New Order


We’ve talked about Paths and Legacies already, so we’re past due to talk about the Orders.

If Path and Legacy are broad and narrow definitions of magical style, how a mage works her magic, then it’s the job of the last axis of character definition to provide the why, when, and where. From a game perspective, the Orders are motivation; they’re defined by what the members believe magic’s purpose is.

The direction for the Orders for Awakening Second Edition was one of the earliest things we decided on in early development, and the element of the game that shows the clearest line of continuity thanks to the sheer amount of focus first edition placed on the Orders. Where the Paths had Tome of the Watchtowers early in first edition’s run, all six Orders had sourcebooks devoted to them individually, fleshing out their histories, philosophies, and factions. That’s a significant portion of the edition’s wordcount devoted to developing the Orders described in the first edition core, and we have no desire to throw it away, so the first thing I can tell you about the Orders in second edition is… You’ll recognize them. If you’ve read Left Hand Path or Mage Noir, both written after all the Order books were out, you’ve seen roughly how we think of the Orders. Our Guardians of the Veil are clearly the Guardians from their book. That’s not to say we’re not placing emphasis in slightly different places, or tweaking here and there, but if you own the Order books rest assured that they’re still very much relevant in the new edition.

So, we went into second edition with a wealth of information about what each Order was like in isolation; we know about the Corpus Mysteriorum, the Heiromagus, the Ministries, and the Adamant Way. We’ve seen Operation Oracle and the Grand Caucus of the Adamantine Arrow in 1948. We know the Mysterium were two rival Orders until the archmaster now called the Corpus Author united them in the middle ages. We know the first Exarch Cult was dedicated to the General, but the first Ministry was Hegemony in the Italian Renaissance. What we needed to do for a new corebook was show the Orders as a single setting rather than six factions existing in a vacuum – the guideline for nWoD books that we only refer to the corebook for the line wherever possible means that we haven’t seen, to take some examples, how the Mysterium acts in Convocation, or whether the other Orders know about the Guardian religion, or how Silver Ladder cryptopolies and Guardian labyrinths interact.

Our design goals for the Orders are;

