The Consensus is nothing more or less than what the overall mass of Sleepers believes to be true and possible. By nature, Sleepers cannot perform actions outside of the Consensus – no matter how much a Sleeper wants to fly, jumping off a building and flapping their arms won't overcome gravity, because the consensus holds them too tightly. However, mages can go against the Consensus, but doing so is an act of Vulgar magic and risks Paradox.
In Ascension Nova, Astral Space, and in particular the Astral Realm of Temenos is a reflection of humanity's collective unconscious and thus also a reflection of the Consensus. It can also be the battleground for paradigmatic warfare between mages and groups of mages. Introducing a new technology or convincing people that some practice like faith healing works can be done in one of two ways. Mages can either attempt to affect the physical world directly, by demonstrating the desired effect to either large number of Sleepers or a smaller number of respected experts, or they can attempt to change the paradigm directly by affecting Astral Space.
As an example, to use the Astral Realm to bring faith healing within the consensus, a group of mages could both publically use faith healing to heal patients in an Astral Realm associated with medicine and health and also literally battle the Astral Avatar of modern medicine and either force this avatar to verbally admit that faith healing works or place a tattoo that clearly represents faith healing on the avatar's body. For more information on the Astral Realm in Ascension Nova see Cosmology: The Structure of Reality.
The mechanics for using manipulations of Astral Space to affect the physical world can be found in the Mage: The Awakening supplement, Astral Realms, pp. 62-63. In Mage: The Awakening, these changes can only affect people's opinions and beliefs, not the laws of physics or the structure of reality. However, in Ascension Nova, Astral manipulations can also directly affect the structure of reality. Since some changes can potentially affect the entire planet all of the human population, the table of population and target number on p. 62 must be extended as follows:
|10 million to 100 million||35|
|100 million to 1 billion||40|
|1 billion to 10 billion||45|
As with matters of belief and opinion, Sleeper's beliefs about the structure of reality and the Consensus can be classified as Casual, Mild, Moderate, Significant, Intense and Solid. Solid Beliefs are facets of reality that people are absolutely certain of, such as the fact that fire burns or that gravity causes objects to fall down. The Dice Penalty for changing a Solid Belief is -10.
In general, few beliefs about the structure of reality other than the most trivial are less than Moderate, and anything about reality that people encounter on a daily basis is either Intense or Solid.
Examples of Degrees of Belief Edit
Casual – A quirk in manufacturing in pennies made between 1960 and 1980 causes them to come up heads 67% of the time when flipped.
Mild - Faith healing and prayer somewhat reduces the severity of migraines and other severe headaches and decreases the discomfort from hangovers. A new chip is invented that is 10 x faster than previous models and holds 10 times as much memory.
Moderate – Trinary computers work, useful nanomachaines work under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, prayer or faith healing cause statistically significant but relatively minor improvements in post-surgical survival or recovery from illness.
Significant – FTL travel is theoretically possible using exotic and complex technologies, Faith healing or prayer can sometimes cure terminal and other severe illnesses, but the process is uncertain and requires at least several weeks or months of regular prayer by at least several dozen devout people or faith healing by a skilled religious official. Psychics can make lucky guesses significantly more often than chance would indicate.
Intense – A reactionless drive that will revolutionize spaceflight has been invented. It requires complex components and a small nuclear reactor and is large and bulky. Faith healing or regular prayer can cause injuries to heal up to 6 times faster than normal and also causes people to recover from illnesses equally fast. Remote viewing can work under carefully controlled conditions and psychics can get flashes of what someone they are looking closely at is thinking.
Solid – You can fly by flapping your arms if you strap on a pair of wings to your arms. You can make your car into an antigravity air car using circuits and other components you can purchase at any electronics shop or order off of the internet. Faith healing can cause serious and obvious injuries like badly broken bones to completely heal in a few hours. Psychics can levitate objects with telekinesis.
