Tabletop Game: Mage: The Ascension
Truth Until Paradox. A Storytelling Game of Modern Magic.
— 1st edition tagline
Pride. Power. Paradox. An Epic Game of Reality on the Brink.
— 2nd edition tagline
A tabletop game in the Old World of Darkness
, which might as well have been subtitled "A Storytelling Game of Philosophical Knife-Fights." note
The basic premise is that reality does not operate by any set law. Rather, reality exists by certain laws because mankind believes it exists by certain laws
. Each average human, or "Sleeper," perceives the world in certain terms, and their perception forms the Consensus of reality. Reality enforces certain rules, like 2+2=4 or "There's no such thing as the supernatural," which reinforces the beliefs of the Sleepers, and the cycle continues. Mages are the exception, humans who've Awakened to their innate power: They've realized the truth of the world, and they have the ability to reshape it to their will.
A few things stand between mages and the magical playground of reality, of course. First, there are the competing paradigms: Every mage understands magic in different terms, be it "hyper-advanced science," "the divine emanations of the Almighty," or "the Old Ways", so trying to get any two mages to agree on anything is tricky. But they kind of have
to, because of the second reason: The Technocracy. Long ago, when the mages actually did
have their magical playground, there were a few too many getting their Sorcerous Overlord
on and making life even harder for the hapless majority of Muggles
. In response, a group of other mages/scholars/knights/builders/etc decided to team up as the Order of Reason and fight the sorcerers (and vampires
, and were-things
and evil spirits
, and so on) with Science/Art/Religion/Not Magic
to make the world better for the average Joe and Jane. Well, they won... And in the process they went a tad too far
, until they had largely succeeded in stamping out any other reality save the non-magical worldview they endorsed.
In the modern day the Technocracy has turned into a semi-fascist and nigh-unstoppable conglomerate set on squashing any "Reality Deviants" who threaten the status of the world... and the free-will/wonderment of magic and human potential with it. And it's working, because if enough humans agree with the world you're giving them, Reality Itself changes to match that view. This leads to the final hurdle between the mages and their goals: Paradox. Do anything that's too explicitly magic, flaunt your ability to alter the way things have become, and Reality will give you a wedgie. In other terms, a because a mage believes he can fly, he can. Problem is, almost 7 billion people believe he can't. Thus, reality resists, sometimes even fights back. Logically, if a mage were the last living beings, he would be omnipotent.Mage: The Ascension
is most fondly remembered as a game of mad, beautiful ideas
. This is a game where you could have an enlightened martial artist dispatching hungry ghosts from the Chinese Hells, a Hermetic magician preventing demon-worshippers from spreading corruption throughout San Francisco, and a mad scientist dispatching evil gibbering things in the void of space, then have them all get together to strike a blow against the New World Order. It was followed by Mage: The Awakening
, and you could keep your house warm from all the flame wars that erupt over that choice
Like Masquerade and Apocalypse, Mage is getting a 20th Anniversary Edition
. It will include options for playing any
of different editions, clean up the magick system, support playable characters from the Traditions, Technocracy, Crafts and/or Orphans, and generally be massive (they're editing it down
to 500k words). It was funded in 45 minutes.
There are ten main Traditions among the Mages, each (except Orphans) specializing in a Sphere of magic around which their style revolves:
- Order of Hermes: The traditional 'wizard' and user of Hermetic Magic. Masters of the Sphere of Forces.
- Verbena: Pagan and druidic-inspired witches who use healing and transformation powers. Masters of the Sphere of Life.
- Celestial Chorus: Omnitheistic miracle workers who channel the power of their faith. Masters of the Sphere of Prime.
- Dreamspeakers: Tribal shamans who commune with the world of the spirits. Obviously, masters of the Sphere of Spirit.
- Akashic Brotherhood: Enlightened monks from the Far East, and experts of Supernatural Martial Arts. Masters of the Sphere of Mind.
- Euthanatos: Necromantic mages who guide the great wheel of death and rebirth. Masters of the Sphere of Entropy.
- Cult of Ecstasy: Mages who seek to alter perceptions and find new experiences, usually through the use of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Masters of the Sphere of Time.
- Sons of Ether: Mad Scientist mages who embrace the weirder and more fantastic theories of Science. Also known as the gender-neutral Etherites. Masters of the Sphere of Matter.
