by Maurice Lane
Art by Art Today and doctored by Alex Fernandez
Ethereal Genius Loci and Seriously Ticked-Off Spirit
Corporeal Forces - 5 Strength 10 Agility 10 Ethereal Forces - 4 Intelligence 8 Precision 8 Celestial Forces - 4 Will 10 Perception 6
Skills: Acrobatics/1, Detect Lies/1, Dodge/3, Emote/3, Escape/1, Fighting/5, Knowledge (America)/6, Language (American English/6, French/1, Spanish/3), Large Weapon/2 (baseball bat), Move Silently/1, Ranged Weapon/3 (rifle), Savoir-Faire/2, Tactics/2 Songs: Attraction (Ethereal/2), Dreams (All/3), Form (Corporeal/1), Healing (All/1), Light (Celestial/2), Projection (Ethereal/2), Shields (All/3), Tongues (Corporeal/1). Sam also knows a special variant of the Corporeal Song of Motion/6: three times the range, but it only works inside the boundaries of the United States of America. Vessel: Usually, Sam materializes as an old but vigorous man.
First off, let's get this straight. Uncle Sam is not a god. Call him one and you'll feel his boot on your backside.
He's an honest, hardworking Genius Loci called into existence by the Sovereign People of the United States of America, and he's never sought worshippers. He doesn't want them, doesn't need them, and will never, ever condone that sort of foolishness. Why, he himself believes in the Supreme Being, though he's not much one for praying: Sam's sure that God has no problem with his existence, and looks forward to the day when he can formally give over his charges to Him.
He also doesn't have a thing to do with Hell. Heck, they've offered enough times to take him in, but he'll have nothing to do with such trash. They've tried to corrupt his image, with admittedly some success, but the core of America remains true, so Sam's still a stubborn old S.O.B. who has no truck with evil.
Still, he has changed, over the years. The concept of "American" has broadened, so he's had to grow beyond the old "Brother Jonathan" persona of the 19th Century . . . and he's wept when his people have squared off against each other. Mostly, though, he's just gotten madder and madder. Thanks to Hell's meddling, there's crime in the streets, intolerance, self-serving factions, corrupt politicians, and a general loss of faith in his country and cultures. Worse, Heaven, who should be grateful that someone else gives a hoot and is willing fight by their sides, keeps assuming that he and other political spirits are just as self-serving as those pagan leeches in bed-sheets.
On the other hand, it's not like he's never dealt with would-be absentee landlords before.
Goals and Relations
Sam (and a few other like-minded ethereal personifications of cultures and peoples) has recently decided to do some housecleaning. God help the hypocritical politician or "community leader" that gets within range of him: Sam will put the fear of the Almighty in them so fast that they'll fall all over themselves to practice what they preach. Unless they happen to be Hellsworn: Sam has no tolerance for treason.
The idea is to "encourage" top political leaders to act like Americans (or Russians, or British, or Mexicans), dammit, and less like a bunch of hogs sucking from the public trough. When he and his colleagues aren't engaged in this pleasant task, they tend to roam around locally, trying to strengthen their communities.
Sam and his crowd have little use for other "pantheons" (another word to never use when referring to him), with one exception. The August Prosperity Collective (The Marches, p. 104) has quite a few ethereals in it that aren't too pleased with their current lot in life, and they're often willing to give his crowd a little covert help. This doesn't endear him to Nybbas or Beleth, but genius loci are a little harder to degrade than the average ethereal. So far, they haven't been able to put Sam down.
The Host officially treats Sam and his cronies like they would any other ethereals. Unofficially, there's a wide gap between Superior and Servitor opinions. Seraphim can see Sam's Truthful desire to protect the country that produced him, Malakim sense the honor that rolls off of him like the North Atlantic waves, and Cherubim always appreciate somebody unafraid to defend something that's really, really big.
It's amazing how often Servitors of Stone or Judgement completely miss detecting his activities. Servitors of War don't even bother trying to hide their approval of Sam . . . and Michael lets them get away with it. Unfortunately, Servitors of the Sword don't have that option, but even they will cheerfully stop targeting him if something more pressing comes up.
