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[Obscure Games] Nephilim

Nephilim (role-playing game)

Image via Wikipedia

So it was another day in the big city for me, and it must have been around 2000. The “big city” it was because it was the next town with Gaming Shops (in this case Bayreuth, where every summer people from all over the world gather to listen to Hitler’s favourite composer and/or show off that they can), and it must have been 2000 because that shop closed down when the Euro came. Not that this had anything to do with each other, but I remember the owner complaining that he had to change all the prices in the store to Euro, even though he only would be open for another month after the currency change.

Anyway, it was that store where I found this game. I hovered a bit between the German version and the English version, but then I took the English one, mostly as they threw in a few more books into the deal. That alone told me back than that the game might already be a lost cause. And it was, in a manner of speaking.

Technically the ‘obscure’ part in the title is rather debatable. Originally a French game with multiple editions, it was published by Chaosium in the Anglo-Saxon world. Going with all the clichees that one expects from the CoC-loving French (get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about Call of Cthulhu here) the game was based on Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing system.

I never found anyone who ever played this game for real. Myself I thought about using it as a source book for a Call of Cthulhu campaign, but that never materialized, mostly because my tries to play CoC never turned out so successful.

Maybe I should try to find the French version as a reference, but the English version at least was rather heavy handed, and I doubt that style was something not present in the original game.
It was another one of these games which had a high concept but lacked in execution and desirability to play.
It even tried to show this with it’s tagline: Occult Roleplaying.
According to the story presented in the preface the authors were discussing a new game when they were approached by a gentleman who had heard them talking. He talked to them about occult topics, and allowed them to use his library of the occult for further research into these areas.
In other words: this is the game BADD was afraid of when they were talking about Satanism in D&D: a game which actually researched it’s occultism and put in all the real stuff. This is what Jack Chick was warning us about.

So, how does it hold up?

Well, all in all it’s a half-hearted Call of Cthulhu pastiche. And not only because the authors had the great idea to base the rules of their game on BRP. That one was more a stroke of genius/outright luck. CoC has a completely different status in France than in the rest of the world, and most players are at least familiar with the system.
The whole setting is also so close that one might easily use parts of Nephilim for a crossover campaign with Call of Cthulhu. Basically there is only one difference between both games: in Nephilim you play what you would fight in CoC.

I wonder why nobody ever pointed that out, especially with the extra creepy descriptions in Nephilim itself. The Nephilim, to go a bit into the background, are ancient spirits which once had a body but now are disembodied spirits who have to take over human hosts to stay in this world. They take over the bodies of their hosts completely and will try to get out of their own lives as soon as possible to be able to use the body in whatever way they need,  slowly transforming the body of their host into a form that matches their own spirit.

Does that sound creepy to you? It does to me.

What you are playing in this game is basically a psychic rapist, a changeling, a body-snatcher, taking the body of someone else and replacing the original conscious with something else. And that character has been doing that for a long time before.
There is a very interesting character generation system where one has to choose which previous lives one has lived. This is easily one of the coolest things about this game, one can choose multiple past lives and gain background and skills from that, of course against a price (I think it was essence power).

When incarnated into the new body there is an interesting system of different tribes and groups that can keep one interested in an intrigue game similar to the one in all the WoD games, there even are similar evil spirits (more evil than mindraping body-snatchers? Really?) just as in every single WoD game. And there is interesting informations on a magic system that is based on occult teachings (which amount to fancy descriptions for spells that do nothing in particular), there is indepth reearch into different areas of occultism (which of course was inspired either by the Nephilim or their antagonists), and there are lots of interesting conspiracies and mysteries to uncover (which at least in the English version seem to happen only within the United States).

And all the time while I’m reading this thing I have to think to myself: Jesus, this is a game about constant mindrape. Not only that, but there are mechanics in the game that cover how the soul of the host body actually reacts to the intrusion by the Nephilim.Which also keeps in line with the backgrounds of pretty much all the WoD games. Only that this one was more overt than anything Vampire ever signified about rape.

I never got up the will to use this game for real, mostly because I never could get the will up to play. It would make an awesome source for a really huge CoC campaign though. And not only that, it even would have the right stats, well, besides the sanity at least. This is a annoyingly well written game actually. I just wish it was less… rapey.

At least it’s not FATAL.

One response to “[Obscure Games] Nephilim

  1. Pingback: Cthulhu by Frostbite – pt.1 « Casting Shadows

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