Mage: the Awakening Guardians of the Veil Order Primer

Everyone, or so it seems, hates the Guardians of the Veil. They’re remorseless killers who want magic to stay safe and unused, or so the other Orders say. They can’t be trusted. They’re barely better than the Seers of the Throne. Yet the Guardians have stood with the Diamond for untold millennia, and stand with the Pentacle still.

From their oral tradition, the modern Guardians of the Veil derive four primary duties. Foremost among them is the protection of magic itself. Guardians must be watchful for threats to magic from all sides – be those threats undeserving Sleepers that seek to profane the Mysteries with their Quiescent gaze, mages who cast vulgar magic carelessly, or servants of the Abyss.

The Guardians are to advance the cause of virtue. They promote wisdom among their fellow mages, prune the left-handed or servants of the Exarchs wherever they are found, and test those who rise to prominence to ensure they are worthy of their station. Novice Awakened must be subtly guided into the right ways of thinking, so that they develop an appreciation of the moral weight of their powers.

The Guardians gather intelligence. This duty is the chief justification presented by the Order to the rest of the Pentacle, who cannot ever know the true reasons for the Guardians’ acts. The work has other benefits. It protects the Atlantis-to-come from its subtle enemies, those that lurk in the shadows rather than declaring their challenge openly. And it is simple opportunism, for the execution of the Guardians’ other duties has much in common with espionage, and it generates considerable actionable intelligence.

Finally, the Guardians perpetuate the lore of their Order. They cannot lay down their burden until the Hieromagus has come. They pass on their lore through a purely oral tradition, using koans and parables and poetry. In this way, they guard their knowledge. Masters of the traditions judge which students are ready to receive which lessons. And even then, only the students enlightened enough to discern the knowledge from the trappings that surround it receive the full teaching.

The Law of the Mask

The lot of the Guardians of the Veil is to sin for the sake of the greater good. Magic in the Fallen World is constantly under siege, with a great Abyss between the world we know and the greater world of the Supernal. Every Paradox lets a little bit more of the Abyss into the world, widening the gulf between the world as it is and the world’s perfected ideal.

All is not hopeless, however. The Quiet, the Cabal of ancient Atlantean mages who founded the Eyes of the Dragon, received a vision as Atlantis sank beneath the waves. In that vision, they saw the coming of a mage of unsurpassed ethical purity who would right the wrong of the Fall: the Hieromagus. (GotV, pg 22) To ensure that magic would survive until the arrival of its foretold savior, the students of the Quiet formed the Guardians of the Veil around the Law of the Mask. The Law is a philosophy of pragmatic idealism that recognizes the imperfect world the Guardians must deal with, while at the same time fixing its gaze on the perfect future.

The Law of the Mask is a purely oral tradition. Its principles and the tools used to teach them are never written down. They are passed from Guardian to Guardian, held always in the living memory of the Awakened. (GotV, pp 45-47)

The Law is split between the three Exoteric Tenets, which the Guardians may speak of to outsiders, and the three Esoteric Tenets, which are kept a strict secret.

The Exoteric Tenets

Paradoxes strengthen the Abyss as punishment answers pride: the first Exoteric Tenet is the foremost justification for the Guardians’ work. The Paradoxes of mages erode the edges of the Fallen World, expanding the Abyss and enhancing its influence. Further, a Paradox is a sign of a mage’s moral failings, an impurity in her soul. Because these moral faults are the spiritual legacy of the hubris of Atlantis, they are found in all modern mages. To counteract this, they should avoid vulgar magic whenever possible and approach the mysteries humbly, with great care and respect. (GotV, pg 41)

Sins for a just end grant wisdom to the Awakened: the second Exoteric Tenet justifies the acts the Guardians must perform in the course of their duties. Souls, say the Guardians, have a profound effect on the world. The wise souls of the Awakened, allowed to follow righteous paths, work together to heal the Fallen World through a collective action the Guardians call the Diamond Wheel. Sins committed by Guardians to protect the Wheel are not only justified, but the Wisdom the Guardians lose from their acts transfers to other mages, smoothing the action of the Wheel. (GotV, pp 41-42)

