Mage-Specific House Rules/Spirits
NATURE OF SPIRITS: Unfortunately, some players tend to either completely ignore spirits or treat them as all-powerful entities. The first tendency deprives the game of much of its wonder and terror. The second tendency robs Mage of its proper tone: someone discovering they have the keys to the universe in their pocket.
Spirits are intimately connected to the world inhabited by mage players. They vary by the realms they occupy, by the phenomenon that produces them, and by their relative power level. If a mage player understands that spirits are products of their environment and connected to specific phenomena, they can begin to interact with them in a way that make sense. Trash spirits in the penumbra are connected to and focused on trash in the material world. A mage wouldn’t ask a trash spirit’s guidance in performing surgery, but a mage might certainly ask for a trash spirits help in tracking the down a source of a pest-borne plagues.
However, while the simplest spirits are narrow in experience and knowledge, over time and after influenced by many different factors, a spirit can become more aware and powerful. This is measured by the statistics of the creature and by the strength of its personality. If a mage wants to interact with a spirit who can hold a conversation, employ analysis, and have access to a wide range of information, a mage will want to seek a spirit with a greater power. Of course, those spirits are often more capable and have their own wants and needs, and they can certainly exercise judgment.
Here are four principles to keep in mind. 1. Spirits are not human. This is something that many mages forget. While they can look human and have human traits, and they may even spring from human ideals, they can exist with no conception or recognition of basic human needs, emotions or principles. It is completely possible for a spirit to understand hope in all its forms, and yet be completely mystified by revenge. It is possible for a spirit not to understand automobiles, courage, fairness, light, or even death. That is why it is imperative for a mage who attempts to deal with spirits to attempt to perceive the nature of the spirit to which they are talking. This does not mean that a mage needs Spirit Lore 3 before they talk to them; it simply means that the mage needs to pay attention to their surroundings and the clues they give about their natures before assuming they understand what a mage wants.
2. Lesser spirits are pretty dumb, and a mage most often finds lesser spirits. As such, they are tightly focused on what they are and what creates them. For example, there could be a rat spirit in a sewer, but he is interested in what the rats are interested in and what happens in the sewer, and will often think of things in those terms. For example, they might be full of information about poison gas was spread in the sewers, but their information would be restricted to when, how far it went, and if anyone came down in sewers to spread it. They could not tell you what type of poison it was, or, if the people who employed it stood on the street above, anything about them.
3. Greater spirits have their own agenda. Spirits who are intelligent enough to perceive events beyond their specific areas didn’t get that way by being narrow minded, and they can be just as tricky as humans about it. In fact, since some spirits don't understand things like right and wrong, they can be even trickier. This does not mean that they can never be trusted, but it is something for a mage to keep in mind. Greater spirits do not give away secrets lightly unless they can profit from it. Which brings us to . . .
4. Chiminage can take many forms. While the common form of chiminage is quintessence or tass, the greater the spirit that more complex the forms will take. Some spirits must be impressed with a mage before they will interact with them. Some spirits require elaborate rituals before they will even begin to speak with a mage. Some spirits simply won't accept payment at all, and a mage has to force them to help. The means to purchase aid is as elaborate and varied as spirits themselves.
Spirits have an instinctual sense of a mage's resonance. Thus, a mage with an angry resonance tends to attract (and be attractive to) spirits of rage, war, and conflict. A mage with a gentle resonance tends to attract spirits of a similar nature. This is the reasons that, eventually, mages who abuse and consume spirits will find spirits unwilling to talk to them or even stay in the same room with them, though if caught, they may be more likely to be intimidated by these ruthless mages. Thus, mages who mass-produced fetishes without paying the appropriate chiminage will be tagged as vile people to be avoided by their own resonance. Of course, eventually such a mage's dirty deeds will reach the ears of Umbrood Lords who may take umbrage at someone enslaving their charges.
Mages with strong connections to the spirit world (Dreamspeakers and the Order of Hermes of the Traditions, for example) understand this and take steps to adapt themselves or the situation to remove this possible handicap. (Sometimes, even peaceful mages need warlike spirits). The Dreamspeakers do it by the general reputation of the Dreamspeaker tradition.
Over the centuries, Dreamspeakers have worked hard to present a reputation of understanding spirits, honoring spirits, and dealing fairly with spirits. Thus, most intelligent spirits understand that a Dreamspeaker, even one with a distasteful resonance, is worthy of if at least listening to it. The Order of Hermes, on the other hand, have the Umbrood Protocols. Endlessly complex treaties that are backed by both powerful Umbrood Lords and the High Council of the Order of Hermes exist. Hermetic mages can use these protocols like lawyers to get a hearing and to state their cases to the spirits. Spirits are willing to listen to them, for their part, because a Hermetic mage who flubs one of the clauses in the protocol can open himself up for, shall we say, unpleasant things. The treaties work both ways.
Other magickal traditions have their own approaches. These are just the ones that are best known.
ALIENS: THE TECHNOCRATIC MASTER PLAN The Technocracy has carefully built up the Barriers between the spirit worlds and the material world, in accordance with the Precepts of Damian. Many mystics think this means that the Technocracy fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between the spirit worlds and the material world and that they are ignorant of the importance that the Worlds Beyond hold to the World in which we all live. This is not true.
The Order of Reason sprang from the same roots that the Traditions did; they had access to the same knowledge before the Convention of the White Tower. Understanding that spirits do exist, that they interact with the world, and that they can never really be destroyed, the Technocrats have chosen a systematic and carefully thought out plan. They will isolate spirits from humanity intellectually, emotionally, and physically. They convinced the Masses that spirits either do not exist or are creatures separate and independent from humanity. They carefully rendered those who saw spirits open to ridicule and worse, while simultaneously spreading mistrust of those from without, so that the things from beyond were greeted with fear, not wonder. They also strengthened the Barriers any way and any time they could. Thus, they hoped to turn the spirits that humanity once bartered with, propitiated, and looked on with awe and wonder into the frightening and the incomprehensible. They turned the water sprite, the pixie, the mountain father into . . . The Alien.
Why would they do such a thing? They want humanity to make its own decisions for its own destiny and not obey the urgings of ancient things who may not have Humanity's best interest at heart. They want Humanity to be free of the obligations, as this retards Humanity’s power. That the price of independence is fear is a price that they are willing for Humanity to pay.
While this has this puts Technocrats skilled in Dimensional Science at a disadvantage when dealing with those things from the High and Middle Umbra, it actually serves as an advantage when dealing with those things from beyond the Horizon. Those things are truly alien, and the Technocrats know how to answer them better than the more mystic traditions. That the answer is usually gunfire is completely a matter of choice.