Now, the actual illustrations in this book are fine, but scattered throughout the pages are photographs of people LARPing, and they are some of the mo...moreNow, the actual illustrations in this book are fine, but scattered throughout the pages are photographs of people LARPing, and they are some of the most awkward, unappealing folks. It really brought back to my mind a strong memory of being at a LARP, and that memory was a disembodied smell. It wasn't wholly pervasive--no, it came and went. Yet, it didn't seem to be tied to any particular individual, either. It was as if the smell was a player, going in and out of its own accord--some spirit of the LARP drawn in by our little game.
Now, I understand the desire to show people having fun and doing the activity that the book is meant to represent, and there are LARPs I've walked into and thought to myself 'this seems fun, these folks seem alright'. These illustrations do not give that impression: the glassy eyes, the unwashed ponytails, the sheen of grease picked up by a candle, the strained facial expressions that do not resemble any real human expression. I mean, I know these people exist, and some of them aren't too bad, but this is about image, about the representation of an idea of a good time. I'd rather see pictures of the LARP I wish I was going to--a LARP that looks like one of those goth clubs that was in every sci fi movie in the 90's. I mean, you'd think if you ran a roleplaying company, you'd be able to set something like that up.
Instead, what we get, while perhaps more honest to the average experience, is the equivalent to a McDonald's commercial featuring a dozen pale and flabby customers in stained sweatpants hunched over a meal they eat wordlessly, the only sound the screaming of their thick-wristed child. It's about image, people, and I'm not sure this is the one you want to send. A professional photographer, good lighting and costumes, and some makeup isn't dishonesty, it's how you create an attractive product.
Then again, I've come to realize that my experience with roleplaying is somewhat unusual--that my group consisted of active, attractive people who dressed well, had many friends and socialized without difficulty, were evenly distributed between men and women, and were made up of actors, directors, runway models, doctors, lawyers, poets, chefs, dancers, professors--all and sundry artists and intellectuals. So perhaps it's more that the gulf between my reality and theirs is just oddly wide.(less)
Man, I could have illustrated this book, myself and done a better job. Always sad to see an RP book with such flat, uninspiring illustrations when so...moreMan, I could have illustrated this book, myself and done a better job. Always sad to see an RP book with such flat, uninspiring illustrations when so many books have been improved and uplifted by the art within them. The writing is likewise awkward, especially when the author is trying to get poetic. The thing about White Wolf books is you really have to get the feel right in the flavor text, or the whole thing becomes quickly and long-windedly tedious. The rule set is alright, but I get somewhat tired of the cookie-cutter nature of the different World of Darkness settings. I think in terms of feel, I actually prefer the old Mage--it wasn't as streamlined or balanced, which was a problem, but it was often strange and wondrous and possessed a real complexity that allowed a lot of different play styles.
The single most important thing for a system based on story and character is that the world is varied enough that we can make a wide variety of characters, and fully-realized enough that it is a world that we would want to explore, a world where we can present many different ideas and scenarios. This setup all seemed too locked-down and small to really allow for that level of exploration.
I struggled trying to make a character in this rule set, because instead of being able to create the character I envisioned, I was forced to cut corners and fit him into the narrowness of the pregenerated system. The whole thing is so Western, so stuck in a very particular magical tradition that it becomes bothersome to try to construct anything that doesn't fit that standard. I feel like it might have been more effective to give the different Mage societies different cultural backgrounds and approaches to magic, instead of just going with 'the law mages, the nerd mages, the rebel mages, and druids who lack self-control'. If instead the branches had represented European, Asian, African, and Native American philosophical approaches to magic, it would have given the world a lot more depth and room for interpretation.
I mean, I'm sure they'll fill those in later with other sourcebooks, but to me that seems the wrong approach. The main book is the setting, so it should be grand and wide-spanning in its ideas, whereas later books can focus on one or another particular approach. By instead basing the setting on only one approach, the whole thing is limited from the get go.
Now of course, I can modify and re-interpret things to get them to fit conceptually, but as has been said many times before: if the player has to rewrite the setting and rules to make things work, that means the original game was flawed.(less)
Falls into the same pitfalls as the most successful of White Wolf's various rehashings of their original Vampire. Namely, the powers are ill-explained...moreFalls into the same pitfalls as the most successful of White Wolf's various rehashings of their original Vampire. Namely, the powers are ill-explained and leave one wondering whether one can only do certain explicitly-defined things, or whether these are merely guidelines for the sorts of available behaviors. In a game based primarily on story, one suspects the latter, but the book does not provide with a strong enough sense of just what the boundaries to one's skills are, leaving all involved fairly lost.
Of course, the feel should lie with the GM, but in a system with powers which should theoretically be balanced against one another (not really something White Wolf is known for doing well), the rules become more important.
The strength of the setting lies not in the rules, however, nor in the cookie-cutter humanity/evil, power set, or sectarian character classes. No, the strength of Demon is in the bizarrely deep and undeniably Miltonian setting which borrows liberally from all manner of newer Satanic readings, such as The Screwtape Letters, Dogma, or the Prophecy films. Unfortunately, much of the setting was clearly left deliberately vague in the promise of innumerable support books which never came.
Another work which makes me curse the irrelationship between popularity and quality.(less)