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Guildhalls of the Deathless
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2014 08:05:39
I didn't understand Mummy when I finished reading the corebook. The player's section described a Tier 3 character, but the Storyteller's section described Tier 1 personal conflicts. After reading this supplement I now get Mummy: they are religious warriors, empowered and evaluated by the Judges like a fantasy RPG cleric or paladin. Ammut the Devourer is the Adversary. This supplement provides details on the Guilds that allow for Tier 2 local political play, and The Avarice Chronicle provides a Tier 3 confrontation over faith that all mummies can take a side on.

The book is split into the Intro, 5 chapters one for each Guild, two Storyteller chapters, and the Chronicle. At least one review here has criticised the Guild chapters for not having uniform layouts. I think that was done to show as well as tell what each Guild thinks is important, and to showcase different elements of the game in different chapters, which I agree with. However, having the Storyteller section contain supposed secrets is hurting the presentation of this game. Frankly, the only reason to have 'secret' info seems to be to facilitate player-vs-player conflict. The Guild chapters have lots of information from the Storyteller section of the corebook, so it's no longer secret once the players start reading this. A lot of the Storyteller material here is common knowledge and systems for the Guilds and should have been in the Intro. The Storytelling sections of this game line's books need to have less 'tools' and more advice on how to run the game.

The Guild chapters describe how the Guild operates and how they see and interact with the modern world, both to varying depth. The Maa-Kep chapter is all about getting others, whether mummies or mortals, to operate how the Maa-Kep want without realising it. The Mesen-Nebu (Alchemists) are all about lording their individualistic awesomeness over others. The Sesha-Hebsu (the Scroll) describes how they act as judges, how they carry out sentences, and how their record of history is written to glory of the the Judges, not accuracy. The Tef-Aabhi are described as the self-chosen master planners of the Arisen, whether the others like it or not.

The Su-Menent chapter is different enough that it deserves special mention. It goes into much more detail than the others on Irem itself, on the Guild in Irem, and how the Su-Menent Guild is breaking in the modern world. Like the Maa-Kep chapter, it has a section on the Guild's activities around the world, but it is less successful and bleaker outlook. The Su-Menent and Tef-Aabhi chpaters go into much more detail on Cults than the others and show how the three types can cover an incredible range of operations.

In the Storyteller's section, chapter six is game systems and new powers. It's not worth keeping from the players. Chapter seven actually has some things that should restrict it to the Storyteller. It has more Affinities and Utterances for each Guild, and something unique: relics, magic, NPCs. It also, finally, has some genuine dark secrets within Guild operations.

Chapter eight, the start of the Avarice Chronicle, is dramatic. The Heretic is the Arisen's Martin Luther and this is about taking Apotheosis public and potentially starting a religious schism that could lead to the Mummy equivalent of the Thirty Years War (which had more death and destruction than World War I). It also describes Ammut the Devourer as a more active adversary of the Arisen than the corebook makes clear (at least to me).

I don't think this player's guide is as good as similar books for other game lines. However, for me it indisuputably explained a lot of the game better than the corebook did. So I guess I have to give it four stars. Like Mage's Tome of the Mysteries, this is likely to be regarded as either essential or irrelevant.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Guildhalls of the Deathless
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Mummy: The Curse
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2014 20:29:29
I give Mummy the Curse 4 stars: 5 stars for players, 3 stars for Storytellers. While Onyx Path seems to have succeeded in creating a game where the player gets an extremely powerful and effective character right from the start, the Storyteller section feels incomplete and does not give enough help for dealing with all the aspects of the game, especially the Powers That Be notionally controlling the mummies.

The Mummy as a character type seems created specifically to reflect modern gamers. Modern gamers, from my observation, have limited time, a (usually) thorough knowledge of their characters' powers, a strong desire to use those powers to the fullest extent possible, and a general drive to get as much good gaming done within that constrained time. Mummies start out with their power stat at maximum, a thorough knowledge of their own abilities and, for a limited time, no care for 'collateral damage', a hazy memory that makes a detailed backstory impossible (for the player) and remembering events of the last gaming session (potentially) unnecessary. They are driven by a purpose explicitly stated on their rising, and have a limited time in which to try and fulfil it.

