A Well-Armed Society…

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…Is a Polite Society.

Some of our World of Darkness games focus hard on individual character groups. You’re not really expected to worry about Prometheans beyond the players’ Throng, and Demons are too paranoid for the majority to be in an Agency. As the most Human supernatural beings, though, mages have a human response to the lives they lead. They like to talk about it, and aside from a minority notable for their isolation they develop associations based on their experiences.

Awakening has two poles pulling the design of mage society. The first is Academia. Mages are obsessively curious Mystery-seekers, so it makes sense that the closest analogue to what they experience is the politics and interrelationships of research academics. I’ve got a background in research academia myself, my wife still works in that world, and I can definitely see it – when you’ve seen two Archaeology Professors politely feuding over who can attract a promising student to their research, the politics of Mages fighting over apprentices comes easily. The second, as this post’s title alludes, is that the Diamond, Assemblies, and Tetrarchies spend most of their time trying to keep mages from killing one another. It’s said that academic politics is so vicious because it’s such an isolated world. Imagine it with participants who can kill one another with their thoughts. So, mage society is designed around resolving conflict between mages – whether by arbitration (as in the Pentacle) or command (as in the Throne.)

Last post, I talked about how we’re divorcing Mage from the city-bound assumptions the early nWoD made, and most of our changes to mage society are in service of that change. More have been made to further our agenda of clearly defining the three sects – compared to first edition, we’re downplaying Consilia this time around so that the Order Caucuses and Libertine Assemblies have room to breath.

A mage’s new awareness of the Supernal draws her into new social circles. All Awakened share a fascination with the Mysteries, so if one mage’s attention lands on some occult phenomenon the chances are another mage has noticed it as well. While this can occasionally lead to conflict if the mages view one another as competitors, a common interest is much more often the source of a potential friendship. Older, more experienced mages regularly draw the newly initiated into Awakened society by offering assistance to newer mages, and some Orders dangle small Mysteries in densely populated areas to identify new mages who might be lured into the fold.

Sects

Most mages belong to one of three sects – the Diamond, the Free Council, or the Seers of the Throne. The Diamond and the Free Council maintain an alliance (called the Pentacle) against the Seers.

The four Orders of the Diamond Precept share a long history and symbolic succession from the Awakened City of the Time Before. The four Diamond Orders are the Adamantine Arrows, the Guardians of the Veil, the Mysterium, and the Silver Ladder.

In its current form the Council of Free Assemblies is the youngest of the three sects. Once a loose coalition of Nameless Orders in constant conflict with the Diamond for resources and members, it united in common cause with them against the Seers of the Throne and has remained a force to be reckoned with in the Awakened world ever since.

The Seers of the Throne serve the Exarchs and enjoy considerable prosperity as the result of their devotion to those Supernal Tyrants. They do not hesitate to use magic to get what they want. In consequence, they have more resources than any of the other sects, and they also boast an advantage in numbers. These advantages are blunted by the Seers’ constant in—fighting and struggles for dominance over other Seers of the Throne or disputes over control of resources.

A relative handful of mages do not belong to any of the three large sects. They include solitaries, apostates, and members of Nameless Orders.

A solitary is a mage who does not belong to any cabal or Order. Some hail from remote regions with few or no other resident Awakened or haven’t attracted the attention of an Order yet. Most of these join an Order once the opportunity presents itself.

An apostate rejected membership in all the Orders for whatever reason. This is a daunting prospect when even casual membership in an Order grants access to so many resources – thousands of years’ worth of accumulated knowledge, grimoires, rotes, Legacies, artifacts, Imbued items, and secrets. Some apostates were once part of an Order and left (voluntarily or not), taking some its secrets with them. These latter apostates are distrusted by all the other Orders, who see them potential traitors or enemy spies.

A Nameless Order is one of any number of small, usually local or regional organizations of mages. Some belong to ancient magical traditions, while others consist of a handful of cabals who joined forces only a few years ago. Although a handful can wield considerable influence within their purview, they lack the global reach of the major Orders.