This (mostly) benign neglect is one of the things that is actually keeping Sam alive and kicking. Not that he'd thank them. By his lights, they're letting their own partisanship get in the way of their sacred tasks.
Uncle Sam is an ethereal spirit (specifically, a genius loci) designed to be an NPC for an In Nomine campaign. For those readers out there who do not play In Nomine, ethereal spirits are entities created and maintained by the collective belief of humanity. Most of these spirits tend to manifest as pagan gods, and as such have been favorite targets of Heaven: the few remaining pantheons mostly survive by avoiding the corporeal plane (in other words, Earth), instead remaining in the ethereal plane (the place humans go when they dream, or suffer nightmares). These spirits are in a slow state of decline as they continue to lose worshippers: many have made reluctant pacts with Hell in order to survive.
Genius loci (You Are Here, p. 124-125) are special ethereals: they are embodiments of a specific place, and are not necessarily explicitly religious in nature. However, they still suffer from guilt by association: as the above character shows, they are not particularly happy about this.
Uncle Sam can appear in any campaign that has the United States as a base. He can serve as an adversary to either demons or angels: demons because he's actively fighting against evil, and angels because Sam is breaking the rules by manifesting on the corporeal plane. As written, stopping him is a knotty ethical problem for honorable PCs: should such a fighter for Good (or Freedom, for demonic PCs) be eliminated just because he's in technical violation of the rules?
Sam can also serve as an ally. This is most likely for Angelic PCs, unless the campaign is such that Heaven is unambiguously a force for utter repression. He'd make a good one (although the PCs should keep from letting their Superiors from knowing about him): Uncle Sam has an instinctive knowledge of his country and people, knows how to fit into any American social function, and can speak every dialect of American English perfectly. Seraphim in particular would find him invaluable in negotiating their way through American society.
In combat, he's an accomplished corporeal and celestial brawler, and can wipe the floor with any beginning angel or demon. He's also not afraid to cut his losses and run: those foolish enough to follow soon discover that Sam knows the value of guerilla fighting and ambushes. His special version of the Song of Motion practically assures him of having sufficient time to do so.
Adventure Seed: All Around My Hat
The PCs come across a stovepipe hat in their adventures. It has all the hallmarks of an artifact created by Eli -- humming with power, indestructible, John Philip Sousa marches constantly emanating from it -- but it doesn't seem to do anything useful. Presumably, they take possession of the hat anyway.
Unfortunately, it seems that other people want the hat, too, ranging from the annoying (minor human politicians) to problematic (Servitors of Nightmares) to terrifying (whole squads of Triads and Servitors of the Sword). Pretty soon, it seems that everybody wants the hat, although nobody can ever give a legitimate reason why (beyond, of course, "Because everybody else does," which should be reason enough). Worse, the PCs will quickly find out that they can't, in point of fact, get rid of the thing: it keeps coming back to them. Over and over and over again. This simply increases the desire of everybody else to get his or her hands on such an obviously potent item. The PCs should never actually suffer permanent harm, but they certainly should start hating the sight of the hat.
The hat actually is a creation of Eli's. He made it specifically for Uncle Sam (they split a bottle at the first Space Shuttle launch), but got distracted just before he could deliver it. Eli stuck a unique Feature on it that would allow it to eventually get delivered: essentially, the hat would find somebody going in the right direction and stay with him or her until it got to Uncle Sam. The hat is just intelligent enough to pick out another unwitting mailman, but it likes the PCs. It thinks that they do funny things.
Eventually, either Eli or Uncle Sam will show up. By then, even the most fanatical Malakite of Laurence should be ready to ignore the ethereal or semi-Outcast and just hand over the damned hat (or at least be "restrained" by other members of the party while they hand it over). The hat will go quietly, although it will play marches at dirge-like speed as it leaves its friends. On the bright side, both Eli and Sam will look kindly on the PCs for their diligence. Of course, should Sam get hurt or killed, the hat will come back, and won't leave the PCs until they've avenged the genius loci.
And what are the actual powers of the Hat? It's indestructible and plays Sousa marches. Eli does make items that aren't inhumanly potent, sometimes.
Article publication date: January 5, 2001
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