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Dungeon of Terror #8: Scrags' Caverns
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/04/2016 11:32:51

In the final element of the Dungeon of Terror series we have a series of natural caverns that predate even the dwarves who originally colonised the underground complex and made it their own. They never really caught the interest of the Mad Mage, Infidus the Black, who took over after the dwarves left (or were chased out by him, nobody knows for sure), but do provide homes for other beings... currently a band of gnomes, a few sea trolls and others live there. The notes suggest how they get along and what they are doing but are, perforce, quite sketchy. You will have to add more detail (and game statistics) before the party arrives.

There are eleven chambers in all in this area, which is at the south-east corner of the complex. Only a couple show much evidence of construction work, the rest are natural. There's an overview map showing this area with reference to the rest of the complex as well as individual miniatures-scale tiles to enable you to lay it out before your players. With their usual mastery of PDF technology, 0one Games enable you - via their Rule the Dungeon button - to customise various elements of the tiles before printing: square, hex or no grid, whether or not you want furniture or doors and so on.

Another nicely-thought-out area, there's plenty of scope for some interesting encounters whether you use this as part of the Dungeon of Terror or as a stand-alone set of caves.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of Terror #8: Scrags' Caverns
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Dungeon of Terror #7: Mad Mage Chambers (South)
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2016 11:26:01

One of the more strange areas of this massive underground complex that is the Dungeon of Terror, the south area of the Mad Mage's chambers appears to have been a bit of a playground. The Mad Mage, Infidus the Black, set up his quarters here after either driving out the dwarves who originally lived here or fiding the place empty after they'd left. Nobody's quite sure, just as nobody knows what happened to Infidus although it's believed an assassin was sent after him... and in his turn, also perished. Much of what Infidus built remains, and some has been tampered with by later visitors.

According to the notes here, something of the sort happened in this section, with a drow princess, a necromancer and a witch squabbled over these chambers before reaching a kind of truce. There are brief - indeed tantalising - notes about the fifteen rooms presented here - the Perpetual Explosion Hall is particularly intriguing - but you will have to work out what's going on and design the traps that are alluded to in the text.

The usual technical mastery of 0one Games over PDF creation is made manifest via the Rule The Dungeon button, that allows for choice of grid (hex, square or none) and whether or not you want furniture, doors, etc. to appear. Each room appears as miniature-ready tiles as well as in an overview that shows how these chambers relate to the whole complex.

OK, so there's a fair bit of preparation before you can use this area, but whether you are running the entire Dungeon of Horror or want to extract these rooms for your own lair, there are some intriguing ideas to conjure with as you decide what's actually going on there.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of Terror #7: Mad Mage Chambers (South)
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The Free Council
Publisher: White Wolf
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
Publisher: White Wolf
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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Dungeon of Terror #6: Lord of the Undead
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/31/2016 10:09:24

As if there weren't enough problems in this massive underground complex, there's an infestation of undead to contend with. It seems that just after the so-called 'mad mage' Infidus the Black, who either chased out the original dwarven inhabitants or took over the place after they'd gone (opinion is divided), perished, a lich called Alseriak moved in, searching for anything that would make him more powerful. He began to study Infidus' books and populated the complex with his own creatures. Then a vampire, Varlania, came along and began to compete with him for the knowledge in the books, sending hordes of her spawn against Alseriak's creatures, never daring to face him herself... until one day they met and fell for each other! Together they created their own unique unded, the runed vampires.

There are twenty-one rooms in this section of the complex, and there's the potential for many secrets to be found there - especially if you go with the story. There's a little more explanation of runed vampires and their specific characteristics, although you will have to do some development work yourself before they are ready to meet marauding adventurers.

The usual technological mastery of PDFs is on display with the Rule the Dungeon button giving you a measure of control about what is displayed on each of the miniatures-scale map tiles, and there's an overview page showing how this section fits into the whole complex for those who choose to use it that way. Alternatively, it could make a good stand-alone lair for necromantic or undead activity if that meets your needs better.

