Mummy: the Curse

Mummy: the Curse Is Out!

Mummy: the Curse, the latest “4th Game” from the World of Darkness is now publicly available in DriveThruRPG!

A complex game with heady themes of memory and the self, Mummy: the Curse presents an interesting take on the Mummy of pop culture with the Arisen. With a complex backstory, interesting powers and freaky opponents, Mummy: the Curse is an excellent addition to the new World of Darkness.

For more information check out the Let’s Study series I put up for Mummy: the Curse here.

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

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.

[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] Campaign Frameworks

Mummy is different from a lot of other games in the World of Darkness in the sense that it knows that it has a tiny population. There aren’t that many of the Arisen, and the way that the setting is put together makes it very difficult to justify the idea of having a team of Mummies all get up and do something together. As such the game goes on to present several campaign frameworks which could serve as different configurations for the game.

Without going into too much detail, these frameworks are:

  • The Allied Dead – Where all the player characters are Arisen that share the same (understandably powerful) Cult
  • The Rival Dead – Where the player characters are the Arisen of differing Cults, leading to the possibility of more conflict
  • The Pyramid – Where only a single player is Arisen and the rest take the role of the Arisen’s subordinates or allies.

It’s an interesting take on the standard, and I’ll have to admit that I am actually interested in seeing how a Pyramid game (or better a Rotating Pyramid, which emulates the old Troupe-Style of play in which each player gets a chance to play the Arisen) will work. Certainly there’s a disparity of power between the characters, but the allies of the Arisen can do all sorts of things that the Arisen might not be able to do due to lack of information or understanding of the modern world.

With regards to crossovers, this pretty much means that a Mummy would make for a strange opponent or ally in other games. Immensely powerful and active for a short period before disappearing for a long time. I imagine Vampires will be the most compatible as they live long enough to actually manage running into the same mummy again twice if the fates dictate it. But for most others, including mages, a Mummy is most likely a one-time event.

[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] *SPOILER WARNING* Endgame

Right, so today we’re taking a look at one of the possible endgame goals for Mummy: the Curse. While not all stories should revolve around this, it makes for an interesting thing to aim for. I won’t talk about this too much outside of the jump for the sake of those who don’t want to be spoiled so I’ll see you guys in a bit.

Continue reading

[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] The Descent

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.

[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] Sybaris

One of the more intresting facets of the Arisen condition lies with Sybaris, a magical effect that is experienced by people exposed to the Arisen. Sybaris is a magical form of anxiety and dread that emanates from being exposed to a being that is immune to the ravages of time and mortality.

Much in the same way that it is awe-inspiring to see ancient works survive ages even when the civilizations that birthed them are nothing but dust and memories, exposure to the Arisen are a potent message: Memento Mori “Remember that you will die.” Sybaris two forms, Terror and Unease, each of which have their own respective systems in Mummy: the Curse.

Terror Sybaris is the less common one, as it occurs only in people exposed to an Arisen who flares their Sekhem. This also manifests the Arisen’s Sybaris Form, a themed hallucinatory vision that mortals are exposed to, filtered through their own personal fears.

Needless to say Terror Sybaris is not subtle, nor kind. The effects of Terror Sybaris can result in the mortal fleeing in blind terror or entering a catatonic state. Stronger willed Mortals might be able to resist it to varying degrees, but the result is an overwhelming trigger of the person’s fight or flight reflex.

The second form of Sybaris, Unease, is the more insidious form. To determine the extent of Unease Sybaris, one subtract’s the Mummy’s Sekhem from her Memory. Triggering Unease can happen with direct contact with the Arisen, entering their Tomb, touching a vessel used by the Mummy, or spending 24 hours within one mile of the mummy or their Tomb per level of the Arisen’s Skehem.

I find this particularly interesting as Mummies possessed of higher Sekhem are capable of inflicting more powerful effects of Unease, but this tapers off as soon as the Mummy gains more Memory. Going back to the idea that the more Memory a Mummy has, the more “human” (or even “humane”) they become. Thus it is entirely possible for a Mummy to have high enough Memory to eclipse his Sekhem resulting in no Unease at all.

