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Promethean 2E: A Review

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  • Promethean 2E: A Review

    A Primer For The Newcomer
    A Promethean is a human-like effigy animated by the Azoth, an aspect of the Fire Prometheus stole from the gods for humanity. From time to time, an obsessed mortal manages to seize that burning brand and ignite a new life in the breast of a prepared vessel, usually a corpse. The creature rises, with the illusion of humanity, but its soullessness and the eventual rejection by humanity sets it apart from all God's creatures. Born to a Lineage governed by strange humours long thought discredited, the Promethean struggles to find a reason for its existence, and soon discovers the Pilgrimage. To reach its end, it must explore the Refinements, a set of philosophies and practices that allow the Promethean to transmute his inner fire, his body, and the world. As he achieves Milestones and generates mortal elixirs, he approaches the New Dawn, when his Great Work reaches fruition, and he is reborn into humanity.
    The Pilgrimage is not without its pitfalls. Torment throws the Promethean, the unnatural essences from which he draws life falling out of balance and into despair. His unnatural existence poisons the land, and the hearts of mortals, causing them to drive him out, or worse. And wherever he seeks refuge, he risks waking the Pandorans, monsters born of failed experiments that hunger for Pyros. So many obstacles stand athwart his path, that he may turn from it and become one of the monstrous Hundred-Handed, Prometheans who wallow in their grotesqueness and risk dissolution. Even in moments of triumph, he may trigger a Firestorm, as the divine Pyros ignites and wreaks transformation on the world. There is no path the Promethean can take that is not troubled, so most take the path forward.

    What Came Before
    Promethean stands apart from most other Chronicles of Darkness games for a few reasons. It was the first not to duplicate an effort seen already in the classic World of Darkness. While Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage blazed their own paths, they were still very much weighted down by their predecessors. They also contained whole cultures unto themselves, to give context and social structures for players to clash with. Promethean had none of this, but was instead a story about solitary people locked out of a "normal" life. The default assumption was a drifter or wanderer trying to keep their dignity, not a monster or demigod trying to carve out a domain. And, perhaps the most telling difference was the narrative arc it imposed. Where everybody else risked a bloody death, political coup, or eldritch madness, the Promethean was assumed to pursue mortality or die trying. There was a light at the end of the tunnel, not some false hope or alien apotheosis, and detours would be short-lived.
    Still, 1E shared some conventions. Five "inborn" splats, five "social" splats, and a "z-axis" player option. A ten-dot morality trait, a ten-dot power stat, kewl powerz. All the usual options, although there were limitations on some Merits. The Created suffered from curses as severe as that of the vampires. Torment would drag them down into depravity. Disquiet would do the same to their neighbors and acquaintances. Wastelands would erupt around them, without fail. Storytellers would despair at the recordkeeping, not just from NPCs having a bad reaction to the Frankenstein saying hello, but from trying to plot and plan a spiritual journey from a monster to a human, for each character. Compared to what came before, Promethean had a lot of challenges and offered a very different experience for both players and Storytellers.

    The Second Edition
    What 2E brings is some clarity to the chaos. I loved 1E for being such a broken game, about broken people, and it tried as hard as its protagonists to be something successful anyways. And I tend to think it succeeded, even if I had to disregard huge swathes of the text to make it playable. The writers also recognized the popularity of some auxiliary Lineages and Refinements, and folded them into the new edition, as well as some additional rules for Firestorms. The art is a better fit, moodier than the first edition, although I could have done with fewer visible stitches as the visual shorthand for Created. The fiction is new, having eschewed the iconic characters of 1E for a new throng, interspersed with individual stories.

    What Is New
    The Extempore and the Unfleshed join the Frankensteins, Galateids, Osirans, Tammuz, and Ulgans. The Extempore aren't a proper Lineage, but a miscellany of Created who rose from disasters, catastrophes, and weirder mystical confluences. The Unfleshed are machines and automata built to serve. The four alternate Refinements, and a new one (Phosphorum) offer new paths along the Pilgrimage, and all ten are categorized as basic or complex, depending on their focus. Basic Refinements are instinctual, revolving around familiar concepts, such as Torment, the Promethean Condition, or Humanity. Complex Refinements require instruction, and focus on more ephemeral and esoteric means toward the New Dawn, such as the Pyros, Ephemerality, or the supernatural. The Pilgrimage replaces Humanity as a "morality" trait, and is tied to the Refinements and their Roles. Pilgrimage begins at a single dot, and must be increased. Transmutations are the most immediate and consequential effect of the Refinements. Prometheans no longer have Virtues or Vices, having replaced them with Elpis ("Hope") and Torment, reflecting what they wish to be, and what they fear they are. A final, external addition is the insatiate alchemists, mortals obsessed with the power of alchemy, and who recognize the Prometheans as a very real source of power.

