I. You have only one stat.
This is Ka. Its the only number on your character sheet. All contested challenges are based on your Ka.
II. What else is important about you?
A. Your Dominant Ka Element.
B. Your Metamorphosis, chosen from the profiles in the Nephilim rulebook.
C. Your skills. You will have 2 useful skills from each past life you have lived. These skills will allow you to make uncontested challenges with the GM--for instance, your Numerology skill allows you to ask the GM, what is the mystical significance of the number 7? Skills also allow you to modify Ka challenges against other players, when applicable.
D. Your Arcanum Tribe. All characters in Nephilim Lives must choose a major arcanum; it gives us GMs something to work with. The following keys are NOT available to players as arcanum choices: 0 (Fool) 12 (Hanged Man) 13 (Unnamed) 15 (Devil) 17 (Moon) and 21 (World.) It behooves all players to be familiar with all arcanum tribes including the forbidden ones, as many Nephilim plots revolve around the Arcanum and tribal politics.
E. Your spells. For simplicity, all characters will have spells in one discipline only, for their dominant element only. You will be given 2 spells per past life.
F. Your past life eras. In Nephilim Lives, your past lives are only important for the skills and spells they give you. They are not fleshed out.
G. Your Stasis object. You may have a prop which represents your stasis, if it is important to the plot. It must be small and concealable for practical reasons.
F. Ka stones. Each player will be given glass stones of a single color, in a small bag. The number of stones is equal to that characters Ka. No two players may have the same color. No player may bring stones to the game; the GM distributes them at the beginning and collects them again at the conclusion of the scenario.
III. How do challenges work?
A. Uncontested challenges occur when a player has a skill which they feel is applicable to a situation at hand. The player seeks the GM and tells him/her what they wish to know. I have skill in Archetecture; which walls in this building are load-bearing? The player must determine the questions to ask; the GM will answer any questions relating to their skill as if they had made a successful percentage roll of the dice in regular Nephlim. To offset the ease with which players may use their skills, players are expected to come up with the right questions to ask--GMs will not prompt the players to use their skills. It is the GMs responsibility to come up with scenarios that are accomplishable based on the skills of the characters involved.
B. Contested challenges occur when the players wish to do one of the following things:
1) Use magical abilities
2) Challenge other Nephilim in some way.
Using Magical abilities must be done in the presence of a GM. Since magic usually requires preparation, seeking out a GM is not an unreasonable delay in the action. The player gives his Ka bag to the GM, and the GM adds neutral stones to the bag; the number of stones is determined by the difficulty of the magical act. Viewing things in Ka vision, for example, would be a low risk activity, and only a few neutral stones would be added. Casting a powerful summoning spell would require many neutral stones. The player would then draw a ka stone from the bag; if it is a neutral color, his attempt fails and the GM describes the result. If it is his own color of stone, he has succeeded in his effort and the GM describes the result.
Example: Ed the Elf wants to cast Drill of Pluto on himself in order to break into the Glockenshpeil museum. His Ka is 12. Drill of Pluto is a Higher Magic Sorcery Spell with a Threshold of 20%. The GM decides that she will add 6 stones to the bag to reflect a relatively easy challenge. Since Drill of Pluto is an Earth spell, the GM also notes that it is Friday, an unfavorable day for the Earth field, and adds two more stones. Ed is now pulling from a bag containing 12 of his own green ka stones, and 8 neutral ones. Ed pulls out a green stone--success! Ed proceeds to pound the hell out of the back door to the Glockenshpeil.
Challenging other Nephilim in some way occurs when a player wishes to do something with or to another player without that players consent. The player presents the challenge to his opponant, and both combine their ka stones in the defending players bag. For every applicable skill he posesses, a player may remove 2 of his opponants stones from the bag before drawing. The defender always makes the draw. The color of the drawn stone determines the winner of the challenge. The loser must then play out the result of losing the challenge. A GMs presence is not necessary.
Example: Danny the Djinn decides that he is going to attack Phil the Phoenix by hitting him on the head with a rock. He wants to render Phil unconcious so he can go through his pockets. Danny must get Phil to a secluded location, and then make his challenge. Dannys Ka is 16, Phils is 14. Phil has unarmed combat skill, from his past life in the French Revolution, so Danny only puts 14 of his red Ka stones in Phils bag. Its a 50-50 chance to succeed--not great odds, but Nephilim are powerful people, not to be trifled with. The stone pulled from the bag is red--Danny wins! Phil must show his equipment list to Danny, allowing Danny to take what he likes, and must sit idle for 5 minutes while Danny hightails it away.
C. Assisted challenges. In the above example, it is easy to see how difficult it can be to take on your fellow Nephilim. Alliances are a big part of this game, and contested challenges may be easier if you have an ally on your side. Allies must be physically present when a challenge is made. An ally may add stones equal to half their ka to the challenge either for or against the defender. The defender still draws the stone. If the ally wins the draw, the ally may chose which opponant wins. Note that this means the ally may state their intention to help the attacker, and then betray the attacker by awarding the win to the defender after the draw!
