Arete is a measure of a mage's enlightened will. Some amount of Arete is required to perform any Awakened Magic. A mage's Avatar is a measure other understanding of the cosmos on an intuitive level. This intuitive awareness may come to a mage slowly or in a sudden burst of insight. Often, a great deal of Arete is acquired during a mages Awakening. Thereafter, progression becomes much more laborious, commonly involving Seekings. A mage with more Arete may plumb the mysteries of the cosmos (be they magical or mundane) with greater ease.
The Nine Spheres
To make his desires a reality, a mage needs more than just willpower. He also needs a profound grasp of the underlying elements of the cosmos. Long ago, the predecessors of today's magical practitioners divided these component elements into nine Spheres of Knowledge to ease the daunting task of studying the nature of reality. Mage facilitates his understanding by focusing on the individual aspect of reality that each Sphere represents, rather than trying to take in and affect reality as a whole. Although each Tradition is biased towards one favored Sphere as a group, any individual mage may study any Sphere.
Despite the vastly different ways in which the various Traditions interpret the Spheres (frequently using completely different sets of symbology and premises), the basic principle remains the same. First, a thing is conceived, beginning as an abstract idea of Prime which finds focus in the Mind and receives substance through the Spirit, leading to a Pattern gleaned from the Spheres of Forces, Life and Matter. This form is then perceived through its interaction with Correspondence and Time before succumbing to Entropy so that the whole process might start anew.
The Spheres are:
Correspondence: All points in space are one. Command of this Sphere allows a mage to transcend the constraints of space and distance.
Entropy: Things fall apart. The Wheel turns on it s inexorable course, destroying what exists to make way for new growth. This Sphere encompasses both fortune and destruction.
Forces: This Sphere provides its students command over the fundamental forces of the universe. Electromagnetism, fire, gravity, kinetic energy and nuclear power all are within its purview.
Life: The biology of all life forms (from simple viruses to the complexity of the human body) fall under this Sphere's control. Biological functions may be sped up, slowed down or even completely rewritten at the whim of the mage who masters the Sphere.
Matter: This Sphere encompasses the study of material, inorganic patterns. Everything from simple analyses of chemical composition to the transmutation of base metals into gold is possible using the magic of Matter.
Mind: The study of sentience, perhaps even separate from the biological brain, is the goal of this Sphere. It allows the mage to plumb the depths of his own consciousness and unlock the powers within.
Prime: This Sphere covers the study of Quintessence, the raw stuff of Awakened Magic. Mages trained in this Sphere understand and manipulate creation at its most basic, learning to detect, absorb and alter this mysterious Fifth Essence.
Spirit: Knowledge of the Umbra and its inhabitants comes from studying this Sphere. The mage who commands its power may converse with spirits and travel to their realms (albeit with difficulty).
Time: This Sphere promulgates the subjectivity of time. Using it, a mage may manipulate the perception and passage of time for himself and others.
These rather arbitrary divisions of reality are by no means accepted by all. (Some Tradition mages suspect that it was originally posited by the Order of Reason.) Regardless, the division of the nine Spheres remains a useful model by which mages may communicate the components of their Art.
A Tenth Sphere?
Some mages theorize that there exists an undiscovered tenth Sphere in addition to the aforementioned nine. It is believed that this missing Sphere will unite the other nine and illuminate the true path to Ascension. Despite the fact that most mages discount this theory, each Tradition has ts own preferred "pet Sphere," which often stands in the way of any inter-Tradition cooperation on the discovery of and outlining of said Sphere. Even the Technocracy has its Unified Field Theory. A hypothesis that disturbs a number of mages is the idea that the final unification of the Spheres may be the road to stasis, or even entropy. These willworkers feel that this possibility is to be ignored at the already beleaguered Traditions' peril.
Unlike the extraordinarily flexible, Paradox-provoking, Spheres used by Awakened Mages to fuel their magic, sorcerers subscribe to highly predictable, but reality-friendly, Paths. Paths are very appropriate names for the sorcerers' Arts, they are all well defined and able to wind through static reality, never leaving or disrupting it. While they lack the raw power of Awakened magic, sorcerers may use the magic of their Paths without much fear of Paradox as long as they are careful. By operating within the bounds of static reality, sorcerers effectively operate beneath Paradox's radar. While it is outside the scope of this book to outline the Paths of magic, players interested in building such characters are directed to Sorcerer for more complete information.
