||(Edit: I accidentally posted only a portion of the original review. My apologies, the full review is now posted.)
Magic, and the characters that wield its mysterious power, have long been a staple of comic books. Characters such as Dr. Strange are nearly as iconic as Superman or the X-Men. Basically, Adepts of the Arcane is a collection of magically-themed NPCs for the Mutants and Masterminds game. More than that, however, it's a toolkit for adding these new NPCs to your campaign through adventure hooks, character origins, and story ideas.
There are twelve NPCs in this book, each presented in lavish detail. Besides the origin, background, and statistics for each villian or anti-hero, the designers have included a variety of special sidebars. These sidebars are designed to help you better incorporate the characters into your home campaign, give you ideas to inspire the origins of new player characters, and help use these NPCs in your own adventures. I really like the sidebars. They add a great deal of depth and usefulness to the characters specifically, and the book as a whole.
The characters in Adepts of the Arcane are meant to be villains, and they are often very dark. The very first NPC, Armageddon Girl, is an insane former heroine who believes herself to be the embodiment of justice. The fact that her acts of supposed justice are perverted into senseless murder escapes her. I found the act that triggered her slow decline, the murder of her brother and cousin at the hands of a gun wielding villain fed up slow and escapable death traps, perversely clever. Like most of the other characters in this book, Armageddon Girl has a clever and believable (for a comic book) reason for being one of the bad guys.
Not everyone is as grim and dark as Armageddon Girl. Troll, for example, is basically an archtypical thug-for-hire, except he's a troll. The Magister is an obsessed wizard whose background just drips with inspirational bits. Among other things, Magister has "bestowed the Promethean blade to the original White Knight," "halted a curse-war between the lich Koschei the Deathless and...Baba Yaga", and has "continually defended the world's sea-coasts from a cult of sea-dwelling hybrids determined to summon degenerate gods to devastate the cities of man." There are three adventure hooks right there, and that's in an NPC origin. The above mentioned Promethean Blade is even detailed in a sidebar, allowing an interested player to tie his character's origin directly to the story of Magister.
As a bit of a bonus, an appendix contains a hero called the Patriarch. I really like this character. He's something of a paragon or original, except his powers are mystical in nature. Patriarch is obviously inspired by Hebrew myth and legend. He is a kabbalist who discovered a secret name of god, battled a deity of the philistines, and had his powers and memory stolen by evil cultists. There's really great stuff here, and I'll likely make this character a part of my home campaign.
LIKED: Adepts of the Arcane is a nice collection of magically-themed NPCs, and its also a perfect example of what an NPC collection should be. The backgrounds are highly detailed, the characters are interesting and inventive, and the sidebars add a fantastic level of utility. I also have to mention the art, which is very important in a supers game like Mutants & Masterminds. The art in this book is top notch.
DISLIKED: There's really no reason with a PDF product not to include some kind of printer-friendly version in the download. In this case, even a separate file containing a ink-friendly version of the NPC stats would have been nice for those GMs wanting to nab the stats and save on a little ink.
That's my only real criticism, and it isn't enough to hurt my final rating in any way. This is a fantastic product, and it deserves all five stars.
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]
[5 of 5 Stars!]