Avatars and Magic: 101 Awakening

Awakening is the most significant and terrifying event of your life. The act of Awakening opens the doors of perception. A Mage sees a different world, a magical world, as if a veil was lifted from his eyes. Long-held beliefs can vanish in that instant, while new truths take their place. The new Mage must struggle to make sense of this barrage of new sensations, and those without a strong sense of self and a powerful will can often be overwhelmed and destroyed by these indecipherable, uncontrollable experiences. Awakening and insanity are hard to tell apart. Awakening can happen at any time in life. There’s no known method of causing an Awakening; it may happen in childhood, youth, adulthood or elder age. The majority of Mages Awaken as they near the end of puberty, suddenly facing stresses and challenges they were sheltered from as a youth. Children tend to be too comfortable to question society, and older people have already found their place. Young adulthood, however, is the time in a person’s life when they begin searching for their purpose and meaning. Awakening may come as a result of that search, either as a response to a crisis, or as the culmination of a long search for identity. Many Mages seek a way to reliably Awaken others, but no such method is known. Mentors watch over those with strong wills and unusual lives, while elders try to teach their ways to hopeful novices. None are guaranteed to trigger the Awakening – enlightenment strikes where it will. Once his eyes are opened, they cannot be shut. The reality of truth – that there is no objective truth – is laid bare, and the new Mage has no choice but to struggle onward in an attempt to understand what has happened. The only option is to change or die. If he’s going to survive, the Mage must learn what he is and what he’s capable of. Others, a mentor or

cabal perhaps, may show the Mage the path to be taken, but he must take the first step. Only by accepting his new state will the mage be able to progress towards enlightenment and Ascension. The Mage becomes something more than human – something not quite in sync with the natural world. Family will notice a change in the Mage, and may seem to have trouble remembering who he is. Old friends will suddenly find him disturbing and dangerous, like a wolf among sheep. Mages invariably lose their jobs, as their employers come to mistrust and fear them. The only relationships a new Mage will be able to forge are those who understand what he is – other Mages. Make no mistake – once Awakened, a Mage is no longer human. Sure, he lives, breathes, eats – but his soul has gone beyond his humanity. Don’t just make your character a human with magic. Make them something more. You have become a legendary creature, more like a dragon than a man. To be Awakened is not simply that first burst of adrenaline-fueled magic. Awakening is an acceptance of the magical world, the realization that the universe isn’t the way you thought it was, and that’s okay. Few people will ever taste the power and insight of a Mage, or feel the determination to do something about the sad state of society. Mage is a game about giving a damn. Remember that.

Avatar
The Avatar is a Mage’s best friend and greatest enemy. The Awakening is a fantastic moment, but the truth of the event is a mystery to all but the greatest masters. When confronted with a crisis, a human tends to take one of two responses: fight, or flight. Confront the problem, or escape from it. The Awakening occurs when a person confronts a truth so great that it cannot be confronted nor fled from. The human soul retreats, hiding itself away from the world to make room for something more powerful, something which can take care of the problem. The Avatar. The Awakening terrifies part of the Mage’s soul, the part closest to their humanity. This is the part which relied the most upon their preconceptions of the world, the beliefs which kept them going day to day. Unable to cope with this new reality, the human soul retreats a little, and the Avatar fills in the gaps, bringing with it a connection to a

different world – a magical world. The ability to use magic comes from that connection to the magical world, and as that connection grows stronger, so too does the magic. The Avatar is often considered to be intelligent, yet incomprehensible to the human mind. Many Mages think the quest for enlightenment, for Arete, is just the Avatar teaching the Mage his language, so they may finally speak clearly. Until then, the Avatar speaks in strange hunches and shrouded whispers, and many Mages don’t even believe in them. Who would want to believe in the truth of their own shattered soul? The role of the Avatar is simple: to keep the Mage moving. The goal of the Avatar is Ascension, and as long as the Mage is moving towards that goal, the Avatar stays quiet and watches. Only when the Mage is stuck, unable to find enlightenment and becoming frustrated with magic does the Avatar give that breath of knowledge, that glimpse of insight which causes the Mage to stand up and fight on. Don’t let your Avatar overshadow your character. They are a guide to the magical world and a subconscious influence on the Mage’s development, but nothing more. Most don’t have political plans, needs for vengeance, or even true intelligence. Focus on your character, rather than being a puppet pulled along by a powerful Avatar.

