Sunday, November 4, 2007

In Nomine: Sauriel, the Archangel of Souls

In honor of All Souls' Day, I present something that I started way back in 2002 and never got around to finishing. It's for In Nomine, a roleplaying game published by Steve Jackson Games, where you can engage the oldest cold war in history: the War between Heaven and Hell.

My apologies to those who won't understand what the heck I'm talking about. If by some miracle you do play this game, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of this post!

A Google Docs version of this post can be found here


Kyriotate Archangel of Souls

The world dies and is born anew each day.
Be both undertaker and midwife.

Sauriel, Soriel, Sariel, Zariel, Zauriel ... call her what you will, she doesn’t seem to mind; just don’t expect her to reply. She has as many faces as there are concepts of death, birth, and rebirth, and all of them apply.

She loathes Saminga as would be expected, but lacks the word-friction which causes the erratic behavior of the Archangel and Demon Prince of Fire. Her Word is as much about life as it is about death, and she lets Saminga have his rotting corpses and moldering tombs (or more accurately, she lets her Malakim have at them); she is more concerned with peaceful repose, closure, and new beginnings.

Originally an angel of Purity, she was awarded her Word shortly after Cain slew Abel, whereupon Yves presented her with the Book of Life. This powerful relic contains the names of all souls that have ever been born, the dates of their birth, and the dates of their deaths -- all barring celestial interference, of course. Sometimes this interference is angelic in nature, and while Saurielites are willing to overlook an angel extending the life of a mortal so that it may achieve its Destiny, any mortal killed before its time will earn that angel a harsh rebuke, a scathing report to its Archangel, the Divine Inquisition, and the Offices of the General of the Heavenly Host, and in drastic situations, an abrupt one-way ticket back upstairs to ponder its Heart for a time.

Only her Servitors, and those Archangels to whom she is allied, have ever seen her true form, and all others must speak to her behind a thick curtain within her Cathedral. (This is deliberately suggestive of the Holy of Holies, for it is rumored that to look upon her is to invite soul-death.) On the rare occasions when she manifests upon the corporeal plane, she prefers to swath herself in thick, dark clothing, with an emphasis upon veils, scarves, and hoods.

Her chief characteristic in either form is "quiet". She is soft-spoken, treads lightly, and is prone to introspective silence. An almost monastic sense of calm seems to radiate from her, and it is difficult to be panicked in her presence; the ability to think calmly in any circumstance is an ability she strives to instill in her servitors, and her angels are unusually competent.

Given the stakes, they have to be.

Her Cathedral
Sauriel's Heavenly abode is actually two places: the Memorial Guardians, which are public, and the Guf, which is restricted to angels of Souls and other Archangels.

The Memorial Gardens
Everyone needs a place to mourn, even in Heaven. This quiet, dignified park contains memorials to those who have died and are beyond the grasp of the Divine, either by meeting their Fates and being damned to Hell or by being soul-slain in the course of the War. The atmosphere here is reverential but not funerary; introspection and closure, not sorrow, is the Gardens' purpose. It borders the Cathedrals of Faith, Destiny, Flowers, and the Sword, but it is understood that certain topics are forbidden in this place, and politics is one of them.

The Guf
Named for the Jewish treasury of souls, the Guf is a dark, warm, quiet room of infinite size that somehow seems small, but in the cozy sense and not claustrophobic. It might well be called a womb, because it is where souls yet to be born upon the mortal plane are created and stored. Interspersed with the souls are the Hearts of her servitors, and they are tended with the same care.

Within the center of this infinite space is a room which only Sauriel and her highest-ranked servitors may enter. It is from this room that she grants her audiences, speaking to others across what seems to be a thick curtain that blocks all senses except hearing. This room is known as the Well of Souls, and newborn souls simply appear here at random without fanfare or warning. It is theorized that this is a one-way Tether from the Higher Heavens, a mirror to the ascent-only Jacob's Ladder.

It is noteworthy that no other Archangel has ever entered this room, not even Yves.

