In Nomine Voodoo
by Eric Funk
"My friend the witch doctor, he taught me what to do"
-- Ross Bagdaserian, Jr., Witch Doctor
This Pyramid article is intended to show how Vodoun shamans and practitioners can be inserted into an In Nomine campaign. Beginning with power investiture in humans, it describes how the loas and creatures from GURPS Voodoo can be compatible with In Nomine's ethereals, ghosts, and "monsters." Finally, it gives suggestions on how celestials might stack up against these powers. Following the advice on page 7 of GURPS Voodoo, this text will refer to the general system of beliefs as "voodoo."
This crossover tries not to break In Nomine's canon but there are no rules for partial possessions or Voodoo Initiations. While GURPS Voodoo adds the four new "factions" from the Shadow War (Voodoo cults, Loa Lodges, dark cults and loa, and chaotic devourers) to the In Nomine setting, the canon attitudes of the Superiors will remain as described in the books. Comments about opinions exist in this article solely as adventure hooks. Only the relative power of ethereals changes.
There are many parallels between In Nomine and GURPS Voodoo beyond the invisible war behind an otherwise mundane, contemporary setting. For example, in In Nomine most people do not meet their ultimate destiny or fate in their lifetime, and thus reincarnate. Reincarnation plays an important part in the world of the Shadow War (see pages 23 and 58). In In Nomine, voodoo ("voudon") is defined as a semi-divine religion with some Essence going to divine destinations, and some to ethereal ones (see the In Nomine Game Master's Guide, page 65). The dark lodges send Essence to the infernal side of divine religions with ritual murder and torture (see GURPS Voodoo, page 38). The loas are known as powerful spirits who are not specifically good nor evil. In In Nomine, this perfectly fits the conception of ethereal beings and ghosts. Ghosts are somewhat important to the Voodoo setting, and have their place in In Nomine as well as remnants (their celestial counterparts). Many loa, spirit guides, and troublemakers are specters (see GURPS Voodoo page 53; Corporeal Player's Guide, page 80; and Liber Umbrarum).
Power Investiture in Humans
"You remind me of the babe
What babe? The babe with the power
What power? Power of voodoo"
-- David Bowie, Labyrinth
Initiation in voodoo cults, lodges, and followings of dark beings uses similar mechanics, even if the trappings and rituals appear different. The process is a combination of Sorcerer (exorcist) and Pagan Dream Soldier (see the Corporeal Player's Guide, pages 65 and 71; and GURPS In Nomine, page 27).
In all cases, the overall process proceeds as follows:
- The Initiate is introduced by a "cabal" to the ethereral being to see if the candidate has the potential for 6 Forces.
- If so, then the subject is Awakened and Initiated, and can begin to learn Corporeal Songs (see the Corporeal Player's Guide pages 28, 45, and 70).
- Part-way in the journey the incumbent receives a Partial Ethereal Connection (as per a "Partial Celestial Connection," but with powerful ethereal beings) to contact the ethereal on their own. They can now be empowered ("possessed") by the being (see the Corporeal Player's Guide p. 28).
- As a full member, an initiate is granted the full Ethereal Connection, and can perform Ethereal Songs.
There are 10 known levels of Initiation (see GURPS Voodoo, pages 58-62). While the bonuses from the paths quickly add up such that a 10th level Initiate gains from 6 to 9 Forces (bringing him up to 11 to 15), this is tempered by the fact that each level of Initiation posses four times fewer individuals as the rank below it. It is a mere rumor that there are more than two dozen 9th level Initiates in the world, to say nothing of the few elusive 10th level Adepts. Most PCs will be uninitiated to Fourth level Initiates with 5 to 8 Forces, well below the levels of a starting celestial. Initiation levels proceeds as follows:
- Sixth Force, granting Symphonic Awareness, Essence Control for skills; Optional: Autotrance.
- +2 Charisma (Special); Optional: Songs and sorcerous rituals to communicate with spirits, +1 Perception, Partial Ethereal Connection*
- +1 Celestial Force†; Optional: Servant/2, Metabolism Control/6
- +1 Celestial Force; Optional: +1 Corporeal Force, Ethereal Connection*
- +1 Ethereal Force, +1 Charisma (Special); Optional: Channel Spirit, Faith Healing, +1 Charisma, Celestial Form, auto-destiny
- Song Mastery; Optional: +1 Corporeal Force, +1 Charisma (Awe)
- Three ethereal Servants at level 4; Optional: +1 Corporeal Force
- Exorcism at will; Optional: +1 Celestial Force
- Primal Luck, +3 Charisma (Awe, ethereal spirits only), Intimidation/6 (vs. ethereal spirits only), Agility/6 (vs. mundanes)
- +2 Celestial Forces, Seraph of Flowers (vs. mundanes only), Charisma +2 (Awe).
