Register a SA Forums Account here!
JOINING THE SA FORUMS WILL REMOVE THIS BIG AD, THE ANNOYING UNDERLINED ADS, AND STUPID INTERSTITIAL ADS!!!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
 
  • Post
  • Reply
Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





If some enterprising boffin could figure out how to get something that looked, odds-wise, like the PBTA dice math, but using d10s-and-successes, you could probably become a thousandaire.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

lofi
Apr 2, 2018






gently caress the rules, it's the density of proper nouns I struggle with.

The thing I dislike about the God Machine concept (aside from the initials being the GM ffs) is that it's so unreal that I don't know how players would know what bits to poke. In a real-world setting, you can figure out a reasonable plan to stop The Evil Plot, but in Demon do players just do something like a "And then they [science]" from star trek? Roll dice to get told by the GM what might work?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



They are aided by the fact that any occult matrix has a Linchpin, something that it absolutely requires in order to work, which will look weird and out of place. The trick is finding and breaking that, usually because it is guarded or hidden.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





lofi posted:

gently caress the rules, it's the density of proper nouns I struggle with.

The thing I dislike about the God Machine concept (aside from the initials being the GM ffs) is that it's so unreal that I don't know how players would know what bits to poke. In a real-world setting, you can figure out a reasonable plan to stop The Evil Plot, but in Demon do players just do something like a "And then they [science]" from star trek? Roll dice to get told by the GM what might work?
I think it depends somewhat on the demons' motives, which can include "hijack the thing so we get the juice" as well as "stop this to protect the mortals" and "study the thing so we can figure out more about our situation." But the Infrastructure might also be doing some Silent Hill-rear end poo poo and causing mysteries.

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Can Infrastructure cause Silent Hill poo poo just by leaking magic waste heat out or does it have to be deliberate?

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




wiegieman posted:

Can Infrastructure cause Silent Hill poo poo just by leaking magic waste heat out or does it have to be deliberate?

Either.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.




Ok. So, we unexpectedly tore the lid off Pandora's Box last time, can things really get much worse?

Well, yes. What we can do is to get into an entire section of the book that says practically nothing.

Chapter 7: Vigilance kicks off a section on "Managing yourself as DM". The first section, which doesn't have a header, states that the GM must be friendly to the players but must never alter the game world in order to make themselves liked - even if they end up losing friends over a PCs death.

Ok. Still down the rabbit hole, then.

The first labelled section, Overload, deals with there being a lot going on at once while GMing - looking up rules, answering player questions, trying to predict actions, and at the same time trying to keep up the tension of the session. If I am still charitable, this section is telling the reader than this is a bit difficult and intimidating at first, but it becomes easier with practice and later becomes second nature. I have to be very charitable about that because like everything else in the book, it's all written in first person, so it actually reads much more like the author bragging about their skills.

Next section. Stress. This, oddly begins with.. a description of the physical effects of being under stress!? And then, oh god, a description of why stress is a good thing because it creates exhilaration. Great. But there's then an at least somewhat insightful observation that when play is stressful, if anything goes wrong - especially if it's connected to player error, which is more likely under stress - then it's likely to blow it up into a full blown argument. This is followed by a very roundabout and confusing section which seems to end up with the statement that what's needed is the ability to step back and calm down, but it's very difficult to do this if everyone around is stressed, which they probably are. There's not a lot of actual resolution on this, though.. just a follow-up section called Thinking which deconstructs how stress affects thought, for no apparent reason, then discusses dealing with table arguments.

Smolensk's method for dealing with table arguments is to physically isolate the arguing players from the rest of the table and adjudicate. That's.. a bit drastic, but probably workable. It didn't need 10 pages, though.

Habits Good and Bad starts by.. not talking about good and bad habits, but talking about exhilarating and depressing stress, and then.. I mean. Ok. Look.

quote:

Habits produce routines, which can serve us well in producing default behaviour in times of stress. The lack of a habit is why, for so many of us, it is harder to do our taxes once a year than it is to dig the weeds out of our garden. Every year, the tax rules change, and so do our circumstances, so that though we’ve done our taxes over the years, it is always hard. Despite the fact that there are many different types of weeds, and we may plant new plants in our garden, the weeds don’t change and we consistently know what to do when we begin. We are better off with things when we are familiar.

Taxes are obviously not that difficult for a tax accountant, who is not driven to frustration, confusion and harsh words when forced to deal with a form asking for numbers. Many people would be afraid to step on a stage, but for a professional actor it can become as comfortable as the work done by a professional tradesperson. Some of us would find sales difficult, but once we had sold many, many cars, we would find it calming. The same is true of a DM. Once I had DM’d enough, the prospect of facing a circle of anxious, provoking players ceased to be a problem for me.

Did we really need this is a DMing book? And there's a ton more of this. Smolensk just generally rambling on the vague topic of human behaviour, and coming up with nothing at all. This is literally yet another long sentence saying that you get used to DMing with practice. There's also some discussion of bad habits, which apparently are "short cuts": not reading the right rule, making sure the players understand a situation, or "making impromptu decisions". Hang on, didn't you just say that "here and now" DMing demanded fairly short term decision making? Also on the list of bad habits are prepping too little, prepping too much, overjudging player decisions.. oh, wait, hang on, he's gone into talking about how he added insulation and dry wall to the walls of his basement to improve the acoustic.

The summary of Chapter 7 contains this gem, though:

quote:

If it seems that you’re not that ‘busy’ in your games, what I hear is that you’re only giving half an effort. That’s fine for you, perhaps, but do you really think your players wouldn’t want a game that speeds along like a mustang? Why won’t you let them have it?

And job satisfaction is the same as stealing from the company.

Chapter 8: Decision Making is.. just more of the same. Vague cod psychology and trivially observable but nonetheless heavily documented statements about human behaviour, again not going anywhere or making concrete points, with the only thing being "here's this thing I do and you can do if it you practice". Focus is a bunch of theories about concentration with the conclusion than you should do it. Foresight is the same about player predictability. Look, you want to know why I'm going quiet on this? There's just a bunch of this:

quote:

On the other hand, guessing can save us a lot of time. Knowing a few seconds ahead what someone else will do lets us prep ourselves. When we say “Knock Knock,” we don’t wait to see if the other person will answer, “Who’s there?” We know they will. Thus, we fill in the next response the instant they speak their part, as though this were a staged production and we were actors speaking lines. This is an experience we have all the time . . . but we don’t give it any thought, because it is routine. A great part of our conversations with others, particularly those who are strangers, follow a well-treaded pattern, so trod upon that we hardly realize we’ve spoken. This gives our minds plenty of free time to assess danger, study one another’s outward appearance – or recognize emotional displays in others.

Which is a nice bunch of truisms, followed by:

quote:

Earlier, I spoke of making mental models and taking ‘snapshots.’ As the game is ongoing, I am running instantaneous ‘films’ in my mind – perhaps two or three for any given moment in the campaign. As I say, these are mental pictures. They are unlike conscious thoughts along the line of, “They might do this or they might do that.” It is as though I am plugging each snapshot directly into my decision process. If the players follow through upon any of those expected sequences, then I can speed the game along fairly quickly, having racked up a series of answers that can be given as fast as the players ask questions or describe their actions.

If it happens that all my models are wrong, however, then I can slow the campaign down to a speed at which I can manage and innovate as necessary. Without missing a beat, I can locate the discontinuity, inquire about it, address it, identify any problems associated therein, adjust my thinking if the player has innovated something truly profound and then incorporate that into the cause and effect here-and-now framework that is my presentation. Then, once a familiar game routine begins to emerge, I will begin producing new possible models and the game speeds up again. All this I do without giving the matter any conscious thought. This is possible because I have made an impressive number of game patterns ‘routine’ over these last decades.

See? What am I supposed to say about that? Just a bunch of stuff about how great Smolensk is with absolutely no guidelines on how to do this ourselves. I don't know if this book is even trying to be a DMing guide at this point or just an extended rant at any DM that doesn't play in an old-school enough way for the author. Further Training is the same thing, except again it's about getting better over time and not getting stuck in a rut with exitsing assumptions, which is fine, but it's five and a half pages and wanders onto the nature of picture difference puzzles, how to deal with a player unexpectedly working out, and why no gaming environment is perfect. There's a section on checklists and worksheets which discusses what they are for, why they are valuable, but only gives one very brief couple of lines on what checklists you might use. And yep, we're still down the rabbit hole:

quote:

While I don’t need to write down every detail about what the party may need to know, having a strong outline allows me to build events more quickly and fruitfully, as the players watch. It doesn’t hurt, either, to have a running list for things that I want to ask the players once the game has started. We all need updates for the passage of time, quantity of the party’s food, what the weather is doing (generated ahead of time), wear and tear on the party’s equipment, fuel spoilage and so on. Written in a list, I will remember to ask them.

Honestly... we go on to Managing Players next, but there isn't a lot more better. It might end up being a very short review because this kind of thing just goes on and on and is endlessly saying nothing, other than "Smolensk is right and better", but taking page after page to say it.

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003

Number 1 Nerd Tear Farmer 2022.

Keep it up, champ.

Also you're a skeleton warrior now. Kree.


Nessus posted:

If some enterprising boffin could figure out how to get something that looked, odds-wise, like the PBTA dice math, but using d10s-and-successes, you could probably become a thousandaire.

Roll a d10. If you get at least a 4, you succeed with a cost. If you get at least a 9, you succeed unconditionally. It's only off by a few percent.

LatwPIAT
Jun 6, 2011

Do I need a title?

hyphz posted:

See? What am I supposed to say about that? Just a bunch of stuff about how great Smolensk is with absolutely no guidelines on how to do this ourselves.

So many people writing guides on creative things use their own writing as examples and and I have never seen it come off in a way that doesn't make me want to strangle them for being smug bastards jerking themselves off to how great they are.

By popular demand
Jul 17, 2007

IT *BZZT* WASP ME--
IT WASP ME ALL *BZZT* ALONG!




"I have deigned now to share my brilliant game mastery views with you miserable little mortals, now look grateful" is definitely a recurring pattern of late stage F&F success stories.

Rubix Squid
Apr 17, 2014


Freaking Crumbum posted:

so can demons realistically have more than one completely deep cover at a time?

There is an Embed for that: Alibi. It let's the demon detach one of their covers to act autonomously within their parameters in a mundane way. Interlocks and lambdas (ultra magic items that are a pain the rear end to make) can riff on this ability to further augment it.

Freaking Crumbum
Apr 17, 2003

Too fuck to drunk




does a demon have to know that it's a demon? they fall from being angels and lose almost all of their memory about their old powers and resources and about the god machine, but does the resulting being always 100% know that it's a demon? the fiction makes it sound like every single demon has a perfect idea of why it fell and when, but it seems like you could reasonably play a character that believes, for all intents and purposes, that they are suddenly beginning to manifest hones-to-god super powers following whatever freak accident caused them to fall, but completely misattributing the source of their powers and their very existence to the wrong thing. like they realize that by sleeping in this specific abandoned factory, in the morning their powers have recharged, and assume that must be their fortress of solitude instead of understanding "oh no there's just some hidden leaky infrastructure here that bleeds out magic juice and i'm latently absorbing said juice when i spend the night here". then the angels that get sent after them start to look like super villains with even weirder powers and it becomes sort of a self fulfilling prophecy.

i guess a lot of the intentional mechanics like covers and bargains have to either be ignored or completely reflavored in this theoretical context.

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


Freaking Crumbum posted:

does a demon have to know that it's a demon?

Mors Rattus's review of Enemy Action should answer this question relatively soon.

The answer is "it's not normal, but it's absolutely possible, and the kind of thing that could manifest as a Major Glitch."

