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> Book Club: Street Magic, Finally!
Ancient History
post Jan 22 2008, 02:26 PM
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Okay, laptop died and had to be resurrected...but hey, now everyone has read the first chapter of Street Magic, right? Ready and willing to talk about it?

I know it's a rarity, but let's start by looking at the JackPoint login page. Some poor bastards went to a lot of trouble to put this together, so it's worth a gander. Savvy readers might realize that some of the news items foreshadow upcoming plot points-like the Manadyne/Mangadyne bit and Project Monad in Emergence.

Chapter 1: The Awakened World
I think Rat (Robyn King-Nitschke), who y'all might recall wrote part of Seattle in Runner Havens and the adventure On the Run, among many other things, really likes these interview-style comments.

When you talk about magic supplements in SR, you're really talking about three books: the Grimoire, Awakenings, and Magic in the Shadows. The Grimoire (first or second edition, they're practically identical for most purposes) had, like several early books, was chewy.

Sidenote-> most RPG writing falls into three categories: fluff, crunch, and chew. Fluff is pure in-character fiction. Crunch is pure out-of-character mechanics. Chew is when you have out-of-character fiction, often mixed in with the crunch - this generally covers all non-mechanical game information. End sidenote.

Awakenings was a major step apart by featuring a decided gap between fluff and chew/crunch. It also featured a much more in-depth look at magic from the viewpoint of characters in the game. MitS was another chewy book. Street Magic takes a different format - less chew, and a resurrection of the fluff/crunch division. The main difference is that in SM, the fluff/crunch divisions are made by chapter, so instead of saying "Okay, the front half of the book is fluff and the back half is game infor/chew/crunch," each chapter (mostly) is front-fluff and back-crunch. Which I think works out nicely, m'self.

Personally, I'm a fan of this section. Most of the material was covered to an extant in previous magic supplements, but it's nice to have it gathered all together in one place and expanded on.

Note that Rat tends to use longer posts for shadowposters in her sections; I find that's usually because they have something to say.

p.18 is where older players should remember that they're reading a new book, not just a rehash of old material. You'll see more from Alchemix, Manadyne, and XPR in the future, doubt it not.
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Ryu
post Jan 22 2008, 02:34 PM
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I´m fine with SM, but didn´t we agree to do AUG first?
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apollo124
post Jan 22 2008, 02:41 PM
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I really enjoyed SM. I don't think I analyzed it as in-depth as you did, Ancient. I think it's a top-notch book all around. Kudos to the folks who put it all together. I also liked the fluff/crunch format. It keeps all the information you might need near the fluff for ease of use.
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bclements
post Jan 22 2008, 03:10 PM
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QUOTE (Ryu @ Jan 22 2008, 09:34 AM)
I´m fine with SM, but didn´t we agree to do AUG first?

Yeah, I thought that Augmentation was first. Oh well, I'll re-read Street Magic this evening and post up.
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Ancient History
post Jan 22 2008, 04:42 PM
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...Okay shadowkids, we're going to employ FiF protocols. This thread is up, so we do SM first. Augmentation next, promise.
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Limited Infinity
post Jan 23 2008, 01:49 AM
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I agree that the format was easier to read through, but I wish they had all the crunch at the back. It's just easier to have the rules handy in the middle of the game. If they keep this style I'd like to see tabbed or color coded page edges.

I think this was first time I read the Jackpoint page. Nice but who got matrix in my magic (j/k :P)

The Awakened World was nice refresher. It was the first impression that the paths would take a more religious spin. I miss some of the crazy psionics etc., but more on that when we get to paths.
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Mugzy
post Jan 24 2008, 08:05 PM
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I particularly liked the short fiction at the beginning of the chapter. The story of the kid's awakening probably couldn't have been more down to earth. None of the flashy "Totem chose me to lead the cause" (whatever that means) or the "unnaturally gifted talent for magic" you find in so many character histories. Just a kid who has no idea what just went on, and a decent backstory for what could become a mage runner in the near future.

The part where it goes into the relative rarity of spellcasters I think is somewhat important. It gives a good insight into the general misconceptions about magicians and many of the Saturday morning cartoon style characters we have all seen as a result.

As AH said, a lot of what is here has been passed down through time in the various incarnations of magic and main books, but has the beginnings of what looks to be possible meta plots sprinkled in.

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Ravor
post Jan 25 2008, 02:49 AM
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One of the things that has bothered me about the Awakened ever since FrankTrollman pointed it out is that it appears that as time wears on and the Mana Level raises, full Mages seem to actually be becoming rarer since the fluff is still using the same 1% of the population is Awakened line but has increased the number of ways which a person can be Awakened.

