Design Journal: Elohim


And let's make them REALLY creepy...
And let’s make them REALLY creepy…

One of the many things I’ve been trying to get off the ground in the last two years, more like three, is the Gnosis RPG. It’s a new game system and campaign setting designed to be gritty, dangerous, and easy to play and set up. The campaign world is the modern world, except it’s really not. See, all those conspiracy theories about rock music being a tool of Satanic cults, or that NASA is hiding aliens in Area 51, or that big businesses are really a front for an ancient conspiracy to rule the world after they kill most of the human population, are actually true.

Yup. Every. Last. One.

Magic is real. Science is being held back. Aliens are constantly trying to invade. Religion is a front. Tin foil hats really DO protect your brain from the spy satellites. And if you try hard enough, you can become the thing the monsters fear, become a monster yourself, or start your own conspiracy.

mocking conspiracy theories by jonathanlerner13 on DeviantArt

One of the things I wanted to do with this setting, though, was to give everything a “real-world” explanation, even if it involved fringe science or a stretch of what science said was allowed. Clearly, conservation of energy, momentum, and all those silly physics laws prevent pretty much all of this from existing, but by minimizing or at least giving some semblance of explanation, even if it’s flimsy, the game seems just a little more real. Respecting established science is one of the best ways to come up with a setting that feels fantastic yet plausible.

Take, for example, the simple matter of angels and demons.

I say simple in the same way that designing the space shuttle from scratch is simple.

I wanted to bring religious horror to Gnosis, and the idea of demonic possession and even angels as alien beings far removed from the fluffy-winged images of modern society appealed to me greatly. They would form two sides of one of the major conspiracies in the game’s universe. However, how to make them semi-realistic or at least sound plausible?

Firstly, I needed to figure out what was an angel and what was a demon.

I quickly settled on the idea that both angels and demons were not so different. In fact, in many myths, demons are fallen angels. That being said, perhaps the difference between both is more philosophical than physical. In that case, I needed a new name for this new creature and settled on the Elohim and that the titles of “angels” and “demons” were just one of the many cloaks they wore when seeking worship, an act that fed them psychic energy. The name is the ancient Hebrew name of God, and I figured a race of beings that present themselves as gods and divine beings would certainly approve of.

Angel or Demon by Reilune on DeviantArt

The most common ability both angels and demons seem to have is the ability to communicate with people despite not being in the same room, so telepathy is a must. Possession is also popular, more so for demons that angels, so that needs to get rolled in there. Barring that, what’s left?

Angels are often described as warriors, but the original texts describe them as beings that would not be out of place in a Lovecraftian horror story. They are supposedly massive, alien, and powerful. To even look at an angel is to invite death and destruction. In other words, their true form might not even be possible to have in-game. Demons are also usually described as horrific, so again there is some common ground between both camps of Elohim.

Of course, maybe the shapes and wild visions of angels and demons in the old texts are not real images, but rather hallucinations and deceit. Maybe Elohim wanted to appear as huge imposing wheels of fire and titanic beasts covered in a thousand eyes. Maybe this is part of how they bring worshippers to their side, and how, as demons, they torture others. Illusions, then, would be another power to have, but just letting them have the power of illusion is too broad. Maybe they can specifically alter the mood of those who see them in order to inspire fear. In high enough doses, that fear could manifest as visions of giant monsters. Consider how someone who is arachnophobic, for example, might see a tiny spider as a beast the size of a horse. Is this power psychic? Hormonal?

Bloodwind Angel by DreadJim on DeviantArt

That brings up the next aspect. Should Elohim even have physical bodies? Making them flesh and blood makes them real, but it also makes them supremely vulnerable. It also makes things like possession more difficult. How to justify a physical being entering and overlapping with another living creature’s body and mind? That pesky mass has to go somewhere right? Making the Elohim energy or gas or something similar would then make more sense.

