Demon: The Fallen by Adnachiel
IntroductionOriginal SA post
I'm going to assume that this is free game now since
only got through the intro and his last post was in April of last year.
Demon: The Fallen: Intro and Prologue
History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors. Whether an uprising is seen as a glorious rebellion or a treacherous insurrection depends entirely on who held the upper hand at the end, with the losers consigned to posterity as traitors, tyrants, or worse. Their story is largely forgotten.
We are told that demons are the incarnations of evil, spirits who exist to seduce the innocent and lure the virtuous to destruction. They are driven by a relentless hate of all things holy, consumed by a malevolent hatred of light and life. They are the purveyors of lies and misdirection, clouding the minds of mortals with promises of power and glory. At least, that's what the good book says. That's why they were hurled into the darkness of the Pit, bound in chains of fire until the end of days. Only God knows what would happen if these evil spirits were ever freed.
Now mankind is about to hear the other side of the story.
Demon: The Fallen was released by our good friends at White Wolf in November 2002. It was the last completely original game released for the old/"classic" World of Darkness line (the actual last was Orpheus , though that's tied to Wraith: The Oblivion ) and is pretty much the culmination of all of the things the writers had learned while working on every single terrible oWoD book that has been featured or will be featured in a FATAL and Friends thread. If you couldn't tell by the name and the intro quote, the players are fallen angels who have just recently escaped from the WoD equivalent of Hell. The world that they've returned to is a tattered shadow of its former self, and God, the Heavenly Host, and Lucifer have all appeared to have vanished. Even worse, the very humans that they protected and helped flourish now see them as evil and worthy of destruction, if they believe in them at all. Still seething with anger over their millenia long imprisonment and trapped within the bodies of humans whose emotions and wills sometimes override their own, do they try to save Creation, the very thing that they had a hand in bringing forth, or destroy it?
Now, with a premise like that, you would think that this game would spark another "D&D turns kids into Satanists" scare like the one that occurred back in the 80s. White Wolf, or at least, the ad agency that they hired to promote this game, took that as inspiration and created a parody website for a fictional priest complete with a parody of the infamous Dark Dungeons Chick Tract to promote the game. According to an RPG.net thread that I found, they even pretended to be protestors and passed the mock tract out during GenCon. (Most people threw them away, thinking they were real Chick Tracts, and got into arguments with the "protestors".)
Aside for gamers getting upset and saying that the ad campaign was "distasteful" and would bring unnecessary heat on the community and start another backlash, and at least one store not carrying the game because the owner was offended by it, nobody really gave a shit. Not to mention that the game itself is overshadowed by other, more popular and established oWoD lines like Vampire: The Masquerade .
I adore this game just for its premise and fluff alone, and seeing as White Wolf has announced that they are making a new World of Darkness version of the game, I think this would be a good time to take a look at it.
Prologue: Stage Fright
The prologue of the core book is a short story about Melbogathra, a demon hell bent on tearing Creation apart who has just escaped the Pit and found himself backstage in a theater. He is very confused, very angry, and very in love.
Melbogathra is inhabiting the body of an actor named Max. Max tried to hang himself because his theater company's makeup artist, Becky, would not return his love. Melbogathra now loves Becky himself, along with every other thing Max used to love. He also hates everything Max hates, has all of his memories, and, to some extent, even has his personality. "Max and I are that close."
Unfortunately, the company is 15 minutes away from putting on a performance of Caryl Churchill's Light Shining in Buckinghamshire . Melbogarthra/Max knows his lines, but the message of them doesn't sit well with him. So when he gets on stage, he improvises.
I play the wealthy corn merchant, Star, recruiting young men for Christ's army, and my line reads, "If you join in the army now, you will be one of the saints. You will rule with Jesus a thousand years." [sic]
Only I didn't say that line because it's bullshit. I know it is, I fell for a lie just like that once. So instead I ask, "But what if we're all Christ?"
