Posted on March 29, 2010 by spikexan
Available at RPGNow.com
The Unbidden is Mage: the Ascension’s contribution to the Night Horrors line. For those who haven’t read my earlier reviews on this line, these books detail the kinds of monsters that monsters fear. You may be saying to yourself that the spellcasters in Mage aren’t really monsters. They are trying to enlighten the world, which isn’t high on many evil “to-do” lists.
What is horrible about these do-gooders? The authors address this question in the introduction. Magic is the horror that the typical Mage has to face. Magic is temperamental, akin to catching a tornado in a mason jar. Yeah, it may look cool in there, but there IS going to be a mess down the line. There are also antagonists in this book (great ones, I might add); however, they all boil down to the dangers of magic. Maybe someone uses it for the wrong reasons or too often or, Heck, too little.
The layout for Unbidden looks like the other Mage supplements. Instead of going with bits of artwork taken from within the book to create a border, the border looks like a leather string binding one might find in, oh I don’t know, a one-of-a-kind magical tome. Sidebars stand apart through a combination of neat layout and font designations; however, they aren’t jaw-dropping.
There are some icons watermarked into the pages, but not frequently. For me, this is a bonus as it makes this book a bit more printer-friendly. The artwork is placed tastefully and looks good midst the writing.
This leads us into the artwork. Michel Koch’s cover art surely sets up the book for the Night Horrors line. These books have delivered some of the year’s creepiest artwork, especially in regards to cover art. The Unbidden stay true to this trend. The interior artwork comes from familiar artists, notably Avery Butterworth and Justin Norman. The vast majority of pieces within the book are character sketches, although “character” means people, cell phones, dogs, and dice. When magic gets introduced the way it does here, anything goes. I liked the majority of the artwork, which ranges from comic (Vertigo, but still comic) to attempts closer to realism.
None of it was CGI, so that made me a happy camper. My favorite single piece was either “Wildcat” or “The Die of Destiny.” Both were thick with details.
The writing in this book proves perfect for a mix of authors. Thirteen authors share this 163 page book. With such a mix of inspirations, there are creations readers will love and hate (though I didn’t really hate any of the strange entities in this book). Of all the inductions to this little book of horrors, I actually liked the cell phone the best. Imagine a cell phone that has it in for you. It knows all of your darkest secrets and may know much more than that. Of course, it’s highly possible, it’s just messing with you. This addition just captures the feel of an EC Comic or episode of The Twilight Zone, which are wholly up my alley. The antagonists are as varied as their motivations. Books of monsters can be such a hit and miss affair. Some just stat out monsters (maybe I should stick with antagonists) while others really try to breathe life and stories into them. The Unbidden totally falls into the latter category. For me, I still like The Wicked Dead more; however, I’m more of a Vampire guy and a bit biased. I believe this book was built on the same philosophies as that one, which means a Mage fan should get some seriously awesome mileage and inspiration from this book. Books are bound to have errors and this one is mostly free of them. There is a minor editing problem in the introduction. In the descriptions of what readers can expect from each chapter, the lead-in headers are not consistent. Most say “X” while the final one says “Chapter Five: x.” This one stood out more than most since it was in header font.
All in all, I like this book. I followed up my PDF of The Wicked Dead with the dead tree version. The Unbidden tempts me to follow suit. I’m giving this book the following scores:
Layout: Three out of Five Dice (Middle of the Road)
Artwork: Four out of Five Dice (the cover is sweet . . . in the demented sense)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (Great inspirations that will probably spin out more for individual gaming groups)
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (A good fit to a Mage collection)
Review by Todd Cash