09 November, 2016

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

<SPOILER ALERT...there are things in this post relating to the movie Dr. Strange. If you've read the comic or know about the character, these won't be much of a surprise... In fact, if you've noticed the pattern of superhero movies in the last 20 years, they probably won't come as much of a surprise either. I'm just letting you know...>

In Mage: the Ascension, there are a four wider factional groupings. These groups sits at the corners and at the centre of a triangle.

On one point of the triangle you have the agents of stasis, the "Technocracy", who basically want order in the world and want magic destroyed (they don't believe what they do is magic, even though other groups do see it that way). On another points of the triangle you have the agents of chaos, the "Marauders", who are basically insane with incredible willpower and a faith in their delusions so strong that those delusions leak over in our reality with their insanity. The third point is made up of the "Nephandi" who are in league with demonic entities that want neither the vibrant growth of chaos, nor the strength of order, they just want to watch the world burn, perhaps replacing it with something else entirely. Finally you have the "tradition mages" and "crafts" who basically sit at the centre of the triangle, with different sub-groups tending toward different points of the triangle based on their ideologies and practices.

After watching Dr. Strange, I saw the core group of mages as an amalgam of the Tradition mages known as the Akashic Brotherhood and the Cult of Ecstasy, perhaps the K'an Lu Taoist mages (a subsect of the Cult of Ecstasy). This is especially reinforced by the theory that the Eye of Agamotto is the Infinity stone of Time (where Time is the speciality sphere for the Cult of Ecstasy). If the final scenes didn't reinforce the potential of time magic...nothing would.

Kaecilius is clearly a member of the order who has turned rogue, and with his dedicated disciples has become Nephandi. Mordo could be someone who defects to the more disciplined orders of the Akashic Brotherhood, because he ends up as someone who hunts down other mages, but certainly not in a Technocracy sense. It appears more that he'll use magic to track down and eliminate magic.

Back to the title of the post... I'm starting to think about playing with the expanded consciousness inherent in games of Mage. Where does sanity end? where do magic and insanity begin? Is there a difference between the altered consciousness of insanity and the expanded consciousness of magic? How is that best reflected? Where do the extremist mages (Technocracy, Marauders and Nephandi) fit into all of this? It's the kind of stuff that's left the most vague in the original source game, but the two books by Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and Lila) which are incredibly influential on the system are both full of concepts like these. I can see a lot of story potential here, I've spent time in psych wards (both myself and with family members), so the concepts of altered perceptions of the world and neuro-atypical thoughts have a practical as well as theoretical grounding for me. It's a hard road to walk delicately, especially while trying to get messages across, it's probably even harder to codify these experiences to make them sympathetic for someone who hasn't encountered such issues personally. I can see why Mage didn't really take that path, it's safer to be vanilla (and they'd already done the "insanity" thing with the Malkavian vampires), but the edge between sanity and insanity, functional and non-functional, is where Mages reside in my mind. It needs more exploration, it's just a case of whether I can do it justice.

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