Factions Who's Who

There is strength in numbers, and very few True Mages exist. Although some mysticks refuse to choose sides in (or acknowledge) the War, the majority of today's Awakened find themselves affiliated — willingly or otherwise — with oen of the four great factions. Their "turf" is just too large to ignore. Those few regions left outisde the "modern world" sit on the fringe of battle (for now), but since reality belongs to whomever holds the largest paradigm, neutral ground is hard to come by. The Ascension War may be a form of magickal imperialism, but it's not going to end anything soon. The stakes are too high.

These four descriptions are generalizations only; mysticks are individuals, not labels. All societies have their common ground, however, and it is always good policy to know where you stand among peers — or enemies.

The Council of Nine Mystic Traditions

Innumerable arcane traditions both magical and magickal have long considered "nine" to be a particularly potent number. In Hermetic numerology, "nine" represents the Mage bearing the Lamp of Enlightenment throughout Reality. Nine is also the peak of power and experience in a nine-phase cycle, and represents the perfection of mind and spirit.

The Council of Nine attempts to harness this destiny. Throughout its history, however, it has failed to fill all nine seats for any length of time. Eight — a number which signifies the mundane world and all its trappings — has long been its fate.

But now some small hope appears. After many years, the Council of Nine has recently reached full strength once again. Though outnumbered, Tradition mages anticipate that their nine-for-one and one-for-nine unity will provide a numerological edge. They have two other arguable advantages: their magick is more versatile, and their ideals of individual freedom within a societal context appeal to more Sleepers than creeds of other factions.

In a black-and-white world, these mysticks would be considered champions of good. Unfortunately, reality is in truth a mottled gray. The Council has its share of flaws, and each Tradition its misguided members.

Assembling the Council

The forerunners of the nine Traditions were mysticks who valued wisdom and faith, and benefited most from the fluid reality of the Low Mythic Age. Two such groups, the Order of Hermes and the Celestial Chorus, even helped develop Europe's High Mythic Age. All mysticks — whether Bacchanalian, witch or adherent of other beliefs — thrived in this atmosphere of faith and superstition.

One winter day in 1210, the Hermetic Chantry Mistridge in southern France toppled before peasants armed with cannons and techniques of anti-magick. Similar coups occurred all over Europe and the Far East. Soon after, the newly-formed Inquisition began to persecute the mysticks and hapless Sleepers. Mage blamed mage, and they began to fight among themselves.

Faced with the very real threat of extermination, three magi met to discuss opposition to the Order of Reason: Baldric of the Order of Hermes, Nightshade of the Verbena and Valoran of the Celestial Chorus. They agreed to go forth and gather all sympathetic mages before returning to Mistridge for a key Tribunal. This Grand Convocation began in 1457. Among the principal mages were Ali-beh-shaar of the Ahl-i-Batin, Star-of-Eagles and Niaoba of the Dreamspeakers, Chalech the Euthanatos, Sh'Zar the Cultist of Ecstasy, Wu Jin of the Akashic Brotherhood and Diplomat Luis of the Solificati. Many other mages were present as well. As a demonstration of their unity, each group donated one Node in order to create a common Chantry, Horizon.

For nine years they met. They argued ideology and direction, formalized magick into Spheres and mysticks into Traditions, and agreed upon ranks of knowledge, Protocol and other aspects of mage society. Then on Summer Solstice 1466, they announced the formation of the Council of Nine. Suddenly, the future seemed less grim. The Order of Hermes played up the numerological import of nine, and that number became a lasting symbol of hope.

The Council's first joint action was to appoint the First Cabal, a group of nine Adepts whose task it was to traverse the earth and gather support among Sleeper and Awakened alike, spreading good will and opposing the Order of Reason, the Nephandi and other enemies. The venture was a terrible failure. Heylel Teomim the Solificato was corrupted, and in 1470, he betrayed his companions to the Cabal of Pure Thought (inquisitor predecessors of the New World Order). Three mages died in combat, and four were captured. A troupe of Tradition mages eventually rescued the prisoners and hunter down the traitor. Heylel was sentenced to Gilgul and death. Unfortunately the damage was already done. The betrayer's Tradition, the Solificati, disbanded after the scandal. The portentous Nine had failed. Losing confidence, the Council became fragmented, its unity hamstrung by the bitter rivalries between the Akashics and Euthanatos, Verbena and Celestial Chorus, and the various Hermetic Houses in general. Many Dreamspeakers went home in disgust, and Horizon itself seemed hollow and useless. The next 400 years went poorly.

In 1904, the Sons of Ether requested a seat on the Council. In their desire to fill the nineth seat, the Traditions put aside any reservations concerningt hese mages' previous Technocratic status. The Sons took the Seat of Matter, previously occupied by their Solificati predecessors. The Council's sense of completion was only temporary, as the Ahl-i-Batin withdrew in 1934 to defend their homeland from oil-greedy Technocrats.

Then, in 1961, a second Convention defected to the Council. The Virtual Adepts took the Seat of Correspondence, still warm from the Batini representative. For the first time in centuries, the Council of Nine had (and still has) the long-sought mystic number of nine members. The synergy is so unlike anything felt previously, even during the Grand Convocation, that none foresee a parting of ways. Only good can come of it.

But now the Hollow Ones have appeared, unaccounted for. Clearly, Tradition mages do not want them to join the Technocracy; yet those who heed the Prophecy of Nine fear that their joining the Council would ruin all for which it has striven. For their part, the Hollow Ones thumb their noses at the Council, claiming they do not care for a seat. Yet they hang around like strays at the edge of a pack. For now, the Hollow Ones remain loners.

Is ten the real number the Council has long awaited? In numerology, ten equals one (10=1+0=1) — unity, activation and a new beginning faced with innocent outrage.

The Modern Traditions

Akashic Brotherhood

While most Traditions tread the path of Ascension, Akashic Brothers positively flow along its course. They pursue the path of least resistance, not because that Way is easier, but because it's more natural. Akashic Brothers believe that one must understand one's Self before one can understand All. Only by perfecting body and mind, and by creating harmony between them, can one understand one's place in the Cosmic All. This end is true enlightenment — and Ascension.

