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GMing Demon: What NOT to do?

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  • #46
    Originally posted by KieranMullen View Post
    I don't agree with you about the inevitability of Demon characters being evil in a deontological sense
    I have been very deliberate in not using the word "evil" in my pushback against the claim that demons are not environmentally pushed to questionable behavior by the pressures of being a rogue agent with free will and minimal backing.

    But I don't think the game forces them to do so.
    I'm similarly not talking about the game forcing anybody to do anything — I'm pointing out that the way the game mechanics work mean a Demon character primarily occupies a space somewhere between the poles of the game that Primum and initial Cover represent, and that most demons in the setting angle toward Primum by dint of simple selective pressures.

    If you have high Cover but low Primum, you have less room for backup Covers and spare Aether and will be in a tighter spot in the event that you do find yourself with your back against the wall. Patching up your human skin takes time or risks exposure, and if you go loud you're increasingly like to have poor returns on soul pacts or a lot of documentation to safeguard for a patchwork Cover. It suits characters who are more concerned with survival than anything else, but it also makes for a poor place to stand when the repo men come a-knocking — the trouble with not being strong enough to have throwaway resources is that the things you can throw away in a crisis are more important overall.

    Meanwhile, high Primum is pretty strongly associated with building the Cipher and all that entails along with the ability to walk around with a bigger chunk of change in your pocket. Your agenda and skillset become more consistently relevant to your identity than the details of your Covers, and you can get more out of wholesale soul-collection than building patchworks the same way a rookie can build their Cover faster with pactwork than by laying low. If you're strong enough that compromise risks emanations, you're strong enough that the ceiling on your compromise rolls is higher, but you're also in a state where any given Cover has a nonzero chance of developing a leak by virtue of simple history and optics. Being reclusive and moving fast take precedence over blending in long-term at that point.

    More of the latter are going to survive being cornered than the former, because they're more likely to keep an eye on Machine activity and not keeping an eye on Machine activity is a good way to get blindsided by something you could have driven off the rails weeks ago, and because being less attached to your cover identity means you're harder to pin down. More of the latter surviving means they more strongly inform the culture of demons with Agendas and their interaction with the world under the God-Machine. These are beings who start out from a place of purpose and detachment and work away from that place through intensely personal processes — they care about specific people or they care about people in general as a function of principles they adhere to for personal reasons; if you find yourself in the position of dealing with a known demon, odds are solid that they're working an angle to deliberately advance a goal, because they are deliberate creatures with a lot of eyes to worry about.

    The PCs aren't forced to, sure, but the NPCs definitely don't have a lot of reasons not to.


    Resident Sanguinary Analyst
    Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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    • #47
      Say it with me now, "monstrerhood does not have to be inherently evil or maliciously intended to be an expression of monstrosity."


      Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
      The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
      Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.

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      • #48
        This seems to be long running tangent, but I guess "don't assume Demons are inherently Good or Evil" is decent GM'ing advice.

        My take: Demon's aren't inherently Bad, Ill-intentioned, or Malicious. But the constant pressure and their inherent detachment, alongside their very "manipulate humans" powers, mean that most will indeed be a bag of dicks. They aren't obligated to be, in the same way that Vampires and Beasts are, but nothing is holding them back and they have incentives to be so. Moral Demon is Hard Mode.


        Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
        Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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        • #49
          Originally posted by Vent0 View Post
          but nothing is holding them back and they have incentives to be so. Moral Demon is Hard Mode.
          I love this and I want to highlight this little part in my advice:

          - Unchained have variant Virtues/Vices when you compare the mortal human counterparts. a Demon's Virtues/Vices are more like internal directives and in a lot of ways a lot more selfish. At least in their intent. Players may not even realize it when they take their Virtues/Vices but they will VERY MUCH run.... off from Human Morality. I'll give an example below but my ST advice: During your game, players (the players) will sometimes be at odds and have a mental disconnect/crises with their character's actions in regards to their virtues/vices. Celebrate this. Like seriously, it is usually small and doesn't take much from any other character but the emotional impact of the human playing the machine will ring throughout that PCs interactions/actions. A small bit of focus can make the drama and conflict feel so much more bizarre and personal.


