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Lines of Power (Mage: The Awakening)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/17/2016 13:15:20

This is a complete ready-to-play adventure for Mage: The Awakening which can be dropped in to whatever else is going on in your chronicle with little difficulty, or used as a one-off. It uses the Storytelling Adventure System, which basically means that it's best run from the PDF as you get the advantage of extensive hyperlinking and the like.


The adventure really only works if your cabal has an established Sanctum and Hallow, because the plot involves having to fight to defend it: if you want to weave this into an ongoing chronicle, make sure that they have reached this point first. It all begins when someone comes round invoking the Right of Hospitality - the bounden duty to aid a fellow mage in difficulties by letting them stay for a while - on the grounds that they are being attacked by whoever the cabal's current rivals might happen to be. From then on, things go downhill really fast.


A lot of background material is provided about the people involved and what they are trying to accomplish, which enables you to play them to good effect. The plot's deliciously devious as well, and is laid out clearly once you've been introduced to the NPCs. There are opportunites for combat and for investigation and at least one point when your mages ought to be wondering what just hit them!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lines of Power (Mage: The Awakening)
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Mage Chronicler's Guide
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/15/2016 07:46:25

This book presents a wealth of ideas to spark the Storyteller's imagination, emphasising just how broad the scope of this game is and the multitude of things you can do with a 'contemporary magic' game. This is exemplified by the opening fiction, which tells the tale of four children Awakening... what does happen to those who Awaken early? Did someone (or something) help them to come into their powers in advance of when they would normally develop?


Chapter 1: Genres of the Awakened World explores seven different styles of game you could run, concentrating on mood and tone and emphasis rather than game mechanics, although any new rules you might need are provided. The genres explored are action horror, pulp adventure, epic fantasy, Faustian sorcery, lucid sleepers (this is an urban fantasy approach with mages living amongst normal folks, hiding yet using their powers), punk, and noir. Masses to conjure with here!


Next, Chapter 2: Mirror Magic looks at changing the very essence of what 'magic' is... mechanically, the rules stay pretty much the same, but it might be weird science or perhaps mages cast their spells by taking drugs, or maybe it's all psychic powers.


Then, Chapter 3: Building Character discusses not just characters themselves, but the things that define them: cabal, path and order; and looks at how to enhance and change them to suit your needs. It also covers magical 'style' in depth, looking at how it works and how it affects each character, complete with pertinent game mechanics.


Finally, Chapter 4: Mage Chroncles contains three artiles about running the game. One looks at a three-tier concept, the second considers that awkward fact that using magic the characters might find it too easy to gather information and thus derail your plot - find out how to make that work for you rather than against you - and the last one considers what happens when your mages get really powerful.


I said 'finally' but actually there is more: a whole fifteen chronicle ideas. These might inspire you to come up with your own ideas, or you may choose to run with them more or less 'as is'... or modify them to suit your requirements. Ideas a-plenty. This is a book to read whilst you are plotting your next game, rather than with a mind to changing the current one (unless perhaps you decide to end an otherwise conventional chronicle with all the 'mages' waking up in rehab having finally dried out from whatever they were taking!). Loads of ideas to sift through and consider, plenty of scope to help you let your imagination run riot!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Chronicler's Guide
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Night Horrors: The Unbidden
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2016 08:20:55

Opening with a weird bit of fiction - the reflections of someone around whom terrible things happen, yet they can never quite remember - the Introduction begins by talking about the rules of magic. In, that it ought to have them, and indeed does... just that they are not always clear, even to those who study magic and make use of it. Even those who practice magic only think they know what they are doing, it can be unpredictable - a bit like herding cats. This book asks what happens when magic enters the world unbidden, just as a tornado or forest fire doesn't trouble to ask before it destroys your house. Magic doesn't care, if one can anthropomorphise for a moment, whether the mage wielding it is able to control it or not. Magic changes things, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but always for the weirder.


So what does that mean for our game? Using magic is, for most mages, a pleasreable activity, a bit of a rush even - but it can so easily get out of hand. Mages can get carried away, drunk on their own abilities and power, becoming filled with pride at what they can do... and that's when magic turns and bites them, or escapes to cause unintended effects elsewhere in the world. This book is jam-packed with ideas for handling such events and their consequences in your game... it's time to make magic scary!