Avatar Essence
In an attempt to understand Avatars, Mages have attempted to classify them, coming up with four broad categories to describe the changes they bring to their Mages. The Avatar Essence helps shape the Mage’s Seekings, and determines how Resonance affects them. Dynamic Riding the flames of change, the Dynamic Avatar drives a Mage to strive, alter, tear down and create. Restless and capricious, she embodies the dynamic urge of chaos and wonder. Taken to an extreme, this Essence can bring madness; more often, she tantalizes a Mage with the promise of novelty and the thrill of rebellion. In the Mage’s dreams, Dynamic Avatars resemble pillars of flame, devils, whirlwinds and shadows. Always hungry, ever-curious, they’re brilliant, inspiring and often frightening to behold. Essence Paradigm: Nothing is static, everything must change. Pattern Like a fortress, the Pattern Avatar safeguards the land, building wondrous things where chaos once reigned. Comforting, ordered, and meticulous, he weaves webs of security. Without his influence, Creation would spiral into madness. This Avatar soothes pain, slays dragons and brings a wandering soul to peace. In the Mage’s dreams, many Pattern Avatars appear as castles, parents, angels, and rays of light. Although these Avatars work their

Mages hard, the promise of order and comfort makes all sacrifices worthwhile. Essence Paradigm: Strength comes from order and stability. Primordial Deep as the endless waters, a Primordial Avatar keeps her silence, sweeping a Mage into her depths with seductive waves and currents. Though her grace seems devil-sent, this urge is older than time and more hallowed than heaven. The Avatar thrives on mysteries and carnal pleasures. Through a wild life, the Mage gives birth to a new world, and watches the old one from afar. Rich and strange, Primordial Avatars in a Mage’s dreams often take the form of animals, Pagan gods and nature spirits. The Mages they inspire have a knowing way about them and seem ancient, even if they’re young. Essence Paradigm: The most basic things are the most powerful. Questing Blowing through a crossroads, the Questing Avatar glides over worn paths and crumbled ruins. A questing soul, he leads a wizard on an endless journey past thickets of greed and snares of doubt. Bearing gifts of balance, calm and vision, this spirit has more focus than the wild Dynamic and more imagination like the rigid Pattern. Like the Primordial, he flows past obstacles, but his works are more temperate and beneficial. Heralds of a new day, Questing Avatars rarely take solid forms in dreams. Like the winds they resemble, these spirits are formless, relentless and ephemeral. Refreshing as they seem, such souls never rest. Their Mages wander until death ends their journey. Essence Paradigm: Purpose comes from seeking and accomplishing goals.

Quintessence
All Mages begin each game session with their Avatar Rating in Quintessence. This is represented by blue poker chips. Aristotle claimed that all things were created of four essences – earth, wind, water, and fire. He also claimed the sun and astral bodies were composed of a fifth essence – Quintessence. However, Mages know that Quintessence isn’t just a cosmic phenomenon – it is all around us. Everything has some Quintessence in it. Quintessence is in the air all around us, although in minor quantities. Some locations draw Quintessence into them; these are called Nodes, centers of magic. Mages will fight and die just to control the power of a minor Node.

Quintessence is often used to power spells, especially in the Prime Sphere. Also, a Mage can spend traits of Quintessence to Overpower their Rotes, making their spells last longer and do greater things.

Resonance
Mages are inherently magical creatures, no longer exactly human, but not exactly inhuman either. Resonance describes the degree to which your character has left his humanity behind, and is becoming a magical being. Resonance can have a strong effect on your character’s personality. A Mage with high Dynamic Resonance might find it difficult to do anything related to preservation or protection. Resonance is the balancing factor of the Mage world. As you gain more Resonance, you become less human, and more of a magical being. High Resonance may cause a Mage to begin losing his humanity, and extreme Resonance might cause a person to become one with the magic, no longer a person at all. Resonance is not a good thing. It is magical baggage, spiritual weight that can crush a Mage long before he ever reaches Ascension. Your Resonance type is based on your Avatar Essence. Thus, there are four types of Resonance: Dynamic, Pattern, Primordial, and Questing. Dynamic: The Mage is driven towards change and motion.

