Nephandi

From Academic Kids

The Nephandi are a group of mages in the role-playing game Mage: The Ascension dedicated broadly to spreading corruption, decay, and discord.

A Nephandus (singular) typically possesses an imbalance of entropic energy. This is not always true, however, and there is no iron-clad way to "prove" a Nephandi's true motives. Nephandi are motivated by a variety of interests. Some exist for the sole purpose of destroying all of reality. Others seek power and are Nephandi solely because they do so in the most reprehensible ways imaginable. Yet others do so out of religious zeal, worshipping beings known as Malfeans (thought to be aspects of the Wyrm, the avatar of entropy in the Triat). Most possess all three motivations to varying degrees.

Nephandi exist in several locations in the World of Darkness cosmology, but those who are powerful dwell in the Umbra (most often in the Deep Umbra) because the extremity of their beliefs often fail to integrate directly into the consensus of Earth. These masterminds direct their pawns at a distance, and it is these pawns (many of whom do not know the true nature of their masters' missions) who do most of the Nephandi's dirty work.

Nephandic Philosophy

What distinguishes Nephandi from part-time Satanists is the corruption of their Avatar. As part of their temptation, Nephandi are convinced to enter a Caul, a so-called "place of Rebirth" that inverts their Avatar, causing it to seek Oblivion rather than Ascension. Once converted in this manner, extraordinary measures are needed to allow a Nephandus to return to a normal state. No Nephandus is ever the same after experiencing a Caul.

Because the Nephandi experience all things (especially magic) differently than others, they have developed a separate system for understanding it. This outlook is broadly called Qlippoth (drawn from the term Qliphoth in Kabbalism) and refers to an understanding of all things that is informed by the way they fall apart rather than by the way they are. To view the world through the lens of Qlippoth is to see its ever-eroding underside. The Nephandi see this very clearly, and are dedicated to speeding and facilitating that erosion.

Nephandic Groups

A Nephandus is typically a former member of the Traditions, Technocracy, or some other Craft who have renounced that group to assist in the progression of the world toward a state of havoc or Armageddon. These converts are known broadly as barrabi and make up the bulk of Nephandic ranks.

In some cases, these corrupted Avatars reincarnate, leading to mages who are "born bad" and operate as Nephandi from the moment of their Awakening. These widderslainte often never make contact with the Nephandi hierarchy and work alone, driven by their own dark motives and no one else's.

Not all Nephandi are renunciates and bad seeds, however. Some magical societies exist that actively recruit unaffiliated mages and lure them into Nephandi practice. Such groups are almost always composed of Infernalists, or mages who have made pacts with discrete demonic entities in exchange for power. The two largest Infernalist organizations are the Wu Keng and the Toc Faan. Both groups were lured into corruption by desperate circumstances, and ironically it is Infernalists who are most likely among Nephandi to feel regret for the path they have chosen (though, ownership of their soul being a done deal, they no longer have any choice in the matter). Infernalists are most likely to recruit to their cause mortal devil-worshipers and Infernalist vampires, like the Baali.

Those Nephandi who serve inscrutable Deep Umbral entities who apparently care little for them are known as K'llasshaa or Outsiders. These isolated individuals are almost never found on Earth, and instead roam the Umbra as ideological (or literal) predators. If they have allies at all, those tend to be rather revolting, unspeakable creatures hailing from the deepest reaches of the Umbra. The K'llasshaa are likely based on the Great Old Ones cults from the Cthulhu Mythos.

Finally, the Malfeans are dedicated to following the Wyrm, the cosmic manifestation of entropy, decay and corruption. They are likely to work alongside the Black Spiral Dancers Garou, fomori, and a host of other corrupt spirits.

The Nephandic Hierarchy

Though all Nephandi serve Oblivion, they maintain a fairly rigid hierarchy based on power and closeness to Oblivion. This inverted kakistocracy is prone to constant violent upheaval at the low levels and byzantine cloak-and-dagger plots at the upper levels. Common Nephandic jargon break this hierarchy into the following categories:

  • Pawn - These unaware souls have not entered the Caul or (more commonly) simply are not mages. They do not truly understand the goal of the Nephandi, and rarely possess a Qlippothic outlook. They are instead manipulated, deceived, and/or coerced into supporting the Nephandi. Promising mages from this pool are slowly tempted toward full awareness of Qlippoth.
  • Nephandus - A true Nephandi is first born by emerging from the Caul. This term also broadly refers to any member of the hierarchy upwards from here, and later ranks can be considered "titles." It is at this rank that most of the Nephandi's Shaytan (those Nephandi who are highly violent and act as soldiers and assassins) can be found.
  • Adsinistrati - After building a network of supporters, a Nephandus begins to have the clout to command lesser Nephandi and act as a full-time tempter. The Adsinistrati are primarily responsible for luring Pawns into the Caul, as the lower ranks lack the subtlety and skill to do so. When necessary, the Adsinistrati are also the diplomats of the Nephandi, making contact with other beings of corruption such as Black Spiral Dancers.
  • Prelatus - The generals of the Nephandi are almost always powerful, inhuman, and inscrutable. Most Prelati are able to visit Earth for short periods but generally find long-term residence difficult. These Nephandi direct large-scale operations.
  • Gilledian - The highest ranking Nephandi are the rulers of the Labyrinths, Nephandic realms in the Umbra. Most are very old, very powerful, and very experienced. While unable to leave the Umbra, these beings exert temendous political force from a distance.

Beyond the Gilledians there are no unifiers of the Nephandi. Though a handful of Aswadim (superhumanly poweful masters of Qlippothic magic) exist, they act (at most) as symbols to the Nephandi, or as avatars of Oblivion. They do not take an active role in leadership.

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