Demon: Heirs to Hell by Mors Rattus
PostOriginal SA post Demon: Heirs to Hell
Demons in Cover are almost fully human - and with it, they gain the ability to have children. But that 'almost' has meaning. Their children are born human, do not Fall...but they have complicated lives. The God-Machine values demon-blooded, though demons are not entirely sure why. Of course, these children do have power. The book approaches the idea of 'hellspawn' and the idea of redemption or damnation of the children of demons...and then twists them. Demon-bloods are not inherently evil, any more than demons are. Demon-blooded aren't Satanic - they're the children of angels who defected to humanity. They are more comparable to the children of defected spies than Satan's brood. However, they still have problems - their parents may need to keep them safe by keeping them at arm's length, and sometimes their parents just...vanish, forever, due to Cover compromise. They are often stigmatics, in a strict sense, and...well, most of the time, something is weird about them, because they're humans capable of accessing the background subroutines of the universe via Embeds. They throw off strange variables just by using teir natural powers.
The inspirations list this time aorund: Escape to Witch Mountain, directed by Joun Hough. Firestarter, by Stephen King, and the movie version, directed by Mark Lester. Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The Omen, directed by Richard Donner. The Shining, by Stephen King, and the movie version, directed by Stanley Kubrick.
So, why do demons have children? You'd think they'd avoid it. And some do. But sometimes, a kid happens by accident - sex has consequences that are unforeseen at times, and demons experience the pleasures of it as surely as any human being. Some demons Fell out of love for a human...and it really shouldn't be a surprise if they then settle down and try to raise a family. Other demons are paranoid and seek to act as human as possible to avoid detection, even if that means the whole 'house, dog, 2.5 children' routine. A surprising number of otherwise secretive Inquisitors get families for this reason. And...well, there is some basis in fact to the legends of mortals who sell their firstborn to a creature of darkness. A human can't sell the soul of their child, but can surely sell the relationship with their child. Some demons even bargain for children yet unborn, children who might never be born, and collect 20 or more years later when the human has almost forgotten about the deal. A side effect of this kind of pact is that the child becomes demon-blooded. (Specifically, they become Offspring.)
There are three kinds of demon-bloods. The first and most common kind are Offspring. They are born from the interbreeding of demon and human. Offspring are born stigmatic, complete with the Unseen Sense (God-Machine) merit and a minor glitch. They are capable of learning Embeds, and most discover this ability in choldhood or adolescence. They cannot gain Aether the way demons can, but some develop techniques to manipulate Aether that mimic or resemble Exploits or other demonic abilities. Offspring can also be born from the interbreeding of a Fractal and a human, a Fractal and an Offspring or an Offspring and an Offspring. Rarely, an Offspring is born to two Latents or as the result of an adoption pact.
Latents are most often born as the children of Offspring and normal humans. They have no unusual abilities, but they do passively carry demon blood and pass it on to their own children. In almost all cases, Latents are ordinary humans, if slightly more likely to manifest minor supernatural abilities. Any event, however, that would make a Latent into a Stigmatic awakens their blood and makes them an Offspring - still a stigmatic, but capable of manifesting and learning Embeds. No one has any idae how many Latents exist in the world. Even if studying it were possible, they only pass on their demonic heritage about 50% of the time to any given child. Most have no idea they have demonic blood and are no more likely to know a demon than any human is. If two Latents have a child together, there is a small chance of it being born as Offspring, and this may be the origin of legends (urban or otherwise) of demonspawn. Offspring are hard enough for a demon to raise, let alone Latents. Many Latents that bear such children end up adandoning them or putting them up for adoption, and even in the best cases, it's hard to discipline a kid that can, say, rewrite your memories.
