This article originally appeared in Pyramid #9
The world of In Nomine is seeing more and more visitors as time races toward its release. Playtesters and demo-runners are the mosts frequent visitors, but soon tens of thousands of people will be entering the world as well, inventing new characters and creating new stories.
Angels in the Architecture
"A Man of Wealth and Taste" or "The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes"
News and notes from the world of In NomineTM
Written by Derek Pearcy
Illustrated by Dan Smith × Coloring by Jeff Koke
But with the game coming out so quickly on the heels of this issue of Pyramid, it didn't seem right to merely run a bunch of excerpts from the game as an "In Nomine Preview." Instead, we've put together some new Superiors for your players to enjoy. First, we have a writeup of Lucifer, the Lightbringer, followed by the Creator Himself (or Herself), God.
The first additional release for In Nomine will be the In Nomine GM's Pack, scheduled for release in October. It will contain the requisite GM's screen, more guidelines for running a successful campaign in the world of the sacred and the profane, as well as new Demon Princes, a new Choir and a new Band.
The first major supplement, Night Music, is a guidebook to the Corporeal world, containing new background material for some major cities in specific and their respective areas of the world in general. It will be out this winter, followed soon after by guidebooks for the Ethereal and Celestial realms.
The silence was incredible.
Philbahn had been exploring the wretched princapality of Perdition, late of the Word of Sloth, when he came upon an old iron icon, mounted there in the rocky wall of Hell.
The expanse of Hell, carved from the undying corpse of the Metatron, is composed of cavernous bubbles, areas carved out from the stone before the rebels ever first arrived. In the old days, before tunnelling was an exact science, there were icons carved into the stone to allow quick transport from one Principality to another -- touch the icon, it took you there.
Space is a premium in Hell. Occasionally, a new area is discovered, leading to political upheavals in direct proportion to the size of the cavern discovered.
Phil spent a good five minutes weighing his options. He could choose to activate the icon, and it could send him anywhere. Maybe there wasn't another icon on the other side, and unless he took a crash course in how to make them, he would be screwed. Or, he could sell the secret, sight-unseen, to any number or bigwigs he knew. There was always the chance that they'd tear the information from him anyway, and not pay him, in which case he would also be screwed. Or he could sell the secret, get his money, and the icon might not work, in which case his customer would return, get his money back, beat Phil up for laughs and maybe even strip him of his Essence, in which case he would be totally screwed.
He stared at the metal icon, and sighed with the weight of the knowledge.
"Well," Phil muttered to himself, reaching for the icon. "If I'm screwed, I'm screwed."
Aside from the usual feeling of being a very small sock in a very large washing machine, the teleportation went rather smoothly, and Phil shortly found himself in a vast cavern that he had never even heard rumored to exist, what must be a principality of incredible resources.
He was also freezing cold. Perhaps it was standing in two feet of snow, perhaps it was the wind that whipped his hair around his face, but he had proved that the icon worked, and began to look for a way out.
After deciding that the flat plain of snow hid nothing of any importance, Phil decided to make it to the hazy outline of a mountain on the horizon, before he lost the will to walk entirely.
Hours seemed to pass. Luckily the mountain was not as far away as it once seemed, but the snow gave way to ice, which slowed his travel greatly. As he got closer, he could almost make out movement along the outskirts of the hill, and within merely another hour he could trace its shape: it was not a mountain nor a hill, it was a demon -- an enormous demon to be sure, no doubt a Balseraph. His feet and tail were firmly frozen in the ice, but his wings beat slowly up and down, up and down, in an effort to gain freedom. The more the colossal wings beat, the colder the wind grew which coursed across the plain and the more deeply frozen the creature grew.
Though they froze instantly on his face, Phil felt a deep sympathy for the creature's plight, and shivered as the tears formed around his eyes.
Phil felt a hand on his shoulder, and quickly pivoted around to face a tall, beautiful man in white robes, bearing a torch. A voice, both young and ancient, echoed from all sides.
