One-Shot Report: Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost

Last Sunday, I lied to my players. I lied to them quite a lot.

We played a One-Shot session with a pre-alpha version of my own homebrew RPG system.

I lied to them about several fundamental truths regarding the scenario.

Here´s my original proposal in short form:

  1. A one-shot session, not a campaign (only partially true)
  2. Post-post apocalyptic setting (Lie)
  3. Low technology level, no science fiction (Lie)
  4. No magic-users (Lie)
  5. The game takes place on Earth (Lie) in the year 2184 (lie!)

Here´s a brief rundown of what happened, as well as a big marker for when any of the lies were revealed. Also, music, click to relax:

The setting

The year is 2184, mankind has barely survived several global wars which nuclear and chemical bombardments leveled, polluted or otherwise ruined most of the major cities and poisoned the waters for years to come.

All major networks are lost, including the satellite networks and the power grid. Traffic networks are also mostly useless, as the major cities are toxic wastelands. You can have all the roads you want, but there is no use for them if everywhere they lead is ruination.

Pockets of humanity have retreated to sparsely populated areas that are not as badly ravaged by the fallout as others.

Most animal life, especially birds and fish are wiped from the face of the earth.

The events started in a place called Settlement 16, part of a chain of settlements centered around “The Citadel”.

These settlements rely upon each other (for basic production of food and clothing) and especially on the Citadel, because it is the only source of clean water and energy.

Life is simple and uneventful, the only interesting thing happening is that about once a year, the brightest and smartest are asked to join the citadel for the Ascension programme, an initiative to push forward the restoration efforts (rediscover old technology, drive development of new technology, erect settlements in other parts of the world, etc.).

The players took the roles of 5 pre-built characters, ordinary human beings and inhabitants of settlement 16:

  • Ronald, the farmer
  • Olga, the teacher
  • Claus, the smart kid (son of the farmer and teacher)
  • Odo, the village constable
  • Rois, the village ranger
Scanned character sheet of "Olga", the teacher
Scanned character sheet of “Olga”

This is an account of the events, as clear as I can tell them, Act 2 was highly chaotic, with a 4-way party split. I think we managed it decently, but it makes it a bit hard to tell a coherent narrative.

The most important lies and GM notes are marked in the text, I will get back to them, and why you shouldn´t do that, afterwards.

Feel free to skip ahead, as the plot is very confusing to read if you weren´t there. 🙂

Act 1: Racket at the barn

The first scene sees the arrival of Citadel representative Ashur Kodama at the family´s house. His intent is obvious, Claus has been selected for induction into the Ascension programme.

Over dinner, a lively discussion takes place, with Ronald, the father arguing against this, Olga, the mother being cautious and the son himself being curious (Even if it is for the wrong reasons, his first question is if there would be girls at the Citadel)

Scene 2 takes place at the edge of the forest, where the ranger Rois patrols and discovers a group of wild bears rushing towards the village, obviously agitated by something.

She takes up pursuit, and as she leaves the forest, sees strange lights in northern sky (This is actually a space battle taking place in the planet´s orbit.)

The bears crash into the barn of the family´s farm. Rois whistles an alarm to warn the inhabitants of the house and village.

In the meantime, Odo, one of the settlement´s constables is visited by Morgan Leland, the Citadel´s chief of security.

They briefly reminisce about old times and their weapons of office, but are soon cut short by a loud noise coming from the outermost farmhouse.

Morgan signals the hovercraft and they both break into a run for the farm.

The family is also disturbed by the racket the bears are making outside on the barn and begin filtering out of the house to see what is going on.

The bears appear to be quite disoriented, breaking down one of the barn´s wooden walls, the one nearest to the farmhouse.

Olga seizes the opportunity and throws an oil lamp at them as they break through.

Three of them, as well as the wooden wall are covered with burning oil.

A brief melee occurs, in which the bears, by now panicking, are held at bay with makeshift torches, still, one of them manages to seriously injure Ronald with a swipe of it´s claw across his chest, before being eviscerated by Rois´hunting knife.

Odo and Morgan arrive a little later and lay into the animals with taser pistol and pulse rifle.

The fight is swiftly ended when the hovercraft with the rest of the Citadel security personnel arrives, taking down the last of the beasts with their pulse rifles.

However, unbeknownst to them, representative Kodama was inside the barn, and gets mowed down as well. A shot pierces his lung and he falls unconscious.

Frantic activity ensues, the fire is brought under control and the decision is made to bring Kodama and the wounded Ronald to the citadel.

Act 2: Arrival at the citadel

As our protagonists arrive at the citadel, a steel and concrete edifice dominated by two central towers, they rush to the infirmary to take care of the wounded… with the exception of Claus, who sneaks off towards a different corridor.

He slips into an elevator, riding it all the way to the top of the structure.

He surveys the area, crosses a bridge to the second tower and rides another elevator back down, to the second story platform which appears to harbor the dam for the hydroelectric power plant as well as a runway and two small aircraft.

This is what he saw from the top of the tower:

Map of citadel
Handdrawn map of citadel

He also notices three meteor-like objects falling towards the citadel, from the direction of the strange lights in the sky.

In the infirmary, Ronald is stitched up, while Morgan get the news that the orbital platforms are under attack.

Morgan, Odo and Rois venture towards the basement, acting upon a contingency plan that Morgan was given “for emergencies”.

Olga and Ronald venture out as well, separately, sneaking away from the remaining guards, who seem to be concerned with other things (an attack, apparently) than guarding civilians.

Olga finds some classrooms with computer terminals and manages to get a map of the area as well as the information that, yes, there is research regarding space travel, but she is not authorized to view it.

Still, it confirms her suspicions that there is more to this than they were told.

(Part of the second lie is revealed. What I didnt´t reveal yet: Mankind has become a space-faring race, with colonies spread throughout multiple solar system.)

In the basement, Odo and Rois follow Morgan past the water purification plant and all kinds of machinery and computer banks. They arrive at a kind of library / museum, where Morgan instructs them to help carry an astrolabe, which can apparently help save Kodama in some fashion.

