Continuing from last week, for Mages, I stuck closer to the canon splats, but the whole idea of Paradox, consensual reality, and all the normal magely threats seemed like too much baggage for a Vampire game. Instead, I gave them the simpler problem of whether to pursue safe magic that’s incredibly slow to learn, or quick power that’s dangerous as hell. That created some ideas for how to realign the Traditions.
There are a number of mortals that can manipulate supernatural forces via various mystical traditions. Some of them are powerful enough to battle a Kindred head-to-head, particularly if given time to prepare ritual magic. It is uncertain how many are present in Atlanta, as the term “Arcane” originates with the Wise.
While there are no specific accords with magi in the city, they tend to leave Kindred alone if left alone and claim little territory that the Camarilla is interested in. Kindred of the city are not barred from antagonizing them if the situation demands it, but should avoid doing so for the safety of others if at all possible. Many sorcerers seem content to be left alone to research, but leap into action to burn to ash any clear and present threats to their security.
When in doubt, contact the Tremere to investigate further (a boon will be owed).
The ability to perform magic is actually surprisingly common. Not just the charms peddled in the mall bookstore’s New Age section, but acts that would make even the most hardened skeptic admit something strange was happening.
The problem is, you have to have real skill to reliably, repeatably perform these actions. Any kid with a spell can sometimes get a result on Samhain at midnight in a graveyard using inherited candles and a real Latin incantation. Sometimes. And half the time, it’s more dangerous than was intended.
So, yeah, magic’s not really a secret. It’s just the people that can do it reliably don’t like to advertise. Too many rival groups might try to co-opt them, and too many impressionable kids might try to copy them and screw it up.
There are two paths to magic: the easy way and the hard way.
The hard way requires decades of study. It’s the historical wizarding traditions you see in all the fiction: you might apprentice for seven years before you cast your first spell. But it’s safe power. You’re going to be the most terrifying elderly person on the planet.
The easy way is to make a deal for power. Otherworldly entities and the things that go bump in the night love to offer you abilities beyond your wildest dreams. A lot of times, the price is obviously too high. But some things don’t ask for outright supernaturally enforced obedience and corruption, they just shove years of magic right into your brain. Even if you didn’t owe (and you do), the spells aren’t really yours in the same way they would be if you’d practiced for years. You’re bound to screw them up magnificently in a pinch.
So if you see a kid claiming to be able to do magic, stay away: she’s a danger to herself and everyone around her. If you see an old person claiming the same thing, run. If she’s on the level, you’re screwed.
Why don’t wizards make themselves more well known, other than just general self-protection?
Magic, when it comes down to it, is arcane: it works best when done in secret. A powerful sorcerer in the country in the middle of the night with only his victim to see him can work terrible magics indeed. The same spell is virtually meaningless in the middle of the city at noon with hundreds of watchers.
Nobody really knows why this would be the case, other than it just feels right, and feel is very important to magic. Places where your intuition tells you the walls of reality are thin are the places where wondrous things can happen. So if you’re being pursued by a sorcerer, get to somewhere brightly lit and populated as soon as you can.
Of course, if it’s a wizard skilled enough to curse you from a little dark shop across town… well, people collapsing mysteriously in a crowd is tragic, but it’s not exactly weird…
All scholarly traditions of magic are directly linked to the Hermetics: it all shares a unifying series of praxis. The practitioners of these traditions might not get along, but they can learn from one another to a large extent if they do.
There are several broad types of shamanic traditions that are much less closely linked:
- Those who speak to the spirits of nature and dreams
- Those that learn from the spirits of the dead
- Those that reach to spirits of the body and soul
- Those that take inspiration from the intelligences of the astral plane
There are five houses of Hermes:
- Akasha: Eastern wizards that merge martial art and magic
- Celestine: Catholic wizards that see magic as part of the divine
- Flambeau: Wizards that fit the expected pop culture stereotypes
- Thig: Modern wizards using computers to aid in mystical calculations
- Vervaine: “Hedge wizards” that master magic mixed with naturalism
Sorcery is dominated by two methodologies, the practice of which is not compatible and the practitioners of which don’t really get along:
- Hermetic Traditions follow a slow and hierarchical path of discovery about the self and the world. They pick up magic very gradually, but minimize risk and can reach a quite powerful old age.
- Shamanic/Warlock Traditions bargain directly with spirits and other beings for power. They are typically solitary or in small groups, each with a very different style. They tend to become powerful quickly and then die young as their bargains catch up to them.
- House Akasha (Akashic Brotherhood): Representing much of the Eastern thought that incorporated Hermeticism, this group tends to be blend rituals with martial arts. They thrive on enchanted equipment and even spelled tattoos. Flashier magic tends to focus on scrolls and herbalism.
