Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Seers of the Throne) [Mage: The Awakening]

Mage: The Awakening, Open Development

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Time for the Devil to get his due.

But first, some musical accompaniment.

Several years ago, when we were writing what is now Vampire: The Requiem Second Edition, I was taking a lot of notes about how I’d handle Mage in what was then still The Fallen World Chronicle. Rose’s decision to put VII at the front of Blood & Smoke along with the other covenants cemented something I’ve felt for years.

That is, that for all its other qualities the original corebook for Mage did not serve the Seers well.

The Seers of the Throne had a bumpy ride as antagonists, until eventually earning their place as probably Mage‘s primary source of opposition for player cabals. Some books, like Sanctum and Sigil, remembered to spend time on them, while others all-but ignored them. Depending on which book you read, the sixth Order may as well not have existed.

That changed – for the better – when the Seer book came out. Every Mage release since then has had Seer content in it. Maybe not much, but when we wrote the Chronicler’s Guide, Imperial Mysteries, or Left Hand Path we were always careful to at least address what the Ministries thought about the subject at hand. And it was while doing that, which necessitated us having to explain the structure of the Ministries and the identities of the chief Exarchs over and over again (as we try to never rely on a none-core release) that I finally decided to apply for the role as Mage Developer.

Yes, the second edition of Awakening has many causes behind it, is the product of a hard-working team examining and reexamining and re-imagining systems for over three years, but it all started when I thought to myself “if only I could do a new corebook, so I didn’t have to explain what the Archigenitors were any more.”

So, then. The Seers.

The Seers are the greatest enemy of the Pentacle, and all good feuds it comes down to their essential similarity; Mad Ones, Liches, and Banishers are all aberrant in some way, slid off the parameters of being “proper” mages. Abyssal Entities are more forces of (un)nature than relateable antagonists, and are only slightly worse than ghosts, spirits, goetia, and Supernal entities.

Seers, though, Seers are just like you. They’ve got their own political structure, but so do the Free Council. They have potent tricks up their sleeve (perhaps more potent than those the Pentacle have, at the hefty cost of service to the Supernal Tyrants), but ultimately, Seers are just mages. Anyone can Awaken, decide “fuck the world, I’m going to get mine” and join them. That’s why the sects hate one another so much; they’re mirror-images.

Unlike the Left Handed, Awakening Second Edition does contain full mechanics for the Seers – it’s not a “fair” share of content (They have far, far less than 1/6th of the wordcount) but it’s much more than in first edition. Armed with the gameline so far behind us, we set aside a little room in the Setting Chapter to cover the Iron Pyramid, in the Yantra system to discuss Seer Tools, in the Merits to look at Prelacies, in the Mysterious World Chapter to discuss Exarchal Verges, and in the Sleepers and Sleepwalker Appendix to look at Seer slaves and servitors. And, just like Vampire with VII, we put the Seers into the Order “splat” pages at the front of the book.

I don’t expect many troupes to use Seers as player characters – their mechanics in the new core are designed for use as antagonists, so get a bit more condensed than other topics – but it’s important to me that you can, should you wish to.

For this post’s mechanical treat, here’s the second-edition version of Prelacy, the Attainment-like powers that a large minority of Seers gain over time. Becoming a Prelate is like being “made” in the mafia; it’s the point where the Seer can no longer back out and join another Order (assuming they’ll have him) or turn Nameless. The point where they stop dipping their feet and embrace their role as servants of the Lie.

In converting the Prelacy system, we’ve attempted to strike a balance between keeping the flavor of individual Exarchs and not having the Merit take up five pages of the book, the same process that we had to put Guardian Masques through.

Merit: Prelacy (Style, • to ••••)

Prerequisites: Seers of the Throne Status •••

Effect: A successful Seer who has served her patron Exarch well can cast spells in his name. She hears the Tyrants’ voices in her sleep. She understands their demands directly. A black iron portal forms deep within her Oneiros, and her daimon, the goetia representing her drive to further herself, becomes twisted by the Exarch’s agenda.

