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Recently on another discussion forum, someone posed the question, “What games missed the mark?” Games that had such great promise, but never managed to deliver. My vote, with much regret was for one of my favorites, Chaosium’s Nephilim. For those of you not familiar with it, Nephilim was a game of modern-day occult, originally produced by a French publisher, based on the Basic Roleplaying system, and then translated into English for Chaosium. It was grand, really, but it had some problems. Like I mentioned in the other discussion, your character is a magical spirit...that is housed in an ancient artifact...that reincarnates in unsuspecting hosts through human history...and will take on the mantle of a mythological creature...and is chased by the Knights Templar...and casts magic affected by the magical astrological fields…and...frankly, it was a bit of a muddle.

That discussion, and many others like it that have occurred over the years, got me to thinking about what I’d do to work my way through that muddle. There’s a good game in there somewhere, but you have to carve away some of the fat to make sense of it. The real inspiration for me came from an unexpected source. My son’s new favorite Saturday morning cartoon is something called Huntik, a show that combines card-styled gladiatorial combat with magically-adept people roving the world in search of ancient occult secrets, chased by the shadowy and malign Organisation. It’s pretty goofy at times, but it’s…it’s Nephilim pared down to its essential elements.

So that got me to thinking, using Huntik as a model, how could I change Nephilim? What would I gut from it in order to make the game work. I’m not done yet, but I think I’m closing in on a workable, playable variant on the game that keeps as much of the original as possible.

First up, in defiance of much popular wisdom, and probably of most interest to this forum, I’m keeping the BRP system as both the framework upon which to build, and the main body from which to pick and choose. It’s a fine, robust system with many resources available to mine. Also, the mechanics that appeared in the various supplements for the game would continue to be usable, though I’ve decided to keep the focus narrowed to the original book.

With the skeleton in place, I needed to decide what parts of the corpse to cut away. Here’s where I started:

First to go, the Simulacrum. I’d gone back and forth with others over this, always with the idea that the split nature of the Nephilim was essential to the game, but…no. I’ve finally come around to simplifying this bit. In it’s place, I’ve adopted the notion that a Nephilim is created under highly unusual circumstances when the birth of a child, housing a new coalescence of Solar Ka, coincides in time and place with a Grand Enthronement of one of the five Ka elements. At the moment the child is infused with Solar Ka, it is simultaneously infused with the other five Ka elements, dominated by one of them. The child matures over time, visibly a normal human, but possessing an expanded – not dual – nature.

Second to go is the name. Why “Nephilim”? Maybe they’ve been called that in times past, but it’s not essential to this game now. I still haven’t thought of a new name for whatever kind of being this is, but I’m sure something will occur. For the sake clarity, though, I’ll continue to refer to it as a “Nephilim”.

Next to go are Past Lives. As wonderful as they are, they complicate things immensely without necessarily providing significant benefit. Is this a game about magical beings or reincarnation? I think we need one or the other and not both – I chose the focus on the magical being. The being is born but once and makes the most of what it can within one lifetime.

Last to go is the Stasis object. Without the reincarnation of the Nephilim soul, there’s no need for an object to house it. That’s not to say that the Nephilim won’t manufacture some kind of arcane device to serve a mechanical purpose similar to that as currently used in the game – storing Ka energy for use in spellcasting.

So, with all that gone, what remains?

First, the basic Ka elements. As stated above, the Nephilim is comprised if a union of Solar Ka with the other five Ka elements. The game is no longer about the ascendancy of the Dominant Ka, though; it has become a game about the complete union of the intellect (the Solar Ka) with the spiritual (the five Ka elements) – the Alchemical Marriage.

Also still on the books is the Metamorphosis, but in a much-changed state. The Metamorphosis is no longer a representation of the perfected Dominant Ka; it is a manifestation of unbridled magical nature. Essentially, it has become equated with Khaiba – the Nephilim loses its human form as it loses control of its magical nature, taking on a magically monstrous form according to the existing Khaiba rules.

I’ve decided to keep the magic from the original rules book as well. Yes, yes, it’s all a little flash-bang, but, frankly, I rather enjoy it; it makes for a viscerally exciting game. And, of course, since the fundamental mechanics of the game remain the same, other magic rules can be substituted with ease.