    What Has Changed
    The most consequential change is the the newly restructured Pilgrimage. The player and her Storyteller devise a path the Promethean follows to the New Dawn, consisting of 8-10 Roles across four or more Refinements. There is more information on developing Milestones for the Promethean, and how to get that information in front of the character. Storytellers reluctant to run a Promethean game would do well to read through the Pilgrimage materials to see if the new system or its variants addresses their needs. As an Integrity replacement, Pilgrimage can be lost, but the further a Promethean has gone, the harder it is to lose ground. There's a very clear roadmap for players to follow.
    Roles are a huge addition. Each Refinement has three Roles, each being a stereotype or archetype that must be adhered to. Following a Role forestalls Disquiet and Wastelands, but staying too long in one ensures them. Each Role has an associated Milestone, and once it is achieved, the character unlocks an Alembic in each of the affinity Transmutations. Roles restrict behavior, and acting outside the bounds of the stereotype risks Pilgrimage and worse.
    Transmutations are significantly changed. Rather than the grab-bag they used to be, each is divided into four Alembics, and further subdivided into three Distillations. However, having access to an Alembic means having all of the Distillations it contains. An Alembic provides a static benefit, and can be charged with 1-3 Pyros, activating the corresponding Distillation (and all inferior Distillations in the same Alembic). Furthermore, your selected Transmutations are not permanent. If you change Refinements, you lose access to all Alembics you learned as a member of that Refinement. You may calcify an Alembic you know by spending Vitriol, so as to never lose it. Even so, when you change Refinements, you gain an Alembic in each of the new Refinement's Transmutations, unless you are returning to it, whereupon you regain the Alembics you had known previously.
    The final consequential alteration is the reduced severity of Disquiet and Wastelands. Both are slowed and constrained by factors that are within the character's control, though not prevented. For example, Disquiet cannot be pushed to its extreme stages unless it is triggered within a Wasteland. Wastelands form from excessive use of Pyros or other Promethean abilities, rather than simple presence. A sedate Promethean can stay for sometime in one place if he's careful enough. Torment tends to be more persistent, however.
    Further, smaller changes abound. Lineages are no longer perpetuated by solely by their members, but may be added to by an inspired demiurge using the right ritual. The Unfleshed have taken on the legend of the Golem, while Tammuz have become a Lineage of language, hard work, and seasonal rebirth. Firestorm rules from Pandora's Book have been included. The qashmallim are emphatically not angels.

    What Has Gone
    The Nuclear Prometheans are not mentioned, nor are clones. Pandorans have lost their Mockeries. Centimani no longer directly learn Pandoran Transmutations, though they may emulate them by their Transmutation of Flux. The Centimani are also no longer on their Pilgrimage, and cannot gain Vitriol or Pilgrimage while in the Refinement. Prometheans are no longer required to create another like them, although it is necessary or preferred for some. Athanors have also undergone a radical redesign, and no longer resemble what they used to be.

    What Is Missing
    People who wanted systems in place for localized, regional games will be disappointed. Promethean bucks the city-centric structure that marks Vampire, Mage, and Changeling. The same for that bugbear of this forum, transhumanism. More curiously, there isn't an "aura" effect along the lines of the Nimbus, Predator's Aspect, or Hunter's Aspect that other 2E splats got. Azothic Radiance lacks the aggressive nature, and it runs against theme to turn it into an advantage, but it's still an odd omission. Similarly, there isn't a "lesser template" given space, either. The closest thing are the alchemists, but they are given little in the way of player support, being intended as antagonists.

    What I Think
    Overall, I am pleased with the new edition. While it lacks some of the charm I found in the first edition, it recognizes the best parts of the game, and I am grateful. It is better laid out, the rules are clearer and more concise, and it errs on the side of giving more options to players. There are plenty of tiny things I don't agree with, but they rarely detract from the overall big picture. It's notably less "fiddly" than Werewolf or Mage, which is a YMMV situation that I haven't really decided on myself. I mostly like the Transmutation system, although there are some inefficiencies just in terms of how powers are grouped, with regards to their utility and the "charging" mechanic. Still, given the huge amounts of Pyros a Promethean can marshal, it is probably not a problem.
    With regards to the other 2E's, it is notable that it has changed remarkably little. That has much to do with how original Promethean is, compared to Requiem or Forsaken, both of which got leeway to redefine themselves in their revisions, much to their benefit (I think WtF2E usurped P:tC as my favorite game, in all honesty). That freed up the developers to refine the mechanics and setting, which have greatly improved. I am hoping this does draw more attention and players to this game, which was always underrated and misunderstood. Thanks for reading!


    LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)

  • #2
    Page 178 doesnt say what happens to those with pilgrimage 3.


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    • #3
      Originally posted by Prince of the Night View Post
      Page 178 doesnt say what happens to those with pilgrimage 3.

      Pilgrimage 3-4 roll 4 dice; it'll be corrected in the errata.


      Matthew McFarland
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      • #4
        Loved the review! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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        • #5
          Thanks! Just wanted to jumpstart conversation about the game, and provide somewhere to start for newcomers that wasn't the alchemist rant.