Whilst this is not a ready-made dungeon there's enough to get you started, with some good coherent ideas about who might be there and what they are doing to help you in planning out this part of the delve.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of Terror #6: Lord of the Undead
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The Invisible Hand
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2016 06:25:14

When a greedy ghost and a bunch of goblins get together, it's not surprising that there's soon a situation that requires a party of adventurers to deal with it. The adventure background outlines what has been going on and provides several hooks to get the party involved.

The adventure outline is simple: the party should track some rather organised (for goblins) goblin raiders back to their lair, then explore the caverns beneath to find a long-lost underground temple. These locations are mapped clearly (and quite beautifully... although all secrets are revealed, these are DM maps rather than ones you can show to your players), with plenty of detail about who and what can be found there and likely reactions to the party's arrival. In places, advancing the adventure depends on a successful skill check (generally Perception) so it's worth thinking about other ways of keeping things moving if everyone flubs their rolls. There's also a quite difficult puzzle to solve at one point.

This is a well-presented straightforward adventure with plenty of combat and underground exploration... and the treasure to be gained includes the main antagonist's diary which can be used to fill in the backstory for your players (a neat touch). A solid adventure to further a party's career.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Invisible Hand
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One Night at the Red Vampire
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2016 12:21:50

There's a lot packed into a few pages here, a nice little adventure to spring on your party when they are travelling and welcome the sight of a welcoming inn on a remote road...

The background lays out concisely why all thoughts of a quiet's night rest are out of the question. Whilst the background is quite specific as to names and places, it ought not to be too difficult to change them to fit in with your campaign world - all you need is a fairly wild forest on the borders of civilisation which has a road through it that sees at least some traffic (else why attempt to run an inn there?). A couple of hooks are provided if you want the party to have more reason than a routine rest-stop on their travels for being here.

The adventure itself is quite simple. The adventure opens with a bit of socialising with other guests and an opportunity to find out about the history of the establishment. The place used to be the home of a vampire, now dealt with... but somehow some of his spawn get loose in the night and the first the party knows about it is when other guests start screaming! Of course, as seasoned adventurers, they are the most suitable people to deal with the problem.

The inn and its immediate surroundings are mapped and described well, facilitating a sandbox approach in which the party may wander freely and interact with whatever they find. Note that the maps show secret doors and the like so will have to be modified before they can be shown to the players. However good room descriptions and details of who is where and what they are likely to do makes the adventure easy to run.

Overall a neat adventure with plenty of excitement - just when the characters weren't really expecting it! Moreover, it's a nice inn that could be used again (if it survives the night!) or, perhaps even better, before you decide to run this adventure. All the more startling if this is a regular point of call without any prior trouble...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Night at the Red Vampire
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Dungeon of Terror #5: Mad Mage Chambers (West)
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2016 10:35:56

If you are using the whole Dungeon of Terror and its outline plot, this set of map tiles depicts the heart of the 'mad mage' Infidus's personal quarters. There are ten rooms altogether, but the four big ones will attract curiousity and fair crackle with potential... traps, maybe, for the unwary or something quite unusual and intriguing.

There's a vast combat arena, complete with large statues of sword-wielding bald elves and ghostly images of demons. There's a libary full of books. And more... None of the current denizens of the complex dare come here, not the orcs nor the assassins.

The notes provided give some inkling as to what perils and prizes you may choose to place here, but of course if you have other things in mind it's easy to change them. This is an outline, a framework, upon which you can craft your own adventures rather than a ready-made adventure. You get the floorplan with doors and furniture and other bits and bobs - like the aforementioned statues - but it's up to you what those levers do, if that statue animates or whatever, let alone who or what might be encountered there.

