Demon: the Descent – Founding your own personal Hell
Demon: the Descent is a World of Darkness game, which has since had its name changed to Chronicles of Darkness for reasons. Opposed to Abrahamic notions of God and angels, the real God is the God-Machine, an uncaring cosmic intelligence, and angels are techno-organic constructs created by the God-Machine to do its bidding.
Whatever’s in block quotes is taken directly from the text.From the Book:
In Demon you play one of the Unchained, a renegade angel hiding among the humans of the World of Darkness. Fallen from your loyal, unthinking state as an agent of God, you struggle to reconcile the human life you wear with your nature as an inhuman being designed to fulfill a function, while you decide what to do with your precious, hard-won freedom. Will you oppose God’s plans? Build a life for yourself from the traded lives of humans? Keep yourself safe at all costs? Or try, somehow, to regain God’s favor?
Demons are surrounded by the evidence of their former selves. The God-Machine has gears and facilities all over the world, invisible to the naked human eye but all too obvious to a demon trying to remain unnoticed. The Unchained sense the God-Machine’s workings, see their angelic brethren hurrying on their missions, and wonder what it could be planning this time. Is it finally coming for them, or just victimizing the humans the demon now lives among as part of its never-ending maintenance of the miserable status quo?
Hunted by angels, confronted with the God-Machine’s plans, demons must decide what they will do with their unique perspective. Some interference is prudent — demons hack into angelic communications, learn all they can about their former master’s plans and spy on its facilities out of a sense of self-preservation, making sure they’ll know if they ever become exposed. More than that, though, demons’ ideologies drive them to confront the God-Machine, spurring them into action in defense of their new lives, human friends, or self-worth. Demons disrupt the God-Machine where they can and fade back into the disguise of humanity before the angels arrive. They band together in mutual distrust, never knowing why another demon Fell, their clandestine societies in constant danger of infiltration.
This is life as a demon. The Unchained are undercover, underequipped, and trapped in a hostile world, searching for a way to complete their Descent and reach some new Hell; a world without God where they can be free.
Demon has a lot of terms to throw around (sorta like Changeling does). The game itself is billed as “a game of Techgnostic Espionage.” It’s very, very spy-like, with the GM as Big Brother and the Demons as rogue agents striking back where they can and generally trying to keep safe and secure. One of the interesting thing is that Demons, when they disconnect from the Machine, are shunted into their human cover (almost always given to Angels who have to move among humans without freaking them The Fuck Out). You can have multiple covers, and each cover’s ability to hide you is linked to its metaphysical concreteness: the more you stay in character and do the sorts of things your Cover would, the stronger it becomes, and the more difficult it is for the God-Machine or its agents to find you. The weaker it is, and even normal people might start noticing how your home is on the 15th floor of a 14-floor apartment building, or that you wear literally the same thing every day, in the same condition, with the same stains.
Cover can be attacked/lost by a lot of different things, but the end result is the same: if you drop down to zero, you lose your cover, you manifest in full demon form, and you flare up on the God-Machine’s radar like a solar flare. Watch out!
Our game in particular:
So there’s a lot of stuff in Demon, and I’ll pick out pages for you to read if enough people are interested. For our purposes, I’d like to run Demon on Roll20. The difference will be, aside from handout and so on, and maybe crude representations of environments, there will be no board.
Also, the game will be played via text.
What I mean is that, obviously we’ll all be on voice chat, and any talk between us (referred to by losers as ‘out of character’ talk) will be via audio, but the game itself — dialog, choices, descriptions, whatever, will be through text. It’s the kind of thing the World of Darkness system lends itself to pretty well, and I think that, given a less combat-focused game, utilizing text chat will offer a lot of benefits. For one, it’ll be easier to stay in character, and hopefully will be more immersive. It also gives us all an opportunity to think about what we want to say before we blurt it out, which is particularly important for me. It also also gives us a separation between FriendTalk and GameTalk, which should make it easier for people to ask rules questions and discuss intentions/decisions without worrying about talking over others or getting sidetracked/ignored.
