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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!



Rating:
[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.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss
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Reign of the Exarchs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/26/2016 08:20:53

What happens when a mage gets kidnapped? The opening fiction tells of a roadtrip with an unwilling participant... an edgy and intriging conversation that ends in a collision with a big rig... that wasn't an accident.

A compelling introduction to five loosely-connected plotlines, ready for you to weave into a chronicle that tells of the power of the Exarchs as it reaches into this fallen world and impacts on more than just the lives of the Awakened. Whilst interlinked, you can play some or just one of them, or even muddle up the order (although they work best in the sequence in which they are presented). The tales all tell of different powers of the Exarchs, and involve a collection of artefacts. However, whatever you decide to do, read through them first. Characters or clues from one episode may turn up in another, or you may wish to employ foreshadowing to draw interest along.

The Exarchs are all about control. The trick is, working out who they are controlling. In these adventures, your mages get to see their powers, their controlling influence, in action. These tales centre around a legend, that of the Dethroned Queen, who ages past was actually an Exarch herself but got kicked out... back to the fallen world, but bringing some artefacts with her. Some, amonst the Seers at least, believe that if you find these artefacts and study what little teachings she left, you can ascend to become an Exarch yourself... that is, if they actually exist. Not everyone is sure that they do, after all.

The five artefacts are, so legend says, a ring, a robe, a sceptre, a crown, and a throne. Whether these are metaphors or actual objects nobody's quite sure, but those who brave this chronicle will find out. Five artefacts, five separate (yet linked) adventures. Conspiracies whirl around, yet it's designed so that you do not have to spout yards of Exarch legend at your mages until they have a vague idea of what's going on, they just get... sucked in. Even the first adventure turns them upside down and sets them back on their heels, questioning much of what they thought they knew about the Awakened world. It begins with a stranger arriving on their doorstep and leads them into a moiling storm of politics, controversy and intrigue that wrenches at the very roots of their own cabal!

And that's just the first story! The succeeding ones drag them in deeper, raise many more questions than they answer. The stories are compelling and fascinating, even just when reading through them; although it's fair to say that you will have to put in some preparatory work, these are not 'run straight out of the box' adventures. It's worth your while, these will provide an excellent series of adventures to weave through your ongoing chronicle, working best if interleaved with other events and adventures - they'd be a bit too intense and maybe even unbelieveable if run back-to-back... better if your mages are kept wondering when (or even searching for) the next episode will turn up in their lives.

Thoroughly recommended, bringing legends and half-known truths to light as your mages delve into things that will become very real to them... but are they real? Venture here and you may find out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Reign of the Exarchs
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Changeling: The Lost
by Chris L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 20:31:08

This review is of FIRST EDITION CtL, not the upcoming (as of Aug 2016) second edition compatible with the God Machine Chronicles/Chronicles of Darkness.

Changeling is a game about stolen lives and beautiful madness, as the tagline says, but it actually supports a surprisingly broad array of moods. One game might be silly, with clockwork doll-girls and an ogrish professor. Another might be rooted in gore horror, with a cannibal chef on the loose. You could run a modern day retelling of legends of old, wherein a hero must go on an epic quest through desert kingdoms of dream to save the soul of his firstborn, which was stolen by trickery. My year-long chronicle focused more on the arcane nature of the Wyrd, the promise-binding source of fae power with a fickle and unknowable consciousness. All of these are equally valid tales in the CtL framework.

One thing that sets apart CtL from many other Chronicles settings is the uniqueness of its primary antagonists: the True Fae. True Fae are far more powerful than most antagonists in the World of Darkness. They make deals with elements of reality (and nether-reality) which give them superpowers, for crying out loud. They are literally made of the Wyrd, and are one with their domains. As such, the idea that each Changeling somehow "escapes" from his or her Keeper pulls players in from the start: they didn't escape. They were set free. They just don't know why, yet.

The Pledge system is pleasantly overpowered in CtL 1E. It's a great callback to fairy tales of yore that giving one's word--or more severely, promising on one's true name--makes a sprite vulnerable, but also empowered.