Fractals...well, in math, a fractal is a pattern that is identical (or nearly so) on every scale. In demonic terms, a Fractal is the extremely rare result of two demons having a child together. They are intuitive masters of the arcane physics that demons command, and they are very, very hard to keep hidden from te Machine. Fractals are of incredible interest to anyone that knows of them, including the Machine. Like Offspring, they are stigmatic from birth. They are also born with an intuitive grasp of at least one Embed, can see through the Covers of their parents, and usually they have some other abilities that either mimic demonic ones or allow them to perform the apparently impossible. Almost all Fractals are the children of two demons, but some result from two Fractals, or a demon and a Fractal or a demon and an Offspring. In very, very rare cases, two Offspring with Fractal ancestry can have a Fractal child.
Depending on a demon's Cover, merely having a child can be a compromise...but so can failing to have children, such as when you take the soul of a father of four who has always wanted to have more kids. Most Covers, however, will support your child-related decisions without incident no matter what they are. That doesn't mean parenthood isn't risky, though. Even before the child is born, you'd better know how you plan to protect them..and protect yourself. Angels have no problem using your kids against you, and neither do some of your other foes. Hell, some occult organizations kidnap demon-bloods for their powers without knowing who you are, if they find out about the kid. Some demons try to distance themselves from their kids, faking their deaths and burning their Covers or forcing themselves into unpleasant roles as deadbeats. Many believe that the greatest danger to their child, after all, comes from their connection to them. They aren't always wrong. An Offspring without a demon to guide them will have problems, but at least they're unlikely to draw the attention of everyone that wants to hurt or control their parent. Other demons reserve a Cover to raise the kid, never using it in any way that would connect it to their other exploits. They frequently hide their nature from their kids or even their partners for security. It's risky, but lets them stay close to their children while minimizing the risk of compromise beyond repair. Once the Offspring learns to use their heritage, however, the demon may well run into problems related to having lied to the kid for ten or more years.
A minority of demons never keep it secret, but instead emphasize the importance of never discussing the family's business with any outsiders, relying on the reluctance of adults to take a kid seriously if they talk about magic. In most cases, their partner, if one exists, will also be in on things, and that's in many ways more of a security risk than the child. Some of these demons discourage their kids from using their powers, hoping to prevent the inevitable problems when the kid knocks someone out with one punch or whatever. Others encourage them to master their abilities, either for self-defense or to make them more useful. Some very, very lucky demons will even occasionally form rings with other demonic parents, carefully making an extended family via patch jobs to interweave their Covers. These communities provide mutual protection from threats and a built-in network of babysitters that won't panic at weird powers. There are rumors of small towns entirely controlled by these demonic 'clans' but no one seems to have firsthand knowledge of them.
Offspring do not ever have to worry about their Covers, being fully human. Sure, groups exist that'll try to kidnap them or Fractals, but they're hardly as common as, say, humans who kidnap kids normally. Unless an Offspring does something to draw the Machine's attention, they're no more likely to be noticed than any other stigmatic. If they have Offspring kids of their own, they must still decide whether to hide their heritage or not, maybe clean up after accidental Embed use, but they have fewer natural foes than demons. Fractals, however, are another case entirely. Many have abilities of great interest to...anyone, really. Even so, if they're careful to avoid using these powers, they can live quietly and pass for stigmatics or humans with minor abilities. They are in real danger if they draw attention from those that want their powers, though, and they're even more likely to be in danger if no demon is there to protect them. Latents seldom have a way to protect their Offspring or Fractal children from others, and without a demon or other supernatural help, they rarely have the resources to find or retrieve stolen children - human cops are usually unable to do much against the kind of group that can and will steal and imprison Offspring or Fractals.
Next time: Pregnancy and you
PostOriginal SA post Demon: Heirs to Hell
Pregnancy is a dangerous time for demons. Changing Covers or entering demonic form doesn't generally harm the developing fetus, thanks to the demon's quantum nature. However, their existential instability can be a problem as well - even if the demon's the father, nor the mother. Covers shield a demon from the Machine by the perception of others - the absolute faith of humans in the demon's Cover identity provides a sort of psychic concealment, and this is why acting 'out of character' can damage Cover. As long as you limit yourself to what makes sense, you stay hidden. However, an unborn child has a bond that goes down to the genetic code, and that both protects the parent and limits them. The connection is one of quantum entanglement, and so it affects demonic fathers as well as pregnant demonic mothers. The exact form varies from demon to demon and can even change form over the course of the pregnancy.
