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Join date : 2010-08-10

PostSubject: Nephandi...beware!   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:38 pm

Children of a Spiteful God
A look at Nephandi as antagonists in the World of Darkness and ideas for using them in a Chronicle

What do we know about the Nephandi? Well, we know the term Nephandus (pl. Nephandi) is a catchall phrase used by Tradition, Convention and Marauder Magi to describe any being who pursues the corruption and destruction of the universe for its own sake. Magi who choose this destiny for themselves as well as the universe and turn their backs on the light are known as Barabbi.
We know Nephandi follow a moral road of absolutes known as the Path of Darkness and Corruption. Like living black holes, Nephandi seek to absorb and assimilate all forms of light and radiance... leaving only darkness in their wake.
We know that the Nephandi are referred too as the Fallen Ones, which brings to mind visuals of the Rebellion in Heaven and Lucifer's expulsion from paradise.
We know that the Nephandi have demonic ties of some form or another, but whether the demons that Nephandi are in commerce with are from our universal interpretation of Hell or eldrich remnants from a Hell of a long dead pantheon of gods remains a mystery. We know that one of the active agendas of any Nephandi is to assist the Dark Lords in their return to Earth. What perversity waits should they succeed is unfathomable to anyone not in their fold.
We know that Mage: The Ascension 2nd Edition (ISBN 1-56504-400-2) states plainly that the Nephandi are servants of the Wyrm - the universal entity most commonly referred to in Werewolf: The Apocalypse cosmology as the embodiment of Entropy and destruction.
We know that not all Nephandi are Magi who chose to walk the dark Paths; some are simply BORN wicked for any number of reasons. These Nephandi, called Widderslainte, actually possess corrupted Avatars at birth and therefore, are truly born evil without a choice. We can only hope for the sake of our characters, however, that this particular breed of Nephandi is few and far between in the World of Darkness.
It is, however, what we DO NOT know about the Nephandi and whom they serve that tends to illicit anxiety and a sense of unknown, arcane horror in the players of our Mage: The Ascension Chronicles.
For as long as human beings have tapped into the forces at work in the universe in an effort to alter their respective realities to better suit them and their sleeper compatriots, many have attempted to amass sheer power and ability through more speedy methods. If it's true that every object, physical or spiritual castes a shadow, then the potential exists for ANY Mage to stray down the path of damnation and cruelty. For every Mage that takes a stand in the Ascension War, another turns her back on goodness and light and strives to uncover the mysteries hidden in darkness and decay. The road of the Nephandus is far from easy, however. When the boons of servitude to the Dark Lords have run their course and the Nephandus passes from this existence to the next, there is nothing but oblivion. It is believed that the Dark Lords consume the souls of those who serve them as well as those who are betrayed to them in an effort to remain sentient and active in the Void.
Why add Nephandi to a Chronicle? Well, for one reason, the Ascension War can get tedious after a while. Sometimes it's a relief to face an enemy whose agenda is more easily classified as "evil for evil's sake." Keep in mind, however that although the majority of the Fallen Ones do not apologize for their personal philosophies or their practices of corruption, they also don't advertise their alignments with alien deities. Nephandi are the true public enemy number one in the Mage: The Ascension setting. There are no redeeming qualities to them and they are far, far past any hope of reconciliation. They have long since succumbed to the darkness inside themselves and are, therefore, quite unreachable despite the best efforts of outsiders. In fact, many Nephandi USE faux redemption seekings as weapons against unsuspecting Magi whom they seek to corrupt.
Nephandi are also fairly fluid in that they fit in nicely as antagonists to any of the Storyteller systems with little or no effort. The World of Darkness is just that - a world where there are no blacks or whites, only more intense and varying shades of gray. Nephandi are at the deep shaded end of that spectrum. Regardless of the Chronicle, Nephandic presence can add horror, introspection and intrigue into a story. Irreconcilably profane in both practice and purpose, there is no hope for the Fallen Ones. They have no overt sense of self-preservation to speak of, as they serve only oblivion, destruction and corruption. They don't apologize for what they are or attempt to seem authentically sympathetic. They ENJOY what they do, how they do it and whom they do it for. The Nephandi serve a purpose that no sane human being can readily understand - even Marauders, the servants of Chaos, insanity and universal anarchy, attack Nephandi when encountered and identified with extreme prejudice. No one is safe from Nephandic manipulations. Anyone is fair game because THEIR war will not be won until there is no one - or no thing - left to celebrate the victory.