Merit must guide the Fallen World: the final Exoteric Tenet highlights the effects of the Fallen World’s corruption. In the ideal world, the value of a person would be determined solely by their supernal enlightenment. In the Fallen World, this ideal hierarchy is compromised and the deeper truths are hidden. Those that seek access to the Mysteries must prove themselves worthy, demonstrating morality, enduring hardships, and passing tests. The Guardians’ role in the working of the Diamond Wheel is to administer these tests, to ensure that other mages will use their powers to truly better the lot of humanity. By this principle, the democracy and egalitarianism of the Free Council is tremendously offensive to the Guardians’ sensibilities. (GotV, pp 42-43)

The Esoteric Tenets

All thrones are false; all souls are flawed: this esoteric tenet judges the inheritors of Atlantis harshly. It teaches that the inherent flaws of the souls of the Awakened mean they are incapable of re-creating Atlantis. The Guardians are the only Order that has remained pure, and thus are the only ones whose works can guarantee the rebirth of the Awakened City. This purity also means a Guardian can suffer a Paradox because he has taken another mage’s punishment upon himself, rather than his own moral failings. This precept also calls for the Guardians to be suspicious of charismatic leaders. Since they are imperfect, they must be tested and their flaws exposed so they do not lead other mages into hubris. Only those who prove to have extraordinary merit may lead. (GotV, pp 43-44)

There is a secret hierarchy of souls: the most arcane esoteric tenet, this is the secret truth behind the Guardians’ testing of merit. By this principle, not all souls are created equal. Some have more value than others, and it is this value the Guardians’ ordeals, Veils, and Labyrinths truly seek to test. Guardian traditions disagree about precisely what outward signs characterize a Soul’s position in the hierarchy. Even having Awakened is not necessarily a sign of an elevated position; mages who join left-handed Legacies or become Banishers or Seers are clearly flawed. Further, a soul’s position is not inviolate. It can be elevated by superior souls (as through the Diamond Wheel) or dragged down by the inferior. Thus, the Guardians must act to prevent flawed souls from threatening the Diamond Wheel. (GotV, pp 44-45)

The Hieromagus will fulfill the Diamond Wheel: is the simplest esoteric tenet, but also the most challenging. While the practices of the Guardians may work to purify the souls of other mages, they cannot repair the fundamental flaws. Only a truly perfect mage will be able to overthrow the Exarchs, inspire mankind to cast off the Quiescence, and re-build the Awakened City. This mage, the Hieromagus, will be the fulfillment of the Diamond Wheel… And will not be a Guardian. While he will command the Order, absolve its initiates of their sins, and intuitively exemplify its doctrines, he will be apart from it. (GotV, pg 45)

An Orthodoxy

The material presented here and in the Order book represents the orthodox ideals of the Guardians of the Veil. Few actual people are able to live up to, never mind exemplify, such harsh demands. Players should give consideration to which tenets their characters feel strongest about and which ones they struggle with or pay lip service to. Consider why they feel that way and how it shapes their own actions and interactions with other mages. The initiations of the Veil (GotV, pp 47-49) ongoing trials and ordeals serve not only to keep their members loyal but to dissuade fanaticism. Take care not to stray too far; there is a fine line between a Guardian who falls short of their orthodox ideal and a deviant flirting with heresy.

In particular, consider your character’s take on the Heiromagus. Most Guardians believe the Heiromagus is a person, but some consider them an ideal. Feel free to make up your own legends and signs of the Heiromagus and remember that fallen religion often influences a Guardian’s perception in this regard.

Titles, Duties and Ranks

The Guardians of the Veil are possibly unique – or, at the very least, noteworthy – as most of their members do not dedicate themselves to any one of the Order’s traditional specialties. Rather, they remain jack-of-all-trades, generalist agents who can take up duties as circumstances require. Little ceremony is attached to this assumption of position; the Guardians see ceremony as something for those still trapped in the Labyrinth, and themselves as beyond it.