  • Increase the sense of historicity, relative to first edition. The Orders books each had a detailed history chapter, and Left Hand Path talks about what the Nameless were like before the Free Council. That’s a far cry from the impression the original core sometimes gave of “Atlantis happened, then nothing of interest until the Great Refusal.” We’ll show you why the Silver Ladder Caucus of the Caribbean allied itself to the Seers of the Throne during piracy’s Golden Age. We’ll talk more about what the Keepers of the Word and the Pancryptiates (the two early Orders who merged to be the Mysterium) were like.
  • Clarify the nature of the Diamond’s “Atlantean” lineage. I’ll address this more below, but basically when the Silver Ladder say “we’re descended from the Vox Draconis” they mean spiritual descent. The Silver Ladder were founded in the 2nd century BC. The “Vox Draconis” is like a Shadow Name for the whole Order.
  • Reject the Tier system. Mage has always strained at the very early nWoD’s design principle of limiting the action to a single city (it makes no sense when 1/10th of starting characters can teleport.) and the Orders are global networks while simultaneously being local hierarchies that don’t answer to a central authority, except for the Seers. On the other side, the structures of the Orders described in the Order books describe factions with a lot of members – so many that if you sit down and try to figure out how many mages there should be in a single city according to all six books put together, you rapidly go over a hundred. So, as we’ve spoiled elsewhere, a single Order Caucus (for example a Guardian Epopt, all her Cultors, and the Labyrinths they’re running) now covers more than one Consilium. Even then, the “Guardians of the Veil” is made up of every one of those Caucuses, who are all independent of one another, and have the backing of ex-Guardian archmasters. Rather than explain that the Orders are Tier 2-3 subsets of Tier 3-4 networks, we’re not worrying about it. Which is why the word “Tier” does not appear in second edition. Mages visiting foreign Caucuses are like police officers out of jurisdiction – they aren’t part of the local politics, and the culture will have differences to what they’re used to, but they know the job.
  • Develop the Free Council as a viable sect. Having the Seers as antagonistic (most of the time) toward the other Orders gives the impression sometimes that there’s only two sides to this debate. We’re very clearly emphasizing that “the Pentacle” is the political alliance between the Diamond and the Free Council. They’re not the same, and it isn’t as simple as the Diamond being right all the time, or wrong all the time. The Libertines are probably the most-changed Order, within the “keep their books useful” lines I’ve already talked about, because of this; we want the difference between the two sects most player characters will come from to come down to viewpoints which could be both right, or at the very least aren’t demonstrably wrong on one side.
  • Show more mages living outside the Orders, but make it clear that they have numerous disadvantages. I wrote the Nameless Order section of Left Hand Path. I have nothing against apostate characters. Compared to the line so far, we’re going to see a lot more orderless mages and minor Nameless Orders (the term in Mage for an “Order” that’s a strictly local concern rather than being one of the six global Orders.) We’ll also see a lot more advantages to being in a proper Order – in a standard game, everyone will have these advantages, but if you choose to play an underdog you’ll understand why they’re an underdog, “game balance” be damned. Thousands of years’ worth of accumulated knowledge, grimoires, rotes, Legacies, artifacts, Imbued items, and secrets are held by the Orders, if you know where to look and have the Status to get it. Each Order teaches rote mudras, provides resources where it can, trains new mages, and has proprietary Merits available to members.
  • Display internal variation. From the outside, the Orders look like monolithic entities. From within, each Order is a confusing web of Master-Apprentice ties, regional schools, philosophical factions, Legacies, and other minor variants. The Adamantine Arrow in Tokyo is very different to the Adamantine Arrow in New York. Some of these internal groups are more accepted than others – each Order contains several heresies, factions that skirt the edge of being Left-Handed (or cross it entirely in secret.)
  • Portray the Pentacle as an Alliance. One of the things Requiem Second Edition does is give reasons for vampire covenants to work together, where they were previously shown as highly antagonistic. Mage has never quite gone that far, but we’re showing how everyone can work together and disagree. Tensions can rise between Pentacle Orders, and Ministries are constant rivals for the Exarchs’ attention, but in their worldwide forms the Pentacle are allies and the Seer Ministries are all servants. The four Diamond Orders in particular have spent millennia working together. On a personal level, however, mages will quite happily knife one another in the back and hold grudges that carry on to one another’s apprentices. Basically, the Pentacle is an alliance of fact, not merely one of convenience. But it isn’t the Star Trek Federation, either.
  • Let Sleepers glimpse the Orders. The Orders are occult conspiracies, embedded within and working alongside Sleeper mystery cults, religions, academia, and politics. Usually, character groups for World of Darkness games are only known by the participants. The Orders are a bit more visible than that, such that Sleepers digging into the links between occult groups will start to see that something’s there.  They are to Sleeper Mystery Cults as those cults are to regular people. Many Sleepers work for the Orders without ever knowing it – or work for more than one!
  • Let Sleepwalkers and Proximi in. Further to the above, Sleepwalkers and Proximi who know about the Awakened can’t just see the Orders, they can join them and even buy the first dot of Status.
  • Show the Orders as mystery cults. Mages have fashioned their societies in their own image – the world to the Awakened is an onion of hidden meanings and symbols, and their organizations reflect that way of thinking. The Orders are mystery cults, with varying levels of initiation and depth of commitment. The Free Council are the least vertically-divided, while the Seers are the most. Members learn secrets and gain benefits the more they put into the Order, but “casual” members are perfectly tolerated. Mages who don’t feel strongly about the Orders aren’t labelled apostates unless they’ve outright rejected all offers or been expelled from all options – they just end up as Status 0 members of whichever Order suits them best.
  • The Orders have flaws. Which, in Mage, manifest as tendencies to certain acts of Hubris. Going again to the Vampire comparison, someone wise (probably Rose, it sounds like something she’d say) noted that the vampiric clans each constitute a drive to be a monster, while the covenants are, at heart, means of maintaining some shred of Humanity. Well, Mage flips that. Path is the call of the Supernal, and the Orders all encourage, excuse, or downplay behavior that leads to Wisdom loss. The Silver Ladder, Seers, and Guardians are the most obvious about it, but they’ve all got these blind spots in their philosophies. We’ll be taking the time in the Order writeups to point them out.
  • The Seers of the Throne are a playable Order. They’re right there in the front of the book along with the Pentacle. The Mage Society chapter talks about the Iron Pyramid and Ministries. Prelacies (as you’ll see in a moment) are in the Merits, and I’m trying to crowbar at least one of the Seer servitor creatures into the Sleepwalker Appendix. Playing a Seer Chronicle is not for everyone, or even for most, as the Seers are (usually) openly antagonistic to the others, but they’re more supported in Awakening second ed than the Technocracy were in Ascension.
  • Banishers are not an Order. They’re just not – and our second edition’s view of the Supernal and how it relates to the Fallen makes “but they have the Supernal template of one!” overly-simplistic, so it’s being dropped as a notion. Banishers are in the new core’s antagonist section along with the Mad and Liches, as “failed states” of Awakening.

The Orders Themes

If you’ve read Left Hand Path or the Mage Chronicler’s Guide, you’ll have seen our mood statements for the Orders before;

  • Adamantine Arrow: Challenge is Magical
  • Free Council: Humanity is Magical
  • Guardians of the Veil: Magic is Fragile
  • Mysterium: Magic is Alive
  • Sliver Ladder: Magic is Humanity’s Birthright
  • Seers of the Throne: Magic is Payment

The Orders, Atlantis, and the Supernal

So, then, about that Atlantis thing.

It all comes down to the difference of opinion between the three great sects of Awakened about the relationship between the Fallen World and the Supernal. All mages acknowledge the dual nature of reality we’ve spoken about in previous blogs – they can all use their Mage Sight to see the symbols behind the skin of the world, and they all use Yantras/Instruments/Chains in support of their spells.