That said, I'm not that hyped for second edition. It's reworked the setting and mechanics to de-emphasize "promises" and bring up "the Story" in its place, celebrating fae as manifestations of legend. As someone who really got into CtL from imagining a bunch of good and evil Rumpelstilzkins roaming about, trying to hide their true names and morals such that they couldn't be used against them, I'm just a bit disappointed in those choices.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Changeling: The Lost
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Guardians of the Veil
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:53:04

The opening fiction is weird, sounding more like the rambling of a deranged mind than a story, but persevere and it will begin to make sense (especially once you realise part of it is the protagonist's own account of his Awakening... or is it?) provided you can cope with the background that is not only a crumpled paper effect but with additional scribbles that make it hard to read. The underlying theme is, I think, just how easy it is for an Awakened mage to fall into the trap of misuing his powers for what seems to be the best of reasons.

The Introduction continues with the concept that once you have Awakened, nothing is ever quite the same. To start with, the magical orders almost literally fight over you. In this book we learn about the Guardians of the Veil, what they have to offer and some of the secrets there are to be discovered. For it's all about secrets with these guys, some say they are the James Bonds of the Awakened world. They see their role as the protectors of matters supernal, guardians of magic itself... and to do that, they need to act like covert agents. It's an interesting - and potentially appealing - point of view. Secerts within secrets, being the arbiter of right and wrong... being a Guardian demands that special arrogance that states that you and you alone know what ought to be done.

Chapter 1: From the Reign of Atlantis launches into early history telling how from the very beginning some mages realised that there was a need to police magical activity and so took that duty upon themselves. This is not 'policing by consent', not something all mages see a need for or agree to, it's a self-appointed guardianship. The primary mission remains the same, to defend magic and mages from the unAwakened, the monsters - and themselves.

Next, Chapter 2: Masque and Veil looks at the core tenets of this order - ones which they do not reveal to outsiders, they are secrecy personified, nothing gets out. Even the various offices and customs of the order are rarely talked about with outsiders... so relish the chance to read about them and should you not be a Guardian of the Veil, don't let on that you have read them!

Chapter 3: Of Secrets and Spies takes things further, explores the process of initiation into the order and what life is like once accepted. It is no easy task to join the Guardians, they require dedication, the willingness to kill for them, a prepardness to die for them... as it is said, the first challenge for a would-be spy is to get the agency of his choice to hire him!

Then Chapter 4: Factions and Legacies demonstrates that, like many an intelligence agency, the order is riven with cliques and factions, petty jealosies and empire-building, no matter how uniform and monolithic they may appear to outsiders. Each Guardian mage has his own individual approach to the order's common purpose, and this is made manifest in the people with whom they associate and the legacies they pass on.

Chapter 5: Magic contains a collection of new spells and equipment, as well as training and techniques used by the order in its self-appointed task. Finally, an appendix provides fully-statted details of allies and antagonists that the Guardians might encounter, or indeed encompass...

Mages wishing to join the order become the Internal Affairs Division of the Awakened world. Perhaps your mages fancy that... or perhaps you reckon that they have attracted the attention of the Guardians (never a good thing) and will have to deal with whatever the order decides to throw at them. Plenty of potential here, plenty of ideas spawn even as you read these pages.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Guardians of the Veil
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Saturnine Night
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:54:30

Prometheans sind ewig rastlos wie Frankensteins Monster. Bleiben die künstlichen Menschen zu lange an einem Ort, verwandelt sich die Umgebung allmählich in ein „Wasteland“. Logisch, dass es daher auch keine Signature-City im Grundregelwerk und keinen Städteband für den Ableger der Serie gibt, oder? Nun, nicht ganz. Im (eh hervorragenden) Erweiterungsband Saturnine Night findet sich tatsächlich die Beschreibung von Detroit, einer sterbenden Stadt nach der amerikanischen Autokrise …

