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Thoughts on a revision of the setting?


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I've been hanging around the nephilim mailing list, and Shannon Patrick recently uploaded "Ex Oculis" (ExO), an abandoned attempt from ~2010 to try writing a new edition of the game. I've been working through some homebrew ideas for a new edition myself, based on the Enlightened Magic supplement for general BRP. I did plan on taking ideas from ExO, tho. I'd just call the result "Nephilim: Ex Oculis" since I'm not really doing all that much new with it besides general revisions and additions.

The biggest change compared to Chaosium's first edition is that the immortals would be written as reincarnating human beings rather than spirits that possess human beings. In terms of lore there would be plenty who undergo radical personality shifts after their awakening, but the PCs would be awakened humans so that players would have an easier time connecting with them. I find it bizarre that gamers would have a problem with playing possessing spirits but not murderous vampires, but whatever.

I wouldn't intimidate players with the full secret history starting out, but allow them to discover it during play and leave it more ambiguous and subject to GM whims rather than laying it out as gospel. For example, I'd basically keep Chaosium's secret history from the Gamemaster's Companion the same aside from dividing the ka'im (elemental spirits) and nephilim (awakened humans) into two different species to smooth over the transition; other GMs might decide to rewrite it entirely.

A key distinction from other urban fantasy games is the past lives. Unlike certain other games were you have a metaplot that's essentially irrelevant unless you invest in it like a comic book fan, the immortal PCs may have personally taken part in historical events during past lives that can be recalled during play if so desired. Perhaps your character's past life included an architect who designed Göbekli Tepe, a Loa who funded the Haitian Revolution, a Catholic missionary who tried to stop the conquistadors from butchering the Aztecs and Mayans, a founding father of the United States who opposed British rule, a member of the Bolsheviks who sought a better life for your family, or a Slavic vampire lord who fought nazis intruding on your domain by summoning monsters from the Cthulhu mythos.

I would include the selenim (mentioned but never published in the Chaosium supplements) and ar-ka'im (from the French 3rd edition) as character options from the onset. The selenim are a mix of succubus and medium who inspired myths of vampires, lycanthropes, and zombies. The ar-ka'im are able to potentially use all eight elements, but their magic reserves are more unstable. The secret history and nephilim are already changed dramatically from the French version, so I would not write them faithfully to the French version but introduce my own twists. For example, the selenim in the French version could not reincarnate due to writer fiat, but my setting would allow them to a la the Blue Blood novels by Melissa de la Cruz. Likewise, I would allow options for nephilim to have eternal youth or mortals to have limited elemental powers (c.f. the Fraternitas Saturni cultivating Saturnian Ka within themselves in Secret Societies).

In terms of mechanics revisions, I would adapt the magic points mechanic so that characters would have a reserve of magic points for each of their elemental POW/Ka-Element characteristics. The mechanics for recovering and spending magic points would be more detailed, including consequences for overcharging. I was inspired after reading the French version (where the ar-ka'im's instability was related to overcharge) and the magic point rules in RQ6.

ExO introduced a new sanity system based on the madness meters in Unknown Armies, which I liked and wanted to adapt too. This would replace and revise the previous "degeneration" mechanics from Nephilim. There are five madness meters (identity/self, isolation, unnatural, helpless, violence) which are associated with the five elements, and a fifth madness meter just for the immortals associated with their dominant ka. Concepts like khaiba, narcosis, and shouit would be translated into psychological (and possibly magical) disorders.

What do you guys think?

 

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  • 4 months later...

Honestly i would certainly incorporate Champions Mystic World, which is essentially similar to the realms from Gurps Cabal, just more detailed.

Next I would certainly think about including Grand Grimoire for 7e, for magic, and perhaps, even Cthulhu Pulp to make the characters more cinematic, and interesting.

As I am thinking about incorporating Nephilim, as well as Everlasting Davea (Supernatural Pagan deities are a carbon copy really), and Highlander into a Buffy type environment - I certainly want different kinds of Nephilim.

So the Highlander immortals would essentially be empowered by positive energy (DnD / Pathfinder) or Alpha (Alpha Omega rpg). Vampires would be the exact opposite, meaning both would essentially be hard pressed to associate with one another. Although I did potentially toy with the idea of the Highlander immortals being a shattered elder god (Evil Author off SB and FF.net) did something similar but an Old One instead.

Daeva could be empowered through being born into a nexus, igniting the fire of their 'divinity'.

 

 

 

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  • 6 months later...

I would take a more mystical approach to the incarnation.  Each of the Nephilim's lives is essentially a new being, the alchemical wedding/offspring of the Elemental essence in the Reliquary and the human Host (I prefer those terms to stasis and simulacrum), meaning that Nephilim is a combination of immortal and lineage.  Not all the Arcana would see it that way - some of the more similar ones could be distinguished by disagreements over the nature of Nephilim.  (It would be better to try to write it as if any of the alchemical wedding, elemental spirit possessing a human, or human awakened to their elemental nature could be true, but everyone's biased to one of those, and the alchemical wedding is mine).

