A quick note about the information presented below: I’m not going to be explaining all the ins and outs of the Nephilim game. If you’re really confused by stuff, I urge you to grab the pdf of the game to follow along. You can get it at the Chaosium site, and the entire line is available at RPGnow. It’s well worth the purchase. And Fate Core is available from Evil Hat Productions. Also very much worth it.
The next big piece of heavy lifting for the Nephilim conversion is solidifying the skill list. It also involves deciding which skills are available for which eras and for which types of past lives. And that requires looking at which types of past lives are available for which era. So, in this post, I’m going to take a look at all of that, and hopefully get the skills sorted for this conversion.
I’ve already decided1 to use a variant of the mode method of character creation that I had first seen done in the Atomic Robo RPG, and later saw discussed in more detail in the Fate System Toolkit. The basic idea is that you choose a couple pre-defined sets of skills and add together the ranks in overlapping skills. I thought that would work very well to reflect things learned over a series of incarnations in different time periods.
The standard number of skills in a mode in ARRPG is three2, and that seems a good number of skills for one mode or lifetime. But to keep from having to create a whole bunch of different modes in order to give some variety to the characters and choices3, I decided that I should give each lifetime four or five skills4, and allow the player to choose three of them for the character.
One of the other things I’ve decided about skill numbers is that, in addition to the three skills from the main list for each lifetime, the characters will get to make one pick from the magic skills list available in that era. This is partially because it kind of mirrors the way magic skills are handled in Nephilim – each lifetime grants a certain number of points that you can spend on occult development – and partially because it emphasizes5 the idea that Nephilim are creatures of magic, and even the most mundane among them is still quite magically powerful. At least, compared to a mortal.
Now, some types of lifetime – scholars, for instance – may also have a magic skill as one of the skills on their main skill list, allowing the character to essentially double-dip. Again, this is by design, and I think the fact that the character is giving up a different6 skill to embrace magic is just a fine trade-off. That said, it’s one of the things I’ll have to keep thinking about and will watch carefully if I ever get to try the game out.
The Skill List
If you’ve taken a look at the work-in-progress manual I posted last time, you’ve already seen the overall skill list I came up with. If you haven’t, here it is:
- Ka Vision
- Solar Ka
You’ll probably notice that there are a few new skills on that list. Here’s the basics on those:
- Athletics, Sorcery, Summoning: These are the three magical styles of Nephilim. I’ve only got a rudimentary idea of exactly how I’m going to implement them, so right now, they’re pretty much placeholders. When I get to the post where I sort out the magic, I’ll talk more about them7.
- Ka Vision: This is how the Nephilim view the magical flow of elements and the other occult aspects of the world. I figure it works just like the Investigate skill, except for magical things instead of mundane things.
- Solar Ka: In Nephilim, Solar Ka is a measure of the power of humans. It mainly works as an obstacle that Nephilim have to deal with when trying to possess someone, or use magic on them, or something similar. So, I figure that there has to be some representation of it in the game, though I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to work, yet.
As mentioned back here, I’m dividing the past lives into four broad eras: Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Modern.
- Ancient is era 1 (Predynastic Egypt c. 5000 BCE) to era 10 (Rome, Italy c. 350 CE).
- Medieval is era 11 (Aachen, Germania c. 750 CE) to era 16 (Avignon, France c. 1378 CE).
- Renaissance is era 17 (Florence, Italy c. 1480 CE) to era 22 (The Scottish Rebellion c. 1745 CE).
- Modern is era 23 (Paris, France c. 1789 CE) to era 27 (Berlin, Germany c. 1933 CE).
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: these are simple benchmarks. A good argument from a player is all that’s required to switch a given incarnation period from Ancient to Medieval or vice versa. And, of course, the edge cases – periods that are right on the border of switching to a different era – could go either way.
The main point is that it allows me to not have to create new modes for each incarnation period. I can just create Ancient modes, and Medieval modes, etc. It also means that the modes are more generally useful if a player decides to create their own time period for incarnation: I can just look at which of the four eras it falls into.
And, of course, location is a big determining factor. Some areas may be in one era and some in another during the same time. For example, England in 1600 CE is Renaissance, but northern Canada8 probably counts as Ancient during the same year. So, yeah, benchmarks.
Types of Life
Each time period that’s written up in Nephilim or Chronicle of the Awakenings includes a list of who your simulacrum could be. Again, in order to make my life simpler, I’ve created five broad categories of mode for each era. So, if you decide that you were incarnated as a Paladin of Charlemagne, you’d take the Medieval Warrior mode for that incarnation. If you were a galley slave in a Greek trireme during the Trojan war, you’d take Ancient Farmer/Labourer.
I also think that deciding which category your character falls into based on your incarnation is a judgment call. Some9 will be pretty obvious, while others10 will require discussion to determine. That is, in my mind, a feature, not a bug; it lets the player and GM sort things out and flesh out some of the back story for the character, as the player answers questions or makes claims to justify their choice. All good stuff.