Essentially, each scene, the demon may choose to apply one of the following conditions:
- Locked Cover: the unborn child acts as a constant observer, forcing the demon to remain in their active Cover for the scene. Take a Beat whenever you would receive significant benefit by changing Covers or are seriously disadvantaged by being in your current Cover and can't change. This only applies to demons with more than one Cover.
- Silenced: The destruction of your current Cover would create a paradox, a child with only one biological parent. Take a Beat when you attempt to Go Loud; you instead lose one dot of Cover and do not Go Loud. You cannot attempt to Go Loud again until the scene ends.
- Irreconcilable Paradox: The fetus can't exist if either parent loses the Cover that made htem possible. Take a Beat if the Cover that is the unborn child's parent falls to 0 for any reason. The resulting paradox destroys the fetus completely.
- Flexible Parenthood: The unborn child exists in a quantum state that can survive the destruction of the parent Cover. If that Cover hits 0, another of the demon's Covers becomes the parent Cover instead. This changes the child's DNA to match the new parent, as if they were always the parent. Usually this will choose a Cover that is sexually active and of the same sex as the original parent Cover, but if no other alternative exists, it can attach itself to a Cover normally physically incapable of being the parent. If the demon has no other covers, the detus becomes the child of the demonic form, which is entirely unpredictable and often dangerous. If this change of parentage causes significant story complications during a scene, take a Beat.
- Quantum Pregnancy: The unborn child does not exist in only one of the mother's Covers. One or more other Covers are also pregnant, even if this is anatomically impossible. If this creates story complications, take a Beat. This can be temporary or last the entire pregnancy, and can only affect a pregnant demon, which usually but not always means a female cover.
- Shunted Offspring: The unborn child's qunatum connection to the father manifests physically. The fetus' mother appears to miscarry, but the child appears in one of the father's Covers, even if this is normally impossible. In some cases, this will reverse itself later in the pregnancy, but not always. If this causes significant story complications in a scene, take a Beat. This can only affect a demon who has fathered a child rather than one that is bearing a child.
- Invite Scrutiny: A demon can endanger their child by breaking Cover in their presence. Take a Beat when a demonic parent fails a Compromise check or goes Loud during a scene in which they are in the presence of their child, unborn or not. The child moves one step further on the Demon-Blooded Cipher. Both demon and child can earn the Beat, but this is not available if the child already has the Activated condition.
So, let's talk about life growing up for a demon-blood. Latents are the ones closest to normal, but for Offsprings and Fractals, no chance, even if their parents could keep their lives stable. They're magnets for supernatural weirdness, and most run into the Machine or other strange htings even before they understand what they're experiencing even slightly. Latents, of course, tend not to know a damn thing and grow up...well, mostly normal. They tend to be inquisitive and prone to noticing the things others learn to ignore, but beyond that, the main difference between them and normal kids is that the Latent can, when exposed to the supernatural, become easily embroiled with it by awakening to their nature. Most Latents are drawn subconsciously to the Machine's workings and so are prone to becoming stigmatic and awakening, though they may never end up developing their powers even so.
Offspring, on the other hand, rarely have such normal childhoods. Their power is strong in their blood. Like Latents, they are drawn to the Machine...but the Machine is curious about them, as well, and that can expose their family. Offspring bring danger to the family at times. They also are most likely to be the only people who can tell when their demonic parent is stressed or lying when noo ne else notices. This can often make them grow closer to their parent. Their lives tend to be chaotic - dad's Cover gets blown, time to change schools, cities and names. Still, they tend to be strong and not get crushed by the chaos of their changes. They eventually learn to understand themselves a little...and that often leads to them developing their first Embed. Typically, this shows up around the period that the child develops strong empathy - around eight or nine. Theory of mind is a vital part in Offspring development. From there, they often realize the universe is lying to people, and that reality is much stranger than they know. Once they figure that out, they begin to be able to change and manipulate it.
