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Scavenger Sons
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2016 21:10:32

Scavenger Sons is basically the foundation of Exalted, or at least it was until third edition came out. The beginning of the book explains that the countries and places covered inside aren't a random sample, but are biased in favor of "less-civilized" areas and places where the Realm doesn't cover. In other words, places that it's more likely that the Solar Exalted would be from. First edition spent some time filling these places in, and then second edition, by editorial directive, almost never spent any time on places that hadn't been covered already in the line. The first time Exalted got a large number of new locations covered after this book was in Masters of Jade, over a decade later.

As I read, I noticed how much it was obvious that the map of Creation had been expanded in the middle of working on the line. All those national relationships in the Exalted corebook that make no sense because of the distances involved were first on display here. Sijan getting food from Nexus even though it's hundreds of miles away. The Halta vs. Linowan war. The Coral Archipelago being described as near the western shore of the Realm where near means "two thousand miles of open ocean." Greyfalls being a Realm tributary even though it's a year round-trip. A trade war between Paragon and Gem, which are separated by over a thousand miles of trackless desert.

As problems go, that is a large one, but it's nearly the only one the book has. People on the internet tend to say that the draw of Exalted is its setting, and other than the final chapter, this book is entirely setting. There are six chapters of it, one each for the four cardinal directions, one for the Scavenger Lands, and one for the city of Nexus, which is clearly being set up as the kind of anarchic area where the rule of law runs thin and thus adventurers--or Exalted--can find a place without having to deal with the heavy hand of the authorities.

The best parts are the ways that the book tries to make Creation's cultures realistic, or realistic reflecting a world of active spirits, supernatural beings, and pervasive magic. Like Skullstone, the capital city of Onyx and part of a shadowland ruled by the Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water. You might think that would be an unattractive place to live, but immigration is high because the walking dead do most of the work, and in a iron-age society, having almost all manual labor done by animated corpses who do not feel fatigue or pain and is a huge draw. Meanwhile the city of Great Forks is a slave economy, with slaves outnumbering citizens 2-to-1, but slaves are often kept drugged with a leaf that causes memory loss and euphoria, so they chew it, work all day, and "wake up" at the end of the day. Or going slightly more further afield, the way that the city of Whitewall made a treaty with the nearby fair folk and dead so that they can't enter the city without invitation and can't attack anyone on the road. As such, the city has a huge population because of all the farmers, miners, and workers who can't live outside the walls, and the buildings inside are all stark and devoid of ornamentation, since everyone spends all their time indoors to avoid both the cold and any monsters who manage to get into the city. And the similar treaty in Halta, where the Haltans live in the trees, the fair folk live on the ground, and anyone who ends up on the ground is fair game to them.

Or how in Nexus, there are several tombs of the Solar Anathema. One of these burns white-hot, enough to carbonize flesh with a single touch, and as humans do, the people of Nexus have found a way to use this--they covered it in bricks and built an iron foundry around it to have an eternal, free source of heat. I like that depiction of the magical and the mundane side-by-side.

There's a lot in this book that I forgot over the years, like how Greyfalls is ruled by the Nuri, who fled Wyld barbarians and were an oppressed minority until the Realm showed up and put them in charge, as has been the tactic of colonial powers for time out of mind. Or the gambling house in the Coral Archipelago with First Age artifacts that allow the betting of intangible concepts, so rich, elderly merchants will bet vast sums of money against the youth of a beggar boy. Or the frozen fog in the north, blown in from the Wyld, that can freeze someone solid in moments.

I could really just keep listing bits I liked for a while, but in the interests of space I'll move on.

Even after all that, one of my favorite parts of the book is the end section on the fair folk. I can appreciate that Exalted: The Fair Folk is a well-written, mechanically-tight work, but I never liked "Rakshastan" or the idea of the faerie as creatures of dreams rather than creatures who needed dreams to live. In Scavenger Sons, the fair folk take on shape flavored by he element strong in the part of Creation where they entered from the Wyld, and so their powers are elemental- and mentally-based. There's a description of what would become shaping combat, but no emphasis or rules for it. Basically, I don't like what happened to fair folk when they became playable, and I really don't like the idea that fair folk are living stories who know they're in an RPG and are just trolling everyone else for the lulz because I think it does almost irreparable harm to the themes of the game. The faerie as beings of pure chaos who take on shape because they have to to survive the relentless erosion of Creation, rather than because it's part of some story they're telling themselves? I'm there for that.

