The End is the Beginning is the End [Mage: The Awakening] [Dark Eras] [Werewolf: The Forsaken]


(Photo by Michel Wal, under creative commons)

Welcome back, faithful readers!

Mage: The Awakening Second Edition is firmly into Development now. My pasted-together working copy of the book, all of the drafts from authors assembled into a single file, is 420 pages long in Word. I ran the game last week, and I’m much happier with some of the systems. So, it progresses, and we’ll see further blog posts on a couple of extra topics as the game moves forward to release and I start thinking about supplements.

Last time I blogged about World of Darkness: Dark Eras and its Mage content, I gave you a look at the expanded Hellenistic Mage setting. That was the earliest-set chapter in the original text, set in 323 BCE. 2338 years between then and now makes for a very different World of Darkness, almost alien at first glance, but human beings are human beings whenever they live, and Malcolm Sheppard and Danielle Harper’s writing gets that strangeness and familiarity across.

When we started the kickstarter for Dark Eras, Matt, Rose, and Rich asked the Developers for ideas for further eras we could add as stretch goals. I submitted a couple. A handful of those made it a poll, and one of them – the African Mutapa Empire – made it to the Dark Eras Companion.

The first Mage setting to come up on a poll wasn’t one of the ones I suggested. It took me by surprise, first when it appeared, and then when it won.

“Neolithic Mage” was Rose’s idea. Mages are so bound up in the idea of civilization, her musing went, that it would be neat to see a really early era for them. How does Atlantis manifest in a world without cities?

Quick (pre)history lesson – when archaeologists refer to things like “Stone Age” and “Bronze Age,” they’re talking about the dominant material culture in the time and place they’re describing. Because human culture isn’t homogeneous, the various ages have different dates depending on where you are. Some human societies were effectively “stone age” up to relatively recently, and in general the classic Stone-Bronze-Iron three stages only really work when you’re talking about Europe and the Middle East. African archaeologists in particular don’t use it.

So. First thing I had to work out. When and where should Neolithic Mage be set? Some of the fine folks at Onyx Path had suggestions – the Stone Circle builders of western Europe are iconic, but very late in the Neolithic, to the point that (to pick one very obvious example) Stonehenge is more Bronze Age than Stone Age. My wife suggested the Orkney Islands, site of the best-preserved Neolithic settlement in the UK, but that would end up like Shadows of Iceland, as the population is (and was) too small.

The clincher came when a special funding level backer asked for the Neolithic setting to be expanded with a Werewolf crossover. I suddenly knew exactly where and when to set it.

The Vinca culture of South-East Europe are named after the site in Serbia they were first identified in, but have since been found all over the Balkans, dating from 5700 – 4500 BCE. They had several things setting them apart from other cultures; they practiced Copper mining and used the metal for decoration for centuries before becoming one of the earliest Chacolithic (Copper Age) societies, they produced a wealth of ritual paraphernalia like masks, statues, and amulets, and traded it between settlements, and (perhaps most importantly) they appear to have invented writing.

Or rather, Vinca writing is the oldest human script we’ve found. It’s completely untranslatable, but other old forms (like Sumerian) appear to be descended from it.

And that  got me thinking. The Vinca shamans scientists have found buried with ceramic disks covered in undecipherable script? High Speech. If this was to be a Werewolf crossover, how did that relate to the way we’ve linked First Tongue to early human languages? What were the Vinca gods- anthropomorphic, animal-headed deities like the one in the photo above?

I tentatively asked Stew “Danger” Wilson if he would mind if I portrayed the Werewolves in the setting as being very early. Pre-Oath of the Moon, even. Or, I added half-joking, maybe Pre-Sundering.

Stew is a brave man.

The Neolithic World of Darkness 5500-5000 BCE

The Neolithic era portrays the last days of one civilization, and the early steps of another. Human beings have turned away from being the greatest hunters the world has ever seen to a settled life of toiling in fields and husbanding cattle, but away from the villages and their halo of agriculture the World of Darkness is a wild, dangerous place, where the weather and wild animals can kill you as easily as any supernatural monster. Some people still do hunt – to kill dangerous beasts that threaten the villages, to provide extra meat, or because they’re ill-suited to a sedentary life – but they’re a brave minority. The horizon is close, and the night is full of terrors.

