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Demons: What do they REALLY want?

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  • #16
    Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post


    You're welcome. Freaky demon shit is basically the main theme of my current campaign filled with vignettes about demon oddities. If you want more, I've got more.
    Very, very gladly. Please do. I can't imagine I'm the only one that'd welcome that.


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    • #17
      Originally posted by Edward Eldritch View Post

      Very, very gladly. Please do. I can't imagine I'm the only one that'd welcome that.

      As you wish:

      I'll start with a vignette from a recent session I ran:

      This vignette is intended to create a situation that is as morally grey as possible.

      It revolves around two characters. The first is a Blood Ape (who I named Omthalonos) who was a citizen of Malfeas and who had managed to break into creation without being bound to any sorcerous ties. He was a citizen because of his achievements in battle in service to his second circle master, and was interested in learning more about civilisation - that being said, he was still an ape and was still basically an animalistic killing machine, but he spoke Old Realm and was willing to pause a few seconds before tearing someone apart.

      The second character involved in this scenario is a bandit (who I named Zatarra as a nod to the Count of Monet Christo and the role this NPC will play in my campaign) - Zatarra's backstory is crucial to the incident to bear with me: he used to be a merchant emissary of (insert power relevant to your game here) but his convoy was attacked by bandits and was one of the few survivors who were given the choice of joining the bandits or death. Zatarra joined the bandits and applied his skills as a fast talker and dealer to their cause. He was able to minimise the carnage they caused and convinced them to leave survivors. His plan backfired when he did manage to escape and make it to a town, he was recognised by one of the survivors of he had helped to save and had to flee from the law who would have executed him. The whole point of this story is that, if the characters bother to dig into it, he has done what he had to do to survive, and as been confronted multiple times with the choice between the life of a bandit or death and is now trapped.

      At some point in the past, Omthalonos came across the bandit's hideout and slaughtered them all. Zatarra (an educated man, after all) recognised that some of the beasts grunts were actually Old Realm and managed to convince Omthalonos not to kill him. In very long drawn out conversations (I played talking to the Blood Ape like talking to Ents - his thinking time was very slow) Zatarra promised to teach Omthalonos about civilisation and in exchange, Omthalonos would restrict his murderous urges towards targets identified by Zatarra. Unable to return to civilisation, Zatarra continued the life of a bandit, picking smaller caravans and accosting them, challenging their best guard/soldier to fight on behalf of the caravan. If the soldier won, Zatarra was their prisoner, if Omthalonos won, the caravan had to hand over some of their supplies but would otherwise be allowed to go on their way. Most people have some idea of what a blood ape was and so recognised that sacrificing one soldier was better than all being slaughtered.

      So... that's the backstory.

      The final piece to the puzzle is to create a situation that justifies Zatarra realising that the PCs are solars before they find him. In my game, they were randomly attacked by a pack of free Blood Apes forcing them to use a lot of essence and flare their animas. Zatarra, realising they'll possibly be hunting down his demon companion, tells Omthalonos to run south until sunset and wait until Zatarra signals for him to come back (fire beacon, essence use, whatever suits your game). That's Zatarra's trap. Only he knows how to summon back the demon, and if he gets killed or something goes wrong, Omthalonos will soon fall prey to his urges and start killing indiscriminately.

      That, in all it's detail, is the set up for the encounter. The whole point of it is for the characters to be forced to deal with a morally ambiguous situation involving a free demon that desires to be more than it is, and a human who lives by killing 'innocents' but only as a way to survive conditions forced upon him.

      The way the vignette plays out is that the players encounter a caravan that has been attacked, one that didn't know not to try and attack with all they have. Exactly what the players find is up to you and the tone of the game you're running. I went with small, family caravan. Half a dozen guards and horses dead, caravans left intact with only some of their supplies taken, all of their trading goods left intact. Couple of teenagers left to look after the caravan while a couple of other survivors have gone north to buy and bring back more pack horses. Also a blood trail to follow that can (with a bit of tracking) lead them to the bandit hideout and the two NPCs. A couple of characters took o the logistics of saving the survivors, then they tracked down Zatarra and Omthalonos, intent at first on killin them both, believing Zatarra to be a bandit sorcerer.

      I wrote this scene because my players were being quite blase about killing and claiming their ultimate authority to dispense justice, so in my game Zatarra (who quickly realised they were Solars, having seen their animas flaring during a fight the night before) was very quick to point out that they were little more than demons killing to survive, depending on your point of view.

