by Perry M. Lloyd
This being was formed when a subway train somehow managed to crash into the wall of the subway, killing everyone in the car almost instantly. Though families mourned, and the rest of the world has moved on, the subway car's Ghostly form has not. Rather than resulting from a single mortal's death, this Ghost came into existence from the collective desires of those on the subway train who wished dearly to reach their destination.
The deceased souls pooled their resources, effectively binding their souls together. Thus its Forces total is higher than most ghosts, and its skills include bits and pieces of those who initially formed the collective, and those who've joined since . . .because it possesses the ability to trap inside and assimilate any who board it.
(In Nomine's rules for Ghosts are in the Corporeal Player's Guide, pp. 80-82)
Corporeal Forces - 5
Ethereal Forces - 4
Celestial Forces - 4
Skills: Area Knowledge(the city/3, Boston,MA/1, Douglas,AR/1, Duluth,MN/1, Savannah,GA/1), Artistry (Sculpture/1, Drawing/1), Computer Operations/2, Driving/4, Emote/1, Fighting/1, Knowledge (History/1, Biology/1, Baseball History/2, Sports Lore/3, Cultural Studies/1, Art History/1, Business/1), Languages (Spanish/2, English/5), Lying/2, Savoir-Faire/1, Singing/2, Seduction/1
Some Personae on the Train
- Sara, sculpture artist and art history major. She was on her way to the bus station to go back home to visit her boyfriend for the weekend. Attractive, she sits waiting impatiently for her stop.
- Ben, computer programmer. He had finally figured out how to work some code and is looking forward to getting home so he can try it out. He can be seen scribbling furiously in a notebook.
- Mr. Rhodes is the man dressed in the suit and nice coat. He didn't drive this morning because he car wouldn't start. He really wants to get home so that he can watch the rest of the game and see his wife.
- Charlie and his mother, Darla, are looking forward to getting home, too. Charlie so that he can play with his Legos and watch TV, Darla so that she can put her feet up and relax after a long day at the lab.
These are victims who haven't been made part of the collective yet.
- Walter, a homeless man who swears up and down that the train is "cursed" and that they, the PCs, have to get out. Of course, after the first time the train crashes, Walter is strangely confused on the topic and doesn't know what the PCs are talking about if they bring it up to him.
- Steven, a middle-class kid who's listening to his radio and chilling in a back corner on the car. A PC might recognize him or anyone else on the train from Missing Persons posters they may have ever seen, perhaps from years ago.
The GM is, of course, free to modify the skills listed as well as the characters on the subway (perhaps inlcuding any NPCs that have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, or otherwise haven't been seen for a while). There should be at least ten people in the train with the PCs, with a suggested maximum of two or three being add-ons.
One of the easiest ways to involve this being in the game would be to have the player characters board it mistakenly. On the other hand, the PCs might have been specifically sent to help the Ghost to come to rest.
Perhaps a servitor of one of their Superiors is known to have suddenly disappeared in the part of the city near to the train, and the PCs discover him trapped on the train! Perhaps the servitor was able to get word out by falling asleep and journeying through the Marches, but is snapped back awake every time the subway crashes. Alternatively, the characters might have discovered the trapped celestial, or lucid dreamer, or Sorcerer who got the word out this way.
Outcasts or Ethereal spirits might be using the train as refuge from those who seek them -- alternatively boring and traumatic as it might be -- and they need to be set free (if they haven't already joined the collective and are lost to the world).
Act I: Trapped!
Unless the characters immediately start to actively interact with their environment (unlikely if the GM describes the subway casually) they won't realize that anything is out of the ordinary until the subway car suddenly jerks to the side, everyone on board is tossed forward like paper dolls in a breeze, and the PCs die. But then they awaken and get their bearings again, only to find themselves having just entered the train again. (Note that Malakim of War should sense the impending danger before the crash, but even six minutes won't be enough time to stop the train in time even if the PCs do figure out what the danger is.) After a second crash, they may realize that they're effectively trapped!