No self-respecting Technocrat appreciates having his work disparaged as "magic," although that's essentially what it is. To an Enlightened Scientist, all he is doing is applying advanced scientific principles to solve the problems at hand. He researches and proves each of these principles methodically, then disperses it to Enlightened and un-Enlightened audiences through scientific journals and the mass media. This method insinuates such "breakthroughs" into the collective unconscious of humanity, thereby rendering them coincidental to static reality. To confuse the results of the scientific method with the superstitious claptrap practiced by the Traditions does the Technocrats' work a disservice.
Technocrats typically refer to their Effects as procedures. A few mavericks from the Void Engineers and the Progenitors refer to their procedures as "spells" or "psionics," but the other Technocrats are accustomed to the odd behavior evinced by agents of these two Conventions. Semantics notwithstanding, it is important to note that while Technocratic operatives may reshape reality at will just as any other mage, such feats are only possible through the use of advanced science. No agent may just furrow his brow and will something to happen. It is only the application of scientific principles appropriate to his paradigm that allows something to happen.
All technomagic works through the judicious use of apparatuses. The most common sorts are hypertech gadgets, though cybernetics, drugs, genetic enhancements and advanced training facilitate many procedures. Devices, the Technocracy's equivalent of Talismans, are capable of many potent Effects not yet available to static reality. Unlike other forms of Wonders, Devices may be used by both Awakened agents and un-Enlightened technicians who have received training in advanced scientific theory. Such Devices have a tendency to fail in the hands of the un-Enlightened on occasion, but their utility is still a tremendous advantage over the Traditions.
The Spheres of the Technocracy
Like the Traditions they oppose, Enlightened scientists divide "magic" into nine formal spheres of influence (which are not capitalized in Technocratic jargon). By manipulating these elements, both Technocracy and Tradition mages achieve similar results. Appropriately enough, it is the through the efforts of the Conventions that the spheres were first codified. To the Technocracy, each of the nine spheres represents a natural law, not some esoteric division of reality. Despite arguments on both sides, there is little fundamental difference between Tradition Spheres and Convention spheres of influence. A rote and a procedure designed to produce the same outcome will be made up of similar, or more likely identical, elements. The only difference lies in the methods the two willworkers use to prepare themselves, each according to his own paradigm.
The only exception to this rule is the Spirit Sphere, the study of which is known to the Conventions as "Dimensional Science." Viewed by the Technocrats as extremely dangerous, Dimensional Science remains little understood by the vast majority of agents. Iteration X scientists were expressly forbid it, in fact.) Only the Void Engineers practice Dimensional Science on a regular basis, and they are monitored closely by the New World Order for any behavioral deviance resulting from possible contamination.
The Conventions frown on its agents using vulgar Effects. Only under conditions of complete isolation or extreme duress may such techniques be employed. Unveiling new technologies before the Masses are prepared to accept them can lead to both Paradox and discovery, both of which are unacceptable to the Technocratic Union. Similarly, Devices are not to be used where Sleeper witnesses might be encountered. Agents who persist with such behavior may find themselves punished by fines, revocation of equipment, detainment... or reeducation.
The Technocracy doesn't hold a monopoly on technomagic. The Sons of Ether and the Virtual Adepts are both former Technocratic Conventions. Each uses procedures almost identical to those performed by its former brethren within the Technocracy, procedures replete with high-tech gadgets and rigorously researched theorems. Apparently, it is easier to take the group out of the Union than it is to take the Union out of the group.
The main difference between the Enlightened scientist and his Tradition counterparts is that he remains completely unaware of his use of magic. To him, what he's performing is science, pure and simple. If someone tried to tell the Technocrat that what he was really performing was technomancy, lie would likely become incensed at the absurdity of the notion. He didn'tstudy as long and hard as he has to have his work disparaged as some sort of superstitious hoodoo.