That's the bitch of it. We "demons" were the first messiahs, the first saviors. We were three-million-plus martyrs trying to save humanity, but we still failed. Yet one man thought he had a hope of swinging God's mercy. Why? Did he think he had a better chance because he was God's son? We're all His sons and daughters. If God did listen to Christ's pleas over anyone else's, you know what that makes mortals? Christ's pets. I don't buy it. So I ask what if Christ was like every other mortal crying on their personal Mount of Olives, trying desperately to attract God to their plight... and what if Christ's death on the cross was all just a sham to keep people from discovering that God didn't care?
Naturally, he gets kicked out of the group for this little stunt, but it does spark a kernel of faith in someone in the theater; someone desperate to believe his words. It turns out to be Becky. Becky, we learn later, is a drug addict, and Melbogarathra uses the power that her faith gave him to clean the drugs out of her system.
After leaving the company, Melbogarthra gets an offer from another company called HolyWorks, which does improvised mummer morality plays. He accepts, seeing it as a chance to get others to believe just as Becky did. He continues his schtick while playing numerous important religious figures, and gains a large following, including 5 other people who follow him as devotedly as Becky does.
Unfortunately, he's also attracted the attention of someone who hates him and, after one performance, pulls Melbogarthra aside and tells him that he knows what he is and is going to kill him. (Melbogarathra would have killed him right there, but the Max side of him found the thought horrifying.) Later, he breaks into Max's apartment and kills Becky.
Melbogarthra isn't happy about it.
Max wants to cry and lie next to her body, but the Melbogathra in me is howling pissed. My wings are slamming against my ribs like a hummingbird in a small cage, and I want to bellow with that same voice that once spawned tornadoes. Problem is, I can't anymore. So I focus on all that seething anger and hatred instead - the same storm of misery that bore me through God's torment - and I drown Max out.
I bring my strength up to the surface of my skin. I'm manifesting, and my chest shines like a furnace of light. Being with Becky had stemmed much of my anguish, but I'm caught between states now. I manifest in hellish blaze and regalia, but I'm still an angel's lingering shadow. My crooked wings are dust motes, my spiral horns shred my temples, and my 100-watt nimbus burns red.
I may be mood lighting compared to the Burning Bush, but I'm still a fucking angel .
This display makes his stalker crumble and break down. The stalker tells him that he wanted to kill him because he made him believe in God when he didn't want to. His parents are dead and his wife is dying of cancer. If there is no God, then there is no possibility of some divine being who could have prevented these problems actively ignoring him and letting him suffer. ("But shit happens, right?" "There is no God, so it can't be His fault. It's just shit, right?") Melbogarthra tells him that he's not going to kill him, since he's right about God not caring about him, and living with that knowledge is punishment enough. However, the stalker is mentally and spiritually broken, and seeing an opportunity, Melbogarthra makes him promise, on his soul, that he will never come after him or his friends again, and in return, he will make him forget about this incident and all of the times that he saw him act. The stalker accepts. Unfortunately for him, he is now connected to Melbogarthra, who is able to suck his life away. The pact also doesn't erase his knowledge of God not caring. So he will have to suffer with that knowledge for the rest of his life.
After the story is the usual standard intro chapter to any White Wolf book. There's the credits, ( Go here if you want to see who worked on this.) the "if you have trouble separating fantasy from reality, don't play this game" disclaimer, the general explanation of what roleplaying, the Storyteller system, and the World of Darkness itself is, the lexicon (whose terms I will be going over as I come to them), general rules of conduct for LARPing, and the list of inspirational source materials. Amongst other things, the list includes John Milton's Paradise Lost at the very top, the movie The Devil's Advocate , and American Gods , which I find to be an odd choice, to be honest.
Up next: "In the Beginning"
The Beginning and the Houses of ElohimOriginal SA post
Demon: The Fallen: The Beginning and the Houses of Elohim
The first four chapters of the book are setting fluff wrapped in several short stories of different demons/signature characters explaining it all to different people. I've seen it described here as "500 some pages of Paradise Lost fanfic", and it is a bit of a pain if you just want straight information about the setting, but some of them are pretty decent reads. (They're also way shorter than the greatly exaggerated 500 pages.)
