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  • Angels and the Combat Issue

    This isn't something I have experienced directly, but in the circles I am in there has been some rather heated discussion about how this problem is occurring. Namely, many players I have run into who run combat focused builds are claiming that Angels aren't a challenge to fight, primarily by using judicious use of Shift Consequences or Just Bruised and choice form powers/gadgets with Mercilous Gunman. It has gotten to the point that I've seen an Angelic Form Power thrown around that is essentially a sniper rifle with 300/600/1200 range with a 5 Lethal modifier, with the justification that a Demon can ignore that damage via Just Bruised/Shift Consequences.

    Personally I feel that sort of resonse is massive overkill, but I want to know if I'm underreacting to a problem, and how to solve said problem if I were to run into it personally (be it by giving advice to a storyteller or as one myself)...or if this is just a group who are ramping up the violence in what is supposed to be a stealthier splat.

  • #2
    Option 1: MOAR POWR! - Use higher Rank and/or optimized Angels, with backup. Down them in numbers. If Incepts are an option, use those too. Drive home that as Bad-Ass as the PCs might think they are, they are a team up against an entire legion. There is always a bigger fish. And remember that Embeds can get progressively more difficult to invoke and/or start triggering Compromise.

    Option 2: Hit their weak points - They have allies? Target those. Shift Consequences has a window of opportunity for usage, so leave consequences before they arrive. They like their Cover? Investigators crawl up their rear will see them scrambling for that. Dropping bodies is only going to make things worse. They have Gadgets? Those can be broken and/or stolen. Sic some greedy Hunters or other Demons on them.

    Demons can tank. But bad things follow if the spotlight is left on them long enough. And combat specialization results in opportunity costs elsewhere.

    Also: Check out the example Angels, both in the books and here (and here).
    Last edited by Vent0; 04-16-2018, 12:49 PM.


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

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    • #3
      Ah, the good old “ephemerals are so weak” argument. Surprising though to see it turn up on Demon, not Werewolf or Mage. I always found angels to be the stronger among ephemerals and other NPC entities.

      How about running the angel(s) as you would a PC? Better yet, have the players themselves suggest how to maximize the potential of how an angel can be played. Now turn it around and sic the now-smart-and-not-a-video-game-boss-battle angel.

      Or maybe just give the angels those same Embeds the trigger-happy PCs are fond of? Doesn’t go against the setting and lore, AFAIK.


      MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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      • #4
        Casual reminder that demons have the unique distinction of not having regular access to their primary ephemeral antagonists' phase of Twilight.


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

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        • #5
          Vent0 Those are sound ideas, but there are a few problems for this scenario;

          Idea 1 is leading into the problem I mentioned before of a form power sniper-rifle that has ranges of 300/600/1200 and a 5 Lethal modifier. On a Rank 3 Angel. Idea 2 is great, but it doesn't solve the issue of players taking on Rank 5 Angels and not feeling challenged by it. This would just make them more wise to the actual act...but given what I've read from said groups, it doesn't sound like it'd work to the desired effect.

          21C Hermit - It's a weird stance, I know. Comparatively, Angels are the most focused and have access to powers Spirits and Ghosts don't, and they can call for backup when needed be. It almost strikes me as either people don't quite understand how Angels can do terrifying things with Influences and Numina without making new things, and as another Storyteller told me there's nothing (barring Storyteller fiat) stopping there being more than one Angel at an area at a time and the importance of the mission they are on. Then again, many players I've run into aren't aware of the fact that abjuration is a thing Demons can do too.

          Satchel - A good reminder, especially since for over half of my second Demon campaign, the players were convinced that Demons could see into Twilight, ignoring the fact that not being able to see Angels was one reason Demons were so paranoid. Well, that and how they can possess people, have Covers as nearly anything and potentially appear around the corner from your safehouse...

