A Cartesian rewrite of the attribute system

By Neel Krishnaswami (neelk@alum.mit.edu)

**Flaming Feather**

In this post, I play fast and loose with two of the greatest philosophers in the Western canon. You have been warned. :)

(It's all still tentative at this point, and I would appreciate comments.)


The attribute system in In Nomine looks like it was inspired by Aquinas's _Summa Theologica_ (spelling?), in that it makes a Greek distinction between intelligence and reason, rather than following the more familiar Cartesian pattern.

St. Aquinas distinguished between intelligence and reason. Ignoring all the subtleties, intellect was the spiritual ability to directly apprehend the truth, and reason was the ability to deduce effect from causes. This is more than simply perception in the everday sense; the truth carries an explicitly moral weight that it makes it evident what the right course of action *is*. It's pretty easy to see how plausible this notion must have seemed to Christian thinkers who became familiar with Greek philosophy.

Angels, both fallen and unfallen, were beings of pure spirit who directly perceived the truth rather than laboriously constructing logical arguments.

In IN attributes, "reason" would correspond to the Intelligence attribute, and "intellect" would correspond with Perception. Now, notice that it is Perception rather than Intelligence that is governed by Celestial Forces, and the Aquinean influence becomes immediately apparent.

Immediately, we notice that most angelic resonances are based off of Perception, which fits the Aquinean idea very well. Demons are celestial spirits that have given up their pure ability to see truth in favor of imposing their own false systems on the universe. Kyrios and Lilim don't fit precisely, but that's because I didn't design the system. :)

This has some interesting implications, like the fact that characters with 0 Ethereal Forces are not mindless husks -- they retain their natural ability to directly intuit the universe and its inhabitants. A demon with 0 Intelligence simply knows the truth and has a drive to blot it out, and an angel with a 0 Intelligence would know the truth and instinctively seeks to preserve it -- but both would be capable of taking coordinated and long-term action without planning and remembering in the way humans do.

It could make an interesting roleplaying challenge to portray such a character, but Greek Platonism is unfortunately just not a standard widget in the modern cultural toolbox.

Nowadays, the default conception of soul and self owes a lot to Rene Descartes, who argued that the Biblical claim about man being created in God's image referred to the human capacity for reason. A crude way of explaining this idea is that the the soul is basically the little guy sitting in your head and driving your body around.

I think the two ideas may have some different implications about the nature of resurrection and memories and stuff like that, but that's way beyond anything I know.

Now that I've gone on and on, I must admit that the actual changes to the game mechanics should be fairly small. Basically, all we need to do is to swap Intelligence and Perception; the attribute/Force scheme would look like this:

Corporeal Forces: Strength and Agility (unchanged) Ethereal Forces: Perception and Precision Celestial Forces: Intelligence and Will

Roughly, a being's corporeal Forces represent its physical existence, its Celestial Forces represent its essential self, and the Ethereal Forces are the interface between spirit and matter.

The following rules would change:

o Mind hits would become Precision times Ethereal Forces.

o Angelic resonances would be based on Intelligence rather than Perception, representing their greater-than-human ability to comprehend God's will manifest in Creation.

o Disturbance detection remains Perception-based, since it is all about detecting changes that are happening as a result of spiritual action on matter, and that's logically an Ethereal task.

It also gives an explanation of why even demons, who are cut off from the true Symphony, can detect disturbances. Even though they deliberately reject God, they retain their native understanding of Him -- no one denies that Satan is a better theologian than any human who ever lived -- and can deduce celestial actions from their subtle effects on the world.

-- Neel Krishnaswami neelk@alum.mit.edu

**Flaming Feather**

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