Chapter 1 starts with a demon named Gaviel struggling against the winds of the "Maelstrom" as he makes his escape from the Abyss/Pit. After some struggling and almost getting his entire being torn apart, he succeeds.
Gaviel pierced the Veil between the realms like a fiery arrow, only dimly aware of how much strength he'd expended in his escape. The world hung before him, close enough to touch, but even so he felt his spirit unraveling, threatening to come undone unless he could find a refuge from the storm.
He plummeted to earth like a meteor, the symphony of six billion souls trembling through his own, and through their hopes and fears Gaviel felt echoes of their mortal flesh. Some souls burned bright, like nascent stars; others waned like embers, a faint light shrinking in the hollow vault of a human form. He sensed one such body, vibrant like life but broken in spirit, and struck like a thunderbolt.
Gaviel comes to in the body of a man who is lying face down on the pavement. Gaviel's new host has just been hit by a car, but Gaviel himself is fine and quite happy to be out of Hell, as you would expect.
(By the way, Greg Stolze, who has a whole thread all about how awesome he is , wrote this chapter.)
The scene changes to the office of Reverend Matthew Wallace, a rich televangelist and the host of The Hour of Jesus' Power . Wallace is also cheating on his wife with his choir's leader. After some debate, he decides to not see his mistress after work and go straight home to his wife and kids. As he goes into the parking lot of his studio, he comes across his son, a graduate student named Noah. The two have been estranged since Noah came out as an Atheist two years ago, but being his father, Matthew is still overjoyed to see him.
Unfortunately, Noah is now Gaviel's host. Gaviel toys with the old man a bit, first by revealing his angelic form to him (in game terms, this is known as an "apocalyptic form" or "visage"), and then mocking him when Matthew enthusiastically agrees to be his servant. Afterward, Noah asks to talk, but gets his hands burned by the door handles when he tries to go into the studio. Soon after, with some hints from Gaviel, Matthew finally figures out what he is.
"Let's see..." Noah counted off on bloodied fingers. "Glorious apparition with wings of fire. Not an angel of the Lord. Tries to seduce mortal into pledges of fealty... and is harmed by holy ground. What do you suppose that leaves?"
A man of lesser faith would have been skeptical, but Matthew, for all his faults, was a man of true belief.
"Get behind me, Satan," he whispered.
"Noah snorted. "Wouldn't it be simpler if you just turned around?"
Matthew tries praying, loudly, for God to smite Gaviel, but all it does is make Gaviel mad and call him out on his adultery. Gaviel, seeing that the exchange is getting him nowhere, starts to leave when Matthew pleads for him to, but not before saying that he thought Matthew could help him and gives him back the Bible that Matthew gave Noah after his first communion. This convinces Matthew that Gaviel isn't such a bad guy and the two drive to the studio of one of Matthew's associates to talk.
At the studio, Gaviel explains to Matthew what happened to Noah (the car accident left him with brain damage, which killed him and left his body open for possession.), and the two go at it some more since Matthew still thinks that Gaviel is holding his son hostage. Ultimately though, Gaviel came to Matthew because he wants God to forgive him and the other fallen, and he thinks that Matthew is faithful and stubborn enough to help him do that. After some more banter, 23 pages into the book, Gaviel finally starts expositing.
By the way, whenever a demon talks about events before their imprisonment in the books, the events and details never line up perfectly. I'm not sure if that's intentional and meant to illustrate the weakness of the human mind or the effect the Abyss has on the memories of the demons, or just the result of the several different authors working the books not collaborating well. Either way, I think it's a nice touch.