The last basic concept I’ve decided to keep the Arcana structure. They aren’t families anymore, but rather a number of loosely affiliated (and often opposed) secret societies, ostensibly set up long ago by Akhenaton thousands of years ago. I’m also keeping the Knights Templar as the primary bad guys. In fact, there’s no reason to eliminate any of the backstory or secret societies of the original game, it simply needs to be reinterpreted in light of the new scheme for the game.

So, with all this in place now, I effectively have a Huntik: the Roleplaying Game on my hands. Is this a good thing, though? Well, my 9-year-old son, a fan of bog-standard fantasy RPGs, saw what I was working on and his immediate question was, “Can I help you playtest this game? I have bunch of friends who’d want to play it.” So maybe I am onto something.

Next in an up-coming post are the functional changes to the mechanics.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
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Interesting... I need to go watch me some Huntik!

I also need to dig out my copy of Nephilim...

Your right about changing the name... I like what it describes but it's too specifically biblical for my tastes, and for that reason kind of throws the brakes on portions of my creativity.

EDIT: Huntik episodes online here... I think (once I wade through all the advertising)

http://www.4kidstv.com/huntik/a-seeker-is-born/101

Edited by Simlasa
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Huntik appears to be a mix of The Matrix, Pokemon, and The DaVinci Code... in a kind of bland 'let's market some toys' kinda way... at least from what I've seen so far... maybe it gets more involved in later episodes huh?

Edited by Simlasa
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... maybe it gets more involved in later episodes huh?
Well, honestly, I haven't seen any incredible depth from what I see passing through the room on Saturday mornings. Mind you, though, I'm not seriously proposing the creation of a Huntik: the RPG; it just manages to capture a certain sense of what I found fun in Nephilim and run with it. It rather reminded me of how, when my friends and I first started playing AD&D, my friend came at the game with Lord of the Rings in mind, while I had A Wizard of Earthsea in my head, and another friend had Elf Quest in mind -- we each had a different inspiration, and the game accommodated us all pretty well. If someone loosens up the strings of Nephilim a little, I think it can do similar things.

By the way, you're dead-on about the marketing toys bit, though I believe it's a collectible card game. However, what the game gets right is the sort of globe-trotting treasure hunt it depicts. The perennial question in Nephilim has been, "What do we do?" Instituting the need for this kind of treasure hunt (and art/antiquity theft) is a fantastic theme for the game.

!i!

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So... kind of DaVinci Code, American Treasure, Indiana Jones... with a bit more mystical, magical, mythical-ness to it? Friday the 13th: The Series crossed with Lonely Planet?

Not that it's in anyway relevant... but I've long been wanting to set up a campaign that stole from The Ninth Gate's battling bibliophiles... world hopping antiquarians competing to find powerful trinkets... but now that I think of it that describes most of the CoC campaigns I've played.

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After that same discussion on RPG.net, I also have been working on a Nephilim Redux and I too have strayed from the original to create something new :)

I'm still working on the system, but Past Lives have become more important than they have been in Nephilim. Also ditched the dual being thing...

It's too different from my original intent to really go into detail, but I found it funny that the same thread inspired similar project ideas. Once I am done, one could use the system and rules to play Nephilim, as well as other things. It'll be something that is very much about Occult Roleplaying in general, the fact that you'll be able to use it to play a Nephilim-like game is a by-product of what the game is turning out to be.

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After that same discussion on RPG.net, I also have been working on a Nephilim Redux and I too have strayed from the original to create something new :)

[...snip...]

It's too different from my original intent to really go into detail, but I found it funny that the same thread inspired similar project ideas.

Hah! Yes! I think this illustrates exactly the point at which I arrived. As it exists Nephilim is a grab-bag from which you could derive no fewer four different games utilising the same theme: Mythological spirits in the modern world, magical people, reincarnating people, and modern-day occult conspiracy. And there's the inevitable mixing and matching, but when taken all together, I think players (and often GMs) just plain get confused. It is interesting, though, to see how two or more people would start with the same game and go different, but parallel, directions with it.

!i!

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Absolutely! :)

Currently I'm working on a system that creates/builds antagonists (such as secret societies, cults, etc) to oppose the protagonists/PCs when they use magic/past life skills.