Mummies have, right from the start, great supernatural and organisational power. Their supernatural abilities are divided into Affinities and Utterances. Affinities are 'always on' or activated by willpower, and are remarkably powerful for no cost. Utterance powers have three Tiers. The first is powerful, the third and often the second are full-on 'Old Testament Wrath of God', in power and style. They are described in a movie effects visual way as well. Mummy standard starting merits must include dots in Cult, and you can have a big organisation right from the start. Cult attributes are divided into 'legal' Reach and 'illegal' Grasp, and you can buy merits specifically for the Cult as well. The Cult system provides a method for resolving actions without the mummy by die roll, and for providing modern knowledge, services and general help when a mummy arises in a new decade or century. There is an interesting link between the mummy and his cultists in that several Affinities and Utterances make mortals more capable, sometimes permanently. Mummies also have a Tomb merit, rather more formidable than a Haven or Sanctum merit, and mummies and their powers are even stronger in their Tombs. Finally, while mummies are extremely hard to kill even temporarily, many of their Utterances can be used as death curses on their slayers.

The Storyteller's section, while featuring lots of potential antagonists and conflicts for mummies, seems to me to be lacking material integrating all the features of Mummy into a functional whole. The section on antagonists includes reasons for mummies fighting each other, the 'Lifeless', a varied category on beings created through necromancy, tomb raiders both individually and in groups, and a real surprise, an extensive section on ghosts with enough rules to make them player-characters. The chapter on the relics mummies so often pursue has a lot of detail, but relics are so unique I still would have liked a little more specific advice on designing them and their negative effects.

I didn't follow the development of Mummy, but when you read the Storytelling and 'Historical' chapters, it becomes pretty obvious that Onyx Path removed sections of the book without removing references to it in the rest of the book. The most obvious case is the total removal of the 'signature city', Washington D.C., to its own book. Sorcerers are mentioned throughout the book, without any explanation of how to portray them. The advertising for the game talked up the idea of keeping secrets to reveal to the players during play within the game books themselves. Those secrets have been kept from the Storyteller too, and unless they are in the upcoming Book of the Deceived, they won't be revealed. That brings up a general problem with the game: the Powers That Be that are supposed to control the lives of mummies are simply too distant, too out of contact with mummies and the living world to, in my opinion, be able to portray. You're supposed to convey the intricate machinations of the Judges and whatever else through ... when mummies are forced to make Descent rolls, and nothing else.

There is one last element that I want to give specific attention to: Onyx Path tried to make mummies symbolic of the oppressed, and failed. First, mummies are explicitly 'non-white' ethnicities. But that's only a problem if the mummy's cult can't appear rich. The book occasionally refers to mummies as 'workers', and in the Storytelling chapter it tries to claim that mummies identify with the 'underclass', those that work for distant masters. But the mummies were the slave-drivers of Irem, literally in the case of the Maa-Kep Guild. A mummy looking at a sweatshop isn't going to identify with the workers, but with the sweatshop manager. That mummies routinely abuse their cultists is described in the cult section and shown in the inter-chapter fiction. To top all that, mummies are immortals with the powers of demigods backed up by ancient cult conspiracies and notionally overseen by true gods so distant as to be irrelevant. Calling them oppressed is a very entitled view of oppression. Mummies are the oppressors. With their cults, they make better villain protagonists than even vampire elders ... a concept that is apparently dealt with in Guildhalls of the Deathless, which I don't (yet) have, but not at all in this book.

This corebook presents a game for dramatic, big-scale one-shot or limited campaigns. The elements to run a long term game have been removed, and I feel you need to either buy the supplements or do a lot of development yourself.

Suggested reading: the non-fiction book "The Mummy's Curse" by Roger Luckhurst. I found this in my local library. It is a general look at the evolution of Gothic fiction in the late 19th Century, and how it relates to the society of the time. Lots of interesting stuff for Mummy and for the World of Darkness.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mummy: The Curse
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The God-Machine Chronicle Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2012 06:50:05
I regret buying this.

