Mortal Sekhem Sorcerers
Plunderers of Irem’s lost secrets
(The below is an attempt to compile all info I could find about mortal Sekhem wielding sorcerers in Mummy: the Curse. I've added a little homebrewing, but I try to make it clear which rules come from official material and which rules are just a result of brainstorming in a room filled with WoD books. )
Q: Why make mortal Iremite sorcerers playable in the first place? What do mortal Iremite sorcerers have to offer that Second Sight thaumaturges and psychics, or Awakened mages do not? What makes Iremite sorcery distinct?
A: Awakened mages have gained access to a world of symbolism that underlays the world and they use those symbols to cast spells in accordance with the nature of their path. Second Sight thaumaturges cast small spells as part of various fringe religions and occult traditions. Iremite sorcery was developed by alien cosmic entities for their own use and for the use of their servants. It exacts terrible costs and scours the minds of those it targets as well as those who were not intended to use it. All magic is dangerous in nWoD games, but the dangers of Iremite sorcery are especially dreadful to mortals.
Q: What can mortal sorcerers add to my Mummy: the Curse game?
A: Most of the mummies created by the Rite of Return were craftsmen who delighted in the role they had in making powerful relics for their masters. Now, while the Rite of Return drives them to recover relics, they have lost the ability to make relics of their own. That the most accomplished of mortal Iremite can make relics is a fact that inspires great jealousy and cupidity in the Arisen. Sorcerers are not normally members of cults, although they certainly can be in rare circumstances. The Arisen are often very protective of what they see as their culture, but they can occasionally deal peaceably with sorcerers who can teach them a few pilfered secrets.
Q: Why not just give them access to Utterances and Affinities like the Arisen, Shuankhsen, Sadikh, Fasad, or Deceived?
A: Mortals cannot make use of Iremite sorcery to the extent that the Deathless or the Lifeless can. The reason is that they cannot internally store refined Sekhem in their bodies.
Q: What groups of mortal sorcerers have existed throughout the ages?
Guilds of the Nameless Empire
The first group of sorcerers are the craftsmen of the Guilds of Irem prior to the Rite of Return. It is said that they became so proficient at moving Sekhem into potent relics that the Shan’iatu secretly feared that they would be surpassed. This may be why the Shan’iatu made sure to have a vital part in the creation of each relic.
Demon-sorcerers of Ki-En-Gir
The second group of sorcerers were based in Ki-En-Gir, what is now known as Mesopotamia. These demon-sorcerers, the only true rival of the Empire of Irem at its height, may have had a combination of traditions. Some sorcerers had incomprehensible, blasphemous power based in profane, demonic rites. Another sect claimed demi-divinity and made relics. It is not known whether the power to make relics was stolen from Irem. Ultimately, they were subjugated by Irem, their fortress of Ubar was swallowed up by the desert, and their demon-king was tortured to death.
After the fall of Irem, Ki-En-Gir flourished, and at the time of the first Sothic turn, much of its sorcerous might remained intact, though it was a matter of rumor.
Sorcerers of Iunu
The third sorcerous tradition was created by Imhotep and was flourishing in the city of Iunu by the beginning of the first Sothic turn. Like Irem’s Guilds, they are a group of highly religious artisans who are reconstructing the ancient occult traditions of the Nameless Empire. The rites are difficult and painstaking, and most moral sorcerers are only able to manage one or two successful rites in their lives. A few are able to modify themselves to sense sekhem or see any variety of undead. Like the Kir-En-Gir, they are rumored to have oracular powers. Most troubling, they are said to have created or at least controlled Greater Amkhata. As far as anyone knows, this tradition died out after the war of the three alliances close to the end of the first Sothic turn.
The Strangers were a sect of mortal astrologers, philosophers, occultists who obsessively study the Deathless and Lifeless scions of Irem in order to oppose them and to transfer their power to the deserving. By the time of the 2nd Sothic turn, they had learned how to distill the sahu of a captured mummy into a fruit. They then seek out heroes to give the “golden fruits” to. In this way, they inspire legends, such as Heracles and Achelos.
