The mages (or magi) are the political magicians of Urizen. They see the application of magic as fundamentally political in nature, something that can be used to change the world for the better, but only when used wisely. Using the Net of the Heavens as a model, they seek to become powerful nodes in their own right, building alliances and exerting influence over others to achieve their political goals. They feel a natural affinity for other magicians, but they also realise the value of using their magical abilities to help their allies and build interlocking webs of favour and influence.
In Urizen, magic is the single most effective way to get the kind of influence you need to achieve anything. The basic principle of a mage, is the understanding that all magic is political. The resources needed to perform magic are always highly limited - there are never enough mana crystals to do everything. This means every ritual that is ever performed is a choice - a decision to help one person, one group, one nation, one campaign - instead of another. Who you choose to help, and how much help you give them, these decisions are the purview of the mage.
Mages do not restrict their political ambitions to the mortal world; the eternals are powerful and are clearly pivotal nodes in their own rights, even if they are not part of the Empire. Where other nations may find the eternals suspect, the mages believe fundamentally that the eternals are a “knowable quantity.” Their restricted nature as compared to humans means that mortals will always eventually get the better of them, provided they approach them rationally and with care not to become overconfident.
Mages are the masters of intrigue and machinations. They can be charismatic demagogues, whipping up a mob to drive a Synod vote, or hidden schemers, cleverly manipulating people in private to get a Senate motion passed. Mages are ambitious - they seek to create a better world - but they are often ruthless, prone to manipulating those around them to achieve their plans. The power of nations like Wintermark and Dawn are exemplified by their heroes - but the power of Urizen is wielded by its mages.
Urizen mages have been pivotal at key points in Imperial history. They successfully persuaded their fellow magicians to decline the invitation to join the Empire, but they also encouraged Urizeni magicians to travel north to help Imperial armies defeat Alderei the Fair. Indeed, the same key figures were heavily involved in both decisions. Throughout, they were guided by one of the key pillars of Urizen society, the ambition to create the perfect civilisation. The rejection of the First Empress' invitation was not based on fear of giving up control or being dragged into foreign wars, but on the understanding that to do so risked disaster not just for Urizen but for the nascent Empire. The mages of Urizen feared that the Empire would become a tyrannical regime, one that oppressed the very people it had been created to free. With the power of Urizen magic unmatched by the other nations that made up the early Empire, that danger would have been even greater.
Only when it was clear that the Empire held the potential to create a society based on learning did they consent to join. They were instrumental in shaping the Conclave, the creation of which they made a precondition for Urizen joining the Empire. In particular, they were adamant that association within the Conclave must be based on political leanings, rather than prowess with a magical realm. They wanted to ensure that magicians would not have their purview limited only to matters of magic. The Conclave Orders that were created at this time reflect the view of Urizen mages that the true purpose of magic is to change the world.
The most famous mage in history is Nicovar of Ankarien who became Emperor in 200 YE. His later actions overshadow the fact that he was a clever speaker and former archmage. He was the acknowledged expert in the use of the rituals of the realm of Day, his early reign was marked by significant advances in the effectiveness of the civil service and the Imperial Military Council. He also instituted dozens of well-planned and well-thought-out programs to improve the lives of citizens from all walks of life. While he is largely villified by Imperial historians, and held up as an example of the dangers of applying magic unwisely, modern mages are still quick to point to the many improvements he made in pursuit of his dream of a united Empire founded on reason. Even as he burned the libraries, his consummate political acumen gave him a broad base of support from the Senate and Synod, and it was only a single rogue actor that finally ended his career and his life.
Although less notorious, Hersilia of Delving is considered one of the most influential people of her age. An early supporter of Empress Deanne, she is sometimes credited with persuading the Senate of the need to end the Second Interregnum, having astutely identified the threats posed by the Druj and the Grendel to the eastern and southern Empire. Her persuasive speeches, and her ability to create common ground between political rivals, helped prepare the Empire for the coming disaster and saw her (unsuccessfully) proposed as an exemplar of vigilance. Her memoirs are still studied by modern magi, especially her musings on the notions of arete, affection, and respect. She placed each of these ideas at the corner of a triangle, saying that a mage must possess all three - their only choice is which quality must go at the top, a reference to the compromises any mage must make in the pursuit of their goals.
