Mage: The Suppressed Transmission is a Mage: The Ascension campaign I ran from the summer to winter of 2005 at Quarterstaff Games. I think of it as my first “real” campaign and present my session reports, mostly written just after the action, exactly as they are, excepting the occasional corrected typo.
This is the session report I originally posted to RPG.net in 2006. It’s amusing to read that cast list again, because that was the highwater mark for number of players attending. After this session, as the game wore on, only Evan and Henry’s players would see it through to the end. I have no idea if this was because I was a bad GM or the players just weren’t interested, but it seems to me I must have had some effect on their decision to leave — often without even saying so.
[Side note: “The Suppressed Transmission” is just an informal title I’ve given the game, until I think of something better. It comes from the Kenneth Hite books I’m drawing ideas from.]
Right now, our cast includes:
- Ciaphas Starlin, long-lived Celestial Chorister and Knight Templar
- Darren Nichols, an author whose writings seem to take on a life of their own
- Ellen Darcy, lawyer and disenfranchised Hermetic wizard
- Evan, soft-spoken psychic enrolled in the Order of Hermes’ House Ex Miscellaneia
- Henry Morgan, the quiet observer who works his magic through the properties of certain minerals (Henry’s player was away this week)
- Stephen “Digital Turing” Polowski, the uber-genius who turned his hacking efforts towards the structure of reality itself
Tonight, we picked up at the diner in the coastal town of Evanston, where our protagonists, constituting a cabal newly formed by the Council as sort of goodwill ambassadors to outlying chantries and mage communities, sought out a trio of mages studying the local seal population.
Their home turned out to be a pair of beat-up campers parked on an isolated bluff overlooking the beach and ocean. A quick survey revealed no one to be at home. A meal of Chinese take-out sat half-eaten on the table in the living quarters camper. Other signs also indicated an abrupt and inexplicable departure by the research students.
Sensing something was amiss, Ciaphas, the 11th century Chorister who barely showed his age, communed with the One and the weave of the universe through prayer, while Ellen Darcy, Hermetic barrister, surveyed the Umbral landscape. All signs pointed towards the sea. Meanwhile, both Evan and Stephen, through psychic senses and a scan of sentient programs running in the area, detected the presence of minds somewhere below the beach.
As the mages prepared to delve into the caves, the local sheriff happened upon them. He did his best to urge the mages to look for their friends in town, saying the bluff wasn’t a safe place, particularly in bad weather. While Ciaphas and Stephen politely rebuffed Sheriff Barton, Ellen subtly observed the man’s spiritual aspect, seeing the man’s spirit possessed an aquatic aspect, seemingly connected with the local seals.
Afterwards, Darren and Ciaphas worked out a way to combine their magics of automatic writing and communion with the One through meditating on the ticks of a watch to enter a vision of the night before. Deep within a shared trance, they experienced a vicious storm suddenly come upon the coast, lashing it with wind and driving rains.
With the storm came shadowy figures from the depths, passing up the bluffside as if it were no more than a level meadow. The occasional lightning flash granted brief glimpses of nude humans, moving gracefully without regard for the elements. Moments later the mysterious figures returned to the depths, followed by the three research mages, seemingly of their own accord.
As Ellen waited for Darren and Ciaphas to complete their scrying effort, Stephen and Evan struck out into the caves. Exploration revealed the tunnel quickly ran below water level, emptying out into a large cavern gently lit by luminescent moss. As they debated what to do next, Ellen, Darren and Ciaphas caught up and joined the discussion.
Ears pricking at the slap of a hand breaking water, the group turned to see a young woman swimming towards them beneath the water of the subterranean cave. On breaking the surface, she greeted them as the expected delegates, specifically addressing Ellen “and your servants.” A brief check revealed the watery aspect of the sheriff was stronger in this young woman, many times over.
After some consternation over mistaken identity, as well as Nereia’s persistence in addressing Ellen as the real authority in the group, plus how to proceed onward — Nereia provided them with sea shell tokens, enchanted to allow breathing underwater — the group dived down into the water, following Nereia to a grotto.
There, Nereia announced Ellen to the Lady Undine, mistress of this faerie court, as the representative of the good Doctor. The mages took it upon themselves to clear up this mistake as quickly and gracefully as possible, not knowing who the Doctor was or why he was renewing alliances with the court. It seemed to aggravate Undine every time a male spoke to her, but eventually they worked it out.
In return for trespassing in the selkies’ realm, as well as a step towards rescuing the lost research students — whom Undine allowed might be somewhere in the realm — Ciaphas proposed the present of a song of the sea, as played by himself. Undine went him one better, proposing a contest between the Chorister and the court bard, Aquus. To the victor would go a boon, granted by the lady Undine.
As preparation, Ciaphas again meditated on the ticks of his orange-sized Renaissance watch, hoping that unity with the forces of time would aid his ability to create a moving song of the sea. And so he played on the faerie harp of tortoise shell and seawitch hair, celebrating the ebb and surge of the sea and all the life that teems within it.
It seemed to move many members of the court, but Undine remained inscrutable. Would Aquus best Ciaphas’ offering? Only next week will tell.
These players are really afraid of Paradox. They’re bent on casting nothing but coincidental effects. I’m not sure how to go about this. As new mages, they’ve probably heard all kinds of horror stories about Paradox backlashes, but then again, we all know what the child who’s told not to touch the hot stove does.
We’re already building up some nice character interplay, which is great in what amounts to the third session, particularly when the first two weren’t terribly substantial in terms of narrative content.
The biggest trouble I find myself having is making things matter. It’s like no one’s really concerned because they know it will work out in the end. I’m not sure how to create an air of uncertainty and suspense without fiatting something drastic and possibly unfun to serve as an example, like a catastrophic failure or death or something.
I had completely forgotten about the selkie / faerie angle of this session. That’s amazing. And I have no idea where I was going with that, or what Dee wanted from the Lady Undine. That’s what I get for flying by the seat of my pants. I think I had some notion about using selkies and then improvised the faerie court scene to fill time. The game never got back to the Lady Undine or the deal between her and Dee, which I think is a shame, because in retrospect, the players were clearly interested in following through on that, rather than just footling around with strictly the plans of my pet mastermind.