The very idea of magic is foreign to his paradigm. The acceptance of such preposterous ideas by the Sons of Ether and Virtual Adepts just serves to point out how far they have fallen. Unable to prove their pseudo-scientific claptrap logically, they've turned to calling it "magic". Pity, that.
The Metaphysic of MagicAll around the world, children are indoctrinated in a passive, scientific view of reality. They are taught to use the laws of nature to understand the world around them. They are told that, despite being a part of reality, they may in no way affect the world's natural laws. Often, such children balk at such talk, much like mages do. In their worlds, reality's "truths" change from moment to moment, as quickly as their ideas. They command armies of verdant plastic, build impregnable fortresses of bright Lego's and gain unparalleled speed with the acquisition of new shoes.
Children know something instinctively that their parents and teachers forgot long ago they are capable of working their will on reality actively, even if it's a reality that consists mostly of action figures and comic books. Sadly, this innocent notion will soon be reasoned and rationalized out of existence, consigned to the occasional wistful daydream. Mages, on the other hand, return to these childhood concepts. To the Awakened, reality is subjective. Rather than building awareness and belief through the passive understanding of the world around them, mages know that belief and conscious desire create the world around them. This premise implies that humanity plays a more active part in the universe than Sleeper doctrine would lead one to believe. People, as intelligent individuals, are the cause, and reality is our effect.
After Awakening, and the corresponding realization that they may mold the world to their will, most neophyte mages ask their teachers (those who possess such mentors to ask, at any rate) why, given the limitless possibilities inherent to reality, they can't drag the moon from the sky for instance? Why can't they boil away the oceans? What's to keep them from transforming the Earth's atmosphere into glass?
The answer to these questions lies in the nature of reality itself. Static reality is a construct derived from the collective belief of humanity. Some apprentice mages misconstrue this idea to mean that every Sleeper is consciously projecting his or her own personal reality, and they wonder why the world isn't a chaotic jumble of overlapping realities vying constantly for dominance. Their mentors explain to these young proteges that, rather than being a hodgepodge of conflicting realities, existence is more like a shared hallucination formed through the agreement of a majority of humanity. As such, existence is sometimes referred to as consensual reality. Only one reality may be extant at any one time in a given space. Static realit y's constancy is backed by the faith of billions of Sleepers, each of whom bear within themselves an un-Awakened Avatar that works subconsciously to reinforce the status quo. Although such unfocused belief has little effect on the nature of reality individually, Sleepers exert a tremendously rigid stabilizing force through their aggregate beliefs. Whenever a mage attempts a magical Effect, she must overcome the combined will of humanity's collective unconscious. Defying this force is a feat of incredible difficulty for even the most puissant of mages.
As a strategy to overcome the strength of static reality, most mages (Tradition and Technocracy alike) attempt to disseminate their ideas into the cultural mainstream. This campaign serves the practical purpose of encouraging others to accept the tenets of their paradigm, in the process making it easier for them to impose their will on the world. The Technocratic Orders have proved remarkably successful at using this tactic, employing a combination of the mass media, propaganda and psychology over the last 150 years to convince the Masses that the technological paradigm is not only effective, but that scientific advancement is synonymous with the betterment of mankind. This occurrence is fairly recent. Prior to the last century, technological devices had a tendency to malfunction on a regular basis, showering their enlightened users with Paradox, despite the best efforts of the predecessors to the Sons of Ether and other like-minded Conventions. Over time, however, people came to believe more and more in the validity of science, and as they did, more "miracles of modern science" became possible under static reality. Soon it was possible for Sleepers to use various scientific contrivances as well as Awakened operators might. The process by which science became the dominant paradigm was a gradual one, but one that was highly effective. And it continues to be so in the present.Historical Inertia and Cosmological Constants Two additional forces contribute to static reality's resilience. Both hamper a mage's ability to affect the world around them, and they make her more fantastic castings patently impossible in many cases. These bulwarks of reality are referred to by a number of epithets in mage circles, but they are more properly known as historical inertia and cosmological constants. Some things have been around for so long that they have both the weight of history and a huge expenditure of belief behind them, validating their existence. The historical inertia this belief generates makes any attempt to change or eliminate these items virtually impossible. For instance, a mage could not eliminate the ability of heavier-than-air vehicles to fly, as they have been part of the Sleeper belief system since the Wright brothers first took, their flight. The sheer preponderance of belief in and use of airplanes dooms such a feat to failure. The Technocracy turns historical inertia to itsown advantage expertly by rewriting history to give credence to patently false things. By doing so, it makes them true. Cosmological constants, on the other hand; are things that have always been true and that can never be changed. No mage, no matter how powerful, can rebuild Quintessence into a totally different base of reality or change the gravitational constant of the universe. It also bodes ill to dabble with either the workings of the Metaphysic Trinity or the Curse of Caine. Although no one is sure why, certain fundamentals of the cosmos seem eternal. They seem to date back to the creation of the world itself, serving as the immutable keystones of reality. (What really counts as constant or not is up to theneeds of the individual Storyteller.) Certain mages, typically powerful Masters of the Art, become fed up with the restrictions placed on them by Sleeper belief. With time and effort, some of these mages create their own private Realms beyond the Horizon. In these Realms, theirs is the only consensus, and each of the Realms has its own set of cosmological constants. Despite their great power within such a place, these masters have lost the race to Ascension by denying true reality to dwell within a false one mirroring their selfish desires.
