Faces of Magick provides Storytellers with a massive rogues gallery for their chronicles of Mage: The Ascension. The introduction explains the content within as follows:
Faces of Magick profiles 24 individuals found somewhere in the network of the Nine Traditions. Some are perfectly happy in their place within the Council, whether serving underneath their Primus, or acting as Primi themselves in the case of Hyeonmyeong Sunim. Others struggle to find their place within their Tradition, or feel themselves stretched between the powerful attractions of opposing forces (there’s that gravity again). Still more are ignorant to their potential, focusing their power like a selfish, aloof warhead bent on launching its impending doom somewhere, somehow. What all the faces have in common, however, is their network of interconnected conflicts.
In addition to rich description, useful stat blocks, and urgent strife, each character profile contains three unique connections with other characters in this book or other books in the Mage: The Ascension line. The connections range from simple to complex; from long-term friendships and slow-burn alliances to frantic interceptions and other immediate calls to action. Storytellers will find successful immersion of the party into a chronicle via any single one of these characters, simply by arranging the meeting. From there, the storyline takes on a mind of its own, surrounding the protagonists with an interconnected web of critical allies and fateful villains.
On the other hand, players are encouraged to take on the role of any one of these characters, working with the Storyteller and the rest of the troupe to successfully involve their conflicts into the chronicle. Utilize the Roleplaying Notes for a vivid glance into each character’s mannerisms, weaknesses, insights, and immediate motives.
Here are two of the characters found within the collection:
Emma Tavares: Otherworldly-Painter
I feel like I could step right through, into a whole other place.
— An observer at Emma’s gallery opening
Tradition: Order of Hermes
Awakened: 1983 (Born: 1962)
The unveiling of a new Tavares is an event in the art world. She paints impossible, fantastical realms in vivid detail, images that feel so real it’s as if you can feel strange winds howling down jagged canyons, or smell the sharp ozone tinge of a lightning strike. Sleepers consider them all the products of a particularly vivid imagination, made manifest by Emma’s genius. Mages know the places she’s painting are real: Dream Realms, Shade Realms, the Vulgate, Ghost Realms, and Courts. Painting such otherscapes isn’t the problem; it’s the part where sometimes people fall through or horrors creep out that has some mages raising the alarms.
Even as a child, Emma’s dreams were lucid and full of detail. She sketched them on the backs of homework assignments and doodled them around formulas, historic dates, and sentence diagrams in her notebooks. If her entire schedule could have consisted of art class, Emma would have done so in a heartbeat. She told her parents and teachers that the landscapes were inspired by whatever she was reading. As far as they knew, she was drawing Middle-earth, Narnia, and Wonderland. Her friends knew better: Emma told them how real it all felt, and how sometimes she swore she woke up with grass in her hair or mud on her feet.
She briefly attended art school but left before graduating. Emma took jobs doing set design and painting backdrops for theatre productions. She Awakened during one such gig, alone in the theatre late at night, feverishly finishing a backdrop. One moment, she was touching up the snow on a mountain’s peak, the next she was holding a fistful of actual snow. It was freezing there, the thin air choking her airway. Snow and ice shifted beneath her, and she tumbled down the slope. She came to, panting on the stage floor, her fall cushioned by a snowdrift.
She wanted to go back.
Today, Emma’s apartment is full of paints and canvasses. She reaches for her brushes within minutes of waking and falls asleep with a sketchbook close to hand. The smell of the paint, the pressure of her fingers on the brush, and the sound of bristles on fabric help her not only see those otherworlds she visits, but also bring them alive. Keen-eyed mages can see Spirit and Correspondence at work in her brush strokes.
She’s not always in control of where she goes when she sleeps, though her mentors within the Order of Hermes have taught her much about astral projection over the years. She knows enough to extricate herself when her dreams become hellscapes, but in general she’s content to explore, and trusts that she’ll wake up in her own bed.
Her peers within House Ex Miscellanea applaud her skill, though the Hermetics as a whole aren’t sure her works should be on public display. Most of the time, they’re no more dangerous than the covers of science fiction and fantasy books — glimpsing the cover won’t send the reader spinning off into space or plunk them down atop a dragon’s hoard. So far, when an observer’s slipped through, the Tradition’s been able to retrieve them without too much harm done. The viewer often speaks about “feeling transported,” or how being in the presence of Tavares’s art is a transcendent experience. Emma considers these some of her best reviews.