Fractal childhood is even weirder. Fractals know practically from birth that anything is possible. They almost never have true stability, as their parents try to hide them and deal with their abilities. They are a danger to others and themselves, and their parents know it. Those that survive tend to do so because their parents were determined to stick by them anyway. This may be due to the fact tht Fractals have a more intense connection to their parents than even Offspring - after all, they can see through the Covers and tell what their parents actually look like. Fractals rarely fear their parents, despite this - mommy and daddy are just normal, no matter how much metal and how many wires they have. Fractals are born with an Embed, and they intuitively grasp that the universe really works in strange ways and how to hack it. It feels normal to them, and often they grow frustrated when others can't do what they can, and feel something must be wrong with them. They may also end up feeling superior to others thanks to their powers, and their ability to develop empathy may be hampered...or helped, depending on what powers they have.
Teenaged demon-bloods often end up putting themselves in danger in seeking their own independence. This is often when Latents run into the supernatural, Fractals are noticed by the Machine and Offspring pick whether to embrace or reject their powers. They grow up, and rarely slowly - they're forced into it by circumstances, events that force them to have to mature or be crushed. They often realize that they, themselves, are somewhat monstrous. They have to face this as they become adults. For some, that means rejecting humanity and reveling in their powers. For others, it means denial, rejection or just trying that much harder to be human.
Next time: what can demon-bloods do?
PostOriginal SA post Demon: Heirs to Hell
First up, it should be noted that not all demon-bloods have all the powers available to demon-bloods. Many of these are unlocked by specific merits. Anyway, moving on. Most demon-bloods lack the capacity to hold or even manipulate Aether...but some are able to use Aether to try and supercharge an Embed the same way a demon uses Exploits. However, demon-bloods lack the reliable control of demons, and so they instead produce a unique, dangerous and explosive powers. First, they must draw Aether from the world around them - much easier if there's an angel, demon or active Infrastructure nearby. This requires a Stamina + Occult roll. Once you gather your Aether, you generally have a single action in which to use it, activating your Embed and dumping nitro in the gas tank. To o this, you roll your Embed, then roll the successes on your Embed roll as a dicepool (with a chance die even if you fail). Succeed, and you get...well, something close to what you wanted, with the ST making tweaks and you lacking much control over the result once it gets going. Then, you must roll to avoid the God-Machine's notice. More on that bit in a moment.
Even more rarely, some Fractals are capable of actually holding Aether. If they can, they have a max Aether pool of 5 and can spend 1 per turn, regaining Aether by drawing in ambient Aether as above. Doing so more than once a day risks the Machine's notice. These demon-bloods can sense aetheric resonance like demons with Primum 1, but if they do so, they can be sensed, as well. You can use your Aether to supercharge Embeds without having to draw in Aether first, so that's nice.
Demon-bloods cannot have compromises, since they have no Cover. However, any time they would risk a compromise, they instead risk drawing the Machine's notice. This is an Intelligence + Occult roll, as you attempt to understand and hide what you are doing. Fail, and the MAchine notices you, advancing you one level on the Demon-Blooded cipher. Succeed, and it doesn't. Simple enough.
Demon-bloods can, all of them, learn embeds. These abilities are less magic and more innate understanding of the universe. No specific Embeds are forbidden, but the ST must approve all choices.
Certain demon-bloods have 'Infrastructure Proficiency,' an innate understanding of Infrastructure. When in Infrastructure, they can't become lost and can always find an exit. They can't be surprised by angels or guardians of Infrastructure, though intruders can surprise them. They understand innately how to operate any machinery or mechanisms of the Infrastructure, including vehicles that are part of it. If a roll is needed, they never have an unskilled penalty. They can also instinctively find and recognize the Linchpin of any Infrastructure.