"Who weeps for Lucifer?" the Lightbringer said.
Lucifer is one of the most enigmatic characters in Western literature. Damned by the Creator for his rebellion, he and the other rebels were cast out of Heaven, forced to live the remainder of their near-eternal lives outside of the vision of His perfection.
In the world of In Nomine, the Celestial flesh of Lucifer is trapped on an icy plain, as described above. Characters may find their way to the location of his form, or they may be drafted into his service in another fashion and never see his true form.
While not as whimsical or chaotic of personality as God (see below), Lucifer has his own character quirks that make him more interesting than the average Diabolical.
Lucifer always presents himself as formally as possible, never allowing himself to fall into a conversational tone with his servants. Also, he treats failure severely but rewards minimally. Truth be known, he is painfully aware of his incredible power of all other demons, and wishes to avoid appearing to be bribing them into liking him.
There are some things that Lucifer cannot be seen doing himself, for political reasons. It is doubtful that even if all the Princes somehow aligned together that they could defeat the Lightbringer, but Lucifer has never been one to play odds he wasn't sure about.
To preserve secrecy, Lucifer would allow his servants to continue working for their old Prince, provided they keep their eyes and inform him of any unusual goings on. Specifically, the Lightbringer would have several reasons for wanting to become patron to a PC.
Princes are allowed to ask favors of Lucifer. He may very well send some of his personal guards on retainer to a Demon Prince, where they may serve the Prince directly and still collect information for their true master.
Perhaps Lucifer has observed a wrong being done that would be politically sticky for him to set right? That's where the PCs come in.
When something needs to be done, Lucifer probably has a team of loyal experts who can do it.
Why does Lucifer do anything? Because it pleases him.
The Creator"Angel," the voice shouted across the line, "come on! We are leaving!"
It had been a long day. First crossing the border, then trying to free the political prisoners -- not to mention the fact that they didn't tell their Superior, Michael, about the operation. More and more, he and the other angels had been taking matters into their own hands. If Archangel Michael suspected, he had granted his approval with silence.
The shelling got closer and closer. He cradled the phone receiver against his chest, glancing around the room for a weapon -- anything! -- with which to hold off the government's troops until his comrades could get the rest of the prisoners into the relative safety of the outlying jungle. As his mind raced, the explosions were getting closer and closer until --
The white light was familiar to him, and as his consciousness began to coalesce, the facts came together in his head. He had been on a mission. He may or may not have succeeded, but his Corporeal vessel had been destroyed. He had touched death.
When angels enter Heaven, where their spirits return after the death of their physical form, the first thing they always see is their Heart, the glowing sphere that is their link to the Celestial world. After a death, angels sit and stare at that Heart for hours, days, weeks -- sadly, some never move their attentions again. Angels called it Trauma, the horror of brushing the shoulder of non-existance, and he braced himself against it.
But instead of his glowing Heart, he found himself on an open, rolling field of grass, a green so bright it couldn't be Earthly.
"Hey," said a voice behind him.
The angel turned around and found himself faced with a short man with wild and unruly black hair. A waterfall of features fell down the man's face: huge bushy eyebrows rested atop dark plastic glasses, which in turn straddled a great lump of a schnozz, which mounted a dark stain of a mustashe, which gently straddled a wry grin, clenching a sour smelling cigar.
"So," said the man, prying the cigar from his mouth long enough to gesture with it. "Is that your real aura or are you just happy to see me?"
In the basic book, the Creator is discussed in limited detail -- the PCs are expected to deal with all greater aspects of the divine through their Archangel, as interacting with individual angels is too much micromanagement, even for God.
God may appear to players in a variety of different fashions and display many different facets, called Aspects, of His character. The one common theme through most Aspects is a light sense of humor and a deep and abiding love for his creation.
Each Aspect may appear in a different physical vessel, one that will easily and instantly communicate the nature of the Aspect to the listener, like Groucho Marx as the Inquisitive Stranger in the vignette above.