She gains the following effects, at each rank of this Merit:

Chosen Vessel (•): your character gains the Persistent Mystery Commands Condition.

Sword (•): The character may use the patron Exarch’s symbolism as a Patron Yantra in spellcasting, worth half her Prelacy dots in dice (round up).

Crown (•••): The character gains an Attainment based on her Exarch’s symbolism.

Temple (••••): If one of your character’s soul stones is incorporated into a Demesne, the Demesne becomes a Supernal Verge keyed to her Exarch, inhabited by Supernal Entities loyal to the Throne. Including soul stones from Seers with Prelacy linked to a different Exarch causes the Temple to collapse and immediately destroys all soul stones involved.

Drawback: Once the Exarchs have given a command, they expect it to be carried out without delay. The character may only earn Arcane Beats from their other Obsessions in a chapter when they have already earned one for following the one granted by Mystery Commands.

Crown Attainments of the Greater Ministries

The four Archigenitors, patrons of the largest Seer Ministries, bestow the following Attainments on their Prelates.

The Eye (Panopticon) grants the Crown of Vision. When using the Sympathetic Range attainment, the character counts as having a weak Sympathetic connection to any subject she has no connection for. She reduces the effects of Occultation and similar powers by her Space dots.

The Father (Paternoster) grants the Crown of Doctrine. The character adds her Prime dots to her Gnosis to determine her Mana pool, and may heal resistant damage by Pattern restoration.

The General (Praetorian) grants the Crown of Fury. When attacked by a character using a Style Merit, the Seer may reduce each of her opponent’s Fighting Style Merits by her Forces dots, denying the use of any techniques “lost” by instinctively countering them. Also, she does not spend Mana to raise or change her Mage Armor.

The Unity (Hegemony) grants the Crown of Obligation. The character gains an additional Vice, and regains one point of Mana every time she gains Willpower through either Vice.

Other Exarchs’ Crown Attainments may be designed by the Storyteller.

 

Mystery Commands (Persistent)

Your character hears the voice of the Exarchs, sees their words scrawled in her mind, and otherwise receives commands from deep within her Oneiros. Her Exarch’s will becomes an additional Obsession, with all according benefits.

The Storyteller will occasionally give commands as part of this Merit. Additionally, your character can take actions in the name of her Exarch and reverse-engineer messages out of the context. Most any action that aligns with her Exarch’s basic whims should apply to this Condition.

Resolution: Your character cuts off ties to her Exarch. Traitors are not tolerated, and other characters with this Condition will be sent to punish her, or kill her if she will not return to the Throne’s service.

Arcane Beat: Your character faces meaningful setback, danger, or sacrifice on account of the commands.

Seers of the Throne Preview

Without me rambling on any further, here’s the preview of the Seers pages, plus the Seer material from the Setting chapter, that I’ve put here for your reference.

Next Time

Next on the blog… it’s with mixed emotions that I say that the next blog will be the last. It is the end, but the moment has been prepared for, and long dreamed of. It’s time to discuss Ascension.

  37 comments for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Seers of the Throne) [Mage: The Awakening]

  1. Dave Brookshaw
    July 23, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Oh, and by “Servitors” in the Supporting Cast Appendix I mean the things from the appendix of the Seers of the Throne book; nMage’s equivalents of cMage’s HIT Marks and Men in Black. We couldn’t fit all four in, let alone any of the extra ones I and other people have designed, but AT PRESENT the corebook will have Grigori and Hollow Ones in it, while Myrmidions are in World of Darkness: Dark Eras. If I can, I’ll get Hive Souls into a book asap.

    No promises I won’t have to cut them for space, though. If I do, they’ll go up in a blog.

    • ZealousChristian24
      July 23, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Forgive me for badgering, but I’m curious. When you say “extra ones”, is that just a reference to “The Man Comes Around”, or is there more to the story?

