Last Changeling game. Trolling True Fae & time traveling.
1. There is no lack of character concepts for this game, or perhaps I should more accurately say “Cover concepts.” Anyone who had a reason or opportunity to line up against the Bosses is right on. As I said in a planning email: “Progressives, unionists, socialists, communists, anarchists, assassins, Populists, Prohibitionists, suffragists, eugenicists, petty criminals, organized criminals, Silverites, Grangers, railroad robbers and saboteurs, political spiritualists and esotericists…” while very obviously neglecting to add the obvious refrain, “They all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.”
2. The timeframe of this game: it will begin with the Panic of 1893 and end in 1901 in Buffalo at the Pan-American Exposition. This will allow us to look at important events like the Pullman Strike, the Election of 1896, the Spanish-American War, and much more.
3. I’m thinking a limited campaign: maybe not as short as my current Changeling game (quite coincidentally taking place in the same time period but in a very different sort of setting) at 11 sessions but certainly not anywhere in the 40-80 range like my Geist, Promethean and Mage: the Awakening games. Let’s tentatively say something like 20-25 sessions, on a day and time TBD. This also all presumes that my planned next game of Mage20 set at Harvard in the mid-1990s doesn’t come through. Which… eh, not sure yet. So we’ll see.
Real wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in. But if man is doomed to wind cotton around a spool, or dig coal, or build roads for thirty years of his life, there can be no talk of wealth. What he gives to the world is only gray and hideous things, reflecting a dull and hideous existence,—too weak to live, too cowardly to die. Strange to say, there are people who extol this deadening method of centralized production as the proudest achievement of our age. They fail utterly to realize that if we are to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete than was our bondage to the King. They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of health and beauty, of art and science, all these being impossible in a clock-like, mechanical atmosphere.
- Emma Goldman, “Anarchism: What It Really Stands For”
The God-Machine has always been with us. It girds the globe, it binds and circumscribes humanity’s meaning on Earth. It does not command, It does not control; it merely continues existing and uses the tools at Its disposal to perpetuate Itself. For most of humanity’s existence, this was accomplished through a difficult, multifarious series of tasks; tiny nudges or proddings from Its servants, the Angels would put pieces of Its Infrastructure into place to make the necessary happen. Humanity was always easily duped into providing these circumstances; they were nothing if not helpful, useful ants scurrying about, crying to the heavens for meaning. It wasn’t until the latter years of the 19th century A.D. that humanity, in its greed and thirst for power, unwittingly, unknowingly, provided the God-Machine with Its ultimate servitor.
The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.
- headnote, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886), written by court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis, formerly president of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company
The corporation both exists in reality and in theory. It is made of people and is also a person. It is liminal, parasitical, paradoxical. It is an instrument and an entity, a tool and a power.
In other words, the corporation is one of the God-Machine’s Angels.
And in the America of the post-Civil War period, the corporation — many of them, in fact — are growing, cancer-like, over the body politic and in some cases the very landscape of the nation. These organisms propagate themselves, their constituents growing happy and fat on the gold the corporation excretes after consuming the raw materials and labor provided to it, like an ancient sacrifice upon an altar of Ba’al. The sky and water and earth shudder, parceled and poisoned by the corporation’s fences and mines and machines. Very often, to mortal eyes, the corporation moves in mysterious ways, allowing a God-Machine a degree of operational competence and potency it has never known in our world.
Some men and women rebel against this order. Certainly, anarchists and socialists, unionists and communists are all organized and lined up against the bosses and their thugs. But as above, so below. The Angels, too, have their contingent who stand and offer the words, “non serviam,” to the God-Machine. These are the Demons.
What hath God wrought?
- Samuel Morse, after Numbers 23:23
You are these Demons. You know the secret of the great industrial trusts of the Gilded Age: each is a powerful, occulted, and enigmatic Angel of ancient provenance. A monster, really, an egregore of antediluvian lineage. And so the mortals that scurry across the corporation are nothing more than foreign bodies on a grand, slumbering beast, who can easily be crushed by its movements and shudderings.
Your Cover identities are varied; some organize mortals in efforts to resist the Machine, God- or otherwise. Some go deep undercover in the corporations: whether in the railroads, in oil or steel or coal, into the telegraph and telephone networks, or among the agricultural combines strangling the life from the humble tiller of the field. Some slough off identities easily and move smoothly between the forces of Control and Resistance. Lines are blurred, motivations muddled. But your ring, based out of New York City, the nerve center for so many of the hideous egregore, is dedicated to thwarting the God-Machine’s actions as positioned through its most colossal and mysterious Angels.