The world of In Nomine is a monotheistic cosmos, but keep in mind that while we use the masculine noun "God," the Creator of the universe also encompasses that which is feminine; it is equally correct to refer to the Creator as "Goddess."
As a note to GMs: when bringing God into a campaign, make sure you have a well-thought-out reason for it. Utilizing the Creator whimsically can cause a campaign to rapidly disintegrate. Meaningless intervention by God cheapens the rest of the world . . . but prayers should be occasionally answered.
God will never verbally identify Himself to anyone -- there's no need to. The knowledge of the Speaker's identity is usually planted in the mind of the visited, to save time.
Regardless of which Aspect the player is being visited with, He will retain all memories of God's previous dealings with the character. For example, the Angry Father will remember what was discussed as the Nurturing Mother, and will hold Himself to any promises previously made.
God, even when appearing as the same Aspect, will rarely appear in the same form -- with the exceptions discussed below. God may even change Aspects in the middle of a conversation. For example, if the Helpful Companion begins to feel taken advantage of, the Destructive Mother may emerge, etc.
It can't be stressed enough: GMs, use discretion.
The Angry Father or the Destructive Mother
These are the most common Aspects of God presented in the Torah, and are frequently referred to as the "Old Testament God."
The Aspects of the Angry Father and the Destructive Mother rarely appear in a real form, instead choosing to manifest as a cloud, a flame or some other chaotic, random force of nature.
He will appear to chastise the player, but will rarely inflict damage on His charges . . . the first time.
The Compassionate Father or the Nurturing Mother
This Aspect is rooted more deeply in the New Testament, and preaches peace, love and understanding to His listeners. The Compassionate Father and the Nurturing Mother are never judgemental, no matter how poorly Their servants have behaved.
These Aspects prefer to wear older, mature human vessels, as that makes for a more intimate conversation.
The Helpful Companion
The Aspect of the Helpful Companion appears in a familiar form to the character, a loved one or an old friend, living or dead. This is a more modern Aspect of God, and the one which tends to throw people the most.
While a manifestation of the Helpful Companion may sound harmless, there can be several problems.
An omnipotent Helpful Companion can be too helpful -- and since this Aspect will want to play up the relationship between the character and the Aspect's vessel (whether it be a childhood friend or a grandmother), He will be inclined to grant whatever minor wishes the character has. But don't take advantage of the Helpful Companion, or you might rediscover the Angry Father.
Also, the Helpful Companion comes and goes at His whim. He may wish to follow the character around, observing his day -- regardless of the inconvenience.
The Inquisitive Stranger
This Aspect has a lot in common with the Helpful Companion, except it claims no previous attachment to the listener. When taking this Aspect, however, God may choose not to identify Himself on the first visit, though He will display keen insight about the character to be just any stranger.
The character can be introduced to God in a variety of ways, and the Aspect that first greets the PC will set the tone of the relationship.
Except for extreme cases, God will have dealings with only one individual, and only in private. When the PC calls his friends over, there will be no proof that the Creater of all things was ever there -- and its likely that unless the manifesting Aspect was the Helpful Companion or the Inquisitive Stranger, God won't appear again.
During the first meeting, God will not usually reveal His intentions, and never His motivations. Only upon the second or later visits will He ask the player if he wishes to help serve Him in a more direct fashion. If the answer is yes, then while the character might still enter into the field under the guise of serving a particular Superior, he will also be keeping an eye out for a higher cause.
When serving God directly, He will ask that his minion not tell his current Superior (if he has one) about it. If he does, his boss might very well think him to be crazy, or (depending on the Superior, like Khalid) the very idea that the player character is of remotely similar importance to his boss may be insulting or treasonous!
Beyond that, being in servitude to the Being who created all things has its advantages and disadvantages, as might be expected.
Once a character has attracted the attention of the Creator, he may find His expectations of His servants are very high, perhaps too high. God is easily disappointed in those who serve Him directly, and His wrath is immediate and irrevocable.