Even now, Scavenger Sons is probably the best setting book for Exalted. It does in one book what it took second edition five books to do, with more of a feeling of mystery and a more interesting world. Even if you're playing 2e, use this for background



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition
by Matthew J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/09/2016 19:23:35

As I already own the physical book, I purchased the Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition pdf for easy access on my tablet. Unforunately I was disapointed in the quality of the scan, and the somewhat 'canned response' that I reported the quality and poor bookmarking. I'm only reviewing this as I reecieved an automatically mailed link for the review. I feel that it would be unfair not to warn others to skip this scan and to pick up the original (as it is a fantastic book).



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition
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Imperial Mysteries
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2016 07:57:15

A newly-Awakened mage might feel that their new-found power is limitless, but they soon learn that it is not... but can it be? This work looks at those who push the limits, treat the 'rules' as mere guidelines if not challenges. For some, this may be a step too far, it certainly is for many mages as the opening story tells. Others, though, prefer to pursue this quest. Even if you don't want to take your game that far, your cabal may encounter the odd will-worker who has - as an ally or an enemy - and here you will find the resources to make that happen.

Here we learn of the archmasters, those who have smashed through the rules and forged their own, carved their own parth through the mysteries, understood the Imperial Practices, learned to control the fundamental forces of the fallen and supernal worlds... maybe even ascended... It's not an easy road to tread, it's not just a matter of acquiring more and more knowledge and adding more spells to your grimoire. The transition to archmastery is called the Threshold Seeking, and is so shattering to one's worldview that it is rightly described as a second Awakening. The accomplished mage suddenly realises that all the knowledge they've been gathering so painstakingly since they Awakened doesn't remotely describe what's really going on... and then they set to and begin to find the truth. The theme is that there is no going back, the mood is how dangerous it is to meddle in such matters. Even more dangerous are the others of similar power that are encountered: old gods, deathlords from the underworld and beings only dimly guessed at until they burst forth in contention.

The Introduction explains all this, and comments on how you might link in material from other books in the New World of Darkness (now Chronicles of Darkness) game lines. Then Chapter 1: Threshold talks about how one makes the transition from regular mage to archmaster and provides the rules necessary for developing magic power up to a mind-blowing (and character sheet wrecking) NINE dots, complete with example spells.

Then, Chapter 2: The Invisible Road looks at the world archmasters inhabit, the strange realms open to them to explore and the alliances they might forge - or conflicts they may enter into. This is continued in Chapter 3: The Supernal Ensemble, where we meet example archmasters from a range of factions in the Ascension War that's raging unbeknownst to most ordinary spell-slingers, never mind sleepers... along with plenty of equally-powerful beings that may be their adversaries.

Finally Chapter 4: Ascension looks at what this actually means and an appendix Imperium provides a system for playing archmasters in the Supernal World... where what they get up to can affect the very nature of reality. This super-high-powered stuff isn't for everyone, but if it appeals, there's plenty of Storytelling advice to help you make it happen in your game - whether your mages seek archmastery for themselves or just encounter one - or even the ripples in reality left by one - during a more conventional chronicle.

I'm torn. The academic side of me wants to delve ever deeper, but this whole concept is a bit of a game-changer. Do I want to bend my chronicles quite this much? I'm not sure. But archmasters can make excellent plot devices...



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
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The Abedju Cipher (Mage: The Awakening)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/04/2016 08:08:30

Do you know whom you can trust? And are you yourself trustworthy? This adventure, which can be run as a stand-alone or woven into an ongoing chronicle, lets you explore the whole concept of trust - and what happens when it is misplaced. It could serve as the initial adventure for a new cabal but can be scaled up relatively easily to challenge more experienced will-workers.

The plot itself is quite straightforward. A powerful artefact, the Abedju Cipher, is part of a travelling exhibition due to visit a local museum and there are those who'd like to, ah, acquire it for themselves. The cabal will get caught up in the shenanigans and will have plenty of opportunity to influence the course of events... once they have decided who, if anyone, they can trust. To support this plot you get an outline of events, some well-detailed NPCs (who, if you are running this as part of an ongoing chronicle, may well prove useful contacts or determined opponents in the future), and even a rather sketchy map of the museum. You may wish to substitute a better floorplan from a real museum, most hand them out as visitor guides or even have them on their websites - particularly useful if you have set your game in a real-world town.