Einst war Detroit das maschinelle Herz Amerikas und produzierte Autos und Waffen. Heute findet man hier nur brach liegendes Potential. Überall fehlt Geld, etwa zum Abriss der zahllosen, leerstehenden Wohnhäuser und Fabriken. Einige davon werden bereits wieder von der Natur überwuchert und lassen die Stadt wie eine Ruine wirken. Zehntausende verarmte Arbeiter vegetieren Daumen4maennlichNeudahin. Offene Gewalt und Verbrechen machen Detroit zur „gefährlichsten Stadt Amerikas“ und die ausgedehnte Salzmine unter der Stadt ist wie eine bizarre Welt für sich. Die alten Monster haben die Stadt längst verlassen und einem Carthian-Prefekt die Macht übergeben. Forsaken und Pure-Werwölfen fehlt die Kraft zum offenen Krieg. Selbst die magische Struktur der Stadt ist bizarr: ganze Viertel werden spontan resistent gegen Magie und auf den Straßen streifen Rudel wilder Hunde und brutale Gangs umher. Detroit ist ein Hauch von Postapokalypse in der Chronicles of Darkness, bestens geeignet für besonders düstere Abenteuer.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Saturnine Night
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Boston Unveiled
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:54:07

Das Boston der Chronicles of Darkness steht ganz in der Tradition der Hexen von Salem und ist eine richtige Magierstadt. Ein dutzend Kabalen ringen hier um die Macht und versuchen das Erbe der verschwundenen Freimaurer anzutreten sowie ihre noch immer verborgenen Geheimnisse aufzudecken. Der Frieden wird von einem magischen Vertrag erhalten, über dessen genauen Inhalt sich die höchsten Magier ausschweigen. Doch Boston ist dabei nur ein Teil einer mystischen Landschaft Neu Englands, samt fanatischer Magierjäger, Tremere-Lichs und einem mächtigen Abyss-Dämon, dessen düsterer Ursprung in den frühesten Tagen der Stadt liegt. Wer in Boston träumt, kann dazu auf ein mysteriöses Boot treffen, das neugierige Seelen in Abbilder alternativer Zeiten Amerikas entführt, etwa eine archaische Pirateninsel oder die Gewalt des Unabhängigkeitskrieges.

Boston ist die Signatur-Stadt von Mage: the Awakening und sicher nicht jedermanns Fall. Der Städteband legt den Schwerpunkt Daumen4maennlichNeuauf das Übernatürliche (samt Blick ins Astral- und Shadow Realm) und nicht auf eine umfassende Vorstellung der Stadt für Touristen. Überhaupt bildet die Erweiterung das Stadtbild etwa zur Jahrtausendwende ab. Spielleiter mit einem Hang zu Historie, Mystik und Magie finden hier trotzdem viele Ideen. Mage-Spielrunden dürften sich über das gelungene Einführungsabenteuer Beast of Burden, um die Jagd auf einen seelenfressenden Geist, freuen



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Boston Unveiled
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Hunting Ground: The Rockies
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:53:48

Die Rocky Mountains sind die letzte große Wildnis Nordamerikas. Im Schatten von uralten Bergen finden sich hier abgelegene Siedlungen und Jagdhütten. Die große Stadt am Fuß der Berge ist Denver. Doch auf der Seite der Geisterwelt herrscht in der Gegend pures Chaos. Erst vor kurzem wurde ein mächtiger Urzeit-Geist besiegt, der die Rockies im Griff hatte. Nun kämpfen die niederen Geister im Machtvakuum um spirituelle Vorherrschaft. Die überlebenden Werwolfrudel erobern sich das Gebiet zurück und streiten um die besten Jagdgründe. Nur einer von ihnen versucht aus den Rivalen um Beute und Boden eine echte Nation zu schmieden, um sich auf den unweigerlich nächsten Angriff der „Pure“ vorzubereiten.

