Mage: The Awakening is a tabletop RPG made by White Wolf as part of the New World of Darkness line. The story goes that long ago, people all over the world had dreams that brought them to Atlantis. Once there, they undertook a spirit quest that enlightened their souls and gave them magic powers. Thus the Mages Awakened. Unfortunately, the good times soon ended: Mages wanted to get to the Supernal World, the source of all magic. To achieve their plan they built an enormous ladder that let them travel the gap between worlds. This ended badly, as these god-like Mages abused their newfound power, forcing others of their order to climb the ladder and fight them. This war broke the ladder— destroying the connection between earth and the Supernal, and thus magic— and replacing it with an evil, magic-destroying realm called the Abyss. Atlantis fell, and the rest is history. Literally.Now the Mages seek to find lost arcane secrets, prevent the Abyss from further corrupting Earth, act as Badass mage cops, find magic in normal life, and rebuild the ladder to the Supernal. They are thwarted by Abyssal demons, servants of the Exarchs, those Mages who made it to the Supernal, and pretty much everybody in the World of Darkness.Which, sometimes, is for the better.The various Splats of Mage are as follows:The Paths: The inborn classification of the Awakened, representing the Supernal Realm and Watchtower the mage visited during his Awakening. Each Path has an affinity for two kinds of magic, but a deficiency with another.
Acanthus: Enchanters on the Path of Thistle, who Awakened to the Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn in the Realm of Arcadia, Acanthus mages tend to be easygoing, sometimes to the point of carelessness, due to their grasp of Fate and Time magic – it’s hard to be worried when you’ve seen what’s going to happen and you can tweak the dice so you know it’s going to work. However, the magic to which they’re born is subtle, and they have little ability when working with overt Forces. Associated with the Fool (0 or XXII) Tarot.
With the Second Edition, the Acanthus gained a new sobriquet of 'Witches', drawing on their alternate character focus as masterminds who plan out events and shape destinies. Those in the Seers of the Throne are also called 'Prophets'. The two keywords of the Acanthus are Choice and Consequence. They are associated with both the Fool and the Wheel of Fortune (X) cards of the Tarot.
Mastigos: Warlocks on the Path of Scourging, Scions of the Watchtower of the Iron Gauntlet in the Realm of Pandemonium (Hell), the Mastigos tend to be driven and intense. Their ability to use Mind and Space magic to twist their enemies’ paths and thoughts alike make them dangerous foes, but their abilities focus on the intangible and impermanent, making it hard for them to affect Matter. Asocciated with the Devil (XV) Tarot.
With the Second Edition, the Mastigos gained a new sobriquet of 'Psychonauts', drawing on their alternate character focus as philosophers of the soul, diving deep into the mysteries of the psyche. Those in the Seers of the Throne are also called 'Watchers'. The two keywords of the Mastigos are Confrontation and Transgression. They are associated with both the Devil and the Temperance (XIV) cards of the Tarot.
Moros: Necromancers on the Path of Doom, visitors to the Watchtower of the Lead Coin in the Realm of Stygia (The Nothing After Death), Moros are often (though not always) dour and stern. They have dominion over Death and Matter, following the archetype of Pluto or Hades. Both of these things are dead and lifeless, though, and Moros have difficulty learning the ways of the Spirit. Associated with the Death (XIII) Tarot.
With the Second Edition, the Moros gained a new sobriquet of 'Alchemists', drawing on their alternate character focus as those who facilitate inevitable change and unavoidable evolution. Those in the Seers of the Throne are also called 'Executors'. The keywords of the Moros are Transition and Permanence. They are associated with both the Death and the World (XXI) cards of the Tarot.
Obrimos: Theurgists on the Path of the Mighty, Scions of the Watchtower of the Golden Key in the Realm of the Aether (Heaven), the Obrimos tend to be devout and fervent. They often believe that they were granted their magic by some deity or deities (although given the fundamental order in their Realm, they respect science as a field and are often its greatest advocates among mages), and have power over the Forces of the natural world and the Prime ways of magic itself. However, as creatures so filled with life and power, they have little tie to the powers of Death. Associated with the Strength (VIII) Tarot.
Thyrsus: Shamans on the Path of Ecstasy, who Awakened to the Watchtower of the Stone Book in the Realm of the Primal Wild (Hungry/Wild Jungle/Woods), the Thyrsus are wild, primal, and passionate. Their ability with Life and Spirit magic makes them strong and gives them many allies among beasts and spirits alike, but this magic is wild and untamed and limits their ability to work with the Mind of another. Associated with the Moon (XVIII) Tarot.
In Second Edition, the Thyrsus Watchtower is now the Singing Stone, and their additional sobriquet is Ecstatics, drawing on their alternate focus as those who gain understanding through personal experience of the primal ways. Those who side with the Seers are known as 'Stewards'. The Thyrsus keywords are Boundaries and Intercession, and they are associated with both the Moon and Hermit (IX) cards of the Tarot.
The Orders: The chosen, sociopolitical Splats of the Mages. The five Pentacle orders listed below work together (usually) in order to gain power and defend against common enemies. Each Order holds a philosophy on the best way to develop and use magic, as well as a common view on how to interact with Sleepers and the World. Four of the Orders (sometimes called the Diamond Orders) claim descent from organizations which existed in the days of Atlantis, although this can't be confirmed.With the Second Edition, it is made clear that the Pentacle are an alliance between two Sects of mages - the Orders of the Diamond, and the Council of Free Assemblies (known as the Free Council).
The Diamond aren't literally descended from Atlantis, but rather, that symbolic imagery is something they try to incorporate into themselves. The Diamond generally follow an "As Above, So Below" principle, by finding signs of the Supernal left over from the Time Before.
The Adamantine Arrow: Descended from the Ungula Draconis (or "The Claw of the Dragon") from ancient Atlantis, the Arrow believe that the best way to hone one’s strength (magical or otherwise) is through constant conflict, contest, and trial, and that the strongest and best should rise to lead. They often serve as the warriors and strategists of a Consilium.
The Guardians of the Veil: Inspired by Atlantis’s Visus Draconis (or "The Eye of the Dragon"), the Guardians believe that Magic should be kept carefully and hidden from the world. They feel that Paradox widens the Abyss, removing further magic from the world, and thus they oppose vulgar magic whenever possible. In a modern Consilium, the Guardians usually serve as spies, secret police, and the like.
The Mysterium: Descended from the Alae Draconis (or the “The Wing of the Dragon”), the Mysterium believe that the collection and gathering of knowledge is the highest calling a Mage can seek. They seek out artifacts and tomes from ancient Atlantis, gather them safely, and sometimes share what they have learned – for a cost. They serve as a Consilium’s teachers, loremasters, scientists, and archeologists.
The Silver Ladder: Heirs to the Vox Draconis (or " The Voice of the Dragon"), members of the Silver Ladder believe that it is the fate of all Humanity to Awaken, and that until then the wisest among the Awakened (which is, often, the Ladder mages themselves) should lead them well. They often serve modern Consilia in positions of leadership or oversight.
The Council of Free Assemblies was formed relatively recently by an alliance of 'Nameless Orders', both ancient non-Diamond traditions and modernist assemblies of mages. The follow an "As Below, So Above" principle, by asserting that the culture and actions of humanity reflect the Supernal and thus Supernal Truths can be found in human culture. They also follow democratic ideals, and a heavy rejection of 'servants of the Lie'.
The Free Council: The only Order not claiming Atlantean descent, the Council was born in the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent social turmoil of the early 20th century. They believe that the works of unAwakened Mortals possess as much magic as the works of the Awakened, and that democratic rule is the best way to run a Consilium. They are activists, revolutionaries, scientists, and often members of a Consilium’s “loyal opposition.”
