The Invisible Pulse [Mage: The Awakening]

Mage: The Awakening, Open Development


It’s another layover week, and there’s one Path left, so it’s time to look at the Thyrsus. (It’s okay, though, we’ve got five Orders to get through before I run-out of emergency fill-in material.)

So. The Thyrsus. I know we’re not supposed to have favorites, and from a game design perspective I don’t, but let me put it like this – if I ever played Mage, I’d play a Thyrsus.

The mages on the Path of Ecstasy aren’t as changed as some of their fellows; a few shifting emphases here and there have gone a long way. The alternate name for Shamans of Ecstatics was something of a no-brainer. When we were giving the Paths themes independent of their Arcana, we quickly pegged the Thyrsus as Boundaries and Intercession – they’re the mages who reach out to join worlds and act on behalf of invisible interests. A Mastigos masters her inner demons, and a Moros puts ghosts to rest or uses them as raw materials, but a Thyrsus specializing in the Astral or the Death Arcanum treats them as she treats the Shadow – staring the inhabitants down without fear, and acting as ambassador from humanity to them and from them to humanity.

Everything’s connected. Everything’s alive. We are all part of God’s compost heap.

As is traditional for these Path spoilers, three spells for you – one from Life, two from Spirit.

Mutable Mask (Life ••)

Practice: Veiling
Primary Spell Factor: Duration
Suggested Rote Skills: Medicine, Stealth, Subterfuge

A Life Apprentice can use Veiling magics to alter her own features, albeit only cosmetically and temporarily. She can change the pigment in her skin, phenotypical features, hair color and texture, add or subtract some fat deposits or change the sound of her voice. Distinguishing features like scars and moles can be added or removed. Even at its most extreme, the changes wrought by this spell still leave the mage somewhat resembling her original form. If someone was to compare her masked and regular appearances side by side, they might notice an almost familial resemblance (even if the two are of obviously different races), but the changes are enough to fool facial recognition devices, sketch artists or even change her scent enough to throw off tracking animals. She cannot mimic specific people with the basic spell.

+1 Reach: The caster may change her gender with this spell.
+2 Reach: The mage can duplicate the appearance of a specific person, including scars and fingerprints.

Opener of the Way (Spirit ••)

Practice: Ruling
Primary Factor: Duration
Suggested Rote Skills: Athletics, Computers, Socialize

The shaman is not only intercessor, but also gatekeeper. This spell allows the mage to shift the Resonant Condition to the Open Condition, or vice versa.

Shape Spirit (Spirit ••••)

Practice: Patterning
Primary Factor: Potency
Suggested Rote Skills: Crafts, Medicine, Persuasion

When no tool is ready to hand, the shaman shapes one from what is available. This spell allows the mage to reshape a spirit’s fundamental nature. She may invoke a number of the following effects equal to the spell’s Potency:

  • Change the spirit’s fundamental nature; for example, making a mouse spirit into a spirit of bad luck and mischief.
  • Redistribute the spirit’s Attribute dots.
  • Redefine and redistribute the spirit’s Influences.
  • Add, remove, or replace one Manifestation.
  • Add, remove, or replace one Numen.
  • Rewrite the spirit’s Ban and Bane.

She can also alter the spirit’s size, shape, and appearance as she sees fit, within the limits of the spell’s Target Size Factor. The spirit’s new Traits must stay within its Rank-derived maximums.

Thyrsus Preview

And here is the Thyrsus section from Chapter One. As with the other Paths, this is as Malcolm Sheppard turned it in, not yet redlined, redrafted, or edited.

Link to Thyrsus Preview

So, now that you’ve seen the Paths, does anyone have any questions or comments?

  42 comments for “The Invisible Pulse [Mage: The Awakening]

  1. Felipe
    November 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    Honestly it’s the preview I’ve liked the least. It’s exends most of the write-up saying how the Thyrsus feels, but very few describing what he does. And I felt that it put too much emphasis of the amoral side of the Thyrsus, something that was very present in Tome of the Watchowers and put a lot of people off.