The Rockies ist die Signatur-Region für Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd Edition, und passt zum Spiel wie die Faust aufs Auge. Ein Daumen5maennlichNeuGroßteil des Buches dient dabei der Beschreibung von insgesamt elf Werwolf-Rudeln, die sich um Einfluss streiten und leicht in andere Orte verschoben werden können. Jedes Rudel hat zwei Varianten als Verbündete oder Feinde mit passenden Motivationen. Dazu bietet der Regionalband interessante neue Gegner für die Forsaken, etwa uralte Dinosaurier-Geister oder verdrehte Geister-Werwölfe (Su'ur) als Experimente des Idigam. Einige Ideen sind etwas trashig, etwa eine Werwolf-Rockband auf Vampirjagd. Das solide aber kurze Einsteiger-Abenteuer Stalking Disease um ein verdorbenes Werwolfrudel rundet den Band ab.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hunting Ground: The Rockies
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City of the Damned: New Orleans
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:52:36

Das New Orleans der Chronicles of Darkness ist das schwarze Herz des Südens. Einst war diese Gegend das Revier eines uralten indianischen Vampirs der Coctaw. Heute jagen die Blutsauger in Jazzclubs des alten French Quarters, während in den Bayous auf der anderen Seite des Mississippi noch Voodoo praktiziert wird. Die Macht hier gehört Prince Vidal, einem müden Ventrue-Ahn mit düsterem Geheimnis, der sich weigert, Nachkommen zu erschaffen. Er gehört der Lancea et Sanctum an, deren bizarre Religiosität im Kontrast zur vorherrschenden Sündhaftigkeit der Stadt steht. Einmal im Jahr entlädt sich die Spannung der Stadt im rauschenden Fest des Mardi Gras, wenn alle Regeln der Nacht aufgehoben sind. Dann werden die wohl bekanntesten Orte der Stadt, die Friedhöfe mit ihren weißen Grabmälern, Schauplatz von hervorbrechender Gewalt. Und der uralte Indianer-Vampir streift noch immer unbemerkt durch die Region…

New Orleans ist die Signatur-Stadt von Vampire: Requiem 2nd Edition, doch präsentiert der Regionalband eine Stadt, die es heute nicht mehr gibt. Dieses New Orleans wurde vom Wirbelsturm Katrina verschont (makaberes Detail: das Eingangskapitel heißt Daumen3maennlichNeu„The Coming Storm“) und trieft vor Südstaaten-Charme. Kampagnen mit den Themen Rassismus, Voodoo oder Fanatismus haben hier einen perfekten Schauplatz. Aber auch sonst ist diese Vampirstadt bestens für Intrigenspiel geeignet. Manche Details werden hier bewusst offengelassen und laden zur eigenen Interpretation ein. Dafür ist das Schauplatz-Abenteuer The Dead Travel Fast, um einen beobachteten Mord an einem Vampir, eher dürftig und manche Tippfehler, und an einigen Stellen sogar Inkohärenz (etwa Rückbezüge zum veralteten Grundregelwerk der ersten Edition), plagen das ansonsten solide Buch.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
City of the Damned: New Orleans
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Tome of the Mysteries
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2016 10:36:57

The opening fiction is a tale of a youngster growing up in a house where one parent is Awakened and the other is not, and worse, finds it difficult to accept. Sad truths... perhaps some one of your mages might have to face, or have as part of their background.

The Introduction explains the underlying concept of this book: magic as Art: a craft that must be studied, learned, honed, thought about and practiced... not mechanical cause and effect. Indeed magic often seems to have a will of its own. Presenting a scheme to classify magic in terms of the elements, it's at pains to point out that the classifications are more philosophical than anything else. Each element has associations with emotions and capabilities, and it is these that are reflected by the magic grouped together under it. In summary, will comes under fire, for intellect air is the proper element, with water for feelings and emotions and earth for the manifestation of ideas. Not everyone thinks this way, of course. Some mages like to visualise a temple with many halls, visiting different ones depending on what they are doing. Others claim that there are various fields of study within the whole that is magic - just as the academic study of say, history, might include the study of different periods, different places, or themes such as warfare or religion. But here we stick to the elements as a framework, with this book serving as a toolbox for how to go about using magic.