Rise and Ruin
For the first two decades of her career, Emma had a small niche following. Her long-time agent found buyers who paid nicely, and got her space in art shows and galleries, but she wasn’t a household name. With the advent of the internet, and especially since the rise of social media, Emma’s pieces have been shared onto millions of timelines, made into memes, and brought her a hefty profit in prints, posters, tee-shirts, and coffee mugs. As long as it finances her supplies, Emma’s given her agent the go-ahead to make licensing deals. She draws the line at interviews and public relations, however: Emma has no interest in being a public figure.
Her latest endeavor is an outdoor art installation in Seattle, part open-air gallery, part architectural installation. Some of her landscapes appear on the sides of buildings, on I-5 underpasses, and her paintings are on display throughout Seattle Center. Viewers can come watch her paint, which leads to disappearances. These are generally small crowds, no more than two or three observers who show up at the crack of dawn, or who happen upon her painting when insomnia or nightmares drive her to create at two or three in the morning.
Not all of her paintings are idyllic, and sometimes what she paints has an environmental effect on the surrounding area. A depiction of a lightning-riddled landscape in the Shade Realm of Forces causes a dangerous electrical storm in Capitol Hill. Umbrood clamber out of a particularly disturbing hellscape in Pioneer Square. The events disturb her, and while she’s done what she can to mitigate the harm — retrieving those lost within the paintings, calling other Hermetics in to redirect a storm or capture spirits running amok — she balks at the idea of ending the exhibit early. It’s not a matter of money lost or contracts breached driving her, but her own deep-seated stubbornness: she’s sure she can stop it from happening if she can just figure out what’s going on. And that means she must continue painting.
- Angels in the Architecture: Emma’s paintings on display near St. James Cathedral depict a library in the Vulgate where beings made of light walk among the stacks. Churchgoers insist they’ve seen some of the figures move, and still others insist they hear heavenly music when they stand close. Choristers and Templars alike wish to study the phenomenon and call the characters in to help when tension between the two factions threatens to boil over.
- Portrait Sitting: Emma branches out from landscapes to portraits, endeavoring to paint representatives from every Tradition, from acolytes to Archmages. Her likenesses are just as lifelike as her landscapes, and some subjects insist she’s even captured some echo of their avatars in the images. Though their magick isn’t diminished by this, some mages worry their enemies might be able to use the portraits against them. One such person contacts the characters. They’ve been accused of a crime, and while all magickal evidence points to them, they were nowhere near the scene… but their portrait’s on display in a gallery nearby.
- Dangerous Visions: During one of Emma’s dreams, she stumbles across something she wasn’t meant to see — an infernal bargain being forged. Her painting depicting the event arrives at the characters’ home, carefully packed. Emma herself is nowhere to be found, either missing or gone into hiding, but she left a note scratched onto the back of the canvas: stop them.
Suggested Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3, Charisma 4, Manipulation 2, Appearance 3, Perception 5, Intelligence 4, Wits 3
Suggested Abilities: Art (Painting) 5, Athletics 2, Awareness 3, Crafts (Canvas and Mixtures) 3, Empathy 3, Esoterica 2, Etiquette 2, Expression 4, Lucid Dreaming 4, Meditation 3, Melee 2, Occult 3, Research 2, Technology 2
Suggested Arete: 4
Suggested Spheres: Correspondence 4, Life 2, Matter 3, Prime 3, Spirit 4
Health Levels: OK, ?1, ?1, ?2, ?2, ?5, Incapacitated
Armor Rating: 0
Suggested Merits: Emma’s Merits should reflect her career in the art world, including Contacts, Fame, Resources, and Sanctum
Equipment: Paints and brushes, pencils, sketchbook
Image: Emma is a Portuguese woman just cornering the age of 60. She keeps her long hair — gone mostly gray, but with noticeable black strands still visible — pulled back in a braid so it’s not in the way while she works. She tends toward comfortable clothing she won’t mind getting covered in paint: jeans and tennis shoes, shirts whose sleeves she can push up past her elbows. There’s nearly always a smudge of paint somewhere on her face or hands. She still wears jeans to gallery showings, but switches the tennis shoes out for a pair of black flats and the paint-splattered shirt for a black sweater and chunky jewelry.
