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Lines of Power (Mage: The Awakening)
Publisher: White Wolf
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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New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2016 13:03:22

If you've ever had dealings with real-world ministers of religion - be it a father or a vicar, an imam or a rabbi - you know they have very little in common with the average fantasy 'cleric' apart from devotion to their deity. This priest is a bit different from the clerics you're used to playing, and wouldn't dream of picking up a weapon to further his deity's ends (spells, however, are a different matter!).


OK, so what do you get? Like any class, there's some descriptive text explaining what it's all about, the fundamental features of the class... and a rather good and dramatic drawing that suggests a spell is being cast. Then there is the usual game mechanical stuff: hit points, alignment, class skills and progression chart, then the class features are listed.


Spellcasting is a bit interesting. The priest has to prepare his spells in advance, but once he has cast a given spell it's not 'gone' - he can cast it again provided he's not cast his full allowance of spells at that level. The number of spells that can be prepared is a bit limited (and a high Wisdom doesn't help here although feats do), however the choice is wide - pretty much any cleric spell is available. The number of spells the priest can actually cast does attract a wisdom bonus. Priests also get a bonus 'cure' (if good) or 'inflict' (if evil) spell on top of the others they may learn. Neutral priests can choose which type (cure or inflict), but once made that choice is permanent. To prepare spells, the priest needs to meditate or pray for an hour, which should be at the same time every day.


Another neat feature is the Divine Gift. The priest can pray, asking his deity for a specific blessing on himself or the rest of the party - there's a list of benefits from which the priest can choose at the time of uttering the prayer. These include things like spell enhancements, the priest going invisible or being able to fly, and even calling down a divine intervention, allowing any one player to re-roll a single d20 roll with the addition of half the priest's level to the result - and still being able to choose which roll, the new one or the original one, to use!


The book rounds off with a couple of new feats and a nature-based archetype, the Chosen of Nature. They use the druid spell lists rather than the cleric ones. There's an interesting sketch of a rather punk-looking Chosen of Nature having a chat with a young fallow deer, too... although the best piece of art in the book is a white-robed fellow who really gives over the impression of having his God on his side. (Unfortunately it's not signed so I don't know which of the three artists credited is responsible.)


This makes for an interesting class, appealing to the player who enjoys getting into the role and playing a character using his powers in the service of his deity.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 9: the Priest (Pathfinder RPG)
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Mage Chronicler's Guide
Publisher: White Wolf
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
Publisher: White Wolf
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
Publisher: White Wolf
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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Black magic
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/10/2016 13:08:36

Linking neatly in to the previous two adventures that 0one Games has produced for Dungeons & Dragons 5e, this one is also set in the former County of Boskerry, once a pleasant place but now fallen into wild and dangerous shape due to the last Count having been afflicted by vampirism. Naturally, it's fairly simple to run the adventure in a suitable swamp in a frontier area of your own game world if you prefer.


Almost as long as there's been a swamp, there have been rumours of a 'swamp witch' living there - some say she might provide useful information to those who do her bidding, but most of the rumours cast her in darker light, abducting children and other such mischief. The introduction and adventure summary lay out what is really going on (and who this swamp witch is) for the DM.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved, and once they are there's a nice swamp to travel through to get to where the swamp witch is said to live. It's pretty foggy, and witches are not the only critters living there. When they reach the hut, there's a clear map and copious notes about what is to be found there. The map does show secret doors and other things not immediately obvious, so you'll have to come up with something of your own if your players like maps to look at.


Whilst on the face of it, this is a fairly straightforward 'deal with the wicked witch' adventure, it has sufficient twists and turns to keep even jaded adventurers interested - and challenged. There's also a useful little note on how to handle lower-level characters who decide to go to the 'wrong' place and end up here before they are ready to cope with the witch as detailed here, a nice touch especially if you like to treat your game world as an entire place your party may roam over as they please.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Black magic
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Seers of the Throne
Publisher: White Wolf
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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Doctor Who - Paternoster Investigations
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2016 08:38:52

Although Doctor Who visited Victorian England many a time, it was after the 2005 're-boot' that recurrent visits to the same place (London) and time commenced, with the development of a group of characters who remained constant visit to visit: the Paternoster Gang. This book empowers adventures that utilise this background and characters.