Chapter 1: The Way of Fire - Making Magic looks at that exciting area of how to devise your own spells. If creative thaumaturgy is your thing, this chapter will light your fire. The element of fire is associated with intuition, imagination and the higher will, just the tools you need to come up with innovative new spells. Here you can read about the 'rules' that make magic work: the Thirteen Practices, spell Aspects and the practicalities of creating a new spell.

Next, Chapter 2: The Way of Air - Spell Lore explains the look and feel of magic, how to describe what's going on, what can be felt and seen as a spell is cast. Seek inspiration here when you want to get creative when telling people what is going on when the magic starts to fly. There are lots of new spells here as well.

Then Chapter 3: The Way of Water - Magic and Being is about how magic interacts with culture and society, and as an extension of that, how mages get on with day-to-day life, and what sort of beliefs they might hold. There's also a discussion of the ethical aspects of magic (quite entertaining given that I teach the ethical aspects of computing in real life!). These are the sort of questions that the modern mage ought to wrestle with.

Chapter 4: The Way of Earth - Magic Manifested presents spells which are used to enchant items. There's also a look at alchemy and an array of salves, sprays and other substances that can be made with this craft, and a fair bit about soul stones.

Finally, Chapter 5: The Way of the Void - Greater Secrets takes you down paths best trodden with caution if at all... this is the Storyteller chapter and includes all manner of things from running antagonist spell casters to the legendary capablities of archmages and the dread Abyssal Watchtowers (which if you haven't heard of, you are probably very lucky!). Your NPC mages need to be as rounded, as knowlegeable as any player-character, but a bit of careful planning can make this less arduous than it might sound. There are lots of helpful hints and tips here.

Ending with a comprehensive spell index, this is a mage's vade mecum, a reference book or manual. OK, you don't need to read it to play an effective mage... but if you do study its pages, it will give your mage and his magic considered depths, a greater understanding of the Art he practices.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of the Mysteries
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Tome of the Watchtowers: A Guide to Paths
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/20/2016 10:15:35

Every mage has his story of how he Awakened, generally involving an immersive vision of their Watchtower, a mystical and extremely personal experience. In the opening fiction, a group of young mages - who initially think they are facing certain death - share their stories and through them find what they need to save themselves.

Mages use symbols and imagery a lot to describe the Supernal Realms in ways that help them make sense of it. This begins, unknowing, with their dream of Awakening, but as time passes and they learn more about what they have become, their imagery becomes more focussed and they grow in understanding of what they see. This is not a book which a mage could read, but it is one their players should: to understand what their mage character makes of his experiences, what he understands and how he sees it. It's different for everyone, of course, and even people who are of the same Path won't view it in completely the same way, although there may well be similarities. For those who want to revel to the full in the mystical internal development that being an Awakened mage brings for their character, this book will enable them to share something of what their character, in his alternate reality of the game world, feels.

The book is made up of five chapters, each concerning one Supernal Path. Each contains lore, the history of that Path... and also indications of how mages on the Path view those who follow the other Paths. There's history, rites, notes on character creation, all manner of information to help you really get into the skin of your character. It's all legend and supposition - but things that your mage will have heard and read. Whether or not he accepts them as truth is up to you (and him).

The concept of a discipline - a vow taken and kept - is also introduced. In game mechanical terms, it provides the mage who keeps his vow faithfully with extra Mana. But a wise choice of discipline can shape a whole character, mark him out as distinctive. It's a bit like a religious vow or restriction - just like Mormons choose not to drink tea or coffee, or Jews to avoid eating pork. It's voluntary, and can be something that a whole cabal decides to adhere to, or just a single mage who feels the need to impose such a stricture on his life. Once taken on, however, it pervades everything and breaking it can cost a lot more than Mana - loss of relationships, of standing, and more. Take a discipline on with caution... and then role-play it to the hilt.