According to the Net of the Heavens, the best way to achieve change is to focus effort on the key nodes that determine the outcome in any situation. Politicians who employ this approach understand that the best way to guide the Senate, the Military Council or another house of power is to exert influence on the most pivotal members. To smooth passage of an important motion, judgement, or declaration, it is not necessary to persuade everyone to vote as you wish them to, you just need to identify the people who are key to that decision and focus your efforts on them.
Some mages will lead from the front, giving speeches on the floor of the Senate or the Conclave, but others are content to forego glory preferring a subtle approach that seeks the least overt actions needed to achieve the best outcome. Whatever the approach, mages genuinely regard the Imperial houses of power as battlefields. If war is an act of force to compel an enemy to your will, then triumph in the Senate is no different to a victory on the battlefield. Words are weapons, you employ them to reinforce your positions, defend your allies, and cut down your enemies. What matters more than anything is victory. Politics is not a matter of life and death - it's more important than that.
Working to secure allies - to gain friends and favours - is simply a way of preparing for the next battle. Most magicians understand that you need to gather sufficient mana crystals to perform a ritual. Politics is no different - to get the outcome you desire you must first accrue sufficient political capital. Thus many mages strive to involve themselves in every political situation, even those that don't pertain to their interests, seeing this as the best way to identify critical nodes and accumulate influence. The best though never lose sight of the true purpose of it all - to create a more perfect world.
Most mages are active in the Conclave, usually joining a Conclave order and supporting a preferred candidate for grandmaster or else trying the title themselves. While the Conclave is the place where magicians meet to discuss matters of magic, the Conclave orders exist to allow magicians to be involved in every aspect of the running of the Empire, not just to focus on magic. To a magus, the point of magic is to transform the world for the better; the point of the Conclave is so that magicians can agree how best to do that.
Many mages are passionate advocates of dealing with eternals, arguing that while such deals have dangers the benefits outweigh the risks. They promote a transactional relationship, stressing that eternals are political actors, just like any other. Each eternal has things they can offer and things they want - where those desires can be met it creates the potential for benefits for the Empire and for the mage that makes the arrangement. Given that eternals are individually powerful with capabilities that rival those of a powerful coven, it makes sense to treat with them to gain an advantage where possible. If the Empire can forge a good relationship with an eternal, then that will lead to benefits, regardless of the eternal's nature.
Most mages have little time for those who view dealing with eternals as unpredictable or doomed. They stress that while the desires of eternals are often strange, at least in the eyes of mortals, they make sense if you understand the nature of the eternal. The majority of eternals are open about what they want in exchange for their boons - and it is very rare for them to lie. To the experienced mage this makes dealing with them easier than dealing with mortals, where the truth is impossible to establish. Belisari of the White Cliffs, a mage famous for their dealings with all the winter eternals claimed that "the eternals are like powerful, wilful children. Their goals are simple and naive, but they want what they want with every fibre of their being. They can do nothing else but want that thing. The skillful mage is like the parent - it is up to you to decide which desires you will gratify and which you will refuse."
While mages often cultivate relationships with one or more eternals, they try to be careful to avoid falling into the trap of thinking of eternals in the same way as they view mortal allies. A mage can become proficient at dealing with an eternal by learning to understand what it is they want and what they can offer, but the relationship remains fundamentally transactional; they can never be friends.
Creating a Mage
The mage archetype is intended to allow players to create Urizen characters that are dedicated political actors. Whether you hope to be a public speaker, moving your audience with soaring oratory or a shrewd manipulator directing events from behind the throne, the mage is the perfect archetype for anyone who enjoys player-vs-player politics. Mages are always looking to accrue more political capital, so playing a mage gives you a reason to get involved in every possible political conflict, as you look for ways to turn situations to your advantage.
The overwhelming majority of mages are magicians - usually ritual magicians. Ritual magic is an important asset for any Urizen character who wants political influence, since it grants you votes in Urizen's senatorial elections. More fundamentally, a mage is someone who understands the costs and benefits involved in the use of magic, it isn't essential to be able to perform a specific ritual yourself, but you will almost certainly need a good understanding of what is involved and what the possibilities are. Likewise, a mana site is usually the best resource for a mage, since it provides you with the perfect currency with which to curry favour with your fellow magicians as well as votes in some important Urizen elections.