So that’s my very brief and short post for now. I’ll edit/add to it later with more specifics. The game will begin in late December/early January, and run for the foreseeable future (after this semester I don’t really have any classes left to take, which is noice). I’m not sure where the setting will be yet; I’m willing to take suggestions. For an example of what kind of weird shit happens in Demon, the provided setting, Seattle, is home to a variety of time shards, within which are periods of time (I think a year long?) from throughout the city’s history, remnants of some God-Machine experiment with temporal distortion. So if you have any ideas of a setting or particular elements like that weirdo guff, please let me know.
Some information on character concepts:
First are the Incarnations, which are built into your character. They describe what kind of Angel you were, more than anything else, and not necessarily your current attitude as a Demon. So you can be a Destroyer pacifist, for example. It just means that your demon form will be focused on the destroying parts, and might make it challenging to play.
Destroyers: Destroyers are built for precision and shocking overkill. Some are hulking and powerful, designed before they Fell to fight powerful supernatural creatures, but most Destroyers have a disturbing sleekness about them in demonic form, befitting the God-Machine’s assassins rather than tanks. Their demonic forms are usually armored and armed with weaponry fused into the limbs. Many have multiple arms, prehensile tails, or tentacles holding extra weapons.
Concepts: “Retired” assassin, angel hunter, conscientious objector, callous mercenary, martial artist, gear-breaker, penitent executor, self-defense teacher, bounty hunter.
Guardians: Guardians are built for adaptability and improvisation. They often have extra sensory apparatus attached or are highly mobile to better react to new threats. Some Guardians are walls of steel and flesh, physically blocking the enemy away from their charges while others rely on stealth to pick threats off.
Concepts: Hostage negotiator, devoted spouse, spurned lover, hidden sentry, ring security, bodyguard for hire, Agency tactician, stalker, protective parent, assayer.
Messengers: Messengers spent more time disguised as humans than other angels and are more comfortable acting in Cover than their Unchained peers. Their demonic forms are usually built for intimidation and respect, with commanding presences, hypnotic voices and “special effects” like haloes, decorative wings, energy effects, and other ways to hold and command the attention of human witnesses. A few Messengers specialize in stealthy forms, though, and are much smaller and plainer. Many Messengers can emit and receive communications beyond the human range — they can speak in radio waves or control computer networks.
Concepts: Smooth-talker, cynical information broker, cult leader, shock jock, greaser of wheels, drug pusher, conman, motivational speaker, codebreaker, diplomat.
Psychopomps: As their nickname implies, Wheels were not usually humanoid in angelic form. They’re the most likely demons to have inhuman shapes in demonic form — spinning wheels of metal and fire, rotating clusters of spheres and axles, dozens of wings converging on unseen bodies, and other stranger shapes abound. Multiple limbs are common, the more the better. Even humanoid Psychopomps sport unusual forms of locomotion.
Concepts: Obtainer of rare antiquities, traceur, social linchpin, collector, transporter, strategist, Underworld explorer, Cover consultant, installation artist, Infrastructure analyst.
TRUST NO ONE
Some teaming-up is prudent to better mitigate threats, work together, and even just have someone to talk to about the stresses of the Descent, but beyond one’s immediate rings, most demons view Unchained strangers with suspicion until they’ve proven themselves. Even then, members of the same ring routinely keep “professional” distance from one another’s Covers and watch for signs of betrayal. The exceptions — Agencies — form when two or more rings decide to work together to accomplish a goal, but agents view one another with even less trust than ringmates.
The threat of betrayal isn’t a paper tiger, either. The God Machine wants demons back, whether for “redemption” or recycling, and it assigns angels to counterespionage, infiltration, and assassination roles. Demons spying on Infrastructure often find that they’re being spied on in return by loyalists. If angels uncover a crack in a demon’s Cover, they exploit it until the Unchained can be forced into exposure.
Espionage stories revolve around moral compromise. They’re about shades of grey, professional enemies being forced to act in terrible ways to accomplish their goals. When a ring destroys an Infrastructure, innocent lives may be lost in the crossfire. To gain the trust of smugglers she needs for her Agency’s operation, a demon may have to commit crimes. When an angel comes for a demon, it doesn’t care who gets in the way and it doesn’t matter that the angel is essentially a slave — if the demon doesn’t kill it, his own life is forfeit. Naïve demons talk about the “greater good” or justify their actions as necessary, but those further down the Descent know that it’s not that simple. Sometimes in order to go on living, a demon must cross a line or abandon a moral code. A demon who never had to break his own rules is young, lucky, unstable to begin with, or an infiltrator working for the God-Machine
Rules for how to play
THE MOSCOW RULES
Cold War operatives working in Moscow, under threat of extremely harsh treatment if they were discovered, worked to an unwritten code commonly called the Moscow Rules. As demons face similar circumstances, they’re useful as “good advice for demons” in your games. Agencies teach them to newly Fallen Unchained in order to instill the proper amount of paranoia in young demons. Mistakes happen, of course.