- The Sons of Ether replaced the Solificati, medieval alchemists whose tradition was disbanded and reduced to the level of a minor Craft when its leader was found colluding with the Technocracy and was sentenced to having his Avatar hacked up with a rusty knife.
- Virtual Adepts: Computer wizards and hacker mages who seek to open up technology to the masses. Masters of the Sphere of Correspondence.
- The Virtual Adepts replaced the Ahl-I-Batin/Batini, Arabic mages whose main method of magic was to be as subtle and invisible as possible. Many of them were/are assassins of the hugest order.
- Orphans: Not a tradition, but a catch-all for mages who follow their own style of magick rather than a specific paradigm. Many of them tend to be a nihilistic lot and are dubbed "Hollow Ones". Efforts to unify them as a single group are repeated but short-lived.
The Technocracy has its own set of Conventions as well:
- Iteration X: Technocratic scientists and engineers who specialize in robotics and cybernetics.
- New World Order: The Men in Black who act as frontline investigators/enforcers and their more cerebral superiors in White.
- Syndicate: Corrupt Corporate Executive types who derive their powers from money and influence, particularly through the media, all in the name of creating more true wealth, both for themselves and humanity. Naturally, it usually doesn't work out that way.
- Progenitors: Doctors and geneticists who focus on cutting-edge medical breakthroughs... and the occasional genetically-engineered monstrosity.
- Void Engineers: Astronauts and explorers who chart the far reaches of space, and prevent incursions by the odd Eldritch Abomination. After the Avatar Storm they have become more militaristic.
In addition to these, there are a number of other, antagonistic groups:
- Marauders: Mad mages who ignore the shackles of Paradox, but have little control over their own powers or the fabric of reality around them.
- Nephandi: Mages that embrace absolute evil (even confirmed In-Universe as exactly that), worshiping various types of demons and Eldritch Abominations in an attempt to unmake reality.
And now, with the release of the "Void Engineers" updated Convention Book in 2013, we finally meet what made
the Void Engineers go more militaristic:
- Threat Null: What happened to the Technocratic detachments stranded out there in Deep Umbra space when the Dimensional Storm started. They became something totally other, totally alien. The Void Engineers, in an alliance with the Euthanatoi and elements of other Traditions, fight a lonely unsung battle on the edge of reality against twisted mirror opposites of the Technocracy's own lost souls, never daring to trust the secret of what Threat Null truly is even with the rest of the Technocracy (largely due to something detailed in the Agents entry below). But what's most horrifying about Threat Null is that it considers itself the 'true' Technocratic Union, finally returned from dimensional exile to reclaim the world from fallen apostates and weak-willed collaborators.
- Autopolitans: Twisted caricatures of Iteration X, the Autopolitans are more machine than man. Linked into a soulless hivemind, their nigh-endlessly adaptable nanotechnological forms are relentless. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
- Agents: What the NWO turns into after being exposed to too much 'Void Adaptation'. Soulless tricksters who can appear as anyone or anything, their agenda is incomprehensible... but their continued access to the NWO's Control protocols (meaning they can mindwhack any Technocracy member who hasn't had their original indoctrination removed, like the VEs have arranged to do to themselves in defiance of Technocracy regulations) is devastating.
- Transhumanity: The dark mirror of the Progenitors, the agents of Transhumanity are all 'stunningly beautiful, frighteningly strong, and utterly brilliant'. They accept any and all who wish to join them, and in return, they offer perfection. They just don't mention what it will cost you. (Unknown to its victims until its too late, Transhumanity is more of a soulless hivemind than the Autopolitans.)
- Residents: The dark mirror of the Syndicate, the friendly Residents are negotiators, traders, and fixers who travel around Umbral Space freely helping people. They will gladly be your guide, your interpreter, your host, your supplier, your concierge. Their deals are harmless, their trades entirely reasonable. Until the day you wake up owned body and soul and never know exactly when you traded yourself away...
Spread throughout the books are myriad Crafts, smaller groups of mages who do not subscribe to any Tradition (or, in the case of the Ahl-I-Batin, were reduced from that position) and have their own unique magical paradigms. There are also numerous larger organizations exclusive to specific geographic areas (the magic traditions of Asia are a world unto themselves).
This roleplaying game provides examples of:
- Akashic Records: The Akashic Brotherhood, who use them for kung fu.
