THE SPHERE OF CHAOS
by Constantine Thomas

The Sphere of Chaos affects chance and randomness, and the extent to which they can affect a system. As described below, there are three types of probability system - Closed Systems, Metasystems, and Open Systems. The pinnacle of the Sphere of Chaos is the ability to control disorder itself, and also to apply this to systems in which there are billions of variables through Chaos Theory.

Chaos gives the Mage control over the amount of disorder in a system, which in turn affects the extent that randomness influences that system. This allows the Mage to affect probability in Closed Systems, Metasystems, Open Systems (all of which are described below), and ultimately Entropy itself.


A Closed System is the simplest of all Probability Systems - it is one in which there is a definite, finite probability of an event occurring, as a result of the isolation of the system from external influences. Tossing a coin creates one of the most basic Closed Systems - there is a one in two chance that the coin will land heads or tails. Other examples include the shuffling of a pack of cards, and a game of Russian Roulette - in the latter, there is a one in six chance that the firing chamber of the revolver will contain the bullet (which the Mage can affect).


A Metasystem is a hybrid system that combines elements of both Closed and Open Systems. An 'Metasystem' is defined here as a collection of individual components that interact in a complex manner - thus any Bureaucracies (and ultimately Society itself) are Metasystems, as are complex machines and computers that are composed of many interacting parts. Ultimately, these are all 'meta-organisms', comprising many individual entities (sometimes millions) that are themselves affected by various factors.

All Metasystems operate within a basic rigid framework - the hierarchy of employees, the daily routine, etc. - which makes them similar to Closed Systems. However, anything can happen within that framework as the metasystem interacts with the outside world - employees can arrive late or call in sick, rival companies can put in a take-over bid, a new contract can be signed, wars can start and so on - which makes it akin to an Open System. Again though, only events that are possible can be caused to happen - for example, a war or take-over could not be initiated unless the circumstances already existed for such an event to occur.


An Open System is one where probability is being continually affected by variable (and multiple) independent factors - people usually have no control over events that are part of Open Systems. However, Mages can manipulate (or 'tweak') the system such that the chance of a specific event occurring is increased or decreased. He can also flood the system with Chaos (or reduce its effect), making it generally more or less random in its operation - in these circumstances, the Mage has little control over exactly how this randomness will manifest itself. Being run over in the street in a freak car accident, hit by a meteorite, or even killed in a random shooting are all Open Systems.

For example, a Mage being chased over an unstable wooden bridge can use Chaos to affect the Open System that is the chance of the bridge collapsing. The probability is based on the strength and direction of the wind, the weight on the bridge at any moment and its distribution, the age and strength of the wooden planks, and so on. By manipulating probabilities of any of these factors reaching a given critical 'collapse point' at a certain time, the Mage can cause the bridge to collapse when he is safely on the other side but when the people chasing him are about halfway across. It should be noted that Chaos cannot be used to make magicks appear Coincidental (by affecting the probability that something will occur) - Chaos affects only the probabilities that a mundane event can occur.


The ultimate expression of Chaos magick is Chaos Theory, and the ability to control disorder itself. Normally, a system must naturally tend towards increasing disorder. At this level, a Mage can override this dictum and cause the amount of disorder in a system to decrease or remain stable with time - with this, he can make a gas cloud diffuse in a certain way (or not diffuse at all), or make ink drops form out of inky water as the ink molecules re-assemble into a more ordered state. Through Chaos Theory, the Mage can control events in the future through tiny manipulations of events in the present.



Increasing the amount of disorder in any probability system makes it more random and unpredictable. Decreasing the amount of disorder in a system makes it less random and more 'ordered' - i.e. predictable. Examples of how these manifest in the various types of System are given below:


CLOSED SYSTEMS

If disorder was increased in a system where two dice were rolled thousands of times, it is possible that no consecutive roll will be the same. Similarly, if a pack of playing cards (arranged in order of suit and number) was taken and shuffled once, it would appear as if it had been shuffled hundreds of times.

If disorder was decreased in the systems described above, rolling the two dice would always resulted in the same number, even if rolled several thousand times. In the pack of cards example, the deck could be shuffled a thousand times but there would still be only one or two cards displaced if the disorder was decreased.


METASYSTEMS

Increasing disorder in (for example) a busy restaurant could result in tables never being served by waiters, cooks calling in sick on busy days, health inspectors arriving, customers complaining, waiters tripping up while carrying food etc. Increasing disorder in a complex machine (such as a computer) could result in computer crashes, circuit breakers tripping for no reason (while others fail to trip when they should, causing power surges), corruption of computer data, and so on.

Decreasing disorder in the restaurant may result in tables always being served as soon as they are taken by customers, employees calling in on time, and everything generally running like clockwork. Decreasing disorder in a machine would make it work more efficiently and more predictably - circuit breakers trip when they should, back-doors into computer systems become inaccessible, phone exchanges route their calls to the correct destinations, etc.


OPEN SYSTEMS

Open Systems are generally difficult to quantify. Increasing the disorder in such a system makes a possible event more probable. The chance that a rickety wall or an unstable bridge could collapse at a given moment is an Open System - increasing the disorder would make such an event more likely and would probably cause it to happen.

