Promethean: The Created

PtC By Aaron Bolyard

No, not Pirates of the Caribbean. Banish all thoughts of Johnny Depp. Instead, embrace thoughts of Robert de Niro dressed as Dr. Frankenstein's bastard creation. On second thought, no, don't embrace that thought. Instead, embrace the character that he is meant to portray, a tortured monster hated by all who saw him, given life by one man's unholy obsession. This is the foundation of Promethean: The Created, the more recent of the New World of Darkness line of role-playing games from White Wolf.

When I first heard about Promethean, most of my time was spent wondering how it was going to be done. White Wolf had adopted the X/Y axis model for all of its games, which meant five "races" and five "classes", and I wasn't sure how a game about Frankenstein monsters was going to be split in this manner. Needless to say, I was surprised when I cracked open my copy of Promethean after buying it on the first day of GenCon, I actually skipped by all other booths to go straight to White Wolf's. Purchases in hand, I returned to my hotel room and immediately cracked open Promethean and started to read. Admittedly, I skipped a lot of the flavor text and went straight for the crunch, which I think is most people's first move when they pick up a new RPG. So imagine my surprise when some of the other "races" besides Frankenstein, were based on stories I was also familiar. "The Galateid", based on the Greek myth of Galatea. "The Osirians" based on Osiris of Egyptian mythology. "The Tammuz" based partly on the Jewish Golem and partly on Babylonian mythology. Then there's the story of "The Ulgan", based on Siberian mythology (I was unfortunately unfamiliar with this one), and of course there were "The Frankensteins", a myth I think everyone is familiar with in some form.

The "Y" axis for Promethean is where I think that White Wolf really broke the mold. Rather than having organizations like Werewolf, Vampire, and Mage had done, Promethean's "Y" axis was more about individual ideals, and there was no true Promethean organization. The "Y" axis is called Refinements and, on a cursory reading, it seemed that Refinements were the way that Prometheans went about becoming human. Also, a Promethean could change these Refinements any number of times on his journey, called the Pilgrimage. This was the part in my reading where I had to pause. Prometheans could become human? This really was a unique game if that was the case.

Rarely in White Wolf's games is any kind of redemption truly possible. The only true example I can think of is Wraith: The Oblivion, a personal favorite game of this writer. Unfortunately for White Wolf, Wraith was a pit they were tossing money down and the game line was ended long before the old World of Darkness. But Promethean seems to have risen from the ashes of Wraith, rekindling my hope that RPGs don't always need to be about fat stats and wonky powers.

When I finally finished Promethean cover to cover, I knew it was a game I wanted to run. It's a game where the characters were so otherworldly that they were even cut off from other Prometheans. Nature and humanity rejected them because they were an affront to both; to put it frankly, Prometheans are not supposed to exist. Yet, becoming part of Nature, part of humanity, is what almost all Prometheans crave. They crave acceptance and unfortunately, due to the drawbacks of being "created", this rarely ends well for any parties. Their mere presence instills fear and hatred in humanity, and their essence pollutes the land if they stay in one place too long. Even their own bodies' work against them, Prometheans can fly into a rage called Torment if certain factors arise (i.e. being rejected by humanity, being attacked, etc.).

When I first read their drawbacks, I thought "Wow, its sure shitty to be a Promethean". I thought more about that as I was getting ready to run my own chronicle of Promethean, and a question rose into my mind. What price would you pay to be human? Perhaps to put it into perspective, what price would you pay to live in America if you were stuck in some third world hellhole? The first question I think of is the one Promethean asks any who plays or runs it; when does the cost become too high to become mortal?

I think Promethean is the first White Wolf game since Wraith to be about more than wonky powers, irritating politics or "phat stats". It is about true character development on a scale I don't think most players consider when they sit down to chuck some dice. So do I think that Promethean is the best of the new World of Darkness games to be released so far? You bet your ass I do. White Wolf took a chance and made a game where it is, more often than not, shitty to be a supernatural creature, but at the same time so very satisfying. I don't know if White Wolf will continue on this trend of "It's not cool to not be human", but I certainly hope they do.

For now, this is one of the converted saying that gaming doesn't have to be about that new cool power you're going to get, or even the next +5 vorpal sword. Gaming should be an outlet for stories and ideas that will never make it onto paper, except on a character sheet. The story told won't be remembered for the 1,000 xp you've accumulated; it will be remembered for the Pilgrimage you've made and the humanity that was yours for the taking. Want to buy? Clicky the picky. Promethean - The Created