Symphony: In Nomine *World

Much as with Mage: the Ascension and other 90s games, many of us have a deep love of Steve Jackson Games’s In Nomine. Unlike Mage, IN isn’t getting a new treatment anytime soon, so there’s no injection of lifeblood into it. So of course, many of us have independently noodled on making Apocalypse World hacks for it. That was the case when Kit La Touche visited Seattle and crashed with me for a few days.

(First, a caveat: I am picky about my *World hacks. If the characters aren’t their own agents, and are instead agents of someone else, then I’m not so interested–I like mission play, but not with AW’s toys. Kit & I also know better than to adhere so strongly to the previous games as to make a hack unplayable. )

The Pitch: Symphony

Four years ago, the gates to the realms Ethereal and Celestial closed off. No one on the Corporeal realm has been able ascend. No one has come into the Corporeal realm from the others, including celestials whose hosts die. As far as anyone can tell, no great battle or event happened to shut the passage between worlds down; it just happened. Since then, the Symphony sounds just a little different, like it’s one notch turned down on the volume.

Take your city. It’s big, has a dozen or so major celestial players in it, including you. No longer having shuttle service to Heaven/Hell and back hasn’t changed one thing: dissonance. So you’re still here, you still have a Word to promote, and the big problem is that you don’t have a Superior who can remove the dissonance you accumulate.

The reason for this pitch: I don’t want to play in a world where the big Archangels and Demon Princes can show up. So Kit & I cut off access to Heaven/Hell. In doing so, we explored what creative space that made. Four years is long enough for the initial shock to wear off, but not so long that celestials have to re-invent their Roles & hosts. It creates a mystery, but one massively global and that they aren’t equipped to solve. That combination is important, because it (a) says not to make this story about “solving the mystery,” and (b) becomes about celestials on the other sides of battle lines–angel and demon, servitors of Dominic and Eli, etc.–banding together because they’re all they have.

This hold a bit of Cold War Berlin to it. It’s more about consequences than IN is. Maybe that makes it not-IN for some people, but it fires me up.

Being Roles

We played with the idea of celestials as their own playbooks, and quickly got bored of that. Then we went to the classic Jonathan Walton question: what’s the MC suppose to do here? That’s essentially when we realized we were making a “secret Apocalypse World,” where most of the characters in the world didn’t realize they were living in one.

In riffing, we starting making the roles & hosts as playbooks (or, half-playbooks). The celestial element would be the half, not unlike the Geiger World concept of mashing two playbooks together to make one. That would reinforce to the whole table that you are your role, not just your angelic/demonic self.

Looking at our notes, we jotted down seven possible notes. We decided that they all needed to explicitly interface with mortals, because that’s what angels & demons need to do in a story like this.

  • Businessman/Suit
  • Fuck machine/Sexpot
  • Social worker/caretaker
  • Muscle (thug, security guard, bodyguard)
  • Homeless
  • Lowlife (person with underworld social ties)
  • Socialite (person with high-class ties)

This bit about roles caused us to shelve the Kyriotates and Shedim in the design process. It also doesn’t have ethereal beings or playable mortals. We figured that if this even came to fruition, someone else (or us down the road) would solve those issues.


Here’s the last thing for this post: the characters are themselves fronts. The big deal that celestials do? Promote their Word. Attack another’s Word. That’s being a front, so a bunch of character design has to revolve around putting front elements into the players’ hands. In some ways, that’s the third character component: role, celestial, and Word/front.

I don’t know what that looks like entirely yet, though some element of the hardholder & chopper AW playbooks could interface. Likewise, the MC still has fronts to push, because the PCs aren’t the only celestials in town.


That’s it for now. We have some moves written up for some celestials, including dissonance moves. If there’s interest and time, we’ll post more later.

– Ryan



4 Responses to Symphony: In Nomine *World

  1. Kit says:

    So, the “four years” thing interestingly parallels AW—yes, something terrible happened to the world of AW and it is now post-apocalyptic, but it is not something you can typically undo or understand. In fact, often, you don’t have the freedom (from threat, want, need, danger) to try to do either.

    Just like these celestials.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      That’s the one thing I changed from our prior notes, which said 50 years before. That’s too long for this paradigm, since the intent of 50 years is to make it generationally distant. That doesn’t work for immortal beings that have to masquerade as mortals. :D

      – Ryan

  2. Color me interested, although I’m completely unfamiliar with IN.

  3. Jeremy TIdwell says:

    If you work on this more, I would like in.