0-3: The Resonance has no noticeable effect, although he may seem a little ‘out there’ at times. 4-6: The Mage begins to experience occasional hallucinations, small voices in the back of his head, and shifting shadows. 7-10: The delusions become more common, as the Mage drifts further into his own fantasy world. The Mage may touch things that others cannot see, walk through walls as if they weren’t there, and climb invisible stairs. The Mage’s emotions come to the surface, such as his teeth sparking and hair standing on end when he shouts. 11+: Past this point, there’s no telling what might happen to the Mage. Perhaps madness…or true enlightenment. Pattern: The Mage is driven towards protecting things, keeping them as they are. 0-3: The Resonance has no noticeable effect, although the Mage may seem reluctant to make major changes to the world around him. 4-7: The Mage likes things as they are, and works within the system. These kinds of Mages often use modern technology in their workings. They prefer reliable things – things that will work the same way, every time you use them. 8-10: The Mage becomes obsessed with minute details and cold facts, being unable to cope with change and wonder. He will do anything to prevent changes to his world – including attacking things that violate his worldview, such as dragons or Mages using vulgar magic. The Mage becomes slow and steady, perhaps taking on the qualities of steady things, such as rock-like skin which crumbles when he moves. 11+: Past this point, the future is unknown. A Pattern Mage may finally understand the world…or finally become unable to cope with it. Primordial: The Mage is driven towards contemplation of life and death. 0-3: The Resonance has no noticeable effect, although these Mages can be a little uncanny, feeling ancient even if they are themselves young. 4-7: The Mage finds himself drawn to places full of life or death, such as cemeteries or forests, slaughterhouses or maternity wards. He may contemplate death often, and cut himself just to feel the rush of pain through him. Or he may become jubilant, filled with a celebration of life, taking joy at the simplest things in nature. 8-10: The Mage is filled with jhor, the taint that comes with living too close to life and death. Plants die in his presence, and people are chilled by his passing. He is unable to speak to people without contemplating their death, and is unable to handle an object without attempting to destroy it. Perhaps his skin grows pale and death-like, or his scent becomes like the grave. 11+: Past this point, the path is lost. Perhaps a Primordial Mage gains mastery over life and death…or perhaps he simply finds the death he sought. Questing: The Mage is driven towards the completion of his goals.

0-3: The Resonance has no noticeable effect, although it can be hard to pry a Mage away from his goal. 4-7: Although the Mage may change his goals often, whatever he is currently pursuing becomes a burning fire in his heart. He has difficulty doing anything not directly related to pursuing his goals, even if it would be for the good of all. His goals at this point tend to get more elaborate and loftier, which makes his pursuit of them all the more frenzied. 8-10: The Mage chooses a goal, and pursues it until completion. He is unable to do anything whatsoever which is not directly related to his goal. Mages at this level often use Rotes which allow them to forego food and sleep, and pursue their goal night and day. When they finally achieve it, they feel no accomplishment, they simply start pursuing a new goal. This may not sound so bad, but such a single-minded Mage will find it nearly impossible to interact with the world around him. The Mage has difficulty speaking with people, always looking through them at the task ahead. His eyes may glow, or he may float above the ground, to show the immense passion flowing through him. 11+: Is it even possible to feel such passion for your goals? The path of the Questing Mage may end with inevitable self-destruction…or maybe his goals will finally lead him to Ascension. It’s not clear exactly what causes a Mage to gain Resonance, but possibilities include: serious injury, magical combat, excessive Paradox, traumatic events, contact with a node, learning a high-level Sphere, going into Quiet, or using an occult ritual, among many other possibilities. For the most part, Resonance will result from high rolls on the Paradox Table. Gaining Resonance from Spheres and Arete Each time a Mage purchases a Sphere, or a point of Arete, the ST will determine if his study has caused an increase in Resonance. This is a simple d10 roll. If the d10 roll is less than or equal to the level of the Sphere or Arete being bought, the Mage gains Resonance. For example, if learning an Apprentice Level Sphere, the ST needs to roll above 1 on a d10 to avoid Resonance. If learning a Master Level Sphere, the ST would need to roll above 5 on a d10. (You don’t need to worry anyway – the ST will handle the rolls.) The Mage always gains the type of Resonance specific to his Avatar Essence. Lusting greatly for power can very quickly make a character unplayable – one of the necessary balances that a Mage must master.