The Diamond Orders believe that the Supernal contains symbols of all things, including magical society. Individual mages have taken on Shadow Names and developed ritual personas for millenia, some of which are even magically active. When the Diamond speak of “Atlantis,” they don’t necessarily mean the civilization(s) of the Time Before; when the five original Diamond Orders were founded they developed “Atlantis” as a symbolic concept. By forging themselves in the shape of this “Diamond precept”, they take on the magical weight of the Supernal Realms. The Silver Ladder don’t believe they’re literally descended from a caste of Atlantis; they’re quite aware that the Awakened City wasn’t even called that. But they know that by adopting the communal persona of the Vox Draconis, the archetypal counselor-sage who elevates others, they grow closer to the Supernal.

The Free Council take the reverse position – humanity naturally draws on the Supernal, especially in groups, so rather than looking to theoretical archetypes and an ideal to follow on the Paths to Ascension, they look to communal will and the innovations of the human race. Instead of forcing contact with the Supernal by adopting an artificially symbolic society, mages should trust that the organically-grown societies of human beings are just fine – even better. Some Diamond mages (especially the Ladder) continually try to cast the Libertines as “archetypal rebels,” which many Libertines find both condescending and rather annoying.

The Seers of the Throne occupy the third position – rather than the Fallen drawing on the Supernal, they see reality as imposed from the Supernal Realms. Rather than take on the roles of Supernal societies, they willingly serve the Supernal’s rulers in this world, advancing the Exarchs’ agenda in return for reward and protection.

These philosophical positions of the sects reflect their approach to the Mysteries, too – many Pentacle mages note that while the Diamond stresses imagos, and looks to fit magical occurrences into what they know about the higher realms, the Free Council pays far more attention to magical tools. It’s a forest/trees difference of perspective.

The Orders as Game Mechanics

Each Order has a Status Merit, a modified form of Mystery Cult Initiation. This Merit allows Order members to access increasingly-rare rotes, items, and training in the same way Resources in second edition can access assets, as well as providing social roll adjustments.

Each Order also has one or more unique “perk” Merits, that require Order Status as a prerequisite;

  • Adamantine Arrow: Adamant Hand. Arrow mages of good Status may learn a Fighting Style to combine spellcasting with combat. The Hand allows mages to use full dodges, and unarmed and armed strikes, as Yantras for instant spells.
  • Free Council: Techné. Techné (“craft” in Greek – first applied as an insult by the Diamond Orders and now a badge of honor) is the Libertine method of casting spells through investment and participation in a cultural magical style, science, or artform. Experienced Libertines can declare fields of study as additional Order Magical Tools, and gain bonuses to group-casting that allow teams of Libertines to work together more easily and allow Sleeper ritual participants.
  • Guardians of the Veil: Masque. The Guardians train new apprentices in the Masques as a means of training them for undercover operations. Each Masque is a rudimentary Shadow Name, a persona the Guardian can adopt to act on behalf of the Order and not himself. Adopting a Masque requires willpower, and grants specialties in mental and social skills at low levels, dampens the character’s signature Nimbus at mid-levels and allows the user to suppress his Wisdom breaking points for short amounts of time at higher levels. It wasn’t him that committed an act of hubris, it was “Apprentice Forge-Coal”, or “The Viper”.
  • Mysterium: Egregore. While the Order Status Merit controls access to magical resources for all mages, the Mysterium’s special Merit notes how advanced a character is in the secret levels of the Order, and how attuned he is to both the pulse of magic and the communal knowledge-mind the Order calls the egregore. At one dot, he doesn’t have to roll to provide a bonus die when assisting another Mystagogue in a ritual. At two dots, his Status Merit applies even when he hasn’t met the other party before. At three dots, he has a perfect memory for the Orders’ history and members. At four dots, the first Yantra he uses in any spell counts as a dedicated magical tool, and at five dots he has an intimate sympathetic connection to all members of the Order while he is within an Order Sanctum (although he still has the penalty if he doesn’t know the name of someone he’s affecting.)
  • Silver Ladder: Lex Magica. The laws of the Pentacle aren’t just commonly-agreed precedents and treaties between rival cabals – they’re abstract concepts invented by people who make abstract concepts real. Théarchs acting in an official, titled, capacity (whether it’s as Herald, Hierarch, or Magister) within the Order or in Pentacle society enjoy bonuses to social maneuvering. Ladder judgment becomes binding precedent, and oaths sworn under the Lex Magica’s auspices are mystically-binding.
  • Seers of the Throne: Prelacies. If a Seer serves her patron Exarch for long enough, and is reasonably successful, the repeated calling upon the Supernal to cast spells in that Exarch’s name draws her soul close to alignment with the Supernal symbols that Exarch embodies. A doorway appears in her Oneiros, leading to a brutal test of loyalty in a dreamscape dictated by one of the Exarchs’ Supernal servants. Passing means becoming a Prelate—a Seer term for those Seers of good standing in the Exarchs’ eyes, who hear the Tyrants’ voices in their sleep, and read their demands in High Speech. Being a Prelate in the Seers is like being Made in the Mafia—other Seers of equal rank defer to you, but you’re now a target for the ambition of your lessers. The Prelacy Merit grants the Mystery Commands Condition, the ability to use the patron Exarch as a Yantra in spellcasting, a special Attainment or personal power, and a way to alter Demesnes to create Supernal Verges keyed to the Exarch.

