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Tabletop Game / Mummy: The Curse

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See how good you look after several millennia.

Mummy: The Curse, released in 2013, is the eighth gameline released for the Chronicles of Darkness, the fourth to be released after White Wolf merged with CCP, and the first to be released by Onyx Path. In making it, they took the hopefulness of Mummy: The Resurrection, their previous mummy game, and twisted it upside down.

In the beginning there was the city of Irem, heart of a powerful Nameless Empire, based where the Egypt of the Pharaohs would one day arise — an empire far more mystically advanced than any of the time. You and a select group of people were subject to the greatest feat of magic that has ever been attempted by mortal hands, the Rite of Return. Now, as an Arisen, you walk the line between life and death, which is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you have life everlasting. It takes nothing short of a nuclear bomb to destroy you. On the other, you're able to rise only for short periods, your power steadily ebbing away each time. Your friends and family are long since dead and gone, even fading from your memory as the centuries pass.

Your "true" body remains as it was when you underwent the Rite, a preserved corpse, but it's an easy thing for you to adopt a more human guise, shaped by your memory of yourself — for better and worse.

The initial plan for Mummy was to do the corebook and three supplements — Guildhalls of the Deathless, Book of the Deceived and Sothis Ascends. A Kickstarter for a deluxe version of the core added citybooks Cursed Necropolis: DC and Cursed Necropolis: Rio, propbook Dreams of Avarice, a Ready-Made PCs PDF, a fiction anthology and a novel. The free supplement Lore of the Deceived added some bonus material on the Lost Guild. A Second Edition was announced to be in development in 2019.

Terminology: as part of the Rite of Return, each mummy made a decree, determining which part of their fivefold soul they were most deeply attuned to — ab (heart), ba (spirit), ka (essence), ren (name), or sheut (shadow). The judges, 42 in total, are the entities mummies make their decree before during the Rite of Return, and help shape their nature as Arisen. The guilds are the Arisen's social groups, originating in Irem, devoted to the learning of magic. Cults are mortal organizations which support and assist mummies on their journey through eternity. Utterances are the dark miracles of the Arisen, glorious and terrible magics. Affinities are mummies' innate powers, apparently built into the Rite of Return, which manifest as and when needed — even if the mummy in question wasn't aware of them beforehand.

This game provides examples of:

  • Aliens in Cardiff: The opening fiction deals with how far the Arisen have spread by focusing on the cult schism and artifact theft that results in one rising... in Qaarsut, Greenland.
  • Anatomy of the Soul: Following the ancient Egyptian beliefs about soul-structures — a soul is composed of the Ab (heart), the Ba (spirit), the Ka (essence), the Ren (name), and the Sheut (shadow).
  • Ancient Egypt: Really ancient Egypt. The Nameless Empire was actually a predecessor of the Egyptian Kingdoms we know.
  • Ancient Tomb: A Mummy has one by default. Some abilities even make them stronger within it.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Each Arisen can come back from the dead under certain circumstances. However, coming back is not the problem. It's doing everything you can with the time you are given before going back to sleep.
    • Furthermore, on the extremely rare cases that a Mummy is permanently destroyed, those with the right Iremite rituals can bring them back to the world of the living by helping them to body-jack a living human victim. Only problem is that it's not an easy ritual, and if catastrophically botched? The Arisen is brought back alright... and transformed into a Shuankhsen.
      • The Deceived, however, are not at risk of becoming Shuankhsen, and so are more willing to go body-hopping. The catch is that body-hopping for both Arisen and Deceived causes body dysphoria, the sense your body is somehow fundamentally wrong — and this only gets compounded when taking over a body of a different gender.
    • The third tier of the Awaken The Dead Utterance allows an Arisen to bring a dead human back to life. The only drawback is that, unlike the similar Benediction or Exploit, such a resurrection is impermanent. The resurrected individual gets 20 hours of life, maximum, and usually a lot less. After that, he or she disintegrates and is utterly extinguished, preventing them from ever being resurrected again by anyone.
  • Beneath the Mask: Most of the Mummy guilds. To wit:
    • The Maa-Kep don't bother hiding it-at some point, they stopped being the Shan'iatu's middle managers and became guardians of Irem's ideological purity, and that means surveillance. They still are officially just the guys in the background, but they'll cheerfully admit to wanting to Take Over the World one day and create a New Iremite Empire. Or at least, half of them do-the others, such as the South American Maa-Kep, have decided the modern world really is a lot better than Irem was, and want to keep it just the way it is.
