In Nomine in China


Superiors’ Words in China

This is a list of the Words of the Archangels and Demon Princes in Chinese – Mandarin to be specific, I think, though I’m not 100% certain on all of them. Where connotations are radically different from Western translations I have made a few notes. Also, if using these, bear in mind that subtle inflections not easily transmissible in this character set can change meanings, sometimes drastically. Names are given with diacritics and then without, for those whose readers don’t translate them properly.

Angel: tiān shǐ (”tian shi”), envoy of Heaven

Archangel: gao tiān shǐ. noble angel

God: shén (shen). This refers to the God, a God of a monotheist religion.

Demon: è mó (e mo), or just mó; è makes this a bad demon. However, there are an incredible array of names for various kinds of demons in Chinese culture, each referring to different types of spirits.

Demon Prince: jun mo, lit. ruler over demons. “Prince” is less suitable for an egomaniac in China – it is more explicitly “child of king,” or “son of king”. Princess is worse: the characters literally mean concubine, or “the ruler’s owned woman”!

Devil: mowang, king of demons. Wang, by the way, is an ideogram of one who connects heaven, humanity, and earth. Just to mention.

Archangels’ Words:

Animals: shòu (shou)

(Construction: I think “Name, Angel of Word” would be “Word Angel Name,” so the Archangel of Animals would be shòu gao tiān shǐ Zhao Di, or Xia Di (transliterations of a similar-sounding name, meaning “assembling upon Earth” or “descends to Earth,” Earth being the world.)

Creation: now this one is interesting. There’s wàn huà (wan hua), which literally means “making (nothing) into everything,” creation ex nihilo. But hua connotes a transformation from something previously existing! (Chinese myth has primal chaos.) Instead, chuàng zuò (chuang zuo) is making or beginning, an act of production – but even this comes from the notion of a cut or break with what went before. In Chinese, form requires formlessness or boundary to set it off. Eli’s Word is probably more the former, and would include the ongoing, self-renewing processes of all creation as well as the First Making.

Destiny: yuán fèn (yuan fen), or sú yuán (su yuan). Literally, following a thread, or the threads of a man’s life on Earth. Both specifically invoke the image of threads, but the fen character invokes the image of dividing with a knife (indeed, the same “knife” root that is seen in dao or jian, the basic character of Laurence’s Word!). Thus, Destiny requires certain threads laid out before you, but intimately involves choice.

Dreams: mèng (meng)

Fire: huǒ (huo). Extremely elemental, and a radical used for many words. Wind and water get used for a lot of them, too.

Flowers: huā (hua). Recall the discussion of its more elemental nature in China.

Judgment: pàn (pan)

Lightning: diàn (dian). More commonly “electricity” in translation – shan dian is a lightning flash – but dian’s character is, indeed, a stroke extending from a raincloud.

Stone: shí (shi). (Observe the difference in inflection between shǐ (envoy), shí (stone), si (four), and sǐ (death).) As has been discussed before, while this is considered an elemental Word in Western systems it is merely natural in the Chinese version. Instead, rǎng (rang: earth, soil) would be the related element. Which one is the more accurate translation of David’s Word will say something, in your game, about his nature.

The Sword: jiàn (jian). Laurence might very much appreciate the Buddhist notion of huì jiàn, “the sword of wisdom which cuts through the illusions of the material world”. Connect, for example, to the Christian image of the Word of God as a sword.

Trade: shang. Not only does this character mean business or commerce, it also is built up out of roots referring to discussion, and means to discuss or literally to trade or exchange. Marc’s Word in China probably involves a lot of extended relationship-building and intricate social maneuvering, just the way the Mercurian likes it.

War: zhàn or zhàng are both probably decent translations.

Wind: fēng (feng). As in feng shui, the way of wind and water. Like Stone, not elemental in the Chinese system, merely natural.

Demon Princes:

Dark Humor: fēng qù (fengqu) is wit or humor, hēi fēng qù (hei fengqu) would be dark humor.

Death: sǐ (si). Sounds like “four,” hence the superstition.

Factions: pài (pai)

Fate: mìng (ming). Strong connotations of inevitability, inexorability, command.

Fire: same as above.

Freedom: zì yóu (zi you), something like “personal determination.” (Remember the discussion about Princes? A very polite title for Lilith might be nushi ziyou, Lady of Freedom, skipping the “demon” bit entirely. If you call Lilith “mo wang fei,” the Devil’s Concubine, you might be lucky to escape attached to your skin! ... but by the same token, it’s probably a title she gets applied to her when the speaker thinks she can’t hear...)

The Game: bi sài (bi sai), competition, or jú (ju), a comparison. In China, the Game definitely needs opponents. (Interesting, ju can also mean to measure, or, in archaic usage, to compel – and presently can refer to a bureau or office.)

Gluttony: tān tāo (tan tao). The unmodified tān would simply mean Greed – who’s a subset of who here?!?

