Song Combos for In Nomine and GURPS In Nomine
Making New Powers with Old Parts
by Perry M. Lloyd
Most, if not all, of us in the world of gaming are familiar with a martial arts standby: the Combo. A combo can be as simple as "Punch + Kick" to "Kick + Punch + Kick" to "Hand Parry + Arm Lock + Elbow Strike" and eventually "Spinning Punch + Axe Kick + Explosive Fireball Blast." For those searching for a way to do more damage in In Nomine without resorting to mundane high-powered weaponry, or for those looking to create new abilities without generating long lists of totally new powers, Song Combos may provide the answer.
Using GURPS Martial Arts and martial arts training as a model, martial arts combos are multiple actions that are combined and learned as nearly one fluid motion. This can be a motion repeated or combined with other motions. Why not do the same with Songs? In fact, why stop there, why shouldn't the natural Symphonic effect be that such Songs sung in "combination" often merge and create new and unique effects? These "combos" (called "polyphonies" by Jean's Servitors and Vapulans) possess characteristics of their component Songs, but combined for more power, at the expense of more Essence.
There are two kinds of combos: Two-Song combos and Three-Song combos, in which either two or three Songs are combined. The major advantages of combos are the unique effects they can produce and the speed with which they may accomplish several effects at once.
Two-Song combos have a 3-point purchasing cost, and Three-Song combos have a 5-point purchasing cost. The combo is then purchased as though it were a separate Song.
The GM may wish to reduce the purchasing cost when two or more of the Songs are of the same type, such as combining the Ethereal and Corporeal Songs of Healing. A total point cost reduction of 1 is suggested if two Songs are of a given type, or 2 if all three are of the same type of Song. The GM may also allow for a reduced point cost if all the Songs are of the same plane (corporeal, ethereal or celestial); the suggested total point cost reduction is 1 for two Songs, 2 for three Songs. This sort of point cost reduction is not appropriate when the same version of the same Song is being repeated within the combo for greater and faster effect (such as with Laser Blast and Fatal Blow, below).
Learning Combos in Play
When learning a combo, the character must make an Intelligence roll at -4 to learn the combo. The CD of this roll determines the maximum level at which the combo may be initially purchased. If the character knows at least one of its component Songs at 4 higher, add +1 to the roll. If the character knows all of its component Songs at 4 or higher, add another +1 to the roll. If the character knows all of its component Songs at 5 or 6, add yet another +1 to the roll. (These bonuses are cumulative.)
Example: Ghutrile, Calabite of Dark Humor, would like to learn a three-Song combo called Beleth's Kiss, a combo of the Ethereal and Celestial Songs of Entropy with Numinous Corpus: Tongue. He cuts a deal with a Lilim Songmaster of Nightmares (Liber Canticorum, p. 25) who can teach him the combo. After spending a 2-point purchasing cost (the GM allows him to take a -1 pt cost reduction for common Song type), succeeding his Intelligence-4 roll with a CD of 4, and gaining a level 2 Geas (as payment to the Lilim for teaching him the Song), he now can spend up to 4 points in Beleth's Kiss (GM willing).
Nuts and Bolts
When combining Songs with differing duration, areas of effect, Essence cost and disturbance created, a balance must be struck between the qualities of the component Songs when designing the combo.
Generally, combining a Song with an instant duration and a Song with an extended duration will result in a combo which is no longer instant, but no longer as extended either. Generally, Songs endure for a base duration: an instant, rounds, minutes, or hours. Each of these base durations is multiplied by skill level, Forces, check digit, or whatever.
There is no handy formula for generating combos' durations mathematically, so here's a rule of thumb: keep the duration near to the shortest duration of the component Songs. For example, Beleth's Kiss is composed of two instant Songs and one that lasts check digit hours. To strike a balance, keep the multiplier of the base duration (the check digit) the same, and shift the base duration down to combat rounds. Combining a Song that lasts rounds with one that lasts hours should result in a Song that lasts minutes. If the component Songs include one Song that lasts minutes and another that lasts rounds, you could drop the base duration down to rounds, but increase the modifier, perhaps from Forces or skill level to a characteristic or even total Forces.
Area of Effect
Songs' areas of effect vary as well, most affecting a single target or area within a certain range. While one shortens the duration of Songs combined, one extends the area of effect. Thus, combining the Ethereal Song of Tongues with the Ethereal Song of Healing would allow the performer to heal anyone he can make mental contact with (Healing Thoughts, below).