Now I suppose it could be explained that Mages were more likely to Awaken first and that now the people with a weaker magical connection are begining to express, but I wish that something would actually appear in print to at least address the issue.
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Kalvan
post Jan 25 2008, 03:07 AM
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Something tells me we'll probably have to wait for some metaplot adventure book to hear even part of the explanation...
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Mugzy
post Jan 25 2008, 03:13 AM
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Well, remember, we're only 60ish years into the awakening. Mana cycles last thousands of years. The percentage of people who are magically active still being low is actually rather in line.

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Synner
post Jan 25 2008, 09:48 PM
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QUOTE (Ravor @ Jan 25 2008, 02:49 AM)
One of the things that has bothered me about the Awakened ever since FrankTrollman pointed it out is that it appears that as time wears on and the Mana Level raises, full Mages seem to actually be becoming rarer since the fluff is still using the same 1% of the population is Awakened line but has increased the number of ways which a person can be Awakened.

This is not the case. Your problem lies with the fact that the "fraction" of 1% the Awakened population that are not full Magicians has never been defined. In SR4, the rules themselves just make it more obvious that there are numerous levels and types of Talent out there and that while the most common full Magicians are just one of them (it also helps that not all magicians are now "born equal" and there are varying degrees of magical talent).
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Ryu
post Jan 26 2008, 09:26 AM
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Chapter 1 is really mostly information that had been given before, being the magic 101 primer. As Awakenings was one of my favourite books for its fluff, that is not bad at all.

I use to visit sections like "corporate mojo" when I search my next character background. The mundane preconceptions on magic are useful if a GM wants to play up how special the awakened in his group are.
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Ancient History
post Jan 30 2008, 10:49 PM
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Chapter 2: The Awakened Character
I gotta admit, this is my least favorite chapter in Street Magic. I can be kind of hardassed about these things, but the first half of this chapter is full of really common sense stuff-the type of thing players should be able to figure out after one or two readings of the basic rules. If it was to be done over again, I would probably suggest a greater emphasis on the individual magical skills instead of the skill groups.

There was considerable debate about the new Magical skills of Arcana and Enchanting. On the one hand, we hated to have players create their characters and then pick up a new book and find that they were completely lacking in skills they needed; on the other there was no room for these skills in the main sourcebook (which, to its credit, already had rules for initiation squeezed in).

Arcana had a twofold purpose: replace the annoying Divining Skill introduced in Magic in the Shadows, and replace the Magical Theory/Spell Design skill(s). This is actually a considerable simplification, with the minor downside that it minimizes the many non-Active magical Knowledge Skills like Magic Background somewhat. But then, Arcana is hardcore applicable theory while Magic Background is common knowledge, so not much of a loss, though none of the character examples in SR4 have the skill.

Enchanting was originally slated to be its own skill group, but given the limited use it was much more cost-efficient to players and easier all around to make it a single skill. The original skill group breakdown made it into the Optional Rules at the end of the chapter.

The qualities...ah, yea gods, the qualities...I'm not fond of them. I know why they were limited, I just don't particularly agree with it. For the Astral Sight, Spell Knack, and Spirit Knack qualities the limitation on only having a Magic of 1 basically prevents the character from ever taking implants ever, unless they choose to go with a Latent Awakening or take my patented Technically Legal But Debateable Interpretation Of The Rules™. Which was pretty much the point. Spirit pacts also mislike me, but we'll look at that farther on.

I actually like the Aspected Magician, Cursed, Focus Addiction, and Geas qualities, go figure.

I like sympathetic and symbolic links, I think they work well. If this chapter had had a fiction section preceding it, it might have included some fluff about the Laws of Sympathy, Synecdoche, and Contagion. I wish ritual magic as a whole had been given more wordcount, though. There was a really big debate about material links, and whether or not they had to contain the DNA of the subject (where appropriate). Ultimately it was left out.

One pattern I've noticed in SR of late are Optional Rules: the ones the writers assume the players will use, and the ones we assume they won't. Case in point: Acquiring Geasa During Play (we assume you'll use this) and Tweaking the Rules (we assume you won't). The latter really are a collection of ideas we were throwing around but were ultimately decided not to be used for balance' sake.
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Ryu
post Jan 30 2008, 11:29 PM
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Chapter two, or what makes an awakened character. The general description of how to build an awakened character missed to point out some basic knowledge of character building.

- It should have been stressed that Banishing and Astral Combat are skills that require mastery if they are to be used (or a weapon focus). Those loose on the lower end to a single combat spell, as enemies that seek astral combat will usually win.

