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The Fallen World Chronicle Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2015 04:50:33

All the stories are well written and give some valuable insight into how different mages approach magic. The game emphasizes the use of symbolism, and the stories manage to emulate that aspect well. Some of these stories maybe incomprehensible if you are not familiar with the jargon and setting of the game. While one of them ("The Wheel") has no clear connection to Mage at all. But the shining diamond in this anthology is "The Storyteller" by rick Chilliot. I read this story in "Intruders: Encounters With the Abyss" and it hit me right in the gut. The years did not dull that edge. This story is creepy and disturbing in just the right ways. It presents a terrifying antagonist that cannot be beaten by conventional means. And demonstrates how knowledge and symbols are a Mage's greatest weapons.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Fallen World Chronicle Anthology
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Mage Noir
Publisher: White Wolf
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/17/2015 06:02:12

Short, focused and inspiring.

Mage Noir manages to deliver with a relatively small word count, tons of atmosphere and information about 1940's america and how the Awakened fit into it, all with an eye for the noir style. The book is jammed with storyhooks and ideas about a variety of possible mage stories set in the period. And while it focuses greatly on the large American cities of the time, there's enough material to visit the small towns of the south or the battlefields of europe. When talking about the war against fascism, Noir tends to depict the Awakened as divided along similar lines by their opposition to the Seers of the Throne. But there are enough throw-away clues to hint that this wasn't a clear-cut dichotomy. The horrors of that war a constant theme in the book, as is the cynicism those horrors carved into the men and women who lived through them. The book uses a new legacy of mages practicing covert magic almost exclusively, as the focusing lense of the book. This legacy embodies the spirit of the age, and the short adventure in the book is tailored to a cabal belonging to that legacy.

The only downside I see to this book is the art. It is serviceable. But nothing there really captures the eye or the imagination.

An enjoyable and informative read. Full of advice and ideas.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Noir
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Hunter: Mortal Remains
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2015 05:00:01

Mortal Remains is useful, but far from brilliant.

The Appendix, updating Hunter the Vigil to conform with The God-Machine Chronicle rule update, is really the prime reason to buy this book. There's a chapter providing a variety of Dread Powers, which can also come in handy when depicting one of the monster types in the book, or when creating a new one. But the bulk of the book is a review of Promethen, Changeling, Geist, Mummy and Demon through the Hunter lens. And it is here where the book feels weak.

The Promethean feels the most fleshed out. The chapter spends sometime about the challenges of identifying a Promethean and curiously focuses on Demiurges as the catalyst of confrontation between Hunters and Prometheans. The rest of the material is informative but uninspired. Changeling similarly feels very "by the numbers" with various compacts and conspiracies adopting "fey" terminology. I found this disappointing, since even the Changeling core book played out the similarities to modern "Alien Abduction" stories. And Hunters trying to identify Changelings along those lines could have been far more intriguing. the idea of Fetches almost invites dis-information about these creatures and their motives. Rather, the chapter presents little to no confusion and misidentification about what changelings are, with some Hunter organizations even recognizing the True Fae as the greater threat. I feel a bit ill-equipped to comment about the Geist chapter, since this is the one core book I haven't read. The chapter seem to struggle to present Sin-Eaters as something inhuman. Mummy was a relatively strong chapter. It focused mainly on Hunter interaction with cults in service of the mummies. The chapter focused on the theme of "the unknown" to great effect, depicting Mummies as a threat Hunters only encounter after tearing down a vast conspiracy, if all. The Aegis Kai Doru's response to Mummies is justifiably much more detailed then any of the other organisations. The Demon Chapter suffers from obvious lack of space. It tries to tackle both the Vice driven demons depicted in Inferno and the Bio-mechanical quantum state Demons and Angels of Demon the Descent. Again, like changeling, Hunters seem to recognize Demons as Demons despite the fact that they differ significantly from popular myths. The book fails to address how difficult it is to identify and corner the Unchained and only pays lip-service to the idea that these entities can easily infiltrate or found any of the Hunter Conspiracies or Compacts. The two Demon specific conspiracies provide some interesting ideas.

In my opinion the problem is not the limited word count but the lack of focus. More could have been done with the same space. If each chapter would have chosen a singular theme to focus on (like the Mummy chapter) and chosen three to five Conspiracies to flesh out each chapter (rather then all of them every chapter), the book would have benefited from it. Beyond these technical issues, the writing is just not as inspiering as I would have liked. And the ideas presented are quite banal.

By no means a bad resource. But one that is much more useful then inspiring.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hunter: Mortal Remains
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Demon: Interface
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/19/2014 06:48:37

Interface has some wonderful pieces, but you'll have to endure a few mediocre ones before you reach them. Each comes with a few pieces of Crunch connected in one way or another to the story. Interface's main flaw is that without intimate knowledge of the Demon the Descent game, most of the stories are incomprehensible. Identities swap, overlap and over-wright one another in a way that can be confusing even if you know how Demons can take and drop cover, but may be completely surrealistic to people who are not in the know.