    • The Sesha-Hebsu are guardians and crusaders for the truth. And covering it up, since they think that the only people who should be written about are the successes and those truths that agree with Irem's political philosophies.
    • The Su-Menet make sure the Judges are worshiped in the modern day and that Irem's knowledge remains alive. And are falling apart, since somewhere along the line they realized how callous the Judges actually are and are only kept in line out of fear, and it's heavily implied their leader became the Heretic. That, and they view justified cruelty as a virtue, since the Judges are much the same.
    • The Tef-Aabi are fascinated by the modern world, and want to adapt to it as much as possible. And, thanks to not adapting as well as they'd like and low membership, they have been hijacked by the Flesh Masons, a eugenics movement that wants to breed (and kill) the imperfection out of humanity so as to create a better power source for their architecture.
    • The Mesen-Nebu don't really have any skeletons in their closets, but don't think that makes them any nicer than the other guilds — they're egotistical, ruthless power-seekers, albeit honorable ones.
  • Big Bad / Big Good: The Heretic, an Arisen known to most of the others who claims to have found a way to stop the life-death-revivification cycle, something the other mummies are extremely skeptical about. He's not lying, and in fact is the first example of a successful Apotheosis ever.
  • Blessed with Suck: The reason the condition of the Arisen is called the Curse is due to the fact that every time they revive, they're downright amnesiac, they're bound to whatever purpose they were revived for (though they can complete this and gain their free will back), and they're on a time limit before the whole thing starts all over. The Heretic made lemonade out of lemons and discovered Apotheosis, which allows the Deathless to avoid the inevitable death, and allowing them to enjoy their immortality. It comes, however, at the cost of being stuck at the lowest level of mystical power.
  • Brown Note: Being in the presence of a mummy's Sekhem causes Sybaris, hallucinations of Duat and a growing understanding of what mortality entails. Only Witnesses are immune, and even then they don't get off unscathed-they just grow obsessive. This is more boon than curse for the mummies themselves, however-moderate or mild Sybaris causes people to be more receptive to cult recruitment and manipulation, and the understanding of mortality comes from perceiving the cycle of life, leading to those afflicted with mild Sybaris to develop profound revelations about the nature of the world.
  • City of Adventure: Two, actually — Washington, DC and Rio de Janeiro.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Very averted-you'd have to have a complete Lack of Empathy or any connection to retaining your memories to think being Arisen is purely good. Or even mostly good. Apotheosis, on the other hand, is very much a self-inflicted Cursed With Awesome; you are condemned to eventually die, and will never achieve the sheer power of Utterances again... and in return, you're free of the Judges' yoke, your memory comes back and is now perfect, you can make your own Relics, and your waking periods aren't on a timer. The price of freedom is high, but worth every cent.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Subverted and justified for Last Dynasty Inc-they do want to use Sekhem medicine to improve the world (and get rich in the process), but the only real source not involving Human Sacrifice are Arisen and Relics.
  • Darker and Edgier: In the old Mummy, you were an immortal Egyptian superhero fighting against evil, greedy occult forces. Here, you overcame so much to be screwed over by your own powers, your purpose is to be pushed around by your cult and the Judges, and pretty much are the servant of evil/amoral, greedy occult forces.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Arisen have exactly the morality one would expect from entitled noblemen of a time when "death by barbarian" was a very real possibility. Hell, Irem's Secret Police is a playable faction, and they're highly respected for their devotion to the Good Old Ways by the rest of the Guilds.
    • Interestingly, most Arisen weren't nobles as mortals — they generally came from the ranks of the middle classes.
    • This applies to some of the 42 Judges as well. The crimes they are meant to judge over are not all as serious now as they were in the time of the Empire (speaking out in anger, blaspheming, gossiping, disrespecting authority figures, etc). On the other hand, some of the crimes — mass murder, etc. — while still relevant, seem to have been committed in Irem for the sake of progress anyway.
      • Second Edition takes this even further: Not only are some of the Judges' purviews in conflict with modern mores, they're in conflict with each other, or sometimes overlap to the point that both Judges could lay claim to jurisdiction over a chosen "sin." And if the beef is bad enough, they're more than willing to manifest in reality and lay down some Ten Commandments shit in order to make sure their will be done...
