Promethean: the Created

Missions vs Sandbox, What’s Your Preference?

RPGs come in all kinds, but one particular distinction that bears paying attention to is if the game lends itself better towards mission-based play, or a more sandbox style approach.

Mission-based games are those that often have the player characters taking on a specific role relating to a group of PC types that are meant to achieve X goals via Y means.  Games like these often invest a lot of time and effort playing up the group that the players are meant to be a part of, to instill a clear range of acceptable behaviors and actions.  Some examples are:

  • In Flames by Greg Saunders – Features the Player Characters as the Exiles, a group of individuals working for a being calling itself Ghede to fight against abusive individuals known as “Barons.”
  • Eclipse Phase – At its default level assumes that the player characters are part of Firewall, a secret organization created to combat extinction-level threats.
  • All For One: Regime Diabolique – Assumes that the player characters are all part of the Musketeers, fighting against the darkness that is sweeping over France.
The advantage of Mission-based games is that it forms a common element that ties the group together.  This is excellent for games that rely on heavy teamwork and for groups that don’t care for that much player vs. player conflict.  Rather than spending time with keeping secrets from each other and otherwise politicking, the group can focus on a given objective.
Conflicts in this setup tend to be focused on external threats, and don’t leave a lot of room for introspective plot hooks.  This setup is also great for large numbers of players as everyone gets a chance to do something.
Sandbox style games are less specific about their arrangements.  Often, these games focus more on a situation rather than a mission.  While there are exceptions, one of the most common questions Sandbox games tend to offer is “Congratulations, you’ve just become a Vampire/Werewolf/Mage/Exalt/Godling/etc.  Now what do you do?”
White Wolf is notorious for catering to this form of game, but they’re definitely not the only ones:
  • Part-Time Gods – Has various factions, but certainly no unifying group and “mission” behind their existence.  The Player characters find themselves blessed (or cursed) with the divine spark of godhood and have to find out how to live in this strange new world of godhood.
  • Legend of the Five Rings – Is a game that is definitely broad enough to accommodate various sandbox themes.  While one could argue that a game about Duty, Honor and Sacrifice is bound to be mission-based, there’s arguably plenty of room for sandbox style play where one can track the life and significant events of the lives of the various Samurai.
Sandbox play is great for those who enjoy the concept of immersion.  Rather than having set goals and allegiances, the players are free to explore the social landscape of a game and make these decisions for themselves.  These decisions in turn, have consequences that manifest in various ways but always change the dynamic of the game.  Siding with one group will influence the world in one way, while siding with another will have other effects.
Between the two my personal preference falls towards Sandbox style.  Mission style stuff is convenient and fun, but I find Sandbox style games to be more rewarding from the point of view of a GM.  Mission based games are like a string of one-offs to me, barring a few recurring villains and NPCs, once a mission is done, it’s pretty much over.
Sandbox games appeal to me since it also involves the player characters in the act of changing the setting.  Everything they do and achieve alters the setting somewhat for better or worse.  While this means that some of the more wanton player types tend to make a mess of things, it also means that conscientious players can achieve far greater things with the right contacts and plans.
That said, neither style is “superior” over the other, and it’s purely a matter of preference.  I’m very curious to find out what people prefer to play though, and why.  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Conclusions

Promethean: the Created is an interesting, and unique sort of game.  As far as the new World of Darkness goes, it presents a very different spin from the standard “Play the Monsters” angle of White Wolf Games.  The horror that it presents is far removed from the empowering aspects of being an immortal power-brokering Vampire, or a Mage with the ability to force reality to conform to his will.

Instead, a Promethean’s lot is miserable and whatever positive aspects there are to the Promethean condition are quickly proven to be insufficient to make up for the sheer odds stacked against them.  Disquiet, the Wasteland Effect, and Torment all add up to a particularly dour existence.

But for all of these things that plague a Promethean, can we definitively say that it makes for a bad game?  I’d venture so far as to say no.  Promethean is a different sort of game that plays heavily towards the Method-Actor sort of player.  The situations that can be birthed from such a game will suit a GM with a strong preference for Storytelling, as each session is an opportunity to highlight a different sort of conflict, a means to shine a light towards another facet of the human condition.

