Mage: the Awakening Adamantine Arrow Order Primer

Core Philosophy

The Adamantine Arrow, as befits one of the Diamond Orders, has a wealth of tradition and philosophy behind it, driving the activities of the most militant of the Awakened. They call their core precepts the Adamant Way, a code of action meant to guide warriors in their pursuit of service, both to the Awakened and to greater truths. Just as with many martial traditions, they place an incredibly strong emphasis on their beliefs, and it is expected that every last Arrow will have a working knowledge of the Way and attempt to follow it in all that they do.

The AA book says a lot about the Adamant Way (on pages 40-49), but the five core precepts (or ‘phalanxes’ as the Arrow call them) are summarized below, and then again in even plainer language.

First Phalanx: Existence is War

The Arrow believe first that the universe is defined by conflict, by opposing powers moving against one another. Even the most basic difference between 1 and 0 – something and nothing, being and nonbeing – spells out the battle with the Abyss, one of the central conflicts of the age. Existence without conflict – and thus without striving – is static, stagnant, and does nothing to make one better.

The best state in any conflict is balance. Without opposition, a force will grow and grow until it destroys itself, taking the balance with it. So the Arrow advocate strategy; apply force intelligently. Make sure you understand the conflict before you act, so you can try to reach balance.

Everything is a fight. Think first, but then act, decisively and correctly.

Second Phalanx: Enlightenment is Honor

The Arrow hold that honor is the truest map of the soul. How closely your words and deeds align with what is correct is the measure of your truest self, and the mark of enlightenment.

First, this means that your given word is part of your duty. If you say or do a thing, you take responsibility for the consequences of your action; if you accept that and make sure you understand those consequences, you will act according to your soul.

Second, it means your duty is paramount. Arrows do not fight for glory or power, but for a cause, and that cause can’t be subject to any person’s ambition. Instead, you should be ready to do whatever the cause requires of you, glorious or humble.

Do what you say you’ll do, and get your job done.

Third Phalanx: Adaptability is Strength

When your battlefield is all of creation, you may need to fight under any circumstances. If you allow yourself to stagnate, to be predictable, you set yourself up to lose… and losing battles on that scale isn’t acceptable. Instead, the Arrow teaches you to stay flexible in your thinking, your fighting, and your magic; to always look for new ways of doing things and push yourself. Thus you can meet and contest any foe, anywhere.

Everyone’s heard that the samurai ‘die every day’. It means they exist in the moment, ready and even eager to sacrifice their lives if need be. The phrase came first from the Arrow, and while it can mean actual death, it really refers to reinventing yourself; every day, discover a new way to be strong.

Be flexible, not predictable. Keep learning.

Fourth Phalanx: The Supernal is the Self

Despite all opinions, the Arrow aren’t only about war. Their philosophy of magic is very focused; they believe that mages are living conduits to the truth. Thus, you should be the best and purest conduit that you can.

The Supernal, they believe, is present in perfected body, open mind, and awakened spirit. You should always work towards the ideal; exercise, meditation, and learning all bring you closer to a better reality. Defiling the self – mind, body, or soul – is anathema to the Adamant Way, as it means defiling the Supernal.

Also, if existence is in conflict, the self is no different. Your body, mind, and spirit are in conflict with one another, and balance is difficult… but when you find equilibrium, then they strive as they should, which brings growth.

You ARE your magic. Never stop working to be better.

Fifth Phalanx: Service is Mastery

This is the hardest Phalanx for many Arrow to understand. The Order believes that when you strive to master something, you become subject to it; that then the thing itself controls you. The idea of mastery is itself limiting; a throne confines the one who sits on it.

The way around that is to serve, but not to serve individuals. Instead, you serve mandates, moral truths. A king can be flawed, corrupt, and weak, but the idea of the peaceful kingdom isn’t. There’s an element of practicality to this; in war, you have to follow orders and act in concert with others. It’s just important to be aware, to be sure you’re following the right mandate, and that your comrades and your commanders are all following the same mandate.

