Matthew here once again, but this time we’re veering into Chronicles of Darkness territory, with the upcoming book for Mage: The Awakening – Tome of the Pentacle! I know a lot of folks have been waiting a long time for this book, so we all thought “why not tease some of the content on the blog?”
With that in mind, I’ve scoured the manuscript and decided to settle on one of my favourite parts of this sizable sourcebook, being the factions within the various Pentacle Orders. Now, while most the Faction Member Merit requires Order Status ••, you can in theory be a member of a cross-Order faction if you meet the prerequisites. As a fan of bloodlines and other means of specializing your character, focusing your play, and getting deeper into a game’s lore, I’m a big fan of all this.
As they’re my favourite Order, we’re going to show off some of our Adamantine Arrow faction material! You’ll find even more in the book to come. As ever, we’re not giving out a release date, but final art is arriving. Keep reading to the end of the blog to see what you can vote for previewing next!
The Arrow’s factions revolve around members’ approach to conflict, as a metaphysical constant, necessary duty, or test of bravery.
Tool Yantra: Mechanical traps; placed (instead of thrown or fired) explosives
Rote Skill: Subterfuge
Areteans range from irritating blowhards to voracious predators, but no matter their approach, the purpose remains the same: to demonstrate their superiority. Standard Aretean practice is to insult and otherwise provoke mages to the point of a conflict, whether it be a back-alley punch-up or the pomp and circumstance of a well-attended Duel Arcane. While “lesser” minds would think this obligates Areteans to prove themselves by fighting fair, well, Existence is War, and the mark should be prepared for any eventuality, from sand in the eyes to somebody blowing up their house. Open Aretean affiliation is harshly punished, but several play rhetorical games; they pretend they’re not real Areteans, but that mages should be able to argue for the virtues of their beliefs freely, and if anyone disagrees they must be weak and unwilling to withstand debate.
A cult of Reapers within the Areteans calling itself “the Hunt” doesn’t even bother with the social games. They stalk and kill other mages to assert their superiority. If the target isn’t prepared for such an eventuality, they’re weak. If they put up a good fight before defeat? Well, the Hunter may “honor” them by taking their soul or eating them. The anthropophagic Devourers of the Flesh Legacy are known to be embedded within the Hunt, though they prefer to eat the “weak” from non-Pentacle orders. Some members of this faction have so much contempt for mages outside their cult they are, in effect, Banishers.
Tool Yantra: Metalworking tools
Rote Skill: Crafts
The Ashen take their name from the byproducts of forges, along with ancient legends of beings variously conceived of as “dwarves” or “dark elves,” said to have a corpse-like pallor—and to manufacture the weapons of gods. The Ashen fill this mythic role for the Arrow, whose “heroes and gods” wield the weapons they make. This is not to say that Ashen devote themselves exclusively to imbued and other magical weapons, or even to weapons in the crudest sense of machines and tools that inflict death, but they all know a warrior relies on their panoply, their sword, gun, or even truck, to win the day. All Ashen make and fix things, and while it lacks the glory of direct battle, nobody would win a damn thing without reliable tools, vehicles, and arms.
Naturally, Ashen who can make imbued and other magical items enjoy some prestige, but it’s the nature of the Arrow to glorify the warrior over the sword, so to speak. The Order’s soldiers often visit the Ashen before setting out and leave them behind when it’s time to claim the glory. The Ashen needle other Arrows over this by adopting gruff, rude attitudes and unkempt appearances, so they’re as unpleasant as possible to visit — though they must be visited when a Crucible Talon or other self-consciously heroic Arrow wants a magic sword or a Hilux with a machine gun in the back. (The Ashen believe the Crucible’s name is hilarious, and “We should trade” is a tired joke between them.) The Divine Spear, who understand the importance of technology in warfare, treat the Ashen better than other factions.
Council of Dragons
Tool Yantra: Texts on philosophy and strategy
Rote Skill: Academics
Philosopher-strategists, the Council of Dragons believe that while warriors must achieve physical skill to serve the Arrow and be well-rounded humans, the deepest well of martial skill is found in the mind. Councilors devote themselves to the metaphysics of conflict, and the eternal patterns of strategy, manifested through numerous battlefields and technologies. The depth of such studies is such that no Arrow can master them all. Thus, the Council encourages specialization despite the Order’s broader bias against such things. In any emergency, the senior Councilor is the one with the greatest applicable knowledge: something bound to change when the nucleus of conflict moves from chemical warfare to enchanted Bronze Age swords.
One goal of the faction is to find the “Second Wisdom,” which is the ability to understand the unbiased truth about a situation, and find a path between what is absolutely moral, versus what is tactically optimal. The search produces a broad spread of opinions, leading to reputations ranging from bloodthirst to excessive idealism on the part of individual Councilors.
Tool Yantra: Body armor
Rote Skill: Brawl
Once more into the breach? The Crucible dares enemy walls and storms trenches as often as it can. This is a faction of heroes in the Classical sense, swinging between laudable bravery and terrifying bloodthirst. The faction believes that the human self-image is as Fallen as the rest of the world, even in the Awakened. We were, all of us, meant to be heroes. The age of the Celestial Ladder, of the various myths of the Time Before, were not peaceful times, but eras where every person could become a hero, demonstrating excellence against the enemy or dying well, depending on one’s skill and destiny.
Nowadays, monsters are weaker — or at least, subtler — but the potential for heroism exists in every Awakened soul. Therefore, it’s an Arrow’s duty to not just “achieve strategic objectives” but to fight with excellence and bravery against any enemy. Members of the Crucible loathe retreat and believe defensive warfare strays from the true path of divine-souled aggression. Finally, as existence is war, if no conflict exists, it’s the Crucible’s job to find one and win it. Crucible members make excellent shock troops, and within the Arrow, their close combat skills are second to none.
Prerequisites: A Vidanti must have once possessed Adamantine Arrow status, then lost it all, or they lose it upon joining the faction.
Tool Yantra: Symbols of pacifist belief
Rote Skill: Socialize
The Vidanti are unique among Arrow heresies in that they are, to a certain extent, part of the Order’s formal organization, as something equivalent to an “other than honorable discharge” in Sleeper military services. When an Arrow decides they can no longer fight, they declare their intention to retire to the local Adamant Sage. The Sage interviews the subject to make sure they mean it and aren’t just unable to do their duty in some limited arena. Disability or reluctance alone cannot qualify one to be a Vidantus; the prospect must be firm in their desire to embrace pacifism from that point forward.
If the Arrow is truly finished with violence, the Adamant Sage and two other Arrows ritually insult them. They say the new Vidantus is a stranger — the original Arrow is declared dead. Vidanti are despised for turning their backs on the Order, but practically speaking, Arrows understand that accumulated trauma can claim any of them, and while there are magical methods of bypassing the effects, magically erasing normal feelings of guilt and shame is like doing it mundanely — it’s the behavior of a psychopath. Many Vidanti are also skilled sorcerers, and the Order tolerates consulting them.
As mentioned, there are even more in the book, but we’re not going to just give everything away.
With faction appetites whetted, let’s jump to Lost Orders next! Vote in the comments below for if you want to see some of the upcoming content on the knowledge-hungry Keepers of the Word, the wilful, power-hungry Tremere, or the disciplined, demesne-building Pancryptiates!