But what about a compromise? Maybe Elohim are physical beings, but their effects on this world are entirely psychic. The only way they can communicate is through telepathy, providing a conduit for their powers to present themselves as gods and demons. This would also provide a path for the power of possession. Maybe they don’t exactly “possess” a person, but rather use people as puppets, and the sheer mental power from the angel or demon mind is enough to grant the possessed some powers of their own. If they ever actually crossed over into our world, though, then the physical aspects would come into play.

So what are the Elohim like physically? What would our heroes need to fight if these beings ever actually crossed into our reality?

They need to be tough. Very tough. Rhino-hide tough. Small caliber weapons should bounce off them and nothing short of an assault rifle with armor-piercing bullets, or maybe a bundle of C4, should faze them. Humanoid? Maybe, but at least in the sense that Elohim will have legs, arms, a torso, and a head. The proportions should be suitably alien, as should the face. In keeping with the disturbing aspect to the uncanny valley, the face should be somewhat human but alien in minor aspects, certainly the eyes, but also in the placement of features. The skin would likely vary in shade between different Elohim, but that’s a detail I can’t quite place yet. I am, however, a fan of the general color scheme of the angel in the Masters of Horror episode “Cigarette Burns.”

Wings? Maybe, but not bird-like wings, or if they are bird-like, they should be large, powerful, and convey the image that this creature is a killer, a warrior, and certainly not a messenger with fluffy wings. The Elohim would need to be big, too, maybe as ten or twelve feet tall, in order to truly convey the power of an angel or demon from hell. They’re basically going to be organic tanks, super-strong, and with enough psychic power to make people fear them on sight. Most of their interactions with the world will be through their “possessed” victims, and once they actually manage to cross over… things get interesting.

Tentative image for the rulebook!

Figuring out the mechanics is another matter, but at least having a solid image is enough to get going.

Next? Ghosts!

In the meantime, enjoy the feeling of having your imagination bring you real adventure…

Chick-Fil-A: An Exercise in Hypocrisy Explained

Based on the events of this last month, chicken sandwiches beat civil rights. Yes, I’m serious.

August 7, 2012

In a way, I’m sad that the culture war over gay rights has come to a head over a crappy chicken sandwich. On the other hand, I’m glad it finally opened the floodgates and we can tell who is for gay rights, who is pretending to be trendy, and who really has no idea what’s going on. For the latter group, let me explain a few things.

“This is a First Amendment issue!”

The most common gripe right now is that people who are boycotting Chick-Fil-A are somehow trampling on the company’s (and Cathy’s) freedom of speech.


He wants to believe gays shouldn’t marry, he has that right. He also has the right to donate money as he sees fit to whatever charity he chooses. My grievance, and that of many others, is WHO he gave the money to… the Family Research Council, among others. Just click the link and find out what kinds of people this good Christian man thinks deserve millions of his money.

Free speech means saying what you want. Paying to have others denied their rights is oppression. It’s that simple.

“Gay marriage isn’t that huge a deal! He’s just standing up for what he believes in!”

And what he believes in is hatred and intolerance even if he doesn’t sound like it.

Whenever people say they champion “traditional marriage,” it’s very likely they’re actually saying “the Biblical definition of marriage.” The problem, however, is that the Biblical definition of marriage is nowhere near what conservatives think. In fact, the Bible condones pretty much every other type of marriage except straight marriage. It advocates types of marriage we now consider highly unorthodox, so it’s ridiculous to claim opposition to gay marriage is based on the Bible.

Even worse, historically, “traditional marriage” has been a term used to deny rights to people who today can get married without fear of getting lynched. Interracial, different denominations, divorced couples… think about it. At one point, these groups were denied marriage for the same reason gay couples can’t get married. And every time, conservatives have been wrong. Their stance has been based on bigotry and hatred.

Why is this time any different?

Also, claiming that he’s innocent because he’s basing his actions on his beliefs pretty much frees any of us from any responsibility for our actions. The next time I get a traffic ticket, I can just say that my beliefs in chaos ruling the world make me except from the laws of man. So there.