Lust: yù (yu). Desire, longing. Sexual desire specifically is yin yu – oddly enough, with the additional term Lust and Factions share a “water” root (Factions’ is breaking off to form a tributary, while Lust’s is flowing in to surround).

The Media: méi jiè (mei jie), the medium that lies between. Mei ti is a sound-alike loanword.

Nightmares: è mèng (simply “bad dream.” Very much a subset of Dreams, in other words. Beleth might prefer mengyan, a construction which has connotations of ghosts, crushing weight, and ill feelings.)

Technology: kē jì (ke ji)

Theft: qiè (qie)

The War: Zheng, or douzheng, more literally a military faceoff or a contentious dispute than Michael’s Word. Like the Game, the connotations require an opponent.

Summer, 2008

”1992,” Aluriel murmured. “That was a good year.”

Mordekial nodded. “Flaming arrow. Dramatic. ’76 should have been...”

”Media bums,” said Aluriel.

”Speaking of...”

”I know. We’ve put out a call for some handlers. Should be some interested parties responding. If we can just keep Hell out of the way, I think it’ll happen this year.”

”And then what?”

Aluriel grinned. “You know the Lady,” he said. “When she gets it together, even for a moment...”

In 1960, the relay and lighting of the Olympic Torch was televised for the first time. In 1964, the world expected it, and Japan took advantage of the popular ceremony to assign the final torchbearing to a child who had been born the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The symbolism of peace overcoming fiery destruction was powerful, and as the cauldron was lit, millions of people all around the world saw in that flame a dream of unity, of peace, of personal uplift, of a global brotherhood of man. The fire lit from the rays of the Sun became a receptacle for the hopes of those millions.

And at that moment, halfway around the world, the Archangel Gabriel gasped, snapped upright, and thought very hard and very clearly.

Even the Firemen were briefly unable to keep up with the Archangel when she was apparently operating near her full faculties. Her Servitors across the world were organized and operations undertaken that, to this day, are not fully pieced together even to Heaven, despite extensive interviews with Gabrielites assigned missions during the time. Apparent coincidences may be just that, or may have been Gabriel operating personally behind the scenes, or may have been the Archangel simply taking full advantage of crystal-clear prophecy for a brief moment. During this time a number of major world events happened, including the sudden removal from power of Nikita Krushchev and China’s successful test of a nuclear weapon. That the latter did not produce a Tether to Infernal Fire, given the overall geopolitical situation at the time, was remarked upon rather extensively.

In 1968 the event was not repeated; the Winter Games had the lighting of the flame nearly disrupted by a coup d’etat in Greece, and the Summer Games’ ceremony involved extensive Ethereal-related imagery. Given that a number of Media demons had been disbanded after the Tokyo incident, this was little surprise to most parties.

In years since, the beneficiary of the lighting has varied. In 1976, the flame was “transmitted” through a satellite pulse and a laser, briefly creating a Tether to the Media. A Divine attempt to disrupt the Tether by dousing the flame with a rainstorm failed when the Tether was re-established by the image of a human relighting the cauldron with his cigarette lighter. 1984 and 1988 saw a marginal improvement of Gabriel’s state, and in 1992 the Archangel was active and focused for several days. At 2004’s Athens games the Olympian pantheon themselves finally got a significant share of the Essence, and were able to outmaneuver the Media on several fronts where they had been pressed. They want it to happen again.

The 2008 Games pose similar opportunities. Attention is focusing this year on rumors that both Sides plan to make hay of connotations in the torch relay, at critical points including the passages through Pakistan, North Korea, Tibet, and the final run in Beijing. Already political disruptions have occurred with Taiwan being taken off the list of relay stations, so Hell may presently be slightly ahead on influence at the moment. Factions won’t be resting on its laurels, though, and symbolism up and down the route will be vital to the final perceptions. If the PCs are native to other continents, the flame will also be passing through Paris, San Francisco, and many other cities. Angels can be drafted to deal with any number of disruptive plans staged in the locales to be visited, climaxing with a globe-hopping visit to Beijing to ensure the final run goes off smoothly and with as litle rancor as possible, allowing the native symbolism to shine through.

If successful, there then comes the question of what Gabriel will do with the short days available to her in clarity. That, naturally, is an entirely different plot.

The Many Chinas

People who ask whether Marc is dreadfully concerned about communism as an economic system often are working on the assumption that he is the Archangel of Capitalism, a notion of which his angels are glad to disabuse questioners. Humans can select whatever form of government they want, and Trade isn’t going to interfere with that – angels meddling in affairs of rulership over humans is a very bad road to go down. Marc’s ideals in China are the same as they are everywhere else: his Word, opening channels of exchange and communication, and his Choir, upholding the sanctity of human life, bound together by a firm belief that each priority supports the other. He’s far more concerned that China integrate fully into the global economic system than he is that it adopt one or another form of government. Not that he can’t politic with the best of them, but politics is a means to an end.

