Today we’re continuing with our series on the various gamelines of the Chronicles of Darkness. The next line to cover is one of my favorites that I think doesn’t get enough attention. It’s a globe-spanning story of immortals trapped in repeating cycles, cut off from their past lives by untold centuries, and struggling against cosmic power while wielding the might of gods. This is more than just linen-wrapped corpses in Egyptian pyramids, my friends. This is Mummy: The Curse.
Last time I don’t think I spelled it out clearly enough but this is an ongoing series. I wrote a post a while back that provided seven things to know about the Chronicles of Darkness games that covered the shared commonalities of the world. I’m going through now to provide the last three for each gameline to give a final three things, as well as elaborate on the X splats and Y splats that shape character creation in each line. The idea is that you can combine the original post with the new one to get a composite list of ten things about a particular gameline that can be given to new players who might be interested. In past posts we’ve covered Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, and Promethean. Today it’s onward and upward with the Arisen.
6. X Splat is soul, Y Splat is guild.
When they undergo the Rite of Return, the Arisen’s souls were remade into a completely different sort of creature. The exact nature of that reforging depends on the nature of the individual before they underwent the Rite and resembles some of the totemic animals of the Arisen’s civilization, as well as the concept of the fivefold soul. During the Rite of Return your character made this Decree, an inherent axis (X-splat), and today it defines your character and gives them their basic strengths.
- Lion-Headed mummies are the passionate, creative types with the strongest ab (heart-soul). They believe that emotion, good or bad, is what allows the Arisen to hold onto a shred of humanity.
- Falcon-Headed characters are all action with strong ba (spirit-soul). They are often warriors, usually power-hungry, and just generally focus on doing things to give their existence relevance.
- Bull-Headed has the same meaning among the Arisen as it does among mortals: those possessed with such self confidence that they know they should always be in charge. They are strongest in ka (essence-spirit) and are often the leaders of Arisen merets.
- Snake-Headed are keepers of secrets and names. In the ephemeral existences of the Arisen this can be a powerful skill and these mummies strongest in ren (name-soul) have all the answers.
- Jackal-Headed are strongest in sheut (shadow-soul) and take it upon themselves to guide their fellow Arisen through the half-living existence they find themselves in.
If you don’t care for these terms, there are other names for these five Decrees such as the Talons of Ba for the Falcon-Headed or the Ferrymen for the Jackal-Headed. The books hardly ever use these, though. The social aspect (Y-splat) of your character will be their Guild, ancient organizations that date back to the beginning of the mummies’ existence. Your Guild determines your alliances and your goals (both of which you might not know at the start of play, as explained below) and also many of your abilities.
- Maa-Kep, the Engravers of Amulets, are manipulators and schemers. They work from behind several screens as puppet-masters, moving events as they see fit.
- Mesen-Nebu, the First Alchemists, are less political but no less ambitious. They focus on the magical skills of the Arisen and create objects of power from raw materials. They also transform humans, just like their other tools…
- Sesha-Hebsu, the Inscribers of Texts, are the secret-keepers of the mummies. They know where all the bodies are buried and which ones are likely to rise again.
- Su-Menent, the Shepherds of the Shell, are the spiritual leaders of the Arisen. In the old days they were the state priesthood and many of them still carry that arrogance around.
- Tef-Aabhi, the Builders of Effigies, are engineers and architects. That’s more exciting than it sounds, though, when your people build things that channel cosmic energies…
8. You haven’t been human for a long time.
Unlike Prometheans, the Arisen were once human. That was just a really long time ago (as in five-freaking-thousand years ago) and things have seriously changed since then. So what ties them to their origins? Well, two things. First of all, the site of that long-ago ritual is the forgotten city of Irem and those first lives are the ones that really matter. This was where the Guilds were founded, where rivalries and agendas were set, and also when the Arisen were at the height of their earthly powers.
The height of their cosmic power is kind of all the time, though, as the Arisen directly serve mysterious and massively-powerful entities called the Judges of Duat. The leaders of Irem ascended to a higher plane to speak directly with these forty-two Judges and they are the ones that give the immortal Arisen their power. Your character will have a specific Judge that is their patron but they answer to all Judges really. It’s an easy gig, though, since the Judges don’t really give clear missions or anything. They just have desires that shape your response to worldly events when you are able to make that happen.
9. You don’t remember the past but your enemies do.
In exchange for immortality, the Arisen spend a considerable amount of time in an afterlife called the Duat (the same one that the Judges oversee). When they come back to Earth, a process that mummies called a Descent, they arrive with little memory of their previous times being awake or of their time in the Duat. Regaining those Memories is a big part of most Mummy: The Curse campaigns as characters try to remember what grudges out there might threaten them and what past mistakes might come back to haunt them.
On top of that, there are three groups that do remember the past and who don’t particularly like you. The first is easy enough to deal with since they are little more than hungry beasts: the Amkhata. These creatures are twistings of the natural world that result from mistakes made with Iremite magic. Crazy mashups of animals (such as lion-scorpion-vultures or falcon-serpent-jackals) they can be extremely deadly, but thankfully they rarely have anything more complicated than “feed!” on their minds.
The same cannot be said about the Shuankhsen who are fairly common foes that bedevil the Arisen during their Descents. In order to become gods and bring immortality to their loyal followers, the priests of Irem dabbled in energies they truly should not have and the result were the Shuankhsen, hate-filled creatures that remember Irem and all the millennia in between. The Shuankhsen crave revenge but they are bound by a condition called the Silence that hamstrings them from acting too directly against the mummies. They can’t even speak about what they know without their animating energies flaring and consuming them.
Last of all, and least known of all, is the rumored sixth guild of Irem who was not brought along to paradise with the others. Called the Deceived, their mere existence is considered heresy to speak of and they certainly couldn’t have survived to today… so you can be sure that they will be lurking behind the scenes in all your campaigns. There is a whole sourcebook of information on the Deceived, but that’s for the Storyteller to read. Players, you just know that there are mummies out there who don’t subscribe to any of the normal rules and they want your head on a pike for reasons you don’t even remember (again, not an uncommon thing).
10. You are a god.
Here’s the thing that sets Mummy: The Curse apart from other gamelines in the Chronicles of Darkness. In games like Mage or Vampire there are characters who style themselves as gods because they are super-duper powerful. In Werewolf and Promethean there are creatures who can arguably be called gods but they are NPCs that you would do best to avoid provoking. In Mummy there are creatures who have godlike power called Sekhem which allows them to change the fundamental nature of the world and you are playing those creatures!
The low-powered magic of the Arisen, called affinities, are similar to vampires’ Disciplines or werewolves’ Gifts. This is just part of mummies’ power, though, as they also have Utterances which are just mind-bogglingly strong. When the campaign starts there’s every chance your character will be able to curse their enemies to be attacked by every animal they come across, cause everyone they talk to to not trust them, create works of fine craftsmanship with a snap of their fingers and even bring people back from the freakin’ dead! When Arisen say that they are gods, there is every reason to believe them. A good chunk of the book even deals with the cults of followers that your characters will lead and how they can be used as zealous servants. Depending on your Storyteller’s plans, some players might be playing this cultist but anyone who plays a mummy is going to be wielding phenomenal cosmic power, no exaggeration.