If you’re in a position to lead, you have the hardest job of all; you must lead according to the Adamant Way… which means you must always remember that a leader serves those who follow.

And one last important piece; the Adamantine Arrow don’t wage their war for reward or recognition. Those are the hallmarks of pride and greed, and shouldn’t factor into your choices at all. It’s not for an Arrow to ask for or expect anything in return for doing their duty.

Serve and protect. Don’t get trapped by power or reward.

Caucus

Caucus is normally used to refer to an Order’s presence within a Consilium. To meet the demands of the Third Phalanx, the Arrow use the term slightly more broadly. They recognize caucuses on both a local and regional level; you might have a local caucus in San Francisco, CA, and also be part of the regional caucus for the Southwestern United States. This allows the Order to quickly muster its forces at a larger scale when necessary, moving fighting cabals around between Consilia and ensuring that its forces are supplied.

Adamantine Arrow caucuses tend to be highly independent entities, in keeping with the Order’s philosophies of adaptability and distaste of mastery. Each will have its own agenda and outlook, oftentimes very concentrated on knowing their local field of conflict and solving the problems most relevant to their headquarters. Given this model, variance is no surprise; the responsibilities of caucus members, the rules, and the degree to which they’re enforced can vary widely from caucus to caucus. They are mostly decided by that caucus, whether by mutual accord or by the mandate of a caucus leader. Relatively fixed rules and responsibilities should be made public, preferably in a Venue’s VSS or on the MES Wiki.

Despite a long tradition of adaptability and diversification, many caucuses will also tend to lean towards certain points of philosophy or certain avenues of duty. The Adamantine Arrow, pages 73-77 discuss different types of caucus in greater detail.

Status

Status amongst the Adamantine Arrow is an uncomplicated thing. They believe in challenge, the proving of skill and power, and the rightness of action and purpose. Follow the Adamant Way and excel in active duty and others will recognize that. There are very few of the Arrow whose Status is in any doubt, as they have gained it through direct and most often very noticeable actions.

Another key is that virtually no Arrows are promoted to the higher Statuses without being exceptional in many ways, rather than only one. The Arrow who is truly exceptional at only one thing may be made a Thunderbolt Guardian, but even to be a truly competent First Talon, let alone an Adamant Sage, one must have more than one dimension. Adaptability is Strength.

Change in Status is reasonably straightforward in most cases. To gain Status, an Arrow must be nominated for his new Status by another Arrow who holds the Arrow’s current status or greater. (Thus, someone of Status 2, 3, 4, or 5 may nominate another for Status 3.) This must be done in public – ideally in front of the gathered caucus – and accompanied by an account of the nominee’s relevant actions and contributions. See Talking About Status, MET: Awakening pp 118-119, for some language that can help make this less awkward; just remember that the Adamantine Arrow prize directness and confidence.

After the nomination, if anyone present disagrees, their concerns are heard by all. Either way, challenges are then offered. It’s traditional to test Arrows aspiring to higher station. These challenges can take many forms; from martial challenges to strategy discussions to riddle competitions. They can be as simple as arm-wrestling or as complicated as a mission to find and retrieve a stolen artifact.

When the Arrow is well-regarded and thought deserving, the challenges tend to be mostly a matter of form and good-natured competition; when there are serious doubts or rivalries, the challenges can be in serious – and sometimes vicious – earnest. Regardless, challengers are traditionally encouraged to make the tests appropriate to the position, and challenges are approved by consensus. Success at the challenges shows worthiness, and the new Status is thereafter approved (at least in-character; it must then be recorded and approved by the proper STs, and the requirements of the Pentacle Order Primer must be met!). Failure means you weren’t ready yet, and you’ll need to try again at another gathering… unless you make a truly good argument and can back it up.

Taking Status away works in a very similar way; first comes a public declaration of fault and enumeration of wrongdoing or negligence. Challenge is almost always offered for Status loss, as an opportunity to display weakness or as a defense of one’s capability.

