At the Edge of All Things
I must’ve dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They’re moving into the street.
Now did you read the news today
They say the danger’s gone away
But I can see the fires still alight
They’re burning into the night.
There’s too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can’t you see
This is a land of confusion.
This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and lets start trying
To make it a place worth living in.
- Genesis, “Land of Confusion”
We’ll be playing in modern-day Vancouver, BC. For the purposes of this game, Vancouver, made ubiquitous on TV and the silver screen by its favorable filming environment, is a new entry to the ranks of world-class cities and a booming, thoroughly modern metropolis that is nonetheless struggling with waves of immigrants from overseas (particularly China and southeast Asia), from the rural parts of Canada itself, and now, with the recent depression, from its neighbor to the south. It’s considered a good place to live and work and raise a family, but it also has a darker reputation as No Fun City – a stodgy place whose nightlife and culture are held back by ancient liquor laws, distant and disinterested zoning and licensing boards, and a metro transit system inadequate to the sprawl that has grown up around it. A majestic skyline, where the record for tallest building is broken and re-set every few years, presides over an alienated city where young professionals put in long weeks at late hours and come home to watch TV in empty apartments and where Sikhs, Hmong, Cantonese, Vietnamese, blacks, and Coast Salish natives glare at each other across the invisible borders of ethnic enclaves.
And supernatural Vancouver is all that, magnified. A hidebound Consilium struggles to integrate waves of mages arriving from Asia and Oceania, from Africa, and some dazed survivors fleeing a mysterious magical disaster in Seattle to the south. At the same time, the Consilium must try to hide all these new and often uncooperative arrivals from the attentions of the Seers of the Throne, who are here in force and who make their homes in some of the newest, sleekest and most securely-warded skyscrapers. There aren’t enough Hallows or enough Mana to go around, and new arrivals are often tacitly encouraged to go and claim one of their own – if they can. And that’s not even getting into the tribe of werewolves in the wilds of Bowen Island, or the vampires thriving in Old Chinatown.
The Consilium is currently under the sway of the Guardians of the Veil, who have been in perpetual crisis mode as they try to keep the lid from blowing completely off the city’s supernatural elements. Their conservatism and paranoia is putting them increasingly at odds with the Mysterium, who believe they are getting close to an archaeological discovery of real significance (the prospect of which has already attracted an influx of scholarly visitors to the city, which the Veil appreciate not at all). They also routinely and heatedly clash with the Free Council, some of whom have begun pursuing agendas in “Hollywood North,” the nickname for the local film and TV industry. A trashy new cable show called Nightfall, about supernatural creatures living in the shadow of the mortal world, threatens to become a particular flashpoint, especially because its often-topless star is an important figure in the Council.
The three main axes for the campaign will be Mystery, Politics, and Adventure. You’ll pursue wrongdoers, investigate mystical weirdness, and uncover the hidden webs of corruption and influence behind the scenes – and then decide whether to challenge the movers and shakers to join them. Sometimes this might mean going to a party and trying to persuade an influential person to take your side about an important issue, but other times it will mean delving into lost ruins, solving deadly puzzles, and blasting golems with fireballs.
We’ll begin with a series of short, episodic adventures to set up the world and the characters, and then gradually move to the main event. Meanwhile, I’ll be working with you individually or in small groups to play out side-stories about your character’s personal goals and the things they undertake on behalf of their Order. Whatever happens, by the time you guys are done, you will have made yourselves into powerful and important figures, set the course of Vancouver for years to come, and quite possibly saved the world. And with luck you’ll have looked totally badass doing so.
Since a big part of the campaign is about learning the lay of the land, the principal requirement I have for characters is that they be new either to Vancouver or to magic in general. You can be a local kid whose eyes have suddenly been opened to all the crazy shit around him or her, or a seasoned willworker who has come to the city for their own reasons. You guys will be playing a diverse cabal of newbs who the Consilium have thrown together and basically told to sink or swim. I will allow one exception to this rule if someone wants to play a “local” who has agreed to take the other PCs on under his or her wing.
“Your own reasons” can be a lot of things, although I have to offer the caveat that we’ll probably be best off with a party of people who are at least nominally ethical and who are willing to be public-minded and work together with others. If you’re a sociopath or a human-sacrificing paranoiac, you probably wouldn’t be in metro Vancouver or a member of the Consilium in the first place. Similarly, and this is important: whatever your character’s personality, they are people who were stubborn enough, or curious enough, or ambitious enough, or foolhardy enough, to see past the illusion of the world to the truth about magic. Your guy took that first step into the dark alley, or answered that mysterious engraved invitation, or punched that demon he saw climbing out of a wall, or whatever.
Other than that, though, go nuts. Does your guy want knowledge? Cosmic truths will be uncovered. Does he or she want power? If you live long enough, you’re pretty much guaranteed it, but there will also be a lot of opportunities for canny bargainers, observant investigators, or just high-octane assholes to obtain unique advantages for their characters. Do you just want to kick ass? I give you a city plagued with evil spellcasters, ghosts, zombies, and unnameable things from beyond.
Things to think about when you’re making your dude or dudette:
- How did they Awaken? Did they have a vision or undergo a Mystery Play? If you’d rather not figure this out in advance, let me know and I’d be happy to run your character through their own Awakening.
- How strong is their connection to their old life? Some mages have families or important real-world jobs. Others are completely rootless. Having connections makes you vulnerable to attack, but it also helps keep you grounded. Mages who isolate themselves and scorn the mundane “fallen” world often end up succumbing to deadly hubris.
- What is their magical style? Do they cast their magic along the lines of any sort of real-world mystical tradition, like kung-fu or tarot or voudoun? Or do they prefer modern trappings like enchanted video cameras for scrying or mystically-imbued shotguns for fighting? Or are they just straight-up a classic wizard out of Tolkien, because some mages actually go that way! Do they use the minimum amount of power necessary or the big, awesome, special-effects stuff?
- What does their Nimbus (the aura when they cast powerful spells) look like? It can be subtle, like a brightening of the room with clear and healthy light, or really overt, like the air around them shimmers with the appearance of female warriors while Ride of the Valkyries blares as if from a tinny public address speaker. It can even be dorky, like having cartoon characters frolic around them like something out of Roger Rabbit.
- If they’re new to town, what brings them to Vancouver? This could be something totally mundane (a job transfer, following a girl/boyfriend) or something totally Magey (seeking Atlantean lore, fleeing a murderous Banisher), or anything in between.
- Do you have a personal goal in mind for them? Something you’d like to have happen before the end of the game? “I want to try and become a Councilor” is a goal, or “I want to find the father who left me twenty years ago,” or “I want to learn the road to Archmastery.” Don’t feel pressure to add this if nothing jumps out at you right away; it’s entirely possible that you’ll develop a goal in the course of play, and really, “survive” is a pretty worthwhile goal just on its own.