The Awakened are strange, maddening people to be around. Imagine the most insular subculture you’ve ever come across, where the members have their own bizarre rituals, jargon, and shared references, then multiply it by a thousand. Then curse almost everyone else to be driven mad by exposure to that subculture even as they inevitably forget it. It’s little wonder that mages have few friends, but cling tightly to those they do; they’re still people, no matter their differences, and feel the same need for human companionship as anyone else. Who’d be a mage’s husband, wife, daughter, son, sibling, servant, boss, co-worker, lover? What sort of people walk in the Awakened world without signing the Watchtower themselves? What does their relationship to mages do to them?
Just as Requiem second edition gave an Appendix about ghouls, and Forsaken second edition enshrined the role of Wolf-blooded in Packs, Awakening second edition depicts the Orders as employing a multitude of Sleepwalkers, minor magical talents, Proximi, subject-matter experts and entirely unknowing Sleepers. Mages are not alone in the World of Darkness, and the new edition features an Appendix covering that supporting cast. Like the first two second-edition games’ similar material, it’s by veteran freelancer Filamena Young, and it’s one of my favorite sections of the book; material I’ve wanted to look at in the game line since before the second editions were a going concern.
Fun fact: I was recruited to write on God-Machine Chronicle, which led to what was then Fallen World Chronicle and is now the second edition proper, just after writing Left Hand Path. My next proposal for a Mage book was going to be about the Supporting Cast of Mage, so it’s something very close to my heart. An Appendix isn’t a full book, but Filamena has packed a lot into a small space.
First on the list are Sleepers. We spoiled the basics of second-edition’s Sleeping Curse back towards the start of these blogs, but to reiterate;
- A Sleeper witnessing obvious magic causes Paradox Risk to increase by one die (multiple Sleepers apply a dice trick to the Paradox roll.)
- A Sleeper witnessing obvious magic suffers a Breaking Point against Integrity
- A Sleeper witnessing an obvious spell for a prolonged period of time causes an effect mages call Dissonance, where the spell slowly fails as though being Dispelled.
- After a scene in which a Sleeper witnesses obvious magic, she forgets about it – rationalizing the event into a non-magical version if possible, or blanking it entirely if not.
Any one of these effects is independent of the others. For example, Sleepers who are immune to the Breaking Point for whatever reason still forget unless the power says they also remember, and the reverse is true – and mages have found that magically reminding Sleepers of what they saw causes a second crisis. What counts as “obvious” is up to Storyteller interpretation – second edition doesn’t (so far, I’m considering the need to add one) have a sidebar about “Improbable” magic, where otherwise-acceptable spells start to strain credulity. What I must reiterate, though, is that the Sleeper’s belief or non-belief in magic has absolutely nothing to do with whether their souls are injured by witnessing spells, and the Orders employ hundreds of staff who know that they work for mages, and that mages exist, but can’t be allowed to actually see any magic for their own safety. Such is the Curse, forever cutting the Awakened off from their own species.
Well, not quite completely cutting them off.
In the Supporting Cast Appendix, we talk about how to play a Sleeper in an Awakening Chronicle. The section’s entitled “Punching Up,” which should tell you a lot about it. We embrace and give advice for playing a character who will forget their fellow character’s powers, how to negotiate the out-of-character etiquette of it, and give a few Merits for Sleeper players. Here’s one of them;
Actively Oblivious ••
You’ve lived a hard life, and long ago learned that sometimes the only way to survive realities that are just to hard to face is to not notice them in the first place. That’s why you can smile while you patch up the hole in the kitchen wall and describe your dad as ‘strict’ rather than abusive. Little do you know, this ability of yours allows you to ignore the greater magical truths of the world as well as the domestic ones.
Effect: By spending a Willpower during an incident that might cause you to suffer a Breaking Point, you can actively ignore the event and not have to make the roll. This requires concentration. This active oblivious state also protects you from ‘seeing’ events that relate to the Supernal. As a result, should you be successfully and actively oblivious, you do not count as a witness to Supernal magics and cannot be a part of a Paradox risk. (Though you do create Dissonance as this cannot be kept up indefinitely.)
Drawback: Whenever you successfully ignore a potential Breaking Point, you suffer the Strained Condition.
Strained (New Condition)
Take -1 to resist the next time you suffer a breaking point and must roll. If you have Strained, you may opt to not roll, and the Condition can build, any consecutive times you avoid rolling a Breaking Point contributes another -1 to your next breaking point roll to a maximum of -5. After -5, you can no longer push it away, you snap, and automatically roll for Breaking Point at -5.
Resolution: The character suffers Integrity loss. Take an additional Beat atop that of the breaking point.