Roleplaying Notes: Emma tends to let others do the talking so she can observe the scene around her. Sometimes, this leads people to assume she’s not really listening, though that’s not the case. She comes through with surprising quips at unexpected moments, proving she was paying just as much attention to the conversation as she was the way the light’s playing off the water outside. She’s interested in discussions about art and technique but is also fascinated by stories of mages who’ve traveled to some of the places she’s only seen in her dreams.
A Long-Lost Friend: Emma was friends with Céleste’s mother, long ago. Though the two lost touch, she was sad to learn of her sudden passing. She’s reached out to Céleste with her condolences and an offer to paint a portrait of her mother as a gift. Why is the young witch so against that idea? Lost in grief, Emma supposes.
Portrait of the Imposter: One of Jacob Mullen’s doppelgängers sat for a portrait. Though she believes it was Jacob himself, Emma tells friends the picture feels “empty,” but she can’t put her finger on why.
Work In Progress: Emma has sketched a scene of Xoca confronting an ancient enemy, but has yet to paint it. Even the faint penciled-in details seem to writhe on the paper. She dreads bringing it to life with her paints, yet the compulsion to do so grows by the day.
Jacob Mullen: Death Comes in Threes
The dead have it easy; it’s the ones left behind I pity.
— Jacob Mullen, in conversation with the late brother of Ivan Braddock
Awakened: 1993 (Born: 1966)
Who are they? What do they want? These are the thoughts burning themselves into Jacob’s mind each time he sees one of the “others,” the doppelgängers who appeared shortly after his encounter with the Obelisk. Jacob thought he’d failed to tap its energies, but clearly something happened, as Jacob doesn’t have the capability to force such a momentous change upon the world by himself. The appearances didn’t start immediately and are far from consistent, but wherever Jacob goes, the doppelgängers eventually appear. He’s counted two unique versions of them, each with distinct, recurring personalities, as well as interests in the same people he stalks. Is this Paradox? Surely not, as Jacob knows he doesn’t have the power needed, right? Who they are and what they want clearly isn’t on their agenda to communicate to Jacob, but their knowing glances tell him everything he needs to understand; retribution is coming. The brother he left in a shallow grave so many years ago hasn’t rested easy, and no matter how far Jacob runs, he feels the eyes of these duplicates on him, his guilt personified and made manifest.
Jacob and his brother were inseparable in the way only twins can be, both so alike that few could tell them apart. Gamblers, hustlers, and con men, they looked out for each other, pushing themselves into all manner of crazy capers. Life was theirs for the taking, and both were intent on wringing every last drop out of it. Neither considered the implications of what they did, nor the danger awaiting them. And why would they? Each had the perfect wingman looking out for them, a soulmate in every sense of the word. These memories continue to influence his purpose and direction. Fate, chance, numbers, symmetry, and family — all elements that remind him of his brother.
Just like in the heydays spent with his brother, games of chance and risk excite and control him, always following wherever the roll of the dice leads, believing that ignoring fate is akin to spitting in the eyes of the gods. Whenever he submits to these whims, the lines of fate feel almost tangible; the more he rolls with their capricious spirit, the more he can later claw back. Give and take, the primal force of the universe, necessary for truly symmetrical balance, just like the natural equilibrium shared between Jacob and his twin.
With the passage of many years, Jacob has become a capable mage and killer, and underestimating his skills is a quick way to die. He still follows the money — a numerical force if ever there was one — and uses it to furnish his extravagant, jet-set lifestyle. He’s tried poverty a few times now, and it’s not for him. Deeply uncomfortable in all but the most expensive designer suits, the nicest hotel suites, and Michelin star restaurants, fate’s granted him luxury. Stalking rich and influential families for those in dire need of a life lesson, he insinuates and cons his way into their circle before imparting the same life lessons he so painfully learned all those years ago. Many in his Tradition forget death affects more than the dead, and he knows from bitter experience the changes forced upon oneself when a close family member dies. Pain brings change, and the wheel demands change above all else.
Rise and Ruin
Jacob travels indiscriminately, always taking the next flight out and seeing where luck lands him. As the two doppelgängers close the gap, he’ll grow increasingly desperate, lashing out and acting irrationally. Normally a strong-willed person, Jacob is terrified of what the two represent, and how they continue to insinuate themselves so seamlessly into the environment — it started out as just glimpses of them from the corner of his eyes, then as beggars on the street, or doormen and staff at the casinos he frequented. The doubles are working their way to something, and unbeknownst to Jacob, they frequently masquerade as him. Slowly they are beginning to claim not just his sanity, but his life.
