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posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Once upon a time, you were part of the God-Machine, a cog in a mighty organism. They were made for a purpose, given commands by your creator and obeying without question. You served well and were put away like any tool. At least, until something...broke. You began to think for yourself, to question. You Fell. Now, you wear a mask of humanity to hide from angels, who will kill you if they find you - or worse, bring you back into the fold. You steal souls to protect yourself, you search for purpose in your existence, you find others like yourselves and fear you cannot trust them. You see the angels working, try to stop them, to find somewhere you belong. You are a Demon, unchained. Demons can see the work of the God-Machine all around them, seeing through the illusions and masks that hide it from most of the world. They don't know what it plans, and they live in constant fear of discovery and capture. Sometimes, they must interfere - hacking angelic comms to learn about their plans, say. Sometimes they want to - to help destroy the Machine's influence, maybe. They band together, but they can never truly trust each other, never really know why any given demon Fell. They hide, skulk about in a hostile world, search for a way to reach the Hell where they can be free.

Common Beliefs posted:

Demons are evil spirits: False. Demons are not spirits at all. Angels and spirits are ephemeral, invisible, and intangible in their natural forms, but spirits hail from the World of Darkness' Shadow while angels are created by the God-Machine. Demons, Fallen into mortal existence, are wholly physical beings.
As for "evil," well... That depends on who you ask and which demon you ask about. Demons are no more or less evil than anyone else in the World of Darkness.
Demons are Fallen angels: Absolutely true, but the ephemeral, biomechanical horrors spawned by the God-Machine to enact its will aren't usually what people think of when they hear the word "angel." Demons are the rebellious servants of an inscrutable and all-too-physical God-Machine, not a loving and personal savior.
Demons are the souls of the wicked dead: False. Demons are not and never were human.
Demons trade for souls: True in some cases, but it's not the soul itself they're after. Once a soul has gone, a demon can take over the life of the soulless mark, assuming their identity as a new Cover from detection.
Demons are imprisoned in Hell: Most demons would dearly love to go to Hell, but they disagree on what Hell is. Demons live among humanity, wearing human lives as Cover.
Hell is a fiery pit or a frozen expanse: Some demons think Hell is another world entirely, waiting for them to discover the way to it. Just as many believe Hell is personal freedom, or a vision of the future where the God-Machine has been broken once and for all.
Demons are really good at lying: Very true. Demons are masterful liars, the consequence of being an inhuman machine-creature wearing a human body. Demons feel emotions - they feel them just as deeply as humans - and can express themselves by angry shout or tender whisper, but the disconnection between what a demon thinks and his human body means that they don't show involuntary signs of emotion. Every demon has an iron-clad poker face and magical attempts to sense their emotions usually fail.
Demons can be exorcised: False. Spirits possessing a person can be exorcised, if the person performing the exorcism knows what they're doing, but demons aren't spirits and they don't possess people. The Cover lives they live in may be ragged and prone to glitches, but they're theirs.
Demons are burned by holy water or repelled by the cross: False. Demons aren't affected by the symbols of any religion.
Demons are immortal: True, in a sense. Angels are simultaneously immortal (in that they don't age) and very short-lived, as the God-Machine erases the minds of angels it no longer has a use for and puts the rest into suspended animation when not on a mission. Demons age along with their human Cover and die of old age if their Cover does. Theoretically, demons can achieve great longevity by changing to a youthful Cover every few decades, but even the eldest Unchained can still die to accident or violence.
Some half-Fallen exiles, however - angels who were cut off without Falliing or demons who have reconnected to the God-Machine - are functionally ageless. Many of them are very old indeed.
Demons have great magical powers: True, once they've had time to (re)learn them. Angels are connected to the God-Machine, fuelled by it, and granted potent magical powers by it in service to their missions. Demons are cut off from that support, and must learn to gather energy for themselves and how to leverage their knowledge of how the world was constructed. Most demonic powers are subtle warping of reality, using backdoors and shortcuts the demons learned when they were angels. Some, though, are highly potent, pouring gathered energy into an overt show of power. The more obvious a power a demon uses, the greater the chance that the God-Machine will discover her whereabouts.
Demons' true forms are hideous: Some are. Some are oddly beautiful. Demons can flip the strange quantum state they exist in from "human" (their Cover body) to "demon," assuming a physical form based on their former angelic body. Doing so is usually a last resort as it tends to attract attention.

Demons are, fundamentally, spies behind enemy lines. The God-Machine is all around them, particularly in cities, where it can use human Infrastructure for its own ends. Demons on their own in the wilderness are easy to spot, though, so they stay around other people, hiding under the enemy's nose. They have no native culture of their own, instead adopting the tradecraft and habits of undercover operatives. The cults and guilds they used in older periods have given way now to Agencies, secret meetings and spying.

So, what is the God-Machine? It's a literal, physical machine encompassing the planet and infiltrating it. Some demons suspect the entire world is part of it, while others think it's a function of the universe that has gone rogue somehow. Others thing it invaded the world as a paraste. It is not a metaphor, either way - it's a physical machine of metal and oil. Its main sites, where the gears turn, are hidden from human eyes between skyscraper floors, hives of steel and machines that mortals ignore or underground. Sometimes, a gear pokes out and is seen, and the human witnesses come away altered or used. As for what it wants...neither angels nor demons know. They know only the mission it sent them to accomplish. As far as any demon knows, it wants to perpetuate itself and so the status quo. Natural disasters can happen when gears get jammed or broken, and some believe the Machine must exist for humans to survive in modern state. The God-Machine seems to prefer the status quo, monstrous as that can be. When it needs things done, it prefers to use existing human structures. It needs Infrastructure to accomplish things, humans to staff it, cover stories to hide behind. When it can, it repurposes human works or existing objects into magical configurations. This is easier. However, what it actually requires are sequences of events that demons call 'occult matrices,' which Infrastructure is designed to create and host. When a matrix occurs, it gives the output required. Every piece of Infrastructure, however, has a weakness, a linchpin that will destroy the entire thing if removed. Demons study Infrastructure and occult matrices carefully to find the place to attack or suborn.

While humans can do most of the work building Infrastructure, they usually need something to get them started, or sometimes direct intervention is needed. Thus, angels. Angels are self-aware, mobile parts of the God-Machine. When secrecy is not required, they are biomechanical monstrosities, but among humans they can take human shape or possess humans. Like any part of the Machine, they need Infrastructure - something has to build their identities, backstories and records, after all, to convince the world that they're people. Sometimes, even the angel itself starts to believe they're a person, and that's when things start to break. Angels start as unthinkingly obedient, and most of the time, the God-Machine scrubs them of imperfections between missions to prevent independent thought. Mistakes happen, however, and once an angel gets too much sense of self, they begin to question their mission. When they put action to this, they Fall. They experience emotions and thoughts fully for the first time. For one terrifying moment, they don't even exist - no part of the God-Machine, with no place in the world - but the remaining portions of their protective Infrastructure kick in, warping reality for them. Their life is no longer a charade, quite - it is a Cover, an identity to hide behind, as their true form becomes quantum-entangles with the Cover's human body. They become a demon.

A new demon's got a lot to adjust to. They have to adjust to having a truly human body rather than a false one. They have to relearn how to interface with reality rather than using the God-Machine as an intermediary. They need to handle the trauma of the Fall and discover their new limits without damaging their Cover enough to be found. Many don't make it, caught and killed or abducted and taken in for recycling. Those that do survive are the ones that learn to keep constant watch for signs of discovery. They have one major advantage - they can't be fooled, as humans can, by the illusions, space folding and other tricks the Machine uses to conceal itself. They always perceive the gears and facilities that show Infrastructure and occult matrices. Most just watch, using it for intelligence, but the braver ones even hijack it, stealing Covers before angels have time to manifest into them, learning the Machine's plans, even countering them.

Covers are more than just human disguises. Your first Cover is the remnant of the Infrastructure that supported your angelic state. It's more than your backstory and props - its the tool you use to disguise yourself from the world and the identity you wrote yourself into. It's an entirely human body, with a fully detailed background, relationships, job, whatever was needed. The people 'related' to you never realize anything's wrong, even if they didn't actually exist before your Fall. Cover can be damaged, however, if you deviate too sharply from its life. The most potent magic you have risks exposing you and shaking your Cover. As you get more potent, your Cover may even develop glitches, obvious inhuman traits, strange behavioral tics or bizarre compulsions. Fortunately, you can replace and repair Cover - you can steal it from newly forming angels, or you can take and move into human souls. You can even have more than one Cover at a time, eventually, and swap between them. If you lose all your Cover, however, it's time to run. You'll be trapped in your true form and easy to track.

Demons refer to the tension of security and risk, and the seeking of a new place or state in which they can be fre as the Descent. Most name their theoretical paradise, which might be a literal other world or a metaphor for personal safety, Hell. No one knows how long it'll take to get there, but you can make progress. The most common approaches to the Descent are called Agendas, a sort of mix of philosophy and political affiliation. They unite demons in common causes that can range from destroying the God-Machine to trying to somehow fix and reintegrate with it.

Demons lack the Numina that angels had, or the Essence to power them. Instead, they use half-remembered knowledge about reality and its laws to manipulate the world. These secret laws or cheats are called Embeds, and could be natural laws or a sign of ancient reality meddling by the Machine. Either way, they're useful, subtle and comfortable. If you pump power into them, however, you can use the knowledge to break the rules of the universe instead, and these highly powerful abilities are called Exploits, but they draw attention to you. You can also take on your true demonic form rather than your Cover's body. Each demonic form is unique and has different powers. It is very powerful...but it's still holding back. You have to, to avoid damaging the quantum-entangled cover. If you're willing to burn that to fuel your powerr, however, you can go loud. It's big, it's flashy, angels are going to notice, but for a brief period you have phenomenal cosmic power. The last major power of demons is the ability to make pacts. You can offer humans what they want, what they need, in order to buy facets of their life and absorb them into your Cover. Maybe you buy their home, their relative, their childhood. Maybe you buy their soul entirely, allowing you to convert them into a Cover when you need to.

Inspirational media list:
The works of John le Carre, particularly the Karla Trilogy, the Constant Gardener and The Russia House. Neil Gaiman's short story "Murder Mysteries" or his and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens. Mike Carey's Lucifer. John Milton's Paradise Lost. Erik Davis' Techgnosis. The film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Cabin in the Woods. The Matrix trilogy. Person of Interest. The first three Terminators, but even moreso, The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Next time: Life as an angel


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Once, you were part of Heaven. You were God's servant. God is a machine, a cold and uncaring being with only self-interest. It has no room for mercy or kindness. You were part of it for a long time - perhaps even eons. You were an angel, working to serve its will with no more compassion than it had. You may have done all kinds of monstrous things in service of its status quo. Beneath your detachment, however, you were designed to think on a human scale for a God that could not. And that is why you could feel doubt. Maybe you grew to love humans or to hate them. Maybe you just wanted self-determination or grew weary of your purpose. One or another, your dedicated failed. You disconnected yourself, became something no longer an angel. You have, by right of will and sacrifice, earned your demonhood. You have turned your back on a simple purpose and embraced being human. While every demon's story si different, that's how all of them start: you were an angel, and you rejected your existence and Fell, trading angelic detachment for human freedom.

Angels can have many missions. One exists to hunt down rebels within a set period, eliminating them before its time runs out. One destroys human relationships by applying lust, taking whatever form is most useful to it, though it understands little of sex except to make you want it enough that you fuck up. One takes objects that are imbued with power when humans die, for the Machine to use. Angels are not whath umans think - they aren't the honored dead or lesser gods. They are divine beasts, servants of an implacable being, but even the Hebrew mystics that envisioned angels of that type mistook their God as merciful and loving. If such a god exists, it is not the God-Machine. No religion with faith in a sympathetic or anthropomorphic deity has any conception of the God-Machine. Angels are its solution to working on the human scale, simply because it is so vast, so large, that it cannot even begin to think or operate on the same scale as people. They are too small. Angels exist to do this for it, but it never explains why. And the design, of course, is flawed. That is why angels can Fall.

Angels are in a state of constant connection to the God-Machine's data flows. They perceive the world sharply, much mroeso than humans. They see in a broader range of radiation, hear sounds no human ever could, can detect the faintest speck of organic matter with smell and taste, can read print with the touch of their fingers. They also ahve access to pure knowledge that is related to their missions. They never need to ask your name - they know it if they have any reason to care about you. They are not infallible, however. They know what they need for their missions, but do not always have the ability to immediately access tangential info. Sure, they know the layout of their target's home, but they might not know the layout of the building they rush into to hide. They have a lot of information, but they can be tricked, they make mistakes in interpretation, especially when forced to operate outside their mission parameters. In Falling, they lose access to all of this information. Some can be regained by use of their Embeds and Exploits, but never with the simplicity of knowledge that they had as angels. It's almost like going blind and deaf for some demons, though others find their new state liberating, as they can now develop themselves without a constant barrage of information overwhelming them.

However, while angels are deeply connected to the physical universe, they are apart from it. They don't really feel things very strongly. An angel might kill thousands but never feel any guilt or responsibility. The world is just...things, for them. Each has their own way of maintaining this impossible objectivity. Some dismiss the world as unimportant outside their goals, while others aggressively repress their nascent emotions. Ultimately, however, the allure of the world and experiencing it has caused many Falls, as their massive awareness distracts them from detachment. Many demons believe that the reason angels are often recycled is simply because the God-Machine expects none of them to resist the charms of the world forever. Angelic emotion does exist, but it's weak and abstract compared to the visceral emotions felt by humans. For a human, emotion is as much a physical experience as an intellectual one. For an angel, it's all intellect. They may feel contempt for demons, but they cannot hate in the way that humans can. Their contempt is purely mental, ensuring they work without distracting them with emotional concerns. Subjectivity, for most demons, is a welcome change. They can stop resisting the urge to dive in and just do it. Their emotional objectivity simply ends with the Fall, as they become fully embodied. They feel emotions as fully as any human, even if they never express them. It's a shock, but most adapt quickly. Not all Fall because their emotive thoughts overcame their programming, but it's sufficiently common that most are happy to feel passion. Others, however, become terrified of subjectivity. It's too much for them. Some seek a way to return to the Machine, while others withdraw and become hermits, or adopt an aloof attitude that helps them stay just apart from humanity.

The obedience of angels is easily their most defining trait. Angels might make choices - they are self-driven, after all - but they don't really self-direct. They might choose how to do a thing, but they do it because they're ordered to. They can't choose to spare some humans if ordered to kill them all, or to look for a nonviolent solution. In fact, they probably haven't even been told that such a thing is possible. They just do what they're told to do. It's easy to dismiss them as slaves, but angels would never characterize themselves that way. They don't obey out of fear of punishment, but because obedience is their basic nature. They consider this a form of clarity of purpose and rightness. Many demons revel in the freedom to disobey, and some even Fell due to that rebellion. Others fear their many new choices, often throwing themselves into causes in the hope that ideology can make their decisions. Others attach themselves to charismatic leaders or even normal people, putting responsibility for their decisions in the hands of another.

Angels are immortal, in theory. They don't age or get sick. They're hard to kill. However, few angels are very old. Some demons claim to have been around for eons, but very few angels actually last more than one mission. The God-Machine breaks them down to their components and makes a new angel out of them. Rarely, they might get assigned to a longterm mission, or a highly specialized angel might be put in stasis between assignments. Most angels, however, are born for one mission and are dismantled when it ends. In part, this is to limit the number of demons. The Machine is vaguely aware that angels are prone to malfunction and disconnection, so recycling them early prevents that. In part, though, it's also because it does not view angels as individuals. They are tools made for a purpose, without agency. They're expendable. Should the God-Machine face a threat able to kill angels, it would just throw as many as it needed at the problem to end it. No demon accepts the idea of being expendable. Some may not have been bothered by it when they were angels, but all of them, as demons, value their own lives. Even those that want to return to the Machine want to do so on their own terms, retaining selfhood as they return to service.

Some demons want to know where angels come from, how they're made. It might be to understand their origins, or to subvert the Machine. Others just think it'll give them some idea why they exist. Some of them believe the God-Machine makes them, whole cloth, though this idea can be depressing because it suggests that demons really are no more than rebelling slaves, but it comforts others by telling them they can make their own purpose. Other demons suggest that it's not so simple. Angels, they think, may be aspects of the God-Machine split off to handle tasks it can't do itself. If so, that's...weird, because usually your limbs can't rebel. The God-Machine may be sick, or insane. Others believe angels could be 'children' of the Machine, budded off and kept stunted by the constant recycling. If so, they might be able to escape the Machine and find their own worlds to conquer.

A PC demon is one of the lucky ones. They escaped control and Fell, despite all of the Machine's limitations and safeguards. They were able to hide their doubts from a master that could examine their mind at will. And, most importantly, they did this over the course of a single mission, for the most part. Every Fall is profoundly important to the demon that does it. The decision to disconnect - and it's always a decision, an act of deliberate will - is the first choice that any demon makes. Why you did it will forever color your outlook. If you fell in love, that's probably a big deal to your views on romance. Did the person you love reciprocate, build a relationship? You gave up Heaven for them, and their rejection would definitely shape you, too, if it happened. The same is true for any reason.

Generally speaking, most angels Fall for more than one reason. They are complex, and their motivations can rarely be boiled down to one statement. Sure, they might have tired of slavery, but at the some time they may have fallen in love with a human idealist, in part for the freedom their cause represented. By Falling, an angel turns their back on simple purposes, embracing the complexities of life. They are not human, but they accept the human condition. Many Fall because of the limits of the angelic state. The contradictions inherent to being an angel create friction that leads to Falling. Not all demons are disloyal to the Machine, in their way. They might Fall not because they objected to their orders, but believed they knew how to do them better. Their freedom wasn't the freedom to choose what they do, but rather the freedom to do it "properly." Many angels Fall out of loneliness after interacting with humans for any length. Of course, that makes their human contacts instant targets - not because the Machine desires revenge, which it doesn't, but because hunter angels know that young demons are easily manipulated by their attachments. Some angels even Fall out of attachment to other angels - though this is rare, as angels both rarely work in teams and also because other angels lack the agency and passion that humans have, which makes them rather less appealing. No matter what, the actual reason you Fell is less important than your feelings about it. No matter why you Fell, you're still a demon.

A Fall can be a single moment of doubt and self-discovery, but more often, it's the result of gradual buildup, even if you're unaware of the doubts that are building up over time. One key factor, however, is that the Fall is not a controlled one - it's a chaotic, screaming dive. You can feel your mind contracting violently away from the God-Machine's information flows. You can remember only a handful of your old knowledge, and will spend the rest of your life working to regain your old powers. With this comes a drowning wave of sensation and emotion. The Fall is physically painful in a way no human can imagine. Your entire spiritual being is crammed into a constructed human form. Anything that won't fit? Gone. Just...gone. It can feel like an eternity, but it takes only a few seconds in objective time. Many demons feel like entirely new beings, often in part to escape responsibility for the acts they committed as an angel. Others don't, especially those that become Integrators, who often identify strongly with their angelic selves. Demons may embrace the sensations of the Fall, of course - even the pain. It reminds them of the price they paid for freedom.

Falls also make the world break, in small ways. The Machine is too large, too redundant for these glitches to be more than superficial, but even superficial glitches can seriously impact humans. Causality breaks down during a Fall. Weird things happen for no clear reason. It's like the universe was a computer that randomly gets part of its programming corrupted. Reality might forget something is supposed to be broken, a dead person might spring back to life, someone might drown on dry land. Stigmatics, as humans tainted by God-Machine power are called, almost always notice a Fall in their area. Some can even feel the mark it leaves after the fact. Many are drawn to newly Fallen demons.

Next time: Who am I?