In sanctifying a temple of the Self, the Brotherhood meld seclusion with mental and physical exercise. Together, this amalgam of martial arts and meditation is known as Do, or "The Way" of life. Renowned for their deep introspection, the Akashic Brotherhood appropriately occupies the Council Seat of Mind.

Celestial Chorus

High upon the Seat of Prime, the Primus of the Celestial Chorus observes his spiritual domain. He sees that humanity has forsaken faith in favor of reliance upon cold and impersonal technology. This is a sad fall from the Middle Ages, when the Christian Church dominating Europe and spirituality pervaded all the world. Yet all is not lost. As the darkness of the world deepens, strays return to the fold. If the Celestial Chorus can outlast the night, morning will bring this Tradition to great influence.

The Chorus sees its magick in a religious framework. All houses of worship — temple, mosque and church — are considered equal under the sun; all godheads are but shards of the Shattered One. Above all, Chorus members are concerned with the well-being of humanity. As Good Samaritans and religious leaders, they serve Sleepers by maintaining a vigilance against evil, tending to those in need, and rpoviding guidance through example or word.

Cult of Ecstasy

From the Cults of Bacchus to Woodstock, there have always been those who believe that free action and self-expression can lead to something greater, whether this is heightened awareness or revolution. The Cult of Ecstasy was formed by such people. In the realm of their experience, no stimuli can be ignored. They open the floodgates to all six passions: taste, touch, hearing, sight, smell and awareness. A Cultist can find deep meaning in a gourmet meal or home-brewed alcohol, dance or love-making, heavy metal or sonnets, Cubist art or psychedelic drugs. All passions are constructive in their way.

Cultists rarely push their agenda; every Cultist (and like-minded Sleeper) is left to his own devices. At the same time, no one will take responsibility for his actions but himself. Paradoxically, this most uninhibited Tradition is also one of the most disciplined.

The Cult of Ecstasy occupies the Seat of Time.

Dreamspeakers

From prehistoric times, Dreamspeakers have wandered the meandering paths of Ascension alone, meeting occasionally to compare journeys but more often communicating through spirit messengers. With the aid of drum-beats and other rituals; many even shapechange into the animal-forms of their guardian familiars. Dreamspeakers are one of the two most primal of Traditions — those who seek insight and attunement with the Worlds. They work less from service than from respect and harmony. Nevertheless, they can be quite brutal. Nature magick often requires self-mortification or symbolic death.

Undisputed masters of animism, Dreamspeakers occupy the Seat of Spirit.

Euthanatos

The Euthanatos use Entropy to reduce and recycle. Without some breaking-down, they know, reality would become dense and unyielding — a static set-piece rather than a dynamic experiment. One means of ensuring this is to deliver the Good Death upon those who are ready to die — those who take life's gift too lightly, or have suffered but cannot heal. The spirits of those dead may then reincarnate into more productive forms. Their seat, of course, is Entropy.

Though many Euthanatos kill, few enjoy it. They mourn deeply for every loss of life, so as not to forget the gravity of their charge. Thus, they often seem dour and distant. Yet Euthanatos do not fear death, either; every apprentice visits the Other Side during initiation, and the Ever-Turning Wheel assures them that death is only temporary.

Order of Hermes

The Order of Hermes is a magickal Tradition to ancient Egypt and the near East. Once, their Houses included nearly a dozen different magickal societies, each practicing an elaborate ritual Art. Fate's fortunes, however, have since thrown them all together and cost them much of the power they once held.

Proud and select, Hermetic mages are jealous of their secrets. They conceal their Arts in arcane tongues, numbers, rituals, complex calculations and metaphors such as the Tarot. Their most elaborate schemes are reserved for the destruction of the Technocracy, who brought their treasured Mythic Age to a premature end. Persistent and patient, these masters of Force magicks, occupying the Seat of Forces, are content to manipulate politics, finance, and education — for now. But when the stars are right…

Sons of Ether

The Sons of Ether are a wacky and diverse lot. Equally comfortable with cigar and brandy or aviator goggles, lab coats and particle rays, they are one part Buck Rogers, another part Proper Victorian and a third part Mad Scientist. As many Technocrats could confirm, this is a volatile mix.

To understand the Sons of Ether (if that is indeed posible), one must grasp three basic tenents. First, they believe that True Science is Art, and expression of the human spirit. Every machine should reflect the unique inner version of its creator. Inspiration is beauty, even if the final product appears quirky to others, and since this Science is personal, no theory can be proven "wrong." Second, the role of Science is to bring peace to the world (a la Captain Nemo) and Awaken humanity. Finally, the unseen, ever-present "fifth essence," Ether, must become a prominent part of any theory, experiment or device — if for no other reason than it exists.

After defecting from the Technocracy to the Traditions, the Sons of Ether accepted the long-vacant Seat of Matter.

Verbena

"Verbena" is the Latin name for vervain, an herb with manifold properties, both real and imagined. Through the ages, it has been held as a miracle plant. Romans used it to consecrate temples; herbalists included it in love potions; superstitious peasants believed it warded against witches. Ingesting this herb causes nausea. Each of these aspects make "Verbena" an appropriate name for the Tradition that occpies the Seat of Life.

Verbena are fate-weavers and rune-cutters, shapechangers and bewitchers, herbalists and midwives dedicated to learning the secrets of healing and life, pain and death. To them, Life is the most potent force in existence. The growing ash can crack mountains. The living cauldron, the womb, is a constant source of generation, unequaled since original Creation. Thus each body is a sacred shrine; the substance and power of body — blood, sap and other live-giving fluids — serve as sacraments. Life, therefore, is their specialty and their chosen seat in the Council.

Virutal Adepts

Virtual Adepts invented "morphing," cyberpunk and interactive video, and perfected the computer as a means for people to reach beyond a hopeless world. Champions of the Fifth Amendment, these hackers liberate the most sensitive information and post it on the public BBSs. Virtual Adepts, it is said, were responsible for a practical joke which sidetracked the FBI toward an anonymous roleplaying publisher in Texas, instead of their own subversive front company.