Titles

Cultor (Status •+, pg 58) – A Cultor is intimately and directly involved in the operation of a Labyrinth. They maintain the necessary illusions and deceptions, compiling doctrines and subtly employing magic to fool not just the gullible but the scholarly and educated. When needed, they direct the Labyrinth’s influence to benefit the Order and advance its aims.

Emissary (Status •, pg 59) – An Emissary is a low-Status Guardian tasked with communicating with the Consilium as a whole and the other Pentacle Orders. Emissaries often do not know the meaning of the messages they are tasked to convey, and may even be kept in the dark about the activities of other Guardians. They are expected to be observant and report back on everything they see and hear.

Interfector (Status ••+, pp 59-60) – A “ritually unclean” Guardian employed by the Consilium as a torturer and executioner. While they answer to the Council and Hierarch rather than the Order’s leadership, the Guardians are not above using the position to subtly achieve their own objectives. The Epopt puts forward an Interfector at the request of the Council, though cunning Epopts will sometimes secretly rotate the position’s actual duties among their members.

Susceptor (Status •••+, pg 60) – The Guardians’ elite spies, Susceptors eschew intermediaries and roundabout strategies. They apply direct, personal tactics to the problems they face, to the point of losing the larger picture in the details of their assignment. They’re basically James Bond.

Epopt (Status ••••, pp 58-59) – The Epopt supervises a city’s Labyrinth and oversees a Consilium’s Guardian caucus. They typically take a very light touch to caucus management, preferring to leave agents to their own devices and issue direct orders only when the larger picture of the intelligence they compile points to the need for concerted action. They also handle the necessary trials for the newly Awakened, particularly those that successfully escape a Labyrinth.

Ranks

The Famuli control promotion within a Guardian Order caucus by rough consensus. If a majority of a caucus’ Famuli support a Neophyte joining their ranks or another Famulus within the caucus achieving more recognition, the Status increase goes through. Joining the ranks of Status ••••+ has additional requirements that must be met. Please see the Status section of the Pentacle Orders Primer for further details.

When faced with disgrace, Guardians prefer to teach through painful ordeals. However some sins are too great not to cause a loss of face. When this occurs, status is lost at the Status • – •••• levels by a consensus of the Caucus (read as majority vote) with the Epopt’s choice breaking ties. Magisters may lose standing with a similar consensus of fellow Magisters. When a Guardian has entirely fallen from grace and is no longer welcome within the Order, the normal expulsion rules are used.

Neophyte (Status •+, pp 98-104) – Only the most fresh initiates to the secrets of the Guardians of the Veil are regarded as Neophytes. Unlike other Guardians, their fellow agents supervise them very closely. Not only are they not regarded as not yet competent enough for independent operation, they are not yet trustworthy enough for the deeper secrets available to the Famuli. They are typically restricted to Gnosis •• or •••, •• or ••• in their Primary Arcana, and learn between six and ten rotes. Promotion is usually quite rapid. They have already passed the Crimson Veil (GotV pg 94), so a few missions and passage through the Black Veil (GotV, pg 96) is enough to prove their worth.

Famulus (Status •• through ••••, pp 104-109) – Famuli make up the vast bulk of the Order’s ranks. They are trusted to use their own judgment and initiative to advance the Order’s interests and manage their own business. It is common for them to let their guard down among other Famuli, to form long-term friendships or romantic relationships with their peers, and to “talk shop” with surprising frankness. They commonly have Gnosis ••••, though more than Gnosis ••••• is unusual. They are almost always achieve Adept skill level  in their primary Arcana shortly after promotion, and develop a Mastery before long. Their primary focus is the learning of Rotes – a new Famulus will have at least eight, and they commonly learn upwards of twenty over their careers.