    • Leliel
      November 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      …Er, I think what the Ecstatic, of all people, feels is what she does. She just doesn’t bother putting it into words unless she needs help in it.

      And THAT was not put people off the Tome of the Watchtowers version of Thrysus. The main draw of the Path is accepting the fundamental brutality of nature and admitting that is part and parcel with its beauty. We (I, at least) hated the ToW version because they were callbacks to the bad old days of when White Wolf thought Garou were the uncontested good guys of the cWoD, and everyone “good” liked them. Leave the werewolf to the werewolves.

      This version of Thrysus glories in humanity and its achievements, since building cities is a natural extension of instinct. I loved how the naturalist truly Awoke when she remembered how to make simple tools from the dinosaur she just killed.

      On other things: Something tells me the Nemean is headed for very, very dark places. He was already a jerk, now he looks like he’s evolving into an out-and-out megalomaniac. Good choice for the “antagonist” example of the Thrysus.

      • Leliel
        November 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        Deer. A megalocerous is a giant deer. My bad.

    • Felipe
      November 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      I just wish for more clarification off what a Thyrsus does, and how the knowledge from the Path, their symbols can be used to improve their lifes(I’ve felt it was kind of a common theme in the other paths write-ups) and this Thyrsus write-up wasn’t much clear for me, It had an excess of symbolism that doesn’t help me really get a strong feel for the Path like the others did.

  2. Verge
    November 1, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    One point about the Mutable Masks spell Reach mods: gender and sex are two different things. The Mask doesn’t seem strong enough to change physical sex, but is strong enough to throw animals off, and scent wouldn’t be affected by gender.

    • Michael Brazier
      November 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Yes, I would expect creating actual sexual organs to require the Weaving Practice. Mutable Mask should be capable only of creating a convincing imitation.

    • Dave Brookshaw
      November 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Yes, you’re right. Will fix that.

      • Chris Borgars-Smith
        November 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        Honestly, I could do without it being picked out as an example of a Big Dramatic Change

        • Jhiriit
          November 1, 2014 at 6:28 pm

          I think changing sex should be a dramatic change, since the amount of changes are quite formidable, including growing and removing body parts and organs (plural).

          Gender, on the other hand, is something else. Not sure if that even fits in Life’s purview.

  3. Axelgear
    November 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Loved it. Loved every bit of it. Loved every last shining word.

    I currently run a Thyrsus character and so much here resonated, and the increasingly immanent nature of the Supernal makes the Thyrsus, of any Path, feel more vibrant. They’re the Path without illusion or pretense, with a reductionist nature that somehow also produces in them the grandest big picture.

    I enjoyed this a great deal.

  4. The Didact
    November 1, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    “[L]et me put it like this – if I ever played Mage, I’d play a Thyrsus.”

    All through Mage 1e, I’d have wholeheartedly agreed with you: it was easily my favorite Path of the two that I felt I could stand playing on a regular basis. However, the rewrites (for lack of a better word) have made me much more interested in branching out and trying the other three. Especially the Obrimos, now that you’ve gutted the damnable “Celestial Chorus” vibe I kept getting from them in 1e, no matter how hard I tried to get around that, though I grant that may have had something to do with how my regular Storyteller portrayed them.

    Regarding the preview itself, the one thing that immediately stood out to me was that the Thyrsus stance towards the Free Council (oh, and the Guardians of the Veil too, I guess) seems to have been completely revised since Tome of the Watchtowers was written. Actually, I’ve liked that about all the Path previews: the 2e book will lay out, as a default assumption for new players, very good reasons for a Mage of any Path to belong to any given Order, with none of the awkward stereotyping that was present in Tome of the Watchtowers. My sincere thanks to the writing team for that little boon.