The Metaphysic Trinity
Sleepers can only comprehend a small fraction of reality's whole. If one attempts to take in the entire thing at once, it proves too much for the human mind to grasp. Mages, with the aid of their Awakened psyches, are able to understand a portion of reality correspondingly larger than that of Sleepers, but even they are forced to arrange and classify it for ease of study. The three fundamental elements of this categorization are Dynamism, Stasis, and Entropy. These three forces form a mystical model known in more esoteric circles as the Metaphysic Trinity of magic.
Dynamism represents creation, growth and change within the Metaphysic Trinity. It is both forward motion and the drive to adapt or die. Those who don't understand it view Dynamism as a force of totally random chance, a roiling storm of chaos. While it is an active force for change, it is not invariably random. Many Tradition mages mistakenly believe that the Technocracy is opposed to change. It is such misinformation that led to Technocracy agents being referred to as "static mages." As any agent of the Technocratic Union can tell you, the Technocracy is very much in favor of change, but it must be controlled change. There is a reason that periods of rapid technological advancements are referred to as "revolutions."
Lacking the force of Dynamism, the universe would fall into decay and dissolution. The need to change and adapt is an essential part of life. Such change may seem daunting, even frightening, but it must continue in order for the universe, and all within it, to grow and prosper. No one embodies this drive to change more than the Awakened mage. Through will alone, he alters the world around him. Every rime he does so, be it subtly or dramatically, he affects the whole of reality, becoming a greater agent of change than he may realize.
Stasis is the element that holds everything together, a sort of universal glue. Without the stability provided by this force, the universe would be an ever-shifting sea of conflicting realities, each overwhelming (and being overwhelmed by) the others. Such a state would preclude even an acknowledgment of the concept of self. Of course, an excess of Stasis has just the opposite effect, serving to calcify reality and make it more resistant to change. Modern times have seen a gradual increase in this force's sway over reality. In ages past, Stasis was less dominant, and mages had a relatively easier time imposing their will onto reality.
As Stasis exerts a stronger grasp on Creation, reality continues to become ever more fixed and unyielding. Paradoxically, a great many Sleepers view Stasis' effect as a form of "progress" which affords them greater freedom and expanded possibilities. This belief is patently false. With each new "convenience" modern life affords them, Stasis gains a more secure hold over the minds of humanity, robbing them of their own inherent creativity.
Entropy is both the alpha and the omega of existence. It is the state from which all things rise and to which all things return eventually, only to rise again. As such, it acts as a balancin g force between the antithetical elements of dynamism and stasis, serving to keep the cycle of birth, death and rebirth in motion. Within the bounds of Entropy, Stasis and Dynamism reach a state of equilibrium that undoes both, rendering them unto the oblivion which Entropy ultimately represents. As the Euthanatos point out, however, this oblivion is not so much an end as it is a new beginning. Entropy gives up what it has devoured to begin the cycle anew.