Can the world be changed? Or has the God-Machine, in utilizing humanity’s greed and need for control and subservience, found the perfect tool for providing for Its continued and eternal existence? The future will tell, and, thanks to their nature, the Demons can plumb those lines of probability into the future to see, what hath God wrought?
Themes: Control, Resistance, Slavery, Freedom. Eternity. The stratification of America in the Gilded Age, the societal and hierarchical control inherent in life at the time. The small and large ways that individuals can exercise freedom against this omnipresent and oppressive control.
Mood: Cyberpunk in the Gilded Age. No, not steampunk, for that term has lost all its initial power and meaning. The Gilded Age is, like our present and our imagined future, a place where the individual has lost all power and agency. Only by taking up arms, words, and deeds against the Machine can humanity regain that self-determination.
This blog entry is also a very good starting point to think about the themes of this game.
Undead creatures from the AD&D Fiend Folio. Russ Nicholson, 1981
These monsters OWNED. Re Kyuss: you know you’re srs bzns when a metal band names itself after you.
you skeleton warriors didn’t take the possibility of a moonlight-powered anti skeleton warrior amulet into account when you were putting the battle plan together, did you? real bush league stuff there fellas
This is the best flavor text for turning undead EVER.
Thoughts on last night’s Mage game:
We have a lot of Big Themes running through this chronicle, some of which were planned and some surprising: the desirability of ecumenicalism, the hubris of reaching for immortality, the melancholy of a historical moment like Rudolf’s court, magical and special yet already in an inevitable decline into the chaos of future war, and the wish for our PCs to build a magocratic utopia or at least sanctuary — but one minor theme that keeps popping up again and again is the idea of mundane performance as magical ritual and the unintended consequences of releasing memes into an intellectual milieu that is receptive and indeed starving for new ideas.
The first instance of this was a prominent public performed autopsy based in historical fact. It wasn’t planned to be a ritual, but a Guardian of the Veil in our PCs’ Consilium used the energy of hundreds of people plumbing the mysteries of the human body to enact a long-term ritual meant for his own personal glory and enrichment and, almost incidentally, the glory of Emperor Rudolf. This early session foreshadowed the importance of watching the big, meaningful events among the Sleepers for clues to resonances with the Supernal.
One historical note: bringing the Rosicrucians into this game in the years before the historical appearance of the Manifestos was a conscious choice on my part. In the years prior to the 1610s and 20s, the seeds of Rosicrucianism were being planted in the German-speaking lands, by men like Maestlin, Studion, and yes, even Kepler to a certain extent.
Last night’s Imperial Command Performance of the opera of our group’s vampire Renaissance Man was scored by Michael Maier, a real historical occultist and purported Rosicrucian. It integrated the story of the rise and fall of Pythagoras in a mix of Greek tragedy and early operatic style to warn the good people of Rudolf’s court that tyranny of thought is a dangerous thing. A new and dangerous idea, especially in a Europe on the verge of the Thirty Years’ War. As such, it contained powerful symbolic/dramaturgical methods of communicating these ideas, not the least of which was the use of a magic lantern to project images high-impact memes (in the form of emblems) onto the backdrop of the stage. It was, essentially, an Awakened ritual with blanks left in, a palimpsest for both the viewers or any Mages in the audience to scribble onto.
So of course the Seers of the Throne tried to ruin the entire thing and attempted to spark the Thirty Years’ War a decade-and-a-half early.
The Seers’ mission, to foment chaos among the Sleepers and keep them enslaved, is utterly perfectly-suited for this period in time. As our Pentacle PCs keep trying to achieve brotherhood among all learned men, the Seers want to mire Prague in sectarian infighting, suspicion, fear, and the political machinations that characterized Rudolf’s real historical court. And in Lóránt’s opera, as well as in other vulnerabilities in our cabal (the lack of a Spirit mage, as our cabal’s Thyrsus is being punished by having his Awakened magic locked away), they saw an opportunity to plant ideas in the audience full of nobles and courtiers, ideas inimical to our cabal’s: Esoteric ideas like basic disagreements between Protestants and Catholics on the nature of Christ, and visceral ideas, like a united Christian hatred for Turks and Jews.
Our PCs won (at a cost, obviously, this is one of my games we’re talking about here: the two Consilium members who had used a shortcut to immortality are now compromised by the Seers/had voluntarily given up their immortality and finally died their natural death, and so the PCs are lacking important allies in this fight against the Seers) but more importantly they now realize what a simple, seemingly-mundane event like an opera can do. It can change minds, it can send ripples out, it can tap into archetypes and patterns as-yet-unseen.
Which should prepare them well for when they visit Shakespeare’s London. :)
I don’t know what this image is, but I want my next game to be based on it.