Convention Book: Syndicate, the latest in the long-awaited revised line of Convention Books, is an uneven book but one which ultimately won me over. I'm a long-time fan of the Technocracy in general and the Syndicate convention in particular and I realize that it's difficult to flesh them out beyond "they're the ones who have all the money" and White Wolf proved that difficulty the last time they wrote a splatbook detailing the Convention by making them mobsters, Gordon Gecko clones and generally unsympathetic jerks all around. This book does a lot to mitigate that and explain some things in greater detail and, while still falling short of it's Primal Utility ideal, does a good job of humanizing this Convention.
After a short story introduction which follows a Syndicate operative through her travels and travails shutting down a lab that has developed an outside of the Concensus cure for cancer, we begin with a chapter covering the Syndicate's history. This is, in my opinion, the worst written of the chapters. It comes so close, so often to getting the point of the convention but each and every time it falls back into the "they're the guys who are all about the money!" trope. It also manages to gloss over centuries of history in a few short paragraphs and then spend far too long going over the last decade and a half. The history is neither well-focused nor terribly interesting as presented. The chapter also gives a quick run down of how the Convention generally views it's allies among the other Conventions (ranging from "these guys are our bread and butter" to "we're running an economic and psychological cold war against these jerks") and it's enemies among the Traditionalists, Marauders, Nephandi and the like. I enjoyed this section and it's nice to see them slowly moving the Technocracy Civil War metaplotline forward.
Chapter Two: Human Resources is probably the best chapter in the book. It details the organizational structure of the Convention, giving examples of how one moves up and down and around the org chart of the Convention, how an Enlightened person is recruited, rewarded and reprimanded. It then finally does a much more effective job of explaining the paradigm of the Syndicte. They're not about money, they're about value. Money (and what it can buy) is just the most common way of expressing that value. There is then a brief two or three page writeup of each Methodology within the Convention, covering Disbursements, the Enforcers, the Financers, Media Control and even a disturbing blurb on what became of Special Projects Division which may be my favorite part of the entire book as it is dripping with unresolved plot hooks and connections to other White Wolf games.
Chapter Three: Movers and Shakers is the crunchy rules heavy section of the book. It begins by providing sample Syndicators from each of the Methodologies, then goes into detail on running Syndicate-centric games, provides a sample Amalgam and the guy who runs it. There are some new(ish) Syndicate rotes, many of which are mostly reskins of pre-existing rotes from older Mage books. There's a Technocratic reskinning of the Prime sphere which they chose to call Primal Utility (because "Worth" or "Value" are, presumably, too easily comprehensible to the average person). Like the Data reskinning of Correspondence sphere found in the NWO book or the Dimensional Science reskinning of the Spirit sphere, it's mostly a paradigmatic reinvisioning of the standard effects with one or two very minor changes. It's good and can be used to further distinguish a Technocratic character from a Traditionalist one, but the name will keep bugging me though really that's a pretty minor issue. After explaining the "new" Sphere, there are a few Hypereconomic Procedures designed specifically with Primal Utility in mind. None of which utilize the sphere below the third level showing that even the Technocrats don't know what to do with Prime 1 and 2. Finally there are six sample archetypes included only one of which, at the time of this writing, are correctly constructed using the character generation rules from the corebook and the Guide to the Technocracy.
As I stated at the beginning of this review, the Syndicate is my favorite Convention in the Technocracy and one that it is very, very difficult to grok. But in the end, I think that the authors managed to do so and convey that to the readers in a well-written, concise and entertaining manner. I'm not in love with this book, but I am happy to have added it to my collection.
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[4 of 5 Stars!]