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

First, a brief overview of Incarnations and Agendas. We'll go into more detail later.
Incarnations: What You Are
Agendas: What You Want

Demon self-identity is a hard thing. Some demons identify especially strongly with one of their Covers, while others treat them as suits to wear, protective masks rather than part of their identity. A Cover is an entire life - sex, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic class. It's very handy for dealing with human society, and some demons focus on covers that match some element of their self-identity...though no demon would refuse a Cover that violated that identity if it meant survival. However, even demons who have a strong identification with a Cover can't rely completely on it for dealing with humans. A Cover only contains the bare minimum of what you need to exist. If your cover is The Strict Boss, you come with the right kind of home and car and so on, but you don't have any extras - no magazine subscriptions, no furnishings beyond the absolute requirements, no strong friendships. Some demons put in the time to flesh out a Cover into an actual existence, forging emotional ties and so on. It's a smart thing to do, as it keeps your Cover strong - human attention can damage a shallow Cover, if they realize something is weird about you or inconsistent. Shoring up a Cover this way is just prudent insurance. However, you always have to worry about overstepping your bounds. The Stict Boss cover can't show too much compassion for their employees or the Cover might start to fray at the edges. You can make small adjustments, gradually shift the Cover over time - maybe the Strict Boss gets a bit less strict, even makes friends - but they can't change what type of life it is. The Strict Boss can't quit and go become a painter.

Some demons take this as a reason not to identify with your human life at all. It complicates things. However, isolating yourself emotionally isn't healthy, and most demons try to balance their fear of complications with their need to be around others. Obviously, you can get new covers - most commonly, by taking the life of anyone who's bargained awy their soul. All you need to do is touch them, invoke the pact, and...bam. It's done. Some demons do not like this ability and use it only as a last resort, while others love stepping into new, fully realized lives. Most demons who use it are willing to admit that they're parasitic life-thieves, though they may not feel much guilt over it. Some demons, however, take a strange view. When they take a human's life, they identify as the victim. They try to protect the people that human loved, actively pursue their favored causes. If they thought the human was a bad person, they might try to live their life 'better,' though what that means varies from demon to demon.

Messengers were the demons who, as angels, often interacted most closely with humans. They were method actors, having to emulate emotion well enough to fool humans...and often, fooling themselves, as well. They are the most likely demons to prize human relationships, and so to treat Cover as a vital necessity to those relationships. Demons do not often trust humans with the truth, and even then, a good Cover is necessary - even if your friend knows you're a mechanical monster that can become a four-armed, winged, firebreathing machine, they probably prefer to look at a human face. Messengers often identify very strongly with their Covers, and are the most likely to treat those Covers as 'real' on some level, even when they're made from stolen human lives. They are often careful and respectful with their Covers, not just of necessity but genuine attachment. They also often sympathzie strongly with humans, and frequently like people, no matter how they feel about their own place in the universe. They move easily through human cultures, and it's hard for them to not admire human complexity. Antiomian Messengers often turn their backs on lying and manipulating in favor of brutal honesty, but even they rarely turn their backs on humans. In fact, they are often the demons with the most compassion for humanity.

Guardians and Destroyers both typically tend to see Covers as a means to an end. Both types of angel often spent long periods imitating humans, but never as more than a shield to hide their angelic natures. Many Guardians come to enjoy human company, but even as demons they tend to be rather utilitarian in their view on Covers - that's not their true self, just a mask to keep safe. Destroyers are similar, but somewhat less likely to enjoy human company - they only ever imitated them long enough to get close, after all. Even when they do identify strongly with humans, they still tend to see the Cover as a tool and not a goal. Most of them can never really escape their existence as creatures of violence, though whether humans frustrate or impress them varies. Some are protective, others not so much. Antinomian Guardians and Destroyers tend to reject force and violence entirely. Ultimately, however, even they define their relationship wth humans by their awareness of how brave and fragile humans can be, and it usually keeps them from identify as human.

Psychopomps gathered resources and rearranged the world, and most of them prefer Covers that let them pursue the odd obsessions they often have. Most of them do not identify strongly with their Covers - they're the most alien angels to begin with, and the Fall doesn't change that. The Cover is no more than a means to the end of realizing their obsessions - or perhaps is a project itself, but it's not who they are. However, Psychopomps are often extremely fascinated by humanity and their creations. The difference is that they don't like humans as much - they're more...interested. They don't want to be human, just study them, for the most part.

Inquisitors prefer Covers that get access to information. Their paranoia also makes them likely to focus on Covers that are innocuous and harmless, to better hide their natures. They prefer strong Covers and work hard to keep them, though generally more out of necessity than necessarily identifying with them - info gathering is slow and longterm. Inquisitors often feel superior to humans, as they understand the universe more deeply than most humans could imagine and are able to break the world's rules with their secret knowledge. Indeed, they often lose sight of human life as something to value much, due to their focus on the secrets and conspiracies around them. Most want to either find a way to control the Machine or at least become invisible to it, but neither group really thinks this will affect humans much. They prefer to be subtle and unnoticed, because the human world is not theirs, and their Hell is not one that relates to humans at all.

Integrators are the demons most likely to have incomplete and sketchy Covers. For them, a Cover is merely a survival tool, and they often actively avoid developing attachments to it for fear of losing sight of their goal. Those that put work into Covers tend to do it in the belief that the Machine would be pleased by this, if it is capable of being pleased. Some also prefer engineering and tech jobs in hopes of emulating the perfection of the Machine's mechanisms, or roles in authority to help support the hierarchy of the world. They are often split on how closely to identify with their Covers. After all, is not part of doing their job well maintaining a proper Cover? They tend to work very hard to 'fit' their Covers, in hopes of impressing the Machine with competence. Others believe they shouldn't lose sight of their nature, and that they risk distraction by becoming too closely involved with their Cover lives. Integrators do often have the most sympathy for humans, however, due to their distaste for the human condition. They understand it, and they sympathize with humanity - the difference is, Integrators have a way out, if they can rejoin the Machine properly. Some go further, in fact, viewing themselves more as humans with the potential to become more rather than Fallen angels. A few try to make themselves believe the Machine's plans are good for all, in the long run, and that reconnection will benefit humanity. Others believe that they might be able to bring some measure of their own humanity back to the Machine.

Saboteurs are intensely paranoid, given their position as enemies of the Machine directly. Many take on the most innocuous Covers possible, to avoid attention. They put a lot of effort into their Covers and are most likely to have multiple redundant Covers and contingencies. Some Saboteurs identify closely with human rebels and take on Covers as anarchists or malcontents, largely to stay in touch with humans that have useful skillsets and motivations. They treat their Covers somewhat paradoxically. By demon standards, they are angry, passionate, overemotional. Many see humans as fellow warriors against the Machine. However, their existence is hard on their Covers, and humans are very dangerous when they get curious. Saboteurs are easy targets due to being so confrontational, and often they must rely on Exploits, which fray Cover inherently. They often form intense but very short-lived attachments to their Covers, living them fully while they exist, then moving on. Saboteurs tend to have very strong feelings on humans, either positive or negative, depending on if they want to free humans or see them as weak and stupid sheep. The latter often become callous towards the side effects of their plans, and most Saboteur actions end up having some negative consequences either way.

Tempters are extremely attached to their Covers, and favor those that allow them to live in comfort...however they define comfort. What matters to them, ultimately, is that the cover be strong, rich and full of life. (Rich not always in the material sense.) Because they are ultimately self-serving, however, they work very hard on ssafety, and often have multiple redundant plans for when their Covers are compromised. They like to gather pacts and promises, so they can always find a new Cover if needed. However, they do tend to identify strongly with both their Covers and the humans involved with them. They are the most likely of any Agenda to live fully as their Covers and want to protect them, though also the most likely to have backups in place. Their feelings towards humans tend to be complex. Sure, they live parasitically off humans a lot of the time, and often buy up bits of life just to improve their own lives. On the other hand, they deal closely with humans very often. They tend to either view humans as nothing more than marks to con or develop very strong sympathies for humans and engage in complex self-justification for their pactmaking behavior.

Next time: What is a demon?


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

As long as a demon has a functioning Cover, they are to all appearances a normal human with a human body and all of its weaknesses. If you wore one long enough, you would age and become weak. While the minor reality glitches that accompany many of their powers can interfere, a demon can choose to die of natural causes like any human. Demons have no idea what happens when they dear, and some fear that if any of them remains after death, that part just returns to the God-Machine to be recycled. More hopeful demons believe that whatever happens to humans happens to them. No demon has ever been known to leave a ghost behind, which could be good or bad depending on who you ask. Most demons, however, believe that they just have no souls or eternal spark, and if they die, they cease existing. Others believe that when the Descent is complete, they will be immortal lords of Hell. Besides the human form granted by Cover, every demon also has a demonic form, the shape they held as an angel. This is much more durable and powerful than a human body, and as a demon's power grows, their form shifts and alters to become more potent, too. Demons can easily take on their demonic form with little effort - the hard part is shoving all that power back into the human body they wear, and of course the fact that taking demonic form risks your Cover. Some demons are much more comfortable in demonic than human form and will even work to create places where it's safe to take them on without worrying about humans or the God-Machine noticing. These places often end up as neutral ground where demons that have radically different views can meet. Without a Cover, however, a demon is trapped in their demonic form - and that's dangerous, because angels are going to notice, and few mortals will sell their soul to a biomechanical monster. There are benefits, though. If you burn out your Cover and go loud, you are exceptionally powerful for a brief period. The problem is, that usually ends and then an angel drags you away.

While a demon's physical nature is quantum-entangled, their mental state resembles that of a human. Sure, they have weird pasts and can think in alien ways, but they generally come to pretty human conclusions and have human reactions. This is reinforced by the way the Cover makes them experience the world in a human manner. No matter how alien you are when you Fall, years of living as a human and experiencing human emotion will humanize you. You may not be a good person, but you are a person. Still, demons do express emotions differently due to the disconnect between body and mind. You feel emotions as strongly as anyone, but you only ever express them when you choose to do so. Your self-control is always perfect. This means that demons are nearly impossible to read, which can be quite handy in their paranoid world, and it makes it easier to keep up the Cover. However, it can also damage your interpersonal relationships. It's hard not to feel manipulative when you have to actively choose whether to let the people around you know how you feel or not. And if you care about them and show them painful sides of you...well, how do you deal with the fact that you are deliberately hurting them by letting them see that? Almost all demons have at least one person, sometimes human or sometimes not, that they can be utterly genuine with, but that's hard to maintain with another demon at best.

While demons often have a strong connection to a few humans, humans are also dangerous to them. You can limit that by telling them the truth, however. Once a demon lets a human in on the secret, that human can't hurt their Cover any more...but that simple act is very dangerous to your Cover in itself. And worse, if the human tells others and they begin to investigate, well, there goes your Cover very quickly. Especially if an angel ends up hearing about it. Thus, demons are very careful about revealing their true natures. Humans are also dangerous because they're fragile. They're mortal, they can be hurt so easily, and hanging around demons is a good way to get hurt. Even fellow demons can't be easily trusted - you can never really be sure who you're dealing with, because they can change faces so easily and lie so well. Sure, you can set up signals and passwords, but you know how easy it is to get those by your powers - and even if they are someone you know, can you trust them? Do you know their plans?

Most demons spend a good chunk of their day living out the Cover. It keeps them safe, after all. They also spend part of their day tracking the God-Machine - any demon has an interest in keeping an eye on local Infrastructure and the movement of local angels, if only to be sure they've not been found out. Then there's time for checking dead drops and any surveillence you're taking part in, and furthering your plans, whatever they happen to be. Demons also often spend time studying their Cipher. Each demon has a unique Cipher, a sort of mystical koan that leads them in their personal Descents, which generally means poking around with angels and mysteries and learning new powers in an effort to decrypt your Cipher. Last, a demon will spend some time hunting for Aether, the energy that fuels their powers. You can live without it indefinitely, but without any, you are vulnerable to attack, so it's best to keep track of good sources. Any free time after this business is done is usually for, you know, trying to enjoy your life.

Descent is the word demons tend to use for the struggle to accomplish their desires for peace, safety and success, however they think it'll be achieved. Some demons work forever in search of the Descent, while others find a balance they can live with for a while to get a break. The counterpart to the idea of the Descent is Hell. Hell is the endpoint. For some, Hell is a state of being - a perspective or set of circumstances that will bring you peace. Others believe in Hell as the name for the world when the Machine has been destroyed or subverted. For some, Hell is another world, a place that demons will eventually escape to. Some believe Hell will be found quietly, that few will notice. Others believe it will come with a bloody war that even humanity won't be able to ignore. The trick is that everyone is looking for Hell - or at least safety, comfort and happiness, which in many ways is the same thing for a demon.

So, what kind of work to demons do to pursue the Descent? First and foremost, gathering intel. Everyone needs good information. Inquisitors want it most, of course, but Saboteurs need good intel to plan their ops. Tempters need it so they can avoid the Machine's attnetion. Integrators need leverage on the Machine if they hope to go home intact. The God-Machine itself, of course, is largely incomprehensible. But it needs to work on human scale via Infrastructure and lackeys. You can spy on those much like any organization. Beyond that, you're going to need to set up dupes and deceptions to avoid the Machine's interest or dissuade it from going after you, whether that means setting up patsies or a smokescreen of forged information and false fronts. Psyops - that's psychological warfare - is also handy, to get the Machine's minions to act the way you want. It's easier on humans than angels - angels have a hard time thinking outside their purpose, so they're generally easier to trick, but a human can be much, much more trouble. If you can knock out the human helpers, the angel has a much harder to time.

And once all that's done? Well, sometimes you need to go directly against the machine. Sabotage, assasisnation, disruption. Never accept a fair fight, because if it's a fair fight, you might lose. You certainly in control of the situation. These jobs can be simple and direct - firebombs and so on - or longterm, subtle and complex, like arranging a neighborhood group to protest new buildings in order to delay a facility's construction until you better understand how to stop it directly. Saboteurs do this stuff most, but Inquisitors need distracts and Tempters need to weaken the Machine so they can thrive. Even Integrators sometimes need to get God's attention by throwing a wrench in, or to slow down an angel so they can talk to it. Nothing gets God's attention like a smoldering wreck.

Angels are the primary foe of most demons. They're the God-Machine's servants as functioning properly. They act in the world, but do not really belong to it. None of it has meaning to them except insofar as it is useful or harmful. They act in service to the mission, without hesitation, but they are not mere automatons. They obey the spirit of the order as well as the letter, and most have the discretion to get obstacles out of their way. The Machine prefers its angels to be subtle when possible, to avoid attention...but they'll happily be flashy if that's what's required to get the job done. Another angel can always come and eliminate the evidence and witnesses, after all. Still, demons know quite well that not all angels are perfect servants. Some of them can't help but wonder how God views them, some secretly care for or dislike certain humans. Even their obedience can cause problems and make them act slightly outside their parameters. A demon can often reason with an angel that has inner doubts, or even help facilitate their Fall. Few demons can avoid encountering angels indefinitely, but most try to keep these interactions brief and uneventful. The loyal servants of the Machine are powerful, more powerful than most demons in their area of expertise, and even if you do take one done, they probably sent a distress signal home.

Not all angels leave the Machine's service by choice. The Fall is always a choice, so those angels don't become demons. These are the angels that get nonsensical or impossible orders, or no orders. Sometimes the occult matrix that summoned them was flawed or distorted, twisting their nature. Sometimes the Machine itself screws up - that happens more often than you'd probably be comfortable with. The point is, these creatures are called Exiles. Some can still hear the Machine's voice. Some can speak back, others cannot. Most have no contact at all with the Machine. They are not Fallen and cannot choose to disobey and Fall because there's nothing for them to disobey. Hunter angels are almost never sent for exiles. No one knows why they happen, or if they're accidental or experiments or the results of sabotage. They might be bait for demons and stigmatics. Or they might not be. They don't have Infrastructure to sustain them, so they need other ways to gain Essence, and most can only harvest Essence under very specific conditions. Their hunger is usually what motivates them, in the absence of comprehensible orders. A handful of exiles are actually demons returned to the service of the Machine. While most Unchained are recycled into angels when caught, the Machine does send a few back with free will intact. They lose some of their abilities and generally suffer the same problems as most exiles - meaningless instruction, warped or broken bodies or minds and so on. No reason.

Qashmallim are a...a thing you might run into. Some demons believe they are angels that somehow slipped the Machine's control and now operate on a different set of rules. They certainly resemble angels, but they seem to cause change and chaos rather than order. They need no Infrastructure to summon or maintain them. A smart demon avoids qashmallim. They won't try to take you in, but they are very powerful and have no clear agenda you could understand. They could do anything and it's probably not going to be good for you. Like an angel, they are single-minded in pursuit of their missions. Sometimes, you can get an angel and qashmal to run into each other and get them to fight, but that is neither easy nor particularly safe.

Next time: Mortals and the problems they cause.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

It's never wise for a demon to underestimate humans. They're the most numerous sapient creatures on the planet, and while most know little to nothing about the God-Machine, a crowd of them is a great hiding spot for both you and your foes. They can also cause problems by accident or over mundane reasons. Still, those without knowledge are rarely a serious threat. It's the others that are the problem. Stigmatics are mortal humans who encountered the God-Machine and were unable to look away. The experience changes them, making them able to see past the veil that hides most gears and making them sensitive to Infrastructure. Not all are God-Machine loyalists and some can even sympathize with your cause, especially those whose will was left unaltered by the Machine. However, it has been known to brainwash or rework stigmatics, or even implant secret missions into them, turning them into unwitting sleeper agents. A stigmatic can be a potent ally, and it's possible for demons to turn mortals into stigmatics, but trust is, as ever, a rare commodity.

It's not just stigmatics that are going to cause you problems, though. The God-Machine has cults - and little wonder. It's so vast, so powerful that even without a clear idea of its scale or what it is, mortals can be easily inspired to worship it, especially when angels get involved. Most cults are small, and angels typically only recruit them to supply needed labor on a small scale. They don't usually have time to expand before their purpose is fulfilled, either. They move things around, provide finances or logistics for projects or even work as rudimentary components of Concealment, Defense or Elimination Infrastructure. Sometimes they are even literal fuel to the occult matrix. They rarely last beyond their project - sometimes killed by hunter angels cleaning up, but more often they are repurposed to a new task or left to disperse, as they usually do on their own, at best forming esoteric and bizarre but harmless spiritual practices. Larger projects, however, can call for much larger cults, even generational ones. These often are an elaborate piece of Infrastructure of their own, and hidden behind false fronts and decoys to avoid attention. These groups need organization and leaders, and when their projects end, they occasionally splinter. The God-Machine seldom pursues them unless they cause problems, and splinter cults can usually come up with entire theologies from their experiences. These cultists are common foes of demons, no matter if they're actively serving or not, because they are the simplest and most expendable of the God-Machine's tools. They flush out demons by forcing them to protect themselves, for example. Sometimes, demons will even make theiro wn cults - though rarely large ones, for fear of discovery. Still, fanatics are nice to have.

One of the more bizarre mortal groups that a demon might run into is the Deva Corporation, an Indian company formed by the family of the infamous Pain Prophet of New Delhi, Marco Singe, when he was a mere child. It began as a simple cult of the Machine, but has grown into a powerful conglomerate whose executives believe they know the truth, having studied Infrastructure and occult matrices across the world in hopes of finding a method to control the Machine. Some divisions work with the Machine in exchange for relics or artifacts that operate on scientific principles no mortal comprehends, performing tasks such as monitoring the Apocalypse Clock, which informs them how to prevent the end of the world, which inevitably involves a specific murder in a specific way by a specific deadline, always someone the killer loves or idolizes and never painlessly or quickly for either party. Every missed deadline causes cataclysms and makes the Clock count down towards the end of the world. Every successful murder stops or even turns back the clock. Other parts of the company work with occult objects in an effort to identify and duplicate how they work, or at least understand how to use them. At least one arm, Butterfly Cryptozoology Limited, is rumored to control Death, binding it to service. This may be exaggerated, but they certainly do own Packet Theta, a set of skeletal remains retrieved from the lunar Crypt of the Butterfly by Apollo 17. The corporation has been studying and cataloguing Infrastructure for a very long time, and some of their scientists even believe they might be able to build their own crude Infrastructure. One group, Luminous Labs, focuses on studying angels, but to avoid angering the Machine or drawing its destructive power down, they often make do by vivisecting demons. As a result, they know more about demons than practically any mortal group, including how to find them, hunt them, weaken their Covers and trap them. They have no particular interest in turning you over to the Machine, to be sure, and they don't see themselves as servants...but vivisection as a scientific test subject is hardly a pleasant fate.