For those that don’t follow me, here’s what a player can get out of the game:

  • Explore the darker aspect of being a social outcast with very little hope, experiencing (in a safe manner) the life of a pariah.
  • Relish the triumph of actually succeeding despite the odds.

These don’t necessarily translate to traditional views of “winning” but they’re still a valid reward for a campaign of Promethean.

I wouldn’t recommend Promethean to just any GM either.  A GM who enjoys screwing with PCs will be absolutely insufferable in this game, making sure that Milestones will forever be out of reach, and that there’s nothing but abject misery for the Prometheans, turning the game into an exercise of sadism that will only result in some very unhappy players and a wretched game.

That said, I’m not sure if I’d be up to actually running a Promethean: the Created campaign.  Much like Werewolf: the Forsaken, I understand a lot of it from a cerebral standpoint, but I can’t seem to muster any sort of inspiration at the moment.  Prometheans are still fearsome antagonists, however, and I would not mind using them in a future game of Mage: the Awakening as a threat that could really throw the players into chaos as they struggle to figure out what the hell it is and how to deal with it.

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Disquiet

One can’t talk about Promethean without talking about Disquiet.  Disquiet is a supernatural effect that plagues the Prometheans due to the fact that they are an aberration of reality.  Their very existence turns the “normal” world against them.  People, animals and even nature itself twists and perverts itself as if to continually punish the Promethean who chooses to stay in one place too long.

I find that Disquiet is an interesting mechanic, and one that makes things very difficult for Promethean players to put down roots and for good reason.  Prometheans are incomplete, and are on a quest to achieve humanity.  Like questing knights, the Promethans may not, and can not settle and stop their search for mortality.  Whatever difficulties they face they must face head on, and unlike humans, they don’t have the luxury of just giving up this endeavor without resorting to suicide.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing facets of Disquiet is the subtlety by which they affect a society.  Just by meeting a Promethean for the first time in a scene, a person (or a group of people) have to make a contested Resolve+Composure roll against the Promethean’s Azoth score.  Should the person fail this roll, then they suffer 1 stage of disquiet.  This effect is cumulative with any other stages that the person may already be suffering from with prior contact with the Promethean.

While this may sound damning, an average starting Promethean has an Azoth rating of 1 or 2, while an average human has at least 4 dice on their Resolve+Composure.  This pretty much means that while weaker Prometheans are unlikely to spark Disquiet in people, those who have truly undertaken their quest, having achieved Azoth scores of 4-5 are at real risk of warping society around them, and Prometheans of Azoth scores of 7 or higher are likely to start inflicting some wide-scale pandemonium.

The other difficulty with Disquiet is that the effects only go away once the people who have come in contact with the Promethean have been left alone for a significant amount of time.  Disquiet degrades very slowly, with effects lasting a number of weeks per stage of Disquiet equal to the Azoth of the Promethean which inflicted it.

This sort of deal is troubling, admittedly as it means that Prometheans who grow in power have difficulty even interacting with humanity by virtue of their Azoth.  The closer they are to their goal, the more difficult the path becomes forcing them to work even harder to get anywhere, lest they end up stagnating on the very edge of their goal.

From an enlightenment /alchemy standpoint, it makes sense.  The higher levels of Azoth represent the Dark Night of the Soul, the point at which everything seems so completely stacked against the Promethean that it would just simply be easier to just throw ones hands up in frustration and give up.

Disquiet is fascinating, admittedly, and from a story standpoint I find that it makes for interesting situations.  However I can imagine why some players might find playing Promethean undesirable given the sheer social rejection and hate that the characters must suffer through and endure in order to find deliverance.

Still, with the right group, and the right mindset, Disquiet can be used to great effect to make Promethean a memorable and interesting experience.

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Refinements

If there’s something that really caught my eye with regards to Promethean: the Created, it would be the concept of Refinements.  Adhering to their Alchemical praxis, the Prometheans believe that they are unfinished base matter that could transmute themselves to finally become real humans.  The process of becoming human isn’t easy, and isn’t something that is cut and dried.  Instead, the road to mortality is a personal one, where the Prometheans learn about humanity by making mistakes and hitting vital milestones.  These could be an act of atrocity, a personal epiphany or forging a true friendship with another human.