Chick-Fil-A’s new ad campaign. by ~SlightlyImperfectPro on deviantART


“You’re just as intolerant as Cathy! You’re being intolerant of intolerance!”

…I’ve actually had people tell me this one. Somehow, calling someone out for being a bigot is the same as being a bigot.

Let me tell you something. Cathy and everyone like him can say whatever they want. I, too, can say whatever I want, and that includes disagreeing with him and his beliefs. However, I take special offense the actions he takes to limit gay rights and donate to a group that thinks homosexuality should be a criminal offense and thinks gays being killed for being gay is a good thing.

On the other hand, the Right doesn’t bat an eyelid when people on their side protest and boycott in the name of morals. Disney and General Mills, for example, have been hit with protests for their own stance on gay rights, and yet those actions were called brave, moral, etc.

But god forbid the Left protests something! We’re a bunch of communazi baby-killers, right?

“But it IS a First Amendment issue! Those mayors tried to ban Chick-Fil-A from their cities!”

Yeah, but they were wrong. A lot of people on the Left agree they were out of line to suggest they could deny a business a license based on their donations.

On the other hand, the Right was perfectly fine with denying mosques the right to build where they wished. That was also a First Amendment issue, but the Right screamed and whined that, well, they just didn’t want mosques in their cities. There was a wave of violence and a series of protests against Muslims who wanted to build houses of worship, and none on the Right stood up and said, “Hey, maybe this is a First Amendment issue.”

So remember, folks: chicken sandwich > religious liberty.

“Well, I don’t want to be part of this stupid debate. I’m going to keep going to Chick-Fil-A, but I still support gay rights.”

This is the same as saying, “I’m all for civil rights, but I’m going to keep eating at Swastikas and Subs, the Neo-Nazi shop down the street. I know they donate to the Klan, but they make a great meatball sub.”

If you know where the money goes and say you’re still for gay rights, you’re a hypocrite, pure and simple.

“But are you saying I have to check where companies donate their money and buy based on my stance on important social issues?! What about gas? Are you going to stop buying gas because it helps fund Middle Eastern dictatorships?”

Uhm, yes. You do have to check.

I know it’s impossible to check every major store, and it gets more confusing since many companies are owned by larger companies that are owned by larger companied, etcetera, etcetera, but if you KNOW you’re hurting the gay community and you keep doing this despite having the choice of going somewhere else, you’re complacent.

I’d love to stop buying gas form the Middle East, but have very little say on the matter. But this? I can NOT buy a chicken sandwich.

Takei Take Two by ~Afina79 on deviantART


“What about all the jobs that will be lost if the boycott succeeds? You’re hurting everyone else!”

No, that would be Cathy. He made a terrible business decision by giving money to an organization that’s labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Center. Management made a terrible decision that hurt the company’s image. If Disney decided to donate a million dollars to groups that wanted to keep minorities from voting, a good chunk of the population would be outraged and stop buying Disney products.

Any lost business would be the fault of management angering their customers. We’re responding to something the company did, and if employees lose out on it, it’s a simple fix: Cathy has to stop donating to hate groups.

The point is that companies aren’t entitled to our business. They have to please their customers and put out a quality product. Chick-Fil-A did something that has a physical impact on the gay community. Their customers don’t like that. We’re boycotting.

If anyone suffers, it’s Cathy’s fault.

Don’t believe me? When was the last time Christians lined up at strip clubs to give money to the poor girls dancing their way through college? Because, after all, who will think of the employees?

The Bottom Line

Cathy’s donations hurt the gay community. People who willingly buy Chick-Fil-A sandwiches are feeding those donations. To ignore that fact is to be complacent and culturally lazy if you actually think gays should have the same rights as the rest of us.

The Right took more offense to a business losing money and being called out for its homophobia than to houses of worship being desecrated and attacked in the name of hate. They mobilized like Jesus himself was making sandwiches.

It’s enough to make me gag. And now, let’s see one brave, and stupid, protestor make a stance against gay rights.

Boycott Chick Fil A by ~Korpsellyn on deviantART