Order of Hermes
The Order of Hermes are the closest you will get to the stereotypical Wizard in Mage: The Ascension. And for good reason, since they literally shaped the western idea of Magic, with all the trappings of such (including the pedantry, arrogance, and haughtiness). They're infamously disciplinarian and rigid in structure, with several "Houses" fighting for control. They, unsurprisingly, tend to fuck up quite a bit. This includes when what would become the Tremere Vampires split off from them, and how they essentially forced the Technocracy into existence by being top dog for so long.
As you can imagine, a globe spanning millennia-old conspiracy that has literally reality-warping levels of egotism as an entry requirement can get pretty out of control. Luckily, the Hermetic love politics and structure almost as much as they love magic itself. As a result, the House structure divides the Order into subfactions based on political interests and magical praxis.
Note that while the Order as a whole has a nominally unified Reality Paradigm, each house has its own body of theories and signature techniques. In addition, the Order has been around in some form or another since Imperial Rome, so Houses have been formed, merged, destroyed, divided, promoted or demoted countless times through the ages. There are currently 7 Major Houses.
Note that, depending on the Metaplot you're using, the Solificati, Ngoma, and Wu Lung Crafts may or may not have been absorbed and turned into Houses Solificati, Ngoma and Hong Lei, respectively.
- If the Order of Hermes are a real wizard's wizards, then House Bonisagus is a wizard's wizard's wizard. The wizardiest wizards to ever wizard. While the other Houses concern themselves with specific subsets of Hermetic lore or worldly interest, the Bonisagi work towards a unified and holistic understanding of the Art. They're predictably bookish, even by Hermetic standards and, depending on which Metaplot you use, currently reeling from the loss of all their ancient offworld libraries.
- House Flambeau, by stark contrast, cut out a lot of the more esoteric intellectual detritus from their Art, focusing instead on its applications in conflict. That's a very circlejerky way of saying FIREBALL! FIREBALL! FIREBALL! They act as the military arm of the Tradition and have pretty much never been politically unpopular as a result. Despite this, they naturally have a reputation for being hot headed (pun intended) and alarmingly cavalier about Sleeper fatalities in their offensives.
- One of the younger Major Houses, House Fortunae are the Order's numerologists, focusing on gematria, divine numbers, all that jazz. Despite the fairly dorky sounding elevator pitch, they're some of the Tradition's smoother operators, excelling at finance and gambling. This proclivity is largely responsible for their meteoric rise in power, making them an invaluable, if sometimes suspicious, resource.
- House Quaesitori is the Order's judges and, with the destruction of House Janissary, its internal police too. As you can tell by the number of splinter cells, double agents, and secret traitors in the order, they aren't actually all that great at their job. They are devoted to the ideal of justice, bless their hearts, but still throw a hissy fit when the Euthanatos try to do their job for them.
- House Shaea are Truenamers. Wait no, come back! Not that kind of Truenamer! They are specialists in the essential names of things, being experts in spirit binding and the mysticism of the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the name was an essential component of the soul. They're also disproportionately female, due to their links with the cult of Isis.
- House Tytalus focuses on the Awakened Will above all else, exalting hardship so as to train its adherents to better remake reality in their image. As you can imagine, this makes them come off as overbearingly machiavellian, even by Order standards. They were pretty much perpetually politically ascendant until a couple of their members decided to commit the ultimate betrayal of their ideology: subordinating their wills to some vampires, kicking off the Second Massasa War and severely wounding the House's reputation, because apparently Hermetics never learn their fucking lesson.
- The wondermakers and enchanters of the Order, poor House Verditius has a messy and tempestuous history. One of the founding Hermetic Houses, the Verditii provided much of the material wealth of the Order from their superlative craftsmanship. Unfortunate, it was also the incubator for the Hermetic heresy thay would grow into the Craftmasons, who went on to found the Order of Reason and, well... the rest is history. By the Industrial Revolution, the other Houses decided that their brand of "olde tyme master blacksmithe magicke" still resembled too much of their enemy's techniques for comfort and stripped them of their political power. It was only recently that the Lesser House emerged and combined with the shattered remnants of its spiritual successor, House Thig, that it regained its place among the Major Houses.
