on 8 November 2010
In Nomine starts with two interrelated stories about a group of angels and demons each trying to get their hands on a special painting. After reading them, I got to see how things happened from both sides and got a feeling for each group. I saw a cherub guardian who immobilised the woman under his protection, naturally for her own good and another angel who seemed like a bitch from the way she treated a human being. On the other hand, while not entirely good, the demon narrator of the other story seemed kinder towards humans and yet, peculiarly malicious in his own way. This mixing of unfamiliar elements to an existing concept is not that uncommon. Here it creates a distortion of our preconception of the forces of good and evil, making them more grey than black and white thus the reader realises that just because you're playing a demon or angel, you don't have to be good nor evil by default, it's a choice for you to make.
After that we are introduced to the setting and mechanics of the game. The setting has many references to music themes, from calling the whole of reality The Symphony through Songs being the angelic and demonic powers to describing angels and demons as instruments. There is little in terms of a division between setting and mechanics in this part of the book. A description of an element of the setting is followed by the game rules governing it. All of which are based on the d666 system. It seems a simple system, based on your characteristics you have to roll below a specific number on two of three six sided dice (those two need to be identical and distinctive from the third die). The third die tells you the degree of success. What's interesting about the mechanic is Intervention. On a roll of 1-1-1 the Holy Spirit helps out angels and screws demons (an epic failure if you will) while the reverse happens on a roll of 6-6-6 because Lucifer smiles upon you. The characteristics themselves are divided into six main ones, further divided into Corporeal, Ethereal and Celestial groups like most elements of the game and then you have additional skills that add to your main characteristics in specific tests. Your angel/demon can also have servants and as mentioned before, you get powers in the form of Songs. What really surprised me is that angels and demons don't have to possess people in order to stay on Earth. It is a necessity for some but most can just don a vessel that they create themselves and with appropriate point allocation, you'd even have a background history for your new persona. This also makes you really hard to kill as death only means you go to Heaven or Hell and then you can just make yourself another body.
Next up we meet the angels. A player can choose from seven Choirs, each representing a concept such as Truth, Balance, Honour or Politics. A Choir is your characters nature, it allows you to attune to The Symphony and gain insight into how its played in relation to your concept. The downside is that going against your nature could eventually cause you to Fall from Grace all the way to Hell. After the Choirs come Archangels whose bidding the angels do on Earth. Each Archangel represents a specific conceptual Word and sends his servants to further his cause in The Symphony. Serving an Archangel gives you benefits, some default, some earned. Demons and Demon Princes are represented in much the same vein. The main difference is that Demon Bands are reflections of Choirs with inverted concepts. While a Seraph of Truth can attune himself to The Symphony and gain insight into what is true and what isn't, a Balseraph will force a truth onto The Symphony around him. In other words, demons change The Symphony to further their own goals. A description of Heaven and Hell is given including various realms of the Archangels and Demon Princes.
The last and smallest part of the book consists of a selection of NPCs, a few pages of gamemastering advice and a list to draw inspirations from.