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Eric: Expatriates of Role Playing

I had an interesting discussion with a friend, earlier today. Said friend is a mild In Nomine fan. He likes the concepts of the game and he likes some of what I've written about it in the fan press. And he asked me about the Grigori -- a Choir of Angels that were referenced in the main book, but given no mechanics.

"Well, they were fleshed out more in GURPS In Nomine," I answered. "They're kind of neat. And I've seen some fan conversions back to the--"

He made... well, whatever the Instant Messenger version of a snort is. "I hate GURPS," he said. "I like In Nomine. It's got nice, simple mechanics that make the fight between angels and demons seem epic, not like a math lesson."

"Well, there are those fan conversions," I said. "And I have to expect Grigori will eventually be appearing on e23.

And he snorted again. "It'll never happen," he said. "They're not doing In Nomine on e23."

I begged to differ. (Not to violate any non-disclosure agreements, but I know I've actually written some In Nomine material for e23 that hasn't been published yet.) But he was implacable. "Look at what's there," he said. "And tell me they're making In Nomine a priority. Go on. I dare you."

I was stuck. I had no effective way to refute him. Because if you do look at the current In Nomine offerings on e23, it bears his theory out.

There are currently five pieces for sale. Of those five, four are revisions of previously available material. Only one was a new publication. All five are adventures -- and if you look at the excerpts on that page I linked to, the one of those adventures that has significant content (namely, the basic writeup of Alaemon, Demon Prince of Secrets and the only current writeup of Litheroy, Archangel of Revelation) doesn't reference that content in the search blurb. It looks like it's... well, just another adventure.

And all five of those came out with the launch of e23. There hasn't been anything new put up since then. Certainly nothing like a sourcebook or content component. Nothing that would thrill the fanbase and attract new fans. Nothing I can shout about from the rooftops over here on Websnark.

That's almost six months. When e23 launched, there was a lot of excitement over on the In Nomine Mailing List -- after years on the back burner, we finally would get some new material. That's exciting, for an RPG geek like me. Well, now it feels like old news. Old news, and more of the same.

I know they've got material. And I know they've got a Hell of a lot they're trying to produce and develop and release in a short amount of time. I promise you -- I promise you -- there isn't anyone over at Steve Jackson Games who doesn't want In Nomine to flourish and grow and succeed. Or at least hold steady. They just have so much else going on, and so many hours in the day....

But it doesn't change the way the audience reacts. It's hard to get people interested in In Nomine. I know. I've done a lot of it. Heck, I bought Wednesday the core rules myself because if we were going to be collaborators on writing projects, she needed to have some background. This is after years of people telling her she'd love this game, I'd add.

I can't afford to buy hardcover books for everyone I think would love this game. I don't have that kind of money. And despite the fact that the existing material is just as good now as when it was published, it's hard to point to stuff that's many years old as supporting evidence for how great a game is.

It's like being RPG expatriates -- following a system without support. Organizing your own support mechanisms and groups. Making your own new content. I've done a lot of it myself. So have a number of other folks. The fan community for this game has always been rabid.

But they're slowing down. I'm slowing down. It's hard to maintain enthusiasm when you feel like you don't have a home.

I hope they start releasing stuff soon, I really do. Because expatriates eventually find new nations, and evangelists new causes to promote, and momentum can't be created out of nothing.

It is a good game. Honestly. Give it a try.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at May 20, 2005 4:23 PM


Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at May 20, 2005 4:43 PM

I recently got started in an online forum-based game of In Nomine. My character bends the rules a bit, but the GM apparently thought my explanation was good enough to let me get away with it. (The character is a Kyriotate with a Role, which is normally impossible because Kyriotates don't have fixed Vessels--but he's a Kyriotate of Eli, which means he can use the Celestial Song of Form at no Essence cost, so he just changes whatever (human) Vessel he's currently possessing to look like his Role, and renews the Song whenever it's about to expire.)

The game's just getting started (well, as of a few weeks ago, but play-by-post games go kind of slowly), so it's too early to say much about what I think of the system so far...

