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Imperial Mysteries $5.95
Average Rating:4.4 / 5
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Imperial Mysteries
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Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/10/2016 15:45:33

There were several good things about this product. It provides options for truly earth-shattering play, and there were some interesting concepts and well written descriptions in chapters one and two .

However, there were also several things about this product that could have been far better. First, this product is really best suited for very small groups with one or two players along with the story teller. The system does not support group play (where group is even 3 players with the story teller) well at all. It gives reasons why archmages do not gather and why they are likely to work at somewhat cross purposes even when nominally allies.

Moreover, the Imperium System provided in the final Appendix is deeply flawed and difficult to make work. To be fair, it states that these are optional rules in a game where all rules are optional. But they are nearly unworkable. The rules state that the Pax Arcana does not apply to Imperium, but these are precisely the things that it seems the Pax Arcana should apply to. More than that, they are exactly the kinds of things you would expect to gain notice from the Exarchs themselves who would move to stop them decisively.

This book is also deeply lacking. In a book that deals with powers that whose mere possession may breed hubris, it only very briefly touches on sins against wisdom (and one of those is not given any explanation). In particularly, it does not discuss the affects of pursuing Imperium on wisdom even though some of the suggested possible goals for Imperium seems like Sins against Wisdom 1. It does provide some example spells for spheres above rank 5, but far too few for my taste when those seem like they should be a major focus and where each rank should last for a substantial amount of time. It gives very short shrift to discussing how an archmage might create artifacts and the type they might create, though that is mentioned in other books repeatedly as something significant archmages do. It also only lightly touches on the kinds of favors an archmage may want from lesser mages and vice versa, though that is an excellent way to introduce archmages to a game. And for a supplement about archmages, it gives few suggestions as to how to create archmage characters for players.

Given what it lacks and the problems with the content that that it does have, I suggest story tellers wishing to play with archmages would be better off creating the rules out of whole cloth rather than even looking to this for inspiration. To be fair, it is a very affordable game book, but I would prefer to pay substnatially more for a higher quality product.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
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...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Jose B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2012 21:58:06

Nice to finally get rules for archmages. Unfortunate that the book only provides a few pages of actual rules on high level/advanced Arcana and spells. This book is emblematic of the new direction that WW-CCP is giving the new WOD, fewer page count, disappointing recycled artwork and higher price count. The cover alone is reason to discourage new buyers, however, its nice to get at least a modicum of effort given to the Mage gameline.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Adrian R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/21/2012 20:20:30

This book is full of story hooks and suggestions that conspire to give a gm all sorts of ideas, even if they are never going to let their players anywhere near arch-Mage levels of power. It gives reasons why beings of such power get involved with lower powered beings (of any splat), while at the same time explaining why they don't just do the job themselves. In short it adds another antagonist to any World of Darkness game the gm wants to use them in, without making them necessarily the center of the game, while at the same time giving you plenty of material so that you could if you wanted to. Now I really want to run a Mage game, as the ideas it inspires are too good not to use.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Ryan C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/19/2012 07:32:11

A very well-written examination of what it means to be an archmaster. The content is imaginative and epic in scope. It is not an essential supplement however; I have not once encountered a Mage game that necessitated busting out a rule book to sort out how archmasters work. If the topic interests you, you won't be disappointed. If however your Mage collection lacks certain essentials such as order books or Tome of the Mysteries, you would do better to invest in those as opposed to Imperial Mysteries.

Pros: Awesome dissertation on how to become an archmaster, as well as how archmasters interact with each other and a world that they can bend over backwards. Contains a chart that gives you a target number for affecting everyone on the planet.

Cons: Contains a chart that gives you a target number for affecting everyone on the planet. Awesome material of very limited utility in most games. Cover art is hideous; I mean, what the hell?

UPDATE 1/19/2012: My print-on-demand copy arrived last night. Once again, excellent quality.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Xavier A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/12/2012 23:24:43

There's a lot I like about this supplement, and one thing I passionately dislike. I'm struggling to give it a 4/5, instead of a 3/5 - however, since my dislike is a thematic gripe I'll leave it in this review and let the reader decide.

Imperial Mysteries goes CRAZY WAY OVER THE TOP with Magic. It completes the Gnosis chain and Practices to a degree not even hinted at in the core book. I was always a bit disappointed that the core mage didn't really address what went on with Arcana once you got above Gnosis 5... it seemed such a low number to cap development at. This blows the lid off it, creating a system which does not even pretend to balance what Gnosis 9 vs Blood Potency 9 means. It's what the final supplements of Changeling hinted at - the path to the final transformation and ascendancy for the story.

