Wednesday, March 11, 2020

(M:tAs) Hidden Lore

Yesss, Mage, come to the dark side. . . embrace using a grid and miniatures for your combat encounters. . . become . . . tactical.

Okay, the Mage grid-and-minis combat rules are less than a page long and they don't really add anything to the game, but if I don't have fun with it, this is going to be a very short post. Hidden Lore describes itself as an "overflow book," and that's more or less what it feels like. I don't know if I necessarily believe its claim that all this was originally destined for the core (organizationally, I'm not sure where tradition-specific rotes would even go), but it definitely feels core-adjacent. Nothing is so specific or challenging that it would benefit from a supplement to expand on it.

We do learn the canon fate of Norna Weaver from Loom of Fate, though. They make her a spider. She's listed in the Technocracy section of the list of canon NPCs with only a vague reference to who she was before she became an earthquake-preventing spirit "an Orphan shaped by the Technocracy into a guardian of the Bay Area." That bums me out, even though the original adventure had no responsible way to save her.

There's also a sample mini-setting, Seattle, which is okay, I guess. I'm amused by White Wolf calling it a "gritty urban metropolis," a little frustrated by the fact that they put "homeless problem" in scare quotes (I guess White Wolf isn't really ready to take on capitalism head-on yet), and I'm left rolling my eyes (in a friendly "oh, you" sort of way) at the thinly-veiled references to local corporations "Benning Aeronautics, Macrosoft, and Magicians of the Bay." Not sure if I entirely buy that Macrosoft is a Virtual Adept front, but then the Virtual Adepts always had the problem of being stand-ins for a contemporary techno-futurism that is always in flux.

The last significant thing in this book is that it includes an essay that explains the various magical factions' position on gender equality. It's pretty arbitrary, and tracks fairly well to Mage's unspoken "if they make you go to school, they're authoritarian," ethos. Not surprisingly, the Order of Hermes, the Sons of Ether, and the Technocracy are most sexist and the Verbena, the Cult of Ecstasy, and the Hollow Ones are the least. What is surprising is that the Celestial Chorus is accepting of gay people and the Dreamspeakers have a "mixed" attitude, in contrast to the reverent way they're treated in most of the supplements.

I kind of wish the Technocracy had gone another way with it, and been the "we're too logical to care about gender . . . if it ever becomes an obstacle we'll just remove it with drugs and cybernetics" brand of sexism, because at least that would have seemed vaguely humanist and empirical, but the Technocracy never quite stops equivocating between "conspiracy of cyborgs" and "devil on the shoulder of Western Civilization."

Incidentally, I'm sure this is the wrong place to reveal this, but since this would be a short post for a short book, I'll just go ahead and tell you my head-canon metaplot for the post-revised Technocracy:

As the USA geared up for the invasion of Iraq, the government's NWO handlers realized that, far from being a tractable pawn, Bush was a true believer who would govern on superstition, rather than reason. Subsequently, they went all-in on electing John Kerry in 2004, believing that he was, on-paper, the perfect candidate. To see then, that their supposedly perfect system of control was capable of returning such an irrational result wound up breaking the tenuous peace between the Conventions.

This led to a slow-motion Technocratic civil war that lasted from 2005-2008, and which only came to an end when the Syndicate's exotic financial instruments started suffering from paradox backlash. The Technocracy shattered. Though none of the Conventions would defect to the Traditions, you did see some of the more hard-sf technicians reach out to the more conservative elements of the Virtual Adepts and together they broke off to form their own independent group called The STEM Gods which would later prove to have disturbing ties to the alt-right. The remaining VAs are pretty much 90% trans now.

Despite the financial crash, the Syndicate survived just fine and are also an independent faction, though one with little interest in anything besides becoming (and staying) super rich. They've put out tentative feelers to the more aristocratic Tradition members, in hopes of convincing them that their ancient fortunes would grow most effectively under Syndicate management.

Many Void Engineers joined the STEM Gods, a few joined the Sons of Ether, and a few went Nephandi, but at least one managed to infiltrate the inner circles of Bezos and Musk.

The NWO was largely wiped out in the civil war, the victim of an environment where everyone was trying to settle old scores all at once. The survivors head up a rump Technocracy that mostly flails around like a chicken with its head cut off. They are the true inheritors of the Union's utopian vision, without all its authoritarian hang-ups, but they're not equipped to do much more than yell at people on the internet.

None of that has anything to do with Hidden Lore, of course, but it's been floating around my head for awhile now and it's better to get it out here, rather than somewhere where it would be a massive distraction. All told, I don't actually think that much of Hidden Lore as an overflow book, but that's probably because the 2e Core did a damned good job of feeling complete.

Ukss Contribution: The Verbena have a rote to awaken tree spirits and their default name is "Jack of the Green." I really like that name, though I'll probably wind up giving it to a specific entity.

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