Mages, or the Wise, aren’t isolated from the rest of humanity as they often try to be in future millenia. They’re an accepted, lauded, part of society. Everyone knows magic works, even if the Sleeping Curse still means that the Wise must practice their obvious spells away from the people. Potters craft magical tools for the Wise and hearth-magics for everyone else; jars to keep your soul safe from spirits, amulets to break for luck or to keep unwelcome beings from your door. Circles of the Wise meet in the Astral, binding their fellowship together.

Ruins of the Time Before

As far back as the Neolithic is, the world is still Fallen. The Wise tells stories about the paradise that was lost, long ago, the Time Before that not only ended but has been replaced by the long, slow ascent of the people from their hunter-gatherer pasts to their agricultural present. The world’s wounds still bleed in places; pockets of shattered time, screaming ruins from impossible peoples, strange artifacts of the Time Before. Even now, they’re shrinking, worn away by Dissonance when Sleepers encounter them, but the world isn’t so mapped as to remove them all as entirely as they will be in later times.

The Border Marches

Spirits are a notable but not unknown sight for people in the Neolithic World of Darkness, because the worlds of flesh and Shadow have not yet been Sundered. Travel far enough into the wild, untouched places of the world and you will find yourself in an entirely different place – the Border Marches, a mixture of material and ephemeral, a land of extremes and changes, where the hunt is supreme. Inhabited by both material animals and the native spirits of the Shadow world that lies beyond it, the Border Marches also has native beings of its own. These Pangaens resemble spirits but are made of flesh, not ephemera. The Wise say that some of them may be Gods, trapped in the world by the disaster that ended the Time Before. The greatest are iconic symbol-gods with animal features, worshiped by the people as a pantheon of deities. Bird. Bull. Snake. Rat. Spider. Wolf.

If the mages are the champions of the settled, Neolithic civilization, then the children of Wolf – the Uratha – represent everything humanity was in earlier times. Tribes of wolfblooded range through the Border Marches, hunting alongside the few blessed enough to be full werewolves. Wolf itself is a distant god, a figure most werewolves will only see once or twice in their lives, hunting the greatest of prey surrounded by the primal monsters of the First Pack and Firstborn. As the avatar of hunting, the Border Marches – or Pangaea – belongs to him, and Wolf forbids other gods and spirits from crossing into the world of flesh. But Wolf is fading, growing old and slow, as humanity slowly turns away from the hunt. He still brings down his prey – Rat was torn into a thousand pieces by his jaws – but his wounds fester, and the werewolves argue about what to do about it.

Hearts of the Gods

Enough spirits and pangaens make it through to the world of flesh that the people are beset by the supernatural. Even the children gathering wood for fires know to check the trees for faces, and wanderers who become lost in the wilderness often come back Claimed. The hearth-magics of the people offer some protection, but the constant pressure of the supernatural is in large part responsible for the Awakened’s place in society. The people need mages, to negotiate with the strange and uncanny, to defeat monsters, and protect them from the myriad dangers of an untamed world. The greatest symbols of this arrangement are the omphalos stones – squat menhirs marking the gathering-spot of each village. The stones protect villages from wandering spirits, and generate Demesnes in the fashion of latter-day soulstones. Each is the heart of a Pangaen god, stolen by the Wise.

Two Peoples

The Neolithic chapter, then, is about the beginning of settled human civilization and the looming death of the werewolves’ world, captured between the apocalypses of the Fall and the Sundering. One day soon (although, in the spirit of things, we don’t say *how* soon!) Wolf will fall to his own children’s fangs and the Border Marches – and everything in it – will be consumed by the rising Gauntlet. The only surviving Pangaens are the Hosts, the Werewolves, and a few escapees that transform into spirits. Without the obvious and constant threat of the supernatural, mages fall from their place as humanity’s leaders. Eventually, the Vinca are replaced by more warlike tribes wielding metal weapons, and across the sea to the south, strange beings who sometimes have the heads of animals gather tribes in the building of a great city.


And, now that I’ve whetted your appetites, I’ll stop there! Neolithic Mage/Werewolf will be published in World of Darkness: Dark Eras.

Until next time!


