Earlier today I had this idea. It just sort of came to me today and so I would like to nail it down a bit and suss out the edges. If you want to understand the basics of what I am trying to create you should check out the following posts:
1. The Initial idea
2. Some Further Extrapolation
3. A short breakdown on many core ideas of the setting
4. A further explanation of how magic works in the world
5. A breakdown of the magical skills, I am going to stick with this list for now
There is a lot more to all of this, but those four posts should get you in the ball park if you are completely unfamiliar with this particular project. It has been a while since I last dug into this setting and so I think I am coming at this with the weight of experience on my side. We will see.
Setting Creation & The Node Map
What are the basic setting Premises?
Look outside your window. That is the world. That is the world as we know it and as it has always been, this cycle at least. You see the past can be changed, the present can be changed, and the future can be changed. Everything is malleable, and yet certain things remain constant, even in this solipsistic mess. No matter how hard they try even the most power magus cannot deny the whole of reality. So while the details may change, their are certain things that remain from cycle to cycle.
Terra Mundus - physical realm, the realm of cause and effect. This is the physical stuff of the world, whatever form it may take. This is the realm that seems of prime importance and a great deal of effort is made to control the Physical Nodes of the world. Currently the Rationalists hold a majority of nodes in the world. This doesn't just encompass the earth, but all the celestial spheres and the whole of the observable cosmos as well. Most of the conflicts revolve around the earth as that is where the most people are, so who can say what is out beyond the known?
The Other World - The spirit realm, a place of gods and ghosts, of abstract ideas given personas and form. It often mirrors Terra Mundus in shape, though the further in you go the stranger it becomes. It is home to many echoes of bygone cycles as well as refugees who lost the various wars of the Magi seeking to gather influence and power in order to take back what is theirs.
The Dreamlands - Realm of the mind and imagination. Everything here is eerily familiar and yet disturbingly alien. The connections between things here is very difficult to follow rationally and all things are connected by only the slimmest of strands. While this is the least concrete of the realms of existence, it is the hardest to change on any meaningful level for any length of time. Beware the Flamingos. For they know the weigh.
Pocket Realms - These are areas segregated from the other three(though connected to them) where the rules work differently than the prevailing paradigm. These are often created by powerful Magi or gods and can be of some danger for the unprepared.
What Are Nodes?
They are places. They are also ideas, concepts, ideal, and spiritual realities. they are fundamental building blocks of reality. They are a city block, and that dream where you go to school naked, and they are Camelot, and green beans. Basically they are Important Things. Things that people believe in. They give the world stability. They are important in their normalcy. So Magi are connected to nodes, yes. However what separates them from the Shadows is their disconnect from their nodes. They see the illusion for what it is.
A node can look like anything, or nothing. It is a notional fixed point in fluid reality. In that it is hard to describe. The important locations in a city could be nodes. As could archetypes within the collective unconscious. Or it could be a pocket dimension, or a series of alternate time lines. wherever there are enough people believing in an idea or enough energy flowing through an area, there will be a node. Nodes are connected to each other, unless they have been cut off through artificial means. The more you control the more control of reality you have, but unless you are in the zone it grants no additional power.
As you can plainly see, I am still less than fully clear on a proper definition of nodes, so if you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments below.
node mapping as the first step of world building/character creation. To do it you will need a big sheet of paper, or a white board, or something where everyone can see and work on it together. Assign at least one node to each player to create. I would like to do nodes a bit like cluster creation in Diaspora. That does mean that I will need to come up with some tables for creating the basics of magical paradigms and the like. I am still noodling around with this, so it is very rough and unfinished, but it needs to be mentioned at the least so that I have it in mind for the rest of the post.
Stationary Nodes - These are the most solid of nodes, they have existed for a long time and are constant.
Transitory Nodes - these are nodes that are new ideas, new places, or ideas and places that have not really had any impact on the setting as yet.
Mobile Nodes - These are very rare and powerful nodes, for they can be moved, and often move in and of themselves. I am not sure what that look like just yet
Forging Connections - You start out at the beginning of the campaign creating connections as they are created in Diaspora. What the connections mean, though is up to the group. Each node is connected to the other nodes through some sort of relationship or ley line. Ley lines are the easiest, as they are simply magical rivers that flow from node to node. However these ley lines are present in the subconscious of the people in the world. This means that they will over time come to associate the connected nodes as related in some way. This connection could be physical or metaphorical. Physical connections are just that, these buildings are connected in some way, perhaps they are on the same road or river, or perhaps they share some mystic resonance. Metaphorical connections are when similar things happen in both nodes, or similar emotions are evoked, or something. As I said I am not quite sure how this works just yet, but I know I am getting closer. I would love any thoughts on how this might better work.
Breaking Connections - During play it is possible, even likely, that the players or their antagonists will break the connections between nodes, or create new ones to new nodes. This is a big deal and represents a serious shift in the nature of local reality. Again I am still playing around with how best to do this.
Taking Over a Node - this is the big one. Taking over a node should take a lot of work as it represents changing a fundamental truth about an Important Thing and remaking the world in your image, however small the node may be. It could be the focus of a whole campaign to take over a node.
What is a cycle?
