Mage: the Awakening is one of those games with a massive number of potential opponents. From the Seers of the Throne, to Intruders from the Abyss, Ghosts, Demons and Malevolent Spirits of all sorts, Mages always have their hands full. But among their opponents are a special class of Mage, willworkers that practice twisted magic. These are the Mages who walk the Left-Hand path. This isn’t a single way, but an entire gamut of different (and all disturbing) perversions of the use of the gift of magic. Whether through self-interest or the saintliest of intentions, these Mages use methods that are downright abhorrent.
Left-Hand Path, the latest supplement for Mage: the Awakening Explores these antagonists, tackling each one in turn. Starting with Heretics and Apostates, and moving on to the Mad, the Scelesti and finally the Tremere liches.
But before all that the book goes on to discuss the Left-Handed paths in general, going into the history of the term, as well as the term the preceded it “Nefandi” (definitely something that rings a few bells to the Mage: the Ascension crowd.) It also goes to discuss the Seers of the Throne, and how they react to (and identify) Left-Handed mages of their own.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is the discussion on the Tiers of the Left-Handed in a fashion similar to the factions of Hunter: the Vigil. Tier One is Local, and ofted deal with a small cult in the area and there is a lack of grand aspirations of evil. The higher Tiers get more interesting, stretching from Regional to Global and even Cosmic Endgame, definitely the purview of Archmasters.
The book also sheds some light on the various forms that the Left-Hand Path takes, from Countercultures that delve in avenues not supported by the Consilium, to Outlaws that seek to destroy the Awakened Society as it is now. Finally the opening chapter ends with a discussion of detecting Left-Hand Mages, and the judicial processes and punishments meted out to them.
The next few chapters are an extensive discussion of each of the major types of the Left-Handed Mages, working from an initial definition of what they are, and delving deeper in detail with regards to their motives and methods, which I find to be very, very useful. Each chapter also has sample NPCs, and a few new mechanics, from Apostate-only Merits to various traits of the Mad and the effects that they can have on their environment. The Scelesti have systems on negotiating with their Abyssal masters and the Tremere have a series of Houses such as House Nagaraja and House Seo Hel that have their own methods and attainments of their own.
The writing is inspired, and very informative. Left-Hand Path has certainly earned a place on one of those must-have books for a Mage: GM along with the Tome of the Mysteries, Seers of the Throne and Imperial Mysteries.
To say that this book is stuffed with detail is an understatement. With the Left-Hand Path, the entire range of villainy that the Mages have to face is complete. Offering a thorough (and well rounded) presentation of the Left-Handed, from the Apostates who disagree with policy, to the perversions of the Tremere and the debasement of the Scelesti, there’s enough material in this book to keep a campaign going on for a long time.
Left-Hand Path is a goldmine for Mage: the Awakening GMs, and while it may not necessarily be a book for players, I feel that it belongs in any nMage collection.