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According to the White Wolf Wiki:

Key to the Sons' paradigm is Science (the word is always capitalised to distinguish it from the science of sleepers). Exotic theories of orgone fields, hypercombustion chambers and etheric transmission matrices enable the Etherites to create even more weird and wonderful devices. Their Science almost always has a baroque feel, as if it leapt from the pages of pulp fiction or Victorian sci-fi – death rays, robotic servants built of brass and powered by clockwork and fantastic space or aquatic vehicles spring to mind when others discuss the Sons of Ether.

That doesn't sound too promising if you want to play in a serious, horror-ish style game. From my experience, an Etherites comes in three flavours:

  1. Crazy Scientist. Sounds good in theory, if you want to portray Dr. Victor Frankenstein, but in practice, instead of someone pushing the boundaries of Unknown, you end up with Dexter, who can build a fusion reactor in a matchbox, but keeps setting his hair on fire.

enter image description here

  1. Conspiracy theorist: There are nanites in bread, chemtrails in clouds, 5G and vaccines are turning you into a zombie controlled by reptilians, Illuminati and the British monarchy. Yes, in a Mage game all the above might be true, but... there is a fine line after which this turns simply silly.

enter image description here

  1. Cosplayer: It sounds cool, especially if a player can describe himself nicely, covered in fantastic clockwork armor. A few heads might turn around, especially if a party starts in a mundane pub, but hey, that's not much different to a Dreamspeaker wearing only feathers.

enter image description here

Problems start, when an Etherite starts to use Magick:

  • Dreamspeaker: Let the wrath of Mother Earth fly through my fingers!
  • Hermetic mage: By the secret seal of Solomon, I command the spirits!
  • Virtual Adept: (Quietly hacking power grid to hurt enemies)
  • Etherite: Peeew! Peeew! Eat my death rays!

So tl;dr - how to play Sons (and Daughters) of Ether without falling into the traps mentioned above?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Etherites are Vernian Sci-Fi, not Victorian! \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 1, 2022 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Etherites have an optional rule called 'Spheres Of Wonder' where they can pay half the cost for spheres but only use them for crafting wonders. So they do have the option to operate closer to a Vancian wizard which through memetic information are perceived to be the serious counterpart to pew pew of sorcerers using those rules can add a certain level of gravitas to them. I thought this would work better as a comment as I think it offers a bandaid to a perceived problem as opposed to a solution. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2023 at 12:50

4 Answers 4

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Be a scientist

The Etherites are, first and above all, about science. Serious science (at least to them).

As a scientist, it is your job, nay, your duty to uncover the mysteries of the universe. You possess an extraordinary mind - you seem to notice things that most other people do not1. So, what to others may seem like a freak accident you see as a cause and effect chain not quite fully explained. Yet you do know there is an underlying cause.

That person over there waved their hands and chanted, then a lightning struck. It is not just a coincidence he did something. You pull out your monitoring equipment, take measures, numbers flash on a screen, there is some beeping2 and yes, you detect the lingering traces of orgone interference pattern3. It is a phenomenon you are aware of that allows people to perform acts akin to what can be described as "magic". They can call it what they want, you are here to study, measure, and categorise it.

Supposedly "serious" scientific journals have declined to publish your papers. But they just are not ready yet. Supposedly "serious" scientists also rejected the idea that humans would ever fly. But progress cannot be stopped by closed minds. You have found some non-mainstream journals and scientific communities4 who are more receptive to ideas going outside the mainstream science. There are fascinating ideas in there. There is even prior work on orgone. Of course, it is quite outdated by now but it does give you some insights. And as the other scientists before you, you can build upon the old ideas.

Science is a serious matter. One day it would accept the existence of orgone. You are sure. And your observations, equations, data, and work as a whole would pave the way.


1 Thanks to their Awakened Avatar. Whether the character acknowledges that or not is up to you.

2 Using some Effects to perceive phenomena.

3 In game terms, it is just magick. Or maybe even limited to particular Sphere(s), say Forces and Prime effects might be what "orgone" is. It is just a stand-in for whatever pseudoscience a given Etherite would pursue.

4 Really just the Etherites.


In straight text, Etherites do take themselves seriously. Their beliefs may be fantasy or not entirely true in either way but this is the trap of magick - each mage perceives as what they do as the true way the universe is. Even the Hermetics and Verbena and the rest are no different. Each one believes they know and understand how the world works and <insert magick style> is part of it. The others may be able to do similarly outlandish effects but at best they scratch the surface and misuse <insert magick style>.

For the Etherites, it is the pseudoscientific beliefs they hold. Orgone does not exist but...it does for an Etherite. They can observe, measure, and quantify the phenomena. The same way a Hermetic might be able to observe, measure, and quantify a mystical seal of Solomon does indeed work.

As scientists, the Etherites should be inquisitive, driven, studious. And most will probably be into engineering to some degree in order to create the tools they cast magick with. They would treat each with utmost care and seriousness. They are not hacks or frauds.


One perhaps interesting way to present the Etherites is as using the same trappings as fantasy wizards. But with science. Evoking the similarities between the two:

  • the Etherite might live or work on the top floor. Similar to a wizard sitting in their tower.
  • the Etherite would spend a lot of time buried in scientific publications. Similar to a wizard pouring over tomes of ancient knowledge.
  • the Etherite might have robotic contraptions helping around the house. Similar to how a wizard might have imps or other magical critters doing house work.
  • the Etherite would explore the way something pseudoscientific affects the world - like manipulating orgone to achieve an effect. Similar to how wizards will use sympathy and "as above, so below" to affect things that should not have any link.