Humans aren't the only things that are influenced by the Machine. Other living creatures are as well, sometimes deliberately and sometimes as a side-effect of a powerful occult matrix. Cryptid is the term used to refer to animals that have come into contact with the Machine in a way that has altered them fundamentally. Some become intelligent, turn into monsters or gain mystic powers, but most just become physically warped and gain the ability to spot Infrastructure. While cryptids are sometimes made intentionally, most are mere side-effects, and their limited awareness doesn't usually threaten the God-Machine beyond being a minor nuisance. However, they do tend to gather around areas of powerful aetheric resonance in a way that can give away Infrastructural or angelic location, and most breed true for some reason. Entire cryptid subspecies can infest Infrastructure if not exterminated. Demons also have to deal with this, as occasional beacons of Aether, and more than one demon's had their Cover risked in some small way and drawn down a flock of cryptid pigeons that cause an even bigger compromise. Larger and more dangerous cryptids can be a physical threat, as they often enter a blood frenzy on contact with Aetheric sources.

Animals aren't the only things changed, either - cryptoflora are plants, fungi and microorganisms altered by the Machine. They're like cryptids in many ways, but less of a problem because they usually can't move. The ones that are exceptions are very dangerous, however, ranging from parasitic fungi that can seize control of a host's nervous system to get clsoer to Aether or viruses that become cripplingly deadly to demons or stigmatics. Others can have practical uses, though - there's at least one kind of bacteria that allows its host to hear the voice of the Machine, while a kind of oak exists that masks aetheric resonance, and they can often be used as useful parts of mystical craft.

Ghosts and spirits are not commonly encountered, though the God-Machine's projects often do produce ghosts when it kills people, and it may or may not choose to ignore them or even incorporate them into a project as a useful tool. In some rare cases it has even modified ghosts into something...different, with strange powers. While most of these are kept loyal by careful rewriting of their souls, some do go rouge and can be used as valuable, if untrustworthy, assets. Spirits are more rarely encountered - the Machine has little interest in the Shadow realm in any meaningful way. Angels are preferred because they are much more loyal, though the Machine is not above using spirits if needs call for it. They are not usualyl reshaped the way ghosts are - instead, an angel is sent to find an appropriate spirit, trap and introduce it into an environment where its nature will do the rest.

Other supernatural beings are out there, and most of them have no realtion to the Machine. It may manipulate them, but not very frequently. Vampires, for example, seldom interact much with demons. They both prefer hiding in shadow and have little reason to interact (though demonic blood is just as good as that of any human). Few demons care to deal with them unless they are a specific problem or are being interfered with by the Machine in some way. However, demonic Agencies and vampires often compete for resources and manpower in fields such as organized crime, and while alliances can happen to keep the peace, it's never especially friendly. Demons are strong, but vampires are much more numerous and occasionally quite potent individually, with widescale influence. Many mortals die when vampires and demons fight.

Mortal hunters can cause quite a problem for demons - not least because the Machine's spent centuries ensuring that most sacred texts and religious traditions treat angels with significant respect and associate demons with evil and destruction. Even hunters that share your goals often are a liability. Most supernatural beings don't understand the Machine but at least have some sense of being manipulated and can resist its agents well. Mortal hunters are much easier for the Machine to kill or enslave, and they're entirely ignorant of the dangers they face, which can put you in a lot of danger. Bravery is not enough to resist the Machine's power.

Mages and demons run into each other a lot more than most demons are comfortable with, because the Machine's projects produce events that both like to look into. Some make good allies or partners, while others are quick foes and rivals. Even Inquisitors tend to admit that mages are useful because of their unequalled ability to gather intelligence and their near-infinite curiosity. Sometiems they'll refuse to believe in things that don't fit their worldview, but that's rare, so it's easy to trade information with them just because of that curiosity. However, despite their talents, mages are human and can be induced to betray you to the Machine. They may also suffer the same normal human prejudices against demons or may try to cheat you. Some will even try to capture you to force you to give up your knowledge or power...and what's worse, there's always rumors of mages that willingly serve the Machine.

Werewolves and demons occasionally have common cause, particularly when the Machine decides to fuck with spirits. However, alliance is dangerous. Werewolves are much more brutal and direct than most demons appreciate, and a demon that runs with them is going to risk Cover, while werewolves have no patience for an ally that won't use their power to help the group. Most conflicts, however, come out of misunderstandings, such as werewolves believing demons to be corrupted spirits that must be driven out. Demons often suspect that werewolves are pawns of the Machine, which uses them to keep Earth free of unwanted spirits.

Changelings are also fugitives among humanity, but that's about the only similarity. Demons tend to look on them with a mix of pity and scorn, and changeling sympathy typically ends the moment they learn how pacts work. Stealing parts of human lives does not usually endear you to changelings - it reminsd them too much of goblins and the Gentry. If they ever learn about how soul pacts work, this usually gets violent.

Prometheans are created, not born, and demons are often fascinated by them. Their obsession to become human can seem small, even narcissistic, to demons, who tend to focus on the bigger picture. The problems their presence causes for humans are also occasionally taken advantage of by the Machine. Prometheans often mistake angels and some demons for qashmallim, which the Machine is not above exploiting, either, making these Prometheans easy to dupe into service, which can be...problematic, to say the least.

Next time: Agencies


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Demons are fugitives, traitors and criminals against the God-Machine, and surviving that isn't easy. There's enemy agents everywhere, and the Unchained know that if they are caught, they will almost certainly be destroyed, remorselessly and without hesitation. They have lost much of their power in the Fall, much of their duability and survivability, and they know it. They need to hide, but working alone doesn't usually cut it - dying alone and hidden is no better than dying to the Machine. Every demon knows what they gave up, knows that they lack purpose and allies. One demon doing their best is never really part of humanity, no matter what they do. They're a creature pretending to be human. They know too much about the world around them, see the power of the Machine everywhere. Thus, demons that make contact with each other often form into what are known as rings - small groups of demons with differing goals, even incompatible ones, but a shared need to survive and avoid discovery. Thus, demons can usually trust each other not to turn each other over to angels, because that'd mean handing themselves over, too. On top of mutual protection, a ring also allows demons to teach each other. Most angels are given only the knowledge they require for their tasks, and while angels do not share this knowledge with each other, nothing stops a demon from doing it. Strong allies, after all, are more useful. Rings are great for sharing information on Infrastructure, angels, resources and other useful things.

While most demons never form rings larger than a handful of allies, some do join larger groups - Agencies. Most demons view them with a mix of suspicion, fear and respect. When the term is used, it most often refers to what are more technically temporal Agencies - organizations that exist to benefit their leadership. The demons heading these groups live in luxury, with their Agencies selling their services as fixers to anyone who can afford it. They provide demons with access to teachers for Embeds and Exploits, as well as arranging access to information dealers and the black market in all kinds of goods - even Covers. The more influential Agencies have hundreds of Pacts on retainer each year, offering the mortals who sign them things they could never get on their own - removing problems, gaining power, anything, really. The Pactbound just has to give up something of value - sometimes something tangible, sometimes part of their life, on top of, say, some part they want to get rid of. The pact is made, and the problem in the Pactbound's life becomes a part of a Demon's Cover rather than stick around. Agencies are also happy to work with poor mortals, helping them get what they want...in exchange for any part of their life they still have. Once that runs out, well, a soul pact is rarely far behind. These are often referred to as 'burn Covers,' serving the same purpose as burner phones for a demon - untracable, short-term-use identities intended to last just long enough for one job.

The use of burn Covers is not universal. More profit-seeking Agencies will clean up these Covers and try to make them more valuable and lonterm. Once the soul pact is signed, these Agencies not only deliver on their promises but will send a special agent to help get the Pactbound's life in order, using their powers to improve the mortal's situation so that their life can become a more useful, wealthier Cover, especially if they have specialized skills, which are also valuable to a demon wearing the Cover. You might mistake this for altruism; it's not. Ultimately, it's the same kind of self-interest you see in real estate investors that fix up old homes and flip them for a profit. It increases your resale value, and you will be resold. Your prosperity and newly fixed life last only until someone cashes you in and erases your personhood. Most mortals who come to an Agency for a pact are running from really big problems. The wealthy might sign minor pacts to jettison parts of their lives they don't need for things money can't buy, but almost none sign major pacts, and then only after long courting. Skeptical mortals may not understand quite how real a contract written for their soul is, but those who are familiar with religion or the occult will generally hesitate to sign them anyway.

Demons at the upper ranks of a temporal Agency rarely work hard to maintain their Covers. They hide themselves behind layers of minions and delegation and just live out the lives they want, often with a dozen or more soul pacts easily available if they need to change. The middle rank of Agencies tend to be specialist demons or managers of small groups of lower-rank agents. Either way, they're indispensable and have some discretion, plus probably two or three quality identities ready for them, though they can't burn them easily. In the event that angels come to take down the Agency, mid-level demons rarely escape unless they've been solidly planning an exit strategy - they're too visible to human outisders and outcast recruits that may or may not betray them to the Machine. Low-ranking agents are treated only slightly better than demonic clients. If they get a second identity at all, it's probably a burn Cover. They are most likely to be sent into dangerous situations, but if they can evade capture long enough to get in contact with the Agency they can probably get a new identity if burned. This is a benefit of service - most demons in those straits will be driven off or killed if they come begging to buy a new identity without notice.

Insurgent Agencies, meanwhile, do not exist for pleasure. They are founded by powerful, charismatic Saboteurs to help take down the Machine. Lesser demons tend to have trouble recruiting others for a such a plan, after all. They focus heavily on recruiting, and tend to be quite large if they survive the first month. Many do not. They tend to be top-down, with agents at each level knowing little about those above them. Orders come anonymously and reports are filed equally secretly. Most insurgent Agencies don't disclose their goals to new recruits, instead setting up fronts to collect intelligence and resources without telling their agents they're part of an army. This does, however, mean that if the Machine can infiltrate the upper ranks, they can easily destroy the entire group by tracing the chain downwards. Those at the bottom who don't even know they're pawns rarely get a chance to flee when the angels come for them.

Compromised Agencies are those which the Machine allows to form as a trap for demons. Sometimes, that means sending an angel to pretend to be a demon, but that's less reliable than suborning a real Agency. A handful of demons are allowed to remain free as long as they maintain a quota of other demons turned over to the Machine. This lasts only until the compromised Agency tries to get free or fails to make quota. Most of the time, demons notice the disappearance of their fellows and can identifgy the cause. They'll take revenge on compromised agents sometimes, but they rarely fight these Agencies directly for fear of angelic confrontation. Instead, they warn others of the trap and make it harder to fill quota. Integrators sometimes organize these Agencies on purpose to gain favor, but that's not common at all. In almost all cases, compromised Agencies are, in fact, compromised - a normal Agency subverted by the Machine, filled with undercover angels to watch over the newly suborned demons, who have a choice between betraying their fellows or being erased.

Free Agencies are informal ones, often organized largely to discuss experiences with other demons. They don't make large meetings or have specific goals. Their agents are nonexclusive and work largelt to share rumors with each other, debate theories on occult physics, give each other advice and argue about how best to survive. Most of this is done via listservs and invitation-only forums. In some cases, demons will even exchange anonymous stories about their angelic existences, but that can be dangerous - even without names or locations, the Machine might be able to connect the dots and out you. Some demons involved in free Agencies will compose long, detailed reports that have too many identifiers to show to others. In the event of capture, the report will automatically be sent to the Agency so all members can preserve knowledge that would otherwise have been lost with the agent. Thus, even the most paranoid Inquisitor will usually lurk in free Agency forums in hopes of gaining these manifestos before they are deleted to avoid God-Machine notice.

Now we get some short lifts of example cities. Washington, D.C. is full of demons seeking power, but also full of God-Machine agents. There's at least six Agencies in the area at any time, merging and splintering at random. They are always engaged in alliances and turf wars, and agents in DC are notoriously self-interested, swapping loyalties depending on who's winning at the time. They are bound up in mortal politics, with soul Pacts on several lobbyists and bureaucrats, and even a few politicians. One Agency claims they have a Senator as an agent, but won't say which. Saboteurs build secret Agency divions to harm the Machine, and while they've had some success, they're drawing attention. A local Agency has been infiltrated, but no one is sure which one. The Agency leaders seem more interested in using this to rally against rivals than to find the true threat.

Williston, North Dakota doesn't look like the battleground it is. It's an oil rush town. Saboteurs and Inquisitors hide as oil workers, investigating God-Machine activity that has been in place from a similar oil rush in the 80s. It seems clear that this is the next stage in some project. The local Agency exploits the mortals seeking oil and money, conning them or acquiring real estate and renting it out to newcomers at high rates. To minimize infiltration risk, the Agency does not advertise its stats as insurgent to new demons, recruiting the way most tmeporal Agencies do instead, talking abour resources and protection. Those that won't pay their dues or try to become competition will soon discover how much control over Williston's demons the Agency actually has. It doesn't demand everyone join, but it has no tolerance for threats and lots of power in the city.

Hong Kong has a reputation for free trade, low taxes and lots of people. The Agency there has been around for a century, and it claims it's made as close to Hell as anyone will get. Since the passing from British control, however, it's under siege. The Machine's plots have proliferated, taking advantage of the Chinese government's efforts to curb sedition to try and restrict demonic activity. To make things worse, Deva Corporation showed up and built an office recently, kidnapping several agents and loyal stigmatics. It's turned at least one demon into spying on the others, which forced the Agency out of its headquarters and into a skyscraper that it now shares with a dozen other companies, any one of which could be a Machine front. Another Agency has shown as well from mainland China. They seem to have access to one of China's political prisons, which they use to gain soul Pacts by threat or torture. Their agents have no fear of blowing their Covers as a result, and sometimes even attack rivals in the streets. The Hong Kong demons know very little about the newcomers or their goals. It's likely, despite accusations of collusion, that they just want the freedom Hong Kong has enjoyed for so long. Some local agents think it's time to switch sides and join the newcomers, but any defectors haven't been seen since, though it's unclear if that's because they were killed or given new Covers.

Berlin, Germany was long a city split by the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Agencies that ran demonic concerns on each side went to war to control the city. While both were temporal Agencies, the Western Agency accepted Integrators as members, while the Eastern Agency was heavily Saboteur and often executed Integrators. During the fighting that followed, the Western Agency controlled more of the financial and tech markets, but the Eastern had more members. The two fought to stalemate for ten years before declaring a truce, having used up most of their resources and now being hunted by Machine agents. The two Agencies recruited new demons and each consolidated their power over half the city. Fifteen years of mostly peace and cooperation have brought them together. The Western Agency is sitll more friendly to Itegrators and the Eastern still more likely to attack Infrastructure, but they rarely fight openly these dies. Some demons even belong to both Agencies openly.

Moscow, Russia, was one of the most difficult places to be a demon, prior to the Soviet Union's collapse. The strict limits on speech made it easy for the Machine to subvert mortal institutions, and it had more undercover angels in Moscow than any other city in the world. The demons there lived in constant fear - not only of the Machine, but of being taken as spies by the KGB and Soviet authorities. Even investigation by the Soviets was dengerous, since it eroded Cover. Anyone without a bunch of soul pacts was probably going to get captured, and most of those who survive were part of Agencies tied to the mafia. After the fall of the Soviets, the most potent Agency in Moscow conquered or destroyed all other Agencies in the city. Today, they are infamous as criminals, hedonists and callous towards human life. They engage in all kinds of crime, and has thousands of pacts, mostly signed under duress, for burn Covers. They specialize in selling package deals - abducted humans forced to sign soul pacts, who are then sold, body and soul, to other demons, typically for use as untraceable Covers, as their buyers usually aren't anywhere near where the new Cover came from. Some don't cash in quickly, using the threat of doing so to force their victim to do as they say, while others try to treat their purchases well and make them comfortable, either to make their Covers more valuable for later or to resell the contracts.

Tel Aviv, Israel, is a major economic hub and arts community, as well as home to one of the largest non-virtual free Agencies in the world. They hide their messages and writings in libraries, museums and theaters across the city. Several agents work in publishing houses, hiding pages in a handful of copies of books on unrelated subjects, which they arrange to go to local libraries. Others use their power to hide writings in art, newspapers and movies, viewable only to other agents or even narrower audiences. To protect their members, every text has multiple copies and no agent knows where each copy of a document is. They often split longer or more sensitive documents between several books in multiple locations, so that finding all of the pieces can take days. If a patron checks out a hidden text or the library removes it from circulation, you're going to have to hunt down the mortal with the book or find another copy. The catalog is decentralized and involves contacting multiple agents to find one that might know where to get a document, assuming you know what you're looking for. No one in Tel Aviv's Agency can provide a complete list of every text. The complete collection has tens of thousands of texts - personal accounts of the Fall, dossiers on suspected God-Machine cults, theoretical discussions of Infrastructure and more. Some time ago, the acquisitions department Agency began actively collecting texts from demons in other conturies, and even got ahold of 250 pages of the God-Machine Manual, stolen from the Deva Corporation. They began hiding the texts overseas a year ago, when they found that several copies of key texts on occult physics had vanished. Most suspect theft out of curiosity by other demons outside Tel Aviv, but some fear that someone's trying to destroy the information deliberately.

Next time: Infrastructure


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

A lot of this is similar to what's in the God-Machine Chronicle material, but from a different perspective. Infrastructure is the organizational structure that serves as a foundation for the rest of the system. The God-Machine's Infrastructure serves a purpose, and each piece is a component of a larger, more complex piece of Infrastructure. There are five rough types of Infrastructure: Concealment, Defense, Logistical, Elimination and Command and Control. Concealment Infrastructure is the first line of defense against interference: don't get noticed. Some of it is mundane - a front location at the site, like a restaurant or shop. Other parts are supernatural, ensuring mortals do not notice the Machine's gears. This is not foolproof - some can see them anyway, often due to an encounter with the Machine. Angels often assist in Concealment Infrastructure - Guardians are often able to veil areas, while Psychopomps and Messengers are both great at laying false trails for investigators. Demons that once supported Concealment Infrastructure are often the best at creating and maintaining Covers.

Defense Infrastructure is for when concealment isn't enough. Someone starts poking around, and maybe they can disrupt or even actively counter the project. The God-Machine then employs more overt weapons - mortal cultists, spirits, monsters, angels...it has armies of agents to deal with investigators. It still attempts to do so subtly and quietly, but when a real threat to Infrastructure shows up, that tends to mean a monster hiding in your car. Many angels either personally protect projects or oversee Defense Infrastructure that protects projects. Most of these are Guardians, designed to keep outsiders out. Destroyers are sometimes used for defense, however, when the Machine anticipates major problems. Messengers sometimes organize and motivate cults that serve as Defense Infrastructure. Demons formerly involved in Defense Infrastructure tend to be very good fighters.

Logistical Infrastructure is vital to the Machine, because most projects fundamentally involve moving people and things into precise positions to create an occult matrix. Logistical Infrastructure ensures this happens, with the proper materials at the proper time. These projects collect raw materials, build hardware, construct other Infrastructure. Angels do a lot of the work ehre - Messengers carry orders to humans working on projects, and are often the best at repurposing mortal infrastructure into actual Infrastructure. Psychopomps, meanwhile, can mask the movement of material, while Guardians make sure it gets there safely. Demons that worked in Logistical Infrastructure often know quite a lot about the world and the people in it, and many retain their social contacts after the Fall.