* Optional at this level of initiation, but required later.
† Mortal humans (and quite probably immortal ones; see the Power of Fives) may only have 5 Forces per realm, for a total of 15; if the maximum in a realm is reached via Initiation, the player chooses which other realm the Force will go to. (A GM may wish to undo the errata and allow humans to posthumously be able to attain 18 Forces in all, 6 per realm.)
The ritual magic from GURPS Voodoo can be represented as Songs with different training. The longer voodoo rituals can be explained as different normal Song performances in that most of the time the voodoo practitioners take extra time for skill (see In Nomine, page 47).
Loas and Guardian Spirits (pp. VO87-93)
"You make me wanna break the laws of time and space"
-- "Weird Al" Yankovic, You Make Me
Loas are simply old ghosts and powerful ethereal beings in In Nomine. They can invest power into mortals. The living humans' belief in the fact of their power grants them Essence through rituals (similar to the Worship Rites from Corporeal Player's Guide, page 67). To complicate matters, the belief in these non-divine powerful entities spawns ethereals who believe themselves to be these ghosts, and may replace their inceptors.
Each ethereal loa has its own threads that control its influence. The most powerful also possess Primal affinities (see the Ethereal Player's Guide, in particular page 50). In addition, the Loa confronted by the Host appeal to their sense of honor that they are not manifesting on the corporeal plane, but simply aiding humans to purge murderous In-Betweeners and Devourers which would prey on their people. The ghostly loa present a new challenge as the "mortals" can possess up to 18 Forces, and still activate dissonance conditions of some Choirs and Bands.
A major aspect of human interactions involves channeling other beings' power to aid in supernatural confrontations. Initiates first learn to channel the raw essence of a being, during which time they must engage in a contest of Will each round in order to decide what to do. Usually, the possessor will attack a summoner's enemies first, but there are always exceptions. Most possessions increase Strength. In In Nomine, this also increases Body Hits. Lost Hits of any sort will be taken from the possessing entity before its human host suffers any damage. This can allow a human to leave a dangerous situation unscathed . . .
The Mayabe are primitive -- but often potent -- ethereals which are officially seen as tools by most of the cults and lodges. Secretly, they are ever gaining in power in the organizations. They are one of the problems the celestial generals see, even if the ethereals are usually isolated (see GURPS Voodoo, pages 2 and 93-95). Lodges are American street gangs with voodoo training. They can conflict with, or usurp some of David's gangs (see pages 96-98).
Voodoo's Nonhumans in In Nomine
The In-Betweeners from Voodoo (see pages 38 and 98-102) can be described as Gorgons (mortal halfbreeds with an ethereal parent) or ethereals (see page 38 and the Corporeal Player's Guide). Neither have very good reputations with Judgement or the Game. In-Betweeners with multiple corporeal forms are likely "pureblood" ethereals with multiple Vessels, whereas those without multiple vessels might just make do with the Celestial Song of Form. Some In-Betweeners can be reasoned with, and thus cannot be smote out of hand. Many lodges accept in-betweeners as full members. Sane lodges only accept Cat People into their fold, as all the other common "races" seem to require ritually killing humans as part of their nature.
Voodoo's Monsters in In Nomine
They are, in short, darkness and fear given form. Mayabe and Devourers are primal desires beyond the call of nature into mankind's darkest passions. The Heavenly forces and the Game want this connection cut off. Devourers are insidious powers to the extent that loas, angels, and demons might team up for a moment.
Saminga simply seeks to shorten life spans with corporeal or soul-death, if possible. For the average person, corporeal death forces reincarnation. Baal encourages this, as those who do not seem likely to meet their fate will get a chance to do worse. The powerful ethereals which Force-strip humans to nothing rob the celestials of a valuable resource -- Essence. If the souls are disbanded before reaching their final rest, then the celestial economy is hurt. Angels will also be morally outraged. This is part of the justification of subtle involvement in the human organizations, to both sides of the War, as opposed to just wading in with swords.
There are primal, predatory creatures which do not reason, only hunt. The worst of these are called devourers, terrifying many-Force ethereals on par with ancient ethereal gods and Word-bound Seneschals. Sent out by the hundreds, sendlings are their eyes and ears. These horrors are one of the few things which can unite voodoo shaman, lodge member, angel and demon together for a common cause -- for a moment. Devourers always have a vessel/6, and 12+ personal Forces (see pages 102-103, and page 68 of the Ethereal Player's Guide).
