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  • Design choices for Mummy

    I'm interested in getting Mummy 2e when it goes into full release, but I have a couple questions regarding design choices.

    Why are mummies "unstuck in time"? From a purely mechanical standpoint this is going to be an absolute nightmare for storytellers. Every player is going to want their characters to have knowledge of things totally inappropriate for the chronicle's setting. "This chronicle is going to be set during medieval times" "I want my character to have a laser gun because he learned how to make and use them in the far future". And if mummies don't retain much knowledge of their past awakenings, why even have the "unstuck in time" thing an actual thing. At best it's totally pointless, at worst it's going to become every storyteller's worst nightmare.

    Why do mummies advance backwards, from Sekhem 10 to 1? This makes them totally incompatible with every other splat (I'd love to see how Onyx Path could possibly make mummies work in the Contagion Chronicles). It's also counter to pretty much all the lore regarding mummies, which typically has them at their weakest when they first wake up and then grow stronger in time. It also really makes it difficult for them to actually accomplish anything. The longer a mummy goes the weaker they get, which make it harder for them to actually accomplish the thing they were woken up to do. So either mummies are expected to accomplish their goals VERY quickly, or they're only ever given minor tasks that can be accomplished even when they're reduced to Sekhem 2-1. Why not just have mummies use the normal 1-10 scale and have them work like vampires (long sleeps make them weak again) or like Sin Eaters (where they get more powerful over time and each "death" knocks them back a step).

    I really want to like Mummy, Egyptian myth is one of my favourites, but the above two things are really making me not want to have anything to do with this splat. I'm hoping I've gotten things wrong and it's not as bad as I'm thinking it is, but from the bits I've seen i'm thinking it is as bad as I think it is. I didn't buy in on the kickstarter, so I'm really hoping there was something released to backers that helps "fix" how mummies work, or some kind of announcement about how the above things have gone through dramatic changes. I would love to hear any information, thoughts, or opinions other people have on Mummy and the above issues.

  • #2
    the first one is quite simple. you "wake up" in different times due to your Judge and or Cult needing you too (and the judges do it because Sekhem and crimes they judge they see in non linear time.) as for making a laser gun in the dark ages, a player would, realistically, NEVER be able to make such a thing. he/she just would not have the resources available. finally, if I remember right, you kinda make an alternate reality when you go to the past and make noticeable change. if you to modern things, you will see everything play out like it originally did

    2. Mummies have ALWAYS begun at their strongest when waking up. the have basically no Memory is all. no lore contradiction there. finally, it's just a design choice they begin at their strongest when waking up. they have all that sekhem going into him in that moment, and the Judges want their creations to be incredibly powerful when a job needs to be done. the fact they can threaten to take sekhem away from their Arisen workers when they decide to forsake the mission in pursuit of memory is just a plus.

    EDIT: Judges expect Mummies to finish the job efficiently. and they CAN keep Sekhem for quite a while. what matters is that they spend all their time on that mission in order to keep it

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post
      Why are mummies "unstuck in time"? From a purely mechanical standpoint this is going to be an absolute nightmare for storytellers. Every player is going to want their characters to have knowledge of things totally inappropriate for the chronicle's setting. "This chronicle is going to be set during medieval times" "I want my character to have a laser gun because he learned how to make and use them in the far future". And if mummies don't retain much knowledge of their past awakenings, why even have the "unstuck in time" thing an actual thing. At best it's totally pointless, at worst it's going to become every storyteller's worst nightmare.
      How much of their nonlinear episodic experience of time a mummy remembers is a function of their Memory. Remembering more than one or two previous Descents at a time requires getting to Memory 7, you start at Memory 3, you can only raise Memory with a specific type of Experience most repeatably attainable from completely cannibalizing vessels and helping Touchstones fulfill their Anchors, and you risk losing Memory for things as simple as hiding your identity.

      On top of all this, Mummy is not a game with a particularly fanciful vision of the future — there are two Fifth Sothic Turn (~3500 CE) story hooks in the Storytelling chapter and they're "how do your mummies deal with the prospects of waking up in a Martian colony where 'Martian colony' is barely more sustainable than 'space station'?" and "how do your mummies deal with the prospects of waking up on a ruined Earth where most of humanity is gone?"

      This is to say nothing of the fact that futuristic technology is unlikely to be constructible by a single person using vastly out-of-date technology and materials and that waking up in medieval times means you've been awakened for a purpose that is not building laser guns.

      Why do mummies advance backwards, from Sekhem 10 to 1? This makes them totally incompatible with every other splat (I'd love to see how Onyx Path could possibly make mummies work in the Contagion Chronicles). It's also counter to pretty much all the lore regarding mummies, which typically has them at their weakest when they first wake up and then grow stronger in time. It also really makes it difficult for them to actually accomplish anything. The longer a mummy goes the weaker they get, which make it harder for them to actually accomplish the thing they were woken up to do. So either mummies are expected to accomplish their goals VERY quickly, or they're only ever given minor tasks that can be accomplished even when they're reduced to Sekhem 2-1. Why not just have mummies use the normal 1-10 scale and have them work like vampires (long sleeps make them weak again) or like Sin Eaters (where they get more powerful over time and each "death" knocks them back a step).
      As in First Edition, the practical timer for the Arisen comfortably slows around Sekhem 3-6 and can be slowed or reversed by performing certain actions or consuming relics.