There appear to be two distinct cultural viewpoints on Entropy. Westerners fear it as a destructive force that leads to death and ruin. Westerners prefer to be able to separate reality's contents into distinct units. A man driving his car is an entirely separate entity, with nothing in common with his vehicle. However, in both animistic cultures and laboratories worldwide, the line distinguishing man and machine becomes blurred. In the East and in the tenets of both tribal shamans and quantum physicists worldwide, no distinction exists between the energy manifestation that forms the matter of the man and the matter that makes up his automobile. Both are merely eddies of energy within the infinite sea of space-time. Each of these concepts of reality poses a danger when taken to its logical extremes. In the first view, there is the threat of Dynamism becoming fixed into a static matrix. In the second, given its less ossified view, Entropy erupts when borders blur into chaos.
Without Entropy, items that had outlived their usefulness would continue to exist in perpetuity. As it is, the items evanesce to rejoin the cycle anew. There is, however, a growing number of mages within the Traditions that suspect Entropy of transcending its prescribed limits, worrying at things not yet ready to rejoin the cycle. Whether or not this theory proves true remains to be seen, but few outside their own Tradition seem willing to accept the Euthanatos convictions to the contrary as unequivocally reliable.
Literally translating as the "fifth essence," Quintessence is the fundamental unit of all magic. All energy, matter, spirit and life, literally all things in the universe, are formed from Quintessence at the most basic level. This Prime Energy is neither material nor ephemeral and can never actually be grasped or sundered.
While it is accepted by mages universally that reality is formed of Quintessence, not even they can say with any degree of certainty exactly what it is. Most see it as an ever-changing pool of raw potential from which all things in the universe arise and return. This basic "bio-energy" often gathers at incidents of strong emotion and becomes colored by them thereafter. Mages were quick to grasp that their own Avatars were natural conduits of Quintessence and were, as a result, the easiest means by which to access this Prime force.
As each new thing comes into existence, it draws Quintessence from the endless pool. Similarly, when an old thing fades away, its Quintessence reenters the pool, where it may find use again. It is an understanding of this Great Cycle that is central to the beliefs of the Euthanatos. Some of the death-mages (and a number of Nephandi) believe that if reality were ever to attain a state of pure entropy, the artificial frameworks imposed on it by humanity would cease to exist, revealing the unadulterated glory of raw Quintessence. Such talk does little to win them friends outside their own Tradition.
Tass is the concrete, physical expression of Quintessence. These bits of pure Prime can often be used to fuel a mage's magical undertakings. However, as it has already been mentioned, Quintessence is indivisible. This begs the question, "How then can raw Quintessence be captured in a base material form?" In the past, the Traditions' Masters might have spent hours haranguing their less experienced comrades with their own philosophical take on this conundrum. But, since recent events have placed the Masters' wisdom beyond the reach of younger mages, a simple illustration must suffice. If one is accustomed to thinking of the raw Quintessence as a pool, then think of Tass as Quintessence temporarily frozen like ice, floating on the surface of this larger sea. In time, this Tass will "melt," eventually flowing back into the infinite pool of Quintessence that first spawned it. Until it does however, Tass may be used by mages to lend power to their magic and to fuel their mystical Talismans. Tass infuses the bodies of magical creatures werewolves, faeries and the like and it may be harvested from them. Needless to say, such creatures are less than happy to sacrifice themselves for a mage's convenience. More than a few mages have paid the ultimate price for such presumption.
It also collects in certain Nodes where energies gather in physical objects. Tass is sometimes affected by the form in which it manifests, unlike the pure Quintessence from which it springs. Quintessence stored in the waters of a holy spring may lend itself to healing, while that stored in the mushrooms of a faerie ring may cause the magic powered by them to have unpredictable side effects. A mage should be aware of this Resonance and use this resource accordingly.
For all intents and purposes, Tass is a finite resource. As a mage uses up the Tass that exists within a particular place or object, it disappears, returning to the pool of Quintessence from which it arose originally. Magical objects spent of the Tass that powered them are effectively useless until they are recharged at a Node or through another influx of Tass.