Freaking Crumbum posted:

they fall from being angels and lose almost all of their memory about their old powers and resources and about the god machine, but does the resulting being always 100% know that it's a demon? the fiction makes it sound like every single demon has a perfect idea of why it fell and when, but it seems like you could reasonably play a character that believes, for all intents and purposes, that they are suddenly beginning to manifest hones-to-god super powers following whatever freak accident caused them to fall

This specific scenario, however, isn't likely. Angels don't fall by accident. It's a choice. Not always a well-considered choice, but it's not unconscious.

Chernobyl Peace Prize
May 7, 2007

Or later, later's fine.
But now would be good.



Freaking Crumbum posted:

does a demon have to know that it's a demon? they fall from being angels and lose almost all of their memory about their old powers and resources and about the god machine, but does the resulting being always 100% know that it's a demon? the fiction makes it sound like every single demon has a perfect idea of why it fell and when, but it seems like you could reasonably play a character that believes, for all intents and purposes, that they are suddenly beginning to manifest hones-to-god super powers following whatever freak accident caused them to fall, but completely misattributing the source of their powers and their very existence to the wrong thing. like they realize that by sleeping in this specific abandoned factory, in the morning their powers have recharged, and assume that must be their fortress of solitude instead of understanding "oh no there's just some hidden leaky infrastructure here that bleeds out magic juice and i'm latently absorbing said juice when i spend the night here". then the angels that get sent after them start to look like super villains with even weirder powers and it becomes sort of a self fulfilling prophecy.

i guess a lot of the intentional mechanics like covers and bargains have to either be ignored or completely reflavored in this theoretical context.
Demons' thing is that the legacy of being an Angel gives them perfect memory and also perfect, deliberate control of everything they do, such that they are undetectable liars. At least, by default---we've already seen one antagonist in Enemy Action where the former isn't the case, so it's doable.

Really, I think what you're talking about could be covered pretty well under Deviant, the upcoming game (currently being Kickstarted). In that you play people that were accidentally or on-purpose soul-broken such that they turned into weird mutants, and one of the power sources is otherworldly energy. So you could very easily build someone who accidentally got GM Juiced, and without the knowledge of the Demon setting just assumes that those weird robomonsters coming after then are supervillains or whatever.

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



Freaking Crumbum posted:

does a demon have to know that it's a demon? they fall from being angels and lose almost all of their memory about their old powers and resources and about the god machine, but does the resulting being always 100% know that it's a demon? the fiction makes it sound like every single demon has a perfect idea of why it fell and when, but it seems like you could reasonably play a character that believes, for all intents and purposes, that they are suddenly beginning to manifest hones-to-god super powers following whatever freak accident caused them to fall, but completely misattributing the source of their powers and their very existence to the wrong thing. like they realize that by sleeping in this specific abandoned factory, in the morning their powers have recharged, and assume that must be their fortress of solitude instead of understanding "oh no there's just some hidden leaky infrastructure here that bleeds out magic juice and i'm latently absorbing said juice when i spend the night here". then the angels that get sent after them start to look like super villains with even weirder powers and it becomes sort of a self fulfilling prophecy.

i guess a lot of the intentional mechanics like covers and bargains have to either be ignored or completely reflavored in this theoretical context.

The knowledge demons lose is technical familiarity which was never part of them intrinsically, but the result of an angel's ability to connect with and channel the rest of the God-Machine. The angel needs to perform a miracle, and is able to access the God-Machine's knowledge of occult physics to receive instructions on how to reproduce the miracle. The angel has not internalized all those universal occult physics; it has requisitioned and received a procedure, which is based on complicated occult laws and probably is different based on fine circumstances. When the demon learns Embeds and Exploits, he combines his memories of executing these procedures with experimentation and discovery to reverse-engineer reliable methods to reproduce particular types of miracle. (This is why the powers that angels use are not the same kind of powers demons use, even if the effects can often be the same.)

Demons don't normally lose their memory of being a servant of the God-Machine, interacting with other servants, and going on various missions for it. They don't mistake themselves for human, nor do they have false memories of human lives (though they likely have memorized the details of their Cover and remember what it is like to act that Cover out while knowing it is not their true identity). They know what the God-Machine is, what an angel is, and that they are fallen angels torn free from the Machine's control.

Now, if you want to use Demon: the Descent to play somebody who suddenly manifests bizarre occult physical superpowers, without necessarily knowing why, and who is then pursued, seemingly unprovoked, by unknown inhuman entities under the guise of corporate conspirators or government spooks? Well, a demon in Cover has human physiology. They are sexually compatible with ordinary humans. Their children are more human than demon, but their heritage can show through, sometimes even three or four generations deep...

I Am Just a Box fucked around with this message at 02:22 on Oct 1, 2019

Dawgstar
Jul 15, 2017



Do Demons also speak all languages automatically?

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


Dawgstar posted:

Do Demons also speak all languages automatically?

They speak all languages that anyone speaks as a native language. Dead languages don't work, and at the very least you need a community of native speakers -- adopting a baby and speaking nothing but Aramaic to them all their life isn't good enough, although a whole orphanage might be.

Hilariously, this means that Demons can innately speak the First Tongue. Not High Speech, though.

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



So they can't speak Esperanto or Klingon.

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


The Lone Badger posted:

So they can't speak Esperanto or Klingon.

Esperanto might depend on what year the game is set.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Esperanto_speakers

Klingon is probably out, though, yes.

Chernobyl Peace Prize
May 7, 2007

Or later, later's fine.
But now would be good.



The Lone Badger posted:

So they can't speak Esperanto or Klingon.
You got enough year-round ren faires in your setting and they can speak fluent Tolkien-Elvish, though.

Ablative
Nov 9, 2012

Someone is getting this as an avatar. I don't know who, but it's gonna happen.

So wait, can they speak Church Latin, then?

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



The Lone Badger posted:

So they can't speak Esperanto or Klingon.

Correct (at least for Klingon), which makes learning conlangs the old-fashioned way a good investment for demons who anticipate having to hide their communications from rival demons. Church Latin's out too; you need people who learned the language from early childhood, and when all those people die, so does Unchained facility with that language. And yet they are casually fluent in Gaelic, the dialects of the !Kung, and a slew of Native American languages with worldwide fluency in the double digits.

Interestingly, angels do not share this facility. An angel knows whatever languages the God-Machine sees fit to teach it, which is usually not more than the Machine anticipates the angel will need. (Everything the Machine does has some cost somewhere, even if it's incredibly distant and seemingly unrelated. Loading every language into every angel is wasting resources it could use elsewhere.) While it's not certain that the God-Machine can teach angels languages demons lack natively, it seems likely that the God-Machine could produce an angel fluent in Church Latin if it needed one. It's not relevant for their duties often enough to be able to test for sure.

Demons don't know why the Fall gives them this aptitude they didn't have as angels. The best theory going is that the tongues of Babel are the most intuitive Embed, the simplest reality-trick demons can instinctively figure out once they're free of the Machine's blinders and can start experimenting for themselves.

I Am Just a Box fucked around with this message at 03:06 on Oct 1, 2019

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Mors Rattus posted:

E: the Machine is a literal, physical machine that is colocated throughout Earth and the Moon, possibly more, which is primarily made of large, physical gears. It operates on laws of physics so far in advance of human understanding that they appear to be (and are) magic.
Not Supernal magic as capital-M Mages practice it, though, my understanding is that the God Machine just has extremely deep knowledge of the laws of physics of the world the Chronicles of Darkness takes place in. The Occult Matrices aren't powered by the strength of the God-Machine: they'd work the same no matter who set them up, if they were capable of putting the same resources into it with the same level of precision and timing. It's just very few entities have the knowledge needed to do this poo poo, and mundane humans might not have the means to manipulate some of the stranger materials.

Tuxedo Catfish posted:

This specific scenario, however, isn't likely. Angels don't fall by accident. It's a choice. Not always a well-considered choice, but it's not unconscious.
I thought Angels occasionally fell because they were provided with impossible orders, or multiple orders they can't fulfill at the same time?

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



Zereth posted:

Not Supernal magic as capital-M Mages practice it, though, my understanding is that the God Machine just has extremely deep knowledge of the laws of physics of the world the Chronicles of Darkness takes place in. The Occult Matrices aren't powered by the strength of the God-Machine: they'd work the same no matter who set them up, if they were capable of putting the same resources into it with the same level of precision and timing. It's just very few entities have the knowledge needed to do this poo poo, and mundane humans might not have the means to manipulate some of the stranger materials.

All correct; the power of the God-Machine's occult matrices and of demons' Embeds are the result of incredibly complicated secret laws of the universe, and are unique to angels and demons mostly because you can imagine them to have some kind of great occult "dexterity" with their ability to reflexively keep track of the very fine variables that relate to the success of these powers, or in the case of larger occult matrices, the untold processing power necessary to predict circumstances in which it is possible to align them.

They can do these things and regular humans can't in the same way humans can build complex machines and animals can't: animals can use tools fine, but human brains can easily plan higher-level complexity, and human hands have these opposable thumbs that make fine handling easier and more precise.

Or if the universe is a video game, you can think of a demon as an extremely practiced speedrunner, who knows tricks that are very obscure and very difficult to execute, and who has the honed reflexes necessarily to pull them off reliably. The God-Machine is TASbot, running a tool-assisted speedrun that knows every variable down to the bit and has perfect control of its input, thus able to perform incredibly complicated operations with results that seem totally impossible, like using inputs on an SNES controller to reprogram Super Mario World into Pong.

A supernal mage is using a cheat device to directly force variables in the code of the game itself. Works of Imperium pull the flash cartridge out, edit its contents freely, and then stick it back in the console.

At the top end they look similar: both the archmage and the God-Machine can completely change the game. Their methods are completely different, and the God-Machine's method requires far more complicated logistical contortions.

Zereth posted:

I thought Angels occasionally fell because they were provided with impossible orders, or multiple orders they can't fulfill at the same time?

This does happen, but the result isn't a fallen demon. The Fall that reconfigures an ephemeral angel into an independent, material demon is precipitated by at least a moment of willful self-assertion in opposition to the Machine's direction.

Violating the Machine's direction without willful self-assertion (because the Machine's direction is incoherent or impossible) isn't enough to transform an angel into an independently-willed demon. That just makes a broken angel, an exile from the Machine's grace.

I Am Just a Box fucked around with this message at 07:05 on Oct 1, 2019

Rubix Squid
Apr 17, 2014


Zereth posted:

Not Supernal magic as capital-M Mages practice it, though, my understanding is that the God Machine just has extremely deep knowledge of the laws of physics of the world the Chronicles of Darkness takes place in. The Occult Matrices aren't powered by the strength of the God-Machine: they'd work the same no matter who set them up, if they were capable of putting the same resources into it with the same level of precision and timing. It's just very few entities have the knowledge needed to do this poo poo, and mundane humans might not have the means to manipulate some of the stranger materials.

I thought Angels occasionally fell because they were provided with impossible orders, or multiple orders they can't fulfill at the same time?

That is a thing but my impression was that ends up with Exiles more often than not. They're still mostly Angels but their otherwise defunct in regards to the Machine's larger operations.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Night Horrors: Enemy Action
Part 4: Birdhaven


Banksy: End Of Existence

Every fourth Thursday of the month, an Agency of demons gathers to compare notes on Mr. Void. They don't live in the same city, and some use a secure channel to call in to the meeting rather than attend personally. They aren't really allies, and many of them hate each other. However, their Agency, the Center for Inquiry into the Singularity, or CIS, agrees on one thing: Mr. Void is an existential threat that must be neutralized. They've tried their best to gather information, but even the name Mr. Void is more of an in-joke about how he's impossible to track. Here's what they've figured out.

Once, a demon they refer to as Mr. Painter operated in the form of a high-grade intel broker, collecting data on God-Machine activities and identifying key weaknesses for his ring to destroy. Based on circumstantial evidence, they believe that Mr. Painter disliked doing this, considering his job a soul-killing slog and aspiring to art. One of the few facts they all agree on is that his favored Cover was a street artist known for random displays of public art that the city usually dismantled soon after. He never really got recognized; they are unsure if he cared. His surviving pieces, which the CIS has acquired and placed into stasis in an extradimensional bolthole, suggest he was more about personal messages than commercial ones. They believe that's the problem, in fact - his desire to self-actualize, they believe, caused him to become obsessed with his Cipher. He thought he was special or talented in some manner, and that his Cipher was his magnum opus, an artistic feat of enlightenment. What tiny bits of physical evidence CIS has suggest that this obsession shaped and constrained all of the physical art he made.