Whilst there's considerable background on the Abedju Cipher, what it actually is and does is left open, although one suggestion is presented - one which I'm not sure would arouse quite as much interest in magical circles as the Cipher has in this scenario, however! Be that as it may, various factions are after it, and the plot revolves around their attempts and the cabal's reactions: will they aid one of the factions or even try to purloin the artefact for themselves? And given that at least one faction has decided to stage a heist, what will the cabal do when caught up in the middle of it... and will they be able to explain their actions to mundane law enforcement afterwards?

Good use of the Storytelling Adventure System is made to ensure that the copious details provided are well-ordered and can be accessed just when you need them. Eight fully-developed scenes are provided, with just two or three being core to the plot. The rest may be used, modified or left out entirely as suits your needs. These scenes are summarised on cards you can print out and have in hand when you run the adventure. Main NPCs come along with loads of background and role-playing notes to help them to come alive, and complete character sheets for when you need to get the dice out.

Overall, it's a cracking yarn and should provide an enjoyable session or two of play. Simple on the face of it, yet the scope for development and ramifications to spill over into the rest of your chronicle are tremendous.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Abedju Cipher (Mage: The Awakening)
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Ready-Made Player Characters (Mage: The Awakening)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2016 07:54:35

Opening with an explanation of how the individual mages came together, this work presents a ready-made and fully-detailed cabal for those who want to just jump in and start playing (perhaps a one-night game is planned rather than a whole chronicle) without having to make their own characters first. Of course, they'd also make excellent NPCs if it's necessary for your mages to meet up with (or vie with) another group of will-workers.

For each character, there is detailed personal background material that gives a clear idea of personality and approach to life and magic, and TWO character sheets, one for a started character and one for a more seasoned version. Illustrations, a physical description and role-playing hints help the character come to life.

With two members of the Mysterium, two members of the Adamantite Arrow and one unaligned, the group has an interesting balance. This is reflected in the personalities: an awkward geek, a scatty girl taking on responsibilities, a couple of older more responsible individuals and a teenage tearaway who lists 'Craft: Vandalism' amongst her abilities! Most players should find at least one of the characters congenial enough to play. It's also a good introduction to how to create a balanced cabal that will be able to work together.

Although the cabal itself is good to go, you will need to put some thought into their sanctum, although it is briefly touched upon in the introductory notes. That said, this is well worth a look for an excellent example of a cohesive group or indeed, for the intended purpose - ready-made PCs!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ready-Made Player Characters (Mage: The Awakening)
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Mage Noir
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/30/2016 07:46:20

This is a fascinating sourcebook for anyone who wants to break out of the presumed 'present day' setting of Mage: The Awakening and take it back to 1940s America, drawing on the style of 'film noir' and hard-boiled detectives like Philip Marlowe as inspriation. The idea is to create the look and feel of the times rather than an historical recreation, but there's plenty of background material to help you get a grip on this. The Introduction explains all this, then lays out the theme as being 'the price of Awakening' and the mood as one of cynicism, laying out why these are felt to be appropriate.

Chapter 1: The Party's Over is a broad sweep through 1940s America, historically and culturally, designed to support the development of the theme and mood specified. This is developed further in Chapter 2: The Power and the Glory, which looks specifically at mages in 1940s America and how this particular time period affected individual and organisational outlooks, and the ways in which the various orders operate, a theme continued in Chapter 3: Nice Guys Finish Last. This chapter also describes what is like to Awaken in the 1940s, and come to Supernal understanding at this time in history, and there's also some discussion about how having participated in World War 2 might affect both the Awakened and those whose service contributed to their Awakening... and how they might feel when they got back home.

Next, Chapter 4: Stories in the Naked City addresses the sort of chronicles you might want to run, with loads of examples, tips and tricks to help you get started. But that's not all, there is a complete adventure (using the Storyteller Adventure System) in which the mages investigate a messy murder. And if you want to drive straight in, there's the Lamppost Cabal, pre-generated characters who are products of the time and have banded together to face the future together - and hopefully make some money in the process (a key sub-theme of this setting...).