Comment from: SeanH posted at May 20, 2005 7:05 PM

I've wanted to play In Nomine for a long time now - that and Nobilis. Right now all I'm playing is D&D v3.5. My main problem is getting enthusiasm for it in my friends - that involves persuading them to each spend £30 on a rulebook. Which I will do quite readily, because I love rulebooks (I spend hours reading them for pleasure; an entire day on the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual) but everyone else has to as well...

Comment from: benlehman posted at May 20, 2005 7:07 PM

I'm still a little bit skeptical of the concept of "support" as it applies to role-playing games. Let me get into some detail.

There will generally be several different types of role-playing fans, but I want to make a distinction based on the way that they consume the material given to them.

Some fans are fans of the material itself. I'm reminded about when Wednesday posted after reading the first In Nomine book -- she was really into the game. But she hadn't even played the game! How could she be really into it?

I think that the basic "worldbook" form of a role-playing book is perfectly capable of attraction interest as an item of prose in itself.

These people absolutely *need* a line of "support" books, to give them new world material to read about. It is all about the reading of the books, see. The gameplay is pretty secondary.

There is, of course, another sort of gamer, one who is interested in the books only as something that adds to their game.

These people, I would argue, absolutely don't need a line of "support" books, because they are generating new material with their own play and, frankly, integrating new material is a bitch and a half.

Now, these groups can and do overlap. Someon can be a fan of the support-material-as-fiction-book and also the game-as-RPG. But only one of them really needs "support."

What does this mean? Maybe we shouldn't have mechanics in supplements. Not really certain.

I guess what I'm trying to say is for one type of gamer, the type that plays the game a lot and can't make it through gamebooks without serious motivation, support is really a non-issue. I'm that sort, so...



Comment from: jpcardier posted at May 20, 2005 7:39 PM

Quoth Ben:

"I think that the basic "worldbook" form of a role-playing book is perfectly capable of attraction interest as an item of prose in itself.

These people absolutely *need* a line of "support" books, to give them new world material to read about. It is all about the reading of the books, see. The gameplay is pretty secondary.

There is, of course, another sort of gamer, one who is interested in the books only as something that adds to their game."

I think you are making a distinction that is only somewhat true. This is an issue with binary either/or comparisons. "There are two types of people in the world...Those who believe that there are two types of people...And those who don't."

Truthfully, some folks don't play games, but instead read them. Some folks play games, but never bother to learn the rules (my wife among them). Some folks obsess over rules, finding every loophole and mistake. Some folks despise the former. Some folks can't wait to write their own scenarios. Other folks do not want the headaches of writing their own scenarios. Some folks love to tinker with systems. Others consider the system sacrosanct.

I have been *all* of these gamers. Every single last one of them. I have owned over 45 RPG systems. I currently own 5 shelves of rules and supplement books. I have written system patches, rules alterations, scenarios, campaigns, characters, backstories, and full worlds. I also have many systems I have never played. I have collected all the supplements I could for a system so I did not have to write my own. And everywhere in between.

When a system is not being kept current with supplements, you can still play it. You can still write for it. But it isn't in the same category as current systems. RPG writers change the game in supplements. Sometimes for ill, but often for good. And really good RPG writers (like Rebecca Sean Borgstrom, to name one) change what you *think the game is*. So support isn't essential, but it is very nice. And not just for "system readers".

Comment from: Kail Panille posted at May 20, 2005 8:05 PM

I have a feeling that my RPG system phallus isn't going to measure up in this company, especially since the system in which I'm most comfortable is d20, but the Internet is paved with the bones of hasty posters, so here I go.

Supplements and I have a love-hate relationship. I'm probably in the minority here, but I'd actually rather see complete revisions of the core books of all the systems I use every few years than years and years of incremental supplements. One of the things that scares me about d20 open source is that the "arms race" is moving faster even than it did in the heyday of 2nd Ed Skills and Powers.

I like my supplements heavy on fluff and light on new mechanics. I also demand that whatever new mechanics are introduced fit the "feel" of the system.

Eh. I'm getting off on a rant here, so I'll shut up now.

