Posts Tagged ‘mage the ascension’
Yesterday, I posted a little bit on my G+ about the book. I’ll build on that here, and tell you some stuff you’ll find inside:
- I put forth the question to my writing team: “Clearly, there are loads of player character-esque Progenitors in the Convention. Who are they?” And thus was born Applied Sciences: Biosphere Explorers, Deviancy Scene Investigators, Medicines Sans Superstition, Damage Control, and Ethical Compliance.
- Have you ever wanted a genegineered creature as a retainer? Or play one? The Progenitors have uplifted octopi, lizardmen, dinosaurs, and so on.
- The theme of this book is of the Convention’s (and the Union’s) sense of guilt, and of healing. They have some ambitious (and dangerous) plans to keep the Technocratic Union from fracturing.
- We touch on the other, little Methodologies in the Progenitors, the ones focused on veterinary medicine, psychiatry, ecology, and so on. And we talk about why even most Progenitors don’t know that these exist. (Spoiler: they don’t get a lot of funding.)
- Naturally, we add the Progenitors’ thoughts to the bigger picture that is the fracturing Union, and how the Dimensional Anomaly changed them.
- New gear, Procedures, etc., some of which is a bit creepy. And most of it key to the combat-oriented Progenitor amalgams.
- Memetic warfare.
- Progenitors not just in their own amalgams, but their roles in mixed-Convention amalgams.
- And more. I’m pretty goddamned happy with this book.
This book was also one of the harder books I’ve had to make, because the 1995 Progenitor book was written purely from a “lets write about the villains as unrepentantly evil! let’s twirl those mustaches!” (Though, Syndicate turned out to be even harder for that same reason.) And that was fine for that line, but the Revised line is all about them as heroes.
So how the fuck are the Progenitors heroes? That was a lengthy conference call, and the results are inside the book. :)
If you’re a Technocracy fan, I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you think!
 And I’m damned happy with the results.
I have been watching the shit out of Fringe, since I found out it was on Amazon Video and seasons 1 – 4 are free for Prime members. (I haven’t seen season 5 of Fringe yet; I’ll reward myself after we’ve finished moving in and I’ve sent the next Technocracy project to editing with that.)
With every season, the setting changes. Man, does it change. I love it, but it means my occasional Twitter comments about stating up the characters from a Technocratic lens is…problematic.
So, let’s pick a point. Say, early second season-ish.
First, the framework: everything you see that cannot be explained as some form of Inspired Science. People who would say “Walter’s an Etherite!” misunderstand that Inspired Science appears pretty much like magic to the ignorant Masses. That Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology and all that…
Second, the conflict: that means that all sides on the Fringe conflict are effectively Technocratic, just with different goals and ideals. This is not a Technocracy vs Traditions fight, but a Technocracy A vs Technocracy B fight.
Third, the scale: these organizations aren’t global conspiracies with millions of people; they’re pretty much small Amalgams waging their own agenda and being their own leadership. And because of that, we’re not going to play hard on the Methodologies part of the Conventions — it’s enough to just cast them in one, I think, since this is a smaller scale (though, they can still be useful lens).
Fourth, the scale (part deux): some of the characters are clearly street-level, and a few get cosmic (and pay dearly for that). Keep that in mind.
Given those three things as the framework for Fringe, here’s a stab at early season 2 characters:
Walter Bishop is clearly, to me, a Progenitor. But not just any Progenitor — he’s a fucking Marauder with at least Life 4 and Dimensional Science 3 (and pretty much every other Sphere, even a little taste of Time). If you want to get really weird, because of the nature of his Quiet, he has both Dimensional Science and Spirit, as separate Spheres.
That he could also fit in Iteration X & Void Engineers is telling, but I see him first as foremost as a Progenitor — particularly a Pharmacoepoist — and just that sort of Enlightened mind who absorbed what others were doing (notably William Bell) by working with them.
(Someone on Twitter suggested that the entire Fringe Division is just a manifestation of his Quiet. Man, that’s a fucked and tasty idea! But for this, we should assume that’s not true if only because I want to geek on the other characters.)
Peter Bishop…where to begin. Well, let’s cast him as a Mind/Entropy Syndicate agent. If he’s a Unionist, there isn’t another place to put him, but casting him as one of the seedier, lower-level Syndicate peeps is a decent fit. (Also, he doesn’t realize that he has a high Time sphere. But, you know, spoilers.) He also has a low level, constant emanation of Dimensional Science Paradox, since he isn’t suppose to be here.
(Someone also suggested that he might be a Dimensional Science or Time Paradox spirit, who possibly doesn’t know he is — also a fucked and tasty idea!)
Olivia Dunham is our tragic NWO spook who was forcefully Enlightened as a child and then made to forget it with a powerful Mind effect. She’s the street-level Operative who is whip-smart.
Of course, to get to the interesting bits, I have to skip forward to later in the series. That she has a decent Forces rating is an accidental side-effect of her being imbued with Dimensional Science and Correspondence. Also, her seeming immunity to Paradox is very intriguing.
Nina Sharpe is also clearly Syndicate, a strange blend of Disbursements and Financiers. Her arm is proof that William Bell is Iteration X, and that’s she’s Enlightened enough to not reject it. She also has a higher Mind rating than you think…
William Bell is totally a Void Engineer, with an Iteration X background. “Physics is a bitch.” I’m going to give Bell less Life than Walter, if only because they worked on Cortexiphan together and Walter seemed the Life type. Bell totally has a high Dimensional Science rating, and has some weird Forces stuff. (And going beyond that would be moving away from season 2.)
David Robert Jones is the closest thing the setting has to a Technocratic Nephandus. And given that he works to twist Olivia’s mind and emotional state, and that he had dark plans for the world, it makes sense. I wouldn’t necessarily peg him in a given Convention, though — it doesn’t play by their rules.
Astrid is also NWO, a junior agent, but she’s more badass than people think, with her constant use of Data and Entropy rotes that lead the others to discover things.
The Observers are…well, for the moment, they’re almost like Time spirits with a mysterious agenda.
So, given that time frame, what am I missing? What are you thoughts? No going beyond season 2 though, please!
See Convention Book: N.W.O. book for more on Data
I’m exceedingly jazzed about this book. Very proud. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have made an imprint on one of my childhood loves.
Not that I’m done. We’re working on Progenitors now, and I have a document of notes for Syndicate & Void Engineers.
If you get it and read it, please let me know what you think! Who knows, you might even influence what we’re doing in the next books.
(If this is news to you, check out this earlier post on my being the Technocracy Convention developer.)
To my writing staff — Leonard Balsera, Lillian Cohen-Moore, David A Hill Jr, and Jeremy Tidwell — thank you for forging this vision with me. I shall likely Process you in the morning.
To the editor — John Chambers — thank you for redacting the crap and maximizing the Procedural impact.
To the art director — Michael Chaney — and the artists, thank you for making it gorgeous. I have no NWO-related pithy comment.
To Eddy Webb & Rich Thomas — thank you for giving this Technocrat a chance to swing for the fences. I think we knocked it out of the park. And now I’m mixing my metaphors.
 Proper use of an adverb to show appropriate emphasis and elation.
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…
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.