Demon-bloods are do not have the same benefits of language and memory as their parents. However, the Language and Multi-Lingual merits for them are special, and they get a one-dot discount to Eidetic Memory. (Demon-bloods also use Integrity, being human.)
Certain demon-bloods are uniquely capable of sensing if a demon is lying. They are the only beings that can. See, demon lying has nothing to do with objective or subjective truth, or even with their ability to regulate body response. Rather, it is due to their quantum nature. Anything they say is both true and false until they decide the matter, even if the facts disagree. Some demon-bloods can tap into this quantum understanding. They can't manipulate it like a demon can...but they can collapse the waveform and tell if a demon is actually telling the truth. This requires a Wits + Composure roll against the demon's Cover or Primum (if in demonic form).
Offspring begin the game with a single Embed of their choice and one that is their first Key, chosen by the ST. They also begin play with the Noted condition. Fractals begin play with one Embed of their choice, but get two from the ST for free. They also begin play with the Catalogued condition and their first Interlock.
Which is to say: yes, Demon-Bloods have a Cipher. I'm not a fan of it, myself. The game notes that you basically can, in fact, remove it without harming the game. But here's why it is there and works. See, demons argue about where the Cipher comes from and have to chase it. Demon-bloods, however, do not chase the Cipher. It happens to them. It is provided by the Machine, in fact. You move a step along it whenever the Machine notices you, rather than suffering a compromise. First you're Noted, getting -1 on 'compromise' checks. You gain your first Key, if you didn't already have it. The Machine knows you exist. Then you're Catalogued, gaining your second Key and first Interlock. You keep that -1 'compromise' penalty. The Machine knows your name, vital statistics and may send an investigator if you die. Then you progress to Examined. You gain your third Key and second Interlock. If you are in danger, the Machine may send an angel to help you, and it cares about your activities. You get -2 to avoid 'compromise'...and any demon that suffers compromise in your vision gets -1 to their compromise rolls, too. Finally, you become Activated. Your Cipher is completed - you gain your fourth Key and third Interlock. Once per session, the Machine can 'nudge' you, forcing you to take one action independent of your will. This action always ends up playing into the Machine's plans. You cause a -2 penalty to demon compromise checks. You no longer cause 'compromise' checks for yourself, at least. This is because the Machine knows you intimately and you're only getting out if it lets you or you die.
Certain Embeds never appear in the Demon-Blooded Cipher - stuff like Interference, Voice of the Machine or any Embed that enables direct manipulation of the Machine. Demon-Blooded Interlocks can resemble those of demons, but they almost never cost Aether to activate, as demon-bloods rarely have Aether. Alternatively, the Machine can instead grant Merit dots as an Interlock - up to five dots of Allies, Alternate Identity, Contacts, Fame, Mentor, Mystery Cult Initiation, Resources, Retainer, Safe Place, STaff, Status or True Friend. Unlike other Interlocks, however, these merit dots will disappear if you backtrace the Condition that caused them.
Backtracing is the ability to determine how much the Machine knows about you, then alter the data so that the Machine loses track of you, allowing you to move back on the Condition track for the Demon-Blooded Cipher...unless you're Activated. At that point you're stuck. Backtracing requires you to know the Machine exists and have Infrastructure to access somehow. Once you take part in the Infrastructure somehow, they concentrate on erasing themselves. This does not remove any Kerys or Interlocks...except Merit-Interlocks, which vanish with the Condition. This is Manipulation + Occult extended roll. You may choose to point the Machine at another person. If they are stigmatic or demon-blooded, this gives +2 to the backtrace. Supernatural beings other than a demon give +3, and demons give +4. However, if you attempt to backtrace twice with the same Infrastructure, you get -4.
So, new merits!
- Ambient Aether (1 or 2): One dot for Fractals, 2 for Offspring. You can use the Ambient Aether system.
- Aether Pool (2): Fractals only, Ambient Aether required. You have an Aether pool.
- Infrastructure Proficiency (2 or 3): 2 for Fractals, 3 for Offspring. You have Infrastructure Proficiency.
