Mage 1920

From Sphere
Jump to: navigation, search

This is an imaginatively named Old World of Darkness Mage campaign set in the 1920s. This is all a first draft drawn up over roughly eight hours in a single day, so please forgive any problems and errors.

Setting

Part of the data here is my interpretation of Mage and the 1920s. Mostly I don't go into great detail since you can look up the history yourself and I assume you have the book.

The Time

The game begins in 1924. The 1920s is a time of great change, some of it good, some of it very bad. The world has recently seen the end of the Great War, the defeat of the Bolshevik hordes at the gates of Warsaw, German hyper-inflation, and the rise of Fascism under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. On the domestic scale there is the emancipation of women, the campaign for prohibition, and a growing fear of communist subversion.

Beneath the surface the age has caused upheavals for most supernatural beings. Even mages aren't nearly as removed from the concerns of sleepers as they like to think they are. The Technocracy is divided on the issue of Indirect (Capitalism) vs Direct (Communism) control of the sleepers, with many backing a Third Way (Fascism) as a good compromise. With their enemy distracted and the consensus weakened the Traditions have been able to make gains, how long lasting they will be is another matter.

The Traditions

Some brief notes on how the Traditions are different in the 1920s, as well as any particular problems they're facing.

The Akashic Brotherhood

Though the world around them is in turmoil the Akashic Brotherhood are still safe in their Himalayan strongholds. Though they do, occasionally, try to spread their teachings this is generally an age of withdrawal for them.

Celestial Chorus

Rather than an Annus Horribilis they're having a Decadus Horribilis, no other traditions has had worse setbacks during this period. In Russia and Mexico the atheist government is systematically destroying the Church, which includes hunting down charismatic Choristers. Elsewhere the war has left people disillusioned and looking for new answers, even the Middle-East, traditionally a stronghold of the Choristers, is turning towards Ataturks Way. Elsewhere consumerism is taking peoples minds off the transcendent, a particular problem for the Choristers.

The Cult of Ecstasy

Though you might think that the Jazz Age was a great time for the Cult of Ecstacy, you'd only be half right. Though there is a sense of freedom, of relief, of letting yourself go to indulge in dance, drink, and countless other pleasures it lacks the true Dionysian passion. Much of the modern age is filled with people who don't want to experience passion as much as they want to numb the pain. Still, the Cult of Ecstasy is doing better than many other tribes.

Dreamspeakers

The Dreamspeakers have just about hit their nadir; their tribes killed, placed in reservations, or forcibly civilized by colonial lords. Foreign missionaries and foreign merchants are both discrediting the old ways, one by showing their impotence the other by showing how much better modernity is at providing comforts. Though their tribes may be romanticized they are still seen as savages to be civilized.

Euthanatos

The Euthanatos are starting to recover from the destruction of the Thuggees, and they're certainly busy these days; lots of people need killing.

The Order of Hermes

The Hermetics are still the largest and best organised mystical Tradition. Moreover they are benefiting from the general occult revival, but not as much as they had hoped for. Their attempts to bring astrology, spiritualism, and other practises to the masses often devolve into newspaper columns and parlour games. The only comfort is that many newly awakened mages still like the orderly way that the Hermetics study and teach magic, thus ensuring a steady stream of new recruits.

Sons of Ether

This is the one Tradition that the Technocracy really worries about, since they know enough about the Timeplan and Enlightened Science to really throw a spanner in the Technocrat works. They are also one of the largest and richest traditions, on the grounds that they brought with them a lot of their secret bases when they defected. Additionally they have a great deal of power over sleeper society, since they still retain extensive connections in academia and industry.

Their biggest problem is that though they generally share the same paradigm right now, this is starting to change. Certainly this change won't be really noticeable for a decade or two, but slowly the paradigms are starting to split. Their resource base is also shrinking, partly because the Sons of Ether aren't always that good at managing their funds, partly because of incessant Technocracy interference.

