Thursday, January 10, 2013

Mummy: The Resurrection: A What the What? Review

What the What? Reviews offer a quick overview of various smaller, OOP, or Obscure RPGs.

PREMISE
Characters host the resurrected spirits of ancient Egyptians to gain magic powers and fight for balance.

WHAT DO THE CHARACTERS DO?
They do good deeds in general to make the world a better place, and also fight against the forces of Apophis, the adversarial corruptor. This is a little unusual in that Mummy is part of the classic World of Darkness setting which includes Vampire the Masquerade, Wraith the Oblivion, and Werewolf the Apocalypse. All of those can be relentlessly dark games, usually with the characters fighting internal struggles rather than doing good. Even the most apparently “heroic” oWoD, Hunter the Reckoning, is pretty damn dark. This is not- the atmosphere is one of hope and battling for right combined with a certain degree of mysticism.

Each character has two previous lives- their existence as an ancient soul and their modern life. The latter has died with some lack in their life- more incomplete people in life rather than with some unfinished business. When they die, they meet the soul and are offered the chance to return as an Immortal servant of balance. If the GM decides to run a “prelude” for character creation, they’ll run the player through than and the next stage of making a pilgrimage to the Middle East to be invested with those powers and strengths. The Amenti, also called the resurrected, gain powers in this process. There are six major traditions of Amenti, each with different outlooks and a different magical specialty. Rather than a large number of mechanical differences between these “classes,” it effectively comes down to which magic they pay fewer points for.

The magic of the Hekau paths defines the major abilities and powers of the Amenti. They can also purchase various merits and flaws which make they better than normal people. They can also return from the dead if killed; players can invest in abilities to make that faster and more reliable. Mummies have to work towards balance, ethical violations can impact their ratings. The legislated morality of the game is tight, which may put some gamers off. But generally the group ought to approach this more as a charitable superhero game. Players will mix making the world better and fighting against baddies.

WHAT’S THE SYSTEM LIKE?
Yhe classic Storyteller system, common to old World of Darkness games, powers Mummy: The Resurrection. This uses a dice pool of d10s for actions. Most actions combine an attribute and a skill rating (usually from 1-5) to provide a number of dice to roll. Other ratings may substitute for those. Players have to match a difficulty on each die to count as a success. Rolling more ones than successes causes a fumble. The dice pool allows players to perform multiple actions with a reduction in dice for each action. The system is relatively easy to pick up but in practice has a high kludge factor. Every Storyteller campaign I’ve seen has had different takes on what’s important and what gets ignored.

WHAT’S COOL AND UNCOOL ABOUT IT?
I like the mystical heroes concept. It feels like a dry run for Scion, where children of the gods of various pantheons fighting against the Titans. This is a little lower-level than that, but it has some really interesting talents. Those powers allow picks on the various tracks- rather than being defined exclusively by five powers (as often happens in WoD games). The system bolt-on here is light enough it could be used for many different genres. The two hardcovers for this line are lovely and well done. The interior art and layout really show WW at their best. They’re definitely worth picking up for a collector.

On the other hand, some aspects of this game show WW at their worst. There’s significant tie-in between the concepts of Mummy and the other game-lines, especially Wraith the Oblivion. In some cases these are hints, in others just confusing mentions. The core book has many details you’d have to be an oWoD maven to actually put together. Beyond that, the game suffers from voluminous obscure terms and definitions. That’s a running problem in classic WW games (and often in those games which draw inspiration from them). Trying to keep track of the concepts and details becomes a chore. Someone clearly has a love of the obscure minutiae of Egyptian Mythology- and they don’t do a great job making that workable and clear here.

WHAT’S THE CORE BOOK AND WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
The main book is Mummy: The Resurrection. However it is not complete. In a move that foreshadows their approach with the later World of Darkness, you need one of the main core books: Mage, Vampire, Werewolf, etc. for the basic Storyteller system. It isn’t a bad assumption to guess that most people picking this up will actually know those mechanics. But it is a little odd that this point is only spelled out ten pages into the volume (and not say on the back cover). There was an earlier Mummy book, but that should be skipped. This volume is complemented by the Mummy: The Resurrection Players Guide. That’s definitely worth picking up if you want to run this. It has new Amenti forms from other cultures, discussion of what life’s like for the characters, new merits, powers, and other options.

M:tR was part of White Wolf’s Middle Eastern themed “Year of the Scarab,” but the other products released for that really don’t relate (and one wasn’t even released). The only additional specific support comes from scenarios for the line in the World of Darkness: Time of Judgment book. Other general World of Darkness books (such as Combat) offer generic resources but aren’t necessary. There’s a just completed Kickstarter for Mummy: The Curse, a take on Mummies for the new World of Darkness line.

WHO MIGHT LIKE IT?

  • Gamers with either a fascination with or solid knowledge of Egyptian Mythology
  • Gamers looking for a good model/example of how to do “magical crusaders” in Storyteller with a compact rules set. 
  • GMs who dig teaching their players a metric sh*t-ton of new concepts and terms.
  • Storyteller GMs looking for a new group or adversary for their campaign. 
OVERALL
As a game Mummy has many cool ideas. I suspect to actually run it, I’d have to strip away a lot of the Egyptian detail and material for the players. While it is interesting, a little touch of the exotic goes a long way at the table. I like that all of the core powers and options appear in two books. If nothing else, it offers a brighter and shiner model for running a magicked-up monster-hunter game using Storyteller.