The Pentacle is opposed by various rival mage factions and antagonists, including:
The Seers of The Throne: Servants of the Exarchs, the tyrannical mage-gods that broke the ladder upon reaching the Supernal. The Seers are the third Sect of Awakened mages that the the other two allied to thwart. They gather in shadowy conspiracies and cults, each dedicated to a particular Exarch. When not stabbing each other in the back or currying for their god's favor, the Seers strive to strengthen the Lie, making sure that as few mortals Awaken as possible, and that those that do serve the Exarchs' will.
Banishers: For whatever reason, sometimes a Mage's Awakening is traumatizing rather than enlightening. Emotionally scarred and revolted by the power they now possess, Banishers view magic as an unnatural perversion of reality rather than a higher spiritual truth. Some seek to tear down the Mages' various social structures. Others won't be satisfied until every Awakened individual on the planet is dead, at which point they will kill themselves (thus, by their twisted logic, ensuring that no one ever practices magic ever again).
In the Second Edition, the term 'Banisher' cover a lot of ground. Some may be Mages who personally believe that magic is more harmful than helpful, and now are trying to stop others from using it. Some may belong to certain Legacies that destroy or consume magic to their own ends. Some are Banishers as detailed above - the 'Banishing' they suffer is an Awakening that went wrong, and now they experience every bit of magic as spiritual trauma, including their own sixth sense. (In game mechanincs, this is represented by Banishers having mortal Integrity instead of mage Wisdom as their Karma Meter. Thus, they suffer a 'breaking point' whenever witnessing magic)
In the Second Edition, the term 'Scelestus' cove a lot of ground. Some are regular mages who purposefully Reach out beyond their magical capabilities, which taint the spell with Paradox. Some belong to Legacies that deal extensively with the Abyss. Some make pacts with Abyssal manifestations - ephemeral Gulmoth or astral Acamoth. The last are mages who abandon their Supernal Watchtower and Join an Abyssal Ziggurat, which is the perverted and twisted reflection of the Watchtowers. Scelesti represent nihilism, those who would destroy all of the world.
The Mad Ones: Mages whose Wisdom score drops to zero become Mad, a fractured soul who cannot control their magic and whimsically warp reality. Through the fractures in their soul, their magic leaks out and flares out their Nimbus and even summon Tulpa, which are basically sentient magic spells. The Mad represent consuming obsession, a warning against mages to safeguard their Wisdom in employing magic.
Liches: Liches are mages who try to live well beyond mortality and thus gain some form of immortality. Some drain lifespans from others, and some become Body Snatchers. Then there are those who try to become an ephemeral being - a Spirit, Ghost, or Goetia. Liches represent fall from humanity, what mages may become when their disdain for Muggles reach its highest.
Reapers: Reapers are mages who exploit souls of Sleepers and Awakened alike. They declare that Your Soul Is Mine, and then use it for varying purposes. Reapers represent ultimate act of hubris, the idea that your purpose and desire outweighs the cosmic significance of a person's existence in the universe.
Left-Handed Legacies: Some of the Legacies mages can join are declared Left-Handed by the rest of Awakened society, and are ostracized. Many of these Legacies practice beliefs and magic that are considered immoral or highly dangerous. Still, they manage to survive by hiding their Legacy status and infiltrating the Orders, or are sometimes hidden by allies who consider them useful. The largest of Left-Handed Legacies grow into a Nameless Order, cultures that exist outside of the tripartite sects. One such example are the Tremere, who also qualify as both Liches and Reapers.
Terminology, with translations: Every Mage (Character) once travelled in a dream or vision to a Supernal Realm, ending this visit by signing their name to a Watchtower and gaining affinity to one of five Paths (class). Each Path has special affinity to two Arcana (spell groups) of Magic. Most Mages choose to join an Order (faction) of like-minded will-workers for instruction and support. A city full of mages usually organizes into a Consilium often including one or more Cabals (parties) of allied mages. Some Mages join a Legacy (Prestige Class) to refine their souls and magic, gaining more power and a respite from Paradox.
If Anumerus wasn't trying to destroy reality through the twisting of numbers he'd be a pretty nice gentleman.
Dr. Lynden Chambers is a kind, albeit creepy, old mage with a PhD in Art and History who works in the Boston Athenaeum. He is always happy to help out a mage with any information he/she might require and constantly offers invitations for dinner to simply talk. He is also a nihilistic abyss-worshipping Scelestus whose touch can read your past like a book or corrode any object.
Theumiel, the example Aswadim (basically a Sclestus archmaster) in Imperial Mysteries. All he wants is a peaceful Shadow...so he's willing to use the Abyss to create one. The book actually recommends he be used as a Friendly Enemy, since he just wants a compassionate world, but thinks the World of Darkness prevents that.
The Old Man, or the Saint of Paradox at the edge of the Astral Plane. He's kind, friendly and gentle, permits no harm to come to those in his presence, and laughs the Scelesti who worship him away (and if they haven't become truly surrendered to the Abyss yet, encourages them to abandon their path). He never encourages anyone to give into the void, and yet, for some unknown reason, he is compelled to negotiate on its behalf whenever a Scelestus master wants to become recognized as a powerful servant of the Abyss.
By and large, the setting easily lends itself to this, as it deals with highly abstract forms of good and evil. To the unAwakened, it is entirely possible to interpret the Seers as the good guys, at least until you find out what they're willing to do (and have done).
Anyone with Gnosis 10 and anything less then saintly Wisdom will practically say these exact words. To an extent, it's the goal of every single Mage to say these words and have the magic to back it up.
And the archmasters have achieved it. That's when the real work starts.
Some of the Supernal Realms all of the time, and all of the Supernal Realms some of the time.
Messing around with the Space Arcanum can create this kind of effect to a limited extent and duration; you can also build your own pocket dimension to this aesthetic.
The Crossways, False Demenses, the Halfway Houses, the Nemesis Continuum, the Temple of Zanak Khan and Twisting Mazes all thrive on this, all of them being cases of Abyssal intrusions afflicting Space and geography (and dreams in the case of the Temple of Zanak Khan) instead of the more common forms of Abyssal intrusion.
Alternate Continuity: The Prince of Ten Thousand Leaves is an Abyssal Intruder one of these. The history it postulates (and tries to make real) is not nice, even by the standards of the World of Darkness.
And I Must Scream: Simply put, this will crop up. Whether it's what happens when possessed by a Goetic Daemon, to being locked in an otherly dimensional prison, this trope will be present eventually; on the bright side, Players can do this too. The first installment in the preview chronicle can be resolved by trapping a Sloth spirit in a TV remote control - what you choose to do with the remote afterwards is up to you.
Victims of Dark Angel Aphasia literally, The Crossways, The Twisting Maze... the entities of the Abyss tend to this behavior when they aren't out for wholesale slaughter.
Banishers, who use their magic only for the purpose of destroying other sources of magic, are this from the get-go in the corebook.
Night Horrors: The Unbidden introduces the Lucid, effectively the Banisher equivalent of Sleepwalkers, who are driven insane when they sense magic and who exist as fanatical, utterly merciless killers of mages and destroyers of magical lore & items that make many Hunters look calm and reasonable.
The Seers of the Throne are the Hypocrite variant; their goal is less "destroy all magic" and more "destroy all magic that we do/can not control".
The Archmage: Archmasters are the rare mages who have made a second visit to the Supernal Realms, which breaks the five-dot limit on individual Arcana and lets them achieve godlike feats. However, they have a mutual agreement not to act overtly under most circumstances: the Oracles, Exarchs, and Abyss all have archmages following them, and open competition between cosmic powers would end badly for the universe. Of course, indirect action and outright cheating are another matter...
For reference: a typical starting mage with two gnosis and two ranks in matter (a dice pool of four) can turn water into wine and walk on water without any particular effort. An archmage has a rank of 6 or more in his discipline, and a prerequisite minimum of six in gnosis, giving him a minimum dice pool of twelve. Additionally, the likelihood of something going wrong increases with gnosis, and the most common result of paradox occurring is for the spell to go out of control and hit the wrong target. An archmage casting a spell to warm up his coffee can easily accidentally liquefy a nearby skyscraper instead. There's a reason they stick to teaching beyond the pact...