The floorplans are provided as an overview showing where these chambers fit in the overall whole (assuming you want to use it 'as is') and then in separate sheets at appropriate scale for miniatures or tokens. By use of the 'Rule the Dungeon' button you can customise what is printed out - selecting square, hex or no grid and whether or not you want to display furniture or doors, for example. Conveniently, the three largest rooms can be printed out by selecting the correct tiles to have any one of them alone - the arena occupies eight tiles on its own - without getting the rest, if that suits your needs better. Maybe you don't like drawing floorplans (or struggle to scale them up for miniature use), maybe looking them over will spawn ideas for adventure that you can use. Whatever, enjoy!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of Terror #5: Mad Mage Chambers (West)
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Dungeon of Terror #4: The Maze
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2016 11:44:15

In this installment of the massive Dungeon of Terror underground complex, you are provided with an area that encompasses one of only two entrances to the complex and a maze that is said to be haunted by the spirit of a minotaur which once was trapped there by Infidus, the (allegedly) insane mage who made this complex his home after driving out the dwarves who used to live and work there (or he may have found the place deserted and the dwarves long gone, records are unclear on this point!).

The maze is trapped with a complex series of teleports, although there is a way to neutralise them... if the party can find it! There are also some inhabitants who have started making their own modifications - although perhaps they are better adventurers than they are bricklayers - and who offer to show visitors the way through, for a fat fee of course.

In total, this area comprises some fifteen rooms and the passages between them... a LOT of passages! It is presented as an overview (which also shows this area's position in relation to the rest of the complex), and as a series of miniature-scale tiles you can print out and use on the tabletop. 0one's well-known mastery of PDF technology allows you to customise the features of the tiles via a 'Rule the Dungeon' button that lets you show or hide room numbers or furniture, have a square or hex grid or none at all, or decide how heavy you want the walls.

Although ideas are provided for who might be here and what they might be doing, it's left up to you to 'populate' your dungeon and decide what's going on there. Perfect if you don't care for drawing floorplans (especially if you like using miniatures) but have a good imagination to build a story around them.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon of Terror #4: The Maze
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Reign of the Exarchs
Publisher: White Wolf
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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Guardians of the Veil
Publisher: White Wolf
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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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Guardians of the Veil
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Tome of the Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2016 10:36:57

The opening fiction is a tale of a youngster growing up in a house where one parent is Awakened and the other is not, and worse, finds it difficult to accept. Sad truths... perhaps some one of your mages might have to face, or have as part of their background.

The Introduction explains the underlying concept of this book: magic as Art: a craft that must be studied, learned, honed, thought about and practiced... not mechanical cause and effect. Indeed magic often seems to have a will of its own. Presenting a scheme to classify magic in terms of the elements, it's at pains to point out that the classifications are more philosophical than anything else. Each element has associations with emotions and capabilities, and it is these that are reflected by the magic grouped together under it. In summary, will comes under fire, for intellect air is the proper element, with water for feelings and emotions and earth for the manifestation of ideas. Not everyone thinks this way, of course. Some mages like to visualise a temple with many halls, visiting different ones depending on what they are doing. Others claim that there are various fields of study within the whole that is magic - just as the academic study of say, history, might include the study of different periods, different places, or themes such as warfare or religion. But here we stick to the elements as a framework, with this book serving as a toolbox for how to go about using magic.

Chapter 1: The Way of Fire - Making Magic looks at that exciting area of how to devise your own spells. If creative thaumaturgy is your thing, this chapter will light your fire. The element of fire is associated with intuition, imagination and the higher will, just the tools you need to come up with innovative new spells. Here you can read about the 'rules' that make magic work: the Thirteen Practices, spell Aspects and the practicalities of creating a new spell.

Next, Chapter 2: The Way of Air - Spell Lore explains the look and feel of magic, how to describe what's going on, what can be felt and seen as a spell is cast. Seek inspiration here when you want to get creative when telling people what is going on when the magic starts to fly. There are lots of new spells here as well.