Players should note that the Sons of Ether are not yet the stereotypical mad scientists they will be in modern Mage. Instead they are unorthodox but respected scientists, with a keen understanding of conventional science and engineering. They are organised roughly in the manner of a university, with an Executive Committee, Faculties, Departments, Shared Facilities, and special offices for managing outside relations and finance. In other words they are still one organisation, though a factitious one, and can pull their act together if necessary. Of course this is slowly changing.

Verbena

The Verbena have a renaissance of sorts, or so they like to think. In Germany and Southern Europe the ideas of blood and nation are once more coming to significance, but often in a twisted way that brings with it ideas of eugenics and scientific racism. Not that the Verbena are necessarily opposed to racism, as a way of keeping culture and bloodlines together, but it's the science aspects that offends them. Even so some younger Verbena have secretly presented a watered down version of their tradition to the world at large, though with mixed success.

Other Crafts

Various groups that aren't members of the council but are still important enough to mention. Given how rare mages are there really aren't a lot of these, given that most traditions are a massive melange you're generally better of defining your mage as a member of a faction of an existing tradition.

The Black Sun Society

The Black Sun is part a Craft and part a Chantry, since they take members from other traditions. The Black Sun is primarily a European organisation, but due to the Japanese obsession with everything Europe and modern there is a chapter there too.

They believe in Tradition, Enlightenment, Self-Mastery, Nationalism, and a Quest for Accomplishment. The Black Sun seeks to bring about an idealized and orderly version of the traditional world, while retaining the advances of technology for the sleepers. Many members dislike both the Traditions and the Technocracy, seeing them as too timid and divided, unable to take the bold actions that the modern age needs.

Though secretive and still in its formative phase mentioning the Black Sun in enlightened society is a sure fire way of causing an argument.

Orphans

Genuine orphans are starting to be rare, but tend to view their magic in terms of what their culture teaches.

Resources

Despite the Traditions view of themselves as the underdogs, they still wield enormous resources. Many Traditions have Horizon Realms or other hideaways with tens of thousands, or even the low hundreds of thousands, of sleepers in them. Even in the mundane world most Traditions have extensive hideouts, resources, and retainers.

Beginning mages of course may have only limited access to this resource base, one of the ways that many traditions keep together is by linking access to such resources with adherence to the paradigm. Or in other words they must toe the party line and do the scutwork, or else lose their allowance. Of course mages are unusually strong willed individuals and some of them actually do head out on their own.

In general then if a mage is not from an ascetic tradition he or she will be used to a lifestyle commensurate with three or four dots in Resources. Additionally most mages will have bodyservants, most of which are purely mundane but don't count as a witness for purposes of Vulgar magic.

The Consensus

Obviously there is more to the 1920s Consensus than I can list here. This was after all an age of enormous change, where there were new inventions and discoveries every day, but these new discoveries stood side by side with old beliefs. It was an age of great contrast, where the Duesenberg and the horse-drawn milk-cart existed side by side. It was also an age where the rustic hedge mage, reading from his copy of the Key of Solomon, existed side by side with the Tom Swift style barnstormer. In short the past is a different country, people simply thought differently.

Spiritualism

Despite having started in the 1890s and then lost some ground in the period prior to 1914, Spiritualism is back. The interest in spirit photography, séances, and anything related to spiritualism is so great that do it yourself spiritual séance books are big sellers. Many sleeper scientists and other opinion makers accept the claims of spiritualism and make it a subject of serious research.

This has the effect of making a séance, even one that has materialisations, entirely coincidental so long as you follow all the rules and the audience is at least neutral rather than sceptical. Note that this is not exclusive to the Spirit Sphere; any magic will be coincidental so long as it can be cloaked in the guide of a séance. Given the rather stringent requirements for a séance (no lights or only a red light, holding hands, etc) this is not as much of a benefit as you might think.

