Technocracy: Syndicate (not to be confused with the later-published Convention Book: Syndicate) is a splat book from the early days of Mage: The Ascension. It was originally released in 1997 as a 72-page B&W softcover, and was later packaged as part of Technocracy Assembled 2 (along with Technocracy: Void Engineers). It’s a short book, and I’m going to see if I’m capable of writing a short review.
Syndicate follows the standard format for the five early convention books – a chapter on the history of the convention, a chapter on the current organization of the convention and its interactions with other parts of the World of Darkness, a chapter of mechanics (half a dozen rotes, ten devices, some rules for Backgrounds over 5, and material on the Syndicate’s relationship with Pentex), and a chapter presenting one of the convention’s constructs with write-ups of some of the personnel involved. Crunchy bits include Stacking the Deck (straightforward probability adjustment), PIN Drop (obtain all of someone’s personally identifiable information), Conference Call (holographic videoconferencing), the Multi-Investment Debt Accrual System (MIDAS) Card (super credit card), and the Power Suit (sharp clothes that give everyone else an inferiority complex). The construct (Diefenbakker’s Casino) is located in Vancouver, and ties in with the Pentex subversion, so Werewolf supplements may be handy (including Freak Legion and Dark Alliance: Vancouver).
I feel like I should preface this by noting that, at least by my reading, the first round Technocracy splat books were not designed to make the Technocracy any sort of good guys. Each book presents a ‘history of the world from our point of view’ that presents each convention as having a deep history that runs back to early civilization, and an overall ‘good’ purpose. But it’s always clear that, whatever sheen they try to put on it, these are not Nice People. And that’s fine. So what I’m about to say isn’t about the fact that Technocracy: Syndicate doesn’t make the Convention out to be even a shade of grey good guys …
The ‘why we do what we do’ spin thrown out for the Syndicate here just makes no sense to me. As noted above, not because it is ultimately unconvincing as an argument for why they’re good guys (it isn’t supposed to be convincing), but because it’s just incoherent. They value human labor and are all about making sure that is valued and, therefore, they … try to make a lot of money and also run organized crime. The transition from asserted noble objective to less-than-noble reality doesn’t have a good hook – it just moves from asserted noble objective to oh-well-we-don’t-care-let’s-just-take-care-of-ourselves. This problem means that there’s very little flow to the history presented for the Convention – it just didn’t gel for me.
That problem, along with my general lack of fondness for the Werewolf corruption tie-in (the Special Projects Division), meant that this one fell flat for me. I don’t have Technocracy: Void Engineers, but of the other four, this one was the least interesting. For me, it just doesn’t have a hook that makes the Convention interesting, beyond the basic concepts laid out elsewhere.