[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] Guilds: Sesha-Hebsu, Closed Books

Posted: February 7, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Mummy: the Curse, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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The trend of specialized crafts and skills among the Arisen Guilds continue with the Sesha-Hesu. This Guild is composed of scribes of the Nameless Empire, those with the skills and literacy necessary to keep track of records, taxes and other information to keep the buraucracy of Irem going despite its massive scale.

As such, the Seshu-Hebsu hold a vital place in Iremite society. They are record-keepers, investigators, negotiators and researchers, and it is their work that granted them status among the society.

Much like the Mesen-Nebu, the Sesha-Hebsu have their own philosophy that colors their work ethic. The scribes believe in a cosmological principle called the Scroll of Ages. This Scroll of Ages is a divine work of a diety that embodies the totality of knowledge.

Their dedication to impartiality and neutrality makes them excellent arbiters between conflict, and this dedication to knowledge makes it possible for the Sesha-Hebsu to win the trust of their fellow Arisen and give them the informal authority to mediate disputes within the (admittedly small) community of Mummies.

Aside from mere research and resolving disputes, the Seshu-Hebsu are also investigators. It is their divine mandate to seek out the truth of things, and those chosen have a keen aptitude for fulfilling this task. This preference to seek out knowledge and digest it as to internalize and understand is what gives them the ability to conform to social mores and ideas of the age.

The favored vessels of the Seshu-Hebsu are texts. The focus on the written (and spoken) word are the bread and butter of the Seshu-Hebsu, as they believe that all magic consists of two principles, the Will and the Word. They focus on the aspect of the Word, and understand that without a common language as a foundation, all knowledge is useless if it cannot be communicated.

Personally, I find that the Seshu-Hebsu might be one of the more difficult factions to play as the write up doesn’t exactly cement a mindset for me. Whereas the Maa-Kep have an ongoing “mission” to make sure the rest of the Arisen are able to pursue their tasks (while keeping tabs on them) and the Mesen-Nebu are artisans who look to collecting Dedwen, the Seshu-Hebsu feel a little flat.

I understand that they revere knowledge, and they have a cosmological principle known as the Scroll of Ages, but how they interact with this belief doesn’t come out. Do they believe that they are agents of the Scroll? Is it a divine mandate for them to gather information as it is essentially their task to “write” it as they go? There’s something missing there that should answer what they do with all the hoarding of information that they dedicate themselves to.

While the Seshu-Hebsu as investigators angle is interesting, nothing in their philosophy says that they ought to do something with that knowledge. It’s a missing piece and it bothers me.

In some ways it reminds me of why police officers and detectives are always great characters to play in a modern setting. They’re empowered and authorized to meddle in mysteries, obligated to find the truth, and finally mandated to take down the guilty. The Seshu-Hebsu have the first two parts, but don’t have the third.

What do you guys think? Am I missing something fundamental here? Or am I looking at this Guild from the wrong angle? Let me know, I’d be happy to talk this over.

  1. Nick Pilon says:

    I think the Seshu-Hebsu do have the mandate to take down the guilty. Doesn’t their write-up mention that they used to be judges and arbitrators? They also seem to have the rather interesting role of basically being the “grown-up in the room” for feuds between other Deathless.

    • Hi Nick!

      I’m trying to find if it’s mentioned in the book that they actually go and take down the guilty beyond the bureaucratic angle. I understand that they judge and arbitrate, but beyond that there’s no standing order to actually interfere for the cause of justice. I guess my disconnect lies with the fact that many of the Arisen (even those with decent Memory) might not find themselves particularly motivated to act against injustice.

      Of course, this point of view doesn’t take into account player agency. A Player that feels motivated to do something will do it regardless of what any character writeup says.

      I agree with you on the role of being the “grown-up in the room” though, as it puts them in a unique niche compared to the others.

      • Nick Pilon says:

        Bottom-left column of page 42, coupled with their “Purpose” write-up on page 43. I think Eyes of Justice is also a fairly strong statement of purpose and encouragement to action.

