Supporting Cast [Mage: The Awakening]

Mage: The Awakening, Open Development

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We all need mirrors.

The Awakened are strange, maddening people to be around. Imagine the most insular subculture you’ve ever come across, where the members have their own bizarre rituals, jargon, and shared references, then multiply it by a thousand. Then curse almost everyone else to be driven mad by exposure to that subculture even as they inevitably forget it. It’s little wonder that mages have few friends, but cling tightly to those they do; they’re still people, no matter their differences, and feel the same need for human companionship as anyone else. Who’d be a mage’s husband, wife, daughter, son, sibling, servant, boss, co-worker, lover? What sort of people walk in the Awakened world without signing the Watchtower themselves? What does their relationship to mages do to them?

Just as Requiem second edition gave an Appendix about ghouls, and Forsaken second edition enshrined the role of Wolf-blooded in Packs, Awakening second edition depicts the Orders as employing a multitude of Sleepwalkers, minor magical talents, Proximi, subject-matter experts and entirely unknowing Sleepers. Mages are not alone in the World of Darkness, and the new edition features an Appendix covering that supporting cast. Like the first two second-edition games’ similar material, it’s by veteran freelancer Filamena Young, and it’s one of my favorite sections of the book; material I’ve wanted to look at in the game line since before the second editions were a going concern.

Fun fact: I was recruited to write on God-Machine Chronicle, which led to what was then Fallen World Chronicle and is now the second edition proper, just after writing Left Hand Path. My next proposal for a Mage book was going to be about the Supporting Cast of Mage, so it’s something very close to my heart. An Appendix isn’t a full book, but Filamena has packed a lot into a small space.

Sleepers

First on the list are Sleepers. We spoiled the basics of second-edition’s Sleeping Curse back towards the start of these blogs, but to reiterate;

  • A Sleeper witnessing obvious magic causes Paradox Risk to increase by one die (multiple Sleepers apply a dice trick to the Paradox roll.)
  • A Sleeper witnessing obvious magic suffers a Breaking Point against Integrity
  • A Sleeper witnessing an obvious spell for a prolonged period of time causes an effect mages call Dissonance, where the spell slowly fails as though being Dispelled.
  • After a scene in which a Sleeper witnesses obvious magic, she forgets about it – rationalizing the event into a non-magical version if possible, or blanking it entirely if not.

Any one of these effects is independent of the others. For example, Sleepers who are immune to the Breaking Point for whatever reason still forget unless the power says they also remember, and the reverse is true – and mages have found that magically reminding Sleepers of what they saw causes a second crisis. What counts as “obvious” is up to Storyteller interpretation – second edition doesn’t (so far, I’m considering the need to add one) have a sidebar about “Improbable” magic, where otherwise-acceptable spells start to strain credulity. What I must reiterate, though, is that the Sleeper’s belief or non-belief in magic has absolutely nothing to do with whether their souls are injured by witnessing spells, and the Orders employ hundreds of staff who know that they work for mages, and that mages exist, but can’t be allowed to actually see any magic for their own safety. Such is the Curse, forever cutting the Awakened off from their own species.

Well, not quite completely cutting them off.

In the Supporting Cast Appendix, we talk about how to play a Sleeper in an Awakening Chronicle. The section’s entitled “Punching Up,” which should tell you a lot about it. We embrace and give advice for playing a character who will forget their fellow character’s powers, how to negotiate the out-of-character etiquette of it, and give a few Merits for Sleeper players. Here’s one of them;

Actively Oblivious ••

You’ve lived a hard life, and long ago learned that sometimes the only way to survive realities that are just to hard to face is to not notice them in the first place. That’s why you can smile while you patch up the hole in the kitchen wall and describe your dad as ‘strict’ rather than abusive. Little do you know, this ability of yours allows you to ignore the greater magical truths of the world as well as the domestic ones.

Effect: By spending a Willpower during an incident that might cause you to suffer a Breaking Point, you can actively ignore the event and not have to make the roll. This requires concentration. This active oblivious state also protects you from ‘seeing’ events that relate to the Supernal. As a result, should you be successfully and actively oblivious, you do not count as a witness to Supernal magics and cannot be a part of a Paradox risk. (Though you do create Dissonance as this cannot be kept up indefinitely.)

Drawback: Whenever you successfully ignore a potential Breaking Point, you suffer the Strained Condition.

Strained (New Condition)

Take -1 to resist the next time you suffer a breaking point and must roll. If you have Strained, you may opt to not roll, and the Condition can build, any consecutive times you avoid rolling a Breaking Point contributes another -1 to your next breaking point roll to a maximum of -5. After -5, you can no longer push it away, you snap, and automatically roll for Breaking Point at -5.

Resolution: The character suffers Integrity loss. Take an additional Beat atop that of the breaking point.

