In Nomine GM's Guide Designer's Notes

by David Edelstein

Art by Ken Waters and Philip J. Reed, Jr.

In Nomine GM's Guide Designer's Notes

It seems that a Game Master's Guide is obligatory for every game line nowadays, so now In Nomine can boast one of its own. And I can boast that I wrote it.

Given that there are so many GM's guides out there, though, it would be a little presumptuous of me to claim I can tell other GMs how to run a game, and do a better job of covering such topics as narration, plotting, pacing, atmosphere, and the like, than writers who've taken a crack at it in the past. Honestly, I didn't even try. In Nomine is cinematic in feel, and almost comic book-like in appearance, but it's not a lightweight game. It raises serious questions (for those inclined to pursue them) about the nature of God and man, and the distinctions between Good and Evil and Selfishness and Selflessness. And for that reason, I've noticed that In Nomine's hardcore fan base tends to be very well-read and philosophical . . . and generally veteran gamers. Having been a gamer for nearly 20 years now, I tend to skip past the sections on "How to Deal with Problem Players" in most GM's guides, and look for the stuff specific to the game for which I bought the book. I want "toolkits" that give me stuff I can use or not as I see fit. I want a lot of resources and plot hooks that I can just drop into my game, and I want to get a glimpse at how the game designers see their universe; not necessarily to emulate them, but to know what adjustments I'll need to make if I want to make my version of their universe a little different.

Speaking of adjustments, here is the Campaign Checklist which took up too much space to be included in the book. While useful (especially to someone who isn't an experienced, improvisational GM), it was cut because it's basically just a summary of topics that are covered in more detail in the book. By perusing this list, you can see what sorts of things the GMG describes for In Nomine world-builders.


Setting Up the Campaign

A campaign doesn't have to be mapped out in elaborate detail before it begins you can run a pick-up game of In Nomine with just the basic rulebook. However, when you start thinking about all the details discussed in this chapter, you will probably want to do some planning. What follows is a guide that will take you step by step through all the decisions you'll want to make when setting up your campaign. Remember that many of these decisions are optional, and some can be left until well after the campaign is underway.

I: Establish a Mood (pp. 35-36)

Decide on the overall mood for your campaign. Remember these are not rigid definitions from which your campaign cannot deviate!

II: Choose a Setting (p. 37-41)

Where is your campaign set? If it's not the modern world, describe it. Otherwise, is it a localized campaign or a global campaign?

Characters (pp. 37-38)

Make decisions (and lists) addressing the following:

Tethers (p. 40)

III: Choose a Theme (pp. 41-43)

Decide on what kind of campaign premises you want, and what style of play.

Canon

IV: Superiors (pp. 43-45)

What role will Superiors play in your campaign?

Politics (pp. 43)

Influence

V: Celestials on Earth (pp. 46-48)

How do celestials interact with the corporeal world?

Frequency (p. 46)

How common are celestials on Earth?

Intervention (p. 47)

Mundane Matters (p. 48)

VI: Humans (pp. 49-54)

What role do humans play in the campaign?

Exceptional Humans (p. 49)

Human Agencies (pp. 49-54)

Consider the competence and participation (see below) of any major human agencies. Remember that some agencies are too large to be classified as a single group; describe those organizations that will play a part in your campaign.

  • The Government
  • The Law
  • The Military
  • Intelligence Agencies
  • Business
  • The Media
  • Academia
  • Religion
  • Organized Crime
Competence (p. 50)
  • Inept
  • Average
  • Competent
    Participation (p. 50)
    • Unaware
    • Misled
    • Informed

    VII: Canon Doubt and Uncertainty (pp. 59-61)

    These questions don't have to be answered in your campaign, in the beginning or ever. The items below are just a few of the metaphysical topics you might want to think about.

    VIII: Creating Characters

    Now, decide what information needs to be given to your players. Then let them create characters. (First check out Chapter 1, Characters, p. 5-20.)

