This universe book was spawned by the question "What would an AD&D campaign world look like if it evolved into the 20th Century?" - something I've often wondered myself. It changed in development to become a modern world with fantasy elements rather than the author's original concept of a fusion between magic and technology, ending up with a world where magical items are as commonplace as technological ones are in the real world. In this world, magic is based on mathematics and it can be studied at university. As has been speculated, magic has developed at the expense of technology, and fills a similar role.
The Introduction lays this all out and more, explaining how this book should be used in conjunction with the Amazing Engine System Guide (but that no other books are required). As well as some rules notes, it gives an overview of what the setting is like, and as such is essential reading for players and GMs alike. More detail on the setting comes in an appendix, which may be deemed more apropriate for the GM alone.
So, the setting is a 1990s Earth that is home to several other sentient races apart from human beings. There are elves and dwarves, centaurs, minotaurs and more. They are not newcomers, they have been here all along, and play as much a role in public life and the sweep of history as anyone else. In this world, there were a couple of world wars earlier in the 20th century, but they were caused by a bunch of dwarves having expansionist ideas rather than the Germans. Space travel is quite well advanced: Venus has been terraformed, and people also visit Mars. Flying carpets replace cars, and you contact people with a crystal ball or a mirror.
Chapter 1 covers character creation, drawing on the Amazing Engine System Guide for the character core on which each player character is based. The core idea is that each character is ready to leave whatever hum-drum life they led (but which gave them their skills and knowledge) to become 'adventurers', exploring the wilder and woolier corners of Earth and beyond in search of fame and fortune. Of course, they may be of any playable sentient race, and you also have to select a former profession - many of those outlined sound familiar but have a twist to them, others are outright novel such as the professional wizard. You'll also have to select skills and equipment... and a bit of background is good, too. Where did the character grow up, and what education did he have? Chapter 2 covers skills in great detail, aiding you both in choosing the best ones for your character concept and in using them once play commences.
Chapter 3 covers the operation of magic, with Chapter 4 containing spells themselves. An attempt has been made to give it a scientific-sounding grounding, but if science and maths are not your strong point don't worry, this is more technobabble that of direct use when actually playing a spell-caster. The actual game mechanics are reasonably straightforward, although they are explained in a rather verbose manner. This is followed by Chapter 5: Items and Equipment, devoted to the objects found in the game including money, armour, weapons, and an array of items of clothing and day-to-day useful bits and bobs. As gunpowder has not been invented, guns do not feature large although there are some magically-operated ones. Magic is all-pervasive, things you might not expect to be magical are - take, for example, a suit of camouflage clothing - here it's enchanted with a blend spell to make you, well, blend into the background. Modes of transport just have to be seen to be believed, there's some real innovative thinking here. With the reliance on magic for everyday life, it's all rather reminiscent of the Wizard of 4th Street series by Simon Hawke.
Next, Chapter 6: Running the Magitech Game looks at the specific game mechanics required during play, with a heavy focus on combat. It also discusses the sort of campaigns and adventures that you might run and provides several ideas for adventures ready for you to develop. It's a bit of an uneasy mix, as the rules material is as useful to players as to GMs, but later parts of the chapter are more aimed at GMs. Finally there are several Appendices, covering NPCs and Monsters, alternative campaign ideas and a map of the known worlds - Earth and Venus - and a glossary.
It's an entertaining take on an alternate world where magic really works and fantasy races rub shoulders with human beings in every walk of life.
[4 of 5 Stars!]