I've found through my own experience that there are two really difficult aspects to Storytelling a role playing game: Making people think IN CHARACTER and then making them feel the emotions that you want them to feel. Nephandi allow for both when introduced properly and effectively into a story. There are very few people I know that can describe the practical nature of evil without USING the word "evil" while doing so. It's quite simple, really: Nephandi. Inspiring horror into your players can be done via several different vehicles, but for the most part it takes practice and the right motivation. Nephandi are a great start down this path of storytelling.
So who are the Dark Lords that the Nephandi serve with such dark adoration? Not even the Nephandic Horde knows for certain. There are several theories among various Barabbi and their Tradition/Convention contemporaries concerning the natures and identities of the Dark Lords, but for generalization and ease of categorization, most Nephandi fall into one of the three following categories:
* Infernalists - Infernalist Nephandi make up the greatest number of the Fallen Ones. These Magi have struck bargains and alliances with manifestations of negative thought and evil emotion, otherwise known to sleeper society as Demons. Many of these manifestations claim that THEY are the Dark Lords who poured the foundation of the universe and reality and exist only for the benefit of goodness, which COULD NOT exist without their presence and involvement in the affairs of the universe. Demon Lords, their abilities and the powers they are capable of granting those who swear fealty loyalty to them are detailed in The Book of Madness (ISBN 1-56504-137-2) and Infernalism: The Path of Screams (ISBN 1-56504-495-9).
* Malfeans - Malfeans are Nephandi who claim an affinity with the Sphere of Entropy and claim servitude to the Wyrm - the universal force of balance between Order and Chaos which has become, due to its entrapment in the Weaver's Pattern Web, insane. Many of these Magi draw their power from beings known as Maeljin Incarna. Maeljin Incarna are detailed fully in the Werewolf: The Apocalypse 2nd Edition resource Book of the Wyrm 2nd Edition (ISBN 1-56504-356-1). Some say the lines of distinction between a Malfean Nephandus and a fanatic Euthanatos blur where tactics and philosophy are concerned, however where the Euthanatoi wish for something new to rise form the ashes like a phoenix... the Nephandi want nothing but soot and cinder. Period.
* Outsiders - If the two previous factions of Fallen Ones act as a sort of dark reflection of the Traditions and Technocracy (respectively), then the Outsiders are, for all intents and purposes, the black mirror of the Marauders. Not even Outsiders agree with one another as to who they follow or serve, although they do agree that those who they call Outer Lords exist in the deepest, blackest portions of the Deep Umbra on the fringes of the Tapestry. These beings are regarded as insane by even Nephandic standards and are capable of atrocity that would make the average Black Spiral Dancer uncomfortable in their presence.
Here are a few story seeds to get you started:
* The Judas Factor - Bring the Magi characters together at the summons of a fairly well known Oracle of the Hollow Ones. Have the Oracle petition the Magi for the formation of a new Chantry under his/her direction. Make sure that throughout the story the Oracle bails the characters out of every possible sticky situation that the characters can't seem to get out of themselves by their own wits and means. Towards the end of the second or third story played with the fledgling Chantry, reveal to one or two (but not all) members of the Chantry that the Oracle is Nephandi. Let the Chantry attempt to either prove the Oracle has Fallen or clear his/her name - in the end, the worst enemy is the one who comes from within and knows your abilities as well as you know yourself. Have the Oracle continue to aide the Magi, but let that doubt ALWAYS linger in their minds; "IS the Oracle Barabbi?" If not, then you're a much nicer ST than I am. If so... then the Chantry will eventually have to make a stand against the Nephandus Aswad, lest they themselves be led into a Caul.
* The Black Lodge - This is good for a Mage: The Ascension or a Werewolf: The Apocalypse Chronicle: Have the players catch a lead from a wounded and dying Corax or private investigator contact that the recent disappearances from the nearby city can be attributed to a Black Spiral Dancer Hive that has formed in a water treatment facility or in an abandoned turpentine plant. Have the characters attempt an investigation into the death rattle of the Corax. When the characters arrive at the "Hive," they find it not inhabited by Black Spiral Dancers, but by Outsider Nephandi who are taking captives for use as sacrificial offerings in rituals that open gateways to the Deep Umbra.
