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GMing Demon: What NOT to do?

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  • Taidragon
    started a topic GMing Demon: What NOT to do?

    GMing Demon: What NOT to do?

    As the title somewhat implies, I've had some interest in running a game of Demon in the future. Having played a number of games with different GMs and players, I can safely say it has a number of hurtles that the GM needs to avoid. Demon is complicated, with the plots, the counter plots, characters, infrastructure and happenstance that needs to all come together without making the experience a mire to get through. Though mistakes will inevitably happen, I'd like to preemptively learn how to avoid the worst and be properly prepared. Failure can teach as much as (if not more than) success, but I've also learned from experience it's best to have a good platform to start from to make sure that one egregious failure doesn't stop future attempts.

    What advice do you all, either as players or GMs yourselves, have to avoiding particular pitfalls? What plots should not be done and characters should not be evoked, and how do you keep the group working together when they have very different characters with differing ideologies?
    Last edited by Taidragon; 04-06-2017, 05:20 AM.

  • KieranMullen
    replied
    Originally posted by KieranMullen View Post
    But is this railroading? The plot assumes that the players will follow it. In D&D terms this is a no-brainer - modules are very goal-oriented. However CoD is supposed to be more character driven. Does stories like this work well in the CoD dynamics in general and in DtD in particular? Do your games follow connect-a-dot plots?
    A bit odd to quote and reply to my own post, but I think that I have figured out what was bothering me and how to fix it.

    When I was a young pup of a DM, I would set up adventures by drawing detailed maps and think "Hmm..., let's put a mimic here, and then some bugbears down there, but if they take the left corridor I'll put in a trap, and I need a stronger monster to block the access to the altar..." The Temple of Evil adventure would segue into the Dungeons of Unpleasantness that would allow access to the Demi-plane of Faffing About. I was approaching DtD the same way, looking for appropriate monsters and traps, all very linear.

    I think it would be better to use the "Conspyramid" structure described in Night's Black Agents. (Using the narrative version they suggest later in that manual). In this approach I know a specific grand finale conflict/scene where the players will have to stop a certain GM action. Below that are a spreading web of either actors or locations that have logical arrows showing which is connected to which. At the very bottom there are the local plot hooks, minor conflicts or problems that might draw the players into the story.

    The idea in NBA is to get the players to trace out the structure of the story based on their own investigations. The goal is to have them find some lower element of the pyramid, and then discover the connections up, sideways and potentially back down the pyramid, trying to figure out what the heck is going on. (In that game the ST even provides red yarn, pictures, and a cork board for the players to brainstorm on the conspiracy). The pyramid structure also provides narrative suggestions since if the players attack something on level N in the structure, there are logical consequences for who or what will respond to that action.

    This will require a bit more work on my part, but it brings a much better dynamic to the game. The structure will give me an indication of how agents of the GM will respond, and give a lot more opportunity for non-combat abilities to come into play.

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  • Vent0
    replied
    They can and do - they would be close to Falling, but Demons have to come from somewhere.

    That actually makes it a bit more interesting - a villainous Vampire is largely an a-hole you need to dust. But a villainous Angel? You could destroy them... or you could provoke them into Falling. Both remove the threat, but the later offers the additional drama of - what do you do when they are now nominally on "your side"? Leave them to face their former peers? Or turn your opponent to your cause?
    Last edited by Vent0; 12-15-2018, 05:12 PM.

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  • KieranMullen
    replied
    Originally posted by Vent0 View Post
    Player Characters exist in the world, right? Their Aspirations will give you hints as to their motivations, and their Cover's close associates will be other treads you can pull on. Involve both in the Plot, and you can rope them into it at any point.
    You're right of course. I can only incorporate the players' motivations when the players have fleshed out their characters. But as I've thought about this I can see that there is a narrative problem. How do you make an Angel a villain?

    I can make an Angel that the players fear because she's too strong. I can make an Angel with whom the players are angry because he killed their dog or erased their kid. But I am not sure how to have an Angel evoke that sense of personal vendetta and animosity that a good villain can evoke. Because with an Angel, it's not personal. They don't break a character's legs just to make them crawl. They're just executing instructions.

    I can see how a vampire or werewolf or mage another demon might be an arch-villain. But I'm not sure how to evoke the same emotional response from players with an Angel/GM driven plot.

