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Weighing the Cost
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2019 10:09:02

A solid skeleton of a story for Mage, and based on one of the short stories (by the same author) in the Truth Beyond Paradox collection. Honestly, I'm giving it full points for just being one of the few depictions of a Marauder in all of Mage that actually takes Marauders seriously instead of making them stupid joke characters or an organized force for chaos, but actually a metaphor for mental illness that functions at all. The only serious criticism I have is that Marauders still need the spheres to do the things they do, and this one is described as doing a ritual using Life 5 while having no dots of Life. I assume this is a typo, and will be easily fixed if the author chooses to update.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weighing the Cost
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Creator Reply:
Charles, Thanks so much for the lovely review. Means a lot to me! And good catch on the typo, Jeremy should DEFINITELY have Life 5. I will update the file accordingly! Thank you for pointing that out! Travis
Heirs to the Mountains of Madness
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2019 03:25:11

This one page (of course, not counting character descriptions, just one page of plot) jumpstart brings some Cthulhu mythos flavor directly into mage. Not too much can be said without spoiling it, but in a town in New England, a group of Tradition and Technocracy mages put aside their differences in order to try to change teh world for the better...but they risk making it worse if anything goes wrong.

There's a small layout issue, and "Iteration X" is often written "iteration-X" but other than these minor issues, it's an excellent source of ideas for a Mage story. The NPCs are largely well-drawn (and contain some easter eggs for Mythos readers).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heirs to the Mountains of  Madness
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SotM's Major Arcana optional system
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2019 02:21:12

This product proposes a lightweight system to modify magick using tarot cards. It is based on the idea that Reality and the Ascension War can ebb and flow, and at times it could make some magicks easier and others harder to succeed with. Honestly, the main criticism I have of it is that it focuses on spheres, whereas if I were to make it, I would focus on Focus, likely picking practices that each card enables or harms, but that's a design choice, not a substantial criticism of the system as described.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
SotM's Major Arcana optional system
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Watch the World Burn
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2019 02:16:33

Honestly, I was expecting to hate this product, and was only reading it because I decided I'd go through and read/review every Mage product for STV. I am not a big fan of Mage 1st Edition, though this is hardly the place to get into the details of that, so this being a 1st Edition book rather than a 20th Anniversary Edition one had me expecting the worst.

Reading it, though, I was surprised. It dodges most of the issues I have with the really old versions of Mage and instead presents an interesting scenario of a cabal of relatively newly Awakened mages who have fallen under the sway of a mysterious spirit directing them to destoy things that it has deemed should not exist, such as Technocratic research. They're just the tip of a larger iceberg, however, and the whole thing is coordinated using the mysterious Number Stations (which I admit, I've intended to use in a story for years).

Overall, a solid offering, there are a couple of places where things don't quite make sense, but nothing that a clever ST can't work around.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Watch the World Burn
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World of Darkness Urban and Outdoors Photo Pack
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2019 02:11:06

There isn't much to say really: it's a pack of a large number of high resolution photographs to be used in storyteller's vault projects. There's enough here that with a bit of effort looking through and filtering the image, almost anyone will be able to find osmething useful in some project. This is great, because the STV is beginning to run into the limits of the included art packs, and until the art in further books is unlocked for it (please White Wolf, please!) this will increase the diversity of image that every creator has access to.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness Urban and Outdoors Photo Pack
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Small town eschatology
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/29/2019 01:03:33

As is generally the case with this author, there is no internal art and the work doesn't use a template and so is just black text on a white background in a single column. There are spelling errors throughout this location sourcebook, for a town called "St. Olof" which could be in Europe or North America, but certainly somewhere northern. The town is deeply evil and populated with monsters, to the point of being difficult to square with the rest of the World of Darkness (a supermarket that is built using "non-euclidean geometry and infernal feng shui" that makes it indestructible and its owner immortal for example). It contains a random encounter table that would benefit from being expanded (stat blocks for threats, etc) and generally seems like an earnest take on the old joke that everyone in the World of Darkness is a supernatural of some sort.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Small town eschatology
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Island of the Dead God
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/28/2019 21:27:04

The layout is a bit clunky, but that is certainly due to this being the first (and only!) Dark Ages: Mage supplement on the Vault. It doesn't detract in any significant way (well, bookmarks would be nice), though the whole thing could be a bit more visually clean if it were re-laid out now that there are more of us with experience of how to do it.

