The Main Idea
Reality is not fixed, but rather a set of agreed upon assumptions enforced by the collective will of humanity, the Sleepers. Mages are those people who recognize that reality is not static, and realize that through the application of their will, usually channeled through rituals or other similar "mystical" or "scientific" practices, reality can be changed.
The specifics of their own belief, called a Paradigm, guides them into joining either one of the nine mystical Traditions (an ancient fellowship of mages of varying points of view), one of the five conventions of the Technocracy (an organization founded at the beginning of the age of reason to bring science and truth to humanity), or to strike out on their own as Disparates (unaffiliated mages), Marauders (mages whose paradigm has overwhelmed their sense of reality), or Nephandi (mages seeking to destroy or corrupt the world).
The central theme of Mage is the search for Ascension, not only for the individual but for all of mankind. What Ascension is, and how it is achieved is purposely left undefined.
Mage is built upon the basic concept of Werewolf's cosmology. The Penumbra overlaps the physical world, and is reached upon passing through the Gauntlet. The Penumbra mirrors the Earthly reality but it is not possible to see reality in the Penumbra. The Near Umbra is the next closest to earth, and it is expanded into four subtypes: the High, Middle and Low Umbral realms, and the Near Universe. The High Umbra (Astral Plane, Heavens) is a place of the mind where concepts take physical form. The Middle Umbra (Living Umbra, Yang World, Spirit world, perhaps "the Dreaming") is a place of spirits and spiritual importance, and is the spirit world used by werewolves. The Low Umbra (Dark Umbra, Yin World, Shadowlands) is a place of decay and darkness. The Near Universe is akin to deep space, and is home to locations reminiscent of science fiction.
Strictly speaking, the Deep Umbra is the in-between that spans the space between planets. Difficult to survive in and home to beings entirely alien to human conception, this region is largely devoid of noteworthy locales.
Each planet seems tied to a particular aspect of reality, and manifests this association through a Shard Realm, an incomprehensible realm composed of a single aspect of reality (for example, The Shard Realm of Time, associated with the planet Saturn, is composed entirely of time). These create the almost-survivable Shade Realms along the Horizon, which are diluted forms the Shard Realms that can be survived with considerable skill and luck. Though spatially within the Near Umbra, the Shard Realms of the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars remain beyond the Horizon. There are no cabals on the planets of Sun-system.
These Umbral Realms, together with the Physical World create the Tellurian, which comprises all of reality.
Countless aeons ago, the Umbra and the material world were one. The Tellurian was a whole and complete singular universe. The Tellurian was since divided in half by the Gauntlet, with the spirit world on one side, and the physical world on the other.
Generally not a group that Mage players use as characters, these are the non-magical majority whose magical selves have not Awakened. Sleepers are a special concern for mages when performing an effect, because witnessing Sleepers increase the severity of Paradox. The exception is sleepers who are members of a cult with beliefs sympathetic to the Mage's paradigm, in which case their participation can reduce the difficulty of rituals.
- Akashic Brotherhood
- Celestial Chorus
- Cult of Ecstasy
- Order of Hermes
- Sons of Ether
- Virtual Adepts
- Children of Knowledge
- Go Kamisori Gama
- Hem-ka Sobk
- Hollow Ones
- Kopa Loei
- Knights Templar
- Sisters of Hippolyta
- Sons of Tengri
- Tai Hoi Li
- Toc Faan
- Wu Lung
Specific Sects and Locations
The 9 Spheres describe the 9 facets of reality that a mage can control, each one is broad and together, they attempt to describe the sum of reality.
The 9 Spheres are related by the following:
- which creates a conception in the
- which gives focus to create
- which is given form by
- which is perceived by
- which gives way to decay to
- which causes everything to return to Prime
Most of the traditions believe that there is a 10th sphere, and that it represents Unity, one of the few concepts not represented in the other 9 spheres. According to Ascension, the 10th sphere is Telos or judgement, a sphere which helps ease the world into the next age.
Paradox is accrued when a Mage uses vulgar magic that cannot be explained by Sleeper's idea of what Reality is and what laws govern it. Effects such as crushing a car with your bare hands are vulgar and will gain you paradox.
However, it is possible to bypass paradox through the use of coincidental magic by aligning the Effect with the rules of consensual reality (the overall beliefs of the sleepers). The same effect of destroying the car could be coincidentally performed by manipulating a street light to fall on the car. If the offending mage has acquired a significant amount (6 or more points) of Paradox, they may experience what is known as Backlash.
Backlash can occur in one of four ways; Either the mage acquires direct damage (amount and type depends on the amount of Paradox accrued), the mage becomes the target of a malicious Paradox Spirit, the mage may acquire Paradox Flaws (explained below), or the mage and those nearby can be sucked into a Paradox Realm in the same vein as the magic in question. (Correspondence could create a spatial loop, Time could create the repetition of certain hours or days.) Some certain objective would have to be achieved in order to escape from the infinite loop.
Paradox Flaws are very curious events that may occur for a limited or permanent duration in the presence of a mage who has suffered Paradox Backlash. They can be as trivial as a watch running in reverse or shadows falling in the wrong direction, right handed people becoming left handed, images in mirrors doing different things than their counterparts in the real world, hearing things before they are said, needing dark instead of light to see, or perhaps missing or altered memories. They can be trivial (the mage's watch running backward at high speed for a few turns or flowers wilting nearby), minor (the mage's feet sticking to the ground for a turn or an uncontrollable sneezing attack), moderate (suddenly exuding waves of heat or cold, losing the ability to speak coherently), severe (facial features vanish but senses remain, all cloth items within five feet start writhing), or drastic (skin turns to wood and starts sprouting, unintentionally firing off attacks at friends, a permanent minor flaw).
|“||Paradox is a fickle force. Sometimes it backlashes; sometimes it waits. Sometimes it's a hammer and sometimes it's like sandpaper against your skin.
Paradox usually ignites as it's garnered, but not always. Figure about a one-in-ten chance that Paradox will hang on a mage instead of backlashing immediately. And, of course, the player can always spend Willpower to prevent the Paradox from going off all at once. Ultimately it's up to the Storyteller to decide whether the Paradox explodes as gathered or whether it hangs in the balance.
|— From White Wolf's Mage-FAQ|