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: According to the main sourcebook, tainted Hallows can "curdle milk, blight crops, sicken animals and children, attract ghosts and corrupt spirits, and ruin television reception."
Artifact of Doom: Alpha-Zebra Mainspring. The Mysterium have no idea what it is, where it came from, how it got here, what it does or how to get rid of it. The first person to handle it touched it directly and was instantly struck dead alongside every single person he trusted closely. The second person to handle it, wrapping it in his coat, aged rapidly, started using powerful magic he didn't previously know, and slowly decayed to dust the next time he came in close proximity to it. The Mysterium don't let you near it without agreeing to have all experiences with it erased from your memory after you've finished. It's kept in a vault so ludicrously secure it would make the SCP Foundation green with envy and only accessible via teleportation.
Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Exarchs pulled this one off through the construction of the Celestial Ladder... and then they tore down the Ladder and created the Abyss, because phenomenal cosmic power was theirs, and no one was going to take it from them.
On the bright side, the Oracles got up the ladder with them, and proceeded to kick the Exarchs around like soccer balls before they could finish cutting off the Supernal. The result was the Watchtowers, which allow humans to still Awaken even with the Abyss in the way.
Ascended Fanboy: It's not uncommon for an Awakened to have been practicing what Muggles think is magic before their Awakening. The main book opens with a short story about a Goth fanboy who awakened while performing a (mostly) nonsense ritual with Goetic elements.
Tellingly, details of how this usually turns out are expanded on in the Too Dumb to Live section below.
Atlantis: the original home of Mage society. note which should be more accurately called "The Awakened City"; as a. Atlantis is just a Greek name for it, and b. there is far too much Fan Dumb about the use of the name. It's heavily implied that Atlantis was not a nice place at all; a powerful society that subjugated other weaker ones and enforced its hegemony.
Some Mages (mostly sizable chunks of the Free Council) think Atlantis is just a myth, and that the story could have been a conglomerate of what happens when Mages get too proud. Which just makes things MORE confusing.
Also, there is considerable confusion about whichAtlantis is the source of all this tradition. One of the sourcebooks refers to no fewer than nine alternate cities 'lost to the waves'... from one country alone (India). Other sourcebooks point out that the wide variations in architecture, writing and art make it all but impossible to pinpoint where anything came from originally.
This is handwaved by claiming that the Fall had magical repercussions, as well as 'mere' physical ones, making it almost impossible to use modern methods to figure out what happened to Atlantis. Either way, all that one can be sure of from reading the various sourcebooks is that Atlantis is almost certainly impossible to restore or properly document in the Fallen World and that White Wolf will milk it for Status Quo Is God.
Truly paranoid Mages will take a shadow name on the order of "John Smith" and then go by an over-the-top nickname instead like "Maleficar the Red" just to make it seem like they're compensating and give them a round to pull out the spell-tool during the inevitable I Know Your True Name moment before the villain realizes he's goofed.
Badass Boast: Mages are not only prone to these, but prone to backing them up in spectacular fashion. Morvran, one of the characters in the core rulebook's framing story, makes a particularly impressive one:
"For I walk in the Mists now and see the time that is yet to be. I will see the shadow of your coming before you have even decided your intent, and I will thwart you before you even put your pawns into motion. I will be watching from the Mists, and you will not sense it. If you move against me again, not even the Abyss and the Hidden Lords you worship will keep my hands from your neck."
Badass Bookworm: Khonsu, Mysterium Censor. Astonishingly well-read, excellent memory for trivia and well-versed in esoteric religion and philosophy. Also sets cannibals on fire with his mind.
Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: while they're technically on the side of the good guys, this is more or less the stated ethos of the Guardians of the Veil: they do the bad things (and take the associated hits to their karma, purity, and wisdom) so the "good guy" Orders won't have to. They tend to prefer the other Orders don't know what the Guardians have had to do to keep the Pentacle safe at all, and a lot of their rituals and positions involve the Order being ritually unclean and despised by the purer Orders.
Bald Women: A young 20-something who keeps her head bald because her nimbus manifests as sparks running along her scalp serving as a sample character (for the Pygmalian Society in Legacies: The Sublime). Interestingly enough, she actually has the Striking Looks merit, indicating that she's actually exceptionally attractive in her own unique way.
Becoming the Mask: The Guardians of the Veil have a series of techniques for quickly assuming and dropping false identities, which can result in slowly losing one's own true identity. One faction of the Guardians believes that the only way to properly execute their duties is to Become the Mask, throwing away one's own ego.
Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Averted. For the most part, mages assume that none of their number were ever famous or legendary (and some cases where they believe that they were have a few holes in them). In the few cases where they believe that extremely legendary people were mages (such as Merlin), it's still ambiguous how much such mages may have inspired legends, and how much they may have been inspired by legends.
Actually averted mechanically, not just in the storyline: the only truly unique Mage merit that has no counterpart in the other splats is "Occultation", which has the sole purpose of making it difficult to record, write, or even remember anything about the mage once he's no longer right in front of you.
Played straight with the Merovingians, who are said to be a Proximus Dynasty that was destroyed when they started demanding that mages recognise them as the rightful heirs of the Atlantean kings.
Better Living Through Evil: The high end of the standard Resources merit will allow a character to live like a millionaire ($50,000 in disposable income a month). Membership in the Seers of the Throne, however, makes a character eligible to take the Luxury merit, which at its higher level allows him or her to live like a billionaire. (The drawback, unfortunately, is that Resources belong to the character, while Luxury belongs to the Seers as a group and can therefore be revoked.)
Blessed with Suck: It is not fun to be a supernatural being. That said, Mages have it slightly better than some of the other supernatural creatures. Slightly.
This is certainly the viewpoint of Banishers, Mages who usually serve as antagonists for the PC Mages. Banishers believe that magical power is inherently wrong and evil, and only gather it so that they can destroy other Awakened (usually before taking themselves out in a blaze of horrible glory).
Being Awakened does give you extra protection against having your soul ripped out. Silver linings and all that.
There are few things more delicious to all the mind-numbingly evil forces out there than an Awakened's soul. Except, for some reason, the Gentry from Changeling: The Lost - they only take Sleepers. The reason? The fae are hiding from the Mages because their supernatural firewall, the ability to change the world with one's will, has extra pointy bits against them.
Being a human of the Ractain Strain gives you a powerful memory, a super sense for supernatural activity, and whenever you first experience a life-threatening incident, without dying, your body produces a disease that can spread the infection very quickly. And your appearance is so bizarre you're barely able to interact well with society because you're so damn ugly.
Body Horror: Abyssal intrusions can take this form; abyssal spiders, flesh intruders, red worms, and Sinister Organ qigong are examples given in Intruders: Encounters with the Abyss. Mages with sufficient power in the Life and Death Arcana can do some nasty things to people, as well.
Boomerang Bigot: Banishers really, really hate mages, despite the fact that the two groups went on the same trip to the Supernal Realms and came back with knowledge of magic. The difference is that while regular mages viewed the experience as akin to religious awakening, Banishers viewed it as more like Mind Rape and feel an instinctive revulsion every time they use magic— that is, save for those who rationalize their powers as divine weapons against evil occult forces.
Blue and Orange Morality: Since they discount the existence of good and evil as anything other than lies, Scelesti morality tends to be... off.
Cast From HP: Mages can mitigate the effects of Paradox by taking it into their own Patterns.
And if they start to run low on mana, they can just rip it out of themselves. Yes, this does injure them in a way that magic can't heal, but sometimes you need those three mana points.
