Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Alternate Interpretations of Entropy 4 and 5

Ok, so I am currently playing an orphan who leans heavily towards the Syndicate paradigm, but really REALLY dislikes their goals.  He's designed around the idea of "what would a mage who's running the rolling jubilee or coordinating a lot of Occupy activity look like?"  His main spheres are entropy and mind.  As I just started playing him he only has 3 arete, so hasn't gotten to levels 4 or 5 of entropy.  As I've been thinking about how to advance him in the future though I'm really realizing how much levels 4 and 5 of entropy are very limiting.  They feel like the person who originally designed entropy ran out of pattern ideas so just tacked combined Life and Mind effects on and called it a day.  4th level Entropy especially I just want to skip because as someone who's heavily using the Syndicate paradigm (not entirely but heavily) level 4 doesn't even really apply to me so why would I ever take it?  As such I've been thinking about what I'd really like levels 4 and 5 of entropy to look like.  These are ideas for alternate sphere options.  Obviously they wouldn't work for all mage games, but I think they would definitely help with games that focus on very specific themes related to Entropy.  These are just ideas right now, I haven't playtested them, and I'm sure there is nuance to how these spheres would play that could be improved, but something maybe worth brainstorming.

Alternative Entropy Level 4 Control Complex Patterns: Where as level 3 Entropy allows you to control predictable patterns such as a game of poker, or a mechanical machine level 4 allows you to control complex "unpredictible" patterns.  (the true master of entropy knows all patterns can be predicted, but these really take a master's touch to understand).  This includes the ebb and flow of life, mental patterns, weather patterns, the flow of emotion and logic in a multi person debate, etc., the cultural evolution during a corporate merger, etc.  All of these things count as complex systems, and depending on your paradigm you may think of several others.  The important thing to remember about this level of Entropy is that you may well be working with patterns governed by other spheres, and unless you have knowledge of the sphere which governs the pattern you are manipulating you will have a very rough ability to influence the pattern, and you risk wildly unexpected results.  Conversely pairing this power with the appropriate companion sphere allows you to hedge your bets against making a "bad decision".  This can be summed up with the general idea that using this power alone on a pattern you don't understand can be a huge act of hubris as the effects can be highly unexpected though done with a gentle touch can still be very useful.  Combining this effect with a companion sphere is effectively removing hubris.  A master of life may assume they know what is best, but while they can manipulate life any way they choose they may not fully comprehend all the implications.  By using their ability to work with the clay of existence with Entropy they can basically "insure" against their own short sightedness by introducing some randomness into their effect that is built to the best possible outcome they themselves may not have even thought of.  You need a mage with enough humility to accept they may not always choose the most desirable outcome to make this leap though.  The challenge there is hardly the magickal effect, it's just pure mage ego.  The danger of this effect is is unintended consequences.  Fully understanding the impacts of manipulating complicated systems is the purview of masters and oracles of entropy, so when a mage first gains access to this power they often do more harm than good.  Marginal successes on this power should have unintended side effects.  Maybe a mage nudged a person's life pattern so they would be able to survive through a poison exposure, but in doing so dramatically increased their metabolism to the point where they can do nothing but eat and still begin loosing weight.  Maybe a mage tweaked the conversation in a party such that the mood quickly fell apart and in doing so prompted a fight that sent one of their closest friends to the hospital.   Storytellers should reward carefully explained applications of this power, but unexpected consequences, sometimes good and sometimes bad are par for the course.

Examples of Effects: Group Emotional Orchestration: There are few systems as complicated as a group of human beings.  This power looks very much like mind magick, but isn't.  With Mind you are touching a target's mind and manipulating their thought patterns directly.  This is a very different kind of emotional manipulation.  You may be watching a crossfire debate and use the effect not to make the participants choose their arguments.  They after all know what they're talking about and you may not know at all, however under the effects of this power their word choices may be a little less sensitive than they normally would be.  One poorly chosen word can destroy the entire tone of a conversation, or an argument phrased in a more delicate manner can change a listener's entire perspective.  How this power affects a system of people should never be particularly precise and the Storyteller should always structure the result in a way that accounts for the fact that no direct mind magick has been done.  It's just the random chance of poorly, or excellently chosen wording/body language/etc.