I'd get down on my knees and beg John Snead to be able to use Enlightened Magic for their magical system.

Character Types:

  • I'd change the elements a bit, replacing Moon with Metal.  In the Middle Ages, metal was regarded as a close balance of the four elements, and of course the Chinese system swaps out Air for Metal and Wood - that makes both workable as imperfect analogues to the truth.  All five elements being forms of matter has better symmetry. In astrological terms, Metal would tie to Saturn, while Orichalka would be reallocated to the asteroid belt - this is why it expresses of other elements.
  • However, Moon would still exist as a different type of human immortal, rooted in perfection of mind and body.
  • Black Moon and Selenim would be character options - both humans and Nephilim can become Selenim, though humans need the help of an existing one.
  • Some humans would be able to awaken one of the Nephilim elements in themselves, and practice a degree of sorcery without having to resort to stuff like elixirs.
  • And some humans would be able to awaken their Sun, which grants them an air of spiritual authority and influence.  When you hear about people having mana, or farr, this is where it comes from.
  • Regular humans or members of secret societies would be an option too.
  • Nephilim would still be the default - one character creation chapter for Nephilim (given all the parts that go into making one), and another for "other character types."
  • Granted, all those being available from the get-go would need a big core book, but if I had my way they would be.  And big core books are pretty common nowadays.

Another vote for the Four Realms from GURPS Cabal/Mystic World.  I also rather like the Reverie from The Everlasting - Ka Vision would be akin to stepping into the Reverie.

I'd include a few more secret civilisations from history, mythology or literature that the Nephilim might have interacted with, like Irem or Valusia.

Secret societies wouldn't be universally opposed to the Nephilim - the links between individual Arcana and societies that come up in the Major Arcana and Secret Societies supplements would be clear from the core book.

Someone else I'm acquainted with who wants a reworked Nephilim has the idea that the past lives would be the game rather than character creation - you start back in the day and play though the incarnations as stages in the campaign, with the modern day be no more special than any of them - that's not my own preference, but it would be cool to include it as a supported campaign type.  Another thing that should be supported is extensive flashbacks - even if the campaign is mostly taking place in the present, setting a scenario in one of the PC's past lives - the secondary character types could be used by players whose Nephilim aren't active in the period being flashed back to.

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/6/2020 at 6:28 AM, RogerDee said:

Honestly i would certainly incorporate Champions Mystic World, which is essentially similar to the realms from Gurps Cabal, just more detailed.

Next I would certainly think about including Grand Grimoire for 7e, for magic, and perhaps, even Cthulhu Pulp to make the characters more cinematic, and interesting.

As I am thinking about incorporating Nephilim, as well as Everlasting Davea (Supernatural Pagan deities are a carbon copy really), and Highlander into a Buffy type environment - I certainly want different kinds of Nephilim.

So the Highlander immortals would essentially be empowered by positive energy (DnD / Pathfinder) or Alpha (Alpha Omega rpg). Vampires would be the exact opposite, meaning both would essentially be hard pressed to associate with one another. Although I did potentially toy with the idea of the Highlander immortals being a shattered elder god (Evil Author off SB and FF.net) did something similar but an Old One instead.

Daeva could be empowered through being born into a nexus, igniting the fire of their 'divinity'.

At this point, you're making an entirely new game.

I have been entertaining the idea of devising an urban fantasy game myself. I'm not married to any particular system, so I suppose I'd be okay with doing a systemless setting or compatible with multiple types of OGC systems like d20, GORE, or Action!.

There are just so many different subgenres. Gothic horror soap opera, paranormal political thriller, splatterpunk, mystery investigations, monster hunters, occult revelation...

Speaking of The Everlasting, I thought their Osirian character option was an interesting riff on Mage: The Ascension and Nephilim. In The Everlasting, anyone can potentially learn the rules' freeform magic system with the limitation that a single character is only able to ever learn a single magical tradition such as wicca, druidism, Taoism, or less conventional traditions like "techgnosticism." The Osirians are reincarnating magicians who can learn the precepts of all other traditions because they understand the meta-magic underlying all the different traditions.

If I was designing an urban fantasy setting and wanted to give my wizard characters special treatment, then that's probably the same direction I'd go in.

 

On 1/10/2021 at 12:47 PM, SunlessNick said:
  • I'd change the elements a bit, replacing Moon with Metal.  In the Middle Ages, metal was regarded as a close balance of the four elements, and of course the Chinese system swaps out Air for Metal and Wood - that makes both workable as imperfect analogues to the truth.  All five elements being forms of matter has better symmetry. In astrological terms, Metal would tie to Saturn, while Orichalka would be reallocated to the asteroid belt - this is why it expresses of other elements.
  • However, Moon would still exist as a different type of human immortal, rooted in perfection of mind and body.