The Occult

But if the progress of physical science has not prevented the rehabilitation of much of ancient alchemy by the later researches into chemical change, and if psychology now finds a place for explanations of spiritualism and witchcraft which involve the admission of the empirical facts under a new theory (as in the case of the divining rod, &c.), it is at least conceivable that some new synthesis might once more justify part at all events of ancient and medieval astromancy, to the extent of admitting the empirical facts where provable, and substituting for the supposed influence of the stars as such, some deeper theory which would be consistent with an application to other forms of prophecy, and thus might reconcile the possibility of dipping into futurity with certain interrelations of the universe, different indeed from those assumed by astrological theory, but underlying and explaining it.

As the text from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica shows the Occult did make a great revival from the 1900s on, but it really began picking up speed in the 1920s. Astrology, previously ridiculed and nearly extinct, has had a particular revival, with astrology columns now appearing in virtually every newspaper.

Western Esotericism is also having a great revival, as people disillusioned with their faith and their leaders try to find new truths. Every week there are new lodges and jurisdictions, wherever you look there seems to be activity. Certainly this development is not as visible to the common sleeper, but it draws in quite a few new intellectuals. Some of the more megalomaniacal Hermetics are secretly hoping that this new movement can supplant Christianity, thus finally granting the Hermetics victory over the Celestial Chorus. On a different note the success of Theosophy has introduced eastern religious concepts to Europe, though often in a corrupted and watered down form.

What is often forgotten when you mention the Occult Revival is that just as with the Christian Revivals the Occult version rests on a bedrock of previously held belief. Though the Technocracy are working hard on eradicating such beliefs in the upper class, with obvious mixed success, they aren't doing much about rural people or the lower classes. It's not unusual to find the Key of Solomon or the Pow-Wows Or Long Lost Friend in a rural house, where the owner uses the magic therein to preserve his crops or make a girl fall in love with him. Nor should you be surprised if the local Fraternal Lodge, be it Freemasons or not, practises some odd rituals for the benefit of its members.

The effect of this is that astrological predictions are now entirely coincidental. In addition both the new Esoteric Societies and lower class areas where people believe in the occult provide surroundings where low key vulgar magic may count as coincidental, provided of course that it fits in with their paradigm.

Science & Technology

In philosophy, mathematics, or theology there are deep and permanent truths, but in science there is only the faith of the masses. Thus it's not strange that science is a battlefield, though after the defection of the Sons of Ether the Traditions have been far more successful.

Now there are several issues where the Traditions can fight the Technocracy: Quantum Mechanics vs Newtonian Physics, Big Bang vs Steady State, and finally The Ether vs General Relativity. The Sons of Ether have the support of other Traditions on all of these issues, except the last. Since no one else really cares about the ether the Sons of Ether are forced to slowly give ground on their pet theory, even though they are at the same time able to mess up Technocratic process on what are far more important issues.

However this hides the more important issue, namely that fact that the common people in modern nations think that Science! can solve all of mankind's problems. To the Sons of Ether this is fine and they are indeed all for offering up new and exciting solutions, but many people in the other Traditions think this reeks of the Technocracy.

One bright area is that the technology of the 1920s is getting cheap enough that everyone can afford it, even in rural areas, yet it's simple enough that anyone can maintain it and fiddle with it. Likewise the science is often so simple that, say, a patent office clerk can find earth shattering truths working in his spare time. If you're a Tom Swift or Albert Einstein you can make a difference without the need for enormous resources. In other words the magic of technology is available to and comprehensible by just about anyone.

This is changing however, more and more the Technocracy is pushing the need for large scale institutional operations, giving them more control of humanity's progress.

Eugenics & Scientific Racism

This is a field where opinions are widely divided, but it is well within the respectable scientific and political discourse throughout the era. Many US states as well as many, if not most, western countries will pass laws and enact policies based on eugenics and scientific racism. Though most states will not ban interracial marriage, there will be laws securing mandatory sterilization of unfit people which in some areas include groups like Gypsies. A small minority argue that eugenics will lead to the extermination of people seen as defective, sensible people reject this as nothing more than a slippery slope fallacy.