Each Order provides three rote specialties, skills which provide an extra die when used as rote mudras by members of that Order.

Lastly, each Order has Magical Tools associated with itself, which are largely unchanged from the previous edition except to note that, as outlined above, Seers can gain Patron Yantras and Libertines all have personalized “Order Tools” on top of the generic ones the entire Order uses.

Order Preview: The Free Council

Here, then, is the first draft splat pages for the Free Council, written by Neall Raemonn Price. It’s a bit long (probably in the history section) and I’ll probably trim the bit about what the Diamond believe in contrast to the Libertines and add a third archetype, but you can see where we’re going with the splat pages. As in Requiem Second Edition’s Covenants, the Orders don’t have iconic characters – they’ll be illustrated with group shots.

Free Council Preview

Next Week!

Let’s continue our journey through the social aspect of Mage: Magical Society or Antagonists?

123 thoughts on “New Order”

  1. Antagonists, with a hope that we see more on the Seers of the Throne.

    I always found them a really lousy antagonist when compared to how dynamic the Technocracy felt in oMage, and really want to see the Seers to be developed into “the other side” rather than blatantly evil villains with no redeeming qualities.

    • As I allude in this post, the Seers aren’t in the Antagonists chapter – they’re one of the playable Orders. To get to them, we’d have to have enough weeks I can’t spend the time to write a blog post and then put their splat pages up.

  2. I really, really like this approach to the Free Council. It makes the role of the Free Council within the Diamond Order much clearer and gives them a defined space to occupy. They always felt duct taped on to the other Orders to me.

    Voting for Magical Society.

  3. Magical society.

    You know, I think Mastigos Assemblers must particularly enjoy telecommunications.
    “It’s great having skype, anyone I want to talk to I can just trade names with and be face-to-face with them wherever they are.”
    “I KNOW, right, I’ve been TELLING you, distance is a lie!”

  4. I think for the first time, these look like Orders my non-Mysterium players can get excited about.

    My favorite reveals out of the whole awesome post, are the list of Order merits, the revelation that the Orders are semi-public institutions that Sleepers can be aware of, and the increased emphasis on the Orders roots in the current iteration of history rather in the Atlantean pre-history.

    I vote for Magical Society

  5. An-freakin’-tagonists baby! This new Mage material is looking top notch and since I’m a sucker for the bad guys/gals, I vote antagonists. Very interesting in knowing more about the Banishers, Scelesti, Tremere (or others!) in the new setting.

  6. As a note, I really find the choice to treat Orders as actual international organizations with subsets a good thing. While Covenants feel neat isolated as they are, Orders and Consiliums always to me felt a lot like various university departments. There’s a world culture to say, engineers. But the practices, learning culture and emphasis differs greatly between even if it varies between Cal Tech, Cambridge, or the Bangalore Institute of Technology. I kind of see Orders having this a lot for somer eason and that’s good.

    Focus on the Free Council and Seers of the Throne into something that’s more their own and further separates them from the cWoD Technocracy and technocracy spin-offs is also great. I approve.

    As for the vote, I wanna see the continuation on this thread and see Society.

    And stuff.

    • Exactly – and Convocations are the equivalent of a technical conference, where Engineers from all over (insert wider region here) gather.

  7. My votes for Antagonists. Mainly because I want to see how banishers will turn out, and whether they’ll end up more or less “marauder-y.” (as in Ascension).

      • Its a little unclear between “They tend to be insane and they get magical wooj that reflects that and you can totally identify a banisher magically” and “despite the theories to the contrary, being a banisher is a choice.”

  8. This is exactly the kind of refresh the Orders needed to move forward into 2nd Edition.. I was wondering if there could maybe be some space to explore how the different Pentacle (but especially the Diamond) Orders work together and what it means to be an Order member in a mixed cabal versus an all one Order cabal? One of the things that makes the Diamond so magical is that for all their differences, they do seem like a society in the sense that one can imagine them seeing that the other groups are worth having (the way the Social and Natural Sciences folks saw each other back in college) and some more support for that would be great.

    Magical Society

    • One of the things I really, really tried to do was differentiate the three sects. The Diamond Orders all have commonalities and certain beliefs they share beyond Atlantean symbolism – you find snippets of AA belief in the Guardians, and bits of Ladder philosophy amongst the entire thing.

      Like Dave noted, one of the things the Council of Free Assemblies did was knit together all the longstanding Legacies and Nameless Orders – some of whom long predated the Diamond – into a singular, viable force that had Supernal symbolism. They’re like the private boarding school faculty eyeing up the Montessori school across the way, and they both hate the homeschooling enclave.

      • “All of humanity’s knowledge can be held in a pocket, while revolutions are given wings by invisible birds” — damn that’s a good sentence, Neall! 😀

        I must say, the Free Council were almost the least interesting splat to me (just felt a little… obligatory, after the Carthians and the Iron Masters), but this is definitely interesting. I really like the Radio Free Libertine character idea, too, and may just swipe it. 😉

        Also: Magical Society! I reeeeally want to hear more about how Consilia (it DID wind up being “Consilia”, yes?) work now.

