Time: The modern day.
There is no higher purpose for mankind, laid down from above. The mages have always known that. Heaven exists, but it cares nothing for humanity, not even to rule it. If there is a God, He has nothing to say to us and His angels care only that we do not get in their way. Hell is more attentive. The demons like it when we suffer and a demon can make a human suffer forever.
Faced with an uncaring Heaven and a sadistic Hell, the mages born to humanity have always known that they have only one option. Protect their family and let the rest of the world be damned. So humanity became the mage’s unknowing slaves, while the great mage clans made war on one another to snatch ultimate power.
For as long as history records, humanity has been secretly ruled by the Houses, powerful mage families whose ambitions have only been checked by one another. In the USA, power is concentrated in the hands of thirteen great Houses. “The Thirteen Houses” as they are known, compete and cooperate to run the government, dominate the great corporations, and concentrate wealth and power in their own hands. They rule the banks, the universities, the media and the churches, along with anything else they want badly enough. The most powerful faction in the USA is comprised of four English Houses with a history of collaboration; Lancaster, Stuart, Warwick and York. Stuart ruthlessly enforces its dominant position in the alliance as all four jockey for control. The remainder of the thirteen are the Houses of Anjou, Capet, Carolus, Flavii, Hapsburg, Julii, Medici, Romanov, and Trastámara. The Houses are blood relations of the mortal clans of the same names, although not all in the mortal clan are mages.
However, not every mage in history abandoned the rest of humanity to look after their own. Alongside the Houses, for as long as history records, there has existed an independent body of mages, who recognize no authority beyond their own ranks. The Rebellion, as it styles itself, is not a rebellion against the Houses, at least not directly. It a rebellion against Heaven and Hell themselves, in the name of all humanity. Both supernatural powers are seen as enemies and enslavers of human beings. The mages of the Rebellion gather in Orders, not Houses. Unlike Houses, into which a mage is born as a member of a certain family, the Orders recruit their apprentices as adults. Mages of the Orders, like mages of the Houses, speak of a mage’s “lineage”, but they see this as something passed from teacher to student rather than from parent to child. Throughout most of history, the Houses have tried to suppress the Rebellion, which they see as a destabilizing influence. However, in the modern western world, the Rebellion rages openly, the Houses having conceded that trying to suppress it had become more trouble than it is worth. The Houses and the Rebellion live in uneasy peace, with frequent local skirmishes.
PCs may choose to work with the Houses, maneuvering to acquire power, knowledge, or whatever else they choose. Or they might join the Rebellion and fight for humanity against Heaven and Hell. Or they might take the power they have been given and carve a new path of their own design. The options open to a mage are as wide as the mage’s imagination.
1. Mage Society
3. The Houses