Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 17 February 2023

Friday Fantasy: Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher

There are men and woman who study angels. There are men and women who study demons. What those angelogists and demonologists do not tell you is that they are not just the two sides of the same coin—they are the same coin. That is according to the Order of Mercyful Sepulcher. This sisterhood holds that angels and demons are members of the same race who come from a place called the Empyrean and that concepts such as heaven, hell, angels and demons are a flawed attempt to classify both Empyrean and the entities found there. Rather than fear or revere such angels and demons, the Order of Mercyful Sepulcher summons them, commands them, and uses their power. The nuns of the order, wrapped in their empowering Bad Habits and wreathed with a Halo, armed with Hallowed Hand Grenades and a M.A.C.E. (Masterful Armament for Crushing Enemies), and travelling in their T.O.M.B.S. (Tactical Ordinance Mobile Battle Shrine) travel the Ultracosm on the hunt for heresy, ready to burn it out. Or they too might be regarded as a heretical sect, harbouring blasphemous tomes and adhering to dissentive dictums, and practicing the activities of the apostate! It is all up to the Games Machinator as detailed in Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher.

Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher is a setting neutral supplement, a means to add battle nuns to her campaign, whether heretical or in search of heresy. Published by Mottokrosh Machinations, best known for Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm, the Old School Renaissance adjacent roleplaying game of retro science fantasy, Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher could easily be used in that setting to play up the occult aspects of the Games Machinator’s campaign, whether that involves one Player Character or a group of Player Characters from the order. Alternatively, the content of the supplement can be added to a fantasy roleplaying game to add occult and ‘grimdark’ elements, whether that is a Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or a Zweihänder Grim & Perilous campaign. To that end, Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher includes stats and details for Hypertellurians: Fantastic Thrills Through the Ultracosm and a guide to adapt it to Dungeons & Dragons, which means that its content can be used with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition.

Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher begins and ends as a toolkit for the Games Machinator and her players to create their own version of the order of battle nuns. The beginning consists of a list of tenets, goals, and enemies of the order, so that one iteration of the order is likely to be different from another. The end, the first of the supplement’s appendices, consists of descriptions of four members of an example order, the Gallas Coven. They include the Mother Superior, its veteran leader; a former ancient bronze war machine turned sister; a pilot from the future; and a loyal brute of a caretaker, the only male member of the quartet. These are written up with a concept, strengths and weaknesses, background, and secret to which the Games Machinator and her players need only develop stats and abilities. The other two of the three appendices in Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher consist of a decent bibliography and a good list of inspirational media, such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Zardoz.

The bulk of Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher is dedicated to the tomes and rituals they contain, and the benefits that the sisterhood gain in performing them. For example, Merarrhythmisis Beatae, sometimes known as the ‘black scrolls’, contains the true names of angels and thus the means to tempt or coerce them into the mortal realm where the rituals can be performed in full. The description of the book includes an extract and several associated rumours, the latter useful should the Games Machinator want to work the book into her campaign. The major spell—being the equivalent of a Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Level spell in Dungeons & Dragons—requires the participants, willing or unwilling, to be anointed with the true names of angels and can take several hours to cast. Once done, it grants an angelic power, such as ‘Perfect Pitch Singing’, ‘Feathered Wings’, or ‘Compel Good Deed’, as well as an angelic mutation, like ‘Cherubic’ (literally small, chubby, and naked), ‘Caustic’ saliva and sweat, or ‘Goat-Legged’. It can result in a complication such as permanent, uncontrolled, lasting, or traumatic. All of the ten tomes, including The Flaggellant’s Agrapha, Be thou alike Cadat, Ablations of the heavenly host, and Concerning the needle and other instruments are nicely detailed and full of flavour.

‘Reliquary—Tools of the Order’ details items mundane and marvelous both worn and used by the order. Bad Habits are the uniform of the order and grant abilities such as Corseted, which works as light armour or even Symbiotic, which is an entity in itself that provides the wearer strength and healing as long as the wearer follows the motivation of the symbiote. Weapons include ‘Hallowed Hand Grenade’, which has a variety of effect from drenching the target in a vile stench to imposing redemption on them and making them feel the weight of his sins and the aforementioned M.A.C.E., both blunt and flanged, and which requires a ceremony that marks the wielder out to any Empyrean being as being blessed with knowledge of them. The order’s most well-known device is the T.O.M.B.S., part war machine, part shrine, with no two exactly alike. It is accompanied by a full, two-page illustration.

Besides the trio of appendices, Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher is rounded with a pair of detailed adventure seeds. One involves the haunting of the Player Characters’ T.O.M.B.S., the other a nun whose aims verge on the heretical. Each comes with a list of possible scenes, treasures, and in the case of the first, opponents. Alongside these is a handful of shorter adventure seeds which will require more development.

Physically, Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher is decently presented and laid out. The artwork is cartoonish in style, matching the slightly tongue-in-cheek tone of the book.

Add battle nuns and their devout militancy to any campaign and it sends the campaign off into the realms of the camp as far as the border with the fetishist and the kinky. That much is at least acknowledged in the list of inspirational media for Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher and that means that its content is not going to be for everyone or every campaign. Yet there are elements in the supplement, the ten tomes in particular, which would be more than suitable for a grimdark campaign without necessarily dragging in the possibly prurient content elsewhere. This is not to say that the content is prurient, but by the time its reaches the table and players being players… A campaign or scenario involving Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher could become unnecessarily adult in tone for some players. Overall, there is a lot of roleplaying potential in playing battle nuns and using Solemn Scriptures of the Battle Nuns of the Mercyful Sepulcher, but it needs a group of players happy with its content and a Games Machinator ready for the jokes that are going to fly!

No comments:

Post a Comment