- All Myths Are True: In a universe where Your Mind Makes It Real, everything can and does exist, somewhere.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Technocracy. It's everything from the Men in Black to Skynet to Jewish/Swiss bank conspiracies. It's heavily implied that the Traditions at their peak were conspiracies themselves, oppressing the people of the Middle Ages and necessitating a conspiracy against them. Needless to say, the roles are now reversed.
- Animated Tattoo: One of the rotes in the second-edition Hollow Ones book is the ability to turn mundane objects into tattoos and back. One of the canon characters, Baron, obviously knows a more advanced version of this rote, since he successfully uses it on another person.
- Artistic License – Engineering/Artistic License – Physics: The Sons of Ether don't let little things like the laws of physics or thermodynamics stop them from making SCIENCE!!! happen.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Oracles, who gained perfect understanding of the universe and its workings and migrated off to the Umbra to have a hand in shaping the world. Any player character can reach the same lofty goals once they hit Arete 10.
- Awesome but Impractical: Magic itself if you're not really careful. Any spells a mage casts that look or feel like real magic makes reality really unhappy, and likely to complain about it in the form of curses, monsters, and ultimately ejection from reality altogether. Mages instead are forced to keep their magic Boring but Practical; sticking with effects that potential onlookers would either quickly rationalize away or not even notice in the first place.
- Badass Army: Where to start? The Progenitors have Damage Control, who are heavily enhanced commandos who primarily keep their own Convention in check. The Void Engineers have an army of actual Space Marines. The Euthanatoi's Golden Chalice, to a man, has to qualify as elite special forces without any use of magic. Then you have the Celestial Chorus and the Russian Order of the Firebird, who are ex-Russian special forces who have become the successors to a knightly order. The most iconic, however, is probably the entire Akashic Brotherhood, all of whom learn the ur-Martial Art as their focus.
- Badass Preacher: Rather common among the Celestial Chorus.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Lots. Plenty of big-name scientists were actually Technocrats: Alan Turing got "killed" by the Technocracy because he asked too many uncomfortable questions, spurring the Virtual Adepts to break away and defect to the Traditions. Johannes Kepler is a Technocrat, is still alive and is running a deep space observatory on the Moon. Other examples include Aleister Crowley, a Hermetic gone rogue, and H.R. Giger, who got caught in a Nephandus's lair and spent the rest of his time trying to describe it in his paintings. Not to mention Jim Morrison, who actually Ascended. And for all the major historical names, the sourcebooks are full of minor ones reupped into the game's world.
- Avoided with Adolf Hitler. Lots of supernatural people fought for, fought against or just plain took advantage of the Third Reich (to the point where you can find plenty of Those Wacky Nazis hanging around, complete with Stupid Jetpack Hitler and Ghostapo), but White Wolf made very sure that Hitler and his inner circle were mortals and didn't get significantly influenced by anyone. Though the Virtual Adepts Tradition book did imply that Goebbels was either influenced by or actually an Adept... Still, Hitler's Nazi Reich drew Nephandi to it like moths to a flame, and around 1940, the Third Reich was a literal Nephandi hotbed...to the point that the Traditions and the Technocracy allied to bring them down. Some of the greatest Nephandi surviving until today are SS or family members of SS members, so Stupid Jetpack Hitler is not entirely avoided.
- Avoided even more emphatically with 9/11.
- Berserk Button: The Progenitors really, really hate anything that smells of pseudomedicine or non-scientific healing. Needless to say, this does not lead to fun times for the Traditions, who make pseudomedicine and non-scientific healing (they make it work, but tell that to the Deadly Doctor and his army of synthetic lifeforms who views you as a literal war criminal).
- Black Comedy: The Technocracy enjoys this.
- Black Helicopter: The Technocracy has them. Many are magical, which explains how a helicopter can have a Silent Running Mode.
- Brain Drain: A common theme is how the various Traditions and Conventions try to recruit talented Mages from each other.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The basic backbone of the game. By common comparison, though, your belief is a little bit stronger than others.
- Counter-Earth: A planetoid called Autochthonia exists in the Counter-earth position in the game's cosmology. This is the location of The Computer, which is central to Iteration X.
- Crapsack World: Pretty much the entire point of the entire World of Darkness. Mage can be (but isn't necessarily) Lighter and Softer than most other games in the line, since the power to rewrite reality gives mages a more direct influence over the state of affairs than, say, wraiths or vampires have. The default world is pretty crappy though, and bringing about permanent positive change is very difficult for most.