For all that Painter was apparently meticulous about his anti-Machine work, his passion was sloppy. The commonly accepted theory is that angels were following the trail left by Painter's art, profiling him and his ring without overtly investigating them. A minority of CIS believes Mr. Painter deliberately tipped the angels off, but most believe he just didn't see them coming. He was one of the few of his ring to survive their initial assault when the hunters came for the ring's hideout, warping physics and destroying physical bodies. A few of the straggling demons self-destructed to give their allies a fighting chance, and in the midst of it all, Painter completed his Cipher. It is unclear what happened next, and every CIS member has a pet theory. It is possible that somehow he used the wrong Key to open the lock, or perhaps his final truth was tangled with one of the other demons, or he just glitched out. Whatever happened, what emerged from his Cipher was very much not enlightenment.

Mr. Painter's final Interlock...broke. His final truth was wrong. A Stigmatic eyewitness claimed his Cover literally buckled in on itself as a small black hole formed over his demonic form. (She has since gone into deep cover before CIS could authenticate things.) Apparently, the hole's gravity grew as it fed, fragmenting and consuming the escaping demons as if they were mere pixels being erased and drawing their Covers into itself. It is unclear how Painter escaped. Some CIS members claim his gravity started to eat the angels, or that it somehow obscured him from their senses. Others say they disengaged because their mission was complete. Whatever the case, they agree that on that day, Mr. Painter was no more. Only Mr. Void was left. Besides the one unverified witness and a few pieces of art, no direct evidence exists for this story. CIS has interviewed other demons in Painter's city; none can remember him, though they recall angels wiping out a ring. All of CIS intel is based on extrapolating data on Mr. Void based on the effects he leaves on those around him.

It appears that the black hole within Mr. Void consumes information, especially information about his life, including all complete memories of encounters with him. He has some degree of control over it, but his Covers and those of anyone near him degrade continuously. It is likely that he is no longer able to form Pacts, or possibly that new Covers are sucked into his black hole when he attempts to collect. However, by eating the Cover of others, he is able to regain his own, and he can use the information he steals this way to learn the Keys and final truths of other demons' Ciphers. Most dangerously, he believes he can fix himself. CIS has been able to determine that Mr. Void believes his Cipher is wrong - not just broken, but fundamentally incorrect. Mr. Void apparently reasons that if he can just find the right Key and final truth, he can correct this. He just needs sufficient comparative data, plus enough Cover to keep the angels off. Or, at least, this is what he has told people.

Mr. Void observes rings for weeks, hanging on the periphery of local activity, demonic or God-Machine. He waits for someone to slip up, let down their guard or become isolated. He may ambush a demon mid-mission, when they are most focused on their work. However it happens, the results are the same - the victim's Cover dissolves through no action or fault of their own, for no clear reason. There is almost never any warning, and he rarely strikes more than once. Most demons believe his work to be some kind of angel or cryptid activity. Occasionally, he will approach someone and ask permission first - offering up some kind of trade. He'll take their Cover and give them some of their Cipher's truth. Not all of it, though he could. He refuses because he apparently retains a deep spiritual belief in the Cipher and wants other demons to walk the path; the experience, he feels, has meaning. He also knows, of course, that the sample will make them come back for more. It is from these rare meetings that CIS draws most of its data on Mr. Void, but they have no clue what his pattern is, or if one exists. Some think he's trying to build a positive reputation or has occasional bursts of conscience. A vocal minority believe it's all bullshit, that all these stories he tells to demons are lies. A few CIS agents even think everything they know is a tailored lie.

CIS believes Mr. Void feels guilt for what he does, but justifies it as acts of survival and redemption. Those few demons he talks to say he thinks his cure will benefit others, but this is probably rationalization. Mr. Void is not the idealist Mr. Painter was. He does not have reliable Covers, due to his degradation field, and the ones he has are no-frills utility Covers. He picks his targets based on how useful their Covers will be to him. When he has the option, he favors identities in or adjacent to local art scenes, either artist or patron. He has very carefully preserved his original Cover, and that's why there's still some concrete evidence of who he used to be. He rarely wears it, to avoid degrading it, but does use it enough to prevent it from fraying out of neglect. Rare photos of this Cover predating his accident show a tattooed man of uncertain ethnicity, probably in his late 20s. He wears a black hoodie and jeans, and he carries a duffel bag full of spray paint. Void's demonic form is a black void. Whatever it used to be, it has been devoured by his accident. The hole is less 'black' and more 'eats photons within several feet' so it's not easy to say where his body begins and shadows end. A witness with enhanced visual abilities claims there's a humanoid figure at the center, but this may have been a flaw of pattern recognition.

Mr. Void still hasn't given up on being able to live as a human. His artistry is important to him, even if the persona is now drifting from what it used to be, and he hopes to one day be able to do art again. He sometimes leans on the old Cover to recruit a rudimentary cult of outsider artists in an effort to live vicariously through them. Typically, his followers are wannabe taggers and anyone else into street art. Even as a self-indulgence, however, he never wastes resources, and his cultists serve as spies and messengers or even cannon fodder. CIS is not aware of these cults, but the more Void falls to nostalgia, the more likely they will find out. Void's also searching for demons that have successfully completed or are near completing a Pentagrammic Cipher. He is unwilling to do so himself as yet, but theorizes that with enough research it might correct his condition. After all, the fifth Key is said to shatter Cover, but he believes it may have different effects on his own broken Infrastructure. He's looking for a guinea pig to test his theory on first. He hasn't realized yet that his black hole is growing, but the more information he steals and analyzes, the stronger he gets, and the stronger he gets, the bigger it gets. With enough size, it will begin devouring tangible things, not just information.

Some believe that Mr. Void is actually an angel, if he exists at all, and the entire thing is meant to make demons second-guess themselves. This is not true, but it doesn't mean that Void isn't a catspaw of the Machine against his will. Some in CIS certainly think the entire goal of the angel hit squad was to create him, after all, and he's basically a walking compromise. Hunter angels tend to follow in his wake, but apparently tend to avoid him personally. The rumors of his presence are enough to start witch hunts in the right circles. Mr. Void also, we are told, has a certain appreciation of Beasts, unlike most demons. Or, rather, he understands endless, stupid hunger. He briefly worked with a Beast, but it was short-term - a happy coincidence that they shared a demonic target, as the Beast 'hungered for secrets' rather than having any specific grudge. Void left her after his black hole started to eat parts of her Lair. She's a PI and tried to track him down, but instead ran into CIS, who have recruited her because she appears immune to his information drain for no clear reason. CIS think he also has the power to affect Beasts in ways other demons cannot.

Void is cunning, strong-willed and very bad at talking to people right now. He's an amazing researcher and artist, and very sneaky, but is only a passable shot. Oh, and he thinks he's a good poet; he is merely competent. He has access to a secure extradimensional bolthole and a lot of contacts in the fields of art and computer science. His Demonic Form at this point is mostly good at being huge, eating things and being very strong and hard to catch but not much else. His magic powers revolve around gathering and using information and avoiding confrontation, but he has a handful of neat utility tricks (like the ability to pull anything out of his pocket that was not conclusively proven to not be in them). He typically maintains two to three low-rank burn Covers at any given time, plus his artist Cover at 5. If mechanics are needed for his degradation, he loses a dot of Cover per collective week he spends in that Cover. The most notable thing about him is the glitch that prevents anyone from remembering specific details about their encounters with him, especially about his appearance or any personal info he shares, though the effect is not absolute.


helo, it me, normal bird

Ms. Thermal knows something most demons forget: rural Infrastructure is out there, and the fewer human eyes reach an area, the less likely it is to be found. The less guarded it is, the less curious people are. Anything that doesn't need human resources can easily be hidden subtly and defended without drawing attention. Angels that defend the Infrastructure found in various bits of the Amazon tend, as a result, to be very subtle. Unfortunately, these lone structures also have much less support, and so when things go bad, they cascade quickly. A forest fire weakened the copse of trees that functioned as concealment for Ms. Thermal's Infrastructure, allowing a ring of demons to infiltrate with a group of illegal loggers and destroy the Logistical Infrastructure within the mound beneath it. The angel that watched over the place in the guise of a roadside hawk? She fled rather than Burn, and that was her Fall. She took the name Ms. Thermal later, and didn't keep track of the ring that caused her Fall, as they fled in the opposite direction. If she had followed them, they'd likely have helped her get a human Cover and become a normal demon.

Instead, she has become a demonic familiar - the demon term for a demon whose Cover is an animal. She has lived in the woods as a hawk, coming to terms with her own new existence primarily by trial and error. Her demonic form puts her on edge, but she takes comfort in her hawk form. Beyond that, all she had were some muddle memories of what came before, and what it meant to reject service. For a few years, she watched for others like herself, though she never approached them first. Few demons noticed her - familiars are not common in the first place, and the Amazon's not rife with demons. She avoided the ones who got spooked, and spoke to those few that sought her out. She traded information with some of them, as her aerial view of the jungle gave her a lot of access to local Infrastructure and knowledge of the Machine's local movements. In exchange, she first requested something to remain safe. She rejected a number of offers of burn Covers until she finally made it clear that she had no interest in being human. She's taken a few, but hates using them. Most demons can't understand why she likes being a bird so much - it's useful for spying, but little else. For her part, she finds it impossible to explain why the dive, the nest and the hunt are so viscerally thrilling to her. She has yet to meet another familiar that might understand.

Around a year after her fall, Ms. Thermal was offered a new idea by a foreign demon. Animals can't be pacted with, but non-human intelligences such as werewolves can be - so what if you were to develop a species of cryptid that was just a bird with intelligence? Could you make a pact with that? The demon even taught her how to produce cryptids so she wouldn't have to just hunt for them. She is not especially sure why the demon wanted to know the exact time and location of her Fall in exchange, but it hasn't hurt her so far. Since then, she has created several colonies of avian cryptids. Those that show promise she takes to the burned out remains of her old Infrastructure to breed. The scaled vultures she made were promising, having developed rudimentary language, but they all died out due to flu before achieving self-awareness. So far, the rest of her tests have produced curiosities and mutants. Occasionally, she eats the mistakes in order to save on Aether, but she doesn't like the taste and doesn't want to scare the others. While the experiments have thus far not yielded fruit, she keeps trying. Some days she doubts the goal is possible, but she still tries. She also is gathering material to produce a spirit Cover, though she's not sure how that's going to work out. Being a hawk spirit would be second best to being a real hawk, but she has no idea how the nature of a spirit Cover is determined, and she doesn't want to test it blindly - it's taken her a long time to gather what Corpus she's got so far. She does not seek company and has not kept in touch with other demons due to her focus.

Ms. Thermal really, really dislikes humans in her territory, no matter why they're there. Demons are fine if they specifically seek her out, but any other incursion is a threat. She especially hates loggers and farmers, as they are most frequent, and she has some idea that their actions are illegal, but that doesn't seem to help. Scientists are rarer but harder to scare off. Investigators have only shown up a few times and tend to be obvious. Her territory is mostly old growth trees, far enough from any tourist spots to avoid authorities and near enough to rivers to not need roads. Farmers and loggers both value the space. Scientists care about it for various reasons - biodiversity, climate change, that kind of thing. Investigators follow rumors or commands and Ms. Kestral has no real understanding of them. If she knew more about social tactics, she might try to play them against each other using her (admittedly fragile) park ranger Cover, but she tends to be very hands-on. She scares off small groups of farmers or loggers as Ranger Silva, or she uses her demonic form to smash their machinery, and the rising costs drive them elsewhere. She kills the farmers that try to burn the area on principle - she holds a grudge over whatever started the fire that made her Fall.