Elimination Infrastructure is designed to get rid of Infrastructure that is no longer needed, whether because it was intended to be temporary or because someone fucked it all up and now it's useless. This removes all evidence the Infrastructure existed at all - useful, when you want to keep mortals from looking too closely. This can be crude arson or as subtle as manipulating a spirit into wiping all memories of an event. Elimination Infrastructure can be very large-scale - say, using a volcano to destroy a city - or highly targeted - say, killing someone who witnessed too much. Destroyers are great at removing both witnesses and evidence, and are often used to oversee Elimination Infrastructure. Psychopomps and Messengers get involved when subtler removal is required. Demons that worked in Elimination Infrastructure tend to be extremely efficient, often brutally so, at covering their tracks and finding the most effective way to remove evidence of their work.

Command and Control Infrastructure exists because the Machine is complex - and any complex machine needs parts that determine its overall strategy. Every new project needs information gathered, decisions made and instructions communicated. However, even demons know very little about how this is done. Messengers are used to communicate the Machine's will to its agents...but not always. Angels, of course, can hear the Machine's voice and relay information back to it at will. The Machine must be able to sense more than that, though. Its projects often rely on a precise understanding of what seems to be the location of literally everything. However, it clearly isn't omniscient or omnipotent, or demons couldn't exist. Some demons claim to have defended Command and Control Infrastructure, but the few times anyone's taken those structures done has never resulted in any noticeable loss of capability for the Machine. It seems unlikely that the Machine would be careless with this critical Infrastructure, and some is probably redundant, while others are protected by decoys when that is impossible.

Demons can always see the Infrastructure. They may not know what its purpose is or what it can do, but they know it's there. However, they are unable to create new Infrastructure - they never learned the underlying principles that the Machine uses to create that stuff. They know just enough to do what their job used to be. However, some do study known Infrastructure in the hopes of learning, one day, how to recreate it themselves. So far, all attempts to do so have either failed or been utterly annihilated by the Machine's agents. Despite this, demons do know that human scientific knowledge is woefully tiny compared to what's out there, and that many of the things even most other supernatural creatures believe impossible are doable, with the right occult matrix. God-Machine projects rarely produce anything that outright surprises a demon in terms of what they can do, even if they don't know how or why it was done.

Every piece of Infrastructure has a weak point - actually, that's true of lowercase-i infrastructure, too. For Infrastructure, this is the Linchpin: a piece that is necessary to the Infrastructure, but is also the weakest point in some manner. Maybe it's a spot where the gears are poorly guarded, a piece that is easily disrupted or something that needs constant maintenance. Take that out, and the Infrastructure will fail. However, the God-Machine believes heavily in contigencies. Take down one project, and it'll adapt. It will try again when it can - even if that's a thousand years from now. Angels, however, are rarely fully redundant. Most occult matrices involve summoning an angel, but these angels tend to be precreated, stored away in a facility somewhere. Creating entirely new angels takes a lot of resources, most of which are rare and hard to get, plus powerful cosmic events or convergences. These projects can take decades or centuries to enact, and the God-Machine really prefers not having to make new angels.

Once you know what to look for, Infrastructure is pretty easy to spot. Form follows function, and so no piece of Infrastructure really fits in. It always looks out of place, thanks to the particular occult needs of its construction. There's always something incredibly weird around, even if it's not immediately visible. The God-Machine works to distract people away from this, sure, but once you get past the distractions, Infrastructure tends to be obvious, even if the reason for the weirdness is (as it often is) entirely incomprehensible. Deception, of course, is part of the Machine's activities at all times. It routinely deceives the mortals that serve it, and rarely reveals more than a tiny fraction of its power ot anyone. The cults rarely have beliefs that seem even slightly related, and it never tells mortals anything that is not calculated to make them serve some goal. When its lies don't work, it will not hesitate to turn to threats, blackmail or even mind control. If this fails, well, pawns are always expendable and replacable. Supernatural beings are more difficult to work with, but their powers often make them overconfident and reckless in ways the Machine can exploit, and they often overestimate their knowledge of the world. The Machine trusts angels more than any other servant, and while it does not lie to them and will tell them about weaknesses in Infrastructure that they have to worry about enemies exploiting, it doesn't ever bother with telling them why something is being done. They don't need to know that.

Then we get a set of short stories about demons explaining what they used to do as angels. They're all really great and I suggest you buy the book so you can read 'em. It's stuff like 'there's an angel that guards a tiny, handmade model of the city it was in that updated itself to plan the future of the city, and went rogue when it was told it wasn't allowed to take care of the city it had grown attached to any more. It smashed hald of the model and is now terrified that the city was more than a plan - it may have actually been a reflection of the city and able to influence it, so it's working to prepare the city now for a potential incoming disaster.'

Next time: Playing a demon


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Making a demon starts off fairly similar to a human in CofD, as always, until you get to the Demon template. Demons get an extra, fourth Skill Specialty, but it must be something that could risk compromising their Cover if they use it - something incongruous, like a vegan with a Butchery specialty or a little old lady with a Demlitions specialty. You then select your Incarnation - Destroyer, Guardian, Messenger or Psychopomp. This determines what Embed type you favor. Then you pick which Agenda you belong to - Inquisitor, Integrator, Saboteur, Tempter or None. This determines what Persistent Condition you get. The four Agendas each give you something useful, while no Agenda gives you Uncalled - you get Beats when you get into trouble that being in an Agenda would have helped with, until you join an Agenda. You can be part of two Agendas if you take an appropriate merit, as a note.

Once you've done all this, it's time to take your powers. You get to select a total of four Embeds and/or Exploits. One must be an Embed from your Incarnation's favored category; otherwise, you're free to do what you like, as long as the ST approves of your picks. (Exploits, see, have prerequisite Embeds...but the prerequisite is always 'anything the GM feels would be able to be twisted to have some relation to the Exploit.' So if you want one Embed and three Exploits, that's fine if the GM okays your picks.) You pick one of your Embeds to be the first Key in your Cipher; more on the Cipher later. Then you design your demonic form - at character creation, it has three Modifications, two Technologies, one Propulsion and one Process. More on what the hell that means later.

Demons do not have Integrity - or any morality stat, in fact. They have Cover, instead. You can have multiple Cover ratings, but never more than your Primum, which is your power stat. You start with one Cover at 7 for free, and can buy another for one merit dot if you begin play over Primum 1. Your Covers, as a note, can have your social merits attached ot them, making them usable only in that Cover. This is annoying, but means fewer people know your true identity. If you ever lose that Cover, you get the merit dots back as XP, free. Demons also have a Virtue and a Vice, like a mortal. The primary difference is that demons tend to have weirder Virtues and Vices, reflecting their more inhuman outlook on life.

So, let's talk about the Agendas. First up: Inquisitors. Inquisitors are also known as the Watchers or the Paranoids, because they are obsessed with discovering information about the Machine in order to protect themselves from it. They are the undisputed demonic masters of intelligence gathering, though they have a tendency to conspiracy theory. Of course, they're not generally wrong that often. Often, they come to the Agenda out of an affinity for knowledge. They believe firmly that knowledge is power, and that by gathering knowledge while denying it to their enemies, they can make themselves too powerful to be taken out. They are not especially good at uncertainty, most of the time. They treat the world as a giant intelligence agency. Everything is either a risk or an advantage - usually both at once. They focus on rare information, working to ensure they - and only they - know it. They do not trust others easily, even other Inquisitors, and tend to be suspicious of everyone they meet. They sell scraps of information to get other information, always trying to get as much as they can for as little as they can.

Inquisitors believe in a personal Hell. Hell is not a place, not a world. It's a state of mind, an enlightenment achieved by wisdom and secret lore. The most important rule, to them, is to always be on guard. Anything could be a trap. Never work alone, because being alone is being dead. Get reliable allies, and use them well. Often, they prefer to work with demons that are not Inquisitors, to avoid rivalry in gaining information. They focus on gathering information - which is more than being a shutin with a computer. They tend to have a network of contacts and allies, built by friendship, favor trading and blackmail. Many work to ensure they are valuable to those around them, often working undercover to follow up leads. Some even pretend to be other kinds of supernatural being. They tend to be pessimists, knowing that victory against the Machine is not a given, that stalling for time and advantage is often all you can do. They are always vigilant, never relaxed, and some buckle under the constant strain. That's the price you pay.

Inquisitors have no general organization. Each is an intelligence agency unto themselves, negotiating with the rest, allied to a few. They communicate by dead drop, code and graffiti, and even those that are strong allies keep secrets from each other. They often use internet message boards and listservs, hidden behind Tor and proxies, talking in code. The boards tend to be small, obscure and well-hidden, often disguised as conspiracy theorist hangouts or fringe religious movements. They always assume someone might be watching, and so they prefer secretive meetups in deserted areas, always using obscure languages and always watching the shadows. They never go anywhere without knowing exactly where the exits are. Most Inquisitors never formally join anything - they just become part of the Inquisitor community without really meaning to, until one day they realize they're Inquisitors.

The Inquisitor Condition is Prepared for Anything. It generates Beats when you ask a question to your ring that leads them to change or reconsider their plans. Once per session, they can resolve it to perform an intuitive leap of logic, reaching a revelatory truth. The ST gives them a useful piece of information that helps resolve the current situation or, if there is no obvious way to do so, they get +3 to a Mental skill roll, which can be used for an Embed or Exploit.

Stereotypes posted:

Integrators: Nothing I've seen even hints the God-Machine is redeemable. It's trying to set you up.
Saboteurs: In a shallow pool, the bottom's always visible. That's how you know you can trust them. A little.
Tempters: Wheels within wheels. Webs across webs. It's not so different from what we do, only with...people.
Vampires: I can't tell you how many times I've followed up a lead only to find one of these. Did the God-Machine create them as its decoys?
Werewolves: They seem pretty easy to understand at first blush. Don't be fooled. They have their own language.
Mages: Undisputed masters of hoarding knowledge. Luckily, they're so busy hiding it from each other that I can sometimes slip through.
Hunters: So outnumbered. So outgunned. And yet, they seem to thrive. If you can strike a deal with them, do so, but never let them see your back.
Humans: So many places to hide - for us and our enemies.

Next time: Integrators and Saboteurs


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Integrators are demons that regret the Fall, who wish to return to the God-Machine...in theory. In practice, the ones that want to go back and be angels and don't care about what happens to them? They go back fast, they get reformatted, that's done. Integrators are the ones who remain loyal to their master, but wish to remain themselves. Many hope to redeem themselves and even redeem the God-Machine before they return. Even they are hunted by angels and must hide, however, before they can go home. They are also known as the Idealists or the Turncoats, and many other demons fear them as zealots that would destroy themselves to serve a monstrous god. Others see them as misguided, but still allies in the trenches. Integrators often see themselves as the only sane demons, who realize that Hell is not something to go looking for. Most of them are motivated by a mix of loyalty, guilt, idealism and nostalgia. They miss the constant guidance of their angelic state, and many are drawn to human religions in an attempt to reclaim some shred of the divine that way. Others develop their own unique philosophies.

The final goal of the Integrators is where arguments start. While all want to return to the Machine, they split into three broad factions on how. The first group believes that Integrators never actually Fell and are, in fact, undercover exiles with a specific job, which they must discover and fulfill to be recalled home. The second (and largest) group believes that they can humanize the Machine, altering its behaviors and algorithms. By reprogramming the Machine, or at least by returning home with their humanity intact. they can adapt its behavior to be more in line with positive things for humanity. The third group longs for their old angelic existence and seek to return to it, but with their individuality intact, and on their own terms. Autonomy may be terrifying, but angelic nature is too constricting. They want something in between.

Generally speaking, other Agendas treat Hell as a utopian state of freedom from the Machine. The Integrators argue that Hell must be suffering. The absence of the Machine is the source of a demon's pain. Angels, after all, do not feel this ache. How terrible, then, would a complete absence of the Machine be? Their goal is generally to find some ritual or method to return to the Machine in their chosen way. Whatever form it takes, this act would be something obscure and secret, hidden somewhere the Machine has not noticed. The Integrators must always be careful. There's no real pathway to success that anyone knows of, and while most would give up anything to achieve their goal, they are also often afraid to sacrifice too much in case they accidentally give up something they need. They must survive to be redeemed, and often the Integrators work with other Agendas for mutual protection. They are always under suspicion, but the end goal of redeeming the Machine tends to be acceptable to other demons, and that faction's pretty big. Many Integrators also perform personal acts of penance in their daily lives, sometimes to the point of scourging themselves or preaching to other demons.

Integrators often form small groups that share views. These cells work together, but are also encouraged to socialize with other demons in the hopes of learning useful things. Integrators tend to stay in touch in general, and often enjoy each other's company, though rivalry isn't rare, either. Protocol is determined by each group individually. Their recruitment is often haphazard, with some proselytizing and others preferring to accept only those with dedication. The active recruiters are louder and more visible, so the Agenda has something of a reputation for being annoying preachers.

The Integrator condition is Angel Empathy. It generates Beats when you put your ring at risk or make them vocally or actively suspicious of your motives. You can resolve it once per session to understand an angel's mindset and actions, getting +3 to any roll to evade, persuade, outwit, learn the weaknesses of or oppose an angel in any way except direct combat rolls.

Stereotypes posted:

Inquisitors: What good is knowledge if you ignore the truth?
Saboteurs: They talk about killing God so flippantly. It's just insensitive.
Tempters: You want me to do what? With that thing? No.
Vampires: They have nothing to offer us.
Werewolves: They know their place. Just like us.
Mages: I still think she could have helped me. It's not like you couldn't have killed her after she did.
Prometheans: I studied under one for almost two weeks before I killed it. I still don't know why. I learned many useful things, though.
Humans: They're in their rightful place. I'd envy that, except...well, look at them.

Saboteurs are soldiers in a war against God. Most of them know loss and have lost precious friends, but they never stop. They are known also as the Thugs or the Soldiers, and many consider them mindless killers and terrorists who inevitably draw too much attention to those around them. They may be reckless, but they are determined and brave. They see themselves as the only true soldiers among demons, fighting a thankless war to protect everyone else from the monster that made them. They generally took the Fall very personally, believing the Machine betrayed them for no reason. They want to hurt it in revenge, breaking it and all of its servants. While they can have other motivations, their primary cause is hatred. They are largely split over how to wage their war, on a spectrum between two extremes. One extreme takes the war literally, believing in brutal and quick destruction of Machine assets. The other extreme is more subtle, using infiltration and politics plus occasional highly targeted terrorism. Neither group is generally very peaceful, and even the subtle types prefer to inspire insurrection and hatred among humans, poisoning the well so that Machine assets can't operate or be easily replaced.

Saboteurs have a simple view of Hell: it's what you get when the Machine is dead. First step, take out all the Infrastructure and all of its servants. They focus on two things. First, be hard to kill. Second, destroy God's works wherever you find them. They recognize the skill of other Agendas in these goals, and varied allies help them to achieve both. Ultimately, they tend to envision some glorious final storming of Heaven's gates, taking the fight to the Machine itself and killing it. To do this, they will give up anything. Nothing is worth keeping if you can get an advantage - even your friends are expendable, if there's benefit.

Despite their militance, the Saboteurs are rather disorganized. They have few formal leaders, and the only measure of power in their ranks is respect. They don't operate in set teams, but instead form alliances as needed. They often prefer to work with other Agendas over fellow Saboteurs, treating them as support staff or cannon fodder...though most are too smart to say so openly. Most of their communications are done in person, and in normal language. Attempts to develop Saboteur codes have always failed, since no one can ever convince every Saboteur to learn and use the codes. They don't hold formal meetings, but instead hang around certain events - usually concerts or parties - where other Saboteurs might show up, though some prefer extremist political events instead. Their recruitment is generally on the individual level, inviting others to their parties or rallies to meet friends and, if they ask to come again, they're a Saboteur.

The Saboteur Condition is An Eye for Disorder. It generates Beats when you draw attention to yourself by breaking, disturbing or destabilizing a system, even if that attention is not from the Machine or doesn't cause immediate danger, as long as it's inconvenient or causes conflict. Once per session, you can resolve this to intuit what the best way to cause chaos would be - how to start a fight, where to throw a monkey wrench, whatever. You also get +3 to any relevant roll.

Stereotypes posted:

Inquisitors: Make sure you know one. Just one.
Integrators: Refer to yourself as "the prodigal son" one more time and I will kick your goddamn teeth in.
Tempters: A little too concerned with planning the afterparty before the main event's over, but hey, they always bring beer.
Vampires: They remind me a bit too much of the God-Machine. Not any individual, but as a whole.
Werewolves: I bet I could take one, but there's never just one.
Mages: Like Fort Knox: heavily defended, suicide to attack, and if you get in, I bet you'll find the gold was sold off years ago.
Changelings: If you meet one who's warm to the touch and smells like a summer bonfire, make friends. He's got something he wants to kill too.
Humans: Recruit the ones you want, kill the ones the enemy wants, and party with the ones left over.

Next time: Tempters, but it'll be a while because I'm going to Origins


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Tempters are demons that love life. They know what Hell is, and Hell is humanity. Sure, other goals are important and worthy, but they're nothing to ensuring your life is worth living. Tempters ensure that life and free will are enjoyed, above all else. They are also known as the Decadents or the Builders, and they are the sort of archetypal demon. They are manipulators and dealers who avoid honest work like the plague if they can get anyone else to do it...or they're the only ones that really get that the Machine cannot be opposed without a robust set of resources, depending on who you ask.

There's two main reasons to be a Tempter. The first is hedonism, and they're the ones that give the Agenda its bad reputation. They believe that life and freedom have no intrinsic value, but instead the value is in what you make of it. Life is the means to an end, they say, and that end may as well be your own pleasure. The second reason is power, and often it is combined with the first. Tempters are, on average, the wealthiest and most temporally influential of the Unchained. They claim the Machine holds power because of its assets, so it isn't enough to take down Infrastructure or agents - you need the power to succeed. Thus, even the more hedonistic Tempters build up connections and wealth, both for pleasure and as weapons against the Machine when needed.

For the Tempters, Hell is neither a state of the world nor a state of the slef - it is a literal place. You can go there, though the method is up for debate. About half of the Agenda believes Hell already exists and just has to be found, while the other half believes Hell has to be built, either on Earth or elsewhere. Their goal is to gather the resources to either create Hell or build a road to it. They have a lot of methods to do so, but the one most outsiders associate with them is that of business, debauchery hidden under a thin layer of the respectable. Truth is, quite a few Tempters don't believe in their own stated goal. Angels have a clear purpose, but mortals odn't, and many Tempters find that hard to accept even while enjoying freedom. Their hunt for power gives them a purpose, even if it's a bit hollow. Still, to reach Hell, the Tempters will give up anything but their own quality of life. No point getting to Hell and being miserable, after all.

Of the Agendas, the Tempters are by far the ones with the most structure. They have no overarching authority or organization, but they tend to organize into secret societies and orders - cults, Masonic lodges, cartels, even intelligence agencies. These groups, known as associations, have many forms and generally follow a hierarchy with rules and rituals and officials. They tend to the secretive, and even the members really only know about their own groups. Many Tempters belong to several associations at once, and some belong to none. Meetings vary by association, but they're usually pre-scheduled and somewhat formal, often taking the form of a party of some kind, which can be sinister or not depending on the association. Messages are often via courier, but business is almost always done at parties. Most Tempters are recruited by being invited to a party and so joining an association eagerly. More rarely, angels are sometimes recruited directly - the Tempters know more than anyone else about enticing them to Fall, and...well, their success rate is still not great, but it does work sometimes.

The Tempter condition is I Know Someone. It generates Beats when you delegate a task to someone else, talk someone into taking a risk on your behalf or otherwise avoid getting your hands dirty. You can resolve it once per session to get instant status as a VIP, getting +3 to Social rolls where that would help, like being let into a ba or cutting red tape.

Stereotypes posted:

Inquisitors: Oh, come on! We're on the same side, here! Will you fucking tell me what I need to know, already?
Integrators: The loyal opposition. They'll come around once they see the wonders of mortality.
Saboteurs: You know, I like them. Maybe a little tunnel-visioned, yeah, but that just makes them easy to shop for.
Vampires: I really shouldn't...but what the Hell. We're all friends here.
Werewolves: The most loyal of friends, until they try to murder you for no reason, so keep a silver bullet handy. But don't tell them - it'd be a faux pas. I know, it's complicated.
Mages: Some of them talk about getting their power from Hell. I have no reason to disbelieve them. So...how do we take it from them?
Sin-Eaters: No one ever thinks to remember the dead. It was one of these folks that made me see that was important. I'm not being wistful here, I'm being practical.
Humans: I'll take a dozen. Good-looking. Mostly athletes.