Beats: N/A

Sleepwalkers

The largest section of the Appendix, though, is dedicated to the half-Awake. Sleepwalkers are people – usually ordinary people – who don’t react to magic like a Sleeper but aren’t themselves mages. Any inherent magical power, be it a minor or major template, or even just a single Merit representing something about the character herself, also makes that character a Sleepwalker.

I said “I’m a wizard,” out of frustration. She shrugged and said “so what.” I got mad and I showed her so what. It didn’t faze her. “I’ve seen weirder,” she told me. Instead of the sick feeling I used to get around Sleepers, I felt good. I felt safe. I felt less crazy. She remembered everything, better than I did even, and there is literally no one in my life who has helped me keep my head on straight. You’re jealous of my position, my power, my skill, I’d have none of it if it weren’t for her. Seriously. You find a woman like that, you marry her.

-Lana Marie of the Trees

We talk about how Sleepwalkers happen, how their condition allows them into mage society, but how mages fear that so-called “revealed Sleepwalkers” then have a lesser chance of Awakening. All six Orders (and many Nameless) go out of their way to recruit Sleepwalkers as assistants, and in second edition we’ve given that some heft. First, Sleepwalker ritualists can count as a Yantra for the casting mage, adding bonus dice to the spell. Second, Sleepwalkers can maintain spells for a mage, removing them from the mage’s spell control limitation without having to release them. Not many spells (it’s done by how intimate the sympathetic connection between mage and Sleepwalker is, with the very strongest being able to hold two spells.)

We give some archetypes for Sleepwalker characters, and a bunch of Sleepwalker-only Merits. Here’s one of each:

The Devil’s Little Helper

She looks good in a dark hood, can wear a pentagram without a touch of irony, and is as fashionable as she is theatrically mysterious. She could have a pretty successful career as a small cult leader and freelance spiritualist, but she prefers to hire her talents out privately to cabals of mages. It’s not that she’s especially magical, though she claims to be a seventh generational witch. She’s just got a knack at time management and people skills. Sure, she’s got a working knowledge of LeVey, Golden Dawn, Kabalah, and ritual traditions not found on Wikipedia. But the real service she offers is talent with smartphones, scheduling, and HR-style public relations. So when the cabal has need of a powerful and intense ritual, they call the Devil’s Little Helper, she activates the phone tree, and a coven of ready ritualists are on hand in under three hours.

Skills and Merits: The Devil’s Little Helper actually has her own functioning Mystery Cult, and a handful of other Social merits she can bring in when the cabal needs it. More than that, she’s charming and likable, naturally talented with Presence and Socialize. She’s not complete phony, being a legitimate Medium, but that comes up far less than her other traits.

Deadpan (•••)

Prerequisite: Sleepwalker

Effect: No matter what faces you, if it’s magical in nature, you never have to make rolls to resist fear or revulsion. This would include Mind effects made to scare you, or Life effects made to turn your stomach, anything so long as the fear is external. Should the attempts to frighten you play off Conditions or vices you already suffer from, you are vulnerable, but can enjoy a +2 dice bonus to resist.

Proximi

The third section is about the Proximi; Awakening‘s equivalent not to ghouls (that’s Sleepwalkers) but to revenants. Proximi are Sleepwalkers (and may take Sleepwalker-only Merits) that are have Supernal powers, drawing from one of the five known Realms. Some Proximi are born spontaneously, but most come from long family lines of magical heritage called Dynasties, protected, nurtured, and employed by one of the Orders.

Mechanically, a Proxius’ dynasty manifests as the ability to buy spells from up to two Arcana as Merits on a dot-for-dot basis, and a pair of Conditions representing the dynasty’s family Curse. Each Curse comes in two forms – a permenant, troublesome, but not dangerous Condition and a much more severe, temporary version. Proximi cast their spells (called Blessings) using their Willpower as a dice pool, and as they use Integrity rather than Wisdom they can’t try to contain Paradox as damage like a proper mage can. Nor can their Blessings go truly haywire; instead of the usual effects of Paradox, even a single Paradox success cancels the entire Blessing and imposes the severe version of the Proximus’ Curse. Any attempt to get around, circumnavigate, or mitigate the effects of the permanent version of the Curse also imposes the severe version.

And that’s all we had room for, though I’m eying wordcount with an aim to cut enough from other chapters to add a page about the Seers of the Throne’s particular relationship to Sleepers and Sleepwalkers; Profane Urim and one or two of the servitor creatures from Seers of the Throne. Probably Grigori or Hollow Ones, as they’re the simplest rules. Myrmidions would be (as they’re a Proximus Dynasty!) but we’re looking to include them in the expanded version of Mage’s Alexander the Great setting in World of Darkness: Dark Eras. If I can’t get them into the book, they’ll be one of the first post-release blogs.

Until next time!

