Being initiated to the world of magic in Mage: the Awakening is hardly a pleasant experience. The process of Awakening is traumatic, as an otherwise ordinary person is suddenly forced to confront the Supernal Realms in all their naked glory. A neat analogue I’d use is exposing some poor guy to the sight of an angel. Not the sanitized, blonde-in-white-robes-and-wings angels… but the real deal:
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:
His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
Not exactly the kind of thing that most sane people would consider to be a benign experience.
That said, it is no longer any surprise that not everyone who Awakens comes out sane. The Awakening breaks people, shatters their sanity and fills them with dread. Others survive the process but come out with the idea that Magic is bad, that they’ve been cursed with it, and any others like them can’t possibly be up to any good.
These would-be Mages, broken by either the Awakening, or their experiences with the occult, have rededicated themselves to the destruction of other Mages. These are the Banishers.
What Makes Them Villains?
Banishers are tragic villains, Mages that turn against magic decrying it as foul, or wrong. Some are insane and want nothing more than to return to the life of normalcy denied to them, while others take on a personal crusade to end every Mage they encounter, convinced that in doing so, they are making the world a better place.
Banishers don’t usually share a singular organization, unlike the Seers of the Throne. Therefore there’s as many reasons for Banishers to go off on their bloody crusade as there are individual Banishers. This lack of singular purpose, agenda or modus operandi is what makes them scary.
- Witch Hunter - These Banishers are methodical, logical and downright scary. By stalking their prey and understanding the daily activities and life of a given target, these Banishers increase their chances of making a successful kill. Unlike mortal Hunters, the Banisher has a leg up in the sense that he has access to the same kind of powers that his prey has, allowing him to dispel or counter anything that his quarry tries to throw at him.
- Zealot / Fanatic – The scary thing about Banishers is the fact that once they actually managed to find enough common ground to team up, they can become so much more destructive. A team of Banishers are more than just an increase of power, their morale shoots up, and they won’t mind playing very dirty to get the job done.
- Chaos Incarnate – The Joker from the Batman comics is a perfect example of a Banisher with a penchant for chaos. Rather than make sense of things, the Banisher revels in the madness and destruction, eager to tear this world apart around him, to break it in the same way that his Awakening shattered his own mind.
Unlike the Seers of the Throne, which have a boatload of things to pull on, the Banishers don’t have a lot of an established support system for their kind, since a Banisher who runs into another Banisher could easily just end up turning into fight between the two of them. That said, they have access to some interesting in-game Merits that make them capable of stalking and taking down their prey even if they don’t have the formal training in magic that Mages and the Seers do.
- Mages start disappearing while on the trail to find a powerful Grimoire that was rumored to be in the possession of a traveling Apostate. Concidence, or is it part of an elaborate trap for a Banisher group to pick off individual and power hungry mages that come looking for the book?
- A known Seer agent shows upon the doorstep of one of the PC’s bloodied and begging for sanctuary. If the PC takes him in, he reveals that he was ambushed by an unknown mage who doesn’t seem to use any of the formal methods for casting magic, but was able to tear his own spells apart. The Seer offers a truce, cessation of hostilities until this Banisher has been found and dealt with.
Banishers are forces of Chaos by virtue of their unhinged natures. They’re the serial killers and psychopaths, the manifestation of power without control, in contrast to that of the Player Characters. While the lack of a proper organization can be a weakness, their ferocity and devotion to their task of killing people makes them a broken mirror to mages.