          Here's a question related to the above; does a Demon need to be in some way aware of the force they're negating/parrying with Just Bruised/Shift Consequences? It's one thing for them to be Reflexive embeds, and another to use one to negate the damage of a sniper shot from over 500 feet/meters (I don't remember what guns use for their ranges) away from an Angel that has only just materialied to take said shot. At that point it's far more like precognition.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
            Vent0 Those are sound ideas, but there are a few problems for this scenario;

            Idea 1 is leading into the problem I mentioned before of a form power sniper-rifle that has ranges of 300/600/1200 and a 5 Lethal modifier. On a Rank 3 Angel. Idea 2 is great, but it doesn't solve the issue of players taking on Rank 5 Angels and not feeling challenged by it. This would just make them more wise to the actual act...but given what I've read from said groups, it doesn't sound like it'd work to the desired effect.

            Here's a question related to the above; does a Demon need to be in some way aware of the force they're negating/parrying with Just Bruised/Shift Consequences? It's one thing for them to be Reflexive embeds, and another to use one to negate the damage of a sniper shot from over 500 feet/meters (I don't remember what guns use for their ranges) away from an Angel that has only just materialied to take said shot. At that point it's far more like precognition.
            We'll, if they don't feel challenged by a Rank 5, it might not be run right. If it is just the Rank 5 and they are extremely prepared, maybe. But just throw more foes in there so they can't concentrate efforts. And/or give it Fork.

            I'd let them on the attack. It's what the Embed is for - damage negation. Remember, though, that tanking a headshot in public and claiming "it was just a scratch" is going to strain incredulity (and Compromise).


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

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            • #7
              You want to make an angel a powerful threat its simple. If your players are really good at combat. Then tilt them. Angels don't have to attack head-on, They can suddenly take over an FBI office and put the group on the FBI most wanted and let every kill the players make move them higher up the most wanted charts. Maybe the angel has control of the spirit courts in the area and can turn every spirit in the city on the demons.

              If you want to make them a direct combat angel. Why would god only send 1 angel after a group? What if God said 10 level 1 angels with Consignment or Economy. Angels are high power and dangerous beings. If you are finding angels not challenging the group then that means you need to get creative. The God-machine can create any type of angel it wants to do almost any job it needs.

              Maybe an angel that use poisons and gases to attack the group. It's influence strengthing the effect of the poison. What is the group has been studied for some time by a few angels? The Angels took control of their loved ones and friends.

              Imagine a moment like john wick where all the players are in a park for a meet and the contact reveals themselves to be an angel and then everyone else in the park turns in the character direction because every last person in the park is cultist, angel or maybe an infrastructure was set up to make anyone who sees's the demon try and kill them.
              Last edited by Basic; 04-18-2018, 02:30 AM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Satchel View Post
                Casual reminder that demons have the unique distinction of not having regular access to their primary ephemeral antagonists' phase of Twilight.
                This is really, really worth repeating. When I ran Demon, I made sure to tell all of my players that direct combat was going to be of pretty limited use in the campaign. Still ended up with one highly optimised combat character. Said character spent the entire campaign frustrated that the Angels he encountered never used the Materialize Manifestation.

                Even Just Bruised will see you die eventually if you can't swing back and the Angels can ping you for damage forever.

                Other things to note:

                -Demons have minimal ways to strip Essence from Angels, making destroying them permanently very difficult.
                -Use Influences, or Form Abilities if you think your Angels should have them, and don't play fair. Just Bruised and Shift Consequences are less useful when your opponent isn't dealing damage to you, but instead messing with you in other, indirect ways. An Angel may not even be trying to kill the Demon directly, but instead subdue them long enough to jack into their cover's brain and download what information it can get. If I remember correctly, the memory hack form ability renders the character subjected to it unconscious on use, which is one way to quickly take someone out of the fight and doesn't leave anything for the two Embeds you mention to be used on.
                -You can force Demons into no-win scenarios. A prime example of this is having an Angel possess a character important to the Demon. If the Demon takes a lot of damage and seeks to Shift Consequences, there will be... consequences.
                -If you break out the Storyteller's Handbook, Incepts let Angels do way crazier things than "just" a +5L sniper rifle form ability. It's been a while, but I have this vague memory that a Rank 5 Angel with the right Incepts could throw out a 30L Blast Numen at every single thing around it as a single action, or something approaching that level of ridiculousness.

