by Kris Overstreet
[Editor's Note: The material in this article laid the groundwork for the section on ghosts in the Corporeal Player's Guide. Where there are conflicts between this article and that book, consider the information in the CPG as official canon.]
Art by andi jones
In the universe of In Nomine, mortals often have close brushes with the supernatural, as celestial and ethereal beings struggle for advantage in the great War. These are often reported as sightings of angels or demons, but also as ghosts or spirits or elves or haunts of every shape and description. Every once in a while, though, a report of a haunting may be just that -- a sighting of a soul so troubled, so angry, so stubborn that it resists the pull of Heaven or Hell to remain in the corporeal realm after its life has ended.
When playing In Nomine, ghosts make interesting NPCs and can provide ways for deceased human PCs or NPCs to continue on after their death. Ghosts, in general, should not be PCs and should definitely not be used as starting characters, but there are few adventure seeds more engaging for gamemaster and players alike than a good old fashioned ghost story.
How Ghosts Are MadeGhosts are the human souls, or fragments of human souls, which remain when a human feels he or she has left something unfinished on Earth. This can be due to a sudden or violent death, an obsession, a personal tragedy, or just dying at an age the deceased considers "too young." In any case, resisting the call to the Great Reward requires a massive effort of Will and a sacrifice of a bit of themselves . . . maybe more than a bit.
The secret behind a soul remaining on Earth is in anchoring itself to a particular location or object in the corporeal realm. This may simply be an empty point in space, or a family heirloom, or a tree or a rock or even, in extreme cases, another person. Once anchored, that soul can remain on Earth, but only within a certain radius of the point or object it is anchored to.
A human soul must have a minimum of two Celestial Forces to attempt to remain in the corporeal realm. With the celestial realms pulling on the soul, each attempt results in a Force tearing itself away from the soul and flitting off to whichever realm the soul was intended to go -- this Force is usually a random Force from any of the three types the human possesses. If, after the Force is lost, the soul still has two or more Celestial Forces, and succeeds in a Will roll to bind itself to Earth, that spirit becomes a ghost; if its effort of Will fails, then the soul may try again, losing a Force in each attempt, until it finally anchors itself or drops to one Celestial Force. At this point, the rest of the soul is reunited with those Forces previously torn away -- in whichever realm it was destined or fated for.
A ghost usually retains the skills and abilities it had in life; however, if a ghost loses a type of Force entirely, all Skills it may have had related to that Force are lost forever.
Ghost MechanicsGhosts act differently than Celestials in celestial form on Earth. Nobody has explained how or why this is, but the best guess anyone has is that human spirits have a natural affinity to the corporeal realm which allows them to affect that realm even after death.
For their ability to linger after death and affect the physical world, ghosts sacrifice their freedom of mobility. Ghosts can only move (Will x 10) units from their anchors. If they have two Celestial Forces, the distance is measured in yards; with three Celestial Forces, in acres; with four or more Celestial Forces, in miles.
Ghosts can manifest visibly in the corporeal realm without expending Essence on Songs or other mechanisms. Depending on their strength, this manifestation may be limited to dark rooms or moonless nights, or they may manifest even in the brightest sunlight with all the appearance and tangibility of a living being.
Observers can spot ghosts through a handful of clues. Ghosts do not appear in mirrors or cast shadows, and their luminescent glow does not cast a beam or cause shadows. Recording devices like cameras often show ghosts only as overexposed patches on the film, if at all. Ghostly speech can be recorded electronically, but except in the case of the most powerful ghosts such recordings end up with faint, garbled moaning sounds, no matter how clear the speech may be to eyewitnesses.
Ghosts' appearance depends upon their Ethereal Forces. Only ghosts with Ethereal Forces will manifest in humanoid form, although ghosts with only a few Ethereal Forces (one or two) may only manifest from the waist up. Ghosts whose Ethereal Forces have been stripped away no longer remember what they looked like in life, and manifest as glowing balls of light, if they manifest visibly at all. Many of these types remain invisible to Corporeal senses and can only be detected by a sensation of cold when standing near -- or even within -- them.
Of course, ghosts may be detected celestially, as with an angel or demon in celestial form.
Only ghosts with Corporeal Forces can affect objects in the corporeal realm, and this power of manipulation is usually clumsy at best. Any effort to affect corporeal objects must be preceded by a successful Will roll; otherwise, the ghost is unable to touch that object that round.