- More could have been said about interesting ways of augmentation. The philosophical background of "no-implant-fanatics" are nice, but I would have wanted for this section to be more crunchy.

Enchanting I can live with, but Arcana I hate. That is a natural knowledge skill, it has no place being an active skill.

The qualities are not good. Astral Perception for Magical Adepts. Forbidden, but would have been the best (only) use. Latent Awakening... do you want a shiney car or a ticket for the great lottery? A Rover 2068 and Latent Awakening both cost 5 BP. The only danger here is you never awakening unless you nag the GM about it (getting to be a Shaman of Skunk in the process). I admid it COULD be pretty cool. SR4 is what you make it...

I don´t like aspected magicians, thats stupidly few BP. I guess you could not have gotten a free magic point with that, or even two? The rest is good, geasa being my all-time-all-systems favourite.

The crisis of confidence - magic reduction in the "Aquiring geasa ingame" section works well without ever getting a permanent geas. I´d count that more on the not-using side of things ;)
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Blade
post Jan 31 2008, 09:20 AM
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First chapter is good. Nothing exceptional, nothing new, but it does a good job of summing up everything that has been said about how magic is considered in the 6th world.

Chapter two has some good ideas: bringing back aspected magicians (maybe not handling them the best way, but it's hard to find a good balance for something that could so easily be abused). I really like that geas can't help get back magic lost because essence loss which led to awful munchkins in previous editions.
The crisis of confidence is also interesting and can lead to some nice roleplaying situations.
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Prime Mover
post Jan 31 2008, 02:55 PM
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I've been mulling over the 1 magic pnt edges sight and knack. Was wondering about your "interpretation" mentioned above. Other then latent awaking seem pretty poor choices for a PC. I might consider allowing these to be purchased after char gen or late in char gen (in situation similar to a latent awakening) as possible fix. (char would have to have at least 1 full essence pnt to qualify)

Edit: After going back and looking at this again it seems like a reasonable trade off. Yes you could have a Sammie with astral sight or ability to cast a force 1 spell but he'd also always be limited in only being able to spend 5 essence on enhancements. In the long term his contemporaries will still have the other .9 essence to spend. Reasonable trade off?
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Feshy
post Jan 31 2008, 08:34 PM
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Chapter 1
(Sorry, I'm late.)

My biggest beef with this section is that I really wish the "Magic and the Law" section was much longer, and much crunchier. After all, much of what a shadowrunning magician will do is risk interacting with the law; it could have been a pretty big focus of this book. I'd also like to know more about the various "registration" schemes that magicians face in the world.

Chapter 2

I notice that under the heading "Creating an awakened character" they state that to be awakened, you must be an adept, magician, or mystic adept. Does that mean that those with Spirit/Spell Knack, etc, don't count as that 1% awakening? This seems at odds with, e.g. Latent Awakening.

I'm with Ryu on Arcana. I don't see anything at all that makes this an active skill. It seems only useful for creating formula, which to me seems no different than using the knowledge skill "civil engineering" to make a blueprint for a bridge. This is one of my biggest problems with this section.

I'm very glad the designers decided to go with Enchanting (magical B/R ;) ) as a single skill, rather than a group. It might downplay the skill a bit to make it a single skill, but as a skill group no shadowrunner is really going to have much access to it. Mages are already stretched enough on Karma as it is. Besides, unlike all other B/R skills, Enchanting takes karma to actually use, in many cases. Much of the extra cost of a skill group will already be paid, as each focus is a unique creation experience requiring its own karma expenditures. Basically, I'm glad the designers left it the way it is, rather than the way it appears under "Tweaking the Rules" -- for all the reasons they list there.

Astral sight I hadn't read through as closely before now. It might make for a very limited NPC who uses weapon foci to defend himself from spirits by astrally perceiving. But all in all, this suffers from the same problem that the "knack" abilities do -- as a player character, the choice to give up all cyberware and all magic just isn't a real choice, unless you're in a very, very low-powered campaign.

Latent awakening I think is a very cool quality. I do love the concept of a character finding out he has magical talent as the game goes along; it's a great storyline hook. I worry a little about the fairness -- a latent awakening character can get quite a few magic points for "free" that other magical characters with cyberware would have to pay for. I think this is mostly balanced by the fact that the latent awakener would have no magical skills worth speaking of for some time. All in all, I think it's a good quality, though it might require a lot of extra time with the GM discussing what both the player and GM are looking for to avoid hurt feelings.

