Mage: the Awakening National Stylesheet

This NSS applies to the United States Awakening LARP Chronicle as a whole. Its intention is to provide a common baseline for setting norms for the Awakening chronicle. VSTs are encouraged to reference it when writing VSSes and developing plots, and players when writing applications and designing characters.

In addition to this document, several setting primers have been released on the MES web site. These setting primers are considered to be normative and enforceable – they define what is considered “normal” in our Awakening setting, and may be used as a basis to deny outlandish or inappropriate concepts or actions.

For VSTs, a wide selection of “Toolkits” are available. These documents summarize available canonical information about groups and settings of importance to the Awakening genre, and provide details about the impact of the chronicle metaplot on the group in question. In addition, each contains “advanced permission”, allowing Low authority storytellers to use items that would normally be High or Top Approval provided restrictions on use are observed and reports are filed with the appropriate High and Top authority officers. Storytellers who would like Toolkit access are encouraged to contact the aNST Awakening.

Background

From the Great Refusal and the establishment of the Free Council on, the 20th century has been an unprecedented period of active conflict in the Awakened world. The abrupt demand for recognition by a group of technology-obsessed nefandi upended a seemingly-eternal stalemate. Millennia-long plans for winning the war inch by inch were replaced with a mad, explosive dash for power and advantage.

Masters on both sides expected the initial, heady rush to soon die down and the status quo to reassert itself. This expectation was dashed as the 20th century matured. The massive cultural and political changes wrought by the Great Depression and the World Wars reverberated throughout Awakened society as well – or perhaps the influence ran the other way around. Either way, the furious pace of conflict continued, with battles fought using everything from lethal spells to political and cultural manipulation. Technological change, too, outpaced all precedent, leading mages to question their assumptions about the limits of the mundane and what, exactly, made magic different.

Only in the early 21st century did the pace of the conflict slow. A combination of exhaustion and caution inspired by the development of modern surveillance and communication technology led to a period of detente. Mages everywhere paused to reevaluate their strategy and tactics in a world where any random bystander could instantly send a picture to millions. Open conflicts still flared up, but they were localized and isolated.

Now, barely a decade later, the portents of renewed hostility have proven themselves in ample measure. First came conflict with the Tremere liches, organized and coordinated to a shocking degree, and striking from surprise against Consilium and Pylon throughout the United States. Even in their shell-shocked state, the Pentacle Orders managed to beat back the soul-reapers. In their wake came even more puzzling omens and a “Red Tide” of Banishers, and as the tide withdraws, yet another threat looms…

Mood

Omnipresent Danger and Opportunity: The world is not a safe place, and Awakening has opened your eyes to this. You, like every other Sleeper, once dismissed the supernatural as myths or fevered fantasies. Now that you’re Awake, you can’t do that anymore, but vast new vistas of power and opportunity spread out before you. Which just makes you a bigger threat to the predators and parasites in turn. Sometimes, it seems like you just can’t win… But it wouldn’t be worthwhile if it was easy.

Themes

In addition to the excellent thematic analysis found on MET: Awakening pp388-389, the following themes will be prevalent in the US Awakening 2013-2017 Chronicle.

Mystery and the Unseen: Pentacle masters will tell you that their theories of magic are complete and comprehensive. While there are still many lost applications to rediscover (or, if you listen to the Libertines, new applications to discover), such things are mere practicalities. This willful but comfortable blindness ignores a vast universe of magics that don’t fit in the neat boxes of Pentacle theory, from whole disciplines to narrow loopholes. Never mind all the varied ways perfectly “normal” magic can lie hidden, waiting to turn a seemingly benign situation into dire danger for a mage who’s not watchful and aware…

The Cost of Enlightenment: Magic is knowledge. The kind that, when you finally really get it, burns itself deep into your soul and can never be forgotten. That kind of knowledge doesn’t come without a price tag attached. Sometimes it’s some inherited pain, inflicted on the student by the master because it was done to him. Sometimes it’s a price demanded by the very nature of what you seek to learn. Sometimes it’s just the horrors you see each time your eyes are opened to a wider world. Some Mages quail at the prices asked of them and retreat to safe mediocrity, while others have already paid far too much…

The Weight of Tradition: To the former Diamond Orders, and even the Seers, tradition is a heavy but necessary armor, a vital protection against all the ways mages can go wrong or be turned by the enemy. To the Libertines and many young Mages, it’s yet another manacle, more shackles binding even the Awakened to the Lie. Even outcasts, from Banishers to Scelesti, have their own twisted traditions to cling to. Hidden as they are in the midst of Sleeper society, skulking about the shadows of a vast prison of the mind, tradition is what has allowed Mages to maintain their identities across the millennia since the Fall. But as the 20th century showed, it can also, all too often, be a fatal burden…

Role of the NST’s Office

The National staff is focused on providing support to lower-level storytellers in the form of setting toolkits, plotkits, definitive rules calls, and a reporting structure that encourages thematic and procedural consistency across the nation. As such, we will rarely run major events ourselves. Even large-scale national conventions will be left to convention team lead Storytellers, though the NST’s office may ask these convention STs to incorporate certain plots. Players without a local live-action venue or the ability to form one are encouraged to take advantage of one of the many online play options available, including the MES Online venues.

The National office will not be static or passive participants. Your local game is where the majority of your play in the chronicle will take place. We want to give your local Storytellers the tools they need to incorporate whichever National elements best fit your style of play and interests. We understand local stories are unique, varied, and focus on different themes. This diversity adds complication and richness to the ongoing story arc, and we want to support this. Our ideal chronicle is a web of personal stories, linked together by large events, like conventions, where the main characters (your characters) come together to face down major threats and obstacles that they’ve come to care about.

We will regularly update the toolkits available to VSTs as they progress. These updates will reflect ongoing events and new developments, either those caused by players or NPC-driven story events.

In general, the NST’s staff will endeavour to make minimal changes to printed material. We want to play the game we bought, and hopefully you do too. Still, like all New World of Darkness games, Awakening’s setting material is a toolbox with lots of options.  For the sake of chronicle consistency, we will, when necessary, mandate certain options nation-wide. Sometimes our choices will merely be an established norm, which individual venues or characters may deviate from. Other times, they will be an inescapable absolute. Even if ours is not the choice you would have picked, have confidence that it’s the one we think is best for the National chronicle as a whole. If our choice is really impeding your fun, please let us know.