Promethean: The Created is a role-playing game published by White Wolf, set in the new World of Darkness.
The game is inspired by the classic tales of Frankenstein's monster, the Golem and other such simulacra. The characters are individuals created by first dismembering and reassembling a human corpse in most cases or corpses in others to form a human body, then animating the body with Pyros, the Divine Fire. The resulting creation is known as a Promethean. Animated by the Divine Fire, but lacking a soul, Prometheans seek the greatest prize they know: humanity. Prometheans have no direct equivalent in the original World of Darkness (though Frankenstein's monster, as well as the ability to create and play as such, were associated with the Sons of Ether), but elements of the game, on the surface, recall elements of such games as Wraith: The Oblivion and Mummy: The Resurrection.
The life of a Promethean
A Promethean is created from the corpse of a human by a creator; in certain cases, desired components from more than one corpse are combined into a single end-product. Very rarely, otherwise inanimate matter may be used, making a sort of magical android similar to a Golem but with considerably greater variation in form and composition. Most Prometheans are created by other Prometheans, who must create more of their kind as part of their journey towards achieving a state of true mortality. Much less common are instances where mortal creators wield the Divine Fire in order to create a new form of life; these mortals are known as demiurges, and are the most likely to create new types or Lineages of Prometheans. When a Promethean is brought into the world, they often have full knowledge of any languages their body spoke in life, and the processes necessary to control the body (hand-eye coordination, basic visual navigation, etc.). In all other aspects, they are a blank slate, although individuals may discover 'memories' of skills, locations, knowledge, etc. once possessed by the mortal(s) whose bodies they now use. Some Prometheans aid their progeny in learning the basics needed to survive in the world; others leave them to figure things out on their own. There are also cases when the maker is destroyed by one means or another before the progeny wakes.
The Promethean is not human, in either the physiological or cognitive sense. It is a corpse that walks, its autonomic functions and soul replaced by the power of the Divine Fire. While the Divine Fire allows him to pass as a human from a distance, it does not make up for the lack of a soul. When a Promethean spends enough time around humans, the humans begin to fall prey to Disquiet, the feeling that there is something not just fundamentally different, but utterly wrong about the Promethean. Disquiet initially manifests itself as distrust or avoidance of the Promethean; at its worst, it can blossom into mindless rage that can only be abated by the death of the Promethean. Different Promethean Lineages generate different manifestations of Disquiet, each with their own enervating effect on the local environment and population. Disquiet affects more than just mortals; a Promethean who spends too long in one place will find the landscape and environment itself becoming tainted by his Disquiet, eventually turning into a Wasteland. Leaving the tainted zone far behind allows the land to eventually heal, but it does require the Promethean to keep on the move.
There is only one true means by which to truly escape from Disquiet: attaining mortality. Such an act requires years of dedication, but it is possible for Prometheans. By undertaking the Pilgrimage, the Promethean gains knowledge of his self, other Prometheans, and humanity as a whole. The various steps of the Pilgrimage vary widely from one Promethean to the next, but one step remains constant and inviolable: the creation of another Promethean of their line. The Pilgrimage is difficult and lengthy, but it can be achieved.
It is worth noting that the understanding and becoming of humanity can just as easily refer to the baser and worse of human impulses as to the noble and good - although those Prometheans that actually perform reprehensible acts (murder, stealing etc) are less likely to successfully complete the Pilgrimage
Each Promethean takes after the traits of the progenitor, the first of their kind. The various "lineages" of Prometheans take their roots from notable "created" or "reconstructed" throughout folklore and fiction. Each lineage is also aligned towards one of the five classical elements, and, in keeping with the alchemical theme of the game, is imbalanced towards one of the respective humors. The lineages consist of:
- Frankensteins, otherwise known as "the Wretched." The story of their creation follows Mary Shelley's novel, with a few distinguishing variations: Frankenstein created his monster using a mixture of current scientific knowledge and Paracelsian alchemy, and the monster survived the death of his creator to create others like himself. Frankensteins are created by taking the best parts from multiple corpses, assembling a patchwork man from said parts, then animating it through a mixture of the Divine Fire and electricity. Frankensteins are aligned with the element of fire and are imbalanced towards choler, and are thus driven towards vengeance and ambition. Frankensteins are also known for their massive strength. A Frankenstein named "Verney", who may be the original progenitor of his Lineage created by Victor Frankenstein, appears in the game's framing fiction, providing the point of view throughout the corebook.