I can't say I'm a fan of changing Moon to Metal. All the symbolism doesn't work as well with Metal: the proximity to Earth and Water, the associations with darkness and nocturnal creatures, reptiles because they shed their skin, madness and biological illness, dreams and illusions, etc. Not to mention, each of the elements already has correspondences with particular metals (e.g. gold w/ Sun, silver w/ Moon, lead w/ Saturn).

There's no occult or philosophical basis for it, I don't think. The classical elements were descriptions of how the world was composed, whereas the Wuxing are about phases of process and change. Furthermore, the Nephilim pentacle is already arranged basically the same as the Wuxing pentacle.

But YMMV.

On 1/10/2021 at 12:47 PM, SunlessNick said:

Black Moon and Selenim would be character options - both humans and Nephilim can become Selenim, though humans need the help of an existing one.

The French version would go on to introduce various other options: Nephilim "cruxim" with only four elements, Selenim "graftees" with additional elements grafted on, Nephilim "rejects" with their lunar branch blackened, rumored "Necronim" who had all six elements including moon and black moon (and could incarnate in corpses?), and the Ar-KaIm who had Solar-Ka and Orichalka and potentially all the rest. There were several factions (not arcana) that dealt specifically with this like the 666 and Orichalquiens. (Basically, the French version was weird.)

I think we could stand to introduce a more standardized way of handling various combinations of elements.

On 1/10/2021 at 12:47 PM, SunlessNick said:
  • Some humans would be able to awaken one of the Nephilim elements in themselves, and practice a degree of sorcery without having to resort to stuff like elixirs.
  • And some humans would be able to awaken their Sun, which grants them an air of spiritual authority and influence.  When you hear about people having mana, or farr, this is where it comes from.
  • Regular humans or members of secret societies would be an option too.

The Secret Societies sourcebook introduced rules for the Mithradites who had more refined Solar-Ka that gave them some mystical abilities over other awakened mortals, and the Fraternitas Saturnii who had rules for cultivating Saturnian-Ka within themselves and casting Saturnian spells. The book gives only a little detail on the Cultes des Ghoules, but in the French version the Selenim are able to infect mortals (both the living and the dead) with a connection to the Black Moon field using their necromancy.

Again, this could probably be standardized. As a collective character option, you could call mortals with awakened ka "Bohemians" after a similar character option in the French. Maybe give them their own Minor Arcana or Chimerical Arcana, since the English version doesn't have minor arcana. (Credit to ganonso for the idea he presented on rpgnet and spacebattles.)

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16 hours ago, MoonRightRomantic said:

At this point, you're making an entirely new game.

I have been entertaining the idea of devising an urban fantasy game myself. I'm not married to any particular system, so I suppose I'd be okay with doing a systemless setting or compatible with multiple types of OGC systems like d20, GORE, or Action!.

There are just so many different subgenres. Gothic horror soap opera, paranormal political thriller, splatterpunk, mystery investigations, monster hunters, occult revelation...

Speaking of The Everlasting, I thought their Osirian character option was an interesting riff on Mage: The Ascension and Nephilim. In The Everlasting, anyone can potentially learn the rules' freeform magic system with the limitation that a single character is only able to ever learn a single magical tradition such as wicca, druidism, Taoism, or less conventional traditions like "techgnosticism." The Osirians are reincarnating magicians who can learn the precepts of all other traditions because they understand the meta-magic underlying all the different traditions.

If I was designing an urban fantasy setting and wanted to give my wizard characters special treatment, then that's probably the same direction I'd go in.

As per the title, revising the setting ever so slightly.

Sun and Moon energies could be polar opposites, and Dark Moon even more so. In fact there was a story on ff.net about Connor fighting Dracula, who when empowered by a quickening came alive, literally, and was no longer undead.

In fact some of the later French systems I believe had characteristics such as Strong, Very strong to describe characters - something that has been imported into Pulp Cthulhu so it is arguable that this is nothing new to the game. Merely adding bringing in elements from the original source material. Plus we know that the Kaim were the gods of the past, and did not need to use an anchor to enable them to possess a human. They were physical beings, so a faction keeping that aspect - i.e. physical gods a la Everlasting Daeva / Supernatural Pagan gods is not really changing the game either. Just altering some events of the the past.

In fact something present in Legacy: War of the Ages, which is Highlander in the modern day, with a few slight changes to canon. What is missing from the English version, and present in the original Portugese Imortal, is that they originated in Atlantis. Plus there are Dwimmeralik, lesser old ones really - and quite horrific, which could easily be older kaim. There are all kinds of options to revise aspects of the setting and still keep the game the same.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/22/2021 at 7:13 AM, RogerDee said:

Sun and Moon energies could be polar opposites, and Dark Moon even more so.

I think that misunderstands the cosmological constraints that Nephilim setup. All of the elements are derived from Solar-Ka, each representing a fraction of its infinite possibility. This is a key conceit of the setting from which other aspects follow.

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