All evolution in thought and conduct must at first appear as heresy and misconduct. ~George Bernard Shaw

Mage operates on many levels, and ranges from cerebral concepts to flat-out violence. Modern wizards cross into Otherworlds, gather into strongholds called Chantries, or fight their differences out in the streets. Several concepts, however, are important to road signs to this magical world.

The Modern Mage

Mages are enlightened beings, mortal humans who embrace — heart, mind, body and soul — the truth behind reality and their own place in it. Through innate sense, hard-earned knowledge and a shard of the divine self (the Avatar), a mage learns to rework reality at its core and becomes an active force for change. Though lesser sorcerers (often called hedge wizards) may tamper with the Tapestry's threads, True Mages direct the fires of destiny. Such change is rarely pleasant, but it is necessary.

The Awakened have always been with us; time and disbelief, however, have whittled away their power or channeled it into less obvious forms of magick. As the bounderies between the possible and impossible grow more rigd, the mages among us dwindle in number but increase in importance. Such sorcerers are heroes in the classic sense; with their power and insight, they cannot help but affect the world around them. To do so, however, they must continually transcend their own limits and those of the world around them. All mages, then, even the rigid Technomancers, are threats to the established order. Dynamic to the core, True Mages are the harbingers of change.

Because Awakening is universal, mages come from all nations, cultures, orientations and age groups. Many find their Awakenings in their late teens or 20s, but some find enlightenment at a very early age or even in their declining years. Though their vision spans global reality, mages are very much the products of their environments. Some are balanced and contemplative; others are harsh and crude. Magick is not limited to a scholarly few; anyone can be a mage.

The Factions of the War

Despite the infinite variety of Awakened souls, four large factions dominate magickal society. Although many mages (often called "Orphans") do not follow any set Path, these four major groups wage an Ascension War in the name of their chosen goals:

The Traditions

A rough Council of nine mystick styles of magick. The wizards of the Nine Traditions strive to maintain a balane of sorts while returning wonder to humanity. Altough these sorcerers hold to different philosophies and practices, all nine groups are opposed to the static reality espoused by their Technocratic foes and the chaos of the darker factions.

The Technocracy

A seemingly monolithic Union dedicated to reining in supernatural "random elements" and saving humanity from the dangers it is not fit to face. By the Technocracy's decree, mystick magick is not possible; only science is allowed to alter natural laws. Because the majority of "Sleepers," (those un-Awakened to their mystick potential) trust in science, Technomancers have an edge over other factions when it comes to getting things done.

The Marauders

The Technocrats' polar opposites. More a state of mind than a confederation, these chaotic mages embody dynamic change taken to a demented extreme. An ideal world, to them, would be one in which every person created his own personal reality or lived in a single Marauder's dementia. Marauders are rare, unpredictable and often deadly.

The Nephandi

Mages who have chosen to follow the absolute Path of darkness and corruption. They deem themselves a mirror which will either reflect or absorb all light. Though the most terrible of them have been cast out of the material world, these Fallen Ones work behind the scenes to further the misery and damnation of the World of Darkness.

Reality, Paradox and Ascension

Reality is a work in progress; constant change keeps the universe alive. Magick is the most dynamic example of change — the alteration of reality by enlightened force of will. As humanity settles into a mundane rut, however, magick seems out of place or even impossible. When realities clash, when the possible and impossible collide, the result is a paradox. In the most violent conflicts, this Paradox effect becomes manifest, striking back in any number of ways. A mage — any mage — who causes change too quickly can invoke Parandox, and gods help him then.

The vision that comes so naturally with magick's Awakening inspires most mages to some greater goal, an ultimate end to reality's shaping. The Traditions refer to this as Ascension, but disagree as to what form such Ascension would take were it to happen. To the Technocracy, Ascension is the world made safe, purged of random elements and firmly under their control. The extreme Paths, too, have ultimate goals, but their ideals have little room for compromise or survival.

The World of Darkness

The secret thoughts of man run over all things, holy, profame, clean, obscene, grave and light, without shame or blame. ~Thomas Hobbes

Compromise is dangerous in the realm of the mage, and survival runs at premium rates. Night glitters here like blood-stained glass, and the world seems caught between a madrigal and a scream. The woods are dark and monsterous, the cities labyrinths of steel and pavement. In the shadows, beings out of nightmares plot and bicker. Welcome to the World of Darkness, a distillation of modern twilight.

Here, the landmarks are familiar, but the shadows long and peoples' glances are more wary. It's ap lace where hope is fading, where superstitions carry more weight than reason. The aesthetic of this world is Gothic-Punk, where the flowing black and towering stone of Gothic ideal meets pierced flesh and battered leather. Although few mortals ever see the shadow cultures around them, everyone feels their influence.

A spirit world surrounds the mortal one, cut off from material reality by mystick barriers. Ghosts and other spirits wander these mysterious lands, and beings attuned to them — werewolves, mages and the occasional enlightened mortal — travel into the Three Worlds of this Umbra. Although few mortals are aware of them, these realms — the lands of the mind, nature and death — cast a living reflection of the mundane world.

The features and cultures we know are much the same, but an otherworldly aura pervades the mortal architecture, clothing, music and religion of the World of Darkness. People here are even more fascinated with their own mortality than we are. At the same time, the possibilities of imagination have been limited by a worldwide denial of what no one wants to see. This denial confines the once-fluid power of magick, but also cloaks the activities of the supernatural societies. In the shadows, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, sorcerers and changelings conspire, and their intrigues surpass anything folklore mighyt suggest. This World of Darkness is myth incarnate, and that myth is equally dark.

The Meaning of Mage

Never be afraid to risk, to risk! I've told you about Equus haven't I? That doctor, Dr. Dysart, with whom I greatly identify, saw that it was better to risk madness and to blind horses with a metal spike, than to be safe and conventional and dull. ~Christopher Durang, Beyond Therapy

At its core, Mage is about giving a damn, about caring and believing in something so deeply that your beliefs can change reality. The world is not shaped by passivity or acceptance, it is moved forward by the deeds of those who reject the old ways and carve new ones, without regard for obstacles or enemies.

Such dynamism is risky, however. Too much too quicky without insight or responsibility can spiral a person into madness and take everyone around her down for the ride. A wise mage seeks wisdom and power. The Ascension War is a battle between extremes, with the Traditions walking the delicate Path through the middle. A misstep — overwhelming pride, carelessness or doubt — can be fatal to a mage, and to the world in general. The pride that comes with magick's vision is both blessing and curse. Without confidence, no mage can command her will. Without balance, that will grows out of control, dominatig all within reach. The great sin of the Technocracy is not science, or even murder — it is oppression under one vision.

Most mortals are rightly called Sleepers by the Awakened. They exist (or perhaps, we exist) in a passive state of blindness, shying away from true insight, avoiding the symbolic death that leads to greater rebirth. We miss the wonders and possibilities around us. Our mundane lives have conditioned us to accept what is offered, from lying politicians to MTV, and we complain but do little to change it. Mages cannot be passive; they either progress or they stagnate. In stagnation lies eventual corruption, for statis can only decay.

There can be as many themes in a Mage chronicle as you care to include — fate, faith, tragedy, romance, despair, revenge or whatever else you want. The essence of change, however, of progress against all odds, can never be far from the game.

Mage is a game, albeit an interactive one with an epic scope. Like mages themselves, Storytelling games are active; we offer you the ingredients, but the cake you make out of them will follow your own private recipe. There are no winners or losers in these games, only participants.

Further Reading

The Tellurian
The Avatar's Role
Elements of the Path
Factions - Who's Who
Mage Lexicon