The notable exception to all of this is Status •••••, which represents influence and recognition beyond an individual caucus. This level of Status is not formally managed in any way; instead, it’s recognized. When Arrows know who you are far beyond your local borders, you might be a candidate; for an example check out Pallas (tAA, pp 220-222). She’s known widely, even if only through rumor; the Arrow knows she’s a badass, but also that if she shows up when the chips are down, she can help you turn a losing situation around. All the stories say you can count on her. An Arrow who aspires to the height of Status has to follow that same example; be ready to go places and help people beyond the pale. If your name gets said at a gathering and people react with blank looks, you haven’t earned your Status yet.

Status •••• (and the caucus leader requirement of Status •••) are also worth noting, since the Arrow specifically discourages seeking and holding positions of leadership, or at least demands a lot of oversight. Seeking mastery is against the Adamant Way, and so it’s rare to find a caucus where someone has consistently held Status ••••. More commonly, the rank is bestowed during times of intense conflict, when the Order needs a field commander or someone to dictate wide-scale strategy. It’s seldom held for long outside of wartime, as when Arrows cling to the authority, their fellows tend to remind them that it’s not part of the path to wisdom. Characters will typically either be recognized as great leaders and elevated to Status •••••, or fall back down to Status ••• when their duty is done.

Positions

First and foremost, Talon is the term used for all members of the Adamantine Arrow who have passed their apprenticeship. It’s a term of respect derived from the Order’s Atlantean name, the Ungula Draconis, or Talons of the Dragon. Every Talon is expected simply to contribute, to not embarrass the Order, and the follow the Adamant Way. Following are some other titles one may aspire to within the Order, and the required Adamantine Arrow Status to achieve them… though being recognized as any given position will certainly require applying to your caucus and being recognized as such… with attendant challenges. (See tAA pages 78-80 for more thorough explanations.)

Banner Warden (Status •): A Banner Warden is absolutely dedicated to protecting their cabal; all Arrows do it, but some want to formalize the duty. An Arrow who is granted the right to be a Banner-Warden will have fewer other duties to allow them to focus properly. (tAA, page 78)

First Talon (Status ••+): The First Talon is an officer’s rank in the Arrow. It tends not to be a permanent position of command, but something more fluid; First Talons are recognized as combat leaders, and they tend to acquire the people they lead on a per-situation basis. Inherent in the position is responsibility for those you lead.

Thunderbolt Guardian (Status •••): A Thunderbolt Guardian is a specialist through and through. This title tends to be granted for outstanding achievement or recognized preeminence in a particular field. One might be a Thunderbolt Guardian of small-unit tactics, logistics, or the rarefied Slayers of extraplanar entities. Being a Thunderbolt Guardian carries the responsibility of not only advancing your own knowledge and proficiency in your field, but also teaching others within the Order your special skills.

Adamant Sage (Status ••••+): Adamant Sages are rare and held in very high esteem by the Order, mostly because of the difficulty of achieving and keeping the title. An Adamant Sage is most often a second-degree Master or better, and has demonstrated aptitude not only in combat, but in diplomacy and some art or craft. Virtually every Adamant Sage leads their caucus if they remain in one place, and their calibre is such that they endure the oversight and watchfulness of their fellow without fault. They are strategists and planners, and often guide the Arrow’s tactics in war… but as a result of raw power, they are often the mages who bring the most powerful and catastrophic magic to bear when the situation calls for it. The responsibilities vary, but certainly involve the guidance and observation of every fellow Arrow one encounters, the planning and execution of large-scale battles, and being the Order’s face and voice in consilium and caucus politics.

Playing an Adamantine Arrow

Character Creation

As a militant organization without an overarching military hierarchy, the Adamantine Arrow tends to organize itself into small, adaptable bands primarily based locally. By simple process of time and inclination, each group tends to acquire fighters and medics routinely, and some acquire mages filling other roles; quartermaster, scholar, explorer, craftsman, and so on.

