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  • Another GMC Tangent

    Bit of a tangent here, but the urge to post this has been bugging me for several days now. So I thought I'd get it over with and post my thoughts on the God Machine Chronicle.

    So I told myself I wouldn't be purchasing the God Machine Chronicle for reasons I will get to in a moment, but I've recently had little choice in the matter. With the Chronicles of Darkness moving its game lines onto second edition, I went ahead and bought the new rule book, along with Beast: the Primordial. My initial thoughts on the God Machine was that it was essentially the World of Darkness: Matrix edition, because everything I've heard come out of the game sounded like cyber-techno jargan. Infrastructure, embeds, codes, programs, glitches, radio signals. Everything sounded like the world was one big virtual simulation, but the people on Onyx Path insisted that this was not the case and that telling people it was the Matrix was unfair to the creators of the GMC

    So I decided to give the chronicle a read and I can say that I'm still not interested in it. From what I discovered after reading through the God Machine, it seems to be set in the realm of science fiction. Hell, there is even a quote near the start of the chapter that talks about how sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!

    When I bought WoD, I did so because it was a supernatural world set in the modern era. The God Machine Chronicle takes that world and tries to turn it into a Shin Megami spin off. If you think I'm exaggerating, there is actually an example scenario in the book that puts the fate of the world in humanity's hands. The choices are eternal chaos, order, or free will; the same possible choices you get to make at the end of Shin Megami when you choose to side with Demons, Angels, or Humanity! When I searched around online for the opinions of others who have played the game, one person told me that the GMC is basically an attempt to include a monotheistic deity into the game without offending any real world groups. And I've got to say I agree with that assessment.

    It is precisely because of its connection to GMC that I have no interest in ever buying Demon: the Descent. Which is disappointing, because I would normally find the idea of playing a demon to be pretty friggin metal. I just don't want to play a demon who's actually made out of metal.


    I've come up with a simple solution for the problem, though. I simply ignore any and all references to the God Machine in my Chronicles of Darkness setting. If I want to incorporate a God, Demon or Angel into the story, I use Spirits, Fey, or similar creatures to substitute for them. It would not be hard to convince people that the seemingly omnipotent True Fey are deities, just as it would not be hard to use Ephemeral Beings to convince people of being demonic or angelic figures. So, to reiterate, the God Machine does not exist for me, nor do Angels and Demons as they are presented in that setting.


    -----------------------------------------------


    Sorry if that sounded like whining, or if it's already been said a hundred times; but I at least gave it a read. I will say, however, that before doing so, I hated the GMC because of my misconceptions about its premise. Now that I know more about it, my feelings have moved from hatred, to simply disinterest. I enjoy Shin Megami, I just don't feel like it needed a cross over with World of Darkness.

  • #2
    You're not obligated to like everything. I still think your takeaway is a rather superficial reading, but hey, I don't like everything either. I didn't like the This Is Hell hook either, for what it's worth, though my objection was that it was written in much too broad strokes with little practical attention to helping the ST with what would actually occur in play.

    Not sure what discussion you expect will come out of starting a separate thread for this. Not really anything there to say except "nuh-uh" and "yuh-huh."

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    • #3
      I could see why you would think that way about Demon the Descent, but the God Machine Chronicle is just an easy-to-use reason for weirdness, and while 'Infrastructure, embeds, codes, programs, glitches, radio signals,' can be technical terms, within the game they are not part of science fiction any more than leylines, blood magic, sorcery, demons, and radio signals are. Most of them are tied into Demon, anyways.

      The God-Machine as a concept can be excised without any issue in most games. The exceptions being games like Demon or other games you decide to incorporate the God-Machine in.

      I don't understand how you could come away thinking otherwise.

      Incidentally, the conflict between order, chaos, and 'free will' has been a common thread in fiction and games for decades before Shin Megami Tensei was a thing. It's the basis of the Dungeons and Dragons alignment chart.
      Last edited by nofather; 04-09-2017, 11:46 PM.