        • Loved the radio wise man from the old free council book and it nice to see him again.
          Friend of mine built a legacy around that concept and had his character team up with the blank badges to form a cabal affectionately refered to as Radio Mind F**k

  9. My birthday was yesterday, but I’ll forgive you your transgressions in light of expounding the Free Council’s place in the new world. This pleases me.

    And Magical Society! I wanna know how the Caucus and Concilium has changed while I wasn’t looking. You’ve already written the book (literally) on many antagonists with Seers of the Throne and Left Hand Path. I want to see how Sanctum and Sigil has changed in the interm.

  10. So does this totally cut out the whole “find relics of Atlantis and Atlantis successor states.” plot angle?

    I’ve got really mixed feelings about this. As an Ascension vet I am not thrilled by the push towards the Free Council becoming Hollow Onesesque “their own thing who’re also in the club because they’re just that cool.” guys, it makes the change of the Great Refusal seem a lot…less so, and the promise to have more independent nameless groups reminds me of the faction bloat the Crafts caused, leaving less and less room for mavericks within the Orders because whoops there’s a Nameless order for that.

    I guess giving the Seers their own player page is one way to get enough room for them without having them eat up the whole Antagonist section, but it leaves a funny feeling in my stomach. What really appealed to me about the Seers was how unafraid you guys were of making them, as an organization, monsters and leaving redeeming qualities on a strictly individual level.

    What’s good is really good, I especially like the idea of caucuses taking up several cities and sleepwalkers being at the bottom of the hierarchy, and I realize these are just previews, but I guess I wanted to get that off my chest. I dunno I was a hard convert to Awakening in the first place and now I’m worried parts of the second edition are feeling too Ascensiony, maybe I’m just contrary.

    Oh, I vote for Antagonists.

    • Ruins of the Time Before are still in the game, and in the new corebook. The Diamond see it as a symbol to live up that was almost erased from the timeline, and it’s this that’s the important part.

      Also, the Free Council no longer “don’t believe in Atlantis” despite the evidence of their own eyes.

      It’s funny you mention the Crafts, because (based on their Order book) we’re being much, much clearer that most mages devoted Sleeper “magical” traditions are actually in the Free Council rather than being independent Nameless Orders. Legacies like the Dreamspeakers and Elemental Tamers are older than the Diamond, even, and are just as visible among the Libertines as a stereotypical technomancer.

      Actual Nameless Orders are things like the Tremere Liches, who straddle the line between Legacy and Order and don’t fit into the six Orders.

      • So what is now stand of Free Council on Time Before? “Those ancient ruins of old are nothing value, let’s make our perfect Utopia?” No FC archeomancers?

        • “Why would you model yourself after what you’ve pieced together of the Ancients, when the one thing we know for certain about them is that they failed, and destroyed the world doing it?”

          • Heh. Nicely put.

            I’m certainly glad to see the expanded order tools. I’m assuming that the blurb on Techne means using applicable activities (say, painting a picture of the target for a Scrying or Portal effect, or performing psychoanalysis when trying to cast a mental influence) grants bonuses much the same as a dedicated tool. Presumably these also can count as any appropriate other Yantras. (Given the personalization open to most every mage, it will take a bit of care to make sure that Techne is a meaningful benefit and not aesthetic, though.)

            Similarly, the Lex Magica benefits will be difficult to defined between overly strong and weak. Off top o’ my noggin, this should be balanced by applicability. Good luck.

            Egregore is as nice as ever.
            Masques sound downright swanky.
            AA’s shtick is awesome for warriors and mediocre for anybody else: exactly as it should be.
            Seers are still broken. Also as it should be.

            Re: Tiers:
            I’ve never understood “Tiers” to help, anyhow. Standard English (or American, for that matter) terms like “global”, “international”, “national”, “regional”, and “local” need *less* explanation than Tier designations. (‘Course, I’m convinced that jargon should be limited to those things that are impossible or significantly more difficult to say without.)

            At any rate, I’m glad you didn’t shoehorn anything on such grounds.

          • So, generally, no for FC archomancers? No one trying to prove that Times Before were ruled by Giant Lizards or that Awakened magic is just complex technology? 🙁

          • Quoting from the first draft, wyrdhamster:
            “Mages join the Libertines when they want to fight for Sleepers and democracy, when they find more value in the works of mankind than ancient mages, when they’re deeply invested in a Sleeper magical culture.”

            If you’re so set on an archeomancer in the sense of a Mage who delves the Time Before, it sounds like the Mysterium is, traditionally, more your bag.

          • WIzz: “If you’re so set on an archeomancer in the sense of a Mage who delves the Time Before, it sounds like the Mysterium is, traditionally, more your bag.”