And so on. Modern and scientific reflections of fantasy old wizard tropes. This might even be weaved into the character background echoing past lives the Avatar had. Or it might simply be a way to think about portraying the character.


Problems start, when an Etherite starts to use Magick:

[...]

  • Etherite: Peeew! Peeew! Eat my death rays!

A more serious take is maybe something like this:"If I modulate the frequencies splicing orgone interference pattern delta, I can cause localised heat build up enough to hurt a person."

Also, do remember that ritualistic casting exists. And to my mind at least, it seems that it fits really well with what a "scientist" would do. So, to pull off an Effect (at least a big one) they might need a lot of time to prepare, calibrate, and eventually cast it. That would lend credence that their theories work by avoiding as much Paradox, since extended casting, especially subtle one, can mitigate a lot of Paradox. Thus preventing the "Dexter's hair on fire". There would be some mishaps but not as frequent as a one-off roll to shoot a fancy science gun.

On the field, Etherite can deploy mostly measuring equipment. They do not need a laser gun. A normal gun serves just fine, if they do need protection. Put Etherite's scientific endeavour above trying to make death rays.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Its worth pointing out that while relatively rare there are mishaps in real-world science labs, some of which lead to fire. Its very easy to flavor a paradox backlash as a Scientific working gone wrong. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2022 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman yes, of course. I did not really want to get into it but you are right. Paradox backlashes are coloured by the paradigm of a mage. A mystic might encounter actual demons during a paradox, or even divine punishment. A technomage might instead have their contraption go off in a black puff of smoke or cut out the power to the entire neighbourhood. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Oct 1, 2022 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Imagine a STEM professional who is very competent but also takes himself way too seriously. In battle, his dialogue will betray a distinct feeling of superiority with a healthy dose of self-righteousness. "I destroy you now to spare you the undignified auto-demise that inevitably awaits any fool -- or sheep." He expects his triumph is guaranteed by his all-consuming pursuit of his pet theory. Like an uber-nerd who "knows" that his Star Trek fanfic gets right the most important things that the official show gets wrong. He is insufferable, and insufferably earnest, especially when right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Oct 2, 2022 at 0:44
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Well...

The main point of the SoE paradigm is that they consider a (or some) of the discarded theories that are totally true.

So the main point here would be to defend those theories with arguments that at least look valid.

I would recommend, think about on the background of your character and think about what he belives. Maybe a sci-fi troupe would be more easy to implement here than a victorian scientist.

Then think about a few lines to defend your statement, and the most common holes in your argument. After that, if someone laughed at you, you can just throw your arguments.

My own example

I played with a SoE, that doesnt have almost any "crazy" theory. He was focused on solving energetic issues, transporting energy between point A and B without wires due the Quantic-Sympathy, a mix between the quantum physics and the sympathy Magic of the hermetics.

Other examples that appeared as NPCs in my campaign

  • Xenobotanic - Life 3, Spirit 3 focused on outer (Umbral) life.
  • The Frankenstein Monster - You are not the doctor but the awakened creation. Introduce a Nuclear Energy powered Frankenstein-like creature.
  • The Submariner - A woman tortured by the Technocracy that was stripped of all her senses and now she needs a carbon-like skin (that resembles a diving suit) to ever be able to sense a touch.
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Use better references

It sounds like you have a history of seeing the Sons of Ether played certain ways, or expect your group to play/see them a certain way. Certainly, any RPG character could fall down the Trope Pit and seem that way.

However, you are engaging in a logical fallacy... whether its 'begging the question' (assuming the conclusion), 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' (that's what happened before, so it must always happen that way), or a simple 'hasty generalization', there is no reason a player has to engage in the tropes provided.

My recommendation, based on the framing of your question, is simply to pick better scientists to emulate when making roleplay decisions. Dr. Frankenstein was in your question, Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau are other classic evil-adjacent (and horror themed) options. If you're more into the "I know more than you" (conspiracy) theorist, don't act like a conspiracy theorist, act like a genius... who is odd. Sherlock Holmes, Egon Spengler (Ghostbusters), or Gregory House (House) all fill this trope with gravitas. To your final example, don't be a 'person in cosplay', be an actual Steampunk scientist. I'm less familiar with the genre, but Google can help.

Finally, I'll leave you with the inspiration for this answer. You want to be a person on the cutting edge of violent science, with questionable morals, some X-punk theming, running around keeping up with a bunch of mages? Ask yourself, what would Percy do?

enter image description here

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I may not be the best to answer this question and I don't see why someone is the modern day taking a person waving their hands around and speaking weird language would be any more silly than anything else.

This is not a criticism but when I ran into similar problems I usually found that either I, or the game master, or the entire group, had a bias that a certain class/group was inherently stupid. I found it better to avoid that class/group until I changed my bias's or the group changed theirs and sometimes that didn't happen.

I also note that your examples have people using "Vulger magic" which is the GM decides is OK is OK, but from my understanding of the game all those people should be hiding their effect as normal technological events.

I don't mean anything above a criticism. Either an individual or a group not being able to get their head around something happens and sometimes is best not to fight it.

I could reskin the character from "Fantastic Beasts" as a zoologist trying to save cryptids from extinction easily I think.

Now to your question. 1) duplicate what the virtual adept is doing with a different set of gear. "I am tapping into the power gird using a eathic conductor". or 2) go straight to SF. "I have a pocket fusion reactor ... don't you." or 3) ... model yourself on the technocracy. "Ethically I don't like them but most of their science is good. I just have a few improvements. then it becomes ... "darn and all i have is ridiculously high power, maybe Gauss ... handgun"

This can be done in addition to all the above.

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