can function like a Node, providing the Syndicate with fresh Quintessence. For Divinity, the concept is similar; but instead of getting value out of human works, Divinity lets the mage get value out of expressions of faith.

        I’ve been vague on the Spirit and Entropy variants because I only have vague ideas about them at this point. I don’t know the implementation details quite yet; and all I can suggest at the moment is to look at the existing Technocratic variants to get a sense of how it might be done. With Entropy, I’m especially unsure of the details: I can say where I think Entropy should be better than Fate; but at this point, I can’t give a clear answer as to where Fate should be better than Entropy.

        @Heavy Arms:
        I like your suggestions concerning the Akashayana and the Cult of Ecstasy. You have a point about the Houses of Hermes, though I’m a bit leery of going to the Prime well a third time without a compelling reason. In particular, I don’t think that it’s appropriate to model a Hermetic Prime variant off of Primal Utility; if Hermetics get a Prime variant, it should go the opposite direction conceptually, and play up the concept of Quintessence as a supernatural energy reserve.
        Last edited by Dataweaver; 03-11-2014, 11:11 AM.


        • #5
          What about an Elemental Sphere (reworked Forces) for the Order of Hermes? Maybe they can summon/bind elemental spirits by manipulating their core nature. Something like that was mentioned in the Dark Ages: Mage.

          I'm So Meta Even This Acronym


          • #6
            Hmm… maybe. What would the downside be?


            • #7
              Mmmm, well that's where my suggestion falls appart. I really don't know wich aspect of default Forces to gimp to compesate for the expadend focus. Maybe they can't control negative energies? Things like cold and darkness, etc are actually absence of energy and as the OoH are all about pure power maybe they have a hard time manipulating or dialing down forces?

              Another idea is to make the Elemental Sphere about the clasical 4 elements, and they cannot control (or rather it is harder to) anything else. They could do some things usually asociated with Matter but some things from Forces will be beyond them.
              Last edited by Thorbes; 03-11-2014, 11:24 AM.

              I'm So Meta Even This Acronym


              • #8
                I don't know if I'd change any Sphere for the OoH. The way I see it they are kind of the progenitors of the Sphere system. In DA:M their 4 Pillars are basically Prime, Forces, Mind and Life while the Craftmasons, an offshot of the OoH, possess Matter, Forces, Mind and Life. Five of what would become the Nine Spheres. Additionally both groups helped forge their respective factions, the Traditions and the Order of Reason. Given all that it's quite likely they played a serious role as well in defining and categorization of the Nine Spheres. So I feel that the OoH should by default hold to the standard definitions of the Spheres. Of course individual mages can learn alternate Spheres but that's a whole other matter.

                Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.


                • #9
                  Yeah, if we're talking about Sphere changes based on paradigm, the Order of Hermes should be exempt because the entire Sphere concept comes from their paradigm in the first place. It was adopted by the Nine Traditions to try to codify their organization, but it was significantly forced.

                  - If you must be ridiculous, I must ridicule you.
                  - Those that can give up essential liberties in exchange for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dataweaver View Post
                    I like your suggestions concerning the Akashayana and the Cult of Ecstasy.
                    Cool. At least that's two steps closer if you're going for a variant per Tradition goal.

                    You have a point about the Houses of Hermes, though I’m a bit leery of going to the Prime well a third time without a compelling reason.
                    Yeah, I know. If sphere variants were boosts as opposed to rebalancing, I would suggested that the OoH simply get a meta-magic type boost rather than a variant to reflect their role in establishing the Nine Spheres. But with an attempt to have each variant be more about thematically expressing the Tradition/Convention more thoroughly the OoH is stuck in a very difficult spot since they basically structured the Spheres to suit themselves and forced everyone else into their mold (or to by more Doylist, Mage came out of Ars Magica; same result in the end though).

                    My next best idea is to... dip into Spirit again. The problem is that it would be very difficult to address a difference between Hermetic and Dreamspeaker variants.


                    • #11
                      AtsukiLeader13 and Papa Bear make a good point: historically, the Tradition least likely to have a Sphere variant of its own is the one that invented the Sphere system to begin with. Indeed, that backs up my thought that Entropy should be viewed as a variant of Fate, as Fate is the sort of thing the Order of Hermes would conceive whereas Entropy is the spin that the Euthanatoi would put on it.

                      Conversely, the Order of Hermes is also the place where you’re most likely to find a House that makes use of, well, pretty much any of the Sphere variants that the other Traditions (or even Conventions) have — though I doubt that a House (or Ex Miscellanea “sub-House”) that specializes in Umbral investigations would call the variant of Spirit that they use “Dimensional Science”. Dimensions, maybe; or perhaps Umbra; but despite the name-change, it would be essentially the same thing. (I could see just such a faction springing up in the wake of the Avatar Storm, as a result of the effort to figure out what the hell happened and what the Avatar Storm is.) Though I suspect that the Dreamspeaker variant of Spirit would probably be more popular for those Hermetics interested in Spirit variants.

                      So if someone comes up with some spectacular variation of a Sphere that just screams “this is how the Hermetics would see things!”, I’ll likely include it; but I’m not going to be overly bothered if nothing comes of it.

                      On your Verbenae suggestion: I can’t put my finger on it; but while refocusing Forces on weather phenomena sounds appropriate at first, there’s something about it that feels… off. I’m not sure what it is, though.
                      Last edited by Dataweaver; 03-11-2014, 05:35 PM.


                      • #12
                        What about "the Platonic Sphere" to go with the "as above, so below" primary concept?
                        Last edited by Papa Bear; 03-11-2014, 05:50 PM.

                        - If you must be ridiculous, I must ridicule you.
                        - Those that can give up essential liberties in exchange for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin


                        • #13
                          Which Sphere would it be a variant of, and what would its relative strengths and weaknesses be?

                          Perhaps a Spirit variant that specializes in the High Umbra at the expense of the Middle and Low Umbrae? Something that’s to Dimensional Science as Divinity is to Primal Utility? Hmm…

                          EDIT: I’m now looking at two possibilities: a Platonic variant of Spirit that focuses on the Astral Umbra and incorporates something like the Umbral Pacts from the Revised Order of Hermes Tradition Book, and maybe a Name-based variant of Correspondence, practiced primarily by House Shaea and incorporating Hermetic True Names.

                          (And the Euthanatoi may have a similar Sphere variant of Spirit that specializes in the Lower Umbra and its denizens…)
                          Last edited by Dataweaver; 03-11-2014, 07:08 PM.


                          • #14
                            Oh, yeah, sorry.......Hermetic variant of Spirit. Specializing in High Umbra, astral forms, higher planes, thought/emotion spirits, etc.

                            - If you must be ridiculous, I must ridicule you.
                            - Those that can give up essential liberties in exchange for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin


                            • #15
                              OK; so:

                              • Akashayana: Mushin (Mind)
                              • Celestial Chorus: Divinity (Prime)
                              • Chakravanti: Entropy (Fate); Death (Spirit)?
                              • Cult of Ecstasy: ___ (Time)
                              • Dreamspeakers: ___ (Spirit)
                              • Order of Hermes: Platonics (Spirit); Names (Correspondence)?
                              • Society of Ether: Machines (Matter)
                              • Verbenae: ___ (Forces)?
                              • Virtual Adepts: Data (Correspondence)

                              Need names for the CoX and DS variants; the Hermetics would almost certainly use “Ars <Latin>” for their variants (and my knowledge of Latin isn’t up to the task); and the Verbenae are still a sore spot.
                              Last edited by Dataweaver; 03-11-2014, 07:37 PM.