Last Dynasty International
The last major organized group of sorcerers is Last Dynasty International, an occult pharmecutical enterprise whose powers and deeds are listed in the Storyteller section of the Mummy core book. Like the Strangers, they refine the sekhem of captured mummies into another form - in this case powerful drugs. They exist primarily in the 4th Sothic turn.
Rogue Scorpion Cults
Scorpion Cults sometimes lose or turn against their Arisen patron, and take their occult knowledge with them. Most scorpion cults at the very least have the knowledge needed to awaken the Arisen, while others have significantly more occult power.
Q: How should sorcerers be modeled mechanically? Are they playable?
A: I will take three approaches to modeling Sorcerer mechanics and I have color-coded them for readability.
First, since Information on how to mechanically model sekhem wielding mortal sorcerers does exist and is scattered throughout Mummy: the Curse, Guildhalls of the Deathless, Book of the Deceived, and Sothis Ascends, I will formulate an approach using only mechanics from the core WoD book + the Mummy: the Curse books. Some of these mechanics might be modified to better match the description of the Sorcerers.
Descent Check: Your orthodoxy is pleasing to the Judges of Duat. Consider your Descent reset for your good and loyal service.
Second approach: During the MtC Kickstarter, one of the addons available was Reliquary, a WoD blue book that had rules on non-Iremite relics and their creation. The second approach will use that book as well as other WoD blue books.
Descent Check: Take an immediate Descent roll for your blasphemy!
Third approach: My shelf is filled with WoD books from Mage: the Awakening to Demon: the Descent. Many of those books have rules for sorcerers and magic item creation. How do the Arisen see those magic users and their magic items? Do not all relics ultimately belong to the Underworld? This section is filled with rampant crossover speculation and homebrewing and is not intended to be my interpretation of the authors’ intent for the WoD “canon.”
Descent Check: A Maa-kep meret has been alerted to your Heresy. Don’t expect to wake until the next Sothic turn, which I assure you will be a short one.
I suggest that any dabbler who wants to learn to wield Sekhem sorcery be required to start with Occult 2 and a speciality in Sekhem or Irem, as knowledge about Irem is a narrow field that has been deliberately obscured by ancient magics and modern cults.
Sense Sekhem and the Dead
Possessed by: Any relic makers, Iunu priests
No mortal can sense relics with the capability of the Arisen’s kepher, but many mortals who wish to wield Sekhem start by learning to sense it.
Orthodoxy: This can be represented by the merit Unseen Sense (Sekhem) *** on page 109 of the WoD core book.
Alternatively, the Witness merit (MtC 84) costs the same number of dots as Unseen Sense, and grants a sixth sense that allows the detection of the Arisen of the Lifeless.
Blasphemy: The Iunu ritual that bestows the Second Sight merit *** (Second Sight p116) allows the sorcerer to see into the borderlands of Neter-Khertet. This allows them to see discorporate ghosts and Amkhata, the mountains at each end of the horizon, and it allows them to see the rotting corpse-forms of any mummy regardless of Sekhem rating. It does not help them to distinguish between types of mummy or other undead. If any mortal has reported seeing Anpu, no one has believed them.
Heresy: Awakened Mages do not and cannot unleash Utterances through their knowledge of the Arcana, but anytime a Mummy arises from Duat or any Affinity or Utterance is used, they sense it through their Peripheral Mage Sight.
As supernatural beings, mages are not affected by Sybaris as mortals are, but they do not come away unscathed from an encounter with the power of Irem. Any time a mage would be subjected to any form of Sybaris whose source they encounter, they gain Irem, Sekhem, or Mummies as an Obsession. If they already have their maximum number of Obsessions, they receive the appropriate Obsession in addition to their other Obsessions, increasing their maximum temporarily by +1.