To aid you in making this happen, this tome contains a whole bunch of... well, antagonists for want of a better word. In presenting this feeling of forces bigger than the mages attempting to use them, and scary to boot, concentrate on description, on building up atmosphere - show, not tell. Each entry is designed to provide resources to make that happen, with detailed descriptions and backgrounds, secrets and rumours and above all story hooks - ideas about how to weave them into your plots and indeed build entire plots around them.


There are four sections, based on the nature of the entities therein. First up are Mages - well, that's obvious. We know what mages are. But these ones, well - the magic has got to them. Some are innocent (but no less dangerous for all that), others know exactly what they are doing and revel in it. Next is Characters and Creatures. They are not mages but have been touched by magic in some manner. Then there are Constructs and Objects. Not all artefacts were created deliberately, on purpose. Sometimes they just... happen. Then there are Conditions and Infections. States of being that can arise when magic and paradox run riot. As a bonus, there is actually a fifth section, Places. This describes three places where magic has got so far out of hand that it's affected entire locations.


If you like the idea of magic almost having a mind of its own, running amok, you will find ideas to inspire and help you make it happen in your game. Even better, if you'd like to inject some honest-to-goodness horror into your chronicle, here are some tools to freak out the most self-contained and confident will-workers. Indeed, it's when your mages are getting confident, think they know what they are doing and have everything under control, that it is a perfect time to spring something from this book upon them. But use sparingly: less is more when it comes to horror and wild magic... even a small instance will have everyone nervous about their next spell!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night Horrors: The Unbidden
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Summoners
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2016 09:13:18

Many ancient magical traditions touch on the summoning of otherworldly powers, and the Awakened too reach out to gain information, power or other favours from beings not of this world. The opening fiction tells of a strange 'prayer wheel' that is connected to some being that the protagonist's grandfather summoned and made a pact with - instead of prayers it sends forth the being's name through strange glyphs - and has, of course, an unsavoury undertone, an implied threat that means it's not really safe to meddle with such things.


Indeed the dangers and risks often outweigh the benefits, not that this stops mages from dabbling, often calling upon beings too powerful for them to control, beguiled by the possibilities, the terrifying splendours, they perceive to be on offer. This book is designed as a resource for anyone going down the summoning route, building on what's in the core rulebook and presenting a whole lot of new stuff about otherworldly entities and the ways in which mages can interact with them. No one size fits all, there are a range of options and the Storyteller is encouraged to decide which will work and which are but traps for the unwary, the incautious and the over-eager. Some summonings are easy to perform, others very complex and/or requiring exotic materials and lengthy preparation of both mage and ritual.


Chapter 1: From Distant Shores opens proceedings by discussing the nature of the beings that can be summoned. Note that there's no discussion of their home planes or worlds, the struggle between them and our mages will be fought here... mages wouldn't last an instant in the sort of places that they come from!


Next, Chapter 2: From the Five Towers looks at Supernal summoning... but beware: they have a nasty habit of turning up to test mages, seeing if they are worthy before granting any boons or conferring any powers upon them.


Then Chapter 3: From the Endless Dark delves into the Abyss to see what can be dredged up... if you dare. It doesn't sound advisable to meddle here, opening doorways to allow unspeakable horrors out... you get the picture. Some do dare, however, and if very skilled and extremely lucky may retain life, limb or sanity. Many do not.


This is followed by Chapter 4: From Stranger Spheres (as if the ones in the earlier chapters weren't strange enough), where the unknown is explored, stuff that is even outside Awakened philosophy and knowledge. Beings that sometimes attempt to slither in uninvited or beguile unwary mages into inviting them in. A few come bearing gifts, many bring death and destruction, others are just curious... but what passes for innocent curiousity may be extremely dangerous to any mortal encountering it.


Finally, Chapter 5: Otherwordly Compacts gets down to the game mechanics necessary to handle the processes of summoning. There is much of interest to any mage who might wish to dabble, let alone those who want to make summoning their life's work. The main focus is on forming pacts with whatever has been summoned, but there are Legacies, merits, and much, much more as well.