75 responses to “The End is the Beginning is the End [Mage: The Awakening] [Dark Eras] [Werewolf: The Forsaken]”

  1. grunt Avatar

    I really like what I read, especially the part about the history before the Fall being “replaced”. Hopefully that will enlighten some people who did not quite geht Atlantis during its blog

  2. Ninjar Avatar

    What an awesome article to wake up to this morning!

    This Era was probably my favorite to win the polls, now that you’ve shown us where you’re taking it; I’m even more excited!

    Great stuff Dave!

  3. YOLF Avatar

    That is some really interesting information about the Neolithic World Of Darkness.

    I really like the take on Mages – the Wise – and what the Fall means to them at this time.

    And I know it’s not supposed to be the focus of this but the Werewolf bits are kind of blowing my mind.

  4. Phersus Avatar

    I have to say i was not convinced at all about this particular chapter. Well, fuck it – well played, developers. Father Wolf still wandering the Earth but starting to crumble as humanity forgets the hunt as way of life? Excelent idea, and tasty metaphor.

    Also that post title.

    You know hoe to make your readers happy. ^^

  5. Aurumae Avatar

    This crossover is section is the one I’m most looking forward to, it looks awesome so far.

    “The Vinca culture of South-West Europe” – surely it should be South-East Europe?

    It looks like the Orders won’t have emerged in the Neolithic Era, but what about the Seers? Will we there be a look at Mages who serve the Exarchs or has the Exarchs/Oracles narrative not emerged yet?

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      “The Vinca culture of South-West Europe” – surely it should be South-East Europe?

      I don’t know what you mean. Ahem.

      It looks like the Orders won’t have emerged in the Neolithic Era, but what about the Seers? Will we there be a look at Mages who serve the Exarchs or has the Exarchs/Oracles narrative not emerged yet?

      The latter. One of the story hooks features what may be the influence of an Exarch, but the Wise don’t even talk about Watchtowers yet. There are a few other surprises in the setting – the depiction of the Underworld in particular – but I figure I’ll save them for when the book comes out!

      1. Aurumae Avatar

        Ok, now I’m even *more* excited!

      2. Aspel Avatar

        Underworld? Oh man, I’m excited to see what the land of the dead is like when there aren’t exactly human cultures to shape it.

  6. Chazz Avatar

    I was originally not interested in the Neolithic setting, but this is pretty awesome!

  7. Aiden Avatar

    I voted against this in favor of a Werewolf era, but the way things have worked out now I am really damn excited for it. I say this both as a Werewolf fan, and as a fan of Mage. This is just a fantastically interesting game setting to think of.

  8. Zooroos Avatar

    I literally have no words to describe how happy I am for you being who you are and doing what you are doing right now with our beloved games. Now I want to kick myself for not backing up the Dark Eras KS because I wanted to save money… I’m as penniless as before, only I’ll have to pay for each PDF separately when it comes out. Ahh, the follies of youth!

    Thanks for the sneak peak, Dave!

  9. Uxas Avatar

    Love this setting. I’m very excited for it. But I have two questions:

    1) About the Vinca culture: “but other old forms (like Sumerian) appear to be descended from it.” ¿Is there some source about that or is a setting historical liberty? Because I’ve been looking for some reference to it and I have not found it.
    (Please, don’t take this as a criticism, it isn’t. I’m just curious about that, and I’d love to learn more about it.) 🙂

    2) This setting s just 2000 years before than the Sumerian werewolf setting. ¿There would be some reference about how to link both of them?

    PS: Excuse my bad English. It’s ot my first language. 🙁

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      The scripts are similar enough that archaeologists originally thought the Vinca learned their writing from the proto-Sumerians, until they dated a couple of pieces and found that, no, it’s actually the other way around.

      The Sundering happens at some point in that 2000 years – probably closer to this setting than later – which by its nature radically alters things, so explicit references to later settings don’t make much sense.

      1. Uxas Avatar

        Thanks. 🙂

      2. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
        Dave Brookshaw

        Actually, now you’ve got me second-guessing myself. I will consult my research, and if there isn’t a direct link suspected, I’ll edit reference to it out of the chapter.