These houses are all broadly considered under the banner of House Ex Miscellanea, functionally the clearing house for all the Hermetic practices the Order didn't want to give full membership.
- House Criamon was one of the Order's founding Houses, specializing in enigmas, lowercase-p paradoxes, riddles, and unsolved mysteries. Their influence has declined pretty much constantly sonce their formation, culminating in their demotion after the Metaplot killed most of their Archmages. They tend to suffer from White Wolf Trickster Syndrome, which makes them equal parts twee, incomprehensible, and self-impressed in the fluff.
- House Jerbiton. Mundane relations and recruitment. They run the wizard DMV. They are, by definition, the closest to mundane and often put in charge of running front groups and mystery cults as a result.
- House Mernita deals specifically with faeries, an increasingly unrewarding task as the fae grow more and more secretive and rare.
- An odd duck, House Skopos focuses on the intersection of quantum physics and Hermetic practice. Through drugs. Because White Wolf. It also canonically has exactly three members, so that's weird.
- Both House Bjornaer and House Diedne were various doomed attempts to incorporate less organized druidic practices (shapeshifting and general druidic craft) into the Hermetic Paradigm. Diedne fell particularly hard, as the rest of the Order launched a crusade against them for what were, by all accounts, some pretty fucked up rituals. Of course it may or may not have been a scapegoat for Tremere (that little shit). Whatever the case, the Verbena have literally never let go of a grudge, so they're still pretty salty about this.
- House Golo is notable for being probably the shortest-lived of all Houses, only existing for about 17 years. It all formed around this guy who got obsessed with an Arabian physics textbook called the Kitab al-Alacir, which he used to build magitek. Then his airship blew up and his followers scattered. Despite its short run, it was basically responsible for laying the groundwork for the modern day Sons of Ether. Go figure.
- Who watches the watchmen? Maybe someone should have asked that before the whole fucking debacle with House Janissary happened. They used to be the internal police and enforcers of the Order. Then some snoopy Euthanatos discovered that their roots could be traced back to an obscure assassin conspiracy called the Ksarifai... which just so happened to be a founding Convention of the Order of Reason. The Euthies accused the House of harboring secret Technocratic loyalties and smuggling intel to the New World Order. There's no canon answer as to whether or not this is actually true or if it was a power play by the Euthanatos. Whatever the case, the Council reacted with fire and bloodshed, scouring them from the face of the earth.
- House Luxor is not really elaborated on especially well. It was apparently the first predominantly black, American House. It seemed like it might have been something to do with syncretic blending of Victorian spiritualism, dimensional technology, and Charismatic Christianity, but that's mostly conjecture.
- House Mercere was around from the beginning as the designated messengers of the Order. Initially derided as mere gofers, the House slowly increased in power through its mastery of the information trade. As better mundane communication made its official function increasingly irrelevant, several info brokers jumped ship to the seedier parts of House Fortunae as Mercere fell apart in the 30's.
- House Tharsis had its heyday during the Age of Exploration. These weather wizards and pragmatic sailing techniques were the golden boys of the Order when the high seas were the biggest frontier of the Ascension War. Sadly, the House was gutted after its leaders infernalist leanings were revealed to the world.
- House Thig was the unholy lovechild of the Order and the Virtual Adepts, channeling their magic through modern tech and manipulating the wired world. While unpopular with the older crowd, they were still on their way up until the Revised Metaplot kicked them in the dick and forced them to merge with House Verditius.
- Learn more about those fuckers in House Tremere here.
- House Validas were big adherents of the "God the watchmaker" school of thought, and as such were pretty good at divination. They also turned out to be infernalists like Tharsus, so they got purged. They might actually still exist somewhere in England as an obsure Nephandi sect.
- House Zirach was the house that took over study of "Ars Cupidae", the Art of Desire. Predictably, the House was sitting pretty until someone found out that it was full of rapists and hellfire clubs, at which point it was purged.
|Members of the Council of Nine Mystic Traditions|
Cult of Ecstasy
Order of Hermes
Sons of Ether