We’re back on our tour of the World of Darkness, this time looking at Promethean: the Created. Previously we looked at commonalities in all the different Chronicles of Darkness games, then took a specific look at vampires, werewolves, mages, and changelings. Now it’s time for the Created.
6. X Splat is lineage, Y Splat is refinement.
As a Promethean, you were created through a specific process (or a specific sort or process at least) which describes what sort of Created you are, what baggage you entered the world with, etc. This is your Lineage, what you are born with and the inherent axis (X-splat) of your character. The seven lineages in the second edition Promethean core rulebook are:
- Frankensteins are literally made of different corpses and shocked into life by lightning. They are big and tough and pretty ugly.
- Galaetids are beautiful creatures animated by love, though only rarely a pure and honest love. They are the most bewitching of the Created but often swept away by their emotions.
- Osirans claim to be the most ancient of the Created, though there’s no real way to tell. They are reanimated corpses, traveling life’s roads again, and obsessed with knowledge.
- Tammuz are earthy Prometheans who tie their origins to ancient Sumer. They are created from ritually-prepared and buried corpses that pull themselves out of the earth. And that’s just the start.
- Ulgans are spiritual energy bound in a mortal shell and usually look like they’ve been torn at with ectoplasm leaking out the wounds. They are the most in touch with the ghostly world and spirits.
- The Unfleshed are a very strange lineage made of human-like artificial materials: manikins, crash-test dummies, etc. They strive to be human but it’s a hard path.
- The Extempore is a new lineage for the second edition… well it’s really a “lineage” in quotes because it’s a catch-all category for any Promethean that doesn’t really fit with other lineages.
The last two are new lineages for the second edition of the game and, while they’re not my favorite, they do allow for a wider field of Prometheans. Various sourcebooks in the first edition (and historical settings as well) introduced other strange lineages including the radioactive Zeka, the philosophical Amirani, and the bone-thin Hollow. Whatever lineage your character hails from, though, they are trying to find their own way in this new existence. That’s where the social axis (Y-spat) comes in: your character follows a Refinement of the soul, named for an alchemical metal that represents their end-goal. The first edition of the game had five Refinements to start with and then they slowly added more over time. The second edition, though, has twice that many right out of the gate!
- Aurum, the Refinement of Gold, is all about becoming more and more like the mortal humans around you. You work on empathy and fitting in with your neighbors.
- Cuprum, the Refinement of Copper, is a focus on the self and about self-reflection. Like other people, Prometheans of Copper try to know themselves better in order to understand the world better.
- Ferrum, the Refinement of Iron, is the path of physical perfection. Prometheans of this Refinement subscribe to my whole “my body is a temple” idea which hopefully makes them better people.
- Plumbum, the Refinement of Lead, is a holistic approach to Created nature since they subscribe to the idea that Prometheans need to be honest about being Prometheans if they hope to move forward.
- Stannum, the Refinement of Tin, is a path of anger and pain. Being a Promethean is tough and the folks of this Refinement figure that, rather than bandaging over that pain, you should channel it into bashing heads and ridding the world of jerks.
- Aes, the Refinement of Bronze, is the pathway focused on the ages old debate of faith and works. They show their growing sense of self by putting others before themselves and creating a better world.
- Argentum, the Refinement of Silver, work at understanding their humanity by studying the inhuman world they are a part of. They delve into the supernatural hoping that, through contrast, they can come to know the mundane better.
- Cobalus, the Refinement of Cobalt, is about pushing yourself to the point of failure and then learning from that failure. They are scarred people who have a lesson from every one of their scars.
- Mercurius, the Refinement of Mercury, is like a combination of Plumbum and Argentum. They are the most in tune with the Divine Fire that gives Prometheans their power (more on that later).
- Phosphorum, the Refinement of Phosphorus, is an active and passionate path of pushing yourself forward to achieve your transcendental goal, preferring to take a risk and perish than to withdraw and stagnate.
What exactly are the game steps of following a Refinement? We’ll get into that shortly.
8. We lied, you aren’t human… just MADE of human.
Here’s the thing with Prometheans: they aren’t human and they’ve never been human, though some of them are made from human parts (others are spirits made flesh or animated clay or whatever). They are Created and that is something worth considering. Someone decided to create your character and then set them loose on the world. These processes are horrible and usually disfiguring but they fill the empty shell with Pyros, the Divine Fire, that gives life to these lifeless things. This mystical force provides both gifts and problems for the Promethean but it also connects them to other Prometheans even if they have dramatically different philosophies.
The biggest function of Pyros is to give the Promethean Bestowments and Transmutations. Your lineage provides a pair of abilities that shape fundamental aspects of what your character can do: exceptional strength, the ability to see into Twilight, etc. After that you have Transmutations which are the mystical abilities of the Prometheans, equivalent to vampire Disciplines or werewolf Gifts. You get one of them from your Refinement and then pick other ones according to your interests and strengths. They are powered by the Divine Power, though using them creates flares of Pyros and there is definitely too much of a good thing…
9. Don’t stick around too long.
The major problem with the Divine Fire is that it’s a spiritual energy source and that tweaks people a little bit. Meeting a Promethean is a disturbing experience in ways that it’s hard to understand and the longer they stick around the worse it gets. This disturbance, called Disquiet, is the classic image of a crowd of people coming after Frankenstein’s monster with torches and pitchforks. Mortals just don’t like being around a Promethean and they get irrationally emotional in ways that are usually detrimental to the task at hand and, eventually, downright violent. For this reason, Prometheans don’t really have “territories” like other supernatural creatures in the World of Darkness: they have to keep on the move to avoid being torn limb from limb. You know, usual stuff.
10. You’re on a pilgrimage for real.
So why would you sign up to be a Promethean? What do these beings do if they are tormented by a burning fire inside and hunted by crowds of angry mortals? Well this has already been hinted at with discussion of the Refinements, but Prometheans want to transcend their current state into something else. What might that be? Well, that’s a good question and if you can answer it then you likely have already played a game of Promethean.
When they wake up from the slab (or crawl from the ground, or stumble out of the workshop, or whatever) Prometheans have a vision of hope, a brilliant possible future where they are happier and satisfied and not a hated monster. This is called their Elpis and it’s the motivating hope that keeps them going when things are dark and crummy. The player and the Storyteller come up with Milestones to mark their passage towards their Great Work, a goal informed by their personal vision of their Refinement. To help them along the way they might make use of athanors, spiritual furnaces of the Divine Fire that improve their sense of self and their abilities as well.
Along this Pilgrimage, Prometheans are bedeviled by Pandorans who are twisted versions of the Prometheans. Are they created as a consequence when a Promethean is? Are they Prometheans who fall to their baser instincts? Those are some great questions that you can answer when you explore the nature of this world in your chronicle. I will say, though, that when you compare the Pandorans and the Pilgrimage to the Qashmallim they seem incredibly well-defined. These angel-like creatures show up out of nowhere with pronouncements that they expect Prometheans to follow. Sometimes they are helping you along, sometimes they are warning you of dire consequences, and sometimes they are just staring at you in a creepy way. Being a Promethean is an entirely personal matter and there are many different ways that a Storyteller can throw in your way.