Entropy Level 5 Control System Interactions: Entropy levels 1-4 deal with randomness within a specific system.  Entropy level 5 begins to look at how systems are interconnected and plays with the lines of fate that weave between seemingly unconnected systems.  This is commonly known in younger pop culture circles as the butterfly effect power.  Previous levels of Entropy focus on controlling randomness and fate within a given pattern.  However, patterns don't exist in a vacuum and they affect each other all the time.  A master of Entropy can begin to see not only how entropy exists within a system, but how many systems together makeup larger systems.  This power may allow a Syndicate member to may an entire stock market, or a Euthanatoi to cause the worst elements involved in an organized crime war to find themselves revealed on the news.  It can allow a Verbena to slowly improve the health of an entire forest not just through direct life magick, but through making certain that the forest fires that happen over a period of time are always the most productive, and least corrupting.  How this power manifests through various paradigms and in combination with other spheres varies wildly.  The most experienced masters of entropy begin to see how seemingly totally unrelated systems are interconnected, and how one's fate will affect another.  A simple example of how this might play out would be something like the following.  As opportunities for women increase within a culture reproduction rate reduces.  As the reproduction rate reduces issues connected with carbon emissions and resource scarcity reduce.  Simultaneously a cultural trend begins to develop tied to self sufficiency and sustainability.  This spreads most dramatically within the now smaller upcoming generation and the convergence of these two effects causes a sudden drop in resource consumption and carbon emission.  While this is happening a series of corporate scandals develop around a particularly company which is known for low cost name brand consumerism.  In a market that is increasingly difficult to thrive in because of the dramatic societal shifts this company cannot withstand the scandals that are hitting the news and they have to cut their scale down considerably.  After filling for bankruptcy they are bought out by a consortium of their employees which happens to be organized by a Mage who has strong ties to the occupy movement.  The chain is converted into a fully employee owned coop and makes big waves on the news.  A similar story ending in a very different way could be orchestrated by a master of Entropy working within the Syndicate.  While not all effects tied to this power necessarily require a generation to fully play out it lends itself to drawn out extended role style effects.  While anyone could see the effects above at play and attempt to manually make the right moves to take advantage of them, in this case all of these coincidences were orchestrated by a single mage.

Instead of writing up an example of what this looks like  in game terms I want to instead link to some examples of this in the real world.  They are all very technocratic examples, but I still think they sum up the potential effects of this sphere level quite nicely.  At it's most basic level 5 can function as level 4 only without the unintended consequences as the Mage is now much better at playing not only their actions, but the ripples those actions will create.

Example of Getting an Appropriate Dataset/Focus for this Sphere: http://www.ted.com/talks/will_marshall_teeny_tiny_satellites_that_photograph_the_entire_planet_every_day#t-139173

Example of Modeling the System You Will Then Manipulate with this Sphere: http://www.ted.com/talks/dave_troy_social_maps_that_reveal_a_city_s_intersections_and_separations

Example of Executing this Power: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/everything-we-know-about-facebooks-secret-mood-manipulation-experiment/373648/  (To be fair this could require Mind as well, but could be come self perpetuating)

Other examples that haven't necessarily been written about include the shift in the political conversation that happened when Occupy became a big phenomenon.  The 99% meme didn't come out of nowhere and it completely altered the direction of politics and honestly still has.  What if that was intentional?

This power could also be used in combination with other spheres to control a system of interconnected systems.  So for example a Verbena may use this with life to heal an entire forest as if it were a single organism (which Gaia theory would posit that it both is a single organism, and is merely an organ of an even larger one).  Similarly you could over time use this to shift the flow of not just weather, but climate in a given area.  you could affect the luck not of a person or an organization, but of an entire movement causing a trend of renewable energy to rise or fall based on your whims.  These would all be very long workings probably made up of many smaller workings, but honestly isn't this what entropy's good for?  This would also serve to give context to some larger spiritual phenomenon.  In a recent mage game one of our players wanted to get in touch with "The spirit of Seattle".  That spirit unquestionably exists, but depending on what themes you wanted to explore in a game communicating with a spirit of an amalgam system like that could require this sphere.  All in all this has the potential to flesh out a lot of larger scale interactions that Mage makes possible.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Taking My Crazy Entropy Rote a Bit Farther