Mages who use Active Mage Sight on relics or any mummy is going to gain different information based on their path. Acanthus will be able to see, but not affect, the cosmic fate that binds all Iremite mummes. Moros will be able to see tell that Mummies are undead, and yet have no connection to Stygia or the Ghostly Underworld they are familiar with. Mastigos can see that the minds of the Arisen have been heavily redacted, and they can see that the Deceived minds appear to be splitting into two. Thyrsus can tell little of the Arisen, although they can see where the Shadow is disturbed by the effects of powerful relics upon the populace. Obrimos mage-sight reveals the power and authority of the Arisen, and Obrimos are the only Mages who can see the celestial hieroglyphics that denote the presence of the Seba.
No Moros or mage with the Death arcana can see into Neter-Khertet without first devising an unveiling Death spell using a Yantra composed of physical remnant of Irem, such as a piece of a Mummy or a vestige or relic. No mage has reported seeing the form of Anubis in this realm, although some claim to have seen terrible figures stalking and dragging away horrified shades.
Possessed by: Most sorcerers except for Last Dynasty International have been rumored to possess oracular sight.
Orthodoxy: While some sorcerers are resistant to Sybaris, a few have learned to extract Sybaritic Omens (MtC 149) from their own Sybaris or from the Sybaris of others, through interrogation.
Blasphemy: Second Sight is replete with Oracular Merits. Divination *** and Dream * - ***** are on page 106. Scrying *** on page 116 is a bit more like remote viewing, but might be appropriate. Communion ** or **** is useful for those bold sorcerers who want to try to communicate directly with entities such as the Judges, Ammut, or Anpu.
Heresy: Many supernatural creatures from Vampires to Mages have oracular powers that are presented in great detail in their supplements. For a Mummy: the Curse game, remember that the Arisen are tied to cosmic fate and some of them can use this fate to alter the visions that oracles receive. The Seers of the Throne have to be particularly wary of these powers as their Skopoi are uniquely vulnerable to being commandeered by Arisen posing as servants of the Exarchs.
Possessed by: The most ambitious sorcerer. Must not be aligned with a loyal Scorpion cult.
Orthodoxy: In the few sections that discuss player relic creation, no rules are laid down. We know that the Shan’iatu discovered that magic requires high costs and we know that relic creation is a matter of artistic craftsmanship on top of being the focus of a powerful rite. We also know that the sorcerers of Iunu could only manage one or two artifacts during their entire lives, and that needs to be reflected in the rules. A character who wants to make a relic using Iremite processes is going to need to discover Guild secrets for the category of relic they want to make. I recommend representing this as a skill specialty. This process should involve skill checks appropriate to the kind of relic - Craft for Amulets, Regia, and Effigies; Academics or Expression for Texts, and Medicine for Uter. This roll is made at a -3 penalty if the sorcerer does not have appropriate Iremite tools. A power sander or a fountain pen might seem to work correctly, but Iremite relic rites were not designed with such tools in mind.
Once the vessel is ready, the sorcerer makes an Intelligence + Occult roll at a penalty equal to the desired dot rating of the relic. Willpower may not be spent to enhance this roll.
If the sorcerer fails, roll one die for every dot in the failed relic’s rating. Any success becomes a lesser Amkhat.
If the sorcerer succeeds, he or she must pay one dot of Willpower per dot rating in the relic. These dots may be restored at a cost of 8 experience points per dot of Willpower lost in this way.
The player and the Storyteller should work the guidelines starting on page 215 of MtC to determine a curse and power appropriate to the dot rating.
Blasphemy: If you own a copy of Reliquary, I recommend using it’s very robust relic creation rules on page 85, with two modifications. First, there must be a curse, and unless the relic creator is trying to innovate away from Iremite traditions, then the relic must be of a type created by the Guilds. Relic Creator is a four dot merit. I recommend that if this system is used, it be treated as a more advanced form of relic creation than system I homebrewed above since only the Iunu sorcerers were described as being able to create only a limited number of relics.
Heresy: Page 16 of the MtC core book states that there are many relics that the Arisen must seek out, but though not all of them were made during the days of the Nameless Empire, all relics are made with the secrets of Irem.