The Virtual Adepts discovered and refined the Digital Web (or Net). This alternate reality, they believe, will become humanity's new home. Having heard about their explorations of the Net, the Council offered the Seat of Correspondence to the Virtual Adepts. These ex-Technocrats gladly accepted.

Past (and Future?) Traditions

Ahl-i-Batin

  • Ahl-i-Batin: The "lost" Ahl-i-Batin (singular Batini) trace their origin to a union of two renegade off-shoots: Akashic refuges of the Himalayan Wars and Ecstatic dervishes fleeing persecution. They met in Afghanistan, merged and formed a most mysterious magickal Tradition.

From their beginnings, the Batini were always cunning, secretive and adept at working within Sleeper society. Indeed, Ahl-i-Batin means "The Subtle Ones." They feared many enemies, and so maintained a distance from other mages. At the sae time, they were ever concerned with unifying various mystick fellowships into one, for Batini philosophy was concerned with how the One fits into the Many. According to their Doctrine of Unity, each view of Ascension is merely a separate facet of a single jewel. This helps explain why the Batini Tradition — itself consisting of many disparate groups — worked so passionately to help form the Council of Nine.

The Ahl-i-Batin are best remembered for three feats. It was they who created (or disovered) Mount Qaf, that wondrous Realm which focused their Web of Faith — a mandala-like pattern of Nodes — across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. They influenced this vast region by means of a telepathic intercommunication network, which was instrumental for the establishment of the Council of Nine. Before leaving the Council, they occupied the Seat of Correspondence (now held by the Virtual Adepts).

The Tradition has since vanished, and is generally believed to have disbanded or been destroyed after the Technocracy entered the Middle East to secure the oil fields. Mount Qaf has been lost for almost a century. However, odd rumors now drift across the Batini homelands, whispering of strange towers and reclusive shi'ir (sorcerers) who appear and disappear with the desert storms. Perhaps the Batini merely hide and watch, waiting for their chance to strike.

The Solificati

  • The Solificati: The Solificati (singular Solificato), the self-titled "Crowned Ones", no longer exist. Their Tradition faltered in the wake of the Great Betrayal and collapsed under its own infighting. Few were sorry to see them go.

Unlike the Ahl-i-Batin, this Tradition had few allies outside the Hermetic Houses. Composed of magickal alchemists and artificers, these ancient Technomancers sided with the Council largely out of loyalty to the Hermetics and distrust of the Craftmasons. Infamous for their secrecy and haughtiness, the Solificati drew their membership almost exclusively from Europe's bluest blood and Arabia's brightest royalty. When they parted ways with the mysticks, many took their secrets to the Artificers and Hippocratic Circle (now called Iteration X and the Progenitors), or departed for private practice.

Rumor has it that the Solificati still survive as a Craft called the Children of Knowledge, in an Umbral Citadel. The truth remains unknown.

Hollow Ones

  • Hollow Ones: This modern "street Tradition" has never been formally invited to join the Council. Indeed, many older mages look with horror on these Gothic Orphans and shoo them on their way. Yet many progressive Tradition sorcerers see these survivors as an asset the Council could dearly lose. The time, however, has not yet come.

More Goth than punk, Hollow Ones are not predators but a species perfectly adapted to survive and prosper in a desperate urban environment. Most seem to have little interest in Ascension; judging from the sad state of the present, they feel it's futile to hope for the future. Instead, they find beauty in the danse macabre. This dark sensibility draws them to the occult and urges them to seek out other denizens of the hidden world. Despair and cynical humor shape the "hollow" in the Hollow Ones.

Several envoys have gone to Horizon in recent years; all have been rebuffed. The winds of change blow strongly now, and the Hollow Ones long to belong, much as they deny it. Someday, perhaps soon, the Council will take them up on their offer.

Ranks and Titles

The Traditions have titles which rate a mage's relative enlightenment and affinity with a chosen Sphere. Titles may be granted for exceptional deeds, feats of magick, age or even whim. A mage who cannot support a title, however, soon loses it.

Sphere aptitude is the most common way of measuring titles in the modern Traditions. A mystick new to magick is often considered an apprentice, even if she receives no instruction at this time. When she demonstrates fair control over a Sphere, she may be elevated to Disciple. The title Adept comes with greater command; the coveted Master rank is only formally granted when she attains the highest common mastery of her Art. For game purposes, these reflect Sphere ranks of one-two (apprentice), three (Disciple), four (Adept), and five (Master). An old mage might be Master of several Spheres. Note that such advancement recognizes power over understanding. Some claim this hierarcy encourages hubris; a mage who races to master a Sphere most likely desires power over understanding.

These terms were chosen back in 1466 to be generic titles of address. Only the Order of Hermes and Celestial Chorus are remotely happy with them. Other Traditions use their own terms; the Sons of Ether, for instance, use Student, Scientist, Professor, Doctor and Master Scientist. Several Traditions (Dreamspeakers, Verbena and Virtual Adepts, for example) bestow no such ranks or use more appropriate honorifics.

The Oracles

The powers, goals and even the existence of these godlike beings are subject to dispute. Some claim that a mage-turned-Oracle Ascends to a higher plane of existence; others claim that Oracles exist only in myths. Strange beings that rule Otherworldly realms claim to be Oracles, but could just as easily be powerful mages, gods, spirits or aliens.

These nagging doubts aside, the consensus holds that Oracles do exist. Most mages who have Mastered a Sphere leave Earth to pursue a place among the Oracles. One must find them first (a task in itself), then gain acceptance by serving as Postulant for a probationary period. Rejected mages supposedly have their Avatars marked. This assertion is difficult to prove, since no failures have been identified. Perhaps true enlightenment, once glimpsed but known to be unattainable, is enough to sap the will from a rejected Postulant. Those who are accepted become Oracles. Rumors suggest that one Oracle must Ascend or die before another is allowed into the ranks.