This work opens up a whole area of magical endeavour, giving plenty of scope for mages who want to explore this type of magic or even just give it a go. Certainly a good resource for groups for whom the magic itself is central to their game, it raises interesting questions for those who enjoy the dilemmas that can face their characters, there's plenty of story potential... what's not to like?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Summoners
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Seers of the Throne
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2016 07:59:11

The Seers of the Throne are power-hungy, power-mad even, and will do literally whatever it takes to gain it, no matter the cost. And, judging by the opening fiction (nicely legible this time, at least) they tend to be fairly foul-mouthed about it too. They serve the Exarchs, and are granted great power and reward for their services... but their service is aimed at one thing: keeping humanity in its place, preventing them for attaining their potential. Yet they are human themselves, even if even more self-serving than most. They believe themselves better than the rest, perhaps wishing to right perceived wrongs done them before they Awakened, filled with arrogance and thoroughly enjoying the material largesse they receive from their masters.


The clear intent is that the Seers be used as antagonists, but the material in this book is presented in the same way as the other Order books - so if you do have a group who like the idea of vast material wealth and power with a few distasteful tasks required to get it, it might be an option to let them be the Seers. It's more likely that you will have them as enemies, however, so here are the tools to make them really come to life within your alternate reality.


Chapter 1: A History of Loyalty looks at their history as recorded through their own eyes - given their self-serving tendencies, others may beg to differ at many if not all points. It gives a good overview of both their past and present concerns, however as well as a fair bit of detail about the way that the operate.


Then Chapter 2: Serving the Exarchs gets down to the philosophy, beliefs and dogma that membership in this order entails. Complete obedience to the will of the Exarchs is central, no matter what their request, however costly at a personal level or even to your soul. This chapter also describes how they operate and are organised.


Next, Chapter 4: Heads of the Hydra delves more deeply into organisational matters... they are full of factions and sub-groups, sometimes cooperating and sometimes resulting in friction. There are plenty of examples to provide you with ready-made groups to throw at your mages - or have working away behind the scenes thwarting them covertly, often a more likely way of operating. (The Appendix: Antagonists has more fully-detailed individuals, complete with game statistics, to be used as both combatant and non-combatant NPCs.)


Finally, Chapter 5: Gifts of the Exarchs lays out the magical resources that the Seers can access. The usual collection of magical traditions, spells, artefacts and so on to play with.


This is a neat approach, giving some of the major adversaries your mages will face the same type of structure and resources as their own orders have. It certainly provides plenty of scope for machinations and devious plots, and a wealth of suggestions as to how to use the Seers to best effect in your game. For the sake of your mages' souls, though, encourage them not to enlist with the Seers!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seers of the Throne
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Secrets of the Ruined Temple
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/06/2016 09:05:27

This chronicle book, containing the very sort of adventures I love that combine cod-archaeology with the game world, get off to a bad start - the flavour fiction at the beginning is virtually illegible, block printed on a dark, heavily-patterned background. As far as I can make out it's an account of a mage-driven expedition to South America in search of Atlantean secrets and there's something about a solar eclipes in there too, but something that should have set the scene admirably falls flat on its face through poor layout.


So, moving on swiftly to the Introduction, there's a summary of the history all mages teach their pupils about the past glories of Atlantis and how only scraps remain... but maybe, just maybe, there is more out there to be discovered. This book is a guide and resource for those who want to have the search for further material as part of their on-going adventures. But it doesn't do it in a way you might expect. The Storyteller won't find complete maps and inventories of Atlantis ready for the cabal to explore. Rather, it actually makes things more mysterious, presenting multiple possibilities and even more questions, rather than answers. The idea is that you use these resources to come up with your own version of Atlantis and are then armed with appropriate clues to scatter throughtout your ongoing chronicle for the mages to pick up on. Neat, and novel, idea.


Chapter 1: Atlantean Apocrypha starts with what it says in the core rulebook, then builds on it and twists it out of all recognition with variant legends of Atlantis for you to pick through and decide which (if any) works for you. Or you may be inspired to come up with your own, of course. Don't discard the bits you don't decide are the truth, though. They might be deliberate misinformation, or erroneous information that has crept in through the generations.


