[Review] Imperial Mysteries for Mage: the Awakening

Posted: January 12, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Mage: the Awakening, Reviews, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
Tags: , , ,

Archmages. In a game about being able to shape reality with your will alone, the idea of reaching this otherworldly level of power is a seriously tempting motivation.

Imperial Mysteries delves into the nature of reaching this level of ability with magic, and gives an incredible level of attention to the nature, conflicts and issues that surround Archmages, making what would have been easily an unplayable mess into an insightful and fantastic take on what it truly means to bear the responsibilities of having achieved such a state.

The first chapter of the book details the Threshold, the “second Awakening” experienced by Masters seeking the truths behinds the Imperial Mysteries.  This is a painstaking and dangerous process, full of lethal pitfalls and dead ends that result in either failure or death.  The trials detailed are given extensive detail, and an example is provided as well for clarity.  The process is not so much complicated, but the story implications in a game are enormous.  Achieving Archmaster status isn’t just a matter of spending experience points.

The Archmaster template is also presented here, with some very powerful alterations to the base Mage template, all of which are an excellent way to underscore the power levels of these beings and their mastery over the various Arcana.

Everything scales up.  From new Spell Factors for spellcasting, to newer, more threatening levels of Paradox Backlash and Manifestations, to the reality-shaking possibilities of the Arcana of 6 dots and above.  The authors are unapologetic about showing exactly why Archmasters are considered to be almost divine, and why mages should treat them with respect and perhaps a healthy amount of fear.

Chapter two discusses the “Setting” of the Archmasters, and the Ascension War, the conflict between them as they struggle to shape the world according to their whims.  Regulated from gross manipulations by the Pax Arcanum, a set of laws upheld by all the players of the Ascension War to preserve the Fallen World from destruction.

They move on to discuss the Ententes, philosophical factions of Archmasters who aren’t exactly allied, but share similar outlooks.  They aren’t necessarily allies (or even friends) but their goals are similar enough that they can benefit from each other’s efforts… which for a society as small as the Archmasters can be a boon.  Safety in numbers is still a concern for a group as powerful as these.

Chapter Three speaks of the supernatural beings that exist in this plane of reality.  The Ascension War is the province of gods and spirits, and Archmasters are only one “type” of inhabitant vying for control of the Fallen World.  Each of these are all given throrough detail, though one won’t find much in terms of stat blocks.  These are all extremely powerful beings, and while Combat remains an option, Archmasters prefer other means to further their interests.  After all, this state of existence is like being in a Cold War of sorts, where Mutually Assured Destruction is a very real threat.

Chapter Four discusses Ascension, the final goal of the Archmasters.  This is an even more difficult task than achieving Archmastery, as it requires essentially reshaping the world in a fashion that allows you to achieve a higher state.  There are other means to Ascend, which are also detailed in the chapter, from joining your soul to that of a god in divine union, to enthroning oneself in an Arcanum’s Supernal realm.  The chapter also goes into detail on the items related to Ascension, from the regalia of Gods to the Sariras, the corpse-like solidified Resonance of a mage’s physical form left behind upon Ascension.

The Appendix presents the rules and mechanics for the Imperium sub-game.  A series of rules that simulate the Archmaster’s infuence over the cosmos.  This is a new set of rules that come into play only when Archmaster player characters are involved in their quest to Ascend.  The scale of actions and goals sought after in Imperium is mind boggling as an Archmaster must achieve three Omens or tasks along Personal, Earthly and Celestial tiers.  Each of these achievements will then be solidified by an Exaltation rite to make the changes in the Fallen World permanent.  These tasks range from Masterful: “Maintain 10 dots of Wisdom without supernatural assistance beyond the Imperium Rite” to Supreme “Create a new Watchtower.”

Needless to say these are tasks that are fitting to Archmasters, and it is little wonder that only those that manage to make such changes to the world can find Ascension.

Imperial Mysteries is perhaps one of the best supplements for Mage: the Awakening I have ever read.  It makes for the perfect capstone supplement, revealing the nature of the higher states of existence, while keeping enough secrets and challenges to still make it playable.  Archmasters are uniquely powerful but still incredibly human characters, making a campaign of this level something that is still compelling as opposed to just being the bully in a sandbox.

My only issue with the book is the fact that most of the artwork was reused from the Corebook or other existing supplements, but that’s a minor nitpick.  The cover art could have been better, especially after such impressive pieces for Seers of the Throne and The Tome of the Mysteries

That said, I highly recommend this book to any Mage: the Awakening GM who is interested in the nature of Archmastery, and is looking to get a bigger picture to work with when it comes to the interaction of the Exarchs and Archmasters with the Fallen World.  This book isn’t just for playing being of this scale, but also offers advice on how they can be used as elements in a chronicle centered on non-archmasters in a way that doesn’t feel like they’re ST mouthpieces.

Imperial Mysteries is now available in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $10.99 (Php 495), Softcover B&W for $15.99 and a bundle of both for $18.99.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    “The authors are unapologetic about showing exactly why Archmasters are considered to be almost divine, and why mages should treat them with respect and perhaps a healthy amount of fear.”

    — And that is just Chapter One.
    Words cannot express the awe-inspiring awesomeness of this book.

    Power really is the meter stick upon which wisdom is measured.

    “Imagine Awakening again.”

    “Existence is dust.
    But there’s little comfort to be had in being a lord of dust…”

  2. eduardo says:

    they should not let 9 years old kids draw their front cover art. this is the ugliest art i’ve ever seen in a RPG front cover art book

    • Hey eduardo,

      Well, I admit that the cover art wasn’t exactly up to par with the rest of the Mage: the Awakening line, but I think that statement comes off as pretty harsh. Still I’m hoping that future releases for the Mage: the Awakening line go back to their usual standard when it comes to cover art.

      • Triplets says:

        It’s not just technique – which is lacking in spades – but also ambition. It’s a girl in normal dress (would archmgi wear normal clothes anymore?) summoning some… vines? Which I’m sure you could probably do with Life 3 or thereabouts. Hardly archmaster material. Just a complete lack of ambition on the editor and artists part. You don’t get anything archmagey from the cover – quite poor when your cover doesn’t match the content.

        Also, she has a super wonky face.

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