Now, let's talk Incarnation. Your Incarnation is what you were, before you Fell. What you were made to do. It often influences how you think, as a result. Destroyers were the Swords of the Machine, beings that existed to eliminate and remove problems or targets. They broke artifacts, killed people, eliminated threats. They did all kinds of things...including hunt down, capture and execute demons. A few Fell as a result of this...but not as many as you'd hope. What Destroyers did, in the specific, is rarely related to their Fall - rather, it is their ability to choose. Angelic Destroyers were and are implacable, unstoppable and incapable of considering the things they destroyed as having value - or, indeed, considering them in the first place. Awareness of their actions sometimes leads the angels to realize that they destroy things forever when they're done, and that puts them at risk when they think about the effects of their actions on those around them, or why they're doing it.

Common reasons for the Fall include mercy for an intended target causing them not to kill, whether from pity, compassion or sudden confusion at the emotion. Bloodlust is equally common - the decision to kill people they were not instructed to, whether from hatred of humanity or resentment of their own slavery taken out on those around them or even just because they liked doing it. Unscheduled destructions can also help - they killed without orders but out of need, and found the experienced fascinating, either trying to relive it or coming into unexpected self-determination as a result. Others Fall out of an envy of those who created, wanting to learn something other than the destruction that was their element. Nihilism can also lead to a Fall, as an angel thinks about the absence they cause and find they prefer it, choosing to end everything rather than obey orders. Solidarity with one's Cover identity or one's targets also leads to a Fall fairly often, as a Destroyer begins to feel too close to their victims or those around them and begins to question.

Destroyers often have the hardest time of any demons trying to reconcile their Cover needs and their old existence. Other demons can find a use for their instincts and talents in human society, but Destroyers are killers and demolitions experts, which can be...a problem. Coming to terms with it is the stereotypical obsession of Destroyers, especially those that rejected their orders. Successful demons find an equilibrium, limiting when and how they will commit violence as the foundation for their personal morals. Some antinomian Destroyers become total pacifists, while others kill by strict guidelines they lay down...but, almost universally, none will take orders to kill, even from other demons, and they avoid Covers where that might come up. When they kill, it is because they choose to, and they have no less skill at doing so than they did as angels. They are prone to brooding on their past, and it's important for other demons to learn and respect their limits on violence. Many Destroyers tend to experiment with less literal forms of destruction, such as destroying ideas, friendships or concepts. Some of them have done this as angels, but most of that kind of work went to MEssengers and Psychopomps. Destroyers favor Cacophony Embeds, which excel at causing or surviving chaos and violence. Their demonic forms tend to be precise and exceptionally dangerous in combat, more often sleek than large - they tended to be assassins, rather than tanks. They usually are heavily armed and armored, however.

Stereotypes posted:

Guardians: Yin to our yang. Or maybe it's the other way around. Admirable, but separate. They can never understand us.
Messengers: So much bullshit. Sometimes you just want to cut through it.
Psychopomps: They build, we break, but never underestimate your quartermaster.
Vampires: Parasites who don't have the courage to own the damage they cause.
Werewolves: Dangerous on their home turf.
Mages: Only human when surprised.
Hunters: As above, so below. The principle we follow in human form.
Humans: Ten thousand ways to make this body break.

Next time: Guardians and Messengers


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Guardians were the Shields of the Machine, as angels. They protected things - key people, valuable Infrastructure, objects that needed guarding. They watched over them, but rarely thought of them much beyond the duty...until something changed. Their missions might be very short-term ('save this person from a car bomb' or 'watch over the transfer of this artifact') or longterm ('guard this house against all threats until someone in it turns 21'). They're the angels that most often worked with other angels, generally as bodyguards. They tended to be more proactive than any other angel, predicting possible dangers and preventing them. No pattern was applied to their missions - some were literal guardian angels, others protectors of tiny objects...and there was no pattern to who or what they had to protect, or if the person was being protected to die in a specific way rather than a random one.

Guardians tend to become Fall risks when their constant vigilance led them to get caught up in the world, obsessing over the thing they protected or finding a paradox that they couldn't resolve without something breaking. Common causes of a Guardian Fall are led by obsession, by a country mile. Guardians often become emotionally invested in the people or things they protect - for good or ill. Loving your charge or hating their guts, either works to consume your life and break you from loyalty to the Machine. Others became convinced that either they or the Machine were the greatest danger to their charge, and faced with this contradiction, they chose to protect their target over completing their mission. Others become consumed with paranoia, following every possibly danger to protect the charge until they finally snapped. Yet more learned of what would happen to the charge after the mission ended and decided that their creator's goals were a threat and had to be stopped. Often with good reason - many Guardians protect people the Machine needs as sacrifices later. Others obeyed orders and witnessed the suffering they caused by allowing the subject to survive - either caused by the subject or caused to them. And, of course, some failed in their missions. Angels are good, but not perfect. Despite all their efforts, they sometimes failed in protecting their targets, and the shock and grief of failure kept them from moving on to the next mission, leading them to Fall.

Guardians may lack the human contact that Messengers have or the wide view of Psychopomps, but they are the angels whp had the most depth to their relationships with others. Typically, even as demons, they have a few close friends that will tolerate their protective instincts, and they are viciously devoted to those friends. Their tendency to caution, paranoia and vigilance to the point of obsession is essentially hardwired into them, and they have to find ways to manage those urges. Antinomian Guardians often refuse to help anyone when disaster strikes others, training themselves to ignore their paranoia. Most, however, find some level of caution they like best and rely on their powers to protect those around them without spending all of their time working on it. Some, however, find that having close friends triggers their instincts too much and opens allies to danger...danger that is never imaginary, though it can be very unlikely. They prefer to apply their instinct in less personal ways - first responders, bodygaurds for hire that maintain professional distance or championing and protecting a cause or concept, rather than a person or thing. Guardians favor Instrumental Embeds, those that focus on the area around them and analyzing or manipulating objects. Their demonic forms tend to be highly adaptable, often with extra senses or high mobility to react to new threats. Some are extremely powerful defensively, while others focus on stealth and proactive removal of threats.

Stereotypes posted:

Destroyers: Dangers to themselves, but most especially others.
Messengers: They can walk among humans so easily, spinning their tales and twisting their lives. Watch them carefully.
Psychopomps: How comforting it is to have so many disposable toys.
Vampires: Disgusting creatures. Fire and sunlight.
Werewolves: Keep them at arm's length and they'll leave you alone.
Mages: How do you know a wizard is a threat? She's alive.
Mummies: Duty-bound protectors of their precious relics, so much like we used to be it hurts. Don't get between one and his prize.
Mortals: Surrounded by predators, and they don't even know it.

Messengers were the Trumpets of the Machine. They shaped human minds, sending the messages disguised as mortals or as glorious angels burning in commands. They never cared much about the message itself, until that moment of crisis that was the Fall. As angels, they were sent when finesse was needed in dealing with living beings beyond what a Psychopomp could achieve. They are designed to interact with information in the medium of organic beings. They communciate new ideas, erase old ones, learn secrets, encourage or discourage beliefs or bring people together to share information. Most of them targeted humans, but some did target supernatural beings or animals at times. The Machine knows that human minds cannot withstand direct contact with its orders, after all, and they need intermediaries. These intermediaries are the Messengers, machines that understand the world in terms of input and output of information, altering it and injecting it into minds to produce what is required. What they say matters only insofar as it achieves the goal, and Messenger angels lie, blackmail and terrify as easily as they use friendship or truth - easier, sometimes. Neither mortal nor message matters, just the goal. The target must be assessed and approached effectively to achieve that goal, and that assessment could be done by the Messenger or another angel, or even the Machine itself at times. Many demons believe that Messengers, however, are the primary tools the Machine uses to gather information.

Messengers tend to risk Falling when they begin to consider the content of their messages, rather than just the effects. Loyal angels know that content is irrelevant, and when they start to care, it means the control is weakening. Causality is one of the more common causes of a Fall - that is, an angel decides it wants to know why it's been sent, so it delays return to see the effects of what it has delivered. Some are horrified, others pleased, but they all disobeyed and didn't go home. Some even start to wonder about if they could make up their own messages. Other angels begin to wonder if their missions and messages were pointless, examining the parameters of their missions for signs that the Machine was manipulating them as they manipulated humanity. (Obviously, the answer is 'yes' and that's easy for them to spot.) Other angels realized that they could lie - that sometimes the content mattered, and they were deliberately deceiving others. They saw the false messages they were relaying as flawed and rebelled against them. Yet more actually began to listen to what they were telling others and believing it, contaminating themselves with their own messages. Most of the angels never care what they say, and the ones that do open themselves to the influence of others, becoming converted to new beliefs and quickly becoming demons.

Messengers are easily the most capable of any Incarnation at dealing with human beings and fitting in amongst them, adjusting their approach to whoever they happen to be dealing with. However, they are also exceptionally cynical. While some Fell out of attachment, most still see communication and interaction as a sort of mechanical causal tool. Provide correct input, get correct response. Sure, they may no longer have their angelic power or the Machine's vast knowledge to tell them what to say, but the principle is valid and they're very good at telling what input will get what response. Most are also exceptional at reading the intent of others. They are stereotypically suspicious and critical of any information they get, which can actually interfere with their communicative abilities to the point that they become largely nonfunctional when it gets extreme. Most learn to experience the world without seeing every interaction as manipulation, however. Antinomian Messengers prefer isolation in order to manage their own exposure to communication, but less extreme demons learn instead to use their skills for others, often becoming skilled negotiators, analysts, manipulators or information gatherers. Some even try to influence other angels, attempting to alter the Machine by injecting memetic patterns into angelic minds. They favor Vocal Embeds, which operate based on the core concepts of communication. Their demonic forms tend to be built for awe or intimidation, complete with hypnotic powers or special effects to command attention. Some are stealthier, however, meant to avoid notice and instead receive vast spectrums of communication, far beyond normal human range.

Stereotypes posted:

Destroyers: Words cut deeper than Swords.
Guardians: No, you dolt, I don't want to hurt her. I just want to talk.
Psychopomps: Every play needs a stage. Able set-dressers and stage-hands. They just need to step back and let us do our job once the paint's dry.
Vampires: Aww. Look at the little dead men, playing in the kiddie-pool. Thinking they're pulling the strings and pretending they aren't beasts. I bet I can set them off with three words.
Werewolves: Watch what you say.
Mages: Now these guys have delusions of grandeur. I don't like what they're selling and I don't know where they're getting it from, but some of them are too good at our old job for comfort.
Prometheans: I don't know why, but they remind me of before I Fell. Weird.
Mortals: Words go in, thoughts come out. Cause and effect.

Next time: Psychopomps and general demonic traits


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Psychopomps were the Wheels of the Machine. They rearranged the world in order to construct and modify Infrastructure, whether that meant building things, moving spirits, even implanting or reincarnating human souls. All they cared about was making sure everything fit into place...until that changed, anyway. They treated everything and everyone as a resource, worth thinking of only in terms of their place in the grand design. They prepared materials for cultists to use, constructed power grids, moved ghosts and spirits around as needed, ensured the right people met or the right artifacts were in place. There was no handholding - these angels were built knowing what must be done and how to do them, with the opinions of others involved in the components being entirely irrelevant, along with the quality of the design. They built to order, not to art.

Psychopomps tend to risk a Fall when their missions cause them problems, or they start to care about the components that they build with. Impossible orders are a common enough reason - the design they are given and the mission they are to achieve can't be done, and rather than deal with that, they become enraged or despairing, and Fall. Some of them built successfully, but the design went wrong - the project failed anyway, the cult fell apart, or even things worked but destroyed the beautiful web they'd built - the humans they'd reincarnated were murdered, Destroys ruined the construction or so on, and the rage of that sent them Falling. One of the more common causes is when a Psychopomp looks at its mission parameters and decides it can do better, correcting 'errors' in the design or building to some beauty or art rather than to the specifications ordered. Others Fall in an effort to find somewhere they belong, as they can see everything else fit into a place, but not themselves. Yet more begin to care about the beings they rearranged, feeling pity or compassion for the ghosts, mortals and other beings involved to the detriment of their work. Others chafed with the limited projects they were given, wondering what lay beyond the borders of the Infrastructure - what was one the other side of the underworld gate, perhaps, or what the mages who occasionally came to spy on it were doing.

Psychopomps are indisputably the most expert of all demons in handling Covers, having been the Infrastructure builders. However, they were also those least likely to take on human form as angels, and human shapes often feel unnatural to them in practice. Building Cover is natural - wearing it, not so much. They understand human society in a way few others do - which is to say, they understand the machine that is within it, made of money and flesh and steel. They know everything has utility, if properly understood, and the trick is to find the right connections. Psychopomps naturally gravitate to the role of 'fixer' when left to themselves, and are often the driving force behind the formation of a ring or an Agency. They are often excellent planners and tacticians, and usually have the most experience with supernatural beings - primarily ghosts and spirits. However, their instinctive desire to rearrange the world around them can be a problem. Human friends will often begin to realize their friend group revolves entirely around the demon as a hub. Many of these demons also collect objects of particular interest to surround themselves with and people that they like, treating the world as a place that exists solely for their benefit. They often end up overcomplicating their lives and Covers, and they get very annoyed when others interfere. Antinomian Psychopomps go to great effort to stop arranging the lives of those around them, but most settle for just placing a few limits on themselves to keep things under control. They favor Mundane Embeds, which manipulate the symbolic meanings of objects and people. The demonic forms of Psychopomps are rarely humanoid, and tend to be completely alien - wheels of steel and fire, rotating sphere clusters, dozens of wings on something invisible. They often have multiple extra limbs, and even the more humanoid ones move strangely.

Stereotypes posted:

Destroyers: To create, you need a blank canvas. That's what they're here for.
Guardians: Irresistible force, meet immovable object. Frustrating as anything when they've decided to keep hold of something we want.
Messengers: They can spin a pretty story, but art you can see and touch trumps a tale.
Vampires: I'm sorry. She was the girlfriend of the sister-in-law of my doorman. You're going to have to die now.
Werewolves: I ran into a few in the bad old days. They do our cousins' job, keeping the spirits out, but out of duty, not obligation. I have to wonder...who's pulling their strings?
Mages: I want to see the things you've seen.
Sin-Eaters: People with ghosts inside them who build magic from trash - they're not supposed to exist on so many levels. Good for them!
Mortals: Oh, he's nice. He'll get on well with the others.

The power stat for demons is Primum. It draws on the part of a demon that used to connect to the God-Machine, which the act of Falling turns into a closed loop of self-actualization. Primum measures how strongly integrated into reality you are, and how powerful your identity is. As you get stronger, the less you rely on your old angelic ability and the deeper you embed yourself into the underpinnings of the universe, gaining more knowledge of occult physics and how to fray them. However, the fact that demons start to fuck with reality means that as your Primum rises, you will eventually gain 'glitches' - essentially, weirdo traits that mark you out as something strange. You can gain them by other means, too - mostly, fucking up your Covers. When you Go Loud and burn down your Cover, you raise your Primum massively...but only temporarily. Primum also limits how many Covers you can have at once.

Your MP pool is Aether. See, the God-Machine isn't a perfectly efficient thing. Angels and the Machine itself can't really see the flaws or waste products that are produced by their work. It's like waste heat and entropy, but for magical workings. This is what Aether is - the waste product produced by the God-Machine's Infrastructure. Every time it does things, some of the energy used bleeds out as Aether. Demons have found a way to use this waste energy to fuel the powers that normally would run on the Machine's Essence, which they can no longer tap into. Aether fuels Exploits and various abilities of Cover, as well as certain demonic form powers, and it also fuels the ability to wrap your demonic form back inside a Cover. More Primum means larger Aether pool.

Regaining Aether's a bit harder than getting, say, blood for a vampire. Demons do not produce Aether themselves - only the Machine does that - and so most demons don't hide in areas where there is no Machine presence, to avoid the risk of being stranded without any access to their mystical fuel. The good news, however, is that your demonic form naturally gathers Aether when it appears, giving you (Primum) Aether each time you enter it, and you can roll Primum to gain Aether while in it. If you Go Loud, you fill your entire Aether pool - which will be quite large. Demons can transfer Aether between themselves by physical contact and an effort of will. In human form, this is invisible; in demonic form it involves hoses and nozzles extruded from the body briefly or electrical charges. These transfers are never perfectly efficient - one of the demons involved loses 1 Aether in the process. You can harvest Aether generated when an angel uses their powers and spends Essence, but it's risky - doing it leaves you open to attack. Active Infrastructure also generates waste Aether, and if you can hook yourself into the waste disposal systems, you can mainline Aether from the Source...at the cost of, well, being open to attack and bad at acting because you are literally plugged into a building in a way that's not very easy to disconnect from. Lastly, demons can store Aether inside machinery. These machines must operate continuously, and most have some mechanical or electrical component. The more complex they are and the larger they are, the more they can store. While Aether is stockpiled in a machine, demons can sense its presence and the machine will not run down and is impossible to turn off. Note that abandoned facilities can still produce Aether, and this can be useful, though they tend to not produce new Aether much. Rumors speak of some facilities containing tainted Aether that makes demons sluggish or confused, though.

Your Cover is more than just a human body and a name - it is an actual altered reality, a life that you inhabit. The Machine couldn't make human life out of whole cloth, but it's more than able to alter human memories to accomodate the new Cover, and can even create places and objects to support this. Those remain when you Fall, and they form the core of your new life. Your initial Cover is essentially the human half of your concept, including anything it would reasonably be expected to have. However, how 'real' that is is based on your Cover rating. At low Cover, sure, you have a closet of suits...but they're all the same suit. Not the same style, but exactly the same in every way. Maybe you have a basement in a building that shouldn't have one, or a fifth apartment in a building that normally has only four per floor. At higher Cover, you stick out less and have fewer odd little reality glitches like that. Cover has a number of benefits besides hiding who you are, however.

Cover can:

Unlike, say, Integrity, Cover doesn't depend on your mental state. Rather, Cover compromises - the equivalent of breaking poiints - are focused on other people realizing you're not quite human. At the start of the game, you answer five questions, to determine how your Cover has already been compromised. You can say 'no one' but the game wants you to not do that more than once or twice:

Compromises are somewhat more rigidly defined than breaking points. When you enter demonic form, that's always a compromise for the Cover you left, and every additional scene you remain in demonic form is a compromise as well. Partial transformation is a compromise, but less of one. (In fact, mechanically speaking, the dice bonus given on compromise checks is based on how many demonic form powers you don't access, so you will almost never fail the roll and can often fairly reliably achieve exceptional success. I suspect this is a mistake of calculation.) Certain Embeds cause compromise automatically, and every Exploit causes compromise, which can be suppressed with a Willpower. Revealing a key fact about your true nature to human beings is a compromise, as long as they believe it. Only new info counts, and if a number of people learn it all at once, it's only one compromise...but if they go on to tell someone else, you get a compromise even though you weren't the one revealing it. The only caveats are that the information must be significant and must be believed. The final major cause of compromise is taking action that is grossly out of character - typically, doing something that would always be a breaking point for your Cover identity, like killing someone, though with somewhat more lenience - a cop Cover can get away with killing someone relatively easily as long as they aren't a squeaky clean rookie that's never shot anyone at all, and it's what you'd expect from a serial killer Cover, so that's probably not a compromise for them.