Everything is neatly bundled up to make a mage-filled version of 1940s America come to life on your tabletop. You'll note I have coupled the date and the location throughout, for this is very much America-centric as well as being set in the 1940s. There's scope for exploring the effects of global war and technological advance in the rest of the world in your game, but this book - although it might give you a few ideas - is not designed for anyone running a game set outside of America. It captures the whole film noir vibe quite well and should help you craft some vivid and memorable chronicles.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Noir
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Lines of Power (Mage: The Awakening)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2016 13:15:20

This is a complete ready-to-play adventure for Mage: The Awakening which can be dropped in to whatever else is going on in your chronicle with little difficulty, or used as a one-off. It uses the Storytelling Adventure System, which basically means that it's best run from the PDF as you get the advantage of extensive hyperlinking and the like.

The adventure really only works if your cabal has an established Sanctum and Hallow, because the plot involves having to fight to defend it: if you want to weave this into an ongoing chronicle, make sure that they have reached this point first. It all begins when someone comes round invoking the Right of Hospitality - the bounden duty to aid a fellow mage in difficulties by letting them stay for a while - on the grounds that they are being attacked by whoever the cabal's current rivals might happen to be. From then on, things go downhill really fast.

A lot of background material is provided about the people involved and what they are trying to accomplish, which enables you to play them to good effect. The plot's deliciously devious as well, and is laid out clearly once you've been introduced to the NPCs. There are opportunites for combat and for investigation and at least one point when your mages ought to be wondering what just hit them!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lines of Power (Mage: The Awakening)
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Mage Chronicler's Guide
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/15/2016 07:46:25

This book presents a wealth of ideas to spark the Storyteller's imagination, emphasising just how broad the scope of this game is and the multitude of things you can do with a 'contemporary magic' game. This is exemplified by the opening fiction, which tells the tale of four children Awakening... what does happen to those who Awaken early? Did someone (or something) help them to come into their powers in advance of when they would normally develop?

Chapter 1: Genres of the Awakened World explores seven different styles of game you could run, concentrating on mood and tone and emphasis rather than game mechanics, although any new rules you might need are provided. The genres explored are action horror, pulp adventure, epic fantasy, Faustian sorcery, lucid sleepers (this is an urban fantasy approach with mages living amongst normal folks, hiding yet using their powers), punk, and noir. Masses to conjure with here!

Next, Chapter 2: Mirror Magic looks at changing the very essence of what 'magic' is... mechanically, the rules stay pretty much the same, but it might be weird science or perhaps mages cast their spells by taking drugs, or maybe it's all psychic powers.

Then, Chapter 3: Building Character discusses not just characters themselves, but the things that define them: cabal, path and order; and looks at how to enhance and change them to suit your needs. It also covers magical 'style' in depth, looking at how it works and how it affects each character, complete with pertinent game mechanics.

Finally, Chapter 4: Mage Chroncles contains three artiles about running the game. One looks at a three-tier concept, the second considers that awkward fact that using magic the characters might find it too easy to gather information and thus derail your plot - find out how to make that work for you rather than against you - and the last one considers what happens when your mages get really powerful.

I said 'finally' but actually there is more: a whole fifteen chronicle ideas. These might inspire you to come up with your own ideas, or you may choose to run with them more or less 'as is'... or modify them to suit your requirements. Ideas a-plenty. This is a book to read whilst you are plotting your next game, rather than with a mind to changing the current one (unless perhaps you decide to end an otherwise conventional chronicle with all the 'mages' waking up in rehab having finally dried out from whatever they were taking!). Loads of ideas to sift through and consider, plenty of scope to help you let your imagination run riot!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Chronicler's Guide
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Night Horrors: The Unbidden
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2016 08:20:55

Opening with a weird bit of fiction - the reflections of someone around whom terrible things happen, yet they can never quite remember - the Introduction begins by talking about the rules of magic. In, that it ought to have them, and indeed does... just that they are not always clear, even to those who study magic and make use of it. Even those who practice magic only think they know what they are doing, it can be unpredictable - a bit like herding cats. This book asks what happens when magic enters the world unbidden, just as a tornado or forest fire doesn't trouble to ask before it destroys your house. Magic doesn't care, if one can anthropomorphise for a moment, whether the mage wielding it is able to control it or not. Magic changes things, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but always for the weirder.

