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[DitV Alternate Settings] City sin progression in Judaic Kabbalah?

Started by baron samedi, August 03, 2006, 12:42:27 AM

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baron samedi

Hi fellow Dogs,

I'm trying to figure out a way to reflect the City sin progression in other settings than the Deseret world of "vanilla" DITV...

Specifically, I was trying to find a way to "map out" sin progression in a way to reflect what Rabbi Isaac Luria described, in mystical Judaism (Kabbalah), as the "breaking of the vessels", i.e. the breaking up of the 10 spheres of the (Kabbalistic) Tree of Life (not the LDS Tree of Life - probably a coincidence) as its purity breaks up in impure Shards (sins) following up the progressive degradatation of the divine spheres (Sefiroth).

This would for a setting similar to say, the times of the Ancient Testament or the Hebraic communities in Spain during the middle ages (Crusades).

Now, I understand mystical Judaism isn't a typical RPG topic (and LDS faith isn't too), but since the DITV City sin progression shows similitude that's an idea I'd like to pursue and perhaps someone could help me out. Mystical judaism isn't too far from LDS mysticism, so I think that wouldn't be impossible :

I'm trying to find an equivalence for the progression of evil from Pride to Murder with the 10 "steps" that could be made up the 10 "spheres" of the Tree of Life to reflect how each of the 10 spheres. This is perhaps a bit more "experimental" than other adaptations, because of the mystical contraints of fitting with the 10 Sefiroth, and the fact that the consequences would be "cosmic", up to humanity's decadence and the world's end.

I'm sincerely not sure the 10-Step Sefiroth progression would make sense storywise, even at 4d6+1d10 per level of "Corruption" (Demonic Influence). It's not the dice system that's a problem IMHO, it's the Sin progression... I.m not sure about "Corruption" progression by mapping Town Creation "steps of sin" to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

My rough idea was :

DITV (classical) :
1. Pride leads to...
2. Injustice, that leads to...
3. Sin, that leads to...
4. False doctrine, that leads to...
5. False worship, that leads to...
6. Sorcery, that leads to...
7. Hate and Murder.

DITV (Kabbalah version) :
1. Corruption of the Kingdom/Material world (Wordiness?) leads to...
2. Corruption of Foundation/Sexuality (Lust?), that leads to...
3. Corruption of Majesty/Submission to tradition (False beliefs?), that leads to...
4. Corruption of Victory (Violence? Oprresion?), that leads to...
5. Corruption of Beauty (Decadence?), that leads to...
6. Corruption of Severity/Justice (Cruelty?), that leads to...
7. Corruption of Mercy (Leniency towards the wicked?), that leads to...
8. Corruption of Intelligence/"Motherness" (Regression to animalism?), that leads to...
9. Corruption of Wisdom/"Fatherness" (Madness ?), that leads to...
10. Corruption of the Crown/Divinity (Rejection of God? Idolatry?), that leads to...

... Sheol (nothingness, destruction of all things, the world's ultimate end).


I'd appreciate any input from anyone even remotely familiar with Kabbalah ; a few years a go the KULT Rpg made a (very deformed) attempt at this theme, and the Nephilim RPG made an "Hermetic" attempt at it, but as far as I know "classical Judaic Kabbalah" was never a RPG topic as per itself.

Thanks for any input!


R. Jason Boss

Hi Erick!

I'm reasonably well informed about Kabbalah and have some references on it... I think the limiting factor for me would be inexperience with Dogs.  Dangit, I'm intrigued but just placed an IPR order yesterday in which I decided to wait until next time for DitV!  I'm just hesitant to put forth hypotheticals without having played the game as written.

In the meantime, who do you imagine players taking the roles of?  What "realism" level would you be looking toward?  How would the characters be using the lens of the sefirot in play?


baron samedi

Hi Jason!

I'm very happy someone replied to my voice in the desert... I think you'll understand what I try to do even without great familiarity with DITV. Forgive me if the R. in your name stands for "Rabbi" : I'm not a scholar of Kabbalah, my interpretations might be imperfect, but I'm simply doing a fantasy-themed hommage to Rabbi Luria's wondrous teachings, not a work of scholarship. Caveat emptor.