      3. FallenEcho Avatar

        Since I can’t see early Spirits writing, it is entirely possible that Werewolf stole a copy of the ‘High Speech’ alphabet when they started writing First Tongue down.

        Very well done.

  10. Michael Stein Avatar
    Michael Stein

    Will we get glimpses of the supernal symbols that dominate in this earlier time. Or have the modern symbols always been inherit to mage site. Probably explains why awakening is such a hell of a trip.

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      The culture portrayed thinks of the Paths in terms of elements, which aren’t the classical elements Greeks will later use (and assign the Paths to). Mastigos are seen as related to the Forests, for example, because they’re pathfinders and travelers, and the dark woods are a metaphor for the mind, while Obrimos are seen as linked to storms and other violent natural events. We do go into what they experience in their Awakenings, what Yantras they use, and so forth, yes.

      1. wyrdhamster Avatar

        I guess Acanthus are Tornados, Thyrsus are Floods and Moros are Earthquakes? 😉

        1. wyrdhamster Avatar

          Or reading once more with Obrimos being “violent elements”, I more see Acanthus as Wind, Thyrsus as Water and Moros as Earth. Elemental Mastieries – here you go! 😉

          1. Wizz Avatar

            PRE-Greek elements, Wyrd.

        2. Andrew Thomas Avatar
          Andrew Thomas

          Perhaps the Stars, Rivers (Slavonic Mythology FTW), and Caverns?

  11. SSmith Avatar

    This is absolutely amazing. My mind is racing with ideas. I can’t wait to read more.

  12. malonkey1 Avatar

    So when you mention those that escape Ur-Farah’s death, that includes the Changing Breeds, too, right?

    1. Ansgar Avatar

      And the Cryptids (creatures composed of Life and Spirit) mentioned in Summoners.

      1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
        Dave Brookshaw

        It’s deliberately ambiguous, so you can have any flesh/spirit hybrids you like as descended from Pangaens if you want to.

        If the chapter were longer, I’d explicitly link the Bull-shifters from War Against the Pure to the Vinca Bull God, but to bring them into the book would take up far too many words for what would be a tangent satisfying only true nWoD continuity geeks like myself.

        1. Uxas Avatar

          Count me among the contiuity geeks. 🙂

          I’d love that reference, although it was just a small paragraf or only 2 or 3 lines.

          1. Ansgar Avatar

            Yes, please. Even a single paragraph would be great.Continuity is very important (gotta have that crossover).

  13. Scutarii Avatar

    This chapter was THE one that had me the most excited during the KS and it’s looking to be going in bold directions integrating the Werewolves into it and I really like the looks of it!

  14. B Avatar


    One thing. The adjective for Pangaea would be Pangaean, not Pangaen.

    1. Chris Allen Avatar
      Chris Allen

      I wrote it as Pangaean in the draft but it may have been adjusted for Relevant Reasons, not sure.

      That or Dave’s autocorrect has gone bananas.

      1. B Avatar

        I hope it’s corrected back then, because “Pangaen” wouldn’t really be pronounced right and doesn’t look right. It would be “Pan-geen” or “Pan-gane” instead of “Pan-gee-an”.

  15. Hiram Alem Avatar

    I’m so psyched about this book. This and To the Strongest.

    Also, I second any continuity paragraphs, Dave. The more, the merrier.

  16. Verge Avatar


    Will there be guidance on how to run Spirit magic in a world without Twilight? And what will that be?

    1. Chris Allen Avatar
      Chris Allen

      It’s not a world without Twilight – it’s a world without the Gauntlet. And yes, there’s guidance on how the Spirit Arcanum works without the Gauntlet 🙂

      1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
        Dave Brookshaw

        As Chris says, spirits in the material world are still in a state of Twilight unless they use a Manifestation, even before the Sundering.

        I’d explain how Spirit and werewolf Reaching work without a Gauntlet Chart, but that would involve saying how the Gauntlet works in Mage 2nd ed, which I haven’t yet done. So… Suffice to say, it is well in hand.

        1. ale Avatar

          shouldnt work the same way as in werewolf 2ed??

          1. The Cowardly Scion Avatar
            The Cowardly Scion

            I’m willing to be that Spirits interact with the Gauntlet in both games the same way but Mages and Werewolves may have a completely different set of tools and understanding about it.

