Oh hey, looks like I jumped the gun and posted this earlier than I was supposed to. Silently curses the publish button.
Hello and welcome to the first part of the Let’s Study series on Mummy: the Curse. To those new to the blog, the Let’s Study series is where we try to go over a game part by part. We’ll point out interesting mechanics, neat play implications and interesting things we find along the way.
When I first think of mummies, the first three things that come to mind are: Bandages, Shambling and Movies. Needless to say that years of exposure to pop-culture mummies have somewhat left a stranger impression in my mind. That said, I’m glad that I’m not completely ignorant of the real world mummies and their place in several cultures.
Thankfully, I don’t need to know too much about real world mummies and Egyptian culture to enjoy the game.
Mummy: the Curse uses the same approach towards their supernatural creatures as the rest of the new World of Darkness. Rather than associate with the real world equivalents, the development team puts together their own culture and history. This achieves two things: it affords them the ability to use similar themes and motifs while retaining the freedom to change things to suit their creative vision without sacrificing the core of supernatural in question.
Mage: the Awakening for example had an entirely different magical paradigm as the basis of it’s game of modern day sorcery. Awakened magic functioned according to its own rules, while still using similar trappings from what we normally associate with the occult. Sure there’s still chanting, sympathetic connections, staves, pentacles, magical writing and such, but Atlantean magic isn’t a “real world” magic.
Mummy: the Cursed does the same thing with the Arisen, their playable characters. The Arisen hail from their own culture and history, one that existed before the Egyptian civilization. In this fictional civilization, called “Irem” ancient necromancers known as the Shan’iatu enacted incredibly powerful magic to create the Arisen, who exist and behave under a separate series of rules from what we commonly attribute to Mummies in pop-fiction.
But before we go that far, let’s go back and examine the Theme and Mood for Mummy.
Mummy’s central themes is Memory. It’s a lovely thing to think about, as Mummies exist (I hesitate to say “live”) over such an incredible stretch of time that it’s not entirely impossible to say that each one is a treasure trove of memories. However, the irony lies with the fact that dying takes a toll on memories, and each time one of the Arisen is brought back from death, they are often left with precious little memories of their past and their identity.
This leads to a motivation of most Mummies to learn more about themselves. There’s always something there, lurking just outside of their memory, and they know that it’s important. This sort of motivation for finding and defining one’s sense of self based on what you realize you’ve done is a powerful emotional hook.
In some ways, this is close to Promethean: the Created. But as the Promethean struggles to define and learn what it means to be human, the Arisen is coming from the other angle. He’s been there, but rather than pure discovery, his self-definition comes from a sense of reflection upon his past deeds.
For the mood, Mummy cleaves towards occult horror but occasionally takes side trips towards darker pulp fantasy. It’s a neat little touch, given the Egyptology craze during the 1920’s never really completely left. The Arisen are dynamic beings, motivated to do something with their time, much like the pulp heroes of old. They never really end up sitting around doing nothing unless they’re dead.
Overall it looks like the game is off to a good start. I’m in love with the idea of Memory as a crucial part of the game, and I feel that it’s a subject that doesn’t get a lot of attention in most games. So many games take the default assumption that you’re new, some young, inexperienced farmboy off on a grand adventure. Having someone ancient and struggling to remember the past (however painful that past might be) is a excellent concept that can be spun off in any number of interesting stories.