Mummy: The Cult

Mummy: The Curse, Open Development

Hi, gang. Last week, we took five to dish a little on our design philosophy behind the Arisen. This week, we’re back to spoiling the hell out of our new game–in this case, cults. From a WoD design perspective, I wanted cults to fill the role filled in other games by elements like bloodlines (Vampire) or lodges (Werewolf). Going into the writing process, I knew I wanted the cult system to be strong and customizable to each mummy character. Join me in welcoming the inimitable Greg Stolze, who I assigned the task of making my design a working Stortyelling System reality.

When you hear the word “cult” you might picture chanting figures in hoods performing sinister ceremonies in dimly-lit caverns. Many Arisen would agree, and they arrange their agents along tribal or religious lines: Obedience to Sekhem’s master is an identity, reiterated by chants, rites, initiations and behavioral prescriptions.  Those who serve are set apart, by expectation and by choice, from outsiders who cannot be allowed to see the reasons for their dedication—not least because they might not understand them.

While the Arisen command strange powers, their makers did not anticipate that, after thousands of years, they’d need to deal with paper currency and telecommunications. Loyal followers who can stay current for generations while their master slumbers are essential for bridging the gap between the mummy’s ancient mindset and the modern world in which they must operate.

To give players bands of aides who fit their personal style or desire, mummy cults break into three rough organizational styles. As described, some of these societies are set up along traditional lines and gather followers who are looking for meaning. This oldest structure doesn’t have to be religious, but can be. It’s robust, but needy.  Mummies who set themselves atop an authoritarian pyramid have to accept the responsibilities that come with being the unquestionable boss. Once your answers to the hard questions cease to satisfy, you aren’t just disappointing one person, you’re undermining the entire foundation of your position.

Arisen who prefer the mores of more recent ages often set up a conspiracy and tell their followers they’re working for the CIA or the Bilderbergers. This spiderweb catches a different breed of fly, one that isn’t looking for answers so much as advantage, preferably an unfair one. As long as a mummy keeps her amoral actors supplied with the money or information or protection they want, they pursue her agenda without much curiosity about what it ultimately is. You may not get a lot of initiative or loyalty in this structure, but if you have to have a disposable underling to throw under a bus, it’s consoling to think that he’s a selfish wretch who’d happily betray you if the price was right.

The third option, and probably the most modern, is to hide in plain sight with a legitimate enterprise. The group doesn’t have “run errands for mummies” on its mission statement—it could be a profit-generating private equity firm, or an NGO, or a think tank, as far as the outsiders are concerned. Moreover, it could employ scores of people, a veritable army of chauffeurs, receptionists, and research assistants.  Few of them need to have any idea what’s really pulling their strings. This type of group has the advantage of seeming as legit as the Boy Scouts or a Super PAC, because it is. Its drawback is that the salarymen in its ranks are far less willing to break the law. Even if they can be persuaded, they may not be any good at it. (If you’re having someone commit a crime on your behalf, do you really want it to be his first crime?) If you want something legal, and the advantages of being in the wealthy elite, this is a good choice. If you think you’re going to need bodies hid, you may prefer going back to the secret-name-and-handshake crowd.  There’s a reason they’ve been around so long, after all.

Until next time,

Senebti!

 

Minions? Allies? You decide.

 

  15 comments for “Mummy: The Cult

  1. Ramiro
    July 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Wow…! this is getting very interesting, i´m really waiting to see the full thing!! Keep it coming man, i´m fan of White Wolf from Argentina!

    • CAS
      July 28, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Thanks, Ramiro! Very happy to have our South American friends here. 🙂

  2. Clifford
    July 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I can’t wait for my first read of the line! My club has two groups eagerly awaiting release, white wolf

  3. Gwyn
    July 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    What I’d be interested in, is how do Cults continue while the Arisen sleep. Do they tend to splinter and must be reformed from the ashes by the Arisen once she awakes? Or does the cult continue on, a shadow of what it would be under Arisen control? Does each Arisen have their own cult centered around themself, or would multiple Arisen share cults? The latter possibility would answer my first question, as that would mean that the wakened Arisen could tend the Cult while the others rest.