The Tapestry is a metaphorical model used by mages to illustrate the workings of reality. Its fabric may be seen as a complex weave of physical, spiritual and intellectual elements. All things that exist have their own unique pattern, formed from threads of Quintessence into energy, matter and life. These individual patterns are all just parts of the greater whole of the Tapestry. They interact with each other, together forming the things we perceive to be real.
Although very few mages can perceive individual patterns, everyone can view their interaction. For instance, each raindrop that falls is an example of the interaction of the patterns of water and gravity. The foundation of reality is magic, its forms a result of interwoven threads of Quintessence. Despite scientists' talk of molecular bonds and holy men's talk of the divine, it is Quintessence that furnishes the life energy that suffuses the Tapestry. Lacking that bio-energy, the threads would unravel. Most mages agree that the Tapestry embodies three distinct types of pattern-energy. These energy types are body, spirit and mind.
The material world is the domain of the body. It is the realm of experience shared by Sleeper and Awakened mage. Tradition mages define the material realm and the wispy spirit-stuff immediately adjacent to it as the Tellurian. The majority of willworkers contend that the raw "threads" of Quintessence which makes up the spirit realms coalesce into basic, easily comprehensible patterns that make up the physical Realms (of which there are many, not just the one experienced by Sleepers). Each of these material Realms, and the Near Umbral Realms surrounding them, are part of the Tellurian.
Spirit is quite possibly the most basic component of magical reality. Wherever the raw stuff of Quintessence resolves itself into "threads," it becomes spirit. This substratum of reality is much too ephemeral for Sleepers to perceive and comprehend, at least consciously. Those conversant in the Spirit Sphere refer to this level of reality as the Umbra, or the Shadow. As the Umbra is the highest level of reality mortal man can experience, willworkers contend that it is, therefore, the "truest" form of reality that we can grasp. The material world, they argue, is merely an imperfect reflection of its spirit counterpart.
Of the three parts that make up the greater whole of the Tapestry, the least understood is that of the mind. Some mages argue that consciousness is not quantifiable, and that it may be a manifestation of raw Quintessence. Others believe that sentience formed as a reaction to the existence of the Tapestry. However, that very Tapestry cannot exist without minds to will it into being. This seeming paradox is a riddle equal to any Zen koan.
Belief is central to all magic. Most mages realize theoretically that the limitations they ascribe to body, spirit and mind are untrue. They only exist because it is believed that they do. Mages impose their own boundaries on themselves. For years, static reality held that an unbreakable barrier prevented planes from flying faster than the speed of sound. Then, on October 14, 1947, pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 rocket plane. Once Yeager had broken the sound barrier, other pilots soon succeeded in matching and then surpassing his mark. Captain Yeager himself set a second record on December 12, 1953 when he flew two and a half times the speed of sound. Now there are commercial airplanes that fly faster than sound routinely. Chuck Yeager's belief and talent overcame a principle of static reality, thereby changing the world. Willworkers accept that people's personal beliefs serve to mold their actions in many ways. Cases of hysterical blindness and psychosomatic illness are both examples of this concept. The power of belief goes much deeper, however. Belief often becomes reality. If a person truly believes in a specific concept, he is not likely to question that belief.
The majority of Sleepers cling to deeply ingrained beliefs as a source of comfort in the face of the unknown. Many times, even beliefs that prove harmful will become precious in their familiarity. If enough people come to believe in something, it will become part of static reality's established paradigm.
Consensual reality suffuses all human beings, Awakened and Sleeper alike. Beliefs structure this static reality, but static reality structures beliefs, also. Every participant in this vicious cycle affects all the others and, in the end, themselves as well. Mages, though, are able to ignore, or even fracture, stat ic reality's paradigm outright.
Despite long-standing arguments to the contrary, most mages agree that a person's belief forms not only her particular paradigm but that of the larger Tapestry of consensual reality.