- Instinctive Deflection (2): You roll Wits+Resolve instead of Intelligence+Occult to avoid Machine notice.
- Language (1): You speak one language fluently and a different one conversationally.
- Multi-Lingual (1): You speak three languages each time you take this, with the normal Multi-Lingual rules, rather than 2.
- Quantum Understanding (3): Fractals only. You can use Quantum Understanding to detect demonic lies.
- Unknown (1): You begin play with no Cipher conditions, but get no ST-chosen Embeds or Interlocks.
Next time: Examples.
PostOriginal SA post Demon: Heirs to Hell
The third and final chapter of Heirs to Hell talks about advice on playing children and dealing with pregnancy storylines, complete with a sidebar on how, in the World of Darkness and especially with demons, gender need not have bearing on ability to become pregnant if the player wants. Demons are extremely weird and flexible to begin with, after all.
We also get some sample characters. First is Granny Lorelei, a Latent who was a nurse for Vietnam returnees in the 70s. She's been around a long time and is pretty mellow. She retired early, left her husband and now lives in a seniors community with her friend and lover, Dorothy. Since retiring, she has become a curious explorer, insatiable in seeking out the new and strange. She's in her early 60s now and still going strong. She has unnaturally, impossibly red hair - actually, that's her Stigmata, it's impossible to dye and will never go all the way grey - has a tattoo on her shoulder and, when she remembers to, wears both a yellow and a rainbow ribbon pin on her lapel. She is likely to become a full-blown Offspring soon, thanks to her decision to explore the weird, her determination to find out where the people who've vanished from the local Senior Community Center have been going and her discovery (and subsequent loss) of some weird metal feathers and claws which she wants to convince her family are important. Her other primary goal is get her ex-husband to go and leave her alone for good.
Aniyah Mbanefo has had a hard time as an Offspring. She's eight years old, the daughter of a demon who lost his ring. She's had to move six times in five years, and three years back, her father died while investigating Infrastructure. She's been in and out of foster homes since, told by the cops that her father died of an overdose. She doesn't buy it. She's a smart kid, but no one - least of all her - understands what she is or what she's going through. She needs some help. Her Stigmata is that her eyes are reflective at night, in the manner of a road marker rather than a cat. If she were ever to learn about the Machine, she'd view it as a system to resist and defeat, just like the foster care system. Her Embeds are Social Dynamics and (as a Key) Cool Heads Prevail.
Jinhun Lee is the Offspring son of a nun who told him he was the result of her unholy seduction by a demon. Technically, this is true, but he never believed her until he turned 14 and met his father. They talked, dad explained some stuff, and then they got in a fight and Dad told Jinhun to leave South Korea before they killed each other. Jinhun wandered to Hong Kong and became a street hustler, who saw the victimization of humans all around him, by demons, the Machine and other humans. He decided he wouldn't be a victim. He's a professional club dancer, earning a lot of money on his undeniable sexuality. He's got some following now and some folks who want him in movies, but he doesn't really think it's what he wants. It'll do for now, though. What he wants is the power over people his father had, so that no one can deny him. To get that, he'll do just about anything. He's heard recently abou a street drug that might give him a demon's power, and he's after it. He isn't really going after the Machine, but he surrounds himself with occultism and has a ton of daddy issues. His Stigmata is that when he cries, his tears are hot candle wax, though they do not burn him as they fall. His Embeds are Knockout Punch and (as a Key) Shift Consequences.
