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Convention Book: N.W.O. $11.99
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Convention Book: N.W.O.
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Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2012 23:00:06

First and foremost, I treated this book as not only an update on the Convention, but an indication of the type of approach that will be taken in M20 during 2013. If this is the calibre of quality we can reasonably expect, then I’m willing to sign up to Mage: the Ascension books form here sight unseen. The treatment of NWO in this book is nothing short of stunning. In preparation for this, I re-read my first edition Convention books and skimmed the Guide to the Technocracy, mostly to refresh the ideas of a game that was (in my mind) firmly ensconced in the late 1990’s to the turn of the millennium. There is a marked contrast between those classic books and what has been produced for NWO.
There is a depth of development that makes the reader sympathise with this Convention in so many ways, and makes them believable as adversaries and viable as player characters. They are the most inherently human of all of the Technocracy, and this shows in the writing.

The book focusses on giving a history of NWO (‘History 2.0’ as the chapter is called) and does an excellent job of highlighting (through example) some of the key weapons in the arsenal of this Convention. Relationships with other organisations and super-naturals are also explored, as well as an overview of the three main arms of NWO (including the newest, known as ‘The Feed’). In dealing with the leaps of internet technology, cloud computing, crowdsourcing and social media, the authors succinctly explain the concepts, how they fit within the greater goals of the Technocracy and why responses are required. There are a host of small examples throughout and I’d imagine that anyone with only a passing knowledge of such concepts would still understand. This is not an information technology primer, but a highly usable sourcebook which integrates these technologies in a very believable manner.

As a fan of the ‘Technomancers Toybox’, I did find the gear section to be especially rewarding – with everything from ‘The Gun for the Job’ (the existence of this weapon alone tells us a lot about NWO), the ‘Nondescript Van’ and the ‘Enlightened Smartphone’ all became fast favourites. The section on Procedures (Magick) was also great, and the note that younger agents refer to the plethora of Procedures as ‘apps’ brought a wry smile to my face.

The book is rounded out with some notable agents (and the return of John Courage), some legends of the Convention, and a range of pre-generated archetypes.

A lot of care has been taken here to ensure that the book looks and feels like Mage Revised Edition and this attention to detail has paid dividends. It is very easy to forget the number of years between Mage: the Ascension and now; and this book helps blur the time which has elapsed. The art is uniformly good, the layout perfect and the typos minimal (I only spotted one). To be honest, I’ll be ordering my PoD copy as soon as possible and giving it pride of place next to my other printed Mage books. Right now, I can’t wait to see Syndicate (and there were plenty of hints dropped throughout this book as to what we should expect) and of course M20 next year. The fact that this book could be used by both players and storytellers (in the right chronicle) further elevates its’ status in my eyes.

Bottom line: this is a brilliant book which should be on the shelves of every Mage player and storyteller; and hopefully will act as a catalyst to get new blood interested in an old game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2012 15:44:28

NWO is a long awaited continuation of the revised Convention books for Mage the Ascension. Within we get an excellent ... http://darkerdaysradio.posterous.com/#!/review-convention-book-nwo-mage-the-ascension

www.dark-days.org



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/13/2012 03:13:54

This is a welcome update for the NWO to the 21st century. This is a very standard convention book, very reminiscent to the previous ones, but it does a very good job for getting the feel of the NWO across. I find the internet start-up culture fetishism a bit much, and somewhat out of character for the NWO...

Other than that, this is a good book, about one of my favourite convention, and manages to make them believable characters.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/04/2012 10:00:48

I'm glad to see that this book exists, because out of all of Ascension's elements, the Technocracy is most badly in need of updating, and the Conventions, aside from Iteration X, still needed a Player character-friendly treatment. Unlike the Progenitors, who can justify their existence with modern medicine, or the freedom-loving Void Engineers, the New World Order is harder for the average new player to feel sympathy for - older books present them as a combination of The Party of 1984 and The Village from The Prisoner. This makes for some fun bad guys, but it doesn't keep up with Mage Revised's presentation of the Technocratic Union as a Player Character faction.

