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Of Movies & Mage: The Ascension - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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June 4th, 2011

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06:40 pm - Of Movies & Mage: The Ascension
So, I recently saw both The Adjustment Bureau, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and both (in very different ways) made me think of the old White Wolf RPG Mage: The Ascension . However, before I go into that connection, I think it's worth mentioning that The Adjustment Bureau is moderately well acted, beautifully filmed, and vacuously empty. The clichéd man barging in to see the woman he loves minutes before her wedding, to convince her not to marry the man she is about to marry was old and tired 30 years ago, and now is laughably dull and more than a bit offensive. It has some interesting points, but is mostly dismal and more than a bit offensive in a variety of ways (not least of which being the fact that literally the only woman in the film is the protagonist's love interest).

In thankfully vivid contrast, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is quite a good film. It's also a very odd film, in addition to being the only Disney film I know of where the protagonist a syphilis lesion on his face (or at least that's what Johnny Depp claims the sore is), it's also significantly more brutal than the previous films. Back in the 80s, I read and loved Tim Powers' novel On Stranger Tides and it's my second favorite of his novels (after Last Call). I can also definitely say that with the exception to two brief, but lovely visuals, this film has absolutely nothing to do with that novel. Yes, both are about a journey to the fountain of youth, but the fountain, and everything else are all very, very different. If you see a nifty concept in the film, it came from the people working on the film, not the novel, they are impressively unrelated. It was also a good, if somewhat odd film. Captain Jack Sparrow's motivation was pretty darn murky, but everything else worked fairly well. No, where were not enough women or people of color in the film, but it was fun fluff and avoided being stupid.

The Adjustment Bureau provided the single best vision of what a high powered operation by the Technocracy looks like that I've ever seen. Obviously, if the agents in the film are Technocrat Mages and not say the hosts of heaven, they can only be using that amount of time and power on a tiny number of their most important operations, but if you assume that David Norris has a major role to play in the Technocratic Union's plans, then I could see the Union using that amount of power to insure that his political career goes as planned. The film contains all manner of really nice coincidental effects + a whole lot of Space 3 teleportation that they do their best to make Vulgar w/o Witnesses.

I was also struck by how the agents in this film were all white men, except for the token black guy, which gave me an idea for a Technocracy campaign. If I was to run a campaign where the Union actually was responsible for much of the impressive modern advances, I'd have the PCs be technocrats. They wouldn't just be new hires, they'd be women, people of color, gays and lesbians who were recently hired as part of a big diversity push by an organization that has been largely fostering diversity among Sleeper power structures, but has mostly been ignoring their own power structures. So, you don't just have lots of white guys in the Unions, many of the mid rank ones grew during segregation or before women could vote, and when gays and lesbians were routinely killed, and the older ones grew up when women were effectively property and black people were slaves.

So, you have an organization that mostly does a whole lot of good, but in addition for it being personally hard for operatives who aren't white men, you have a few of the older ones still dreaming of racial holy war or rolling back women's rights and a disturbingly large number of older members who don't investigate claims of prejudice or even of exceedingly scary plans as much as they should, because they've known the crazed bigots for the last 50 or even 150 years, and the crazed bigots have never acted unpleasantly towards them. So, both dealing with being minorities in the power structure, while also trying to stop horrors from happening because there are a few crazy people and lots of others who don't believe the crazy people are really that crazy.

Fairly obviously, the Pirates of the Caribbean film is all about Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade (here's a bit more about M:SC). From my PoV at least, the 2nd and 3rd film contained a contest between the forces of the mythic age (ie the Pirates) and the forces growing Order of Reason (personified by James Norrington), where the Order of Reason lost very badly. OF course, at least from my PoV, if you are working to stabilize the world and root out magic and freedom, having your big play being taking control of a monstrous mythic sea-beast and using it for your own ends means you've lost before you even started.

This most recent film lacked that particular conflict, and instead featured some bits about the mythic age vs. organized religion as well as a general feel of fading magic. It's clear that there will be at least one more and almost certainly two more Pirates of the Caribbean films , but I have no idea what direction they're going to go in. I was not expecting battles over magic and reality and the twilight of the mythic age to be major sub-currents in these films, but they most definitely are.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:June 5th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
(Ok, I think I'm logged in now. That was weird.)

There's something a little weird to me about placing the end of the mythic age during the Golden Age of Empires. But it being mythic, I suppose it could be any time you wanted it to be.
[User Picture]
Date:June 5th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
I always felt that The Matrix was all about the late-stage Technocracy vs. the Virtual Adepts. The Men In Black/Iteration X/Progenitors are tracking down the last remnants after they've won the battle for reality.

[User Picture]
Date:June 5th, 2011 10:08 pm (UTC)
We (my husband and I) had a great time running a MtA game, and had a great time with the Technocracy. We ended up having to stop it for few reasons, partially the rather broken rules (but most broken by the players general inability to cope with that magic system), and what we always saw as a rater broken way to implement paradigm.

Great idea, hell, fantastic idea - but it always seemed to fall apart. Now, this may be one of those times where knowledge of RW esoterica got in the way of RPG magic-use, but we always had a real problem with the idea of the Technocracy as being "not-mages".

I always viewed our Technocracy as a blend between the unnamed organization from La Femme Nikita (the Peta Wilson version), the Millenium Group, and the Stargate Project - add in Eleventh Hour and Fringe for extra flavor...

We're probablyu going to reboot the campaign at some point (both Mages and Technocracy), but were kind of shopping for another rules engine to do it with.

[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)
We're probably going to reboot the campaign at some point (both Mages and Technocracy), but were kind of shopping for another rules engine to do it with.

Here are some notes on using the nWoD rules with Mage: The Ascension (as well as adapting Mage: The Ascension into the (IMHO vastly superior) nWoD cosmology). Unlike oWoD and the rules for Mage: The Ascension, the nWoD rules are solid, fast, and easy, and the new rules for Mage actually work.

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