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Mummy: the Curse, Virtual Box set – a GM’s review

Note: To play this game you will need the New World of Darkness rule book!

Mummy: the Curse or MtC is the first new game line for the New World of Darkness since Geist: the Sin-Eaters in 2009 and it promised on its release to do some things a bit differently from the other games, taking the nWoD and the Storyteller system in a new direction. My interest in this game started several months before its release as White Wolf had a blog on their site that was being updated by the developers on a regular basis giving info, teasers and the occasional spoiler. So by the time I got my hands on this game, my expectations were pretty high and, despite Mummies not being my first choice of supernatural antagonist (I missed out the old versions of Mummy from the classic world of darkness line), I couldn’t wait to get a game going. So, did it disappoint?

The System

At first glance things seem pretty familiar if you are used to the other nWoD games, character creation involves choosing from one of 5 guilds and one of 5 decrees, much like auspice/tribe(werewolf) and clan/covenant(vampire), which then give access/reduce the cost of certain abilities. You have a power stat, Sekhem, which works in many ways like Primal Urge(WtF) or Blood Potency(VtR), and a morality stat, Memory, which (in some ways) works like the morality stat in the other games. However, on closer inspection, there are some major differences Mummy has to the other games, one of the big ones being the power stat, Sekhem, unlike other games where this starts (mostly) at 1 and players must slowly rise it up to 10 with experience points, in Mummy you start at 10! For those unfamiliar with nWoD this means your character starts very powerful and is capable of some really awesome effects. This doesn’t last long however, as the more time you spend alive, the more your Sekhem falls and the weaker your character becomes until it finally reaches 0 and your character returns to its default state of being dead (don’t worry you will come back to life, mummies are immortal after all). This adds a huge amount of tension to the game when players, whose characters where melting gang members’ guns and warping peoples’ minds in one scene, find themselves not much better than those same gang members a few scenes later. It lets the players know that the clock is always ticking and that they have to use their time wisely to accomplish their goals in time.

Mummy: The Curse

The new mechanics work really well in this game, adding theme without bogging the game down, I was surprised at how little time I spent looking things up in the book compared to other games when running them for the first time. That’s not to say they are easy, there is a lot to take in and no doubt I messed a lot of things up that will have to be ironed out in later games, but, like I say, it was no more difficult than any other standard RPG of about this length (about 300 pages).

One aspect of character creation I really like is the Cult and Tomb merits that all mummies start with but that can be customised a great deal. Your tomb is where you keep your relics and your remains and therefore, where you will be “arising” most of the time. These can be ancient burial chambers, pyramids, modern skyscrapers, a beach house in Malibu; they can be booby-trapped, haunted and all manner of other features added to provide comfort, anonymity or just to keep out Brendan Fraser (I’m sorry, but I actually really like those films!). Your cult is a group of people who, to cut a long story short, take care of your affairs while you’re dead and provide assistance and resources while alive (the roll of the cult is a bit more complicated but I have a feeling this review will run on so I will try to keep it brief!). You get to decide how they operate, are they your typical chanting robe-wearers operating in the shadows, or are they a multi-national cooperation making hostile take-overs to protect your interests? This customisation really expands the scope of the game, and could also be used other games, designing a tomb full of traps and having some mortal characters stumble upon it would make a great game (who says you can’t do dungeon crawls in nWoD!).

The abilities come in the form of Affinities and Utterances, Affinities being the minor powers and Utterances being the major (and I do mean MAJOR) powers. These are wide and varied, from raising the dead to removing people’s memories or turning solids into liquid and vice versa. They are great and really add a lot of thematic value; although I have to admit the layout of this section is a bit of a headache. They’re arranged alphabetically and not by their prerequisites meaning you have to look through them all to find the ones available to your character. It’s FAR from ruining the game and am not sure if they could have done a better job another way, but be prepared for a lot of page turning (or mouse-scrolling) during character creation.
There is a load more I could talk about regarding the system, but I’m wanting to move on so will sum things up by saying the way the new mechanics support the theme in this game is excellent, I can see that after a while the mechanics will fade into the background allowing you to put all your energy into role-playing.