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Seriously, don't steal the Relics of an Arisen if you want to live. Besides quite possibly reviving a dormant one, they will find you, and you will regret taking their stuff-even leaving aside the fact that only mummies can properly control their power.
    • The crimes the Judges judge are all things a modern person would consider wrong, but they're judged harshly no matter how minor they seem. There is a Judge in charge of the crime of eavesdropping.
  • The Dragon: Sadikh and Fasad, to Arisen and Shuankhsen, respectively. The former even go into a self-induced Lotus-Eater Machine when their masters are asleep.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Amkhata are so obviously errors in the natural order that they demoralize mortals who look upon them. Ammut is far more along the lines of "Lovecraftian goddess".
  • The Empire: Irem was... not a nice place to live if you weren't a citizen.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: The upside to Apotheosis. Besides being free of the Judges' control, an Arisen's Memory score becomes their new power stat.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Shuankhsen, the mummies created in service to Ammut, the Devourer. She wants Sekhem, and they will get it or die trying.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: A cult that tries to abuse their patron's stewardship too many times will quickly find that mummies are quite capable of Exact Words in their purpose, or sticking around after it's completed, thank you.
  • Fearless Undead: The Su-Menent have immunity to fear as part and parcel of their "Fated Soul" Guild Affinity.
  • Heel Realization: What initially motivated the Heretic to seek Apotheosis, according to Dreams of Avarice. He would always be the man who murdered slaves to power the Rite of Return, but he would not inflict such cruelty again.
  • Heroic Willpower: How the Arisen successfully returned from Duat the first time: They were faced with pointed questions about their very right to exist, and answered them.
  • I Know Your True Name: The importance of the true name (see 'Ren' above) is important in Iremite magic. The most powerful beings in their cosmology are creatures that have reclaimed their own true names, so that no other being can exert magical power on them. This is what happens to Arisen that achieve Apotheosis — they become invisible to the magical world.
    • Name magic was the particular province of the Deceived, and even fallen as they are, having lost much of what they once knew, they still have a certain affinity for it.
  • Implacable Man: Anyone who steals a Relic from a Mummy will very quickly realize how astoundingly difficult it is to put them down, even temporarily. Deceived are even tougher, though that's a small comfort to them.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: The Arisen are likely to meet the idea of the world actually changing since Irem with snark and derision, assuming they don't just blow you off; there's still a power elite, a bitter underclass, and moral myopia. It's why they're so good at integrating themselves with the world.
    • The Heretic is even more cynical, he having come to believe even in his first life that the true nature of law is to force people into stable social positions and engender fear of the state. Given who he is, he qualifies as a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Jerkass Gods: Second Edition leans into this portrayal of the Judges. Although their goal is to punish the wicked, their sense of crime and sin is based on the values of a civilization that's been dead for millennia. They are not figures of divine justice, but the iron fist of values that are either classical or outdated, depending on your view. And when those values clash, they're more than willing to sic the Arisen who serve them on the Arisen (and their cults) who serve rival Judges. And when the Judge is really displeased, they're willing to appoint a mortal as their divine herald and manifest in reality in a display that makes Moses turning the Nile to blood look subtle.
  • Kill It with Fire: The only real weakness of Mummies is their flammability, a trait they share with several other creatures in the World of Darkness.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Invoked by the third tier of Word-Warding Bonds; if the mummy succeeds in commanding the target, they must abase themselves before the mummy. For the next week the target cannot take any hostile action against the mummy, and must obey any command they give so long as it doesn't result in immediate physical harm.
  • Lemony Narrator: The book's authors can get pretty snarky at times.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The opinion of mummies who think that the power and the ability/right to kill with impunity is worth the loss of Memory. The Arisen state of being is pretty good if you're The Sociopath. Or have completed Apotheosis. While you will eventually reach a death cycle that ends in actual death, you're free of menet, immune to I Know Your True Name, and can finally make your own relics, and all you have to do to retain your power is act like a decent person.