OK... Here's a way to summarize in a few words something a bit complicated... I'll answer each of your questions in logical order. Since it's long, I've tried to separate it in sections. Although I know FORGE policy, I won't be offended personnally if you cut/pastes sentences of what I said to reply to me.

And sorry for the occasional misspelling ; I'm not a native English speaker, and my spellchecking for forums might be imperfect.


1. THE SETTING/PREMISE: What "realism" level would you be looking toward?

No realism at all. Poetic-mystical tragedy, in Narrativist perspective, would be more in order. But I'm looking for symbolic consistency with Rabbi Luria's interpretation of Kabbalah. This is a work of fantasy, not a judaic text, but I want it to translate the Jewish Kabbalistic soul, not a gnostic or neo-pagan interpretation of Kabbalah.

See, in 2002, I indie- published a (French) RPG, "The Chronicles of Erdor", which are what I'd label "oneiric-weird African Bronze Age fantasy", with a strong visual influence from Frank Frazetta (e.g. the covers of the Conan novels) and a strong content influence from Jack Vance (e.g. The Dirdir, the Pnume), but with non-standard "races" and no humans (e.g. earless purple men, plant-people, sentient crab-mantis, etc.). I'm currently setting up the final of a 2nd edition, totally re-written (in French again)and again to be indie-published, with a much stronger messianic-endtimes theme. If I could make an analogy, I'd compare it to perhaps Runequest or Tekumel/Empire of the Petal Throne, but without humans/elves/etc. The dying world theme draws comparisons to Polaris, but the strongly mystical tones are more like Nephilim RPG and ... Dogs in the Vineyard. Which is the purpose of this thread, actually.

The theme of the game is : "Can these opposed nations overcome their differences to save a world from a common enemy? How far would they go, what would they sacrifice to save their universe ?"

Summarizing these nations here isn't quite relevant here ; they're complicated and can't be summarized easily (e.g. the West is a mix between Aztecs, Islam, Zulus and Babylonians; the Center is a mix between ancient India, China and Persia). All they share in common is the vision given by  "The UNKNOWABLE", that says only the heroes (PCs) can save something of this world before it dies forever.

Basically, it's a surrealistic world on the verge of destruction, with very strange civilizations who'se very reality is about to be swallowed by a cosmic Lovecraftian anti-goddess (She-Who-Devours) and her Theocracy, legions of insane howling half-nude warriors. These nations are enemies; the only thing they have in common, aside to this enemy, is that all nations have received a prophecy of times to come, from UNKNOWABLE (i.e. Ein-Sof, the hidden and most ultimate aspect of G-d), telling of the End times,  the Shattering of the Spheres, the coming of two Messiahs who will show the final omens and the fact that only the Judges (PCs) can save the world by mending it.

This is where Kabbalah kicks in : In the Talmud - the Jewish oral tradition (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7 and 9:2), it is stated that the Lord (Elohim) created worlds and destroyed worlds before He found our world (Earth) fitting. Differend Rabbis have used this statement to show that there have been other worlds, before the one talked about in the Bible.

Erdor is such a Kabbalistic world, that came before ours - or perhaps will comme after. Thus the Chronicles of Erdor feature the Kabbalistic death of an imperfect world, that might be our own, through the decor of a fantastic universe. Essentially, the Chronicles of Erdor tell the story of how things as seen through Kabbalah could be in a world without Hebrew history or Jewish culture, but set in a totally different context. What could have happened, for example, if the UNKNOWABLE would have manifested as a bush of fire not before Moses, but before an alien creature from an alien culture.

What could have happened? And knowing this revelation would come less than a year before the world's end, how could those chosen few given this revelation (i.e. the PCs) prevent the world's total collapse?

Only the PCs can save something of this dying world, by "mending the Shards" of the broken Spheres (Sephiroth) : the anti-goddess She-Who-Devours being a Shard (Qlippoth) of the Sphere Binah (Intelligence, Cosmic Feminty), as the major antagonist.

2. THE TASK : Who do you imagine players taking the roles of? How would the characters be using the lens of the sefirot in play?

Rabbi Luria's Shattering of the Spheres is causing the world of Erdor's collapse, causing the Tzim-Tzum to go backwards towards implosion (i.e. the "big bang", the "retraction" of the Lord for the universe to exist) and eventual the collapse of the universe because of [mortal beings]' sins. The world is dying : that is the leitmotiv of action. The GM plays the part of the dying world, showing how nations, communities, families are becoming corrupted by the Shattering of the Spheres, slowly slipping into oblivion. Each day, things of beauty and wonder die, things loved become forgotten, things of glory and hope become soiled.