In general factions of the Verbena and the Sons of Ether are in favour, though for different reasons. The Verbena are in tune with nature, Red of Fang and Claw, and value their bloodlines. While the Sons of Ether want to use the new science of Eugenics to improve the breed. The main opposing forces are the Celestial Chorus (who think all are created equal) and the Dreamspeakers (who know they'll be next). This split exists among the sleepers too, where nationalists and scientists want to promote Eugenics, while the religious and to some extent communists oppose it.

Indeed to many an appeal to special creation is the only way to oppose eugenics and scientific racism. After all if you accept human evolution and the idea that the human races were until recently separate enough to evolve differences in gross physical features, then the question is why couldn't other differences evolve? Indeed to any reasonable scientist of the age it would be absurd to claim that brain evolution simply stopped thirty thousand years ago. Indeed what both scientists and their religious adversaries agree upon is that once you accept human evolution then scientific racism must follow.

Exploration & Archaeology

Archaeology is a young science, but one that is advancing in leaps and bounds. There is competition since Traditionalists want to engender a sense of wonder, while Technocrats want to demystify the past. In addition neither side can afford the practical benefits of archaeology; ancient artefacts, find lost nodes, proofs of ancient civilizations, and so forth.

The airship, the airplane, the steamship, and the submarine, these four have opened up the world. Although the sense of wonder engendered often allows the consensus to twist and turn temporarily, the Technocracy thinks that it is safer to expand fast and get it over with. This means the Traditions are racing to discover and reveal lost cities and sites before the Technocracy can persuade the sleepers that there's nothing of interest there.

Both exploration and archaeology allows for mystical objects and places to be brought into the world coincidentally. On the flip side they also allow the Traditions to find and quietly remove the same into the Umbra, if circumstances should demand it. With the Technocracy stretched out and distracted this is a wonderful time to be an adventurer.

The Campaign

Background

Not too long ago a small meeting of Tradition Masters sat down to discuss the pitiful state of things. It seemed clear to them that despite the small scale Tradition victories there can be no doubt that the Technocracy is still standing strong, if not steadily advancing. Meanwhile the Traditions wasted what advantages they did have, like the new age of discovery and adventure. Instead of taking advantage of it and making the sleepers accept new wonders the old established chantries were far too busy fighting a mere holding action. Even those chantries that did go questing were all too often single Tradition chantries, unable to take advantage of the insights other Traditions might offer.

It wasn't clear which one of them first had the idea to create an explorer chantry, one that could hold members from a wide variety of Traditions. Not only would they help uncover many lost secrets, but better yet they could also be a sign of how the Sons of Ether and the more mystical traditions could work together in harmony!

That's the theory anyway. The Sons of Ether have provided the transportation, a wonderful new airship called the Albatross, captained by Lothar Graf von Wolfenbach and crewed by loyal Enlightened Technicians. Now all the other traditions have to do is send their hopeful mages to join this wonderful venture.

The Albatross (History)

The Albatross originated from an 1899 Future Airship design study, an inquiry into the likeliest technological developments. The finished design was ready by 1902 and shortly after the Executive Board commissioned a prototype for further studies. During construction there was much attention to keeping everything within the limits of what Sleeper Science would be like in twenty years or so. Of course that was by Electrodyne Engineer estimates, who were always a tad more optimistic than those of the rest of the Technocracy.

Test flights began in 1904, but were cut short by the defection of the Electrodyne Engineers. They did not commence again before 1906, when the Sons of Ether began various tests in Northern Scandinavia, particularly over Sweden, thus triggering several rumours of phantom aircraft. Following the tests they mothballed the Albatross in a hidden hangar.

In 1917 they prepared it once more in an effort to save Tsar Nicholas II from the Bolsheviks. Though this mission failed the Albatross turned out to be very handy in evacuating various people and objects from the Bolsheviks, particularly since it could operate without drawing paradox. Despite that its very conventional nature put it in danger on a few occasions when it came too close to Bolshevik armed scout airplanes.