Ghosts regenerate Essence at noon as they did in life, under normal circumstances. They have no need of nourishment, do not grow, do not reproduce, and do not produce waste product. As time goes by, some ghosts may develop a Rite associated with their anchor to draw more Essence from the Symphony. Ghosts do not cause any Disturbance except by the purposeful expenditure of Essence.
If a ghost knew a Song in life, and still has the Forces related to that Song after becoming a ghost, it may still use that Song. It is extremely rare for a ghost to learn Songs after death; few enough ghosts have the six Forces, including at least one of all types, to learn, and fewer Celestials have the inclination to teach them.
Exorcising A GhostGetting rid of a ghost is difficult, but possible, for talented mortals. For Celestials, it can be easy, especially with their superior Perception and Will. Depending on the situation, exorcists may choose to persuade the spirit to depart of its own accord or to confront the spirit and drive it away from its anchor.
Ghosts can release their anchorage at any time they choose; when they do this, they are again subject to the pull of the celestial realms, which they may choose to obey this time or fight by choosing a new place or object to tether to, losing more Forces in the struggle.
The best way to convince a ghost to end its haunt is to complete the business the ghost did not finish in life. Sometimes, this will be as easy as the ghost telling someone goodbye; sometimes it will be downright impossible, although the ghost may not recognize it as such.
Malevolent or stubborn ghosts can be driven away from their anchors by someone with high Perception and Will. First, the exorcist must track down and confront the ghost through a series of successful Perception rolls. Then, the exorcist attempts to use his or her Will to force the ghost from its anchor; if the exorcist's Will roll succeeds, the ghost must make its own Will roll or be banished forever.
A ghost exorcised by persuasion passes on to the celestial realms peacefully; a ghost banished by direct confrontation does not go to Heaven or Hell, but disperses its Forces back into the Symphony.
Types of GhostsFollowing are a few different types of ghosts, with an example of each. For GMs creating new NPCs, pick one of the following templates, select Forces and attributes, then assign 4 Character Points (CP) per Force the ghost has. The ghost may or may not have one Rite (costs 5 CP). Ghosts have no bodies or vessels and may not buy any, but may buy up to two points of Charisma at two CP per point of Charisma.
Will O' WispsNo Corporeal Forces, no Ethereal Forces, 2 or more Celestial Forces
Will o' Wisps are the most rudimentary form of ghost, spirits who have sacrificed every part of themselves except the very Will they needed to remain on Earth in the first place. Aside from manifesting as vague balls of light or cold pockets of air near their anchor, Will o' Wisps cannot affect the corporeal realm, and don't have the intelligence to make any major changes if they could.
Will o' Wisps are the most common type of ghost and can be found all over. Many are never even recognized for what they are by humans who encounter these lonely, wandering spirits who have forgotten why they remained on Earth and do not know how to let go.
Mr. BraggCorporeal Forces -- 0 (Strength 0, Agility 0)
Ethereal Forces -- 0 (Intelligence 0, Precision 0)
Celestial Forces -- 4 (Will 6, Perception 10)
Form: shining ball of light (+2 Charisma (holy))
Skills: Tracking/3, Seduction/2, Dodge/2
Rite: Float past a parked car on Bragg Road (+1)
Before oil came to the dense subtropical forests and swamps of Southeast Texas, the major industry of the region was logging. One of the sawmill towns born of this industry was named after Confederate general Braxton Bragg, and its little spur railroad ran north from the main line through a swampy five-mile stretch of woods near a cypress-choked stream named Bad Luck Creek. The line continued to serve the sparsely populated area until the rails were torn up in the 1930s, and the sawmill town gradually faded out of existence, leaving only the unpaved Bragg Road on the old railroad foundation . . . and the Bragg Road Light.
Some people say that there actually was a Mr. Bragg, and the light is his ghost. Others say that the light is the spirit of a Mexican brakeman on the old rail line who lost his head in a tragic accident, and that he carries his lamp through the swamp trying to find his head again.
The truth of the matter is more tragic than that. "Mr. Bragg" was a young lover and dreamer whose Northern-born lover died of malaria in the mosquito-ridden swamps of the Big Thicket. In a fit of despair, the young man threw himself under the train one day, seeking his lover in the next life. In the struggle to remain where he was, he lost the very memory of his Earthly lover, and now he wanders within the wide range of his anchor, searching for something he doesn't remember.