While Rois helps, Odo takes a look at some of the antiquities: An ancient sword, and a papyrus scroll, which are displayed very prominently, as if for an exhibition of some kind.

As she observes the scroll, she is befallen by a mental attack of some kind (Nephilim possession, Odo is in the process of becoming a simulacrum to Muchbirin). This is what I gave to the player:

Player handout: Possession by Muchbirin
Player handout: Possession by Muchbirin

Rois, as she touches the astrolabe, is victim to a similar fate. (Player rolls FIVE setbacks, which is an abysmal result. Her mental resistance is immediately overcome, she succumbs to the will of Agmos a Nephilim of the High Priestess Arcanum. At this point, I briefly take both of the possessed players to a separate room to explain. Rois´player agrees to play Agmos, one of the story villains.).

On the upper floors, after a bit of confusion, the rest of the group meet up.

A massive impact shakes the entire facility.

As Rois, Odo and Morgan run past an entrance, they see what has happened. A pod-like missile has crashed into the main courtyard, and a heavily armored figure is embattled with the security forces outside.

Morgan Leland rushes outside to aid her troops in organizing a defence.

Rois/Agmos is able to instantly and completely heal Kodama´s wounds (Lie #3, there is no magic, oops), and they decide that it would be prudent to get to the command center in the upper levels of the tower, to ascertain the situation.

At the urging of Claus, he and his mother Olga split from the group in order to go to the repair bay, where Claus hopes to use his knowledge (a secret I have assigned to the character before the game) to overcharge the pulse rifles, in order to overpower the unknown assailants.

This plan goes awry, when he finds out that the power packs are already overcharged. (The implication here was that the power packs given to the settlement were intentionally throttled to keep a tighter control on the villagers by severely limiting their access to electricity. I am unsure if I communicated this well enough.)

Act 3: Finale

Meanwhile, Olga and Claus are noticed by one of the armored attackers, who begins stomping towards them. They manage to beat him to the elevator, but it arrives to slowly and the massive figure with blood red eyes confronts them.

Fortunately, he is not there to kill them, on the contrary, he is surprised to find civilians within the facility, which forces him to change his plans: They must be brought out of the war zone.

During a short elevator ride, he assures them that he and his allies are here to liberate the humans, and that they have been lied to.

(Here, in my head, several scenes run together, so my account might not be entirely accurate. At some point, the PCs learn that he is the Nephilim Eresh Szat and that the citadel as well as the entire colony is an elaborate setup to create strong human simulacra for the Nephilim operating the facility. The next two lies are uncovered: We are not playing a post-apocalyptic setting at all, and this is in the same universe as the previous campaign (Eresh Szat was an anchor point for the group there.))

At this point, the main elevator of the tower becomes quite the choke point, with various characters riding it up and down. The situation comes to a head when the three hostile Nephilim, Agmos, Muchbirin and Kodama run into the rest of the group at the main elevator.

A brief firefight occurs, which Kodama evades by turning into a cloud of smoke.

Rois/Agmos is incapacitated, but Odo/Muchbirin gets away in one of the small spacecraft. She is still battling the Nephilim inside her mind, and the craft hurtles into the night sky.

The group gathers into the remaining flyer and takes off towards Eresh Szat´s ship, the Integrity. On their journey, they are bombarding him with questions, many of which are answered…

(The original plan here was to give each survivor one question, totalling three here, but I caved to my own desire to unveil more about the setting and gave each of them two. Here, the last two lies were revealed. No, you are not Earth, and no, the year is not 2184, rather it´s the 28th century.)


  • Kodama is alive, tough if he can evade capture from the other two Judges is uncertain
  • It is unclear wether Muchbirin has taken over Odo´s body as a simulacrum, or if Odo resists
  • The three surviving protagonists will be taken to Earth, the real Earth, to stand witness in the trial of Agmos, who will be tried for crimes against humanity.

Game Master notes

Filthy lies!

So, let´s get to the elephant in the room first. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do not think that it was a good idea to hide so many fundamental truths from the players. It went okay, but it might have been catastrophic.

I got the buy-in from the players for “a post-post-apocalyptic scenario”, and presented them a “sci-fi-fantasy-mystery-horror” plot.

It´s a bit like going to the movies to see No country for old men, only to find out that the movie has switched to the X-Men at some point in the middle.

Both fine movies, but usually you want to get what you ordered. (Damn, should do a food analogy, okay, it´s like going to a restaurant ordering a pizza, and right in the middle of eating it the chef runs out of the kitchen and heaps a t-bone steak, a chocolate ice cream and a pile of doritos onto your pizza.)

Generally, having mysteries within the game is fine, great even, but this was a bit too much. I think having NPCs lie is a-okay, but the lies should stay within the game, not on the meta-level above.

What went well?

Here´s a few things that I think went especially well:

The opening scene, starting with a conversation scene helped people get into character.

The opening act split-up: I did this for the second time now, having the players start in separate places and uniting them worked out rather well.

Having planned the first act rather meticulously worked out really nicely. And by “planned” I mean “having made a flowchart with the player actions I anticipate”. “Kodama gets seriously hurt” was in there. Another path that would have put a much different tone on the second act would have been: “Kodama is forced to defend himself magically, the players witness this and are captured and taken to the citadel because they know too much (with a possible hovercraft chase when they try to resist arrest)”

“Theater of the mind” combat for the second and third act, I used the maps only as a visual aid here. First act was performed with an ad hoc drawn map tough.

What went wrong?

Some thing went poorly:

My initiative / Speed system not tested. This was due to a blunder of mine (forgot to print out an important gagdet, the turn clock) and I made a snap decision to just give each player the same amount of actions, in order of their speed.

Good decision to keep the game flowing, but my turn system is untested now.

I didn´t play the Morgan Leland character to it´s full potential. Specifically, I should have played her more authoritarian, and acknowledged the fact that she and Odo were supposed to know each other a bit more.

