Tales of the Forgotten Pen & Paper RPGs: In Nomine

In Nomine is a pen a paper RPG published by Steve Jackson Games as an English language adaptation of the French original, In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas published by Croc. Publishing of the game began over a dozen years ago and it has fallen by the wayside along with similarly themed supernatural games published by rival RPG house White Wolf, Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf, et al. In Nomine dealt with the more controversial themes of the Abrahamic religions setting it apart from the horror show/goth scene that came with Vampire and its siblings.

The action of the game revolves around the conflict between angels and demons in a modern day to day setting and the never ending war that is being fought in the shadows of civilization for the souls of mankind. Players in the game could choose either an angel, demon, or human servant to play along with an Archangel or Demon Price superior whom they would serve, promoting their values on Earth.

Each class of angels have natural abilities particular to their choir of angels; demons have corresponding abilities as their angelic counterparts, albeit dark analogs. For example, the highest class of angels (angelic player classes are referred to as choirs) are the seraphim, who perceive reality (referred to in the game’s mythology as The Symphony) so perfectly that they can detect lies from the truth. They are so good at this, that they find it difficult to lie themselves as it goes against their very nature. Their opposite number, the band of demons is the balseraphs, fallen seraphs, who cannot tell the truth, creating elaborate realities around themselves to justify their lies. If either side goes against their nature, they risk gaining dissonance, which can become discord, that puts an angel in danger of falling, i.e. becoming a demon, while the demon risks redemption, regaining their former glory as an angel. The in game complications of this are seemingly rare since heaven and hell both keep a sharp eye out for their members who are straying, and rein them in for rehabilitation or punishment depending on the side lest they cross the line and join the enemy ranks.

Players also have access to a number of spells, which are called ‘songs’ in game which work in the same manner as magic does in fantasy RPGs. The use of songs in game came with a certain amount of danger, as the use of songs created a disturbance in The Symphony that every angel or demon in the area could ‘hear’ so the use of songs had to be carefully thought out lest the player call unwanted attention to himself from the local rivals. Songs are powered by magic points called essence in the game, which can be replenished in a number of ways, but every character does get one free point of essence every day based on what they play: angels at sunrise, demons at sunset, and humans at noon, as well as tapping essence from other places such as relics or servants.

There are four different realms that are available for play in the game, the first three are obvious: Heaven, Hell, and Earth. The third is by far the most interesting, The Marches, where dreams and nightmares take place, and also where the creatures of myth retreated to during heaven’s pogrom against them during the dark ages, The Purity Crusade. While there are plenty of campaign options on Earth and in Heaven and Hell, the Marches offers by far the most variety for an imaginative GM.

In Nomine also boasts a rich mythology based off the six thousand year tradition of the Abrahamic tradition. It takes those religions as a basis and adds onto it to create its own world filled adventure, intrigue, politics and action. Sourcebooks add to the richness of the world. You Are Here: The Book of Places describes places of interest all across creation and their importance in the game world. Other sourcebooks follow a Latin titling motif, such a Liber Servitorum, the book of servants, or Liber Reliquarium, the book of relics full of divinely, or infernally powered weapons. So many books are available that there should be no shortage of campaign ideas for a GM.

The game mechanics are based off the use of three six sided dice, referred to in the rulebook as the D666 system. While not a perfect system, it does lend itself to quick action and faster play since there is less math involved when compared to other systems such as the Palladium, old TSR, and other dice intensive games. (author’s note: I am not familiar with the D20 system, but aware of its existence) It also has the interesting side effect of rolling a 111 or a 666, similar to a natural 20 in the Palladium system only more spectatcular. Rolling a 111 or a 666 causes a Deus ex Machina effect for the players; if a 111 is rolled by an angel, it is considered a divine intervention and a bonus is added to the role, how much is determined by the GM, and if a 666 is rolled by the angelic player a similar effect is assessed in the form of an infernal intervention and the GM determines how bad the failure is. For demonic, the opposite is true, 666 is an extremely good outcome for them, and 111 is the worst case scenario.

In Nomine is a great game that has been neglected by its publisher Steve Jackson Games. There is so much more to play other than angels or demons. Players could be human servant for angels or demons (called soldiers in game) sorcerers, avatars for the old exiled gods, or just about anything that a GM or player could think of given the nature of the Marches in the game mechanic. The art is fantastic in all the books, with the source book having the best, and if you can find the hardcover editions, in full color. In Nomine seems still be out of print in physical form although a downloadable PDF is still available from Steve Jackson Games.  There hasn’t been a significant update or sourcebook for the series in a number of years. It’s sad really, it’s an insightful game with deep, challenging religious themes and was much more thought provoking than anything that White Wolf ever put out during the same era. Steve Jackson Games still maintains a website for the game, but it hasn’t been updated in nearly two years.

In Nomine really needs to be brought back in a big way and I hate the fact that very little is being done with the property. Sure you can still buy the rulebook from its publisher in PDF format, but that is the cheap way out for them. I would love to see new material for the game, the French version went through four editions, and we only have the forgotten one, not counting the GURPS version.  I highly recommend the hardcover edition, which is a bit pricey even now, but the softbound sourcebooks can be found pretty cheaply on the used market. I’ve seen prices starting at around five dollars for the majority of them.

For an older game, it still delivers, sadly its publisher isn’t anymore.


[tags]Role Playing Games, Steve Jackson Games, In Nomine[/tags]

5 thoughts on “Tales of the Forgotten Pen & Paper RPGs: In Nomine

Add yours

  1. I used to play Dungeons & Dragons years ago when I was a child. I remember getting absorbed in that game for hours on end. It’s like it sucked you up into a lost world. Great game. I think people tend to lean towards console games now in the form of first person adventure.

    It’s a shame as in a way you can’t beat those hands on, imaginative games.

    This post brought back some good memories. Thanks!


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