With one exception, the only stories I found entertaining were those previously published in rulebooks. In that previously published material, the activity of the humans in the story mattered, or at least seemed to. In The Voice of the Angel, the story in the World of Darkness corebook that started this whole thing, it seemed to be saying that humanity was either going to rise to perhaps near-godhood, or fall so hard we'd destroy ourselves. The new stories for this anthology seem to throw that all away.

The stories work with several tropes I just don't like. One is 'alien invasion by replacement'. These stories feature one, maybe two humans, and all the other characters are one of several ... whatever they ares. One disguised intruder is frightening and allows for creepy paranoia. Having everyone but the main character non-human renders that one person helpless and irrelevant in the face of whatever is going on. And that leads to the next trope, 'the insignifance of humanity'. It's actually explicitly stated in one of the stories: our species and even our planet doesn't really matter to these beings, and to the stories featuring them. I can't get into that type of story.

In Imperial Mysteries, Ascension is reaching the Supernal World and, essentially, the character escaping from the control of the player. That's a recurring trend in RPGs, in my observation. In several of these stories, the world around the humans is a set constructed by the non-human agencies to achieve some goal. I don't know if it is intentional, but it mimics within the game the fact that White Wolf created this cruel fictional gameworld for our use. I have always found that characters mentioning that their world seems to be designed breaks suspension of disbelief, unless there is already a solid explanation within the fictional world. For a setting like the World of Darkness, it's downright disturbing as well.

Before I wrap this up, I did like the story Concession, by Filamena Young. Other than that, the stories I liked I had already paid for. Voice of the Angel was one of my favourite fiction pieces, and when I heard that White Wolf was finally going to end at least some of the mystery of what the God-Machine is, I was ecstatic. But based on this product, I am not going to like whatever Onyx Path have decided to do in the upcoming God Machine Chronicle.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The God-Machine Chronicle Anthology
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Victorian Lost
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2012 20:47:39
Victorian Lost is a short and very concise summary of the important issues of the time period and ways to use these issues in stories featuring the Lost. The main issue used here are the rigid class divisions, which White Wolf uses so strongly it could actually interfere with running the game. Apart from that over-emphasis, I think it is quite a useful game product.

The book is eighty-seven pages, including the two covers, the title and credits and the ad at the end. This 'low' page count should not come as a surprise, given that New Wave Requiem and Mage Noir were both this size, and that White Wolf has published several books this size since moving to ebook and print-on-demand publishing. It uses a tiny font and is structured to get as much word-space into it as possible.

The book has six chapters and an appendix. Instead of the usual fiction prologue, the fiction story is spread between the chapters. However, the first chapter, on the setting, is done as a fictional piece as well. It does a good job of giving a superficial impression of the 'feel' of Victorian England. If there is any wasted space in the book, though, this is probably it. They might have done better to tell us this stuff directly and then not have to write some of it again more plainly in the next two chapters.

Chapters two and three are the character chapters. Chapter two opens by describing Victorian society and its many divisions, and then how changeling society has been altered from the Changeling sourcebook to fit. The main difference is that fae society, both the True Fae and the Lost, are set up here to be divided and fight among themselves on the same lines as mortal society. The Fairest are seen as upper class and Wizened and Ogres as working class, with the others as middle class, to such an extent that they rarely join motleys across class lines and there is even a new Entitlement whose sole purpose is to murder Fairest changelings for being (viewed as) too far above the Wizened and Ogres. Also, it claims that many changeling at this time did not escape, but were simply released when they got 'boring', and so many changelings do not hate and fear the True Fae.

Chapter three goes into the specifics for each Seeming and Court. It also has a bit on the style of Freeholds in Victorian Britain. Throughout this book there are references to characters fitting in, or not, with the London Courts. However, in this section there is a brief description of the situation in London. There is no one Freehold, instead the changelings are so fractious that virtually every motley is also its own Freehold. These Freeholds barely interact, so I don't understand how the complex political games referred to in the rest of the book are possible.

This setting of changeling against changeling rather than changelings against the True Fae is my problem with this book. One of the core elements of Changeling is that the Lost are separated from human society by their durances in Arcadia, and they have to stick together because no one else can really understand them, and because they have to stand together against the True Fae. This takes away a lot of that without replacing it with any compelling in-game reason to have changelings adopting human bigotry and fighting each other.