          For an example (and I could swear I've shared this before but w/e it fits. Edit: It's posted here.)

          As a tl;dr for the example that I just erased, the character that started out wanting no more than to provide for and protect its child. However it ended up scaring someone into agreeing to a Soul Pact and a human Police Officer lost his life in the events. All because, from the onset, the player chose Virtues/Vices that, while on the surface appeared moral, ended up pushing the character into actions that would easily befit the main antagonist/horror of a Horror movie.

          Giving the player just the tiniest of spotlights with what would otherwise be small Willpower gains, coloured the drama for that character and its player for the whole chronicle.
          Last edited by xiongrey; 11-05-2018, 06:16 PM.



          Frequent Story Teller for the Circle of Five gaming group.

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          • #50
            Originally posted by Satchel View Post
            "Defectors to humanity" doesn't mean "defenders of humanity".
            Attempting to paint an entire splat as white hats is pointless, obviously.

            Pretending that the majority of demons are the most extreme flavor of Saboteur doesn't seem relevant as a counterpoint. Additionally, Soul Pacts are... awful, they're the typical RPG element of "here's a morally problematic option that causes permanent loss in exchange for meh gains." There's a surprisingly large amount of mechanics like that in RPGs.

            If either they didn't cost a willpower dot OR that you could just plain turn a normal pact into a soul pact at will, I might consider them tempting. The people who have the worst job in CofD are probably the demons who make soul pacts as a 9 to 5 job. No matter how bad your job, at least you aren't going to lose experience faster than you get it.

            Originally posted by Primordial newcomer View Post
            Not to be rude to the OG, but the claims that we are all just lumping demons as purely evil seem pretty hypocritical considering the constant assessment everything they do is completely justified and morally good
            Hyperbole.

            Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
            Man, if ever there was a game I didn't expect to see "But my monster is the good guy, ergo they can't be a monster!" argument in, it was Descent.
            Hyperbole.

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            • #51
              Originally posted by Deinos View Post
              Hyperbole.
              You can take this dismissive bullshit and shove it in the trash where it belongs, that is the exact sort of conversation we are having.


              Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
              The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
              Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.

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              • #52
                Originally posted by Deinos View Post
                Pretending that the majority of demons are the most extreme flavor of Saboteur doesn't seem relevant as a counterpoint.
                There is a massive amount of separation between "I am illustrating a hypothetical conversation between two different demons as a counterpoint to the claim that 'geopolitical slapfights' (read: the fact that the God-Machine is far-reaching, complex, and interconnected in esoteric ways that mean meddling with its workings can have unintended consequences) have no bearing on the motivations of the Unchained" and "simple attrition makes it more likely that demons who manage to stay in the game and interact with other demons in the long term will generally be the sort with no especial attachment to humanity in the abstract sense and a negotiable degree of attachment to humans in the particular sense." Confusing the two does not help this discussion.

                Additionally, Soul Pacts are... awful, they're the typical RPG element of "here's a morally problematic option that causes permanent loss in exchange for meh gains." There's a surprisingly large amount of mechanics like that in RPGs.

                If either they didn't cost a willpower dot OR that you could just plain turn a normal pact into a soul pact at will, I might consider them tempting. The people who have the worst job in CofD are probably the demons who make soul pacts as a 9 to 5 job. No matter how bad your job, at least you aren't going to lose experience faster than you get it.
                This is nonsense. What are you even talking about?

                A soul pact gets you, at the absolute bare minimum, the equivalent of three Cover Experiences' worth of Cover, and that's at Primum 1 with no successes on an Attribute task that shares components with half your subtle powers and the roll to keep your story straight when the archon gatekeeper looks at you funny. Even at the lower end, the more likely result for a character angling to call in a soul pact is the equivalent of several documents' worth of patches with a bonus that patchwork Covers take upper-level ratings to get.

                This is a game with a power whose default uses include "instantly kill as many mortal extras as your rolled successes." Annihilating somebody to assume their identity as part of your ongoing flight from the gaze of God is well within spec.