Sandy the Satyr and Una the Undine decide that they have had enough of Dannys violent ways. They decide to drug Dannys coffee, then tie him to a tree and question him about his encounter with the Templars from Paramus. Working together, Una makes the challenge and Sandy is her ally. Dannys Ka is 16, Unas is 12. But Sandys is 14, so she adds 7 of her stones to the challenge. One of Sandys stones is drawn--but Sandys player decides at the last moment that Dannys roguish good looks appeal to her Satyr nature! She declares that she switched cups of coffee while Una wasnt looking. Now Una is the one tied to the tree (figuratively, of course) and must stay there until someone releases her, or until she frees herself after 5 minutes have passed. Danny and Sandy run off for a quick bout of debauchery. Too bad for Una--should have picked a more reliable ally!
IV. Using Magic
In the Nephilim game, magic use is limited based on ones Chawe, much like Magic Points in other Chaosium games. To simplify things for Nephilim Lives, the draining effects of using magic are reflected by a time limit--you may not use magic more than once in a half hour of real time. The GM will keep track. If an attempt to use magic fails, the player may choose to try once or twice more immediately; if they do not succeed in three tries, they have used up all their chawe for the rest of the game and may no longer attempt magical activities! Obviously, this is a bad thing for a Nephilim; it is often better to wait a half hour before trying a spell again unless the situation is dire.
V. Damage. Combat is not intended to be a major part of Nephilim Lives. However, players being what they are, combat is bound to occur. There are also magical events which may damage Nephilim. For ease of play, all damage taken has the same result--5 real time minutes of inaction. This may symbolically represent more time, at the gamemasters discretion.
Example: Sol the Satyr wants to get Ted the Triton out of action while he casts a summoning spell, as he knows Ted will try to stop him. Sol wins a physical challenge against Ted and knocks him out. Sol then seeks the gamemaster and prepares to cast his spell. Ted comes panting up, having waited his five minutes; the GM rules however that Teds unconcious state would have lasted a half hour of fictional time--long enough for Sol to prepare and cast his spell. Teds player does not have the frustration of sitting on his ass for a half hour of real time, but is still unable to prevent the summoning, and Sol commands Those Who Creep and Nibble to eat Teds car.
The one exception to the damage rule is Orichalka. Weapons of Orichalka can severely injure or kill Nephilim. Fortunately these items are rare; unfortunately they make good plot devices. If a player should somehow be wounded by an Orichalka weapon during play, that Nephilim is destroyed for game purposes. In a campaign, the character might be salvaged. But for the purpose of the session during which the attack occurs, the Nephilim is killed. Dont let it happen to you.
VI. The Gamemaster.
The GMs role in Nephilim Lives is to set forth a puzzle for the players to solve, with or without one anothers help. The system is designed so that the players may function independently of the GM for 75% of the game if they so desire. The clues to the mystery for the players are encorporated into the environment of the game; in this way, Nephilim Lives resembles a scavenger hunt. The players will assemble information, pool their resources if they so desire, and ask questions of each other and the GM in hopes of solving the mystery before time expires. The GM is responsible for staying accessible to the players. A scenario taking place in a house might allow the GM to hang out at the kitchen table, available to the players without looming over them. A scenario at a park might require her to wear a big hat, and to be at the barbeque pit every half hour so that players may be certain of finding her if needed. It is unreasonable to expect the GM to stay in one place for the entire game, as part of the fun for the GM is hearing the players discover and argue over her carefully laid clues. If a large number of players are sticking together, the GM may wander with them; if a player has private questions to ask, the GM may go for a walk with them to discuss it. Patience may at times be called for, when a player wishes to take an action and the GM is busy with someone else. No player will ever be penalized for their inability to get hold of the GM; if time is of the essence, the GM will modify challenges or situations to make things as fair as possible. In a large game, more than one GM may be called for.
Nephilim is a game of secrecy. The essence of Nephilim Lives is that it may be played in such a way that hundreds of people may see you playing and have no idea a game is taking place. The only weird activity involved in playing is the drawing of Ka stones, which is easily explained to curious passersby as a fortune telling game or something of that nature. The players may wish to take notes on inscriptions or mysterious portents they see during the game, but a small notebook and a pencil is hardly obtrusive. So interaction with non-players will likely be minimal. Just remember to be polite and pleasant, and keep in mind that its just a game, and not worth pissing off strangers by standing on their picnic tables and yelling about earth plexi. An out Nephilim is a dead Nephilim; you never know when a mundane might be a member of the Templars with an Orichalka knife up his sleeve. So best to play it safe, quiet, and subtle.