Also, you dang kids get off my lawn.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 20, 2005 8:10 PM

The best pro RPG writing I've done was for a d20 game, Kail. They mock you, they mock me. ;)

Comment from: jpcardier posted at May 20, 2005 8:22 PM

Qoth Kail:

"I have a feeling that my RPG system phallus isn't going to measure up in this company, especially since the system in which I'm most comfortable is d20, but the Internet is paved with the bones of hasty posters, so here I go."

Ouch. I really didn't mean to get into a dick measuring contest, and yet when I read over my words.... Hmph. I am sometimes nothing if not condescending.

What I *meant* to say was that it was inaccurate to make a distinction between "system readers" and "system players". A lot of us fall into both categories.

And there is nothing wrong with d20. I love it a lot more more than 2E. And many interesting things have been done with it. Mutants and Masterminds comes to mind, as well as others.

Again sorry for my tone. Sometimes my ego escapes my control....Down! Down!

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at May 20, 2005 8:35 PM

You sound exactly like an Amiga guy, Eric. ;)

Comment from: Moe Lane posted at May 20, 2005 9:15 PM

(softly) You're still here, Eric. And so am I.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 20, 2005 9:35 PM

Yeah, we are Moe. We are.

Comment from: sinless posted at May 20, 2005 9:41 PM

I never got the chance to look at In Nomine, but I desperately miss Trinity.

Conversion to D20 didn't make it any better, it just sort of made me more sad about the expansions that were promised but unreleased :(

Comment from: Steve Jackson posted at May 20, 2005 9:53 PM

It is a fair criticism. Sigh.

Other pieces are well along in the pipeline, but I don't know exactly where any of them is ATM.

And in almost completely not unrelated news, it was pointed out to me today that the In Nomine home page was grossly out of date, and when I checked for myself, I noticed that it didn't even have the pointer to e23 that The Plan called for posting when the service launched. This, at least, can be fixed as soon as people come to work on Monday.

(It does sound like your friend has not seen the Fourth Edition of GURPS, which addresses some of the number-crunching excesses of the Third. But then, if his take on it is "I hate GURPS," he's not likely ever to look at it, let alone play.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at May 20, 2005 9:59 PM

I actually mentioned Fourth Edition to him. There was dogma involved, though. We all know from dogma.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at May 20, 2005 10:04 PM

Steve - please let me know what changes need to be made, and I'll get on them ASAP. I apologize for not being more on the ball.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at May 20, 2005 10:16 PM

I stopped buying new gaming books when my friends stopped actually PLAYING the games. Sure, we'd all create characters, we'd get all giggly, we'd play about five sessions and then someone else would want to DM.. something completely different.

Comment from: quiller posted at May 20, 2005 10:23 PM

I should probably take a look at GURPS again. I found much to like and much to dislike about it when I first tried it in the early 90s. I suppose there is good chance that it has addressed some of the things I didn't like about it in over a decade. Of course, I'd probably also need people to play it with, and I'm not sure whether it would interest my D&D buddies or not.

Well, Websnark has definitely gotten me curious about In Nomine, but once again I've got plenty of rulebooks for games I've never played, or only at a few conventions. (I've only gotten to play Amber once and only a few World of Darkness games) Still it might be worth browsing through the next time I'm in Borders or something.

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at May 21, 2005 12:15 AM

So...what books would someone interested in getting started in In Nomine be advised to purchase? I seem to have a bit of money and I can smell my pocket starting to smoke...

Comment from: Karacan posted at May 21, 2005 12:29 AM

I still own the original In Nomine Satanis (and Magna Veritas), before it was rechristened, complete with extremely weird but fun game mechanics that nearly made no sense at all.

However, currently "purchased" systems have a few vital flaws: First of all, if you go "purchased" systems, you need to select one every player is comfortable with. Here, this ends in Midgard, RuneQuest (*not* Glorantha! Glorantha is eeevil!) or AD&D, 2nd Edition.

If you don't go "purchased", you might as well gamemaster your own system. What? You're a gamemaster for more than ten years and *haven't* come up with a system of your own yet? Wow.

Anyway, that's my thesis to the downfall of lesser known roleplaying systems. Unfortunately, because I actually love playing new systems.