                Resident Sanguinary Analyst
                Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                  This is a game with a power whose default uses include "instantly kill as many mortal extras as your rolled successes." Annihilating somebody to assume their identity as part of your ongoing flight from the gaze of God is well within spec.
                  I believe the raised problem is how expensive soul pacts are _xp_ wise, as you have to keep rebuying WP dots.


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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Griautis View Post

                    I believe the raised problem is how expensive soul pacts are _xp_ wise, as you have to keep rebuying WP dots.
                    They effectively trade XP for many Cover XPs (at the expense of a mortal). Though, as a Pact, there is also the vulnerability/liability of protecting the document.


                    Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                    Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Vent0 View Post

                      They effectively trade XP for many Cover XPs (at the expense of a mortal). Though, as a Pact, there is also the vulnerability/liability of protecting the document.

                      Sure. Patch jobs/non soul pacts trade nothing for Cover XP (at the expense of a mortal).

                      Besides the time needed to convince a mortal, but realistically, that applies both ways and it is harder to convince a mortal to sign off their soul, especially if they believe your power, or are wondering why does it have to happen in blood.


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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by Griautis View Post


                        Sure. Patch jobs/non soul pacts trade nothing for Cover XP (at the expense of a mortal).
                        Less expense to the mortal - they get benefits from the Pact (same in Soul Pacts too, but non-existence is a hell of a stinger).

                        Originally posted by Griautis View Post
                        Besides the time needed to convince a mortal, but realistically, that applies both ways and it is harder to convince a mortal to sign off their soul, especially if they believe your power, or are wondering why does it have to happen in blood.
                        This, right here - anyone should be suspicious about having to sign something in blood. That never means a good thing.


                        Malkydel: "And the Machine dictated; let there be adequate illumination."
                        Yossarian: "And lo, it was optimal."

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                        • #57
                          Another bit of advice; don't run Angels as merely combat machines to fight. They can serve as a very wide spectrum of characters and purposes, from socialites to businessmen to lines of communication to suborn, to even contacts, something akin to friends and targets to have Fall. Angels are usually in the antagonistic position, but they aren't all just figures to fight with guns blazing (or blazing guns).

                          Another way to put it is if Angels are all about combat, then Demons wouldn't have four Incarnations.

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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Griautis View Post
                            Sure. Patch jobs/non soul pacts trade nothing for Cover XP (at the expense of a mortal).
                            And that is in turn more time-efficient than earning Cover Beats by living your Cover, but the tradeoff is that you need anywhere from five to fifteen Cover Assets to make a Cover that doesn't directly benefit attempts to pick it apart. They're good if you're trying to throw together a burner, but sporting an identity that's either built out of a whole real person or custom-made by God Itself is far-and-away more secure than a mishmash of different people's relationships that you massaged together into the shape of an individual.

                            Also, the Willpower cost of regular pacts isn't to be discounted — the nature of the balancing act combined with where the mortal resources come from means running a series of subtle permanent trades is more of a strain on a demon's Willpower, but drawing from the world's set of available wealth/beauty/vitality/etc arbitrarily and making drastic changes to a mortal's life that only propagate part of the way through their social network to save you the equivalent of a week of sleep or an exercise of Virtue is… well, similar in scope to the decision to break into a facility and rewire a summoning circle for a bespoke Cover because you don't want to put yourself at a five Beat deficit for one of the most secure forms of Cover in the game. Just because the game doesn't attach whole granular mechanics to a narrative element doesn't mean it's inconsequential.


                            Resident Sanguinary Analyst
                            Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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                            • #59
                              Don't make the God-Machine's operations too thorough; it is constantly fighting with resources and time to get its plans going. If you don't establish at least one point of weakness that doesn't involve bullets, you will either have players not touching your plots or they will with ever escalating means of violence to dispose of it.

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                              • #60
                                Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
                                Don't make the God-Machine's operations too thorough; it is constantly fighting with resources and time to get its plans going. If you don't establish at least one point of weakness that doesn't involve bullets, you will either have players not touching your plots or they will with ever escalating means of violence to dispose of it.

                                Which could also be phrased as "don't forget the linchpin part of infrastructure"


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