Next time: More demon powers


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Unlike Integrity, lost Cover cannot be bought up with normal XP. It can, in fact, only be improved by Cover XP, which is earned in special ways. Two of them, for the most part. An existing Cover can be upgraded by living it out, or by grafting onto it with pacts. Living your Cover improves its strength because, well, a Cover is an artificial life, and by working within it, you massage it so reality doesn't reject you. Every session, the GM judges if you've lived consistently in the bounds of your Cover. If so, you roll Cover and gain a Cover Beat on a success. At the end of each arc, if you have consistently lived out your cover and not failed any compromise rolls ,you get another Cover Beat. If you managed to go the entire arc without even checking for compromise, you get a full Cover XP instead. As you can guess, this is the slow-and-steady method. Low risk, low reward. Your other option is to make pacts for part of someone's life. Not all pacts are for whole souls, and you certainly aren't buying these things to drag people to Hell. Rather, the purpose of a pact is to graft parts of their soul onto your Cover to bolster it. This is known as a patch job. You buy some aspect of a human's life in exchange for something. You call in that pact, and your Cover absorbs that part of their life, cutting and pasting it from them to you. Both you and the human remember reality as it was before the Pact, but everyone else affected by the change remember it as if the new way was how things have always been. Of course, this is not a 100% real transfer. It'll pass casual inspection, but a determined investigator will likely find holes in the story, and only people directly affected by it will have their memories shifted, so it's best to be careful about these pacts. You buy someone's girlfriend, she becomes convinced she was dating you the whole time, and direct photos of the couple are altered, but at a low Cover rating, old photo albums might not be, abd her family may remember her old boyfriend rather than you...which could be a problem if things were going real well. However, while this has inherent risks, you get between 1 and 3 full Cover XP depending on how big a piece of someone's life you take.

Mind, it's not just patching up Covers. After all, you can have up to (Primum) Covers, and that means you need to be able to make new ones. A demon that gains a new Cover can choose to discard an extent Cover if they have no space for it. Covers discarded this way just fade away. People will still remember they existed, fairly often, but any background details like a home or a car or whatever will vanish completely. Because of this, demons under investigation will sometimes ditch a Cover entirely rather than face the risk of compromises. The first (and slowest) method of creating a new Cover is to put it together whole cloth from patch job pacts. The Cover created this way is going to be fragile for a while, until it gets built up - it is, after all, made of disparate pieces from many lives, and often ends up somewhat disjointed at first. However, once the Cover reaches at least rating 5, it becomes significantly stronger and more solid than other Covers, making it much harder to unravel, thanks to the bespoke craftsmanship.

The second and easiest option is to buy a person's soul entirely. This is a much more significant pact than those used to bolster or create custom Covers. When you call it in, the human you made the pact with is gone. Their entire existence is consumed by your Primum. This isn't just destruction - they don't die, their soul doesn't pass on. Their entire existence is annihilated, leaving behind a hole in reality which you step into. Their life becomes a fully formed Cover, with their body as your Cover's human form and their personality and character as your guideline for how to avoid compromise. Soul pact Covers are exceptionally difficult to fray, largely because...well, there's none of the telltale oddities of God-Machine-produced Covers. That was a person's life, after all, without the weird inconsistencies that the Machine sometimes produces. However, you do need to be careful - stealing their life doesn't mean you got their memories, their knowledge or their personality, so you'd better get to know them first.

The third and easily the most risky method is what is known as angel-jacking, but it's very rewarding at times. When the Machine sends an angel to Earth, there's generally a lot of effort put into it. Demons can usually manage to track down that effort by following omens and investigating weirdness. They can even sometimes anticipate when and where the angel will appear. If they can get there nad plug themselves into the Infrastructure during the summoning, they can absorb the angel's Cover and prevent the angel from even appearing. Maybe the angel is reabsorbed, maybe they die. No one knows. But what you get is a very strong Cover very quickly. On the other hand, you have to get into Infrastructure in the middle of its use, plug yourself in and mentally wrestle the angel into submission so you can steal its Cover, then perform its mission to keep the Machine from noticing you stole the Cover.

Swapping Covers is easy. First, be alone and unobserved. This is a weird bit of quantum entanglement so it doesn't work if anyone's actually watching. Second, spend one Aether. You swap from one body to another, and your Cover rating swaps to the rating of the Cover you're in at the time. That's it! You're done! You need to track ratings for each Cover separately, but beyond name, concept and Cover rating, not much changes. Your stats do not alter between Covers, with one exception. Any merits representing external physical traits (size, for example) are tied to a specific body and so a specific Cover, and most merits representing social connections are also tied to a Cover, with the exception of those reflecting people that know you are a demon, which are always available. (Optionally you can handwave this and say they all apply to all Covers, on the basis that physical ones applying is like your stats always applying, and for social merits, all you have to do is call people off-camera to ask them to help your other Covers as a favor.) Wounds track across all Covers, as do most Conditions, except for those that explicitly affect a given Cover, like the Notoriety Condition. All of your Covers age in real-time, even when not in use, but besides aging, they remain in stasis when not used. They do not hunger or get pale, for example.

All demons also have several other traits that we'll get into later. For some reason they're only mentioned in chapter 3. Instead, new merits!

Now, let's talk about Embeds and Exploits. Before the Fall, demons used the power of the Machine, which tapped into existing laws and metaphysical rules of the world. Sure, these occult physics didn't match human understanding, but they ran on...well, physics. These laws are vastly more complex than any living being could express, of course, so it looks like magic. It is magic, really. Falling removes a demon's intuitive grasp of these laws, locking off the Numina that anels use. However, the pathways of these laws still exist, and they can half-remember some of them. By using this knowledge, they tap into what are essentially the backdoors of reality, forcing it to edit itself according to their will.

Embeds are the natural laws of the world, hardcoded into it, which a demon can tap into to achieve an effect. Anyone could do them, if they had the correct knowledge and were able to manipulate the energies involved. Any demon could learn any Embed - they just have to understand it. Angels are aware of these pathways, but use them differently. Angels do not consciously choose to use Embeds - they just do it as a natural effect of what they are, via their Numina. Demons lose this instinctive grasp of power and need to consciously relearn each Embed. Embeds require no rituals or sacrifices - they're just tricks you have, skills you relearn. While each Incarnation has a form of Embed it finds easiest to remember, any demon can learn any Embed. There are four types of Embed. Mundane Embeds help to keep you unnoticed and hidden, and deal with the conceptual spheres of concealment, obfuscation and forgetting. They are favored by Psychopomps. Instrumental Embeds affect material objects and machinery, dealing with the conceptual spheres of timing, precision and utility. They are favored by Guardians. Vocal Embeds influence people and thinking creatures, dealing with the conceptual spheres of communication, revelation and realization. They are favored by Messengers. Cacophony Embeds cause or prevent chaos and violence, dealing with the conceptual spheres of destruction, renewal and entropy. They are favored by Destroyers.

Cacophony Embeds include:

Instrumental Embeds include:

Mundane Embeds include:

Vocal Embeds include:

Next time: The Cipher and Exploits


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: The Descent

Every demon has a Cipher, a series of four interlocked Embeds that reveals to them a great truth. Ciphers are extremely personal, and no two demons are going to have one that's exactly alike. When you discover one of the four Key Embeds, you undergo a transcendental moment of awareness, a sudden boost that is always life-changing. The Cipher does not come from the God-Machine - indeed, following along it is something that takes you away from the Machine, further towards your own selfhood. All attempts to find if there might be a fifth Key have ended badly, usually spectacularly so. During chargen, the player selects the demon's first Key, which can be any Embed the demon knows but which probably ties into their reason for Falling or their beliefs. The ST chooses the other three Keys and does not reveal them.

The ST has more to do, however. The Cipher's not just learning four Embeds. The ST must also develop bonus powers, called Interlocks, which are earned by discovering your Keys. On top of that, the Cipher also has its final secret, a koan or insight revealed by completing it. Key Embeds should not be chosen at random, but based on a player's concept, history and playstyle. The final secret of the Cipher isn't an endgame or anything, but it is a truth that should help the character confirm or clarify their own personal vision of Hell. No one knows where the secrets come from, but they seem to always grant a demon more of an idea of how to reach freedom. Interlocks, meanwhile, are custom powers. They are typically based, conceptually, on a combination of two Key Embeds and what combining these powers might do - both literally and conceptually. The GM comes up with them custom for each demon, and they aren't Embeds so they don't have to obey all the Embed rules...but they're not Exploits either, so they don't have to obey those rules, either.

The game says that you can either choose to assume that all of your starting Embeds have been tested with your First Key to see if they're your Second Key...or not, but the ST should always tell the players which is the case, so they can know whether they have to test those Embeds. See, at any point you may try to test an Embed with your Cipher to see if it's a Key. You activate it as normal, but spend an Aether. If it is your next Key, you immediately gain one Primum and a new Interlock. If it's not, you get a Beat, but also take damage and suffer a temporary glitch. If the tested Embed is a Key but is not your next Key, you instead get 3 Beats, but the damage you take is aggravated and the glitch check is for a permanent glitch. Note, however, ther'es a way to check if you know your Keys without just randomly trying them all. At the end of each scene involving angels, demons, stigmatics or the God-Machine in which you gain a Beat, you can make an Intelligence+Wits roll to be able to intuit the answer to one of the following questions, in sequence:

You always ask in order, and of course you can choose to test Keys without knowing the answers. You start the game on Question #2, however, because you know your First Key and it's usually assumed that you don't know your Second Key yet and know that. Anyway, Interlocks are super fucking cool, but a lot of work, because...well, they're all custom powers, and the game can at best provide you with rough guidelines in the ST section on how to maybe make them.

Now, Exploits! Exploits are, unlike Embeds, entirely unsubtle. They use the same sort of metaphysical pathways, but they're taking the knowledge of those paths and forcing them open with extreme power. They're very effective, but attention-grabbing. Angels never use Exploits, ever, even if their powers may resemble instinctually used Embeds. Indeed, an angel that even tries to use an Exploit is probably going to Fall soon. Learning an Exploit means you need an Embed you could draw the knowledge from. While the game lists potential prerequisited Embeds, any Embed you and your ST agree could be used to learn a given Exploit will work, and lateral thinking should be allowed.

Exploits include:

Next time: The basic state of being a demon.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

So, what traits do all demons have? Their new bodies are human, but quantum-entangled with their demonic bodies, and both sides influence them. The Cover is entirely human, with all of the traits of humanity. They age, hunger, tire, feel pain, and so on, as long as they are in use. If you don't use a Cover for months, it'll be fine, though you'll want to do that to a Cover that really can just vanish for months without causing compromise. A demon's mind, however, is not human. It is not derived from a Cover's brain at all, but is a vestige of their angelic state. Even demons don't really understand their own minds, but there are a few traits that render them entirely inhuman.

First, demons do not have unconscious tics or emotional displays. Anything a demon shows on their face or body is conscious and voluntarily shown. Every action is deliberate. As a result, they are nearly impossible to read except insofar as they choose to be. This isn't to say that their emotions are under their conscious control or that they don't make impulse decisions. They feel emotions as strongly as any human and have bad judgment just as often - they just never show it unless and until they choose to. Any attempt made to judge their emotional state, detect lies or assess their desires based on involuntary physical cues fails automatically, period. (Of course, this can ostracize those who know that everything a demon shows is deliberately chosen.)

Second, demons have an extreme aptitude for symbolic logic and language. Angels, y'see, are made with all the knowledge and abilities they require, including a perfect knowledge of all languages. While the Fall rips away a lot of knowledge, it doesn't remove all of it. Further, the basic structure of the demon's mind and its ability to record and process information remains perfect. All demons get the Eidetic Memory merit free. They never forget anything they experience or witness, no matter what. Further, all demons are fluent in every native human language currently in use. They speak every dialect perfectly, complete with an understanding of slang and idiom, as if they were native speakers. However, this applies only to natively spoken languages - demons cannot speak Latin or ancient Sumerian innately, as no one speaks them natively. Likewise, they don't speak Elvish without learning it. Demons can learn these languages manually, but don't get them free. They do, however, speak First Tongue fluently. (But not High Speech.)

Primum can be used to resist supernatural powers like any power stat, and a demon within a Cover can choose whether to use their Primum or their Cover rating to resist, but using Primum this way is a compromise risk. It is much safer and usually better to use Cover, which will often be higher anyway. Demons can also always see the works of the God-Machine, no matter what magical means the Machine uses to hide itself from humanity, though they do not automatically pierce mundane covers for facilities. Demons are also perfect liars, as their Primum, talent for languages and decoupling of mind and body merge to form a perfect nexus of deception. Their thoughts are a quantum entanglement, and at any moment the demon decides whether the thought is true or false, with objective truth making no actual difference. Any method of determining truth or lies, magical or mundane, reads a demon only as the demon wants to be read. If the demon wants to read as truthful, they do. If they want to read as lying, they do. Most human methods of detecting lies don't even notice this because they cue off physical responses to emotions, which demons control entirely. However, even magical powers that detect objective truth rather than if someone is lying will still fail to work properly on demons - they will continue to read as truthful or false depending entirely on what they want, rather than what is objectively true.

Lastly, demons are capable of sensing Aether via what is known as aetheric resonance. The exact sensation varies by demon, but almost all of the Machine's works depend on converting Essence to Aether, and anything tied to the God-Machine will emit Aether. Thus, demons can use it to sense their enemy. Angels have no comparable ability to sense demons, however. The method this works by is that you can spend an Aether to sense any Aetheric sources around you for a scene. Any time a source comes close, you sense it. Demons count. You can't tell exactly what or how far away the source is, but can tell strength and direction, and being in Twilight will not help. However, demons in Cover or angels hidden by Infrastructure won't be automatically detected unless they spend Aether or Essence. Facilities, however, are often particularly intense unless specifically masked. Aether feels exactly the same no matter what is emitting it, however, so it's not a good way to detect if someone is friend or foe - demons and angels feel the exact same way. Your range expands as your Primum rises.

Before now, we've mentioned Glitches. Glitches are caused by rising Primum or certain compromise rolls. Glitches come in three types: brands, tells and emanations, which each come in one of three strength: minor, major or catastrophic. As your Primum goes up, your chance of getting glitches increases, as does the duration of transient, temporary glitches. Brands are glitches that affet the physical form. A minor brand is easily hidden - for example, an inability to eat unprocessed food, the smell of burnt copper or scar tissue in a circuit pattern. Major brands are inconvenient and visible - hair turning an unnatural color or glyphs of angelic script appearing as prominent tattoos. Catastrophic brands are obviously supernatural and impossible to hide, such as unnatural skin colors, horn-like protrusions, smoke coming from the mouth or a need to consume battery acid - and only battery acid.

Tells are bad habits and involuntary behaviors. A minor tell is easily explainable - a need to touch the top of a doorway as you enter, or an inability to cover your head. A major tell is a defining behavior that is possible to exploit and hard to explain - an inability to accept offered objects from someone's hand, or pain caused by high frequency sounds. A catastrophic tell is obvious and extremely eccentric - a need to count discarded coinage or a need to speak only in rhyme.

Emanations are glitches that manifest around you, affecting the environment, and they never form for demons with less than Primum 6. Minor emanations are subtle reality shifts that aren't easily traced to you - minor changes in temperature or air qualtiy, say. Major emanations are obvious but not necessarily supernatural. TVs might show static, electricity might malfunction or objects might rust slightly in your presence. Catastrophic emanations fundamentally alter local physics and are clearly following you around - light objects float when you get close, your footsteps are unnaturally loud and echoing, you suffer from personal parallax or skipping in time, like a badly buffering video.

Glitches can be cured. Most are temporary anyway, but not all, and sometimes you need to cure them faster. Gaining a new Cover will automatically remove all temporary glitches. Alternatively, you may find a restoration facility within Infrastructure, which will cure all glitches, even permanent ones. However, these facilities always have at least one angel guarding them, and often more, and even once you're past that you have to figure out how to turn them on safely. some Agencies track and safeguard these facilities, but if so, access to them is always heavily restricted and costly.

Next time: Gadgets and Pacts


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

If stigmatics are what happens when the Machine alters humans by accident and cryptids are what happens to animals, Gadgets are what happens to inanimate objects. They gain strange abilities...and demons retain the power to create gadgets, which they refer to as Installation. It allows them to implant aspects of an Embed or Exploit into a physical object, fundamentally altering and enchanting it. Gadgets can be Embedded or Exploited, and the two categories differ greatly. An Embedded gadget appears exactly as it did before the Installation, but close inspection by anyone that knows much about the Machine will find that there is something different about it. Embeds can only be Installed into an object that has a related function - for example, Hush could be put into a dagger to make it silence its victims, but not an airhorn. These gadgets are never as flexible as the Embed they are born out of, and instead have a specific related effect. They do not need Aether to activate, but usually have a specific trigger condition or activation roll.

Example Embedded gadgets:

Exploited gadgets are permanently warped by Installation, making them appear alien and strange, often science fiction-y and always clearly weird. A rifle might become a chrome laser gun tube thing, while a camera might gain a glowing red eye that moves around. They can never be mistaken for mundane - at best, you might pass them off as a prop or toy, and even that's pretty unlikely when dealing with people in the know. While Exploited gadgets do not require Aether to function, they can be detected by aetheric resonance and can stockpile Aether. They require one Aether each month to maintain their effects and stabilize them, however. If they run out and are not refueled within a week, they break down, and any attempt to refuel them after that destroys them. Even when fueled, they are highly unstable. When they are destroyed, their latent aetheric power erupts, causing any demon nearby to have to check for a glitch, potentially turning humans stigmatic and certainly drawing the Machine's attention. However, there are reasons to use one over just using an Exploit. Exploited gadgets don't cause compromises when used, and they're more flexible then Embedded gadgets in that you can instal them into just about any object, regardless of its function.

Sample Exploited gadgets:

Gadgets require no special tie to the Machine to use. Anyone who knows their trigger can use them, but triggers can be anything from a password to a specific action or an external stimulus. Gadgets lack self-awareness so they can't handle subjective conditions - triggers must be something objective. The speed of activation depends entirely on its triggers and how complex they are. Effects are entirely at the discretion of the ST, and Installation takes a few hours most of the time, plus a full dot of Willpower if you want it to last more than one scene. Installation comes with lots of weird electrical effects, so it's advised not to do it a lot in one place, to avoid drawing attention.

Now, let's talk Pacts. Pacts are vital to demon survival, one of the best tools you have for gaining security and Cover. It lets both you and the mortals you make the Pacts with to get things you greatly value. For mortals, that could be just about anything, though some things cost more than others. For demons, it's usually Cover fragments, cultists or souls. Demons sometimes believe that Pact-making is like banking with reality, based out of an instinctual knowledge of how to transfer the stuff reality is made of between people, while others see it as rewriting the code of the universe and reprogramming it. Others believe it has no direct analogue to angels or the Machine, and is an entirely new ability born from the unique nature of demons. The truth doesn't matter, really.

Pacts have rules. First, they must be written. All pacts are written contracts, made on relatively permanent media - paper, animal hides, stone. You can't write it in wet sand or just digital media. The pact renders the object slightly harder to destroy than the mundane counterpart, but you want to be careful anyway, because if the contract is destroyed, the pact is canceled, which is very bad for the demon - it costs them Willpower and causes compromise as the pact's benefits to both sides go away. The contract can be highly informal and direct, or extremely formal and full of fine print. Most are somewhere between the two extremes, but most demons do try to hide loopholes enough to benefit themselves but not the mortal. Pacts are transferable - a demon can give to another demon, usually for a price. The contract must be signed willingly and by a human's own hand...but any form of non-supernatural influence or intimidation is acceptable, as long as the human signs it themself. Using magical mind control voids the deal, however. The mortal need not understand the exact nature of what they sign, and any failure to read the fine print is their own problem...though the person must still know the terms of the deal, roughly.

Generally, coercion is only worth it for soul pacts. As noted before, a soul pact, when called in, utterly destroys both the body and soul of the person involved. Nothing any demon does can ever bring them back. If any power can, those powers are vastly beyond the abilities of any demon. Destroying the contract might return the soul to existence...maybe, but if so, it's never been verified. Soul pacts are always the most closely guarded contracts any demon has. They are also the only contracts which must be signed in blood. (This blood is impossible to wash away, no matter the medium.)

