REVIEW: Among the Masses by Phil Brucato

Despite the oftentimes morally murky morass that permeates the World of Darkness and its various games and supplements, there can be no question that true evil does exist within it—much like within our own world. Oftentimes, though, as in the real world, that evil is subtle. Insidious. Existing right next to you. With the 20th Anniversary edition of Mage: the Ascension, Phil Brucato brought the mind bending game of the war for reality screaming into modern nights. This included quite a bit of updating, but also a whole host of new supplemental material and books including The Book of the Fallen, a sinister tone which gave us our most horrifically in-depth look to day at the nightmarish servants of annihilation and corruption: the Nephandi. It was not a book for the faint of heart, but it was one of my favorite World of Darkness books in years and one of the best that Phil Brucato has ever written.

Intended as a companion piece and partially created using material that couldn’t quite fit into The Book of the Fallen, Among the Masses is a companion piece that further explores the Fallen world and—if anything—manages to paint certain aspects of that world in an even darker shade of black. Among the Masses doesn’t deal with the magical, the supernatural, or the esoteric. At least, not in any truly direct fashion. It deals with the human. With the low, the broken, the lost; the ones that the Fallen use as puppets, that they manipulate and extort. Among the Masses presents us with a portfolio of resources to add layers of depth to a game, templates for NPCs to create more elaborate and fleshed out interactions. But it also gives us a raw-boned, unflinching examination of how the characters and situations within the pages of Among the Masses come to exist to begin with. Make no mistake, some of the content is rough. A lot of it might make you uncomfortable. It’s the World of Darkness, after all, not the World of Sunshine, and Among the Masses takes us to some of the darkest corners of that world. It’s frighteningly effective because so much of it is relatable and understandable on a personal level.

As a game resource, Among the Masses is a quick read but not a light one by any means. It is immensely useful, though, and not just for a Mage chronicle. It is applicable across the board for any of the game lines in the World of Darkness, and I’d highly recommend it to any Storyteller looking to add more hooks and complications to their games, add more layers to the NPCs their characters interact with. It gives the Storyteller a more functional understanding of the kind of individuals that might be working against the players and their characters, but also individuals that might most be in need of saving and how they can be saved—or drag the world down around them.

All in all, whether you’re looking for something to supplement your Mage game or any other World of Darkness chronicle and you’ve got the wherewithal to stand going to some of the uglier places to get it, I cannot recommend Among the Masses more highly. It more than earns a solid four out of five stars, and for the discerning Storyteller, will make you look at the characters you may consider “the bad guys” in a whole new light.

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PhoenixReviews

Phoenix Reviews was a GdM reviewer between 2020-23 who loved graphic novels and comics. They have chosen to depart the internet in search of a happier life balance, and requested their profile be hidden.