  • Living Relic: The mummies, the great accomplishment of the priest-kings of the Nameless Empire.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Ancestry of Forgotten Stars Utterance, from Guildhalls of the Deathless. The core concept is that you're calling upon the power of inhuman creatures that once interbred with humanity... and said creatures appear to have been rather Lovecraftian. The highest level transforms its invokers into an avatar of a being called the Herald of Forgotten Stars, which is explicitly described as a crawling chaos, one of Nyarlathotep's epithets, and which is sometimes accompanied by a man who sounds disturbingly like one of Nyarlathotep's or Hastur's avatars.
    • Hell, most of the Utterances are of the Cosmic Horror Story (or perhaps more accurately, given how you're the source, Lovecraft Lite) bent. Foremost among these is Words of Dead Glory, whose lowest tier invokes Everything's Deader with Zombies and sends highly-infectious nenitu after people the Arisen doesn't feel like protecting, and only gets scarier from there, and Dreams of Dead Gods, which also starts by putting possible allies under More than Mind Control and sends nightmares after enemies until they run off, and oh yeah, can be invoked while the Arisen is still dormant.
    • Also worthy of note is the highest tier of Words of Dead Fury, which summons up a nightmarish creature from eras past that has a constantly shifting array of eyes and mouths, communicates in an untranslatable alien language of polyphonic murmurs and bellows, rends mortal souls, and devours ghosts.
  • Love Is in the Air: Dreams of Dead Gods' love curse. Whoever is targeted by this curse will have a horde of suitors who want to get into their pants. This effect ignores the normal sexual orientation of the secondary targets.
  • Mad Artist: The Deceived/the Lost Guild, literally. Thanks to certain qualities of their existence, each one has a permanent derangement, and they're obsessed with the more lunatic side of creative endeavors.
  • Made of Iron: Amkhata, when dealing with anything not an Arisen but still supernatural. Mortals get the Nigh-Invulnerability treatment. Sadikh and Fasad, though, are Made of Iron at all times, and their masters can resurrect them.
  • Magical Society: The guilds.
  • Magitek: Sekhem is explicitly detectable and usable by mundane scientific equipment, and is extremely useful in medicine. In fact, an Anti-Villain Mega-Corp, Last Dynasty Incorporated, wants to use the stuff to, among other things, cure AIDS and develop a healthier form of steroid.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: The Amkhata, essentially Sekhem elementals, take the form of these.
  • Moral Myopia: The Deceived or more accurately, the temakhs. They hate the Arisen for their masters stealing their chance at godhood... except they were planning to betray the other Shan'iatu first and become rulers over their brothers once ascended. It's entirely possible the other guildmasters found out and were just protecting themselves, or even that their mad scheme backfired and they have nobody to blame but themselves.
  • Mummy: Naturally.
  • Noble Demon: When following the concept of Dedwen, the Mesen-Nebu tend to act like this: Their morality resembles a more mystical, slightly more charitable version of Objectivism, and they apply the principle as ruthlessly to themselves as much as anyone else, to the point where they will forgive Relic thieves if they evade the first attempt at punishment and retrieval, since they obviously deserve it more than the Arisen (an exception is made for if the theft woke them up, but in that case they don't really have a choice in the matter).
  • No Name Given: Not the Arisen, but a designation of immortality and divinity in the Nameless Empire's culture. The fact they called themselves the "Nameless Empire" knowing that should tell you how big their heads were.
    • This extended to their deities, the pre-dynastic forms of what would become the Egyptian pantheon: Re, the Nameless Lion; Esit, the Nameless Falcon; Sutek, the Nameless Serpent; Ptah, the Nameless Bull; and Anpu, the Nameless Jackal. The names given to them were not their true names, but titles used by mortals.
  • Pure Energy: Sekhem. Stated in developer blogs to have no relation to the Supernal Realms-it's far too old for that.
  • Reality Warping Is Not a Toy: Each Arisen is tied to an Ancient Artifact with these powers. Stealing this artifact can result in fluctuations of reality.
  • Ret-Gone: The Deceived Utterance Forgetting the Name allows them to do this to any human or supernatural, killing them and erasing virtually all memory of them. The third tier of Whispering What Is Known also allows this.
  • Resurrective Immortality: The core of the Rite of the Return. Mummies are not invincible, but destroying one is no easy task. Destroying one so thoroughly that it can never rise again is downright Herculean.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The Lost Guild, to the point where literally the only thing anyone knows about them is that they're obsessed with avenging themselves upon the descendants of the Nameless Empire. It's outright stated that the Shuankhsen, if someone were to cut their ties to Ammut, would still hunt down Arisen to the last mummy — for perfectly understandable reasons.