The core resolution mechanic of my homebrew system needs severe simplification. This is probably out of scope for this blog post, I might write a separate one once I am done simplifying it. The gist of it: A combination of too many mechanical actions (picking up many different dice, rolling, partial re-rolling) and three axes of results (setback/advantage, numerical score, number of required successes) made the resolution of combat rolls too onerous.

Back to the drawing board.

Why this specific story?

Actually, I have no idea where the specific plot points came from, the thing with the citadel basically plopped into my head a few month ago.

What I intentionally built was important tough. The Nephilim RPG is one of my favourite settings, however, it has a problem: Basically, the Nephilim taking over a human simulacrum (host body) and relegating the original owner´s mind to the role of a passive observer… well, that´s not very nice, is it?

So, my solution to this was actually supposed to be explored in the old campaign. What if there was a large-scale unveiling of the existence of the Nephilim, and what if, after resolving the initial shock and horror (there would surely be pogroms and similar nasty things, maybe wars), the two races got along?

And after that follows the question that led me to this scenario: What about the Arcana that specifically would not want this? The High Priestess would certainly not be at ease when so many secrets are unveiled, and, even worse, the Tower, the Blasted Tower, would do their worst to undo this.

Tarot card: 16 - The Tower
We must destroy all human knowledge of magic so that we may once again rule in the New Golden Age. We must destroy Orichalka so that we may be immune to human weapons. We must hide our natures that they may not make us targets. We must also build high refuges where magic can be kept from humanity.

What´s next?

My TODO list swells to epic proportions:

A new campaign (not a one-shot)

  • Outline the campaign (Preliminary idea: medieval, in the Nephilim universe)
  • Write a pitch for the players
  • Prepare a session zero, specifically: character creation, establishing the characters within the game world, establish the some story locations (I want to try doing this together with the players)
  • Write character classes

Update my homebrew system

  • Add damage and armor rules (Current rules are very basic/perfunctory)
  • Simplify the core resolution mechanic
  • Streamline the combat rolls a bit, specifically, I think Acrobatics (Dodge) must have some kind of diminishing returns when being attacked by multiple people
  • Update the character sheet (It worked, I specifically designed it as a one-page lookup, but it needs more shortcuts)
  • Make rules for character creation (probably some kind of point-buy system)
  • Write up some skills for a medieval campaign (Probably at least: horse-riding, melee weapon specialisations
  • Add a magic system (I have already started this for the Nephilim NPCs), I want to do justice to the cool magic system of the original game, but also improve upon it´s mechanical rigidiy and remove/rework some of the more esoteric spells

There´s a lot to do. Let´s get to it!


Nephilim – Chapter 5: Acquistion

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within our Nephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 5: Acquistion


Last time we saw our heroes, they have secured an Earth Plexus in a cave/sewer network beneath Berlin. Having secured the Earth Plexus, our protagonists are presented with an unexpected situation by Skaro.

She has obtained information about two manuscripts that might contain more modern writings about Golems (not the clay prototyp developed in 17th century Prague), but they are part of a private collection that is being auctioned off.

Two sets of two invitations are granted to the group, and they will have to get creative in order to get the fifth person into the venue.

Skaro has also provided funds, 400.000€, and an additional 25.000€ in cash.

Arrival at the venue

The auction is held at a private mansion, and the group arrives fairly early.
Finistur summons her kabbalistic sword and armor and deposits them in the group´s jeep, “just in case”. With a bit of magical assistance from Gealach, Sil’Faron, in his identity of Bernd Schiffer, manages to dupe the doormen that the 17 year old Kek is actually his son. The bouncers are quite dazzled by the charismatic display, and let them all in.

Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron have received bidder numbers for the auction, while the others are only present as their aquaintances.

Once inside, our protagonists survey the list of items that will be auctioned off.

  • The two manuscripts by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz they came for
  • Three paintings of archangels (Jophiel, Raphael and Gabriel)
  • Three french books
  • A horrendous looking sculpture of a melting person
Photo of the auction programme and list of items
Photo of the auction programme and list of items

Lounging & Socialising

Before the auctions are starting, the group socialisies with the other attendees, finding four other Nephilim among them. This makes for a total of nine Nephilim present, a staggering number, considering how far apart they are usually. An illustrious gathering indeed.
They approach all of them, to find out where they stand regarding the acquisition of the manuscripts.

Surprisingly, Joris, who is known to the group as Tanja, is present. She wants to spy out the humans, to find out which ones belong to secret societies. She´s also here under a fake identity, Anna Michalska.

Finistur meets the englishwoman Caitlin Sanders, a Fire Nephilim incarnated into an elderly woman. She is interested int he sculpture and the painting of the Archangel Raphael, and also wants the other items to go into Nephilim hands, as opposed to the grubby fingers of mundane humans. She claims to be willing to destroy the merchandise otherwise.

Gealach has a brief chat with a dark-haired woman named Francesca, a Moon Nephilim.
She appears to be a direct competitor for the two Schwaller manuscripts.

Kek, and later Gealach, engage in a Poker game in the mansion´s Gentleman´s Club, with a young man called Eduard Miller. He savagely cheats at the game, using concealed magic to embarass a player to leave the game during a large pot. Afterwards, Kek approaches him to find out about the auction. Mr. Miller first claims to only be here “for the people”, but later admits that his patrons are interested in one of the french books, Der Kampf ums Dasein am Himmel, which contains only “beginner level” arcane knowledge.

There are also a number of notable “regular” humans among the crowd of about 50 people present, some of them obviously not interested in the occult. Sil’Faron manages to talk a pompous man named Marco Probst, who obviously has no appreciation for literature, into believing that the Schwaller manuscripts are not originals.

A few guests seem to have suddenly become quite sick, requiring an ambulance. A coincidence? Too much sparkling wine? Spoiled hors d’oeuvre? Unlikely.

Auction round one

The first round of auctions starts, and the group silently observes the proceedings, without any interest for the french books. Two of these go to Eduard Miller and his associates, the third to an unremarkable collector.

