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Victorian Lost
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Xavier A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/19/2012 03:44:08
There are some things I really enjoyed about this book, and some things that didn't quite work for me. However, overall it does exactly what a good splat should: It made me want to run a game based on it, and feel more prepared to do so.

I really enjoyed the dives into the themes of Victorian age stories and how to use Lost to highlight those. The explorations of what the world was like, how it was changing, and how that affected the core setting of Lost were also well done. For me, this is the meat of the book and the merit of the rating I'm giving it.

As a quibble, I don't think it was necessary to say the kiths and contracts presented were Victorian specific - why would the Gentry respond to worldly events that quickly and specifically?

Also, I would have enjoyed more resources for depicting Victoria's London with a bit more historical fidelity, as opposed to just a steamy set dressing. However, it gives a start (and, for those of us who are into such things, there are many resources available). Indeed, most of my 'complaints' involve wishing there was more - this could have easily been a full book, and I would have happily paid for it. However, I appreciate their decision to make it slimmer source of inspiration, and think that it earns its page count well.

Most games set in Victorian times seek to bring the mortal class system into their game world: here, showing the mirror of the mortal class system as a caste system for the Lost requires a bit of a stretch, and I'm not sure I'm buying it completely. While it does provide some interesting avenues for conflict and concerns of identity and place - it takes a few too many handwaves to really be comfortable for me. A born Peer of the Realm who is abducted and made into a Wizened Soldier or Antiquarian suddenly at the bottom of the class system, while a cockney flower girl turned Fairest rules? Perhaps if I saw how this worked out with more full examples of ruling courts, I might buy into it - but, as is, I'll likely drop it. Fortunately, the book retains its value and utility. (This is most of what keeps me from giving it 5/5, though).

The sample adventures seemed a rollicking good time, suitable for different play groups, and the characters seem flexible enough to bring to a new table and have people find somebody they can enjoy playing. The art was thematic and well executed. Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anybody who enjoys Lost. For people who aren't into Lost, but love the era and setting (and might be looking for a game to run in it)... I would also say give it a try.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Victorian Lost
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Falling Scales Chapter One
Publisher: White Wolf
by Xavier A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/26/2012 00:38:42
Note: This is based from a read-through, not a play-through.

Some things about this I liked quite a bit.

* The villains, while villainous, are also human and understandable

* The plot, in general, remains quite flexible, while still providing logical followups and advancement.

* There is a nice mix of action, investigation and social manipulation.


My biggest problem is in the climax. The cult leader you've been working with decides to be rid of you and does a massive show of power... and the plot assumes you weather it and decide to attack back - "or the story ends." And then the final scene is just "they decide to fight back" (despite going up against a well guarded, well funded, society with legal presence and support). No hints or paths are offered for doing that, and it's even assumed as probable the PCs end up dead / on the run from the law. To me, this seems unsatisfyingly thought through and would be frustrating for players.

Additionally, while providing numerous opportunities for players to die or be subverted, no ideas on how to bring new characters in are offered.

That said, there are obviously all sorts of ways to address these concerns and a flexible ST will do just fine... but it is a real consideration for newer ST.


A few other quibbles: while billed as potentially multi-genre, the story really assumes human characters with little to no previous interaction with the supernatural. It is true, and frequently acknowledged in the text, that characters with power, experience or connections will either find scenes utterly without challenge or simply nonsensical. The introduction of the memetic virus and the manner in which it assisted in raising a particularly well organized, funded and brutal hunter cult rather quickly may have interesting long term effects and ramifications (which seem to be the focus of the upcoming adventures), however.

The memetic virus... I'm unsure about. Maybe they'll develop it into something really cool? As is, all we know about it is that it's basically "the idea that /the supernatural is real/." From exposure it eventually grants you an omni-Unseen Presence ability and eventual immunity to most supernatural powers (as well as conferring immunity to ever gaining a supernatural template). It's contagious and incurable. It's definitely a game changing story element, and one I'm hesitant to introduce... at least before I know where they're going with it. However, you could always give it a slow / limited growth, highlight drawbacks, and figure out some way to be rid of it.


