Aethertide: Technocracy and Smartphones

I mentioned this the other day on Twitter, but it’s worth being unpacked its own post.

In my Aethertide campaign, Lenny’s NWO Spook gave his cell phone to be used as components for an Etherite’s device. He had been using this cell phone for routine Technocratic procedures, minor bits of Enlightened Science. And then he went and bought a new phone, so he could keep doing that. As a GM, I didn’t question that, because I didn’t want “get a new Union phone” to be a plot point.

Naturally, in the back of my mind, I was starting to resolve this idea. Waking up on the Sunday of Celesticon this past weekend, I was struck with the solution: smartphones are Enlightened Science recently accepted by the Consensus. Well, mostly accepted, as they tend to crash like a motherfucker.

The hardware for Technocratic procedures (and Virtual Adept rotes) is ubiquitous. The software is the rub. But, as the Masses are fond of saying, “There’s an app for that.” Jailbreak your iOS device (or just turn it to a developer mode) and you can install applications that make use of the technology. Or install them on your Android. Each app is a procedure, one that uses Correspondence at minimum. Some also use Mind or Entropy — and it’s all within what the Consensus expects to see on the street. Other spheres are a stretch, and would probably burn the device out to absorb the paradox — notably Forces. Life or Spirit might only work as simple detection-and-display procedures, if you plug some other device into the headphone port or data port like you would a Square credit card reader device.

Glory to the Union! They’ve created a way to easily acquire backup gear. The VAs have also been able to use it, and write their own operating systems and rote applications. Another dimension of the Ascension War was sparked, with the NWO controlling the iPhone, and various factions in Iteration X fighting against themselves and Virtual Adepts in the battle ground that is Android development. (Blackberries? Windows phones? Who knows.)

(At least, they did back in the Aethertide continuity where such fights actually mattered.)

When these phones crash, it’s because the Consensus almost buys what they can do. And their fail-safe to not spew out paradoxical anamolies is to, well, crash. Sometimes just an app shuts down. Sometimes it’s so bad the phone bricks up.

It’s a little idea, but it’s a cool one to play with. And it means that gear from whatever’s routine doesn’t have to be so precious. I can click on my version of Google Maps+Life and scan for people in the area. My phone can make an encrypted call directly to another phone without the danger of going through the network. It can serve as an alarm for any number of things. That 99% of smartphones have cameras in them is no accident. And given how sounds and visuals can affect brainwaves, you can do some trippy Mind procedures.

I should note that this isn’t really a new idea. The Guide to the Technocracy covers pretty well how to look at Enlightened Science procedures. All I’m doing is thinking about taking the cell phone app model and applying it here. Remember, the device itself isn’t special, not in the Technocratic mindset. It isn’t a focus. It’s a tool to be used, not an item to be revered.

From a game standpoint, this idea serves a few story effects. It makes it easy to have Union characters doing things and resupplying. But most notably: it should make the Technocracy fucking frightening. Break an armature’s phone, he buys a new one. Or, hell, anyone walking down the street wearing Apple earbuds could be a fucking agent listening into your thoughts. And any phone can carry Enlightened software. The onslaught does not stop when you break the Union’s toys, but it does when it breaks yours.

You want evidence of Enlightened Science? Look in your pocket.

The Technocracy: There’s an app for that. There isn’t? Look again.

– Ryan


8 Responses to Aethertide: Technocracy and Smartphones

  1. I almost got shivers from this. I’m really enjoying these posts, although I have no experience with the system itself. These posts are making me want to correct that discrepancy, though.

  2. Dave T. Game says:

    So is the “cell phones cause cancer” meme another paradox manifestation, or an attempt to fight back by one of the groups?

    One of the characters in my first Mage Cortex+ game used, effectively, an iPad with After Effects for Reality. Once you can make edits to the universe via your iPad camera, you really see some enlightened tech in play.

    • Ryan Macklin says:




      Only a reality deviant would think to use After Effects…

      *eyes suspiciously* *makes note on phone*

      – Ryan

  3. Eddy Webb says:

    It’s even more interesting when you consider things like AR. Use Google Goggles to look around and read people’s aura? Easy as hell.

    • Ryan Macklin says:


      Reading auras via smartphone leads to recording auras.

      That leads to copying auras.

      And this is why I use Entropy to fuckin’ encrypt my aura. You need a matching private & public key for it.

      – Ryan

  4. Jess says:

    Absolutely brilliant. And the applications (no pun intended) don’t end there. One can easily create an automobile similar to Kit, or any semi-aware machine (a la Hal), through such programming, but a car benefits from being able to have a GPS device installed. And let’s not forget about Bluetooth devices. They open a whole new window into what’s possible.

    And yes, the Technocracy should be terrifying, but subtle. They needn’t be overt or flashy. They don’t exist. Magic doesn’t exist. People are convinced of this. Even the Devil is jealous of their success.

    • Ryan Macklin says:


      Exactly. That’ll also make me think about the next time the PCs in my game steal a car. Because they’re constantly stealing cars.


      – Ryan