* Demon's Blood - For a Vampire: The Masquerade, Mage: The Ascension, or Werewolf: The Apocalypse Chronicle, try introducing the characters to a Tremere Coven of Noddists who do nothing but hunt, kill and feed on Nephandi and their servants. The efforts of the Tremere would not be to rid the world of the foulness of the Nephandi and their masters; rather it would be to gauge the strength of the Nephandi and run Thaumaturgical experiments on their blood in an effort to recreate the children of the most famous Nephandus - Baal. It should be revealed through actions on the part of the vampires that all the Tremere in the coven follow the Path of Evil Revelations to add some extra nastiness to an already frightening story.
* Anthelios - The Red Star visible from the Umbra since the beginning of the Year of the Reckoning has set the Void Engineers on DEFCON 4. Have your players create characters who will be sent into Deep Space to respond to a Void Engine's distress beacon in the wake of the disappearances of SEVERAL Void Engineer Rapid Response Teams in the areas charted around Anthelios. Perhaps the Void Engineers, upon the arrival of the players, no longre WISH to be rescued... and want the players to join them in whatever investigation or experimentation that the corrupted Technocrats are conducting on the supernatural body of Anthelios.
Suggested Media
The following are just a few ideas on popular (as well as obscure) media to guide you towards the feel and inspiration for running Nephandi into your Chronicle:
The Black Art by Rollo Ahmed - An authoritative account of witchcraft which draws on the suppressed knowledge of many cultures. From Egyptian rites, Jewish Necromancy and medieval alchemy to modern Black Magic practices.
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales, and Best of H.P. Lovecraft : Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H. P. Lovecraft - Not enough credit can be given towards H. P. Lovecraft, his written works in the horror/dark science fiction genre or his affect on the Nephandi in Mage: The Ascension. If it's a Lovecraft book... get it. It can't hurt you.
The Satan Seller by Michael Warnke - An insider's account of ritualistic Satanism. Includes mention of the Illuminati here and there. Interesting read to get the feel of possible Ahriman activity.
The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey - The notorious bible of the Church of Satan. The philosophies are far from original and smack more of Humanism than anything overtly sinister, but it can be an interesting read for anyone who needs to research the ins and outs of human indulgence and selfishness.
The Stand by Stephen King - One of the most impressive and critically acclaimed "good vs. evil" novels ever written by one of the true masters of modern fiction. Flagg - the story's arch-villain - serves as an EXCELLENT template for a Nephandus.
Warlock - I'd stick with the first one alone. Go into it not expecting a whole lot, and you'll walk away from a charming, although amateurish horror flick. Stars Julian Sands as what COULD be interpreted as either an Order of Hermes or Verbena Barabbi.
The Final Conflict: Omen III - Made in the late 70's or early 80's, this is the third part of the Omen Trilogy, which is essentially the story of the Antichrist's life on Earth. It can also give one several ideas concerning Widderslainte.
Event Horizon - A lot of people panned this movie for being "Hellraiser in space." I disagree. Event Horizon is an interesting look at the theory of dimensional science and black holes... until the Void Engineer crew of the USS Louis & Clark lose one of their own to the Dark Lords.
The Neverending Story - Great for inspiration and ideas on how to bring Nephandi and the Oblivion/Destruction that they serve into a Changeling: The Dreaming setting.
Qlippothic Magick by Anders Sandberg:
Original/Optional Sphere interperetations for Nephandi

The Nephandi and Their Lords by Anders Sandberg:
A List of Online Nephandi Resources
Christian Death - Easily one of the most underrated bands of the 80's and early 90's, Rozz Williams' incarnation of Christian Death stands head and shoulders above its peers in the Gothic Genre of Modern/Alternative rock music. Catastrophe Ballet, Rage of Angels and Path of Sorrows are excellent background sound for a Mage: The Ascension Chronicle involving Nephandic elements
Skinny Puppy - One of the pioneer bands of the Industrial genre, the Canadian trio known as Skinny Puppy personified chaos and destruction - physical, emotional and spiritual - through the medium of sound and surrealism for thirteen years before disbanding. The CDs Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate, VIVIsectVI and Last Rites are extremely effective for adding a nightmarish element to a World of Darkness Chronicle.
SWANS - From nihilistic beauty to overwhelmingly depraved brutality, SWANS are dark bards who have made an art form out of lyrical discomfort. World of Skin, Love of Life and The Great Annihilator are exceptional offerings from this band for any World of Darkness game.
Hope this has helped and I hope you can find some use for the information above in your Mage: The Ascension or other World of Darkness Chronicles.
Don't forget to say your prayers before bed tonight. You never know who, or what, might be listening. Oh! And don't forget on your way out to download Shadowmancer's Nephandi Character Sheet in Adobe Arcrobat (.pdf) format!
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