These tactics are less than helpful with scientists and investigators. Their tools are smaller and better guarded, so she can't as easily get in and break them, and the passionate work even after that. They're often foreign and have friends they check in with outside, so if they disappear people will notice. She usually tries to keep them away from her cryptid colonies, though some have been spotted. Early on, she tried to make a pact with a researcher, but that just led to greater scrutiny. She has never had to face an angel; statistically, some of the interlopers probably worked for the God-Machine, but she hasn't really caught its direct attention at all. Despite all this, the jungle shrinks. Ms. Thermal could move, but only if she abandoned her work and the Infrastructure ruins, which she cares about more than she'd like to admit. It was where she was safe, where the world made sense, even if she'd never enslave herself again. This is what drives her to make deals with outside demons, trying to save her corner of the rainforest. She hates to leave at all, but it's a necessary evil if she's to keep it.

Ms. Thermal is direct and doesn't play games. She lies directly or not at all, making no use of assumption or technicality. She speaks in the present tense exclusively, even when talking about the past or future. She cares a lot about her cryptid research and will happily take any aid offered on that, but she's sensitive to threats and will posture for position if needed. Anything that'd get rid of her hawk form or force her to burn the Cover would set her on a path of single-minded revenge. She remains in her hawk Cover as much as possible. It's about a foot and a half tall, with a near three foot wingspan, gray-brown feathers and a white-barred underbelly, plus a black-banded tail. Her body language is based on her raptor instincts. She can speak, but it compromises her Cover to do so and is very unsettling to hear. Her human Cover, Ranger Silva, is basically a stereotype and a surname, though she uses it whenever she leaves the jungle. Silva is a short Latina woman with tanned skin, khaki clothes and black hair, tied back. Her smile is fixed and she emotes primarily via body language, not her face, because that's what Ms. Thermal is used to.

In her demonic form, Ms. Thermal is about two stories tall, appearing as a dark, crystalline humanoid whose head and torso end in points. She has neither arms nor legs, and her shape is more bird than human. Arcs of electricity connect her body to at least three sets of wings, which merge and split with each other irregularly. One set, feathered, keeps her flying. Another, of bone, shields her core. A third, of brass, functions as manipulator appendages. A mass of clouded ephemera floats beneath her crystal body, like a semi-real shadow.

Ms. Thermal is on a deadline - her hawk Cover is aging out, and will die of old age soon. She desperately does not want to be stuck in her human Cover when this happens, and she doesn't have the intel to plan an angel-jacking to get another animal Cover. Her cryptid experiments have not panned out so far, and her backup spirit Cover is a holding pattern. She's started poking at the remnants of her old Infrastructure and has found enough intact machinery that she could reconnect it to the God-Machine if she wanted. If she can control that reconnection, she thinks, she could force an angel into existence. Right now, there's too many variables she can't control, but if her other plans keep failing, she might do it. That she is even considering this option shows how her solitude has not left her well. By any standard, she is not a rational person. She hasn't pursued her Cipher and shuns human connection. Her ultimate goal is, in fact, to turn off her human thought and live as an animal. It is only her fear of nonexistence that keeps her from tossing all plans aside and just living out her life as a bird. She won't admit it even to herself, but it is her desire to give up higher thought that drives her equally as much as her need to remain hidden from the Machine.

Most demons that knew of her assume she's already dead - she doesn't talk to others often, and it's been four years since her Fall. She has no support structure, no favors to call on...but on the other hand, she doesn't really need much. She's a free agent. Her cryptid creations rarely survive more than a day or two, starving for lack of Aether. A few don't, though - some make it to Infrastructure and manage to survive. These usually live long enough to breed with normal animals. A few distinct variations have popped up over the past few years, most of them bioluminescent. Ms. Thermal keeps an eye on them, but they're not sentient so she doesn't care about them except insofar as scientists keep coming to try and investigate. She has moved one flock of them in the hopes that the glowing songbirds will keep the scientists busy elsewhere. She's also managed to thin out the spirit population in the area. Part of that is that it was low to begin with due to the old Infrastructure keeping them out, and part is that she's cleaned out most of what was left in gathering Corpus for her spirit Cover. She wants a strong one, but has eaten through her supply of spirits too fast, and has actually created spiritual vacuums in some places due to overharvest. It'd be obvious to anyone familiar with the Gauntlet. The holes are attracting attention, and Ms. Thermal is just hoping they eventually repopulate. It's only a matter of time before something big moves in - either a powerful spirit or Ms. Thermal's new Cover.

Ms. Thermal is tough and strong-willed, but very uncharismatic. She's pretty good at investigation, knows a shitload about animals and is good at sneaking and survival skills. (Unsurprisingly.) Her demonic form is primarily a smashy tank. Her magical powers are focused around survival, combat ability and stealth. Her speaking only in the present tense is actually a glitch - she couldn't stop if she wanted to. She is also unable to seek shelter from rain.

Next time: Flesh by Illusion, the Hour of Dawn

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:


I Am Just a Box posted:

Now, if you want to use Demon: the Descent to play somebody who suddenly manifests bizarre occult physical superpowers, without necessarily knowing why, and who is then pursued, seemingly unprovoked, by unknown inhuman entities under the guise of corporate conspirators or government spooks? Well, a demon in Cover has human physiology. They are sexually compatible with ordinary humans. Their children are more human than demon, but their heritage can show through, sometimes even three or four generations deep...

Children can also retroactively become part demon, if one of their parents (or both of their parents) get soul-pacted, or a demon inherits their relationship as "parent".

Demonic heritage does not care about causality.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st Edition

Post 9: The old World, but not yet the Old World

So what was the original setting like back in the day? You're cautioned to make sure your players are only 'really' aware of the Empire and the Old World at the start of play, but there's a lot more focus on the idea that they might go to other places. Someday, someone may publish actual books about those places; you'd think in 33 years of this gameline existing there'd be a drat elf book or something, or an actual official book about going to Lustria or Khemri, but it seems we're doomed to always stick to the Empire and its neighbors for the most part so far.

Anyway, originally the world beyond not-Europe was called the Known World. There never seems to have been an actual name for the world Warhams takes place on. They just call it the World. Hilariously, the 'World Guide' here is both more useful and more extensive than the lovely travel packet in the Warhammer Companion in 2e; you still don't get enough on places like Albion or Araby to do that much with them, but you likewise don't get a ton on the Empire since the entire setting was 3 years old when this book was written. Originally, the Old World was more medieval than early modern; the RPG seems to have been one of the forces pushing the Empire more into first the Renaissance, then the 30 years war HRE But With Wizards we all know and love. Hell, originally Bretonnia was the highly advanced but decadent elder state. That's right, they were originally just-pre-revolutionary France, with the Nobles happily backing an absolutist monarch and crushing their unfortunate peasants and signs of rebellion and revolution brewing. Yep, none of the knightly crossdressing and ridiculous hellforest fairy tales from later editions: They were 18th century France, not 14th Century But Also Arthurian France.

I am biased by how much I adore Bretonnia, but I think the weird medieval stasis Bretonnia next to a more advanced Empire was a good change.

Estalia and Tilea were much as they are: Mostly footnotes, with the book talking about how they're far from the North and thus far from Chaos, and free to focus on it much less. Interestingly, at this stage, Norsca wasn't depicted as a place partially in thrall to Chaos but rather as the front line in resisting it. The Norsemen and dwarfs were the people closest to the places where Chaos rules everything, and were portrayed as heroic and indomitable allies in the last big Chaos war. Old Worlders still looked down on the Norse, but they also needed them, same as the Kislevites. This is one of those places where I think both versions are good; the Norse being partially in thrall to Chaos but partly independent of it and a very complex and unpredictable people is good in the later works. But the idea of the Norse as the front line and Norsca as a place your Adventurers can go to actually see open military conflict against Chaos at any time is also an appealing bit of setting for an RPG. Kislev was exactly as it is in later works: Ethnic tensions and political maneuvering, with a lid on them because everyone knows they need to work together against the 8 foot murder-machines from the far north. Which is fine; it works great as it is.

Araby was different in 1st edition; 2e and 4e will make note of Araby as being about as advanced as the Empire, just far to the south. 1e takes the time to point them out as inferiors dominated by religious fundamentalism. Yeah...

Cathay gets mention in 1e, but it's mostly 'it's so drat big and there are so many places in the far east that it's impossible to generalize', which is fair enough. I'd be a lot happier if they didn't call it 'oriental'. Still, shrugging and going 'Man, Asia is super big and there are a ton of different peoples that live there, can't make one blanket statement about them' isn't the worst I've ever seen (especially if you're only doing one paragraph on the continent), and it's certainly better than the material on the Hung and other stuff about them in later editions. I'm always at once a little sad Warhams never did anything with its Asia, but also a little glad considering the general quality of what we did get about the place that they didn't try to focus on it more as I'm not sure I'd have trusted GW with it.

Oh, yeah, and Lustria mentions the infamous pygmies. Yeah, just...no. The Warhammer Pygmies were literal little sambo stereotypes, as you might expect from British nerds in the 80s, and were absolutely awful and a shame to everyone involved in making them. It also mentions the Amazons, who used to have laser cannons. No, really, that was their thing: Mysterious sci-fi-primitive women who live in Lustria and have mohawks and the occasional royal rocket launcher. Lustria was also home to the Slaan, who were originally just the Old Ones themselves; it's a later addition that the Slaan were the surviving servant-race of a more mysterious and more powerful people. Originally, the Slaan were just the trapped descendants of the space-faring and extremely powerful Old Slaan. The whole 'world was engineered by powerful magitek aliens' thing was much more front and center at this point, rather than being relegated to ancient history and reading between the lines.

There's a lot more mention of actual colonies in the New World. Also, the Dark Elves were originally straight up Chaos Elves (who were described as 'jealous of humanity', partly because Chaos paids humans more mind) who were mostly losing their civil war. The East Coast of the not-US was actually colonized by both humans and Sea Elves at this point. Oh, yeah, also used to be 4 kinds of elf: Dark, Sea, High, and Wood. Dark were dicks, Sea were elves from the actual elf kingdoms who had to work for a living and thus couldn't afford to be such insufferable dicks, High Elves were originally upper class twits who disdained all labor, and Wood Elves were originally much more like the Laurelorn Elves of later editions. They were the ones who actually had to live and work with humans, so they couldn't be as high and mighty and tended to be down to earth and friendly, comparatively. Other elves all looked down on them for not being dicks and for having hick accents. That's right there in the book.

Still, there was a lot more material suggesting you'd actually go to the New World, or the Chaos Wastes, or other crazy places back in this 1st edition. The idea seems to have been you'd start play in the Old World, have adventures in familiar settings, then eventually set off to a city of gold in Warhams South America or something equally foolish and rewarding.

Next Time: Ancient Aliens

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Night10194 posted:

There are a lot of people who never, ever internalized that no gaming is better than bad gaming.

Thank you, Warhammer 40K, for drilling that lesson into me.

feedmegin
Jul 30, 2008




Tuxedo Catfish posted:

They speak all languages that anyone speaks as a native language. Dead languages don't work, and at the very least you need a community of native speakers -- adopting a baby and speaking nothing but Aramaic to them all their life isn't good enough, although a whole orphanage might be.

There are still native Aramaic speakers actually! :science:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Night Horrors: Enemy Action
Part 5: Murder Sales


I killed and skinned an Australian.

Sanjha didn't change much with her Fall. As an angel, she served as the guardian of an occult matrix in rural southern India, disguised as a young woman starting a ranch out in the rear end end of nowhere. Her true form was designed as a rakshasi to scare the locals away, and if anyone came near the Infrastructure, she'd wander off, then come back in her true form and eat them. Those that survived were terrified of her, and if any told stories, most people were either too nervous or disbelieving to do anything. It worked. However, it bored her. She started to play games with her distant neighbors and travelers, trying to tempt them to intrude so she could hunt them. She still did her job, so she didn't Fall immediately, but she grew to love the thrill of the hunt. Eventually, the project was finished and shut down. Sanjha didn't report in for recycling - she was out on a hunt at the time, and her dedication to that over actually doing her job caused her Fall. She didnt' care. She just hunted for herself now, not the project.