  2. Octavo
    July 23, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    I really like this writeup quite a bit, but I’m biased since this is my favorite Order. I was a bit shocked at the stark statement that no one joins the Seers out of altruism, but it’s not really a shift in characterization.

    The prelacy merit is much lighter than the version in the Order book, and I like that. I was afraid it wouldn’t maintain the signature of each Exarch, but the Crown attainments did so quite well.

    Is there any chance we might see the lesser ministries in further supplements?

    Also, will the Luxury merit be in the 2E core?

    • Neall
      July 23, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      I thought long and hard about it. I could imagine several reasons for joining the Seers that hinged on altruism, but in the end, it was mere delusion that you WEREN’T serving The Man for a sweet payday.

      Just do it. You deserve it. You’ll make the Fallen World a better place.

      • branford
        July 23, 2015 at 9:51 pm

        But that payday is realllly sweeeet!!!

        I hope the book includes merits for resources over 5 or something like the old Luxury merit to properly represent the upside to Seer membership. Any mage can acquire Resources 5 by mundane or magical means, as well as artifacts and magical knowledge, and there should be some mechanical differences inherent in the Seers.

      • Octavo
        July 23, 2015 at 9:58 pm

        Honestly, I think it was a good choice to purposely shift the Seers away from altruism (as much as I want to do a Seer/Guardian/Arrow Abyssbusters game).

        It’s a bold statement that focuses the Seers on their themes.

        • Dave Brookshaw
          July 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

          One of the settings has a Seer Pylon in it that the Pentacle largely leave alone, because said Pylon are keeping a potentially apocalyptic Bound imprisoned. The Exarchs’ commands are hostile to the Pentacle in aggregate, but you can get a rare Seer who’s been tasked with Mystery Commands that have much higher priority than starting a fight with local cabals.

          And if the Pentacle start the fight, and that Seer is no longer around to sing the Old God to sleep… Well, that’s a Story for your games.

  3. Emanant Volition
    July 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Great writeup. Love the “Behind Blue Eyes” reference in the GotV Sterotype.

    • Neall
      July 23, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      😀

  4. Pendragon
    July 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Good writeup.

    Might I ask, does 2e make an presuppositions about the population of Seers in comparison to other Orders?

  5. branford
    July 23, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Very nice. Given the space limitations, the write-up definitely gives depth to the Seers and understanding why a mage would choose to join. Is it truly “Better to rule on Earth in order to one day serve in Heaven?

    A few questions:

    1. Will the new core or SoS provide stats for insidious items like the Profane Urim and other Seer artifacts?

    2. Is there any discussion or examples of using a patron Exarch’s symbolism as a Patron Yantra in spellcasting?

    3. Is there any discussion of the Lesser Ministries (other than the small reference to Mammon)?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      July 24, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Profane Urim, yes – they’re talked about in the Supporting Cast section, just before the Servitors.

      Patron Yantras – only that it happens, and here’s what the greater Exarchs represent. We hope to get more detail on Yantras in a later book.

      Lesser Ministries – not really. No room!

  6. Emanant Volition
    July 23, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I really hope “The Gate” is mentioned at least in passing so that it can be referenced in future books.

  7. JSinclair
    July 23, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    I’m sorry to say, that although I’ve had 23 different physical Mage the Awakening books for years, and now all the rest on PDF, plus the fiction anthology and a ton of generic WoD books, I haven’t read maybe half of that content, and even if I took off the next three or four months to do nothing else but start over and read the entire collection, I probably wouldn’t get through it.

    I certainly wouldn’t internalize all of it. And I can’t even get players to read a decent chunk of the core book.

    That’s why I’m grateful that you’re getting the feel of all of this stuff out there in the core book and supporting the mood and themes with rules. I think this and the other previews have done more for me than any other single book, especially with the Seers as antagonists.

  8. WuseMajor
    July 24, 2015 at 12:10 am

    From the bits I remember having read about the Seers in the 1e corebook, it felt like they might just be delusional, serving gods that never existed outside of the Mage in question’s own head, gathering authority around them by acting as if such powers exist and you too can serve them for a leg up, and such.