It does a lot of things amazingly well. You don't have to play with any of the mechanics in the book to get a wealth of ideas about what Archmasters might want, involve themselves in, or leave behind as mysteries and echoes. Using the systems you can give players sufficient structure to play at the highest levels, while retaining a sense of cost and consequences.

For those of you who are familiar with Unknown Armies, it truly takes it to the Cosmic Tier - where you actions /literally/ reshape the world.

....This is both a good and a bad thing.

For me, it strays too far from what made Make: Awakening really amazing - revealing the secrets behind the curtain long hinted at... to be some sort of crossbred UA / Mage: Ascension bastard love child. They even CALL this highest tier "The Ascension War." For me, it really feels like the developers stepped broadly away from one of my favorite things about Awakening. Here's what I mean:

"Once understood, Imperium is a revelation that forever changes a Seeker’s outlook on the universe. Before archmastery she might have assumed that ultimate power lay embedded in an objective secret history, that Atlantis’ ruins hid beneath the waves in a defi nite location, aged grimoires always contained the same spells, and the Exarchs seized power in the distant past — not a present erased by their triumph. Everything might be true, if the Invisible Masters permit it."

While the text then goes at length to say a bunch of the usual stuff around "well, it's your game, so maybe that's not how it REALLY is, just how it appears to the archmasters as they fall deeper into their Mystery play..." - functionally, the entire core assumption of this supplement is that there is no ACTUAL TRUTH to the Supernal and that the "Fallen" or "Phenomenal" World which everybody is a part of is just the result of the constant revisions and edits of the Archmasters. It's the Consensus of M:tAscension, just only certain people count now.

Why this bothers me is that what I did not like about Ascension was that the postmodernist setting essentially resolved all mysteries and secrets to "Whatever you want to believe, man." Indeed, as a Mage progressed their Paradigm... the thing which made them unique and interesting... became LESS important. Whereas in the more Gnostic setting of Awakening, there was some truth the universe - as filtered and shattered as it might be - so the players might truly have the sense of approaching Mysteries and making progress toward something ever higher. Well, now "higher" just reveals that nothing they discovered was actually True and the only thing that matters is your ability to exercise power.

Indeed, Archmages spend most of their time seeking "Quintessence" - a mystical quality of experiencing something... which symbolizes how you /feel/ about the universe and the spell you want to cast next.

In the end, instead of pointing the way to even higher truths, greater mysteries and the shaping of your soul into an ever more refined vision of your channel between the perfected world and the phenomenal world... the curtain is pulled back to reveal that the universe is comprised and shaped of nothing but the personal politics and ideological agendas of a few score people.

So, I like the book. It's got a lot of meat I can use. However, for anybody who was as excited by the Gnostic Mystery of the game as it's been portrayed so far, I feel you're bound to be a bit disappointed by the direction they took it.

Finally, and as a somewhat petty thing, the art direction of the book was a bit disappointing to me. A /lot/ of art is recycled from previous books, and after so many truly beautiful and evocative covers I feel that the sketch pencil / watercolor which we have here does not fit well.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2012 19:38:29

Imperial Mysteries is perhaps one of the best supplements for Mage: the Awakening I have ever read. It makes for the perfect capstone supplement, revealing the nature of the higher states of existence, while keeping enough secrets and challenges to still make it playable. Archmasters are uniquely powerful but still incredibly human characters, making a campaign of this level something that is still compelling as opposed to just being the bully in a sandbox.

My only issue with the book is the fact that most of the artwork was reused from the Corebook or other existing supplements, but that's a minor nitpick. The cover art could have been better, especially after such impressive pieces for Seers of the Throne and The Tome of the Mysteries.

That said, I highly recommend this book to any Mage: the Awakening GM who is interested in the nature of Archmastery, and is looking to get a bigger picture to work with when it comes to the interaction of the Exarchs and Archmasters with the Fallen World. This book isn't just for playing being of this scale, but also offers advice on how they can be used as elements in a chronicle centered on non-archmasters in a way that doesn't feel like they're ST mouthpieces.

This is an excerpt from my full review on my blog. If you'd like to see the full article, kindly visit: http://wp.me/p5H0U-VM



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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