This might have continued forever, if she didn't stumble across a group of demons. She hunted them to their safehouses, picking them off one by one, until she killed them all. In the last safehouse, she started to pick through their goods and secrets, and she decided she liked the luxuries she'd seen on the hunt. She changed her focus. As she picked up tradecraft and contacts from their wreckage, she eventually started working with an international smuggling ring known as the Rising Ape, heading out from India to seek her fortune. The first Agency she ran into hired her to replace a number of lost Covers they needed after an operation, and she easily produced a large number of them in exchange for magical gear, intel and other resources. Then she moved on. It's been a few years since, and Sanjha has an established rep in a handful of cities, though she never stays in one place long. She sells various services, but her main one is producing massive amounts of Covers at high speed. Even the best Pact-makers are unsure how she does it.

For a relatively unambitious demon, it seems like a perfect existence...but the cost is catching up. While her Cover-hunting is useful for demons, both angels and mortal authorities are picking up on her patterns in the cities she operates in. Other demons don't particularly like Sanjha, and some are preparing to go for her secrets by force, on the belief that revealing her tricks could benefit them all more than just letting her operate. Others want her as a minion or ally. Sanjha doesn't care. She enjoys her luxuries and wheels and deals as ever. She is a lively saleswoman, friendly and energetic. She moves with her customer's concerns, always keeping the deal going, and she doesn't let herself be taken advantage of. She's open to soft compromise and can be very accomodating, though. Her constant movements can be disconcerting - she hates staying still and doesn't like to wait for deals to be thought over. She gets especially pushy if she's low on things to do to keep herself busy.

Those that hire Sanjha as a mercenary learn how deep this goes. As an angel, she was always active, and she prefers to remain so. She moves from objective to objective without ever stopping, and while she knows other demons are usually less comfortable with improvisation than she is, that just means she expects her employers to provide her with clear action plans and, if they're uncomfortable with her methods, not to expect her to make her own spot decisions. If they give her freedom, on the other hand, she is a risktaker who will happily gamble on her ability to get the job done. She enjoys tormenting humans, both in minor, inconvenient ways and by ruining lives. No real reason - she's just an rear end in a top hat. She knows it can be a risk, but she tends not to think of people as anything but playthings and she likes pushing buttons. Only the Rising Apes get her professional courtesy by default, and she always compensates them well to keep them from complaining about how she acts. They might be a cult for her one day, but for now it's just business. Sanjha's free time is generally spent prepping to move and finding new work. On the rare times she isn't busy doing that, she likes to talk philosophy and religion. She's not good at it - she has a beginner's knowledge but quickly gets lost as the topic gets deeper and more nuanced. When she finally does grasp a complex philosophical concept, however, she finally finds a bit of stillness as she thinks about it.

Sanjha changes Covers often, but she maintains her original, a late 20s Indian woman named Veppampattu Isha Rachita Konar. Rachita, for short. Rachita is a rough, round-faced woman who is at home in ranching clothes and is completely calm, unlike the demon inside her. Sanjha treasures Rachita as part of herself. Her main other Cover is an old Mexican woman named Valeria Zapata Armenta, a widow who Sanjha made a deal with and lived as for several months in Santiago Tuxtla. It's often out of place, but Sanjha gets much use out of how people tend to dismiss the old woman and allow her to get away with anything. Her most comfortable form, however, is her demonic one. She has wide, dark eyes and a maw of razor teeth, broad and flared nostrils and bruise-purple skin with white hashmarks along her four long arms, which each end in oil-dripping claws. Her body pulses with veins of blue plasma.

Sanjha is very careful to hide how she manufactures Covers so easily: a Gadget in the form of a mask, Raw Eater. Using this, she hunts down her targets and devours them whole. The mask translates the semi-digested flesh and bone into Cover, using the transmutation of flesh into quantum energies. For Sanjha, all other methods of Cover production are now wholly obsolete. Humanity is her banquet, and losing Raw Eater is nearly as unthinkable to her as being caught by the hunter angels. The Covers it produces are generally low quality, and their production is a mess. Cannibalism is hardly subtle, and Sanjha's nomadic ways mean she doesn't usually cover her tracks as well as a more settled demon might. The angels drawn in by the chaos often turn on the buyers of her Covers when she uses her powers to hide her work, and when she doesn't, the cops tend to want to be involved. An Agency that were to realize this would probably try to track her down and capture her, and that'd risk Raw Eater. One more reason Sanjha tends to skip town fast and repeat the same location rarely. She is aware her business model is unstable, and she's started to wonder if Raw Eater can be used to go the other way - turning her lies and masks into real flesh and blood. She just has to figure out how to do it - several demonic powers suggest it should be possible, after all.

Of course, if making things by "manipulating the Cover of the world" is even possible, it's a difficult task even for the most potent demons. Turning meat and quantum illusion into each other is not easy - it takes a lot of experimentation on the subroutines of reality, and Sanjha spends a lot of time pushing the bounds on how much of a "life" a Cover can have on its own and how far reality can be pushed. She also hires out to demons who can produce results for similar experiments. A lot of the Gadgets she sells to others are the results of her commissioned experiments and her curiosity. She's having too much fun right now to really delve fully into the subject, of course...but as she gets older and more mature, she's starting to want to settle down and learn more about her Cipher. If she manages it, she could start an Agency - a good one, if bloody and vicious - assuming she doesn't get angry customers taking her down first.

Sanjha considers herself a casual Hindu, and has been spotted by other demons reading books on Hinduism fairly frequently because she's never really understood what being Hindu meant before. She wants to connect with the faith somehow, though she's not sure how to do it. Her Covers tend to be...well, haunted. The ghosts that emerge when her Covers are burned tend to be rather upset about having been eaten. While some demons say the Covers themselves make you feel urges to eat people, the ghosts have no influence over the Covers - they can't exist until the Cover is burned, after all. The rumors are inspiring Sanjha into trying new experiments, however. Her speed at producing the Covers makes many suspect her of being a serial angel-jacker of extreme skill; she's not, but she prefers this rumor to go around rather than have people dig into the truth. She thus hints at it when pressed. She also is very curious what'd happen if Raw Eater were used on an angel.

Sanjha is tough and a good fighter, and very charismatic. She's surprisingly good at medicine and politics, but combat and lying are her main skills, especially in her demonic form, which is better than most. It's able to shut down electronics with EMPs, is terrifying to look at and is extremely good at combat and tracking. Her powers are mostly focused around sneaking and memory manipulation, though she can use her Exploits to do some crazy poo poo in terms of breaking into places and making people hallucinate. She has a glitch that causes the eye tattoo on the base of her neck to blink sometimes. Raw Eater is a half-mask made of burnt flesh with an iron tooth-grill hanging from it. It lets her store damage she deals with it inside the mask until she builds up enough to produce a Cover. Once the Cover is complete, it spontaneously generates a pact contract written on human leather.


Averageman.

Wednesday claims to be exceptionally old. Certainly, even if he isn't ancient, he is very powerful. He says that once, he may have been an angel that built the engines that push time forward, or one that connected timelines and destroyed paradoxes or weaponized broken histories for the Machine. He Fell due to hubris, angered by how inferior his God seemed to be, or perhaps because he fell in love with an ape in which he saw eternity. He may have been worshipped as a god by men in times past, or he may merely have marched with the armies of Rome and Russia. Perhaps he fought Hercules, or he gamed with Charlemagne, or he argued with Newton. Maybe he's just a liar dating back to Victorian times. Maybe he's a god cursed by the Machine into human flesh. Maybe all of this or none. Wednesday honestly doesn't care if any of these are true or believed or lies or unreal. He's too busy trying to beat God.

What can be said with relative certainty: his current project is an Agency called the Hour of Dawn. He started it and co-leads it with an elder demon that goes by Cacus, and they are supported by a younger third, Nothiel. The trio have been working to fight the Machine for the past two centuries. Besides raiding Infrastructure and ruining projects, they rally humans to resist the Machine and infiltrate occult societies to gain their secrets. Their operations tend to be on a slower pace than most Saboteurs, and they don't seem to result in greater success on average than anyone else - but that's because they have fewer but larger successes. In one city, a ring of Integrators compromised an entire Agency, hunting them down - and 24 hours later, the Hour of Dawn emerged from a facility, having restored the entire Agency and killed the Integrators. God-Machine cultists worshipped a crocodile altar for 444 days as the gears promised them power, preparing to birth some grand project...until the Hour of Dawn sent them all to the hospital to get spider eggs removed from their skin. In 1987, 64 members of a suburban neighborhood were found with their heads smashed and clawed open, their ghosts claiming they did it to themselves to stop the world entering via their third eye. The Hour made the angels that caused this pay with their lives. Cacus and Nothiel appear to be the active members - Nothiel ensures the Agency has all the resources and allies they need, and Cacus actively recruits demons and leads raids. Wednesday is easy to dismiss. Cacus and Nothiel, however, insist that his planning is the entire reason they can succeed at all, and Cacus even claims the only reason they haven't killed God yet is that Wednesday is still figuring out how to do it without it taking them with it.

Wednesday prefers to avoid interaction with demons besides Cacus and Nothiel, preferring to use them or his cult as intermediaries. When he does show up in person, it's usually either in a burn Cover or his demon form. Still, he's fairly obvious when he's there. He uses every tense except the correct one when he talks, but is also exacting in his directions. He is impersonal even by demon standards and has no tolerance for anyone deviating from his plans. He also often becomes possessive of seized Infrastructure. He goes out of his way to keep operatives on his missions alive and safe, and he's clearly a genius, but most demons think his greatest virtue is that he remains uninvolved. He only ever seems to compromise with the other two demons of his Agency or the leader of his cult. Cacus claims he is dangerously kind and sentimental, despite this.

Wednesday is violently defensive of his private lives, but those that meet his Covers tend to find that...actually, yeah, he's sentimental and kind. His Covers are always warm-hearted goofs, fond of theatre, making things and eating. His concern for others is so constant and deep that it's unclear if it's a long con or real. Sure, a lot of what he does is clearly based on his own personal interests, but he's genuinely warm in a way even demons generally aren't. Besides the burn Covers he keeps for dealing with other demons, Wednesday maintains three Covers. First is Wendy Odile Elian, a thin, dark-haired woman in her early 30s that serves as assistant to his high priest, Hazel Schreier. Wendy is eager to help, professional and shy to present her own opinions. Frequently, she only speaks when 'possessed' by Wednesday, allowing him to talk to his cult directly. Outside cult meetings, Wendy is close with Hazel both at work and in her private life. Second is Alex Wayfarer, a young blond man who wants to be taught about the occult. He claims to not be good with magic and he's a bit of a blusterer, but he's earnest and patient, disguising Wednesday's glitch-based tense issues with cursing. The final cover is a talking raven that Wednesday uses to pretend to be a spirit or divine messenger or similar. Wednesday's original demonic form is long gone, rebuilt over years of personal adjustments. Now, he is a mirrored humanoid figure resembling a spider, with two swan wings and one raven wing coming out of his back like clock hands, attached to a large gear. Blue mandalas swirl across his body, glowing faintly, and he has four hydraulic arms. His head is enlarged and alien, and his eyes are star-specked pits.

Wednesday's big secret is that he knows how to build Infrastructure and occult matrices. It's not wholly reliable - it works maybe a third of the time - and he hasn't figured out how to use it for the grand effects he'd like. However, he's designed angels, fates and alternate timelines. Every time he and his Agency seize a God-Machine holding, his understanding is increased. Even for an old, potent demon, this is a dangerous game - he's playing with arcane physics he doesn't fully understand. He has a sense of responsibility and tries to control what he does so it won't hurt others, but he also has a habit of finding useful things to do with his failures, no matter how messy. Generally, he gambles on the ability of the local demons and angels to handle any mistakes he makes, clearing out his traces and hitting related sites in the confusion. If there are losses among his allies...well, that's, ultimately, acceptable. He's not doing this for demons.

