Friday, September 16, 2011

A moment of clarity / Levels of reality, magic and the Awakened Mage

A number of things have bothered me about Mage: the Awakening since I first read it, and a couple more since I read Changeling: the Dreaming.
These things are mostly to do with my understanding of the Awakened state, the Supernal realms and how magic flows from these realms to our realm.
And Paradox. Mostly Paradox.
Paradox made sense in Mage: the Ascension because magic was all about belief and consensual reality.
Not so in Awakening. There is no consensual reality in this game. Instead, Mages tap into another plane of existence and apply some of the laws of that realm to our own to achieve certain effects.
So, Paradox in Ascension is the rest of the consensus slapping the Mage down.
Paradox in Awakening, on the other hand, is possibly the Mage fucking up and slapping himself. It can also be nearby sentient beings slapping them down because, dammit, people obey the laws of thermo dynamics in this house.
I get that the concept of Paradox is fairly integral to both iterations of Mage, I am just not convinced by how it has been ported across to Awakening and how it has been applied. Without it, Mages (magi?) Would be pretty much unstoppable, able to chuck fireballs, lightening and cars with reckless abandon, control, after and wipe the minds of the rest of the world, transform us all into swine, conquer death and live in luxury.
So, yeah, Paradox.

 Then there's the Supernal realms and the Watchtowers.
Having read Mage: the Awakening, I understood that the Watchtowers were situated within the corresponding Supernal realm, and that's where an Awakening Mage's soul is called to to inscribed their name. Fine. Then I read Changeling: the Dreaming and flicked through its supplement, Equinox Road. Having done so, I had no idea if the Changeling Arcadia was the same place as the Mage Arcadia. Were Awakened souls bypassing the Hedge, and its very serious negative affect on Willworkers? Where in Arcadia is the Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn?
The Tome of the Watchtowers states that it "...occupies the centermost point of Arcadia..." yet the common descriptions of Arcadia presented by Mages differ significantly to of the escaped Changelings, enough to raise serious doubt that they are talking about the same place.
 Then there's the thematic similarity between the Shadow realm, mostly frequented by Werewolves and Spirits, and the Primal Wild Supernal realm. Also the Underworld from Geist: the Sineaters and the Supernal realm of Stygia. Stepping outside the game world for a second, these duplications of function and theme confuse me.

From a setting design perspective, its not quite right. How do they interact and relate to each other? To my understanding, nWoD is supposed to play nice with itself, and all the different parts are supposed to fit into the bigger picture. These things are not quite fitting, for me.
From a strictly Mage perspective, disregarding any information from other game lines, it all makes sense. That's how the oWoD rolled, though, with it getting sticky the more info from other lines you introduced to your game. NWoD is supposed to be better than that.

 Which brings me to my moment of clarity.
 The Astral Plane. Mages have the ability to explore their own consciousness, sub-conscious and those of the collective human race, as they ascend (descend) through distinct layers of consciousness and dream and collective sub-conscious etc seeking enlightenment, knowledge and things mortal man should not wot of. Importantly (to my theory, at least), during their Awakening, a Mage travels to (or perceives) their Watchtower by way of the Astral plane. They don't physically enter the Supernal realm in question, their Astral form journeys to the Watchtower, leaving their sleeping or semi-conscious body behind.
Which got me thinking - what if the Watchtowers are not actually in the Supernal realms? What if they're in the far reaches of the Astral plane? Maybe the Watchtowers are located at the points of crossing between the Astral plane and each Supernal realm? This would make them more properly Gateways... I'm thinking that the Astral plane can be seen as a bridging point between the Earth and the Supernal realms, that the Exarchs have cut off entry to these realms, so the Watchtowers were built on the realm edges, and are close enough to channel mana from those realms to Earth.
There's probably some fundamental point this theory misses, probably something about how the Shadow forms part of the Fallen World... However, this theory does allow me to reconcile certain things.
Changeling Arcadia is the true Arcadia. The Watchtower of the Lunargent Thorn occupies an area of the Astral plane that reflects Arcadia and is heavily influenced by its proximity to Arcadia. The same also applies to the other Watchtowers.
The Primal Wild is an area of the Astral Plane adjacent to the Shadow.
Stygia is the gateway to the Underworld.
Pandemonium is an entrance to Hell.
The Aether is next to the realm of angels and power.
 All these Supernal realms retain their sovereignty, as do the Watchtowers, and any differences and conflicts that arise from the individual game lines can be rationalized using this model.

I bet if I read the Astral Plane source book, it'll contradict everything I've just said...