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Victorian Age: Mage Rulebook/Outline

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The relative importance of the Victorian Age to Mage society (particularly to the Technocrats) should not be understated. However, the period has remained thus far unexamined in any real detail. It begs to be covered in with as much attention to detail and as much respect for source material as Vampire has. So that's what we're doing.

Our target date range, like VA:Vampire, is 1880 to 1897. VA:V uses the same reason as we will: the foundation of the Order of the Golden Dawn. But while VA:V uses the publication of Dracula as their explanation for 1897, we're going to place the formation of the modern Technocracy at that point.

Theme and Mood Edit

The primary theme for Victorian Age: Mage is rather similar to that of the new World of Darkness: the closer you look into shadows, the darker they become. Stated more simply, the more answers you find, the more questions they in turn beget. Reality is an unending mystery, and in some cases, you really don't want to know those answers.

But that doesn't stop people from looking.

Our splats are an extension of this: Traditions have faded into the background. While some mages know of them (usually via a friend of a friend), most newer recruits have never heard of them. The Traditions are, in this era, more monolithic structures, tall figures who stride the earth and fight their battles in the heavens, away from mortal comprehension. The classic fighting over the Jovian moons is very appropriate in this sense, since it's a great sort of story for what those Big Mages are up to.

Think of it sort of like the different houses in Harry Potter. Aside from the "teams" in Gryffindor, there's really no sort of evidence of them in the mortal world (or, really, in the wizard world). Anyone who represents one of these houses likely keeps their allegiance secret in order to work their subtle wars.

This is also the last time where magic and mysticism receive anything close to wide-ranging support among the populace. As the century turns, reason and science gain more of the popular mentality. Perhaps this is the Technocracy's doing, or maybe it's just how things were going to go anyhow. Regardless, it's the excuse the Traditions need to come back from contemplating their navels and re-engage themselves in the goings-on of the world around them.

This is a clash of multiple competing ideologies, even among those people would be considered brothers-in-arms in any other era. Every organization delves into hoary mysteries, hoping to get the edge on everyone else, hoping to get the "true magic" to trump all others, or simply hoping to gain wide recognition among the Masses. Unfortunately, they often cast aside all caution in their rush toward the unknown, which is not always such a fantastic idea.

Brief other stuff that obviously plays a role: the hubris of delving into unknown power, the thrill of possessing such power, the sense of creeping dread when that tomb you just opened wasn't hiding a lost manuscript, but locking away some unspeakable horror.... all the good stuff.

Mood probably doesn't need much coverage here if you're at all familiar with the gothic milieu.

Tone and Style Edit

To borrow from the outline for VA:V:

Be lurid! Be florid! Be overwrought! Don't bog down your point completely, but affected speech is to be expected. Indulge a bit of your inner drama queen. Vampires don't feed in the Victorian era, they ravish. Every love is the one that means the end of the world if it doesn't work out; every sexual affair is tawdry.
Note that I'm not giving you license to be an adolescent twit - we do have to have content, and hiding it beneath an impenetrable veneer of bad poetry won't do. What I do want you to do is invoke the feel of the period through literary device and presentation of your prose. A vampire disappearing down a murky alley with a flourish of his cloak - kick ass! A woeful paean to the Eternal hunger and Oh, How My Soul is Damned - too much. If certain characters are like this, fine, but don't you be like that.

So do that, but for Mage, although we're going more for the "Things Man Was Not Meant To Know" angle.

Fundamental Principles Edit

These aren't going to be laid out explicitly, but keep them in mind while writing. Get the point across implicitly.

The Sun Never Sets Edit

on the British Empire. This is the same as in VA:V: Rather than an American context, we're looking at this from a British context. (Spelling will remain American standard, though.)

  • Forget the Traditions, or at least push them into the background. We're focusing on several of the Traditions' factions and calling them Lodges. Some of the Lodges will be modern factions, some will be modern Disparate organizations, and some of them are modern Technocratic Conventions.
  • Lodges are grouped into similar societies. These larger groupings are the closest the period really comes to having groups like the Traditions Council. Lodges within each society can work together for similar aims, or they might fight all the more harshly with each other over limited resources.
  • Lodges, due to their separation with the parent Traditions, have fallen into a more diverse magical style: they use a combination of the Nine Spheres and several Minor Spheres (see the Mage ST Handbook). They're very powerful and flexible within their focus, but otherwise very general. Although we're using the Minor Spheres, I'd like to see some echoes from Dark Ages: Mage's system of Pillars here.
  • Secret societies are everywhere. See VA: Vampire for more. Mortals are doing this sort of thing all the time: they're in vogue. Vampire have infiltrated some (maybe even the Lodges!), mages have infiltrated others. I'd like to see the Lodges reflected in this trend. They're sort of secret societies to the secret societies. Their degree of publicity depends per Lodge, as the Rule of Shade still applies for the most part, but enforcement of has been rather lax during this period.