            But ALL Orders have Archeomancers in 1ed. There are Arrows that view exploring the ruins as greatest challenge for them. There are Guardians who are concerned with safety of powerful magic found in Ruins. And Silver Ladder mages wanted to recreate as much as possible from Atlantis – beside Mysterium “we love all the secret knowledge”. The Free Council take was on “we look for things that prove you wrong, Diamond” looking for OTHER magical civilizations of prove of alternative forms. With this write-up of Order it looks there isn’t place for this kind of character in Libertines circles. 🙁

  11. I really like how the write up hints at the Free Council having an actual strategy for beating the Exarchs, and one that could conceivably work too. It really helps ground the Order’s activities around much more easily conceived and discrete objectives. Empowering acts and political involvement designed to lead to the greatest equity and freedoms in human society becomes a weapon against the Lie. There’s a nice undercurrent there of Global Ascension via getting people to be decent to one another and working collectively to better each other.

  12. I always loved the “flaw” angle of Orders, and its a good thing its going to be mentioned straight up in the core now. I also must say that I don’t like that much history in the Orders section, in fact this is something which I find annoying in may RP books. If the history is packed away on another book (or simply another “history” chapter, then that’s fine, but putting it all in the core Order writeup takes a lot of space).

    Also, Magical Society.

  13. Dave, I hope you’r feeling better! Thanks for taking the time for such a great write-up. Despite tossing up between Seers and Guardians, I’m glad the FC won because, it seems to this newb, that they’ve changed the most.

    I’ll be voting for Antagonists

  14. I’m hoping we’ll see more Order-specific merits than just the Status-related ones noted above. A feature I really loved about Blood & Smoke is how the Clan Merits made you a more efficient predator, honing you into an archetype, and how the Covenant Merits enhanced the reputations and natures that the Covenants built. Invictus Merits made deals into Faustian bargains, Carthian Merits made for a unique kind of society, and Cruac, Theban Sorcery, and Coils of the Dragon effectively kind of were the Circle/Lancea/Ordo Merits. Even Conspiracy Theory Junkie added to Ordo Dracul flavour.

    I don’t quite know how you could do that for Mage so much, but you guys definitely seem to be thinking of it, given the inclusion of Silver Ladder binding oaths and what-not.

    Nothing I do not love here.

  15. Is there going to be a advantages for being an orderless mage and disadvantages for being in a order, because what i read in the blog about this is orderless mages shoot themselves in the foot and should join an order were all the cool kids hang out.

    Antagonists, i want to know more about those new liches

    • Honestly, no – Orderless mages are at a great disadvantage. They can buy some of the things you get from an Order as seperate Merits, but not all. Nameless Orders work as a Merits (based on Mystery ult from GMC) that gives you other Merits with every dot, which alleviates the costs, but even then where an Order mage is buying Status and their Perk Merit, a Nameless Order Mage is buying Nameless Order in order to get things like their rote specialties and High Speech. And they’ll never have the ability to “borrow” training or magical resources like an Order mage does.

      The only advantage is that noone tells them what to do or holds them to a standard of behaviour.

      We decided against artificially “balancing” Orderless mages. If you play one, you’ll definitely face more challenges than a regular Mage character. Isn’t that the attraction, though?

  16. Magical society!

    Also, I love that the Free Council has a broader focus now. I’ve never really been all that interested in playing a techno-mage, but I often like playing characters who draw on symbols/ideas from real-world mythologies. Looks like I might be playing a Libertine in the future!

  17. Ohhh, this is a hard one. I’d like to hear more about Antagonists, though.

    Is there a chance we’ll see an example of a historical Nameless Order in one of the core book’s sample settings?

    • The Tremere are both a Nameless Order and a Legacy; they’re a good example. One of the sample settings has a local Nameless Order in it, yes.

  18. I really love new Free Council, especially they take on humanity Supernal potential. I also very found of hubristic and historical part of write-up. Only problem I have with FC and SL strain after World Wars – I could see this coming to be thing that devided once close allies, but I would be seeing Silver Ladder mages harboring ex Seers in they ranks, like Americans were hiding Nazis after WW2. I’t illogical for Free Council to take Seers if they main dogma is Destroy the Followers of Lie. I could see SL taking was Exarchs servants as “brothers that were misguided”.

    As to voting – I’m all for Antagonists. The society of Awakened can wait few more weeks. 🙂

    • That’s what they did – certain cabals of American Free Councillors and Silver Ladder teamed up to “rescue” mages who were on the losing side of World War 2, in a parallel to the American government spiriting German rocket scientists away to Nevada. The Ladder participants were giving ex-Nazi Diamond mages new identities, while the Free Council (the only Order who were almost 100% anti-fascist thanks to… Well, everything about their beliefs) *said* they were, but were actually allowing Pantechnicon Seers of the Throne to switch sides and join the Pentacle.

      When they found out what one another were doing, the effort fell apart in recrimination. The Ladder couldn’t forgive the Libertines for “redeeming” Seers, and the Libertines couldn’t forgive the Ladder for “redeeming” Nazis. Which is why, in the US, the Silver Ladder and Free Council stereotypically don’t like one another very much any more despite the Free Council joining the Pentacle being the *Silver Ladder’s idea*.

      The whole sordid story is in Mage Noir.