          LFP: American Carnage (Werewolf: the Forsaken)

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          • #6
            Personally, when I first read PtC 1st Ed (skimmed it, actually) I thought, "It's a great reading, but I don't think I could run it myself, save for one-shots". And I knew then I was doing the game a disservice for not taking an in-depth reading and searching for its hidden gems. But the truth is, I was happy with the games I had, and the doom and gloom of the art and writing put me off from giving the book a second chance (no pun intended).

            There comes the 2nd Edition of the game. Oh, boy, I sooo wanna run this baby. The art is less off-putting yet still very evocative, the tone of the writing is less brooding and more encouraging, even. "Look! The New Dawn is possible. The road is clearly ahead. Go forth, don't be afraid, and hope for your better tomorrow." I love it. Together with the new Pilgrimage and milestones mechanics, the game is a rocket, aimed and loaded, ready to be used.

            There are many other things I like, of course. The more forgiving Disquiet and Wasteland mechanics. The Transmutations shifting along the Refinements a Created adopts. The stark clarity of the New Dawn rules and personal milestones. The Athanors functioning as Athanors, now.

            Anyway, I'm still reading the book, bit by bit, in a confusing, non-linear order that would later merit a second, and more straightforward reading. But yeah, this game is a well-oiled machine, begging for a ride.

            (I tend to abuse of metaphors when excited about something, so please indulge me for a while. The book is that good!)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Verge View Post
              What Has Gone
              The Nuclear Prometheans are not mentioned, nor are clones. Pandorans have lost their Mockeries. Centimani no longer directly learn Pandoran Transmutations, though they may emulate them by their Transmutation of Flux. The Centimani are also no longer on their Pilgrimage, and cannot gain Vitriol or Pilgrimage while in the Refinement. Prometheans are no longer required to create another like them, although it is necessary or preferred for some. Athanors have also undergone a radical redesign, and no longer resemble what they used to be.
              Nuclear prometheans and clones were both in addons anyways, and the writing doesn't disallow for there existance. At the time the nuclear promethean read as fairly unique, like a Extempore, imho.

              What Is Missing
              People who wanted systems in place for localized, regional games will be disappointed. Promethean bucks the city-centric structure that marks Vampire, Mage, and Changeling. The same for that bugbear of this forum, transhumanism. More curiously, there isn't an "aura" effect along the lines of the Nimbus, Predator's Aspect, or Hunter's Aspect that other 2E splats got. Azothic Radiance lacks the aggressive nature, and it runs against theme to turn it into an advantage, but it's still an odd omission. Similarly, there isn't a "lesser template" given space, either. The closest thing are the alchemists, but they are given little in the way of player support, being intended as antagonists.
              Demon doesn't have this either. I like how they changed Throngs to work better than 1e.


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              • #8
                Thanks for this review! 1st ed Promethean is the only game line I never picked up because it just felt too much like a game of NPCs rather than being super playable due to disquiet and wastelands. 2nd edition feels way more streamlined and I'm excited to try it.

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                • #9
                  I love the changes to how Transmutations work. So much to hook into.


                  SWTOR Referal: http://www.swtor.com/r/JQ2nqy

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                  • #10
                    Promethean 2E is definitely one of the best books released, so far Disquiet and Wastelands are somewhat more lenient, and the Transmutations really work with their new flavor and systems. As for the lack of an aura effect, I'm sure people can House Rule something for their Created games.


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                    • #11
                      Finally had an opportunity to read through the book. Other than a few fiddly places where the word "Alembic" is used where "Distillation" was needed, this is another vast improvement to a 1st ed gameline. I don't think it reaches the perfection of W:tF 2nd, but it comes awfully close. It is better than both M:tAw and V:tR 2nd and is far and away better than new gamelines like D:tD and B:tP.

                      Not too worried about the "aura effect". Pretty sure that Demons, Beasts, and Mages lack this too. It's something somewhat unique to Vampires and Werewolves (assuming my memory is working correctly today). But also, in a way I think that Disquiet pretty much covers this.
                      Last edited by Jacob; 09-27-2016, 01:03 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jacob View Post
                        Finally had an opportunity to read through the book. Other than a few fiddly places where the word "Alembic" is used where "Distillation" was needed, this is another vast improvement to a 1st ed gameline. I don't think it reaches the perfection of W:tF 2nd, but it comes awfully close. It is better than both M:tAw and V:tR 2nd and is far and away better than new gamelines like D:tF and B:tP.

                        Not too worried about the "aura effect". Pretty sure that Demons, Beasts, and Mages lack this too. It's something somewhat unique to Vampires and Werewolves (assuming my memory is working correctly today). But also, in a way I think that Disquiet pretty much covers this.
                        Mages have an "aura" in their Nimbuses. They're pretty neat. But I agree that not everybody needs an aura power.


                        "Nihhina kalekal-zidu kal masun, kal manudanadu. Nihhina kalekal-zidu nukal shaghu-desasudu — nihhina kalekal-zidu kal innu-desasudu udhkal samm." Arthur Ashe
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BigDamnHero View Post
                          Mages have an "aura" in their Nimbuses. They're pretty neat. But I agree that not everybody needs an aura power.
                          Totally forgot about the Nimbus effects. Thx.

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