- House Celestine (Celestial Chorus): A splinter of the tradition that went very religious in antiquity, they house most of the Catholic mystics within the orders. They like to hide their workings in Christian trappings, chanting spells, using Bible codes, and the like.
- House Flambeau (Order of Hermes): A collection of elementalists, these sorcerers tend to be the most like the common conception of a wizard. They have no particular agenda other than attempting to amass the most possible mystic power within their lifetimes.
- House Thig (Virtual Adepts): A recent splinter of several of the other houses, this group seeks to use computers to speed up a lot of the long calculations inherent in the art. Since this involves a lot of time around these devices, they’ve also begun experiments using the Internet and other telecommunication to send spells all over the world.
- House Vervaine (Verbena): Sometimes called “hedge wizards,” this group tries to live in harmony with nature and invest their magics in gardens and preserves. Unlike traditional witches, they command spirits rather than the other way around, spending years working at their arts. They have the best magics of healing of any group.
- Cult of Ecstasy: A loose term for Tantric and other hedonistic paths that consider pursuit of Ananda/Bliss to be the foremost goal of a sorcerer. They tend to pursue magics to alter and affect the human form and manipulate the perception of and actual flow of time.
- Dreamspeakers: A vaguely derogatory term for a vast swath of dissimilar native shamanic traditions. They are becoming increasingly marginalized over time. They tend to be the best at actually controlling spirits rather than being controlled by them, and manipulating magical energies.
- Euthanatos: A catchall for death cultists in all their stripes, most of these serve ghosts: either to gain power from them, or help them move on. They are the best at energies surrounding death and fate, and often deft hands at manipulating minds and spaces.
- Sons of Ether: Inheritors of the tradition of the muse, these are largely secular humanists that attempt to channel extraplanar genius into their works. Rarely flashy, they instead tend to have a tremendous collection of holdouts and enhanced equipment.
“And on to general warnings for this Elysium… It has been brought to my attention that Devin recently had her work to gather influence in the local churches stopped by a local pastor. His name is Benjamin Crow, and he preaches in a Pentecostal church up somewhere in Marietta. He apparently drinks fire as an alternative to snake handling; our research into his background reveals that he was in a carnival before getting religion in World War II, so it’s likely just a trick. More importantly, Basil’s investigation of the man turned up a strong feeling of True Faith, including possibly the ability to sense the presence of Kindred.
“Until we know what we’re dealing with, Kindred of the city are not, under any circumstances, to engage with Pastor Crow. It’s entirely likely that he’s just a clever old preacher who noticed some irregularities with his friends in the business, but the Faith would make it dangerous to risk a confrontation. He’s old and has so far only been a nuisance, so it’s best to just wait him out. If you do catch wind of his involvement in any other Kindred business, inform your primogen or me immediately.”
Benjamin Crow was born in 1922 and may be an illegitimate son of Aleister Crowley. He was raised in a carnival, and had become an expert entertainer by the time he was 18, specializing in fire-eating. He fought in WWII, where he came to the attention of the Order of Hermes. Initially apprenticed in Flambeau, his religious convictions led him to House Celestine.
Now 70 (but barely looks 60), he had retired to Marietta to simply preach to a small, pentecostal church. However, he quickly began to pick up that Atlanta was a hotbed of supernatural problems, particularly from the Cainites. While he’s wise enough to not begin any encounter by throwing fireballs, they’re never far from his fingers and he’s largely convinced that Cainites are better off being burned in celestial fire to free them from their unholy existence.
He’s been quietly working to try to find and destroy Kindred influence in the city, particularly over religious leaders. He managed to completely stymie Devin’s takeover of the Methodist convention, and she’s now aware of his involvement, and he’s learned enough about Anna to be worried. He’s gotten word of Niki, and is saving her as a potential ally if he requires one, as she seems to have no interest in religious institutions.
Most Physical Rolls: 3 (6 if given time to prepare)
Most Social Rolls: 8 to persuade, 6 to lie
Most Mental Rolls: 7
Has Stamina 3 and, unless completely caught off guard has, 5 points of Forces armor. Is old, so first health level is permanently lost.
Prefers to use what is effectively Forces/Prime to attack with 4 dice in public up to 10 dice at the heart of his power or at other significant mystical location/event. This is often a celestial fire attack (aggravated damage) coupled with flight and invisibility for mobility.
Has True Faith.
“In other news, we’re pleased to note that Silas tracked down and dealt with the source of incendiary bullets that some of you were reporting. If you hear of any more, let one of us know.”
Dear Mr. Powers,
I heard about you on several technologist BBSes. For various reasons I am unable to travel out of the South to look for venture capital. I know what I am offering is not exactly your standard investment, but I hope you will at least consider funding my research.