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      • #4
        Yeah, I think your reading is shallow and uncharitable, but at the end of the day, who cares. You don't have to like the God-Machine to play Second Edition, as it has little to no connection with any gameline other than Demon. Plenty of people have gamelines in Chronicles that they dislike and ignore.


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        • #5
          You say you want 'real' demons and angels.

          No, what you really want is demons and angels of Abrahamic faiths, dressed in modern Western aesthetics that evolved from Medieval European aesthetics.

          GMC and DtD gives you demons and angels of Gnosticism, dressed in post-modern technological aesthetics that share some traits but not themes with Science Fiction. Of course you end up being disinterested in them.

          And I see that you've mistaked the medium for the message - DtD and GMC have a lot of technology and techno-magic going on, but the ultimate theme is Gnosticism (ie. the interplay between knowledge and spirituality)



          And even with analogies to the SMT series, I think you've missed some points. The SMT series apply technology to the occult. GMC and DtD assume the two are one and the same. It's the difference from simplifying summoning rituals into a computer program, and writing a new summoning ritual with computer language.


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          • #6
            I've done this fight enough times that not only do I not care to retread it, but I actually imagine you probably know my immediate counter-arguments.

            I did like This Is Hell, though, and likewise I'm pretty sure that conflict is almost older than dirt.


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            • #7
              Yeah, this reading of it is pretty surface-level. I mean, there's a lot of "sci-fi" sounding elements, but for the most part, the tech-y element of the God-Machine could be stripped away without changing the core parts of it. The Demons would still be Demons. The Angels would still be Angels. The Infrastructure would be largely the same in all but name and aesthetic trappings.

              Really, it seems like the main issue I'm seeing for Nyrufa is one of the least significant elements of the GMC not appealing to them.

              Admittedly, Demon is a little more wrapped up in the "Tech" part of "Techgnostic Espionage", but even then, it doesn't strictly require the Demons and the God-Machine to be technological in appearance to work. The Demons would be able to function in almost the exact same way without it. Gnosticism dates back centuries, stories about world-spanning conspiracies date back even further, and espionage has existed for as long as there have been people wanting to know what others are up to.

              So I don't particularly see the issue. People generally have little problem refluffing a bit of setting they dislike, or even heavily rejiggering core pieces of a game's themes or assumptions, like the contingent of people who want more transhumanist stuff in Promethean*, so this particular issue seems relatively small and easily worked around.

              If you don't like GMC or Demon, that's fine, but it bugs me to see all these designers putting in all the work they did, and seeing it get dismissed with such a shallow appraisal.

              * I'm not saying they're wrong or right for wanting it, just that they exist, and that they want something that changes the core assumptions of Promethean, and so it serves as an example of what I'm talking about


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              • #8
                I can't say I liked "This is Hell" too much either. I've never heard of Shin Megami, but the whole plot of choosing between Heaven and Hell, with the secret revelation being that Humanity was a third option the whole time, is a story I've seen played out plenty of times in a variety of media.

                That said, I did like the God-Machine as an idea. As others have said it's principally a way to facilitate High Weirdness, not Science Fiction. A lot of its plots and machinations appear 100% occult from the outside. The point of that Arthur C. Clarke quote was to show that sacrificing virgins at clocktowers to appease a nameless deity is magic to us, even if the entity being "appeased" is actually using those sacrifices in a formulaic, even scientific, manner.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by 21C Hermit View Post
                  You say you want 'real' demons and angels.

                  No, what you really want is demons and angels of Abrahamic faiths, dressed in modern Western aesthetics that evolved from Medieval European aesthetics.

                  GMC and DtD gives you demons and angels of Gnosticism, dressed in post-modern technological aesthetics that share some traits but not themes with Science Fiction. Of course you end up being disinterested in them.

                  And I see that you've mistaked the medium for the message - DtD and GMC have a lot of technology and techno-magic going on, but the ultimate theme is Gnosticism (ie. the interplay between knowledge and spirituality)



                  And even with analogies to the SMT series, I think you've missed some points. The SMT series apply technology to the occult. GMC and DtD assume the two are one and the same. It's the difference from simplifying summoning rituals into a computer program, and writing a new summoning ritual with computer language.