 

The Setting

Zen Jeru recommends:-

Highlander, 1986.
Running a campaign containing flashbacks can seem pretty daunting at first, so if you’re looking for some inspiration for this game, forget Brendon Frasier and Boris Karlov and think Christopher Lambert! 1986’s classic Highlander shows how a story about immortals can be told with the majority of the story taking place in the modern day but flashbacks taking place any time in the last few hundred years. Christopher Lambert play Connor McLeod, an immortal who can only be killed by decapitation. He must battle with the other immortals until only one remains who may then claim “the prize”. What makes it useful for Mummy: the Curse storytellers is the way the flashbacks are used; to set up the relationships between the main characters (we see McLeod and the Kurgan’s first meeting), introduce new characters and expand on the story. It is a true classic of cinema and an excellent example of how a tale of immortal rivalries can be told using flashbacks.


As I mentioned earlier, mummies are immortal, sorcerers in a pre-historic Egyptian empire cast “The Rite of Return” upon them, causing them to rise from the dead to survive through the ages to be the caretakers of relics of the nameless empire. Now, that is a VERY condensed version of what’s going on but as one of the main themes of the game is self-discovery it’s probably best you find out the rest for yourself. Most nWoD games present worlds full of mysteries that the players and characters must discover during the game, however, Mummy: the Curse takes this idea to another level! The memory mechanic means that your character is never completely sure of their own past let alone what is going on in the world. The upshot of this is that the game not only allows, but actively encourages you, to include flashbacks in your game and lets you do it without player/character’s knowledge clashing and making them feel forced. The characters may be on an adventure in the modern day and then something triggers their memory and the scene cuts to the 1600’s when they last visited the area. Now in other games you would have a problem as why didn’t your character remember what had happen in the past up until now? Why didn’t they remember they made an enemy or lost a loved one? Well in mummy the answer is simple, they didn’t remember because they DIDN’T REMEMBER it until they had the flashback. This allows storytellers to weave epic, millennia spanning tales of intrigue that lets the players explore their character’s personality in a totally unique way. Even if you are used to running vampire games that last for centuries, they are usually linear, moving ever forward in time, meaning there isn’t much opportunity to go back and fill in the gaps.  This is the reason that Mummy caught my interest; I can’t wait to start building a long running campaign and being able run a scene from the player-characters’ past and see how it plays out.

Again, there is so much in this game that is awesome, the amount of effort that has gone into getting the theme right is amazing, every page just sucks you into this dark, ancient, gothic world. The art work is fantastic and the short stories between the chapters are the best of any nWoD I’ve read so far. I am really looking forward to any source books that come out so I can get more immersed in the world of the Arisen.

 

The Format

White Wolf released this as a virtual box set; it includes the core rule book (split into 2 books, one for the player and one for the storyteller), a storyteller screen, interactive character sheet and an adventure. Firstly the idea of splitting the book into 2 is a really good idea, more than any other game I can think of, players will spoil it for themselves if they read the storyteller’s section as there are some BIG mysteries in this game. The interactive character sheet is great, (saves you doing a 30 second Google search to find one on the net but every little helps!). I have to admit I wasn’t sure what the point of the screen was as I tried to print it out and it didn’t come in any way of putting the pages together that made a physical screen. Maybe you’re just supposed to keep it open on your PC screen whilst playing but then why have a picture on the “back”? Maybe if I mess about with the settings on my printer I could do a better job but am in no rush to waste more paper. Finally the adventure, Eve of Judgement, uses white wolf’s SAS system which for those of you unfamiliar with these, basically break the adventure down into scenes each with their own card giving you a brief outline of what’s going on, who’s involved and what help and hindrances there might be for the players. I was hoping it would include some ready-made characters so we could jump right in but unfortunately it didn’t, however, despite certain layout issues, it didn’t take too long to get a character ready. We found this was a great introduction to the game and its new mechanics, the players get plenty of opportunity to test out their awesome powers and the feeling of the ticking clock comes through very well. A great first experience, especially when planning a game of this nature can seem a bit daunting at first, it was nice to be shown the way before diving in.

 

Conclusion

Well, if you hadn’t already guessed, I love this game! It has some of the most unique ideas and concepts of any game I have ever played, ideas that would never have thought to try myself (talking about the flashbacks here). The Gothic flavour is as present in this as any nWoD games and the world just gets you thinking about how you can present its mysteries to the players. If you like any of the nWoD games so far then this is a must buy, if you haven’t played any yet then it will blow your mind! I like the virtual box set format, the adventure is just right, the sheet is a nice bonus and I may even discover what you are meant to do with the screen one day! This game comes Highly Recommended and is a truly unique RPG, buy it now!

5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended

You may also like to read:

Antagonists Armory Second Sight World of Darkness Core Book

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