    • Also i believe that in the FC book there isn’t unity about how to destroy the Lie. One could argue easily that when a Seer rejects the Exarchs and joins the Free Council he stops being a follower of the Lie and no longer contributes to it.

      I think it’s actually very council thing to do. “They want to accept our ideology and convert. Ok, no problem, sign here, the council is open to everyone”

  19. Magical Society please – I like the change to the caucus size, the implied number of supernaturals running around the nWoD has always bugged me

  20. Antagonists! I want to hear about some new scelesti badness! I do hope that they were just missed above when talking about liches and the Mad above!

  21. I vote for Magical Society. I *need* to know how Concilia fit in the whole societal mechanism, so I can begin revamping my campaign as early as possible.
    Also, I’d love to see a more in-depth treatment of cabals as social units in the game, the way Sanctum & Sigil did. Wordcount allowing, of course. In our Mage game we have a fair mix of legacy cabals, lineage cabals and brand-new cabals.

  22. Was a bit afraid before reading but the Free Council is still the FC that I fell in love with, perhaps even a bit more of it.

    I’d like to read a bit about Antagonists.

  23. “Game balance be damned!” is a very, VERY distressing thing to hear out of a game designer. You don’t need to make being an apostate a mechanically terrible idea because you’ll just end up giving us the same problems L5R ronins have. People want to play what they want to play without being punished for it by the writers, because it reeks of saying “if you want this, you are having fun wrong and must be punished for it!”

    Don’t be an exarch.

    • I do not think that this is what Dave is saying. I think the idea is that the Orders, if they function the way they should and the way the setting would indicate, will be able to provide a tremendous amount of benefits to their members that cannot be replicated by a solo apostate or even a local nameless cult. There is no way to balance that without adding something to the setting with that kind of power that apostates can grab at the same cost level and that does not make sense in setting. It is indeed like L5R where to balance out being a ronin you have to gut the role of the Clans (great and minor) and that wrecks the setting. Mage would have the same problem and the designers are right to be mindful of that.

    • It says it right in the blog, right?

      How does a random group of Mages compete with institutions which are literally thousands of years old? And, maybe this is putting it too simply, but the Free Council’s concept is “random groups of Mages…who can compete with institutions which are literally thousands of years old.”

      So if you don’t want to be Diamond, and then don’t want to be Free Council, but want to be completely Nameless, then I don’t see how ‘mechanical balance’ is the issue? If you really want to be completely Nameless then isn’t your whole character’s concept a Mage who doesn’t have a hierarchy of affiliations and access to libraries of artifacts, knowledge, and Legacies?

      The whole appeal of playing Nameless is to be at a disadvantage, right? The ‘advantages’ are things that are narrative and not mechanical anyway – as in, you don’t have people telling you what to do, where to go, who to talk to

      • It’s worth noting that huge swaths of the Free Council – HUGE swaths – are ancient Legacies that predate the Orders, some of whom were Nameless themselves. All of the ones who are like, “Heck yeah, humanity” adopted the Creed.

        This is in and of itself a big cause for political instability – even a century is a short period of time for a millennia-old institution to change – but while the Free Council can be seen as the new kids on the block, they have traditions as old as or older than the Diamond.

    • 1) School techs are huge in L5R, but they’re not the end all be all.
      1a) Certain Ronin techs – Forest Killers, namely – are actually stronger than school techs.
      1b) The optional Ronin School is decent.
      2) It makes no setting sense whatsoever to artificially balance a massive setting disparity. If you want the challenge of playing a penniless ronin who must fight for respect at every turn, wonderful – the a Emerald Magistrate system means you can have a shot. If you want to plus someone not penniless and disrespected, it makes zero sense to play a ronin.

      I know you thought bringing up ronins helped your argument, but it actually inhibits it.

      • Indeed. Some people do look for the challenge of playing the underdog, and not having a completely optimal build. While I don’t know a huge amount about Mage, that strikes me as the exact reason why most people would like to play Nameless.

  24. Magical Society: ‘Cause I wanna see more on how Mages help and harm one another’s agendas without (usually) murdering one another.

    Also, I have to say my excitement level has jumped, reading this post.Holy cats, but that cross-over with the Mystery Cult Initiation Merit is cool. And if I may, humbly, two points that have been bugging me.

    Mana: As written, bores me to death. It doesn’t drive Plot anywhere near as well as blood drives Vampire (though that’s a tall order). I’d really like to see Mages getting Mana in ways that make the world and the story, weirder and more interesting.

    And speaking of the Left-Handed: I really want to see the quick-and-dirty path to power played up in this game. I want to see more clearly why some Mages lose their Wisdom, the price they pay for it, and the reason that some of them would do it all over again, if they had the chance. Left-handed Legacies don’t count; it takes too long to join one, they offer no marginal advantage over the other Legacies, and there’s no turning back once you’ve joined up. Maybe it’s all the years of running/playing Vampire, but I want my players tempted by easy power, and reminded of what the cost can be if they take it.

    Thanks for the work you and your team are doing!

    • I want to second both these points. The one and only real source of quick-and-dirty path to power stuff was Acamoths, in the core at least, and even the Summoners book, which expanded on this, was reasonably limited.