The product is a deep dive into the magical geography and population of the island of Rugen in modern Germany, as well as a story of a being of immense power the lies below it, periodically contained and always hungering for more power.

Overall, it's a solid piece, good Dark Age feel with a well-chosen time frame. Could use a few tweaks here and there, but overall, a strong start to the Dark Ages: Mage STV products. Hopefully we'll see more both in general and from this author.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Island of the Dead God
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Progenitors Crash Cart, Issue 2
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/28/2019 20:02:33

The first thing to say: this seems to have little to do with Crash Cart I, except that both focus on the Progenitors. It seems to implicitly be tied, but I don't believe that Crash Card is mentioned once in it, which is a bit odd.

The product is broken into four parts: an antagonist (who seems to use 1st edition Technocracy tricks, but a barrabus can be weird), a brief overview of who is around in Tampa that could be tied to the antagonist, a couple of enhancements/biomods, and then rotes (adjustments and procedures).

The third and fourth sections are fairly strong, though throughout the book is fairly paradigm-light, so the Barrabus is indicated to do things that don't really fit into a Technocratic paradigm. But it's a very brief overview, so most such things are forgiven. The weakest thing was tying it specifically to Tampa when nothing about it really seemed to require that city, just an arrangement of players that was similar to what is described in part 2.

The most jarring thing is just how monstrously powerful the NPC is. This is a common problem with NPCs in White Wolf/Onyx Path mage books, but it's still jarring to see what should be a gritty, street level sort of antagonist with Enlightenment 8, all spheres at 3+ except for Time, and other absolutely massive statistics.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Progenitors Crash Cart, Issue 2
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Progenitors Crash Cart, Issue 1
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2019 20:12:38

A good start as a product. It could use another editing pass (there's a few awkward wordings and grammatical issues, though clearly at least a spellcheck was used). This organization is a solid addition to the Technocracy and advances threads that appeared in the Revised Convention books. It's priced well and has left me looking forward to reading the followup.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Progenitors Crash Cart, Issue 1
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Chaos Factor
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/22/2019 02:55:53

This was a bad book. It might well be the worst Mage book. I've heard rumors that it was written over the course of three days, and it shows. It shows badly. In addition to a few structural reasons it was terrible, such as the soft racism displayed towards Mexico City, I'm just going to focus on individual, localized failings.

For one, the book needed some basic fact-checking and editing. It couldn't even be consistent within paragraphs. For example, if Mexico City lies in a valley of 600 square miles and has 20,000,000 people, then it's population density is 33,333 people per square mile. The book says 250, in the same paragraph as the other numbers. Note: none of the numbers are actually correct for Mexico City, either now or in 1993. Also, on page 7, it states a rough number of werewolves in the city and then says "no one knows for certain just how many werewolves live in the city." The book simply cannot even manage internal consistency.

The roles of the Aztec gods are quite confusing and frankly pointless, particularly Quetzalcoatl. The story would have been substantially stronger without being tied to Aztec mythology as tightly.

The NPCs are WAAAY too strong. There is no way that the PCs are active players int he plot when the book thinks that a normal Mage with a few years of experience has Arete 5-6, and a "powerful" one has Arete 8, numbers which players are likely to never come close to seeing. But then, there are also Generation 4 Vampires and Black Spiral Dancers of Rank 6.

Marauders are added in just because, they are not really thematically appropriate and the ones that are included are pretty much joke characters with names like "Raspberry Popart Salad" (maybe it should be "Poptart"? it's not clear that that isn't a typo) who is "Charles Manson on a bad hair day, but replace the swastika with a smiley face." Another one of the Marauders has Arete 9.

