The 4th in the series of Convention Books detailing the sub-factions of the Technocratic Union, Convention Book: Syndicate turns the spotlight to the group grounded in perhaps the strongest stereotypes. Often shoved into the concept of Enlightened Accountants, the Syndicate are portrayed as one of the most powerful factions of the Technocracy in the days after the Dimensional Anomaly.
The book doesn’t waste time getting into a display of the post-DA world, where the Syndicate now has a slew of new things to play around with. Crowdsourcing, the Occupy Movement, Social Media turning reputation into currency… all of these have a profound effect on the Convention, and they are wise to start riding the wave of these changes.
As with the other books, Convention Book: Syndicate moves on to discuss the history of the Convention from it’s origins in Ancient Rome and tracks it all the way to Queen Victoria’s Technocratic Union and finally back to the Post-Dimensional Anomaly modern times.
The Syndicate’s take on all the other factions is always amusing, but their approach to the Traditions is hilarious. Ruining the Tradition’s baseline for mortal belief by commoditizing the things that make their cultures “cool” is brilliant. It’s not as flashy as laser guns and cyborgs, but the effectiveness of drawing away people from the Traditions by giving an easy alternative to mortals is sheer genius.
The next chapter deals with the Organizational Structure of the Syndicate, and goes on to discuss their methods and how they deal with each other internally including Reprimands. The meat of the chapter however lies in the Methodologies of the Syndicate. Among these number Disbursements, Enforcers, Financiers, Media Control… and a side bit talking about the Special Projects Division.
Among all the Methodologies, SPD is considered one of the most notorious to the fandom given their ties to Pentex. There’s a hefty bit about them here, but sadly no hard answers as to what happened to them after the Dimensional Anomaly. As always, it’s left to the Storytellers to decide their fate with a few options and hooks in the book.
The following chapter talks about the movers and shakers of the Syndicate, detailing several luminaries of the Convention, details on how the Syndicate’s Amalgams work, and examples of their holdings. Among these are PAXCorp, a team of lawyers and managers who file lawsuits and close deals to stop alleged infingement… and using bullets and sabotage for the really stubborn ones.
The next portion deals with the Procedures used by the Syndicate, which show a large number of interesting Adjustments including Branding, a procedure that can alter how observers react to the Syndicate agent simply by the way he dresses and carries himself. Another favorite is the Hypernarrative Influence, where a Syndicate Agent taps into sterotypes of narrative to influence a course of action. Such as getting a group to “Split up and cover more ground” despite common sense dictating otherwise.
The book also covers the Syndicate’s unique spin on Prime. Rather than being “the stuff of magic” Prime for the Syndicate takes on the form of Primal Utility, the basic psychological-mathematical junction between reality and human desire… and the very basic unit of hypereconomics. It’s a complex idea, and one that is a little harder to comprehend compared to the “Correspondence as Data” by the N.W.O.
The last part of the book shows off a slew of interesting pregenerated characters that break the standard Syndicate mold. The Microfinance Mogul and Miss J. in particular are good examples of how the new Syndicate works and how their jobs of fiddling with numbers means more than people might think.
Overall Convention Book: Syndicate is an impressive volume and another must-have in the Mage: the Ascension line. They’re much more playable now… but there’s always that undercurrent of malice that swims beneath the surface that makes the book equally useful to the GM using the Syndicate as an antagonist faction their games.
Onyx Path has done wonders with the World of Darkness and continues to do so with this line. If this is the caliber of writing to expect from them, I will have little to no issues with forking over more cash for a Deluxe Edition of the Mage: the Ascension 20th Anniversary Book.
[5 of 5 Stars!]