Magisters (Status •••••, pp 109-110) – Magisters are the soul of the Guardians of the Veil, the rare members who maintain the purity and integrity of its vision. They abandon temporal concerns, leaving such trivialities as maintaining the Veil and hunting down Seers and Scelesti to the Famuli. Esoteric topics of research are their focus, things with some deeper meaning and connection to the Veil, the Hieromagus, or Atlantis-to-be. It is common for them to adopt select Famuli from a wide area as students, checking up on them just enough to ensure that they remain on the proper path. All Magisters are masters of at least one Arcana, with a Gnosis of ••••• or higher and a great multitude of rotes, many of her own invention.

Playing Guardians in the MES

The Guardians are easily one of the most challenging Orders to portray in the club’s Global Chronicle. With their reputation as murderous, secretive buzzkills, that’s no surprise. The first step to acceptance is moderation and subtlety. Guardians move in the shadows; it’s ok to let the spotlight fall on the Arrow as they wade their way into combat, or allow the Ladder to direct the changes in policy. Support the ones that are good and moral and let the attention their actions draw give you the opportunity to work.

One of the most blatant contradictions with the source material is the club’s widespread use of e-mail lists. The Guardian book makes a point of highlighting how distrustful the Order is of modern electronic communication and how little rank-and-file Guardians are allowed to communicate outside their caucus. It is best to downplay this aspect out of nothing but sheer practicality. Use the club’s e-mail lists, but be cautious about what you send over them. If more detailed discussion is required, proxy. This has all the OOC advantages of e-mail, and is more secure IC.

Remember that Guardians generally presume fellow Famuli to be competent, and Neophytes to require seasoning and practical experience. If another Guardian player expresses interest in attending a proxy event or a convention, encourage this! If you’re in a position of authority over them, provide them with a mission of some kind to accomplish there. If success seems unlikely or their discretion is lacking, the Guardians are well-known for plans within plans. Perhaps there’s something else you can accomplish through their failure, even if only misdirection from some more accomplished agent.

Don’t be afraid to build character ties with characters from other Orders. While the Guardians are a paranoid lot, being suspicious of everyone all the time will drive your character crazy… And probably ruin any fun you could have at game! A network of relationships, even cautious ones, with characters from other Orders will help prevent this, and will give you channels along which information can flow. Remember Guardians emphasize being well informed about the actions and merits of others as highly as they do secrecy. Connections with characters foster this flow of information to your advantage. Remember that the Heiromagus will command the Order but not be of the Order; that is in part the reason for testing those who lead.

The Guardians will likely be among the Orders racing to be the first on the scene when a new problem is noticed by the player-base at large. While the Order’s doctrines may seem to promote “plot-hogging,” such behavior is severely lacking in subtlety. Work out what it is vital the Order must accomplish in secret from the rest of the Pentacle, do that, and then use your connections to pass the “cookies” on to everyone else. Not only does this generate OOC goodwill, it creates IC obligations your character can leverage later.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the most challenging aspect of the Guardians’ duties: policing vulgar magic among the Pentacle Orders. Face it, you’re never going to convince other PCs that they shouldn’t use vulgar spells, and most of the tactics enumerated in the Order book are just going to make the problem worse. Focus on subtle solutions. A little bit of good-natured “shaming” of the most outrageous offenders can go a long way – comments like “keep it in your pants”, or complaining about the inelegance of their solutions. Always remember you have a lot more tools at your disposal than simple murder. Use them. Blackmail, bribe, be a bastard. Above all be circumspect, discreet, thoughtful, and analytical. If you have exhausted your other options, a carefully laid misstep kills a mage just as well as a dagger in the back.

Finally, remember to give other characters the chance to be good people. The dead can’t learn or improve, nor can you test them to refine your estimate of their position on the Diamond Wheel. If you happen to find yourself among other Mages who use their magic responsibly, don’t feel cheated out of playing the role of the hated policeman, take it as a good sign and turn your attention outwards. Remember, too, that it’s okay for a Guardian to make a moral choice. Guardian tradition calls for them to try the hard, moral path first, but be prepared and willing to do something immoral (but usually easier) if necessary.