Next, Chapter 2: Beneath the Sediment provides a wealth of advice about planning and running cod-archaeology adventures involving finding and exploring Atlantean ruins. It includes ways to get your mages interested (and the things that their elders might say to dissuade them) as well as hints and tips on designing the actual places they will go poking around in... and the perils they might find there, which are covered in Chapter 3: Gatekeepers and Treasures, along with ideas for the sort of loot they might possibly escape with if they are really, really lucky.


Finally Chapter 4: The Living Temple takes matters to an entirely new level... the Astral Plane. Those who dare to poke around within dream and myth may find awesome secrets... or their own undoing. To round everything off, there's an Appendix: High Speech and Atlanean Runes jam-packed with the mysteries surrounding the language and writing of the ancients, a new look at the magical words and glyphs all mages work so hard to master.


Overall, this is a fascinating tome to dip in to: there is a lot to digest, and you'll have to do a fair amount of preparatory work before you have a chronicle ready to run... but this work will give you tools and ideas to run enthralling adventures delving into the Atlantean past - so despite the opening, it's 5 stars :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secrets of the Ruined Temple
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Magical Traditions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2016 07:59:38

Opening with a tale about a city-Awakened mage learning to make use of traditional folk songs to direct her magic, this book is all about the links and correlations between the magic of this game and real-world folklore and occult traditions. It makes sense, after all: throughout history there have been people who have believed in magic, and ones who have claimed to be actually able to work it. Whether or not that is true in the real world, for the purposes of this game it's likely that at least some of these claimants have been Awakened and that their magic is real... and others may still have been touched by the Supernal even if they are not fully Awakened.


The Introduction discusses potential cross-overs between the Supernal and the fallen world mortals occupy and how these may give rise to occult traditions and folklore outwith that taught by mages drawing on Atlantean teachings. Many Awakened mages are distainful of the idea and will have nothing to do with such legends, but others seek them out and try to find meaning within them. For those who'd like to do so, this book presents a selection of established real-world occult and folklore traditions that can be woven through the magic of your game. It's an exciting thought, I'm sure I'm not the only one with a goodly collection of materials that I've tried to incorporate into the magic system of whatever game I was playing at the time!


Chapter 1: Supernal Correspondences deals with this whole concept in much greater depth, there's plenty here for the more scholarly mage to get their teeth into, then following chapters review various traditions. For each tradition, there are notes about its real-world traditions and practices, along with sample rotes that a mage might glean from them and storytelling ideas, and even thoughts on alternative forms of magic, including the necessary rules to make them work in your game. The traditions covered are Kabbalah, Taoist Sorcery, Santeria, the Templars, Theosophy, Appalacian Hoodoo and Entheogen Cults... but if your favourite one isn't there, not to worry: Chapter Five tells you how to give other traditions the same treatment!


It all makes for a fascinating read, and by incorporating traditions, stories and ideas from outside the game's own magic system you can make the whole thing more vivid and real... as players may have heard some of them long before they started to play Mage: The Awakening and will start to make their own connections. There's potential for some very powerful storytelling here!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magical Traditions
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The Free Council
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/02/2016 08:32:50

Forget faux-gothic towers and flowing robes, Free Council wizards are more at home online... and the opening fiction suggests this with a mock website approach surrounding a story about a cabal working magic through a camera and a TV show where the special effects are not the ones I learned from the movie business but magically-generated. Oh and one of them uses a PDA for a grimoire... scrolling through incantations to find the right one and all. Compelling imagery for truly modern mages.


Aimed at players whose characters are in the Free Council, this book details what that character would know as a member of the order, who he'd trust and fear and work with - details that should enable you to bring the Free Council to life in your game. Whilst much of the Awakened world looks to the past, traditions and history looming large, the Free Council applies modern technology - and thought - to ancient ideas. They seek enlightenment in the future, but know that they cannot abandon centuries of tradition on their way. They tend to harbour democratic ideals, which don't sit well with the hierarchical approach taken by other more traditional orders. For them, reason and wonder go hand in hand.