Then Chapter 3: The Way of Water - Magic and Being is about how magic interacts with culture and society, and as an extension of that, how mages get on with day-to-day life, and what sort of beliefs they might hold. There's also a discussion of the ethical aspects of magic (quite entertaining given that I teach the ethical aspects of computing in real life!). These are the sort of questions that the modern mage ought to wrestle with.

Chapter 4: The Way of Earth - Magic Manifested presents spells which are used to enchant items. There's also a look at alchemy and an array of salves, sprays and other substances that can be made with this craft, and a fair bit about soul stones.

Finally, Chapter 5: The Way of the Void - Greater Secrets takes you down paths best trodden with caution if at all... this is the Storyteller chapter and includes all manner of things from running antagonist spell casters to the legendary capablities of archmages and the dread Abyssal Watchtowers (which if you haven't heard of, you are probably very lucky!). Your NPC mages need to be as rounded, as knowlegeable as any player-character, but a bit of careful planning can make this less arduous than it might sound. There are lots of helpful hints and tips here.

Ending with a comprehensive spell index, this is a mage's vade mecum, a reference book or manual. OK, you don't need to read it to play an effective mage... but if you do study its pages, it will give your mage and his magic considered depths, a greater understanding of the Art he practices.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of the Mysteries
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Tome of the Watchtowers: A Guide to Paths
Publisher: White Wolf
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2016 10:15:35

Every mage has his story of how he Awakened, generally involving an immersive vision of their Watchtower, a mystical and extremely personal experience. In the opening fiction, a group of young mages - who initially think they are facing certain death - share their stories and through them find what they need to save themselves.

Mages use symbols and imagery a lot to describe the Supernal Realms in ways that help them make sense of it. This begins, unknowing, with their dream of Awakening, but as time passes and they learn more about what they have become, their imagery becomes more focussed and they grow in understanding of what they see. This is not a book which a mage could read, but it is one their players should: to understand what their mage character makes of his experiences, what he understands and how he sees it. It's different for everyone, of course, and even people who are of the same Path won't view it in completely the same way, although there may well be similarities. For those who want to revel to the full in the mystical internal development that being an Awakened mage brings for their character, this book will enable them to share something of what their character, in his alternate reality of the game world, feels.

The book is made up of five chapters, each concerning one Supernal Path. Each contains lore, the history of that Path... and also indications of how mages on the Path view those who follow the other Paths. There's history, rites, notes on character creation, all manner of information to help you really get into the skin of your character. It's all legend and supposition - but things that your mage will have heard and read. Whether or not he accepts them as truth is up to you (and him).

The concept of a discipline - a vow taken and kept - is also introduced. In game mechanical terms, it provides the mage who keeps his vow faithfully with extra Mana. But a wise choice of discipline can shape a whole character, mark him out as distinctive. It's a bit like a religious vow or restriction - just like Mormons choose not to drink tea or coffee, or Jews to avoid eating pork. It's voluntary, and can be something that a whole cabal decides to adhere to, or just a single mage who feels the need to impose such a stricture on his life. Once taken on, however, it pervades everything and breaking it can cost a lot more than Mana - loss of relationships, of standing, and more. Take a discipline on with caution... and then role-play it to the hilt.

It's a bit difficult to know just when you should read this book. When creating a Mage: The Awakening character, you choose his Path along with everything else, yet in the alternate reality of the game, the Path chooses him rather than the other way around. The information about his Path will be acquired along with much more during his initial training, something most games do 'off screen' even when intending to start with new and inexperienced mages... mages who know nothing at all are not much fun to play, after all. Best they have acquired at least some knowledge of their new capabilities and learned a few rotes before the game proper begins. So sometime during the early stages of the game, as the character learns, so do you. Of course, that only applies for the first time you play the game. Next character around, you might well pick a different Path so have a whole new lot of stuff to learn... and try to forget some of the old, which a fledgling mage of another Path won't know! The age-old issue of character knowledge and player knowledge.

Yet for those who really want to understand their mage and play him to the full, this is an excellent resource replete with lore and beliefs and suppositions and half-known histories. Revel in it and use it to inform your role-playing!



