" For a book which sets out to entice gamers to play the Tradition represented within, Dreamspeakers makes few attempts to interest the reader in the Tradition and its culture. "
Title: Tradition Book: Dreamspeakers, Revised by White Wolf
Format: Tradition Sourcebook for Mage
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: A revised look at the Dreamspeakers Tradition, containing all-new material and updates from the first edition Tradition Book and information on how the Dreamspeakers Tradition has survived after the fall of Doissetep and the end of the Ascension War. Does this Ghost Dance summon up a rainstorm, or is it just a bunch of loud banging on bongo drums by monkeys who can't keep a beat? Oh, wait… that was me banging on the bongos.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: This supplement details the culture and beliefs of the Dreamspeakers, the Tradition of Awakened Mages made up of those who practice a spiritual, Shamanic approach to magic. Unlike most of the Awakened, Dreamspeakers deal with the spirits of the Umbra (or spirit realm) regularly, and base most of their principles of magic upon animistic beliefs in the spirits of all objects, living and nonliving, as well as ancient tribal practices and beliefs stemming back to times before the founding of cities. Unfortunately, the presentation of these mystical beliefs is disjointed and nonsensical in the text, and most of the prose within the book feels as though it were written as a "part two" of a previous discussion, leaving the reader on the outside of understanding. From the temporally flip-flopping spirit conversations (they don't keep time like we do) to the coffee klatch of urban shamans discussing how they "talk" to their computers, the prose of the book is a bit hard to digest. With no coherent history or goals for the Tradition, there isn't a particular plot, and so the story for the book is found wanting. 2 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The book is set up rather counter to the usual format for any of White Wolf's splatbooks (a catch-all term for any breed/caste/clan/guild/kith/tradition/tribebook). This is not a terrible thing in and of itself, but makes referencing material inconvenient when one expects to find notable Dreamspeakers listed in the back but instead has to look in the center of the book for them. The page borders and fonts match the Mage core book, which makes them pleasant to look at, but there are a few annoying typesetting errors; every apostrophe is followed by a space, which interrupts the flow of reading. The artwork is unexceptional where it isn't flat out bad-Christopher Shy's cover is of very high quality, but shows a Dreamspeaker (your stereotypical tribal shaman) in what appears to be power armor with glowing crystal insets. Now, I don't know about you, monkeys, but when I think "shaman," I do not associate "power armor" with that image. Drew Tucker is once again enlisted to produce art for a White Wolf supplement, and he once again fails to actually produce "art"-his watercolor-wash charcoal scribbles are not only ugly to the point of normal people looking like Total Recall mutant extras, but I have it on good authority that his is a very hard technique to produce. Why would anyone work that hard at looking bad if they weren't part of a circus freak show? Leif Jones seems the only artist worth his salt, though his art tends to look a bit lopsided and droopy, as if viewed through a fisheye lens…it's excellent work, but something seems a bit off. Ron Brown and Alex Sheikman produce passable but forgettable works, and so it is unlikely that this supplement would ever be referenced for interesting art examples. 2 out of 5.
Playability: For a book which sets out to entice gamers to play the Tradition represented within, Dreamspeakers makes few attempts to interest the reader in the Tradition and its culture. The factions presented are certainly worth attention, though with the exception of the Baruti, they all seem essentially the same in scope and vision (though some are more militant than others). No information is presented which adds to the attractiveness of the Tradition, so anyone waffling on the edge of wanting to play a Dreamspeaker versus another Tradition isn't going to find much to sway them here. There are some interesting Rotes worth consideration, but as a whole the book itself is unlikely to have an impact on your Mage game. 3 of 5.
Desired Content: One opens the Dreamspeakers Tradition Book expecting a bevy of information about Shamanic practices, various cultures' take on how to be a Dreamspeaker, and varying viewpoints on technology and the urban environment from a Shamanic approach. Instead, the book presents some barely comprehensible discussions between seemingly drug-addled mages and their totem spirits, which hardly seem capable of human conversation. The book does add in some cool new Rotes, a few of which would be nearly invaluable to the right group, and likewise presents the different Factions of the Dreamspeakers in detail. This monkey found the Ghost Wheel Society and the Baruti particularly interesting-the first is a group of urban technoshamans finding the animistic spirits within different devices, and the second is a gathering of traveling storytellers presenting alternate views on history and culture. The template characters presented in the book were the usual bland and unusable fare, with the annoying misfortune of being presented with both tabletop and Mind's Eye Theatre stats (a trait in new White Wolf supplements which many monkeys find annoying and useless), and the information presented about the High Winds Educational Services (a group of Dreamspeakers that functions as a spiritual Red Cross) was rather unnecessary and not particularly useful. The Totems background was an unexpected bonus, recognizable from Werewolf sourcebooks and presented very similarly to that trait, and the section on static Shamans (hedge wizards using unAwakened magic) was a pleasant surprise. 3 of 5.
|It isn't an utter disappointment, but this monkey couldn't help coming away from Tradition Book: Dreamspeakers Revised without feeling like it lacked. While certainly possessed of enough useful content to qualify as representing the Tradition, it only barely squeaks by in its explanations and ignores a lot of areas where it could have truly shined. It isn't a total wash, but if you're in no rush to re-read the same few paragraphs repeatedly to see if you can understand the disjointed verb tenses of "the Rubbish" and his conversation with a not-so-sharp Dreamspeaker acolyte, then feel free to bide your time on this one.|
The Good: Clever and useful Rotes, and good information on the Baruti and the Ghost Wheel Society
The Bad: An utter lack of different cultures' take on tribal shamanism
The Overall Ugly: Drew Tucker's artwork, yet again. I freehanded better drawings in AutoCAD with a broken mouse back in Junior High.
What it's Worth: 4/5 of what you'd pay at the bookstore.