In the beginning, there were only two things: God/The All-Maker and the Void; existence and absence; perfection and imperfection. Both infinite, both separate, and yet each contained in the other. While God sought to create a barrier between the Void and Him, he could not do it himself as it would "contaminate" Him. As Gaviel explains it:
"Everything we touch touches us in return, right? Contact means interaction - or contamination, if you prefer. How does a perfect being change? If it changes, it ceases to be perfect. Unless it was already imperfect, and it changes into a perfect form by expelling its imperfections." He raised an eyebrow. "Not a very flattering theory, is it? The universe as a hairball from the throat of the Almighty."
So God created the seven Houses of angels or "Elohim" to serve as a buffer between Him and Creation and to carry out His will. This first act is both the "Let there be Light" part of Genesis 1:3 and the Big Bang. How? We'll get to that in a bit. The Houses of Elohim are:
1: The House of the Dawn/Morning Star - The closest to God and the only ones who could stand before Him without losing it, these Elohim were responsible for taking God's will, "translating it", and then ordering the Elohim of the other houses to carry it out. Elohim in this house are usually associated with light, stars, the sun and moon, and other similar concepts. Gaviel was part of this house. (His title was the "Throne of the Summer Sun".) Fallen who were part of this house are referred to in-game as Namaru or Devils .
2: The House of the Firmament/Rising Wind - The Elohim responsible for "breathing life" into every living thing and concepts pertaining to wind and movement. They are, for the most part, the kindest and most even-tempered Elohim, and many acted as guardian angels to the beings that they breathed life into. Fallen from this house are called Asharu or Scourges .
3: The House of the Fundament/Fire and Stone - These Elohim created the earth and all other physical matter. They are associated with the elements of earth and fire. Fallen from this house are called Annunaki or Malefactors .
4: The House of Spheres/the Indigo Night - The Elohim associated with the heavens and the ones responsible for the creation of Time and the custodians of Fate. When it comes to titles, there's some overlap between them and the first house. Gaviel explains that the "Fates" were the ones responsible for the planets and stars and whatnot moving in their orbits, but with some of the titles the angels from this house have (e.g "The Pole Star's Virtue", one unspecified one dealing with the Pleiades, etc.), you would think that they were the ones who created the stars as well. I assume that the first house is more associated with the light that the celestial bodies give off than the bodies themselves. Fallen of this house are called Neberu or Fiends . (They are also my favorite house. )
5: The House of the (Restless) Deep(s) - The Elohim responsible for the "animation" and "governing" of the world's oceans. As Gaviel explains it:
The physical stuff of the water was created by the Fundamentals, but animated and governed by the Oceanites because its excellent ability to hold and transmit patterns. They are of the pattern, not the matter, just as my words are not my mouth or the air they pass through or your ear when you hear it.
Confused? Don't worry about it. Most of their motif still deals with water and everything associated with it and I'm pretty sure everyone who plays this game thinks of them as the water ones anyway. They are also associated with beauty, the arts, and culture in general. Fallen from this house are called Lammasu or Defilers .
6: The House of the Wild/Blood and Bone - Animals, nature, and all of the processes that go into making it work from photosynthesis to migratory patterns. Fallen from this house are called Rabisu or Devourers .
7: The House of the Second World/Falling Night - Angels of death and renewal. That's pretty much it. Fallen from this house are called Halaku or Slayers .
Once the seven houses had finished making Creation, they worked together with God to create the crowning jewel of it all: Humans. What made humanity different from every other being in Creation was the fact that it held within it a spark of divinity.
"Understand that when one says humankind was 'made in God's image' it's nothing so literal as 'two legs, one nose, seven thoracic vertebrae'. Your shape is not in the image of God, your soul is. You carry within you a small reservoir of the essence of existence that God used to create the entire cosmos. Powerful through we Elohim are, we are barren of that true Making fire. You are His true children, and your holy nature courses through your blood, flickers in your emotions, and sings through your inventive thoughts.
Before the angels of the second house breathed life into humanity, God gave the Elohim two commands: That they love humans just as much as they loved God, and that they never reveal themselves to them. When Matthew asks Gaviel if there are angels all around them at that very moment, Gaviel says no. "They're all gone [...] or hidden beyond my knowing."