Role in the War
Sauriel barely accepts the need for a War, and she doesn't approve of anything that isn't for the express purpose of reducing inimical celestial interference. Note that the word is 'inimical', not 'diabolic'; Sauriel disapproves of Michael's actions almost as she does Hell's.

What work she does in the corporeal plane mostly involves preventing and minimizing the actions of more active Superiors on both sides. Her servitors try to guide human lives on track after they've been derailed (often completely unintentionally) by some successful action by either side of the War. They've gotten good at that, at the cost of increased cynicism towards the ham-handed clumsiness of the average celestial.

When she isn't desperately trying to mitigate damage to the Symphony, Sauriel helps ease the coming and passing of individual humans. The latter often eclipses the former, but it should be remembered that her servitors preside over as many births as they do deaths.

As possessor of the Book of Life, Sauriel knows the decreed lifespans of all souls (barring celestial intervention). Servitors of Souls, having partial knowledge of the Book, are forbidden to interfere; saving the life of a human whose death was ordained is as Dissonant as slaying him before his allotted time to die. However, it is not Dissonant to remove the pain and fear of the dying, and instead encouraged.

Choir Attunements

This choir’s ability to perceive the Truth extends into the spiritual realm. With a successful Perception roll, they may detect the final destination of any soul currently inhabiting a body: Heaven, Hell, the Marches, reincarnation, or dissipation. This destination may change as a result of celestial interference.

This attunement will also work upon a Celestial or Ethereal within a vessel/host, though in this case the information returned will only indicate which plane of existence they call home. However, a 6 on the Perception roll's check digit will reveal that the Seraphim has indeed detected a celestial (what type would still be unknown).

Cherubim (restricted)
Sauriel’s Guardians are charged with protecting those who are in danger of being killed by the forces of Hell before their time. If their charges are killed, they automatically succeed in a Nemesis attunement to the slayer(s). (See the Angelic Players' Guide for more information on Nemesis attunements.)

Ofanim (partially restricted)
Wheels of Souls can feel the pull of the dying or about-to-be-born within a number of miles equal to their Perception, and may use their direction finding Resonance to locate them. Their purpose is to comfort those who are dying alone in inaccessible locations, and give help to mothers giving birth in empty apartments and back seats of cars. To this end, they may add their Ethereal Forces to all rolls that provide comfort and assistance to these people.

Elohim (restricted)
Master counselors, Sauriel’s Powers automatically succeed in their Resonance rolls when consoling the bereaved and those contemplating suicide. Note that while it is Dissonant for them to prevent a mortal’s death, there is nothing wrong with providing mortals with a new perspective that allows them the opportunity to change their minds. Elohim know this is a fine line, and tread it carefully.

Virtues of Souls are celestial repo men, charged with seeking out the undead and destroying them, and as such detect them upon sight. As these creatures no longer have souls, slaying them does not cause Dissonance.

Sample Malakite Oaths
I will:
  • Never inform mortals of the hour or nature of their death.
  • Make at least one offer of a peaceful and painless death to any mortal who has lived past their time through Celestial interference.
  • Slay one undead at least once a month.
  • Always refer to all that lives by its true name in the Book of Life.
  • Respect the dying wish of a mortal so long as it does not go against the will of heaven.
  • Always thwart the servitors of Saminga, unless it is not my choice.
  • Always, once a week, light a candle and remember those mortals who have died at my hands.
  • Always help expectant mothers and new parents.
  • Always attend baby showers and similar events.
  • Always comfort those who are grieving.

Kyriotates (restricted)
Kyriotates of Souls are eerily similar to Shedim in that they do not displace the mind of their host; however, the host is aware that the Kyriotate is inside it, and therefore has full control over its body. The Kyriotate may sing songs, activate Attunements, and spend Essence on behalf of the host, but may not take control of the host’s body unless the host allows it. If so, the host may regain control at any time thereafter. Mortals chosen for hosts are typically terminally ill and sincerely wish for a chance to make reparations or do one last good deed before they die. If this is accomplished, the Kyriotate gains no Dissonance if the host dies as a result.