So what does that mean for our game? Using magic is, for most mages, a pleasreable activity, a bit of a rush even - but it can so easily get out of hand. Mages can get carried away, drunk on their own abilities and power, becoming filled with pride at what they can do... and that's when magic turns and bites them, or escapes to cause unintended effects elsewhere in the world. This book is jam-packed with ideas for handling such events and their consequences in your game... it's time to make magic scary!

To aid you in making this happen, this tome contains a whole bunch of... well, antagonists for want of a better word. In presenting this feeling of forces bigger than the mages attempting to use them, and scary to boot, concentrate on description, on building up atmosphere - show, not tell. Each entry is designed to provide resources to make that happen, with detailed descriptions and backgrounds, secrets and rumours and above all story hooks - ideas about how to weave them into your plots and indeed build entire plots around them.

There are four sections, based on the nature of the entities therein. First up are Mages - well, that's obvious. We know what mages are. But these ones, well - the magic has got to them. Some are innocent (but no less dangerous for all that), others know exactly what they are doing and revel in it. Next is Characters and Creatures. They are not mages but have been touched by magic in some manner. Then there are Constructs and Objects. Not all artefacts were created deliberately, on purpose. Sometimes they just... happen. Then there are Conditions and Infections. States of being that can arise when magic and paradox run riot. As a bonus, there is actually a fifth section, Places. This describes three places where magic has got so far out of hand that it's affected entire locations.

If you like the idea of magic almost having a mind of its own, running amok, you will find ideas to inspire and help you make it happen in your game. Even better, if you'd like to inject some honest-to-goodness horror into your chronicle, here are some tools to freak out the most self-contained and confident will-workers. Indeed, it's when your mages are getting confident, think they know what they are doing and have everything under control, that it is a perfect time to spring something from this book upon them. But use sparingly: less is more when it comes to horror and wild magic... even a small instance will have everyone nervous about their next spell!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night Horrors: The Unbidden
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Summoners
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2016 09:13:18

Many ancient magical traditions touch on the summoning of otherworldly powers, and the Awakened too reach out to gain information, power or other favours from beings not of this world. The opening fiction tells of a strange 'prayer wheel' that is connected to some being that the protagonist's grandfather summoned and made a pact with - instead of prayers it sends forth the being's name through strange glyphs - and has, of course, an unsavoury undertone, an implied threat that means it's not really safe to meddle with such things.

Indeed the dangers and risks often outweigh the benefits, not that this stops mages from dabbling, often calling upon beings too powerful for them to control, beguiled by the possibilities, the terrifying splendours, they perceive to be on offer. This book is designed as a resource for anyone going down the summoning route, building on what's in the core rulebook and presenting a whole lot of new stuff about otherworldly entities and the ways in which mages can interact with them. No one size fits all, there are a range of options and the Storyteller is encouraged to decide which will work and which are but traps for the unwary, the incautious and the over-eager. Some summonings are easy to perform, others very complex and/or requiring exotic materials and lengthy preparation of both mage and ritual.

Chapter 1: From Distant Shores opens proceedings by discussing the nature of the beings that can be summoned. Note that there's no discussion of their home planes or worlds, the struggle between them and our mages will be fought here... mages wouldn't last an instant in the sort of places that they come from!

Next, Chapter 2: From the Five Towers looks at Supernal summoning... but beware: they have a nasty habit of turning up to test mages, seeing if they are worthy before granting any boons or conferring any powers upon them.

Then Chapter 3: From the Endless Dark delves into the Abyss to see what can be dredged up... if you dare. It doesn't sound advisable to meddle here, opening doorways to allow unspeakable horrors out... you get the picture. Some do dare, however, and if very skilled and extremely lucky may retain life, limb or sanity. Many do not.

This is followed by Chapter 4: From Stranger Spheres (as if the ones in the earlier chapters weren't strange enough), where the unknown is explored, stuff that is even outside Awakened philosophy and knowledge. Beings that sometimes attempt to slither in uninvited or beguile unwary mages into inviting them in. A few come bearing gifts, many bring death and destruction, others are just curious... but what passes for innocent curiousity may be extremely dangerous to any mortal encountering it.

