M20 core is an abbreviation for Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary edition. . MtA is an abbreviation for something generally intrinsic to the entire Mage: The Ascension game line. ECC is an abbreviation for someting custom to the Emerald City Chronicle setting.
What Is A Mage?Edit
A mage is a person that has Awakened to the ability to perceive the forces and forms that create reality. They can now reshape themselves and the world around them at Will. Mages are powerful zealous, arrogant, and all too often corrupt. Consensual Reality, does not appreciate being tampered with, however. It will unleash a force of its own, called Paradox, in order to punish mages who disrupt its natural order too often or too obviously. Mages have existed in virtually all human societies, forming shared cultures and belief systems. Every mages has an Avatar, an internal embodiment of ineffable divinity. The shape and personality of the avatar is unique to every mage and can serve as a guardian angel, "sixth sense", adversary, moral compass- or all of the above. Guided by their Avatar, mages develop their own version of "how the world really works" which is called, in game terms, their Paradigm.
With the help of their Avatar, mages are able to perceive that reality is composed of a subtle energy called Quintessence which composes patterns (types of forms) that can be reformatted as easily as backspacing on a keyboard and rewriting a sentence is to the average American. MtA uses the word Spheres to cover the fundamental Patterns that mages are able to learn to unlock as they increase in Arete. Arete (pronounced ahr-eh-TaY or AIR-eh-tay) is a measure of a character's knowledge, will, imagination, and self-understanding; the higher a character's Arete, the higher their capacity to master the spheres. Like many cWoD mechanics, Arete is measured on a 0 to 10 scale. Only mages can possess Arete, and must have an Arete of at least 1. Starting level characters can have a maximum Arete of 3. A mage cannot have a rating in a Sphere higher than their Arete.
In game terms, Ascension is the process of a mage becoming so wise and powerful that their Arete reaches 10 and they have literally unlocked the powers of God and can remake humanity and the universe into whatever form they please. The Ascension War has been fought between mage factions for centuries, most factions believing that their beliefs in how reality should work vs. how it currently works is worth killing and/or dying over. Within each faction, there are sub-classes called sects that share their own specialized culture and belief systems. Each faction considers all of the other facts are best dangerously misguided and at worst a threat to humanity that must be destroyed on sight.
These factions include the Council Nine Mystickal traditions, the Technocratic Union, the Disparate Crafts, the Nephandi, and the Mauraders. M20 contains character creation rules for the first three factions and strongly discourages Storytellers from allowing Nephandi and Marauders as player characters. In a very simplified explanation, the Traditions seek to bring a belief in magick back to consensual reality, the Technocracy not only supports Consensus but seeks to eradicate the supernatural, the Disparates seek only to protect and preserve the people, places and ideals sacred to their individual sects, the Nephandi are infernalists attempting to unlock the gates of hell, and the marauders are madmen who's insanity twists reality into pure chaos.
Characters are generally sought out by a mentor belonging to one of the factions shortly before or after their Awakening. This mentor teaches their own belief system to the character who will either embrace, adapt, or repudiate it as they develop over time. Mages typically organize into cabals, small allied groups and live in or participate in chantries- structures that are part temple, part library, part fortress. Chantries are generally built on top of nodes: pools or fountains of pure quintessence that are spread all over the world. Chantries use their nodes to create connection points to the Horizon Realms- metaphysical sandboxes carved out of the Horizon to suit the needs of the mage, cabal, or chantry that created them. For more information about the Horizon, Horizon Realms, and related topics, see The Otherworlds.