    I miss being able to have that interpretation, even if the ship has long since sailed on that.

    That said, the Seers as that guy from the Matrix works great too. Because fuck that guy. Seriously, just fuck him. It makes the Seers very, very hateable.

    (Because we all know, secretly, in our heart of hearts, that, sooner or later, we’d wish that we’d taken the other pill and gone back to sleep or joined the winning team or whatever. We might not act on it ever. But, knowing that, in a moment of weakness, you might have chosen the exact same thing, inspires strong emotions.)

    • Neall
      July 24, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Yuppppppppppppp.

  9. WuseMajor
    July 24, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Also, hot sex, fast cars, mega bucks, nice houses… none of that is worth the dagger in the back. Always watching, always on the lookout for a chance to shiv someone else or to prevent getting shanked yourself, that sounds exhausting. You really think you’re the guy who’s gonna climb the pyramid? Maybe become the Fifth High Exarch?

    Yeah, keep telling yourself that. I have a Bridge to Teribithia to sell you.

    • Johnny Awesome
      July 25, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      But can’t all Mages get whatever worldly comforts they want anyway? What’s compelling about becoming a Seer?

      • Leliel
        July 26, 2015 at 11:25 pm

        The ideology that it’s a fundamentally good thing, a power structure that can hide said indulgences very easily because predicting stocks using Fate magic looks an awful lot like insider trading, and the backing of the eleven symbols of Supernal oppression-as one of the people in natty black shirts marching around and generally being able to declare themselves superior to all others.

  10. WuseMajor
    July 24, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Is Panopticon behind Social Media?

    • Earth Fanboy
      July 24, 2015 at 4:46 am

      Personal and unofficial opinion time!

      It uses social media, sure. Of all the Ministries, they’re the ones who delight the most in tracking the sleepers’every move, who most readily trawl the histories of the newly Awakened for information before they can become properly occulted, and who generally like being the online Big Brother.

      The problem is, everyone has signed away the information without feeling threatened and watched. A lowered standard of privacy doesn’t make us feel penned in and watched, because the infrastructure to apply investigation to everyone doesn’t exist. That’s their main problem with the setup – the data is there, but nobody is truly exploiting it to its true potential on a global scale.

  11. Raibran
    July 24, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Amazing. I am already getting a group together in anticipation of when 2nd ed. comes out.

    I was surprised to see the Unity described as “Exarch of control through xenophobia”. Isn’t the Unity more the Exarch of control through conformity or something of that nature? I got the impression from the original Seers book that the Unity is just interested in the deterioration of individuality or in the full identification of the self with others than in xenophobia, politics, or other aspects of statehood, and Hegemony just tried to fulfill that desire through those methods (kind of how like the Chancellor is just interested in control through keeping peoples’ focus and thought on the material, which Mammon does through capitalism and Pantechnion through technology).

    • Leliel
      July 24, 2015 at 12:59 am

      In a sense, conformity is xenophobia. You’re like Us, not like Them.

  12. Michael Stein
    July 24, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Great. The individual Lies of each of the Archgenitors are much clearer now. If you had to sum up the Lies of the other Exarchs in single statements what would they be?

  13. Michael Stein
    July 24, 2015 at 2:18 am

    I’m guessing the Chancellor would say everything has a price?

  14. wyrdhamster
    July 24, 2015 at 3:16 am

    The Seers write-up sum’s up all the original Order book wrote, so nothing new here. I only want to ask should not Prelacy be ranked on Status 2 in Order? Yes, it is accomplishment to join with your Exarch by your Oneiros, but I assumed it’s not only handful the Seers in the given city does – with how Iron Pyramid works, Status 3 characters are maybe 2-3 very high ranked Seers in given area per Ministry. If it was more like Status 2 it would mean more “I committed mine life to Exarchs will, not the squabbles over Iron Pyramid” thing, that is opening stories for new avenues, still making it much harder for Seers to collect power of Prelacy ( that is much weaker compared to Seers Order book ). And I support a small frame with names of all Iron Seals to point that.