Lodges Edit

Lodges are, as mentioned, small fragments of the larger Traditions. These fragments are reflected in what we know as modern Traditions' factions, but in this period they're on their own. The Traditions (as the big overarching organization, the big-T Traditions) are monolithic and commanding and should scare the shit out of any mage who has heard they exist... or that they might come calling one day. But for now, they're gone, playing their political machinations or meditating on mountaintops or fighting for control of the Jovian moons. Whatever it is, it's big and it's important and they're busy doing it and not paying much attention to Earth. Or at least, not to Victorian England.

It should be noted that while this is a time of great wonder and possibility, it's also a time of great risk. A lot of these organizations don't survive to the modern day, at least not in their Victorian form.

Lodge versus lodge conflict is at the center of the game, but the Ascension war, with its archmagi and subtle movements, is always in the background like a bogeyman, ready to reach out with the bloody hand if conflict spirals out of control. Places like Doissetep are true "invisible colleges," where mages desperate for power go to receive strange counsel. These journeys seem like dreams, but their infrequent effects are real and powerful.

Finally, Awakened magic and sorcery have almost spiralled out of hand. An "overpopulation problem" may seem unlikely, but almost every Node in the great outposts of the British Empire has been snapped up. There may be others in the wilderness, but ill-informed attitudes and the technology of the day make finding them -- much less keeping them -- haphazard prospects. Lodge wars flare up over control of Quintessence in many major cities, while unchecked industry breeds lower class resentment, upper class corruption and well stocked pantries for the Nephandi. But the greatest game is for control of the Empire itself. Minsiters and members of the Royal Family have cultivated many elaborate (and at times, contradictory) ties to the lodges.

The Aeonic Lodges Edit

The guardians of Western ritual magic have a larger public face than ever before, but they still cleave to deep secrets at the highest levels of initiation. Members include House Shaea and House Tharsis, both of the Order of Hermes, as well as the Gardeners of the Tree of the Verbena.

House Shaea Edit

Ancient Egyptian mysteries. Alchemy. This stuff writes itself. Shaea also has the advantage of having an actual genuine long history (predating the Order of Hermes) and surviving to the modern era, so there's a lot of information about them.

House Tharsis Edit

They're still considered the golden boys of the Order of Hermes, a shining example of what a Hermetic organization can be. Perhaps they feel that priveledge? They're also storm wizards, and often took to sea. The original Hermes TradBook also says that in 1897 (our endpoint, conveniently enough) House Tharsis is accused of diabolism. It's unknown whether the cause was curiosity, boredom, disillusionment or corruption. Too small for a Wizards March, Tharsis is renounced, attacked, and expelled from Hermetic dominions. When they fall, it seems almost as a death knell for the Order as a whole.

Gardeners of the Tree Edit

This is, to quote Malcolm Sheppard, "my private occult history geekism, considering the ties between the Golden dawn and early Wicca." Gardeners being tied to the real-life Gardnerian tradition of Wicca. Yes, they're high ritualists. Not quite hermetic (or Christian), but a lot of the trappings are the same. There should probably be a weird vibe of similar-but-different with them.

The Hellfire Lodges Edit

These societies offend the morality of the day and cater to wealthy deviants. They are neither good nor evil, though they do promote excess. Members include the Acharne of the Cult of Ecstasy, and the Order of the Black Willow of the Euthanatos.

Acharne Edit

This group is most closely based off the traditional Hellfire Clubs of the time. Go do some research. They survive to the modern era.

Order of the Black Willow Edit

This is a non-contemporary group. Modern books say they fell into Infernalism and corruption in the 19th century. Did they? If so, how? If not, how does it happen? Give me some good plot hooks to use here when writing up the organization.

The Lodges of Faith Edit

Religious mystics enforcing the morality and compassion of a secular, steam-powered age. Members include the Knights Templar, the Lions of Zion, and the Messianic Voices (Celestial Chorus).

Knights Templar Edit

Lions of Zion Edit

Messianic Voices Edit

The Oriental Lodges Edit

From the tumultuous East, brought by England's encroachment on their homes, some of them wage war -- but others see profit for the taking. Though they have little in common, the categories imposed by imperial powers have pushed them into a common corner. Members include: the Paradise Garden (Ahl-i-Batin), the Thirty-Six Banners of the Ebon Dragon (Akashic Brotherhood), and the Wu Lung.

Paradise Garden Edit

Thirty-Six Banners of the Ebon Dragon Edit

Need to double-check on this, but I believe 1st Ed had an Akashic faction called the "Banner of the Ebon Dragon," and Revised renamed the faction the "Vajrapani," of which there are 36 clans. So that's the organization you're going for. This being Victorian, go for the bizarre far-East vibe. Not quite the ubiquitous Yellow Peril.