Ofelia Madaleno is a Fractal. Her parents did what they could to protect her. It wasn't easy and wasn't perfect, but they loved her and tried to keep her safe. Still, living in constant hiding and fear was stifling. And, well, imagine being a Mexican kid raised to hate angels. At 16, she lost her father to an angel. She escaped, but barely, and only because of his sacrifice. A year later, her mother vanished. She evntually heard how - she got caught, taken back, reprocessed by the Machine. Ofelia almost fell to despair...but ended up going the other way. She teamed up with some mercenaries, learning how to fight. Now, she is a one-woman insurrection against the Machine and wants to become an angel hunter. She's a no nonsense woman in her mid-20s now, fit and fast. She doesn't bother with lies unless she has to to avoid the Machine - the truth is good for alienating others, after all. She's always planning her next job, and the local demons know about her but avoid her, as they don't know how to handle her. She's fine with that - she believes on some level that all demons are angels waiting to happen, potentially. Her Stigmata is a constant smell of ozone, as if lightning had struck her moments before. Her Embeds are Strike First and (as Keys), Merciless Gunman and Unperson. Her Interlock is that she always has access to the Alternate Identity merit when she needs it.
Demon-bloods do tend to find each other - there's predators that hunt them, and they can often recognize each other by hte Stigmata and ocmmon experiences. Often, they work together for safety, out of loyalty or friendship or because they know they have no choice but conspiracy or slavery. Art Dawkins was a Brooklyn kid, raised around criminals but never with the connection or ruthlessness to get big. For the last 20 years, he's led kids and teens into crime, teaching them petty theft and con games. He encourages them to exploit the adult tendency to underestimate kids. When they get too old to play at innocence, they often move deeper into Brooklyn's criminal underworld. Because Art's gang is basically a feeder for the organized crime of the area, it's become known as the Little League. If Art resents the joke, he doesn't show it. Five years ago, he recruited his first orphan Offspring. At first, he believed she was just lucky, but eventually realized her power was special, something he could use to make it big. He's been keeping an eye out for kids with weird markings or impossible luck since. Those he can't lure with promises he'll abduct. At first he used threats to keep them in line. Now he uses drugs. Despite this, however, the Little League has grown beyond his ability to control. Recently, he's made contact with a potential partner who he hopes will help him keep order, but he won't say who or what that partner is.
Originally, Hell's Fourth Legion was a specialized KGB enforcement arm, composed entirely of Offspring and human psychics. They occasionally stopped enemy counterintelligence, but their main job was to identify and eliminate supernatural beings who were subverting or sabotaging USSR interests in Eastern Europe. Their work in Red Midnight Operation in East Berlin earned them a reputation among demons for ruthless efficiency, and for the rest of the Cold War, mere rumor of their presence was enough to drive demons into hiding and discretion. They lost most of their funding in the 80s, when the Soviet economy collapsed. Officially, they were disbanded after the Soviet Union's fall. In practice, they just became a mercenary company, selling their serivces to the highest bidder. They've made a success of themselves, considering the risks, and over the past few decades they've opened chapters on every inhabited continent. Their current commander is a Fractal, and while they primarily recruit Offspring, they have some unusual specialists, too. The Legion specializes in covert ops against occult targets, but they'll do search-and-destroy or rescue missions for the right price.
When the angels came for his ring, Mr. Helix adopted a pair of orphaned Offspring he'd known for their entire lives. He carefully and cautiously (even for a demon) made himself a new Cover: Father Daniel, headmaster of a small orphanage and boarding school he named Saint Jerome's Academy. He hired another demon as an assistant teacher and built up a student body of 25 ordinary kids and six orphaned Offspring. As he feared, local agents eventually learned the truth about Saint Jerome's...but the Agency didn't try to take it over. Instead, they asked Mr. Helix to take in some other abandoned or orphaned Offspring they had on hand. He accepted, and the Academy has flourished in the decades since. The Agency bankrolls them now via charities and philanthropists that exist purely on paper, allowing Saint Jerome's to focus exclusively on demon-blooded kids. The curriculum now includes classes to teach mastery of arcane physics as understood by demons. In return, the Agency uses the existence of the academy as a recruiting tool - Agents can send their kids to Saint Jerome's as a benefit of service. This makes life simpler for demonic parents. It educates their kids and teaches them skills they can't get elsewhere. Many of the students eventually join the Agency, but always willingly and with full knowledge of the risks. Mr. Helix stepped down as headmaster at the end of last term - Father Daniel's Cover has grown old, and he doesn't want to draw too much attention. He longs for someting new, after 30 years of teaching. Mr. Vicars, a ranking Agency member, has taken over as new headmaster. He secretly believes, controversially, that demon-blodos are the key to defeating the Machine and achieving Hell. He's particularly obsessed with Fractals and the children of Fractals, whom he believes will produce a messiah. This'd be a problem enough, but he also intends to militarize the academy. Rather than teach the students a realistic understanding, he believes he's got a mandate to indoctrinate them so that they have only the choice to join the Agency. Many of the alumni and teachers at the academy will not approve of these changes even slightly, but Vicars is a dangerous enemy.