Overall - a lot of solid meat here, good for bringing new characters (and players) into the grim and gritty World of Darkness. However, I'm not sure it's a good adventure for new STs, since there are quirky complications that could trip you up.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Falling Scales Chapter One
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Imperial Mysteries
Publisher: White Wolf
by Xavier A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/12/2012 23:24:43
There's a lot I like about this supplement, and one thing I passionately dislike. I'm struggling to give it a 4/5, instead of a 3/5 - however, since my dislike is a thematic gripe I'll leave it in this review and let the reader decide.

Imperial Mysteries goes CRAZY WAY OVER THE TOP with Magic. It completes the Gnosis chain and Practices to a degree not even hinted at in the core book. I was always a bit disappointed that the core mage didn't really address what went on with Arcana once you got above Gnosis 5... it seemed such a low number to cap development at. This blows the lid off it, creating a system which does not even pretend to balance what Gnosis 9 vs Blood Potency 9 means. It's what the final supplements of Changeling hinted at - the path to the final transformation and ascendancy for the story.

It does a lot of things amazingly well. You don't have to play with any of the mechanics in the book to get a wealth of ideas about what Archmasters might want, involve themselves in, or leave behind as mysteries and echoes. Using the systems you can give players sufficient structure to play at the highest levels, while retaining a sense of cost and consequences.

For those of you who are familiar with Unknown Armies, it truly takes it to the Cosmic Tier - where you actions /literally/ reshape the world.

....This is both a good and a bad thing.

For me, it strays too far from what made Make: Awakening really amazing - revealing the secrets behind the curtain long hinted at... to be some sort of crossbred UA / Mage: Ascension bastard love child. They even CALL this highest tier "The Ascension War." For me, it really feels like the developers stepped broadly away from one of my favorite things about Awakening. Here's what I mean:

"Once understood, Imperium is a revelation that forever
changes a Seeker’s outlook on the universe. Before archmastery
she might have assumed that ultimate power lay embedded in
an objective secret history, that Atlantis’ ruins hid beneath the
waves in a defi nite location, aged grimoires always contained
the same spells, and the Exarchs seized power in the distant
past — not a present erased by their triumph. Everything might
be true, if the Invisible Masters permit it."

While the text then goes at length to say a bunch of the usual stuff around "well, it's your game, so maybe that's not how it REALLY is, just how it appears to the archmasters as they fall deeper into their Mystery play..." - functionally, the entire core assumption of this supplement is that there is no ACTUAL TRUTH to the Supernal and that the "Fallen" or "Phenomenal" World which everybody is a part of is just the result of the constant revisions and edits of the Archmasters. It's the Consensus of M:tAscension, just only certain people count now.

Why this bothers me is that what I did not like about Ascension was that the postmodernist setting essentially resolved all mysteries and secrets to "Whatever you want to believe, man." Indeed, as a Mage progressed their Paradigm... the thing which made them unique and interesting... became LESS important. Whereas in the more Gnostic setting of Awakening, there was some truth the universe - as filtered and shattered as it might be - so the players might truly have the sense of approaching Mysteries and making progress toward something ever higher. Well, now "higher" just reveals that nothing they discovered was actually True and the only thing that matters is your ability to exercise power.

Indeed, Archmages spend most of their time seeking "Quintessence" - a mystical quality of experiencing something... which symbolizes how you /feel/ about the universe and the spell you want to cast next.

In the end, instead of pointing the way to even higher truths, greater mysteries and the shaping of your soul into an ever more refined vision of your channel between the perfected world and the phenomenal world... the curtain is pulled back to reveal that the universe is comprised and shaped of nothing but the personal politics and ideological agendas of a few score people.



So, I like the book. It's got a lot of meat I can use. However, for anybody who was as excited by the Gnostic Mystery of the game as it's been portrayed so far, I feel you're bound to be a bit disappointed by the direction they took it.


Finally, and as a somewhat petty thing, the art direction of the book was a bit disappointing to me. A /lot/ of art is recycled from previous books, and after so many truly beautiful and evocative covers I feel that the sketch pencil / watercolor which we have here does not fit well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Mysteries
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