They make a bid for one of the Angel paintings, but it goes to Mrs. Sanders, as does the disgusting sculpture. She seems pleased, and so does Mr. Probst, who buys the two remaining paintings.

Kek notices a man and a woman who appear to be more interested in the guests than the auction themselves, taking pictures of the high bidders. He shadows them for the remainder of the evening.

Sil’Faron is approached by the woman named Francesca, who offers a bounteous 100.000€ simply for him not bidding on the manuscripts, but he declines, knowing how important these books are for the group.

Before the manuscripts are auctioned off, there is a dinner break, and Gealach manages to confuse Mr. Probst with her alchemical arts. He is now more interested in indulging in the sumptuous buffet than the auction.

A map of the auction venue, the mansion of Katrin Frueh

Auction round two

This is the main event, the Schwaller manuscripts are up. Quite a number of bidders is missing from the room, due to mysterious illness and sudden hunger flashes.

As soon as the first manuscript, The Temple Of Man, is presented, Gealach creates a visual illusion of water damage upon the book, which scares several more bidders off.

Sil’Faron gets the high bid, with 105.000€, which leaves the group with 325.000€, and the hope that they can pay in cash or leverage some Sil’Faron´s private savings.

Having conserved so much cash, they win the bid war for the second manuscript, The Temple In Man, as well, with Francesca being the only serious contender.

She stomps off angrily, and the two frenchmen seems to follow her to the parking lot. Kek notices this, and he and Finistur decide to take a shortcut over the terrace, while Sil’Faron and Sha Naqba Imuru retrieve their acquisitions.

Trouble at the parking lot

Francesca speeds off in her sports car, completely oblivious of the fact that she is being followed by the two strangers.

Kek holds them up at their automobile, demanding to know why they took so many photographs, but the situation rapidly devolves into violence, as one of them draws a gun.
Kek drags the driver from the car, throws him against the next vehicle, and goes to cover.

The second stranger seizes the opportunity and tries to escape with the car, but she did not take into account the presence of Finistur, who has retrieved her kabbalistic blade from her Jeep. The entire left backside of the Peugot is sliced apart, including the axle. This car will not drive anywhere anytime soon.

The suspects are quickly knocked out and stuffed into the jeep´s trunk. Tanja arrives, and after a quick surveying of the situation, returns to the house to get the rest of group.

Four things are in possession of our heroes now. The two manuscripts, which hopefully contain enough knowledge to construct a working Golem, as well as two unconscious people, whom Kek suspects to be Templar operatives…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

This was an interesting session to prepare. I had four goals in mind when I did this:

  • Advance the main plot, by bringing more of the Golem related knowledge in reach of the players
  • Have only one event in a session, not multiple
  • Provide a setting where the non-violent characters can show their strenghts
  • Introduce some actual human NPCs, instead of too many Nephilim

Preparation was interesting insofar as I wanted an interesting set of bidders present, as well as the opportunity for the players to screw themselves up by being greedy. I intentionally did not make up a bidding strategy or similar things, only a list of “high-profile” bidders that would compete for the four important items of the auction.

The players showed remarkable restraint in their bidding, which allowed them to have enough money left for both manuscripts. For me personally, this meant that there was a foregone conclusion: I knew that none of the NPCs could beat the player´s on the final auction, which took out a bit of tension for me, but the players assured me that they didn´t notice. 🙂

On the flip-side, some NPCs have powerful artifacts in their hands now as well, which might become relevant at a later time. The disgusting statue is actually a focus for a very powerful Fire spell.

What I did not like was the fact that I had to juggle too many NPCs, and thus could not flesh out their characters too much. I´ll have to work on that.

Between this session and the one before, I also had solo sessions with two of the players, which advanced several side-plots that were opened up during the beginning of the campaign. I will not discuss them here, as there is too much character knowledge in these, that I want to separate from player knowledge 🙂

Nephilim – Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of a session within ourNephilim RPG campaign. It serves to give some context to the fiction I post, as well as simply practicing writing.)

Chapter 4: Sinister Machinations


When last we left our heroes, they had successfully liberated Sil’Faron´s stasis, an icon of fertility from his first life, in ancient Egypt. All five of them are in possession of their stases now.


In the following weeks, not too much happens. The ruckus around the Pergamon Museum has died down a bit, and Sha Naqba Imuru, in his role as Markus Vogt, the police investigator, is monitoring the situation. He wants to see if any evidence turns up which might incriminate him and his friends, or if he can find any information regarding the possible appearance of a sixth Nephilim.

At home, he makesa few attempts to open or activate the enigmatic bronze cube he Harvey had given him.
It briefly reacts to a spell he casts, and one night he discovers part of a technical drawing etched into the surface of his kitchen table… Has he interrupted something?

The huntmaster arrives

Theseus has come to Berlin, and a meeting has been arranged in the court of Justice.
They can not meet atop Skaro´s tower, because Theseus refuses to take the same oath that the group has sworn.

Sil’Faron and Skaro have worked out a deception tough; Sil’Faron appears in the form of Skaro, with the aid of a spell that allows her to speak and act through him. He also takes on her metamorphosis; Golden eyes and fully grown Angel wings.

Theseus arrives and falls for the ruse.
He has returned from a hunt for gryphons in south america, together with a young Nephilim called Vashiko in tow. No pleasantries are exchanged, he announces his business in Berlin to the gathering:
They tracked a transgressor of the Devil Arcanum and want to bring him down.

Theseus demands warriors to stand ready for the time that he has cornered his prey, and he also orders Kek to find and secure an Earth plexus.

Before he and his friend can depart he is challenged by Eresh Szat, who had been watching the proceedings, to “open” his two-handed hammer.

An orichalkum short spear is revealed, hidden with the hammer´s shaft, and the judge makes it very clear that whoever uses this forbidden weapon to destroy another Nephilim would have to stand trial before the court of Justice.
Even the Devil transgressor should receive a fair trial.

Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice
Meeting Theseus in the Court of Justice

After the greek warrior has left, Vashiko joins the group in the Dojo above the court, and with Theseus gone, she seems liven up a bit. Gealach and Finistur arrive as well, and the find out that Vashiko, going under the human name Ashley is actually a Nephilim in her first incarnation, born a mere two years ago.