    Player Character Types

    Allocating Resources

    Any changes from the basic In Nomine rules?

    Party Composition

    Are there any special considerations you need to take into account? Such as:


    In Nomine GM's Guide Designer's Notes

    I wrote the In Nomine GMG with that attitude -- I assumed that most In Nomine GMs are fairly experienced, and don't need lessons in basic GMing. They want to know more about the In Nomine universe, and how to fit it all together to make a campaign that captures the mood and style they're looking for. This doesn't mean the GMG won't be useful for novice GM's; I certainly hope it will be! But I didn't devote a lot of pages to the craft of GMing itself. I dove right into both the nuts and bolts and the atmosphere and philosophy of the In Nomine universe.

    This book has required more research than anything else I've written for In Nomine, since I devoted an entire chapter to religion. In Nomine is a game about angels and demons, after all; shouldn't we say something about the billions of people on Earth who actually believe in such beings? First of all, I wanted to give a summation of various religions for those who might not be knowledgeable about such things. It's my hope that even if you have no use for religion yourself (I'm an atheist personally), you'll see that real-world religions are far more interesting, complex, and full of plot hooks and fascinating characters that any fiction. Secondly, I wanted to tie real religions into In Nomine's history; Archangels and Demon Princes had to be interested in how humanity worships. But while religion is rich territory for In Nomine, I had to be careful of the twin traps of making celestials too influential (lest too many major developments in human history turn out to be the manipulations of supernatural beings, thus making mortals superfluous as in a certain other game line), or worse, writing something inaccurate. These are real religions, after all. While I don't mind if someone gets offended by satirical implications (indeed, the most amusing playtest complaints came from pagans, who wanted their beliefs treated with special reverence, even though the beliefs of monotheists have been run through a blender in In Nomine), I don't want anyone accusing me of being ignorant!

    Here are the fruits of some of my research which also couldn't be included in the book . . . not because we feared that someone might be offended, but because such interesting personalities deserve more space than a one-line blurb to cover their In Nomine significance. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go into more detail in a future book . . .


    Jews in the War

    Christians in the War

    Muslims in the War


    So, what else is in the Game Master's Guide besides building blocks for your campaign, and a history of religions in the In Nomine universe? How about complete guidelines for roleplaying Superiors? (And how do they reward and punish player characters?) Want to add new Archangels or Demon Princes, or shake up the existing hierarchy? What can Superiors do, and what are the limits (if any) on Lucifer's power? What happens if a Demon Prince takes on an Archangel in battle? And where does GOD fit into the game?

    You'll also find practical advice for managing character development, especially things that Superiors hand out, like vessels and additional Forces. There is an entire chapter on the Word-bound, and how Words grow or shrink. You'll also find loads of optional rules, both for variant campaigns and for streamlining game mechanics.

    Here's one more item that was cut from the book; a Random Discord table. It's not necessary for experienced GMs, but it does handily list all of the new Discords that have been introduced in supplements following the main rulebook.


    Random Discord

    The Random Discord table in In Nomine, p. 89, includes only the Discords found in the basic rulebook. Several other sourcebooks, notably the Corporeal Player's Guide, the Angelic Player's Guide, and the Infernal Player's Guide, provide new Discords, including some that are particular to specific Choirs and Bands. If you have access to these books, the table below provides more variety when rolling Discords randomly.

    Note that some Discords, such as Geas (In Nomine, p. 88), Selfless (Infernal Player's Guide, p. 105), and various Discords particular to Seneschals (Liber Castellorum, pp. 26-27) are not included here, because these Discords do not normally manifest at random.

