The Technocratic Union v2.0
Some of you are already aware of this, because it was announced at the Onyx Path panels at Gen Con 2012 (audio, check their YouTube channel for video), but for those who don’t know: I’m the Mage: the Ascension Technocracy Convention developer. Of course, that’s a mouthful and comes with some questions, thus this post. Rich Thomas and Eddy Webb have already answered some of them; still, I want to give you my take, as the guy making the words happen.
A bit ago, Eddy asked me a little question: “Ryan, how well do you know the Technocracy?” I gave a very Senator Clay Davis from the Wire “sheee-it” and we talked from there. He got me in touch with Rich, and after some more conversation, Rich decided I was the guy. He dug my passion and zeal for the property, and appreciated that I had experience working on other pre-existing IP (namely Dresden Files & Leverage), so understanding what it is to have a sandbox with bounds isn’t foreign.
And this was for Ascension, so you bet your ass I was on board.
What are the Convention books?
With the Revised edition, White Wolf put out the Guide to the Technocracy (1999 — technically Second edition), Convention Book: Iteration X (2001), and…that’s it. That left an interesting hole, one that Rich & Eddy saw as worth filling. And I have to totally agree, because there’s something about Ascension that separates it from Vampire, Werewolf, etc.:
The other settings are about being in the shadows of the world. Mage: the Ascension is about the very embodiment of the zeitgeist. So, as the world changes technologically, socially, financially, and so on, those secret worlds react to the changing mortal world but aren’t drastically altered by it — they can’t be, because those games are about being in the shadows. On the other hand, Ascension is about the essence of humanity, so when the world drastically changes and humanity’s very experience shifts, that’s a very big deal.
That’s where these Technocracy books fit in. The Union is heavily intertwined with humanity’s progress, for good and ill. So, as humanity begins to use social media without thinking, as it starts to embrace fractured politics, as it starts to accept security theater, all that jazz, that reflects and impacts the Technocracy.
Each of the five Conventions — Iteration X, New World Order, Progenitors, Syndicate, Void Engineers — sees that differently, and we can express how the changes in the world have different impacts to the movers and shakers in Ascension (and vice versa). It’s been over a decade of social and technological change, and we get to rock that in these books.
For Second edition, all the Convention books exist, but they’re pretty dated.
What’s coming up?
We’re starting with the New World Order book. The other three we’re working on (Progenitors, Syndicate, Void Engineers) will be on the Onyx Path schedule. Iteration X isn’t getting updated, which I’m using as an opportunity rather than a limitation — that’s the fictional “white space” to imply a bunch about what’s frankly my favorite Convention and let people draw conclusions, and say things that are from skewed points of view, since every Convention book is from its own.
I’m super-stoked about NWO. With a slammin’ crew of writers — Leonard Balsera, Lillian Cohen-Moore, David Hill, Jeremy Tidwell, and myself — we worked hard to breathe life back into this world. And I’ll be straight with you: at times, it was nervous as hell. I’m a huge fanboy of Ascension, and I know that it could be easy to sour on it. But my writers and I kept each other on task, and since it’s a Convention book rather than a full reboot, that helped focus us.
Why no M20?
Ah, the elephant in the room. First, I encourage you to listen to Rich talk about that in the above Gen Con 2012 panels. Seriously, do that.
Now I’ll tell you why I’m happy with this. Let’s say M20 happens. We’ll have spent quite a bit thinking about how world paradigm shifts affect the setting — again, world paradigms are pretty much what this setting’s about. These become warm-up stretches in one sense, previews in another, concepts for a third, etc.
Let’s say M20 doesn’t happen. Dude, we will still have some tasty books. I’m developing these books having both in mind that I can’t paint M20 into any corners and there might not be an M20. With the latter bit, it means I’m putting as much awesome juice as I can fit into the Convention books. (Plus, it’s not like a potential M20 will be able to go that deep into the Technocracy anyway).
If my passion for the game hasn’t come through in this post, I don’t know what to tell you. But here goes:
- My background is seeped in technology. I was a programmer from age six, a third generation hacker — my uncle and my grandfather before me. I understand, on a basic scale, how to build everything I use daily. (Especially anything web-related and e-commerce.) In other words: I’m pretty fucking indoctrinated as a Technocratic sympathizer.
- My Ascension love is well-known. I posted bits here and there about my recent online campaign, Aethertide, which took a hard look at the canon and ideas of magick, and let that seep in my mind for months. This helped me examine the world from a perspective of “fast forward 10 years.”
- I know how to put together a book, get writers, deliver a strong outline, curate content, edit, etc. Passion means a lot to making a book like this, but if you can’t do the work, you’re fucked.
- My team and I took the attitude of keeping the spirit of Mage alive while not being beholden to it. Let’s face it, we can’t just rehash old shit. You already have it if you want it. What you should be looking for from this line is a new examination — one that doesn’t violate the spirit of Ascension, certainly, but one that builds on it.
A taste of the New World Order
I’ve talked quite a bit about stuff in general. Here’s a little taste of what the NWO book will cover:
- The Avatar Storm happened in ’99, crippling the Union’s off-world leadership. What does that mean ten years later?
- Smartphones. Crowdfunding. 24-hour news networks. Social media. The Technocracy: there’s an app for that. (See my earlier post: Technocracy and Smartphones, for a taste — though, it’s been developed further and written better)
- There’s a new NWO Methodology, but you’ll have to grab the book once it’s out to learn more. :)
- A re-examination of Technocratic Correspondence, now that we live in a more wireless data-saturated world. (See my earlier post: Correspondence & Data, for a taste — though again, it’s been developed further and written better)
- While this book ignores the Reckoning (as well it should — that’s a different storyline), it plays on the seeds of a Technocratic civil war. Not super-directly, but that was one of our decisions going into this book: if the Technocracy seems like it’s winning the hearts and minds of the first world, and it had to heavily reorganize post-Avatar Storm, what does that mean for one of the world’s most powerful conspiracies?
That’s all for now. Back to getting work done, but I thought that some of you would like the developer’s-eye-view of the glorious Technocratic Union.
 Not that any good Technocrat would call it that…