Going underground

The group decides to venture out for an Earth Plexus, without Ashley, as they do not fully trust her. They seek the plexus for themselves and postpone the decision wether to tell Theseus about it or not.

Finistur has a spell ready, with which she triangulates the position of the nearest Earth Plexus, which seems to be underground, but at least within the city of Berlin.

They venture into the sewers, prepared with spells, lamps and a summoned troglodyte, where they find a breach in the wall, leading to a cavern system… and are ambushed by two horrifying alligator-like creatures, sewn together from human body parts and bones. Their smell is overpowering, and sinewy tentacles sprout from their sides.

After a brief skirmish, they follow the tunnels leading away from the canals, deeper into the bowels of the earth, where a large grotto opens up before them,.
Again the rancid stink of rotting human flesh is in the air, and another battle ensues.

This time the flesh puppets are shaped like huge scorpions, with vicious stinger tails, and a layer of armor made of human bone fragments.
Finistur manages to sneak up on one of them and cut off the tail before it can react, but as the battle starts, more enemies enter the fray.
Emaciated human shapes dash out of the shadows and attack Kek with their claws.
One of them lets itself onto his back with a nasty kick.
Isolated from the group, who is busy hacking and shooting the bone scorpions apart, he takes several wounds before the troglodyte arrives and finishes off the last of these sordid beings.

Earth Plexus cavern


As the adrenaline from the battle subsides, the group has time to take a look around. They are within an Earth plexus, Ka energy flows freely here, and some of them begin to recharge their stases.

Kek´s wounds are tended to, by magical and mundane means, and the group ponders wether they can venture deeper into these caverns, or if they should stay until their stases are refreshed and then leave…

Gamemaster´s Perspective

Again, the session took too long (in excess of 5 hours), as we started too late with the actual playing. I´m hard at work on moving the solo play and character development to actual solo sessions, which would have saved about one hour in this sitting. This hour could have been used to actually finish the journey into the caverns. (The caverns continue at 15b in the picture above, while 16a is an exit (the players could have arrived from here).

Combat also took longer than expected, especially the first encounter. 

Two notes I have for myself and the players here: Make more quick decisions, some minor decisions took very long (which is okay for important tactical decisions), which takes a bit of excitement out of the action. The second one is: Don´t argue about mechanics too long (“Can I parry the scorpion´s claw attack with my boots.”).
I made a snap decision (follow the rules as printed, which denies it) to keep the game flowing.#

On the plus side, I think everyone had fun, I learned that Finistur, the character of which I assumed it is the weakest (unfortunate rolls during character generation), is actually, if properlay prepared, an indestructible death machine with her summoned sword,armor and the troglodyte. 

Fun fact: The troglodyte summoning spell is named differently in each version of the source book I found. “Those who hit the scorpions”, “Those who hit like scorpions”. The first one was apt in this battle.. 🙂

Looking forward to the next session!

Nephilim – Chapter 1: Turbulent Awakening

It is the beginning of April, in the year 2017.
A small group of Nephilim awakens in Berlin, and find themselves drawn towards a shared fate.

This is their story.

Sha Naqba Imuru

Sha Naqba Imuru, a Djinn, awakens in a private apartment, he is now the human Markus Vogt, a police investigator working in the narcotics investigation section, aged 35.
He is also a firearms enthusiast in possession of several pistols, rifles and even a machine gun (tough within safety regulations of the German law.)

A few minutes after he incarnates, the printer in his apartment starts, without his input, to produce a print-out.

It is a cryptic message from someone named Harvey, addressed not at Markus Vogt, but rather at him directly, which is highly unusual.

The message contains a time and a contact person, and some information about a white tower.


The Elf Finistur is abruptly pulled into a human woman named Mara Hartberger, an anti-whaling activist, and immediately learns the dangers of public traffic in the 21st century, as she is almost run over by a car while passing the street.

She learns that her simulacrum is married and has two children.

A short message to her mobile phone tells her to meet a man named Stephan Ross on Saturday evening.

She should ask for a cure for her falcon, and has no idea what this is supposed to mean.

Yearning to be with other Nephilim again, she decides to go there.


The Djinn Kek is incarnated into the pupil Matthias “Mayhem” Markward, a rebellious teenager.
His new life starts in a strange mockery of the end of his last, where he was burnt at the stake, choking, while surrounded by peasants screaming for his death.

He is surrounded by his hooting band-mates, and a burning sensation is in his throat…
but it is only the Vodka bottle that is being drained into him.

After a long night full of drink an music, he is on his way home, and he also receives a message on his cellphone, enticing him to meet Stephan Ross, whom he should ask  for a cure for his lion.


The Sylph Sil’Faron finds himself looking out of a second-story window, and a voice keeps droning on about beverages, service rosters, planned events and other assorted gastronomic topics.

He has become Bernd Schiffer, the owner of a techno club in central Berlin, and he is not even remotely pleased with this turn of events.

The voice turns out to belong to Sandra, his assistant. He dismisses her, as he desired to be left alone.

Once she is gone, he immediately scours Mr. Schiffer´s small personal library for books of a mystical or occult nature, but finds nothing of interest, when a message arrives on his phone.

It is a strange text, apparently written in Italian, but with the help of an online translator and a bit of common sense he figures out that the message summons him to an address not too far from him, also in Berlin.

The message also bore secret signs of the Hermit Arcanum, with which Sil’Faron associates himself. He quickly discerns that these secret signs are a forgery, not the real deal.

He decides to investigate this.


The Wyvern Gealach also emerges from stasis in central Berlin and finds herself looking into a mirror.
She sees the face of Silke “Monday” Nagel, a young woman with colorful hair.

As she peruses her surroundings, a small, cheaply furnished appartement, she receives a message as well.

It contains an image that she has seen before, about two centuries ago, but it appears to be incomplete, and the author of the message implies that they know this.