Chapters four, five, six and the Appendix are the Storytelling sections. Chapter four is a surprisingly short chapter on moods, themes and systems. Chapter five has two story outlines, one for interaction with the upper class and one in the slums. Chapter six is a complete story. A changeling has come up with a way to use Victorian technology to attack his Keeper. It's a 'solution-worse-then-the-problem' type of story. The Appendix is a sample motley for use by players or the Storyteller. If you want to know what this book's editing is like, the motley's official name is the Back Stairs Mob, but they are referred to as the Back Door Mob throughout the book.

Judged on its own merits, rather than what it could have been with two or three times the page count, I found this quite a satisfying gamebook. There is more than enough information to work around the class division system that I don't like. If you want to set stories in the time of Dracula, The Wolfman, and the Hound of the Baskervilles, this should be of great help.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Victorian Lost
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Mirrors: Infinite Macabre
Publisher: White Wolf
by Robert S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/02/2011 05:45:45
Infinite Macabre is a toolkit book for doing Space Opera stories in the World of Darkness. The book contains a short section on the setting and brief rules on using spaceships, a long section on adapting each of the seven gamelines, and then a short section on making truly Alien races.

In the setting section, spaceships are described using the familiar five dot system, for size, weapons, armour and speed. There is also very simple rules for space combat. Apart from that, it attempts to define the setting. I say 'attempts' because the writer doesn't seem to understand basic astronomy. He refers to star systems as galaxies and writes about 'the Universe' in a way that suggests he doesn't know that stars collect in groups. Apart from that, the setting default is that faster-than-light (FTL) technology hasn't been developed yet, and instead there are these 'Stygian Gates' in every (by definition) interesting star system to allow interstellar travel. These Gates transit through the Underworld, seemingly for no other reason than to allow travel to be frightening and therefore 'interesting'.

That the writer of a Space Opera supplement starts by demonstrating his profound ignorance of space is quite disconcerting. Fortunately, it's actually irrelevant to the rest of the product. There is a lot of mention of space opera motifs such as Empires of Man and territorial control and such. I might be biased as a Trekker and Star Wars fan, but to me they made more sense if you ignore the "no FTL" default. After all, there is no point mapping territory, or even claiming it, if you can't reach it. Also, the writer inadvertantly created something cool with those Gates. In conventional sci fi, travel between galaxies is very rare. But in this setting, you can have regular if risky access to it.

The majority of the book is about the various gamelines, specifically sections on adapting them to a space setting, some story ideas, and 'new toy' rules for new abilities. Fortunately the writer knows the game rules much better than the rules of astrophysics. The adaption sections are good lists of the things you have to consider. Examples are probably best: Earth vampires are burnt by Earth's Sun, but what happens with other suns? Are they affected when not on a planet? Werewolf auspices are determined by Luna, but (again) what happens when Earth and its Moon are far away? There is also the issue of Fae Arcadia. Is it still an alternate plane, or is it now a planet in the normal Universe? You are given lots of options for dealing with these issues. The other gamelines are also dealt with, but their adaption is much easier and mostly consists of expanded possibilities. There are also guides for what the Vampire Clans, Werewolf Tribes, Mage Orders and such might be like in the expanded setting. For instance, the default setting is that the supernatural beings are not hidden, so you can have empires ruled openly by vampires or mages or others.

The final short but thorough section has the rules for creating a new character template, the outer-space Alien. The new traits allow for aliens as weird and non-humanoid as you can want. It also has brief write-ups for the standard American alien trinity, the Greys, the Nordics and the Reptoids. This section consists of 7 pages of this 30 page book, for anyone thinking of buying it to use these Aliens in an Earth-bound game.

Summary: This is a book full of useful advice for adapting the various gamelines. Werewolf struck me as the hardest to adapt and the least rewarding to do so. Working out how to adapt the Changeling Hedge is also complex, although Changeling would be a great source of weird aliens for other gamelines. The other gamelines are relatively easy.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mirrors: Infinite Macabre
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