    I suspect that I need to re-think higher rank Angels. Perhaps they have more free-will and independence. Perhaps an angel can choose to execute their orders in a variety of ways and some enjoy choosing a darker path....

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  • Vent0
    replied
    Player Characters exist in the world, right? Their Aspirations will give you hints as to their motivations, and their Cover's close associates will be other treads you can pull on. Involve both in the Plot, and you can rope them into it at any point.

    Leave a comment:


  • KieranMullen
    replied
    Okay, I am fleshing out the story that I alluded to above (set near the Huge Honking Infrastructure). The idea is that the players find a Town With A Terrible Secret, hiding a farm with Infrastructure to create Resource A, that is being taken to Refining Infrastructure B, and then used at Occult Site C to accomplish a GM goal that (as a by-product) would cause a natural disaster killing tens of thousands of people and costing billions if it succeeds. So, I have descriptions of the Town, the Farm, the Refinery, the Site....

    But is this railroading? The plot assumes that the players will follow it. In D&D terms this is a no-brainer - modules are very goal-oriented. However CoD is supposed to be more character driven. Does stories like this work well in the CoD dynamics in general and in DtD in particular? Do your games follow connect-a-dot plots?

    Leave a comment:


  • Deinos
    replied
    Originally posted by KieranMullen View Post
    Do you think that this is too heavy handed? Too complicated?
    That sounds really interesting. I think its really clever and may have to use it.

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  • Vent0
    replied
    There is a term for these critical masses of Infrastructure - Facilities.

    Ideas from your description:
    • Make the town/city itself focused around some big thing. Like the factory of a factory town, or the university of a college town. Life is generally focused on X, which means over messing with it draws too much attention, and obsessive cults can hide in plain sight.
    • Have the sections of the Facility interlock - Concealment A hides the monitors, Concealment B covers entrances, Defense A supplies guards, etc. Each part you take out has an impact on the rest of the edifice.
    • Due to the high concentration of G-M assets, Demons have to be extra cautious in the area to prevent being outed and caught.
    • The Facility has recently started to expand to nearby towns as the hub of a network. For what purpose is unknown.
    • Most of the "action" and ST generated plots can occur in these "other" towns. Contacts and Pacts formed there can then be used for hits on the "Home" town.

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  • KieranMullen
    replied
    I think that I am still struggling against the D&D paradigm of the PC's as a merry band of adventurers who enter mazes to slay monsters by casting spells. That is, danger is something out there that you have to go seek out and that it is handled by murdering it and then retiring to celebrate.

    I am considering having a Honking Huge Infrastructure located in the PC's home town. It has Concealment Infrastructure to keep it hidden from mortals, overwhelming Defense Infrastructure, and three or four angels on assignment. The PC's ring is there simply to monitor it. The actual story is not associated at all with this infrastructure. It's about a different GM occult matrix that links several nearby towns. However, the HHI serves as a reason why the demons are all in this one city, and why they are cooperating, and also reminds them to stay on their guard.

    I thought of doing this to reinforce the feeling of "you are living in enemy territory" rather than the GM being something you have to hunt to find and only a threat if you are blatantly foolish. Do you think that this is too heavy handed? Too complicated?

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  • Vent0
    replied
    The Machine is Efficient - if It doesn't need to expend the resources, It won't. Why task an Angel to guard when cultists will do? Why even task cultists, when anonymity will serve?

    You can even use the degree of security as a barometer for the PCs' actions - have a DEFCON chart, and as they cause more havoc or are detected, it increases and the opposition gets stronger.

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  • Taidragon
    replied
    Originally posted by Griautis View Post


    Which could also be phrased as "don't forget the linchpin part of infrastructure"
    More "unless it is massively important, don't arm it with a business diguise, a locked door to get into it, a guard per room and an Angel actively guarding things". The Machine has too much on its plate to have that to micromanage per Infrastructure if it doesn't have that kind of security already, and usually if you have an Angel on hand you don't need mundane guards inside the Infrastructure.

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  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    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.
    In relation to this: cultists, cryptids, and imperatives before angels. Figure what is needed for roles and try to not go too far beyond that.

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  • Griautis
    replied
    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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  • Taidragon
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Satchel
    replied
    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.

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