Finally, Chapter 5: Otherwordly Compacts gets down to the game mechanics necessary to handle the processes of summoning. There is much of interest to any mage who might wish to dabble, let alone those who want to make summoning their life's work. The main focus is on forming pacts with whatever has been summoned, but there are Legacies, merits, and much, much more as well.

This work opens up a whole area of magical endeavour, giving plenty of scope for mages who want to explore this type of magic or even just give it a go. Certainly a good resource for groups for whom the magic itself is central to their game, it raises interesting questions for those who enjoy the dilemmas that can face their characters, there's plenty of story potential... what's not to like?



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Summoners
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Seers of the Throne
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2016 07:59:11

The Seers of the Throne are power-hungy, power-mad even, and will do literally whatever it takes to gain it, no matter the cost. And, judging by the opening fiction (nicely legible this time, at least) they tend to be fairly foul-mouthed about it too. They serve the Exarchs, and are granted great power and reward for their services... but their service is aimed at one thing: keeping humanity in its place, preventing them for attaining their potential. Yet they are human themselves, even if even more self-serving than most. They believe themselves better than the rest, perhaps wishing to right perceived wrongs done them before they Awakened, filled with arrogance and thoroughly enjoying the material largesse they receive from their masters.

The clear intent is that the Seers be used as antagonists, but the material in this book is presented in the same way as the other Order books - so if you do have a group who like the idea of vast material wealth and power with a few distasteful tasks required to get it, it might be an option to let them be the Seers. It's more likely that you will have them as enemies, however, so here are the tools to make them really come to life within your alternate reality.

Chapter 1: A History of Loyalty looks at their history as recorded through their own eyes - given their self-serving tendencies, others may beg to differ at many if not all points. It gives a good overview of both their past and present concerns, however as well as a fair bit of detail about the way that the operate.

Then Chapter 2: Serving the Exarchs gets down to the philosophy, beliefs and dogma that membership in this order entails. Complete obedience to the will of the Exarchs is central, no matter what their request, however costly at a personal level or even to your soul. This chapter also describes how they operate and are organised.

Next, Chapter 4: Heads of the Hydra delves more deeply into organisational matters... they are full of factions and sub-groups, sometimes cooperating and sometimes resulting in friction. There are plenty of examples to provide you with ready-made groups to throw at your mages - or have working away behind the scenes thwarting them covertly, often a more likely way of operating. (The Appendix: Antagonists has more fully-detailed individuals, complete with game statistics, to be used as both combatant and non-combatant NPCs.)

Finally, Chapter 5: Gifts of the Exarchs lays out the magical resources that the Seers can access. The usual collection of magical traditions, spells, artefacts and so on to play with.

This is a neat approach, giving some of the major adversaries your mages will face the same type of structure and resources as their own orders have. It certainly provides plenty of scope for machinations and devious plots, and a wealth of suggestions as to how to use the Seers to best effect in your game. For the sake of your mages' souls, though, encourage them not to enlist with the Seers!



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Seers of the Throne
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Secrets of the Ruined Temple
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:05:27

This chronicle book, containing the very sort of adventures I love that combine cod-archaeology with the game world, get off to a bad start - the flavour fiction at the beginning is virtually illegible, block printed on a dark, heavily-patterned background. As far as I can make out it's an account of a mage-driven expedition to South America in search of Atlantean secrets and there's something about a solar eclipes in there too, but something that should have set the scene admirably falls flat on its face through poor layout.

So, moving on swiftly to the Introduction, there's a summary of the history all mages teach their pupils about the past glories of Atlantis and how only scraps remain... but maybe, just maybe, there is more out there to be discovered. This book is a guide and resource for those who want to have the search for further material as part of their on-going adventures. But it doesn't do it in a way you might expect. The Storyteller won't find complete maps and inventories of Atlantis ready for the cabal to explore. Rather, it actually makes things more mysterious, presenting multiple possibilities and even more questions, rather than answers. The idea is that you use these resources to come up with your own version of Atlantis and are then armed with appropriate clues to scatter throughtout your ongoing chronicle for the mages to pick up on. Neat, and novel, idea.