The Essence cost of the combo should be the sum cost to perform all the Songs. The GM may allow the characters to pay more points for combos that are more Essence "efficient," generally an extra character point per level for every point of Essence reduction, but this should probably be limited to combos of Songs of the same type (such as combining the Corporeal and Ethereal Songs of Harmony). In no instance should the Essence cost drop below the number of Songs combined. In fact, some GMs may wish to increase the Essence cost of combos to maintain power balance.
Example: The components Songs of "Beleth's Kiss" (see below) are the Ethereal and Celestial Songs of Entropy and Numinous Corpus: Tongue, costing 1, 2, and 1 Essence respectively. Therefore Beleth's Kiss costs 4 Essence to perform.
The easiest to combine . . . just add it all up! The disturbance of the combo is the sum total of the disturbance created by its component Songs.
Example: Beleth's Kiss' component Songs, the Ethereal and Celestial Songs of Entropy and NC: Tongues, generate CD + total Forces, CD + total Forces, and no disturbance, respectively. Therefore, Beleth's Kiss does disturbance equal to twice the sum of CD + total Forces of the performer.
When performing a combo, the level of the combo is added to the lowest of the Forces its Songs are combined with. Since Beleth's Kiss' component Songs are combined with Corporeal, Ethereal, and Celestial Forces, Ghutrile must add the level of his combo with the lowest of his Forces, his Corporeal Forces. (He has two Corporeal Forces, making his base target number to perform the combo a 5.) The check digit of the initiating roll counts as the check digit all of its component Songs.
The normal rules of Song performance (In Nomine, pp. 46-47) apply to combos. This means that combos that include multiple Songs of the same type (such as the ethereal and corporeal Songs of healing) should receive an automatic bonus to the CD (+1 for two such Songs in combo, +2 for three). Performing a combo should take the entire round, however. Songs which are made up of more than three Songs (see below) should take more than one round to perform.
Using Combos in the campaign
Combos can be quite powerful, granting an instant effect a longer duration, turning a touch or ranged effect into an area effect, or simply allowing for more power to be swung at once. Therefore, it is suggested that the GM keep most combos for use by NPCs, and to use them as exceptional rewards.
Depending on how the GM wishes to run the show, combos can be rare or commonplace. Perhaps only Superiors can teach combos (e.g. not Songmasters); perhaps certain combos are only commonly known to certain Words and the secrets of their performance closely guarded. On the other hand, the GM may allow his celestials to try and make up combos "on the fly," and render combos so commonplace that normal single Songs are rarely heard. Another option is to allow celestials to combine any number of Songs . . . perhaps upwards of six or more, taking multiple rounds to perform with spectacular (and loud) effects!
Numinous Corpus: Tongue, Ethereal Song of Entropy, Celestial Song of Entropy
When sung, this Song summons forth a vile tongue that inflicts the effects of the ethereal and celestial Songs of Entropy when it strikes its target. A favorite use of this Song by demons of Nightmares is to engage the victim in a (forced) French kiss before unleashing the attack. It costs 4 Essence to perform, lasts check digit combat rounds, and does twice CD + performer's total Forces in Disturbance.
Ethereal Song of Tongues and Ethereal Song of Healing
When sung, the performer may send a mental message to anyone within range (same as the Ethereal Song of Tongues) that heals person's Mind hits! The duration is effectively instant but permanent (as per the Ethereal Song of Healing), it costs 2 Essence to perform and does the check digit in Disturbance. This would be a favorite of Blandine's angels.
Ethereal Song of Attraction and Celestial Song of Charm
When sung, the performer must make eye contact with the victim, who may resist the effects of a successful performance with a Will roll, his will reduced by the initial CD of this combo's performance. A drawback of this combo is that it can only be used to reduce the victim's Will in order to resist the Song of Attraction, and the victim can be made only to become madly, passionately attracted to the performer. Still, Andrealphus' demons could quite like it. It costs 3 Essence to perform, lasts a number of minutes equal to the performer's total Forces times the CD, and does twice the CD in Disturbance. The effective check digit for determining duration can be increased by spending extra Essence in the initial performance, one Essence per effective check digit bonus.