Normally, of course, the PCs could always go celestial and just escape. But on board assuming celestial form either just doesn't work -- perhaps because they've left the mortal realm -- or their celestial forms aren't able to move beyond the limits of the train, including returning to their Heart.
The biggest threat the ghostly subway poses: it's able to blind others as to its true nature and slowly draw them into itself. Any new passengers (add-ons) must make a Will roll every time the train crashes. Once they fail a number of rolls equal to their Total Forces, the soul loses a Force and the Ghost gain a characteristic level. Once the soul has lost at least one its Forces to the train, it will defend the train just like the personae, and will have no recollection of anything of the train's odd nature, believing that they're merely on their way to their "destination," dreaming up a false one if need be. Once they've lost all of their Forces to the Ghost, the soul has become a personae of the train, part of the collective soul, and will leave with the train if and when the train is freed from its anchor.
Ghosts don't have a vessel and have no body hits, therefore corporeal damage to the train is effectively meaningless; it cannot be "killed" corporeally, and neither can any of the personae within (though add-ons who haven't completely joined the collected can be, such as Walter and Steven); it can only be damaged Ethereally and Corporeally.
Act II: What's Going On?
The GM knows that the Ghostly Subway is "reliving" the period of time up until the crash, crashing, and then cycling back. The PCs have become part of the cycle, much to their chagrin. The length of each cycle is up to the GM, and is suggested between forty-five minutes to an hour.
Obviously, the party will have to figure this out on their own. Fortunately, as Celestials, many will have abilities that allow insight into the situation (and it may be fairly obvious to any who are familiar with ghosts).
Angelic Resonances are the most applicable in this regard. The Malakite Resonance can discern that this being's latest dishonorable act was to fail to make it to its destination. A Seraph's resonance might detect that the personae is lying but doesn't realize it when she says that she's going to go see her boyfriend. The Mercurian's resonance immediately detects that this person is dead, and that the person and the train and all other personae in the collective are one being. The Elohite's resonance might reveal the "true" emotional state of the collective soul, that it's anxiety ridden, and why (death, over and over again). The Lilim resonance could easily discern that this train and all its occupants (since Resonating on one resonates on them all) have the Need to reach their destination safely (or to be freed of its anchor). Any use of Resonances or other information abilities on add-ons will pick up information from that unincorporated rider only.
Soundtrack may prove useful in this regard, too (the soundtrack to Speed might be appropriate). Knights of the Dead will automatically know that everyone here died in a wreck and that the wreak is going to occur, again, and when.
If none of these abilities alert the new occupants, perhaps one of the characters picked up a newspaper that has an article on the "anniversary" of the locally famous subway train crash, including the names of the people on the train. Alternatively, the newspaper may have blown in with them as they boarded the subway car, or someone on board could be reading a newspaper with the article within view (they would be an add-on or recent addition to the collective, of course.)
Maybe even all the watches of the passengers read the same, and set to an incorrect time (or even traveling backwards to the time of crash). After a while, the characters might notice that everyone and everything on the train, except themselves, is just slightly translucent. The GM might decide that if the PCs experience "the end of the line" and crash multiple times with the train, that they see that they're also starting to look a little translucent (or, alternatively, the train's starting to look a lot more solid), especially for those who've been failing their Will rolls.
Act III: Escape!
Possible ways to escape include:
- Convince the conductor to stop. Not that it'd be easy, of course, though a Balseraph can convince the train that it's already reached its destination, or that it absolutely must stop. Divine Logic might be useful to convince the conductor. One possible argument would be that there's a problem ahead on the tracks, they're here to fix it and they need to be "let out" to "fix it." The conductor, and all the other personae on the train, is really one being, with Will 10. Roleplaying, of course, should aid the effects of persuasion.
- Reducing its Celestial Forces to 1 through Celestial combat can force the Ghost to let go of its corporeal anchor and go on to its Heavenly (or Hellish) reward. This would require that the GM allow the PCs to assume celestial form (but not allow them to ascend to their heart).