I have to admit that I was initially concerned about Sybaris. While I will say that the whole fear effect is appropriate to Mummies in general, I was worried that it would come off as a hindrance in play. That said, this systems seems to be a much more tempered version, making it possible to inflict Terror in appropriately dramatic siutations while the Unease still makes it possible for people to interact with mummies, though with the kind of fear and caution that is approrpiate when addressing beings who have lived through so much.

[Let’s Study Mummy: the Curse] Character Creation

Hey there everyone. I know I promised this article a while back, but I decided to tackle the Decrees first before proceeding. Given that some of the broad strokes required in character creation will be the selection of a Guild and a Judge which in turn can dictate a character’s Decree. (Though that can be turned around and a Decree determines which of the 42 Judges to choose from.)

Alright, the first step for making a character in nWoD games is to determine the character’s virtue and Vice. These traits determine how the character behaves and have incentives towards being able to recover Willpower. For my character, I’ve decided to choose Wrath for a vice and Charity as a Virtue.

Next up is to distribute Attribute dots among the nine Attributes in the game. Each Attribute starts at a rating of 1, and I have three different pools (of 5, 4 and 3 dots each) to spend on each category of Attribute. The categories are Mental, Physical and social.

I’m considering a physically gifted individual with decent socials and with mental as his least developed set of attributes. This means I spend 5 on Physical, 4 on Social and 3 on Mental Attributes.

This is what I’ve come up with:

Mental: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
Social: Presence 3, Manipulation 2, Composure 2

The next Step would be to distribute Skill dots. Like Attributes, these come in three different pools (of 11, 7 and 4 dots each) which I distribute across 3 sets of skills. Again these sets mirror the ones from Attributes, with Physical, Mental and Social skill sets.

A quick distribution of points gives me the following spread:

Mental:
Crafts 1, Investigation 2, Politics 1

Physical:
Athletics 3, Brawl 3, Stealth, 2, Survival 1, Weaponry 2

Social:
Empathy 3, Intimidation 1, Persuasion 3

So far so good. We’ve got a beefy guy with experience in heavy lifting and manual labor, but also knows how to get along with his fellow man and exert some influence. Despite not being talented, he’s got a knack for keeping an eye out for trouble (Investigation) and working around bureaucracies (Politics) and being unremarkable while doing so (Stealth.)

At this point I get to distribute three “Specialties” a one die bonus to a specific subset of the character’s skills. I decide on:

Body Language for Investigation
Running for Athletics
Motives for Empathy

Each of these skills get a +1 die when rolling for that specific type of application of the skill.

Now we move on to the interesting part: the Mummy Template

JUDGES AND DECREES

First off, we’ll have to pick a Judge and assign it’s bestowed Decree (or do it the other way around and pick a Decree and assign a Judge.)

I personally feel that picking a Decree is less analysis paralysis inducing than selecting from 42 Judges, so let’s go with that. Given that the character’s primary Vice is Wrath, I’ll stick with the Lion-Headed, those ruled by emotion.

This gives us a choice of the following Judges: Akhi, Hepet-Khet, Neb-Heru, Neheb-Ka, Qerrti, Ruruti, Ser-Tihu, Tutuutef and Usekh-Nemtet. I suppose it’s time to check out the Judges and what they bestow.

Given the description of Neb-Heru, I figure it might work for this character. Neb-Heru is the Lord Above, the Judge that oversees those who act decisively but in extreme haste. Sounds like something that the character would be prone to doing, with wrath as a vice and all.

The Defining Pillar of Neb-Heru is Ab (heart)

The Bestowed Affinities of Neb-Heru are:
Epic Heart, Charmed Lives, Fearsome Soul, Living Monolith, Wisdom of the Ancients.

Next I choose a Guild. Given the nature of the character, we’re looking at someone who values the worth of emotions in the experience of living. He’s also an everyman sort, with a skillset that makes him good at odd jobs and keeping an eye out for trouble. I figure that this makes him a good fit for the Maa-Kep the Engravers of Amulets, the secret police of lost Irem.