• Assume nothing.
• Never go against your instincts.
• Everyone is potentially under the God-Machine’s control.
• There’s always someone watching you. Don’t look back and don’t run.
• Go with the ﬂow and blend in.
• Avoid building up a pattern, and stay in Cover.
• Lull them into a false sense of complacency.
• Don’t harass the opposition.
• Pick the opportune moment for action.
• Always have a back-up plan
Skulls and Shackles Mod. 2 Part 3 – Sahagin and Tonic (5/22/2016)
Here is the second write-up, this one from May!
Before my long rundown, I realized that while I gave XP and gold for your support crew members since the final part of Module 1, I never added it in to their XP totals. I fixed that, and I reuploaded all the new PDFs in this folder along with a .txt file showing the current XP totals. I also configured all the characters’ Hero Lab sheets to Fast Advancement, which means they’ll level quicker than you all to hopefully encourage swapping out crew members more often.
Or just use Grok every session until she can one-hit kill an entire ship. The blood flowed like loud screaming waterfall! Hilarious!
Oh, and one more thing: all this configuration meant Sandara gained a level! Not sure if you all want to pick what she learns skill-wise, so I’ll leave the level un-gained in her portfolio for now. She’s level 4 now.
- Session Rundown –
(Support: Conchobhar, Rosie (Sahagin fight))
The big christening day has finally arrived! All of the residents of Rickety’s Squibs, the crew of the soon-to-be-renamed Man’s Promise, and Merrill Pegsworthy’s crew all gather to celebrate the birth of a new pirate ship and a new pirate crew running wild in the Shackles!
A huge banquet is thrown with the help of the barkeeps of the Demon and Crow and Ambrose Kroop. Long pig—that is, a Shackles pig that is longer than normal—is roasted over the bonfire and rum flows freely as the celebration commences. For good luck, the party asks Pegsworthy (a Free Captain of the Shackles) to help christen the boat and say a few words during the ceremony.
With long pig and pastries in their bellies and the warmth of the rum flowing through them, the party deliberates and decides on a name for the ship: Skôll!
At a signal, everyone gathers on dock, the new name is shouted, and Pegsworthy brings out a bottle of fine champagne to break on the bow and gives a Shackles blessing. Ambrose Kroop says a short blessing as well, and mentions his dream that the ship can one day crack the infamous Tidewater Rock. Afterwards, Merrill asks Likour to come join him as a representative of the crew (and he’s easy to lift) for the bow-breaking.
As the bottle smashes on the ship, a cheer rises up from the assembled and a pirate song is sung! In the tumult, Pegsworthy whispers a hidden message to Likour:
“Don’t be fooled little man, the Rock can be cracked. Hammers and swords may break upon it, but a keen eye and good tongue may cause a fissure once more. So says the one-legged golden eagle.”
After the banquet and a somber farewell to the deceased Lyle Godwin, Pegsworthy pulls his ship into harbor for squibbing. He mentions a job that heard about from an old sailor in Port Peril, and he offers to arrange a meeting between the old man and the crew. The crew, eager to prove themselves with their new ship, agrees.
Several days pass. The crew practices sailing their new ship in the harbor until a cry comes out from the new lookout: a ship is approaching! The crew goes back to the Demon and Crow to await his arrival.
The Old Salt, an old bearded man named Pelle, comes bearing a strange tale as a preface to the favor he needs from the Skôll crew:
“A pirate crew of fifty men traveled to the Mwangi Expanse in search of fame and fortune. Only ten came back. They penetrated deep into the Expanse and deep into the sacred hunting grounds of the Mwangi, five men falling by the wayside from the extreme heat. On that hallowed ground, they espied a rhinoceros with a hide as black as coal at midnight, eyes like a blacksmith’s forge, and a soul like a devil’s. In a brutal battle that lasted two days and nights, they managed to end the life of the terrible creature, but not without losing thirty of their men! They decided to take the horn of the creature as a trophy for their crew and as a symbol of their bravery.