- Creating Life Is Awesome: Both the Traditions and the Technocratic Union create intelligent lifeforms in a benevolent manner. These creations can even become playable characters without any drawbacks from their artificial origins.
- Deadly Doctor: The "Applied Sciences" wing of the Progenitors are those who actually get out of the lab to do stuff. Seeing as how "stuff" involves "eradicating threats to the Consensus" and "clamping down on rogue members", they pretty much have to be this.
- Defector from Decadence: The Sons of Ether left the Technocracy after it sponsored the Michelson-Morley experiments that "disproved," well, The Ether. As a parting shot, they slipped relativity and quantum mechanics into the Consensus. Several decades later, the Etherites sponsored the Virtual Adepts when they did pretty much the same thing, spurred by the Technocracy's murder of Alan Turing.
- Designer Babies: The Progenitors grow Men in Black for the New World Order, the biological halves of Cyborgs for Iteration X, LERMUs for the Void Engineers, and a variety of other people/animals/whatever for themselves. Occasionally a Son of Ether will do the same thing.
- Deus Sex Machina: The Cult of Ecstasy. Mind you, they're a group of ecstatics so anything from drugs to meditation to exercise could be used as a focus, but unsurprisingly a lot of people went with sex. The Verbena also occasionally dip into this - they can derive power from any bodily fluid; blood is hardly the only one they use.
- Didn't See That Coming: Social media and the expansion of the Internet took the Techocracy completely by surprise. Even the New World Order admits they kinda slacked on that one.
- Eldritch Abomination: Some of the things the Nephandi serve.
- The alien entities that live beyond the Horizon also qualify.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Even the New World Order, the second-most amoral Technocrats after the Syndicate, are disgusted with partisan politics and biased reporting. Justified, in that they want to bring the world together into relative harmony, and both those things do the exact opposite.
- They also abhor child slavery, child prostitution, and child pornography, so much so that they turn a blind eye to the actions of the Children's Crusade, a faction of the Cult of Ecstasy dedicated to stamping these things out, who also have allies in every other Tradition.
- Enemy Civil War: In the revised Convention books, the Syndicate and the NWO are on the brink on one. Meanwhile, the Void Engineers are waging one, sort of. It's against Threat Null, the Technocracy left behind the Avatar Storm and changed by the Void.
- Enemy Within: On occasion, avatars can verge into this if their goals differ particularly strongly from their character's.
- For Science!: From the Sons of Ether, who are really enthusiastic about what they do. (Which is SCIENCE!!!, of course.) More restrained versions are present in the Iterators, and the Virtual Adepts have a similar view re: code, hacking reality, etc. Void Engineers have a version that goes "For DISCOVERY!" and several mystic Traditions have the same approach to magic.
- Enemy Mine: The Taftani philosophy, in a nutshell. Taftani will duel with each other over pretty much any little thing, but the moment someone ELSE attacks a Taftani, the wrath of the entire Craft would fall upon them (and considering how they just refuse to give a damn about being as obvious and cavalier as possible when using magic, that is a scary proposition).
- In the 1940s, the Technocracy and the Traditions (as a whole) teamed up to fight the Nephandi, who had gained a lot of power due to the current state of the world. Smaller-scale team-ups often happen when a Nephandus or Marauder gets noticed by both groups. The Nephandi are just that nasty.
- Following the revelation of Threat Null, the Void Engineers have become a lot more willing to team up with the Traditions, as trying to get help from other Technocrats would probably make the situation worse.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: The Game.
- Entropy and Chaos Magic: The Euthanatoi use these types of abilities.
- Everything Is Online: The Virtual Adepts. They can hack your arm control nerve or the wallpaper in your room.
- Fate Worse Than Death: The rare punishment of gilgul, which involves the utter destruction of a mage's Avatar, ensuring they can no longer cast magic and likely driving them a little mad in the process. It's only been used a few times among the Traditions, one of those times being when the head of the Solificati was found to have sold out to the Order of Reason.
- Moreover, because Avatars reincarnate after their current owner dies, gilgul is essentially the destruction of every other life that mage might have had: Execution several times over, stretching into eternity.
- It's also why mages are advised to capture Nephandi instead of killing them-subjecting a Fallen to gilgul is the only way to prevent him coming back.
- Full-Contact Magic: The Akashic Brotherhood, equally skilled in fist-fighting and ki.