Being on the good side of the Creator does more than get you to the front of the line at the bank. God is very liberal with Essence, and pleasing Him will bring extravagant rewards. On the other hand, depending on which Aspect the player is dealing with at the time, God may believe that merely being allowed to serve Him is a reward in itself, and unless prior deals were made the servant will have to be satisfied with the knowledge of a job well done.
Integrating either the Lightbringer or Creator into a campaign can be touchy, at best. But with characters who are willing to work with you, GMs will find it fascinating -- though perhaps strangely disconcerting.
In the world of In Nomine, the players take the roles of angels and demons, working for Archangels and Demon Princes, in the modern world.
Two things form a character's personality more than anything else -- his Band or Choir, of which there are many, and his Superior, namely an Archangel or a Demon Prince.
Angels and demons are physical incarnations of elements of God's pattern for all things, referred to as the Symphony. It is the ability to consciously manipulate the Symphony that makes angels and demons so much more powerful than other beings.
Some angels and demons are more closely linked to a part of the Symphony than others. These beings are actual incarnations of Words written in the Symphony, like Justice, War, Faith and Insanity. Other angels and demons are incarnations of more minor Words, like Literature, Rock and Roll or Unrequited Love.
There are three realms of reality -- the Corporeal, the Ethereal and the Celestial -- containing three vastly different races of beings.
First is the Corporeal realm, the "real world," ruled predominantly by the humans. From the Corporeal world, neither the Ethereal nor the Celestial may be perceived, except through special magics. Beings of other realms (that is, the Ethereal fairies and the Celestial angels and demons) may only enter the Corporeal realm if they create a vessel for themselves. Vessels range from wolves to cars to tables to human bodies.
Second is the Ethereal world, a place of magic and mystery which overlays the Corporeal. From the Ethereal realm, the Corporeal world appears as a grainy, black and white vision. While in Ethereal, the real world may be affected in small ways. The Ethereal world is predominantly ruled by the courts of the Fey, the fairies.
Last are the Celestial worlds of Heaven and Hell, the realms of angels and demons, respectively. Like the Corporeal world, neither the Ethereal nor the Corporeal may be viewed or interacted with from the Celestial realm in any way, except through powerful magics.
Celestials may travel from one realm to another freely, while other beings must find gateways of some kind.
In reality, these games aren't universally dark in and of themselves, but they do share the same fairly grim base premise: you live in our modern world, but you are not what you appear to be. You are a creature far more powerful than a mere human, a special creature hunted by many out of jealousy or spite.
Another common denominator in these games is the particular conceit that every major event in the course of human history, from miracles to misery, is the responsibility of these other, more empowered beings. In addition, almost every famous figure in our history also belongs to this secret conspiracy/alternate race/mystical brotherhood. Very little of our written history is even remotely correct; humans probably would not have accomplished much without this outside intervention.
While this may seem attractive, the fantastical ability to rise above one's own humanity, there has purposefully been a different design approach with In Nomine. While celestial beings, namely angels and demons, have been flitting around the fringes of our world, we (as humans) have no one to congratulate or blame for our actions but ourselves. In all of history, only the tiniest handful of personalities are brought out in the book as being anything other than what they seemed.
The point is, humans have the capacity to be more divine and more malevolent than the most magnificent angel or demon could ever hope to be. Humans, though bound to their flesh in the Corporeal world, rise above (and sink below) themselves daily, and perpetrate acts of selfishness and selflessness unimaginable to the celestials.
This is important to remember as we rush headlong into fresh tomorrows: even though angels pull at your sleeve and demons poke at your back; even though creatures of the night hide in every alley; even though this world is but a shadow of a greater existance; even though reality is not only different than you imagine, but truly unimaginable; you are still a human, and that is a great character to play. Denying it -- now that would be dark.
Article publication date: October 1, 1994
Copyright © 1994 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.