In this mission, the book succeeds admirably, without ignoring the elements of the Technocracy that make them an antagonist for Tradition PCs. The book presents the best and worst of the New World Order. There is a rote for the brutal sort of identity reassignment processing that makes people fear getting into the black sedan with the guys in suits. However, the book is presented from the perspective of the NWO, so that sort of brutality is seen as a necessary evil of sometimes questionable utility - not something that every agent likes to use, but one that they find they might have to when there are no other good options. In my reading of the book, there was more than enough room for the Storyteller to interpret this in a forgiving way, assuming most operatives to be good people who are occasionally forced to do bad things, or to read the NWO as the thought police that they have appeared as in previous books.

The next function of the book is to be a setting update. While I felt that trying to fit plot-advancement information into such a focused book diluted the content a little, it still felt like a success overall. The plot elements that were introduced made sense and helped to establish a Technocratic narrative to keep PCs interested. The metaplot has been toned down, aside from the existence of the Avatar Storm and other big picture elements from late 2nd edition and Revised, but the activities of the Technocracy are put into perspective in relation to the real-world events of the last decade. The Economic Crisis of 2008 is blamed on the Syndicate, much like the Depression was blamed on them in the Guide to the Technocracy, and there is a focus on the rise of social media, something that the New World Order should be very interested in (and they are!).

One plot element that I was surprised by, but eventually came to like, was the rise of the Extraordinary Citizen, which is the Technocracy equivalent of a Sorcerer. There have been no more or fewer awakenings each year in the last decade, but in the world of Mage, Social Media and the Internet have caused a dramatic increase in people who can go slightly further beyond the capability of normal mortals. This made sense to me, as the dramatically increased access to information and education, as well as the ability to create opportunities seemingly out of nowhere, would logically allow more people to discover secrets and cutting-edge techniques, which work, but don't blow open the minds of those who use them. It's also great in a game balance level, because it becomes easier to justify using Sorcerers as allies or antagonists. When played beyond 2 or 3 Arete, I have found Mages to completely defeat mortals without much difficulty. If the world is suddenly full of Sorcerers and it's suddenly not hard to become one, Sorcerers can more easily become a regularly appearing class of minor allies and antagonists. For example, maybe the Mayor of a city, not technically part of an Ascension War faction, can still be important to the story if he or one of his advisers has some good mind tricks.

Finally, the book presents a satisfyingly long list of new rotes, devices, and a variant on the Correspondence sphere called "Data", meant for use exclusively by NWO agents, Virtual Adepts, and other Mages who have an entirely Technological, information-based conception of Correspondence magics. It replaces the typical sympathetic magic table with one based on degrees of separation between a person and any identifying information related to them - for example, their personal email address or credit card number might be equivalent to a Verbena having someone's hair or blood, where a throwaway email address or source code someone wrote a decade ago might be worth the magical equivalent of a vague effigy or outdated photo. This makes the new sphere valuable on its own just for making VA and NWO procedures more believable - there's no reason an Operative or a hacker would need someone's blood to scry on them via security cams - but it also changes slightly the idea of what can and cannot be targeted using the Correspondence sphere. Now Internet data and ideas themselves can be targeted and enchanted, as evidenced by the suggested Data rotes, which do things like attach certain emotional resonance (Mind 2) to specific bits of information on the Internet, no matter what server or workstation or smartphone it happens to be downloaded to. It took me days to figure this out, but it blew my mind after I thought about it for a while - this Sphere explores the sympathetic links between related ideas instead of related objects. I was so impressed with this that I immediately included it in my own game, replacing Correspondence with Data on the character sheets of all of my Virtual Adept and New World Order NPCs.

The rotes and devices were fun to read, most of them either very original or stylish and interesting updates on classic Technocracy ideas. They will all find a home in my game, especially "Truth" Serum and the Nondescript Van, which may be my new favorite Wonders/Devices.

The book is presented in the standard Revised Tradition/Convention book format, down to the last detail. It's as though Ascension never went out of print. The art is appropriate, and some of it does a good job of appropriately following the unique Ascension style, and I have no complaints about the rest.

While I worry that the book tried to do too much in too little space, being a major setting update and an in-depth look at an important faction in a hundred-and-change pages, what is done is done so right that I feel that giving the book a review of less than 5 stars would be doing the book a disservice. I can't help but be excited for what comes next in the series of new Convention books. This one was unquestionably worth the asking price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2012 20:10:42

The release of the N.W.O. convention book is perhaps the surest sign of the return of the classic Mage: the Ascension line to me. I'm a big fan of both Mage lines from the world of darkness, and I was also a very big fan of the Technocracy as well. Having the NWO as a favorite convention, I welcomed (and secretly worried) about the release of this book. Was it going to be good? What if I've put up too many expectations on it that I'd be disappointed?