When making an Arrow, you should first determine what you want to do to contribute to the order. All Arrows are expected to have combat training and some flexibility; it’s a good idea to pick up several combat-related Abilities. Then figure out what specific roles you want to fill and specialize towards related Abilities and Merits.

Attributes can vary widely, but as an Adamantine Arrow, you’re almost certainly going to see some combat, so don’t underestimate the importance of the resistance Attributes. Getting one-shotted or mind-controlled tends to get your mocked… or dead and then mocked. Otherwise, your Attribute spread should reflect your specialties… But don’t neglect basic combat aptitudes and resistance attributes.

Arcana can also vary widely; everything is applicable to combat in one way or another. Familiarize yourself with your spell lists, and don’t restrict yourself to just doing damage; use your environment, buff your allies and debuff your enemies, control their options, or temporarily remove them from the fight. You can be just as much of a tide-turner by cutting a deal with the right spirit or magically barring the right door as you can by mowing down a dozen bad guys.

The Adamant Hand

This esoteric martial art is the special cheese of the Order, the thing that can elevate an Adamantine Arrow mage above any other magus save a Panoptic Seer in a fight. The prerequisites are significant; you need to have at least five dots of Fighting Styles, and at least one Fighting Style at three dots or higher. There are several important things to remember about the Adamant Hand. First, you select which Arcana the Fighting Style applies to when you purchase it, and this cannot be changed. Second, every level is useful; you can reduce the strength of other mages’ shields at level 1, and increase the strength of your own at level 2. You can sacrifice your own health to gain additional spellcasting dice and even the 9-again quality on your spell rolls at level 4. All that is in addition to the most commonly-used feature, the ability to cast a spell and use a physical action in the same round at level 3. Only level 5 is inaccessible to PCs; you would need a 6 in the appropriate Arcana to take it.

The Adamantine Hand is an extremely potent tool. If you choose to take it on your Arrow mage, a good policy is to print out the writeup from the book. Every level has an associated drawback, generally minor, to be aware of. And remember that even with the level 3 technique, you still cannot exceed damage cap on one target in one round. For all the information on the Fighting Style, see the AA book (pages 53-54).

Gameplay

The Adamantine Arrow tends to feature combat as a very heavy theme, but we’ll save that for last. Outside of a fight, the Order tends to have a few pieces that make up the core of their gameplay. There are a few things tangential to combat; while the Arrow are a sword, they’re also a shield. So you’ll get peacekeepers and guardians from the Arrow a lot; those dedicated to enforcing the rules and making sure everyone is safe. The Sentinel of a Consilium is almost always an Arrow, for instance.

Depending on your temperament, you can also end up as a negotiator. It’s often the case that when there are words to be exchanged with the traditional enemies of the Awakened, people turn to the more diplomatic of the Arrow to do the talking. After all, if things go badly, they’ll be able to hold their own in the ensuing battle, right? You might find yourself negotiating with Seers, or even talking down Madmen or Banishers. If there is a challenge to be issued to renegade Apostates, you may be the one to issue it. If your nerves and social skills are up to these things, they can lead to incredible scenes.

Outside of official matters and tight spots, the Arrow have a rich culture of training and competition. Finding new things to learn is a constant pastime for Arrows, as is improving existing skills. This might be as obvious as practicing kung fu with your fellows, or as unexpected as learning to play a flute or paint a picture, or even simply meditating. People tend to think of the Arrow first as vicious fighters, and showing them the side where the Arrow are poets, scholars, and monks can lead to some fantastic roleplay.

Finally, there’s the fighting. People tend to look to the Adamantine Arrow whenever there’s a need to hat up and go deal with a problem. You’re not automatically signed up for every combat run, but you’ve almost certainly got a seat reserved. Moreover, they do provide a good opportunity to show what you can do; most Mage players will almost subconsciously yield to the Arrow when it comes to a fight, so it’s a good time to show some initiative and leadership.