So I recently posted some rote Ideas for my mage character and I've been using them in the chronicle  recently joined.  They're working out so far, but the way I wanted to use one of them went well beyond the intention of the initial rote, so I haven't been getting the benefit of "magickal muscle memory".  So I'm writing up a description of the new rote my Mage is trying to develop to tackle the larger scope of what he's attempting.  This is an expanded version of Deconstruct Organization (Entropy 3 Mind 2) from the linked post.  I am posting this both to elicit feedback from the great wired mind, and so I can send it to my ST to see if he'll even let me go down this road.

Societal Deconstruction Entropy 3 Mind 2:  It is possible to impact a discreet organization's activities directly by engaging with various individuals who are part of the larger organization.  Disrupt Organization is a small discreet effect, and is the purview of Mages who are only beginning to think about the big picture.  It is effective for concrete activities such as internal board elections or a specific PR campaign.  This rote is much more about creating ripples that will impact an organization for weeks, months or generations.  As such it can be much more powerful, but is far less predictable.  This power is always an extended action engaged in over a period of time, and is best performed with multiple mages.  It can even be useful to have mages with massively divergent paradigms performing this rote simultaneously as the forms of luck they bring to bear often mix in spectacular ways.  To affect an organization the mage may monitor them via the internet looking for long term trends as they appear and then slowly teasing those trends in different directions, they may slowly work their way into social networks that overlap with the organization's, they may buy stock, or volunteer with an organization for months or years at a time dropping words or ideas in the ears of influential individuals.  (Note much as the Lasombra don't care about titles, only power influential individuals are often a different breed than prominent individuals)  The use of Mind in this rote is partially about increasing the processing power of the Mage's mind temporarily while they are sifting through the mass of data associated with this rote, partially about directly gaining information from individuals they may interact with in pursuit of this effect, and partially about engaging with the emergent properties of the collective societal mind they begin to see over an extended study of such an organization.  (Maybe corporations aren't people, but to technocratic practitioners of this power there is little question that they are perhaps a bit sentient)  (Side on Collective Sentience: This is a touchy subject.  Some STs might be ok with you engaging on this level, some may consider that the purview of oracles.  The general concept of the rote works without your mage becoming fully aware of organizational sentience, but if you do allow your mages to engage with a collective mind through the patterns that emerge here it would certainly allow for more dramatic effects and some interesting narrative)  There are stories of oracles within the NWO and the Syndicate who can leverage this power with the kind of precision that an acolyte might predict a craps throw, but no one can prove that kind of precision has ever actually been achieved.  For most mages they can influence the general fortune of an organization over generations this way, which is incredibly powerful but you can never quite predict how your meddling with manifest.

Example of How My Mage Uses This in His Paradigm: My mage's paradigm is largely Syndicate, with a far sprinkling of Hermetic thrown in to express his attachment to unity.  (I know I know Unity is an Al I Batin thing. Well I'm an orphan and don't know any better.  Unity is also a very strong theme in actually Kabbahlistic writing dealing with the full tree of life reflecting in each sephirot recursively forever.  Everything is after all an emanation, even varied understandings are an emanation and therefore have all the sephirot within them, and the 777 association tables are just an incredibly strong concrete expression of Unity.)  He leverages the correspondence that has worked it's way into the consensus, but does not directly leverage magickal correspondence effects when working this rote.  This is powerful but also limited to what you can imagine really seeing on the internet.  He has a focus that is several monitors setup in a chart of the kabbalah on the wall of my room.  Each monitor fills a sephirot and next to each sphere there is another small monitor that taps into the entropy programs that the Technocracy has automatically drawing associations across the internet. (anyone who's ever seen "suggested articles" on FB knows what I'm talking about here.  There are some amazing Entropy powers that have made it directly into consensus in the last 10 years, and just run for anyone who is willing to type a search into the right search engine).  My mage then picks up the already partially entropied results and starts to apply direct entropic analysis, breaking them down into how they relate to the manifestations of the 4 worlds of the Kabbalah within the sephirot a given piece of information/writing is related to.  This is specifically an expression of the 4 worlds as they relate to the emergence of systems within systems, not the spiritual expression of the 4 worlds.  This allows my mage to do a few things over the long term.  He can see trends that are beginning to show themselves in pieces across many articles, but haven't fully manifested as an idea that can be recognized and then can tease those "possibilities" into more complete focus and bring them down through the worlds, or he can squash them entirely and make sure they don't ever fully manifest into Assiah.  This involves using this interface not only for observation, but also to respond, knowing the perfect letter to the editor to write, the appropriate Facebook response to make, the right online group to join, or podcast to send an unsolicited contribution to.  In a less direct way my mage could share a writing opportunity and know to include a seemingly unrelated journalism hashtag, because the right journalism student will notice and write just the perfect piece on the topic the mage needs to get into the system he's influencing.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Rote Ideas