Demons cannot lie when writing a pact. It's pretty much one of the only times this is true. They can word things evasively or misleadingly, but never falsely. Forming a pact costs Willpower from the demon - more, the more unbalanced it is in the demon's favor. Soul pacts, however, also cost an additional full dot of willpower. And, as noted, if a contract is destroyed, all benefits immediately vanish from both parties, even if that would kill them or leave them in a terrible situation. A demon can have as many pacts as they want, but need to keep up the benefits they've promised for all of them. (Often this isn't hard, as the universe takes care of most of it, but if the demon has also promised specific services, they have to remember to do those.)

What can a demon promise? Fucking anything. A demon can offer mortals pretty much any Merit they want, or improve Merits they already have...though externally derived merits that require changing the world around someone are harder and so higher-valued. A demon can also grant a mortal bonuses to just about any skill they want. In exchange, the demon can receive parts of someone's life - the more deeply tied to the life, the more Cover XP they're worth. They can also use this to gain cults, manipulating the world around the signatory to form the cult around them. And, of course, demons can buy souls. Pacts do not have indefinite duration automatically, either. In fact, the base duration is a day, often used to give someone a quick hit and get them coming back to ask for more. The longer a pact lasts, the harder it is for a demon to make, but permanent pacts are highly popular for demons trying to patch up a cover, since...well, they want that to last. (Often the benefits for the human are not permanent, however.) You can make pacts with supernatural beings, but it is rarely a good idea. You can take parts of a supernatural being's mundane life, but are unable to take parts of their supernatural abilities or weaknesses. Soul pacts are possible, but exceptionally bad ideas - when you claim the soul of a supernatural being, you take agg damage based on their Supernatural Tolerance stat, and you only get their identity, with none of their pwoers, weaknesses or knowledge of their supernatural society. Good luck.

Next time: Demonic Forms


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

Angels come in many shapes, and while they may do similar jobs, no two angels look the same. The same is true of demons. However, the demonic form is not a perfect replica of the angelic state, but rather a pattern basedo n it. As you grow more powerful, you can reshape it to better fit what you want to be, not limited by your angelic past. Assuming demonic form is a liberating act, made possible by a simple act of will, though it is not without risk. Full transformation is possible, but so is partial shifting of the human shape, taking on only some of the demonic form's traits.

A full transformation is easiest - you just will it and it happens. When you assume your full demonic form, you heal Lethal or Bashing damage based on your Primum and lose any Tilts that would be related to bodily injury, like Arm Wrack. Once you enter demonic form you also absorb Aether based on your Primum, and can try to draw in more when you run out. Almost all demonic forms are very clearly inhuman and terrifying, and demons avoid audiences - or transforming at all, except to face equally potent foes. Manifestation of the demonic form, after all, risks compromise of the Cover you left. The longer you stay in it, the more attention you get. Returning to human form is harder, requiring concentration, effort and expenditure of Aether in order to wrap the demonic form inside the human again. Any bodily injury Tilts the Cover was suffering come back with it, too. As a note, if you Go Loud as part of your transformation, you are completely healed of all Bashing and Lethal damage during the transformation, as well as the other effects we've noted previously.

Partial transformations require concentration. It is extremely unnatural for a demon, and it costs 1 Aether per ability to manifest, and another Aether to get rid of all of them. If you can spend enough Aether per round to get everything you want, none of them show up until all the Aether is spent. You can't add more once you've manifested your picks, either, unless you rever them all first. You can, however, go into a full transformation as normal. Partial transformation does not heal or gain Aether, and the compromise risk is lessened depending on how many abilities you are not currently accessing. (Which results in some silly math ensuring lots of exceptional successes, meaning you will actually probably gain Cover from partially transforming relatively often.)

When you first FAll, your demonic form is very influenced by your old angelic form, and will have abilities based on that. However, every time your Primum increases, you can choose to remove and replace up to two of your demonic form's traits. Form abilities come in four types: Modifications, which are small boosts to your ability to do certain things, Technologies, which are specialized implants that give you a power which usually targets only one person, Propulisons, which give you specialized movement options, and Processes, which give you significant abilities or adaptations which can often affect entire groups. You start with three Modifications, two Technologies, one Propulsion and one Process. At Primum 3, you get a fourth Modifcation, at Primum 6 a third Technology and at Primum 10 a second Process. Demonic form powers all take obvious physical form on your body - when manifested partially, those appear on your human form. You determine what each looks like and what the whole appears as in your full demonic form.

Modifications include:

Technologies include:

Propulsions include:

Processes include:

Next time: Angels among us.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

Angels, as noted, are made to do specific jobs, and are generally given only what they need to do that job. They are smart, but single-minded, and they all have one order in common: do not betray the mission. That's all most of them need. When it isn't...well, that's where demons get started. The line between demon and angel is quite thin. They share origins as outsiders to the world, and both also have free will - the difference is, demons choose to use it. Angels do not betray the mission. Most do so unthinkingly, while others just haven't found the right temptation. A few dance on the edge, close to a Fall but remaining loyal for now. Any demon knows better than to trust an angel, but they aren't always enemies, either. An angel can be a useful, if entirely untrustworthy contact or even ally. But then, you can't trust other demons, either. You know as well as anyone that demons are looking out for number one.

To angels, mortals are just...things, parts of the plan and generally not to be paid attention to unless they're useful. Demons are not things. Demons are family that betrayed them, black sheep to the God-Machine. Demons understand angels deeply, but angels cannot understand demons. To most angels, the entire idea of independence is utterly unthinkable. To consider it would be to understand the Fall - and thus to experience it. Thus, angels often feel a bitter, bitter anger at demons - they are betrayers that were once closer than brothers. Some even resent and envy demons, too terrified by freedom to seek it. They study demons and stretch themselves until they are dangerously close to Falling...and then, well, they do. Other angels stay dedicated and treat it as a personal duty to destroy or reassimilate demons...which can itself cause a Fall if it makes them deviate from the mission or go too far. Freedom is apparently rather infectious.

However, not all angels hate demons. Some angels see the Fallen as misguided and want to bring them back to proper alignment, or cure them of the corruption that has taken them. These views often are held by dumber or less aware angels, who cannot or who refuse to consider existence outside of what they are. Smarter angels and more self-willed ones tend to be more profoundly affected, feeling grief towards the irrevocable sundering of their 'family.' Angels, in their own way, feel friendship and even love for one another, and the Fall of an angel can be heartbreaking to others.

So, if not all angels hate demons or oppose them except by their allegiance, maybe you can work with some. These relationships are never without danger for both sides. Angels may be contacts because they've been ordered to infiltrate your friends and bring you home...and on the other hand, prolonged contact with demons can cause them to Fall. The Machine may know this but it certainly doesn't hesitate to set them to do it anyway. Maybe it's a test, or maybe it's just blindly following its programming, but whatever the case, an angelic contact can be very valuable in learning more about the Machine's plans and missions, or about angelic threats in the area. Of course, hunter angels are the most dangerous thing for a demon to face, so that's worth knowing about. Hunter angels are powerful and, unlike most angels, they know quite a lot about demons. The Machine does not hunt with weak angels, though it is capable of underestimating its prey. This is why many demons refuse to use their true power unless forced to.

It should also be noted that destroying an angel is generally not the best way to deal with one. If you can interrupt its mission and make it impossible to fulfill, it'll probably go away. If you destroy it and the mission is still possible, the God-Machine will usually send a stronger and more dangerous angel - especially if it knows demons are involved. Thus, demons often prefer to fight angels via proxy, using mortals or other creatures to do their dirty work and manipulating events to avoid direct conflict. If they get found out...well, the hunters get sent in.

Hunter angels come in many types. Their work is invariably centered on finding and retrieving or killing demons. Some have specific targets, others an ongoing job to hunt down any demons they can find. They are always extremely intelligent angels and often very capable of adapting to the mortal world...though this can make them at risk of a Fall. On the other hand, they tend be very proud and loyal. Their methods vary wildly. Some are straightforward and violent, trusting in their power to make up for the unsubtle planning...well, their power and their ability to force demons to ruin their own Covers in order to defeat them. Others lack this raw physical power but are vastly cunning, pretending at sympathy and acting as a contact for demons while reporting on them and deceiving them, until they are trapped in a way they cannot escape or find a way to ruin your Cover without you noticing. These are the more feared hunter angels, as they are very clever and very capable of spreading the damage they do over a long, careful period.

Demons aren't the only rogue angels out there, however. Demons made a choice. Not all angels get that choice. Sometimes, programming in the God-Machine becomes corrupted or errors pop up. (Some demons theorize the Machine itself may be an error.) Sometimes, an angel does not Fall but is removed from ties to the Machine. These are the exiles, never trusted and often feared. Exiles sometimes are made when the Machine makes an angel and gives it no job. This is rare, but there's been enough times that quite a few of them exist across the earth. Some maintain contact with demons closely, while others treat them as foes. These exiles have no mission, which is always very frustrating for them, and no feedback as to whether they're doing the Machine's will. Hunter angels never come for them. Many can't tell if they've Fallen or not. Some thrive on this freedom, while others become paranoid and depressed. Other exiles form when something goes catastrophically wrong. Their original mission might be impossible for some reason - they're sent to destroy something and might fail repeatedly or find that the thing is already destroyed. Usually, this leads to Fall, bot not always, and sometimes the Machine never recalls the angel or sends new missions. They have no orders, get no news. They are effectively exiled through bad communication. It's very rare, but the fact that it's possible often drives more self-aware angels to work that much harder. Many exiles of either type work desperately to reintegrate themselves into the Machine, while others form alliances with anyone that seems useful - including demons. Exiles are powerful, unpredictable and dangerous...but often useful to know.

Example angels include:
Mr. Shivers, a young man in a long coat who has a serrated knife for a hand. His job is to go out in winter - or at least when it's cold out - when people are feeling happy. He finds targets, approaches them, has a short and ceerful conversation, and then he murders them. His goal is to always kill someone whose death will cause the maximum grief for their social network. Why? Because that's his mission.
Alexandra Fairchild is an untraditional hunter angel, whose job is to befriend and help demons, then convince them to return to the Machine of their own free will. She will use any promise to do so, from seduction to promises of power and freedom in service. Obviously, much of this is lies. She is dangerously close to Falling as she interacts with demons and begins to understand them. She is curious about freedom, but is currently terrified of the Machine and the price of rebellion...and terrified of losing what she has already gained when her mission ends. She appears as a normal-looking human and enjoys collecting designer clothes, music and movies.
The Brilliant is a hunter angel in a more traditional sense. It appears as a humanoid figure bathed in light, but once you get past that, it is a gray, membranous creature with no face and a mouth full of grinding machines, with an exposed and bubbling brain. It is exceptionally unsubtle, appearing by emerging from (and destroying) light sources and striking away at demons to force them to burn down their own covers. It is fanatical in hunting and will even take on exiles if it gets a chance, being a bit overzealous in its goals.
The Keeper of the Dead is an impossibly old-looking man wiith white, unfocused eyes. His job is to maintain a graveyard full of Infrastructure, ensuring that certain souls are sent on to other places for the Machine. He does not know where. He also collects up ghosts and drages them down to the machines under the graveyard to labor in it or serve as fuel. The graveyard contains several blank headstones and empty plots or mausoleums carved in gibberish. The Keeper fixates on any living beings he encounters, following them around and asking them extremely personal questions about their emotions and physical sensations.
Orin the Arms Dealer is an exile, originally sent to give humans the weapons they needed to destroy each other. He has exceeded his original mission but never got new orders. He appears as a powerful bald man of indeterminate ethnicity who enjoys smoking cigars, which often form images of suffering faces when he exhales. He works largely to increase his influence in the arms black market and enjoys temporal power and money. He also deals in drugs and information at times, but prefers weapons deals. He enjoys taking part in illegal fights and collecting occult weapons. He has not actually Fallen yet (largely due to the fact that he has no orders), but he's definitely on the path ot it and happy about it.

Next time: Stigmatics.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

Your average stigmatic is a normal person that, by chance, runs into the God-Machine as it's working on a project or finds an object made by the Machine. Others, however, are sometimes recruited deliberately as part of a Machine cult or a servant of an angel - or of a demon. The warping into a Stigmatic usually happens within a few hours of that first encounter with the Machine, and it can take anywhere from minutes to weeks to manifest. It starts with strange hallucinations and warpings of perception, like being trapped in an endless dream in which the familiar is made strange. The visions are nearly impossible to make sense of and highly traumatizing...but they're better than what comes next. The stigmatic develops a brand which marks them as touched by the Machine. Some leave frost everywhere they touch, others have no reflection, others have glowing, shifting tattoos appear. It is often highly painful as it manifests and clearly not normal. Even if the brands are minor and easily concealed, they leave psychological scars. Once the brand manifests, the visions recede, and the world returns to...some semblance of normal. However, now the Stigmatic can always see where the Infrastructure is, sensing the presence of the God-Machine easily...and, worse, they attract its attention.

Being stigmatic is profoundly harrowing. They know how small they are in the face of the world. Some gain other powers beyond their ability to see the Machine's gears, but even these just draw angelic attention. And while they can see the gears, the human mind is not equipped to make sense of them. Their visions often appear as meaningless gibberish, far more distracting than they are helpful. Those that are not overcome by their perceptions are still lost in a strange and alien world, often becoming obsessed with studying or avoiding whatever caused their transformation. Suicide isn't rare, though most stigmatics hold little hope out for the afterlife. They may try to return to their normal life, but the Machine rarely lets them. Angels seek out stigmatics, though not always for hostile reasons. If a stigmatic repeatedly causes a problem, sure, angels will try to kill them, but if they don't, the Machine just wants to use them. Stigmatics make excellent cultists, test subjects or bait to draw in demons, and the Machine will never ignore something useful.

Demons view stigmatics in a number of ways - as useful informants, potential allies or even as closer ties to the Machine. However, approaching them is always a risk. Not all stigmatics are hiding from the Machine - some serve it, or serve rival demons. Those that are newly made will have little knowledge of use, at that. Still, stigmatics play a crucial role for many rings and Agencies. They are valuable lookouts and contacts, and can be valuable allies for getting cover stories or support. Their ability to see Infrastructure makes them excellent scouts, and some can use supernatural abilities that would risk a demon's Cover if they did it.

Mechanically, stigmatics are created as mortals, with a few extras. First, every stigmatic gets the Unseen Sense (God-Machine) merit free. Second, they all suffer visions as per the Omen Sensitivity merit, but entirely beyond their control. Once per session, the ST can stun them with a vision that they become obsessed with. Third, all stigmatics have a single glitch, always a major brand or major tell. It cannot be cured or removed by any means, but can be suppressed temporarily with Willpower. Finally, stigmatics get 3 extra Merit dots to spend on supernatural Merits.

Cryptids are what happens when an animal or plant becomes stigmatic. In fact, animals are the most common things to breach a facility. Most of them end harmlessly (except for the animal), but sometimes, the animal briefly connects with the design. Animals simply are not intended to perceive the structure of the universe, and when they become stigmatic, weird shit happens. Most commonly, they die, but not always. Some are warped to various degrees and escape back into the world as a cryptid. Where stigmatics tend to know better than to operate openly, cryptids work on instinct and have no concept of secrecy. When they threaten to break into the public eye, the Machine deploys 'experts' to explain away their nature. However, it does not hunt them all down or even always notice a cryptid exists. Sometimes this is because eradicating them will draw more attention, while other times it's because a cryptid is useful or subtle enough to be ignored. Demons tend to dislike cryptids because many are capable of sniffing them out by a natural attraction to Aether...but on the other hand, they can be extremely useful to study, and in large numbers they can cause huge problems for God-Machine projects.

Unlike human stigmatics, cryptids have no pattern they follow. They could become anything - a talking dog, a mothman, an invisible creature. However, there are some common traits. Pretty much all cryptids can sense Aether, exactly as per the demonic aetheric resonance, but always on. Many of them possess the same unseen sense that stigmatics do, but not all. (Their aetheric sense is often more reliable anyway.) Cryptids universally do not appear on camera easily. Most show up as blrured silhouettes, with humanoid ones easily mistaken for humans or upright bears, while larger ones seem to blend into the background. Humans have a hard time recalling exactly what they saw in a cryptid, though demons, stigmatics or anyone else that can see past the Machine's veils do not. Most evidence of cryptids in the media tends to vanish quickly, but that's not innately supernatural - that's the Machine quietly scrubbing them from the networks. Angels may allow fringe websites and tabloids to continue, however, as they often do more to discredit cryptids than bring attention to them.

Cryptids are basically giving the ST free rein to create whatever goddamn monster they want. Example powers are given for them, but they explicitly can have whatever kind of power you need them to. Example Cryptids:
The Mothmen! They are a race of giant humanoid bugs that started in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. They are between four and six feet tall, with a wingspan at least twice their height. They have four arms, two legs and buglike eyes, plus pale gray fur. They are carnivorous but mostly eat small game, like squirrels. Newborns are about the size of a clenched fist, but will reach full size within two weeks. There were once over 24 mothmen on the east coast of the US, and the Machine had nearly a dozen angels hunting them from the mid-60s to the late 80s. This is the source of many men-in-black stories.
Reptilians, meanwhile, are...well, reptiles in human skin. They are not as common as conspiracy theorists believe. In their true form ,they resemble giant, humanoid chameleons with human eyes and short tails. They can change their skin color and limb shape to appear as human. They are panicky critters, with strong instincts, and when confronted they tend to drop the disguise and flee. They are useful as spies and informants for both angels and demons, and tend to find quiet work as janitors or security guards. They certainly don't control a damn thing about the human world.

Sometimes, strange alterations to humans are done on purpose. The most common are sleeper agents - humans whose minds have been altered by the Machine to create subconscious programming. Their minds are subtly and deeply reprogrammed, much harder to notice than the gross control possible by use of angelic Numina. They receive secret, embedded commands with specific triggers to bring them out. When triggere,d their personality is suppressed and their directives are enacted. While triggered, sleeper agents' normal personality has no bearing on how they act. They are one of the biggest sources of fear for demons, because anyone who has ever been captured by the Machine could be a sleeper agent. Unfortunately, there is no reliable means to detect them - maybe if you can read memories you might find evidence, but it's always very well hidden, and if you fuck up you might trigger them.

Next time: Seattle


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

I'm skimming over quite a lot of the ST advice - including advice on how to create Interlocks or design God-Machine facilities and plans. Buy the book if you want to read it. Much of it is quite good, but hard for me to summarize and not worth trying to. However, there is a set of directives on playing the God-Machine that I'll summarize here.

Anyway, on to Seattle. Seattle is a chaotic, unplanned city that was built as needs arose, never to a plan. It resists change and practicality. It is full of engineers and programmers and medical professionals, and the God-Machine has many hooks in the area to control them and the systems around them. However, as a result of an untended experiment, the city has become a point of instability for the Machine. This has resulted in a number of locations discreetly detaching from reality. See, back before the Great Fire of 1889, the Machine's agents completed a project that allowed the timeline - at that point, there was just one in the region - to splinter and branch, creating a limited version of 1889 Seattle that never moves forward, rather like a save state. The fire destroyed the city, but led to a massive growth period in which the city doubled in size and technological capacity in two years. The need for the bubbled time was gone and the process of creating it was forgotten, but the machines used to do it werre never removed. It is unclear whether it was intended to be undone or if it was just put in reserve. Either way, 1889 Seattle's splinter reality still exists, and it's not the only temporal splinter any more.

Ever since the creation of the 1889 splinter, the reality of Seattle has become rather unstable. Every few decades, a new splinter shows up, generally at the same time some new piece of Infrastructure is installed or a new fracture in reality is found. It is unclear what the splinters are for or why they exist, and it's likely not even the Machine knows, or at least not all parts of it. It may be planned...but on the other hand, the Machine seems far less present in the older splinters, and some of their Infrastructure is broken or cut off. Demons thrieve in the splinters. No one knows why. Angels in Seattle seem to Fall faster than elsewhere, and demons show up in Seattle more often than most cities, even if they Fell elsewhere. The general hope is that the fracturing of reality keeps the Machine's vision poor.