- Breaking a window or forcing an escape hatch open would probably work, but the Ghost will take care of its own. The passengers in the train should leap its defense, trying to pull the characters away from the hatch physically, or verbally convince them to stop. As they all serve as "arms" for the Ghost's strength and agility and are virtually unkillable, they will probably stop the PCs unless they can be somehow distracted or preventing from interfering.
Act IV: Denouement
If the train is stopped for the PCs to make repairs and they escape, or the train is otherwise convinced that its now able to reach its destination, or has been reduced to one celestial force, then the Ghost will be freed from its anchor and the collective soul will move on to be judged. The PCs will be left in the middle of a subway tunnel, which may be somewhat anticlimatic. The collective soul may so thankful that the PCs receive an artifact from the train and/or its remaining Essence is distributed to the party.
Walter and Steven, along with other add-ons who hadn't lost their souls completely to the Ghost, appear with the PCs, having been "freed." Depending on what Forces they've lost and how many, they may or may not be suitable for recruitment into the War.
Suggested Effects of Other Powers on the Ghostly Subway
Kyriotates/Shedim will be unable to possess the people on the train, Cherubim/Djinn who attune to a persona on the train will realize that the personae and the train are one soul. Calabim who use their Resonance on the train -- or any of the personae within it -- will cause the train to suddenly rock violently and throw them on their face (dealing as much damage as they inflicted).
Habbalah will be happy to discover that the Ghost has a considerably high Will. Lilim can detect the Needs of the train and the add-ons within (the personae and the subway train share needs as a collective).
Elohim of David might realize that they're left normal space/time. Incarnate Law might discern that the local laws (as drawn up by human souls bound up together) involves soul sharing.
Cherubim of Eli will realize that nothing on the train is an item unto itself, but is all part of a "collective entity." Likewise, Transubstantiation will not work. An Ofanite of Fire might recognize that the inhabitants of the train are fleeing from heavenly justice (i.e. final judgment).
Swipe will have no effect on anything on the train. Friends of the Unseen will inform the angel that the train itself is watching him. Kyriotates of Jean will be unable to possess anything in the subway train; Remote Control will not work either.
The effects of Call of the Wild shouldn't take until the characters are off the subway. Elohim of the Sword will be able to sense the intense loss, pain, and feelings of failure from within the train. Cherubim of Marc will know that nothing on the train has a true owner, while Mercurians of Marc may be able to learn that no one on the train has earned any money for quite a long time. Cherubim of Novalis will notice that they cannot heal the wounds of anyone on the train (the GM might describe one of the personae on the train as having a minor wound, like a cut hand, for this reason).
Seraphim of Yves will note that everyone's true name on the train is the same, Cherubim of Yves attempting to attune to someone on the train will learn that s/he's already dead, Mercurians of Yves learn that no one on the train *has* a fortunes in the coming months, and Divine Destiny has no effect, as the train and its passengers are no longer mortal.
Shedim of Beleth will not drive the Ghost mad with their celestial form. Balseraphs and Djinn of Belial will discover that their Band Attunement affects nothing on the train (only the train as a whole).
Djinn of Fate who attune to the train or one of its personae will discover that it's already dead. Impudites of Fate will discover the true nature of the Ghost Subway. Fated Future discovers that the train/personae do not have a great destiny/fate, Temporal Projection will not work, while Knight of the Winged Chariot will discover that time is altered here and that nothing in the train is really an object.
Servitors of Malphus will be unable to spark conflict between the personae on the subway. Captains of Swank will receive their +3 reaction bonus from the train and its personae. Calabim of Death should automatically detect that no one in the train is alive; likewise, Vampiric Kiss will have no effect on the train or its personae. Balseraphs of Vapula will discover that nothing on the train is really a device (expect those possessions of add-ons). Impudites of Vapula will see with their glasses that the train and the personae within share an Essence pool.
Article publication date: April 27, 2001
Copyright © 2001 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.