Mage:The Awakening (White Wolf) Pages: 404
Overview: A complete overview of the Mage and her role in the World of Darkness setting. It includes the history of magic, the traditions, mage politics, spells, and everything else you need to run a Mage campaign in the World of Darkness setting.
Note: Use of this book requires the 200-page main "World of Darkness" rulebook. The Mage rules rely on concepts that are only covered in the main rulebook.
Likes: The first chapter (about the origins of magic and the history of Atlantis) was truly inspired. The fact that it was stat-free was an added bonus.
1) The first chapter doesn't start until after a 25-page work of fiction. Not interested--stick it in an appendix and get it out of my way.
2) This system has a steep learning curve, and the book layout doesn't encourage ease of use. Thank God for bookmarked PDF's!
3) While this book does provide an overview of the Mage universe, you'll have to buy additional splat books if you want the details. Each order has its own book, plus the equipment guide, and the antagonists have their own books, too. Want to add Vampires and Werewolves to the mix? That's another two lines of books to add.
4) Character creation is a bewildering array of paths, orders, and traditions. While this allows for widely diverse character types, it is a little intimidating for newcomers.
Other opnions: Stop whining about the bad artwork. If you want good artwork, go to a museum. I want information out of a book, not pretty pictures.
Bottom line: Unless you are a World of Darkness fanboy, this is not your game.
[3 of 5 Stars!]