Chapter 1: Escaping Yesterday looks at how the order came to be (for some, any history is too much, they want to look forwards not back), tracing its origins to the mid-19th century and coming to a head when the Seers of the Throne tried to enlist the aid of various freethinking cabals in controlling Sleepers. Their resounding NO! rocked the Awakened world and led to the formal foundation of the Free Council as an organisation that stood for liberty and democracy and against lies. Wars and the rise of totalitarianism fuelled their determination to stand firm, whilst the accelerating speed of technological advancement provided many tools and toys for them to explore alongside New Age mysticism and an unparalleled enthusiasm for communications technology.


Next, Chapter 2: The Libertine Culture explores the Free Council as it is today. There's an extensive glossary, jargon that encapsulates what members of the order are like and how they think. Grades and roles within the order are discussed as are their Lorehouses, places where information is collected for the benefit of all. Some exotic locations are described and there are sample cabals and individual mages that might be encountered. Friends? Rivals? Allies? Up to you...


Then Chapter 3: Arcane Operating System presents three new legacies. When all is said and done, however much they may like their gadgets, Free Council members are still mages and they still practice magic... even if in ways that look a bit different from that fellow in a robe waving a wand and reading from a musty tome. Their philosophies and attainments are discussed, all you need to know if you are interested in following one of these paths. There's a bunch of new rotes here too, and other goodies for Free Council mages to enjoy.


Finally, there's an appendix: The Libertine Character. Here the startling philosophy is laid out that whenever you create a Free Council character - as a player or as a Storyteller - you're writing another chapter in the order's history. Each one will, by its very nature, be unique. It delves into concepts and ideas, and excites by the very freedom... if you haven't thought much about a Free Council character before, you will get excited by the possibilities now!


That sums this book up nicely: exciting possibilities. Maybe I'm predesposed to this technoglogical approach 'cos my day job is computer scientist, but it hadn't really been my first concept for a Mage: The Awakening character (he was an FBI agent who'd just inherited an old bookshop from a weird uncle, if you must know); but now I want to play one...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Free Council
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Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 08:15:05

Opening with a fine horror story that rather made me wish I wasn't eating my lunch while I read it, this book is about the horrific things that can slither out of the Abyss and into the mortal world. Ordinary people are pretty much defenceless against them, so it's up to the Awakened to do something about any that they encounter... and theses things are rooted in horror, indeed may be the underlying reasons, the source for the horror stories, if not all the misery, in the world itself.


The Introduction explains this and discusses researching the things that come out of the Abyss - for without knowledge, one is pretty much defenceless - and describes how most of the rest of the book is a catalogue of the strange and unwholesome manifestations of the powers that lurk in the Abyss. It ends by suggesting suitable source material, starting with The Fortean Times and providing a reading list of horror stories and a selection of movies. One of the suggestions is H.P. Lovecraft, but not as you might be accustomed to treating his work: for these purposes concentrate on the strange unearthly manifestations that often ignore the havoc they are causing because the Earth and those on it are plain unimportant to them... that's how the creatures of the Abyss behave... rather than worrying about pantheons of ancient (and generally evil) deities.


Before we get on to the actual critters, though, there's a chapter called Otherworldly Dread. Primarily aimed at Storytellers - as indeed this whole book is - it looks at how to incorporate the Abyss and the horrors emanating from it into your chronicles. There's plenty of advice on how to use these intruders, making them an effective threat (and something downright scary!) and even how some twisted and perverted people seek to use them to their own advantage.


And then there's the creature collection. Each one is presented in a standard format, starting with the name(s) by which it is known in this world. There's scene-setting fiction, notes on how it appears to senses both magical and mundane, details of what is known and what it does, how it gets into the world, what it tries to do once there and the all important details of how it can be banished to whence it came. There are ideas and story hooks for getting them into your game, and any necessary game statistics you'll need when your mages square off against it. There are a full twenty-four of these unspeakable things for you to contemplate...


Horror may not be your thing, but even so it might be worth sparing use as a warning that being a mage is not all fun and games and working your will in the world. If you and your group do like horror stories, well there are enough here to keep you busy for a fair while. You might even run an almost X-Files-style game with a group of mages dedicated to hunting down and eradicating Abyssal manifestations wherever they raise their ugly heads.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss
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Reign of the Exarchs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/26/2016 08:20:53

What happens when a mage gets kidnapped? The opening fiction tells of a roadtrip with an unwilling participant... an edgy and intriging conversation that ends in a collision with a big rig... that wasn't an accident.