The spell and spirit knack power are more like fluff than crunch, as they have so little use to player characters. As I said above, giving up cyberware and magic both is not a good road to go down for most characters. As fluff, though, it does make for the occasionally interesting NPC ability. However, even there it is not that useful -- most interesting NPCs won't be essence 6 mundanes! These qualities can go good with latent awakening, though -- assuming both the GM and player are in agreement about it.

Spirit Pact -- or, how to have your character live forever!

Aspected Magician -- I loved aspected magicians in 2nd edition (never played much 3rd edition) I would never take these qualities in 4th edition. There is just no way they are worth the points. I guess the only advantage is that they are equally cheap to buy off with karma later, though I can't say that makes a lot of sense. Do all the aspects that give a -4 to Sorcery dice pool also affect counterspelling? That would be even worse.

Cursed -- love this. I'm glad there is a magical variant of "gremlins" in the game. It's a great way to inject some humor into magic, which is always good at the gaming table. At all but the first level, it has a significant impact on even more powerful magicians. At higher levels, though, it can be very disruptive -- nearly every use of magic will draw it out, no matter how powerful the mage. In fact, due to dice mechanics, a more powerful mage will glitch more often with this flaw! At lower levels, though, it's a great addition to the game.

Focus Addition -- This is almost a great flaw. I like the story aspect, I like that magicians can get 'addicted' to their power, in a way. The -2 to drain per level, though, may be a bit too much. Without that, the flaw is probably too easy for the points, but with it it might be too much. It might have been better if it was more limited -- for instance, -2 to drain tests where a focus isn't used. As is, it very quickly eats in to the extra dice you get from a focus, so you come out better off to have avoided focii altogether. I feel flaws should be a tradeoff, not a complete negation.

Geas -- I'm glad these are back in the game. I think these are well done flaws, in that they add drawbacks for a magician, but at the same time add a good amount of story and character. There are some balance issues between types of Geas, though -- for instance, performing only magic your mentor spirit gives a bonus to is surely much more harsh than praying towards mecca once a day. The latter requires only that you are conscious (you won't be casting spells if you aren't) and know which direction mecca is! Heck, you don't even need that, just pray in every direction.

I'm also very glad to see symbolic and sympathetic links brought back. It really helps with making ritual sorcery as useful and powerful as it should be. Though, I wonder if "recently handled" objects make it too powerful -- but the idea of a cabal of magicians setting up shop in the freezer room of a Stuffer Shack in order to take advantage of those rules is funny enough I let it slide. Besides, it requires metamatic to use, which itself balances things nicely. I do wish it was a little more clear for those of us who are a bit slow -- the first time I read the symbolic link section I missed the very first sentence, the one that begins with "Initiates with the Sympathetic Linking metamagic..."

I have one writing pet peeve under "acquiring geas during play." The character is not "literally under the gun" when summoning a powerful free spirit -- his is figuratively under the gun, which is the exact opposite. Using "literally" with a figure of speech grates on me.

I do like "acquiring a geas during play" but I'm not sure how I feel about "way of the burnout." I know these are "optional" rules, but way of the burnout worries me. It really affects how characters view Geas. Without burnout, they are a hinderance -- taking a character out of his element or comfort zone and it decreases his abilities. With burnout, they are a ticking time bomb; a one-way road to mundane neighborhood. As each one is a ten-point flaw, maybe that's appropriate. I'm still undecided. I guess that's why I'm glad it's an optional rule. :)

I'm a little sad that Adepts and Geas got put in the Tweaking the Rules section -- I rather liked that rule in previous editions. It was, though, a little too easy to abuse. ("The adept must be in combat to not break this geas. Woohoo, killing hands for 75% cost!")

I also liked the Spirit Edge idea under Tweaking the Rules. This helps even out low power and high power spirits a bit. Then again, I guess high power spirits are supposed to be frightening.

I think the "More common Knacks" idea is fundamentally flawed. The cost of the knack is minuscule compared to the cost of raising magic and the skills to use it. Using the "More common Kacks" rules would result in characters that spent just a few points less than a full mage to get a single ability. Few characters would stop there, rather than just spending those last few points.

For Ritual Magic, I would also have liked the suggested possibility of all magicians knowing the spell and having the same drain attribute.

Sorry my review is so long, but this section was very crunchy, and I tend to look at rules closer than I do fluff. I do like fluff, I just don't scrutinize it as closely.
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Moon-Hawk
post Jan 31 2008, 09:26 PM
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QUOTE (Feshy)
I have one writing pet peeve under "acquiring geas during play." The character is not "literally under the gun" when summoning a powerful free spirit -- his is figuratively under the gun, which is the exact opposite. Using "literally" with a figure of speech grates on me.

