Mummy, 2nd Edition

“A World of Darkness Sourcebook ”

Copyright 1997, White Wolf

Authors: Graeme Davis and James Estes

Mummy Cover

Softcover rulebook, 8 1/2 by 11 inches, 141 pages.

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In several ways, Mummy, 2nd Edition, was a magician's trick, appearing to be one thing but actually being something else. For one thing, it was not a stand-alone game: players needed to have at least one other World of Darkness RPG in order to have access to all the rules. For another, it wasn't really about mummies at all: a mummy being a preserved corpse, usually through desiccation or careful preparation, or in the horror genre, a reanimated preserved corpse, traditionally Egyptian. While the characters in the Mummy game were generally Egyptian, the linen-wrapped, preserved corpses are not what this game is about. Instead, our mummies are effectively immortals, Reborn to rejuvenated bodies lifetime after lifetime.

But like a good magician's trick, Mummy is entertaining enough that we don't care that we've been fooled. This game adds an interesting dimension to the World of Darkness and integrates beautifully with the background, and its brevity is a plus for reading (it's half the size of the main WoD games). Mummy begins in the very early days of Egypt, where Osiris chose or was tricked into becoming a vampire (as in Vampire: the Masquerade), along with his jealous brother Set. Osiris was eventually overthrown and killed by Set. Osiris's wife, Isis, learned a spell to raise him from the dead and she did so. They conceived a son, Horus, and Horus eventually overthrew Set and became king himself as Osiris chose to stay in the deadlands (as described in Wraith: the Oblivion). Set wasn't eliminated, however, and over the centuries Horus and Set dueled directly and through minions. Isis used the Great Rite of eternal life on Horus, making him the first of the mummies. Unlike vampires, mummies must stay in the land of the dead periodically to refresh their spirit-energy, and during these sleeps, Set kept working to reduce Horus's forces.

In the modern era, Horus's forces have gradually come to realize that the battle for Egypt was never more than a sideshow of the vampiric Jyhad, and if they intend to return rightness and justice to the world, they need to defeat the shadow that overlies all. The mummies call it Apophis, the Great Serpent, and it parallels the battles found in most of the other games of the World of Darkness. Horus's loyal followers, the Shemsu-heru, are charged to wander the world and learn what they can of it, to be ready for Horus's call to battle, for it will be soon. Thus, mummies have reasons to be anywhere on the globe, battling the vampires who are considered allies of Set, hobnobbing with the Garou of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the mages of Mage: the Awakening, and in fact, darned near anyone they please in the World of Darkness. Since mummies must periodically return to the underworld, there's even reason to set stories in Wraith: the Oblivion.

Mummies serve as worthwhile foes to the vampires, for they have the longevity, the knowledge, the power, and the motivation to cause vampires a world of hurt. But many of the mummies (and not all are Shemsu-heru) feel Horus's war is nothing more than vengeance for his long-dead father's kingdom. While they are still resolved to fight evil, they increasingly prefer to do it in their own way and at their own scale.

Magic

Mummies cannot do the true magic of mages as a result of the spell that animates them, but they still have formidable powers. It's called Hekau (the Egyptian word for magic), and it is subdivided into six different types. Mummies can create amulets of various powers, brew potions and essences through Alchemy, control the sky and the stars with Celestial magic, have power over the dead using Necromancy (particularly useful while one must inhabit the deadlands), use Ushabti, the animation of simulacra, and finally command the power of Ren-hekau, the power of True Names. Ren-hakau generally permits conversation and obedience with those things that you know the true name of (trees, stones, animals, people), and at the most extreme end, if you know a being's true name, you can cast a terrible spell to erase them utterly from existence.

Hekau of all types is fueled by Sekhem, yet another form of mana. While sekhem fuels spells, it's also a form of bodily energy. When it's high, a mummy is energetic and active, and when it drops to zero, they fall comatose until they recover points. Sekhem can be easily recovered through rest or meditation, although it's time consuming (typically one point per day of rest).

 

Characters in Mummy

Mummy characters are similar enough to other characters in the World of Darkness games that the book doesn't bother to list Attributes and Traits; players should obtain them from other books. Since most mummies hail from ancient Egypt, the character conceptualization started with who that person was in life in that time and place, and why they were recipients of the great spell that reanimated them. Their occupation in life was used to assign the character's initial abilities.

