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Mummy: The Curse $19.99
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Mario R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/09/2013 10:50:00

Not a bad game, but it doesn't really have a broad audience in mind. Let me explain.

You can really appreciate all the effort that was put in this game, its designing concepts and all the little nuances. This is me actually congratulating the developers for putting out a well-thought original product. A great break from tradition, if you ask me.

The problems arise from the need to be a little too innovative, I think. There are a lot of elements in the narrative of the game that limit hugely the amount of initiative players have.

First of all, let me say a couple of things about what make WoD games so great for me. Roleplaying games like the ones White Wolf puts out are mostly focused on the stories (and not on action or a bible-long list of spells): you can run a hundred werewolf chronicles, but you won't ever run out of ideas... you can have tribal wars, subtle sabotage among packs, werewolves living in the urban jungle, some even interpersed within human society, alliances against a common enemy, a whole alien dimension to explore, and so on. Not to mention the fact that all core books are based on a great concept: take this and apply your own style to it. For example, particular Ventrue Coteries can be a shady businessmen or ancient nobles attempting to recapture a lost feeling. Again, each singular sub-species (meaning the diffrent kinds of vampire, werewolf, mage, sin eater...) is in itself playable to no end, because they have the right plugs for every kind of feeling and culture you want your story to have. One other very intriguing aspect is the freedom to give your character and place he/she wants in the world. All races are prone to having socialites, brutes, hitmen, mystics, lore-keepers (infinite list)... and each of this can be strongly motivated to to something in their life or to adhere striclty to their core culture. I know this seems like a long ad for how awesome White Wolf is, but it serves the purpose of this review.

What are Mummy: The Curse's problems?

First of all, the kind of stories. All Mummies are arisen briefly from a centruries-old slumber to fullfill a peculiar purpose. Mainly, in this setting, they are arisen to find ancient artifacts from their original masters, and if they don't they lose power and die in a matter of a chronicle at the most. If they try to avoid obeying their undead masters, they lose power and time more quickly. This is achieved by having a weird original mechanic that I liked as far as concept goes: you start at 10 dots of Sekhmet (analogous to Gnosis and other major supernatural traits) and start losing it very fast at the beginning (we're talking a few days if that) and slowly at a lower level (still, a few months at the most). After that, you either die or live your life powerless. While the concept is cool, this means that your character will devote his/her life to finding these artifacts, or, if you feel wild, people who have stolen them. You can't decide you want to take over a multimillion company and be the real power behind the CEO, nor can you clean the streets from all organized crime. You will receive rules-dictated nudges from the storyteller to chase this or that objective from you masters in the underworld, and if you disobey you lose power very quickly. So, can't really have your own life or style, lest you go back to be dead for decades.

Second, character background. What's cool about WoD? The fact that your characters can be whatever they wish, have whatever backstory. The supernatural template of any race will stick to the same human, story-wise. You can be a dirty cop who is destined to become a mage, who is embranced into being a vampire, who discovers his heritage as a werewolf. Heck, you can even be abducted by the Fae and come back as a Changeling. This directly impacts how interesting the stories are once you become a supernatural being. Not so much with Mummy. You have to have lived in a very wide but still limited pre-historic empire, who spans several regions of Africa, and you have to have died there 5000 years ago. This means that you can't be of any ethnicity. I know it's a little silly, but I find it a little limiting not being able to have any appearance you want. Also, you have to have belonged to one of 5 specific social occupations who ran the empire. While there are 5 social orders in all WoD games, these are chosen later and can often be renounced (like Orders for mages). Instead here you come from basically one of 5 major social backgrounds. Also, we're talking about an empire that was politically depicted in a precise way, so your choices as to what your characters peculiarities could be are very slim.

Third, and this isn't an issue with everyone, I know, but I know it is for some old-time fans: the game is not compatible at all with other races. From time to time my players and I like to run mix-races chronicles. It makes for amazing narrative and it makes the peculiarities of each species really stand out. What's nice about the other core rulebooks is that they are made in a way that same-experience characters from different species willl have comparable abilities and be able to have the same adventure for the same time (death allowing it). If you are a mummy you wake up at your best and, as the story goes on, you become weaker and weaker. If you wanted to mix races together, then, you would have two choices: you either limit the challenge level towards the end, boring the heaven out of the other players who are not mummies, or you will have to step up the pace and difficulty level, rendering the mummy characters useless. I know this is not a concern for everybody, but a lot of people like to bring races together in a richer experience.

Fourth, theme. As stated above, you can taint all other races with any historic culture. Just think of all the kinds of bloodlines you can have for mages, or how adaptable the undead culture of Sin-eaters is. Mummy: The Curse is focused on Egypt. The gods are from there, the names are from there, and the characters are endowed with power, resurrected and stirred by Egyptian entities. Want to play a nostalgic 80's guy? Can't, wouldn't make sense. Want your character to rebel against the powers that give him/her meaning? Can't. And so on.

This is what struck me while reading the whole thing. To sum up: if you like these aspects, these moods and these backstories, this is an amazing book. The mechanics are well thought-out, the powers are interesting and all the litlle details make for a solid gaming experience. But if you don't care for Egypt or you simply like to give at least some leeway to character's development and deep storytelling, don't buy this one. You can introduce the Mummies as NPC's and have a lot of fun with them.

[2 of 5 Stars!]