Local Paradigm AlterationEdit
Affecting the Consensus in a single location is often considerably easier than affecting the entire world, but doing so is also subject to significant limitations. If an area is exceptionally isolated, such that almost no one outside of the location visits or knows about it, then it is possible to affect the local paradigm with little interference from the outside world. Examples of such exceedingly isolated locations include remote small towns far from any major roads or neighboring settlements, villages in the middle of a jungle, and the more remote regions of rarely visited nations like Bhutan.
When affecting the paradigm in a single sufficiently isolated location, the mages need only affect the number of people living in the location. However, one limitation on affecting the local paradigm is that these changes cannot affect Intense or Solid beliefs. These beliefs are sufficiently stable that the global consensus keeps them from being changed on anything less than a global scale. Also, if the location becomes famous or well known for the local paradigm variation, the global consensus will swiftly reassert itself over the area unless mages can either affect the global paradigm or demonstrate the local phenomena publically before a large, and preferably global audience multiple times.
Alternately, it is possible for mages to make a global change in the consensus that only works in a single unusual location, such as a spring whose waters heal the sick, or a cavern whose unique geomagnetic properties induce mild precognitive visions in people who spend time there. Depending upon how reasonable the explanation for the phenomena is, limiting the phenomena to a single location reduces the Degree of Belief by one or two levels. This sort of phenomena still cannot affect Solid beliefs, but can cause an Intense belief to be Significant or even Moderate. Also, when affecting anything less than an Intense belief, the target number of the change is reduced to 40, since most people on the planet do not care or think about one particular location.
Specialized Beliefs and Knowledge Edit
In addition to affecting local populations, some possible Consensus changes only need to overcome resistance from a small subset of the population with a high degree of technical education. So, if you were introducing a new circuit that works far better than any others, the only people whose belief you really have to overcome are people with a significant knowledge of electronics, reducing the target number to 30, since there are likely only 10 million or so people on the planet. Something more impressive, like a trinary computer would be more difficult, but the target number would still only be 35, since no more than 100 million would truly understand that a trinary computer is anything other than simply a better computer. However, any change that doesn't require specialized knowledge to understand must overcome the entire Sleeper population – everyone knows that cars can't fly.
Altering the Consensus by Altering the Physical WorldEdit
Mages can also attempt to alter the paradigm by taking actions in the physical world. Treat these actions as similar to astral actions in the sense that each change affects a certain population. For example, editing all of the old records in a somewhat isolated town largely only affects that town. Also, the change affects a belief with a given strength. However, instead of actual rolls, make a list of the sorts of actions that are needed to accomplish changes of a given strength. Causing knowledge of some obscure historical figure to vanish or change is fairly easy, and simply requires editing all publicly accessible info on this figure. Similarly, creating news stories or things that become the object of news stories, like the skeleton of the Flores "hobbit" requires gaining access to the popular press and seeming official and authoritative enough to be taken seriously.
Making trinary computers in paradigm would require a series of big and flashy on-line videos and TV or magazine ads as well as articles in various popular tech-related magazines & websites like Wired, Engadget, or Ars Technica and a similar, but slightly different type of effort would be required to make the discovery of some phenomena that happened faster than light and that could be used to possibly make FTL travel real.
Actions in either the physical world or the astral realm that reinforce the existing paradigm can counteract attempts to change the Consensus. Such actions could turn a moderate change into a mild change or eliminate it altogether by subtracting dice from the mage's effort. To respond, the person trying to change the paradigm can either up the ante by performing a large public demonstration or fighting harder in the Astral Real. Alternately, the person trying to make change can come up with an entirely new proof or take the battle to an entirely different portion of the Astral Realm.
To Roll or Not to RollEdit
Not all efforts to change reality require rolls. If a group of characters can post their "discovery" of Trinary computers up on enough youtube vids, get an interview with Engadget or other popular tech sites, and then present their new and revolutionary "tri-puter" as a major international electronics show, having a separate roll to see if they actually change the paradigm or not is both silly and duplicative – they already have. However, given the abstract nature of most astral changes can be, most attempts to alter the consensus in Astral Space requires rolls.