The War Over RealityEdit
It takes an open mind to accept that belief can change, much less create, reality. Most people might not be able to explain the reasons why gravitational force exists, but they are certain that they will they fall if they leap off a cliff. Further, they are certain that people have always fallen, long before Newton induced nature of gravitational force. "Everyone" knows that what comes up and must come down- and because everyone believes that? It is true.
That is at the heart of consensual reality- the Consensus. Reality's rules are decided by the collective power of global belief. Many of them are immutable- except by mages, and even then, breaking the rules can't happen without consequences. Mages are outnumbered by humans like a glass of water is smaller than the ocean. During the Mythic Age, before the Age of Reason, most humans believed in some form of divinity and some form of magic. That belief gave the Awakened an opportunity to behave like gods- capricious and self-serving and cruel gods more often than not.
Manipulating or outright re-writing Consensus is at the heart of the Ascension War. The Technocracy has been winning for a very long time. As the Order of Reason, the first Technocrats had the best interests of humanity in mind and many Technocrats still do. They fight the Reality Deviants to keep the world's citizens safe. In any war, sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. The pogroms against the Traditions are really not much difference than enforcing seat belt and drunk driving laws: it isn't just about someone causing an accident, its about preventing the accident in the first place and mitigating the loss of life when an accident happens any way. Global Consensus has been controlled by the Technocratic Union for about 150 years- but since World War II, a question has been raised with increasing alarm: But who controls the Technocratic Union?
Despite the Technocracy's attempts to homogenize reality and neuter human belief, the Internet Age shows signs that the pendulum is swinging the other ways. Religion, supersticion and mysticism continue to shape the geo-political climate for entire regions. Players who want to turn the phenomenon of Reality Zones to their character's advantage may wish to purchase a few dots in the secondary knowledge Belief Systems.
Even within Western industrialized culture there are a number of urban enclaves, rural communities, ethnic neighborhoods, churches, cults, and Internet communities that are dominated by Sleepwalkers or Extraordinary Citizens who's belief systems are either open-minded enough or colored with enough faith and mysticism to allow for a great deal of wiggle room for the Awakened to maneuver.
The Four Essential Reality Zones of M20 found on p.612 of M20 Core. They are are:
- Earthly Foundations: Certain laws of Earth's reality physics are more or less fixed. Mages can go against them, but Effects that are antithetical to these laws will almost certainly count as vulgar magick.
- Technocratic Reality: The laws of scientific technology (including Enlightened Science) dictate what is and is not vulgar within the zone.
- Local Reality: In certain flexible areas, reality depends more upon specific local beliefs than on a rigid set of rules.
- Primal Reality: Technology holds little influence in Primal Reality places. The laws of mystic Old Ways still dominate what is and is not possible.
As far as system mechanics are concerned, entering a reality zone can affect a mage in the following ways:
- Acceptance: Effects and practices that fit with a reality zone's dominant belief system are usually coincidental and, at Storyteller's option, have a -1 modifier to the difficulty.
- Rejection: Effects and practices that clash with a reality zone's dominant belief system are usually vulgar and might have +1 difficulty at the Storyteller's option.
One of the reasons Marauders are so dangerous is that by existing in a permanent state of Quiet, they are surrounded in a bubble of their own personal reality zone... and when that collides with Consensus, very bad things happen.
The Reality of ECCEdit
M20 Core has a blurb on p.63 that presents different options regarding Mage Revised's determination that the Ascension War is over and the Technocracy Won. In ECC, the answer is "C": Reality Is In Flux. The player characters find themselves abruptly thrust into Nonestica, a country that doesn't exist- or didn't exist before they fell asleep. Something mysterious and sinister is obviously going on all around them, something they don't understand, much less have the power to control- yet. With understanding will come power and with power will come control over this new reality- which is what being a mage is all about.
When player characters discover themselves in Emerald City, they are surrounded by strangers and a number of strange things. They cannot, however, start flying like Superman as a coincidental effect. The results of that action will be the same as if they tried it back Home.
A more detailed description of the reality zone/reality zones of Nonestica are included in the Storyteller's Handbook.