Arete
Arete is a measure of a character’s enlightened will, his basic understanding of magic and his ability to control it. As the Mage’s Arete increases, he begins realizing more that he is not a slave to reality – reality is a slave to him.

Arete is valued highly among the Traditions, as high-Arete Mages tend to be wiser, more in control of themselves, and more dedicated to their purpose. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Whereas Spheres represent a character’s magical power, Arete represents his magical control. Mages never learn Sphere Levels above their Arete – trying to understand secrets before one is ready to wield them has had catastrophic results in the past. Arete exists as a hazy in-character concept, a metaphor for enlightenment. A Mage might speak of his master as having strong Arete. Of course, he’ll never say “My master has Arete 4!” The numbers are to allow the players to keep track of how their characters are progressing. A Mage with Arete 2 may well seem more enlightened than one with Arete 3 – but there is some block in his mind that prevents him from capably grasping that level of magic. Fortunately, although it is difficult to increase Arete, it is nearly impossible to decrease it. Once the walls are torn down, they are never rebuilt.

Seeking
The Seeking is a quest for enlightenment, which is required every time a player wants to increase his character’s Arete. Over time, people build up barriers to themselves – obstacles they believe they cannot overcome, or goals they feel they’ll never reach. The Seeking is the time when the Avatar takes a hand in guiding the Mage, breaking down those barriers and allowing the Mage to continue pursuing enlightenment. This journey to enlightenment is not a metaphysical one, however. While the Mage certainly has to overcome barriers in his own mind, the true test of the Seeking is overcoming those barriers in the world around him. To undergo a Seeking, and thus improve Arete, a character must first have enough XP to spend for the next level of Arete. The player then sends an ST a short description of some major goal he will undertake – a task which may seem impossible, but the Mage will make an effort to try to achieve it. Furthermore, the player must explain some of the symbolism inherent in the chosen goal. Seekings always have another layer to them, and it’s important that you identify what roles the people and events around you play in that story. This goal should be one which you can pursue at the game, which will put you into conflict with other players, and which will give you an opportunity to roleplay your character well. Feel free to make your character act unusually, or take chances he normally wouldn’t take – during the Seeking, the Avatar is whispering right into the character’s ear. The Avatar wants you to succeed, but you have to walk the path yourself.

Once the goal is complete, the player should submit a description to the ST of how he achieved his goal, how he overcame his own barriers, and why he should be considered ready for the next level of Arete. Even at this point, the ST is still well within his rights to turn down the Seeking if he feels you haven’t justified it in-character. This is basically a chance for you to explore your character’s mind, identify their strengths and flaws, then confront and celebrate them. I want to see that your character is not only growing more powerful, but more profound. The reason I ask that this be done as an in-game goal is so there will be more conflict between characters, and characters won’t fall into set ruts and routines. The Seeking should be a moment when your character breaks out of his normal way of thinking, steps out of his rut, and sets himself on a new path. Example: “Throughout the past few months, the Euthanatos have been a thorn in my side, and that frustration is keeping me from realizing what my next step in magical study should be. My Seeking goal is for my character to stand up to the Euthanatos, and see one of them beg me for mercy. They represent the kind of bullying which drove my character to tears as a child, and by standing up to them, she can put all that teasing and torture behind her.” That’s a short description of a Seeking, but it would be acceptable. It doesn’t matter if he actually succeeds or not – as long as he learns something from the attempt, an ST would be justified in giving him his next point of Arete.

Ascension

What is Ascension? Nobody knows. Since no Mage has ever been confirmed to have Ascended, and no Mage has returned from Ascension to tell us what it’s like, nobody knows what they really mean by this concept. Every Tradition has a different idea of what their final goal is.

Many Mages agree that Ascension is perfection of the person – a being in perfect harmony with the universe, enjoying perfect enlightenment. An Ascended Mage would know everything, see everything, control everything, but not as a god – rather, as a natural and essential part of the universe. That’s one theory. Others see Ascension as freedom from reincarnation – the final death, where one’s essence is released back into the primal forces of the world. Some believe Ascension and Armageddon are the same, that the only way to move past our limits is with the destruction of everything. What your character thinks of Ascension will be a critical part of their Paradigm, an ultimate goal to strive towards and encourage humanity to pursue. Take some time to think about what a perfect world and a perfect being would be like.

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