So, here are the categories:
- Ancient: Farmer/Labourer, Craftsman, Warrior, Priest, Ruler
- Medieval: Farmer/Labourer, Merchant/Craftsman, Warrior, Priest, Ruler
- Renaissance: Farmer/Labourer, Merchant/Artist, Soldier, Priest/Scholar, Ruler
- Modern: Farmer/Labourer, Businessman/Artist, Soldier, Priest/Scientist, Politician
And now we come to the meat. Here’s my preliminary list of skills for each of the modes. These are obviously subject to change as I keep working on the project. But it’s a start.
- Ancient Farmer/Labourer: Crafts, Drive, Empathy, Notice, Stealth Will. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Ancient Craftsman: Contacts, Crafts, Empathy, Lore, Notice, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Ancient Warrior: Fight, Ka Vision11, Notice, Provoke, Shoot, Stealth. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Ancient Priest: Deceive, Empathy, Lore, Rapport, Sorcery, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Ancient Ruler: Contacts, Empathy, Fight, Notice, Provoke, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Medieval Farmer/Labourer: Crafts, Drive, Empathy, Notice, Stealth, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision12.
- Medieval Merchant/Craftsman: Burglary, Contacts, Crafts, Empathy, Notice, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning13, Ka Vision.
- Medieval Warrior: Fight, Notice, Provoke, Shoot, Stealth, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Ka Vision.
- Medieval Priest: Empathy, Investigate, Lore, Rapport, Summoning14, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Ka Vision.
- Medieval Ruler: Contacts, Empathy, Fight, Ka Vision15, Provoke, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Ka Vision.
- Renaissance Farmer/Labourer: Contacts, Drive, Empathy, Notice, Stealth, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Renaissance Merchant/Artist: Burglary, Contacts, Crafts, Deceive, Notice, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
- Renaissance Soldier: Fight, Notice, Provoke, Shoot, Stealth, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Renaissance Priest/Scholar: Alchemy, Investigate, Lore, Notice, Rapport, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
- Renaissance Ruler: Contacts, Deceive, Empathy, Fight, Provoke, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
- Modern Farmer/Labourer: Burglary, Contacts, Drive, Empathy, Notice, Stealth. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Modern Businessman/Artist: Contacts, Crafts, Deceive, Empathy, Notice, Rapport. Magic: Sorcery, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
- Modern Soldier: Drive, Fight, Notice, Provoke, Shoot, Stealth. Magic: Sorcery, Ka Vision.
- Modern Priest/Scientist: Investigate, Empathy, Lore, Notice, Rapport, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
- Modern Politician: Contacts, Deceive, Empathy, Provoke, Rapport, Will. Magic: Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Ka Vision.
I’m thinking that I may need to allow characters to swap out one skill for another, based on the concept of their incarnation. For example, someone who incarnates as a police officer in 1900 CE may take the Modern Soldier mode, but want to swap out Stealth for Investigate. I think that would be okay, though I’m a little worried I’m making the modes a little too loose. I’m going to have to think about it, and reread the modes stuff in the Fate System Toolkit.
There are certain other skills that the Nephilim don’t get, because they’re based on the abilities of the simulacrum. These include Athletics and Physique, because they’re purely physical; Resources, because that’s purely social; and Solar Ka, because that’s purely human.
What that means is that I need to add a character creation step: creating the current simulacrum. In addition to those skills, I figure it would be good to give the simulacrum an aspect to identify it16. This could, in some cases, act almost like a second Trouble aspect, reflecting how the history, role, or submerged personality of the simulacrum makes things difficult.
And here‘s the work-in-progress manual, updated with the material from above.
- In fact, it was the seminal idea for this hack.
- Though the Science mode is different.
- Well, I still have to create a number of different modes, but not such an overwhelming number, I think.
- When I sat down to actually do this, I wound up giving each mode six skills. I may need to change that.
- Like the Nephilim system does.
- More mundane, more mortal, more human.
- Hopefully, I’ll have figured out something cool with them by that time.
- Well, it wouldn’t be Canada, yet, but you get the idea.
- Like the Paladin of Charlemagne.
- Like the galley slave – maybe that’s an Ancient Warrior?
- Why? Because stories of ancient warriors with preternatural senses are not uncommon. And I liked the idea.
- This list makes some magic skills unavailable, based on the mode. So, Medieval Farmer/Labourers don’t get access to Summoning. Not sure if this is a good idea, yet.
- So, there are canon dates when the more advanced magical skills (Summoning and Alchemy) are discovered. I’m roughing them in by period. When I get to the magic conversion, I may change that.
- Why? Because of the prevalence of saints and their almost-cults during the middle ages. Sure, that’s pretty Christian-centric, but there ya go.
- Why? Because it fits with medieval ideas of kingship for the ruler to be touched by the mystical world.
- Could wind up with a total of eight aspects, in that case, which is a lot.