Cabals, Columns, and Pylons

As in last edition, these are our character-group sized unit; in-setting, they vary between two and thirty members. Some are loose associations sharing nothing more than the communal rent on a few safe houses, while others are tight-knit circles of mages who deliberately choose Shadow Names to take on complimentary roles, enhancing their group rituals. A cabal’s symbolism is as important as a Shadow Name in most mages’ eyes, especially Diamond mages who judge one another on cabal names and themes. The larger and older a cabal is, the more likely an internal pecking Order is to develop, as apprentices graduate but stick around in the same cabal as their much more powerful mentors. It’s unusual, however, for a cabal to last longer than its founding members—only cabals with powerful themes or dedicated students who want to carry on their heritage last past a hundred years, and they’re noteworthy for doing it.

“Cabal” is, strictly speaking, a Pentacle Order term. More than that, it’s a Diamond Order term. Libertines can and often do join cabals, but the Free Council has so many mages that a significant minority of their members don’t. Assemblies group their constituents who don’t have cabals into “Columns,” which have revolutionary connotations and a reputation for direct action. Most Pentacle cabals are made up of mages from a mix of Orders – it’s been that way since the Diamond were founded, and single-Order cabals are seen as both extremely dedicated to their area of interest and the mouthpieces of their Caucus.

Seers, of course, stand isolated from the other five Orders. Seer Pylons are usually larger than cabals and have clearly defined command structures, far beyond the rudimentary acknowledgement of greater experience in older cabals. Pylons are as likely to be mixed-Ministry as cabals are to be single-Order.

Caucus

Above the Cabal level, Pentacle mages go to their Orders for tutelage, resources, support, and guidance. A Caucus is a single Mystery cult among the many making up the global numbers of an Order, covering a region anywhere between half a city and a whole country. The Caucuses of Pentacle Orders are technically independent – every Guardian of the Veil Epopt runs her own conspiracy of lesser-ranked Guardians, their Labyrinths, and the prospects being assessed without overt interference from her peers. Caucuses usually have ties to one another, especially between neighbors.

A Caucus can be very widespread – a full Mysterium Caucus, for example, has dozens of mages, at least two Athenaea and several attached sages, along with all the Sleepwalkers, Proximi, minor talents, and support staff that go along with them, spread out across three or four cities and the countryside between them.

Caucuses are the backbone of the Orders, and where most mages will have their “careers;” decoupling them from Consilia mean the setting now makes sense following the structures described in the Order books, and Caucus becomes a way for characters to meet peers in their Order who aren’t from the same Consilium, making it easier for Storytellers to introduce factions and Legacies they’re interested in without worrying about the local effect.

Consilium and Assembly

Where enough mages have gathered, drawn by a long-term Mystery like Boston’s secret Concord, Salamanca’s efímera-gates, and Seattle’s Splintered Timeline, they get in danger of conflict over access, magical real estate like Verges and Demesnes, and clashing Obsessions. The Diamond manages these pressures with a Consilium—a panel of Councilors chaired by a Hierarch, who hear and resolve disputes. Consilium decisions are backed up by social pressure – cabals who don’t agree to abide by their local Consilium don’t get the protection from other mages it affords. Also, the judges tend to come from the oldest, most powerful cabals and employ Sentinels – enforcers and detectives who levy out the Consilium’s punishments. A Consilium’s decisions aren’t always final – Convocations can act as a court of appeal – and they aren’t there to act as a government, except in issues where they make rulings to protect every Pentacle mage in their territory. As long as they don’t break any local laws, what a cabal gets up to is entirely their own business.

With the business of doling out responsibilities and furthering agendas firmly placed in Order Caucuses, Consilia in second edition are very clearly the Awakened judiciary – the Hierarch of a city isn’t in any way the “ruler,” but rather the senior arbiter of the local Pentacle. Consilium scenes are courtroom dramas, Sentinels investigating crimes against the Lex Magica or punishments being levied.