                My group's takeaway from Demon was that it wasn't really to their taste precisely because they felt so utterly outclassed by the "default" enemy in the setting. I actually rewrote a couple of Angels in my game to be more conventional combat encounters (i.e. actually bothering to use the Materialize Manifestation so that the players could physically interact with their opponents) because I was getting feedback from my players that they weren't enjoying having the shit kicked out of them with no way to win the fights they were picking.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by 2C Hermit View Post
                  Ah, the good old “ephemerals are so weak” argument. Surprising though to see it turn up on Demon, not Werewolf or Mage. I always found angels to be the stronger among ephemerals and other NPC entities..
                  It's not that the Angels are weak, per se, it's just that as written, conflict with angels doesn't match the game-experience advertised in the fiction.

                  DO you remember that moment when you where running your first Dungeons and Dragons game, and the player realized that they were 10th level and the palace guards were all first level? When they realized they didn't have to be heroes, they could do whatever they wanted to, no matter how depraved?

                  The emphemeral entity rules can produce effective enemies, but it doesn't do as well when trying to portray angels as implacable foes that will capture demons and drag them back for disassembly. In order for DtD to fulfill it's narrative promises, the player reaction to the mere possibility of facing an angel needs to be fear.

                  I'm thinking of Neon Genesis Evangelion, where the Angels are terrifying, alien creatures that leave devastation and ruin even when defeated, and cripple the protagonists in body and spirit. DtD angels need to carry the same emotional impact

                  Originally posted by Azahul View Post
                  Said character spent the entire campaign frustrated that the Angels he encountered never used the Materialize Manifestation.
                  This gets back to game experience vs narrative experience. I want my angels to terrify because they're relentless engines of an alien god's will, not because they cheese the twilight rules. The hunter angel in the players guide who describes pursuing demons never talks about hanging back in twilight to avoid getting his head handed to him. Nearly all of the angels in official supplements have material forms, and are implied to use them.

                  And just because Demons don't have default access doesn't mean that they can't get access. There are at least two or three exploits that can take a demon, or even a ring of demons into twilight, and those exploits are cheap to purchase. Retreating into twilight only a hoping that the players won't follow only lasts until someone reads the embeds/exploits section.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Agentwestmer View Post
                    This gets back to game experience vs narrative experience. I want my angels to terrify because they're relentless engines of an alien god's will, not because they cheese the twilight rules. The hunter angel in the players guide who describes pursuing demons never talks about hanging back in twilight to avoid getting his head handed to him. Nearly all of the angels in official supplements have material forms, and are implied to use them.

                    And just because Demons don't have default access doesn't mean that they can't get access. There are at least two or three exploits that can take a demon, or even a ring of demons into twilight, and those exploits are cheap to purchase. Retreating into twilight only a hoping that the players won't follow only lasts until someone reads the embeds/exploits section.
                    I'm not talking about hanging back, by any means. I'm talking about using the Image Manifestation instead of Materialize and then using the Blast Numen until all is naught but dust. And that's just for basics. The only ability an Angel gets by using Materialize instead of Image that I can think of is the ability to punch and be punched. From a player perspective, the angel is there, it is throwing fireballs at them, and they can't hurt it no matter what they do. That's hardly "cheese", especially when a low Rank Angel with only a couple of Manifestations is very likely to not even have Materialize, and it seems pretty implacable to me.