A short synopsis of the stories and my opinion on each:

The Principal - A demon in cover as a suburban wife faces an angelic threat. I didn't really like this one. It has some good scenes of paranoia superimposed on pastoral suburbia. And an interesting example of cover erosion. But the twist is one of those you can never see coming, and it's not really worth the obfuscation.

Long Road to Caanan - Integration and temptation set against the gay-beats scene of 60's Greenwich Village. An interesting examination of the intersection between social integration and integration with the God-Machine. How a cover can change the way a demon sees his relationship with the world. But sadly without the Crunch section explaining the underlying themes, the story is pretty opaque.

Time to Go - A saboteur operating against the God-Machine under a military cover in 2006's Kuwait. Despite the setting, this one is pretty straight-forward. Demon on a mission vs agents of the God-machine. There's really very little to the story beyond that. It works.

Fifth - A flight, a heist and a monumental secret. I didn't like this one. It has some excellent scenes of cover interaction with humans and Demons interacting under cover. But the whole plot hinges on a revelation that is explained satisfactorily only in the Crunch. And while it is an interesting idea to bring to a chronicle, the story itself doesn't anything interesting with it.

Unicorn Crossing - A computer game programmer caught in the machinations of the God-Machine. The imagery in this story is creepy in a good way. But the plot didn't really grab me. It seems ludicrous to imagine that what goes on in the story stays under the radar. Plus, the whole "computer game that sucks your soul" shtick is such a horrible cliche. Thankfully, that aspect of the story is more part of the Crunch then the story itself.

Thnetosis - Human friendship, Demons under cover and unusual sacrifices. I really liked this one. Its simple and it works. There's some unusual example of humans reacting to Demonic revelation and a new twist of patchwork covers.

Dear Marjorie - A 18th(?) century watchmaker caught in the machination of the God-Machine and the Demons fighting against it. in the 21st century. This, for me is the best story in the collection. Told in unsent letters and pieces of third person accounts. It manages to capture the mix of awe, fascination, terror and helplessness that a normal human experiences when caught between angels and demons. The facility chain it depicts is exactly the kind of weird locomotion of assets the God-Machine might build. And beyond all the well built plot, it managed to stir me emotionally. The use of Seattle's splintered time-lines still hasn't out staid it's welcome.

Retirement - A former saboteur forced to break a promise to locate a former colleague. Another good story. It manages to convey quite well the connections a Demon might form with his cover, overtime. And the constant game of trust and mistrust between Demons and their enemies. It's not very complicated and works very well.

Overall, I liked Interface. The crunch sections are a good way to bridge the gap between the fiction and the game it tries to emulate. And the fiction itself does a good job of depicting some of the ways Demon characters might live and act. But I clearly enjoyed the last three stories more then the others.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Demon: Interface
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Penny Dreadful
Publisher: White Wolf
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2014 07:44:58

Penny Dreadful is an irreverent and untamed adventure that uses the gloomy and serious game-world to great comedic effect. The book crosses over with several of the World of Darkness lines, but while knowledge of them might clear a few things, I don't think it is necessary. Even knowledge of Mage the Ascension isn't all that critical, since Penny makes a point of explaining her magic to herself and others. As the humor goes, Dreadful is very reliant on references. But these are delivered through the first person account of Penny herself, who uses 90's pop-culture, Victorian goth and medieval occult together to cast her magic as well as make sense of the world around her. And it works. These references are all over the place and Sailor Moon is just as prominent as the Malleus Maleficarum and familiarity with either is not essential, but contributes to the hilarity. Symbolism is the name of the game and Penny's habit of substituting Bastet, the cat goddess of ancient Egypt for Hello Kitty and similar such juxtapositions, fuels much of the book's charm. The book isn't dark, but it is crass. From Penny's veiled threat to curse a vampire to switch from blood to excrement to the theft of a sexual organ as one of the major plot points. Often Penny does a "sweet Victorian lady" routine and leaves the reader (and other characters) to guess her all to clear sexual allusions. But other times, and especially in the last chapter, all reigns are loose and kinky sex just oozes from the page. That last chapter as a whole is an unexpected shift in tone, but nothing that stands really at odds with the rest of the book.

While I blushed more then once at some of the more lurid descriptions, I enjoyed Penny Dreadful very much. It is funny and makes good use of the source material. The 90's saturated atmosphere defiantly played on my nostalgia and I liked the odd mix of pop-culture and historical academic trivia. From a game perspective: Penny shows how magical paradigm can work for individuals on the edge of the Traditions' society. Penny's crafts are cobbled together from pop-spirituality, new-age mysticism and bits of more established magical traditions. The book does a good job of showing how such a paradigm works not only for magic but also for the way Penny assumes the world around her works. It's a good example of Hollow Ones' practices and how a street level Mage game might play.

It's short, fun and heartily recommended, if you don't mind a little hard kink in your comedy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Penny Dreadful
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