  5. wyrdhamster
    November 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I’m a bit disappointed. I’m glad we take away “behold your lowerest point in Nature, human!”, but still Thyrsus Path don’t feel at home in the city, with people they should connect to. Even the city bound “rats in the walls” Awakening scenario leads to crumble civilization dictated by giant rats. What about buildings, emotions, mechanics? What about LIVING humanity, not crumbled by other ecosystems?

    And yes, a bit to much talk about symbols, at least on the beginning of the preview.

  6. Arclite
    November 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Fucking loved it.

    All of the paths are a way of becoming so wrapped up in patterns and confirmation bias that you approach something sublime, but the Thyrsus’s “Back to nature” vibe always seemed a bit trite in 1E. The Nemean was a good representative, but even he only extended Predator-Prey to political machinations.

    On the other hand, these stories sound like truly losing yourself in the world and coming back a king.

  7. Chris Borgars-Smith
    November 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    “Leadership […] help[s] communicate what she learned…” not in this edition it doesn’t!

  8. Andrew Thomas
    November 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    So want to pull an Erebus with this Path. Just need to cross-train in Space, and hope that my hunch about Nameless Orders is correct, and that I can build an Awakened Disciple of the Dark One. Can we still make Fetiches?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      November 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      “Craft Fetish” is a Spirit 4 spell at the moment, but I need to check its rules properly against Imbuing.

      • Andrew Thomas
        November 2, 2014 at 12:11 pm

        Cool. I wonder if binding spirits into hosts will still be a thing, and if so, how bad an act of Hubris it would be.

  9. Octavo
    November 1, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Wonderful writing. I love how the path affects how they think of the astral and the underworld.

  10. WuseMajor
    November 1, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Is the Shape Spirit spell like Healing, in that it produces a fundamental change to the spirit’s nature or does it have a duration on it, after which the spirit reverts?

    Either way, once you get Spirit 4, I imagine having a spirit ally will be very useful, for both of you.

    • branford
      November 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      I’m, too, am curious if the changes wrought by “Shape Spirit” are permanent or limited by a set duration.

      Also, does the spirit get any roll to resist or contest the changes, and can the spell be used on a spirit familiar?

  11. Eolirin
    November 1, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Does the +2 reach effect for Mutable Mask require also using the +1 reach if the person the spell mimics is not the same sex as the target?

  12. wologimbat
    November 2, 2014 at 1:25 am

    I really like the bit about why Mind is the inferior arcanum for Thyrsus.

    Any chance that you’ll spoil some Fate, Time, or Space spells? The Acanthus (my favorite path) didn’t have any spells in their preview, and the Mastigos (my second favorite) only had one Mind spell.

  13. ale
    November 2, 2014 at 1:42 am

    is Shape Spirit permanent,
    i mean is the mouse spirit a bad luck spirit forever now?

    • Dave Brookshaw
      November 2, 2014 at 5:30 am

      If a spell doesn’t say it’s Lasting, its effect wears off like any other spell.

      So you can make Shape Spirit have an indefinite duration by Reaching to use advanced Duration, taking maximum spell factor penalties, and then spending a Mana. It would take up a spell control slot unless you relinquished it, but even then another mage could come along and dispel it.

      • branford
        November 2, 2014 at 11:26 am

        What’s the cost to relinquish a spell in 2e?

        • Dave Brookshaw
          November 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

          A dot of Willpower to do it properly, or a point at the risk of it slowly turning into a Havoc.

  14. Thorbes
    November 2, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Very nice. I like how humans are called out as just another animal whose instincts and schtick is tool-making. I like the new direction a lot.

    Special mention to Nine Fox Thunder, awesome and flavourful character. I’m glad she’s back in second edition.