The PCs are wandering Judges ("prophets"), chosen by the UNKNOWABLE, who try to Mend the Spheres to prevent their Final Shattering in Shards of nothingness, destroying the universe. Pilgrims follow them, collecting their sayings in Chronicles that will be assembled, at the very end of times, in a single book - the Chronicles of Erdor, that would become that world's written Torah (Bible). Sins gradually erode the Spheres into Shards, causing an escalation from sin to murder etc., but also with cosmic consequences for the world at large, depending on the degree of Shattering.

They mend the World by rooting out Sin and dealing with the problem and its consequences  : e.g. ending a fratricidal war that is destroying a clan could mend the Sphere of Foundation/Sexuality. However, the Judges and their players never quite know if their actions did more good than evil. Their conscience is their own, to answer only to the UNKNOWABLE at the End of times. Until then, they are free to act, judge and change the flow of things with faith it will make a change in the end. But they'll never know.

This is the "meta-secret" of the French edition, but I'm wondering if I wouldn't take in in reverse for an eventual English edition, that is presenting the  Shattering of the Spheres as the problem up front and their Mending as what the PCs do.


I'm wondering, as an experiment, if the DITV could serve the theme better than my current system (under OGL, but not d20), which is essentially comparable to a much strimmed-down Mutants & Masterminds, with "Initiatic Secrets" replacing superpowers. I know I should concentrate on finishing the tomes 2 to 4 I'm currently writing instead of thinking ahead for an English version, but I can't get out of my mind the questions that came to me as a revelation when I read DITV. It's almost as if the High One had shown me the mechanical means how best to tell what I wanted to tell, how best to responsibilize the players to this world's fate from within (their own choices) than without (an artificial morality system providing punishments and goodies for good or wrong choices).

I'm so impressed by the DITV system and theme that I am wondering if that wasn't what I had been searching for since the very beginning, 13 years ago ; systems always got in the way, but now I'm seeing the possibility of one, Vincent's, that could actually drive the theme forward. I'm not considering yet anything borrowed from DITV for publication, mind you, I'd ask Vincent's interest first and respect the proper protocol. I'm far from that level of development right now.

The Fallout system, especially, could be adapted to have additional cosmic consequences, with important and beautiful things dying and becoming forgotten when Fallout raises. (E.g. With Fallout 11+, something minor but beautiful dies and is forgotten forever (a unique flower, a poem, love between two small children). With Fallout 15+, an innocent suffers. With Fallout 16+, something important and beautiful dies and is forgotten forever (a mother's sacrifice is forgotten, a clan dies, a millenia-old temple of peals and silver is destroyed), etc.).  Thus the relation to the theme : You could save the town from foreign invasion, but Fallout could cause the people's heart to fill with anger and genocide, further shattering the Spheres.

Strictly from a DITV fan and non-professional perspective, I'm just trying to work out how this could be possible mechanically with the DITV system. My only problem is : how can I equate the "domino effect" of the 10 shattering Spheres  in a way consistent with the DITV Town Sin Progression mould. When I understand if and how it could be done, I'll find a way to vulgarize it and make the whole theme more understandable for players.


Whew! Sorry for the long post. With this summary in mind, I'd appreciate if anyone could provide hints on how I could build an escalation of Sin building up from each of the 10 Spheres, each Sphere corresponding to a virtue and thus its corresponding sin/imperfection when it is shattered as it becomes an excess of the virtue it was to be (e.g. Severity becomes cruelty, Clemency becomes leniency).

Thanks for any help. Sorry if I'm confusing, I'm having difficulties sorting this out clearly in my mind, which is why I'm requesting help.


I have a more detailed and more professionally written premise of "What the characters do in my game" available in English (although incomplete), but I'm afraid it's too long to be pasted here : it's about 3 pages long. If I can post it somewhere, I'd be delighted to share it.

Thanks everyone for thinking about this, and sorry for abusing your time.

baron samedi

Seems I had missed out an important thread... By checking this one out, things already start to make more sense about the similiarities between Kabbalah and DitV's Faith...