I'll share more when I have more things figured out, but for the most part, the clear goal is Agartha, which involves delving into deep mysteries.

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  • 1 month later...

Sorry I couldn't help it. First off I disagree with you about it being well a muddle. After getting a couple degrees in various weird areas. I thought it was ok. The magic system at first was...well an issue. But it was redone.

And it was unique as is most BRP games.

I watched this Huntik thingy and I agree , it tries to bring the modern myths into it. And makes it a complete mess.

As for occult play it was interesting in it's attempt to bring a .."mature" perception to it. In a novel way. Now, if you wanna create a BRP system based on Huntik the GREAT.

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...a campaign that stole from The Ninth Gate's battling bibliophiles... world hopping antiquarians competing to find powerful trinkets... but now that I think of it that describes most of the CoC campaigns I've played.

You too?

About Nephilium, I looked everywhere for that game and when I finally got it, it was...unplayable, to me at least. I had been able to make sense of Phoenix Command, bu Nephilium just left me cold. I eventually just did the same thing with it that I did with In Nomine, use it as fluff for my World of Darkness campaign, which is sort of sad...it had so much more promise.

A cut down..."This is Nephilium" might actually breathe some life into it.

The biggest problem with the game was that it tried (or appeared) to be too similar to too many other things...and sort of lost itself.

I'd be interested in reading over any rules/mods you come up with that might help resurrect it from the bottom shelf (AKA "the 12th row")...

-STS

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You too?

About Nephilium, I looked everywhere for that game and when I finally got it, it was...unplayable, to me at least. I had been able to make sense of Phoenix Command, bu Nephilium just left me cold. I eventually just did the same thing with it that I did with In Nomine, use it as fluff for my World of Darkness campaign, which is sort of sad...it had so much more promise.

A cut down..."This is Nephilium" might actually breathe some life into it.

The biggest problem with the game was that it tried (or appeared) to be too similar to too many other things...and sort of lost itself.

I'd be interested in reading over any rules/mods you come up with that might help resurrect it from the bottom shelf (AKA "the 12th row")...

-STS

I found In Nomine to be quite fulfilling as a supplement for my mystical DC Hereos campaign.

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  • 4 months later...

Yup,

I have the same range of emotions about Nephilim as you. I got the game and I had so much hope, reread it a dozen times thinking there was just something I missed, some key phrase or concept that would just make the whole mess fall into place. Then I realised that it wasn't me. I ran a couple of campaigns using the themes and settings, even some segments of the magic system were pretty cool. What I wound up doing was using the basic despcriptions of the five (six really) forms of Ka as the components of a Chomski-esque transformational grammar of magic, where each Ka could be either an action or subject or both. A spell or magical effect could be improvised by describing its effect using this syntax. Characters had skill levels in each Ka which would have to succeed in order for the effect to go off. An example might be "Seek Uranium" which in my interpretation would be the use of Air Ka (perception, knowledge etc) and Earth Ka (Uranium as a mineral). The Power point or Ka costs of each effect was determined using the Hero Point cost of an equivalent power available in Superworld (one of my all time favorite games, so glad its out again in pdf). The maximum number of Ka one could spend on any single effect was equal to their initial elemental assignation as part of the intial character generation. The other thing I did was give a hell of a lot more skill points for each reincarnation, that way people who were essentially a thousand years old were ridiculously competent at stuff (they should be). Shouit I handled as a modification of Cthulhu Sanity rules. The whole thing came off like some kind of "Highlander" thing with flashbacks to past lives, but with a lot of byzantine secret society stuff. It didn't last long but it made it through a whole summer, and it was pretty fun. That was going back maybe a dozen years or more. NOw that I've reopened that repressed area of my psyche, I might just have to dust off the old game and unleash it on some unsuspecting gamers.>:->

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  • 2 weeks later...

being kinda foreign, and all a lot of people had problems I didnt, but of course I use everything as a base. I like they system and adapted to my needs. I agree about superworld and think it is a really good system, plays quicker than HERO/CHAMPS, still complex enough for palyers to replicate what they want. My Wife is begging for e Heroes campaign, lol

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