The Refinements are various methodologies by which the Prometheans react to their current state.  They encompass philosophies by which they live their lives hoping to find these elusive Milestones.  These refinements are:

  • Aurum: The Refinement of Gold – Aurum is the path of understanding humanity.  By immersing themselves in human society and mimicking and studying their manners and values, a Promethean hopes to come to develop the same qualities that might earn it a soul.  Given the effects of Disquiet this is a difficult refinement to practice, but one that could potentially yield a great amount of insight.
  • Cuprum: The Refinement of Copper – Cuprum is the path of isolation.  Like hermits and holy men, Prometheans who practice the refinement of Cuprum seek out places that are isolated from human contact seeking to learn more about themselves and to come into terms with Nature and to hopefully find a way to tame the way it rejects them.
  • Ferrum: The Refinement of Iron – Ferrum is the refinement of perfecting the body.  By taking on challenges that test their bodies in combat and in adversity, the Promethean hopes to understand humanity from a physical point of view.  To achieve the insight to earn a soul, then shouldn’t one understand the body first?
  • Mercurius: The Refinement of Quicksilver – Mercurius is the path of understanding Pyros.  Prometheans understand that Pyros is the Fire that animates them, and contemplates the mysteries of this element in hopes that in understanding what makes them Promethean, they can determine the means by which they can bring their transmutation to completion.
  • Stannum: The Refinement of Tin – Stannum doesn’t seem to be a real “path” in the sense that the others do.  Instead of actually looking to further themselves along the path to humanity, Prometheans who practice the refinement of Stannum lash out, acting out their most basic and angry responses to the injustices that life has thrown on them.  It’s almost like this refinement is the “safety valve” path, the one that Prometheans undertake to “let it all out” as it were.

In the end, the Refinements are what makes Promethean a deeply personal game.  It’s about finding your place in life, and choosing how you go about doing so.  Hikkikomori described it as Adolescence, and I find myself agreeing.  A Promethean has to deal with a body that doesn’t seem to make sense, in a society that behaves by strange and unspoken rules, all while struggling to find their true selves.  It’s a struggle for identity in a setting that just seems to be utterly unfair in the same way that High School felt like everything was singling you out for their own special brand of bad luck or pain.

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Lineages: Ulgan, the Riven

“Tear Me To Pieces, I challenge the best
Fast with the pain, desire and skill”

– Tear Me To Pieces, by Razor

The Ulgan are perhaps one of the most esoteric of the Promethean Lineages.  Rather than being beholden to gods, they trace their roots to a shamanistic culture.  Trafficking into the underworld isn’t purely the domain of the gods after all.  Many shamanistic cultures speak of how the shamans travel into the underworld by spirit… and in the Ulgan’s case, physically.

Ambassador to the Unseen

The Ulgan draw their lineage back to a man drawn into the land of the dead by a Shaman who practiced darker magics.  The demons there ripped him apart while fully conscious, and the shaman who drew him back put him together with the intent of making him a slave.  Instead Ulgan tore the offending Shaman to pieces in revenge, then put the shaman back together to make another of his kind.  It’s a vicious cycle, but this sort of initiation is what created the strange bond between the Ulgan and the realm of spirits.

Ectoplasmic Personality

Oookay… before I continue, I find it a little odd to force a fifth form of humour into the game, but I think I can roll with it.  Anyway, Ectoplasmic Humor is described as intuitive and instinctual.  I’m still struggling with this particular description of them, to be honest.  Perhaps this means that they have poor impulse control, and yet have finely honed instincts that give them insight at the strangest of times.  This ectoplasmic affinity also enables the Ulgan with the bestowment of Ephemeral Flesh, granting them the ability to perceive spirits and interact with them as if they were solid.