Now that I've had a chance to read through it, I'm glad that it wasn't a disappointment at all.

Anyway, onto the review:

For those familiar with the Revised-Era Tradition and Convention books, the NWO convention book retains the standard format. It's a familiar and welcoming thing to people who are coming back to M:tA like me, and still fairly accessible to those new to the game.

The book is divided into 6 main sections, which include a fiction Prologue and Epilogue, as well as an Introduction to the current state of the NWO given the events that have taken place since Revised left off, and a discussion of the convention's History, Organizational Structure and Methodoloties and finally the Assets of the New World Order.

The Introduction is a great piece, talking about the big picture and what the NWO is involved in given the shift in society. This is crucial in my mind to haul M:tAw out of the late 90's and into the present day. There's no doubt that the accelerated pace of adoption of technology and societal shifts over the past decade should impact a group so firmly entrenched in humanity as the NWO and it shows.

The History section is told through the lens of a lengthy academic paper written in-character with annotations from a superior. It's a big section, and details many of the pivotal moments in the formation of the NWO. I found the section to be pretty helpful in terms of appreciating the origins of the Convention, but I can't help but feel that it may have gone on just a little too long. The annotations and sidebars help in providing further information, and a presence of a group in the NWO focused on Gender Studies was a nice touch.

Division of Labor breaks down life in the NWO to digestible chunks. From the overall heirarchy to the the means by which they advance up the ranks, this chapter is the most useful to GMs who are looking to run a game which offers an in-depth look into NWO operatives. The Methodologies, or sub-groupings of the NWO are all excellently written, with each having a valid reason for their existence and their own specialties within the Convention. From old favorites like the Ivory Tower and the Operatives to the brand-spanking new Methodology focused on Information Technology called The Feed, each one is full of interesting hooks to make a character from.

Assets brings up a host of things, from interesting NPCs to a treatment of Data as Correspondence, complete with it's own chart for determining sympathy for Data Procedures. These Data Procedures replace Correspondence ones for NWO operatives, and it is surprisingly useful for the convention to have a focus shift towards an increasingly wired society. Interestingly it's not exactly exclusive to the technocracy, and the Virtual Adepts are also capable of taking this view of Correspondence on their own spells.

My favorite section of the Assets chapter is one that deals with the Technocracy's toys. From the Enlightened Smartphone to the iconic Mirrorshades, and the amusingly named Gun For The Job I get happy warm fuzzies at the idea of actually employing these devices on the field both as a player and a GM. The chapter also wraps up with several NWO Procedures.

As with the tradition / convention books, the NWO book wraps up with several sample characters, including a Processed Traditionalist, which I found to be a great angle to work with if I were to play.

Convention Book N.W.O. is an excellent way to kick off the return of Mage: the Ascension to active publication once more (though arguably the fact that the books are all available on PDF meant that they never really left.)

The New World Order has finally made it's long desired comeback and I think the fans are going to be very happy with what they're getting. Aside from a much-needed upgrade to a modern paradigm, the NWO convention book shows off all the neat details (and dirty secrets) of the faction, and more importantly makes me want to play it

Convention Book: N.W.O. is available from DriveThruRPG for $13.99 or roughly PHP 574.00



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: N.W.O.
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Jonathan L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2012 18:50:27

I don't do comprehensive reviews; so I'll focus on the points about the book that really stood out to me. The single biggest one is the replacement of Correspondence with Data by the New World Order, providing a take on the Sphere of which I wholly approve.

Make no mistake: this is firmly set in the post-Avatar Storm world of the Revised Edition of Mage, where the Time of Judgment either has not come, or came and went without actually ending the world. There's still an Avatar Storm, and the bulk of the Technocracy has had to adapt to the loss of Control. But they have adapted, and are claiming victory, albeit a bit prematurely.

In addition to being a good supplement in its own right, this Convention Book has me looking forward to the remaining Convention Books — particularly the Syndicate book, where we will presumably see the other side of the impending Technocratic civil war.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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