Poltergeists1 or more Corporeal Forces, no Ethereal Forces, two or more Celestial Forces
Poltergeists, or "house ghosts," can be playful, friendly or malevolent. What they can't be, sadly, is intelligent; in their struggle to avoid the afterlife, these spirits literally lost their minds. Now, with no more intelligence than an animal, these spirits guard their anchors and express their pleasure or displeasure by using their limited corporeal powers to influence objects around them.
Poltergeists usually do not display a corporeally visible manifestation, and their celestial form is hardly more complex than a will o' wisp's glowing globe. They are usually detected through the cool spots where they manifest . . . or by the objects flying across the room.
JimmyCorporeal Forces -- 2 (Strength 5, Agility 3)
Ethereal Forces -- 0 (Intelligence 0, Precision 0)
Celestial Forces -- 2 (Will 7, Perception 1)
Form: invisible ball of energy, cold areas
Skills: Detect Lies/2, Dodge/3, Emote/4, Fighting/2, Throwing/5
Jimmy has chased away no less then seven families from the Missouri farmhouse he haunts. This malevolent spirit, slain as a teenager during the neighbor-on-neighbor warfare which infested the region during the Civil War, takes pleasure in throwing large objects at anyone who tries to set up housekeeping in the home he haunts.
So far, none of the families or realtors who have held the property have considered exorcism; the strongly Protestant population does not believe in ghosts or the power of men to cast them out. Jimmy may be working towards his own destruction, however . . . the century-old house is in dire need of renovation, but Jimmy's pranks make any effort to shore up the rotting timbers and cracking foundations futile.
ApparitionsNo Corporeal Forces, 1 or more Ethereal Forces, 2 or more Celestial Forces
Apparitions have lost their ability to affect the corporeal world directly, but still hold the intelligence and memories of their past existence. Depending on how much of their mind remains, the ghosts may simply replay bits of their old life over and over, trapped in a loop of fragmented memory, or seek out humans to convey messages to in an effort to complete the work they left incomplete.
Apparitions manifest as the form they remember themselves as, except without legs; their image fades out below the waist. Being intelligent, they can be as harmless as a will o' wisp or as hateful as a jealous house ghost, and despite not being able to move objects or speak aloud, they have their own ways of making an unwanted visitor very miserable indeed.
Charity BrownCorporeal -- 0 (Strength 0, Agility 0)
Ethereal -- 1 (Intelligence 2, Precision 2)
Celestial -- 3 (Will 6, Perception 6)
Form: head and torso of young African woman (+1 Charisma (beautiful))
Skills: Fast-Talk/2, Knowledge (plantations)/2, Knowledge (slave lore)/2, Singing/3
Rite: Talk someone into helping Charity cross the river (+1)
Near one bend of the Kentucky bank of the Ohio River a ghost can sometimes be seen at night, looking sadly at the wide running water with an occasional fearful glance over her shoulder. This spirit in life had been Charity Brown, a runaway slave who in 1838 had been run down by bounty hunters just before she was to meet with a boat to take her up the river to Pittsburgh, and then to Canada and freedom. When she resisted their attempts to rape her, the bounty hunters shot her and buried her near the river, leaving her shade to wander around her final resting place in search of her freedom.
Occasionally Charity manifests on the deck of a riverboat or barge, at the extreme limit of her anchorage, trying to convince the captain to take her across to the other side. In recent times, she has approached cars on a nearby highway, begging for her freedom, looking for someone who can guide her to a place where she can live free at last.
Ghosts1 or more Corporeal Forces, 1 or more Ethereal Forces, 2 or more Celestial Forces
The classic ghost represents the least fragmented of lost spirits, the shades of powerful mortals who had six or seven Forces when they died. These spirits usually possess most of their original intelligence, are fully aware of the circumstances of their existence, and are capable of communicating normally with living mortals or Celestials. Since this type of ghost is the most likely either to be exorcised or to finish their "unfinished work," they are also the rarest type of ghost.
In all but the brightest direct sunlight, ghosts appear as real and tangible as living humans. Only their limitation to the area of their haunting, and their selective tangibility, reveal their true nature. Ghosts usually have morbid senses of humor, and those ghosts who no longer have any hope of completing their unfinished business tend to laugh at mortal's worries as inconsequential and self-absorbed. "Life is wasted on the living," they might say, all the time wishing for another chance to truly live, or to end the hanging-on existence they go through, day after day.