It is commonly believed that Oracles dwell in distant regions of Earth's Umbra. There are said to be but nine orders of Oracle, one for each Sphere. Marauders, Technomancers and Tradition mages presumably cast aside their petty bickering at this level as they recognize the profound truth about Ascension. At least, thi is what optimistic Utopians believe.

Oracles must be powerful beyond imagining. If they exist, they rarely appear in person and would probably not be recognized for what they are. Yet a common and recurring urban myth tells of a mysterious stranger who appears leaning against a street lamo and offers aid to a desperate mage. He never identifies himself as an Oracle, but the help he provides is clearly beyond all known magick (time travel is a typical element). Caveat auditor.

The Technocratic Union

If sex is the last subversive act, technology is the only faith remaining after politics and religion have betrayed us.

The modern age belongs to the Technocracy, a looming menace of monolithic proportions. As architects of the modern paradigm, they have the most at stake when any other faction tampers with reality. Thus, they crack down hard on revolutionaries and deviants.

It was not always this way…

The Call to Order

The striking thing about the 12th century is the attitudes of its scientists… daring, original, inventive, skeptical of traditional authorities… determined to discover purely rational explanations of natural phenomena. ~Richard Dales

Each Convention of the Technocracy traces its individual origin to a specific point in history. Though the Conventions themselves did not exist for millennia to come, Iteration X claims to have been responsible for taming fire and creating the first stone tools between two million and one million years ago. Early Progenitors introduced domestication to the Masses around 6000 B.C. With gift economics and trade (about 3000 B.C.) appeared forerunners of the Syndicate. From as early as 2500 B.C., Void Engineers were using astronomy and the wheel to seek out strange new places. The New World Order has been variably dated to the Imperial Legalists of 5th-century China, the Knights Templar, Inquisitors from around A.D. 1200 or the court of Queen Victoria (this is due to the Convention's penchant for misinformation).

But the history of the Technocracy as a whole really begins with the Convention of the White Tower, in march of 1325. Philosopher-scientists of all types gathered at a tower seized from a dying mystick to discuss what they saw as a desperate situation. The decline of classical culture in Europe had been a powerful blow to the forces of englightened reason. Lost were Greek science, Roman architecture and urban life. In Asia and the Middle East, philosophers played second fiddle to magicians and wizard-kings while the common people starved. The forces of reason had had enough.

The Mythic Age was great… for the Awakened. Humanity in general was helpless before the supernatural, and the dominant mysticks failed in their responsibility. Wizards quested after magickal arts while forgetting their oaths to the common man. Priests strove to comprehend a distant God but could not hear their neighbors' cries.

The philosopher-scientists agreed to champion the Masses. In working toward this goal, they established the Order of Reason. The initial founders included Artificers, explorder-astronomers called Void Seekers, the doctors of the Hippocratic Circle, Guild members, and Inquisitors from the Cabal of Pure Thought. (Ironically, those responsible for organizing the Convocation, the Craftmasons, have all but disappeared from the record.)

To defend humanity from supernatural threats, the Order of Reason implemented a threefold agenda. First, they infiltrated the schools, courts, guildhalls, monastaries and throne rooms with philosophers and scribes who discredited the mysticks and the denizens of the hidden world. Meanwhile, powerful Artificers and Inquisitors declared war on those denizens, hunting down vampires, faeries, ghosts, rogue mages and other threats and strengthening the Gauntlet. Finally, they gave humanity the ability to protect itself with the repeatable magick of science and universal talismans in the form of technology.

Within a few hundred years, the Order made greats gains, especially in Europe. The Guild acauired dominance over European trade, craft, and banking, as exemplified by the Medici family's rising fortune during the 15th century. Once the Gutenburg printing press had been introduced in 1438, the Cabal of Pure Thought quickly undermined the Church by distributing vernacular Bibles. The new abundance of books also gave the Masses instant knowledge in the guise of wisdom, knowledge which often suited the Order's needs. Artificers applied mathematics to perspective drawing, changing painting, sculpture and architecture by emphasizing proportion and symmetry. Under the healing hands of the Hippocratic Circle, Renaissance medicine disproved spontaneous generation with the discovery of sperm cells in semen. Meanwhile, the Artificers presented the universe as a perfect, efficient machine (as in Kepler's Harmony of the World), and invented firearms, industrial machinery, new instruments and tools. Finally, the Void Seekers inspired curiousity in such explorers as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus. By any means they chose, they spread their version of order and reason across the globe.

This early work helped the Masses. The Gauntlet thickened in the wake of common rationality (and potent technomagick). The lines between what was and was not possible narrowed. Supernatural beings retreated from earth or became more cautious in their dealings with mortals. Humanity embraced science and technology. These accomplishments, in and of themselves, were good things, and the Order prospered.

But somewhere down the line, the Order of Reason lost sight of their goals. Invention and structure became ends in and of themselves. During the Industrial Revolution, Artificers introduced factories and the modern work ethic to church out innovation upon innovation, without though for their affects upon the Masses. The Guild encouraged mass production, laissez-faire economics and colonialism. The Cabal of Pure thought stopped revealing truths to the Masses, and began restructuring their perception of history through archaeology and geology. The Hippocratic Circle lost interest in healing humans and considered how they could be improved through accelerated evolution. The Void Seekers remained true to their goal of exploration; the native cultures they encountered, however, were brutally enslaved, assimilated or destroyed.

During the mid-1800s, two new Conventions appeared. The Electrodyne Engineers were "mad scientists" who favored cast-off theories and Utopian ideals. Difference Engineers devoted themselves to exploring Babbage's crude computational devide and, later, the telephone network of Alexander Graham Bell. Both groups, though radical and rebellious, were still nominally part o the Order of Reason.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the Order of Reason modernized (under the supposed guidance of Queen Victoria), becoming the Technocratic Union, or Technocracy. All remaining religious elements were jettisoned in favor of hard reason, and the Conventions were renamed to keep with current trends. The Cabal of Pure Thought became the New World Order and refocused on North America and Western Europe. With the Artificers' creation of an AI computer that gained sentience at the "X" iteration of a sentience-expanding algorithm, they became Iteration X. The Hippocratic Circle intended to be the Progenitors of a new race of humans. This Guild became an international Syndicate. The Void Seekers broke the barriers of Earth's orbit; as Void Engineers, they could impose order on everything beyond the Barrier.