- Godzilla Threshold: "Code Ragnarok", the Technocracy's plan for Armageddon-level events. Specifically authorizes unlimited budget, unlimited weapons choice (in the one instance where they actually used it, the Ravnos incident, the Technocracy's response began with orbital nuclear bombardment and went up from there), and collateral damage up to and including total genocide of everything remotely near the target site. Also authorizes suicide missions to the point of killing every single Technocratic operative involved in the operation, if necessary.
- Gravity Is Only a Theory: Until the Technocracy decided to get rid of the luminiferous ether, special relativity was false, so presumably general relativity was too. "Things fall down" is not up for debate, but more subtle effects like "time runs slower in intense gravitational fields" is.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Unlike its sister lines Werewolf: The Apocalypse, which runs on Grey and Black Morality, and Vampire: The Masquerade, which is Evil Versus Evil with a hefty dose of A Lighter Shade of Black, either of the two main conflict parties in this game can produce bona fide heroes. "Mage: Our villains save the world!" would be a reasonably accurate tagline.
- Grey and Black Morality: Except when the Nephandi are involved. Everybody sets aside their differences to annihilate the Fallen Ones...when they can find them, that is. It's implied more than once in every different edition of Mage that the Nephandi might be the only mages who can be said to be actually "winning" the Ascension War.
- The Greys: Ka Luon; LERMUs
- Half-Human Hybrid: Sorcerers who can't rewrite reality like Mages, instead following linear paths of magic like divination and weathercraft. Sorcerer spells take a little longer to prepare and/or cast, but are not subject to Paradox and are valued for this reason. Also, it's possible for a Mage or Sorcerer to be a Ghoul, Kin, or Kinain.
- Hero Antagonist: More than a few Technocrats, notably the Void Engineers and the post-Avatar Storm Progenitors (bonus points for them teaming up afterwards).
- The Hedonist: The Cult of Ecstasy understandably attracts a lot of these.
- Hell Seeker: Many of the Nephandi.
- Hermetic Magic: The Order of Hermes.
- Heroic Willpower: While not all mages are heroic, their magic is powered by their will. At early levels, that's the advantage of a mage over a vampire or werewolf: While most other creatures have a Willpower trait at 2-3 levels, mages start with Willpower 5 and can easily start with it at 8.
- Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Several Traditions use various drugs as Foci.
- The Progenitors have also developed pharmaceuticals that buff Enlightenment (the Technocracy term for the state of being Awakened), though they view it as more like caffeine than anything else.
- Hollywood Voodoo: The Bata'a in the hands of players who don't know better, but averted by those that do.
- Information Wants to Be Free: The Virtual Adepts.
- Insistent Terminology: The Technocracy does not have mages; it has Enlightened personnel. They do not do magic; they use hypertechnology built by Inspired Science. Their enemies are reality deviants, not mages, and they don't do magic, either; they use wildly applied para-science they don't really understand.
- Intellectually Supported Tyranny: The Technocratic Union, they effectively own the scientific and academic establishments.
- I Reject Your Reality: All over the place. Especially the Marauders.
- Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: At character creation, Mages are not the most impressive creatures in the World of Darkness, and it's generally best that they not fight other supernatural beings head-on. Late-game, they can turn elder vampires into lawn chairs.
- Mad Scientist: Some Conventions of the Technocracy, such as Iteration X and the Progenitors, aren't quite all there. On the side of the Traditions, there are the Sons of Ether (both true Mad Scientists and 'just really enthusiastic' types) and the Virtual Adepts (Reality Hackers).
- The Mafia: Having started as bankers and evolving society through the economy, the Syndicate eventually became the mafia branch of the Technocracy.
- Magical Computer: The Virtual Adepts have this as their literal premise.
- Magic Feather: All mages use foci based on their Spheres and their paradigm; increasing in skill and knowledge eventually eliminates the need for foci.
- Magical Native American: The Dreamspeakers. As noted on that page, this also includes Africans, Australian Aborigines, and Pacific Islanders. They didn't coin the term "Dreamspeaker" themselves and originally considered it racist, since the European and Asian traditions lumped all tribal shamans into one group despite the specific cultures having little in common. After being screwed over by The White Man, they started to come together since they faced many of the same issues. Many individual groups remain "Crafts," as they've stayed apart from the Traditions as a whole.
- Magicians Are Wizards: The 'Blatancy' skill allowed a mage to attempt to pass off his actual magic as stage magic.
- The Magic Touch: Mages can imbue objects with energy, thus for example allowing them to hit ghosts.