I'm wanting to compile some rotes for my character in the Mage game I'm going to be playing a character who was initially scouted by the syndicate, however while he works well in their paradigm he's completely against their goals.  He is also a student of kabbalah.  Do I am going to try to combined those paradigms in some of theses rotes.
Gematria (entropy 2 mind 1): This rote makes use of standard gematria techniques and abuses some of the correspondence that has been built into consensus.  The mage collects news from a number of seemingly random sources.  They can attempt to gather news that is obviously related, but it really doesn't help.  The mage then reads through all the news or watches several news feeds at once.  This is where the mind comes into effect.  By increasing their own mental capabilities they can process multiple feeds of information at once.  They then begin to draw connections between the information.  This comes in very useful while making stock decisions, investigating organized crime or corporate crime, and when trying to figure out the political layout of a new city or other structure.

Deconstruct Organization (Entropy 3 Mind 2): This is the flip side of Gematria.  Here the Mage uses the information to reorganize an organizations fortune.  This is commonly used during elections and as a way to tilt the stock market.  In order to use this rote the mage must either have access to the organization or must also use correspondence level 3 as well.  That access can be via the internet, but depending on the organization that may or may not work.  It is a common practice to use Gematria and then to attend a high end fund raiser to spread this power through a night of drinking and gossiping.  This can also take a somewhat more subversive form and a mage can use an intermediary organization to get the job done.  This power was behind a lot of what happened with Occupy.  While they weren't part of the government they experienced a lot of "good luck" when it came to the right messages making it into the political conversation.  That was no coincidence, though it was coincidental.  (If the individuals you're working with speak a different language than you do Mind 3 may be necessary for this rote)

Share Gematric Connections (Mind 2 Entropy 2):  This is about distracting the mind of those who do not understand the meaning of meaningless connection.  While someone is attempting to concentrate on something else (commonly combat but anything really) the mage sends Gematric associations to everything around them and everything that's happening.  This is a situation where intelligence is a disadvantage.  For truly intelligent individuals their own ability to create mental connections and associations increase the distracting effects of this power.  The targets own intelligence continues the associations after the initial effect.  The effect will stay in place each turn that the mage maintains contact with the target.  When the mage initiates contact the target rolls intelligence difficulty (8??? or whatever the ST feels is appropriate) And each success causes the effect to continue for one turn past where the mage maintains contact.  This result should not be shared with the Mage.  If the target botches then the botches subtract successes from the mage's roll.  This is specifically not using Entropy 4 where you control randomness within a mind pattern itself.  This is just using entropy to more efficiently build a distracting message and then using Mind to transmit it into a target's mind.  As a result this has a much less dramatic impact than Entropy 5 effects.  The distraction increases the difficulty of any actions taken while the effect persists by the number of successes the mage recieved.  So if the Mage uses this effect and rolls 2 5s, but the target's mind isn't powerful enough to really latch onto the data then all rolls on their next turn would be at +2.  If they were  brilliant and their mind started making associations on it's own then their difficulty might be at +2 for a couple rounds.  At the end of the day this is just a very fancy distraction technique.