[DitV] OK, Jews?

I'm not familiar with LDS faith so I may have missed a big point about their common roots. It's enlightening...

baron samedi

Hi all,

I'm afraid I might have startled fellow forum-goes with my large post. Apologies.

I've thought about this this weekend, and I'd wonder what you people think about the following sin progression, inspired from the Sephiroth and the Old Testament (example provided).

1. ENVY causes...
2. TEMPTATION, that causes...
3. WICKEDNEDSS  (Shattering of the Spheres, aka demonic attacks), that causes...
4. BETRAYAL, that causes...
5. WRATH, that causes...
6. DECADENCE, that causes...
7. SORCERY, that causes...
8. BARBARISM, that causes...
9. MADNESS, that causes...
10. ANNIHILATION OF REALITY. The world shatters into nothingness.

Level 1 concerns the individual (World of Fabrication) ; levels 2-7 concern the community (World of Formation) ; levels 8-9 concern a whole civilization (World of Creation) ; level 10 concerns the very universe (World of Emanation).

An example

1 Hearing the serpent's words, Eve craves ENVY : to become like gods, knowing good from evil.
2 TEMPTATION comes : to eat the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
3 She and Adam commit WICKEDNESS: they disobey the Lord and eat the fruit.
4 When the Lord comes, they commit BETRAYAL by lying to him.
5 They incurr the Lord's WRATH and get chased from Eden.
6 They have children, Cain and Abel, whose worship becomes neglectful, being chased away from the Lord, thus slipping into DECADENCE.
7 Cain kills his brother, committing an act of SORCERY from this first murder, a challenge against the Lord.
8 He is cursed and wanders like a wild beast, causing humanity's BARBARISM... etc.

Same could apply to various Bible stories : The tower of Babel, Soddom and Gommhora, Samson & Rebecca, Joseph & his brothers, Pharaoh & Moses...

Would that progression seem logical to you?

R. Jason Boss

I'll want to mull this over more but one thing I notice is that the wrath described belongs to God.  I'm not sure you want to equate His wrath with the sin of Wrath.  What do you think?

In any case, I'll post more when I have more to say.  Interesting stuff!


baron samedi


Of course, you're right, and I thought this wasn't the best of examples since the Lord's wrath was (by its very definition) righteous, But it was the shortest example I had in mind... If I wanted to nitpick, I'd say that the Wickedness/Sin of Eve/Adam caused an imbalance in the Spheres, causing the Sefiroth of Severity (hebrew Gueburah) to imbalance and pour too much judgement (hebrew Din) in the world, which the early Kabbalists identified with the source of evil. But I don't like this explanation, that drives away responsibility from Mankind's acts and doesn't fit so well with Rabbi Luriac's more modern (1500s)  take on Kabbalah, which is accidentally the one Madonna recently supports (rolling eyes).

I probably won't use the word "Sin" however because it resonates too much with a Judaic-Christian culture, while "Wickedness" seems both ancient and more oecunemical. Also, since English isn't my first language, I'm not 100% sure of the subtle feeling every word evokes, so let's consider them as terms of work.

You've noticed that 3 later ones are clearly "cosmic", beyond the scope of DITV's sin ladder.

Let's try another one, from Moses' story. It's from memory, not a perfect recount of Exodus  :


Freed from Egypt by Moses, the Hebrews long for the promised land as other nations have, but want it now, not wanting to wait for the will of the Lord.

The Hebrews beliefe that by worshipping an idol in the Lord's name, they'd receive their promised land earlier.

3. WICKEDNEDSS  (Shattering of the Spheres, aka demonic attacks), that causes...
The Hebrews melt their gold into a golden calf, which they worship (Idolatry).

We can imagine here various Demonic Attacks ("Shard corruption") that causes beneficial effects for the Golden Calf's cult.

4. BETRAYAL, that causes...
Aaron, Moses' brother, supports the idolaters because he is too weak to stand against them, and lets the priesthood support their sins.

5. WRATH, that causes...
Down from Mount Sinai, Moses sees the idolaters and breaks the first Tablets of Law and chastises the Hebrews.

From then on, since Moses is a "Dog in the Vineyard", he solves the problem but we could easily imagine things degenerating into Decadence, then Sorcery if he hadn't.

Anyone else wants to try this Judaic ladder of sin?