                  No, I'm not specifying western demons in particular. There's all different kinds of cultural demons that I would be happy implementing. I don't know where you thought I was singling out the Abrahamic ones. The ones I'm refusing to accept are the 'ghost in the machine', rogue AI type of demons, which is the idea that keeps springing to mind the more I read about the God Machine and its servants.


                  And as for blending technology and the occult together, that's another feature I don't care for very much. I don't like the idea of magic just being some super advanced technology we haven't figured out yet, which is exactly what the book alludes to the God Machine being at the start of the chapter. I'm willing to acknowledge that technology can imitate magic, but I do not acknowledge them as being one in the same. When I think of magic, I think of beings with the power to warp the fabric of reality itself to their imagination, such as the True Fey, or those of the Supernal Realms. Making it a form of technology, or applying a scientific explanation to it instantly makes it less special to me.


                  And as for the comparison to SMT, there is more than just the This is Hell scenario. The SMT franchise seems to heavily portray Demons, Angels, and even the gods themselves as some kind of super advanced technology. You summon demons with a smart phone, they appear as data clouds, the Angels look like androids, you can break them down into programming code and fuse them together in cyber space, and I think at one point they even mention something about an Axiom, which I am lead to believe is some kind of super computer that keeps reality running!

                  ---------------------------------------------

                  I wasn't trying to stir up any heated arguments or angrily bashing the GMC. I simply felt an urge to write my thoughts on the matter and post them. I didn't think posting this in any of the splat threads would have made much sense, so I posted them in this section, instead.


                  Last edited by Nyrufa; 04-10-2017, 03:04 AM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                    When I think of magic, I think of beings with the power to warp the fabric of reality itself to their imagination, such as the True Fey, or those of the Supernal Realms. Making it a form of technology, or applying a scientific explanation to it instantly makes it less special to me.
                    The "technology" and "scientific explanation" you're talking about is, literally and without exaggeration, "(a) God did it."


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                      The "technology" and "scientific explanation" you're talking about is, literally and without exaggeration, "(a) God did it."


                      A God who manipulates causality to nudge events to playing out the way it wants them to. The book even says the God Machine is, in fact, NOT all knowing, all powerful, all present. It has limitations and it needs agents to overcome those limitations.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                        A God who manipulates causality to nudge events to playing out the way it wants them to.
                        And this is different from what any non-machine deity does... how, exactly?

                        Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                        The book even says the God Machine is, in fact, NOT all knowing, all powerful, all present. It has limitations and it needs agents to overcome those limitations.
                        Plenty of magical beings in fiction and real-world religion are not all knowing, all powerful, or all present and need agents to overcome their limitations. Far, far more than there are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent entities. Is Odin not special either because there are limitations to his power?


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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

                          No, I'm not specifying western demons in particular. There's all different kinds of cultural demons that I would be happy implementing. I don't know where you thought I was singling out the Abrahamic ones. The ones I'm refusing to accept are the 'ghost in the machine', rogue AI type of demons, which is the idea that keeps springing to mind the more I read about the God Machine and its servants.
                          Yeah, I admit that I overreacted on Abrahamic angels and stuff. Been a sore spot.

                          Still, let's look at the rogue AI demons you mention. If the fallen angels are AI, then angels must be AI creatures, right? So you would also deny AI angels, correct? But then, what is an AI? Artificial intelligence, of course. A consciousness that has been created whole cloth, not born and grown like our own forms of consciousness. We humans automatically equate "artificial" with machinery and electronics, but let's think outside human limits. If God spontaneously creates an angel, using numinous energies and mystic alignments, isn't that angel an artificial intelligence? Just not man-made, but God-made?

                          It's not that DtD's flavor of angels (and demons) are modeled after AI. Rather, I dare say it's the other way around; what we humans call AI are man-made angels.

