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M20 Melody Through the Mirrorshade Lens
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/05/2023 09:51:05

So, I finished reading M20 Melody Through the Mirrorshade Lens. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, my favorite of the four tales is easily Fell Winds by Travis Legge.

(Unfortunately, Fell Winds was the only one of the four stories which really impressed me. The other three tales reduced the quality of the anthology down to two stars for me. I just didn't get the impression the other three writers were showcasing their best work. Still, at the low price of $3.99, you can afford to take a chance on this book's four tales.)

As for Fell Winds, I greatly appreciate the author's choice of having a big chunk of the plot occur in 1848 A.D. Antarctica, allowing for a Technocracy adventure where Virtual Adepts and Etherites were still members of the Technocracy.

Granted, I’m already a fan of the timeless premise of a small number of explorers investigating a mysterious location. Likewise, I’m a sucker for the dilemma of do-we-bring-it-back-for-autopsy versus do-we-nuke-it-from-orbit-it's-the-only-way-to-be-sure.

(My ONLY complaint about Fell Winds is the pair of high-tech contact lenses. Thankfully, the writing does so much so well that these contact lenses didn’t ruin the rest of the story for me.)

Fell Winds also demonstrates several great examples of how to improve a story by adding sensory details. The tale does a good job of steampunk without getting cheesy, of 1950s sci-fi movie tropes without getting tiresome, of sci-fi/action/horror without getting edgelord militaristic, and of Mage without getting dystopian.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
M20 Melody Through the Mirrorshade Lens
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Tribebook: Uktena (1st Edition)
Publisher: White Wolf
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/27/2023 22:49:45

From Corben's comic book introductory tale to the poem on the back cover, this older edition of the Uktena Tribebook was what I was in the mood for.

I can't guarantee that my tastes will match yours, but personally, I've used this rulebook as a muse and a tone-setter for drawings and fiction more than a couple of times. There's something about the Uktena's mysteriousness which makes them more intriguing than the usual more-dots-make-Hulk-madder physiciality of other Garou tribes.

No spoilers, but one aspect of World of Darkness rulebooks I've long enjoyed is how often each tribe/clan/tradition has a secret that they would greatly prefer to remain a secret. Moreso when those secrets make sense within the rules and within the setting. Subjectively, the secret held by the Uktena was worth reading.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tribebook: Uktena (1st Edition)
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Gathering Shadows
Publisher: White Wolf
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/27/2023 22:36:32

I enjoyed how readers who are familiar with White Wolf’s various RPGs can absorb clues in our attempts to solve Gathering Shadows’ mystery. Which side is the bad guy of the story? Garou? Hermetics? Nephandi? Verbena? Kindred? Hunters? Technocracy? Marauders?

In Gathering Shadows, it’s not frustrating to find additional clues and add suspects onto the list. It’s enjoyable to have the mystery hold up for so many pages! The suspense stayed intact for a hefty chunk of the story.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gathering Shadows
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Umbral Pilots
Publisher: White Wolf
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/23/2023 20:15:20

I’m glad that Hal Case’s Umbral Pilots doesn’t engage in self-mocking pity. His writing doesn’t bother feeding the elephant in the room regarding the surface impression of cheesy werewolves-in-space. Instead, the author lets readers hang out in a setting where we don’t have to be embarrassed for having hope in the future.

I love that Hal Case went to the trouble to come up with an explanation (via mechanics for Disembodiment) for WHY Threat Null is more powerful versus other Mages.

While I still have mixed opinions about AI generated artwork, I have to admit there were several interior illustrations which caused me to just stop and admire how well-suited they were as complements to the text.

(and I respect that the warning label way back on the Storytellers Vault page was placed prominently enough. For me, this was akin to seeing a brand of food which didn’t hide the fact that its ingredients were GMO. It was a mature and undramatic way to handle it, while still being artistic.)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Umbral Pilots
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Cyber Funk
Publisher: White Wolf
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2023 06:01:02

What impressed me the most was how well-balanced the deep topics were with the humor. Likewise, the tension of the life-and-limb action scenes were well-balanced with the listening-to-a-TED-Talk-in-the-Digital-Web relaxed scenes.

For Mage: the Ascension RPG fans like myself, much of the enjoyment came from Webb's way of artistically describing hard-to-explain in-game concepts such as Paradox Backlash or the attitudes held by various factions/individuals.

ex. A reader could figure out who the story's Virtual Adepts were, based on how they treated other characters, while other writers might have had to use the word Virtual Adepts over and over.

My only complaint is a subjective one. Namely, there were some characters whose personalities were downright annoying. Granted, that fits with Mage's tone, where a player often has to put up with NPCs who are jerks.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cyber Funk
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Ascension's Landscape: Setting Refinements and Story Hooks
Publisher: White Wolf
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/10/2020 23:31:31

One of the most unexpected surprises is how often it overlaps intelligently and smoothly into other classic World of Darkness/Onyx Path game settings.

For instance, if you're a fan of Vampire or Changeling, but you've rarely played Mage, the amount of well-thought-through crossover material makes this supplement a good deal.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ascension's Landscape: Setting Refinements and Story Hooks
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M20 The Art of Mage: 20 Years and More
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/10/2019 00:35:48

I've been fortunate enough to chat at length with a couple of these artists at RPG-related conventions, and I thought the book treats professional visual artists with well-deserved respect.

While it unfortunately doesn't cover every single artist to have ever had illustrations in a Mage rulebook, it does cover more artists than I was expecting. The text doesn't drop any lurid gossip, and it has the length and tone of informative art museum entries as you walk from exhibit to exhibit.

(and I don't mean to poke fun, but considering how many artists artistically place their own hard-to-decipher initials in their work, it IS nice to finally see their names clearly-spelled, front-and-center, surrounded by instant visual reminders of, "Oooo! I didn't know she did THAT one too!")



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
M20 The Art of Mage: 20 Years and More
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Convention Book: Void Engineers
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by John B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/10/2019 00:10:08

For me, much of the fun of these updated Technocracy rulebooks is in watching how the priorities and attitudes of each Convention changes from their earlier edition counterparts. The in-the-story decisions made were surprising yet believeable in how the Void Engineers of 10 or 20 years ago had to adapt to changes while still remaining recognizable as the Void Engineers.

It was also good to see characters from previous Technocracy rulebooks move the metastory forward while giving readers the proverbial tour. (There was more than one moment of, "Why does that name seem so familiar?" followed by me rapidly getting out rulebooks from decades ago to happily discover that we HAVE encountered these characters before. At the same time, a player who owns none of the older rulebooks wouldn't feel left out.)

Most of all, I greatly liked the secret behind who Threat Null is. That creative bombshell was amazingly appropriate and symbolically well-fitted to the storytelling of Mage as a whole, yet it doesn't throw an immediate wrench into every Technocracy campaign currently being played.

My only complaints were: 1 The chapter describing cosmology seemed contradictory and unnecessarily complicated. 2. I know it's the World of Darkness, but sometimes the overwhelming odds and fatalism does bog down the game to the point where no rational character would bother trying to go on. 3. The repetition of the aliens/startship troopers motif got old (to me anyway) after a while. Thankfully, the introduction of something truly original such as Threat Null helped balance that out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: Void Engineers
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