Comment from: Polychrome posted at May 21, 2005 1:27 AM

R_M, I would recommend to start with the core rules (duh) and the GM's Guide, which does a good job of illustrating the setting, with things such as a time line of events, how the setting relates to religion and how to adjust the mood of the game. While INS/MV is darkly satirical, In Nomine is very flexible, and can be played straight or funny, bright or dark, contrasted or greyed.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at May 21, 2005 10:25 AM

Karacon, it's worth noting that In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas wasn't really rechristened into In Nomine; Steve Jackson Games, as I understand it, bought the rights to adapt the game into English, and then essentially rebuilt it (better! stronger! faster! ... *cough*). In Nomine Satanis/Magna Veritas might be better seen as an ancestor or close inspiration for In Nomine - and one who's still around, as last I checked Asmod»e is still putting out supplements for it.

(On the other hand, as I recall, those supplements are, only officially in French and German - any English translations are bootlegs.)

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at May 21, 2005 10:26 AM

My apologies - Karacan. (*muttermutterstupidproportionalfontmutter*)

Comment from: Wednesday posted at May 21, 2005 11:06 AM

Must find reliable French games vendor somehow. (Alapage / fnac / amazon.fr useless, keep turning up classical music results. Grr.)

Comment from: Wednesday posted at May 21, 2005 11:30 AM

Er. Right. That'd be... the publisher.

I'm so dead.

Comment from: elvedril posted at May 21, 2005 12:11 PM

I'm actually in the minority that doesn't like most expansions to games. I love reading the new background material, but they always come with new mechanics and powerful abilities. Rifts is most famous for it's rapid power creep, but it's hardly unique in that regard. I would get a lot more excited about new expansions if they didn't feel that they can only sell the book if the new characters introduced are noticibly better than the ones in previous books.

I know that there's nothing that requires me to use the new rules, and I usually don't use them with no major complaints. It's still annoying that I can't read a new book without having to pay for half the pages being filled with rules I don't want to use.

Completely off topic: One of my favorite world descriptions was actually in the rulebook for Diablo (the computer game, never bought the RPG). That thing got my imagination going wonderfully, and only more so since it didn't have any mechanics to ruin its mythology.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at May 21, 2005 12:32 PM

For what it's worth, I still treasure my old West End Games version Star Wars RPG books.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at May 21, 2005 1:09 PM

For what it's worth, I still treasure my old West End Games version Star Wars RPG books.

I probably still have somewhere FASA's 80s Star Trek and Doctor Who RPGs. I never played'em but I drew cartoons for their magazine.

Comment from: Steven E. Ehrbar posted at May 22, 2005 12:33 AM

Robotech_Master --

Well, the core rulebook is, of course, essential (unless you're a GURPSer, in which case you'll have to decide whether to get the G:IN or take the plunge with the IN system.)

The Game Master's Guide is, properly, the single most important book after the core rules for the Game Master, and probably for any long-term campaign. If I were to recommend any second IN book to a gaming group after (core|GIN), this is it.

Then it really depends on what aspects of the setting grab you, what you want to get next.

Comment from: gwalla posted at May 22, 2005 9:09 PM

"I have a feeling that my RPG system phallus isn't going to measure up in this company, especially since the system in which I'm most comfortable is d20"

That's nothing. At least you're up to date. The system I'm most comfortable with is Hero System, and I'm not even sure it's still in print. I recall it was almost identical to GURPS back in the day...even down to some identically written sections in the rules. You had to love the "Ultimate Martial Artist" sourcebook, which had "Jailhouse Rock": the "martial art of American black people, developed in prison". Yeah.

I'm more of a boardgamer these days (Reiner Knizia is a god among men).

Comment from: Alun Clewe posted at May 22, 2005 11:03 PM

The system I'm most comfortable with is Hero System, and I'm not even sure it's still in print.

Oh, very much so. It's under new management (as of a few years ago), but the company is pumping out new products at a healthy rate--you can take a look at their website.

(Actually, I'm currently running a play-by-post Champions game myself.)

Comment from: Elizabeth McCoy posted at December 2, 2005 8:00 AM

(And since this post, happily, we've had at least a few other things over at http://e23.sjgames.com -- the ready-to-play, free IN Lite adventure and Lilith, most notably, as well as the core rules.)

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