The backgrounds are perfunctory and unhelpful for NPCs. All of them are first person descriptions, not really BACKGROUNDS. The worst is for "Wanderer" who just has "My name is Mary Taylor. My father's name was Robert. May Gaia forgive me, I am a Skin-Dancer." That's it. THAT DEMANDS SOME EXPLANATION, especially given that she's hanging out with Gaian Werewolves (in the text of the story, easy to miss, is that she cleansed her Wyrm-taint from the rite that made her a Skin-Dancer in the appropriate Umbral Realm). In fact, Wanderer's very existence as a Gaian Skin-Dancer brings up the question of why the Garou don't use Black Spiral Dancer pelts to make kinfolk into werewolves, and then send them to the cleansing realm to get rid of the taint. This is more of a problem it introduces into Werewolf than anything else, though

Vampires mostly feel...tacked on, honestly. Thematically, Sam Haight is a functional Mage and Werewolf antagonist, he just doesn't fit the themes of Vampires (or at least, Haight as presented here doesn't).

The story itself is mediocre at best, but has a random sidequest that happens in Petra, Jordan for no reason. It has no bearing on the plot and should have been cut as pointless. The Jordan sidequest does bring up a few other issues, though. For one, there's the Mage part of it, which refers to "the Israeli faith", quite possibly the most awkward euphemism for Judaism, which is not mentioned explicitly at all. Though I suppose some credit for being one of the few places in the World of Darkness to mention Jewish mages and actually have Kabbalah belong to Jews. A second issue is that Petra, Jordan is treated like a place that is top secret and only known to exist to some. It, in fact, has a Wikipedia page, on which there are photographs of tourists. Going on Google Maps, I found hotels there. This is a bizarre inclusion.

The ending seems unsatisfying, which it must be with such powerful NPCs around. The amount of player input into how things go is limited.

The most frustrating thing is that I can see all sorts of potential in this story and other Sam Haight things, but it has been badly squandered, yielding the most hated NPC in the entire World of Darkness. Not by characters, but by players and STs. And it didn't have to be this way.

Overall, The Chaos Factor was a disappointing end to a story full of squandered potential, and in a sense, a fitting end to all of this nonsense.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Chaos Factor
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Tradition Book: Verbena (1st)
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/16/2019 04:04:22

Oddly for White Wolf books, although there are typos and layout issues, they're strictly confined to a couple of sections, suggesting that the book had last minute changes post-editing. The book is largely ok, though it has the big flaw that it consistently refers to the Burning Times, an event that did not happen. The Inquisition targeted secret Jews and Muslims in Christian lands, as well as Christian heretics, not pagans.

One of the things that worked well for it was that there was a group of apprentices rather than a single one (though there were issues there, focused around the Burning Times discussions) and the Mythic Threads were a good inclusion, though they are mostly subsumed into Reality Zones and Focus in modern Mage.

Overall, a decent book, but nothing truly essential for Mage.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tradition Book: Verbena (1st)
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Loom of Fate
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/12/2019 15:47:08

While it is common to find good stories told poorly, this is the opposite, a mediocre story that is told well (in many respects). It structured in a very mutable way that in some sense proves that you CAN write a canned story for Mage. On the other hand, the story itself is lackluster at best, with Marauders treated as a generic group and in this case with a motorcycle gang of identical marauders who have no trouble working together and seem to be more motivated by pursuing the Wyld than by their mental illness, whatever it may be, a strange plot involving turning an Orphan into a Pattern Spider, and a random piece at the end indicating that it crosses over with Werewolf.

Overall, it's not the worst Mage book, and there's something charming about the sheer unsubtlety of names like "Norna Weaver" for someone with a big Destiny who will become a Spider. However, it also faces a lot of traditional early Mage book problems: the Technocracy doesn't make particular sense (why is the Syndicate described as Spirit specialists when the Void Engineers are there? Why would they all show up to a meeting in a relatively normal building in weird clothing? Why does the world of darkness always sacrifice logic for aesthetic?) for example.