    Corporeal and Ethereal Discord

    Roll 2 dice on one of the tables below (choose one, or roll 1 die: 1-2 = A, 3-4 = B, 5-6 = C)

    Table A

    2 . . . . Pallid
    3 . . . . Obese
    4 . . . . Stigmata
    5 . . . . Vestigium
    6 . . . . Aura
    7 . . . . Choose a Corporeal or Ethereal Discord from the Choir- and Band-specific Discord list (below)
    8 . . . . Berserk
    9 . . . . Bound
    10 . . . . Fear
    11 . . . . Vulnerable (chosen by the GM)
    12 . . . . Roll on the Celestial Discord table

    Table B

    2 . . . . Discolored
    3 . . . . Covetous
    4 . . . . Twitchy
    5 . . . . Nocturnal
    6 . . . . Hatred
    7 . . . . Choose a Corporeal or Ethereal Discord from the Choir- and Band-specific Discord list (below)
    8 . . . . Guilt
    9 . . . . Tongue-Tied
    10 . . . . Cowardly
    11 . . . . Crippled
    12 . . . . Roll on the Celestial Discord table

    Table C

    2 . . . . Stink
    3 . . . . Pity
    4 . . . . Addicted
    5 . . . . Diurnal
    6 . . . . Ugly
    7 . . . . Choose a Corporeal or Ethereal Discord from the Choir- and Band-specific Discord list (below)
    8 . . . . Jaded
    9 . . . . Obsessed
    10 . . . . Paranoia
    11 . . . . Damaged Sense
    12 . . . . Roll on the Celestial Discord table

    Celestial Discord

    Roll 2 dice

    2 . . . . Angels may try again on the Corporeal and Ethereal Discord tables; demons must roll again on this table and add 1 to the level of the Discord!
    3 . . . . Celestial Blindness, Deafness, or Muteness (choose, or roll randomly)
    4 . . . Gluttonous
    5 . . . . Greedy
    6 . . . . Lustful
    7 . . . . Choose a Celestial Discord from the Choir- and Band-specific Discord list (below)
    8 . . . . Merciful
    9 . . . . Murderous
    10 . . . . Need (chosen by the player, with GM approval)
    11 . . . . Slothful
    12 . . . . Demons may try again on the Corporeal and Ethereal Discord tables; angels must roll again on this table and add 1 to the level of the Discord!

    Choir- and Band-Specific Discord

    SeraphimBalseraphs
    Painful Lies (Corporeal) Forked Tongue (Corporeal)
    Truthfulness (Ethereal)* Truthfulness (Ethereal)*
    Forked Tongue (Celestial)* Burning Lies (Celestial)
    Cherubim Djinn
    Life-Linked Attunement (Corporeal) Apathy (Ethereal)*
    Ritualized Responsibilities (Ethereal)* Obsessive-Compulsive (Ethereal)*
    Trenchant Bond (Ethereal) Distracting Attunements (Celestial)
    Overzealous (Celestial)*
    Ofanim Calabim
    Combustible (Corporeal) Pain (Corporeal)
    Claustrophobia (Ethereal) Aura of Entropy (Celestial)
    Hyperactive (Celestial) Indiscriminate (Celestial)
    Elohim Habbalah
    Emotional Static (Ethereal) Mutilation (Corporeal)
    Oversensitive (Ethereal) Pity (Ethereal)
    Empathy (Celestial) Unshielded (Celestial)
    Malakim Lilim
    Burning Touch (Corporeal) Chained Geases (Corporeal)
    Evil Warning (Ethereal) Generous (Ethereal)
    Binding Oath (Celestial) Deteriorating Geases (Celestial)
    Kyriotates Shedim
    Contrariness (Ethereal) Oozing (Corporeal)
    Inner Echoes (Ethereal) Cold-Blooded* (Ethereal)
    Fractured Forces (Celestial) Driven (Celestial)
    Inseparable Forces (Celestial)
    Mercurians Impudites
    Unnerving Stare (Corporeal)* Reduced Essence Capacity (Corporeal)
    Oblivious (Celestial)* Infatuation (Ethereal)
    Tainted Essence (Celestial)

    * These Discords are most common among the indicated Choir/Band, but may sometimes manifest in others (but usually not randomly).




    Article publication date: December 31, 1999


    Copyright © 1999 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to webmaster@sjgames.com.