I reviewed this as part of Mage the Podcast, list to it here.
Halls of the Arcanum depicts the workings of the Arcanum, a scholarly organization in the World of Darkness that seeks to uncover what is hidden. Halls offers a different take on The World of Darkness more as a place of danger and of things not illuminated rather than simply a gritty world of despair with the odds against you. The odds are against the Arcanum as they have no supernatural resources and the agents they’re working against are quite cunning but they have patience and scholarship which is often in short supply in the dire circumstances of some builds of the World of Darkness.
The book has that aged much more gracefully than at first I had figured. With the exception of the progress of computers, much of the book holds. The NPCs and templates could be used with little difficulty and the maps and schematics are still useful as are the lists. This book is largely about Sleepers and their attempts to unravel the World of Darkness but with varying degrees of success. Chapter houses are spread across the globe offering a lot of ability integrate local lore as well as lodges which are kind of frontline assemblages to research odd happenings. The book goes into these topics in some detail and does a good job of reminding the reader of how big the World of Darkness can be. Rather than just referring to Shangri-La, the book references a half dozen hidden cities. Instead of listing just a yeti as a cryptid, it again lists a dozen. Instead of just listing the five main lines in WoD, the book lists fourteen types of odd occurrences. While this book is geared towards mortals, there’s nothing preventing mages from investigating the same things.
The book also outlined internal politics within the organization and did so in vague terms at first and then in detail in the Storyteller Chapter. Rather than just saying “this is what’s going on” the book provides four options of what’s going on. It’s quite pleasing to have thoroughness plus ambiguity within a tome.
The only two sections that I felt ran flat were in regards to numena where I figured they would be all up in testing and developing that kind of power. Also, the question of accumulating information and where it goes brought up questions. It’s suggested that the group sometimes makes discoveries. Besides its in-house journal, when will this information be shared if ever?