Sauriel’s Friends of Man are skilled at explaining difficult questions, such as “Why did Mommy have to die?” or “Where do babies come from?” They may add their Ethereal Forces to all skill rolls involving communication of difficult or abstract concepts.

Servitor Attunements

Book of Life (required)
All angels of Souls must purchase this attunement upon character creation. It allows one to look at a mortal and know the date, time, and circumstances of their birth and death as written in the Book of Life (that is, barring any celestial interference). If any mortal is saved from death due to this interference, even one the angel is not otherwise aware of, the angel perceives a Disturbance within the Symphony as though the mortal had died by celestial hands! This is often dubbed "The Keeler Effect" by angels more in-tune with mortal pop culture.

Forensic Sight
Angels with this attunement can determine the case of death of any corpse -- human, vessel, or other -- with a successful Perception roll. On a check digit of 6 they can even see past the effects of Saminga’s "Natural Causes" attunement.

If a mortal truly wishes to die, and it is their time to die as written in the Book of Life, then by spending 1 Essence an angel may grant that mortal a swift, painless death. If it is not their time to die, then the mortal falls into a deep, restful sleep that grants respite from all forms of pain.

If the mortal remains of a deceased human are present, the angel may make a Perception roll to communicate with it. If that soul is in Heaven or Hell, or tied to the corporeal or ethereal plane as a ghost or dream-shade, it will be "summoned" to the Seraph's location (as if through the Song of Projection, and making a disturbance equal to twice its Celestial Forces), for a number of minutes equal to the check digit. Unwilling souls may resist with a Will roll. The angel (and anyone else present) may talk to the soul (who is not obligated to talk back).

If the soul has ascended to the Higher Heavens, reincarnated, or disbanded, it is beyond the Seraph's reach. Blessed souls who have been reborn as Saints also cannot be summoned. If the Seraph's summoning roll fails, he may not attempt to summon that individual again for a number of days equal to the check digit.

Silent Wings
If attending to his duties in an area where human observation would prove troublesome, the angel may choose not to be noticed. While not true invisibility, the angel will nevertheless not be noticed except by other celestials and those defined as innocents (such a young children and animals traditionally defined as being sensitive to spirits). Recording devices will still record the angel, but the non-Symphonically aware will not see anything within the recording.

Soul Sight
Angels with this attunement automatically succeed when rolling to perceive a ghost or a celestial form, unless the subject is somehow hidden (such as by Ethereal Form): if so, the angel rolls without a penalty to perceive.


Vassal of Transmigration
Angels with this Distinction may follow a soul to its afterlife when it dies as if it were following another celestial to its heart.  If the soul is to be reincarnated then the angel may follow across the corporeal realm to its place of rebirth without causing a Disturbance, so long as it does nothing else. If the soul became a ghost, the Ofanite will arrive at the soul's corporeal anchor (Corporeal Player's Guide, pp. 80-81).

Following a pagan soul results in the angel ascending to the Marches, while pursuing a damned soul places the angel in the line before the Gates of Hell. There are more than a few angels of Sauriel with this Distinction who stay with a soul up to the point it is processed through the Soul Yards, in the hope that it will sincerely repent of its sins and achieve reincarnation, if not redemption. While the odds against being successful in this are enormous, it has happened before. Demons tend not to trouble angels of Souls working in this manner, as the Angels of Final Judgement consider Saurielites to be under their protection.

Friend of Souls
The angel may separate a soul from its body without sending that soul to its afterlife or harming its corporeal sheath. While in this state, the soul is considered to be in Celestial form, but with no ability to ascend to the Celestial Plane and it does not generate Disturbance (neither does the angel if he accompanies the soul). Friends of Souls frequently use this ability to give coma victims one last look at their family and friends, or to save the lives of those being hunted by demons.