Her curiousity is piqued, and she decides to follow the instructions to meet Stephan Ross

Meeting Dr. Ross

After a bit of confusion, the flashing of Markus Vogts police badge, an exasperated receptionist and a few mentions of non-domesticated animals, the five of them meet each other, and Dr. Stephan Ross, a veterinaran, in a private waiting room in his clinic.

He reveals himself to be Yxdri, an Elf Nephilim of the Arcanum of Temperance.

Introductions are cut short however, as he notices a message on his phone.

He shares this information with the group, it says that the stasis objects – which he was supposed to help retrieve – have been stolen by a group of Templars.

Tanja, the sender of the message, tracked them to an empty warehouse in the outskirts of Berlin.

Ambushing the Templars

The group decides to venture there, as their Stases are very important to them.

Upon their arrival, it starts to rain, and they observe the scene for a while.
A lone figure clad in black seems to be loading some crates from a small warehouse into a cargo van.

They employ a pincer movement, Kek and Finistur climbing onto the roof of the warehouse, while the other three take the long way around and approach from the main gate of the courtyard, which can´t be seen from the van.

Sha Naqba Imuru prepares a powerful Ka-Shout, in an attempt to stun the, as of yet unknown number, of Templars.

The stealthy approach is thwarted, as there appears to be a guard dog inside the building, which heard Kek´s movement on the roof and starts barking.

Orville, the man loading carrying the crates, quickly hides within the the van and shouts the name Jirard.

Gealach decides to sneak to the other side of the van, and slashes a front tire open with her knife. Meanwhile strange animal noises emanate from the building.

As Kek climbs down the roof, events escalcate rapidly:

Gealach is shot into the stomach by Orville, who had trained his pistol onto the van´s back doors: Thankfully, the magical cload she summoned earlier takes a lot of force out of the bullet impact and she charges the man, hurt, but vigorous.

At the same time, a monstrously mutated dog with twin heads emerges from the double doors of the warehouse and attacks Kek.

Finistur attempts to steal the van, but cannot find the keys.

In the distance, the sound of a motorcycle is heard.

On the other side of the house, Sha Naqba Imuru´s spell fails, and he instead crushes the shed´s back window.
While he does that, he sees a man emerging from the window next to him. He aborts his attempt to enter the building, and draws his pistol.

Sil´Faron sees this and changes course, running full speed towards the man, to prevent him from fleeing.

Kek, inhumanly strong, quickly dispatches the cerberus-like dog creature with two strikes to it´s heads.

Beside him, the van rocks back and forth, as a sword/knife fight has broken out between Gealach and the Templar Orville.

A third and final Templar, Coralie, charges Kek with a combat knife, but he simply swats her against the wall, knocking her unconscious.

On the backside of the building, Sha Naqba Imuru and Sil’Faron stop the fleeing Jirard, with a shot to the chest and a spirited double legged kick, and he collapses, knocked out and barely breathing.
The fight draws to a close, as Finistur grabs Orville through the window between cockpit and cargo area, which gives Gealach the split second she needs to run him through with the sword.


As they loot the unconscious and dead bodies, a leather-clad woman rides into the courtyard on a motorcycle.

She shows no aggression and identifies herself as Tanja, the one who alerted Yxdri to the situation.

She executes Jirard, the Templar officer that is still alive, while the others load the body of the second and the unconscious third into the van.

The Templars didn´t seem to be carrying identification papers, but Sil’Faron takes an engraved dagger, a mobile phone, and what appears to be chemical vials from the leader, and an assortment of weapons is taken from the others.

The crates contain the stases of Kek – a golden necklace with inlaid rubies – , Sha Naqba Imuru – an engraved spearhead – and Finistur -the iron bastard sword they used to slay Orville.

No trace is found of Gealachs or Sil’Farons Stases.

Sha Naqba Imuru immediately uses his stasis to ensure that his next spell succeeds, and that is Pyromancy. The entire warehouse goes up in flames, and most evidence of the events that transpired here with it.

The group departs, with the sabotaged van, and attempts to interrogate the Templar woman, but only finds spite and hate. They execute her as well, and dump the van into a lake.


A few hours later, they meet at Yxdris house, where they also find Tanja.
She is also a Nephilim, an Undine, of the Tower Aracanum, named Joris.
Yxdri was supposed to help the group recover their stases from the Pergamon museum, on the order of Skaro, who the group is urged to visit.
Joris/Tanja offers a different viewpoint on Skaro, calling her a traitor. She is quite agitated, and leaves in a hurry.
Yxdri tries to lessen this accusation, telling the group that this is an old grudge, which he does not agree with.

He tells them to contact the brothers, at a place called The Dojo.

They also learn that his house is a sanctum of Temperance, and that they are free to return here at any time they desire, as long as they leave aggression and inter-arcana politics at the doorstep.

Gamemaster´s perspective

So, this was our first session after character creation (which took a really long time). If I had to do this exact scenario again, I would do three things very differently.

Firstly, I would do character creation with each player personally, and alone, and then include the “Awakening” portion of the game within that. Right up to the point were the player shows up at the veterinarians house.
Doing this with the whole group was far too time consuming, and it also stole opportunity for character exploration.

The other two things are variations on the same theme: I had two Deus Ex Machina prepared.
The motorcycle noise was of course Tanja, who might have provided a heroic rescue if the fight went badly for the group. I think this is okay for the first play session, but I should have pulled her out when I saw the group was winning. This way I had this NPC in the way and I felt that I had to have her do something. That something was to be pushy and commanding, which is fine for the character, she is an energetic Water Nephilim, but might feel a bit too railroady.

The other Deus Ex Machina was the opposite. I had an elaborate escape plan for Jirard. He was supposed to leave the building and, if chased, use a gravity-cancelling spell to get out of dodge.
I thought this would feel cinematic and set him up as a (minor) villain that would pester the group.
He died because I underestimated the players. The good thing is that this gave me opportunity to improvise.
There is no replacement for Jirard, and that is okay, events are shaping up to be quite different from what I had planned, which is exciting. 🙂

Also, wow, I severely overestimated the Cerberus. I feared it might either kill or incapacitate a player outright, instead, it fell in two combat turns.
Bad dog!

