Deep breaths and insecurity aside, I'm actually feeling pretty good about this. Paul is experienced enough with the system and as a GM that I can lean on him a bit for help and can trust that he won't completely take advantage of me. Tys and I are familiar enough with the system that we at least know what we're doing. That leaves both Chelle and Cass as being brand knew to the game, which can help to clarify our own understandings by answering their questions. One of the things that I actually wanted out of this game was a lot of discussion, both in character and out, concerning how magic works and what different viewpoints might achieve. Cass had some difficulty expressing what she wanted tonight and was having a hard time understanding how to go about achieving her intention. The ensuing discussion allowed me to reward them with experience points to encourage just such discussions.
We have character concepts and filled out character sheets. Tys decided to play a voodoo priest Dreamspeaker that operates a shop down on Lake Merritt, he took a reasonably high resource and sanctum backgrounds so we determined that his shop seconded as his sanctuary and that his clientele was lite but his services were valuable. Chelle created a Cultist sculptor who owned or at least ran her own gallery and was politically vocal. With a background of enemy we determined that her vocal activism had gathered her a picketer who would actively try to disrupt her operations. Paul created a young and quickly rising action star who is very aware of the tellurian (that is the whole of reality) but is still new at trying to interact with it. Which brings us to Cass, an Etherite mad scientist whose heretical beliefs that everyone is actually awake, that they are simply not paying attention, leaves her somewhat alone even among the tradition mages. Cass's character works with UC Berkley students, she acts as manager of accounts for one of the labs.
In order to get them together we said that Tys's priest was speaking at the campus that Pauls character attended out of interest. Because of course there is no such thing as coincidence we included Chelle as leading a political rally on campus at the same time. Given that she's a cultist I used her perception of time to notice both Tys and Pauls characters. I gave the cultist a vision of seeing both Paul and Tys as aging very rapidly in front of her, not as a disturbing thing but in a way that her character tended to notice around people who she knew well. Among those she knew well it was a comforting feeling of knowing that they'd know each other for some time to come, but in this case she had never met either Paul or Tys's character before. As those three were talking Cass's character walked by and noticed that the three people talking all had a presence to them that indicated to her that they were awake.
For this first session I wanted to have a specific event to start everything off. My concept however was for using tarot cards to offer prophecy for the future, so looking over the concepts I had I stacked the deck in order to present appropriate prophecy.
The cards presented in order were the Nine of Swords, the Seven of Cups, The Magician, and finally the Eight of Wands. I would certainly welcome comments on what these cards might mean.
I also dropped a flier into the hands of my characters that advertised a new display over at the natural history museum. This display included codes used throughout human history as well as code breaking devices and methods. Among the displays was included a display of the Voynich manuscript, an actual text that has never been translated.
About this time Cass had mentioned that she had a point in contacts, which we determined to be a virtual adept who she would often turn to for favors with the software she used for her lab. I had Cass draw a tarot card that would be used to determine the relationship with her contact, she drew The Lovers. So I figured the contact enjoyed his relationship with Cass and actively sought to encourage it. To that end he also sent her information of the upcoming display knowing that she would enjoy seeing it (which Cass decided her character would certainly enjoy).
Tys expressed interest in checking it out, as well as Chelle. Paul determined that his character would feign disinterest but would show up disguised and hiding his identity. So with all four checking out the display this gave them all a chance to investigate the Voynich. Not much was found, the manuscript is largely a mundane book. Tys and Paul both asked their Avatars about it which gave me a chance to have them both draw tarot cards concerning their avatars knowledge. Tys drew The Moon, Paul drew the Two of Cups, both cards I determined did not allow them any special knowledge of the manuscript, though I did allow that Paul's avatar had heard about it. I am thinking now additionally Pauls avatar would mention that its old.
So yea, not a lot happening yet. Next session the events foretold will come to pass, and the following session the characters will learn about it. This will start things slow, and this is what is making me most anxious, the slow start. But this will allow the characters two sessions in order to react to the prophecy before it comes to pass, and during the third session they will be learning of the results of the prophecies. After that point things should start moving at a fairly steady pace, more or less determined by the players toward their own goals.
That said, next session I want to discuss the characters regular day to day lives and goals, as well as their goals as a group. Do they want to take an active role in the ascension war? Whether or not they want to the war goes on, and the political maneuvering offered by the tarot cards will continue to happen despite the characters attentions. Sometimes that war will spill over into the characters lives, all to be determined by the draw of the cards.
I did ask the players if they had any theme's they'd like to explore. Paul mentioned that in the other Mage games he's played the focus was largely on mass ascension. Paul asked if we could work toward individual ascension as a theme instead. I think even given the ascension war there shouldn't be any problem with including such a theme, the trick becomes how we might go about that. My first thoughts revolve around discovering a person who is not awake but has the potential. In teaching that person the players might discover that awakening is a very individual, a very personal affair, and with it ascension might be the same. Mass ascension might simply not be possible, an arrogant assumption that all minds think alike.
In fact, Cass's characters idea that people are already awake might work in favor of such a concept. I'll toy with it and see what we come up with. I think what I might do is ask the mad scientist if she has any thoughts for experimenting with the awareness of the sleepers. Any ideas from the peanut gallery?
Let me finish up with a recap list of the cards that were drawn and how they were used just for quick reference.
1st Nine of Swords
2nd Seven of Cups
3rd The Magician
4th Eight of Wands
The Lovers - determined that their relationship was on amiable terms and that the contact freely contacted Cass.
Avatars questioned about the Voynich:
Paul drew the Two of Cups, his Avatar knew of the Voynich and that it was old.
Tys drew The Moon, his Avatar did not recognize the Voynich.