This was a tough one to review. On the one hand, I think it’s a solid book and an RPG that would be great for the right group. On the other hand, it’s really not for me. Back when this was new, in the mid-90s, I was lucky enough to game with a varied group of people who liked to try lots of different games. The 90s were a great time for tabletop RPGs, not surpassed until recent years. While there was a lot of variety, there were some themes that got hit upon more often than others and Nephilim fits into one of them.
Playing supernatural beings was very ‘in’ in the 90s, what with the popularity of Vampire: The Masquerade, among others. In Nephilim, you play semi-spiritual beings who have existed down through the ages, inhabiting physical bodies in a millennia-long journey of enlightenment. As was very common at the time, the game also gets into lots of deep conspiracy stuff, with secret societies and hidden realities playing a large part.
The system seems to echo elements of Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing, the core mechanic of Call of Cthulhu, though it certainly has its own unique elements. Character creation is quite involved as it gets into past lives and your character’s long history. You also have to create the contemporary human that your spiritual character inhabits. There are different styles of magic involved, depending on how your character is aligned with cosmic forces. There’s a lot.
With the right group, I think Nephilim could be a fantastic game with tons of potential for stories. Serious issues of reality, meaning, and spiritual growth could be mixed with the shadowy world of secret societies and the murky depths of deep time. If you’ve read anything about the game and thought ‘this sounds cool,’ then yes. Absolutely. You should probably get it and get your group on board. Unfortunately, 25 years later I find myself in the same place I was in when I first played it. For some reason, I just can’t get into it. On paper, it should be my bag. Yet…eh? It just isn’t. If I were in a regular game group and someone said they had their heart set on running Nephilim, yes. I’d be there. Sign me up. Would I ever suggest the game to my group? Would I seek out a game of it? Would I plan to run a game of it myself? No. There are a couple games I am fairly certain I’d not willingly play again (Rifts, for example) and Nephilim isn’t on that list.