  15. Brian Goubeaux
    November 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Very interesting. I can see the Thyrsus having relations with the Uratha, and perhaps wishes to join in on Hunts sometimes to understand their ties with Nature closer, especially since some Wolf-Blooded may most likely Awaken to this Path (at least in 1E. I don’t know the specifics of inclusion for 2E.) As for people who say that Shamans wouldn’t live in urban areas, I must disagree. I can see the Urban Thyrsus as a person who sees the Wild within the Urban, advocating projects like rooftop gardens, and gettiing to know the cats, dogs, birds, rats and reptiles of the city (whether pets and/or sewer/alley wild. Also to note that, in a YouTube video, I saw two bears wrestle with each other in an active suburban residential area, as if it was still a part of the forest. Surely in the World of Darkness, a Shaman would’ve influenced that so that Man and Nature can coexist in harmony.

    Now for my question. In two of the three examples of Thyrsus mages, they were:

    1. Of Asian descent


    2. of the Guardians of the Veil.

    Does this mean that Asians are more likely to Awaken to the Thyrsus Path, and more likely to join the Guardians, or is it just coincidence?

    • Andrew Thomas
      November 2, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      Probably just a coincidence, but that may change in the final draft.

      As for Mages and Werewolves packing up together, the way that they are described in the Dev blog for Idigam, packs aren’t intended to be just Uratha anymore, so if your ST can handle it, it wouldn’t be that big a stretch. It probably would be better to play a Nameless Order, from a political standpoint, though, also to avoid overly dividing the focus of the Chronicle.

      • Dave Brookshaw
        November 3, 2014 at 2:20 am

        Yeah, that’s just a coincidence. Like the fact that we don’t have *any* Arrow among the signiature characters at the moment.

        But Amy’s Nameless, and I just love the concept behind Marple.

    • DaveB
      November 3, 2014 at 5:23 am

      About Thyrsus-Werewolf relations. This won’t make it into the corebook, but should we ever do a crossover section…

      Werewolf: The Forsaken is all about the duality of man and animal, the protagonists walk in two worlds, and are half-suited to each. Their integrity trait measures how much they’re “physical” and “spirit”.

      The Thyrsus Path reveals the Lie that there’s any difference between man and animal at all. Human cities are no more special than termite mounds, our tools are as much a part of our nature as an Octopus using a coconut shell as armor or a Chimp fishing for ants with a stick. Our language is no different to Dolphins’ calls-and-responses, and our sapience is an evolutionary quirk. Humans are the cleverest animals, but we’re *animals*.

      The trick to grokking “urban shamans” is to not treat the city as anything *special*. It’s an environment heavily shaped by animal activity (ours), but they’re in no way devoid of life, and they’re certainly not devoid of Essence. One of the parts of Malcolm’s first draft I’ve marked up in my redlines is the part that suggests cities have fewer spirits – they actually have *more*.

      • Andrew Thomas
        November 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

        That’s a good point to drive home, and I hope that that makes it into both Idigam and Fallen World. Perhaps, and the Forsaken core book did this well, in describing the ecology of the urban Shadow, comparisons might be made to coral reefs, in that while the underlying structure, vis-a-vis Resonance, of the city is for all intents and purposes dead, as reflected by the relative difficulty in Stepping Sideways, the local ecology is quite vibrant, and baring interference by outside forces, is also highly diverse. At the same time, you could further reinforce that similarity by talking about how the overall Resonance of a given city changes overtime.

        • Eolirin
          November 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

          It’s always bothered me that dense urban areas have a stronger Gauntlet, as that makes a lot less sense in nWoD without any of the anti-civilization baggage of Apocalypse. There are some ways to contextualize it so that it doesn’t seem out of place, by either blaming it on the God Machine, or by making it be a response to there being far more spirits in a given area, but I’d really have preferred a different style of Gauntlet Strength chart in GMC that did something thematically appropriate rather than simply making it harder to cross over based on how many humans happened to be clustered.

