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Mage Noir $8.99
Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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Mage Noir
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Mage Noir
Publisher: White Wolf
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2012 22:27:06
Mage Noir takes the mages of World of Darkness into the America of the postwar era in the US, a period of moral grays, the era of noir. Playing to mood and tone is one of the strengths of the World of Darkness and the noir era is full of such shadows and shades. If roleplaying in such a time interests you, this product is likely worth your time.

Mage Noir is an 82-page PDF (79-pages if you remove the covers and ad) for Mage: the Awakening (and the World of Darkness in general) RPG written by David Brookshaw, Matthew McFarland, John Snead and Filamena Young and published by White Wolf Publishing.

Mage Noir is mostly double column layout, except for the fiction, and is easily readable. The art is black and white as you would expect. It has basic bookmarks but lacks an index, still as this is a shortish work that is not a great hindrance to finding things.

Now, before I go any further, I should point out that I am not a Mage: the Awakening player or GM/storyteller so I am looking at it just as a 1940s/Noir reference. Mage Noir begins with fiction, moves into an introduction that defines the setting’s theme as price of awakening and its mood as cynicism, it is noir all the way. It gives a solid list of source materials from movie to music, books to games.

The other chapters are:

The Party’s Over looks at the status of American society immediately post-WW2. It gives an overview of a nation reshaped by war and trying to find its place in the post war era, a world of rapidly changing technology where the old societal certainties were breaking down.

The Power and the Glory looks at character creation. A surprising amount of this chapter is usable in any game set in the late 40s, giving things to think about when building a character of that period. A new Legacy, the Quiescent, is also introduced along with new attainments for that path.

Nice Guys Finish Last, is tied quite deeply into the Mage setting talking how about how the various magical groups have been disrupted by the postwar world and how they are trying to adapt. While tied heavily to the setting, there are many bits and hooks that could be used for other modern fantasy stories.

Stories in the Naked City, the storyteller’s part of the book, focusing on how to bring in the themes of noir into a game. Plot and setting ideas are spread out through this section waiting to be taken up.

The Weaver-West Papers, a five-part Storyteller Adventure System piece with five pre-generated characters. This serves as an introduction to the themes of noir in practice as well as providing example characters for the period. The adventure is structured with the idea that each of the five characters gets to be in the spotlight in one of the scenes.

Concluding is an appendix containing the Lamppost Cabal. Five mages complete with full character sheets, operating out of their own nightclub. They also get their own antagonist. Lastly, a blank Mage Noir character sheet is provided.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Noir
Publisher: White Wolf
by Scott R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/26/2011 03:56:47
This is the second time White Wolf has attempted a roleplaying supplement centered around a time period within living memory for the New World of Darkness. Like with New Wave Requiem I was excited to check it out even though I didn't actively play the game it was based on. I own the Mage: the Awakening book but haven't read it all the way through, which may show in my review.

Mage Noir isn't just about setting your Mage game within the genre of the noir post-war film genre, it is very concerned with capturing the theme and mood of the time period. Before I read this book I had no idea noir film and that era of crime fiction in general was so thoroughly shaped by America's experiences with World War II, but Noir mentions the war so often you would think it was White Wolf's guide to that war. There is a lot of psychosocial dwellings on the scars left from war, it very much reminded me of watching Shutter Island a few weeks back. The other surprising aspect of Mage Noir was how little it was concerned with educating the gamer about noir movies. Usually there is a pretty good "recommended viewing/reading" in a White Wolf book but that was very brief here. Strange since the cinematic experience wrapped the book so tightly. But if you want to run a serious, dramatic Mage Noir game I guess the writer's figured you would do that research on your own, and check out criticism of the film genre to find out that The Third Man and The Naked City are really worth checking out. It was just surprising, considering the title.

What is there is a lot of great information for the storyteller and player. As with New Wave Requiem I liked the discussion of how technology and culture differ from the present day. Identity is much more mutable, for instance in the postwar period. A forged driver's license is your talisman allowing the move across the country and fulcrum to remake your identity, provided your fingerprints are not tracked to some past crime. Authors did a great job giving storytellers and players an understanding into the major social and political movements of the time and American's overall psychological philosophical relationship with the war's legacy.

Speaking of that word, the new Legacy in the book is worth the price of admission. Mage Noir succeeded as a book because it made me want to play Mage for the first time, and I don't think I would ever want to shoot for any other Legacy than The Quiescent. Nicknamed The Liars, the founders of this Legacy saw a truth about Magic that The Technocracy grasped in Mage: the Ascension did back in the Thirteenth Century, that technology had surpassed magic; antibiotics could save lives just as effectively without the risk of failure and Paradox and the atomic bomb could destroy with more vulgarity than the strongest Forces spell. They reacted in a much different manner, however. The Quiescent disdain any forms of vulgar magic, their spells are subtle and arcane but rarely can be proved to be an actual supernatural practice. They rely on their wits and mundane abilities more. One of the pre-generated characters is given a great quote that sums up the whole attitude quite well. "Who? Oh, right. He's dead. I shot him in the face while he was waving his arms around and looking like a complete idiot." These hard-boiled guys and femme fatale females have no use for cloaks, daggers and pentacles.

Lastly, I like the sample characters and how the illustrate the intent of the book and reflect the time period and genre of noir. Everything from a former USO entertainer turned nightclub singer to a Nietzsche spouting Thyrsus urban mystic, they all had a 1940s silver screen sparkle on them. Another big plus is the Bauhaus-inspired fonts that so well incorporate the 40's design of the book are the most readable for any Awakening book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Noir
Publisher: White Wolf
by Nathan H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/24/2011 00:20:15
A fantastic exploration of both the modern history of the Awakened (via the book's coverage of the 1940s) and of setting elements and themes that really drive home the noir elements for a mage game. Like "New Wave Requiem" (covering Vampire for the 1980s), the book is primarily a setting and thematic supplement, rather than a mechanics one, but the new Legacy within (a perfect choice for characters looking to embrace the era's themes of change and seeming helplessness, while very intentionally avoiding overwhelming those themes with the "power" of the Awakened) is a wonderful goody none the less. Also find within discussion of Mage philosophies governing the period, including which legacies are in ascendance for the various Pentacle Orders, as well as the anticipated reveal of the background on the Seer Pantechnicon Ministry!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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