A compelling introduction to five loosely-connected plotlines, ready for you to weave into a chronicle that tells of the power of the Exarchs as it reaches into this fallen world and impacts on more than just the lives of the Awakened. Whilst interlinked, you can play some or just one of them, or even muddle up the order (although they work best in the sequence in which they are presented). The tales all tell of different powers of the Exarchs, and involve a collection of artefacts. However, whatever you decide to do, read through them first. Characters or clues from one episode may turn up in another, or you may wish to employ foreshadowing to draw interest along.


The Exarchs are all about control. The trick is, working out who they are controlling. In these adventures, your mages get to see their powers, their controlling influence, in action. These tales centre around a legend, that of the Dethroned Queen, who ages past was actually an Exarch herself but got kicked out... back to the fallen world, but bringing some artefacts with her. Some, amonst the Seers at least, believe that if you find these artefacts and study what little teachings she left, you can ascend to become an Exarch yourself... that is, if they actually exist. Not everyone is sure that they do, after all.


The five artefacts are, so legend says, a ring, a robe, a sceptre, a crown, and a throne. Whether these are metaphors or actual objects nobody's quite sure, but those who brave this chronicle will find out. Five artefacts, five separate (yet linked) adventures. Conspiracies whirl around, yet it's designed so that you do not have to spout yards of Exarch legend at your mages until they have a vague idea of what's going on, they just get... sucked in. Even the first adventure turns them upside down and sets them back on their heels, questioning much of what they thought they knew about the Awakened world. It begins with a stranger arriving on their doorstep and leads them into a moiling storm of politics, controversy and intrigue that wrenches at the very roots of their own cabal!


And that's just the first story! The succeeding ones drag them in deeper, raise many more questions than they answer. The stories are compelling and fascinating, even just when reading through them; although it's fair to say that you will have to put in some preparatory work, these are not 'run straight out of the box' adventures. It's worth your while, these will provide an excellent series of adventures to weave through your ongoing chronicle, working best if interleaved with other events and adventures - they'd be a bit too intense and maybe even unbelieveable if run back-to-back... better if your mages are kept wondering when (or even searching for) the next episode will turn up in their lives.


Thoroughly recommended, bringing legends and half-known truths to light as your mages delve into things that will become very real to them... but are they real? Venture here and you may find out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Reign of the Exarchs
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Changeling: The Lost
by Chris L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 20:31:08

This review is of FIRST EDITION CtL, not the upcoming (as of Aug 2016) second edition compatible with the God Machine Chronicles/Chronicles of Darkness.


Changeling is a game about stolen lives and beautiful madness, as the tagline says, but it actually supports a surprisingly broad array of moods. One game might be silly, with clockwork doll-girls and an ogrish professor. Another might be rooted in gore horror, with a cannibal chef on the loose. You could run a modern day retelling of legends of old, wherein a hero must go on an epic quest through desert kingdoms of dream to save the soul of his firstborn, which was stolen by trickery. My year-long chronicle focused more on the arcane nature of the Wyrd, the promise-binding source of fae power with a fickle and unknowable consciousness. All of these are equally valid tales in the CtL framework.


One thing that sets apart CtL from many other Chronicles settings is the uniqueness of its primary antagonists: the True Fae. True Fae are far more powerful than most antagonists in the World of Darkness. They make deals with elements of reality (and nether-reality) which give them superpowers, for crying out loud. They are literally made of the Wyrd, and are one with their domains. As such, the idea that each Changeling somehow "escapes" from his or her Keeper pulls players in from the start: they didn't escape. They were set free. They just don't know why, yet.


The Pledge system is pleasantly overpowered in CtL 1E. It's a great callback to fairy tales of yore that giving one's word--or more severely, promising on one's true name--makes a sprite vulnerable, but also empowered.