  15. The Nate
    July 24, 2015 at 3:46 am

    I like the succinct write-ups on the Great Ministries. The goal of constraining or killing supernal content in religions was a particularly nice touch.

    I found the declaration that Seers outnumber the Pentacle an interesting detail. (IIRC, they were always larger only because of Sleeper cults.) That could have some interesting consequences.

    Speaking of which, so could the shift of Temple from its own special effect to a supernal verge. The implications are fascinating.

    Now I’m wondering about Supernal Verges in the Temenos or Dreamtime… say, ancient temples with links to their gods, or images of enlightenment… hmm. I like these idears.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      July 24, 2015 at 5:18 am

      It doesn’t say they outnumber the Pentacle, it says they outnumber any one Diamond Order.

      Or did, anyway. That’s still true, but the sentance read a bit wrong to me, so I’ve amended it.

  16. Nepher
    July 24, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Really nice. Now mechanically you just have to pick rote specialties and a crown attainment to create a greater ministry. It’s simple, I like it, and it make me want to display the struggle between Mammon and the Hegemony (Governments vs Corporations ? Yes please 🙂 ).

    Any plan to release Mammon (and other potential greater ministries) crown and specialties ?

  17. inkpenavenger
    July 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

    Since the inception of 2E, my group has lumped some things together in order to create more cohesion in the WoD’s mythology. Prime example: We decided that the Exarchs were a lie, and that the Seers unknowingly served the God-Machine.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      July 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

      I prefer “the God-Machine is a puppet controlled by the Exarchs,” when I bother to reference it at all. In my own games, it (and nDemons) don’t exist at all.

      As much as we have a “setting Canon”, there’s no conflict between them, thanks to what the Exarchs *are* – the Eye isn’t some archmage sitting on a throne in another dimension, she *is* surveillence. The symbol of it.

      When the God-Machine uses the hidden symbolic properties of things to build its occult matrixes, it’s dependent on – and exploiting – the Exarchs. They’re the electromagnetic spectrum to its TV transmission.

  18. CJ D
    July 24, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I notice the whole “Chancellor Cults may overtake the Unity” thing gets repeated here. I get where that idea is coming from, but I’ve thought (at least from an American perspective), that based on the direction the world has been going that the Hegemony actually adapted to maintain its influence. While the structure of politics has become more subservient to those working for personal economic gain, the rise of hyperbolic rhetoric and political dividing lines means the actual people are still quite susceptible to their influence.

  19. Ramnesis
    July 24, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Can I just take a moment to applaud you for ending with a Doctor Who reference?

  20. Atavist
    July 24, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    “I don’t expect many troupes to use Seers as player characters – their mechanics in the new core are designed for use as antagonists, so get a bit more condensed than other topics – but it’s important to me that you can, should you wish to.”

    Thank you for that.

  21. Andrew Thomas
    July 26, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    The Architect reminds me of my Tzimisce Koldun. His scheme was similar the one I was going to use to take down the Prince, that is, until we decided to burn down London. But yeah, I can see good story hooks there.

  22. ManusDomine
    July 30, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Yes.

    I have nothing else to say.

    This is wonderful, amazing, i’d even say perfect but I don’t call anything perfect. As a CWoD veteran I was a big fan of the Technocracy as protagonists to show exactly how many shades of grey the world was painted in, and this writeup allows for Seer Protagonism just as Guide to The Technocracy did way back in Mage The Ascension’s Second Edition.

    It is wonderfully done, and I have a group of players who are going be very happy that they can finally have that Seer game that I promised them.

  23. Joe
    July 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Half their merit dice rounded up on a 4 dot merit? That seems pretty complicated for an NPC. Why not just 2 dice? it’s 1 when you buy it and 2 for levels 3 and 4. If there’s no level 5, then I’d think it would be easier to make it 2 dice and it’s one less thing to think about.

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