      In my game this led to a lengthy debate with Zatarra in his cave hideout - and the debate was mostly between the players about what to do rather than with Zatarra himself (it's caused a rift in the party that still lingers) but the end result was they offered to employ Zatarra and banished Omthalonos (for the time being) - but it led to a very interesting discussion, especially once they realised that the demon had a name and was more than the mindless beasts they'd encountered previously.

      As I've said in other places on this forum, my approach to GMing is more about putting the players in difficult situations where their choices matter more than anything else. This scene was once such example.


      Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

      "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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      • #18
        Here's the next weird demon story line. This one was actually the underlying plot for a whole story that ran 2 sessions, but the demons involved could make for a single encounter or scene in a larger story.

        Keep in mind, a key element of my game is that there is a rift allowing first circle demons much more free access to creation than they would otherwise have. So one way or another you need to include a mechanism for demons to be unbound in creation into your game.

        So, a couple of years ago, a Neomah, a Cloud Arsenal and a Hopping Puppeteer walked into a village...(again, lots of backstory to create a morally grey encounter for players to unwind)

        The village is a farming village that is fairly isolated, and depends on farming some kinds of fibre-prodicing plant to make fabrics, which they sell, as well as a small amount of sustenance farming (in my game they were in the south and the village grew a particular kind of cactus with large fibrous leaves).

        The Hopping Puppeteer (the one I mentioned in my earlier post) sets about building greenhouses and improving the cultivation processes of their farming. There is a level 1 demesne nearby, and the demon soon starts to tap into that essence to channel essence into the greenhouses which exponentially improves grows and plant health. The village thrives and enjoys much more success from their fabric industry in a very short time.

        The Cloud Arsenal finds a sense of community with the few roosters on the farm, and teaches them to also crow at sunset along with it's screaming. Despite the demon's visions of death, it finds the more relaxed life of being on a farm to be soothing, and believes that maybe such a life in the service of others might allow it to escape it's doom. It agrees to protect the town in exchange for basically being left alone to hang out with the rooster and admire the landscape. It becomes, if you like, a monastic demon, meditating on its own existence.

        The Neomah finds very little trade and wonders the land for a bit, occasionally returning to the farm to meet with those few who are willing to couple with it.

        So... over time, the village becomes quite wealthy and prosperous. But the human farmers have no knowledge of how to continue the hopping puppeteers farming practices and so are entirely dependent on the demon. So when the hopping puppeteer starts to pick up their newborn babies and carry them around until they starve to death, the farmers are trapped. They want to try and rid the demon for the sake of their children, but the future of the village is at stake.

        Then the Neomah returns, and one of the women who has lost a child claims one of the demon's flesh creations as her new child. Suddenly a kind of Stockholm syndrome spreads across the village. The Neomah is the new provider of babies (which the puppeteer isn't interested in) and the whole village flocks regularly to its tower.

        So... when the players come across this village, they find a demon farming in an unnatural greenhouse where the fields are fueled by chaneled essence and the crops are planted in a giant mandala that represents the Green Sun.

        The villagers are too stubborn to leave, believing they have found an equilibirum (but the situation hasn't been going on long enough for their to be any noticeable consequences form the adoption of Neomah demon-babies) and if anything goes wrong there's a cloud arsenal that will attack anyone who threatens the harmony of its new life.

        I was playing this with beginning level characters so you might want to increase the number of cloud arsenals if you think a bigger challenge is needed, though I left it at one because the point of encounters like these is almost never combat in my games.

        As a simple vignette, you could run this like a horror movie - the characters arrive at the town and soon realise things aren't right. Odd babies, things moving in the field just out of sight, etc. but once they discover what is going on, it's really just a "what will you do?" encounter.

        Long term consequences:

        If they do nothing, eventually the town will become a demon cult and learn to summon more demons. Genuine Demon-blooded children will be born and if left to their own devices for a decade or so, they could become a demon-weaver cult from which the odd 2C demon goes forth to terrorise the world.

        How it played out in my game, the PC's banished the hopping puppeteer, defeated the cloud arsenal and the neomah fled into the desert. The Twilight of the circle then redesigned the greenhouse, summoned two new hopping puppeteers to build it and they taught the farmers some new farming techniques. They didn't do anything about the neomah demon babies or the neomah itself. So that's my plot hook for future sessions (as well as the villages growing workshop of Hopping Puppeteers)


        As I mentioned before, i used this as the basis for another story, which went like this:

        The demon-farming interrupted the natural flow of things, and upset some terrestrial gods.

        One of the gods, a wind god, used to benefit form regular worship from the village but now they praise demons and the wind gods feelings are hurt.

        The other god, who is the god of the seeds of the cactus that are spread on the wind, is personally affected because their new greenhouses and cultivation practices are directly diminishing the gods domain.