Soulless bodies killed in this way do not generate the additional +10 Disturbance for the death of a human. If the body is not completely destroyed, the soul may be returned to it with no ill effects once Corporeal Healing is sung to repair the damage. If it is totally destroyed, the soul may be placed in any soulless living body to live out the remainder of its allotted lifespan. If the angel is slain before the soul is placed within a body, the soul is trapped in Celestial form but is stranded upon the Corporeal plane, and is vulnerable to soul-killing. Needless to say, returning these souls to flesh is of the highest priority to Sauriel.

Master of the Guf
An angel of this rank has access to the Well of Souls, the room within the Guf from which souls periodically spring. Constant exposure to its mysteries has led to enlightenment, specifically the realization that all souls are essence and all essence potentially a soul. Masters of the Guf may use this knowledge to sacrifice one of their Celestial Forces, converting it into (Celestial Forces x Will) notes of Essence, which is then immediately applied to any single roll. (Refer to the rules on auto-success on p. 39 of the In Nomine rulebook if necessary.) This ability may be used multiple times per turn, but only once per action.

Basic Rites
  • Assist a mother in giving birth.
  • Ease the death of a mortal through comfort and reassurance.
  • Disrupt the plans of a servitor of Saminga.
  • Spend 3 hours with a newborn. 

Chance of Invocation: 0

Invocation Modifiers

+1  A deathbed
+2  A maternity ward
+3  The deathbed of a human who has accepted his or her coming death.
+4  The moment and place when someone has given birth.
+5  A former Tether of Death that has been realigned to any Divine Word.
+6  The deathbed of a human who has met his or her Destiny without any
      celestial interference at all.

Sauriel is pretty much an outsider in celestial politics, as overseeing the comings and goings of mortal souls takes up most of her energies. She's predisposed against supporting any kind of preemptive action made by the Host, and that’s the extent of her voting in the Seraphim Council. Couple that with what seems a deep personal detachment and it's not at all surprising that almost none of her colleagues really count on her support.

However, she does have some links in place with others, mostly based on personal likes or common philosophy. Laurence and Khalid seem to have the firmest mutual working relationship with her; that, coupled with Dominic's professional respect, would seem to make her a member of the War faction. On the other hand, Sauriel seems to prefer the company of the most powerful members of the Peace faction (who, Yves notwithstanding, usually find her slightly uncomfortable to be around). Sauriel is also one of the few Archangels that can get Jordi's attention, and keep it.

Allied: Eli, Novalis, Yves (Dominic, Laurence and Khalid are Allied)
Associated: Dominic, Khalid, Laurence (Yves is Associated)
Hostile: Gabriel, Michael (Both are Neutral)

Superior Opinions of Sauriel
(and hers of them)

Blandine: "She has affected many a dreamscape, and not always to the Host's benefit. There is no hatred in Sauriel, though. I sympathize with her burden."

"She gives them hope, and I give them surcease when hope is gone. We move to different rhythms."

Celeste: She’s… complicated. On the one hand, she understands how we’re all linked, which is great; on the other hand, she’s so distant. I can be right next to her and still feel a million miles away. Even her angels seem... well, maybe not sad, but definitely solemn, and restful in a way I don’t like. Plus, death is the great divider; some people go to in Hell, and others go to Heaven, and some reincarnate or just disappear. I certainly don’t hate her, and her work with new souls is delightful, but I just don’t care for the permanent loss her Word can represent.

"She is young, and one cannot fault the young for loathing the permanent separation of death. Eventually she will come to appreciate my dual purpose."

David: "It takes strength for mortals to accept their deaths, or the deaths of those close to them. Sauriel does not encourage that strength as much as she could. But she does help the dying to show courage, which is honorable."

"One should peacefully face his or her time because it is best for that person, not because it is helpful to others. I understand, though, that our perspectives differ. His soldiers rarely need much comfort in that penultimate moment."

Dominic: "A worthy Archangel, making sure that others tread lightly in the lives of mortals, and exposing those who have transgressed. Her Servitors are somewhat less likely to come to my attention than others."