- Magic Versus Science: The Technocracy has "technology": Spaceships, cybernetics, genetic engineering, and a lot of other stuff that looks like science fiction. Most of their enemies do "magic": They keep genies in rings, summon storms by chanting prayers, and do other things that look like fantasy. Ultimately subverted, as mages will tell you that the the Technocracy still uses magic, it's just that their magic has been accepted as common knowledge, and the Technocrats will tell you that "magic" is just wildly-applied para-science created by people who don't understand the forces they touch. In the World Of Darkness, the metaphysics underlying magic and science are exactly the same, and both "science" and "magic" are pretty inaccurate terms to describe the primal energy that shapes reality. This is why (prior to Third Edition) the books used the word magick, which they defined at "altering reality through force of will." When they dropped the "k" at the end, well...
- Masquerade: Subverted. Mages would love to let the rest of the world know they exist, but any proof they provide will bite them in the butt with Paradox; the few instances where mages tried to do world-grabbing magic, Reality came down on them hard. As a result, they need to keep their magic subtle.
- Played straight as well: The Technocracy loves making life difficult for "Reality Deviants", and doesn't always know who is and isn't one, so a personal Masquerade is encouraged. Also, revealing that you can do magic is a great way to attract the Spanish Inquisition (literally), and even magic can be overwhelmed by sheer numbers, especially with the Paradox those numbers generate. Not to mention that vampires and other groups know that once magic is revealed, people will start wondering how many other myths are true, so getting Killed to Uphold the Masquerade is a definite possibility.
- Also subverted by the Taftani, who refuse to accept the Masquerade and have actually made small areas of the world accept magic (mostly deserts and areas with few people).
- Measuring the Marigolds: Much like Changeling: The Dreaming. The Old World of Darkness really liked this theme.
- The Missing Faction: The cyberpunk mages called the Virtual Adepts are this to the Technocratic Union, while the Ahl-i-Batin were this to The Council of Nine. The Batini defected when the Council let the Technocracy stomp all over the Middle East, but then the Virtual Adepts filled the void by defecting to them from the Technocracy.
- Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe: joining the Nephandi always involved entering the Caul, in which the prospective new Nephandus must willingly give himself over to his own personal manifestation of what he considers terrible and wrong. The irreversible spiritual "surgery" that commences not only makes the recruit absolutely sure of his decision, it frequently causes future incarnations of the Mage to feel the pull to rejoin. And even if they don't feel that pull, other Nephandi spare no expense to track them down and convert them; or, failing that, kill them so the corrupted Avatar can re-enter the cycle of reincarnation and come back later.
- Muggles: The Sleepers.
- Necro Non Sequitur: A typical result of pissing off an entropy mage.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Void Engineers' attempt to close the Umbra with the space program instead opened a portal to Arcadia and triggered a massive human belief in the impossible and miraculous, forcing the Technocracy to perform some serious damage control; echoes of this are still rippling through the world up till the end.
- Nietzsche Wannabe: The Hollow Ones.
- Nuke 'em: The atom bomb does not work how you think it does. Its incredible destructive power is too much for the Consensus to truly accept, and Paradox is generated. Every time a nuclear weapon is detonated, a Technocrat is sacrificing his life for what he genuinely believes is the greater good. Or someone forced him to it.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Most Nephandi serve masters that want to destroy the universe, either as means to an end or as a goal in and of itself.
- The biggest non-Nephandi example is probably Grand Harvester Voormas of the Consanguinity of Eternal Joy, who went mad, decided that the end of the world was nigh and that Kali the Destroyer wanted him to flood the world with death energy to kill everything. He then set about torturing and brainwashing everyone in his little corner of the Euthanatos tradition until they had turned into a proper death cult. When this came to light, even other Euthanatoi, who tend to be jaded beyond measure, were shocked and outraged by what had happened.
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Players with a background in fantasy yet having trouble grasping the Sons of Ether can be safely told "They're like tinker gnomes." Just, you know... Human-sized.
- Our Mages Are Different: The game features a variety of mage types, so obviously this trope is involved.
- Perspective Flip: The sourcebook Guide to the Technocracy.
- Pieces of God: The Avatar, the bit of a mage's (or other Awakened person's) soul that lets him work magic. (Everyone has a Piece of God, but only Awakened people can use them.)
- At least, that is what the Celestial Chorus thinks. All the other groups have their own theories.