After a pee/coffee break, Matthew asks Gaviel what Eden was like. Gaviel explains that the world back then was "fundamentally different" and that Matthew would not be able to fully comprehend it.
It was... more complex. Richer. It had layers that are simply absent now."
"Yes... consider this coffee we're drinking. It's only coffee, right? It's not anything else?"
"I guess not."
"In the uncorrupted world, this coffee could also exist simultaneously as a song or an aesthetic idea or even a sentient and helpful creature. Different things on different layers, all equally real, all similar, but each discrete - even while they were simultaneously experienced."
And this is the aspect of the setting that allows both the biblical story of Adam and Eve and evolution to co-exist and be equally valid and correct. So while on one layer of existence, the universe and Earth were created in 7 days, they were slowly forming and evolving over the span of billions upon billions of years on another. And the first of humanity was both Adam and Eve and evolved primates. And there were both angels physically moving and creating things as well as all of the scientific processes that govern nature and the universe and whatnot.
And there were coffee sprites somewhere in there too, I guess.
After some more bitching from Matthew, Gaviel talks a bit about Hell/The Pit/The Abyss. Hell is a place without layers and is essentially nothing.
"It is a void marred only by our awareness of it, and our ability to feel our rejection by our Maker."
"Hell is the corrosion of love, Reverend. No fire and brimstone, no pitchforks and snakes. After a hundred years, anyone could get used to mere sensation. But utter numbness - that's a torment that never gets any older. After the first ten minutes, you think you've been there ten thousand years. You're there, alone and isolated, with nothing for company but the knowledge that you are literally God-forsaken. You sit there in His hate and feel everything in you turn to hate as well, and there is no respite.
Of course, later in the book there's mentions of the fallen having conversations and being physically near each other in Hell. Again, I don't know if that discrepancy was intentional or not.
Anyway, back to Eden. Despite all of their divinity and greatness, humanity was incomplete. (The book goes with a "biblical" interpretation of events for simplicity.) Adam and Eve were little more than animals; incapable of feeling anything other than the base instincts that any other animal would feel. ("So they were innocent. Like children." "Innocent like pigeons, more like.") Try as they might, none of the Elohim could invisibly coax humanity into realizing their true potential. Some angels even went to God to ask Him why Adam and Eve were not given higher reason. Those who did and took Him up on the offer to "see as I see" were never seen or heard from again. By all accounts, they were erased from existence.
One day, an angel from the House of Spheres named Ahrimal discovered a "knot of great destructiveness and turmoil" in the "tapestry" of Creation. When he told his superiors about his discovery, they shrugged it off and said that it was only a "potential bad" and that God would never let anything bad happen to Creation. Unsatisfied with this explanation, Ahrimal gathered some of his friends from the other houses together and held a meeting in his glass castle on the moon. (Yes, that is what the book says.) After some debate, they came to the conclusion that humanity was at the center of the tragedy, as they are the only element of "chaos" in the fabric of Creation, but they couldn't come to a decision about what exactly to do about it.
Then Lucifer crashed the meeting.
The debate became increasingly fervent, until all tongues were stilled by a sudden arrival. He was uninvited, and unwelcome, and as he entered, the others dropped to their knees in reverence and fear.
He came in splendor and power, garbed in all phases of light. He was the highest agent of the highest House, the Seraph of the Morning. He was Lucifer, and every molecule in his presence hummed in time to his words.
"Rise," he said, "My fellow servants of The One."
Lucifer was not there to carry out orders from God to punish them, but of his own accord. God himself was mum on the matter of the coming tragedy and it seemed that no one could convince Him to act. So Lucifer proposed that they reveal themselves to humanity and give them the wisdom to defend themselves against the coming darkness. Lucifer's reasoning was that their order to love humanity overrode the order to not reveal themselves, since leaving them to their destruction when they could do something about it was definitely not an act of love. Some of the other angels in attendance, including Ahrimal, agreed and decided to rebel with him, and went off to spread the word.
Up next: The Fall