Just to open, I’m pretty much ignoring the metaplot established in various Mage books, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing since 1993 in any case. I’m taking the setting as it was originally introduced, and simply updating the timeline to allow for the events of the last two decades. Think of this as what it would be like if the game were introduced today. Kind of.
First of all, the Nineties were largely a fallow period, as Mages – like the rest of us – struggled to deal with the end of the Cold War. In the second half of the Nineties, however, as apocalyptic predictions mounted in frequency and vehemence, the Traditions found themselves in a bind. On the one hand, some of most doom-crazy fanatics prophesying argmageddon were members of the Celestial Chorus. On the other, the slow growth of fears about a secular apocalypse – Y2K – weakened the Technnocracy’s grasp as people distrusted technology more, but the group hit hardest by it were the Virtual Adepts.
However, the apocalypse failed to arrive on schedule, and everyone (except the Nephandi) breathed a sigh of relief as the new century began, and a new climate of hope arose. The Virtual Adepts, in particular, bounced back quickly from their decline, and the 21st century would see them achieve unprecedented power for a tradition, as their influence was everywhere. Almost every Tradition seemed to feel that utopia might finally be in its grasp.
Every tradition but one. It may never be known exactly what role the Celestial Chorus played in 9/11 – they may not have had anything to do with it at all. But in the aftermath of the attacks, there were members of that tradition who spoke of it with approval – and no one could miss how the renewal of faith in Christianity, Islam and Judaism swelled the ranks and power of the Choristers. Perhaps they were guilty of nothing more than opportunism, but power made them arrogant and friction between the Chorus and the other eight Traditions increased dramatically. In 2003, a special conclave of the Traditions was called, and the Celestial Chorus were cast out, the sphere of Prime henceforth to be shared equally (at least in theory) by the remaining eight traditions.
Of course, the Chorus weren’t going to take that lying down. They dug in, and mobilised. The growth of both Christianity and Islam – and in particularly violent and radical forms – over the last decade has been almost entirely a result of this. The Chorus has also, perforce, diversified its magical efforts, mimicking the structure of the Technocracy by having several divisions, each responsible for one or two spheres – they call them Choirs rather than Conventions, but the idea is the same. In addition, they are also aping the Technocracy’s plans for winning the Ascension War, seeking to spread an order on their own terms, albeit religious rather than technological. These days, the Traditions refer to the former Chorus as the Theocracy, and for good reason.
For itself, the Technocracy benefited greatly from the massive expansion of the military-espionage-industrial complex during the Bush years, but fell prey to infighting halfway through the first decade of the new century. As the Virtual Adepts’ plan to undermine the NWO and the Syndicate (a little thing called file-sharing) spread like wildfire, the two conventions each blamed the other. The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 is only the mundane expression of the New World Order (and its allies in Iteration X) triumphing over the Syndicate (and their allies in the Void Engineers) – although that was just a battle, not the war. And preoccupied with their internal struggle, of all the Conventions, it is only the Progenitors who are yet concerned about the rising threat that the Theocracy poses to the Technocratic Program (because no one else much cares about stem cell research).
For their parts, the Marauders remain the wildcard they have always been, while the Nephandi have been recruiting the suicide bombers of tomorrow in greater numbers than ever.