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Tome of the Watchtowers: A Guide to Paths
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High Guard
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2016 12:04:53

What's Traveller without, well, some travelling... especially in space? High Guard is designed to provide a toolbox to empower every aspect of spacefaring in your game from designing and operating starships to using them in spectacular combat.

The Introduction begins by explaining where the name 'High Guard' comes from in the first place - it refers to a vessel standing overwatch in a position that is higher in a gravity well than other ships. That's a useful place to be, as if combat should take place when under the influence of a planet's gravity (or indeed that of any object in space) it's advantageous to be higher in it than your opponent. Harking back to the age of sail, one would speak of having the 'wind guage' when in a position where the wind conferred an advantage - here it's the 'gravity guage' instead, but a very similar concept.

Other topics explored in the Introduction cover terminology, the various types of space navies to be encountered - Imperial, subsector and planetary (assuming you are using the Third Imperium default setting) - and the concept of the Ship's Locker (standard equipment carried aboard all ships such as vacc suits and emergency equipment). It ends with a listing of different types of ship, including a useful size chart.

Chapter 1: Ship Design then gets down to detail of how the process of designing and building ships work. You can use existing designs 'as-is', modify them or come up with wholly-new ones... but will need to hire a naval architect to oversee the project. For those who want to have this level of control, there is a thirteen-step process to follow starting with creating the hull. It's a detailed process, one that will keep you happily occupied for a while and, like many design processes in this game, can become an end in itself, an enjoyable pastime rather than the more ulitarian designing of a ship for your next game. As well as cost, you need to keep track of tonnage and power requirements.

Next is Chapter 2: Weapons and Screens. This goes into detail about the weapons and defensive systems that can be mounted on a spaceship. There's a huge range of weapons that can be employed, and this chapter concentrates on what you need to know to install them: cost, power requirements, hardpoints to attach them and so on. Fighting with them comes later, never you fear! There's also a bit about defensive technology, mainly point-defence weapons and screens. Physical armour is covered in the construction chapter above.

Still looking at building ships, Chapter 3: Spacecraft Options gets quite interesting as it looks at how to customise your ship and presents a wide range of options from alternative drives and power systems to adding acceleration couches... and far more. Everything is described in terms of cost, tonnage and power requirements, linking it all back to the original ship design process.

Next, Chapter 4: Primitive and Advanced Spacecraft looks at vessels which differ from the norm presented in the previous chapters. These range from custom-built ships utilising the latest concepts and technologies to ones built by less-advanced species who have at least begun to reach for the stars. This is followed by Chapter 5: Space Stations, which looks in equal depth at space-based constructs designed for living in space rather than travelling through it. A similar thirteen-point checklist is provided for you to work through if you wish to design one from scratch, and there are also notes on some of the specialised space stations that are to be found out in the black.

We then take a look in Chapter 6: The Ship's Computer at the 'brain' of your space vessel in more detail. It's an interesting balance between modern advances in computing and the original Traveller concept of ship computers as being massive - a concept derived when real-world spaceship computers had about as much power as the average smartphone of today and computer facilities covered acres of land! There's information on the sort of programs you might need for your ship computer and how much they cost. Next comes Chapter 7: High Technology which explores some exciting ideas about what happens beyond TL15 (the upper limit covered by the construction rules presented so far). Perhaps you'd prefer not to use a Jump drive at all... well, here are details of alternate drive systems such as hyperdrives, warp drives, space-folding drives and even time drives allowing temporal as well as spatial travel. There are equally exotic weapons and screens and other equipment to browse through as well. Here it's a matter of what the Referee is willing to let you have or, if you are the Referee, how you want your universe to look.

