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.
[5 of 5 Stars!]