Need aside, this is probably the worst last resort option available to a desperate Mage, essentially a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that comes with no guarantees it can help the situation, with bonus points if Paradox screws up the next spell and leaves you drained of mana and even more injured.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Played with. At first it seems like the subconscious disbelief of non-Mage humans can aggravate the effects of Paradox. However, the Disbelief in question isn't a Muggle not believing in magic so strongly that it can make a spell go poof. It's a flaw in the structure of the Sleeping soul caused by the shard of the Abyss that every Sleeper has. It's also possible for mages to learn magic according to mundane belief systems, which can provide numerous benefits. However, that works because religious or occult traditions can contain fragments of Supernal truths, not because Sleepers believe in them.
Continuity Nod: Played with; the Seers of the Throne offered to join with the Nameless and form a Technocracy to rule the world. The Nameless disagreed violently, and became the Free Council. Also an amusing double shout out if you know the old WoD well: the Free Council are essentially shout-outs to the Virtual Adepts and Sons of Ether of the old WoD, who left the Technocracy after a violent disagreement between those who wanted to make a better world (the Adepts and the Sons) and those who wanted control.
The Corruption: The forces of the Abyss seek to eat away at the Tapestry of Reality, "unraveling" individual Patterns with its dark influence. Should it come as any surprise that Abyssal forces love to invoke this trope?
Noteworthy example: the Nemesis Continuum, a set of Abyssal physics problems that blatantly contradict the laws of physics as we know them. They force themselves into the minds of scientists, causing said scientists to obsess over the contradictions. Said obsession erodes physical law around the afflicted scientist, which in turn may lead to someone coming across the equations, which he starts to obsess over...
Anumerus: an Abyssal entity of Anti-Numbers and Negative Numerology, when in his most powerful physical presence 1+1 can not equal 2, period.
Cosmic Horror Story: Subverted; The Abyss is just itching to squirm into reality and corrupt everything before its ultimate destruction... but the real horror is that you let it in, either through incompetence, hubris, or more likely both. There's only one entity in Intruders that comes in without prompting by humans, and it's not even malevolent.
The subversion hits even harder in Imperial Mysteries: There's a class of feuding entities who possess divine power as one of their lesser abilities, and with work can remake the world entirely, only kept in check by their brethren. They're called archmaster mages, they retain what makes them human, and you can play them.
The Lower Depths. Even things from the Abyss are afraid of it. From what little information given in the books, the Lower Depths is a series of worlds devoid of one or more Arcana, and thus existence as we know it. They are, however, quite comprehensible in their motives— they want to devour what Arcana they lack so they can have a complete existence. Then they... do nothing. Literally, all the Lower Depths things presented in the books sit around until prompted to do something, and then return to cooling their metaphorical heels. That isn't to say they aren't terrifying (the Seers use one, the Tutor, to create Hollow Ones), but they aren't actually trying to destroy reality in any fashion. In fact, they'd actually be helpful against the forces of the Abyss, since they would destroy the reality the Lower Depths want.
Cosmic Retcon: The Seers of the Throne believe that the Exarchs of Time and Fate, the Prophet and the Ruin, went back in time and prevented Atlantis from ever existing. How successful they were depends on your GM.
Turns out this is how archmasters operate: true Ascension involves changing the world into what you think it should be, and this can involve a lot of cosmic revision.
Crapsack World: Especially for humans. Some Mages try to fight this. Others just make the crapsackiness worse. It is possible to solve all of the troubles of the world, but the fact is each act towards fighting for said better world is cripplingly hamstrung by so many complications and problems.
Also part of the appeal of the Seers after their Sourcebook came out-they aren't as powerful as the Technocracy was, but they're twelve times as evil; it specifically mentions that their plans for the world require them to make it as oppressive and helpless as possible.
Crazy Enough to Work: Grimoire of Grimoires has the Ancient Lands Pentology, a series of popular High Fantasy novels meant to serve as a way to induce Awakening. This would normally call down a legion of Guardians of the Veil, were it not for the fact that it shows promising results, making it something of a holy grail for the Silver Ladder and the Free Council. As a result, the Guardians mainly have to make do with Moral Guardian groups, who are ignored.
Crazy-Prepared: You can choose to either be like a reality-warping Batman, or you can just shoot yourself in the head to save time as you will die without any sort of forward planning. Unless you're a very skilled Acanthus: then you can just hit rewind.
The Guardians of the Veil have a secret set of beliefs that they go to great pains to ensure the other Orders do not know about. The philosophy itself is called the Diamond Wheel, and the entire point of it is to find/create the Hieromagus who will bring about a new, glorious golden age for mages around the world. Of course, they don't like it when someone makes steps in that direction without following the philosophy of the Diamond Wheel, which leads the Guardians to take action...
The Paternoster both is a cult and loves to create them to distract sleepers from the truth.
And then there are the cults the Orders love to create. The Guardians use Labyrinths - mixtures of fringe religions, secret signals, and front organizations - to try and lead people towards Awakening, with the intent of shunting those who'd be unworthy of Supernal knowledge down an alternate path. The Silver Ladder, meanwhile, makes use of Cryptopolies, two parts government conspiracy to one part mystery cult, to groom Sleepers for more enlightened rule.
Cursed with Awesome: Mages have no internal downside for being a Mage (No Vampiric lust for blood, or Werewolf short temper). However, Mage souls are incredibly potent, the universe now actively hates a vast majority of who they are, they have several groups trying to kill them for existing, and if they try to use their powers in front of anyone who is not another supernatural, they risk blowing themselves up. In summary, Mages get great power and are less likely to get screwed, but when they DO get screwed, they aren't coming out of it alive, much less sane.
Damaged Soul: The Mad have them, which is the source of both their abilities, and, er, madness. Usually their own damn fault, given how truly breaking a soul is generally accomplished by crossing the Moral Event Horizonseveral times. (Some, however, were unfortunate enough to have their Awakening go horribly wrong. Really horribly wrong.)
The Dark Arts: The technical term is the Left-Handed Path, the way of magic that leads to destruction and ruin, for you as well as everyone else. ...at least, according to dogma. As it turns out, what "Left-Hand Path" really means is "the path of magic that ignores taboos", such as "don't make magic based on actually defying the Atlantis story" (Heretics), "don't play with souls" (Reapers), and "don't seek immortality" (Liches). This isn't entirely propaganda, and there are good reasons for the taboos; a few Left-Handers are genuinely Not Evil, Just MisunderstoodAnti Heroes, but the vast majority fly screaming off the slippery slope.
Dark Is Not Evil: The Moros "Necromancer" mages, who have the capacity to be as good or evil as any other mage. That said, there's a Moros-only Legacy of Black Magicians (Tremere Liches), but that's because of what they do to sustain their immortality - they eat souls. Yes, you read that right, they eat souls. If that doesn't fall under Immortality Immorality, nothing will.
Also could apply to the Mastigos, who develop mind-warping powers, as well as the ability to bend space to their will. What realm do they visit to Awaken? Pandemonium, often compared to Hell. It works more like Purgatory, as the Awakening itself tends to help keep them on the straight and narrow.
The Mastigos have a Legacy of Well-Intentioned Extremist black magicians, the Fangs of Mara, who literally Mind Probe monsters to find out what they fear and use it against them. Tragically, however, they tend to go crazy from the Mind Rape such activity entails. (Hey, it's like peeking at Jeffrey Dahmer-Hitler-Manson's innermost desires. Except worse.)
The Dark Side: A major theme of the game is that power corrupts; the more a Mage uses his magic to screw over others or do petty shit he could have done without magic, the more likely he is to want to keep doing so.
Tome of the Mysteries also adds Abyssal magic, wherein a Mage can let a little bit of Abyssal taint into his magic for numerous positive effects. However, it's addictive, and it's not long before the Mage develops Abyssal sympathies...