So, it's a so-so story, not one I would be interested in ever running, but it gives hints about structure for the writing of stories in the future, though unfortunately it was the last stand-alone story for Mage (and arguably the only one, as Chaos Factor was cross-line).



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Loom of Fate
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Paradox: The Brainstorming
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/10/2019 02:06:38

The absolute nicest thing to say is that this is quite a list of possible effects. Beyond that, though, it badly needs editing and is very, very clearly translated from a non-English language (references to Quiet as "Silence" for example). It openly acknowledges that many of the effects are "funny" and "may not be appropriate for your game."

As for the flaws...they're all over the place. "Permanent hiccup" and "Paraplegic" and "Lethal Temperature" are all treated as the same (maximum!) severity, and the grammar rapidly becomes a barrier ("sneeze permanent" could perhaps mean "constantly sneezing forever" but it's unclear). The scaling is also strange, like "intense beep in the ears" grows to "head explodes" and "his eyes have different colours" goes to "strange hair colour" to "strange skin colour" (which all make sense as a scaling of a single problem) then suddenly "he vomit rainbows' [sic] and "he becomes a unicorn with strange colours" which...come right out of nowhere.

Some of the flaws aren't even flaws "Mage is teleported to a node" is often going to be a non-problem, and "a nail is broken" is so minor as to be baffling as to why it's here and comparable to being teleported to a Node! Similar levels of "problems" are "a phone rings" and "you have an orgasm for a turn." The scaling and selection are just baffling in many cases.

The book's decreased price is still WAY too high for it (for comparison, most vault products cost about $0.10/page, this is currently $4.44 for 20 pages, meaning at most a $2 price tag is appropriate) and the quality is uneven, but never quite reaches high. I can't recommend that people buy it until it's had a thorough editing, by a native English speaker, had the price cut roughly in half, had the layout cleaned up a bit, and have the general quality of the results evened out and improved so that a "tiny" backlash in a consistent level of problem and a "drastic" one doesn't vary between "permanent hiccups" and a dozen sorts of instant death.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Paradox: The Brainstorming
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Paper Priests
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/10/2019 01:41:55

A sort of amalgamation of some qualities of the New World Order and the Wu Lung, this supplement describes a Craft that works through beaurocracy. Though a bit disorganized and plagued with typos and essentially no layout, this is a Craft that can function and be used to throw the New World Order and Wu Lung into contrast: too mystic for the former and too technomagical for the latter. With an strong editing pass (to iron out some inconsistencies as well as clean up the text itself) and a layout that isn't just black text on white background, this could be a very good addition to Mage.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Paper Priests
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Red Thorn Dedicants
Publisher: White Wolf
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/10/2019 01:07:29

Typos plague this book, with both capitalization errors ("christian" right at the beginning) and spelling errors (or perhaps it's word choice, when "went" becomes "vent" on page 5) and a bare-bones layout of black text on white, the only color in the book is on the cover. The group as depicted is a bizarre collection of contradictions: they claim to be beyond good and evil, but yet still oppose the Nephandi as "minions of the devil," for example. Somehow they are both Lillithian and Christian, and their philosophy is...not the most coherent. Those who are not "saved" are bound to the laws of the bible (how does this help?) whereas those who are saved are not and are saved through reaching a state of lack of knowledge of good and evil, as before the Fall. There are some interesting ideas in here, but they're presented with many contradictions and in a confusing way. Given that one of the only things we know about them from M20 is that the Red Thorn Dedicants are Lillithian mages whose practices make Cultists and Verbena pale, this focuses on them as a vaguely antinomial Christian sect and other than masochism/self-flagellation, doesn't depict anything particularly out of the ordinary for mages of the mentioned Traditions, not that masochism and self-flagellation are particualrly rare among the Traditions in general, much less the Cult and the Verbena.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Red Thorn Dedicants
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