The horn was as heavy as lead, and it took all the stamina of the remaining men to carry it back. What they didn’t know was the horn was cursed! It was haunted by a heathen rhino god! As they loaded it onto their ship, the horn came alive and impaled five men to the mainmast! It took all ten men that were left to pull the horn out, and a magic-user among them carved a warding spell in the horn.
Now, the black rhino has a counterpart: the sacred white rhino, its hide as white as milk. It was spotted on the sandbar travelling from island to island in Besmara’s Necklace. A squall has stranded the rhino, but no man wants to make the attempt after hearing the tale. Will you get that horn for me?”
The crew listens politely, noting that the tale sounds curiously familiar, but they agree for the 3000 gold reward being offered. Pelle, skeptical of such a green crew, nevertheless thanks them.
At dawn the next day, provisions are loaded, the crew gets on board, and the Skoll starts to head out. Hrafn Haven-key takes the wheel, and they set a course for an island in the archipelago of Besmara’s Necklace where the white rhino was supposedly spotted. Conchobhar, eager to prove himself, asks to tag along.
As they dock on the southern shore, they notice the remains of a camp and a strange outrigger canoe. Upon investigation, Theodore and Svetlana notice that the canoe is definitely Kuru-made. Members of the cannibal tribe must be somewhere on the island!
Sure enough, when they start following a river upstream from the beach, they run into four strange men who instantly ready their weapons! The primitive men toss atlatl darts and brandish their tepoztopillis in a bloodthirsty rage, eager to make a sumptuous dinner out of the new pirates.
Unfortunately for the Kuru, the hunters become the hunted! Svetlana shoots a crossbow bolt straight through the heart of one cannibal, and Banmoril and Thoka electrocute and cute-snake-bite another! A Kuru named Lago runs into the woods screaming gibberish from Likour’s Cause Fear spell until Hrafn cuts him down. Finally, Theodore quaffs a feral mutagen and crushes the last cannibal’s head like, quote, “A hippo eating a watermelon.” Conchobhar hangs back and sings an inspiring (?) sea shanty.
With meat back off the menu, the crew explores the spring, and finding a hidden waterfall cave! Remnants of a corpse on a crude pyre molder here, unseen. Thoka notices a sharp looking spear made of obsidian clutched in the corpse’s grasp. It’s enchanted with some older, more primal, magic. She takes it as her eidolon Snickerdoodle watches, apprehensive but hopeful.
On the scent of the rhino’s tracks, the Skôll crew starts their trek through the jungle. Eventually, they climb up a hill to a sandy clearing at the top of a cliff. There, they see inhabitants they were not expecting: a family of Parasaurolophii and a clutch of eggs! Theodore, thinking back to his childhood, remembers being imparted with a key life lesson from Grandma Hobbs:
“Now Theodore, if you ever come across a Parasaurolophus, never get in between it and its eggs!”
The group soon learns the wisdom of their elders. As the crew moves around the perimeter, the protective creatures let out cries but make no motion to attack the group. The party continues on up another hill, and soon they reach the spring on the top of the island plateau. On the edge of the spring is the object of their quest: the white rhino! In addition, an old temple can be seen nearby, along with a massive pile of bones.
However, as the crew examines the rhino, they make a terrible discovery: it appears it is already dead from a massive bite on its midsection. As they try to guess what happened, the culprit reveals himself: a five-ton allosaurus! With a huge roar, the prehistoric menace charges at the party, eager for some raw Pathfinder!
The massive creature uses its dagger-sized teeth and claws to rip through the frontline of the party, but the Skôll crew has faced too many dangers to be scared of a simple dinosaur! Even Conchobhar, a notable coward, is singing at the top of his lungs to inspire the group (albeit a little tremulously).
As her own fury reaches its apex, the taciturn Svetlana Dragunova hoists her crossbow, says simply “Die,” and then proceeds to shoot a crossbow bolt straight through the bottom of the beast’s head and into its walnut-sized brain. The huge dinosaur collapses, causing the ground to quake in its death throes.