  33 comments for “Supporting Cast [Mage: The Awakening]

  1. Axelgear
    May 3, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Huh. First for once. It looks good (though I have my doubts over the Punching Up section). I look forward to reading it and seeing just how far Mage conspiracies are intended to reach in the World of Darkness.

  2. Jean-Pierre Santi
    May 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    much needed, I’ve benn waiting for this for months

  3. reseru
    May 3, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Proximi purchase Arcana as merits on a one-to-one basis, which means each Arcana costs 1xp whereas for a Mage each Arcana costs 4xp?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      May 3, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      They purchase *spells,* not Arcana; a Myrmidion buying a Forces 2 spell as a Blessing pays 2xp. If he then wants a Mind 1 spell as another Blessing he pays another 1xp, then 3XP for a Forces 3 spell and so on. He can buy as many Blessings as he likes, but they all have to come from the two Arcana (Mind and Forces in his case) linked to his Dynasty.

      • TheNate
        May 4, 2015 at 12:12 am

        Would the new system support more esoteric and symbolic forms of lineage for Proximi?

        (e.g. a marital art lineage rather than blood, or, for that matter, a title such as master of a specific estate.)

        (obviously, I see how that could be house-ruled in)

        • Gwyn
          May 6, 2015 at 8:06 am

          I don’t know if it WILL, but I am now certain that it SHOULD. I mean, how cool would it be to have an ancient old manor that is the witch-house because it turns however dwells there into witches, or whosoever-holds-this-hammer-if-he-be-worthy-shall-possess-the-power-of-thor (although that last one is a bit of a stretch.)

      • reseru
        May 4, 2015 at 12:16 am

        Ah, okay I understand now. Thank you

  4. Hiram Alem
    May 3, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Hey Dave, Filomena, these guys are looking far better (and relevant) than their 1e counterparts! Excellent job!

    Well, it left me with some doubts here though: Does Deadpan make the Sleepwalker outright immune to fear effects? Does it apply to, say, a vampire’s Nightmare or a werewolf gift as well?

    Also: Does “Actively Oblivious” only count for Supernal origin things or does it affect Lunacy?

    thanks a lot, folks!

  5. Mike
    May 3, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Why would sleepers forget about seeing vulgar magic 🙁 it makes the guardians of the veil obsolete unless they are getting repurposed. It just seems to make the game much easier since it is that much less you need to worry about when using vulgar spells.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      May 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Obvious magic – no such thing as “vulgar” in 2nd ed.

      And Sleepers have always forgotten seeing magic in Mage: The Awakening. Check the corebook out. The Guardians advise against risking Paradox with magic because of the very real threat of the Abyss, both how dangerous warped spells and manifest abyssal entities can be, and because seeing magic injures Sleeper’s souls.

      • Mike
        May 3, 2015 at 7:48 pm

        Oh damn, didn’t see that was always a thing I’ve always run it without that rule it is a big book to digest. Or at least always run it to where they will try to rationalize it or they might join the tinfoil hat brigade. But I was under the impression mind wipes for sleepers were common under the GoV as part of cleaning up messes. As far as the injuring the soul bit wasn’t that always just GoV mythos?

        Then again, I always had a lot of my own deviations from the core material mostly in terms of lore and interactions. I am loving the sleepwalkers and proximi.

        • Dave Brookshaw
          May 3, 2015 at 7:57 pm

          No, not at all. For a start, in first edition, mind wipes didn’t work; memory-erasure spells wore off Sleepers, like any other magic on a living pattern.

          • Mike
            May 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm

            Yeah, I’ve often wondered about some of the magical effects something I kind of had a problem with a few of them lacking permanency. Even on non-living patterns I remember getting a spell to be permanent was difficult. Like classic alchemy you turn lead into gold, well unless you make the duration permanent it would just wear off, even then it could be dispelled. Are those limitations going to stay in 2nd edition as well?

          • NateD
            May 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm

            I’m loving the “in first edition” there… 😀

          • TheNate
            May 4, 2015 at 12:18 am

            Excepting, of course, the Mind 5 rewrite effect, which *was* Lasting on Sleepers, but could be dispelled.

            Healing death magi of the Guardians would set an interesting tone, so that could be neat, but I see that as something they would (unless dramatically altered in 2e) strictly hand off to the Silver Ladder after handling the triage notes. (like first responder teams do for medical teams.)

      • Juhn
        May 3, 2015 at 10:33 pm

        “The Guardians advise against risking Paradox with magic because of the very real threat of the Abyss, both how dangerous warped spells and manifest abyssal entities can be, and because seeing magic injures Sleeper’s souls.”

        Now I’m wondering that instead of Guardian Mind Mage Sleeper mindwiping brigades like everyone thought, what we should *actually* be seeing in Guardian cleanup crews is Guardian Death Mage Sleeper soul health brigades working to patch up what other people broke.