- Power Born of Madness: The Marauders are mages who came out of their Awakenings... wrong. They perceive the world much differently from others, and as a side effect, Paradox effectively slides off them and hits any other mage in the area. When they get really crazy, they get shunted from Reality into their own pocket dimension of the Spirit World. Where they're usually pretty happy, so yay.
- The Purge: The Technocracy used to enact The Pogrom, which was an effort to kill everything that violated their worldview (this includes not only the Traditions, but all the other supernaturals of the World of Darkness as well). The New World Order (which traditionally prefers conversion to murder) eventually pushed through an end to this; the Progenitors are the biggest proponents of a return. Both the Traditions and the Technocracy still carry one out on the Nephandi, but as the latter are Omnicidal Maniacs one and all, that's less of a case of "enforcing a worldview" as it is "ensuring survival."
- Pyrrhic Victory: The Technocracy hasn't completely won yet, but as of Revised their victory seemed all but inevitable. And all it cost was humanity's ability to Ascend (which even the Technocracy wanted in the beginning).
- Not only is humanity failing to ascend, but their unconscious collective decision to stagnate—or, to put it another way, the Technos accidentally made them too lazy to bother clapping—means that the laws of physics are calcifying at the modern tech level (in other words, Technocracy "super-science" will remain as impossible among the masses as Traditional magic).
- Raygun Gothic: A popular Etherite aesthetic.
- Reality Warper: Every human with an Avatar is, on some level, even the non-awakened masses. Only the Awakened (mages, Technocrats, Marauders, etc.) can consciously shape reality. The aspects they can affect, however, depend on their knowledge of the nine Spheres: Correspondence, Entropy, Forces, Life, Matter, Mind, Prime, Spirit, and Time.
- The Nephandi, the "Fallen", who sold their souls to demonic entities, gradually lose this ability as their soul is eaten away, and replace it with reality warping powers (the "Dark Spheres") granted by their demonic masters: same aspects, but less "shape" and more "take apart".
- Doubly so with the Marauders, see above. Imagine a person who can bend reality to their will, and then imagine that person is crazy. Not eccentric, not cute, not just creepy, but completely, frighteningly insane.
- Recycled In Space: Mage: THE DARK AGE and Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade (Mage IN THE RENAISSANCE!) differ from the main game more than the other historical treatments; the systems for magick are different in the earlier ages where superstition is more mainstream. Some Storytellers even use the Dark Age rules for modern games, since they're easier and arguably more fun to work with.
- Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade has a fair amount of Clockpunk style in places, and focuses equally on the young Traditions and the proto-Technocracy Order of Reason. But the "Daedaleans" of the Order, Awakened inventors, explorers, and swashbucklers who fight mythical monsters to protect humanity and advance progress for all, not only get cooler gadgets but are more likable than the magical supremacists of the Traditions.
- Religion Is Magic: The Eastern-themed Akashic Brotherhood, the shamanistic Dreamspeakers, the pagan Verbena, and the Abrahamic Celestial Chorus draw their paradigms from faith. Also subverted, as the paradigm is a basic framework for their magical workings; as a mage grows more powerful, they realize the power comes from within.
- Research, Inc.: The Technocracy's Iteration X (cybernetics), the Progenitors (biotech), the Syndicate (if and when they ever do research), the Void Engineers's Research and Execution branch (hazardous environment protection), and the various Collegia of the New World Order (the "soft" sciences).
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: The seven more mystical Traditions definitely fall on the romanticism side, and the game overall casts the enlightenment worldview in a negative light.
- From the Technocratic viewpoint, Romanticism is largely blaming its own problems on Enlightenment. They're not entirely wrong.
- Science Destroys Magic: This is what happened to Earth in the setting. The Technocracy managed to impose its scientific, rational world view and thereby suppressed the fantasy elements (e.g. magic and monsters) that were common before.
- Science Fantasy: The Technocratic Union, including the now-Traditions Sons of Ether and Virtual Adepts, are Science Fiction, while the other Traditions are Fantasy.
- Most other traditions have anywhere from a handful of nutcases to a full subgroup of people who mix the Tradition's orthodoxy with modern sensibilities and technology. Most notable among these are the second edition Order of Hermes subgroup House Thig, who are arcane hackers.
- Science Is Wrong: Well, not so much "wrong" as it is "a competing paradigm as to how the world works, and if you tell the people in charge that it's only one of many, they'll disappear you."