If you wanted to play an Arrow in the first place, you’d best get used to fighting and fighting often; even the most peace-loving of the Order tend to get combat duty all the time. Still, if combat really isn’t your thing, but you still want to be in the Order, you can trend more towards support roles, whether that’s healing, providing weapons and items, scouting, or running cover and interference. Most of the time those roles get more tolerance for hanging back and cleaving to their dominant skills… but you still may have to pitch into fights now and again.

Sins

It’s very, VERY difficult to play a pacifist Arrow. It’s been successfully done in the past, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the Order as a whole stomps on these well-intentioned people. Remember that a refusal to fight is outright refusing the Adamant Way; it’s one of the few things that will get you chucked out of the Order… or simply killed.

The other things on that particular list are willful betrayal of Order-mates (the Arrow just can’t stand that), and being mercenary. That’s a strange one, and worth special mention; the Arrow holds expecting payment for your work right up there beside pacifism and betrayal. Expecting payment is a direct contravention of the Adamant Way. It’s not why the Arrow fights their war… so if you want to play a hard-bitten mercenary, be sure that when it comes to battle on behalf of the Awakened, you have an altruistic streak.

Challenges and the Duel Arcane

Challenges, as a highly important part of Adamantine Arrow culture, deserve special mention. Check out pages 58-60 in the Adamantine Arrow for a more in-depth discussion of the Great Games and of the culture of challenges. For now, it’s enough to know that the Arrow are stringent about testing each other even in everyday circumstances. They compete for fun and for self-improvement and self-testing. If there’s a dispute between Arrow mages, it’s virtually always settled via a challenge… or several challenges, though tradition dictates that you let a year and a day pass before issuing another challenge over the same topic.

The Duel Arcane is a split topic amongst the Order. Contrary to expectation, within the Adamantine Arrow the Duel Arcane is rarely if ever used; most Arrows believe that since the Duel is entirely contrived and representational, there’s not much practical learning or real growth that can come of it. Others believe that it’s a good test of a mage’s arcane power, creativity, and flexibility. All acknowledge, however, that at least the other Diamond Orders place a lot of stock in the results of the Duel. As such members of the Adamantine Arrow, especially those liable to come into any conflict with the other Orders, make a point of learning how the Duel works and how to play to win. (MET: Awakening, pages 190-194, and Tome of the Mysteries, pages 118-125).

Other Philosophy, History, and Context

When it comes down to it, the Adamant Way is the one truly unifying factor among the Adamantine Arrow, but there are plenty of other beliefs among them. In the modern world the Arrows recruit from all cultures, and all walks of life. Myths and legends mix from all over the world, and there’s a heavy tradition of storytelling and history within the Order as well; one gets better at fighting wars, after all, by studying wars that have already been fought.

The Adamantine Arrow gives some decent reference of the Order’s history, and of how widespread and varied the Arrow actually is. Pages 16-21 describe the Arrow’s stories of what Atlantis was like, including the final great conflict that led to the Fall. 21-31 discuss the role of the Order through and behind recorded human history. And pages 32-37 provide good insight into how the Arrow is thinking about the modern world, where they have major presence and where they’re taking an active hand. One important point for the MES chronicle is how widespread and loosely-organized the Adamantine Arrow is today; in an age where most conflict is between small to moderate groups on a local scale, the notion of a standing army is outdated. The Arrow works in smaller cells which solve issues local to them, banding together in larger deployments only when conflicts escalate to a level that demands greater involvement.

For philosophies of combat and training, there are a ton of examples to be found all over the book. Pages 49-54 give some good examples of the Arrow’s martial training, which tends towards the harsh and even brutal; they believe in learning by doing and refuse to pull punches in their teaching, since the world certainly won’t. While they don’t strike to kill in training, there’s little concern about striking to wound when a nearby Arrow can heal you in moments, and a scar is a good lesson. Pages 54-59 provide some good insights into mental and spiritual training.

Finally, pages 61-66 discuss the extreme importance of oaths to the Arrow; when keeping your word is a central precept of Supernal truth, you tend to take your oaths very seriously.