I have enclosed a simple example of what I can do. It is a .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge. I have replaced the standard load with a heat seeking explosive round. It should attempt to tumble toward the center of mass of the heat source within two degrees of its firing direction to compensate for movement or poor aim.
If you like the sample and would like to talk about funding, please contact me at the attached pager number and I’ll call to set up a meeting.
A Local Inventor
Elaine Brown (b 1976) is a 16 year old Son (Daughter) of Ether whose muse has brought her a lot of skill in designing weapons. She works after school for her cousin, Al Brown, who runs a gun store in Druid Hills. His shop has become renowned for its variety of custom rounds. By night, she invents a wide variety of munitions and automated weapon systems, as well as miscellaneous tech that strikes her fancy, a large number of which only work for her.
Her more mundane loadouts included some experiments with incendiary and wood rounds that came to Kindred attention. At Joseph’s urging, Silas got in contact (though she dealt with him via an armed, voice-altering remote drone) and offered to fund her work in exchange for avoiding selling certain types of weapon to the general public (and alerting him if anyone else requested the work).
The first one to look for such things was Anna, a few days later, working on her own to try to make a deal; Elaine saw her off with shots and Anna probably wants payback. Meanwhile, Burdell is more surreptitiously asking around and trying to find her actual workshop. If this keeps up, it might quickly ruin the deal with the Prince and turn Elaine into a heavily armed threat for the Kindred of the city.
She might be interested in trying to get some alternate startup funding from Maxwell…
Most Physical Rolls: 4 dice (6 if given time to invent something to help)
Most Social Rolls: 5 dice
Most Mental Rolls: 8 dice
Stamina 3, Armor 3 (microweave body armor with reactive force fields)
Attack: Various guns with 7 dice and special loadouts (likely doing agg damage) as well as potentially two or three other 6 die attacks from automated drones.
The Danforth Archive
Player Notes (General)
From The Who’s Who of Amazing Stories published in 1981:
Danforth, Alexandria – While most likely a pseudonym, the name Alexandria Danforth is remembered for inspiring several pulp and sci-fi novels in the 1950s.
The woman herself appears as a footnote in the World War II history of MI5. While her background with the agency was not recorded, it is most likely that she was a maths teacher brought in to help with what would eventually become the Ultra project to decrypt Axis communications.
She is recorded as having a stubborn belief in the “universal unconscious” and a specific theory that any plan committed to paper, especially if of sufficient “weight” to the course of history, would be imprinted on this unconscious. She agitated for resources to develop a machine that could access this information and, thus, copy Axis plans “from thin air.” Her superiors found this theory to be “the worst kind of mystical hoodoo” and never funded or even encouraged pursuit of the theory.
The idea did come to light after the war, and became a common trope in several short story magazines of the next two decades. Danforth was not heard from again after the war, and her fate is uncertain.
A few months ago, your sire had you go dumpster diving for shredded documents at a few tech and financial firms. You’ve been meticulously reassembling them, and she’s been very pleased when you get her a list of bank data or passwords. Recently, one of the documents turned out to be a dot-matrix wireframe blueprint with the caption “Original Plans, Temple of Zeus?” and the page header “Danforth Test 5.” Unfortunately, it could have come from one of several dumpsters you hit in your original search…
A few years ago, “The Danforth Deconstruction” began to circulate as an interesting variation of the Traveling Salesman problem among computer scientists. They are thought exercises revolving around the most efficient way to search a non-indexed database for fuzzy search terms. The common theory on the BBSes discussing the problem is that someone’s gotten access to a mass of scanned and badly OCRed data that they need to sort through quickly.
Alexandria Danforth was an apprentice of House Bonisagus before being drafted for the war, and returned to her training afterwards. Her quest to apply modern technology to the problems of magic was instrumental in reforming the tradition as House Thig. While she disappeared even to her own house in the 1970s, she left behind copious notes. As computer processing power has increased, the house has come up with prototype systems that can access what they have come to refer to as The Danforth Archive.
Unfortunately, information appears to be stored by an unintuitive format that pays more attention to the date of creation and emotional state of the creator of documents than any more searchable type of order. Documents appear easier to find the older and more important they are and may only appear if they’ve been subsequently destroyed. Thus the operators of the device are having a tremendously hard time producing anything of value, or, more importantly, even verifying that what they’re finding is genuine archaeological data or some kind of obscure wish-fulfillment of the operators (always a problem in psychosciences).
Thus, House Thig is discussing trying to make peaceful contact with a Cainite of sufficient age and reasonable disposition that could point them at a plan created in the past and verify its accuracy when retrieved.