Chapter 1: Atlantean Apocrypha starts with what it says in the core rulebook, then builds on it and twists it out of all recognition with variant legends of Atlantis for you to pick through and decide which (if any) works for you. Or you may be inspired to come up with your own, of course. Don't discard the bits you don't decide are the truth, though. They might be deliberate misinformation, or erroneous information that has crept in through the generations.

Next, Chapter 2: Beneath the Sediment provides a wealth of advice about planning and running cod-archaeology adventures involving finding and exploring Atlantean ruins. It includes ways to get your mages interested (and the things that their elders might say to dissuade them) as well as hints and tips on designing the actual places they will go poking around in... and the perils they might find there, which are covered in Chapter 3: Gatekeepers and Treasures, along with ideas for the sort of loot they might possibly escape with if they are really, really lucky.

Finally Chapter 4: The Living Temple takes matters to an entirely new level... the Astral Plane. Those who dare to poke around within dream and myth may find awesome secrets... or their own undoing. To round everything off, there's an Appendix: High Speech and Atlanean Runes jam-packed with the mysteries surrounding the language and writing of the ancients, a new look at the magical words and glyphs all mages work so hard to master.

Overall, this is a fascinating tome to dip in to: there is a lot to digest, and you'll have to do a fair amount of preparatory work before you have a chronicle ready to run... but this work will give you tools and ideas to run enthralling adventures delving into the Atlantean past - so despite the opening, it's 5 stars :)



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secrets of the Ruined Temple
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Magical Traditions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2016 07:59:38

Opening with a tale about a city-Awakened mage learning to make use of traditional folk songs to direct her magic, this book is all about the links and correlations between the magic of this game and real-world folklore and occult traditions. It makes sense, after all: throughout history there have been people who have believed in magic, and ones who have claimed to be actually able to work it. Whether or not that is true in the real world, for the purposes of this game it's likely that at least some of these claimants have been Awakened and that their magic is real... and others may still have been touched by the Supernal even if they are not fully Awakened.

The Introduction discusses potential cross-overs between the Supernal and the fallen world mortals occupy and how these may give rise to occult traditions and folklore outwith that taught by mages drawing on Atlantean teachings. Many Awakened mages are distainful of the idea and will have nothing to do with such legends, but others seek them out and try to find meaning within them. For those who'd like to do so, this book presents a selection of established real-world occult and folklore traditions that can be woven through the magic of your game. It's an exciting thought, I'm sure I'm not the only one with a goodly collection of materials that I've tried to incorporate into the magic system of whatever game I was playing at the time!

Chapter 1: Supernal Correspondences deals with this whole concept in much greater depth, there's plenty here for the more scholarly mage to get their teeth into, then following chapters review various traditions. For each tradition, there are notes about its real-world traditions and practices, along with sample rotes that a mage might glean from them and storytelling ideas, and even thoughts on alternative forms of magic, including the necessary rules to make them work in your game. The traditions covered are Kabbalah, Taoist Sorcery, Santeria, the Templars, Theosophy, Appalacian Hoodoo and Entheogen Cults... but if your favourite one isn't there, not to worry: Chapter Five tells you how to give other traditions the same treatment!

It all makes for a fascinating read, and by incorporating traditions, stories and ideas from outside the game's own magic system you can make the whole thing more vivid and real... as players may have heard some of them long before they started to play Mage: The Awakening and will start to make their own connections. There's potential for some very powerful storytelling here!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magical Traditions
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The Free Council
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/02/2016 08:32:50

Forget faux-gothic towers and flowing robes, Free Council wizards are more at home online... and the opening fiction suggests this with a mock website approach surrounding a story about a cabal working magic through a camera and a TV show where the special effects are not the ones I learned from the movie business but magically-generated. Oh and one of them uses a PDA for a grimoire... scrolling through incantations to find the right one and all. Compelling imagery for truly modern mages.

Aimed at players whose characters are in the Free Council, this book details what that character would know as a member of the order, who he'd trust and fear and work with - details that should enable you to bring the Free Council to life in your game. Whilst much of the Awakened world looks to the past, traditions and history looming large, the Free Council applies modern technology - and thought - to ancient ideas. They seek enlightenment in the future, but know that they cannot abandon centuries of tradition on their way. They tend to harbour democratic ideals, which don't sit well with the hierarchical approach taken by other more traditional orders. For them, reason and wonder go hand in hand.