Of course, it wouldn't be a World of Darkness game without factions. While the loyal mummies of the Shemsu-heru would be the most likely characters, other choices included the Cabiri (European mummies created by flawed versions of the Spell of Life obtained from Egypt), the Ishmaelites (Egyptian mummies who refused to obey Horus), Children of Apophis (seven horrible monsters created by Set when he thought he had the Spell of Life), and Others, mummies from other parts of the world, such as China, Peru, Indonesia, and so forth.

Due to their great life, mummies started out more powerful than other characters. All attributes, Physical, Social, and Mental began with one dot before assigning points to them, and character abilities were assigned from pools of twenty, fifteen, and ten, rather than the standard thirteen, nine, and five. Mummies also began with thirty freebie points at the end of character creation, rather than the standard fifteen.

All mummies started with Hekau, three dots worth, plus an automatic dot in Necromancy. Their three Virtues were Memory, Integrity and Joy. Mummies also had scores in Willpower (Integrity + Joy), Humanity (Memory + Integrity), Sekhem (starting at 3), Ba (roll a single die), and Ka (5).

The three virtues each represented the core problems all mummies had to struggle with. Memory was used when a character had to recover information from the past; Joy was used when the character was confronted with a new feature of the modern world, and Integrity was used when a mummy acted in a way the Storyteller felt was hard-hearted. A failure of the first two meant the character was unable to act for a scene, while a failure of Integrity meant a loss of a Humanity point and an Integrity point. A botch for any virtue meant a derangement, as in the other WoD books. While lost Humanity might be regained through exceptional actions, there was apparently no way to remove derangements.

The ba stat was a measure of the mummy's vital energy. Ba gradually depleted over time, at a rate of roughly one point per decade of life. When ba approached zero, the mummy would know it was time to prepare for a long sleep. A safe place was required for their body, and their affairs had to be prepared for their return years or decades later. A mummy might also die when the body's health score reached zero through injury. The unoccupied body deteriorated over time, and thus required the disembodied ba to periodically spend points from the afterlife to repair and rejuvenate the physical body.

In the afterlife, the ba (spiritual energy) and ka (ghost form) were separated from the physical body. The ka stayed in the Shadowlands, near the resting place of the physical body, while the ba journeyed deeper into the lands of the dead. The ba might accumulate points by resting, but progress would be slow. Generally, heroic actions were needed to obtain ba at a higher rate, and of course, ba needed to be spent in order for the spirit to effect anything in the world of the dead. Meanwhile, the ka had its own store of points, which would be spent for the ka to do anything other than wait. Lost ka points were recovered through spending more ba.

When a ba had enough points to be reborn, it entered the Tempest and waited for Anubis, one of the Ferrymen (see Wraith: the Oblivion). Assuming enough ba had been spent to heal and maintain the body, whatever ba was left when it re-entered the physical body and was reborn would fuel this next life, at a rate of approximately one ba point per decade.

Combat

Mummy had no rules for actions or combat. These must be taken from another book.

Transcendence

While in the world of the dead, a mummy's ba might take the wraith's quest for transcendence and go on to their ultimate reward. This would have to be completely up to the referee, as Mummy lacked even the lengthy, convoluted, and extraordinarily difficult process detailed in Wraith: the Oblivion.

 

Summary

Mummy, 2nd edition had great potential. Mummies had enough powers and abilities to interact with any of the other monsters of the World of Darkness (although it would be strange indeed to bring them into contact with Changelings). Mummies could be urbane, sophisticated, and efficiently deadly with many lifetimes to learn skills at any level. Instead of being shambling undead, the Reborn of this book are simply all but unkillable. Even if their bodies are utterly destroyed, their ka will tirelessly gather the scattered dust, and the ba will spend the energy to knit it all back together.

Mummies don't lack for pathos: the loss of memory and loss of a desire to live gives them a world-weary ennui that complements the gothic sensibilities of the Kindred in Vampire: the Masquerade. Their dual existence in the physical world and the world of the afterlife gives the game a terrific feel, although we have difficulty imagining the years of play it would take to fulfill a chronicle that involves a death and rebirth with a sojourn in the afterlife.

Personal Note from the Curator

I confess, before reading this book, I thought "who are they kidding? How many games can you play as a shambling, linen-wrapped horror?" But this book was probably the most enjoyable read of all of the 2nd edition rulebooks thus far. The authors were wise to not introduce yet another end of the world story, and they fitted Mummy beautifully into Vampire's Jyhad, plus they used the Wraith setting to advantage, although I suspect the ba point economy of the afterlife would make it difficult to accumulate enough points to buy another full life for the Reborn. I'm glad I picked this $4 beauty up at my local used book store.

—RAD

June 22, 2012

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