Nephilim – Chapter 3 “Hunters and Gatherers”

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis / battle report of the a session within my Nephilim RPG campaign. This serves to give some context to the fiction I post.)


Meeting Harvey

Sha Naqba Imuru manages to catch Harvey Reeves, another follower of the Chariot Arcanum, while he is still in Berlin.

At first, they have a bit of trouble confirming each others identity, both of them being rather suspicious of the other. Luckily, each one of them can prove that they indeed are the right person, and no blood is shed.

Harvey has a lot of information for Sha Naqba Imuru to take in:
With a machine of his own design, he detected the incarnation event of each of the five Nephilim that Skaro had gathered to her, except that there was a sixth signal, which he could not triangulate properly.

He also knows about a bit about Golems, and gives up some promising leads.

After a while, Sha Naqba Imuru departs, but not empty-handed. He has received a mysterious bronze cube, that is supposed to teach him a lot… if he should manage to activate it.

A night at the Musem

Sil’Faron is the only one of the group who is not in possession of his stasis object yet, and he is planning to rectify this shortcoming.
His stasis is still held within the Pergamon museum and the group decides to break in at night to liberate it.

After careful scouting of the area, watching the guard cycles, they settle on entering via the roof.
They quickly locate the stasis in a room filled with debris, and learn that a Moon plexus is present at the main attraction of the museum, the Pergamon Altar.

Everything goes according to plan, until Gealach discovers that the object of their desire is locked within a glass vitrine, which she breaks, alarming the security guards that were patroling the area.
The group manages to leave the roof with the item, but are cornered on the backside of the museum, with guards approaching from both directions.

Gealach subdues one with an alchemical spell, putting him to sleep.

Sha Naqba Imuru however, had a different opinion on how this engagement would proceed. His solution is less gentle: He shoots, and kills, one of the guardsmen, allowing the group to escape.

After this display of violence, almost all of the other security people back down, they aren´t paid nearly enough to stand in a killer´s path.
One of them thinks himself a hero and pursues, but is swiftly knocked out by Kek.

Our protagonists flee  before the police arrives, and an argument ensues, mainly between Gealach, who opposes the killing of innocent humans, and Sha Naqba Imuru, who sees no fault in his actions. After all, one cannot build a Golem from inside a prison…

The following weeks

In the weeks that follow, some of the group visit Skaro alone, and Kek learns that his wish to meet someone from his Arcanum will be granted sooner than expected.
A warrior from the Strength Arcanum named Theseus is on his way towards Berlin, and has agreed to meet Kek and Skaro at the Hall of Justice.
Finistur dreams again, of the night in Düren, a park in the modern age, and again, of the night black cat with the strangely colored eyes…

Gamemaster´s perspective

This was an interesting session in which I learned quite a bit about game mastering.
The meeting between Sha Naqba Imuru (one of the players) and Harvey was very interesting, but maybe a bit too long, so the others had to wait a bit too much.

The museum scenario was an experiment.
I did not prepare much, only a map (based on the real Pergamon museum, which you can see here.).
I made some NPCs for the guards and set up a basic patrol routine. That´s it.

I made no plans on how the players would engage with this and offered no help.
I could have imagined any of the following:
  • A frontal assault (two out of the five players have very combat focussed avatars.)
  • An Ocean´s Eleven style operation (I´m actually not sure if I pushed the players towards an entry at night or if that was just the obvious option)
  • A mission impossible style “smash and grab” through the roof, which the group did.

An interesting idea that came up was to break into the basement and work their way upwards. This would have put me in an interesting spot, since I obviously had no map for the basement. I would have like to see this. 🙂


Nephilim – “Wrath”

(Disclaimer: This is for my Nephilim RPG players, if it read´s like a random part from the middle of a story…. that is correct, because it is exactly that.)


Pergamon Museum, Berlin, South Wing, “Ishtar Gate”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:03AM Security Camera 7

A dimliy lit chamber, only illuminated by a few green exit lights.

The main feature of this room is the Ishtar Gate, a large arched structure, mosaicked with glazed, blue bricks , interspersed with yellow tiles, depicting aurochses and mušḫuššu.pergamon-ischtartor2bwhiteborder
It is of course merely a reconstruction, paling in comparison to the original gate.

This is largely irrelevant, as the serenity is abruptly disturbed by a crushing noise, as one of the walls, depicting lions and palm trees, shakes, cracks, and finally, in a shower of fragments and debris, bursts apart.

Out of the dust cloud steps a man with short-cropped, dark hair and a thin face. His black business suit is rumpled and smudged with grime.

A number of small, red spheres circle around him in overlapping arcs, their fiery glow bathing the room in a crimson light.
He cracks his neck, and starts to make his way through the gate into the next room.

His movements seem at odds with the shape of his body, as if a larger person is trapped within his slender frame.

Minor tremors shake the camera with each of his steps, and micro-fractures start to appear beneath his shoes in the limestone floor tiles, as he disappears around the corner.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Hall 3, “Pergamon Altar”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:06 AM Security Camera 11

The Pergamon Altar, main attraction of this museum, as well as it´s namesake.
Great steps lead towards an entrance flanked by pillars. The modern safety railings on the stairs marr the appearance of this ancient architecture.

It is flooded with pale moonlight, shining from the ceiling. The light moves in an odd way, slow, like syrup, and it originates from  a point just below the glass windows, not the night sky above.

As the man arrives, the hectically moving lights of his spheres clash with the streams of moonlight, sending shadows dancing across the room in irregular patterns.

The view evokes the images of a bizarre night club, but there is neither music nor dance, only the suited man, making his way towards the far side of the hall.


He does not seem interested in the altar or in the figure that approaches from the left entrance, shouting “Halt, stehenbleiben!

It is a security guard. He repeats his demand, trying to maintain a  firm voice, but he can not hide the fear within it.
Understandable, given the surreal scene before him.