          • Andrew Thomas
            November 4, 2014 at 12:15 pm

            Maybe they will introduce Spirit Yantras that will make Stepping Sideways easier in a given environment. I contend that Shadow Travel should feel markedly different between Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Demon, and Promethean.

          • Revlid
            November 7, 2014 at 8:05 am

            I imagine that is, at least in-part, intended as something to keep the masquerade plausible and play to genre expectations. It means that spirits and ghosts and so on are more likely to show up around isolated retreats, loner crazies who no-one believes, houses that haven’t been lived in for years, dark uncivilized places where “population density” is a joke, and so on. As opposed to the middle of New York in broad daylight during rush hour – which can still happen, but indicates something exceptional, as it should.

            It might still want some tweaking, but I imagine that’s what it’s aiming for.

            (there is at least one difference between humans and their fellow animals, when it comes to the operation of the Shadow – there aren’t any “human spirits” we’re aware of)

      • dakkareth
        November 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm

        If there is no difference at all between man and animal, if sapience is no more than a neat trick, does that mean that animals can Awaken? That animals can Ascend?

        • Andrew Thomas
          November 4, 2014 at 11:54 am

          Um, Beast: the Primordial?

      • wyrdhamster
        November 4, 2014 at 4:04 am

        Of course the urban isn’t any different environment for Thrysus than any wilderness area. Problem is from this write-up it marks the “city run destroyed by rats” as typical Thyrsus propose on the matter – no the “city as big, living organism on it own”. It’s subtly marking proper Thrysus character as eschewing modern society, not integrating it as part of “fight or die” model, with neighborhoods as modern jungle. And gangs and cops as animals living and fighting there. No, write-up says that Nature is better than modern humanity, and should a stomp it in the end. And this is giving bad example for the new players 2ed of Mage should attract. There is very good idea of Thyrsus Awakening that is more relevant to the urban shamanism in the forum topic ( a bit spoiler: there is also tie in to werewolves 😉 ) – here:

  16. Eric Christian Berg
    November 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Anyone else hear Phil Collins singing the title to this post?

  17. Burke Reimann
    November 10, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Hey Dave, I don’t remember where I read it but I remember you saying that you had another 3 or 4 books in the concept stages for MtAw; like for proximi and stuff. Could you throw those somewhere, not all your ideas, just like the blurb they might have if they ever hit the ‘Current Projects’ page? Would You give us an Idea as to what ideas you have for this line?tease us with the book ideas that tease you.

  18. Locksley
    November 11, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Hello. While this preview was put up a while ago, it took me some time to realise exactly what I didn’t like about the Thyrsus description. It starts off fine, but then I get to the bit about how people aren’t individuals because we’re colonies of tissue and it starts to remind me of the Exarchs. There are a couple more places after that where it says that individuals don’t matter even if humanity as whole has some importance and that individuality is a lie anyway. That sounds like the Raptor to me. “You don’t matter because you are just a collection of biological processes; there’s nothing more to you than that.” “You don’t matter because other animals are so much better than you and your civilisation is just a pretentious veneer that makes you even weaker.” Those don’t seem to me to be things a whole path should have baked into its base assumptions. Ironically, it reminds of the Unity too, particularly the section about Mind being the Inferior Arcanum where it’s pretty dismissive of consciousness. At least the parts about Spirit avoid being reminiscent of the Nemesis and the Raptorish parts get contradicted elsewhere, like in the Awakening stories.

    But yeah, the Lie is not that humans are different from animals. The Lie is that humans are nothing more than animals, because that’s what the Raptor says. Animals don’t Awaken after all. The Lie is the ways in which the Phenomenal World has been shaped to trick humans into believing that they don’t matter and have no power.

    Thearch Thyrsus not believing in humanity’s right to rule the universe sounds off as well. Humans in charge being the best thing for the universe was at least a third of the Silver Ladder’s whole deal in 1E. I think that last sentence of their section should read more like rule the universe and revitalise it.

    Thanks to anyone who read my little rant.

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