      2. The Nate Avatar
        The Nate

        Gets me thinking about the difficulty of creating vs. merely enhancing/reducing the Gauntlet. Brings to mind Astral (which ought also to be close in such a setting) adjustment of a realm’s nature.
        In fact, that lead to the notion that the fallen world may operate as a series of realms, defined by the border markers.

        God’s of a place or crossroads make a lot of sense thataway, as do the dangers of leaving the known space. Heck, that even sets up the Hellenistic conceit about the whole world being the range that can translate to Greek… plus some weird junk off the edges.

        I funded the book ’cause it sounded neat; so far, I like what I’m hearing.

  17. branford Avatar

    Neolithic Mage and Werewolf are looking great. It’s easily one of the most original and potentially fun WOD time periods.

    Rose certainly deserves a big cookie for a great idea.

    I’d also love to see what vampires and changelings are up to in this era.

  18. Aspel Avatar

    >Rose came up with Cavemage
    Why is Rose so base?
    I’m interested to see what the sidebar looks like for this time period. This is before some of the supernaturals even existed, isn’t it?

  19. Aspel Avatar

    Also, surprised you didn’t link music, since that’s a thing you’ve done before
    Though I prefer the alternate version from Watchmen.

  20. Uxas Avatar

    There will be some reference to Legacies? There’s at least two that I feel perfect for ths time: the Orphans of Proteus from corebook and the Keepers of the Covenant from Silver Ladder book. They could be updated to second edition.

  21. ale Avatar

    the “strange beings who sometimes have the heads of animals” are a reference to Egyptian gods, or some supernatural monster that i dont remember?

    1. Chris Shaffer Avatar
      Chris Shaffer

      It’s possibly a reference to the construction of Irem, from Mummy.

      1. Dataweaver Avatar

        I’d say “probably” or “almost certainly” rather than “possibly”. Irem was the first city, and that quote is illustrating just how far back in time we’re looking here: Irem, which was ancient when Egyptian civilization first arose, is still some millenia in the [i]future[/i] of this setting.

        1. ThomasM Avatar

          As if I wasn’t happy enough with this updated, having even a small mention of the Mummy to come (which I’m reading now) is a swoon-worthy idea.

  22. Austin Loomis Avatar
    Austin Loomis

    Personally, to go with Rat, Spider and Wolf, I think “Bird” should specifically be Owl. 🙂

    1. Dave Brookshaw Avatar
      Dave Brookshaw

      The Vinca gods (they liked their aphropomorphic statues) were Bull, Bird, and Snake. No one knows what sort of Bird it’s supposed to represent.

      1. Austin Loomis Avatar
        Austin Loomis

        Fair enough. (And in an nWoD context, it could just as easily be the crow of the Crow Host.)

  23. David Chart Avatar

    The Neolithic chapter sounds absolutely wonderful. I’m looking forward to Dark Eras even more now.

  24. B Avatar

    Is the God-Machine active in this era? I forgot when it’s supposed to have first shown up. Or if the Gentry will be taking people yet.

    1. Nathan Henderson Avatar
      Nathan Henderson

      There’s no canonical answer as to when the God Machine showed up. It may always have been. I’m really curious to see how they handle Demon in the crossover sidebar.

      My idea on Changelings is to focus on sacrifices (often children, especially the disabled) left to the elements when food grows scarce, returning as emissaries of forces they were sacrificed to. There are no “escapees” yet, in part because the Contract of Iron has not yet been violated (by humans forging iron) so Arcadia doesn’t have the holes in its net it one day will.

      1. wyrdhamster Avatar

        I concure Changeling idea that Fae do not abduct humans – they get them as sacrifices for “crops prosper”. Very cool, Nathan! 🙂

    2. Jachra Avatar

      What God-Machine? *deliberate omission*

    3. Andrew Thomas Avatar
      Andrew Thomas

      I be That Which Became the God-Machine is a very different entity than what we know from the books. That’s not to say that Angels and Demons don’t exist yet, just that they’re likely less technological in this era and more beatific/demonic. Although, I’d still be interested in a Pre-Columbian Demon Era.