        The two gods appeal to the PCs to help rid the village of the demon taint - the PCs are led to believe that the Wind God is in charge (it's the more powerful of the two) but in reality it's the cactus god egging the wind god on - in my game the wind god was convinced to destroy the village (particulalry the greenhouse) forcing the PCs to act to either defence or stand by while it was wiped out (moral ambiguity all around!)

        In the end part of the new farming techniques they taught the village was to make offerings of seeds to the cactus god by scattering them in the winds. It was a fairly diplomatic soloution.

        The drama from this story came form the fact that they village was 150 miles away and the PCs kept running into other minor encounters that would delay them, and each time they were delayed the wind god stepped up its assault on the village out of frustration.


        Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

        "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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        • #19
          This is amazing, CapitanTypo. Definitely wouldn't mind more of this if you've got it.

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          • #20
            I was thinking more about this on the way home from work this week and I came to this conclusion;

            Demons are people

            I am a person

            Therefore, the easiest way in a game to present Demons as fully realised and cogent personalities is to consider what I want from life, and then filter that through their own bizarre natures. I want to feel financially and physically secure, to spend time with my friends engaging in the hobbies I like, to work and find work satisfying, to love and be loved etc etc etc. So Demons want the same thing mostly, right? And while you might get some strange situations from that (does a Blood Ape really care about loving and being loved?) I think those situations are actually to the benefit of Demons than otherwise. I'd rather Blood Apes to feel love and a desire to be loved in their own way than for them to not feel that because their brutal killers.

            Then I considered, Demons have weird and contradictory behaviours. Which humans behave like that? Humans who are under the influence of drugs, and who sadly suffer from mental issues that are hard to deal with. I have experience there too, so that's easy enough. What is a Blood Ape? A person who is on a perpetual high of testosterone and PCP. What is a beatific wasp? A bipolar person tripping on acid. And none of these make Demons in any way bad people, which is entirely fine with me? I am perfectly okay with treating Demons as people whose negative qualities can easily be described as something imposed upon them by their conditions.

            At the end of the day, anything that makes Demons sympathetic (even as a Demon can be a murderous killer) is good. If Sorcerers summoning demons is going to be relatively cheap, easy and reliable (and it should be, for sure) then the storytelling interest I have in summoning Demons comes in terms of how do you treat them? I like the idea of a Sorcerer who prefers not to summon Demons because they find the act of enslaving Neomah distasteful on a moral level, or whatever. If they do summon a Demon they try to entreat them, rather than dominate them. The Primordial Surrender Oaths give Exalted a right of command over Demons, and that's fine, but it doesn't make it nice. Of course, some Sorcerers don't give a shit, and that's entirely within genre as well.

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            • #21
              @Solar: Another thing to consider is culture. The First Circle Souls come from a place that is not a nice place, and that shapes their understanding of the world immensely. The three "truths" that a demon is born with are one example, but certainly not the only ones.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Solar
                I want to feel financially and physically secure, to spend time with my friends engaging in the hobbies I like, to work and find work satisfying, to love and be loved etc etc etc. So Demons want the same thing mostly, right?
                Well, some of them should, at least; I'd be inclined to present First Circle Demons as being at least half as diverse as actual people are (with higher circles, you're dealing entirely with individuals rather than broad social categories, so... still diverse, just the commentary on it is different).
                Originally posted by Solar
                does a Blood Ape really care about loving and being loved?
                I could see them as having some pretty boisterous revels with one another, which could go in several directions.


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                • #23
                  They probably like being in a pack, but wouldn't actually describe it as love.


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                  Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                  Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng
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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Swooper View Post
                    This is amazing, CapitanTypo. Definitely wouldn't mind more of this if you've got it.
                    I got more, they just take a bit of time to write up.

                    Here's the next one.

                    Key Demon: Agatae - a small group of them. In my game they found there way to a small desert property near an oasis that made a living from breeding and training riding camels - but in the east it could be horse breeders, in the north, any kind of large riding beasts, in the west, maybe some sort of trained dolphin used for individual transport. The Agatae arrive seeking riders, and for a short period of time the farmers ride the wasps and keep them happy, but then the farmers need to get back to their business and the first time a wasp without a rider sees a human riding a camel, it flies into a rage and kills both rider and beast. The rest of the farmers are shocked and try to shoo away the demon wasps which prompts the wasps to swarm and soon the whole farm and surrounding areas have been slaughtered. For days the wasps rage, and every trader, client, or visitor who comes their way is killed (because they're most likely riding on other beasts). There's enough death and agony in a short period of time that the farm becomes a small shadowland. The shadowland brings more ghosts - who love the opportunity to ride the wasps. While the ghosts are limited in how far they can travel, the chance to enjoy such a novelty from the life of the underworld makes the small shadowland like an amusement park for ghosts and the wasps love it - they're never wanting for a rider and they get to fly people around and learn tricks, etc. PLUS for the wasps there's the benefit that if ever they fly into one of their rages, they're not going to do any lasting harm to their riders.