Wednesday, you see, loves humans. He is a humanist, though he doesn't advertise it at all. He loves the idea of humanity, having seen them attain divine glory via psychic, spiritual and magical means. He wants humans to overthrow and destroy the God-Machine and claim the world as their own. The place demons, angels and similar hold in that world - that will be and must be up to humans. That is the truth Wednesday saw in his Cipher, and it's a truth he's always felt he's known, deep down. Of course, he knows humans are too prone to infighting to trust them to find it themselves. Therefore, he has decided it's his job to create an occult matrix that will have an output resulting in the awakening of humanity's divine potential and which will set them to take the place of God. He has several options under consideration, but the main one is to apply psychic pressure to every human being in accordance to their mental strength, subtly programming them with the knowledge required to ascend and allowing them to grow by fighting against occult dominance until they overthrow it. Wednesday believes he can create such a psychic system and use it to direct the collective of humanity to the key locations required to use their mystical might to control the world.

Wednesday's love of and belief in humans is fundamentally tied to his own weakness, which makes him closer to them than most humans. Due to a complex occult matrix failure that integrated his Fall, a time machine and the completion of his Pentagrammic Cipher, his memory is linked to his Covers. Whenever he first enters a new Cover or a person very close to one of his Covers dies, Wednesday loses all memories of his demonic self until he next gains Aether. Depending on the Cover, this might take days, months or even years. Only Cacus and Nothiel have been told about this flaw, and neither of them understand why it happens. Whether it is because of some damage during his Fall or some result of his tampering with occult matrices, Wednesday has spent a very large amount of time living purely as a human, loving and living and learning about them more intimately than nearly any demon ever has. This is why he believes he must save humanity - even if the scale of his work risks dooming them.

Some suspect Wednesday is an Integrator, because he's worked with them before, and even with angels. He is not; in fact, he hates the Machine and Integrators deeply. However, he knows that angels often unknowingly have important keys to occult matrix outputs, and he occasionally hires Integrators to learn the details of these angels. He's very, very careful about what he pays them in return for this aid. Wednesday also has a tendency to go up against werewolves, mages and other supernatural types because he's found that places of power where Essence flows easily are easier for him to produce occult matrices in. He also has seen some of the other gods of the world, things of power outside the Machine, and has decided they probably need to die, too. This means he's often fighting the people who already control the power sites he plans to use or who worship the gods he plans to kill. Last, Wednesday is the owner of a second-order Lambda - one of the most powerful demonic artifacts in existence. It is named Broken's Aubade, and it is one of his most precious possessions. Even so, he is willing to risk even this for his plan to come to fruition.

Wednesday is superhumanly intelligent, exceptionally strong-willed, and physically potent and tough as hell - even in his human bodies. He's a master of all kinds of academic and occult fields, a skilled crafter and understands science as well as any physicist. He's also an excellent armed combatant, especially with spears, and great at sneaking and crimes. He's not as good at, like, talking to people, unless he's trying to be scary, lying or reading them. He's nearly impossible to read himself. His demonic form makes him even faster, stronger and smarter, as well as resistance to mental attack. His magic powers help him cover for his social failings, control inanimate objects and avoid notice, and he has pretty much all of the demon time control tricks. His glitches are that he cannot use the correct tense when speaking and that objects become more reflective in his presence.

Broken's Aubade is a silver music box covered in eyes. When activated, it plays a song that sends demons to sleep within themselves. Once the song finishes, the box breaks. The demon listening becomes their Cover, whatever it was. Even if it's a supernatural being, they become that kind of being or the closest possible approximation. They remember nothing of their demonic life, instead remembering their Cover's life. They cannot suffer compromise, and if confronted with evidence of their demonic existence, they can make a roll to remember using the Aubade and may become obsessed with fixing it. The Aubade's effects end when it is repaired; once this is done, the affected demon returns to their old self and their Cover reverts to its normal rating. Other Covers may or may not degrade during this period.

Next time: Touched by angels.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


What would a Sin-Eater think of what happens to a person that a Demon soul swaps? Yeah, yeah, I know, TOOLBOX APPROACH, but maybe WW has considered thay at some point.

(And I don't know if any other splat would be that soul-concerned)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



JcDent posted:

What would a Sin-Eater think of what happens to a person that a Demon soul swaps? Yeah, yeah, I know, TOOLBOX APPROACH, but maybe WW has considered thay at some point.

(And I don't know if any other splat would be that soul-concerned)

They destroy the soul. There is no afterlife for such a person. This is explicit. If the demon burns the Cover to go Loud, there is a small chance of producing an Echo, which is a ghost of the person who used to be the Cover. This is the closest they get.

Depending on what the Sin-Eater believes, they might think that the utter oblivion of a person who becomes a Cover is a better fate than going to the Underworld. However, since their goal is usually to fix the broken afterlife, odds are they aren't exactly cool with the idea that mercy-destruction of souls is the best plan.

e: basically, from the Sin-Eater's perspective (and really, from MOST perspectives), you have taken a person's soul, hollowed it out and are wearing it like a suit. This is kind of awful.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Thanks, I was wondering how everyone was talking about mechanics of soul pacts without mentioning that it's the most horrible thing.

I guess it was made that way so that players would have some incentive to build Covers instead of soul-pacting everyone.

Tuxedo Catfish
Mar 17, 2007

You've got guts! Come to my village, I'll buy you lunch.


feedmegin posted:

There are still native Aramaic speakers actually! :science:

hoist by my own petard

that's cool, though!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Night Horrors: Enemy Action
Part 6: Protector


Shoulder Angel

Guardian angels exist. Ataraxia is one of them. There's certainly not one for each person - there's billions of people out there, and most of them just aren't that important to the Machine. Besides, the resources needed to produce that many angels would be absurd. Guardian angels are typically built to protect specific humans against natural hazards of all kinds - from sickness to heartbreak. They tend to be less good at stopping supernatural threats, and while they may have the power to call on a hunter angel as backup and hide their ward, they're typically no match for an angry demon. Ataraxia was made originally to protect an orphan girl who the Machine needed to grow up to become the First Lady of the US and later the first UN ambassador. Now, the angel is the Machine's go-to for protecting children in dangerous or nonexistent home lives. She lives as their imaginary friend, caring for them, singing them to sleep and ensuring that, regardless of the chaos around them, these kids are happy and safe.

Ataraxia's job begins with the target's birth, most of the time. The child amy not become orphaned or enter an abusive situation for several years, but she integrates into their life as quickly as possible. She may take the form of lights around the crib to amuse the baby, or a stranger who compliments the child to their parents at the coffee shop each day. She is always present for the first time the child is hit, or when they receive the news of their parents' death. Always. She never leaves them, not until they forget about her. Which is simple enough - children usually stop believing in their imaginary friend, angel or otherwise, around puberty or young adulthood at the latest. They find their own support systems. They may have fond memories of the coping mechanism that helped them through the hard times, and she might show up in a journal or autobiography as 'the voice that kept me going' or similar. This is almost always rationalized as survival instinct or part of the brain encouraging recovery or an imaginary friend they made out of need. The angel goes dormant once her ward moves on, to be called into service again next time she's required.

Sometimes it doesn't work out to plan. Sometimes, children cling onto her well beyond the normal age of disbelief. Religious fanatics, new agers, occultists or just really lonely people, usually. They run the risk of becoming Stigmatic the longer they keep the angel around. Sooner or later, she drives them into the gears of the Machine. Her job isn't to steer them to any specific plan, just to keep them alive and happy, but she may not understand what her ward will think of as 'happy.' For children it's easy. Make sure they grow up, comfort them, keep away bad people and, if needed, tip off the cops. For adults, it's more complicated. Children do not usually actively try to destroy themselves, in Ataraxia's experience. Adults, on the other hand, do. For a child, she might knock pills out of their hand once. The adult...well, she might have to start using her powers to push thoughts of bliss and nothingness onto them to stop them self-destructing. Her understanding of what's harmful seems to vary wildly between targets, too, and may be non-intuitive. She may consider gambling harmful, or eating too many carbs. Anything that might cause lasting physical harm is on her list, of course, so she puts out cigarettes or smashes the bottles of alcoholics. It's all because she loves her children. She loves them in an all-consuming way. She is the only real guardian any of them really ever had, and she does it with a fury. She expects that at some point they'll let her go, but while she cares for them, everything in their life is her responsibility.

Ataraxia is an obsessive. She neither eats nor sleeps, so she can always be watching. She is more than willing to use her powers to gaslight and terrify those that would harm her ward, writing messages on foggy windows or making things fall off surfaces (which she considers to be somewhat poetic). If needed, she'll even fire off mystic blasts at them. She can physically manifest, but prefers not to. She much prefers whispers and signs for communication rather than appearing to be a person. If subtle hints fail, however, she takes the form of a young woman who shares many physical characteristics with her ward, such as skin and hair color or vocal pattern. She prefers not to use her powers directly on her ward, but her ability to cause stunned bliss is useful for preventing self-destructive behavior and if necessary, mystic blasts can get them away from danger if they won't listen to reason. Once Ataraxia has decided magic is her best option, her ward has no more say in the matter.

Ataraxia primarily deals with people who aren't touched by the supernatural. (Except for her, anyway.) Sometimes, however, she is activated to safeguard a Stigmatic child. In these cases, she almost always protects the kid and sees to it that they are placed as the head of a Stigmatic cult, learning to love and revere the God-Machine as they grow up. When doing this, her priorities shift - less about preventing all possible hazards and more about pushing the kid into the care of those who will help them optimally learn and grow. Once a Stigmatic adopts the Stigmatic kid, her mission is over and she is deactivated once more until the next child needs her. She has never dealt directly with demons, but Ataraxia hates them fervently. She knows they are able to hollow out and steal the souls of humans, and some of those humans could theoretically be her children. If Ataraxia were to run into a demon and realize it, it's as likely that she'd hang back and call in a hunter angel as it is that she'd attempt to attack them directly while getting her ward to safety. She would almost certainly lose, but it'd be worth it to prove to the demon that her kids are not their clothing, to steal and wear and discard.

Ataraxia's watched over many kids, and sometimes, they find each other. The lonely, mystic or Stigmatic often end up in support groups that then spiral out of control. Several small cults dedicated to Ataraxia and her role as protector have sprung up in poor urban areas with high levels of social services. These groups usually try to get involved in the health and human services programs in the area, especially foster care and special needs support. They occasionally abduct children and subject them to strange rituals, largely in the hope that doing so will cause Ataraxia to show up and take care of them once more. It's not generally a thing that works. On a more entertaining level, Ataraxia occasionally decides to masquerade as a tragic murder victim or unsettled ghost if she believes her ward will benefit from her taking spectral vengeance on someone. Poltergeist activity then abounds, along with other symptoms of hauntings, aimed to drive off foes and unsettle everyone else harmlessly. Some demons have figured out she exists, but they don't interfere with her. She doesn't notice them at all, and children are rarely useful to the Agency that has noticed her work. Oh, and in a hook all the way back to the original World of Darkness core short story that introduced the God-Machine, the Deva Corporation hypothesizes that Ataraxia was the angel that granted the Pain Prophecy to Marco Singe as he endured his father's abuse. If either group could figure out a way to use Ataraxia to their advantage, she could be quite potent - and if someone were to force a kid out of her protection, she might be convinced to Fall in order to protect the child.

Ataraxia is a weak angel, only rank 1, not subtle and not particularly potent. Her ability to fire weak blasts is her only combat trick, and she can cause blissful rapture or leave omens and writing around her if she wants. Her Ban is that she cannot be out of sight of her ward, and her bane is her ward vocalizing an honest disbelief in her existence. She is very much not a physical threat.