Similarly, decreasing the disorder in an Open System makes possible events less probable - thus, the unstable bridge or wall might be caused NOT to collapse at a given moment. The exact effects of 'tweaking' Open Systems are many and varied, limited only to the player's imagination.



CHAOS

Level 1: Perceive Probability. This level allows the Mage to ascertain the probability of an event occurring, given current trends and variables. It also gives the Mage the ability to sense whether probabilities are being tweaked by other probability magicks or by Sleepers (say, if die rolls are being affected by magnets under a Craps table in a casino).

This also allows a Mage to sense the amount of disorder in a system, which allows him to see which parts of the system are the most ordered and which are the most disordered. In most cases, the most disordered parts of a system are its weakest points. Note that this can only be used on its own in Metasystems (i.e. those that contain large numbers of individual variables such as organisations and networks) - finding the weak spots of a living or non-living material would require level 1 in the appropriate Pattern Sphere with a Chaos 1 Requisite. Thus, to find the weakest (or the strongest) point in a metal wall would require both Matter 1 and Chaos 1. Note that other Magicks or skills must be used if the Mage wishes to exploit any weak points - Chaos 1 cannot itself manipulate these weak points; it can only detect them.


Level 2: Disorder in Closed Systems. At this level, the Mage can control the amount of disorder in any Closed System. This includes tossing coins, rolling dice, and shuffling card decks. It gives the Mage extraordinary control over any games of chance, and basically allows him to do as he pleases with the probabilities of the system. However, note that repeated use of this in the same place will draw the ire of Sleepers (who will suspect the Mage of foul play if his dice keep rolling double sixes...) or may even invoke the Domino Effect (see Mage2, pg. 165).


Level 3: Disorder in Metasystems. At this level, the Mage can control disorder in any Metasystem. Metasystems combine elements of both Open and Closed systems, since their daily operation is unpredictable - the daily routine is fixed, but a variety of external factors can influence it. Metasystems include machines, computers, living bodies, bureaucracies, businesses, and ultimately even entire societies - note that Matter or Life must be used as Requisites for any Chaos 3 effects that are directed at physical patterns (i.e. machinery or bodies). Examples of the use of Chaos 3 are given above.


Level 4: Disorder in Open Systems. At this level, the Mage can control the amount of disorder in an Open System. Note that this does not allow a Mage to directly (or specifically) affect physical objects - rather, it affects the randomness within such systems. Thus, a Mage can make an unstable bridge collapse at a given moment by affecting the probability that this will happen, but cannot actually do this by directly affecting the material of the bridge itself - this would require Matter magick.

This has a huge variety of uses - it can be used to affect the probability of the target being run over by a bus, or hit by a falling brick beneath a building site, or even being clobbered by a meteorite. However, the difficulty of a Chaos 4 effect is directly linked to the probability of such an event occurring - being hit by a meteorite is naturally incredibly unlikely, and will probably only work on a difficulty of about 15 (meaning copious amount of Quintessence have to be burned), while being trampled underfoot in a riot would only be a difficulty of 3 or 4. By its very nature, Chaos 4 magick is always coincidental - it cannot be used to make something happen that is not possible (i.e. a brick cannot just fly out of a wall that it is cemented in and hit the target on the head. However, a brick may fall from a pile of bricks on the 7th floor of a building site if such a pile exists) - the circumstances must previously exist to allow the effect to occur. Thus, in the previous example the bridge must be already be unstable and likely to collapse if the Mage is to actually make this happen at an opportune moment. The specifics of this is ultimately left to the Storyteller's discretion.


Level 5: Control Disorder/Chaos Theory. All systems naturally tend to a more disordered state - at Chaos 5, the Mage can override this and control the evolution of a system completely, exercising absolute control over the disorder of a system - he can therefore accelerate it, stop it, or even reverse it!

In nature, disorder is always increasing - systems are always going from an ordered state to a disordered state (where they are in equilibrium and so are stable - ink dropped in water is not stable as a drop, so it diffuses to colour the water). All systems tend towards greater disorder - gases diffuse to fill a space, temperature is conducted from a higher temperature to a lower one, material breaks down, decays, or dissolves into its component parts with time, and so on. By controlling disorder at this level, a Mage can reverse, halt or speed up the breakdown of systems - he can cause the ink spread throughout the inky water to coalesce back into a drop of ink, a gas released from a box to 'diffuse' back into the box, hot objects to retain their heat in a cold environment, or a sugarcube to reform after being dropped into a hot cup of coffee (to name but a few). However, the ordered state is rarely stable, so effects at this level can only last as long as the Mage concentrates.

Also, this level gives the Mage control over systems containing BILLIONS of variables - a good example of this is the infamous 'Butterfly effect'. In Chaos Theory, the final outcome of an event can be radically changed by the slightest alteration of its starting conditions. At this level, the Mage is aware of precisely what must be done to guide the system to a desired outcome, and can also magickally 'encourage' the system to that end. This allows him, for example, to control the weather or affect events in the future by modifying their starting conditions.


CHAOS
Sphere Effect
* Probability Perception.
** Control Closed Systems.
*** Control Metasystems.
**** Control Open Systems.
***** Control Disorder/Chaos Theory.



Back to the Old World of Darkness Hub
Frame URL: http://www.evildrganymede.net/rpg/mage/m-chaos.htm