Dark World: Several, but the one which appears most commonly is the Shadow, the animistic reflection of the mortal world, filled with spirits which constantly hunt and devour one another in a sort of ethereal biosphere. There's also the Astral Realms (which contain every single idea and view of the world that humanity has had, including some really warped viewpoints), the Underworld (where the dead who cease to be ghosts go), and several Abyssalincursions can do this too.
Then there are the Outer Reaches from Summoners, which are just... weird.
Mages are actually generally a bit nicer about this than, say, Vampires. The Consililum is usually a sort of common-law court based on precedent, and so at least it tends to be predictable. On the other hand, Mages are human, and knowledge is power (literally), so they can be like a pit of fireball-using vipers if they want something to happen.
The Harper family, either a clan of inbred rednecks or inbred Corrupt Corporate Executives, their ancestor made a deal with something nasty from the Abyss. Seems to be the only case in the entire World Of Darkness setting where the humans making the deal weren't screwed over or eaten; in fact from their perspective it's never cost them anything they valued.
How many Left-Handed Legacies recruit more members.
Eldritch Abomination: Anything from the Abyss. It may be as small as a breadbox or as big as Yog-Sothoth, but it warps reality in its wake, and not in a good way. They are at least able to be defeated— if not easily.
Eldritch Location: The Supernal Realms from which mages draw their power, which consist of:
Heaven: The Aether is described as a transcendently beautiful place of constant energy, light and music, inhabited by angels.
Hell: Pandemonium is described as a place of pure thought, where all spatial points warp to fit people's perspective (its hellish nature is more of the self inflicted variety; the idea is that, faced with a place of pure thought, most people will unconsciously confront their worst aspects) and is inhabited by demons. This confrontation is, however, meant to test the Mages who Awaken there so they can overcome their faults and improve themselves rather than just a place of suffering, so it functions more as Purgatory than Hell.
The Nothing After Death: Stygia is a place of barren wastes filled with forsaken treasures and dead shades. Apparently, it's supposed to be the place the dead go to let go of their ties to the material world before moving on.
Hungry Jungle / The Lost Woods: The Primal Wilds is described as a vast ecosystem where absolutely everything is alive and vibrant, constantly seeking the thrills of all manner of physical sensation. Its inhabitants are simply called beasts.
Imperial Mysteries makes them even more Eldritch— as it turns out, the Supernal Realms are a World of Chaos as well, with the five being general types of subrealm that emerge: an archmaster venturing there literally needs to force it into a form he can understand simply to survive (the Watchtowers do this during Awakening). Since it contains the platonic forms of everything, doing anything there causes the Fallen World (called the Phenomenal World by archmasters on the basis that everything they learn about the cosmos suggests that it's naturally like this) to change (an example of archmaster play has an Alienated trying to restore the Supernal god of Justice accidentally rewriting history so that a Roman mystery cult survives to the modern day as a major religion, though he swears to fix it).
Evil Twin: The Goetia in regards to each individual person they were summoned from. They aren't automatically evil: they just exist to promote the feeling, thought, impulse or vice that they represent, and don't have a choice in what they do. In the case of your Wrath or Lust, though, it's often indistinguishable from evil as defined by society.
Even though Banishers have been known to gather into cults and many learn the Sense Banisher rote not long after their Awakening, most meetings between Banishers don't go well. Since their worldviews tend to be inherently narrow, a fellow Banisher that isn't immediately recognized as a kindred spirit gets lumped in with the enemy.
The Seers and Banishers are none too fond of each other.
When most mages see Reaper Legacies, they see the worst sort of person imaginable. When Tremere Liches see another Reaper Legacy, they see rivals...and loot.
Evil Versus Oblivion: Any time Abyssal beings or the Scelesti appear, everyone else nearby— including Seers, Banishers, and Reapers— will team up to stop them.
Expy: Probably unintentional, but the Mad are a lot like Witches who can pretend to be human. And, uh, almost completely at fault for their state.
The Fettered: Idealized by the Adamantines. For others, Tome of the Watchtowers has vows that can give you one mana per week per vow.
Fights Like a Normal: The Adamantine Arrow, as per their function as a martial order of warrior-mages, believes that all of their members should be one of these, able to display mundane combat skill in addition to being a skilled arcanist. Their training program is supposed to reflect this, but in practice rookie Adamantine Arrow characters aren't notably more formidable than anyone else. At the apex of their power, however, they become Magic Knights.
Probably the biggest change in general going from the Old World of Darkness to the new one is that mortals, mortal skills, and mortal talents are all tied to mechanical systems on par with supernatural ones (rolling a fixed pool of dice with successes translating into damage for attacks, limits on how much a supernatural effect can protect you, etc). As a result, one of the more popular power-gamer mage builds is one dot in every arcanum (to see all magical effects), high gnosis (to resist magical effects and raise trait limits) and everything else in mundane skills and stats. For reference, this means that the most powerful mage build in the game can't actually do any magic, they're just Batman with ether goggles.
Five Races: As usual in the New World of Darkness. The innate Five Races deal with which Supernal Realm the Mage visited when he Awakened. The social splats deal with what he does now that he's got his Phenomenal Cosmic Powers.
The Hero: The Silver Ladder, who are often in charge of the other Mages, attempting to organize them into a viable front against the Exarchs and recreate a fully Awakened society.
The Lancer: The Guardians of the Veil are sort of everyone's Lancer, working for Mage society as a whole to cover up their mistakes without complaint.
The Big Guy: The Adamantine Arrow are the strong-arm battlemages of the five orders, often known to be simple and ascetic.
The Smart Guy: The Mysterium dedicates itself to finding ancient secrets and guarding those secrets, or using them to better mankind.
The Chick: The Free Council is definitely the faction most prone to being The Heart, wanting to bring democracy and modernization to Mage society, possessed of often the least archaic or austere Mages.
Gnosticism: The Supernal Realms are the Source (or the Pleroma), the Exarchs are the Demiurge (or the Archons), Atlantis was Sophia, and every mage is someone who has attained enough truth to become able to remember their divine origin, and actively seek ascension (return to the Source), while largely ignoring the rules of the "false" Fallen World.
However, the Abyss is taken from Kabbalah, where it separates Earth and the Astral Plane from God.
The Mage cosmology is not based on any single occult tradition. It takes cues from Gnosticism (the Exarchs), Kabbalah (the Abyss), Theosophy (Atlantis), Hermeticism, Alchemy, Voodoo (blood sacrifice), the Malleus Maleficarum (familiar spirits), Hinduism (mudras), and numerous other sources. The sourcebook Magical Traditions explains this in detail.
God in Human Form: From Seers of the Throne, the ochemata are fragments of the Exarchs, and are occasionally sent down to be bodyguards / advisors to the highest-ranking Seers of the Throne. They are frighteningly powerful; a single ochema is more than a match for even a well-prepared cabal of high-level mages due to their Supernal Perfection ability. The books suggest using them as messengers and plot devices, as setting them against the party is a great way for them to get slaughtered. Especially if said ochemata is an archmage. To make things better, Imperial Mysteries reveals that generating ochemata is actually an ability of all archmages, Pentacles included.
Gone Horribly Right: The Unbidden has Gnomon, a time-traveling homunculus created to give his master "all the secrets of the universe" ahead of time. As it turns out, packing a lifetime's worth of experiences into one's head over the course of two seconds using an inaccurate method at best is... ratherreckless.
The Lucid from The Unbidden are Sleepwalkers who had something go terribly wrong in transition from Sleep to Sleepwalking. Being anywhere near a mage drives them insane, and they usually respond to it with violence. Watch out, if they Awaken themselves.
The book doesn't give a definitive origin for them, but one of the supplied theories suggests that they were an attempt to breed a better Sleepwalker, which also falls under this trope.
The origin of the False Awakening in the same book also fits this trope.
Humanoid Abomination: Both ochema and archmages have the immense power and distant mindset of one. There are more earthly examples though: just ask the Mad when you find one of them. Better yet, given how they're walking, sociopathic tempests of destructive magic who spawn living spells that only exist to serve them when they're frustrated, don't.
I Know Your True Name: Guess how you can locate someone anywhere in the world and drop the magical equivalent of a guided missile on them?
The Abyss is similar in concept, except it cannibalizes other realities.
Almost all of the Abyssal intruders in the Intruders: Encounters With The Abyss sourcebook have these traits.
Jedi Mind Trick: The main use for the rotes of the Mind Arcanum, while other Paths can learn it, the best users are the Mastigos and the most frequent users are likely to be Guardians of the Veil fixing things, victims, witnesses... Leading to the stereotype of the Guardians of the Veil often being Mastigos.
The Supernal Wind, from Night Horrors: The Unbidden, is the fractured mind of an Exarch who took a wrong turn getting to Earth and looked directly into the Abyss. How much of a jerk is he? When he fully possesses an individual, he or she takes a penalty to Social rolls because he's that much of an asshole.
In the free chronicle Gloria Mundi, the Envy spirit is a Jerk Ass, more than normal for the Goetic spirits.
Mages with low Wisdom tend to be Jerk Asses with respect to their behavior.
Many Mages of Left-Handed Legacies.
Anyone casting The Final Spell of Eli Ben-Menecham is intentionally making themselves being completely incapable of not being a Jerk Ass, as the spell excises the Mage's virtue from his/herself.
Karma Meter: Wisdom, which overlaps somewhat with Sanity Meter. Wisdom measures a mage's ability to successfully strike a balance between the powers she wields, his own needs and desires, and the needs and desires of others. There are direct mechanical benefits to keeping it high, and penalties for keeping it low.
One could say that Wisdom is the Jerk Ass Meter; the descriptions of behaviours that characterize low Wisdom Mages paints them as a Jerk Ass, while on the other end of the Wisdom scale it's impossible to be a Jerk Ass.
Of the five Paths, the Obrimos have a reputation for being self-righteous and fanatical.
Banishers, mages who think magic screws up the world, and kill other mages to stop it. The irony is that they actually envy normal mages, who seem to (and do) cast spells without the instinctual revulsion most Banishers feel towards their own. The only examples in the book where this isn't the case are Anti-Villain Richard Paine and Aaron Murphy: the former is being deceived by the Seers of the Throne, the latter is a sociopath who is simply hunting Mages for his own sick thrills.
On the other end of the scale (ie, straddling the line between an Anti-Villain version of Knight Templar and Anti-HeroWell-Intentioned Extremist), are the Logophages, from Legacies: The Ancient. They realize (not think, realize-other sourcebooks have examples) that, despite the typical byline of "knowledge is power" among mages, there are some secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know. Since humanity (or at least, human-derived supernaturals) are the only inhabitants of the Earth that they know of, they have decided that they need to eliminate said secrets, via honing Laser-Guided Amnesia to a science, stealing knowledge from the minds of other people and then erasing it from their own (the name comes from the Greek term for "Word Eater", a pretty good descriptor of the process). The subtext is that the reason that they're Left-Handed is not their goal or methods, but that they can very easily abuse their power.
Most conflicts within the Mage community (excluding anything involving Seers, Demons, the Abyss or mere Spirits), tend to be because almost every Mage acts like a Knight Templar whenever anything compels them to interact with other Mages.
Language of Magic: The High Speech. It's verycomplicated. It may or may not have been the same language that the citizens of Atlantis spoke, and it's unclear as to whether they invented it or discovered it. Its full lexicon and grammatical structure are unknown, and it is theorised that due to the metaphysical damage done to reality during the Fall, it may be unknowable. Khonsu, a member of the Mysterium, describes it as something approximating "a form of mathematics that also describes the numbers that compose it." Most mages only know enough of it to give their magic a small boost - Sleepers can't even hear it, let alone understand it.
Reflected mechanically in that a mage may only take one dot of the relevant language merit, which corresponds to a bare minimum of functional literacy and the ability to have a basic conversation only with great effort.
For reference, the default mythological source of the language are the Dragons, long-extinct or missing beings who once casually wandered the supernal and all other realms and founded Atlantis accidentally by flying through some dreams once.
Laser-Guided Amnesia: It's kind of the default tactic for Guardians of the Veil clean-up crews; naturally Mastigos are often the most common Path found in the order, but not overwhelmingly so.
The universe itself does this to sleepers with insufficient resistance stats where spells themselves are concerned in the form of the quiescence: If they witness magic and it's possible to simply forget it, they do so. If it's not possible to outright forget or they're on the borderline will-power-wise, they are forced to rationalize it away instead.
The Laws of Magic: A number of these are used as part of the setting and how the magic system works.
The Law of Names and the Law of Contagion are the most prominent. Spells of the Mind and Spirit Arcana work better if the caster knows the target's true name, while personal belongings can be used to help target an opponent from afar with magic.
The Arcana of Life and Matter could be said to use a variant of the Law of Similarity; it's easier (in terms of the magical ability needed and the skillchecks to pull it off) to turn something into something similar than it is to turn something into something very different. For example, turning kernels of corn into angry wasps is pretty simple. Turning a man into a rat or solid stone is considerably more difficult — and turning a bug into a human or a seed into a gold coin even more difficult than that.
Lovecraft Lite: Your enemies are things that can legitimately give Lovecraft nightmares. But you have such powers that you can challenge them to a staring contest, and somehow come out the winner. The theme of the game is "the danger of hubris", not "run and hide from unspeakable things".
On the heroic side, we have the Threnodists, a Legacy of quantum physicists who believe that the quantum world is the foundation of all magic and consciousness. It is for this reason that they go out of their way to recruit people with mental health problems, since they have a unique perspective on quantum consciousness. This attitude is exemplified by their quote:
"Voices in my head, yes. I'm their imaginary friend. You too."
Magical Seventh Son: "Magical Traditions" introduces Southern Conjure as a "flavor" which offers a special merit called "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" that basically turns any mage into a walking, talking Fate Arcanum magnet.
The Magic Goes Away: Kind of. Also inverted in that the departure of the dragons, according to the introduction, was what caused humans to discover magic in the first place.
Well, it doesn't so much "go away" as "become mundane". As mortal mastery of the universe increases, Magi have been more and more restricted. Essentially, in the middle ages a mage could drop literal magical nukes, but that ability moved into the hands of mortals in the scientific lead-in to 1945 and now they can't.
Inverted according to the Free Council, who hold that the symbols and techniques aren't weakening, just CHANGING, and possibly even strengthening. They sometimes back this up by pulling out "now-impossible" rotes from a walkman, 4 AAA batteries and a smartphone opened to the wikipedia main page.
Masquerade: Pretty much the raison d'etre for the Guardians of the Veil, who protect magic from publicity - often by any means necessary. All Mages tend to keep things hush-hush, if only because doing magic in front of normal humans is a good way to call down paradox to eat your face.
Breaking the Masquerade would cause magic to cease functioning. Sharing magical secrets with Sleepers weakens magic as a whole, and Magic has actually become weaker over time. Resurrecting the dead and making permanent changes to living patterns were possible in the past, but now lie solely in the hands of the Archmasters. This is, however, according to said Guardians of the Veil, who may have a source bias, and the quote itself is a throwaway. So maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Mage cosmology is confusing like that.
Division Six, but they're not a real government agency. They're actually the pawns of a Seer of the Throne (aka, a member of the evil society of mages that the player characters are assumed to be against).
Summoners adds the Men in Black, who are Men in Black in the original, conspiracy theorist sense of the word. They're inhuman, alien, and not that good at pretending to be like us. They're rather fond of performing impromptu lobotomies on people who cause supernatural incidents or talk about having seen them after having been warned before.
The Guardians Of The Veil do a similar role, cleaning up magical messes and investigating unaccounted for supernatural incidents. Think of them as Mages In Black.
Multiple-Choice Past: The thing about the evidence for Atlantis? Each new piece of evidence that comes up is likely to contradict some other piece of evidence. There are about as many theories as to where and what Atlantis really was as there are mages. All that can be said is that there most likely was (or will be, or is...) at least one advanced Awakened civilisation.
Mastery of the Time Arcanum allows the Mage to temporarily rewrite their own past.
The Multiverse: Mage has the widest array of defined otherworlds of all the New World of Darkness lines, giving it reason to bring in some of the other lines. There's the world proper, of course. Then there's the Shadow Realm and intervening Gauntlet, and while not portrayed on the multiversal map in the corebook, there are numerous mentions of ghosts and their home plane, the Underworld. Spirits and ghosts can appear in the world proper in the state of Twilight, immaterial and invisible. The Abyss stretches around these three (technically four) planes and attempts to blockade the five Supernal Realms.
Whether the Arcadia of Mage has any connection to the Arcadia and/or the Hedge of Changeling: The Lost is Shrug of God — that is, individual StoryTeller prerogrative. Imperial Mysteries suggests that the Gentry are gods whose peculiar relationship to time means they come from every Arcadia but the one the Exarchs rule (past, future, alternate, etc.)
There are also the AstralRealms, which are probably the most 'proprietary' of the Invisible Realms that mages can visit. They are the realms of thought, ideas and souls. They are composed of multiple layers, starting from Oneiroi, realms of individual souls, the Temenos, the collective human soul and the Dreamtime, the soul and dreams of everything. It ends at the Ocean Oroboros - a black ocean that is the Astral representation of the Abyss. According to the mythology, on the other side of the Ocean lie the Realms Supernal.
Imperial Mysteries offers this as a possible explanation for archmages editing reality; they're not actually changing anything, they're just coming back into a universe where things operated differently.
Mundane Utility: Doubly Subverted. At first it seems subverted - while it's possible to use magic for everyday chores, doing so is considered an (extremely minor) act of hubris and dings the Karma Meter if you're in its very upper reaches and that Paradox also makes most overt applications of magic just not worth it. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there's tons of covert magic where it's almost impossible to invite Paradox and using magic for Mundane Utility is as serious an offense as a selfish thought is - that is, it might and only might be an offense if you're a saint among saints.
The Perfected Adepts are inspired by the Akashic Brotherhood.
The Subtle Ones are based on the Ahl-i-Batin, a former Tradition (even taking Ahl-i-Batin as an alternate name).
The Uncrowned Kings riff on the Solificati (or Crowned Ones), another former Tradition.
One of the Scelesti's alternate names is the Nefandi, a reference to the Nephandi.
The Tremere Liches, a Moros Legacy, are based on Clan Tremere, a former House of the Order of Hermes.
The Tremere's House Nagaraja take their name from Masquerade's Nagaraja bloodline, former death-mages who turned themselves into vampires.
The Dreamspeakers are obvious.
The Tamers of Stone are based on the Craftmasons, the founders of the Order of Reason.
The Thread-Cutters are based on the Euthanatos.
The Thrice-Great are Awakening's take on Hermeticism.
The Celestial Masters share a name with a faction of the Order of Reason.
The Hollow Ones of the Seers of the Throne share a name with Ascension's pseudo-Tradition.
Left-Hand Path mentions that an attack on Istanbul's Consilium by The Mad in the 11th century resulted in them being described as "Maraud" - as in Marauders, the previous line's term for "mad mages who reject your reality and break shit."
Necessarily Evil: The Guardians of the Veil know perfectly well what they do is morally suspect and based on rationalizations, and none of them like themselves very much for it.
How the Tremere Liches justify their existence. It is their mission to merge the five "soul" (ie Subtle) Arcana back into one, thus bringing about a Golden Age of magic. And since the only way to do that is to merge souls with the Final Watchtower (which they become living portals to), munch away.
Oh, Crap: Standard reaction to pretty much anything coming from the Abyss, with or without warning. Also common whenever a cabal is caught off guard by their enemies - in a game where being able to warp reality requires some time to prepare, being caught with your pants down is generally a death sentence for players.
Omnicidal Maniac: The Scelesti. How much? They serve entities that have a stated goal of destroying everything, including themselves. And then replace it with a paradise where impossibility is no longer an issue, but that's an academic distinction to anyone who is not a Scelestus.
Our Monsters Are Weird: The Abyss is one big honked-up pile of wrong that takes the form of everything from contagious aphasia to brain worms to cannibal timelines to evil grimoires to sinful dream temples out of a pulp novel to...
Your own Goetic doppelganger personification of your worst Vice. The Gloria Mundi introductory chronicle spends either 7 parts, or all 8 parts if you screw up, on fighting Goetic Vice spirits that do such wonderful things as frame you for crimes or luring you to rescue it from a cult of cannibals.
Our Souls Are Different: They crossed from one reality (which is false), over an unreality (which is a horrible abomination) and into another reality (which is a magical reality), then back again... And that's just the first part of the character creation process.
Souls are even the source of magic! Unfortunately, it also makes any and all mages high priority targets for any kind of soul eating entity.
Mages can distill pieces of their souls into physical forms called soul stones. These have numerous uses, the most common of which is the creation of a demesne, a place where Paradox does not occur. There are some drawbacks; creating a soul stone lowers a mage's magical potential, and also makes them vulnerable to control (see Rule of Three).
Mages can even incorporate elements of the Supernal Realms into their very selves via a Legacy, allowing them to replicate certain spells without the risk of Paradox.
Painting the Medium: The page of the core rulebook that describes the Anomaly Paradox, whereby reality is subtly but noticeably out of joint, has all of its text tilted at a 45-degree angle.
You can develop the ability to transform into any shape you like, control others' minds, inflict or remove blindness at a command...
The Whipping Boys Legacy (described in Keys to the Supernal Tarot) is based entirely around using pain and BDSM as a path to enlightenment. Yes, some Mages shape their very souls in order to derive magical power from kinky sex.
Pride: If the Abyss doesn't get you in some form, this, in some way or another, will.
Case in point: Abyssal deals, vulgar magic, and other things that have a high or guaranteed risk of making things very bad for the mage in question typically have comparatively little payoff for the trouble they can bring. Why would anyone make use of them? If desperation doesn't factor into it, nine times out of ten it's because they think they can handle the consequences.
Pride is practically a separate cosmic force working against humanity.
Public Domain Artifact: Several make their way in. It's typically ambiguous as to whether the Artifact is the actual one featured in the legends, simply inspired the legends, or was brought about because of the legends.
A powerful enough Mage has almost no limitations in what they can do, making them the most powerful (with prep time) faction in the World of Darkness. Balancing this is Paradox, which has NO limitations and actively hates the mage.
Anything even remotely connected to the Abyss.
Becoming an archmaster involves walking up to your old limitations, flipping them off, and then claiming a bit of the Supernal for yourself so you can work Story-Breaker Power levels of Reality Warping. Balancing this, besides even meaner Paradox, is Aponoia, which is the tendency to change the world unintentionally in the process of doing what you want.
Red Right Hand: The Seo Hel Tremere House (basically a group of liches who have multiclassed into a new variety of soul magic) have this as their weakness-much like their patron goddess, half of their bodies look dead.
Ret Gone: Nobody has ever failed to become an archmaster once they reached the Supernal. Or, more accurately, those who fail to achieve archmastery once they ascend into the Supernal cease to have ever existed.
An Abyssal intrusion of the Twisting Maze often does this to the people trapped within when it takes a place back into the Abyss, as well as the place itself.
Rule of Three: Mage tradition dictates that any mage who obtains the soul stone of another mage is owed three favours by them, after which they return the stone. Not returning the soulstone to its owner afterwards is a good way to become a social pariah, lose standing in the community and maybe even lose allies. It's not technically an actual crime against the laws of Mage society, but try convincing your peers, while refusing to give someone back a piece of their very soul, that you're not some evil tyrannical slavemaster or a Tremere.
Science Is Bad: Subverted in the sourcebook about Seers of the Throne. The Seers draw temporal power from narrow-mindedness and the inability to accept that which people don't understand. An actual scientist (ie, a person skeptical enough to not take things at first glance, but open enough to accept the supernatural when it's in his face) is everything they hate and dread in a person. Thus, any mage who actually says this is (A) a Luddite with a morality 50 years behind the times, or (B) a Seer.
One of the duties of the Seers of the Throne is to prevent people from Awakening.
The Guardians of the Veil also do this, but in their case it's more testing people so that only those who'll be able to responsibly handle Supernal power learn enough to be able to Awaken, while the others are nudged into a Labyrinth that holds no real truth. The problem is that some of them decide to use the Labyrinth to, say, build their own cults of personality, and that's why nobody likes the Guardians.
Often the best way to deal with a troublesome spirit.
The Abyss is a larger unreality-scale version. Pity that the sealed can seems to have a revolving door for the evil...
Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: The Unbidden features Franklin High, a school under a persistent enchantment by a (now deceased, thankfully) mage who wanted a return to the sexual and moral purity of his youth in The Fifties (stop snickering). The classes under its effects become idealized Happy Days-esque students, with a dislike of premarital sex, polaymorous behavior and homosexuality in any form. The problem, of course, is that the same hormones the enchantment represses are kinda vital to the development of the mind. 90% of the time, the alummni find passive outlets for that bottled passion (if creepy-it takes the form of the Fixation Derangement, meaning that the individual alummni literally cannot stop thinking about it). The other? Oh, nothing, it just screws up the Karma Meter so that sexuality-related sins rank up higher than what would normally be there-like say, murder. And let's not get started on actual homosexuals...
Sinister Surveillance: Extremely common, but the Guardians of the Veil and the Panopticon are still the most notorious examples.
Sourcebook: Standard for any tabletop RPG, the quality of the Mage sourcebooks varies somewhat but it's generally agreed that it averages better than most games.
Spell Book, Tome of Eldritch Lore: As expected of a game about magicians, there are a lot of them, both benign and dangerous. The sourcebook Grimoire of Grimoires is dedicated to these.
The Abyss wants to destroy everything that reminds it of its own warped existence, i.e., the Universe.
On a lesser scale a Nativity intrusion will produce a child that may develop this power.
A Subverted Trope according to the Scelesti: the Abyss is nothing less than Primordial Chaos, and it wants to destroy reality because it's a mortal threat. Naturally, their mission is to help remove that threat.
For the love of god, don't summon anything larger than your head! Half the creatures in the Sourcebook for Summoners are either toxic, madness inducing, undead monsters that can't be confirmed to have ever lived, Cthulhu-esque creatures from the Abyss, creatures incapable of understanding the fallen world from the Supernal, or extra-dimensional monsters that exist to lobotomize people. One of the only SAFELY summonable entities just drops some rare items out of the sky...oh, but you have to burn someone alive to call them up. There ARE instructions on summoning spirits, ghosts, and Cryptids (weird creatures from other universes that act like spirits and are implied to exist due to mortal belief), which are somewhat safer...but still potentially dangerous without the right precautions.
Tarot Motifs: Each of the Paths is associated with one of the Major Arcana (Acanthus - The Fool, Mastigos - The Devil, Moros - Death, Obrimos - Strength, Thyrsus - The Moon), an entire sourcebook, Keys to the Supernal Tarot, is dedicated to providing Tarot-inspired story elements, and there's a full Awakening-themed Tarot deck available.
Too Dumb to Live: Seers of the Throne skirt this trope. Anyone who summons or otherwise willingly seeks contact with the Abyss for reasons other then killing it has taken a perfect 10.0 dive into this trope.
Summoning something from the Abyss for the purposes of fighting/killing it is the equivalent of smearing your naked body with barbecue sauce and then poking a sleeping grizzly in the nose with a toothpick to show him what-for, too.
The in-universe result of letting your Wisdom drop too low. Eventually, you'll care so little about maintaining logic and invoke paradox so casually that the universe will just... decide you don't exist anymore. Or that you retroactively never existed.
Imperial Mysteries has the Qliphoth; failed Archmasters who have had their soul hollowed out and replaced with the lies of the Abyss, turning them into walking vectors for Abyssal intrusion. About the only thing Archmasters agree on is that killing them is a kindness.
Utopia Justifies the Means: the usual explanation for most of the morally-questionable stuff the Silver Ladder gets up to, and some of the stuff the Guardians get up to as well. It also doesn't help that their respective preferred paths toward utopia are mutually-exclusive.
The Virus: Dark Angel Aphasia (a contagious Aphasia), Blood Worms (think tapeworms spread by vampires which eat magic), Abyssal Spiders (invisible brain stomping Demonic Spiders summoned by abusing Mind Control), the Lethean (a memory eating demon), the Ractain Strain when infectious (bizarre ugly humans that carry a bizarre disease when they experience life threatening situations that causes one to be drawn into the Spirit World), Flesh Intruders (Donor Organ Rejection taken to the extreme), the Oath Of Ruin (an inbred clan of rednecks or Corrupt Corporate Executives depending on the needs of the game that carry Abyssal genes)... Essentially half of the entries in the Intruders sourcebook.
War Is Glorious: Played with. Both the Adamantine Arrow and the Praetorian Ministry encourage people to think so, but only the Adamantine Arrow actually believes it.
To be fair, given the way the setting works, the Arrow's beliefs might well be made true.
Weirdness Censor: Paradox, a flaw built into the very structure of the universe that gives explicitly Supernal magic (e.g., throwing fireballs and freezing time) a chance to backfire spectacularly. On top of that, there's Quiescence, which causes any blatantly magical activity observed by Sleepers (e.g., a demonic servitor crafted entirely from the raw stuff of magic) to decay rapidly.
Consciously averted with the Seers of the Throne; the Seers are not the Technocracy, and they're painted as the Bad Guys from square one.
Played straight with the Fangs of Mara and the more extreme members of the Pentacle.
Wild Magic: Night Horrors: The Unbidden details how magic isn't entirely under the control of mages, and at times can even be spontaneous or actively out of control.
Wizard Duel: The Duel Arcane, a highly formal method of combat, in which two mages choose Arcana to act as their Sword and Shield, enter a magically created ring, and pit their magical will against one another in the form of elaborate illusions. It is said to be the preferred method of resolving disputes, as it is quick, generally non-life threatening (attacks start off harming willpower before going to actual physical damage, unless the combatents agree to a Duel to the Death, which are rarely permitted) and has no collateral damage.
Take note the ring for the Duel Arcane requires a mage with the Prime Arcanum to create; usually this is a third party nominated by the challenger but sometimes the challenger or rarely the respondent will forge the ring. It's acceptable to reject the challenge if the mage responsible for the ring is accused of not being impartial, no loss of face or honour is incurred and it's generally considered rude to coerce someone into accepting a challenge to duel or to choose a person that is biased to either party.
Cooking Duel: The eccentricities of mage society mean that virtually any form of magical (or occasionally non-magical) contest can be used with the same legality as a traditional Duel, although simply throwing magical attacks at one another is considered the least sophisticated of them.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Theumiel, a Scelestus archmaster who despises the fundamentally broken state of the World of Darkness and wants to change it... by having the Abyss eat reality so he can start all over again.
Your Soul Is Mine: An entire classification exists for Left-Handed Mages who steal souls— Reapers. The TremereLiches of the core book are the first that come to mind. Silver Ladder features a non-immortality seeking version, the Carnival Melancholy, who burn souls they swipe for luck, while Left-Hand Path features Cloud Infinite, who use souls to augment their own mental abilities, and (Legion), who use the souls as a perfect disguise.