- Shatterpoint Tap: This is the first power of entropy. A wizard can use it to see weak spots in everything, from people and objects (which allows him to hit them For Massive Damage) to finding an entry to a guarded building by spotting the flaw in security procedures.
- The Social Expert: The New World Order's raison d'arte.
- Special Snowflake Syndrome: "Look at me! I'm an Ahl-I-Batin!" Besides that, Crafts for player characters are usually more acceptable than the indie splats in most other games, since Mages are individualistic by nature, though some Crafts are still better received than others.
- Spell Crafting: If you've got the power and the skill, you can do it.
- Spirit World: The Umbra, a world of concepts made flesh. Just be sure to avoid any werecreatures prowling about.
- Squishy Wizard: No more squishy than other humans, but in a world of werewolves and vampires their lack of a lethal soak or natural regeneration makes them rather fragile.
- Less and less true as their sphere selection broadens or deepens, by the time you hit 4 or 5 levels in a sphere, or top 5 avatar and stop needing foci, you tend to get mages that are completely immaterial, take a week's worth of actions every turn, have shielding spells that make them essentially invincible, or can simply be reduced to negative health levels without noticeably slowing. Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards is as firmly in play defensively as it is offensively.
- Plus, with cooperative magic and correspondence, Mages frequently don't even have to show up to engage in combat, which is one hell of a defense.
- Steam Punk: Sons of Ether tend to embrace "alternative" scientific paradigms such as Victorian-inspired (or pulp sci-fi) technology.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: The Akashic Brotherhood's exclusive martial art Do. Do is actually the only martial art and philosophy of life - all the others, according to Akashics, are merely offshoots of it.
- Tarot Motifs: Played so much, they actually made a deck. Some cards were altered to reflect the other lines (The Moon became "Luna" and had werewolves on it), and the four suits were changed to the four Essences: Primordial, Pattern, Dynamic, and Questing.
- Tidally Locked Planet: Early on the Euthanatos had a base on tidally locked Mercury. This was destroyed In-Universe when, out-of-universe, Mercury was revealed to not actually be tidally locked.
- Two-Fisted Tales: Many Etherites live them. ("When we last left our heroes, Doc Eon and his faithful friends had finally unearthed the Nazis' mobile base, where the villainous Commandant Schultz was preparing to use his occult Grappler Relay to extinguish the Smoky God!)"
- Unequal Rites: Often leads to rivalries among the Traditions; God help the poor Chorister who watches her Ecstatic cabal-mate perform magick for the first time.
- Villainous Valor: Many Technocrats truly believe what they preach, and are quite willing to die for it.
- Visionary Villain: The Technocratic Union, and especially the New World Order.
- Vision Quest: Each mage has to go on a "Seeking" related to their paradigm before they can truly increase their knowledge of the universe (that is, raise their Arete score).
- Weirdness Censor: Be careful, or Paradox will bite you on the ass. Best avoided by making your magic covert (fireball bad, "gas tank explosion" good).
- Clever props can justify all kinds of magic, particularly if you play to urban legends or things 'everyone knows'. Casting a fireball with a lighter and a can of hairspray will generally be accepted by the consensus, even if the resulting fireball is far more powerful than it should be. Some sourcebooks even suggest that the physics-breaking stunts in action movies are the results of mages using Hollywood influence to subvert the dominant paradigm.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Technocrats in general, but especially the Progenitors; as it is, many of them were real doctors and other medical professionals before they were Enlightened, and view what they now have as a gift to treat the world...and to utterly demolish anything that would harm it, especially medicine-inclined reality deviants.
- Wham Line: Because Threat Null doesn’t call itself by that name. Threat Null calls itself the Technocratic Union.
- Winds of Destiny, Change: The Entropy sphere of magick.
- World of Symbolism: The Astral Umbra, various Umbral realms, Horizon realms, and much of the actual metaphysics of the setting.
- Wrong Context Magic: No two mages have the same view of reality. Because of this, it can be very hard for mages of different Traditions—or sometimes of the same Tradition—to understand how someone else performs their magickal effects, even when using the same Spheres. Doubly so when you compare the Traditions with the Technocratic Conventions: what the Traditions call the Sphere of Spirit, the Conventions call the Sphere of Dimensional Science, and the things that they can do with it are quite amazingly different.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: The very concept the game is based upon.
- Zeerust: Etherite science is often based on antiquated ideas of technology. That still works. Somehow.