So who are the Paternoster Gang anyway? Basically they are a rather unlikely not to say unusual bunch who have come together in late-Victorian London to undertake Doctor-like roles in defending their patch from alien encroachment. They are led by Madame Vastra, a Silurian warrior no less, who was roused by the excavation of early parts of the London Underground and manages to conceal what she is under Victorian formal dress. She is assisted by her maid, Jenny Flint, who is rather more than a maid although presents as such to conform to the morals of the time... they've fallen for one another, you see, something the Victorians could not understand or condone, did they but know. So they live as lovers behind closed doors, presenting a different face to the world at large. She also has a Sontaran butler, Strax. All three are bound together by a complex back story in which the Doctor is heavily involved.


It starts off with An Age of Marvels. This covers the late-Victorian era and the Doctor's previous adventures there. Sweeping social and technological change, mostly steam-powered, mark it as a distinctive and pivotal time in Earth's history. The British Empire sprawls across the globe and fog swirls through the streets of London engulfing rich and poor alike - and the divide is wide indeed, with a clearly-defined class structure. There's a broad sweep of history, what 'Victorian' actually means and what went on throughout her reign, to enable you to capture the feel of the times in your game without getting bogged down in historical detail. There are notes on real historical figures, from the Royal Family to artists, scientists, explorers, writers and inventors. Then the narrative steps back to view everything through the lens of the Doctor and aliens being real, and being there. Timelines mix real-world and the Doctor and more to create an alternate history, and there are synopses of all relevant Doctor Who adventures (although if you want more detail you are best off consulting the appropriate Doctor Who Sourcebook from the series published by Cubicle 7 Entertainment.


Next is The Paternoster Guide to London. It's a lot more than a sourcebook to London of the time, although it is that; there's more specific material from the game point of view such as places used by the Paternoster Gang and useful contacts... not to mention some choice villains. And it opens with a delightful picture of Strax in his butler clothes pouring a cup of tea in perfect style. There's lots of detail about places to go - some real and some not - and just reading through sparks ideas for adventure even before you get to the next chapter.


Then comes Victorian Adventurers. What about Companions who come from this time and place? Or natives of it who intend to remain there and deal with any alien menaces that come their way? Here you find out how to create them, and see how the likes of the Paternoster Gang shape up in game terms... or perhaps you'd like to create your own group in similar style with whom to run your own adventures. Or they might be friends and allies of the Paternoster Gang. The options are legion, and there's plenty of material to support whatever you and your group decide to do. Yes, you too can be an alien... and there are some delightfully steam-punk Victorian gadgets to play with as well.


The Paternoster Campaign provides a wealth of advice about devising adventures and, yes, whole campaigns in this particular setting. It has a particular emphasis on the investigative style of adventure, the sort of thing Madame Vastra herself gets up to, especially when the Doctor isn't there to interfere. Again, just dipping in to this chapter starts ideas spawning and wheels turning, whether you want to bring an existing group here, create Victorian adventures as in the previous chapter and run adventures for them, or even have them step forth into the rest of the space-time continuum... the options are many.


Finally, there's a complete adventure, A Study in Flax. It's a bit of a murder-mystery, the clues leading to time-travelling mischief and people doing bad things for good reasons. There's lots going on, and several familiar characters are involved, some of them of course being alien.


This book succeeds admirably in bringing late-Victorian London as viewed from the Doctor's side alive. It will enhance any visit your group might make, or maybe inspire an entire campaign set there... but whether you merely visit occasionally or set up shop there, now you know what it's really like!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - Paternoster Investigations
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Heavenring Village: Virtual Boxed Set©
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2016 12:12:35

Heavenring Village is a completely-mapped entire village, right down to every room in every house. Each area of the village is available separately, but if you fancy a complete village in that level of detail, this is the product that you want to purchase. Your download will contain eight separate files that comprise eleven buildings in total, along with a massive overview map and an extensive file that gives you space to write detailed notes about each individual room in the entire village.


The Referee Map file contains a vast 'poster map' version and the same spread over four pages that can be printed separately and stuck together if you don't have commercial printing facilties to hand. The usual technical wizardry (the Rule the Dungeon button) enables you to set various parameters before you print - the usual furniture and doors, and type of grid (hex, square or none) and an additional one... you can choose to see the roof rather than the floorplan of each building - nice for the party rogue!


The other file unique to this product is Templates. This presents all 101 rooms contained in the village, one per page. Each room is depicted in detail with plenty of space for you to write out your own notes - room description, who is in there and what they are doing, what's to be found if you search and so on. It's an excellent planning tool, the only drawback is that you have to print it out and scribble your notes, it's not set up so that you can type them in (although if you're good with the 'comment'tools in Adobe Acrobat you might be able to manage!).


Overall, if you have need of a very detailed small village, get this!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Virtual Boxed Set©
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Secrets of the Ruined Temple
Publisher: White Wolf
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
Publisher: White Wolf
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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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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