Libertines agree to be governed by the Consilium when they’re in a cabal, but the fifth Order prefers Assemblies. In theory, an Assembly is a democratic gathering of all the mages in a locality, voting equally on public matters and all abiding by the results. In practice, Assembly is usually the same thing as the Free Council Caucus, except for a handful of younger or less established mages who think they’ll get a better result appealing to the Libertines than going to the Hierarch. The Diamond Orders, who are all based on various forms of individual power and enlightenment, traditionally prefer the Consilium/Convocation model where a few experts make rulings. In some parts of the world, though, Assembly has gained traction—and we should show at least one in our setting chapter. The Libertines aren’t fools, though, and do have rules about who can vote – you have to be a member of an Assembly for a year, or prove your trustworthiness to the voting members – before you can vote in one, which keeps the democratic process reasonably safe from Diamond mages looking to use the Free Council as an army.

Convocation and Tetrarchy

To prevent Consilia from becoming too isolated from one another, the Silver Ladder works to organize regular Convocations. Mages from many different Consilia send representatives to exchange information and forge friendships and alliances with Awakened of other regions. The smallest Convocations cover the overlapping territories of one Caucus from each of the five Pentacle Orders, the largest gather attendees from all over a continent. The Silver Ladder has long spoken of organizing a Great Convocation open to mages from every Consilium in the world, but this has never materialized.

Convocations tie the Orders together; they’re where the Magisters of the Silver Ladder and the Adamant Sages of the Arrow confer with one another (even if it’s via representatives) and set the agenda for their own parts of the Orders. Convocations also act as courts of appeal for those dissatisfied with the ruling of their local Consilium. These gatherings also make excellent opportunities to meet mages of unusual Legacies who might be willing to induct a new student.

Convocations are where you see “The Pentacle,” where mages act like a government, and make large-scale decisions that the attending Caucuses agree to carry out. Unlike Consilium, Convocation has a very simple method of determining pull – any Master in attendance sits on decisions, which can lead to masters overruling their own Heirarchs by taking a matter “upstairs”. The difference in legal use of Consilium and Convocation is one of scale – a Consilium can say that one mage stole another mage’s Artifact, a Convocation can declare a Legacy Left-Handed.

Instead of Caucus, Convocation, and Consilium, Seers of the Throne maintain a compex chain of command within each Ministry that’s deliberately confusing, with every level only sure of the levels below them. The head of a Ministry in a wide geographical region is a Tetrarch, who meets with her counterparts from other Ministries in a meeting called a Tetrarchy. The Tetrarchies discuss the Seers’ goals and pass commands down to their Ministries. Above them each Ministry has a single Minister, the highest seat of the Seers in the Fallen World. Many Ministers are archmages, or live in Supernal Verge-fortresses where they’re imprisoned/served by entities loyal to their Patron Exarch.

Mentors and Students (and Legacies)

Cutting to the heart of mage society, in all Sects and all levels of organization, is the simple mentor/student relationship. At any given time, a player character may be the student of several Storyteller characters and the mentor of several more. These ties can cut across Order lines, are the basis for Legacies, and are the source of rivalries and loyalties that shake the setting up from a simplistic boxed view of the character types.

Setting Building

If that sounds complex, don’t worry – we have you covered. Second Edition’s Storytelling chapter includes advice and a process for generating the webs of associations a player character will have – who the local Heirarch is, who’s responsible for them in their Order, who they know apart from that, and so on. It’s got a musical theme.

Next Week!

There’s two obvious topics to go to from here; how does all this work in practice, and what about mages who reject it?

Settings or Antagonists?

 

Comments

82 responses to “A Well-Armed Society…”

  1. CJ_D Avatar
    CJ_D

    Antagonists!

  2. Alexander Avatar
    Alexander

    Settings!

    Curious about the “s” in settings though 🙂

    1. Leetsepeak Avatar
      Leetsepeak

      Probably in reference to thee Settings section of the book, which details settings like London and stuff.

  3. Cliff Avatar
    Cliff

    That was a great read! I’ve never had the chance to play Awakening but all these posts have got me very excited for the new edition.

    Settings!

  4. Peter Avatar
    Peter

    Antagonists

  5. Eric Christian Berg Avatar
    Eric Christian Berg

    Let’s go for antagonists this time.

  6. Falco1029 Avatar
    Falco1029

    Antagonists!

  7. Satchel Avatar
    Satchel

    Antagonists.

  8. MrParaduo Avatar
    MrParaduo

    Setting, plz.