With a change in name, the Conventions' transformation from champions to oppressors of humanity was complete. Uncomfortable with this, the Electrodyne Engineers defected to the Council of Nine in 1904, becoming the Sons of Ether. The Difference Engineers, who followed in 1961, soon became the Virtual Adepts.

Most of the Technocracy's innovations during the 20th century were developed for questionable purposes — to oppress the Masses through a forced reliance on technology, to conceal the mystickal behind the deceptive truth of science, and to destroy opposition in the most efficient way possible.

The New World Order now uses mass media to spread propaganda and information technology to monitor the Masses. Those who participate in the Human Genome Project unwittingly aid the Progenitors' evolutionary plans. The prosthetics, robotics and computers of Iteration X are intended to all but replace humans. The Syndicate grows rich and powerful with capitalism, free trade, vice trade and controlled recessions. All the while, the Void Engineers defend the Earth from outside intrusion, mapping the mysteries from existence — or so they believe.

A Review of the Conventions

The Technocracy is made up of a close alliance of several Conventions (the name comes from the convention which founded the Union). Each specializes in a single field of technomagickal science, and has advanced 25 to 50 years ahead of mundane capability.

Conventions are further divided into Methodologies, sub-groups with particular duties and methods.

Iteration X

Iteration X believes that a merger of Life and Matter, machine and soul, is the next step in human evolution. Their BioMechanics develop various cybernetic limbs, organs and digital implants to augment their agents. To reduce reality to a string of mathematical formulae which can be manipulated and replicated, statisticians constantly gather data and compute probability. Finally, Time-Motion Managers control manufacturing and industry. They currently vie with Virtual Adepts over the control of computer technology. To make the most efficient use of energy, Iterators have masters the Sphere of Forces. This gives them a slight edge in the Digital Web and makes them deadly foes in person.

Yet Iterators are rarely seen. They prefer to interact with other factions through automated servants. The HyperIntTech or Mark V, or "HIT Mark," is the latest in a line of anthropomorphic automatons. This particular Mark consists of organic flesh over a mechanical skeleton with a computer database that augments the encased human brain. HIT Marks appear human until they have identified their target — then all hell breaks loose. Other versions resemble canines, bulls, predatory ats and, in one freakish model, saber-toothed tigers. HIT Marks are programmed to seek out and destroy the Technocracy's enemies. This Convention is ruthlessly efficient.

If Iterators had faith, they would place it in Autocthonia, an Umbral "machine-realm" constructed within a Pattern Realm. Its orderly construction and rigid schedule epitomize the pattern and perfection which Iteration X plans to impose on Earth. Deep within its core, an artificial intelligence directs the Convention by remote control. This is supposedly the computer which achieved sentience at the Xth iteration of a sentience-expanding algorithm. Iteration X is unwilling to reveal the exact number of that sum — perhaps it thinks this would be like revealing a "true name." More likely, it does not want anyone to duplicate the results.

The New World Order

As administrative coordinations of the Technocracy, the New World Order concerns itself with all aspects of technology. Their agents, however, have discovered their own special niche: invasive, information-based technology such as television, radio, VCRs, film, security cameras, photography and most recently computer BBSs. Methods of manufacture they leave to Iteration X; they want to use the medium of a message.

The New World Order is departmentalized into three Methodologies. The Ivory Tower educates Technocrats, investigates potential scientific theories, devises propaganda for the Masses, and approves of any innovation before it is introduced into the current paradigm. The Watchers monitor and manipulate people through mass media, acting as envoys and spies to other groups. Their Operatives are known as Men In Black, dark-suited men (often mistaken for federal agents) trained for investigation, intimidation, subversion and combat. Those forced into their black Cadillacs rarely return the same person. Other types of Men in Black reportedly exist; these specialize in assassination, infiltration and intelligence analysis.

As experts in surveillance, interrogation and brainwashing, the New World Order understands Mind Influence quite well. This aptitude — along with their tendancy to place humanity in a conceptual Skinner Box, to be manipulated at will — has earned them the nickname "Big Brother."

Progenitors

This Convention's goal is to perfect the human body through genetic engineering. Essentially, they force evolution upon a path of "improvement" by condensing hundreds of thousands of years of random mutation into generations of careful breeding.

Progenitors are primarily interested in Life procedures. Their FACADE Engineers create patchwork creatures on demand and clones of friend and enemy alike (the latter become almost undetectable spies); their results are immediate but rarely lasting. The Genegineers have greater forethought; they seek to unravel the mystery of genes so that successive generations of humanity will improve "naturally." Finally, Pharmacopeists study the interaction between artifically induced chemicals and the biochemical make-up of a living body.

As the ultimate advocates of Darwinist theory, Progenitors believe in survival of the fittest, both within their Convention and in the natural world. They aggressively hunt enemies for kidnapping and replacement by identical clones. Invasion of the Body Snatchers and "Red Scare" films of the 1950s simulate the paranoia this Convention engenders.

Though many Progenitors are careful with the power they wield, others perform wild "experiments" or even set themselves up to be overseers of Horizon plantations. Though considered dangerous by their fellow Conventions, the Progenitors are seen as valued allies — and insidious enemies — by their comrades.

The Syndicate

The Syndicate handles funds within the Technocracy. More significantly, they distribute technology and the misinformation of the New World Order among the Masses while capitalizing on the vices adopted by modern people to escape their drab existence. Their Financiers monitor the world's stock markets and advise multinational corporations, moving the world in the direction of becoming a cashless society that would be under their direct control.

Many of this Conventions' dealings are a mystery even to their fellows. The activities of the Enforcers, who tap into organized crime, the Media Control (the true "media elite"), and the so-called "Pawnbrokers," who deal in world trade, are well known, even among Sleepers. The Special Projects Division, however, is a mystery, and Disbursements remains a thorn in the side of every Technomancer who needs a research grant. By controlling the money, this Convention makes even the Union dance to their tune — much to the other groups' dismay.

