Shadows of the Mind
The first thing I thought on seeing this book was "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I didn't think Conspiracy X's psychic rules were broke, so it was with great suspicion that I picked up Shadows of the Mind. I've been burnt before by Eden's products (as I mention in near every review), but I keep coming back anyway, hoping to see more of what attracted me to the game in the first place.
While the new ruleset isn't my cup of tea after all, I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of it. If it wasn't for those 23 pages, I'd recommend Shadows more highly than Forsaken Rites; FR is tightly wedded to the iffy Con X ruleset, but the bulk of Shadows is history and idea material.
The redone psi isn't too different from the original; still uses the keen Zener cards and Rhine tests, and we still have most of the old terminology. It's more of an expansion than a rewrite per se; we now have a few more Disciplines to play with, and a new level of skill below Lesser (Latent). My real objection is that it's a lot more complex now; taking a Discipline only gives access to a fraction of its potential (additional training must be bought to expand one's range within a Discipline, which means more bookkeeping than before). Quick example: Old Bio-Psychokinesis (Bio-PK) allowed you to induce heart attacks, trances, or adrenaline rushes in yourself or other people (the skill classification just determined how good you were at it). Buying classification in new Bio-PK only lets you give yourself an adrenaline rush; to do anything else (including a few things old Bio-PK couldn't) requires the Bodywork, Bioenergetics, Remote Cardiac Manipulation, Telehypnotism, or Tra! ! nce trainings on top of that, and your classification still determines whether or not you're even capable of using that knowledge. Also, the four Basic ESP powers have been messed with; Sixth Sense is now a separate advantage (that has different mechanics), and two other powers are plugged in to replace it (for a new total of 5). I really didn't like that.
Overall, the changes aren't bad... just not a definite improvement over the original system. While there's more of a range in psychic power (both up and down; you can build a psi who can only do a few tricks within a Discipline as opposed to the generalists from the original rules), I just don't think the extra range is worth the extra complexity, unless you plan on running an all-psychic game.
Thankfully, that's my only problem with this book; the rest is the kind of thing I think Eden should do more of: research. Schmid lists 18 books and 15 websites in the bibliography, and his work shows. Shadows goes into inspiring detail on pretty much everything you'd want to know about psychic research and mind control projects, from the Victorian spiritualist craze through the recently declassified CIA projects in remote viewing.
"Exhaustive" is the best way to describe this; every page is chock full of goodies (most of which is eminently lootable for any conspiracy game): alternate rules to reflect the unpredictability of clairvoyance, uses of hypnotism from parlor tricks to making a Manchurian Candidate, a full list of drugs (from MKULTRA brain-wipe injections to caffeine), speculation on how sunspot activity and thunderstorms affect psi, overlap between psi and the "supernatural" (poltergeists as unfocused psi, wizards and shamans as psychic prodigies), expanded histories/PC Credential writeups of MKULTRA, Project Rasputin (the Soviet psi researchers), CAPS, Project Cygnet (an attempt to use the fruits of MKULTRA's mad science without the notorious side-effects), and lots, lots more. While most of this isn't anything that couldn't be found with a little research (and you may be familiar with most of it if you've already done a lot of research on psychic phenomena and/or MKULTRA), Schmid gathers it ! ! all in one place for easy swiping.
Even the adventure's not too bad (the plot is uninspired, but the NPCs are entertaining).
The only thing that makes this an iffy buy is the price. Out of 112 pages, 10 are taken up by the adventure and another 23-odd by the redone psi rules (which I'm not using), which makes this book $17 for about 80 useful pages. Given that price, you may just choose to do the work yourself and visit a few libraries, but I think the price is a good exchange for the time that would take, given the work that went into those 80 pages. If you have any interest in the subject, I highly recommend you at least look through this book.
Style: 3 (Average)