Chapter 1: Escaping Yesterday looks at how the order came to be (for some, any history is too much, they want to look forwards not back), tracing its origins to the mid-19th century and coming to a head when the Seers of the Throne tried to enlist the aid of various freethinking cabals in controlling Sleepers. Their resounding NO! rocked the Awakened world and led to the formal foundation of the Free Council as an organisation that stood for liberty and democracy and against lies. Wars and the rise of totalitarianism fuelled their determination to stand firm, whilst the accelerating speed of technological advancement provided many tools and toys for them to explore alongside New Age mysticism and an unparalleled enthusiasm for communications technology.

Next, Chapter 2: The Libertine Culture explores the Free Council as it is today. There's an extensive glossary, jargon that encapsulates what members of the order are like and how they think. Grades and roles within the order are discussed as are their Lorehouses, places where information is collected for the benefit of all. Some exotic locations are described and there are sample cabals and individual mages that might be encountered. Friends? Rivals? Allies? Up to you...

Then Chapter 3: Arcane Operating System presents three new legacies. When all is said and done, however much they may like their gadgets, Free Council members are still mages and they still practice magic... even if in ways that look a bit different from that fellow in a robe waving a wand and reading from a musty tome. Their philosophies and attainments are discussed, all you need to know if you are interested in following one of these paths. There's a bunch of new rotes here too, and other goodies for Free Council mages to enjoy.

Finally, there's an appendix: The Libertine Character. Here the startling philosophy is laid out that whenever you create a Free Council character - as a player or as a Storyteller - you're writing another chapter in the order's history. Each one will, by its very nature, be unique. It delves into concepts and ideas, and excites by the very freedom... if you haven't thought much about a Free Council character before, you will get excited by the possibilities now!

That sums this book up nicely: exciting possibilities. Maybe I'm predesposed to this technoglogical approach 'cos my day job is computer scientist, but it hadn't really been my first concept for a Mage: The Awakening character (he was an FBI agent who'd just inherited an old bookshop from a weird uncle, if you must know); but now I want to play one...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Free Council
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Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 08:15:05

Opening with a fine horror story that rather made me wish I wasn't eating my lunch while I read it, this book is about the horrific things that can slither out of the Abyss and into the mortal world. Ordinary people are pretty much defenceless against them, so it's up to the Awakened to do something about any that they encounter... and theses things are rooted in horror, indeed may be the underlying reasons, the source for the horror stories, if not all the misery, in the world itself.

The Introduction explains this and discusses researching the things that come out of the Abyss - for without knowledge, one is pretty much defenceless - and describes how most of the rest of the book is a catalogue of the strange and unwholesome manifestations of the powers that lurk in the Abyss. It ends by suggesting suitable source material, starting with The Fortean Times and providing a reading list of horror stories and a selection of movies. One of the suggestions is H.P. Lovecraft, but not as you might be accustomed to treating his work: for these purposes concentrate on the strange unearthly manifestations that often ignore the havoc they are causing because the Earth and those on it are plain unimportant to them... that's how the creatures of the Abyss behave... rather than worrying about pantheons of ancient (and generally evil) deities.

Before we get on to the actual critters, though, there's a chapter called Otherworldly Dread. Primarily aimed at Storytellers - as indeed this whole book is - it looks at how to incorporate the Abyss and the horrors emanating from it into your chronicles. There's plenty of advice on how to use these intruders, making them an effective threat (and something downright scary!) and even how some twisted and perverted people seek to use them to their own advantage.

And then there's the creature collection. Each one is presented in a standard format, starting with the name(s) by which it is known in this world. There's scene-setting fiction, notes on how it appears to senses both magical and mundane, details of what is known and what it does, how it gets into the world, what it tries to do once there and the all important details of how it can be banished to whence it came. There are ideas and story hooks for getting them into your game, and any necessary game statistics you'll need when your mages square off against it. There are a full twenty-four of these unspeakable things for you to contemplate...

Horror may not be your thing, but even so it might be worth sparing use as a warning that being a mage is not all fun and games and working your will in the world. If you and your group do like horror stories, well there are enough here to keep you busy for a fair while. You might even run an almost X-Files-style game with a group of mages dedicated to hunting down and eradicating Abyssal manifestations wherever they raise their ugly heads.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss
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