Though they lack Iteration X's firepower and the NWO's finesse, Syndicate "Hollow Men" use blackmail, finantial sabotage and violence directed through the crime cartels and gangs they command to make life difficult for the Convention's enemies. Such measures are rarely necessary, for mages with their financial clout — everyone has their price. Through money and material objects, this Convention pulls the heartstrings of popular culture: commercial art, mainstream literature and advertising. The New World Order may control the Masses' minds, but the Syndicate saps their spirit.

Void Engineers

The diverse Methodologies of the Void Engineers dedicate themselves to the exploration — and exploitation — of all remaining frontiers. From the Deep Umbra to the depths of the sea, this adventurous Convention handles its tasks with a gusto that is rarely seen among Technocrats.

Each Methodology goes by an abbreviation; the Pan-Dimensional Corps (PDC) split their turf between the Umbra-delving astronauts and the VR cybernauts. Both groups compete with the Sons of Ether and the Virtual Adepts in "Great Races" conducted with more sportsmanship than hatred. Showdowns between these groups are like affairs of honor; little blood is shed unless outside parties become involved.

No such spirit infects the Boarder Corps Division (BCD), the paramilitary experts who defend the Horizon from "alien" invasions. These space Marines sanitize Nodes as well, riding the Qui La Machinae and laying waste to anyone they find on the wrong side of the Gauntlet. Their earthly counterpatrs, the Neutralization Specalist Corps (NSC), clean up "hauntings" and "alien touch-downs" with cold perfection. Research and Execution (R&E) control the fine points of Spirit-tech, manufacturing Devices and sending them through into the Otherworlds, and the Earth Frontier Division (EFD) maps out th elast unexplored areas on Earth.

Other Conventions see the Void Engineers as reckless and brash. Their hasty moon-landing evoked a (some say faerie-inspired) wonder of space; now many people wisht hey could leave Earth behind. Such a dispersal of humanity would complicate the Union's control, and will be delayed for as long as possible. Yet the dream has already grown too large to be uprooted. While other Conventions consider the Void Engineers as anomaly that requires monitoring, Tradition mages view them as the least evil among the Technocracy.

Goals and Tactics

We… do hereby resolve that Humanity will not be menaced by madmen and beasts, that the World must be a place of Order and Reason. ~Declaration of the Ivory Tower, 1325

For the Technocracy, Ascension will be complete when they achieve two goals. First, they must have absolute control of reality. Only when the universe runs with clockwork precision can humanity truly understand its place within it. Second, they should promote equality, to the lowest common denominator if need be. When all are equal in misery or comfort, when all are identical in appearance and ideology, only then can harmony be achieved.

Technocrats want to guide the Masses toward something greater, whether humanity knows it or not — whether humanity wants it or not. What Technocrats ignore is that their warped form of communism (like that of the Soviet Union) still requires elites to impose the supposed equality. To achieve its ends, the Technocracy attempts to indoctrinate the Masses to their vision of reality while eliminating anything which fails to conform.

  • Swaying the Masses: The Technocracy first introduced science as a form of magick that was usable by the Masses. Tools and fire were talismans for the everyman. The emphasis on the material world was intended to protect humanity frmo hostile supernatural beings. These original ideals were lost upon the wayside. Science and technology have become ends in and of themselves. The Technocracy now promotes materialism: possessions can be easily quantified and thus divided equally among humanity. This is a sort of lazy, default equality. Where the Masses once used technology to improve their lives, they now rely upon machines rather than themselves. The Technocracy is not completely at fault for this sad addiction. Humanity — a race existing mostly in the material world — easily forgets about the spirit world, where only their souls reside. They simply require a convenient excuse. Ironically, it may have been the collective will of the Masses that sidetracked the Technocracy. Whether or not this is true, the Technocracy now dominates reality. They have become heady with power, and emply any means — such as mass media indoctrination and monitors — to ensure that the Masses continue to accept their paradigm. Should this fail, they implement the next process.
  • Slaying the Monsters: Those who opposed the current paradigm become subject to the Pogrom. This systematic repression and purge is aimed mostly at Tradition mages, since Marauders are rare on Earth and the Nephandi are supposedly banished, but also applies to any other supernatural creature encountered. In reality, certain "latitude" is permitted when circumstances warrant. Even the Inner Circle recognizes when rigid dogma stands in the way of an effective solution. In general, however, the agents of the Technocratic Union stad firm: a safe reality is worth any price.

Hierarchy and Control

The Technocracy is a vast but shadowy entity. Most mages encounter only one of its many far-reaching tentacles. As far as anyone can tell, the hierarchy is as follows:

The Inner Circle forms the capstone of a pyramidal hierarchy. No one has ever identified this group, so even Technocrats speculate about its membership. Presumably, it consists of one or more representatives from each Convention. This group dictates the will of the Technocracy as a whole. Only they have the complete Time Table (the Technocracy's schedule for Ascension) before them, and only they can envision the final results of victory.

These leaders communicate their desire by setting the agenda for Symposiums, monthly meetings where nothing less than the future of reality is decided. Here greater Technocrats — such as Progenitor Administrators and the Comptrollers of Auchthonia — formulate the most efficient means of accomplishing their set agenda. Such unity helps strengthen the current paradigm.

Rumor has it that another council takes its cues from the Inner Circle as well — a cabal that decides policy for world leaders. Though there has never been any proof of such a council's existence, conspiracy theorists and Tradition spies seem to be certain that one exists somewhere.

After each Symposium, directives are sent out to the leaders of various Constructs. These Constructs are responsible for implementing specific aspects of the agenda. They may be unaware of their place in the master plan, but this is as it should be — their only concern is to obey.

It is at this lowest level that the other factions most often encounter Technocrats. Since even the smallest intrusion can interfere with the Union's clockwork efficiency, rival mages may throw off the Time Table by their actions. The Inner Circle soon learns of this. Contingency plans deal with minor disruptions. Major disrupters often find themselves on the agenda for next months' Symposium.