Wu Lung Edit

Scientific Lodges Edit

Over-ardent defenders of Empire, Reason and decency. Where the other lodges have bawdy houses and quasi-Masonic temples, they have drawing rooms and sedate gentlemen's clubs. Its members include the Æsculpian Order, the Analytical Reckoners, the Electrodyne Engineers, the Explorators, the International Brotherhood of Mechanicians, the Invisible Exchequer, the Lightkeepers, and Inspector Rathbone's Skeleton Keys.

The Scientific Lodges encompass the Technocratic Union, of course. The Invisible Exchequer (born from the ashes of the High Guild) still theoretically holds the reins, but there's little centralized authority at this point beyond the occasionally missive from the Invisible College (read: Control). So while they often refer to themselves as the Technocracy, the other Lodges are as yet unawares of their connection to the Order of Reason, and their structure is loose enough that they still function as Lodges.

There's currently a dichotomy in the Technocracy, where some members (the "paternalistic" faction) believe that humanity must be guided and protected, be given all pre-approved technological advances, and otherwise stifled creatively. The other faction (the "utopian" faction) views science as a tool and believes that while humanity should be guided, it should be more of a hands-off approach with planned obsolescence. The Electrodyne Engineers are the most strongly utopian, while the Invisible Exchequer are the most staunchly paternalistic.

The Skeleton Keys are not part of the Union, but were introduced to them by the Queen. The Keys are a group of police detectives and private investigators who delve into the paranormal, often with the goal of eradicating it entirely as unsafe to the masses. As the end of the century approaches, they insinuate themselves further into the Technocracy's structure, eventually merging with the Lightkeepers. This action closes out our era, as the resultant coup and the chain reaction of management shuffling and re-organization reforges the Technocracy anew to its more modern form. The paternalistic faction takes over, while most utopians are marginalized. The utopians will leave with the Electrodyne Engineers when they depart for the Traditions to form the Sons of Ether.

Outsiders Edit

These are mages or organizations which may be encountered by any Lodge members. These are recommended for STs only. While not antagonists, per se, they're at least important story elements.

Dreamspeakers Edit

The Dreamspeakers "lodge" is a very loose allegiance, but they're quite important and somewhat dreadful, because they contact others through the semi-mythical Council. Thus, high diplomacy rules the day when other mages deal with them. If they appear, it's probably bad news for someone.

Hollow Children Edit

The Hollow Children are clearly a starting point for the future Hollow Ones. A bunch of magic-empowered urchins and the underclass; not very snobby at all, not Romantic and somewhat underhanded, like a group of Awakened Artful Dodgers.

Bata'a Edit

Voodoo, Santeria, faith healers. 'Cause you have to have them.

Hem-Ka Sobk Edit

Worshippers of the Egyptian God Sobek, they're in the poorest places in Egypt and are violently insular and xenophobic. Opium dens ahoy! You also need these guys.

Ministry of Swords Edit

Who are these guys? They seem to be a government organization which employs disparate mages to solve any paranormal problems which threaten Old Blighty. Sort of a Traditional counterpoint to the Skeleton Keys above. See the sidebar in the Mage ST Handbook. I'd love to see more elaboration on them, perhaps in an antagonist section. Options on running an all-Ministry game would be cool, too.

Spheres Edit

This an age that loves progress but respects superstition, so spirit-summoning and ghostly phenomena are often coincidental, but so are steam-powered mental men smaller repeating guns and powered gliders.

The departure from the Tradition structure has left the Lodges with a thousand different magical styles and practices, as evidenced by their use of Minor Spheres, as detailed in the Mage ST Handbook. People loved the Pillar system in Dark Ages: Mage, so we're going to nod to that while still keeping our own flavour, I think.

Let's say each Lodge gets six Spheres: One Major (i.e. one of the Nine) from its parent Tradition, maybe one Major in common with all the Lodges in its society, and four Minors, which are largely unique to the Tradition at hand (it's okay to overlap among some Lodges). Read the Minor Sphere section and the Pillar stuff from DA: Mage if you can. We can negotiate the numbers up or down if this doesn't work out.

We'll call Paradox and all other similar Advantages by their modern names for simplicity's sake, unless someone has some really good period names for them which don't contradict existing materials.

Continuing the Outline with the structure of the book on Victorian Age: Mage Rulebook/Outline 2

Victorian Age: Mage Rulebook: Outline 2

PrologueIntroductionChapter One: Shadows of the EmpireChapter Two: Magical SocietiesChapter Three: CharactersChapter Four: A Secret WorldChapter Five: StorytellingChapter Six: Antagonists

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