Because there are very few constants in reality, the Magi do not measure things by time or location. Time is fluid, it exists or it doesn't, the Magi remember things by Cycles. A cycle is when the world changes significantly, like the eight dimensional construct cycle, or the cycle of the inverted stair. When a majority of the nodes are converted to a certain worldview, then that becomes the new cycle. In some campaigns the previous or future cycles might be used fairly heavily, some players may with to play refugees from a future or previous cycle trying to retake the world from those who usurped them, or came before them. Man, time travel makes things a little funny when it comes to causality. If this is going to be a theme, talk it over with your players and help them build the world that was or will be.
Magical Paradigm Creation
Your paradigm/worldview/magical belief structure is treated as a character of its own with a couple of aspects, a few skill ratings(of the magical skills), maybe a stunt or two, and a stress track(no consequences). If the paradigm takes stress anyone playing a character following that paradigm may choose to take consequences instead, as the paradigm has no consequences naturally. This paradigm is created by the group(most of the time, unless you are playing a pvp game then it gets weird as everyone has competing paradigms. But lets not get into pvp just yet, yeah?
A magical paradigm has as many starting aspects as there are players following it(we will assume that is all the players for now). These aspects are called tenets. Each is a statement that explains the nature of reality or the methodologies that people use to alter reality. As I have not tested this(it just came to me today) I cannot say how well this will work, and the nature of these aspects will probably change a couple of times as I continue to build this hack. Bear with me.
The players then get to assign priority to the magical skills of the Magical paradigm(man I need to come up with a better name for this, it just sounds so stiff and formal when you say it over and over again). The group gets one skill at +4(Great), one at +3(Good), one at +2(fair), and one at +1(Average). The rest of the seven skills are at zero.
At this point the players may select to sacrifice one or more of their character's personal stunts for magical stunts that attach to the magical paradigm. Also at this time record your paradigm's stress which starts at 4, though I am working on ways to alter that.
Example Magical Paradigm
Technocrats of Quard
Tenet: The Universe Is Objective
Tenet: Everything Is Explicable
Tenet: Technology Is A Force For Change
Skills: Matter +4, Forces +3, Elan Vital +2, Psyche +1
Stress:    
Character Creation then follows, though it is a bit different from your standard Fate Core character creation. Your character is three aspects, three skills(rated from one to three, or something)(entropy, stasis, creation), two stunts, and some consequences. Nothing else.
First you pick your characters Inciting Incident, this aspect is all about what set you on your current path. For a new magus just awakened to the world of magic and all this might be the event that led you to take up magic. For those magi who are further along the path of enlightenment it could be any event, so long as it led your character to this area and this current goal. Speaking of goals, your next aspect will be your Current Desire. This is the current short term goal you have set for yourself. When you attain this goal you will trigger(at the very least) a minor milestone. Try and set this aspect as something that will be relevant in the next session or two, that way you will always be moving forward and changing and growing. Finally choose your Hubris. This is the aspect that gets in your way. The part of you that sabotages your path, and yet you can never quite seem to get rid of it.
Following the aspect creation you must choose your magical strength in each of the mystic pillars, Entropy, Creation, and Stasis. You get one at +3(Good), one at +2(Fair), and one at +1(Average). when you are in a magical situation you will roll the fate dice and add in the relevant pillar from your character and the relevant skill from your magical paradigm. I may adjust the numbers as I go along if the current method leads to odd results, I will need to look into it as this goes forward.
You also should record your stress(which is two) and your consequences. There are two types of consequences, normal and discord consequences. When you are in a tight spot and need to really bring the magical major to the party you may choose to forgo the normal trappings of your magic and just cut loose. In a an area influenced by a sympathetic node(one that works with your magical paradigm, you may add the stress taken as a bonus(the stress that the consequence would have absorbed) to a given magical roll. If you are in an area dominated by an antagonistic paradigm(this will be pretty common in early game) you do not gain the bonus, but you can choose to automatically succeed at an overt magical action without having to roll(or after a roll if you failed).
This leads me into an idea I have only the vaguest inkling of. Basically in nodes dominated by your paradigm you will have one set of difficulties, one one friendly to your paradigm you will have another, and in ones antagonistic to it you will have another set all together. These numbers will be affected by how much ritual and prep you do as well as some other things, I am sure. Like I said this is just the bare bones of the idea, in the very lightest of terms as I am still trying to work out how all of that stuff will work.
When you reach significant or major milestones you can choose to upgrade your magus or your magical paradigm's influence. You can only get those milestones when you break a node connection, forge a new connection, or take a node(which would definitely be a Major Milestone, good job).
Also I think that certain things are very hard to change. Physical nodes are easy to take and control as they are believed in in a very simple and poorly defined way, anyone can own or hold a specific territory, that is understood. It when you get into the odd stuff that you need to do really strange things. Breaking the boundaries between the mind realms and the physical realms or the barrier between the spirit and the physical, or tearing apart the notion of causality is a very different sort of thing. As I have said before, right now how some of the node stuff works, in detail, is up in the air a little bit. I am still working on how some of this works. If you have questions please ask, sometimes I don't even have something nailed down until I need to explain it to someone else. Please let me know what you think.