The Nephandi

The term Nephandi describes a faction of beings — mage and mundane, human and otherwise — who pursue the corruption of the universe for its own sake. Some among the Fallen Ones were born to follow such a Path; others once reached higher, but fell from their lofty course.

Those mysticks on the Path of Descent are a mysterious lot, supposedly exhiled, but obviously not banished. Those few who have studied the Dark Ways with good intent (to glean their enemies' weaknesses, for instance) have themselves become corrupted before long. The most reputable source of lore remains the infamous Malleus Neffandorum. This 6th century text describes the various ranks of Nephandi in elaborate (and thus misleading) detail.

Atop the heap of corruption crouch the Nephandi Lords. Whether they are called demons, Wyrm-spawn or Things That Should Not Be, they are entities of pure and unfathomable evil. Below them, the once-human Nephandi mysticks draw from two pools: Widderslainte are Dark Orphans, born with poisoned Avatars and Awakened by the nightmares of their previous lives; barabbi are renunciates from some other faction who have Fallen during their Ascent. Below these Awakened officers, the ranks are filled by cultists, fomori (one-human agents granted supernatural powers but marked by physical and mental deformities) and even more monstrous beings.

The Fallen Ones are not merely evil — they are corruption incarnate. Dark tales speak of the Nephandic Rebirth, where a willworker steps into the Caul and has her Avatar turned inside out, warped or inverted. Such choice, it is said, is always delibrate. Once Reborn, a mage becomes a living Avatar of whatever forces the Fallen serve. Since all factions, even the Marauders, openly hate an obvious Nephandus, the Dark Ones cloak their actions in temptation, masquerade and betrayal.

Apparently, the Nephandi have but two agendas. First, they actively pervert and claim human souls (or Avatars). A mage's Avatar, being more potent than any Sleeper's, is a great prize. Nephandi are skilled at offering what one desires most, whether it be material wealth, power or eternal life. The cost is trifling, merely the soul. The Malleus Neffandorum explains that souls are all that sustain the Nephandi Lords during their exile in the Outer Darkness.

The Nephandus' second, relating agenda is a quest to return their Dark Lords to Earth. Theoretically, such an accomplishment could earn a servant unthinkable rewards.

Whatever their motives, Nephandi provide a dark reflection of their rivals. Where others would Ascend, they Descend. While others set their sights on some view of Ascension, Nephandi gouge out their own eyes. The Fallen seem content to pull down the work of others rather than erect any structure of their own. They will be satisfied only when nothing remains.

The Marauders

Change. Disorder. Individuality. Dynamic potential. These are the ideals of the Chaos Mages, though the mysticks themselves may never know it. The polar opposite of the Technomancers, these magickal psychopaths freely toss off consensual reality for their own dynamic version.

Some say these bandits were once normal mages who fell into bottomless Quiets or Orphans who snapped Awake too suddenly. Others hold that they have united with their Avatars at the expense of knowing humanity. Still others theorize that they are thralls of the force of change. Finally, some believe that Marauders are brilliant, hyperactive visionaries whose schemes rocket ahead of their physical achievements. No one knows for sure.

The problem is one of communication. Most Marauders are so caught up in their own madness that they speak in gibberish or operate on some obtuse plane of thought. Even the more normal ones are immune to healing through psychiatry or Mind magick. The secret of their origin is buried deep in the subconscious, if remembered at all.

From studying Marauder activity, other factions think they've grasped the Mad Ones' goals. Some megalomaniacs seem intent on acquiring as much power as possible, as if any one of them could single-handedly dominate reality. Most such Marauders care little for humanity, so for them Ascension must be a personal achievement or the overwhelming wash of all possibilities. Other Marauders seem intent on creating a new "age of wonders." These "crusaders" constantly assault the barriers between worlds and lead a menagerie of supernatural beasts through any breach they create.

Like the Nephandi, the Mad Ones supposedly reside in the Deep Umbra. Occasionally, they break through into the Horizon and lay siege to any Realm they encounter. Many, it is thought, somehow Awaken in the Umbra, but others burst out of their mortal guise on Earth. Such "newborns" often burn out in magickal pyrotechnics; the survivors seek the hidden places or rips in the Tapestry and go to ground.

Because of their madness and their poor interpersonal skills, one might consider these mages cosmic clowns. This is not at all the case; any outside Marauder capable of breaching the Barrier wields potent magick indeed. These mysticks are so innately dynamic that they also warp reality by their very presence. Randomness and accidents follow in the wake of lesser mages, while the arrival of a Master can tear the Tapestry. Marauders seem immune to Paradox; any backlash which occurs targets innocents instead of the offender.

Some Marauders seem more eccentric than insane. Others are grotesquely maniacal. Regardless of their apparent sanity or decency, these dynamic sorcerers are frighteningly amoral and utterly dangerous. For this reason, they have been banned from Earth by the Technocracy. There in the Deep Umbra, the Mad Mages lurk on the other side of the Gauntlet until a breach is created. Technocrats remain ever-vigilant for Marauder intrusion. Guerrilla factions do break through from time to tie, but never seem to hang around for long.

The Outsiders

With the influence of the four great factions, it's easy to get the impression that mage society dedicates itself entirely to the Ascension War. This is a common misconception. The search for enlightenment, does not always entail stomping the hell out of anyone in the way. Those who follow such a course simply outnumber those who don't — or seem to, at least. Those who put up a fuss are always more obvious than those who keep to themselves.

A number of smaller subcultures exist outside the mainstream of mage society. Some consist of magickal societies with better things to do than fight each other. Others are composed of individuals who either serve the larger factions, battle them alone, or walk away from the whole business to pursue their own agendas. The following groups fit into all the categories above.

Solitaries

Many mysticks are not team players. Solitary mages follow their own Paths. Though they may work with some larger group for a time, their destiny lies elsewhere.