Once we’ve made both selections, let’s apply the changes each bestows to the character. The Decree determines where I can assign a single additional dot to a pair of attributes. Since the Decree is that of Heart, I get to pick between Presence and Strength. I figure he’d make for an interesting character if he was truly inspiring to be with and spend the free dot on Presence. My Attributes are now:

Mental: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
Social: Presence 4, Manipulation 2, Composure 2

PILLARS

Pillars are the basis of a Mummy’s powers, and are named after each of the 5 soul-parts of Iremite mysticism. These are: Ab (heart), Ba (spirit), Ka (Essence), Ren (name) and Sheut (shadow).  I have nine dots to distribute between the five Pillars with the following restrictions:

No Pillar may be bought higher than the primary Pillar of the mummy’s Decree (in my case, none of the Pillars can exceed my rating in Ab)
No more than one Pillar mnay be left with a rating of zero dots.
The fifth dot in a Pillar costs two dots and may only be allocated if all four of the other Pillars have at least one dot.

Okay… let’s see what we can come up with:

3 Ab
2 Ba
2 Ka
1 Ren
1 Sheut

AFFINITIES

Now we get to the funky powers of the Arisen. On character creation, the Mummy begins with one Soul Affinity based on the Judge, one Guild Affinity from the Guild and one other that they meet the prerequisites for.

The character also starts with one Utterance that they meet the requirements for. If the character bought at least one dot in every Pillar (which I did) then they also get a second bonus Utterance.

Taking a look at the Affinities available, I opt to go for Epic Heart as a Soul Affinity.

Being part of the Maa-Kep also gives me the Affable Aid Affinity.

Healing Counsel is my third choice, taking advantage of my high Ab rating to pull off something really interesting.

Now moving on to Utterances. Due to how I distributed my Pillars I get to pick two Utterances of my choice, as long as I qualify for them.

First off I go for Blessed is the God-King, since I’ve got enough Ren and Ab to qualify.

As a little bit of interesting paradox, I’ll also pick Torn Veil of Forgetting that will allow my character to cloak himself in anonymity.

ADVANTAGES

The next part is distributing and calculating derived attributes.

Willpower is Resolve plus Composure, resulting in a starting pool of 4

Sekhem starts at 10

Memory on the other hand is the Morality stat of mummies, and newly Arisen begin with a Memory of 3.

MERITS

Starting characters begin with 7 Merit dots. I figure that spending them on Language (1 dot) will always be good. Furthermore I’m obligated to spend to get a dot in Cult, Guild Status and Tomb. This means I only have 3 dots left for Merits.

I figure I might as well start with a decent cult, so I spend all my remaining points to bump Cult to 4 points (2 Reach and 2 Grasp)

EXPERIENCE POINTS

Starting characters also get 20 experience points to spend however they wish.

In my case I’m looking at bumping Willpower, by increasing my Composure to 3 dots. This costs me 12 experience, leaving me with 8 left. The remaining I spend on improving my pillars. Each new dot costs the next rating x3, so I’ll increase my Ren to 2, for the cost of 6 experience. The last 2 experience points I’ll set aside for later.

Right, now that’s over let’s take a look at the sheet in one go:

vIRTUE: Charity
Vice: Wrath
Concept: Supervisor

ATTRIBUTES
Mental: Intelligence 2, Wits 2, Resolve 2
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 2, Stamina 3
Social: Presence 4, Manipulation 2, Composure 3

SKILLS

Mental:
Crafts 1, Investigation 2 (Body Language), Politics 1

Physical:
Athletics 3 (Running), Brawl 3, Stealth, 2, Survival 1, Weaponry 2

Social:
Empathy 3 (Motives), Intimidation 1, Persuasion 3

SEKHEM 10
MEMORY 3
WILLPOWER 5

PILLARS:
3 Ab
2 Ba
2 Ka
1 Ren
1 Sheut

AFFINITIES:
Epic Heart (Soul)
Affable Aid (Guild)
Healing Counsel

UTTERANCES:
Blessed is the God-King
Torn Veil of Forgetting

MERITS:
Languages 1
Cult 4
Tomb 1
Guild Status (Maa-Kep) 1

Despite a little bit of page flipping, Mummy’s character creation isn’t all that more (or less) painful than most nWoD games. The Decrees and the Judges make for interesting reading, and the Affinities implement some very interesting powers.

In many ways the Mummies break the rules of the nWoD. They have little bonuses via their affinities that simply make them better. They’re not going to match the flexibility of Mage or the cunning trickery of Changeling, but their powers are honest, open and bold. Utterances are pretty powerful, and the Affinities can be used to hone the Mummy into a terrifying opponent on and off the field of battle.

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