"Too quick to do that which he decries in others, but his actions only rarely impinge on mine."

Eli: "Sauriel? She's lonely, a little too standoffish, and doesn't seem to really recognize when it's okay for us to be involved of the world. I wonder how someone so intimately involved with the Creation of new life can think otherwise."

"He is the source of everything I do; I merely ease the channels of the life he has fostered. I wish that he would come back to us, but I recognize that his wild beauty cannot be controlled."

Gabriel: "She makes it too easy for the Cruel. Death is sometimes not punishment enough."

"I have watched her slow fall to madness, and I ask myself: has her time come at last? I fear that the answer might be yes."

Janus: "I like her determination, hate her stodginess, and am just plain ambivalent about her constant need for closure. Overall, I'd say that Sauriel is an asset to us; the irritation that we may feel is nothing to the aggravation that she deals out to Hell's schemes on a regular basis."

"He embodies Chaos, and without Chaos, there is no room to grow. But Chaos is a tool, not an ideal."

Jean: "She has a task that is both necessary and thankless. My colleagues may find her uncomfortable, but I do not."

"He is another whose path does not often intersect with mine. A shame, for I think that we would work well together."

Jordi: "Animals are born knowing the truths that Sauriel is still trying to teach to humanity. If nothing else, her persistence is laudable: a shame she doesn't have better material to work with."

"Jordi understands my duties with an ease that I can only hope the others will someday duplicate. I wish that he could learn to accept his pain, and move on."

Khalid: "Sauriel has a glimpse of Allah's plan for His creation. I listen to her when she speaks."

"Of all my colleagues, he respects my work the most. I respect his as well."

Laurence: "Sauriel is as deeply involved in the beginning of life as in its end. The latter may overshadow her work in the former, but I for one do not forget her unceasing service, and I honor her commitment."

"One of the few who try to see the entire War, rather than just one portion of it, and one who knows when to accept the inevitable. I certainly prefer him to Michael."

Marc: "She's traded knowledge of what was to be for the ability to prevent it. I'm glad someone did, but I'm also glad it wasn't me."

"He does more to aid humanity than one would think. Money cannot buy one more second of life when it is your time, though. Nothing can, I am afraid."

Michael: "Here's a radical concept: humans have free will. Here's another: when the master plan goes bad, junk the plan. Sauriel seems to have never quite gotten either concept through her shrouded head. 'Written down somewhere' does not equal 'optimal solution'."

"Michael cannot seem to ever learn when to let go. His meddling has hurt so many humans, and so often it makes no difference anyway."

Novalis: "I recognize that she has her task: however, I cannot walk past the hurt or dying and simply shrug it off because 'it was their time'. Neither can my Servitors. We do not oppose each other, but I cannot count on her aid."

"A wise human sage once had Death say that, for him, proper compassion was a sharp edge. If it were not for Novalis, my task would be unsupportable. I am truly sorry when she cannot save someone. But, at the end, everyone has his or her time."

Yves: "She bears a subtle Word: why should anyone be surprised that it has made her subtle, too?"

"The goal of it all, in the end, is for every life to begin and end in Destiny. With him showing us the way, I believe that someday, it will."

Zadkiel: "I simply have to accept that sometimes she won't help to protect someone, no matter how good the reason. I don't agree with it at all, but I won't reject the aid she does offer, either."

"Another who makes my tasks infinitely easier: would that she could accept that not even she can Shield someone forever."

Now playing: E Nomine - Himmel Und Hölle
via FoxyTunes


  1. I have never played 'In Nominae', but I like the detail here and the consistency of the information. Very fascinating, and now I'm going to have to find out what this game is...

  2. True quality work. I will be using this Archangel as in all my games as of this point. Thank you for adding that little something extra to my campaigns!

  3. The archangel descriptions were my favorite part of that book. Good stuff.

  4. I'm not sure I would have subsumed 'Transitions' within the Word of 'Souls,' but I really like the way that you melded them seamlessly.


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