Mage Noir takes the mages of World of Darkness into the America of the postwar era in the US, a period of moral grays, the era of noir. Playing to mood and tone is one of the strengths of the World of Darkness and the noir era is full of such shadows and shades. If roleplaying in such a time interests you, this product is likely worth your time.
Mage Noir is an 82-page PDF (79-pages if you remove the covers and ad) for Mage: the Awakening (and the World of Darkness in general) RPG written by David Brookshaw, Matthew McFarland, John Snead and Filamena Young and published by White Wolf Publishing.
Mage Noir is mostly double column layout, except for the fiction, and is easily readable. The art is black and white as you would expect. It has basic bookmarks but lacks an index, still as this is a shortish work that is not a great hindrance to finding things.
Now, before I go any further, I should point out that I am not a Mage: the Awakening player or GM/storyteller so I am looking at it just as a 1940s/Noir reference. Mage Noir begins with fiction, moves into an introduction that defines the setting’s theme as price of awakening and its mood as cynicism, it is noir all the way. It gives a solid list of source materials from movie to music, books to games.
The other chapters are:
The Party’s Over looks at the status of American society immediately post-WW2. It gives an overview of a nation reshaped by war and trying to find its place in the post war era, a world of rapidly changing technology where the old societal certainties were breaking down.
The Power and the Glory looks at character creation. A surprising amount of this chapter is usable in any game set in the late 40s, giving things to think about when building a character of that period. A new Legacy, the Quiescent, is also introduced along with new attainments for that path.
Nice Guys Finish Last, is tied quite deeply into the Mage setting talking how about how the various magical groups have been disrupted by the postwar world and how they are trying to adapt. While tied heavily to the setting, there are many bits and hooks that could be used for other modern fantasy stories.
Stories in the Naked City, the storyteller’s part of the book, focusing on how to bring in the themes of noir into a game. Plot and setting ideas are spread out through this section waiting to be taken up.
The Weaver-West Papers, a five-part Storyteller Adventure System piece with five pre-generated characters. This serves as an introduction to the themes of noir in practice as well as providing example characters for the period. The adventure is structured with the idea that each of the five characters gets to be in the spotlight in one of the scenes.
Concluding is an appendix containing the Lamppost Cabal. Five mages complete with full character sheets, operating out of their own nightclub. They also get their own antagonist. Lastly, a blank Mage Noir character sheet is provided.
Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
[4 of 5 Stars!]