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I will not try to fool you. There will always be debates when playing a Mage game about what is and is not possible - or what fits under what use of an Arcanum. But, Mage: The Awakening, takes a solid stab at giving the answer to those questions. But, asking those questions is part of the fun of playing Mage, right?
Chapter 4: Storytelling and Antagonists
Includes the usual notes to gamemasters on how to run the game and a selection of Antagonists. This section, particularly the write up of the Seers of the Throne - the major antagonists of the setting, could have been longer. More antagonists that were not spirits or magical at all - like cults - would have been great.
Appendix 1: Legacies
Here are presented Legacies. A nice way to bring back some of the setting elements from the prior Mage game(s) and the World of Darkness. Legacies are a type of sub-order that characters can join. Following a Legacy narrows a characters focus, but provides inherent, paranormal abilities. Bypassing Paradox. I really enjoyed this section and wished that it was longer with more Legacies.
Appendix 2: Boston
Ok. I know that it helps some to have a detailed piece of the setting like a location, in this case Boston, or an adventure in the core book. I'm not one of them. I usually regard this as a waste of space and something that should be left as a stand alone products like the forthcoming Boston Unveiled. I wish that was where all the information in this section had been left. It would have been more helpful if the authors had used this section to provide more information on antagonists, legacies, how mages operate day to day, etc. What we get is a quick overview of Boston and some of its magical inhabitants and institutions - which reads like it was chopped directly out of the Boston Unveiled book and is thus incomplete.
The Book Ends
The book ends with a comprehensive index and a 2 page, 2 color character sheet in black and gold ink. I would think the gold would be hard to photocopy, plus bending the book to copy the sheet might damage it. You can just download the character sheet from WW's site or pick-up a character sheet pad at your local FLGS.
No, this isn't Mage: The Ascension. It's Mage: The Awakening - a game all its own. Some of it flawed - It is in no way as evocative in the writing as its predecessors. Some of it excellent - The game mechanics are, for the most part, well written and I've found it much easier to get new players into playing Mage. My recommendation? Give it a try.
Additional Note: In the prior versions of the game there was some excellent material provided by female writers. I particularly loved Kathleen Ryan's flavor material - the opening story in Mage: The Ascension 2nd Edition - being one of my favorittes. There seems to be a dearth of female writers at WW these days...or is it my imagination?