      Their primary applications of supernatural power are mostly incidental to their Sekhem rating and the focus of their typical awakening is premised in part around the fact that most of the time they are dead. I haven't heard of any lore where the mummy gets more powerful over time.


      Resident Lore-Hound
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      • #4
        The need to rest, the need to return to the grave and find some small peace in the dreamless sleep of an imperfect afterlife...this is not an obscure part of Mummy stories. These are one of the central conceits...that all mummies are drawn, if not actively desirous, of that return to their tomb and their rest. I remember that being the core theme of Van Richten's guide to the Ancient Dead back in my pre-turn-of-the-millenium D&D days. So the counting down of the power stat is basically a reflection of a Mummy's time on Earth running out, the amount of months and days he can walk among the living before his multi-layered soul is dragged back to the afterlife. BTW, a mummy first appears as a rotting, magic infested corpse god to those that see it, and then begins to look (and feel, if he cares to and can remember) more human as the Sekhem burn away within it. There are some good examples of mummies that learn to look human as their time among mortals goes on- from the 1930s movie to the Brendan Frasier films all the way to the aborted Dark Universe movie. Yes, I can think of a few examples of mummies gaining greater power as they stay animated...again, Brendan Frasier. But there are also certainly examples of mummies needing their power renewed through rituals and the like or they will return to rest. In this game that is what the power stat is meant to reflect.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post
          Why do mummies advance backwards, from Sekhem 10 to 1? This makes them totally incompatible with every other splat (I'd love to see how Onyx Path could possibly make mummies work in the Contagion Chronicles).
          Every splat is already completely incompatible with every other splat, if you compare power stats alone. How they are gained, lost and what bonuses they grant can vary wildly. I think you are vastly overestimating the impact of losing Sekhem instead of gaining it.

          Besides, none of the games are created for mixed groups. They're all supposed to be stand alone games that share a common rules system and setting. In nWoD's 16 year old run, the Contagion Chronicle will be the absolutely first time players are expected to play different splats in the same game. Of course they're not going to balance the varies splats to each other when that's largely completely irrelevant.
          On top of all that, there's a philosophy shared by at least some of the writers that there is no such thing as balance; CofD is supposed to tell interesting stories, with the rules as a support structure for that purpose. That's one of the weirdest things about CofD, I'll have to admit. Ruleswise it's an updated 90's RPG, meaning it's very crunchy and simulationist. It makes CofD very attractive (and surprisingly suitable) for the more game/tactical focused players despite being written for more story/theatrical focused players. Knowing this can explain many idiosyncrasies and design choices in the games.


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          • #6
            I've also had some concerns about the 'unstuck in time' thing, and I think I've been fairly vocal about them. It's at the point where I'd really prefer not to interact with that part of the setting at all. For people who have read the book, how practical is it to avoid that? Is it at all possible to play as a Mummy who has just, coincidentally, woken up in chronological order every time and had no real interaction with the time travel shenanigans? How inherent to the universe is it in 2e?

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MrBreaksIt View Post
              I've also had some concerns about the 'unstuck in time' thing, and I think I've been fairly vocal about them. It's at the point where I'd really prefer not to interact with that part of the setting at all. For people who have read the book, how practical is it to avoid that? Is it at all possible to play as a Mummy who has just, coincidentally, woken up in chronological order every time and had no real interaction with the time travel shenanigans? How inherent to the universe is it in 2e?
              You can dial time weirdness up and down as much as you’d like. If the level you prefer for that is zero, it’s not going to cause any trouble. Just like you can play a game of Requiem without needing to include the Strix. The default assumption of the game is that these things exist in the setting, but it is perfectly acceptable to have them not featured prominently or even have them not exist at all.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Shadowdragon View Post