After healing up and recovering both the horn and the rhino’s hide, the Skôll crew makes the decision to take the allosaurus skull to mount on the ship as a warning. That warning is: Take note milksops and clotpoles, while you were drinking quarter-rations of grog before night-night, we killed ancient history and nailed its skull to our ship!
Likour, Thoka, and Theodore have their curiosities piqued by the small stone temple. It appears to be bare except for a mural depicting a massive cyclops king sitting atop a strange black throne, and being worshiped by Kuru. Markings on the throne and on the walls indicate that this is a representation of the fabled Cyclopean Throne of Ghol’Gan. The crew makes a note to find out more about this artifact.
With the item of their quest in their possession, the crew makes their way back to the beach and back to their ship for the ride back to Rickety’s Squibs! But a peaceful night’s sleep is not in the cards for the intrepid crew…
As the majority of the crew sleeps, several of the crew on night-watch are attacked by sahagin! While the aquatic humanoids are not normally much of a threat, this particular band has an almost military-like efficiency and a strange degree of coordination.
However, they’re still easily dispatched by the crew. Upon the corpse of the leader, the crew finds a pendant made of the strange material known as deep platinum. They take the pendant, knowing that the material has an almost religious-significance among water-dwelling humanoids.
Eventually, the crew makes it back to the village where they present the horn to Pelle, whereupon they give another amazing embellishment story:
The White Rhino Horn:
- Svetlana: “The rhino corpse was mauled by an allosaurus who attacked us with an earth-shattering roar!”
- Hrafn: (Raises a spear and roars.)
- Svetlana: “We got that spear from a cyclops in his temple. When we took it, cannibals started pouring forth from that murder pyramid like a tidal wave!”
- Hrafn: (Attempts to interject, chokes on his beer, and coughs it up on Pelle.)
- Likour: (Pledges with Svetlana to always be of service for someone like Pelle.)
As the story comes to a close, and payment from an incredulous Pelle is given, the crew is left wondering: what is the secret of the strange throne they saw in the temple? What is the mystery of Tidewater Rock? What was with the sahagin?
And finally, how did Theodore’s grandmother know so much about parasaurolophii?
- Encounters –
- 4 Kuru outrigger rowers (barbarian 3) – CR 6
- 2 adult parasaurolophi and 2 young parasaurolophi – CR 8/2 (resolved peacefully)
- Ugg’s Bane (allosaurus) – CR 7
- 3 Sahagin battle scouts (Sahagin tactician fighter 1) – CR 6
- Loot –
- Base camp –
- 50 gold coins stamped with a skull and crossbones
- Slightly tarnished jeweled anklet
- Wand of Shocking Grasp (25 charges) (wand with a topaz lightning bolt at the end)
- Buried Treasure –
- Bottle stopped cork banded with gold and dotted with topazes
- Scroll of Dread Bolt (scroll that reads KRADMIRG)
- Violet garnet
- Kuru Bodies –
- Assortment of purloined gold jewelry
- Atlatl launchers (4)
- Atlatl darts (20)
- Crude obsidian idols (4)
- Hide armor (4)
- Tepotzopillis (4)
- Waterfall Cave –
- +1 animal-bane obsidian spear (an obsidian-tipped spear)
- Bone Pile –
- A brown-green garnet
- Nunchaku (masterwork), seemingly discarded in error
- A Ring of Arcane Signets (ring with a large green jewel)
- A single embroidered and bejeweled glove
- White Rhino –
- Rhino Horn Plunder
- Rhino Hide Armor
- Sahagin Scouts –
- Armor crafted from treated seaweed (3) (functional equivalent: leaf armor)
- Dark platinum pendant
- Spears (3)
- Base camp –
- Module Handouts –
- Customized Module/Character Sheets –
- Kuru Fight –
- Sahagin Scouting Party –
- Session Totals –
- XP: 1350/1750 XP/person (was not/was on deck for Sahagin fight)
- 1350 XP to Conchobhar
- 400 XP to Rosie
- Gold: 1500 GP/person (Bad DM’ing adjustment made)
- XP: 1350/1750 XP/person (was not/was on deck for Sahagin fight)
- Current Infamy Totals –
- Infamy: 9 (+4, 3 for rhino horn, 1 for sweet skull)
- Disrepute: 9
- The crew can purchase DISGRACEFUL impositions.
- Current crew level: 2 (A SCRAGGLE OF SCURVY SCALLYWAGS)