An RPG Resource Review:
While other books in the New World of Darkness series have revisited previous subjects (vampires, werewolves and mages) this game line takes a new turn - creatures which are not alive but created. Think Frankenstein's monster... Whether you intend to use such beings as 'monsters' for other World of Darkness characters to combat, or wish to dive in and play them yourself, there is plenty of scope here.
The book opens with a gripping and atmospheric transcript of interviews between a police psychiatrist and someone who is, in fact, a Promethean, one of the created. Beautifully put together as a mix of typed and hand-written notes, complete with marginal doodles, you are sucked in to the story before you know it.
Scene set, the Introduction explains the underlying concept of the game. As Frankenstein's monster was brought to life by a bolt of lightning, each of the Created has a spark within them that provides the semblance of life but brings its own problems including mental instability while due to their nature they cause a feeling of disquiet in mortal creatures, and can even cause vegetation to be blighted if they stay in the same place too long. Thus a culture of lonely, wandering individuals has developed; and in their wanderings, many seek to become truly human. This is the ultimate goal, but naturally many routes to this state exist (or are believed to exist).
Chapter 1 looks at the Prometheans, the Created, in greater detail; exploring how they are made and the society and traditions that they have developed. Think of the whole thing as an alchemical operation, from the first creation to a transformation to becoming a mortal... rarely if ever attained, just as most alchemical experiments failed.
There are several strands of Created, not just the archetypal Frankenstein's monster, made in a lab by a crazed scientist; but also those created through religious ritual and in other ways. However, although there are different traditions, once the first Promethean of that line was created, all others are created by other Prometheans, a bizarre heritage that can be vital or damning - often both - to those involved. The different traditions are called Lineages, and these are the Frankensteins (made of a patchwork of dead remains from several corpses), the Galateids (made only from the most beautiful of corpses), the Osirans (reanimated corpses, bereft of soul), the Golems (claiming a heritage rooted in Jewish magic) and Ulgan (whose creation is based on the ritual dismemberment invovled in shamanistic rites). Whatever their origin, the life of a Promethean is hard, and the rest of this chapter describes some of the difficulties that they face, attempting to merely survive never mind prosper in the contemporary world. There is, as usual with White Wolf games, a lot of background to assimilate and it is well worth making the effort to do so to gain the full richness of the game. In a first game, of course, the Storyteller might prefer to keep the characters, as newly-created Prometheans, in the dark to begin with and make the discovery of what they are part of the gameplay... this could work well with mature role-players but might prove a bit too cerebral for some gamers.
Chapter 2 moves on to the all-important mechanisms for creating Promethean characters. Naturally, you begin by using the core process from the new World of Darkness Rulebook, and then add in new elements to reflect the nature of the character as a Promethean. While the character is a bit different from a Vampire or a Werewolf, who either are made into a Vampire or suddenly discover that they are lycanthropes after living a normal human life, the process from the game mechanic point of view is much the same... only the characteristics yoiu add are innate from the very creation of your character rather than being added once he is Embraced or suffers the First Change. Incidentally, it is impossible for a Promethean to be Embraced as a vampire or Awakened as a mage, or for even a werewolf corpse to be still lycanthropic after a Promethean has been created using it. At this point the character needs to at least choose his Lineage, and may also choose a Refinement. The Refinement is the particular philosophy and route that the character has chosen to follow in the quest for mortality. (You don't have to choose at this point, and may prefer to develop your path during play, but until a Refinement is selected you cannot access all its benefits.) Merits and advantages are then selected as described in the World of Darkness Rulebook. Next comes a summary of the creation process, an example, and details of how to run a Prelude - describing the character's original awakening and key events occuring before the time in which the game itself will take place. It's a useful tool unless you wish to incorporate the characters' coming to life as part of the game you are going to play.
Then there is a detailed run-down of the different Lineages, to help you choose which one will suit your character concept best (or inspire you in coming up with one!). Each of these is very thorough, and really enables you to build up a clear picture of the nature of Prometheans from that Lineage, and how they come to be what they are. An invaluable tool for role-playing your character. Then comes Bestowments (abilities connected to your Lineage) and Transmutations... well, there needs to be some kind of spell-like effect that characters can wield, after all! Each is an alteration of the self that enables the individual to do something. They are expensive to purchase, and linked with the Refinement you have chosen to follow. There are a whole bunch of varied and interesting effects you can create depending on your choice of Transmutations, and they all link back to the essential nature of Prometheans very well, a coherent set of abilities that fit the core concept of a created being.
Chapter 3 is entitled "The Promethean Condition" and begins with a discussion of what it means to be HUMAN - thus leading into the differences between mortals and Prometheans. It's not all a downside, there are advantages although it is unlikely many Prometheans feel that they outweigh the sheer horror of their condition. For example a Promethean has far greater endurance and toughness - they do not tire as easily and even wounds do not slow them as much as humans. Prometheans feel pain as much as anyone else, but they can keep going at full blast even as they are carved apart... and perhaps beyond, as every Promethean has the power to cheat death at least once. There is a lot of detail about the disquiet that Prometheans cause in all who meet them, and the adverse effects that they can have on their very surroundings if they stay in the same place too long. Oh, and Prometheans are prone to become insane.
The process whereby a Promethean creates another is also explained here... along with how it can go wrong. It's quite an involved process, but is central to a Promethean's progress and journey towards mortality.
Next, Chapter 4 looks at Storytelling and Antagonists. Naturally, this chapter is intended primarily for the Storyteller. Whatever story your chronicle sets out to tell, underlying it somewhere is your Promethean characters' quest for mortality. Whether your chronicle advances or hinders them in that quest is in part up to you, but mainly it lies in their hands... make sure that is does! This chapter contains some excellent ideas to empower the Storyteller to make this happen, without it being a case of just steamrollering the players into following a path that has been laid out for them. The ideas presented could with some work be adapted to any game in which the GM and/or players have defined long-term objectives over and above what they are trying to do in that particular adventure, so is well worth a read for that alone. However, this is not just a treatise on good GM technique, it is rooted soundly in this particular game and contains a lot of specific information to enable the Storyteller to administer events in a suitable manner for a game of Prometheus: The Created.
The chapter also contains a whole bunch of other creatures that you can use, including a complete run-down on Pandorans, which can most kindly be described as 'Prometheans gone wrong."
Next comes an Appendix entitled 'Anathors and the Water of Life' - excellent material for those who wish to get really aesoteric and delve deeply into the mysteries that walk as Prometheans, and their path towards mortality. Anathors are a beautiful but complex system for handling the journey towards that transition to mortal; but will work best in the hands of introspective players who wish to watch the development of their Promethean characters over the course of time. You could play the game fine without it, but its addition will take the chronicle to new heights over and above an ordinary role-playing game.
Then comes "The Water of Life" which is an introductory story to start your chronicle off with. Set in Chicago, it is intended that future installments will take place in other cities highlighted within the whole sweep of the new World of Darkness product line. Even if you have developed your own ideas as you've read this book, it is still worth a look: if you are unsure where to start it is a fine jumping-off point from which your own chronicle can develop.
An index, a separate index for powers and a character sheet rounds out the book, along with a bit more of that atmospheric story which started the whole thing off.
Overall, this is a fascinating concept which, with the right players, ought to make for an excellent and memorable gaming experience. When is it my turn to GM again?