Unless, of course, the free spirit in question is in the shape of a gun, or possibly named "the gun", and is summoned directly above the summoner.
Then, I suppose, it would be literally true. :D

It's a pet peeve of mine, too.
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fool
post Feb 1 2008, 03:37 AM
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I like the arcana skill because it took a bunch of diverse skills (some active and some knowledge) and made them into one overarching and logically coherent skill. It's used in a wide enough variety of ways to make it worth getting and yet isn't absolutely the most necessary skill to have. a good skill to have at 2-4
I also liked the geas, but most of the other edges and flaws I found to be annoying and or useless. Spirit pack has potential, but as it literally a list of ideas from the back of a cocktail napkin, it's limited in how thouroughly it's thought through.
I still miss the ability to use ritual sorcery to sustain spells for a certain number of hours, but I like that they brought back using it to hunt down someone you have a link to.
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Kyoto Kid
post Feb 1 2008, 04:13 PM
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...I don't think that Arcana should be required of Adepts for the purpose of finding an adept group. Arcana is basically the theory behind magic which pretty much relates to spellcasting and spell design. Adepts (unless they are mystic Adepts) really don't deal with that aspect. To them it would be Ki, Chi, or some other term for the channeling their inner power. It would make more sense that an Adept had to prove herself to the group though the use of her adept talent and not some "academic" skill.
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bibliophile20
post Feb 1 2008, 06:47 PM
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QUOTE (Kyoto Kid)
...I don't think that Arcana should be required of Adepts for the purpose of finding an adept group. Arcana is basically the theory behind magic which pretty much relates to spellcasting and spell design. Adepts (unless they are mystic Adepts) really don't deal with that aspect. To them it would be Ki, Chi, or some other term for the channeling their inner power. It would make more sense that an Adept had to prove herself to the group though the use of her adept talent and not some "academic" skill.

Agreed on that.
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Ryu
post Feb 24 2008, 12:50 AM
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Group Houserule update: We just agreed on making Arcana a knowledge skill.

Shall we go on with the book?
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Ancient History
post Feb 24 2008, 02:43 AM
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Er...quite right. Things get ahead of me and then I'm behind. Ahem. GOing on.

Chapter 3: Paths of Magic
Shadowrun's magic rules and the associated fluff are inseperable, and over the years they've agglutinated with each sourcebook and edition. The paths and paradigms of magic really started proliferating in Magic in the Shadows, and that has been carried on and expanded here-with a difference: SR4 introduces a single shared system to handle the mechanics for all of the traditions. While this does take away part of the flavor of diametrically opposed magical paradigms, it does make things easier.

Okay, blather aside, the first page or so is actually material to address gross aspects of magical traditions-vital, and a good refersher for older players, but principally beneficially to new players. The new traditions range all over and hit about every major and minor magical tradition today (and a few more). There's a lot of love given to these descriptions, a damn sight more than in MitS; some of them are highly reminiscient of material from the SOTA books.

A word: every author has their own biases, preferences, areas of specialization, favorites, yadda yadda. You'll notice some writers will use a particular poster more often, or like to discuss food, prostitution, magical goods (cough, cough, hack, sputter, 'scuse me). These things tend to creep in, is all I'm saying.

(Personally, I kind of miss the Yin/Yang bit from Shadows of Asia, but I know why it wasn't connected).

The adepts and oddballs sections are about what you'd expect; primarily updates and expansions of previous takes, sans the weird rules. Much more heavy on properly thematic suggestions.

The section on building your own magical tradition was more-or-less to make people who had their favorite magical paradigm not included happy. An interesting note is that the example given, the Korean mudang, was an actual tradition cut for space...or something else. It's a little hazy now, but I think Olivier Thieffine originally came up with it.

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Simon May
post Feb 24 2008, 04:40 AM
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I don't understand why people seem to be so down on the Latent Awakening quality. Admittedly, it is a 5 point merit and you then need to buy magic afterward, making it an expensive proposition, but the opportunity to actually play your own backstory as you realize you're gifted with something and dealing with the consequences of that is a phenomenal addition to the game. Certainly, it doesn't make a ton of sense in a standard 400 BP game, but if you ran a low-level 300 BP game, it could be a great story-telling and role-playing opportunity.
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Fortune
post Feb 24 2008, 04:52 AM
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I don't recall anyone complaining about the Latent Awakening Quality. I have heard (understandably so) many complaints about the Aspected Magician and Astral Sight Qualities.
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RSS Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 24th March 2019 - 06:01 AM

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