It's a bit difficult to know just when you should read this book. When creating a Mage: The Awakening character, you choose his Path along with everything else, yet in the alternate reality of the game, the Path chooses him rather than the other way around. The information about his Path will be acquired along with much more during his initial training, something most games do 'off screen' even when intending to start with new and inexperienced mages... mages who know nothing at all are not much fun to play, after all. Best they have acquired at least some knowledge of their new capabilities and learned a few rotes before the game proper begins. So sometime during the early stages of the game, as the character learns, so do you. Of course, that only applies for the first time you play the game. Next character around, you might well pick a different Path so have a whole new lot of stuff to learn... and try to forget some of the old, which a fledgling mage of another Path won't know! The age-old issue of character knowledge and player knowledge.

Yet for those who really want to understand their mage and play him to the full, this is an excellent resource replete with lore and beliefs and suppositions and half-known histories. Revel in it and use it to inform your role-playing!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of the Watchtowers: A Guide to Paths
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Grimoire of Grimoires
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/16/2016 11:36:54

The classic image of a mage is a fellow in a robe with his nose stuck in a book. The Awakened may or may not go in for robes much - they tend to be a bit conspicuous in the modern world unless you are a LARPer or a member of a religious order (as an academic, mine only comes out once a year for graduation week!) - but books figure large in their lives. However much they may want to be active and hip, they need to study... but what is it that they read?

The opening fiction is (mostly) a mage's diary, in which he recounts a raid on some Seers to steal books on behalf of the Chicago Athenaeum and some really odd effects that centre around one of the books - it's all 'handwritten' and quite hard to decipher, but it's a good facsimile of what mages do most of the time - few grimoires are typeset, let alone available in e-book format, after all! It highlights how some books can be dangerous... and not just for the ideas contained within their pages.

The Introduction talks a little about books in general, then explains that this book basically consists of a collection of some eighteen grimoires each of which is ready to be dropped into your cronicle either to provide information that one of your mages seeks or perhaps as something an enemy possesses and could even be using against them. They can be tricky things, these books - one masquerades as a series of fantasy novels, another changes its appearance from time to time - whilst some of the items listed here are not books at all... one, for example, is a vinyl record!

Of course, the grimoire itself is only part of the story. Mages often need to do research even to find out which one contains the information they are after, or to identify a mysterious tome that has come into their hands. To facilitate this, each grimoire is accompanied by notes about how best to research it. There are plenty of other snippets that should spawn additional ideas about how to involve each of these grimoires in your plots.

The level of detail is quite amazing, and any one of these grimoires could provide the focal point for at least one if not a whole series of adventures. This work provides a novel way of using that archetypical tool of a mage, the book, as an integral part of what is going on in your chronicle and is well worth adding to your collection of resources.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Grimoire of Grimoires
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A Day Dark as Night (Exalted 1)
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2016 00:34:04

This story is an evolution of Exalted stories. Written after, perhaps instead of the previous three volumes, it does a better job of presenting the setting and characters. It uses iconic characters to a better degree, and seems to be more confident in the space that it explores. Perhaps that is merely thanks to the familiarity that the authors (and audience) were able to develop with the setting.

That this book is free makes it an excellent entry point to the setting, and the writing is excellent.

This is a fun romp in the Exalted setting, and it reads smoothly while giving you a wonderful snapshot of Creation.

5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Day Dark as Night (Exalted 1)
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New Wave Requiem
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2016 00:28:13

This is kind of a neat era book, with a more focused scope than normal for White Wolf. It's a bit irritating that the product was basically started as a joke, but then given a modicum of legitimacy, or at least that is the way that this book reads. It retains a fun element to it, though, and it is an echo of what Vampire might have been had it come out in 1985.

That having been said, it is short, and probably not worth the price at which it is currently listed. It is a novelty product, at best, and while it is informative enough, you'd really do better watching the Lost Boys and anything by John Hughes back to back.

I do like this product, but it can't really decide how seriously to take itself. If you ask me, any amount is too much. 2 stars.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
New Wave Requiem
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