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Megan

Strange Alchemies RPG Review

Posted on April 2, 2009 by Megan


Available at RPGNow.com

The aim of this work is to muse about some of the motivations and background issues that drive a Promethean, ideas that may spawn adventures and motivations for both players and Storytellers alike. It opens with an atmospheric story told by one Promethean, who appears as a young girl and works the club scene (not a tale recommended for the prudish), and who tells how no job lasts for long…

After explaining what the book is about, the Introduction goes on to raise the interesting idea of playing Prometheans which have been created by a deranged human rather than by another Promethean (the normal method, as described in the core rulebook). Smartly, rather than derive some rules for doing so, it is left as a concept to be played with if you choose to do so; leave the game mechanics for the ‘normal’ creation of Promethean by Promethean which is what your players are going to be doing. This does rather ignore people who might wish to play a human who wants to create life, but you can argue that such a concept belongs outside the Promethean: The Created line, and should feature in a core book (or perhaps a Mage supplement). If new Lineages are created, which is what happens if a human creates a Promethean from scratch, there is advice about how to assign the new Promethean’s special characteristics, the one bit of rules you are going to need!

Chapter 1: Patchwork Families looks at the established Promethean lineages, with ideas to help you build them into distinctive groups with their own legends and habits. The whole aim is to empower players to really get into the skins of their characters, to understand where they came from and how they feel and where they’d like to be going… all good stuff designed to help enhance role-playing and the creation of the ‘alternate reality’ that makes for the very best of games. This chapter is scattered with brief ‘seeds’ which could spawn a whole adventure, or just an incident to add flavour to your chronicle. These are generally open-ended, just something to start you thinking rather than complete events of themselves. The chapter rounds out with an extra Bestowment which is actually linked to the chronicle ideas presented later on, but which may be assigned to the Lineage of your choice; and a collection of new Merits.

Chapter 2 is called An Expression of Profound Truth, and is an in-depth exploration of five of the most common Refinements. These are the philosophies favoured by at least the more introspective Prometheans, and given some attention by just about all of them as each presents a route towards the ultimate goal of mortality. As well as ideas on how to follow each Refinement and what a character might be trying to accomplish, there are story seeds, new Transmutations to learn and a complete character built around the theme of an ardent practitioner of the Refinement in question.

Next comes Chapter 3: Lightning Strikes. It is a collection of essays looking at different aspects of the Promethean condition, and will make good reading for anyone wishing to plumb the depths of their character, or Prometheans in general. Again, fascinating stuff especially for the ardent role-player who wants to really understand the alternate reality inhabited by his character.

Finally Chapter 4: Strangers on A Hill provides resources for a chronicle based in and around Boston. Amid underlying themes of prejudice and violence, the characters attempt to find a Promethean who apparently has developed unique skills and insights and moreover is prepared to help others in their quest for mortality. After a bit of background about Boston (which can be expanded with the Boston Unveiled supplement from Mage: The Awakening if you have it), the storyline itself is presented in three broad ‘acts’ – loose enough that they can mutate to suit your characters’ actions, structured enough to keep the adventure on track. There’s a lot going on, along with scope to mix in anything else you want to incorporate from your characters’ backstories or even some of the story seeds from earlier in this book. Let’s just say that it will not be a relaxing visit to Boston!

Overall, this book is aimed at the thoughtful role-player who wants to delve deep into what it means to be a Promethean. However, the adventure is excellent: a high-octance sweep through the dark side of Boston with plenty for all types of player from investigator to deep role-player to action junkie to get involved in.

Review by Megan Robertson

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