[Mage: the Awakening Japan] Themes: Dark Night of the Soul

Posted: February 29, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness

Despite being a Christian concept, I find the idea of the Dark Night of the Soul to be a strangely fitting one for the Mage: the Awakening Campaign that I’m going to be running. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is often used to describe a spiritual crisis, or spiritual dryness where the faithful experience a state of desolation where they feel a sense of separation from God. In this period prayer and worship seem to lose all their experiential value and the person feels as if God has abandoned them.

That being said, the basic premise of the nMage Japan game is that no new Mages have Awakened for the past three years. The local Awakened community chalked it up to a statistical fluke in year one, grew wary in year two and started to go into full paranoia mode by year three. This is the fourth year of this absence of Awakenings, and the Mages of Tokyo are starting to fall apart at the seams. Former rivals are forced to work together in order to find an answer, while their enemies begin to consolidate their forces.

While Mages are trying to launch an investigation on the cause of this phenomenon, the rest of the world continues to grind on. Spirits and Ghosts remain the powerful forces that they are in Japan, and the Astral Realm of the Japanese culture is a breeding ground for all sorts of dangerous ideas that could easily take root in the minds of a population so starved of spirituality that they will cling to almost anything with rabid obsession.

I’m taking a lot of the other Supernaturals out of the equation here. No Werewolves, no Vampires, no Sin-Eaters or Prometheans either. I’m tempted to keep the True Fae, but I believe that the strange spirit courts of Japanese myth fill the “Alien Terror” niche at this point in the game. I want Mages to be the center of the World of Darkness in this campaign, and the players should feel like they’re the only ones that can keep the Fallen World from falling to pieces.

Keeping Tokyo’s supernatural population in check is a dangerous job, especially when you know that you’re among the last of your kind. This is the kind of situation that I wanted to pull off… a Dark Night of the Soul for the entire Awakened population. There’s a saying that Faith is believing in something despite the absence of proof, and that’s exactly what I want to push for. Despite how bleak it seems, the characters are the ones who stand the greatest chance of bringing in the dawn.

  1. I did something similar with the Geist game I’ve just kicked off (http://michaelgrasso.tumblr.com/post/11039932967/geist-the-sin-eaters-pan-ephemeros). The idea was to just have Sin-Eaters, ghosts, and mortals/beings related to the cosmic horror elements at the center of the chronicle. No other supernatural denizens of the World of Darkness. It’s certainly made conceptualizing the initial plot arcs much easier.

    • Hi Michael!

      I agree with the sharper focus by keeping things to one supernatural group. I had a lot of success with this approach in my previous Legend of the Five Rings campaign by focusing on a single faction, so I’m hoping that this will work equally well here in nWoD.

  2. Uncle Asriel says:

    I’ve found that with most World of darkness games: by focusing on just that Splatbook (with the occasional peppering of ghosts/spirits, if necessary), you get a much cleaner game.

    My current Mage game was pitched to introduce my PCs to the World of Darkness through the lens of a Mage. Right now, though, I find I’m faffing about too much with Vampires and Changeling and Werewolves to really focus on the Mage politics as much as I’d like.

    The idea of Mages losing faith in the process of a future for themselves is interesting. I never thought of that, but Awakening does have many religious/spiritual elements that I’d not considered at first. If I were doing this, I’d be curious about other Mage factions muscling in on the dwindling Japanese population (to gain access to certain relics or superntural phenomena exclusive to the country?), but that’s just me thinking geopolitically rather than spiritually.

    • You raise a good point with regards to Mages from other countries. I’ve actually considered that angle, and Gaijin Mages will be a legitimate threat to the local population. While the local Mages still retain a strong grip on their territories thanks to being native to the region, with pacts with Spirits of the land, the foreign Mages are also making headway in carving up Tokyo for their own.

      This is also partly the reason why I took out the option of playing a non-Japanese Mage from Character Creation. I want my players to be a little xenophobic at this point, as it’s another faction threatening their survival.

      • Hikkikomori says:

        On the flip side, it would also have been a good thing since it would split the loyalties of the foreign character — which is what I had in mind with my Mafia Chef. hehe.

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