The Ascended as a global secret society in the martial arts / fantasy / cyberpunk setting of the Feng Shui roleplaying game by Daedalus Entertainment.
The Ascended are a secret society which has been directing world affairs from the shadows for centuries. Now It possesses incredible power and influence, with key people in positions of wealth, influence, or power being members of Ascended groups or owing their allegiance to said groups. Most of them do not know that the top tier actually consists of animals who used magic to transform themselves into humans 1000s of years ago. Dragons, cats, spiders, dogs, cranes, tigers, snakes, bulls, tortoises, and so on.
In ancient China, there was enough magic in the world that animals were as intelligent as humans and therefore capable of emotion and reason. They evaded the exorcist monks and magical constables who hunted them and interbred with real humans, creating bloodlines that still exist. Though they originated in China, they spread around the world and helped other animals become humans, contributing to the myths about shapeshifters (e.g. werewolves and skinwalkers).
Genetically, they are now mostly human with barely a trace of their original animalistic and supernatural origins. It's enough though that if magic ever becomes commonplace as it was in ancient China, their animal natures will become dominant. They don't want that so they have been taking over feng shui locations around the world. Organizations that depend on magic are their greatest enemies.
Origin of the Ascended
The secret society of the Ascended was founded in the 11th century, with the foundation of the Jade Wheel Society of China and the European Order of the Wheel, which were formed when magic had started to dwindle. The Order of the Wheel backed the Crusades, which increased its power in Europe. The Jade Wheel Society undermined the Song dynasty and helped the Mongols. Both were led by the descendants of supernatural animals.
Today the Order of the Wheel has 100s of chapters in the West and presents to the world the image of being a service organization and a fraternal order. Inn turn the Jade Wheel Society is organized along Eastern traditions and has a presence in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and Malaysia. In 2004, they received permission to openly operate in mainland China and have been recruiting among the cadres of the Communist Party.
The Ascended has a pyramid-like hierarchy. With an elected leader, a ruling council, official members, and the two semi-public organizations (The Order of the Wheel and the Jade Wheel Society) at the bottom.
- Unspoken Name: Every six years a leader is elected to head the organization as the chairperson of the board (The Lodge), the title of that position is the "Unspoken Name".
- The Lodge: Is the Inner Circle of the Ascended, the true leaders of the secret society, every which one of its members is a representative from the millenia old bloodlines descending from the first animals who became humans. The Lodge has board meetings twice a year, in which each blodline sends one representative. Once every 6 years, they hold an election in which they choose the chairperson.
- The Pledged: Humans who have joined for influence and power. The Inner Circle will offer worthy humans the opportunity to become one of the "Pledged". Very few humans get that opportunity. The Pledged take orders from the Lodge and renounce all ties and loyalties in exchange for power and wealth. Once your Pledged, only way out is by dying, as they are quickly assassinated. The Pledged occupy key positions in corporations, governments, organized religions, medicine, science, the media, law enforcement, the military, and bureaucracies. While they are told they may one day join the Lodge, it is a lie because only the descendants of animals can become members of the Lodge.
The Ascended work at maintaining the bloodlines by selecting their mates, inducting their children into the ranks once they are of age, and keeping track of those who are not members of the Lodge. Decisions are done by consensus and power struggles are rare. Those of their bloodline who turn against the Ascended or defect from the bloodlines are hunted down and killed, which rarely happens.
Though the Ascended are powerful and wealthy, they keep an extremely low profile and stay out of the spotlight. It's their preference to act through intermediaries, multiple layers of them. They live in homes that appears modest on the outside, though they may be chic or luxurious in the inside.
The Ascended are formidable opponents due to them having supernatural powers through the manipulation of chi. If someone with magical powers appears, their operatives appear to either persuade them to stop their studies into magic or to simply kill them. The Witch Hunts of Renaissance Europe were orchestrated by the Ascended for example.