Thus, Trade’s angels in China tend to be pragmatic, making connections and trying to influence humans – sipping tea with party leaders or guzzling Tsingtao with local cadres, as the case may be. There are a lot of humans here, and the Middle Kingdom has an astonishing amount of inertia. Outsiders (and that includes angels of Trade from the other side of the globe with more fervent political views) that push for speeding up change are often blithely reminded of the last time China tried a drastic modernization program. That was a little project the locals called the Great Leap Forward. Incrementalism is, thus, the name of the game. So is caution: openness and integration are the goals, but the Opium War resulted in both economic openness – on unequal terms – and a major Tether to Fate, at the Canton Customs House.

Also advising caution are the lessons Trade learned from historical development patterns in the West. China is at a delicate stage of economic development: rapidly advancing in technology, resource-hungry, and engaging in projects like Three Gorges, Han resettlement in Tibet, and African investment, all of which require willfully blinding the country to the harm done to millions in exchange for energy, raw materials, and geopolitical heft. Ideally, Trade would be able to apply lessons learned from the damage done to, say, the American indigenous peoples and its resource layers, or the rapid growth of the urban laboring class in the Industrial Revolution in England, to issues in China. It’s hard going, though.

First, Trade’s long-term Roles with government influence in China are primarily on the borders: when the Nationalist government was chased to Taiwan in the civil war, most of Trade’s established power base went with it. This has been a great thing for Taiwan, where development has been following something much closer to Trade’s preferred path. Trade is a heavy influence on the island, with several Tethers and a number of angels in highly-placed Roles that can serve as Patrons to a younger party of angels. Hong Kong and Macao, protected for decades by foreign control, are the places on the mainland where Marc’s agents are most active – and, frankly, their return to Chinese control has not exactly been a loss for him, as it has allowed him to penetrate further into the mainland government. The Directorate of Special Purposes has taken an interest in his mainland Tethers in recent years, but he has a few feng shui experts of his own among the concentration of professionals that fled to Hong Kong after the civil war, and they have been able to defend themselves.

Second, and far more worrisome, is that Trade’s activities on the mainland seem to be stymied more often than they should be. The Ofanite Angel of the Silk Road has been seriously challenged, but should have been able to survive more strongly than he has, in Marc’s opinion. Trade’s analysts are beginning to form the dark suspicion that highly placed agents in the Chinese government are actively engaging in policies designed to serve Hell. If there are indeed Hellsworn with this much influence on China’s policies, it would be a serious blow in the War, and one of Marc’s main priorities in China at the moment is penetrating the oligarchy and assessing such loyalties. Undercover missions to obtain information on high-ranking government officials are a frequent espionage op that Trade runs in China.

This is in addition to mitigating effects on the ground, where his lower-ranking angels have plenty to do. They are often assigned to deal with corrupt local officials, support the more transparent privatization initiatives and encourage local entrepreneurs. Hell, Marc even feeds a few players in the electronic-piracy game, mostly those associated with the Wind – besides spurring useful calls for the rule of law which can be parlayed into effective anti-corruption measures, the distribution network helps him get information past the government censors. More than a few very respectable angels of Trade in China with very respectable Roles can be seen picking up a popular DVD from a stall in a local market – just like everybody else in China, only theirs contains an Easter egg with some handy classified information encoded in the setup.

Finally, there is one more top concern that Trade has in the region, and that is North Korea. The policies pursued by this government are offensive to Marc on Word, Choir, and personal levels, and the integration of this isolationist state with the global community, combined with a vast and rapid improvement in the fundamental living conditions of its citizens, is something he deeply desires. Marc has people in South Korea working for unification, agents in the Chinese government attempting to get it to apply pressure along its border, and Roles in North Korea trying to push this idea along. The project is expensive, though – famine and deprivation mean that the population’s Essence tends to be spent on survival, and Tethers in North Korea are notoriously weak and rare. Incoming celestials must often cross the border corporeally. Mission behind the closed curtains of this nation makes an excellent opportunity for a very different flavor of game for celestials used to Western openness and conveniences. Such missions often center on information distribution, especially getting out word of this or that channel of communication: in the modern day, Marc is as often concerned with information flow as with money flow. Given that this priority matches extraordinarily well with those of Lilith and Nybbas, both of whom want this nut cracked wide open, and that neither of these Princes has any love for Saminga, one of the few Princes that does do well off of Tether-Essence from around here, it’s no surprise that the region is rife with rumors of collaboration. The truth of these rumors is up to the GM, but it should be pointed out that Lilith and Nybbas would both be fairly happy with North Korea getting cracked open by means of a brand new Korean War, which is not something Marc would stand for.

The material presented here is the creation of William Keith, and is intended for use with the In Nomine system from Steve Jackson Games. This material is not official and is not endorsed by Steve Jackson Games.

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