Corporeal Song of Motion and Numinous Corpus: Wings
This powerful combo grants the user the ability to move a number of yards per turn of his normal running speed (Agility times 6) plus a number of yards equal to his level in the combo, the sum multiplied by the extra Essence spent +1, plus Agility time 10 yards (using the updated Numinous Corpus: Wings mechanics from Liber Canticorum). It costs 2 Essence, lasts CD minutes, and does CD Disturbance to the symphony.
Example: Arael has Total Freedom/5 and Agility 8. He spends 3 Essence, one extra Essence to boost it. His flight speed is his normal running speed (8 x 6) of 48 plus his level in the combo (5) (48+5=53), times the extra Essence+1 (53x2=106), plus his Agility (8) x10 (80). So his final speed is 106+80=186 yards a turn. A turn is 5 seconds, so he's moving at 37.2 yards a second, or about twice that (74) in miles per hour. Go, Arael!
Celestial Song of Light, Celestial Song of Light and Celestial Song of Light
This combo allows the performer to spend 3 to 9 points of Essence to produce a powerful celestial light blast as per the normal Song, doing three times the sum of CD + Essence spent in damage. Additionally, the victim is dazzled with a penalty of -6 rather than -2, and observers get a bonus equal to the check digit of the attack to their Perception roll to notice the attack's origin. Some versions of this combo feature a tri-beam effect, while others combine to form a triple-thick coherent beam. It costs 3 to 9 points of Essence to perform, is instantaneous, and does no Disturbance to the Symphony.
Celestial Song of Charm and Celestial Song of Charm
Essentially, this combo is used to affect both the target's Will and Perception with one performance, making this combo a must to swiftly gain the edge in Celestial combat. Of course, it's expensive to perform. It costs 4 Essence, lasts a number of rounds equal to the performer's Celestial Forces, and does twice the check digit in Disturbance.
Creating New Combos in Game Play
To design a new combo in game play requires the character to have the new skill Harmonize.
(defaults to Intelligence-6)
Prerequisite: Songmaster attunement
This skill is used by a character to actually design a new combo. If combos are a rarity in the campaign, then most celestials will not even be aware that such a skill is possible. Normal use of the skill allows the celestial to design a two-Song combo. Use of the skill at -2 allows for the design of a three-Song combo. This only creates the blueprint, the celestial score, of the combo. Actually learning to perform the combo requires practice and another successful Harmonize roll at -4. Only one such roll is allowed per day, and at least one hour of study is required per attempt. The CD of the roll determines that initial level at which the Songmaster may purchase the combo. The combo's level can be improved over time, as per a Song. All component Songs to be included in the combo must be known at level 5 at least.
GURPS In Nomine conversion
One possible mode of conversion would be to use the Combo rules on page 171 of GURPS Compendium 1, borrowing from GURPS Martial Arts. Point cost is 4 points for a two-Song combo, and 6 points for a six-Song combo. Instead of rolling once to activate all component Songs, however, you would roll versus each Song separately, figuring the effects of each Song into the overall game effect. If using these mechanics, it would make much more sense that the Songs do not merge to create new effects, but are merely performed in rapid succession. On the other hand, perhaps performing them in such rapid succession creates a Symphonic Polyphonic Harmonious Effect (or whatever you wish to call it) which generates the combo's unique properties! The GM may alternatively choose to rule that the character roll only once, against the lowest skill level of the component Songs.
On the other hand, the GM may choose to make the performance of the combo a separate M/VH Song (use the character's lowest level of Power Investiture associated with the combo's component Songs) with no default. Of course, the combo could even be purchased as a Hard Maneuver (CI, p. 165) defaulting to lowest of the combo's component Songs -4.
For something much truer to the In Nomine system above, consider taking a look at S. John Ross's rules for Linking spells: http://home.iu.net/~caroth/SJohn/Custom.htm . Since in GURPS Songs are based off the mechanics for spells, this system for combining spells should be quite applicable to Songs as well. While he suggests using the least desirable aspects of the combined spells to maintain power balance, Some GMs may prefer striking a balance between the Songs to represent a truer blend. The choice is yours.
Combos can be abused . . . horribly, horribly, horribly abused. On the other hand, that's part of the fun. Of course, actually creating new combos requires the Songmaster attunement (a 10-point attunement reserved normally for the Word-bound that allows you to teach Songs to others) to maintain power balance. But be creative; combine the Corporeal Song of Attraction with something, or the Celestial Song of Tongues, or even the Songs of Projection. Don't be afraid to dare the impossible dream of discovering the ultimate combo.
Article publication date: April 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 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 email@example.com.