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.

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