More than a mere style, paradigm is the defined essence of the mage's beliefs, and it has been described by some as the language through which the mage communicates his Art. The only things any mage absolutely needs to practice magic are the will to enforce his desire on reality, the knowledge of the appropriate Spheres and the paradigm through which to focus that desire and make it real. Before any magical Effect can happen, it must first jibe with the casting mage's paradigm. A Verbena witch cannot just want her enemy to be struck down with ill fortune. She must cause this to happen in a way that is appropriate to her paradigm. Perhaps she performs a blood sacrifice and invokes the goddess Hecate to curse her foe. Because it is both within her knowledge of Entropy and appropriate to her paradigm, chances are the effects of the hex will come to pass. The same Verbena would be unable to transform a rampaging werewolf into a garden gnome because such an absurd belief is completely alien to her paradigm, regardless of Spheres.
One of the problems that has always frustrated attempts to foster cooperation between mages is that magical concepts are hard to translate between conflicting paradigms. In the past, Tradition mages have suggested that an artificial paradigm encompassing all the Traditions be established, but the idea has been met with a combination of angry words and howls of derisive laughter each time. Given that each mage's paradigm is tied so closely to his beliefs, it seems unlikely that such a "mystical Esperanto" would become any more popular than its linguistic counterpart.
Talismans, Devices, Fetishes, Familiars and Companions
Talismans are inanimate objects designed to produce specific magical Effects. During its creation, powerful magic is placed within the object to be powered by Quintessence also stored within the item. Some common items so enchanted are staves, rings, weapons and computers. Talismans require a great deal of time, knowledge, effort and artistic ability be expended on their manufacture. Each is unique and often quite powerful, a rare and wonderful treasure seldom seen in modern times. Mages of prodigious skill produce these Talismans to evoke a certain Effect when needed or to allow less talented mages to use magic that is currently beyond their ability to wield. In most cases, Talismans work properly only in the hands of the Awakened. Anyone else trying to use a Talisman wand, for instance, would be merely waving a twig around.
Devices are the Technocratic equivalent of the Tradition Talismans. These Devices are much more common than their mystical counterparts. Each of these scanners, vehicles and BFGs (Big Fucking Guns) "operates" thanks to technomagic theory, at a significantly higher technical level than its mundane equivalent. Although they always require special training to operate, Devices have a much higher success rate with Sleeper operators, since the technology jibes with consensual expectations.
Fetishes are objects employed by mages knowledgeable in spirit magic. Unlike Talismans, fetishes derive their power from spirits that are bound to them and forced to perform some limited service. Most have but one power, though certain exceptional ones may have two or even three. As fetishes are, in fact, spirits bound in matter for a period of indentured servitude, they often exhibit odd quirks if not outright resentment and hostility. Many willworkers believe them to be more trouble than they're worth.
Similar in some ways to fetishes, familiars are also spirit beings embodied in matter. In this case, however, the two parties make a bargain that benefits both mage and spirit. The mage gains access to the familiar's knowledge and supernatural abilities (including an impressive talent for nullifying Paradox), while offering the familiar companionship and Quintessence in return. With the recent strengthening of the Gauntlet, spirits who find it more difficult to interact with the material world are often more amenable ?? entering into familiar bonds with worthy mages. A familiar is not subservient to his mage, and he may look upon the mage as his own familiar! A familiar may have any form, ranging from mundane animals (such as the stereotypical black cat still popular among the Verbena) to much more unusual specimens (such as the golems produced by the Sons of Ether). Having an over-exotic familiar, however, is a recipe for trouble. The force of Unbelief is too strong for such patently fantastic creatures to survive on this side of the Horizon, and they sicken and die quickly when exposed to it. Conventional familiars, on the other hand, are quite loyal and likely to remain allied to their mages for a very long time if they are treated properly.
Never wanting to be outdone, the Technocrats have their own companions. More rare among the Union than familiars are within the Traditions, companions are seeing a return to vogue among younger Technocrats. Although created via the scientific methods of hypertech or biotech, there is little to differentiate these beings from their counterparts among the Traditions. They too must be supplied with Primal Energy (Quintessence), be it from personal contact or the occasional Erg Cola, and the attention they crave. Most operatives prefer forms of life that readily jibe with static reality, intelligent house pets are common. Still, more unusual companions run the gamut from Artificial Intelligence programs to gray-skinned, hairless aliens with huge eyes. Technocrats pining for companionship should be aware, however, that the Union is much less forgiving of incidents of reality deviance and security breaches by such creatures. The agent is held accountable for anything perpetrated by his companion.
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