  9. Octavo Avatar
    Octavo

    Since the Diamond is made of of four detailed orders, and the Seers are made up of several detailed greater and lesser ministries, is there any way we might see more of the building blocks or factions within the Council of Free Assemblies?

    I vote Antagonists.

    1. Dataweaver Avatar
      Dataweaver

      Already covered in the Free Council book.

      I vote for Antagonists.

      1. Octavo Avatar
        Octavo

        Well, there’s been a shift in characterization since the FC book, right? I remember the factions in their book being about different groups of revolutionaries, but I don’t think there was a lot about the different cultural practices other than technomancy.

  10. GhostTurtle Avatar
    GhostTurtle

    I’d love to see those Settings!

  11. NateD Avatar
    NateD

    Oooh, that’s a tricky one. I’m voting Settings, and hoping for the Los Angeles one that’s been teased.

    Hope you’re feeling better Dave, too.

  12. EmanantVolition Avatar
    EmanantVolition

    Settings.

    I’m still somewhat confused about the Caucus level. Does the territory of Caucuses overlap? Is a consilium always firmly within the territory of a single order “caucus?”

    Also, do Caucuses and Tetriarchies overlap, or are they mutually exclusive?

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      A caucus is a single “block” of an Order, as described in the Order Books. You *can* have a big city with a single Caucus from each of the Orders, which would look like first edition, but their territories don’t have to match. Each Order divides the world up slightly differently.

      For example; Chicago, Indianapolis, and St Louis might all have Consilia (though Chicago’s is much more powerful, and covers places like Gary).

      The Arrow in Chicago belong to a Caucus which only covers Chicago. They don’t have any mages elsewhere.

      The Guardian Caucus covers Chicago and St Louis. Indianapolis is in the territory of the Columbus Epopt.

      The Mysterium Caucus covers all three cities.

      Each city has its own independent Libertine Assembly.

      The Silver Ladder Caucus covers Chicago and Indianapolis but not St Louis.

      Very big cities can have more than one Caucus of a single city – the New York and New Jersey metropolis has two Adamantin Arrow Caucuses.

      Tetrarchies are much, much, bigger – the US and Canada are split into only three Tetrarchies.

  13. Leliel Avatar
    Leliel

    Does anyone find it hilarious that the basic above-Cabal organisation in the Pentacle is a mystical claims court?

    “Objection! Your honor, the defendant clearly cracked the majority of this temple puzzle, the fact that the plaintiff actually spoke friend to enter is irrelevant!”

    I vote for Antagonists, again, and now I’m off to make Phoenix Wright as a Thearch.

  14. Wolf Avatar
    Wolf

    Setting

  15. Illuminated Avatar
    Illuminated

    Antagonists!

  16. Lian Avatar
    Lian

    Settings!

  17. Afro Luigi Avatar
    Afro Luigi

    Antagonists!

  18. KingCarnival Avatar
    KingCarnival

    Settings

  19. branford Avatar
    branford

    Settings!

  20. Zooroos Avatar
    Zooroos

    Settings, please! Also, is Boston going to be revisited in 2nd Ed Core? I always thought of Boston as a very early yet compelling take on MtAw social order, and I’d love to see how it could be revised to add the new twists and shifts that have transpired in the setting (and to know what happened to the Concilium after The Nemean conviction!).

    Glad to read from you again. Hope you’re feeling better!

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      No, we’re not including Boston. We don’t want to redo its book. You’ll get another instalment of the Nemean’s story in the fiction anthology.

      1. Zooroos Avatar
        Zooroos

        Bummer. I’ll definitely catch the anthology though. 🙂

  21. Iceblade44 Avatar
    Iceblade44

    Atagonists por favor

  22. Allan Avatar
    Allan

    Antagonists!

  23. Yossarian Avatar
    Yossarian

    Antagonists! I’m tenpted by the other choice, but I’m really keen to see what threats of Second Edition look like.

  24. WuseMajor Avatar
    WuseMajor

    One wonders if the reason there are so many Seers is because the Exarchs are always telling them “You must construct additional Pylons!”

  25. Nicias Avatar
    Nicias

    Settings, please.

  26. Asaram Avatar
    Asaram

    Antagonists please.

  27. Uxas Avatar
    Uxas

    Settings, please.

  28. Chazz Avatar
    Chazz

    Setting

  29. mr.shades Avatar
    mr.shades

    Setting please. I know that the antagonists will be delicious, they almost always are for Mage. Show me that the setting can be the same as well

  30. Patrick Regan Avatar
    Patrick Regan

    I like this — it has a much cleaner, more understandable feel to it. I think of all the hierarchies, Mage’s was the one I had the most trouble wrapping my head around. This makes total sense to me though — Consillii isn’t Mage government, per se, it’s just a way of resolving problems in certain areas without everyone blowing everyone else up.

    Setting.

  31. Olivier Avatar
    Olivier

    Antagonists.

  32. Beachfox Avatar
    Beachfox

    I finally got my hands on a copy of Left-Handed Paths, so I’m all about seeing how Antagonists match up in Awakening 2.0!

  33. WuseMajor Avatar
    WuseMajor

    Also, this does sound interesting. I would like to hear more about the various sub-orders in the Free Council and how that differs from the more monolithic groups in the Seers and Diamond, so I think I’d like to hear about the Settings.

    (My guess is that the Free Council is going to vary significantly from place to place, within the guidelines of democracy and such. That they’re going to be much more about the genus loci of a given area than anyone else will. Like two Mysterium Consiliums, one from Moscow and one from London, will likely have fairly similar magical practices, despite not having a common language, while the Assemblies from Berkly and New Orleans might well be nigh unrecognizable to each other, save for some general ideals and message transfer protocols.)

  34. Nathan Henderson Avatar
    Nathan Henderson

    Am I right in assuming that as its own Sect, the Free Council is larger than any of of the other “Pentacle Orders” BUT is still substantially smaller than the Diamond Precept as a whole?

    1. DaveB Avatar
      DaveB

      Yes, that’s right. The Diamond are the biggest Sect, the Libertines are the biggest Order.

      If we’re vague about this kind of thing, it’s because these global assumptions almost never translate into Wands on the Ground – you should have as many Guardians in your Consilium as you need, their “smallest overall Order” be damned.

  35. Nathan Henderson Avatar
    Nathan Henderson

    Oh, Antagonists

  36. wyrdhamster Avatar
    wyrdhamster

    Show me settings, I want to get my head around this big “local jurisdiction” mess.

    Also, how to establish WHEN to make a local Caucus? When Order members are more than 50? More than 100? Any rough guidelines at the boundaries of those groups?

  37. Lone Gunman Avatar
    Lone Gunman

    I go for Antagonists!

  38. wildeyes Avatar
    wildeyes

    Settings. I’m really excited to see which cities are going to get the spot light! Especially after seeing the example hunting ground from Werewolf: the Forsaken. Your setting write ups give tons of inspiration for games.

  39. stsword Avatar
    stsword

    I’ve got to go for Antagonists. I believe one of the authors mention that mages need their power level to deal with the enemies they have, but for the life of me I have no idea who that would be referring to: other mages makes for circular argument, the exarchs don’t get fought, the abyss is a problem to solve not an enemy to destroy, and ephemerals are generic to the world of darkness.

  40. Chris Handforth Avatar

    Antagonists again please!

    That was an interesting read though. Is the advice section going to include an example of building all of the contacts for a character, or just advice how to do it?

  41. Grunt Avatar
    Grunt

    I’ll vote for Settings

  42. Levi Avatar
    Levi

    Antagonists.

    (Particularly liches :p)

  43. vicmar16 Avatar
    vicmar16

    antagonists.

  44. Will Avatar
    Will

    Does the reference to ‘minor talents’ refer to thaumaturgists and the like? Or is that
    a sneak peek at something new?

  45. reseru Avatar
    reseru

    Damn I thought we’d get to see some settings today! I can’t believe I have to vote between the only two topics I really cared got previewed at all! Frack. Here’s some questions first:

    = All these “C” words make my head spin. Cabal is smallest and caucus covers this place but not this one but Convocation is huge but Consilium is in between somewhere O_O

    = How much terminology is in this book? This isn’t some around-the-bush beating my opinion on you, just curiosity of your developer-decision-making. Why distinguish “cabals” and “columns” (more “C”s) when you have to work with such a limited wordcount? Or is that the price of your outline’s goal to further distinguish the FC from the Diamond?

    = Do Mages heading a Consilium view themselves above ‘mundane/mortal/muggle’ laws? Does your typical Mage fear the cops more or getting caught by a Sentinel? I suppose it’s all relative, but still. I guess it has to do with exactly how much you’ve divorced yourself from the mundane world, which…is the point of Mage, right? How do you do that safely without going insane and/or breaking reality?

    = How much do Mages now? How much of 1e is written with ‘in-character’ knowledge? What does the Diamond know about Seer servitors, for example?

    Thanks for your time. I…well, I have to vote for Settings

  46. arthexis Avatar
    arthexis

    Settings!

  47. Arcane Avatar
    Arcane

    Antagonists.

  48. Seidmadr Avatar
    Seidmadr

    Apart from saying that this post, like all of them, was great, I have nothing to add.

    Antagonists.

  49. Dave Avatar
    Dave

    Antagonists, please

  50. Jeremy Avatar
    Jeremy

    antagonists!!!!!

  51. Thorbes Avatar
    Thorbes

    Hard choice….

    Ok, I’ll keep my last’s week vote:

    Antagonists.

  52. shkspr1048 Avatar
    shkspr1048

    Antagonists; speaking of, will the Bound be covered under Antagonists, or under some other occult miscellany?

    1. iceblade44 Avatar
      iceblade44

      whats the Bound

      1. Merkonan Avatar
        Merkonan

        Exiled supernal gods/lower depths entities/goetia that have been imprisoned in the fallen world that feed on Mana.

  53. Ephsy Avatar
    Ephsy

    Antagonists!

  54. AlexS Avatar
    AlexS

    Settings.

  55. Aurumae Avatar
    Aurumae

    Settings

    This is awesome, but definitely a little confusing. I really like the idea of caucuses but I think I’d really like to see a few examples of how all these elements interact to really understand it.

  56. Full Time GM Avatar
    Full Time GM

    Antagonists, please.

  57. atamajakki Avatar
    atamajakki

    Settings, please!

  58. Zanity Avatar
    Zanity

    Antagonists, please.

  59. ArcadianAwakened Avatar
    ArcadianAwakened

    Tempting though antagonists is, I’m going to vote settings. The magical society stuff sounds really cool, my group and I have never been too huge more politically focused stories but the style and scale of a convocation opens up some really exciting story ideas

  60. Tori Avatar
    Tori

    Settings Please !

  61. Brian Goubeaux Avatar
    Brian Goubeaux

    Antagonists please. I need to know because if the Seers are no longer the main villain of Awakening, then who is?

  62. NRGregory Avatar
    NRGregory

    Antagonists. Pretty sure I know a guy who’s going to lose his mind before too long. >.>

  63. Sir Phobos Avatar
    Sir Phobos

    Settings, please.

    I’d love to see London’s Consilia, I’m planning to do a chronicle in the British Isles.

  64. ESSmith Avatar
    ESSmith

    Antagonists, please!

  65. Eric Christian Berg Avatar
    Eric Christian Berg

    I’m changing my vote to settings, also in the hope of getting a glimpse of London.

  66. J-Frog Avatar
    J-Frog

    Settings!

  67. tau neutrino Avatar
    tau neutrino

    Antagonists. “Great power without great challenge is just crass spectacle.” If the Seers aren’t the main antagonists, does this hold true?

  68. ale Avatar
    ale

    Antagonists

  69. Cayce Avatar
    Cayce

    On one hand, it’s great to see examples of how the organization manifests, but I think that information on antagonists is more important since they are what generate the conflict (I would even say the crux) of every story and thus the game itself.

    Also, seeing the opposition to an idea does wonders to illuminate and educate about that idea! Check the First Phalanx, yo!

  70. Eric Crabtree Avatar
    Eric Crabtree

    Antagonist.

  71. Phersus Avatar
    Phersus

    Antagonists!!

  72. BigDamnHero Avatar
    BigDamnHero

    Settings. I’m too invested in the society now. I’d love to see the full preview.

  73. Ftagn Avatar
    Ftagn

    Throwing my vote in for Antagonists.