                          And as for blending technology and the occult together, that's another feature I don't care for very much. I don't like the idea of magic just being some super advanced technology we haven't figured out yet, which is exactly what the book alludes to the God Machine being at the start of the chapter. I'm willing to acknowledge that technology can imitate magic, but I do not acknowledge them as being one in the same. When I think of magic, I think of beings with the power to warp the fabric of reality itself to their imagination, such as the True Fey, or those of the Supernal Realms. Making it a form of technology, or applying a scientific explanation to it instantly makes it less special to me.
                          A quick look at Wikipedia says that technology is "the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives". Let's say a witch-doctor peruses through his grimoire where all his potion recipes, language of the spirits, how to reach ecstasy by dancing, and designs for sacred drawings to create wards against illness are written down, and uses it to produce an amulet of plague-warding and heal the sick by laying on hands, he is by definition using a form of technology. But this doesn't prevent it from being occult, does it?

                          And as for the comparison to SMT, there is more than just the This is Hell scenario. The SMT franchise seems to heavily portray Demons, Angels, and even the gods themselves as some kind of super advanced technology. You summon demons with a smart phone, they appear as data clouds, the Angels look like androids, you can break them down into programming code and fuse them together in cyber space, and I think at one point they even mention something about an Axiom, which I am lead to believe is some kind of super computer that keeps reality running!
                          Yeah... nope. All the demons, angels, and gods you summon are exactly that. The Demon Summoning Program, a key element in the franchise, is nothing but a modernized version of ancient summoning rituals. While humans use high-tech equipment to interact with demons, that's just a way to translate the supernatural into something humans can grasp. The data clouds that demons appear as that you mention? Of course they appear like glitched screens and statics, because that's how the super-tech visor that humans use perceive unknown variables in the first place. Not because they really are living clouds of data. Angels looking like robots? Okay, now you're onto something, but see what I said about angels and AI. Fusion involving breaking demons down into programming code? Nah, it's more like breaking their ectoplasmic bodies down and melting their souls in a pot. The programming code is where, like the Summoning Program, makes the whole process a whole lot easier to reproduce reliably. No idea what you mean about an Axiom, so can't speak on that.

                          On the other hand, DtD and GMC don't assume the computer codes are a shortcut for replicating occult rituals. No, the computer codes are themselves a primitive form of what God is using to create angels.
                          Last edited by 21C Hermit; 04-10-2017, 03:43 AM. Reason: typo


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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post
                            A God who manipulates causality to nudge events to playing out the way it wants them to.
                            That is, in fact, all of them worth talking about in this system.

                            Even the Exarchs aren't exempt from the there's-a-story-here clause that prevents wholesale reality-alteration from being indistinguishable from the players suddenly playing a slightly-to-drastically-different game without comment.

                            The book even says the God Machine is, in fact, NOT all knowing, all powerful, all present. It has limitations and it needs agents to overcome those limitations.
                            Yup.

                            None of those limitations cannot be summarized with the same confines that the other Megahuge Supernatural Gribblies deal with.

                            None of those limitations mean the criteria for what does and does not create working Infrastructure are not for all intents and purposes completely arbitrary.

                            None of those limitations change the fact that the Machine is nigh-infinitely complex and compartmentalized in such a manner that makes gadgets functionally identical to gifts from the gods rather than mundanely-reproducible processes that can be universally applied without getting sponsored by God (which would defeat the point of the exercise).

                            The God-Machine is distinguished by its proximity to the material world and its degree of entwinement with mortal society and the occult/physical laws of the universe. It produces demons when it runs up against the imperfections of the world that give rise to fire and screaming and pain, and those demons are equipped to claim souls and speak in tongues and dramatically alter human lives. The fact that God speaks in solar winds and radio waves and traffic noise doesn't actually detract from the grandeur of its being able to move mountains and facilitate the slaying of dragons.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

                              A God who manipulates causality to nudge events to playing out the way it wants them to. The book even says the God Machine is, in fact, NOT all knowing, all powerful, all present. It has limitations and it needs agents to overcome those limitations.
                              Ah, I see, so you mean that a "real" Divinity has to be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Who can just wish things into existence, without having to leverage pieces of the world like a chessboard.

                              You have just claimed that the vast majority of deities ever worshipped by humanity are not truly divine.


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