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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.

Digital Web
Mage: the Ascension Sourcebook
White Wolf
112pp - [sterling]9.99

White Wolf's excellent Mage RPG gives you an opportunity to play a Virtual Adept, a sort of computer-wizard operating in virtual reality. This is a big hook to the game but the rules tell us almost nothing about virtual reality or how to handle magick in "the Net". If you fancied playing Virtual Adepts, you either wrote the rules yourself, or waited to stump up the cash for another supplement. To give them their due, White Wolf don't disappoint with this one.

I was prepared to be unimpressed - after all, many other RPGs have covered this territory (Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Torg, etc.). True to form, White Wolf put a new spin on things.

First of all, the Net isn't a place - it's an imaginary construct, a mental event; it's an entirely distinct reality which, as more users come on line, is growing all the time. Moreover, it's a fluid reality: it becomes whatever you want it to be. Mages can "format" a sector of the Net, shaping it (consciously or unconsciously) after their own desires. There are virtual heavens, hells and everything in between, like virtual cartoon realms with Toon-like laws. Mages can appear in the Net as "icons", or virtual selves: you can have new identities and never know who you're meeting: other mages? artificial intelligence? Glass Walkers? Sleepers?

The Technocracy are here, of course, but since the Net is infinite, there's a state of truce. All mages are scrambling to find "virgin web" - sectors which haven't been formatted yet. A lot of magick is more effective in the Net, but Paradox is more risky: it doesn't just fry the user, it triggers a "whiteout" that can annihilate a whole sector. On the bright side, it's difficult to die, though "de-rezzing" is bad for your mental health.

The history of the Net is developed with lots of insights into both the Technocracy and the Virtual Adepts, as well as kinky new colloquialisms to make your gaming sessions even more incomprehensible.

The book describes the "Spy's Demise", a virtual bar where enemies can meet peacefully, drink Tass, spy on Sleeper BBSs and trade data. Two scenarios follow and these are (incredibly) quite good. The only drawback being that both require either considerable preparation or immense powers of improvisation by the Storyteller. System mechanics conclude, detailing the role of computers in the game, new rotes for getting about the Net, Talismans, NPCs, a bestiary of virtual nasties and some suggestions for virtual Chantries.

The whole book is written with clarity and humour: a pleasure to read. I'd rather have seen one detailed scenario than two sketchy ones and noticed that some of the systems rules contradict each other in places, but these are minor quibbles. One for the shelf, definitely.

Jonathan Rowe

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