[Mage: the Awakening] Silver Ladder + Adamantine Arrow Campaign Design Themes: Power

Posted: April 30, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Campaign Design, Mage: the Awakening, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Magic, by its very definition, is power. The ability to twist reality to obey your will, to impose one’s desires upon the world is secretly everyone’s greatest wish.

Imagine what you could do with magic? Wealth, influence, youth and beauty would all be available to you. All that’s holding anyone back is their own morality and sense of ethics. That is the very reason why Mages are part of a horror game.

Even if you strip away the monsters and the strange phenomena in the game, the presence of a single Mage is reason enough to be worried. Mages are people possessed of a powerful will, and their abilities bestow a wicked sense of entitlement that is horrifying to think about.

If you can change the world to fit your vision, who’s to say that you don’t deserve to get the best of everything? Lovers, wealth, influence… all of it is ripe for the taking, and if you play your cards right, nobody will every know that you’ve been tweaking things.

It is this thesis that constitutes the backbone of the SL + AA campaign that I’m working on. The players are new Mages in a town run by a Consilium that is barely functional. Corruption has taken root into the heart of the Consilium, and almost every mage is dirty in one way or another.

The Player characters now stand at a crossroads. Their task is to whip the Awakened of the city back into shape, to take over the Consilium and fix it. It’s a tall order, and who knows what atrocities they might have to resort to to make it happen… and how power might corrupt them as well.

The game will most likely take place in two distinct phases. The first phase will be the acquisition of power, the introduction of the cabal to the consilium, and their climb to the top. The second phase will be interesting, as their positions of power suddenly put them in situations where they must protect their power and advance their interests in the midst of those who have “better ideas.”

Combat is probably not going to be the primary focus of the game, though given that I’m seriously considering the Noir setting, it will exist in some form. The Adamantine Arrows of the team will be able to exercise their experience in the field of battl while the Silver Ladder will clash over ideology, philosophy and power brokering the factions.

While I’m certain that the Cabal might not necessarily want to be the kings of the city, they will at least want to be Kingmakers.

At this point I’m considering Chicago as the city, but I’ll have to review the Chicago book for it. I won’t be sticking too close to the canon history of it, so I hope that people won’t be too picky with my lack of understanding as I live halfway around the world from the US and have never set foot on American Soil.

I’m thinking of making about six to seven other Cabals for the city, along with the Seers of the Throne and other residents. This will most certainly include several Apostate cabals from marginalized communities that might serve as new members of a new Consilium in the future.

I’m also considering thematically arranging the various Cabals along what kind of Power they specialize in. The Seers might specialize in one kind of power, while some Cabals might have access or dominance in another. Money, Sex, Influence, Connections, Might, Numbers, Ideology, Religion… all of these constitute power in one way or another so this might be a good way to arrange the various cabals that the players will end up interacting with.

It’s a lot of high-level thinking so far, but with enough work I think I will be able to generate an interesting set of Cabals to work with. I’ll also see if I can slip in other NPCs of note that aren’t mages to flesh the setting out a bit more.

  1. Inelight says:

    Hello there,

    As far as World of Darkness goes, Mage is, in my opinion, the natural choice for a high-level roleplaying experience. Granted, you have other avenues in terms of the political depth you desire in your campaign (Vampire immediately springs to mind, and then Changeling a far third), but nothing comes as close to the spark of corruption as Mages, so it became pretty much exciting to read through your post. Of course, the mechanics of that corruption come (albeit loosely) in the form of Wisdom – I see a lot of potential degeneration in this design, and I think it reflects the difficulties of dealing with Awakening, which is really one of the themes of the game.

    My questions are – why Chicago? Did you decide on it because of the supernatural crossover potential? And I’m curious about the state for the Consilium’s corruption. Is the type of corruption covert, and requires extensive investigation, or will this type of corruption be more anarchic in design, such as those imposed by a strong, militaristic regime?

    Additionally, I like the idea of having cabals centered on power themes/dominance. Lots to play around there. Furthermore, the idea of having to, “whip the Awakened into shape,” is an easy shoe-in into the hands of conflict, which always makes a game interesting. Imagine the possibilities, from seizing control in order to make a more stable Consilium aimed at the benefit of all, to overseeing its utter destruction entirely, driven by the misinterpreted nuances of a new ages’ ideas of freedom and opportunity. Priceless!

    • Hi Inelight!

      I’m glad you’re liking the concept so far, I’m still elbows-deep in campaign planning so a lot of stuff has yet to change as I get more feedback from my players. That said I agree that games of power and corruption are a perfect fit for Mage: the Awakening given the themes of hubris and secrets.

      Chicago was the city of choice mostly for the aesthetics and the Gotham City-esque feel. Considering that I’m looking at running the game in the late 1940’s Noir era, Chicago seems like a perfect fit for the backroom deals and post-war vitality that I’m gunning for. I’m afraid I’m not really looking at crossovers right now, as I feel that it might dilute the concept that Mages are the biggest danger to themselves. Having Vampires pulling strings in boardrooms or Mummies coming out of nowhere will muddy the issue. There’s plenty of otherworldly terror available in the form of Ghosts, Spirits and The Abyss for this game.

      Corruption here is akin to that of politics and dirty cops. The system “works” in favor of those in power, and newbies learn to play along or end up dead (or worse.) It’s a city that looks down on those who are looking to bring in change. Certainly Mages in the Consilium still fight off the Seers. Of course Scelesti are still on top of the hitlist… but maybe newly Awakened shouldn’t look too hard into that case of a missing prostitute that leads to one of the other cabals. Maybe it’s better to just accept the fact that some people got what they deserved. Maybe it’s better to stop asking questions.

      Given the setup, having each of the existing Cabals sitting on a pillar of Power in society makes sense, as the new Mages need to find out their angle of attack. Who deserves to be taken down, and who can be convinced otherwise? Can the new mages provide a better deal? How dirty are they willing to get in order to get the job done, and when it’s over, will they be any better than their predecessors?

      • Inelight says:

        True. The fun comes in living up to the horrors mages conjure for themselves. Tie that in with the mystery natural to a broken world, and I believe you’ve captured a central component to playing an Awakened Campaign.

        Oh, and it just occurred to me – if you were looking for Cabals which specialize in a form of dominance, each group may also be afflicted by a particular vice, further enhancing the characteristic of each and carving a niche in the minds of players. I, myself, would enjoy feeling out for a Cabal based on what they give into, more than on what they stand for.

        Cheers. I hope your design finishes swiftly!

  2. So looking forward to this after HERO. >:D

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