  • Satan Is Good: Sutekh, the Iremite version of Set, is also the god of chaos and taken to be an enemy of the Judges. Even living Iremite culture praised him for being the inventor of free will and personal growth, and in modern times his teachings helped refine Apotheosis.
  • Scary Scorpions: A sacred animal and Psychopomp in Iremite culture. Many Arisen and death cults are called "scorpion cults" for precisely this reason.
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: An Arisen in menet, hibernation between revivals.
  • Shout-Out: This gem, from the chapter that describes the use of your cult (sadly rewritten in the final version).
    Well, the mummy just shouts, "Slay them, my minions!" and then they chant "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!" in flawless Iremite Egyptian.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The Shan'iatu, the priest-kings of the Nameless Empire. The Arisen used to be directly under their command, though they did not use the Rite of Return on themselves. While it was implied they might have become the Judges of Duat, later books revealed that they actually attempted to betray or control their gods, and got mightily smote in the process.
  • Stronger with Age: Inverted, as compared to other White Wolf games. A mummy rises at the peak of their power, but it quickly drops a rank and then starts to level out until it's at its weakest, which is when the mummy needs to go back to rest. The decline can be halted, but it's a difficult — and, in some cases, unwholesome — process.
  • Terror Hero: Several Affinities rely on the innate terror that mortals feel in the presence of the Arisen.
  • Unknown Rival: In 2e, it's noted that mummies have relationships with various types of Immortals, which can be barbed and exploitative but sometimes mutually beneficial... except with the Reborn. The Arisen hate the Reborn, because whereas the Arisen have to patch the scraps of their Memory together, the Reborn are born with full knowledge of all their past lives. For their part, the Reborn mostly don't give a shit about the Arisen, unless a mummy has made a big deal about their existence in some past life or another.
  • Unstuck in Time: Second Edition makes clear that a mummy's Descents do not have to happen chronologically. A mummy can go to sleep in ancient Irem, wake up in the 21st century, go to sleep, then wake up again in the French Revolution. Mummies can change history due to their actions, but given everything else going on around them, it usually results in a Close-Enough Timeline.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Whispers to My Body Affinity allows the mummy who knows it to assume any humanoid form they like, and to transform themselves into liquid form. The Deceived Guild Affinity Face of Endless Lies enables the mummy to temporarily assume any humanoid form, so long as it doesn't duplicate a specific person.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Mummies tend to dislike their deathless state, mostly because of the memory loss and the arbitrary restrictions on their behavior (cannot work to improve their memory, cannot speak out against the judges, cannot declare love for another in the language of Irem, etc). The more dutiful among them deal with it by letting their memories lapse and becoming nigh-mindless servants of the Judges.
    • Deceived have a double-dose of this; they're explicitly not immortal, but eternal; it's heavily suggested that if the Earth dies and humanity survives in colonies, they will reincarnate as Martians, as an example. They pay for this by the fact that their menet cycle is an And I Must Scream situation... which many actually prefer to their waking periods, since then they have to deal with the fact that each and every one of them is possessed by the temakh, the insane remnant psyches of the Shan'iatu who once headed their guild. Their nature is such that they cannot attain the independence the Arisen know; their version of Apotheosis is Ascent, which frees them from their temakh but binds them eternally to Fate itself, to serve as its agent... though Fate is simply alien instead of alien and a homicidal Straw Nihilist Mad Artist, and an Ascended's menet period is just resting happily as part of the cosmos. That the Ascent can be seen as both positive, becoming a willing agent of a higher power, and negative, condemned to eternal service of one kind or another, is entirely intentional.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: Mummies have plenty of fate-manipulating effects.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • The Shuankhsen were slaves in the Nameless Empire who were used as Equivalent Exchange and test subjects for the developing Rite of Return, and in the process were enslaved again to Ammut. Their souls sustained heavy damage in the process, causing them to lose a lot of their sanity and all their free will. We would hug them, except they would probably try to eat us.
    • The Deceived, or at least the human part of them. Unlike the Arisen, they are complete slaves to their temakhs, unable to escape. Their menet cycles are dreams of torment at their temakhs's hands. They have their own identities subsumed by the spirit that haunts them, but they are still there. Worse, unlike the Arisen, there's no escape. They are damned to exist as a slave forever.