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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.


The Book of Madness
Sourcebook
Mage: The Ascension
White Wolf Games Studio
144pp-[sterling]9.99

Those boring Technomancers have been getting so much coverage lately. Well, just on time, The Book of Madness is here with some real bad guys.

First off, the devil-worshipping Nephandi; you've got classic Dennis Wheatly Nephandi who serve the demons of the Inferno. The Inferno is a pretty unpleasant place in the Astral Umbra and refugees from Ars Magica or the first edition AD&D Monster Manual will feel right at home here. Another faction are the Malfeans who serve the Wyrm. These people fit neatly into Werewolf: The Apocalypse cosmology. You also receive some loose canons who serve those That Dwell Outside; these are your basic Call of Cthulhu style wizards - as loopy as you like.

I approve of the author's approach here; though this section gives quite a lot of insights, nothing is written in stone. There are hints of a greater weirdness to come: the Qlippoth (dark reflections of the nine spheres) and the Aswadim (Nephandic anti-oracles) tease the imagination. You also get a breakdown of the Qlippothic Sphere of Entropy as well as lots of despicable NPCs.

Next in to bat are the Marauders. These dangerous Chaos Mages previously received scanty treatment: an enigmatic gang turned up in Loom of Fate but the bunch in Chaos Factor were just plain silly.

Now we learn that Marauders exist in a state of terminal Quiet - a sort of magickal psychosis. Each lives in her own reality which means that Paradox doesn't really bother them. The downside is that most Marauders are as out of touch with each other as they are with "sane" Mages. A sample of NPCs follow (including a mad Oracle - zoinks!) and a menagerie of mythic beasts concludes.

Next to all this fun and games is a long-winded chapter on Paradox. The usual stuff revises the rules of Paradox and goes into more detail on Paradox Backlash, Paradox Flaws and the spiffy new Paradox Storm (ka-BOOM.... you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!). More Paradox Spirits round off, for those who want them.

The last chapters describe the demons and their cultists and will spawn lots of new adversaries in Mage campaigns throughout the world. The spirit-world gets a new going over from a Magely perspective and the rules for spirits are altered to tie in with Werewolf (so now they've got Rage, Gnosis and Charms). If you own Werewolf then the section on spirits will be old hat; similarly, the section on demonic powers largely redrafts the rules that appeared in the Sabbat Storyteller's Handbook.

Overall: Most Storytellers will be able to put this to great use. You could even run PC Marauders (yikes!) or PC Nephandi (yeugh!). There's an unfortunate trend towards obscene language in White Wolf's products. Okay, so it's adult-orientated gaming, but this gleeful delight in naughty words just seems rather juvenile to me. As everybody's mother used to say, "It's not clever - and it's not funny!".

Review by Jonathan Rowe
Product supplied by Jonathan Rowe

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