                    Could you list those exploits? It's been a long ass time, all I can remember is an Exploit that opens rifts to other worlds (Rip the Gates?) and technically Twilight isn't that. I do recall that the Essence Siphon form ability was just about the only mechanic Demons had that could potentially allow them to permanently put down an Angel, but my memory of Demon is that Demons had startlingly few ways to ever actually fight Angels. And that this lack was very much the point. My memory isn't on par with a Demon's though, so it could just be that my players never ended up with those abilities because they were either too intent on avoiding fights with Angels on account of their terrifying, unassailable nature, or too busy buffing up their ability to punch the few angels that did let them land a blow.

                    Edit: Of course, Ephemeral Cover and Decoy do let you enter Twilight, but I know Ephemeral Cover at least very specifically puts you on a different wavelength. Can't remember what Decoy has to say on the subject, but I wouldn't think it would put you on the Angel wavelength necessarily.

                    Now that I think about it, the way Image works is very much like the final fight from the Last Jedi. Certainly looks real enough from a narrative perspective.
                    Last edited by Azahul; 04-18-2018, 02:22 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Agentwestmer View Post
                      This gets back to game experience vs narrative experience. I want my angels to terrify because they're relentless engines of an alien god's will, not because they cheese the twilight rules.
                      Another thing angels have over ghosts and spirits: near-universal possession of the Discorporation effect and one of the most secure baseline Manifestation Conditions in the game.

                      "Relentless" doesn't mean "impatient." The enemy runs the world. It can afford to play the long game when directed scrutiny causes your identity to unravel.

                      Also, the standard antagonist sets for a demon who has gotten themselves Hunted is "one angel with double-digit Attribute maximums and highly obscure weaknesses, three to five angels each of roughly the same scope as a player supernatural character and similarly narrow points of vulnerability, or ten to fifteen cultists, with a direct motivation to hunt you down and destroy you," within the context of an espionage game.

                      Ten mortals coming at you in a back alley might not be much of a threat, but ten mortals with friends in high and low places and a mandate for your black box can make a lot of trouble for you in fairly short order, especially if you're already Flagged. Three hunter angels who know where you've been are under no obligation to play fair — even without preying on your connections, standard wolfpack tactics are still going to wear you down. Even the singular scope of a greater angel is still packaged in a massive statblock that you flatly can't do much damage to through a combination of unilateral Defense and lack of internal organs to disrupt.

                      The things Descent's angels share with Evangelion's in terms of fear-factor are unpredictable variety and long-term resilience — if your character is not concerned for their ability to escape or retain valued connections, then of course they will not have as visceral a fear-reaction as if they were locked in combat with a kaiju. The Unchained's loyalist brethren do not have the luxury of being monsters of the week in a mid-apocalyptic setting.


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

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Azahul View Post
                        This is really, really worth repeating. When I ran Demon, I made sure to tell all of my players that direct combat was going to be of pretty limited use in the campaign. Still ended up with one highly optimized combat character. Said character spent the entire campaign frustrated that the Angels he encountered never used the Materialize Manifestation.

                        Even Just Bruised will see you die eventually if you can't swing back and the Angels can ping you for damage forever.

                        Other things to note:

                        -Demons have minimal ways to strip Essence from Angels, making destroying them permanently very difficult.
                        -Use Influences, or Form Abilities if you think your Angels should have them and don't play fair. Just Bruised and Shift Consequences are less useful when your opponent isn't dealing damage to you, but instead messing with you in other, indirect ways. An Angel may not even be trying to kill the Demon directly, but instead subdue them long enough to jack into their cover's brain and download what information it can get. If I remember correctly, the memory hack form ability renders the character subjected to it unconscious on use, which is one way to quickly take someone out of the fight and doesn't leave anything for the two Embeds you mention to be used on.
                        -You can force Demons into no-win scenarios. A prime example of this is having an Angel possess a character important to the Demon. If the Demon takes a lot of damage and seeks to Shift Consequences, there will be... consequences.
                        -If you break out the Storyteller's Handbook, Incepts let Angels do way crazier things than "just" a +5L sniper rifle form ability. It's been a while, but I have this vague memory that a Rank 5 Angel with the right Incepts could throw out a 30L Blast Numen at every single thing around it as a single action, or something approaching that level of ridiculousness.

