Opinions vary. Some people think Tarot cards hold power, while those who know say that they are merely guides, an interface to unlock your own knowledge of ancient secrets. In this book, the 22 Major Arcana are used as keys to chronicles for your Mage: The Awakening game... a smart idea as many mages study the Tarot.
The work starts with a short story in which a regular game of cards turns into a reading, and perhaps something else. You don't need a special Tarot deck if you know what you're doing.
Next, the Introduction looks at the history of the Tarot and how it is used for both divination and reflection, meditative self-knowledge. The underlying concept here is that the Tarot mirrors the journey a mage takes from Awakening to enlightenment. Each of the Major Arcana is described and used to spark ideas that might be woven into your chronicle, or even used to inspire a whole new arc. Whatever you might think about the Tarot in the real world, within the World of Darkness it does have real power, can show you the future, and a reading can actually influence events. For those interested, or who have got some cards and want to act it out, a simple layout is described. A Storyteller could make an effective introduction to a Chronicle by performing such a reading with a carefully-stacked deck! Alternatively a 'real' reading could be used to inspire events - both Tarot readings and role-playing games are open-ended enough for this to be possible. You could even use the cards to aid in character creation, and a method for this is described. There are also some notes on 'cartomancy' - any magic (not necessarily divinatory in nature) that uses cards as a focus.
The bulk of the book is made up of 22 chapters, one about each of the Major Arcana. The symbolism is explained, and there's a heady mix of rumour, history, fact and supposition about the meanings and significance of the card under discussion, as well as ideas that may spark off a chronicle, or influence the progression of an existing story. Apposite new Legacies are described for many, and numerous mages are detailed, people who could make suitable NPCs for characters to interact with during their journeys. An Appendix covers the Minor Arcana in far less detail, but each card at least gets a story hook based on its significance.
Ideally suited to groups fascinated by the intellectual, reflective and philosophical aspects of magic, this book presents a rich tapestry of ideas to weave through your chronicles.
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Reviewed: 17 May 2009