Welcome back, faithful readers!
Continuing our pre-GenCon run through of the second edition Orders, it’s time for the Guardians of the Veil.
What to say about the Guardians? More than any other Order (except maybe the Seers) they were most clarified and improved by their Order book, so readers jumping straight from first to second edition with the corebooks will face a shock while those who’ve stuck with Awakening over the last ten years will find them almost unchanged. It’s compounded by the fact that the Guardian book was the third-ever sourcebook for Awakening, so the internal details of their religion have been well-known for virtually all of the game’s existence. And now, with a second edition, we can cement them.
Guardians of the Veil make for fascinating player characters and excellent “friendly” antagonists for other Orders – the Order thrives on the symbolism of being distrusted, though for the most part tales of Guardians assassinating other Pentacle mages are exaggerations or miss out crucial “he was Left-Handed” details. They’re the “magic should be used responsibly” faction [i]and[/i] the “we take on the burden of acting against Wisdom so other mages don’t have to” faction. They’re a true religion, zen-like in their acceptance of being damned by their own actions and with a tendency toward disassociation (which can be very bad indeed in Mage’s world – not for nothing is the main runner-up to the Tremere in “notable Reaper Legacies” stakes the exclusivly-Guardian (Legion).)
Second Edition’s changes to the Paradox and Wisdom systems, if anything, help to reinforce the Guardians’ themes rather than hinder them. Because no spell is inherently “vulgar” or “covert” any more, Guardian PCs don’t have to justify going against the Order’s stated goals. Because even trying [i]and failing[/i] to Contain a Paradox results in the caster being marked by the Abyss but keeps innocent bystanders safe, the Guardians become the mages who advise other Awakened to cast soberly, safely, and with preplanning – and if they *can’t*, to take the consequences on themselves rather than damn the world a little more. Because Wisdom as an Integrity trait punishes impulsive behavior among other things, Guardians advising restraint aren’t just pollyannas with knives behind their backs – they’re [i]right[/i]. In a perfect world, everyone would treat magic the way the Guardians advise.
It’s not a perfect world, though. Only the most dogmatic Guardian would refuse to cause Quiescence in a Sleeper if it were a matter of life and death. Ideals untested are worthless, and part of being a religion based on taking on sins for other people is the acceptance that sins do, sometimes, need to happen.
For this post’s Merit, I want to take a look at the new version of a venerable system. The Guardian writeup in Mage’s core mentions Masques – the formulaic, archetypal proto-identities Guardians learn to better disguise themselves and their intentions, and to put their own identities and egos aside when doing the Order’s work. Masques were based on the 49 combinations of Virtue and Vice in first edition Storytelling, each its own Merit. When designing second edition, we knew that with freeform Virtues and Vices the old scheme would need work, and that we wouldn’t have room to give the Guardians 49 individual Merits.
As with Seer Prelacies (which you’ll see when we get up to the Seers in three weeks’ time) we decided to do one unified Merit representing all Masques, which the player then customizes in the manner of Professional Training or Mystery Cult. Check it out;
Merit: Masque (• to •••••, Style)
Prerequisites: Guardians of the Veil Status •
Effect: The Guardians must adopt Masques, personas, in order to detach from the grim necessities of their work and stay in cover. Their ancient practices allow these Masques to become different people almost entirely; they have different abilities and even ethical codes to suit the role. At each level of Masque, the persona gains different abilities that are only available to the character upon donning the Masque. Adopting a Masque requires spending a point of Willpower, which cannot be replenished so long as the character maintains the identity. Shedding a Masque requires a full minute to get “out of character”.
To take additional Masques, purchase them as single, two-dot Merits. This gives the additional Masques at the same level as the primary Masque.
Identity (•): Choose a Virtue and Vice different than that of your character. While in the Masque, your character benefits from those traits instead of her own.
Competency (••): Choose Skill Specialties equal to the Masque Merit dots. Your character uses those Specialties instead of her own while in the Masque.
Diffusion (•••): Choose a new Signature Nimbus (see p. XX). While in the Masque, your character uses that Nimbus instead of her own.
The Code (••••): Choose two acts of hubris your character would normally suffer. While in the Masque, your character does not risk Wisdom for those acts.
Immersion (•••••): Choose up to five Merit dots. When your character dons her Masque, she gains access to these Merits. These Merits must be logical parts of the identity, at Storyteller discretion, and cannot include further Masques.
Guardians of the Veil Preview
See you next week, where we’ll tred the Atheneum’s halls and delve into the Egregore of the Mysterium.