    Crossover possibilities for using this are great: a vampire infiltrates a dormant cult, seeing it as an easily controlled and compliant Herd. However, when the Arisen awakes, she does not take kindly to her Cult having been taken over by a Kindred. Arisen Cults could make GREAT antagonist structures.

  4. Cleverest of Things
    July 26, 2012 at 12:17 am

    If some cults can be formed on the premise that some single event in all of time is significant enough to gather followers (Such as the Hayley’s Comet cult, or similar apocalyptic cults), then the idea that a religious cult following a mysterious god or event that will EVENTUALLY show up isn’t that far fetched. Consider Christianity, based around a faith that, some day, being faithful will pay off. It seems people that gravitate towards religious faith tend to.. well, have faith. The fact that the Mummy might set up his followers with some wealth, a few long lasting magical relics, and in fact DOES periodically rise from the dead and present miracles.. well, it seems to work.

    And as for the more modern cults.. well, in the world of darkness, it seems every human is already used to serving secretive and hidden masters, even ones that aren’t monsters. How many CEOs have you met? Someone could easily work their whole lives for a company or a mob and never once meet the head honcho. It serves as easy cover for the fact that he might spend years at a time dead to the world. The fact that a few upper-tier cultists might be in on the truth and work to actively help pass it off as normal helps a lot, I’d imagine.

    Now.. with as much data as there is about the cults, I wonder how it applies to the Z splat. So far, it sounds more like the way a Krewe fits in the Z-splat position, but replacing the heirarchy of sin-eaters with a mummy and its pawns. However.. do mummies work TOGETHER with groups of cults (Creating cults with multiple mummy members)? Are those three sorts of categories of cults the three main Z splat choices, or is it specific and individual to the mummy?

    Gosh, September can’t get here fast enough. At least that gives them a lot of time to spoiler for us, so we can get used to this shift in the storytelling system gradually.

  5. CameronW
    July 26, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I JUST saw that picture today at the Tut exhibit!

  6. badmojojojo
    July 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Greg Stoltze is writing for Mummy? Pure win sirs!!

    • CAS
      July 26, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Yup. He and Malcolm were my first go-to guys. 🙂

  7. Lostkith
    July 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I see now how it’s all boiling down together. I love the way the stories are going to flow from these critters. You get so many layers of street level, conspiracy level, and just shock and awe level of play from these guys that it’s really going to be difficult to decide which direction to go with at first.
    I hope september gets here quick, cause i’m dying to put these folks into play… both as PC’s and NPC’s!
    See your books in the future!!!

  8. July 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    What are the benefits besides money etc that the cultists gain from watching the tomb for decades or more?
    Is there a sympathetic link during the sleep of the mummy and her cultists/followers?
    And most important:
    How and when does the mummy awake/arise? I would think of a certain ritual that must be performed “when the stars are right” or something. Or does the mummy awake at free will?

    • CAS
      July 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

      Good questions all, Nihil. And they are answered… in the corebook. 🙂

      • August 2, 2012 at 8:24 am

        CAS, i´m glad to read this 🙂
        More to look foward to.

  9. CameronW
    July 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Arguably my favorite blog post so far. Too often in games, and even the NWoD, cults feel a little tacked on. I mean I love the idea of dark pulp. Going two fisted tales while taking on the faceless innumerable minions of some Cthulhu wannabe and it’s charismatic leader. But the early blurb on Cults and Mummy looked to give a deeper use of that old term. Sometimes with organizations like Covenants,etc in NWoD material I don’t feel the larger organizational weight of those groups. Either in fluff or in the mechanics.So that blog post makes me feel like Mummy could add weight to both. And maybe be something to use for other NWoD lines.

  10. Topher
    July 30, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Oh god… Please, please, please… Just take my money already! I am so stoked about this new line. I have the same excitement as I did waiting for Promethean, which I LOVED.

  11. CAS
    August 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    New post up, everyone. 🙂

Comments are closed.