                Why do mummies advance backwards, from Sekhem 10 to 1? This makes them totally incompatible with every other splat (I'd love to see how Onyx Path could possibly make mummies work in the Contagion Chronicles). It's also counter to pretty much all the lore regarding mummies, which typically has them at their weakest when they first wake up and then grow stronger in time. It also really makes it difficult for them to actually accomplish anything. The longer a mummy goes the weaker they get, which make it harder for them to actually accomplish the thing they were woken up to do.
                I thought that this was one of the most interesting choices for the game. It reminded me of the game pitch made by video game critic and designer Yatzee Croshaw in which the player starts with some all powerful, cursed magical armor and weapons in which the player is trapped. Early opponents are defeated easily because you're either immune or can smite them. As you go through levels you free yourself from the curse and get progressively weaker but have to learn how to dodge attacks. Perhaps your weapons now go to your enemies so you have to learn their deficiencies when you use them, before you loose them. At the end you have to survive only by your wits.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MrBreaksIt View Post
                  I've also had some concerns about the 'unstuck in time' thing, and I think I've been fairly vocal about them. It's at the point where I'd really prefer not to interact with that part of the setting at all. For people who have read the book, how practical is it to avoid that? Is it at all possible to play as a Mummy who has just, coincidentally, woken up in chronological order every time and had no real interaction with the time travel shenanigans? How inherent to the universe is it in 2e?
                  it's just fine that way. in fact, it's not unrealistic to say that at LEAST a large minority have experienced purely linear time.

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                  • #10
                    On the unstuck in time: My thoughts would be that logically the way to run Mummy without this would be to start at least 1000 years ago, to let you have a few cycles of activity before getting to the Modern era, but it's probably easier to start in the modern era before you start dealing with all the difficulties of adding the unfamiliar setting to the complicated systems and mythology of Mummy. Having Modern Day adventure to learn the system, then flash back to playing in the Aztec Empire is probably easier than the other way round.

                    It also has the advantage that what the players know of the modern world is more uptime focused, if you spent a month in the modern day with some rough idea at least of what you were doing in that time, you don't have the knowledge to build a surface to air missile because you never acquired it. (Like I am dubious how much it is feasible that Mummies windows of activity would work to gain substantial useful knowledge of the future.)

                    If you wanted to run a purely Medieval Mummy, just rule that no Mummies have knowledge of future time periods (specify it before character gen if your players are familiar with Mummy.)

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                    • #11
                      To actually dig a little into my understanding of what the developers are going for with the declining Sekhem scale, the design rationale appears to be to subvert the standard "heroic progression" that almost all RPGs embrace (i.e. getting stronger the longer you play) by creating a game in which the opposite occurs, while coupling that to a memory mechanic to create a game where both players and their characters are encouraged to cling to the memories of what they used to be. Chronicles of Darkness games as a rule tend to consciously embrace mechanics-as-metaphor, linked no doubt in no small part to the Horror genre's own tendency towards creating monsters as reflections of certain aspects of humanity's existence. In this case, Arisen appear designed as a mirror to Promethean. The latter has a lot of elements that make it feel like a coming of age story, of deciding what kind of person you want to be. Mummy, on the other hand, is more like an old age metaphor, a game of peering back through the mists of time to remember what you were like in your glory days. Hence, I imagine in part, the move to non-linear time. It both allows players to experience those past ages as a consequence of direct gameplay rather than through flashback mechanics, and it throws in an entertaining unreliable narrator aspect into the nature of reality with the rules for time distortions and strange timelines.

                      Both game lines are more complicated than those singular metaphors, of course, but if you want a starting point for the "why" of those mechanics then looking at the kind of experience the game line appears designed to conjure may be a good place to kick off from.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MrBreaksIt View Post
                        I've also had some concerns about the 'unstuck in time' thing, and I think I've been fairly vocal about them. It's at the point where I'd really prefer not to interact with that part of the setting at all. For people who have read the book, how practical is it to avoid that? Is it at all possible to play as a Mummy who has just, coincidentally, woken up in chronological order every time and had no real interaction with the time travel shenanigans? How inherent to the universe is it in 2e?
                        Just to chime in with a seconding, from someone who's not necessarily that hot on Mummy overall:

                        This is not anything to worry about. It is super easy to run Mummy 2e ignoring literally all the timey-wimey stuff.

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                        • #13
                          My intense dislike of Sekhem 10 to 1 is made much less bothersome thanks to the immortals. Templates with the fun of immortality, and the power, but normal Sekhem growth. Their presence makes things fun for me. On the non-linear time, I love that feature and believe it has so much potential.

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                          • #14
                            Part of the reason for decreasing Sekhem is because there are things you can do to slow or reverse the descent. The desperation can make you a hungry monster destroying the relics of the ancients and risking the lives of the people around you to maintain your grasp on fading power. Its about _knowing_ what real power looks like and being willing to do terrible things to hold onto it.

                            Other splats can make terrible bargains for more power. You have to make increasingly terrible bargains just to keep what you have. Its the Red Queen's race.
                            Last edited by Exthalion; 01-06-2020, 04:02 PM.

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                            • #15
                              One big thing that hasn't come up about the design decisions:

                              Part of the goal of Mummy and it's starting position was to effectively say "Fuck it, you're playing the Prince" in that a big goal of the game was to start Mummy's off as big ass players, both in terms of resources and metaphysical might. But what do when you start a game at the top of the ladder?

                              Well, the only way to go is down-and Mummy proceeded to mine a lot of dramatic potential out of the fact.
                              Last edited by ArcaneArts; 01-06-2020, 08:28 PM.


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