That said, I'm not that hyped for second edition. It's reworked the setting and mechanics to de-emphasize "promises" and bring up "the Story" in its place, celebrating fae as manifestations of legend. As someone who really got into CtL from imagining a bunch of good and evil Rumpelstilzkins roaming about, trying to hide their true names and morals such that they couldn't be used against them, I'm just a bit disappointed in those choices.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Changeling: The Lost
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Guardians of the Veil
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:53:04

The opening fiction is weird, sounding more like the rambling of a deranged mind than a story, but persevere and it will begin to make sense (especially once you realise part of it is the protagonist's own account of his Awakening... or is it?) provided you can cope with the background that is not only a crumpled paper effect but with additional scribbles that make it hard to read. The underlying theme is, I think, just how easy it is for an Awakened mage to fall into the trap of misuing his powers for what seems to be the best of reasons.


The Introduction continues with the concept that once you have Awakened, nothing is ever quite the same. To start with, the magical orders almost literally fight over you. In this book we learn about the Guardians of the Veil, what they have to offer and some of the secrets there are to be discovered. For it's all about secrets with these guys, some say they are the James Bonds of the Awakened world. They see their role as the protectors of matters supernal, guardians of magic itself... and to do that, they need to act like covert agents. It's an interesting - and potentially appealing - point of view. Secerts within secrets, being the arbiter of right and wrong... being a Guardian demands that special arrogance that states that you and you alone know what ought to be done.


Chapter 1: From the Reign of Atlantis launches into early history telling how from the very beginning some mages realised that there was a need to police magical activity and so took that duty upon themselves. This is not 'policing by consent', not something all mages see a need for or agree to, it's a self-appointed guardianship. The primary mission remains the same, to defend magic and mages from the unAwakened, the monsters - and themselves.


Next, Chapter 2: Masque and Veil looks at the core tenets of this order - ones which they do not reveal to outsiders, they are secrecy personified, nothing gets out. Even the various offices and customs of the order are rarely talked about with outsiders... so relish the chance to read about them and should you not be a Guardian of the Veil, don't let on that you have read them!


Chapter 3: Of Secrets and Spies takes things further, explores the process of initiation into the order and what life is like once accepted. It is no easy task to join the Guardians, they require dedication, the willingness to kill for them, a prepardness to die for them... as it is said, the first challenge for a would-be spy is to get the agency of his choice to hire him!


Then Chapter 4: Factions and Legacies demonstrates that, like many an intelligence agency, the order is riven with cliques and factions, petty jealosies and empire-building, no matter how uniform and monolithic they may appear to outsiders. Each Guardian mage has his own individual approach to the order's common purpose, and this is made manifest in the people with whom they associate and the legacies they pass on.


Chapter 5: Magic contains a collection of new spells and equipment, as well as training and techniques used by the order in its self-appointed task. Finally, an appendix provides fully-statted details of allies and antagonists that the Guardians might encounter, or indeed encompass...


Mages wishing to join the order become the Internal Affairs Division of the Awakened world. Perhaps your mages fancy that... or perhaps you reckon that they have attracted the attention of the Guardians (never a good thing) and will have to deal with whatever the order decides to throw at them. Plenty of potential here, plenty of ideas spawn even as you read these pages.



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Saturnine Night
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:54:30

Prometheans sind ewig rastlos wie Frankensteins Monster. Bleiben die künstlichen Menschen zu lange an einem Ort, verwandelt sich die Umgebung allmählich in ein „Wasteland“. Logisch, dass es daher auch keine Signature-City im Grundregelwerk und keinen Städteband für den Ableger der Serie gibt, oder? Nun, nicht ganz. Im (eh hervorragenden) Erweiterungsband Saturnine Night findet sich tatsächlich die Beschreibung von Detroit, einer sterbenden Stadt nach der amerikanischen Autokrise …


Einst war Detroit das maschinelle Herz Amerikas und produzierte Autos und Waffen. Heute findet man hier nur brach liegendes Potential. Überall fehlt Geld, etwa zum Abriss der zahllosen, leerstehenden Wohnhäuser und Fabriken. Einige davon werden bereits wieder von der Natur überwuchert und lassen die Stadt wie eine Ruine wirken. Zehntausende verarmte Arbeiter vegetieren Daumen4maennlichNeudahin. Offene Gewalt und Verbrechen machen Detroit zur „gefährlichsten Stadt Amerikas“ und die ausgedehnte Salzmine unter der Stadt ist wie eine bizarre Welt für sich. Die alten Monster haben die Stadt längst verlassen und einem Carthian-Prefekt die Macht übergeben. Forsaken und Pure-Werwölfen fehlt die Kraft zum offenen Krieg. Selbst die magische Struktur der Stadt ist bizarr: ganze Viertel werden spontan resistent gegen Magie und auf den Straßen streifen Rudel wilder Hunde und brutale Gangs umher. Detroit ist ein Hauch von Postapokalypse in der Chronicles of Darkness, bestens geeignet für besonders düstere Abenteuer.