      Sacrificing Wisdom for power is essential to the game. Let’s butter up the path to Hell.

  25. Maybe I’m blind or something, but i don’t see this Mystery Cult angel in Free Council write up – were should I seek it in preview? Or is he deliberate missed for this Order?

    • There’s a little of it, I think, in the quotes at the beginning-“the act of rebelling changes the rebel and the viewer”, etc. and again later in the Dreamspeaker saying that they learn via feedback.

      A newly joined Libertine values the democratic process and thinks Sleeper cultures and achievements are worth looking into. A Libertine steeped in the Mysteries has been a part of countless rebellions against hierarchy and treats everyone they speak with as a font of the Supernal.

  26. Voting Antagonists.

    I’m a little trepidatious about pushing Seers as playable out of the box considering I have a bit of a hard time even implementing them as antagonists. Either way, I’m enjoying the new take on Orders. The Free Council was never one of my favorites per se, but this write up is definitely well in line with how my groups tend to play them.

    • I’ve got to agree with this. I’d always ignored Mage in the past and never really had an interest in it. The new material that is being produced has definitely made that do a 180 degree turn!


  27. I just want to start by saying that I adore all of the write ups that have been previewed thus far. In particular, each and every one of them has a phrase or statement that literally makes my eyes water and causes my heart to rise in my chest. They literally resonate with a lot of my personal ideas about how a person can be more human. The Free council’s write up is beautiful in that it simultaneously illustrates the wrathful fire that exists amongst them, and the dedication to freedom from which that fire is lit. Just, this stuff is great.

    I vote for Magical Societies, I’m planning a pretty ambitious Mage Chronicle, and knowledge of how Mage society in the consilium, and perhaps even how mages deal with and interact with other supernatural factions would be a great deal of help towards my personal goals.

  28. Sounds good. I like the broader perspective of the orders as part of global movements. While I really like the local focus of the nWOD, I always had trouble justifying the isolation of mages in any city from other mages, especially given the Free Council’s technological bent.

    Musing of the Council and the Diamond:
    In one of my history courses, the professor offered this distinction between traditional cultures and modern cultures-
    Traditional cultures believe in the past. The past was a golden age, the scholars of the past were wise, traditions must be followed and politicians offer a return to the stability and order of the past.
    While Modern cultures believe in the future. The future will be better, tomorrow scientists will know more then we knew yesterday, tradition must be challenged and politicians promise change.

    And this is how I’ve seen the diamond and the council. The diamond looks to the past, to a time of wonder and glory and they try to preserve and revive as much of that past as they can- That time may come again only if we can recover the secrets and knowledge of those grater mages that lived then.

    While the council looks to the future. The glory of the world is ahead. Atlantis is a vision of the future not a dream that must be recovered from the ruins of myth. Humanity has shown us the way- how the strongest chains can break in rebellion, how humanity can work wonders through technology. An old idea like “Democracy” can be made new and powerful, a myth like atlantis can be made a reality on the moon.

    I vote fore Antagonists. Kinda surprised to see the Seers going “playable” though.

  29. Awesome! I really like the idea to let sleepers glimpse the orders and to have proximi and sleepwalkers in the orders. It’s perfect for an introductory chapter, where the PCs can link the orders to things they knew before awakening.

    I vote for Mage Society. I never understood very well how mages organized themselves, and what are the roles of cabals and orders.

  30. Antagonists please.

    This new description of the orders displays the focus I love in the second editions, sort of distilling the best concepts and adding a fleshed out background. I especially like how the orders seem to be getting a “real world” historical origin outside the Atlantean myth, while still keeping the Atlantean myth in a useful way.

  31. As usual, great stuff. I’m really looking forward to getting this.

    Another tough choice, but I think I’ll go with magical society.

  32. Seers are a massive part of the campaign I’m running, as are Banishers (though I’ve tweaked them to be a bit less outright insane), so my vote is definitely for Antagonists.

  33. stressing the non-literal nature of the Atlantis concept works for me. always found it tonally wrong, distasteful, just a confluence of vocabulary and mood that didn’t work for me. guess we’re still referring to an ancient “Awakened city” in this edition, though, huh?

    Seers being better-supported than the Technocracy was is a dangerous claim to make, with how devoted we Technofans are. hope you guys can live up to it.

    • The Atlantis Myth (or, rather, “The Time Before” myth) in the new corebook is an Appendix. It’s the forth-to-last thing in the book, before legends and theories about Ascension, the Conditions reference list and the character sheet.

      And it is awesome indeed. The writer responsible knocked it out of the park. I’ll put it up when it comes up in a vote.

    • It’s not hard to support Seer PCs more than Technocrat ones in Ascension’s corebooks, as none of them support it (although M20 will!)

      They’re still assumed to be the antagonists, but they’re the antagonists who follow the same rules as the PCs, as they’re an Order. The others (Banishers, the Mad, Liches, etc) have mechanical differences.

      It’s like how, in Ascension, Technocrats were less supported than the Traditions, but the game never tried to make Maurauders or Nephandi playable. Their mechanics were designed to make them interesting npcs instead.


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