        • Hi Nick,

          I think my discomfort lies with the fact that I know that they have the tools and the means to be excellent investigators, but I’m grasping for some sort of motivation beyond their initial Prime Directive of finding and recovering artifacts. The Eyes of Justice are an excellent power for sussing out thieves and stolen Relics, but once you step out of that particular line, the Sesha-Hebsu seem to be less inclined to take action for the cause of Justice in general.

          Then again, I might be approaching this from the wrong angle. Higher Memory Mummies can certainly take on the cause of Justice, and those Sesha-Hebsu who come to remember their empathy for those who have had injustice done to them could go out of their way to try and help people.

          Hmmm… actually, that manages to clear up my issue with the Sesha-Hebsu. They might be bean-counting scribes to start with, but as they grow in Memory, more human motivations begin to stir in their dead hearts.

          • Nick Pilon says:

            The way I read it was that Scribes are *not* called to justice, at least not in the modern sense. They’re called to *judgement*, which is why their write-up spends so much time on the quick, decisive, arbitrary, and harsh courts of Irem. This isn’t something they have a good reason to do; this is something they believe is a holy duty of cosmic significance, just like the Alchemists believe that their abstract measure of universal value is important. And it’s something that works at all but the lowest Memory values, since it’s also something many of the Judges of Duat punish mummies for not doing, at least going by the Sekhem descent tables. They’re not bean counters – at least, not by my reading – they’re quick but deliberate arbitrators.

  2. dirty yasuki says:

    To add something to the role of this splat, aside from judges or arbitrators the implication that they may meddle is there since there will be those who gather information (field workers) and those who compile and research (sages and scholars).

    Sages and scribes were much prized in Egyptian society because they were its most literate members. With the Egyptians obsession with kharmic justice and being remembered in life and the afterlife, records of deeds and misdeeds were obsessively kept.

    And then they can interpret the Scroll of Fate which I take to imply that they can possibly recall with greater clarity many of the Arisen’s memories and purpose since they can interpret and possibly recover lost memory and knowledge. With this role in place in Iremite society (intentional Egyptian analog civilization or not) they can’t help but meddle in the affairs of others as their role puts them in an enviable position to know more than others and the rest may want to seek their knowledge and expertise. Not to mention they may be able to influence how society’s and communities that the Sesha-Hebsu inhabit could be guided.

    With all of this emphasis on memory and knowledge they may be one of the strongest if not the most influential power brokers in Arisen society where knowledge, memory and purpose are dictated by who remembers what. The Maa-kep may not be as effective on keeping tabs on everyone if he doesn’t have access to the files of some Sesha-Hebsu or the Mesen-Nebu may not be able to gain insight and inspiration for new or archaic Dedwen without the archival knowledge kept by the Sesha-Hebsu.

    The Maa-kep may administer to society and the Mesen-Nebu its socialite artistic mavens but the Sesha-Hebsu could be the true powers behind everyone.

    I think they are essentially what if the Mysterium and Silver Ladder had a love-child. At least, that’s my own take on them from their write-up.

  3. Hikkikomori says:

    “Whether it’s looking to him to settle a dispute or to pierce the veil of obscurity around a given mystery, they know the scribe is there to give counsel that’s wise not only in his eyes, but in the gods’ and Judges’, too.” — Mummy: the Curse, corebook p.43

    I think their skills lie towards being investigators and researchers — jobs that aren’t necessarily heroic or glamorous, but still necessary.
    And to my understanding, their supernatural ability is really their “trustworthiness”. — “give counsel that’s wise in the eyes of gods and Judges.” If there is a dispute, the Sesha-Hebsu can find out and decide who is really in the right. And no one, even gods and Judges, can dispute that their claim.
    The judgement part is there’s, I believe the execution part lies on the other, offended, party.

    In a way, they are the lawyers. They find and support the truth, but not necessarily the ones that execute the sentence. If you can get one to support your claim, then no one can dispute it.

    Unless the other party can bring another Sesha-Hebsu to defend their side.

  4. EvilGardenGnome says:

    I don’t know how many are familiar with Animal Farm, but after reading the description the first thing I thought of was Old Benjamin: Wise, jaded, cynical, and all too aware of what was really going on when no one else was, even the people doing it.

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