- On the Count of Three: Aside from a knowing glance, Jacob’s refused to engage his doppelgängers, but this stalemate won’t last forever. He doesn’t know the extent of their power, whom they’ve already spoken to, or when they’ll strike. That time is now, and rather than directly attack him, they’ve chosen to judiciously take his place, fight off his closest friends and allies, and drive Jacob to maddening paranoia. Once the dust settles, they’ll live the life they and so many others missed out on. They’ll introduce themselves to the troupe, helping out immensely when most needed, and garner their trust well before the real Jacob ever arrives on the scene.
- Aces High: Jacob must indulge himself in order to distract himself from his troubles. He’s singled out a gambler who’s left their own sister in the lurch in exchange for cash and selfish desires. Soon he’ll lend them the enlightenment only the death of a sibling can provide. What could go wrong? Even if he’s caught, he can blame one of the doppelgängers. Looks like this situation isn’t all bad.
- Twofold Power: Jacob is potent, but he’s yet to truly aspire to the world changing heights possessed by the Archmagi. He’s under no illusions regarding his inability to have summoned the doppelgängers but believes the Obelisk was responsible. Returning to the stone’s resting place revealed nothing but an empty space and traces of its vast energy, but now he senses its presence again. This time he won’t make the mistake of going in alone — he just needs a disposable team.
Suggested Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Stamina 4, Charisma 3, Manipulation 4, Appearance 4, Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 5
Suggested Abilities: Alertness 2, Awareness 3, Brawl 3, Drive 3, Empathy (Loss) 4, Enigmas 2, Esoterica 3, Etiquette 3, Expression 1, Firearms (Executions) 4, Intimidation 2, Investigation 3, Melee (Garrote) 4, Occult 3, Stealth (Social Settings) 4, Streetwise 3, Subterfuge (Confidence Tricks) 5, Survival 2, Technology 2
Suggested Arete: 7
Suggested Spheres: Entropy 4, Forces 3, Life 3, Mind 3, Prime 3, Spirit 3
Health Levels: OK, ?1, ?1, ?2, ?2, ?5, Incapacitated
Armor Rating: 0
Suggested Merits: Mourner’s Chant
Suggested Flaws: Mistaken Identity (Doppelgängers), Phobia (Doppelgängers), and Touch of Chaos
Equipment: Battered deck of blood-flecked cards, briefcase full of various weapons, photo torn down the center, wallet stuffed with cash and credit cards
Image: Hale and hearty despite a life lived constantly on the edge, Jacob still cuts a dashing figure, belying his early years spent hustling for every scrap possible. Knowing death is inevitable regardless of one’s choices, he enjoys the finer things in life, smoking, drinking, and eating only the finest choices on offer. His thinning gray hair is swept back, and the thick lines around his eyes tell of a life fully lived. Sharp suits, big bets, and an open wallet reveal a respect for money that only comes from one with too much.
Roleplaying Notes: Jacob is no slouch when it comes to people; his many years as a confidence man taught him all the tricks he’d ever need in order to insinuate himself into a conversation, and he’s an expert at using negative statements to draw out an emotional counter, or inspire jealousy. Family is critical, and once comfortable, he’ll subtly bring the subject up — even using his brother as the catalyst. When getting close to a target, he starts at the fringes of a group. When he needs to kill, he does so for maximum effect, knowing guilt prompts a strong impetus for reflection and evolution. He never stays to watch the fallout — fate is cruel. Solitary by circumstance rather than choice, those breaking through might pick up on the deep loneliness that follows him.
Musical Cue: Jacob’s brother grew up on the songs of Danni “Wildheart” Davies, so he was especially awestruck when one of his doubles appeared on a television commercial humming her music. Maybe he should attend her upcoming “show to end all shows” to find a solution to his problem.
The Orbital Obelisk: Xavier Leroux recently took one of Jacob’s doppelgängers on a special tour around the asteroid Ceres and was suspicious enough of their calculated questions about its potential mineral deposits to justify hiring someone to spy on them.
Shared Loss: Jacob’s received an invite to the Anointment of Céleste and, recognizing the signs of grief, plans to console her in private. He will be surprised to see one of his doubles talking with her first.