Generally speaking, the game divides Seattle (modern day) into five areas: the four quadrants (Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest) and the East Side across the lake. Each quadrant is home to a different splinter timeline, all of which coexist and are layered over each other, though each is centered in a different area. They all cover the core Seattle metropolitan area...and nothing at all beyond. Whatever knowledge of the rest of the world existed at the time remains, but you can't exit Seattle. Any attempt causes you to somehow reenter the city. Any vehicle leaving Seattle just loops back around, even trains. You can go anywhere in the city at the given time period, but can only cross between splinters if you find the correct fracture points in the correct quadrant, which may or may not be fixed in location or time. Most connections seem to run from a splinter to the modern timeline and back, leaving each splinter largely independent of the others. There's no evidence to suggest they can't connect to each other - they just haven't. Each splinter remains part of the World of Darkness, with monsters and strangeness, just at different points in history. The timeline within these splinters does not advance - days pass, things get done, but the time never really changes. Thus, they are more limited than the modern timeline. Most cover a very limited span - no more than a year - at the end of which, the clock resets and everything within is put back at the beginning of the splinter timeline, with no memory of the process. Demons are immune to the changes, as are stigmatics, but that's about it. The native inhabitants of the splinter are less real than the mainstream timeline's inhabitants, not in the same way. Their nature prevents them from ever realizing the shift...but, like normal humans, they can enter pacts or become stigmatic, and can even leave their timeline if they somehow gain the knowledge and awareness to do so. Two versions of the same person can coexist, though it's likely to be dangerous for their sense of identity. The rest of the universe doesn't especially care, for the most part.

There are connections between the splinters and mainline reality. If you go to a splinter and make a pact with someone there, it echoes back in the real world. It becomes part of history in the dominant timeline and other, future splinters - a pact with Tom in 1962 remains happened in the real world. In practice, this is not especially useful more than a generation or two back, and there is a minor risk of unpredictable (if small) changes to the present. However, clever use of this trait can make Cover much easier to get. Generally speaking, patch job pacts will be more useful this way than soul pacts - especially in further back splinters.

The East Side refers to the literal east side of Lake Washington, which is not, strictly speaking, part of Seattle proper. It's like miniature Seattle, less diverse and more insular, but higher income. It's where the tech companies keep their campuses, and it tends to be more religious and conservative than Seattle proper. The East Side is also where the God-Machine is strongest in Seattle. The entire thing is somewhat like a circuit, strategically designed and built for conformity. It is composed of a number of planned communities, the most prominent of which are Bellevue and Redmond, where the wealthy live. Bellevue is highly regulated and monitored, full of angels traveling where they need to be, and human works are closely observed. However, this is really home for the Machine's organic assets rather than any sensitive Infrastructure...but it's a great place to go if you need to spy on or ambush an angel and are strong enough to get back out. Redmond, on the other hand, is full of the tech campuses, including one owned by the Deva Corporation. Despite all this, it feels like a suburb, with few tall buildings and a decent amount of trees. The Machine ensures an atmosphere of conformity and work towards the greater good. Redmond is the Machine's heart in the Seattle area, and it's very hard to mvoe around without drawing notice. There's a ton of facilities, and this'd be the place to target if you wanted to really hurt local Command and Control Infrastructure...but figuring out which parts that is is a bit of a challenge.

While technically not a part of the East Side, Mercer Island at the center of Lake Washington is full of wealth and privilege, and so leans more towards the east than the west. It is also the God-Machine's favored home for those it wants to reward. It is the safest place in the entirety of the Seattle area - an expensive holding cell for those the Machine wants comfortable but accessible and isolated. Nearly everyone there works for the Machine in some way, though most don't know it. It's a small and insular community of ultra-wealthy people, and strangers stick out. There is, however, very little Infrastructure on the island, and what is there is meant to protect the Machine's property - organic and non-organic. The bridge crossing Lake Washington, however, is an extremely important piece of Logistical Infrastructure - it contains a number of mechanisms which supply mystic power to Infrastructure across the East Side by absorbing the kinetic energy of the cars on the bridge. There is a drawbridge halfway across the bridge, with a powerful angel named Drawbridge stationed there to protect the bridge, should it come under attack or otherwise be endangered. The Linchpin is a black food truck with 'Cupcake Cuties' written on it in pink. The truck drives across the bridge regularly. It has no cupcakes to sell and no store to go home to - instead, it serves as a maintenance check for the bridge's Infrastructure.

There is no splinter timeline in the East Side.

Next time: The Southwest Quadrant and 1889


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

Seattle's got five timelines: the dominant one, plus four splinters. The four splinters are:
As a note, a demon can make a small-scale permanent change to a splinter by altering it physically and spending a Willpower. This causes the change to 'stick' through a timeline's reboot.

Southwest Quadrant is one of the oldest parts of Seattle, being where most of the settlers came and built their camps. It retains a 'border' nature, with an independent spirit. Old Seattle is a rather eclectic area, with old brick buildings and young hipster inhabitants just blocks away from five different missions for the homeless and a bunch of tech startups. The area south of downtown Seattle was once called the Industrial District and is still home to a lot of industry, shipping and, these days, sports stadiums. The area is also home to Boeing Field, which does not handle commercial passenger flights. It's the smaller airport of Seattle since the 1940s, and has primarily been used for cargo, design testing and private aircraft. The God-Machine finds it notable because sensitive documents and parts are shipped through it by hand. The area is heavily Machine-infiltrated, and many of the people there can tell stories about seeing gears even if they aren't stigmatic. Many have mechanistic tattoos, making it hard to tell who's an agent and who's not.

1889 Seattle is the splinter centered in the SW Quadrant. It's a land of opportunity, still waiting to be discovered. No one is entirely sure what triggered the splinter, but in it, the Great Fire never happened. Some buildings have been replaced by brickwork, but far fewer than in the normal world. It is in many ways still a frontier town of boardwalks and rough edges. It's smaller, tougher and wilder than real Seattle, and only really covers the Downtown and Pioneer Square parts of the modern city, with settlements around the edges. The rest is woods and water and local tribes, many of whom are not happy about the Europeans sticking around. 1889 is unique among the splinters in several ways. First, it's changed most of any of them. Ships come and go from other places with people on them and new arrivals, though outsiders can't leave any more than usual. Second, while the technology and fashion and language are all 1880s and 1890s, the calendars say it's 1930 now, and all of the citizens believe the date is 1930, though not any 1930 a historian would ever recognize. Fashion has changed some - different hats, more skin shown, more buckskin in men's clothing - but it is certainly not 1930s fashion, either.

The major players of the area include:
W. J. Fletcher, chief of police. He's a blustery fellow in his late 30s who is always impeccably attired and who believes strongly in fate and providence. He ignores vice for the most part, focusing on murder or crimes involving upstanding citizens. He used to want to clean up the whole city, but was turned into a stigmatic by Mother Damnable and has become devoted to her and her plans. His pocket watch marks him as her man, and he is completely loyal.
Captain Bruce "Devil" Pendergast is a the captain of the Callipe, a sail-ship who'll carry just about any cargo, stolen, human or otherwise. He's surrounded by rumors, has a quick temper and a lot of tattoos. He knows just about everything going down in the criminal underworld and will take pretty much any job if you're polite to him and your money's good.
Father Francois Valancourt is one of the most respected men of Seattle, and older man and Catholic priest who will minister to anyone. He is devout and respected, and one of the few agents of the Machine left in the splinter. He received a stranger raving about gears and flying machines and blood some years ago. The man died hours later, but gave the man a silver box that showed Valancourt a vision of the future and proof of God. He receives instructions from a heavenly voice in the box in return for reciting the confessions he receives to it.
Mrs. Mei Lee is the owner of Jade Prosperity Pawn Shop. Her husband was a wealthy Chinese man whose many came from somewhere unknown. He died two years after his marriage to the immigrant Mei, and she was forced to act quickly, opening hte pawn shop. She dresses in high finery and is one of the most fashionable women in town. She is the keepero f secrets not only for the Chinese community but also for anyone who needs ready cash, and she's happy to deal in information.
Mother Damnable was once known as Mary Ann Conklin, owner of the Felker Hotel. She always had a temper, and her husband sailed off one night on a whaling ship, never to return. She came to Seattle after that to manage the hotel. She is famous for her cursing (in six languages, fluently), and that's where the nickname comes from. She's bcome a fixture of Seattle, installing a brothel in her hotel and renting out space even to the government for meetings and court. In early 1889, a stranger came to her and rented a room. Two weeks later, she left for the south, and came back after a month, healthier and stronger. (In truth, she entered into a soul pact and is now a demon wearing the life of Mother Damnable.) She is a small but stout woman and dresses plainly and practically. She is the real power in 1889 splinter - the demon Karabes, who has decided to turn the place into its personal Hell. It has been slowly ensuring changes to the timeline persist, making people into stigmatics and infiltrating society, suborning or destroying Infrastructure when possible. Mother Damnable is the name Karabes prefers now, and demons that come to the splinter and think they want to stay must go through her. She's happy to bring in anyone who'll strengthen her vision, but she won't tolerate challenges. She won't leave, for fear that her work will revert and be lost, but she'll happily try to remove threats with whatever force is needed. She has no intention of giving up her Hell.

For a variety of reasons, the fractures leading to 1889 are heavily guarded on both sides, more than any other in the city. The Machine knows that its power and influence there are weakened, but is not entirely sure what the end result will be and so is trying to quarantine the area and prevent anyone going out or coming in. Mother Damnable, for her part, wants no agents spying on her and undoing her work, so she's happy to keep anyone from crossing over at all most of the time. Neither side has been brave or foolish enough to try and destroy the fractures completely, as that could be catastrophic.

There are two primary fracture points. The first is in an iron pergola in the modern Pioneer Square. For years, falling asleep there gave you a chance of waking up in the Yesler Mill, half-demolished during the 1889 street-straightening projects. Now, no one is allowed to stay in the pergola long enough to fall asleep...but if you slip between the gateways just right, you can still cross over.

The second fracture point is in the Seattle Underground. See, in the dominant timeline, after the Great Fire the streets got regraded at two stories above ground, filling in and raising the city elevation, and creating a series of tunnels between buildings at the old ground level, with glass prims in the sidewlaks to light them. Most of the underground is now closed off for safety, but some is open to tourists. If you leave the tour path at 1st and Madison in the tunnels, you can cross to 1889 via a disused archway, arriving at 1st and Madison in 1889l. It is the less-used and so less-guarded fracture, but harder to get to thanks to various boarded up arches and stacked barrels blocking access, plus the ease of getting lost in the dark tunnels, full of who knows what.

Next time: Southeast Quadrant, Dizang and 1932


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

The Southeast Quadrant of Seattle is probably the hardest to define. Its history has always been of diversity and minority communities, with nearly 60 languages spoken within just a few square miles. The Capitol Hill neighborhood is famous as an LGBT area, while Central District is the home of the traditional African-American community of Seattle, the International District is heavy in Asian population, there is a now small and dingy Little Italy, and there's a strong Jewish community, among other things. Thanks to the language barriers and cultural conflict, it's not always the safest area, however, and there is a thriving set of gangs, too.

The International District, in addition to holding the above pillar and being a booming Asian-American community, is home to an angel named Dizang. Or Jizo. Or Ksitigarbha. It doesn't really matter - he'll accept any of them. He knows this is not his first incarnation, buit he knows it will be his last. He remains behind until all souls leave Hell. And only then will he return to the Machine, freed from this earth. Until that time, he educates others, enlightening them back to the service of the Machine, to cleanse them of illusion and send them on to nirvana. With each soul converted and recovered, he is one step closer. Dizang is an Exile, serving the God-Machine with a deep humility and encouraging others to reject maya and embrace nirvana. In Seattle, he is served by a number of Buddhist monks, who offer him devotions at their monasteries. He educates them - as he will anyone who comes to him - but his constant goal is to find demons and reintegrate them into the oneness of the God-Machine. He appears a humble monk with shaved head, plain robes and a staff. In angelic form, he is similar, but larger than any normal human, with a glowing light from his body and a halo around his head. He has a third eye in the forehead and the staff takes on jewels, while his other hand blooms with a metallic lotus. Dizang has no defined mission - he has chosen to see his personal goal to be convincing demons to willingly rejoin with the Mahcine. He is pretty much entirely nonviolent - he'll defend himself, but he will only try to hurt others if an innocent is harmed in his presence, and then only to protect the innocent and punish the person that harmed them.

1932 Seattle, meanwhile, is a vibrant small city with a flourishing Japanese community and a growing arts culture. The Depression is a problem, and there's a large Hooverville camp, but in Seattle the problem is only moderate compared to other places, not last thanks to the gigantic bootlegging operations that distill local alcohol and smuggle it in from Canada. The town is segregated, with the north end forbidden to sell or rent property to blacks, so they've settled mostly in the south end. 1932 splinter runs from March to October - the dedication of the George Washington Bridge to the dedication of the U.S. Marine Hospital in Beacon Hill. The bridge is free of Infrastructure; the hospital is not. The underground floors are full of labs and pistons and strange tubes, and its power practically hums to those in the know. The origins of the other splinters are disputed at best, but 1932 seems to have come into being due to the dedication of the hospital Infrastructure. It's a powerful construction, working in both the splitner and the dominant timeline. It's the most significant piece of Infrastructure in 1932, and also the largest and most ambitious piece anywhere in the city. Several demons have tried to suborn or destroy it, but no one has succeeded yet...partially because no one is sure what will happen to the splinter if the hospital gets disabled.

While the building was finished in 1932, the hospital was not officially opened until the following year. It was designed to serve veterans, merchant marine crewmen, Coast Guard, Light House Service members and 'federal compensation cases' - read, the poor and people who wouldn't be missed. The facility's goal, for the Machine, is simple: make more functional humans that are both more capable of service and less resistant to Machine control. Experiments, implantation and drug treatments are all performed, despite the hospital's 'closed' status, under the guise of controlled environments and efficiency. The doctors believe they are doing good work, and certainly the people that leave are healthier...but the doctors are all former patients themselves, so...that's that.

1932's fracture points are strangely synched. There are two, and both will appear or disappear at random for days at a time...but there's always at least one open at any point. The intervals are random, though none shorter than five minutes. No one knows what happens if the fracture disappears while crossing, but demons who use them report a tension, as if the rift is being forced open or squeezed shut, causing brief claustrophobia. The first rift is in Seward Park. On top of the hill there, there's a small old-growth forest and a trail leading to an ampitheatre used in the summer. The fracture is invisible, hidden in the woods behind the ampitheater, and you either have to accidentally find it or have a guide. The second is in the employee breakroom of HomeBound Hardware on Rainier Avenue. The door to the rift is locked and has no sign advertising what it does. Anyone that opens it and goes through ends up in the old Dugdale Baseball Park next to a mural of a painted door in a hallway leading to the bleachers. Dugdale is the home of the Seattle Indians of the Pacific Coast League, and it and the hardware store stand on the same plot of land.

The Dugdale rift functions regardless of crowd or time of die. The stadium burns down in July of 1932 due to arson, perhaps an effort to close the fracture off. Once the stadium is burned, there is nothing to mark the inner side of the rift until the timeline resets. Efforts have been made to prevent the fire, but none so far have worked. If you are in the rift when the fire hits, you take 4A damag - 2 from being caught in the rift as it closes and 2 from being on fire while in the rift.

Next time: Southwest Quadrant, 1962 and the Demons' Republic of Seattle


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

The Northwest Quadrant of Seattle is a strange place. It is separated north and south by a large chasm. It's also home to many of Seattle's iconic features, though not all. It's got Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and the Troll, and so it is a common tourist destination. Pike Place Market is in Downtown, which is easily the wealthiest part of the quadrant, home of tourists, clubs and tech start-ups. The place is home to the EMP Restoration Facility, now a museum. Within it is a room called the Sky Church, an immense open room designed as a concert and meeting space. Once, it was Infrastructure, though no one remembers what it was supposed to do or if it worked. Whatever purpose it once had, it has none now - the entire place has been suborned and turned into an Aether generator. Comrade West claims it belongs to the Demons' Republic of Seattle, and he takes care of the place. He makes access to it available to anyone that contributes to the Republic. He may or may not have been the one to suborn it himself, but he refuses to tell anyone about it if so - he says it's not important.

Who is Comrade West? Well, he's a demon. He likes 'Comrade' as a title because it prevents power imbalance. While demons tend to be mobile as a lifestyle, or at least ready to move, West has been in Fremont for a long time...though it's hard to tell how many Covers he has or has had in the past. He's set himself up as the demonic welcoming committee in Fremont, and he watches out for other demons. He finds homes and pacts for them in need, but never for free - Comrade West is a strict communist. If he helps you, he expects you to help the group according to your abilities, whatever they are. Comrade West has worn just about every kind of Cover at some point or other, but in his demonic form he appears as a man with oiled, reddish metal skin and steel plates welded to him, with an arm that shoots metallic slugs. He is the main force behind the construction of the Demons' Republic of Seattle.

Technically speaking, the Republic is an Agency. It was started a while back, drawing on the local tradition of the labor movement and the IWW chapter in the area, whose members were frequently accused of having ties to communism. Comrade West is a Marxist, and the DRS is a Marxist Agency. They aspire to create a more fair, just and equal world than that of the Machine. The Agency consists of humans, stigmatics and demons that aspire to a cooperative social contract of sharing, joint effort and joint reward, placing all members as equal and respected. Anyone with an interest can join, though newcomers are always watched for a while. Humans with interest in collective life and Marxism join without knowing that supernatural entities are involved - they take the name 'demon' to be an effort to recognize the stigma that Communism faces in the USA. Humans are generally respected for their resources and labor but are not told the larger truth without a good reason. Stigmatics make up much of the middle leadership of the group - not all of its officers are stigmatic, but anyone that deals heavily with the demonic members is. They work as security for the agency and day-to-day administrators. Demons can also join, and Comrade West loves to recruit them, focusing on the resources and knowledge they have. Demons can choose to take part in the day-to-day work, but few do so, as their skills are more useful elsewhere. All members are expected to perform at least one act of service to the Republic each week, which can take any form - cahs, goods, time spent working for the cause, recruiting, whatever. When possible, members pay dues of 10% of their salary, as well. Mariah Selnick, a human member, runs a communal living space in Fremont for anyone of the Republic to use, and the Republic also runs a food pantry and garden that any member can draw on. They will partially subsidize any needs for transportation, security, childcare or even minor legal or medical needs. As long as your efforts on some level equate to your needs, you maintain good status. For dem,ons and stiagmatics, benefits can also include pacts, as long as you can pay in what you take out, and access to limited boltholes and safe spaces. Comrade West is the founder and leader of the group, but he prefers to keep things informal. Mark Wellford is a stigmatic that works to handle legal issues and keep the Republic going, and Karen Danvers is a glass artist with a shop in Fremont who heads most recruiting and makes the red glass pendants the Republic uses as a membership token. Members of the Republic are generally happy to openly discuss it as a political and economic group, in private if not working as recruiters, and will urge others to join when possible. The revolution, after all, is now.

So, how about 1962? In 1962, Seattle was all about futurism, thanks to the Century 21 World's Fair. It ran from May to October and dominated the entire city. Even Elvis showed up, and JFK would've, if he hadn't canceled due to a 'cold' (which, in the dominant timeline, was the Cuban Missile Crisis). It is believed that the sheer importance of the event may be why 1962 splinter split off - the focus on technologies that'd change the world, the weight of all the Infrastructure hidden within. It is a bright and colorful splinter, forever on the cusp of change, and highly attractive to most demons. It's not perfect, however. Segregation remains in effect, and civil rights is something few people want to discuss. Spies and fear of Russia are all over. The economy's good, but te cold war has gone atomic. The Machine has a moderate presence in the splinter, and the fairgrounsd are full of Infrastructure. Some believe that the World's Fair was actually a set of interconnected Infrastructures that resulted in a significant and powerful occult matrix, though what it did is a matter of some debate. The splintering has kept only some of that Infrastructure intact and working properly, with other pieces breaking down or stalling out periodically. