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Tabletop Game / Mage: The Ascension

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Rule of Symbolism note 

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 while reality apparently has certain basic fundamentals, for the most part, the laws of reality exist because of mankind believes it exists by certain laws. Each average human, or "Sleeper," perceives the world in certain terms, and their perception contributes to the Consensus of reality. The Consensus reinforces how reality works, which in turn reinforces the Sleepers' beliefs, and so 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 the Fair Folk, 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 an authoritarian 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 words, because a mage believes he can fly, he can. Problem is, that's not what the current rules of reality say, and so it resists, sometimes even fights back. Presumably, if a mage were the last living being, they'd have near-godlike power and the opportunity to find out what the fundamental rules of reality are absent human belief. Fortunately for everything in existence, this is not the desired endgame for most mages.

Mage: The Ascension is a game of mad, beautiful ideas. This is a game where you can 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 succeeded in the New World of Darkness by Mage: The Awakening, and you could keep your house warm from all the flame wars that erupt over that choice.

Like the other Old World of Darkness games, Mage has a 20th Anniversary Edition that includes options for playing any of the three previous editions, cleans up the magick system, supports playable characters from the Traditions, Technocracy, Crafts and/or Orphans, and is generally massive (they had to edit it down to 500k words, with extra material going into supplements). Its Kickstarter was funded in 45 minutes.

There are eleven 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 (Kha'vadi): Shamans who commune with the world of the spirits. Obviously, masters of the Sphere of Spirit.
  • Akashic Brotherhood (Akashayana): Enlightened monks from the Far East, and experts of Supernatural Martial Arts. Masters of the Sphere of Mind.
  • Euthanatos (Chakravanti): Necromantic mages who guide the great wheel of death and rebirth. Masters of the Sphere of Entropy.
  • Cult of Ecstasy (Sahajiya): 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 Society of Ether or Etherites. Masters of the Sphere of Matter.
  • Virtual Adepts: Computer wizards and hacker mages who seek to open up technology to the masses. Masters of the Sphere of Correspondence.
  • Orphans: Not a Tradition, but a catch-all for mages who follow their own style of magick rather than a specific paradigm. Efforts to unify them as a single group are frequently repeated but short-lived.
  • Hollow Ones: The closest thing to a success at uniting Orphans. These are a group of cynics whose schtick is a post-modern approach to magic and cynically referring to all other forms as "lies."

The Technocracy has its own set of Conventions as well:

  • Iteration X: Technocratic scientists and engineers who specialize in robotics and cybernetics. They also supply most of the union's military forces.
  • New World Order: The Men in Black who act as frontline investigators/enforcers and their more cerebral superiors in White.
  • Progenitors: Doctors and geneticists who focus on cutting-edge medical breakthroughs... and the occasional genetically-engineered monstrosity.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 to 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 it's too late, Transhumanity is more of a soulless hivemind than even 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 and Solificati/Children of Knowledge, 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).

In the 20th anniversary edition, a good number of the Crafts form an informal group around the turn of the millennium they sarcastically call the Disparate Alliance. Finally having had it about up to here with every other mage faction, the Alliance unite behind taking down the Nephandi and the Technocracy in subtle, subversive ways. However, before the Alliance can do anything major, it's got to work out some degree of organization and stability first. It may seem impossible — especially given who's involved — but mages are all about the impossible...

  • Ahl-i-Batin: The Traditions' former masters of the Sphere of Correspondence, Arabic mages who pursue unity with the Divine. Also known as the Batini or Subtle Ones. Equal parts mystics, diplomats, warriors and assassins, they're known for their subtlety and elusiveness.
  • Bata'a: Voudounists who see "magick" as the product of communion with the beings known as Les Mysteres, a respectful exchange between flesh and spirit.
  • Children of Knowledge: Once, they were the Solificati, a group of medieval alchemists who served as the Traditions' first masters of the Sphere of Matter until a prominent figure was found colluding with the Order of Reason and was sentenced to having their Avatar hacked up with a rusty knife, causing the Solificati to collapse through infighting. By the 20th century, they'd reinvented themselves as the Children of Knowledge, updating their methods to the modern era.
  • Hollow Ones: Goth street mages who use pop-culture occultism to work magick, watching out for the misfits, outcasts, and freaks of the modern world.
  • Kopa Loei: Heirs to the magickal traditions of pre-colonial Polynesia, seeking to rebuild and restore their land and peoples.
  • Ngoma: Practitioners of the high ritual magick of Classical Africa, the Ngoma pursue a brighter future for their varied continent.
  • Sisters of Hippolyta: Tracing their origins to the legendary Amazons, the all-female Sisters champion the Divine Feminine (despite the name, the Sisters value not just the feminine, but also non-binary gender as well), serving as healers, liberators, and advocates for women and children.
  • Taftani: Flamboyant, defiant djinn-binders from the Middle East who see magick as a gift, an expression of Ultimate Truth.
  • Templar Knights: Yes, those Knights Templar. One-time servants of the Order of Reason, they were betrayed, faking their destruction and going into hiding, Christ's soldiers against the darkness.
  • Wu Lung: The Dragon Wizards, the former power behind Imperial China, forced to rebuild themselves after they were dethroned by colonialism and Communism, drawing on Chinese alchemy and high ritual magick for their Arts.

This roleplaying game provides examples of:

  • The Aesthetics of Technology: In 20th Anniversary, this is leading to changes in the Technocracy's MO. Obvious cyborgs like Iteration X' legendary HIT Marks are distinctly '90s (though still in use, because obvious cyber does have a cool factor); "Victors" are more likely to just look like supermodels or musclemen with hidden implants, while heavy ass-kicking is more likely to be done with Powered Armor.
  • Agony Beam: The Cult of Ecstasy likes forcing rapists to experience the pain they inflicted on their victims.
  • 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 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.
  • Ascended Meme: "Mages turning vampires into lawn chairs" gets a page or so worth of space in 20th Anniversary, and even happened in universe once. Of course, it's in mutated form this time; it's no longer a joke about how powerless vampires are, but a cautionary tale: Any mage powerful enough to make this happen ought to be smart enough not to do it, both because it doesn't stick, because a frenzied vampire can tear an unprepared mage apart, and even if the mage can deal with that, other vampires will team up to exsanguinate this mage and ensure that it doesn't become common practice.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Oracles, who gained a 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.
  • The Bad Guys Win: The Hell on Earth scenario which is about a Nephandi victory. Note there are also several other happier endings as well. And there's a hint that even this nightmare can end...
  • Badass Army: Where to start? The NWO has the Black Suits, the MIB. The Progenitors have Damage Control, who are heavily enhanced commandos who primarily keep their own Convention in check. While the Iteration X have Shock Corps, heavily enhanced cybernetic army supported with actual robots and futuristic vehicles. And The Void Engineers have an army of actual Space Marines and Star Fleet. 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.
    • More completely, ALL scientists, big-name or otherwise, are technocrats (or from a formerly technocratic sect like Sons of Ether or the Virtual Adepts, or at minimum some sort of sleepwalker serving the technocracy unwittingly). Science IS magic, just a particularly regimented form, and the "discoverers" of various phenomena being mages applying enlightened will is literally the only reason that 'science' consistently functions the way that it does. By definition, anyone who 'discovers' anything in research is actually forging a new cantrip.
    • 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 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.invoked
  • 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 and their pseudomedicine and non-scientific healing.
  • 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.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Joked about in M20. "Yes, another capitalized term; we have lots of those."
  • 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.
  • Clones Are People, Too: The Technocracy considers their artificially created agents to have the exact same worth as their normally born ones.
  • Combinatorial Explosion: The mages' inherent strength is that spheres can be mixed and matched without any issue towards achieving an effect, higher level spheres grant access to higher power effects as well as more of them, to the point where just 3 spheres at level 2 have at least 50 possible effects that can result from their combinations.
  • The Commandments: The Protocols are the rules that allow the Traditions to function as an organization.
  • 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.
    • The primary antagonists of most Mage games are the mages themselves, in the sense of literally the actual player characters. There is a thin to nonexistent line between disbelieving in science because you know better and just being normal-style crazy; most magi are both, and people with very real psychological disorders having the ability to make their crazy entirely real doesn't end any better for them than it does for the people around. The Mages perceive their world as lighter and softer, but in many ways this is just because their perspective is intentionally divorced from reality.
    • Edition-wise, the metaplot in Mage Revised was written specifically to dump flaming crap on the world in preparation for Ascension, with the effective destruction of the Traditions as an organization and the Technocracy governing a soulless, stagnant world. The default assumption of 20th Anniversary, meanwhile, is a Lighter and Softer reaction: the Technocracy's victory turned out to be temporary, the Traditions struck back, and the soulless apathy of The '90s gave way to an unprecedented empowerment of the average citizen that's blindsided just about everyone.
  • 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.
  • Depending on the Writer: Each faction, but the various Traditions, being the de-facto focus, tend to get the most of this:
    • The Celestial Chorus is either a bunch of bickering fundamentalist Tautological Templars or they are all-loving Heart of the Traditions, making sure their allies don't lose sight of human morality.
    • The Dreamspeakers and Verbena are either different because one focuses on more esoteric and abstract matters over the physical world, or because one is European and one isn't.
    • Do the Sons of Ether actually believe that they are Mages or do they just believe that they're following Clarke's Third Law?
    • The Euthanatos may be the biggest victims of this trope. How much killing are they expected to do? How concerned are they with the non-death related aspects of fate? Are they the Traditions' internal police or not?
    • On the Technocracy side: Who controls the media, the NWO or the Syndicate?
  • 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.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Void Engineers have the elimination of Eldritch Abominations in their job description, so it's a very good idea to avoid pissing them off.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Social media and the expansion of the Internet took the Technocracy completely by surprise. Even the New World Order admits they kinda slacked on that one.
  • Downer Ending: In "The Earth Will Shake," the destruction of civilization and the death of nearly all humanity is a triumphant victory. A real failure means the destruction of the Earth's entire biosphere.
    • And, of course, "Hell on Earth", where Nephandi won and take over the world, instead of destroying it... well, over what's left of it.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Before the setting was revived there was an ending in which humanity did get universal Ascension like the heroic factions had always wanted.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Some of the things the Nephandi serve, such as the Wyrm. The alien entities that live beyond the Horizon also qualify.
  • Enemy Civil War: In the revised Convention books, the Syndicate and the NWO are on the brink of 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.
  • 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 whenever both notice a Marauder or a Nephandus. Especially the Nephandus. To the point that the Traditions and Technocrats will team up with Marauders to destroy a Nephandus, especially since despite being completely chaotic, one sure-fire constant about Marauders is that they will attack Nephandi on sight. 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.
  • 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.
  • Everything Is Online: The Virtual Adepts. They can hack your arm control nerve or the wallpaper in your room.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Technocrats, Tradition mages and even Marauders will team up to fight the Nephandi if they make an appearance, regardless of how malevolent their goals might otherwise be.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Technocracy started as the heroic Order of Reason who fought monsters and Dark Age mages on mankind's behalf. After centuries and multiple purges of their own members though they've become the modern Technocracy who, while not fully evil by any stretch of the imagination, do very questionable stuff like pogroms of Reality Deviants and ruling Sleepers from the shadows without their consent.
  • Fallout Shelter Fail: Invoked in the Ascension scenario "The Earth Will Shake", in which the fate of the planet is decided not by the Traditions or the Technocracy, but by a colossal meteor dubbed "Typhon." Screwing up this scenario will naturally result in an apocalyptic collision - and the book specifically notes that the meteor is so large that even the best-reinforced bunkers on Earth will collapse on impact, killing everyone inside just as surely as everyone else on the planet.
  • Fantastic Terrorists: The Chaioth Ha-Quadesh. It's a genocidal group that includes Knight Templar crusaders and jihadists, a Chinese gang that thinks it's After the End, and a group of guys who think they're in a virtual reality FPS and act accordingly. They use reality-bending magic in order to get the stuff they need to accomplish a strike in place and then execute.
  • Fantastic Underclass:
    • The older Traditions tend to look down on more technologically-minded mages like the Sons of Ether and the Virtual Adepts, sometimes even believing them to be one step removed from becoming members of the Technocracy. In the past, this actually led to House Verditus being dissolved by the Order of Hermes and its membership assigned to House Ex Miscellanea, where they were doomed to spend the rest of their lives as embarrassments and and outcasts. Unfortunately, this led to several members of House Verditus joining the Technocracy out of sheer spite.
    • Mages who exist outside the factions are often on the lowest rung of Awakened society. Known condescendingly as Orphans, they follow neither Traditional magic nor Enlightened Science, instead creating their own style through trial and error. For this reason, many treat them as misguided children, either dismissing their work as invalid or trying to recruit the more "promising" ones into the Traditions or the Technocracy, sometimes minus their consent. However, because many exist without the support of a faction, Orphans are often killed by Technocracy hitsquads or preyed upon by Nephandi. The fact that several Orphans are impoverished or even homeless doesn't help.
    • The Technocracy's view on Sleepers has shades of this. While they believe all humans are deserving of protection and the benefits of technology, they also think they must be controlled for their own good.
  • 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 them from coming back.
  • 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.
  • Full-Contact Magic: The Akashic Brotherhood, equally skilled in fist-fighting and ki.
  • Geometric Magic: A frequent feature of Order of Hermes castings, predictably enough. The predecessors of the Technocracy in Mage: The Sorcerers’ Crusade also explicitly included geometricians, mystical mathematicians.
  • 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 obliteration of everything remotely near the target. Also authorizes suicide missions to the point of killing every Technocratic operative involved in the operation, if necessary. They’d just say that Good Is Not Nice.
  • 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.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Kitab Al-Alacir, an ancient book that predates the fall of Troy, which describes the order of the universe. It's most famous for discussing "ether" as a concept, so it's most commonly held up as one of the most important texts to the Etherites, but its study has influenced several other groups, including the Solifacti, the Order of Hermes, and even a few members of Iteration X and the Void Engineers (who typically view discussions of ether within said book with a Science Marches On perspective In-Universe).
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality:
    • Unlike its sister lines Werewolf: The Apocalypse, which runs on Black-and-Gray Morality, and Vampire: The Masquerade, which is Evil vs. 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...
    • Black-and-Gray 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. While there's no canon in the 20th Anniversary Edition, the book's default state confirms this. The Nephandi are not only winning, but may control the Technocracy outright, depending on the Storyteller's choices.
  • 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.
  • The Hedonist: The Cult of Ecstasy understandably attracts a lot of these.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Scions of Ether and Virtual Adepts were both parts of the Technocracy before they joined the Traditions.
  • Hell Seeker: This is the Nephandi's reason for existence. They do horrible things, love doing so and wish to be horribly punished for it. During one ending, they all get sentenced to the horrible hell they desired after they team up with the Traditionalists, Technocrats and Marauders to stop a common foe.
  • Hermetic Magic: The Order of Hermes.
  • Hero Antagonist: Many Technocrats are this, notably the Void Engineers and the post-Avatar Storm Progenitors (bonus points for them teaming up afterwards).
  • 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. One of the ways non-mage supernatural creatures in the World of Darkness continue to have a masquerade is because humans with low Willpower will either refuse to process whatever they just saw / heard / smelled / felt as supernatural or try to run away screaming incoherently. Mages will not only see what's actually happening, but often are entirely stoic about it.
  • Higher Understanding Through Drugs: Several Traditions use various drugs as Foci, most notably the Cult of Ecstasy. 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Technocracy's attempts at forcing their Paradigm into being the "default" one worked... too well. As it ultimately revolved around crushing humanity's collective ability to wonder, dream and hope, they squeezed so tightly that they've permanently damaged it, meaning their own "hypertech" is now almost as impossible to muggles as a Traditional mage throwing a fireball. This is forcing a hard cap on just how much of their powers Technocrats can actually use in public and drastically slowing their ability to "uplift" humanity as a whole — this strong possibility that they may be on the verge of permanently removing the ability of others to Ascend has given the Technocracy a severe case of Pyrrhic Victory.
  • 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: The entire conflict is one massive version of this. Bonus points to the Marauders.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades: When compared to the rest of The World of Darkness, mages might be seen as this, as their very flexible spheres could allow them to replicate a lot of the static powers others might employ (aura reading would be a mind/spirit effect of only level 1 or 2), or make completely new ones that others could only dream of. The Master of None part comes in for either the ultra-specialized powers or high tier powers, as say, a vampire's 4 dot discipline might need level 6 in three spheres to achieve. Mages shine through the huge variety of combinations between spheres they can use without any prerequisite other than thinking it up and having the required sphere levels
  • 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.
    • One of the most frightening "warrior" builds in the setting is actually a mage built entirely as a vanilla mortal, but with one point in a wide array of spheres, because it's essentially a mortal hunter that always knows exactly what any other supernatural is, what they're doing, and how they're doing it, but the build doesn't scale up much in power as you advance, so the "linear warriors" bit applies even to mage itself.
  • 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).
    • Among the Sons of Ether, the Ethernauts double down, basically declaring that The World of Darkness isn't crazy enough so they're going to build a magical (that is, Scientific) rocket ship to find a different world.
    • Approaching from the more mystical end, any Tradition or Craft mage that's more interested in seeing what they can do with magic rather than anything approaching ethics or consent can become a sorcerous version of this. The Order of Hermes has more than a few examples.
  • Literal Transformative Experience: The Verbena character template known only as "Shapeshifter" started out as a Shrinking Violet with an unattainable desire to escape from her routine-bound life. However, everything changed when she fell in love with a Verbena mage: not only did she end up losing her virginity to him, but she ended up Awakening in the process, the two of them transforming into animals as they had sex. Now, the character is described to have become "like a house pet gone feral," taking on any persona or form imaginable on a whim, living life with exactly the kind of joie de vivre she always wanted.
  • 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.
  • Magically Binding Contract Books of Secrets has a flaw called Geas or Imperative, which first gives something that the mage can or cannot do and the result of the mage breaking that condition, the relative difficulty of abiding the contract and how bad the punishment is determining how big the flaw is in terms of freebies returned. So you can have an easy geas that asks that you go outside at least once per day and turns your hair rainbow if you don't, or one as horrifying as being unable to leave a particular spot or your avatar shatters. Obviously, the high end of these imperatives are downright unplayable barring very, very creative players who might use their spheres to abuse loopholes (astral projection not counting as their body had not left the spot or sending out clones as the original is still in the required spot), though these are usually high-level sphere effects that a starting character cannot possibly access with normal building rules.
  • 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.
    • Also somewhat subverted in that the Dreamspeakers are as likely to be white as anything else, and tend to be by far the most grounded and practical of the traditions, as well as by far the least mystical. They owe this mostly to their penchant for spirit magic, which is the one sphere of magic that requires relating to other people's paradigms instead of imposing one's own. Where even a Virtual Adept has to go into three layers of technobabble to open a locked door, a Dreamspeaker tends to simply ask the door to unlock itself.
  • 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," a definition originally popularized by Aleister Crowley, who also spelled it with a "k". When they dropped the "k" at the end, well...
  • Magitech: All technology in the setting is really this as it works only because humans believe it does.
  • Masquerade: 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. 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.
  • Masquerade Enforcer: Paradox. The few instances where mages tried to do world-grabbing magic, Paradox came down on them hard. As a result, they need to keep their magic subtle.
    • Aggravated by other factions: The Technocracy, in addition to using The Men in Black to hunt down mages, loves making life difficult for "Reality Deviants" by encouraging muggles to disbelieve in magic, causing magic to risk Paradox. 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.
    • 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).
  • Meaningful Name: Heylel Teonim, Solificati representative in the First Cabal of the Traditions, is widely known in the Traditions as the traitor who sold out said Cabal to the Order of Reason and the traitor of the Traditions. "Heylel" is the Hebrew name most frequently translated as "Lucifer" in The Bible.
  • 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. Threat Null has an implicit one once you find out what its origins are — four factions, four corresponding Technocratic Conventions, so where are the Void Adapted counterpart to the Void Engineers?
  • 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.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: Mages as individuals are usually trying to achieve good ends. The main conflict is Romanticism Versus Enlightenment, with the Romantic Traditions embracing old school mysticism and trying to awaken humanity and the Enlightened Technocratic Union trying to empower humanity For Science!. Then there are the Eldritch Abomination-serving Nephandi and the insane-as-all-Hell Reality Warper Marauders. The conflict started with the Traditions clearly being morally superior to the Technocrats, but the Technocracy got a little Character Development later on and it became very hard to say either side was right. Individual mages in each group were all over the map, while the Marauders are very much Blue-and-Orange Morality and the Nephandi are a faction serving evil masters.
  • Mortality Phobia: One of the major villains is a death-obsessed Euthanatos. In one of the finale scenarios he becomes the Big Bad, attempting to stop a mass ascension event, even at the risk of breaking reality, just to keep himself alive.
  • 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.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: In the 20th Anniversary edition, Nephandi (demon/devil worshippers) are not allowed as Player Characters.
  • 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.
  • Nurture over Nature: An inversion that does not qualify for Villainous Lineage or In the Blood. Widderslaintes are reincarnated Nephandi, and their Avatar is inherently evil — in the words of a commenter, widderslaintes are "a living argument against free will." They are born sociopaths who can't be redeemed short of destroying their souls, and at that point death is a Mercy Kill. (Actually fixing their Avatar requires magic that's considered to be essentially mythical.)
    • The 20th Anniversary Edition walks this back a little. Widderslaintes are not destined to fall, but they are heavily predisposed to, as other Nephandi take notice of them and their own Avatar effectively takes the role of an abusive parent. It’s possible for them to walk the righteous path, but it takes a lot of effort.
  • 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. Ironically, Judgement reveals that Voormas is somewhere between a subversion and a downplayed example; his "killing everything" would actually be the first step to merging life and death, creating a World of Silence where nothing actually dies or is born; everyone would become very bored but very alive immortals. Voormas himself is actually terrified of death, due to a long-ago Heel Realization that he had some incredibly bad karma over his head but not believing he could avoid it.
  • 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.
  • Paranormal Gambling Advantage: The Entropy Sphere has three ways to do this. The first rank grants automatic probability calculation (such as the odds of winning a poker hand). The second rank, combined with rank 2 Time, allows the user to forsee the most likely event. The third rank of Entropy allows a Mage to just make the machine give them a winning result.
  • 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.
  • Pride: The 20th Anniversary book states that every last mage MUST be prideful and to a serious degree, as only the belief that their power is above reality's laws is what allows them to overcome it. More of an Informed Attribute as Arete is tied to understanding their power and how much of it the avatar grants. Still, this drives most of the politics of Mage.
  • 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 psychotic beings who wish for the destruction of everyrthing, it's less of a case of "enforcing a worldview" and more "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).
    • In the 20th Anniversary Edition this was changed so that the Technocracy only won temporarily and the Traditions have pulled a major comeback.
  • 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 cool gadgets but are seen by many in the fandom as more likable than the Traditions.
  • Reforged into a Minion: This is a common tactic for the Technocracy, taking captured Tradition or Craft mages and brainwashing them into the service of the Union. Some particularly tough nuts are broken thoroughly and used as Wetware CPU for the powerful Atlas units.
  • 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.
    • The technomantic Traditions also tend to favor Romanticist attitudes toward technology, to the point that the Sons of Ether left the Technocracy because the Technocrats were destroying all the "cool" science. The Virtual Adepts, meanwhile, institutionally tend to embrace the "punk" part of Cyberpunk, though this isn't necessarily inherent to their Tradition (just to '90s attitudes about computers and hacking).
    • From the Technocratic viewpoint, Romanticism is largely blaming its own problems on Enlightenment. They're not entirely wrong.
    • The 20th Anniversary edition presents a more even-handed view of this, pointing out that the Traditions have issues, many Technocrats are genuinely trying to help people, and that Enlightenment has done a lot to improve things for the common man. It also suggests that a second Enlightenment, in the form of the increasing empowerment of ordinary citizens, has blindsided both sides and left them struggling to adapt.
    • The paradigms enumerated in 20th Anniversary fit across the spectrum and outside of it. Bring Back the Golden Age is the purest example of Romanticism, with A World of Gods and Monsters, Everything is an Illusion, Prison or Mistake, Might is Right and One-Way Trip to Oblivion for partners...along with It's All Good-Have Faith. A Mechanistic Cosmos, Everything is Data, and especially Tech Holds All Answers carry the torch for team Enlightenment. Creation is Innately Divine and Alive is usually Romantic, but the Gaia Hypothesis is an Enlightened version of the same thing. Everything is Chaos takes both Romanticism and Enlightenment with a grain of salt, while Divine Order and Earthly Chaos can be either, but is usually neither.
  • Science Is Good: In contrast to earlier versions, in the 20th anniversary edition a major theme is how science and technology are just as amazing and wonderful as the spiritual traditions mages draw power from. In spite of this the Technocracy are still presented as heavily flawed (but not evil) with it made clear that their issue isn't science, it's their authoritarian beliefs and willingness to do almost anything to achieve their goals.
  • Science Marches On: Has been weaponized by the Technocracy on occasion, deliberately "revising scientific understanding" of elements of reality that proved advantageous to their enemies or detrimental to them.invoked
  • Science Destroys Magic: This is what happened to Earth in the setting. The Technocracy managed to impose its scientific, rational worldview and thereby suppressed the fantasy elements (e.g. magic and monsters) that were common before.
    • Magic by Any Other Name: Science being just another way of using magic is one of the primary conceits of the setting.
  • 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.
    • The Ngoma, particularly those not part of the Order of Hermes, refuse to stick to one side or the other. There's as much wisdom in reality hacking and hypereconomics as there is in ancient African lore or Hermetic High Ritual, and an Ngoma is likely to employ all of them.
    • Any mage whose paradigm allows (or shifts to allow) can take the Trait Techgnosi/Scientific Mystic (for those whose primary focus is respectively mystic/technological) allowing such things as an Etherite using powered armor and magical martial arts, a Verbena using the internet to set up group rituals as they arrange in big circles or any other magitek mix one can imagine. Obviously unheard of in the Technocracy.
  • 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.
  • Smug Super: Technocrats call humans who aren't part of their organization the masses and believe they must be controlled for their own good.
  • The Social Expert: The New World Order's raison d'être.
  • Special Snowflake Syndrome: "Look at me! I'm a Subtle One!" 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.
    • Werecreatures mostly concern themselves with the Vidare Spiritus and Middle Umbra. Mages can potentially have any of the videre and reach any part of the Umbra — including the Astral Umbra, which is almost exclusively the purview of mages.
  • 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.
  • Steampunk: Sons of Ether tend to embrace "alternative" scientific paradigms such as Victorian-inspired (or pulp sci-fi) technology.
  • Straw Nihilist: The Hollow Ones.
  • 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 reflecting Mage and the wider World of Darkness.
    • The four Suits were renamed after the four Avatar Essences and associated with their corresponding faction: Swords to Dynamism (Marauders), Coins to Pattern (the Technocracy), Cups to Primordialism (Nephandi) and Wands to Questing (the Traditions).
    • The Major Arcana were illustrated as follows:
      • The Fool: Changelings,
      • The Magician (renamed The Mage, as seen on the page's image): Virtual Adepts,
      • The High Priestess: Dreamspeakers,
      • The Empress: Verbena,
      • The Emperor: Order of Hermes,
      • The Hierophant: Celestial Chorus,
      • The Lovers: Cult of Ecstasy,
      • The Chariot: Sons of Ether,
      • Strength: Werewolves,
      • The Hermit: Hollow Ones,
      • Wheel of Fortune: Euthanatos,
      • Justice: Akashic Brotherhood,
      • The Hanged Man: Paradox,
      • Death: Vampires,
      • Temperance: Golconda,
      • The Devil: the Wyrm,
      • The Tower: a Chantry,
      • The Star: the Umbra,
      • The Moon (renamed Luna),
      • The Sun,
      • Judgement: Gehenna/the Apocalypse/etc...
      • The World (renamed Gaia).
  • Technical Pacifist: Czar Vargo tried to take over the world and destroyed armies of Technocrat robots, but fled rather than kill a single Progenitor soldier.
  • 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.
  • Tuneless Song of Madness: Not uncommon among Marauders and Nephandi; one anecdote in the Iteration X convention book features an operative being witness to a virtual Eldritch Abomination devouring a swathe of the Digital Web... all while an innocuous-looking man stood in the background, smiling to himself and humming a children's song.
  • 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.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Technocracy will do anything to preserve the paradigm that allows humans to use technology.
  • Villainous Valor: Many Technocrats truly believe what they preach, and are quite willing to die for it.
  • Villain Protagonist: The new versions of the game allow players to be Technocrats and even have Technocracy sourcebooks.
  • 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).
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The Traditions get a fair dose of this among one another, but it rivals the Trope Namer for sheer tragicomedy with the addition of the Disparate Alliance — which is basically a less organized version of the Traditions, but hates them almost as much as they do the Technocracy. One almost expects someone from either faction to shout, "Splitter!" at the other during a meeting.
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: In the 20th Anniversary version, World War II was a result of a Nephandi scheme that damn near gave them the world. The Technocracy was originally duped into supporting the Axis (hence all the wunderwaffen), but after they realized just what was going on, changed sides and supported the Allies.
  • 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.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Technocracy occasionally purges their own side. They even killed Alan Turing just to 'punish' the Virtual Adepts.
  • 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.


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