[Mage: the Awakening Japan] Themes: Shackled by the World

Posted: February 28, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

The modern world is one stuck in a state of confusion. We are pulled in a thousand different directions, a myriad of things all clamoring for our time and attention in the guise of urgency and importance. With all of this going on, it is little wonder then that people are often in a state of perpetual weariness, as the mere act of existing has become a chore.

The World of Darkness vision of Tokyo, Japan that I’m working on plays up on this fact. Mankind has given up on Spirituality, in exchange for the barest hopes of being able to “make it” in the world. The city is a machine that feeds on human souls and dreams. Aspiring artists compromise their values and self-worth in desperate attempts to remain popular. Salarymen throw themselves into extreme amounts of overtime in hopes of being recognized by their superiors and make it another rank higher up in the corporate ladder. Students are made to measure their destinies based on the schools that they can get into.

Those who can’t keep up, are crushed under the unforgiving gaze of the system. Tokyo is its own hell. Loan sharks and criminals lie in wait, perfectly happy to watch a man’s life fall apart, swooping in to give him false hopes by offering a way out. But that is never the case, and many of these unfortunate souls find that suicide is their only option.

A brahmin once asked the Blessed One: “Are you a God?”
“No, brahmin,” said the Blessed One.
“Are you a saint?”
“No, brahmin,” said the Blessed One.
“Are you a magician?”
“No, brahmin,” said the Blessed One.
“What are you then?”
“I am awake.”

And so even Mages must struggle in this setting against the world itself. Real Life ™ threatens to shackle them, to bind them to the conformity of normal existence. While magic allows them to fight it, there’s no certainty that it will be easy. The act of Awakening is not something one can plan for, and for many Mages, it is a terrifying and disruptive event that changes your life forever.

Mages walk a fine line between the Fallen World and the Supernal. On one hand, they are above the common man, but once they lose sight of their human origins, and forget the sufferings of ordinary mortals, they become subject to falling victim of their own Hubris. However, if they reject their Awakened state in favor of humanity, they squander the gifts and opportunities they are blessed with, and turn into wretched examples of those who fail to realize their potential.

The Mage campaign I’m putting up will emphasize this among its themes, given that it gives a sharp contrast to the active Player Characters, and the tired, exhausted masses they might encounter. Sure there will be exceptions, but the toll of modern life will be apparent in pretty much everywhere they look. That said, I remain ever the optimist that my players will find ways to make sure that they shake up the status-quo.

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Comments
  1. Uncle Asriel says:

    I’m reminded of the portrayal of the Technocracy of in old World of Darkness, in which a faction meant to enforce their vision of a safe world sacrifices so many individual aspirations for the sake of their own ends.

    The new Mage cosmology works particularly well with Gnostic themes of breaking free of a world which tells you that its system is the best way to live, and to hell with all others. Awakening is a player’s personal road to power, but at the cost that said world is at odds with every player’s attempts to change it overtly.

    I feel this game will be particularly interesting. I do hope to follow more.

    • Hi there,

      As someone who really liked the old Technocracy, I couldn’t help but slip in a bit of their world view into this setting. The loss of individual for the sake of the masses is a strong theme that will work in both games.

      I have to admit that I’m feeling just a little pressured with this Mage game, as this is the third try in a row for me to get a Mage game and this time I’m hell-bent on making sure that its a success. Hopefully all this musing will pay off :p

  2. Hikkikomori says:

    Cool story, bro.

    Now, when can we get ph4t l3wts.

  3. mythicast says:

    Close enough… (^_^)

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