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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.


Liber Ka

Sourcebook for Nephilim RPG

Chaosium Inc.

[sterling]??? - 96pp

A couple of years ago, Chaosium released Nephilim amidst some hoo-ha about the game's attempt to present "authentic" occultism. Now, authentic occultism is deathly dull stuff, whereas most gamers expect their RPGs to be interesting. This left Nephilim on the horns of a dilemma which is now being resolved by this little supplement, subtitled "Authentic Western Ceremonial Sorcery for the Nephilim RPG". His eyelids already glazing over, your dauntless reviewer plunges into the text . . .

The difference in approach is obvious. The original Nephilim magic rules were a sort of cross between Cull of Cthulhu (arcane tomes to be studied, percentile dice to be rolled to translate) and AD&D (lists of spells grouped into three tiers of difficulty). Very little background or magical theory was presented. Liber Ka, however, is almost all game background and magical theory. The history of sorcery is told through character narratives, where ancient Nephilim reminisce on the initiation into sorcery during earlier incarnations in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia. Sorcery in the modern era is discussed, outlining the occult traditions of the 20th century: ceremonial magic, neo-paganism, satanism as well as on-line virtual magic and eclectic chaos magic. This fleshes out Nephilim's game-world immensely; it's also interesting to read, unlike the original rules.

Sorcery's three Circles are now retitled Casual, Ritual and High Magic. The prescriptive spell lists are gone - sorcerers can accomplish any magical feat, without worrying about Thresholds or Foci, so long as the have access to the right Ka-energies. Offsetting this immense flexibility is the requirement for preparatory ceremonies - hours for Ritual Magic, days for High Magic. PCs are expected to work within the "Laws of Magic", working with sympathetic connections and true names. Sample spells are given and the trend is away from the flash-bang! effects of the original rules towards subtle magics which work through coincidences. Sorcery now involves far more input and creativity from players, who get rewarded for designing imaginative and ingenious rituals, and will also affect your campaign texture, since getting the ingredients and assistants together for big rituals takes time and effort.

Overall: In terms of game design, I can't fault this one. It's what Nephilim should have been first time round (and doubtless will be, in its inevitable 2nd Edition) and similar revisions for Summoning and Alchemy will doubtless follow. Though, frankly, it's all a bit bizarre, isn't it? When a magic system reaches this degree of supposed verisimilitude, you're as well forgetting RPGs and taking up witchcraft as a hobby. Or maybe it's the author's note at the end; having written a game with cheerfully blasphemes against four of the world's five major religions, the writers apologise to all the wiccans and satanists out their for adapting occult concepts into game-terms: "No disrespect is intended!" Go figure!

Reviewed by Jon Rowe

Product supplied by Caliver Books

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