"Some roads will get you to heaven
Some roads will wear down your shoes
Some roads you know will be hell-bound"
-- Gowan, Soul's Road
In general, the Archangels and Demon Princes are reacting to voodoo as a pagan cult, and trying to dismantle it from within in addition to overt hunting of the ethereal influences in the Marches. In general, both sides are reacting in generally the same way, with some Superiors aiming to restrict ethereals to the Marches, and others seek to hunt down and dissipate any who dare set foot on the corporeal plane. The fact that Divine Essence is flowing in because of this religion is troublesome.
Those ethereals who merely seek influence on the corporeal plane will be judged based on their merits in the Marches. The groups' modi operandi are also similar in that over the eons, the "celestial" branch of voodoo have aimed to make their images more "angelic"/"demonic" to channel more and more Essence to the celestial pool. They emphasize that the Loa are merely agents for a single "supreme being."
This is complicated by the fact that many loa are actually human souls, and belief Essence creates ethereals in the Marches which will grow until they can replace the originator or support his cause. Many of the relatively benign loa and voodoo spirits can be left alone for now, as they are low priority targets who will serve as a good buffer against the more dangerous, predatory spirits, such as mayambe and devourers.
One edge that celestials will always have over ethereals is their ability to grant Celestial Songs. Celestials can perform the Song of Affinity on a linked human to find their Loa. Celestial resonances, especially those of Mercurians, could pick up the otherworldy connections and possibly resonate completely on the ethereal (as per detecting Shedim). Kyriotates and Shedim suggest that their human allies take mild hallucinogens combined with suggestions about what they "might" see before revealing their presence. On the other hand, ethereals can have any sort of "non-living" vessels (see page 68 of the Ethereal Player's Guide).
Revealing the War to the Shadow War
In the end, many voodoo spirits and loas can be negotiated with, and accept the role of keeping the mayombe back. Celestial intervention is a mixed blessing for a number of pantheons. Some can accept the constraints that come with aid, while others would rather strike out alone. Then comes the work of convincing the humans they work with . . . In the end, it might be best to keep the War secret from those involved in the Shadow War.
Several Archangels will hesitate to kill a human just to kill an ethereal. Note that there is an "unspoken agreement with Heaven (The Marches, p. 104)" and "Laurence's angels generally ignore [these spirits], as long as they behave" (p. 58 and 65, respectively). There is a rumor going around the heavenly ranks that it was the infernals that started the voodoo belief to channel Essence away from Heaven.
Voodoo's "flesh eater" spirits are, to some extent, under the sway of Baal and Beleth, but not to the extent that they would lead the Host to believe. Beleth revels in the terror they inspire and create. Thus, Beleth restricts her aid to the corporeal efforts to a minimum, focusing her hunts only on those terrors which kill the quickest. She encourages those ethereals which kill slowly while other humans are watching. Most of the Princes (and to some extent, Jordi) are trying to find some uses for these lesser dark beings of chaos, while the "soul-eaters" are universally hated, at least officially. Unable to completely destroy them, the armies of Hell have resorted to simply directing them to prey on the populace.
Fate (through Sorcery) is fighting with Nightmares about who should control the rituals to summon ethereals. Media is trying to discredit the ethereal part of this battle between good and evil, but unsolved death means ratings, man! Saminga's minions teeter between the extremes of "control these minions of death" and jealousy at their efficiency. Saminga himself remains uninterested in matters ethereal, and is only interested in results. Saminga believes ethereals to be of no consequence, as they are not alive. Other factions model deadly Vessels after them . . . inspiring more nightmares, some of which break free . . . There is a rumor going around the infernal ranks that it was the angels that started the voodoo belief to channel Essence away from Hell.
Some voodoo priests know of spirits than can never be forcibly summoned or mastered (angels) as well as insidious spirits who can never be trusted (infernals, including Habbalite "angels"), but can be bargained with. Just as very few humans are indoctrinated as celestial soldiers or Soldiers, a very few Initiates might be found worthy or pliable enough to be inducted into the War. A carrot-and-stick approach that might work involves the Partial and Full Celestial Connection offered by celestial Superiors. This connection allows the Initiate Soldier to perform the coveted Celestial Songs, while allowing the Superior to keep an eye on them. It can even be revoked as punishment.
"Weeee dooo vooodooo . . . "
-- Fraggle Rock, Season 5
The two Voodoo campaign settings that will blend most easily into the In Nomine setting are the Spirit Warrior campaign (see page 117) and Secret Master campaign (see page 118).