                        My group's takeaway from Demon was that it wasn't really to their taste precisely because they felt so utterly outclassed by the "default" enemy in the setting. I actually rewrote a couple of Angels in my game to be more conventional combat encounters (i.e. actually bothering to use the Materialize Manifestation so that the players could physically interact with their opponents) because I was getting feedback from my players that they weren't enjoying having the shit kicked out of them with no way to win the fights they were picking.
                        Angel that has an influence that shifts where shift consequences sends its consequences

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                        • #13
                          Angelic encounters shouldn't be dime a dozen either. Yes, the God Machine can particularly tailor it's most prominent agents to the task at hand, but assuming the setting is taken in as it is, the God Machine can't create the perfect angelic counter to a ring of demons unless they've become such a thorn on it's side that it becomes the top of it's subroutines priorities.

                          Why would said ring remain within the confines of a city that's literally teaming with angels?

                          Most combatants demons will find will be cultists and even more potent, cryptids. Most cryptids can and will try to hunt them down off their Aetheric resonance.

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                          • #14
                            Agentwestmer I find NPCs becoming much scarier when the Storyteller running it runs it like a player would their character. Not a video game boss or something found typically in JRPGs and the like, where the enemy is often a big punching bag that can sometimes flail back, but never with the same level of strategic thinking the players do.

                            EDIT: Even just the level of “can exploit your weaknesses mercilessly” like the infamous Atlus games’ boss battles would suffice - at least for me.
                            Last edited by 21C Hermit; 04-18-2018, 07:06 PM.


                            MtAw Homebrew: Even more Legacies, updated to 2E

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                            • #15
                              I always go back to this example because of how amazingly it worked out in game. I want to share this example (stated in very brief) because these kinds of actions (backed by near unlimited resources to do so) created such a juicy environment of fear from the players. Not because of sheer physical/combat prowess, but simply because of what they can do.

                              In the backstory of the Angel in question, he was a very old Angel of Destruction that had always had a bit of a rivalry (understatement) with one of the PCs when he was an old angel of grand construction. (one built Pompeii, the other destroyed it as the primary example). (in truth, both were very nearly Exiles but did not know it at the time).

                              Well due to certain pc actions, the angel caught whiff of the character and after a bit of a Hunt, killed the PC. Upon arrival, the other PCs only found some of the dead PCs remains but notably, not the Head/data processor. This got them VERY paranoid as they had only 1 day prior (game time) decided to do away with Drop Point communication and shared their Cover's Phone/email data.

                              Well it wasn't till 2 stories later that the Angel (now Exile) shows up in-directly (at first by sending a near army of cat/rat-like cryptids that live in walls to attack (read: fluster and flush out) the Ring while appearing to one of the PCs as an inquisitive student (who happens to be the kind of person the PC had told the dead PC they'd like to incorporate into their cover) who later turns out to be a very afraid newly fallen demon (that doesn't show her true form).

                              And just like that, the Ring essentially handed everything to the Exile as he, in the guise of a student that they want to must protect, slowly eroded everything they have (including taking one of the PCs Cover's Relatives as a Cover) and putting them in more and more vulnerable positions through his Cryptids and stolen information from the Downloaded data from the dead PC.


                              He was only found out because one of the PCs attempted to use a mind reading/talking Interlock which busted the Exile.


                              But in the end, the whole thing left all Covers mostly eroded, safe houses no longer safe, one PC's daughter destroyed, one PCs dead and used, and in truth: most PCs would have been better off discarding those covers.

                              All because the Angel/Exile played the long game and used their resources and the mistakes made on the part of the ring to it's advantage. That's how angels should really be feared, not because they can call unbelievable amounts of power even at "lower" ranks. But because of what they can and will do to fulfill their mission.



                              Frequent Story Teller for the Circle of Five gaming group.

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