Molly MaloneCorporeal -- 1 (Strength 2, Agility 2)
Ethereal -- 1 (Intelligence 3, Precision 1)
Celestial -- 4 (Will 6, Perception 10)
Form: "Black Irish" maiden (+2 Charisma (beauty, sex appeal))
Skills: Clamdigging/2, Detect Lies/1, Emote/4, Singing/4, Knowledge (Ireland)/4
Rite: Spend 8 hours walking the shoreline (+1)
In life and death, Molly Malone is a legend among Irishmen the world over. In life she was a poor, unlucky "black Irish" woman, and to this day she manifests as a raven-haired, pale-faced beauty, singing a song as she gathers shellfish on the Irish coast. She had many lovers in life, but none lived long enough to be her husband, and in anger at the world which had deprived her of all hopes of happiness, she threw herself off a cliff one day and plummeted to her death.
Her life of misery and Christian love, and her charity towards others despite her poverty, would have gained her a spot in Heaven, but her spirit rejected the call of the Blessed Land. In her sorrow and anger she anchored herself to Ireland -- all of Ireland -- but particularly the southwestern coasts where she dug shellfish and aided the shipwrecked in her poor tenant hut.
Observing all of this was one of Saminga's more creative Servitors, a Habbalite named Crenathan. Cren had been working to create a terror of the dangerous Irish coastline, and he knew Molly's tragic story inside and out -- in fact, he'd caused the deaths of two of her lovers in his pursuit of the word of Shipwrecks. When he saw Molly's ghost for the first time, though, he abandoned this goal for a new one -- to make Molly Malone's ghost a terror as great as the banshee for Death.
From then on, Crenathan kept an evil eye on Molly's wanderings, as her shade searched the Emerald Isle for love. Whenever a mortal met Molly's shade, Cren would follow him, make sure that mortal told someone else, and then engineer an unlucky death for the unfortunate mortal. Within a century, Molly became an Irish proverb, and even to this day anyone unfortunate enough to cross Molly's path is marked for death by Cren (who earned a Knighthood for his dedicated work).
Molly is unaware of Crenathan's existence, and believes that God has made her an unwilling harbinger of death. She still longs to help others, and occasionally when nobody is looking, she will do little things to help the oppressed or poor. She spends most of her time wandering the empty moors and beaches of the land, searching for love and hoping she doesn't meet anybody, lest she cause yet another untimely death.
Celestials and GhostsA celestial's attitude towards ghosts usually varies according to their Superior's attitude towards them. Dominic and Asmodeus both regard ghosts as deserters and encourage their destruction by exorcism. Novalis and Kobal, each for totally different reasons, have their Servitors assist any ghosts they might find in achieving their goals. Beleth, Gabriel, Lilith and Saminga want ghosts left where they are, to live out their existence as they see fit; Yves and Kronos' Servitors are ordered to urge the ghosts on to their celestial reward, provided that that reward is in favor of the Word the Servitor serves. A Balseraph of Fate who inadvertently guides a soul on to the Upper Heavens will have a lot of questions to answer when he next speaks to Kronos.
Most of the rest of the Superiors on both sides don't care one way or the other about ghosts, so long as those ghosts don't interfere in their plans. In general, both sides regard ghosts as misguided. Angels think of each ghost as a great tragedy, while demons regard ghosts as damned souls who are only putting off the inevitable.
Haunted House for RentA local Servitor of Kobal has bought a haunted house with a very nasty poltergeist inside (it might even be Jimmy's house) and is renting it out -- cheap. He's wired the house with cameras and microphones, all ready to record the antics of the terrified renters when the ghost makes itself known to them. A group of angelic PCs may be assigned by David or another Archangel to "clean house," or at least see to it that the demon's plan to amuse Shal-Mari at innocents' expense is somehow derailed.
Malone's CurseMolly Malone has appeared to a large town In central Ireland. Thousands of people have seen the shade, and Crenathan can't kill them all by himself, so he comes to a group of demonic PCs for help in killing every man, woman and child in the town. Of course, the angels in town will have something to say about this, too, even if the recruited demon wouldn't rather sabotage one of Saminga's minor plots . . .
Article publication date: September 3, 1999
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