Celestials have powers similar to mid-level Initiates, but will still be surprised to encounter humans with similar power and Force levels. Warrior celestials might even be physically out-matched by human Spirit Warriors! The first step will be to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes, to discover the number of people affected by the voodoo cults and loa lodges. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands in each major city. The heroes can encounter a string of murders related to a certain social club, and just as they start to narrow it down, a man sends a taped confession, and is found gagged at home. Then, the PCs encounter something which looks like the man they saw on TV just a minute ago. Was he a skin changer? Are the attacks by ethereal "demon-dogs" somehow related to that crazy old man with the shrunken head-on-a-stick? How will PCs react to a second War going on on the Earth? All the occult trappings lead deeper into the realm of voodoo. Next comes confrontation with chaotic evil forces, even moreso than the mad forces of Belial. The Mayombe want destruction, and don't care about the War or cover. It is the voodoo cults and lodges who cover up for them, just as angels often cover up for infernal operations.
Power Invested in Celestials
GMs might allow celestials to receive Initiation, but their superiors will likely be unhappy about their minions receiving Forces from mere ethereals or humans. However, it could be a path for Renegades or Outcasts to progress quickly.
Similar to the Secret Master campaign (page 118), the PCs can be guardian spirits or Loas trying to advise and protect their own group, or separate groups, of humans. They must protect them from devourers, mayombe, opposing groups, and . . . unknown spirits (angels and demons).
Under the Wrong Stars: The adventure begins as a dependent of the PCs (or their patron) has a bout of bad luck. When passing by to cheer him up, a friend who is not supposed to know of the War suggests that a curse is upon the dependent. A Song of Plagues is identified as being in effect on the dependent by using an experimental Forceprinter or some Aura Glasses (see Liber Reliquarum,, pages 51 and 62).
By the Power Invested in Me: The celestials need to rescue a Kyriotate (or Shedite) from a "voodoo cult." He went undercover, but has not checked in. The voodoo group has a Force Catcher (Liber Reliquarum, page 61). They describe it as a net to catch enemy spirits, such as dark loa and mayombe.
Absolutely: A nearby Cherub (or Djinn) is dissonant. He is becoming corrupted by the power of guiding a voodoo group and has been abusing his Choir and Superior's Dissonance Conditions. Having worked his way into the social circle, he is actually the power behind their leader's abilities. He was attuned to the leader of the loa group, and the load is taking its toil.
Problem's Clearing: A Cherub/Djinn in the area is dissonant. An experimental Lightning-Destiny (or Technology-Fate) device that happened to be connected to the attuned at the time reports that the soul vanished without leaving the corporeal plane. As a case that had qualified for their destiny/fate, they wanted to track its progress to the celestial realm. Tech teams have been able to locate the last point to within a few city blocks. The heroes must find the source and stop it before another valuable resource disappears. Are the heroes prepared for the voodoo quarter, and possibly a devourer behind it all?
What if voodoo is an entirely demonic project, headed by Beleth, Saminga, Belial, and Kobal? It was started as mockery of Catholicism so beloved by Gabriel and Dominic (which drew in Kobal), but elements of paganism crept in as Beleth's ethereals became involved.
The neutrality of "loa" is a lie: there are too many ways to harm people, and even evil creatures can heal someone sometimes, if it suits some sinister purpose. The role of ethereals is secondary -- after the Purity Crusades there would not be many surviving ethereal spirits powerful enough to play the roles of loa. Devourers are actually large puppets for celestials -- often Calabim of Belial might have their forms recast.
Benefits to this treatment are many. The first is that "loa" may have simple Roles -- they don't hide the fact that they are supernatural, and thus are in character. The voodoo cult provides a steady flow of Essence through the mundanes' rituals for those who need it. Finally, certain Discord (such as Murderous) is tolerated or even encouraged in the participating celestials, and thus can be a dumping ground for the most dangerous individuals.
Loas (Voodoo, pages 87-93)
- Legba: +10 Strength, +4 Damage Resistance, and one of Lockpicking/6, Electronics/6, or Computer Hacking/6.
- Danballa: +3 Strength, +2 Agility, +4 Precision, Climbing/2, Swimming/2, -1 to Voice-related activities, such as Songs.
- Obotala: +2 Strength, +2 Damage Resistance, Must only wear white.
- Chango: +5 Strength, +2 Agility, +2 Precision, +4 Damage Resistance, Immune to Fire, Bad Temper
- Oggun: +5 Strength, +2 Agility, +2 Precision, +2 Perception, +7 Damage Resistance, Weapon/6, Dodge/2
- Ochosi: +3 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision, +4 Damage Resistance, +2 Perception, Tracking/4, Stealth/4, Survival (All)/3, Swimming/4, Throwing/6.