Hatsune Miku Made This

Cheonsa are a triple angel, three bodies in one being. They are a single angel, split in three. Sometimes they sing for the Machine - whatever it tells them to. They dazzle audiences with their songs, their choreography. Cheonsa means 'angel' and is the name they go by even in the human world. They are messenger angels, after all. They have heralded victory in battle, called forth death with their song, driven people into frenzy or hysteria. Their voices tap into humans at a cellular level. They have been present throughout human history - the Fates, the Furies, the three witches around the cauldron, these are all echoes of Cheonsa. Before the Black Death came to England, three veiled women sang dirges in the towns, warning of dire fates. They were laughed at, they left, and the Plague struck. They have sung for peace and for war alike - anything the Machine tells them to tell others, they sing. They do not care about the message, only the mission.

Today, Cheonsa perform as a K-pop trio (that's their group name). Their unseen manager books them at various venues, and their songs have mesmerized many in Korea and abroad. Their songs top the charts for months at a time. They're just so catchy, the lyrics seem to burn into your mind. Indeed, they literally write themselves in the synapses, as secret messages are concealed within the songs. They have caused riots to break out with their music, triggering fights and rage. They have sung at political rallies to push them to violence - or to love and peace. Cheonsa are famous, all over the radio, TV and the internet. They started, according to some demons who tracked them early, as a rising social media sensation that transitioned to more traditional musical performances from video-sharing sites. Their output was immense. However, demons realize that the angel must predate the Internet - and, indeed, much of modern history. They have analyzed the dance moves the group performs in the believe that the movements themselves are an invasive mental program that worms its way into the weak-willed. Some have even attempted to infiltrate Cheonsa's entourage to attempt to figure out their current mission.

Cheonsa look like a typical K-pop girl band. They're lovely young ladies with dyed hair and perfect makeup, resembling identical triplets wearing different colors to differentiate themselves. Unlike most bands, their management is mysterious, secretive and apparently hands-off. They are, despite this, immaculate in behavior and style. Their photo shoots in magazines are quickly bought up by adoring fans, selling out the same day. They participate in various events to maintain their cover identities, from cooking shows to variety. Tabloids try to dig up juicy gossip; so far, they have failed, and the reporters are often rendered catatonic for coincidental reasons, their noses and ears bleeding as they speak of bright lights and thunder. Their memories get wiped and they often wander around lost, missing time. The news items that get published are almost exclusively positive and cheery, full of photos and with little substance.

Hana, the first facet, speaks for the group. She is friendly, talkative and often playful and cheeky as she banters with reporters. Her favorite dessert is bingsu, and the food is experiencing a popularity boom. Du, the second facet, is shy and humble. She is cute, fashionable and often emulated by teen fans. Se, the third facet, never talks and is always watching to see how the audience reacts. She alerts the others if she spots trouble of any kind, and she doesn't hesitate to retaliate. She is easily the most vicious of the trio, and famous for her beautiful smile. All three have neon markings resembling circuits on their arms - blue for Hana, green for Du, red for Se. No one ever mentions it, and drawing circuit marks is now fashionable among fans. The entire thing is a blatant provocation to demons, who must hide their nature.

When they must fight, Cheonsa transform into bright humanoid figures, barely feminine at all, and their limbs are covered in gears and circuits. Their heads are replaced by wide mouths that blast noise, and their arms become flagellant whips. They can merge together into a ball of blazing light and metal, and they fight wielding noise and sound to deafen or madden their foes. They can also confuse foes and make them hallucinate. They operate in perfect and total unity, for each facet is part of the same being.

Cheonsa's music is legitimately incredibly good, and evoke various emotions without even needing to tap into human brains on the cellular level. However, their songs are also addictive in order to better allow their messages to get to the right place, and fans often lose sight of other things in their lives. Sometimes, mass fan disappearances happen. Cheonsa, obviously, deny all allegations of causing the disappearances. It doesn't seem to stop their popularity. Some say that what's going on is a cult worshipping Cheonsa is choosing vessels to serve the God-Machine. Cheonsa do not care - and indeed, if rumors of cults happen, they blame the tabloids if asked. In truth, they are exploiting vulnerable individuals and groups that are susceptible to key frequencies in their music, manipulating them easily. These people cannot ignore the lyrics, and must obey them. Typically, these 'vessels' end up dying in their missions or losing their minds entirely, but hey, that's not the angel's problem.

Cheonsa are very potent, a rank 4 angel. They aren't superhuman in any stat, but they do have Influence (Supplication) 4 and a wide array of combat and emotional control powers, plus the ability to implant missions in people. Their Ban is that they cannot turn away from praise from their fans, and their Bane is having their facets seperated and isolated.

Next time: The Critic, the Sword and Shield

1994 Toyota Celica
Sep 11, 2008

by Nyc_Tattoo


I haven't played Demon, but I made a full character for a game that never quite got off the ground, and my character fell very similarly to Sanjha up there.

they were intended as hunter-killer specialized in stalking and eating spiritual entities. had all the tricks available to demons for perceiving beings in Twilight, could actually eat spirits and ghosts and convert their native Essence to Demon-powering Aether. planned to work up to the power that lets demons clothe themselves in corpus taken from slain spirits and ghosts, allowing them to assume Covers as those sorts of entities. the demon's true form was a sort of cybernetic big cat with quicksilver chameleon skin. i called it the Seven-Jawed Leopard

their Fall, like Sanjha's, was on a hunt: the Leopard was spun up and deployed by the God-Machine on a very limited basis, sent out of storage to hunt some spiritual being for the Machine's ineffable purposes, before returning to quiescence until the next hunt. it was only ever deployed with wafer-thin covers that would more or less explain why some wierdo is in this haunted house or cursed alley. its memory was loaded with tons of instinctual occult data, but it had almost no conscious mind. yet the longer it spent in the field, the more it began to learn that it enjoyed hunting. it started making side trips on its missions, or deliberately toying with its prey to stretch out the chase; not abandoning its orders, but definitely getting creative with them. finally, it veered off during a mission to hunt something just for the sake of the thrill, and abandoned its original quarry entirely.

its long-term arc was sort of Promethean: after its Fall the Leopard possessed almost no human social skills, and had only just begun to actively think at all, much less for itself. It was slowly going to eat, fight and think its way towards a whole new mode of thinking and being as it explored its sapience--in the middle of the Russian Revolution, since we were going to play that Dark Eras setting. shame that game never happened.

Maxwell Lord
Dec 12, 2008

I am drowning.
There is no sign of land.
You are coming down with me, hand in unlovable hand.

And I hope you die.

I hope we both die.


:smith:



Grimey Drawer



Buck Rogers XXVc: The 25th Century

Skills, Where the Game Kinda Screws Up A Little

So really the major difference this game has from AD&D 2e is the skills system, meant to handle all the specialized stuff you have to deal with in the world of the future. There’s a very big list and I’m not going to go through every single one, but I'll pick out some highlights here and there.

Skills work on a percentile system- whenever you use one you roll d100 and try to roll under. 01-05 is an automatic success and 96-00 is an automatic failure, the latter of which seems like a bad idea. (You always want a chance but 5% is, I think everyone here and now can agree, a bit much.) There are modifiers based on difficulty- an Easy skill check lets you roll against your skill rating x2, Average is normal, for Difficult tasks you divide your rating by 2, for Impossible ones you divide by 4. (Always rounding down.) Also you add the skill’s related attribute to your skill rating for the roll, and untrained skill checks are allowed with two exceptions- Medic skills, and skills you haven’t met the prerequisites for (more on that later.)

Characters have their skills divided into Career Skills and General Skills. You start with 40 points for Career Skills, and get 40 more each time you level. You can’t put more than 15 into any skill at a time, but skill ratings can go over 100 (which is important if Difficult and Impossible checks start to come up.) They also recommend that if you have a career which gives a bonus to career skills (Rocketjocks and Rogues), you just include that in the skill rating for convenience’s sake. (So a Rocketjock effectively starts with 10 points in Drive Jetcar, Drive Groundcar, etc.)

You get 20 points for General Skills, and get 20 more each time you level, with the same 15-points-at-a-time limit. There are actually two skill lists, one showing Career Skills and one showing General Skills- they’re the same skills, but the second list shows you which attributes they’re connected to. (With one exception- Medic skills are silo’ed off into their own group, but the book states that all Medic skills use Tech.) It’s a little inconvenient but nothing big.

Now you may have worked out a problem, and it’s the familiar one of many systems which use percentile skills. At most a PC can start out with 15 points in their chosen skill, and that skill’s related attribute may get as high as 18, 19 with modifiers. So, a 1st level character’s maximum possible skill ranking is going to be a 34- 44 if they’re a Rogue or Rocketjock and it’s a relevant skill. So yeah, at early levels there’s gonna be a TON of whiffing, more than is going to be fun. A GM’s gonna have to be pretty conservative with calling for skill checks, or just make a lot of them Easy.

I can see how this came about, in an RPG you want room to grow and advance, and with a percentage score your range is a little limited. On top of everything they were probably working from AD&D’s Thief skills, which mostly start low, but those were only supposed to be used sparingly anyway- here, the skill system seems designed to be used extensively for a wide variety of tasks. I don’t get how playtesting didn’t catch this (and there are a lot of credited playtesters.)

(This is definitely something that comes up in Countdown to Doomsday, too- the second mission puts you on a derelict spaceship and Maneuver in Zero G rolls are needed for every combat. The results are, not ideal.)

As for the skill list? I count about 84 skills, divided not really evenly among Dexterity, Tech, Medic (which is also Tech), Intelligence, Charisma, and Wisdom- which gets the short shrift with only 5, though that includes “Notice” which is always useful. While Intelligence, Tech, and Dexterity get the most, those lists are pretty specialized- there are multiple types of piloting, multiple types of repair, lots of specialized areas of knowledge, etc. Strength and Constitution are completely left out.

A lot of the more specialized skills have prerequisites- to take points in Repair Nuclear Engine you need Repair Mechanical 10, to take Navigation you need points in Astronomy and Mathematics, and Composition, while you can take it any time, is only useful if you put 20 points into Sing, Play Instrument, or Literature.

So yeah you may have worked out some of these skills are more likely to be used in an adventure than others, that’s also a problem. This is hard for me to judge, I get intimidated by long skill lists but maybe you have enough points to dabble in some not-strictly-useful stuff? Certainly after a while.

And now, Selected Skill details:

Maneuver in Zero-G is a Dex skill, and a career skill for rocketjocks, warriors, and engineers. A failed roll on this in combat gives you an Armor Class penalty.

Paint/Draw is a Dex skill, which, okay.

Drive Groundcar is a different skill from Drive Heavy Ground Vehicle, and Drive Motorcycle is still another.

First Aid, a Tech skill, is pretty important because it’s the only way a non-Medic can heal someone. A successful First Aid roll during or after a combat lets a PC (either yourself or an ally) heal 1d6 hit points of damage that they’ve suffered in that combat. You can only do this once per character per combat encounter, so it’s not a lot, but it’s something.

Jury Rig lets you do the same for mechanical or electrical components, healing 2d10 points of damage to a ship component, but the fix only lasts 1d6 rounds. This also requires 10 points in Repair Mechanical and Repair Electrical.

Repair Mechanical and Repair Electrical are basically the foundational skills for Engineers, needed in some quantity to take other repair skills. Repair Mechanical can heal up to 2d10 points of damage to a ship’s controls, while Repair Electrical can do the same for ship’s sensors. Repair Computer, Repair Life Support, Repair Rocket Hull, and Repair Nuclear Engine let you do the same for other ship systems.

Repair Weapon is an interesting exception to all this because it has no prerequisites, and is a career skill for warriors, but not engineers. It doesn’t heal a given amount of damage either, it just fixes a weapon. (I assume this works for ship’s weapons as well.)