Okay, where to begin with this one.  Well, I loved Mage: the Ascension’s Dreamspeakers as a Tradition, so the Ulgan ought to appeal to me as well, but for some reason it feels forced.  I understand that spirits and ghosts play a huge role in the World of Darkness and every splat ought to have some means to interact with them (or lose out on a big chunk of the setting,) but the Ulgan sort of feel forced.  That said, they make for an interesting choice for Players who like exploring that aspect of the World of Darkness.

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Lineages: Tammuz, the Golems

“I’m stronger now
Stronger now than I was before
There’s no way you can
Hurt me
Move me
Stop me”

– Mr. Clay by Bamboo

Golems.  Many people who have played RPGs are well aware of what they are.  Large, hulking creatures made of inanimate matter, and yet who are alive.  They’re often portrayed as inert until such time that they are awakened by magic whereupon they perform the bidding of their masters, or ancient programming instilled into them.  Unlike the Osiris and their claim of being descended from a god, the Tammuz were created as tools and servants and nothing more.

Yearning for Freedom

The Tammuz claim the famous Golem of Prague as one of the first of their number, this clay man was created and animated by a Rabbi.  Still others claim to be from a creature called to life by the biblical Daniel.  The only thing that matters is that in each of their stories, the Golems were never more than anything else than a tool, a means to an end.

Melancholic Personalities

It comes as absolutely no surprise then that the Tammuz are depressed and introspective.  They can take an awful lot of verbal abuse, difficult to rouse to anger in an almost Eeyore sort of fashion.  But when a Tammuz breaks, then it is as if the wrath of God or mother nature fell upon you.  The Tammuz’s temper manifests in a rampage, a red haze where nothing and no one is safe.  The Tammuz posses a gift of Unholy Stamina, one that makes it seem that they’re completely unstoppable, shrugging off blows that would bring other Prometheans to their knees.


The Tammuz are an interesting, if tragic form of Promethean.  It would be interesting to play one of these as an excessively pessimistic brute with an Eeyore-like personality and a certain dislike for crowds.  They strike me as one of the easier Prometheans to play as they’re dispassionate, but not completely divorced from caring about other people as the Osirans.  They don’t fly off the handle as much as the Frankenstien and are certainly not the Stalker-ish creepy of the Galateids.

[Let’s Study – P:tC] Lineages: Osiris, the Nepri

“I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own”

-Viva la Vida by Coldplay

If the Galatieds claim to be descendants of Greek Gods, then the Osiris trace their lineage all the way back to the legends of Ancient Egypt.  They are not just an animated statue created out of pity and sympathy, nor are they mismatched parts put together and brought to life by human hubris.  Instead, the Osiris hold claim to actual royalty.  This royal heritage makes them capable of being level-headed and logical, but at the same time it makes them distant and uncaring.  It’s this difficulty to actually care about anything that makes it hard for humanity to care about these snobs.

Dead and Back Again

Osiris was a king of Egypt who died and was brought back to life by his wife Isis, who relied on magic to return him from the dead.  Though he was incomplete after the ritual, Osiris came to rule long after he was brought back to life.  There’s a lot of questions on how Isis knew how to do this, and the true origins of their son Horus, but such things don’t bother the Prometheans who have descended from the Egyptian god.

Their experience with death and the story of their Progenitor also explains their ability of Revivification, where the Osiris Promethean can come back from the dead without losing Azoth, or even bring back another Promethean back to life.

Phlegmatic Personalities

The Nepri are possessed of the calm, dispassionate phlegmatic personality.  They are difficult to unsettle, relying heavily on their mind and logic with the exclusion of most other social niceties.  If someone’s giving them a problem, then perhaps that someone should just disappear.  The emotional context of their decisions and their actions.  This makes them dangerous, as they’re prone to taking the most expedient route no matter if other people get hurt or end up being used as tools to achieve their objectives.


I can see the Osirians as a good choice for many players who don’t like the idea of playing more emotionally imbalanced Prometheans.  Rather than being victims to loss of control, the Osirans suffer from holding on to too much of it.  I can name a few players who would gleefully jump to this and play it as an always-on Heart of Flint Limit Break Exalted, since it’s easy and it is left to the GM to actually figure out how to keep the game going despite the number of people they end up pissing off.

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