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Boston Unveiled
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:54:07

Das Boston der Chronicles of Darkness steht ganz in der Tradition der Hexen von Salem und ist eine richtige Magierstadt. Ein dutzend Kabalen ringen hier um die Macht und versuchen das Erbe der verschwundenen Freimaurer anzutreten sowie ihre noch immer verborgenen Geheimnisse aufzudecken. Der Frieden wird von einem magischen Vertrag erhalten, über dessen genauen Inhalt sich die höchsten Magier ausschweigen. Doch Boston ist dabei nur ein Teil einer mystischen Landschaft Neu Englands, samt fanatischer Magierjäger, Tremere-Lichs und einem mächtigen Abyss-Dämon, dessen düsterer Ursprung in den frühesten Tagen der Stadt liegt. Wer in Boston träumt, kann dazu auf ein mysteriöses Boot treffen, das neugierige Seelen in Abbilder alternativer Zeiten Amerikas entführt, etwa eine archaische Pirateninsel oder die Gewalt des Unabhängigkeitskrieges.


Boston ist die Signatur-Stadt von Mage: the Awakening und sicher nicht jedermanns Fall. Der Städteband legt den Schwerpunkt Daumen4maennlichNeuauf das Übernatürliche (samt Blick ins Astral- und Shadow Realm) und nicht auf eine umfassende Vorstellung der Stadt für Touristen. Überhaupt bildet die Erweiterung das Stadtbild etwa zur Jahrtausendwende ab. Spielleiter mit einem Hang zu Historie, Mystik und Magie finden hier trotzdem viele Ideen. Mage-Spielrunden dürften sich über das gelungene Einführungsabenteuer Beast of Burden, um die Jagd auf einen seelenfressenden Geist, freuen



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Boston Unveiled
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Hunting Ground: The Rockies
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 02:53:48

Die Rocky Mountains sind die letzte große Wildnis Nordamerikas. Im Schatten von uralten Bergen finden sich hier abgelegene Siedlungen und Jagdhütten. Die große Stadt am Fuß der Berge ist Denver. Doch auf der Seite der Geisterwelt herrscht in der Gegend pures Chaos. Erst vor kurzem wurde ein mächtiger Urzeit-Geist besiegt, der die Rockies im Griff hatte. Nun kämpfen die niederen Geister im Machtvakuum um spirituelle Vorherrschaft. Die überlebenden Werwolfrudel erobern sich das Gebiet zurück und streiten um die besten Jagdgründe. Nur einer von ihnen versucht aus den Rivalen um Beute und Boden eine echte Nation zu schmieden, um sich auf den unweigerlich nächsten Angriff der „Pure“ vorzubereiten.


The Rockies ist die Signatur-Region für Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd Edition, und passt zum Spiel wie die Faust aufs Auge. Ein Daumen5maennlichNeuGroßteil des Buches dient dabei der Beschreibung von insgesamt elf Werwolf-Rudeln, die sich um Einfluss streiten und leicht in andere Orte verschoben werden können. Jedes Rudel hat zwei Varianten als Verbündete oder Feinde mit passenden Motivationen. Dazu bietet der Regionalband interessante neue Gegner für die Forsaken, etwa uralte Dinosaurier-Geister oder verdrehte Geister-Werwölfe (Su'ur) als Experimente des Idigam. Einige Ideen sind etwas trashig, etwa eine Werwolf-Rockband auf Vampirjagd. Das solide aber kurze Einsteiger-Abenteuer Stalking Disease um ein verdorbenes Werwolfrudel rundet den Band ab.



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Hunting Ground: The Rockies
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