[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] Conclusions and Review

Posted: March 5, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Mummy: the Curse, Reviews, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
Tags: ,

Mummy: the Curse is the latest of the “4th Game” limited run series of the World of Darkness and breathes new life to the Hollywood-defiled idea of Mummies as monstrous creatures. Once left to the world of cheap comedy and action-adventure pulp, Mummy: the Curse applies a new spin on the Monster that gives them back their place in horror fiction.

How the Onyx Path team does this is to take on the inspirations of real-world mummies and apply their own origin mythology. Much in the same manner as the rest of the nWoD, the Arisen as this particular strain of mummies are known, hail from a lost empire which enacted one of the greatest feats of magic ever performed by mortal men: the Rite of Return.

This gives the team a lot of leeway with regards to forming a setting and situation where the Player Characters have something to do, and enemies to face. The Arisen struggle to fulfill their Purpose, while simultaneously discovering the nature of free will… all while their time on earth is ticking away.

Mummy: the Curse presents an interesting setting for players to explore, complete with secrets that can certainly color the way that stories go. I can see Mummy: the Curse moving onto tales that focus on self-actualization, making the most of the time we have, and the struggle of free will versus duty. These themes are central to the game, and have a lot of potential to be extremely rewarding.

The way the book was written is somewhat less… formal as I expected, with an almost conversational style that I can imagine is a bit of a shock to some readers. I had no problems with it, though I will admit that perhaps the writing is a little less atmospheric than say, Changeling: the Lost.

There’s also a certain complexity to the mechanics, but nothing approaching Mage: the Awakening. Character creation is easy enough (with careful reading and a bit of page flipping) and the powers are interesting and evocative. The rules on Cults and the secrets of the setting all add depth to the game, and the various Guilds and Decrees are useful to getting players into the game with more than just a fuzzy sense of what to do.

The Storytellers also get an extra bit of help with regards to the Frameworks for the campaign, allowing for a mix of character types to work in the same game. The villains presented in Mummy: the Curse are fearsome, and certainly appropriate to the power level of Mummies who can command some of the most potent abilities in the World of Darkness.

Overall, Mummy: the Curse is a unique game which tackles some very heady themes without losing it’s horror roots. The backstory is compelling and relevant, giving the kind of storytelling glue necessary to orient the players towards the same direction. While not quite so compatible for crossover games with the other Supernaturals, I’m pretty certain that I wouldn’t want to mix it up. The Arisen are an awesome supernatural group and their themes are uniquely suited to them.

I would definitely recommend Mummy: the Arisen to those who are looking for something new in both horror and potential for stories. The Onyx Path has definitely struck gold with this one.

Comments
  1. jachra says:

    The bit about crossovers is a major sticking point for me. If we’re to integrate these beings into the World of Darkness, it becomes incredibly confusing. It feels a bit more like an anime – which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how one takes it.

    I don’t necessarily mind that they didn’t end up using Egypt as the source mythology, but, I won’t lie, it often feels like this was intended to be entirely its own setting, not connected to the rest of the mythos. It is the very worst of the “make it up as you go along” thing that makes White Wolf so frustrating at times.

    Are the Judges Mages? That seems improbable given Sekhem. Also, repeatedly calling the Rite of Return the “greatest magic ever performed by mortals” makes me wonder what the hell the Celestial Ladder was, chump change? The Ladder destroyed the universe, all the Rite of Return did was make a handful of people immortal. Is that trying to say that the Celestial Ladder was created by immortals and thus weasel out of it?

    Sekhem seems to have virtually nothing to do with Mana, Essence, or the like, and yet it’s a major fundamental force in the cosmos according to Mummy. Even more bizarre are recent comments by Brookshaw that Duat lies in the Lower Depths – from the description I would have thought it some portion of the Supernal, though now I know Brookshaw is fiddling with the Supernal realms in some fashion.

    ~

    A complaint of theme is the aspect of making the mummies all servants, which is so vividly against every conception of mummies (except for the mummy servants of mummies, of course) that I feel like it must be a disappointment for everyone who picked this line up expecting something else. I mean, yeah, sure, the World of Darkness is all about being depressing, but…

    Well, look at the tags of each game:
    Vampire: A Game of Personal Horror (It’s all about how you are a monster, in spite of your desires otherwise, if you have them.)
    Werewolf: A game of Savage Fury (You are an avenging angel of the spiritual world, more or less. You must balance the competing impulses. While not technically a monster, you CAN be, and you are an enemy of the world by default)
    Mage: A game of modern sorcery (Unlike Vampire, you are definitively not a monster, but you’re intimately aware of how the world is broken and flawed and how it forms a prison you can only escape with great effort – and then only to watch others suffer and struggle within it)

    I forget the tagline for Changeling, but there’s an interesting bit which separates Mage, Vampire, Changeling, and Werewolf from Mummy and Promethean.

    In the former 4, your endgame revolves around becoming MORE of what you are and mastering your circumstances.

    In the latter two, your endgame revolves around becoming LESS of what you are, eventually. Your state is itself a problem – and there’s no such thing as a solution that involves embracing it.

    Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But these games feel a LOT more restrictive in theme than the big four, which greatly restricts the potential play themes. There’s also the relative difficulty in justifying troupe play.

    A friend of mine did offer to run a one-on-one online game of Mummy, but after reading the background in detail I eventually declined. I think the both of us were hoping we could make something else of the game, but we just weren’t interested in what it offered. We weren’t looking for empowering, but we were hoping for a much different experience.

    It’s disappointing because I struggle to conceive of how I might work Irem into an existing chronicle, with Mummies as antagonists or allies. I think I might have to rejigger the premises considerably – something I’m sure the White Wolf folks won’t mind, since they demand we make it up as we go in so many of their other lines.

    • jachra says:

      ~ You know it occurs briefly that it could be one of those “Well, maybe Irem is from another timeline” things. Just like how there’s no ONE Atlantis, and indeed the word Atlantis itself is misleading. The Abyss/Death of Father Wolf/etc royally screwed the coherent timeline.

      That was a weak explanation and I don’t like it, but it’s more than I had before.

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