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M20 The Operative's Dossier $14.99
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/06/2022 12:37:27

I'm sad that I didn't like this book more than I did. It would be generous to call mage's history with science and technology to be hit or miss, and for me, this book missed in quite a few places. There are so many things that look like what I wanted out of it, but yet fell flat.

A note: this is a review of the backer copy (post-layout), and some details may have changed between this and the final version.

Start with translations. I don't know how, but the M20 line continues to do a bad job with translations, Japanese particularly (which I notice better due to speaking it). Most egregious is the "White Metal Dragons" being translated as "Howaito Kin Ryuu" which...why would they use the borrowed word for white instead of the native word? And also this would create a compound noun not a three-word phrase, so it'd contract likely to hakkinyruu or byakkinryuu (written 白金竜). It's a quibble, but one I keep returning to as I see things like the original draft of M20: Victorian Age (post-editing version not yet available at the time of this writing) using "jidai" to mean future (it means "era") and I know it's a thing that effort has gone into fixing. And yet.

The rest of the chapter on Constructs and Symposiums is...fine. Nothing really special, still annoyed from T:R where they came from with naming an ANTARCTIC station "Ultima Thule" though, given that "Thule" indicates North.

The Unlikely Allies section seems to mostly say "The only people in the Union that anyone would ally with are dissident groups that may or may not be on the verge of leaving the Union" which was a bit disappointing. This was an area that I admit I was looking for a bit of guidance in for how to get groups to work together, and a lot of it was "Well, they won't. Unless the Technocrats have a foot out the door. And even then, maybe not"

Digital Web 3.0 is confusingly organized (why are there two distinct Augmented Reality subsections separated by several pages?) and seems to be a bit mixed on whether the Internet and the Digital Web are the same, but it leans towards "yes" and I definitely think that Mage would benefit from a firm "No" that lets the Digital Web be more timeless and not bound to any specific version of the Internet. It does come close to Reality Zone rules with the Paradox and Spheres Work Differently sections on page 65, though, that was good material and should be expanded in the future.

Technomancer's Toybox was good, the highlight of the book. The Construct creation system was a bit shallow (no notions of flaws, all features come from a common point pool with no distinctions between them) but it gives a decent base for expansion, which I'll do. And Terranorming and the Reality Zone mechanical effects for Chantries also gave something useful to start from for an under-developed area of the game, actually fighting the Ascension War other than with bullets and fireballs.

The Mission Statements chapter was fine. It didn't do much for me, but they, as with other things, provide a good place to start.

All in all, I think this book has the beginnings of a lot of useful systems, and would really benefit from having been substantially larger. A tighter theme focusing on Allies, Procedures and Devices, and Mission Statements under the title would have been fine if we could have gotten separate Digital Web 3.0 and a "Book of Constructs" type of thing, with more details and more thought out Digital Web work and the fully detailed Constructs with a deeper creation system (though not quite the mess that Book of Chantries had). So, a solid book, inspiring a lot of ideas, but it left me a bit disappointed with what was there.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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M20 The Operative's Dossier
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