- Baron Samedi, Baron Cemetari, Captain Zombi: +5 Strength, +1 Precision, Toughness/2, +5 Damage Resistance
Mayabe (pages 93-95)
- Zarabanda: +5 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision, Toughness/1, +4 Damage Resistance, -1 Intelligence, -1 Perception, -1 Will, Weapon/4, Bad Temper, Berserk.
- Ikku (Death): +3 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision, +4 Damage Resistance, Stealth/4, Escape/4, Knife/4, Sadism, Sacrifice human once/mth.
- Mbua: +5 Strength, +2 Agility, +2 Precision, +1 Perception, Toughness/3, +5 Damage Resistance, Bloodthirsty, Sadism, Cannibalism.
- Kiyumbe: +3 Strength, +2 Damage Resistance, (Berserk)
- Nkisi: +3 Strength, +1 Agility, Toughness/1, Spirit always in control.
Lodges (see pages 96-98)
- Pan: +1 Strength, +2 Agility, +2 Precision, Toughness/1, +1 Damage Resistance, Charisma +2, Sex Appeal/4, Carousing/4, Musical Instrument (Flute)/4
- Animae: +2 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision,
- Daemons: +2 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision, Toughness/1
- Genii: +3 Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Precision, Toughness/2
Nonhumans in In Nomine
In-Betweeners (see pages 98-102)
- Bird People: +1 Corporeal Force, +1 Strength, +1 Ethereal Force, Dodge/1, Toughness/1 - Vessels: human, man-bird - must kill a human every week
- Cat People: +1 Corporeal Force, +1 Ethereal Force, Dodge/4, Night Vision, Corpus (Claws/2, Teeth/1) - Vessels: human, cat, cat-man
- Skin Changers: +2 Corporeal Forces, +1 Ethereal Force, +1 Celestial Force, Toughness/2, 3rd level Initiate, Song of Form/6 or cheap, flawed Vessels (see the Ethereal Player's Guide, p. 68-69), Murder Addiciton
- Snake People: +1 Corporeal Force, +2 Strength, + 1 Precision, Toughness/1, 3rd level Initiate, True form with illusion, murder addiction
- The Tontons Makouts: +2 Corporeal Forces, +4 Strength, +1 Precision, Toughness/2, Damage Resistance +2, Vessels: /6, murder addiction
Monsters in In Nomine (see pages 93-98)
- Zarabanda (Minor) Corporeal 3 Strength 8 Agility 2; Ethereal 5 Precision 5 Intelligence 2; Celestial 2 Will 6 Perception 5; Habbalite Resonance.
- Ikku (Minor) Corporeal 3 Strength 6 Agility 6; Ethereal 1 Precision 3 Intelligence 3; Celestial 3 Will 6 Perception 6; Song of Plagues (All)/3.
- Mbua (Minor) Corporeal 3 Strength 8 Agility 6; Ethereal 3 Precision 6 Intelligence 6; Celestial 3 Will 7 Perception 7.
- Kiyumbe Corporeal 3 Strength 7 Agility 6; Ethereal 1 Precision 2 Intelligence 2; Celestial 2 Will 4 Perception 4; Habbalite Resonance.
- Nkisi Corporeal 3 Strength 8 Agility 7; Ethereal 3 Precision 6 Intelligence 6; Celestial 3 Will 6 Perception 6
- Animae Corporeal 3 Strength 6 Agility 6; Ethereal 3 Precision 6 Intelligence 6; Celestial 3 Will 7 Perception 7
- Daemons Corporeal 3 Strength 9 Agility 7; Ethereal 2 Precision 4 Intelligence 4; Celestial 2 Will 5 Perception 5
- Genii Corporeal 3 Strength 6 Agility 6; Ethereal 3 Precision 7 Intelligence 7; Celestial 3 Will 7 Perception 7
- Demiurge (Minor Manifestation) Corporeal 3 Strength 7 Agility 5; Ethereal 3 Precision 6 Intelligence 6; Celestial 3 Will 6 Perception 6
Devourers (see pages 102-103)
- Devourer (Minor Manifestation) Corporeal 4 Strength 12 Agility 5; Ethereal 3 Precision 5 Intelligence 7; Celestial 5 Will 10 Perception 10; Vessel/6+
- Sendlings Corporeal 2 Strength 7 Agility 3; Ethereal * Precision * Intelligence *; Celestial * Will * Perception * , Vessel/2,
* As that of Devourer
References and Links
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Special thanks to Elizabeth McCoy and Max Belnakov for facing my fears.
Article publication date: April 20, 2007
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