After reviewing the experiences from the war the Director of Technical Support asked for suggestions on how to improve the Albatross, without losing its ability to operate in public. It was Lothar Graf von Wolfenbach who came with the winning suggestions of adding an Electrodynamic Hull and Dimensional Displacement Device. Of course once he got his hands on the airship he also added an Extra-Dimensional Expansion and his Radioactive Element Transmuter.

The Albatross (Technical Details)

The airship Albatross is more or less a Hindenburg class airship though of course it is by far superior to any airship that ever actually flew. However the pictures and maps of the Hindenburg gives you a rough idea of what you should expect.

Conventionally the duralumin hull and the gasbag covers are both far superior to the real world Hindenburg; this one is not going to go up in flames for one. The engines are also superior, being closer to what you would expect from the 1940s than the 1920s, as such they can only be tended by properly trained engineers.

The Electrodynamic Hull charges the hull with electricity which creates a semi-vacuous sheath around the Albatross greatly reducing air-resistance and turbulence. Though this allows the Albatross to travel much faster it also creates an impressive electrical lightshow, something which tends to draw Paradox in the form of burned out engines.

The Dimensional Displacement Device uses an electrical effect to energize the ether, forcing it to pull back. However since nature abhors a vacuum and any area without the ether is a vacuum, this means that the Albatross is immediately transitioned into the Near Dimensional Space (the Umbra).

The Extra-Dimensional Expansion is a Correspondence effect which allows an entire Etherite laboratory to fit neatly into the Captain's Quarters without increased space or weight. Blatantly vulgar, but of course no sleepers are going to see it now are they?

The Radioactive Element Transmuter uses the transmutation of radioactive elements to change atoms from one state to another. Used for turning air into helium, but it could conceivably be used to create fuel or even turn lead into gold.

The Albatross (Crew)

The Albatross has circa 40 crewmembers, mostly technical crew but with a few stewards and waiters as well. The crew includes some Enlightened Technicians, who are basically magicians except that they use Etherite science instead of magic. All the crew are efficient and polite around guests, but generally cannot be detached from their duties.

In addition there are sixteen marines commanded by Carl-Gustav von Wolfenbach, Lothar Graf von Wolfenbach's younger brother. These sky marines are excellent fighting men, recruited from Carl-Gustav's former regiment. They are however rather conspicuously German and enjoy the added protection that Etherite armour affords, in short they are not really suitable for covert missions.

Characters

Making a character

You are to make mages who are members of one of the Eight Mystical Traditions or an Orphan who can behave him or herself. Moreover all characters must be able to work in or for a team, and that includes gracefully dealing with superiors.

The chantry has a few shared resources like the Albatross, an expense account, an airplane (two seater called the Fliedermaus), and of course the crew and marines of the Albatross. The Captain's sanctum is generally off limits to everyone else. All of these resources are ultimately at the command of the Captain, if you want to rely entirely on him then you are good, if not you might want to get some resources of your own.

Please run new character concepts by me before you start working on anything.

New Advantages

Esoteric Connections (***)

You have extensive connections to the new esoteric societies that are popping up across the world. This may allow you access to places where certain forms of ritual magic will work more effectively, you can also call upon their members to help you with extended rituals. As with most allies it won't hurt to do them the odd favour in return.

List of Characters

NPCs

Traditions

Albatross Crew

Captain Lothar Graf von Wolfenbach - Captain of the Albatross and Sons of Ether Adept. German, very German, and known for a caustic wit. Has quite a bit of the Technomancer about him.

Major Carl-Gustav von Wolfenbach - Albeit it a sleeper he is still an excellent officer and tactician. Carries a small device which protects him against mind-altering effects.

Father Proust - Catholic priest and ship chaplain, an Orphan mage of roughly Disciple rank who is mostly known for his sharp insights and detective skills.

Other

Story so far

Nothing here yet.

Memorable quotes