- Galateids, otherwise known as "Muses." Like their progenitor, they are known for their beauty and want of companionship; unlike their progenitor, they are not fashioned from stone, but rather from the unmarred corpse of a beautiful youth. Less commonly, they are built from two or more corpses possessed of components (eyes, hands, legs, etc.) considered beautiful by the Promethean Maker. They are walking contradictions, attracting people through their beauty while driving them away with Disquiet. Galateids are aligned with the element of air and are imbalanced towards blood, often making them courageous and amorous. A Galateid named "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" appears in the game's framing fiction, providing the point of view throughout Strange Alchemies.
- Osirans, otherwise known as "Nepri." The Osirans draw from their legacy as "children of a god" and often carry themselves with regal bearing, expecting others to follow them and bow to their wills. Another element they share with their progenitor is an incomplete body; as in the legend of the resurrection of Osiris, the creation of a Nepri involves the division of the body into 13 parts, the "least" of which (decided upon by the creator and not limited to the piece that Isis 'could not find' in the original legend) is thrown away, and reassembly of the remaining 12. Osirans are aligned with the element of water and are imbalanced towards phlegm, giving them a tendency to remain calm in most situations. An Osiran named "Dr. Brine" appears in the game's framing fiction, especially throughout Pandora's Book.
- Tammuz, otherwise known as "Golems." Golems draw their history from conflicting tales, one Hebrew in origin, the other resting in Babylonian myth. Nevertheless, the stories share one common element: rejection of the bonds of slavery. The Tammuz loathe slavery in all its forms, and wish to achieve mortality in order to break away from the fierce restrictions that Disquiet confers upon them. Golems are not created directly from clay, as in Jewish folklore; rather, a body is imbued with the Divine Fire and buried in the earth. Once the Tammuz awakens, it is his duty to claw his way out and face his new life. Tammuz are aligned with the element of earth and are imbalanced towards melancholy, making them both introspective and prone to fierce rage. They are also known for their seemingly limitless stamina. A Tammuz named "John Ash" appears in the game's framing fiction, especially throughout Saturnine Night.
- Ulgan, otherwise known as "Riven." The Ulgan's origins lie in shamanism, drawing from an initiation rite in which the hopeful shaman's spiritual body is torn apart by hungry spirits and reconstructed piece by piece. Sometimes, the rite goes horribly awry, and the young initiate's physical body is torn to pieces as well. The remains, when stitched together and reanimated, produce a Riven, who can perceive and interact with the realm of ghosts and spirits. The occurrence of the rite in the life of the corpse is not necessary, as long as it is replicated in death by the Ulgan's creator. Some Ulgans draw their origins from the legend of Orpheus, who they claim was brought back to life after being torn apart by the Maenads. Ulgans are aligned with the element of spirit and are imbalanced towards ectoplasm, driving them towards intuitive and instinctual thought and action. An Ulgan named "Zo Malak" appears in the game's framing fiction, providing the point of view throughout Magnum Opus.
The fifth book in the game line, Saturnine Night, allows players to play characters of various other Lineages. Two of the more prominent are the Unfleshed and the Zeky.
- Unfleshed are mechanical inventions animated by the Divine Fire and given life. The Divine Fire gives them human form and shape, but underneath the illusion, they are still mechanical. Each Unfleshed has a different elemental imbalance; thus, each one produces different forms of Disquiet and suffers different forms of Torment. The Unfleshed can claim any Transmutation, including those favored by Pandorans, as their Bestowment, and can carry devices from their lives as machine within their body. They can be considered an expansion of the "Constructs", otherwise ordinary Prometheans created from or incorporating inorganic matter (such as a Galateid actually carved from stone), detailed in the Magnum Opus sourcebook.
- Zeky, singular Zeka, exist as urban legends amongst Prometheans. They are Prometheans animated by nuclear energy. They can spend very little time near humans, as their Disquiet transforms fertile land into a radioactive Wasteland, as well as making humans extremely paranoid about being attacked from outside. The Zeky are constantly in pain from the nuclear energy that burns through their body; as a result, many forsake the Great Work and embrace the path of Centimanus. The Zeky have three different possible Bestowments, including the ability to animate corpses through nuclear energy, the ability to become a 'Hiroshima shadow' in order to prevent the spread of Disquiet, and the ability to draw Pyros from nuclear energy. In addition to these Bestowments, a Zeka can use the Irradiation Transmutations, focused on the manipulation of nuclear energy, without fear of losing their humanity.