                    When the PCs come upon the village, they find a small shadowland where wasps are giving joyrides to ghosts. The ghosts will beg the players to leave them alone as it's one small piece of joy they can experience, while the wasps will react violently to any attempt to end separate them from the riders.

                    This scene is more of an excercise in empathy and catharsis that is most likely to lead to a combat encounter with the wasps and possibly the ghosts, but if the characters do nothing then in the near future the Wasps will be armoured and used as war mounts in a ghost army vanguard that strikes some crucial blow against the PCs.


                    Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

                    "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Swooper View Post
                      This is amazing, CapitanTypo. Definitely wouldn't mind more of this if you've got it.

                      If there's a particular demon you want to focus on in your game, let me know and I can work something around that. Might even use it for my own story.


                      Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

                      "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post
                        Key Demon: Agatae - a small group of them. In my game they found there way to a small desert property near an oasis that made a living from breeding and training riding camels - but in the east it could be horse breeders, in the north, any kind of large riding beasts, in the west, maybe some sort of trained dolphin used for individual transport.
                        Or, y'know, horses.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
                          Or, y'know, horses.

                          Yeah, but not nearly as much fun.


                          Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

                          "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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                          • #28
                            Some of those Islands in the West are massive, mind.

                            There will be plenty of people in the West who never see the sea and don't really care about it's relevance, just like how there were plenty of people in the UK who never saw the sea while it was the greatest maritime Empire in the world and massively helped in that due to being on an Island.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Solar View Post
                              Some of those Islands in the West are massive, mind.

                              There will be plenty of people in the West who never see the sea and don't really care about it's relevance, just like how there were plenty of people in the UK who never saw the sea while it was the greatest maritime Empire in the world and massively helped in that due to being on an Island.
                              Granted, this perception was not really helped by previous editions where nations the size of Cuba or Britan were written like they were islands an order of magnitude smaller (according to wikipedia, the Island of Britain is around 88 thousand square miles in area, while the largest of the Hawaiian Islands is around 4 thousand square miles).

                              Sorry to tangent. I'm enjoying this thread. Thanks everyone!


                              ....

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                              • #30
                                This next one is a scene I've only drafted and haven't run, and is kind of similar to the civlised ape idea posted earlier by @AnubisXy
                                In a large urban centre, this moment takes place in the slums where people struggle to access any real justice. There, a Luminata has made itself a bit of a folk hero because it will track down and terrorise or kill those who have commited crimes, and will do so for very little in the way of payment - in fact it often only asks for a prayer or token. It does, however set a high standard. It expects you to demonstrate that a wrong has actually been committed and it will usually verify your accusations while it is tormenting the victim. Anyone who lies to the demon or tries to use it to settle a personal vendetta rather than right a wrong will be the next subject of its hunt - so it only took a couple of would-be-manipulators to be made very messy public examples for the word to spread. The demon will also track down lost people or things, and has a special variation of it's Smell the Wind (fart joke) charm to be able to tell the rightful owner of a thing (it also tracks down escaped slaves - it's a demon after all)

                                On the surface this may seem like a fairly benign encounter, however it is meant to play out in the background over a longer period of time. Maybe the PCs first encounter the demon early in it's career when they need to find someone and the poor people in the city tell them they know someone who can help. The locals love the demon because it brings them a sense of justice and they have learned not to push it. If te PCs decide they don't like the idea of a demon haing free reign to hunt and kill people, then they'll get the local area off side - which I plan to make a problem because they'll need the locals to help with a later plot point.

                                However, if they do nothing, over a period of time (depending on how long your characters are in the area - if you're playing a city based game or Nexus or Chiaroscuro feature regularly then this could happen over a year or more) the demon cultivates the thanks of the local people into a Yozi cult and summons a big nasty that does major damage and has to be put down (there's always consequences!)

                                The key part of this encounter is the dynamic of the relationship between the demon and the poor of the area. You could just have an unscrupulous magistrate summoning demons to hunt down people for petty crimes, but then the demons are just a tool and the magistrate is clearly the problem. In this set up, you've got a lot more moral grey area to play with so that whatever decision the PCs make will have both positive and negative consequences.


                                Visit me at Tales of Grey - my RPG Game-Master's blog.

                                "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy, I could have won" - I gave you all, Mumford & Sons

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