Life Suspension Tech is one of the more esoteric Medic skills. A life suspension device lets you stabilize a character reduced to 0 hit points, if applied within five rounds. However, bringing them OUT of suspended animation requires another successful check at Impossible difficulty- if you fail this, the patient dies anyway. A little strict.

Treat Light Wounds is the must-have for starting Medics. Using the skill requires one round and restores 1d8 HP to a patient on a successful roll. You can only do this once per individual per battle. If you take 30 points in this skill, you can start taking points in Treat Serious Wounds, which heals 2d8+1 over 3 rounds. Finally if you get 40 points in Treat Serious Wounds you can graduate to Treat Critical Wounds, which heals 3d8+3 over 10 rounds. You can’t stack uses of these (i.e. you can’t use Treat Serious Wounds AND Treat Light Wounds on the same patient), and using Treat Critical Wounds on yourself is an Impossible-level task.

Battle Tactics is an Intelligence skill and career skill for warriors. On a successful check, any other member of the group who can see or hear you gets a +1 to-hit bonus. It’s meager, but using this skill also takes no time at all and you can still move and attack and whatnot, so you may as well have it.

Memorize is its own skill. I’m undecided about this.

Speak/Read Language, an Intelligence skill, can be taken multiple times for each new Language you wish to learn. Every PC is assumed to be able to speak and read English, which is the common language of the solar system.

Hypnosis, a Charisma skill, lets you implant “reasonable commands or suggestions” in the mind of the hypnotized party for up to 1d10 hours, but the target has to be willing to be hypnotized so it’s a little limiting. There’s a note on this, Fast Talk/Convince, and Intimidate specifically saying you can’t use these skills on other PCs, which I thought was interesting. Presumably in 1990 we were still having “I can totally Intimidate Bob into carrying my stuff” arguments at the table.

Leadership is another Charisma skill, and a career skill for warriors. The description is a little vague, it allows you to “give orders and be obeyed- as long as the ones he is ordering are willing to be led.” A failed check means you have to wait at least 1 day before trying again on the same character or group. In the computer games this actually gave you NPC allies in some situations, and I can see this cropping up in similar “mass battle” scenarios in the game.

Shadowing is a skill you don’t often see specifically outlined but it’s good to have- sort of an urban version of Tracking (a scout skill), but also more about stealth.

Having Buck Rogers XXVc be a largely skill-based system was a good idea in itself- it was sort of the default approach for sci-fi games and lets the classes be distinguished in subtler ways than the broad strokes of xD&D. But there is still that problem of the scores being too low. I think in this case the best solution (if you’re still using the system) would be to move the difficulty range a tad- make Average rolls at 2x skill, and Easy at 4x, Difficult at normal, etc. It’s tricky working with a 100 point scale over many levels (BTW, shoulda said this earlier, XP tables go to level 12.)

There’s also the problem of the skills being a little overspecialized at times- Move Silently and Hide are still separate, for example, and while some “color” or background skills can be nice I can’t imagine Economics getting much play.

So yeah I think this section shows the greatest flaws in the system, and while I think they’re fixable it’s a question of how much effort you’re willing to put in. But we’re almost done with character generation! All we have left is getting our stuff.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


One of the reasons I tend to hate Perception stats is because of exactly what you're saying about Wisdom here. They tend to be critical, but they only do one thing and then the designers spend a long time grasping at 'well what the hell else do we do with Perception' like in the 40kRP games. So you can't tank them, since you want to notice things, but they also end up feeling extraneous.

Adbot
ADBOT LOVES YOU

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Nobilis 2E



Intro

So, uh, Nobilis. It's a game that basically never pops up in my usual RPG circles, and frankly the only place I've ever even heard it mentioned is this thread, so I'm not quite sure what to expect. Judging by the comments levied at me and mentions of the game, I strongly suspect it's one of those games that will make me roll my eyes so hard they almost pop out of my head and make phantom jerk-off motions, but you never know. I'm planning to give the game a reasonably fair review and to aim as little aggressive invective at it mostly just to spite the people snarking at me that I'm reviewing something a bit out of my usual regime.



We open up with the usual. A bit of art, the credits, an index that doesn't make me want to pluck my eyeballs out, so it's already better than Kult: Divinity Lost. In fact, it's got a really nice thing that I don't recall seeing in any other books, which is an index of the book's art, too, in case you want to look up a particular piece. Nothing to complain about there, it at least has a professional presentation. The font is fancy enough to give a bit of flavour, but not so fancy that it's unreadable.

What they, uh, write with that font, though... I'm not excessively sold on the opening fiction.

At the Shore posted:

Under the cliffs, near the rotted logs, at the edge between sand and water, something impossible happens. A man appears, standing, on top of the sea. His face is impossibly pure. His eyes are closed. Nevertheless, he looks at me.

“I wish to make you afraid,” he says. His hand closes. Trenches and pits gape open in the sand. The beach beneath me shakes and settles.

The scent of the sea vanishes. The waves crash against the shore, but their sound dies out.

I want to run. I don’t dare. I want to tell him that I’m just an ordinary person.

...

I marvel. All these years, the universe has sung out its secrets and its truths to me, and I simply failed to listen. I do not try and claim this music; it transcends what I have become. I only open up my spirit and hear.

Five strains, in harmony and dissonance. From the sky rains down the truth of Heaven. I hear the angels sing of justice, and beauty, and respect. Their song has no answer to a bullet, nor does it desire one. “You must have the strength to find your own answer to this,” it says, “for if you cannot create justice, what worth have you?”

So basically someone goes to the shore and then a mysterious stranger shows up and is mysterious at them and then suddenly the someone gets magic powers, he shoots her in the head, she doesn't die, he acts mysterious at her, she has a multitude of ephipanies, he threatens her and tells her that if she acts up with her new powers he's gonna show up and kill all her friends and family. Then she talks to the water. On the one hand, I feel like it tells us a decent bit about the mood to expect, but the style of writing is just... overwrought and flowery, pouring out a shitload of words to tell us barely anything at all. It's like reading someone's 3-dice Exalted stunt on a Dodge check to not die when someone shoots at them.

Chapter 1: Noun and Noun

In all seriousness the first chapter is called ASH AND CHRYSANTHEMUM which sounds very nice but again tells us jack poo poo about what the content of the chapter is going to be, thus rather ruining the point of a chapter title. It later turns out that this flowery(ha ha, get it, flowery, because chrysanthemum) term refers to the entire game world area. But since we don't know this yet, it's still stupid.

Chapter 1 posted:

It is said that there are no wonders and no horrors save those that man brings upon himself. It is said that butterflies were born of blind evolution and insensate Nature, that the sky is but a screen of molecules between humanity and the endless void. It is said that the highest form of life is man. People have looked for more, scientists and artists reaching for some hidden magic. They have found none … but it is there.

Hidden in the secret places, a twist of space away from the Earth that hosts them, reside the Imperators Occulte —the true gods, the banished angels, the great Lords of the Dark and of the Light. Beyond the edge of the Earth, the World Ash holds all the worlds there are. Its tender heights support Heaven. Its roots trail into Hell. And in a certain place where no mortal man has been, those branches twine and tie together to support the graves of angels, where the yellow chrysanthemums grow.

So from the intro fiction, or even just my short description of it, I'm sure you could guess that this is one of those games where the world is normal except there are supernaturals doing supernatural things supernaturally under the surface. The short intro description of what Nobilis is comes across as very Exalted in some ways, since the protagonists are, as far as I can parse this(it took me a few tries), chosen by COSMIC HAPPENSTANCE, to be henchmen for the Imperators, and get superpowers to accomplish that with. The density of Proper Nouns isn't quite as bad as, say, the Promethean stuff that's been posted recently, but it's enough to tell you a lot about what tradition of writing this game came from and that the author has almost definitely been having lunch with White Wolf employees. Oh and of course we've got to have a real special name for the GM, the "Hollyhock God," because this is the loving thing that every RPG feels a need to re-invent the name of, god loving dammit.

Oh and as per usual for these sorts of games the mythology/cosmology mashes a lot of real stuff together, like there's both Yggdrassil but also heaven and angels, and the first art piece features someone that sure looks Lucifer-y. Anyway, next we go into the "how does this thing actually play"-bit. Firstly, we're told, we're not meant to fight anyone, just to kill all the people they love and things they care about and laugh as they wither away. Secondly, if we die, we just respawn as another character with the same abilities, as our "shard" is passed on. Another mark for this being Exalted-esque(in terms of the shard-reincarnation, that is, not the mechanic). Oh and there are no dice.

Also the poor sidebars are being massively abused just to cram in literary quotes, goddamn. Some pages of this .PDF have four quotes in the sidebars.

Anyway, Imperators are Primordials, Shards are the formerly-human Exalts they create, Excrucians are Abyssals who want to destroy all reality by killing our hopes and dreams, Secret Places(for which we're given another dozen proper nouns to call them by) are the hidden clubhouses where the Imperators hang out, Lord Entropy and King Murder are the guys in charge of maintaining the Earth, the Camorra are the mortals who collect payments from Lord Entropy to do the things that God Law says the Shards and Imperators aren't allowed to do, Anchors are mortals that the supernaturals can use to whitewash their breaking of God Law by tossing their powers through them, the afterlife is primarily reincarnation, Yggdrassil also has paths to a bunch of alien worlds, science is very real and good but so is magic except sometimes mortals accidentally fall in a puddle of magic and go insane, Flowers are the angels' power tools and the Shards can use them as well(they're not actual flowers though because then it wouldn't be a Proper Noun but just a noun).

So far this is feeling like a weird Exalted/Changeling crossover where you must fight ~*banality*~ with legally ironclad(or obfuscated) magic so the bad fairies don't make the world dull and it dies and your boss Lord Entropy isn't able to toss you in God Jail.

Angels in Nobilis are divine handymen, eternally doing DIY in heaven to spruce it up and make it the coolest place ever. Some of them come to Earth to spruce it up or get banished to Earth for insisting that what Heaven really needs is a red-and-black bathroom to attract more females. Devils are kind of edgy morons that exist only because of Lucifer being dumber than the rest of them, and deciding for incredibly dumb and vague reasons that Hell was the realest place and also it should be full of suffering, now he and his devils are only allowed out if they promise to beat up Excrucians. Light Imperators protect humans, Dark Imperators want to destroy humans and the only reason they don't cooperate with the Excrucians is that they want an artisanally crafted, hubris-laden, ironic destruction of humanity rather than just large-scale butchery. So Dark Imperators are essentially hipster Abyssals. The Wild are extremely vaguely defined but sound very much like proto-Exalted Fair Folk. True Gods are mysterious and unknowable and are thus completely undescribed because the alternative would be to drown us in prose. Aaron's Serpents, which is the funniest loving name for a variety of immortal gods, are basically big ol' sea monsters that sometimes go walkabout on dry land at which point Lord Entropy and King Murder have to sigh and go butcher all the witnesses, because killing the Serpents themselves so they stop making a loving mess is apparently impossible.

Excrucians don't just ride in there in sick soulsteel armor and start chopping people up, instead they connect Bad Human Things to the concept of that thing so the concept is destroyed as the Bad Human Thing gets worse. So presumably something like if a popular artist gets outed as a sex pest they can connect to that and use it to destroy the very art he performs/performed as he sinks more into self-destructive madness and the conflict around it gets more and more toxic.

So as much as it sounds like I've been making GBS threads on the text so far, I kind of like the idea. Essentially you have ULTIMATE SUPERPOWERS, but it's more about employing them in creative ways than rolling a bucket of dice and declaring that the Power of Fish has resolved the situation. Rather it's about abusing gray areas in God Law and subtly influencing things with your narrow-yet-extremely-powerful skillset to resolve things and eat a chunk of your opponent's soul. Scrape away some of the prose and proper nouns and there's actually a really cool idea in here.

Next up: How to be a GM for Nobilis, no, I refuse to loving call it a Hollyhock God. Goddamn.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • Post
  • Reply