Project 4X was founded by billionaire Larry Kirlian to sutdy paranormal phenomena as of several years ago. Its field agents investigate cryptids, fairies, ghosts, demon possession. In some cases they collect data, but they'll take any chance to collect live specimens. They'll work to neutralize the threat of hostile non-human entities, or NHEs, but their primary goal is investigation and collection of specimens. Their scientists examine each subject. They haveh undreds of captive NHEs, and their knowledge grows aily. Some demons suspect something else is at work here, given that they learned about demonic existence so quickly. The truth? Yeah, Project 4X is a front for hunter angels. They actively recruit stigmatics and especially Offspring and Fractals. Many that work for 4X are orphans or activated Latents, but a handful are runaways. They especially prize investigators that hate demons, due to abuse, loss of friends or family thansk to a demon's loyalty to other things or more. Whatever the cause, the Machine directs them against any demon they can find, sending angels to hunt them down while the demon-bloods act as hounds. In some cases, demon-bloods even join the hunting parties, but rarely except to those who have proven their loyalty by helping take down their own parents.
Some OFfsprings and Fractals grow up happy, but many fall prey to those that want to abuse them and their powers. They often have little choice but to obey, thanks to threats ot them or those they care about. In some cases, it's debt or drugs or even misguided love of their abusers. The Liberators are a network of demon-bloods that help these abused and exploited fellow Offspring and Fractals escape and get justice. Most Liberators were exploited themselves and many rescues join the network, both to help others and to be protected. In many ways, they're like a large Free Agency, collecting and passing on information about problems and threats too large for them to handle themselves. They can and do punish abusive demons, sometimes by blowing hteir Covers and drawing hte Machine down on them...but if they're faced with an army of cultists gathering Offspring, they're more likely to try and extract the victims if they can and warn the network to stop further abduction.
The Griffin-Blackburn family firm descends from Mr. Blackburn and Ms. Griffin, a cheerful pair that have carved a little Hell for themselves out of a mid-sized city, raising a family. They built a small family law firm to support their lifestyles and Covers. They do just about anything...and even offer services in the form of pacts, which they sell to outside Agencies. Once their Fractal children were old enough, the couple hired them to the firm in various capacities - stockbrokers, real estate agents, legal work. When the kids married, their spouses joined, too. The Offspring grandchildren seemed ready to do the same, and Griffin and Blackburn looked forward to the expansion of the firm. There are problems, however. The eldest son wants control, and he knows that he won't have it while his parents are around. A son-in-law has been using their resources to run a Ponzi scheme, and that's going to collapse on him soon. The youngest daughter is sick of her quiet life and her arguments with her dim (if loyal )husband, and she already has her bags packed. The second eldest granddaughter has a ton of gambling debts, and one of the teens has told her byofriend the family secret by accident. Her boyfriend has his own supernatural ties. The youngest granddaughter, meanwhile, is being spied on by the Deva Corporation - specifically, a division that abducts Offspring. Two of the grandsons have fallen in with bad crowds, and a third is far too careless in using his powers publically. This isn't a question of if disaster will strike the firm - it's just when and which one first.
Then we get a bunch of adventure hooks. They're nice, I suppose!
Next up: Vampire 2e, Werewolf: The Pack (pack and crossover stuff), Demeon: Splintered City: Seattle (Seattle book) or Demon: Flowers of Hell (the Player's Guide)?