        Guardian of the Veil trauma counsellors?

    • branford
      May 3, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Sleepers who witnessed obvious magic always forgot or rationalized what they saw. That hasn’t changed from the first edition.

      Using magic in front of sleeper witnesses still might damage them and increases the risks and effects of Paradox, which is the primary concern of the Guardians. Cleaning-up the messes left by mages is just one facet of their self-appointed responsibility.

      • joe
        May 4, 2015 at 9:06 am

        And let’s not forget that just because sleepers forget obvious magic doesn’t mean that it’s safe to cast in front of them. for starters, obvious magic is the BEST you can hope for there, because “I saw a bunch of guys chanting and then he just got up, so I guess his wounds weren’t that bad, but I’m still not clear on what the chanting was about” is pretty damning from the point of view of the Guardians.

  6. Michael Stein
    May 4, 2015 at 2:06 am

    My first reaction to Deadpan –

    ‘There is no Dana, only Zuul’

    ‘What a lovely singing voice you must have’

    Although that could be interpreted as just regular spirit possession. Would a spirit bound using Supernal magic cause Dissonance by using its Numina? I guess that’s why things are left more open to interpretation.

    • y0rrick
      May 4, 2015 at 11:38 pm

      I’ve always ruled it, and played it, that paradox or what have you is a result of SUPERNAL power interacting with the fallen world.

      Spirits, vampires, werewolves et al Are part of the fallen world, so tt
      here’s no paradox. You might get paradox for the spell that orders or summons spirits, but ince that bit’s done you can do whatever the hell you like With them.

    • Roads
      May 5, 2015 at 4:25 am

      Only Supernal Magic is effected by the Sleeper’s Curse, that’s always been the case. Spirits are as much part of the world as the earth beneath your feet. So are Vampires. And Ghosts. Prometheans aren’t quite a part of the world, but they wish they only had to deal with the Sleeper’s Curse. Supernal Magic is like that.

      Now that is an idea, someone so heavy with the stuff of the Supernal that there person is effected by Curse, Sleepers never remember them, and suffer for trying….

      • Dave Brookshaw
        May 5, 2015 at 8:27 am

        The Mad (Wisdom 0 mages) are like this – they leak magic so much Sleepers forget their presence.

  7. The Kings Raven
    May 4, 2015 at 5:13 am

    Can you resolve Strained by rolling for a breaking point with the penalty and Succeeding or getting an Exceptional Success?

  8. WuseMajor
    May 4, 2015 at 9:45 am

    I’d just like to say that, as a long time Mage fan, I would like all the help I can get as far as defining the boundary between Covert and Obvious is concerned.

  9. Andrew Thomas
    May 4, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Proximi are going to be fun but challenging to deal with. Will there be a path to a proper Awakening?

  10. Full Time GM
    May 4, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Excellent. Another case of information that was available in the old edition but alot of people didn’t know about because it was hidden away in additional books. I’m excited to explore the world of partial exemptions to Sleeper conditions.

  11. Murder_of_Craws
    May 4, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    My next Mage chronicle, eagerly awaiting the release of Second Edition, was planned to have more emphasis on sleepers and sleepwalkers than my previous chronicles. This update makes me jump for joy!

  12. B
    May 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Is there a spell or ritual for turning Sleepers into Sleepwalkers?

    • Flannelfrog
      May 5, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      The Free Council had one in 1e, but it was pretty hit or miss.

  13. Vampire fan
    May 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    There must have been a hiccup because my last comment hasn’t been posted.

    I said:

    I hope the Forces Arcana is significantly revised because it was practically useless in the first edition. You basically couldn’t do anything unless you reached level 5 and even then the powers were rather weak and of dubious value.

    Has the Forces Arcana been revised and boosted in power?

    • AlexS
      May 6, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      My understanding is that Forces has been revised so that there are no longer “speed bumps” in power progression. All of your “Control X” spells are the same Arcana dot, for example, regardless of what type of force X is. Perhaps that appeals to you?

      That said, I don’t agree with your appraisal of Forces. Influence Electricity and Influence Fire, both Forces 2 spells, can be vicious in combat, and that’s before you get into the raw utility of spells like Transmission or Invisibility to Machines.

      • Vampire fan
        May 6, 2015 at 1:19 pm

        I want to be able to fly faster than walking speed without having to score 20,000 successes. Is this true in 2nd Edition?

  14. Gwyn
    May 6, 2015 at 8:00 am

    The part where the Strained condition says it can be added on multiple times, I think that would make more sense moved to the Merit’s Drawback, and keep ways to get the Condition out of the Condition text. You can keep the notes on how it stacks, that makes sense, but I’m thinking that it would be good to divorce the Condition from the merit that causes it, to allow future effects to link to the same Condition that much easier.

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