During the course of a Promethean's journey towards mortality, they must dedicate themselves towards a Refinement. A Refinement is equal parts philosophy and alchemical regimen, framing the Promethean's outlook on humanity and their own existence as well as granting them knowledge of Transmutations, the ability to alchemically alter the properties of their bodies and Pyros to great effect. It is expected that a Promethean will change Refinements at least once in their journey. There exist six major Refinements, but only five are viewed as "acceptable" by most Prometheans. These Refinements draw their names from five of the seven planetary metals:
- Aurum, the Refinement of Gold, or Mortality. The Refinement of Aurum requires the study of humanity: their cultures, their beliefs, their emotions, and their actions. Truly "understanding" humanity may take many routes, some as benign as attending church services, others as horrific as committing cold-blooded murder in order to understand why humans do the same. Those who practice Aurum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Deception (using Pyros to escape the notice of others) and Mesmerism (using Pyros to subtly gain control of the emotions and thoughts of others). Practitioners are often called Mimics or Adamists.
- Cuprum, the Refinement of Copper, or Self. Practitioners of Cuprum wish to gain total control of their bodies, their minds, and hopefully their Torment, in order to ease the control their humors have over their bodies and the toll their Disquiet takes on the land. Many followers of the Refinement take to isolation in nature, avoiding the "threat" that humans affected by Disquiet pose towards them. Those who practice Cuprum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Metamorphosis (using Pyros to shapeshift) and Sensorium (using Pyros to enhance the senses beyond physical limits). Practitioners are often called Pariahs or Eremites.
- Ferrum, the Refinement of Iron, or Corpus. Those who practice Ferrum follow the path of the practiced warrior, believing that they can earn the trust of humans through martial prowess and the necessity for defenders in times of crisis. Practitioners of the Refinement often learn as much from martial arts and military training as their Disquiet allows them to do. Those who practice Ferrum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Corporeum (using Pyros to power and harden the body) and Vitality (using Pyros to perform unnatural feats of strength). Practitioners are often called Titans.
- Mercurius, the Refinement of Quicksilver, or Pyros. Followers of Mercurius believe that for Prometheans to understand what makes a mortal a being with a soul, they must first understand that which serves as a replacement in themselves: the Divine Fire. To gain such an understanding, they often demonstrate a moral, intellectual and spiritual flexibility unmatched by other Prometheans, pursuing whatever avenues they believe might lead towards enlightenment. Those who practice Mercurius gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Alchemicus (using Pyros to alchemically analyze and transform objects) and Vulcanus (controlling the very flow of Pyros through their bodies and bodies of others, using it to fantastical effect). Practitioners are often called Ophidians.
- Stannum, the Refinement of Tin, or Torment. Disciples of Stannum have most likely witnessed first hand the horrible effects that Disquiet has on humans; often, they have been the target of that very rage. They believe that the best course of action is to get even, cultivating the flow of Disquiet and gaining revenge on those who have wronged them. Many Prometheans likely practice Stannum at some point in their journeys, but many outside of the Refinement view it as "youthful rebellion" at best, and obsession at worst. Those who practice Stannum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Disquietism (controlling the flow of Disquiet to redirect its effects towards humans and away from the Promethean, or easing its influence all together) and Electrification (using Pyros to generate electricity). Practitioners are often called Furies.
The sixth Refinement is Centimani, the Refinement of Flux. Taking their name from the Hundred-Handed of Greek mythology, the followers of Centimani study Flux, the force of destruction that acts opposite of Pyros. Many Centimani are viewed as monsters by other Prometheans due to the fact that they have effectively abandoned the pursuit of mortality and have firmly embraced the belief that they are monsters. If this were not enough, the study of Flux often bring Centimani into close association with Pandorans. Some Prometheans, however, follow Centimani as a step along their Great Work. These creatures study monsters among humanity - serial killers, rapists, and criminals - as well as manipulating their own monstrous forms.
The fourth book in the line, Magnum Opus, introduces four lesser-known Refinements, each one coming about due to certain rare conditions.
- Aes, the Refinement of Bronze, or Aid. Practitioners of Aes have sworn to protect their throng mates and other Prometheans in need. The practitioner usually serves both to protect their throng mates from physical harm and to keep them devoted to the Great Work. The Refinement can't be practiced alone, however, as it requires the Promethean to protect those close to themselves. Those who practice Aes gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Benefice (providing aid to another Promethean) and Corporeum. Practitioners are often referred to as Sentries.
- Argentum, the Refinement of Silver, or Mystery. Practitioners of Argentum have discovered that they are not the only monsters in the World of Darkness. There also exist vampires, werewolves, mages, and things unknown. The practitioner of Argentum seeks to understand humanity by understanding its opposites. It observes the various other supernatural creatures of the World of Darkness, as well as mortals who are mentally ill, in an attempt to discern the secrets of the works. Those who practice Argentum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Sensorium and Spiritus (using Pyros to blend in with and rebuff other supernaturals). Practitioners are often referred to as Mystics.