If you are creating a character as part of a group then you don't need everyone in the group to be interested in politics. A mage works well in any spire or citadel; you can draw on their skills and abilities to accumulate influence, and if the group have any goals for their spire, then that instantly provides you with objectives that you can try to achieve or support. It is particularly useful to find out about any goals that other members of the group have - the more you know about what they want and what they can offer, the more you can improve your own standing and influence by helping them to achieve their goals.
Even though you have a reason to poke your nose into everyone's business, the most important thing you need as a mage is a vision of what you are trying to achieve. Most mages are not interested in gaining political power for its own ends - they want to use it to change the world for the better. You might care about your spire, your territory, your nation, the Empire or even the whole world - but you'll need to care about something! It's always a good idea to have more than one goal, but having a sense of what you are hoping to accomplish gives you a direction and purpose for your politicking. Don't worry if you're not certain what truly motivates your character at first though, you can always set about the task of becoming influential while you work out what it is you're gaining all that influence for.
One thing to consider when creating a mage is how singular you will be in pursuit of your goals. How absolute is your vision and how ruthless are you? You may dream of creating a better world, but your utopia could be hell for others. The more anodyne your vision of change, the easier it will be to get others to go along with it, but the less opportunities for interaction and conflict you'll have as you pursue it. Likewise think about how ruthless you are prepared to be in pursuit of your goals. A callous character will be less popular but can be more effective and create a great challenge for everyone who roleplays with you.
Playing a Mage
Playing a mage gives you a set of basic character goals: to accumulate political capital by making deals with others to gain influence and relationships, to gain magical power so that you can use that to further your political goals, to encourage others to think about magic as a fundamentally political tool, and to liaise with eternals so that you can parlay such relationships into power.
In Urizen, magic is the single most effective way to get the kind of influence you need to achieve anything. The more magic you have access to, the more power and influence you have. Provided you wield magic prudently, it is possible to gain benefits by performing rituals, which can then be used to get access to more mana crystals or potions and items that you can use to make your rituals more powerful. The easiest goal you have as a mage is to accumulate the resources that you need to make yourself and your allies more powerful and effective magicians. Magic always has a cost - you can't perform every ritual you want to - so you want to use your magic in ways that grow your power and encourage your allies to do likewise.
The challenge you will have is that your fellow magicians are likely to have their own reasons to be pursuing and performing magic. If they are not willing to withhold their magical skills when their political demands are not met, then it is significantly harder to use those abilities to benefit Urizen and the Empire. So your second goal is to encourage people to understand that all magic is inherently political - and for Urizeni magicians, it is their best way to achieve what they want for them and their nation. People who aren't mages may not be interested in politics, but they may still care about the outcomes - how many bourse resources are assigned to Urizen, how many armies are sent to defend it, and so on.
You may face opposition from people who say "everyone should just help the Empire". You may hear this from people who want a ritual done for them - but you may also hear it from your fellow Urizen magicians who might be performing the ritual. You might have other priorities which are more important than helping the Empire but if you want to rebut this approach you can point out that every Imperial ritual that is cast helps the Empire... The question is how best to employ limited skills and resources to best help the Empire. These are political decisions - decisions you as a mage are well placed to make - if you can convince people to trust your judgement.
You should try every opportunity to converse with eternals or their heralds and interrogate them to see what they want. If you think you can give them what they want, then you can ask what they will offer in return and decide if the bargain is worth it. You will need to be very careful if you deal with eternals who are under emnity since that is very illegal, but you should have confidence in your ability to get the better of an eternal and avoid falling into the trap of fearing that you can never know what an eternal is really planning. While it is easy to overlook something an eternal has said, in practice, we strive to avoid having our eternals trick the players or knowingly lie to you.
Most importantly you should try and involve yourself in every political decision in your nation and in the Empire if you can. One of your core goals as a mage is gain political influence and power - the better to allow you to change the world. Doing that is incredibly difficult - lots of players at Empire are trying to gain power. But one of the best ways to succeed is to get involved in every decision - no matter if it seems irrelevant to your own interests. If you help others achieve their political goals - then you are gaining influence that you can use in the future to achieve your own.
Ultimately, you should develop and pursue your own political goals. When you do try to remember the three pillars of Urizen (magic, reason, and ambition), but above all trust your own judgement. Your goal is to benefit all humanity, to create a more perfect world. Magic is the tool with which you will achieve this end. But only those like you who put reason and learning above all other pursuits will have the vision to see perfectly what must be done.