OK, now we know how to design a ship from the keel up (and how much it will cost) but what does it look like? Chapter 9: Creating Deck Plans... hey, hang on a minute! We've lost Chapter 8! Seriously, there isn't a Chapter 8 in this book. Fortunately this appears to be just about the only error I've found, and all the indexing and hyperlinks work, so it's no real biggie... So, this chapter looks at how to draw deckplans that reflect the ship you have just taken so much trouble to design accurately. It's all a matter of scale, and relating the known tonnage of different elements of your design to the whole. Some talent at technical drawing or a good drawing package might help here, though.

This is followed by Chapter 10: Fighters. Never mind these big ships, what about those swarms of single-seater ships you see swarming about in science-fiction movies? For a start, they are generally more fun in a space battle than capital ships from a player perspective. There are some design notes, although the main process introduced in Chapter 1 is sufficiently flexible to construct fighters as well as larger ships. There are also notes about how they are used in combat and even how they are recovered by their mother ship when the fight is done.

Next is the bit you've been waiting for - combat itself - in the shape of Chapter 11: Capital Ship Battles. Whilst it is possible to use the core combat system presented in the Core Rulebook - which does work for ship-to-ship battles as well as for when people brawl - it gets a bit cumbersome if you want to stage a mass battle of capital ships. So here is a vastly streamlined system based on, but separate from, the space combat rules detailed in the core rules. It takes a while to set up, but once that's done the actual battle proceeds at a suitably dramatic pace.

Finally, there is the Jayne's Guide to Spacecraft of the Third Imperium (presented by the Travellers' Aid Society, of course). This provides a whole host of ready-made ships (using the design process outlined in this book) complete with statistics, price, running costs, crew requirements, external illustrations and isomortphic floorplans - starting with a single-seater light fighter and working all the way up to battlewagons like fleet carriers and dreadnoughts. There are a few interesting ones along the way - the Type S Scout and the Far Trader are still in there, which will be remembered by many Traveller players from previous versions of this game, a laboratory ship built on a ring structure, and even the Annic Nova... an alien craft which formed the basis of a classic exploration adventure back in the days of the Little Black Books!

Overall, this contains pretty much all you need to know to get travelling... with an elegant design system that's infinitely scaleable and flexible whatever sort of spaceship you need.



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High Guard
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Grimoire of Grimoires
Publisher: White Wolf
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2016 11:36:54

The classic image of a mage is a fellow in a robe with his nose stuck in a book. The Awakened may or may not go in for robes much - they tend to be a bit conspicuous in the modern world unless you are a LARPer or a member of a religious order (as an academic, mine only comes out once a year for graduation week!) - but books figure large in their lives. However much they may want to be active and hip, they need to study... but what is it that they read?

The opening fiction is (mostly) a mage's diary, in which he recounts a raid on some Seers to steal books on behalf of the Chicago Athenaeum and some really odd effects that centre around one of the books - it's all 'handwritten' and quite hard to decipher, but it's a good facsimile of what mages do most of the time - few grimoires are typeset, let alone available in e-book format, after all! It highlights how some books can be dangerous... and not just for the ideas contained within their pages.

The Introduction talks a little about books in general, then explains that this book basically consists of a collection of some eighteen grimoires each of which is ready to be dropped into your cronicle either to provide information that one of your mages seeks or perhaps as something an enemy possesses and could even be using against them. They can be tricky things, these books - one masquerades as a series of fantasy novels, another changes its appearance from time to time - whilst some of the items listed here are not books at all... one, for example, is a vinyl record!

Of course, the grimoire itself is only part of the story. Mages often need to do research even to find out which one contains the information they are after, or to identify a mysterious tome that has come into their hands. To facilitate this, each grimoire is accompanied by notes about how best to research it. There are plenty of other snippets that should spawn additional ideas about how to involve each of these grimoires in your plots.

The level of detail is quite amazing, and any one of these grimoires could provide the focal point for at least one if not a whole series of adventures. This work provides a novel way of using that archetypical tool of a mage, the book, as an integral part of what is going on in your chronicle and is well worth adding to your collection of resources.



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Grimoire of Grimoires
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