- Cobalus, the Refinement of Cobalt, or Impurity. Practitioners of Cobalus have realized that certain parts of Promethean existence, such as Disquiet and Torment, are impurities that keep them separate from humanity. As a result, they seek to understand imperfection in all its forms - in their selves, in objects, and in humanity. Unlike Centimani, they do not spurn humanity; rather, they seek to truly understand what humanity is by examining the flaws of human existence. Those who practice Cobalus gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Contamination (drawing out and purging the imperfections of humans and Prometheans) and Deception. Practitioners are often referred to as Cathars.
- Plumbum, the Refinement of Lead, or Source. Practitioners of Lead believe that, before they attain Mortality, they must understand what it means to be a Promethean. They wish to understand what they are, how they do what they do, the history of the Great Work, and the various threats Prometheans face in daily existence. Those who practice Plumbum gain an affinity towards the Transmutations of Disquietism and Saturninus (control over one's own Azothic Radiance, their humors, and their Bestowments). Practitioners are often referred to as Originists.
In the pursuit of mortality, one step must be undertaken by all Prometheans: the creation of another Promethean of their line. There are times, however, when the creator is not fully prepared to bring a new life into the world, doing so out of haste, impatience or selfishness rather than necessity. When this occurs, the process of creating new life becomes tainted; Flux takes the place of Pyros, and a Pandoran is created. Most Pandorans exist as mindless entities driven solely by instinct; there are the occasional few, however, who attain full sentience and possess human levels of intelligence. These Pandorans are known as Sublimati.
All Pandorans center their existences around one goal: the acquisition of Pyros to feed upon. Pandorans react strongly to the flow of Pyros, awakening from states of dormancy induced by mortal Disquiet (in which the Pandoran appears as if a statue or similar object) and chase after the source of flame. If a Pandoran is successful in its hunt, it will likely kill and cannibalize the Promethean. Some Pandorans keep their quarries alive but helpless, feeding off the Promethean's constantly regenerating Pyros. Each Pandorans exists as a Mockery of a Lineage, sharing similar elemental alignments and humorous imbalances as their creators. The Mockeries are:
- Ishtari (the Mockery of the Golems, given to imprisoning their foes and keeping them alive as long as possible while feeding on their Pyros)
- Renders (the Mockery of the Riven, tending to tear apart the Promethean quickly and drain the Pyros from what remains)
- Sebek (the Mockery of the Nepri, given to inhabiting watery environments and drowning their prey quickly)
- The Silent (the Mockery of the Muses, tending to mutilate and disfigure their prey)
- The Torch-Born (the Mockery of the Wretched, given to charring the flesh of their prey before consuming it)
- Carcinoma (the Mockery of the Zeka)
- Gremlins (the Mockery of the Unfleshed)
Ironically, the bane of Prometheans' existence, Disquiet, is the most effective weapon against Pandorans, as a Pandoran subject to the attention of a mortal (and the Disquiet thereby generated) for more than a short span of time will be forced into a physically inert state of dormancy, as well as physically transmuted into some form of stone. Many Pandorans remain this way for centuries, as only close proximity to a source of Pyros (such as a Promethean, Firestorm, or quashmallim) will rouse them.
are powerful manifestations of the Divine Fire, seemingly angelic
beings who exist to carry out a single mission on behalf of something they call simply "The Principle." They are bringers of visions and messengers of doom, givers of hope and swords of retribution. Each qashmal vanishes after carrying out its task, even if it failed in the attempt, and they never try again.
Just as the Divine Fire itself is mysterious and ineffable, the qashmallim are unfathomable and their motives impenetrable. One qashmal might be dispatched to warn a person of impending danger, even as another is urging a separate person to bring about that danger. Even as they may work at cross-purposes, they also seem to be divided into two general Choirs:
- The Elpidos serve Azoth, promoting change, creativity and fertility even as they punish and warn. They can be both benefactors and scourges to humans and Created alike.
- The Lilithim serve Flux, encouraging waste, corruption, mutation and chaos. They are capable of awakening and commanding Pandorans, and pursue the cause of transformation for its own sake.
- Promethean: The Created (WW6000, August 2006) (ISBN 1-58846-606-X)
- Pandora's Book (WW60300, October 2006) (ISBN 1-58846-488-1)
- Strange Alchemies (WW60100, November 2006) (ISBN 1-58846-607-8)
- Magnum Opus (WW60101, February 2007) (ISBN 1-58846-608-6)
- Saturnine Night (WW60301, March 2007) (ISBN 978-1-58846-609-9)
- To the Flame (WW60102, August, 2008)