The man does not react, but two of the spheres leave their orbits around his body, zig-zagging towards the guardsman.
They hit him in the torso and he collapses in front of the entrance.

Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Hall 1, “Greek Architecture”
Tuesday 11-APR-2017, 02:07 AM Security Camera 11

A smaller chamber, an exhibition room, it´s walls are lined with display cases, pillar tops, busts and statues. Several tall stone columns reach up, almost to the ceiling towards the high ceiling.

The man appears from a doorway to the left, and as his gaze falls upon the vitrines, his steps accelerate.
He raises his hands above his head and brings them down in a upon the first of the display cases in a powerful swing.Glass and ceramics shatter, as the contents of the vitrine are hurled about the room.
Quickly, he steps towards the next case and smashes it to the ground with a swiping motion.pergamon-heiligtum1bburning

Without pause, he strides along the wall, crushing vitrines and priceless statues as if they were toys in a child´s hands. His gaze flickers about the debris, as if he is looking for something particular, but can not find it.
A drawn out, guttural snarl erupts from his throat, the sound of an animal, certainly not a human being.

Again, a voice is heard, “H-halt, sofort aufhören!”. A guardswoman has appeared in the doorframe, holding a flashlight and a nightstick. She visibly shivers as she surveys the destruction before her.

The rampaging figure briefly pauses, snorts, and rams one of the tallest pillars with a full shove of his body.
It begins to topple towards the woman, who barely escapes with a yelp of terror.
The column´s segments break apart during it´s descent, falling upon a row of pillars near the doorway, which also crumble, burying the entryway in a heap of rubble and a deafening crescendo.

The aggressor freezes, as his gaze falls upon a small black object amidst the rubble.
He quickly picks it up, and lifts it in front of his face.

His head is visible to the camera now; An unremarkable face, clean shaven, young, with a thin nose under a pair of spectacles.
Unremarkable, except for the anger distorting his features.

Briefly, a smile replaces the scowl, while he considers the fist-sized onyx statuette in his hands.
It is a horned creature in a squatting posture, with it´s hands resting upon its knees.

Strangely, its visage is warped in a similar wrathful expression as the mans.

In the flashing, crimson light of the spheres, shadows play upon the idol, and for a fraction of a second, it appears to mirror his smile…

Nephilim – Chapter 2: Allies

(Disclaimer: This is a synopsis of the last session we had with our Nephilim RPG group, to give some context to the other posts. Don´t worry, some non-RPG, non-Nephilim stuff will come up soon. I also might write a quick summary of chapter 1, which was the opening session.)

Chapter 2: Allies

Sunday, 9th day of the month of  April, 2017 AD

Visiting the Dojo

On Yxdri´s Advice, the protagonists visit The Dojo, a high-class martial arts establishment, where they meet with the brothers, Eresh Szat and Eresh Khan, of the Justice Arcanum.

They learn that this is still not their final destination, and that they will have to swear a magical oath in order to meet with Skaro. They do so, in the Hall Of Justice, which is a hidden, cathedral-like underground structure, situated directly under the Dojo.

The oath is a spell of Ritual Magic, which Eresh Szat teaches to all members of the group. It requires them to swear upon their blood and the elements, to not harm each other or Skaro for the next eleven years.
Failure to do so promises a dire punishment.

While Sil’Faron peruses the library in the hall, Eresh Khan challenges Sha Naqba Imuru and the others to a practice duel.
They return to the Dojo, where Kek proceeds to demolish Eresh Khan as well as his two newfound friends Sha Naqba Imuru and Finistur, to the amazement of Gealach and an increasing crowd of onlookers.

Meeting Skaro

The oath being sworn, nothing stops them from meeting Skaro anymore; Eresh Szat brings them to her tower, which is apparently a skyscraper in the middle of Berlin. The group is told that they are being expected, and enter an elevator.

As they exit the lift, they are surrounded by impenetrable clouds of white smoke, and the being known as Skaro, the mistress of the white tower reveals itself to be a lithe, elderly woman; an Angel Nephilim of the Wheel of Fate Arcanum.

Three of our heroes learn that Skaro has put events in motion to awaken them from stasis, culminating in their arrival here.
She immediately hands over Gealach´s stasis, a gold bracelet inlaid with saphires, as a token of good will.

Finistur and Kek were not expected, but are not unwelcome, they are offered to join the effort, if they so desire.

The task


The Angel reveals to the group that she wants them to construct a Golem for her, and have it be at a certain place at a certain time, more than a year ahead.

Specifically, Sil’Faron is to acquire the magical formulae required to make a Golem, Sha Naqba Imuru is tasked with the physical construction of the Golem, and finally, Gealach should perform the necessary rituals to infuse it with life.

She offers them this as a form of deal, where she helps them with their goals, whatever they may be, while they help her tread the Golden Path toward Agartha (which she offers no specifics about).
It is also implied that by freeing them from stasis, the three of them are in her debt.

The topic of Sil’Faron´s stasis comes up as well; Skaro assumes that it still resides within the Pergamon museum, where she had it placed. The Templars must have simply missed it.

While this conversation took place,  Sil’Faron dispelled the magical fog, only to reveal to the group that, apparently, they are on the roof of the skyscraper… but the landscape below does not look like Berlin… in fact, there is not even a city.

They also find a large number of chess boards, one of them apparently new, with representations of them placed upon an empty board.

Sha Naqba Imuru finally gets some insight onto the identity of Harvey Reeves, a tinkerer of the Chariot Arcanum, who aided Skaro in freeing the group from their stasis; He receives a business card and the name of the hotel Harvey resides in.

Stepping back into the real world

As they return from the tower, a great deal of revelation heaped upon, and a grand task ahead of them, they part ways for the moment.

The following night, Finistur has a dream, featuring memories of her former life as Ferdinand, a 9th century knight, particularly a night in which she aided the Tower Arcanum in rescuing a group of Nephilim from a secret society.

However, mixed in with the memories is the recurring image of a black cat, gazing at her with a green and blue eye…