Let’s stretch this a little (a lot). Most World of Darkness gamelines include rules for making magic items from the imbued items and artifacts created by Mages and Archmages to the gadgets cobbled together by biomechanical demons. Let’s imagine for a moment that while refined Sekhem is found in items made through Iremite processes, unrefined Sekhem is a far broader category that can include Essense, Mana, Aether, and other forms of occult energy. If this is true, than don’t imbued items, artifacts, gadgets, and many other types of magic item truly belong to the Judges? My Memory isn’t what it used to be, but I’m sure those mages and demons stole from our Empire’s secrets!
Giving the Arisen a mandate to recover all forms of magic item is a way to add more crossover to your Mummy games and more MtC to your other WoD games. Your mileage may vary. In game terms, treat a gadget or imbued item as a vestige. Consuming one can only recharge one’s pillars and does not provide a boost to one’s Sekhem rating. They can be sent to Duat, but it is hard to tell if such an action pleases the Judges.
Greater Amkhat Creation
Possessed by: Iunu sorcerers, LDI corporation, rogue occultists
Orthodoxy: Rules for complete Amkhata creation are listed on MtC page 183.
Possessed by: LDI, the Strangers
Orthodoxy: The complete rules for the LDI’s Rite of the Golden Vial can be found on page 205 of MtC. Since Sothis Ascends did not include mechanics to create the Golden Fruit, I recommend using the Rite of The Golden Vial without any changes. For the Golden Fruit itself, I recommend combining multiple doses of the LDI drugs listed on 205-206 of MtC. Note that physical stat increases can exceed the human limit of 5.
Blasphemy: There is a rumor of a dreadfully simple rite used by a compact of misguided mortals known as the Faithful of Shulpae. The Faithful eat the flesh of monsters that they revere as gods, and impossibly (so the hideous rumors go), they partake of the Utterances and Affinities of the Arisen. Cultists who warn or even gossip about the Faithful find themselves the victims of swift and brutal Maa-kep raids. Everyone should know that the power of the Judges cannot be stolen through vile such feasting.
Further information about the Faithful of Shulpae and their Endowments of Anthropophagy can be found in Mortal Remains starting on page 110.
Possessed by: Any sorcerer acquainted with the lore of the Deceived. Astrologers aware of celestial convergences.
Orthodoxy:Full rules for non-mummies binding Seba can be found in the Book of the Deceived starting on page 102. Additional info about Seba can be found in the Lore of the Deceived. Seba are invisible to anyone who has never come into contact with one before, which makes locating them very difficult outside of coming into contact with people who have already bound Seba to themselves. Non-mummies can bind up to their Willpower in Seba and cannot mitigate their curses.
Possessed by: Anyone who has a Talisman, anyone who has bound the Uplifted Soul’s Grimoire (LotD 10), possibly the Strangers.
Orthodoxy: Other than the description of sorcerers wielding Talismans in Guildhalls of the Deathless page 87, Lore of the Deceived is the only book I know of that gives rules for Utterance use by non-mummies. Non-mummies who learn to unleash Utterances treat the required traits that they don’t have (like Pillars or Sekhem) as though that trait were at 1. Mortals use their Morality or Integrity traits to substitute for Memory, if required. If an Utterance requires a Pillar expenditure, the sorcerer should spend Willpower.
Possessed by: No one. Right?
Orthodoxy: The Arisen, ignorant of the true origins of the Shuankhsen, speculate that lesser empires tried to replicate the Rite of Return, and ended up with only Lifeless, devouring monsters. While, I doubt that this could be true at all, who knows? Maybe someone got a fragment of the original formulae held by the Su-Menet Shan’iatu and only performed the part of the rite that disgraces a corpse and sends it to Ammut.
Blasphemy: Perhaps occultists did try to reproduce the effect of the Rite of Return, but without chaining oneself to dread underworld masters. Perhaps there were many trials and failures. Perhaps, these innovating occultists looked toward the Shadowy reflection of the World of Darkness, and created the inner and outer paths of purification. Full rules can be found on page 90 of WoD: Immortals. If this rite is an Egyptian attempt to create Deathless, I recommend setting its origin after the devastating Arisen war at the end of the first Sothic turn.