TL;DR: the book covers what the title says and has some useful suggestions. If you are a Mage fan this book has ideas for you. If players/STs are struggling then I definitely recommend this book. If you are a Mage expert, maybe this book is just a 3/5 for you, since experts likely have many proven dynamic pitches, plus the ability to quickly adapt and personalise chronicles; but maybe they’d still get something from this book, or enjoy reading more Mage things.
For those wanting more details, here is a deep dive. From my experience, players new to Mage typically fit into one of the following non-exhaustive groups:
A) Those that need help with the scale and implications of the setting. Character creation alone introduces a lot of Factions; does a player need an overview of each?
B) Those that struggle with the concept of what Spheres can do, plus maybe the rest of Mage’s metaphysics: Paradox and its many manifestations, the different realms, and in particular the topic of what counts as Coincidental / Witnesses / Vulgar magick.
C) Those that also that struggle with A + B.
D) Those that struggle with neither.
For people wanting more advice for dealing with Group B, I can appreciate why some might give the book a 3/5. However, from a certain P.o.V., Satyros does provide advice about the Spheres, from Focus over Spheres, ways to reconsider Witnesses and Vulgar Magick, different ways to use Paradox, to highlighting centring a game low level characters and stories, on more mundane but personal matters. My advice is don’t be quick to dismiss how these threads interact with each other.
Some might think advising people to strip back the scale of Mage, especially given the vast number of books, never mind just looking at the size of Mage 20th, is a simple and maybe even useless answer. I disagree, years ago I used to talk about the rich setting and the fun creativity of the Spheres, some of the players admitted to being intimidated before they began. When I returned to Mage I had an easier time persuading some new players to explore the game by focusing on the personal, not trying to summarise lots of factions, history, or metaplot.
I particularly liked the Arcane Approaches section. Whilst some may view this section as being weak or even obvious, maybe in hindsight it is. Personally, I think it helps make things easier, especially when combined with the rest of the book.
Will players in Group D benefit from this book? The title itself then should be an obvious indication to them about the book’s goal. It seems unlikely that Group D will see this book as a must read; I don’t think it is for them, but if someone enjoys reading Mage books, then I’d recommend this.
Could this book have gone further for those in Group B? Maybe, but I’m not sure more explanations will achieve what some are after. I’ve not experienced long-term problems with people in Group B, since over the course of a chronicle they have learned their characters range and explored different potential; but, I appreciate others may have different experiences. There are other products available that look at the Spheres, Nodes, etc., and maybe this work will inspire another product focusing on the details that some are after. I’ll be reviewing Sources of Magick next 🙂
I enjoyed the book and I think this book succeeds in its goals, 5* drivethrurpg, 4* on Goodreads. 😀