    4. Josh W Avatar
      Josh W

      I like the idea that the God Machine is particularly involved in human affairs at points where our characteristics coincide with the kind of arcane processes it wants, focusing on the period between 1701 and 2240, with the centre of it’s visibility being 1970.

      However, this is just a timeline average, as it’s influence spreads out into the far past and future, as well as looping around in strange ways. It might be particularly active on the moon in this period, or shunt a 21st century mobile phone tower back to collect the appropriate kind of spirit.

      It’s still there, but humans aren’t useful to it, aren’t tuned to it, in the same way as we later become.

      1. The Nate Avatar
        The Nate

        It also needs infrastructure to be powerful. Unless you assume it has time travel, it’s going to fighting spirits and such just to survive. Couple angry gods could end it. The gm, therefore, may owe a lot to atlantean ruins or simply be very humble at this point. It also could be having its servants teaching rituals to clams who need an edge, or even skills will want them to use later on.

        1. The Nate Avatar
          The Nate

          Stupid phone… Clams may need an edge but tribes and clans seem more useful to the GM.

  25. […] (Resumido do post: The End is The Beginning is The End) […]

  26. FallenEcho Avatar

    Very much looking forward to this.
    I may also decide to keep a few Pangeans around in my NWoD though.
    You know, trapped on the material side of the Gauntlet. *MuehehehahahahHAHAHAHAH!*

    1. Retias Avatar

      It does raise an interesting question, this. Could the Claimed and Ridden be efforts by spirits to try and return to a time before the Sundering by creating new Pangeans that blend flesh and spirit once more?

      Creatures that the werewolves, who are a mix of spirit and flesh themselves, hunt down and destroy.

      1. FallenEcho Avatar

        Given that all the other ‘official descendants’ of Pangeans either turned spirit or turned Host…
        It is possible. Of course there are the other shifters.

  27. CatDoom Avatar

    This is the kind of setting I’ve been waiting for for a long time; the stone age doesn’t get nearly the amount of love it deserves. If I had all the money in the world, I’d pay you guys whatever it took to write a whole line of Neolithic WoD setting books. 😛

    1. Greem Avatar

      I agree completely. One of the reasons I’m so excited for this book is Cavemage. This preview only got me more excited.

  28. Michael jacobson Avatar
    Michael jacobson

    Amazing read…I have goosebumps

  29. Andrew Thomas Avatar
    Andrew Thomas

    Does raise questions about Vampires and the Stryx in this timeframe.

    1. Hiram Alem Avatar

      This timeframe makes me curious about ALL supernaturals. There should be more Neolithic splats.

    2. The Cowardly Scion Avatar
      The Cowardly Scion

      The original pitch / spoiler implied that the Strix were very active during this period and Kindred as we know them *may* not have even existed yet.

      1. Hiram Alem Avatar

        I’d say they existed. It appears that each clan had a different ‘birth’. Some were created by Strix, some were created by other beings, some fled from distant realms. Stuff like that.

        I believe that at least a couple of clans existed. I’d guess Mekhet, Deva and gangrel, due to them being the most ancient as far as stories go, iirc.

        1. The Nate Avatar
          The Nate

          The most ancient clan seems like gangrel, to me.

          Whatever twisted force changes a revenant into a vampire may not have established its mystical influence over the world, so ghost possessed corpses may be the result of the events that would, in modern times, spontaneously create a vampire. There’s no requirement that such be an eternal effect, after all.

          Come to think, Geist seems like it wouldn’t really need many changes…

  30. DannyK Avatar

    I chose to add Demon to the Aztec era for exactly that reason — precolumbian Demons.

  31. Full Time GM Avatar
    Full Time GM

    That sounds like a great setting for a chronicle. I’d love to do a prequel sort of adventure for the events of my group’s particular continuum.

  32. Sean Avatar

    Oh my. I’ve been toying with the idea of a Chronicle set at least in part back before Father Wolf’s death. This was back before 2e, after I read War Against the Pure for the first time. It was the first time I had ever considered a big, sweeping Chronicle that went beyond a single city. I may just give those ideas another look.

  33. CatDoom Avatar

    I’m a little curious about what kind of names and terminology will appear in this setting. Literally nothing is known about the language of the Vin?a, save that it almost certainly wasn’t closely related to any language family still spoken today.