Anyway, on with the show!
The Game: In Nomine
The Publisher: Steve Jackson Games
Degree of Familiarity: Some. I played a bit at university and a bit more afterwards, but haven't cracked the book in a while.
Books Required: Just the corebook; I'm not one to try the GURPS adaptation.
I've always found In Nomine to be one of those games that didn't ever know what it wanted to be. Sure, part of it wanted to be a very dark, careful examination of a world where God exists in concept but Satan exists in person; a world where one reading has an archangel committing genocide on the pagan gods in the Border Marches and demons vary from the depths of bastardry to being a little bit too nice. Thing is, another part wanted to be a cross between Good Omens: The RPG and an angelic action movie. This latter angle is played out a lot in the game's online discussions. Apparently, the supplements go a bit more on the side of the former, but I've never seen one with my own eyes so I can't be certain that they exist.
The system's also mechanically wonky. In effect, it's a 2d6-roll-under, with the actual magnitude of the result determined by an entirely independent roll. In other words, your skill only determines whether you succeed, not how well you do. Which pisses me off. In a world where people can come up with the vast amounts of funky dice tricks in the One Roll Engine or—better yet—Unknown Armies, the basic roll feels pointlessly arbitrary.
That's not to say I hate the game; I've got some great mileage out of it before. Often, games moved between the two points described above, going from soul-searching to madness at the drop of a hat. Of course, those games were usually a little above the default power level—we played with the idea that the first thing a celestial had to do was get a Word so as to cement his position in the eternal hierarchy, and the fun ensued after that. Hence, we had such wondeful characters as Elijah Grey, the Angel of Automatic Weapons. At the default, Words are assumed to be too much power and responsiblity for IN games0, and characters have to suck for a fair while before they earn the right to be actually competent.
Yeah. Now there's some pretty explicit game design assumptions. I prefer "start awesome, get more awesome", but there you go.
Character creation has a set of numbered steps, but they're both broad and very flowcharty, with some existing only for niche types.
I can't start off Word-bound, but I can't shake the idea that I should have some idea of what Word I want to aim for. Now, I had a bad habit in the past of playing said Angel of Automatic Weaponry, or the Angel of Action Movies. While they're fun, I want something a bit deeper. I want to play an angel of Change or Freedom, an angel of a brighter tomorrow.
I run that past my GM. By whom, I mean me. I ask me for some clarification, and I point out that I'm wanting to play the philosophy of King Mob in his house-detonating phase crossed with the Mister Miracle of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory. Mulling over that description, I think that's a fucking ace idea. It's rife with hooks for both introspective soul-searching along the lines of the price of change, the need for stasis, the limits of ultimate freedom and the like, combined with the obvious action potential of being the one who changes bad things into less-bad things1
I won't get to start out with the Word, but figuring out precisely what Word to go for will help me refine the character.
2. Celestial Details
I'm playing an angel, that much is certain. As far as Choirs go, the Ofanim scream at me to play one. Forged from fire and madness and change, the unstoppable burning wheels of creation.
Faced with that sort of description, how could I say no? An angel who has to do something, but falls into the old "this is something" fallacy once too often.
For superiors, I'm thinking Janus, the fluctuating Archangel of the Winds. Janus is supposed to represent Change, but he's more then "change for the sake of change" than "change in the name of betterment and freedom", and I'd like this character to veer towards the latter as the game goes on. Should lead to some interesting conflict with his boss. As an Ofanite of the Wind, I can add my Ethereal Forces to any roll involving breaking locks, opening doors, and freeing people from the restraints of others.
One final note about Janus: "In a typical scenario, an angel of Janus comes to town, scopes the place out, and mayhem ensues. Actually, almost any adventure of thse angels ends with 'and mayhem ensues.'"
3. Renegade Details
I'm not a renegade, so I don't do anything.
4. Allocate Forces
Nine forces to allocate between three categories. I want to be seriously fast, so that's at least four in Physical. I want to keep three Etherial, so that means my Celestial Forces are down to just two.
Six Characteristics, with 10 being peak human ability. Each Force is four points, so I've 16 points in Physical, 12 in Etherial and 8 in Celestial.
Corporeal: I want to be fast. Physical strength doesn't matter too much, but would be nice. I drop four points into Strength and 12 into Agility.
Ethereal: None too bright, but able to focus like a laser on whatever he's currently interested in. Four Intelligence, eight Precision.
Celestial: Definitely all about the Will, baby. Perception's all well and good, but that involves looking where you're going once too often. Six points in Will, two in Perception.
In other words, "all the other game mechanical shit". Two different steps for doing basic adding up and multiplying with Forces, but one lump sum for splitting 36 points between human vessels, skills, and magic?
I need a Vessel, that much is certain. I'll put four points into it: if I'm going to spend my life in a car, you can be damned sure I'm spending it in an Aston. Johnny Free by name. That Vessel sets me back 12 points. Ouch. Three points (total) on a Role as a wandering political activist who doesn't stay in any place long enough to really stick to people's minds. 15 points down.
As a political activist, I look to the Lawyer role for inspiration. I'm going to need Fast Talk as a Skill. Three points should be enough. I also pick up some more direct skills: Acrobatics/2, Driving/2, Lying/3, Running/2. 27 points spent.
Songs. I want the Song of Thunder. It's a Corporeal Song that attacks all Forces and unleashes havoc on the Symphony. Sounds like my kind of power. I also want the Corporeal Song of Motion, because that's both flight and speed. Finally, I like the Celestial Song of Entropy for forcing change into people's minds. Three points into each should do nicely.
Finally, hits. The nice Vessel means I have 32 Body Hits, 12 Mind Hits (damn, he's quite dumb), and 12 Soul Hits (again, damn... way to make half your stats more mechanically effective than the other half, though).
It's not that Shanael2 doesn't think about the consequences of his actions, just that he's always late in doing so. He wants people to be free, whether that means protesting for social justice in his identity of Johnny Free or going out and tearing away people's chains by force. Leaving people in the power of anyone else is dissonant. Unfortunately, he only rarely thinks about why people are in the power of others—he'll happily break a loan-shark's legs, but he won't think to deal with the poverty riddling the area, or the Mob looking to move in if the independent operator has to vanish for a while. On more than one occasion he's made things worse than they were, and he's felt remorse—but Janus apparently couldn't give a crap. His Archangel is just glad that things have changed, something that Shanael finds rather... cold.
8. GM's Approval
I approve of this character.
Corporeal Forces: 4
Song of Motion/3
Song of Thunder/3
Etherial Forces: 3
Celestial Forces: 2
Song of Entropy/3
Attunements and Distinctions
Ofanite of the Wind
0: Or some shit, the game just says "You should not start with Words" and proceeds to avoid elaborating.
1: Or living bastards into dead bastards. Either way, all is good.
2: Made up based on a possible transliteration of a Hebrew word that might have meant "change" if you squint a bit.