One of the core struggles of Mummy: the Curse is the conflict between power and freedom. These two forces manifest as Sekhem and Memory. Forever in conflict, Arisen who wish to retain Sekhem must give up many of their freedoms to obey the wishes of the Judges of Duat, while those who value their freedoms to act according to their own humanity find their Sekhem slipping away.
The Descent is the term used to describe this eventual loss of potency. All Arisen experience this, as they often arise with Sekhem 10 and almost no Memory at all. As they grow into their humanity, they begin to lose their Sekhem, an unpleasant experience, but one that some Mummies feel is the price for their freedom and self-determination.
The system behind the Descent is handled by a Descent Roll. Unlike most rolls in the nWoD, this is one that the player wants to fail. Normally, Descent rolls kick in according to a schedule. This lends a certain sense of urgency to the game as the Arisen try to fulfill their purpose (and then perhaps realize that they want to do something more than that) and then look for ways to extend their days.
ASide from this schedule, it is also possible for the Arisen to hasten their Descent by acting against the will of the Judges of Duat. On the other hand, it is also entirely possible for the Arisen to extend their stay by performing deeds that please the Judges, or by cannibalizing Relics. This last option is one that is not recommended by Arisen society based on the fact that the Judges want them. That said, doing so can give Mummies precious time that they might need to fulfill their goal.
More than anything, I think this might be one of the more uncomfortable truths of playing Mummy. Your character starts off not remembering much, and by the time they start getting an inkling of who they were, it’s often when they’re running dry of Sekhem.
Much like the saying goes, “Youth is wasted on the young” and the game sticks to this concept admirably. It took me a few reads to get the idea of Descent, and I think that it lends an interesting sense of urgency to the game.
At this point it becomes pretty clear that working under the Judges is a bad deal. They’re unforgiving, and you’re pretty much a tool… and that’s the whole point. Players are meant to chafe under such conditions, and the act of gaining Memory is their victory against the Judges of Duat. This is where you realize that the entire immortality thing really is a Curse.
Now to go find out if there’s something you can do about it.