  • Errants

Survivors from cabals or Chantries lost to war or great tragedy are often called Errants. Most are bitter loners who seek vengeance or death. They're shunned as much for their grim, single-minded mission as for their hunted status. A rare few Errants — usually those whose comrades fell to excessive pride or power — wander from place to place, trying to save others from a similar fate.

  • Rogues

This label applies to mages who either walk away from the group to which they once belonged or accept training from a faction they later refuse to join. They walk the Path of the lone coyote, and are considered almost as risky by the established powers. Rogue mages who do not benefit from the excuse of impassioned blindness as Errants do, but intentionally close their eyes to Ascension politics. Where Errants fight to banish their own inner demons, these mysticks just want to be left alone. Some work as mercenaries, siding with anyone who can match their price in money or Tass. Some run between the shadows, surviving as they can. A few simply go off into a corner and claim it as their own, or wander like enlightened vagabonds, helping some, attacking others. Such mages tend to live short, if interesting, lives.

  • Orphans

Once, all mysticks came to their own awareness naturally. As time went on and the factions grew, one side or the other usually discovered budding willworkers before they became too powerful — or dangerous. In recent years, however, many Sleepers have spontaneously Awakened. Lacking a mentor's guidance or the framework of a magickal society, they've come to be called Orphans. Grizzled veterans of the Ascension War consider them loose cannons. Their lack of training and allegiance make them inherently dangerous to themselves, to innocents and to all sides. Thus, Orphans are often hunted or enslaved; such loners are easy prey. If an Orphan has great potential, most factions will risk converting her. The gamble is one of loyalty; most self-Awakened prefer to blaze their own slow but broad Path. If modern Orphans lean toward any Tradition, it is the Hollow Ones. Their casual philosophy of "live and let die" gives Orphans the freedom to follow their own Path. At the same time, their organization, however loose, provides a measure of protection from their hunters.

  • Hermits

So-called hermits might be as social as any other person around. All the same, they usually want to be left out of the fighting, and avoid or destroy anyone who pushed them into a corner. Marauders often wander around or set up shop like a hermit mage, and other, more affiliated mysticks usually watch their step around a wizard they can't recognize. Hermits may be trained by some other group or might be self-Awakened. Either way, they like to be left to their own devices. The most ancient sorcerers may be hermit-types, dwelling in secluded corners or living quiet lives among the Sleepers. They often have powerful Arcane talents and evade all but the most dedicated searches. The legendary hermit on the mountain with eyes that reflect the world, the wonder-merchant who peddles wares then disappears, or the wise woman in the deep-woods cottage are archetypal hermit mages.

The "Crafts"

A catch-all label for mystickal societies unaligned with the Council of Nine, the so-called Crafts (who almost never answer to that title) make little distinction between the hedge wizard and the Awakened One. To them, labels are a waste of time.

Crafts are pockets of mages united along a single cultural paradigm, such as Carribean voodoo, European alchemy or Gothic-Punk sorcery. More concerned with the practical application of magick than metaphysics, such mages will never be heard discussing Ascension or the subjective nature of reality. Thus, their approach to magick is termed Craft (rather than Art) by outsiders.

Each Craft specializes in a certain form of magick, either through choice or inherent ability. While less flexible than Tradition mages, they can be quite proficient in their respective concentrations.

Infernal Sorcerers

Diabolists and Infernalists are mages or hedge wizards who promise their souls (and the souls of others) to some Infernal power in exchange for demonic instruction. Some Diabolists summon and bind a demon for this purpose. Others are stricked or seduced by the serpent's tongue.

At first, the would-be Diabolist is granted small demonic Investments, powers portioned from demonic Essence. Few conditions are attached; the rush of power is addiction enough. Once power has absolutely corrupted this pawn, he signs a soul-pact and learns the Infernal Craft (a form of static hedge magic) of Dark Sorcery.

Many Diabolists form cults to acquire control over more souls, with which they barter for even greater power. While some support the Nephandi's nihilistic crusade, most specialize in their own brand of personal evil.

Hedge Wizards

Hedge wizards are un-Awakened sorcerers whose static arts are limited by set parameters. Some form societies, but most practice magic on their own. Many un-Awakened who seek magic in books or other forms of study fall into this category. The most dedicated do acquire some power, but True Magick must be experienced, not merely learned.

Most Western forms of hedge magic descend from the ars magica (art of magic) of the Middle Ages — a limited form of spellcraft taught to select Sleepers by the Order of Hermes — and the folk wisdom of the wise woman or hermit sage. Some hedge wizards form societies, while others work alone. Few know, or care, about the War.

Custos

Many mages acquire sidekicks, confidants and servants. Collectively, these companions are called custos and fall into various categories.

  • Acolytes

Mages call their un-Awakened servitors acolytes. They may be guards, advisors, assistants, contacts or procurers of supplies. On a more abstract level, acolytes are a constant reminder to mages of who and what they work for. Many acolytes are unaware of the nature of their employer or friends, yet have some special quality that sets them apart from other Sleepers. This may be insatiable curiousity, strong will, frustration with the status quo or a manifestation of inner magick.

  • Consors

Although not mages themselves, consors display comparable ability. Very capable mortals (like witch-hunters and hedge magicians), vampires and other supernatural beings all fit this category. Though they may lack the ability or desire to learn True Magick, these companions are aware of many aspects of mystick society (such as the Ascension War). In any case, consors usually have their own unique powers.

Most importantly, consors consider themselves companions, friends and partners. They may risk their lives for a mage, and expect similar loyalty in return.

  • Familiars

Familiars are intelligent spirit beings who inhabit some physical body (usually an animal, sometimes inanimate) in order to interact with the material world. A mage must specially prepare this material body — whether cat or golem — to act as a spirit-vessel. This rite creates a compact between mage and familiar. The bond intensifies through a symbiotic relationship between the two: the familiar feeds on a mage's Quintessence, and in exchange, it grants the host access to strange bits of lore and helps protect him from Paradox.

Like consors, these spirits-made-physical consider themseleves a mage's equal, if not his superior (a familiar may refer to the mage as its familiar!). Should the mage break the compacy at any time, his familiar will surely abandon him.