The largest section of the Appendix, though, is dedicated to the half-Awake. Sleepwalkers are people – usually ordinary people – who don’t react to magic like a Sleeper but aren’t themselves mages. Any inherent magical power, be it a minor or major template, or even just a single Merit representing something about the character herself, also makes that character a Sleepwalker.
I said “I’m a wizard,” out of frustration. She shrugged and said “so what.” I got mad and I showed her so what. It didn’t faze her. “I’ve seen weirder,” she told me. Instead of the sick feeling I used to get around Sleepers, I felt good. I felt safe. I felt less crazy. She remembered everything, better than I did even, and there is literally no one in my life who has helped me keep my head on straight. You’re jealous of my position, my power, my skill, I’d have none of it if it weren’t for her. Seriously. You find a woman like that, you marry her.
-Lana Marie of the Trees
We talk about how Sleepwalkers happen, how their condition allows them into mage society, but how mages fear that so-called “revealed Sleepwalkers” then have a lesser chance of Awakening. All six Orders (and many Nameless) go out of their way to recruit Sleepwalkers as assistants, and in second edition we’ve given that some heft. First, Sleepwalker ritualists can count as a Yantra for the casting mage, adding bonus dice to the spell. Second, Sleepwalkers can maintain spells for a mage, removing them from the mage’s spell control limitation without having to release them. Not many spells (it’s done by how intimate the sympathetic connection between mage and Sleepwalker is, with the very strongest being able to hold two spells.)
We give some archetypes for Sleepwalker characters, and a bunch of Sleepwalker-only Merits. Here’s one of each:
The Devil’s Little Helper
She looks good in a dark hood, can wear a pentagram without a touch of irony, and is as fashionable as she is theatrically mysterious. She could have a pretty successful career as a small cult leader and freelance spiritualist, but she prefers to hire her talents out privately to cabals of mages. It’s not that she’s especially magical, though she claims to be a seventh generational witch. She’s just got a knack at time management and people skills. Sure, she’s got a working knowledge of LeVey, Golden Dawn, Kabalah, and ritual traditions not found on Wikipedia. But the real service she offers is talent with smartphones, scheduling, and HR-style public relations. So when the cabal has need of a powerful and intense ritual, they call the Devil’s Little Helper, she activates the phone tree, and a coven of ready ritualists are on hand in under three hours.
Skills and Merits: The Devil’s Little Helper actually has her own functioning Mystery Cult, and a handful of other Social merits she can bring in when the cabal needs it. More than that, she’s charming and likable, naturally talented with Presence and Socialize. She’s not complete phony, being a legitimate Medium, but that comes up far less than her other traits.
Effect: No matter what faces you, if it’s magical in nature, you never have to make rolls to resist fear or revulsion. This would include Mind effects made to scare you, or Life effects made to turn your stomach, anything so long as the fear is external. Should the attempts to frighten you play off Conditions or vices you already suffer from, you are vulnerable, but can enjoy a +2 dice bonus to resist.
The third section is about the Proximi; Awakening‘s equivalent not to ghouls (that’s Sleepwalkers) but to revenants. Proximi are Sleepwalkers (and may take Sleepwalker-only Merits) that are have Supernal powers, drawing from one of the five known Realms. Some Proximi are born spontaneously, but most come from long family lines of magical heritage called Dynasties, protected, nurtured, and employed by one of the Orders.
Mechanically, a Proxius’ dynasty manifests as the ability to buy spells from up to two Arcana as Merits on a dot-for-dot basis, and a pair of Conditions representing the dynasty’s family Curse. Each Curse comes in two forms – a permenant, troublesome, but not dangerous Condition and a much more severe, temporary version. Proximi cast their spells (called Blessings) using their Willpower as a dice pool, and as they use Integrity rather than Wisdom they can’t try to contain Paradox as damage like a proper mage can. Nor can their Blessings go truly haywire; instead of the usual effects of Paradox, even a single Paradox success cancels the entire Blessing and imposes the severe version of the Proximus’ Curse. Any attempt to get around, circumnavigate, or mitigate the effects of the permanent version of the Curse also imposes the severe version.
And that’s all we had room for, though I’m eying wordcount with an aim to cut enough from other chapters to add a page about the Seers of the Throne’s particular relationship to Sleepers and Sleepwalkers; Profane Urim and one or two of the servitor creatures from Seers of the Throne. Probably Grigori or Hollow Ones, as they’re the simplest rules. Myrmidions would be (as they’re a Proximus Dynasty!) but we’re looking to include them in the expanded version of Mage’s Alexander the Great setting in World of Darkness: Dark Eras. If I can’t get them into the book, they’ll be one of the first post-release blogs.
Until next time!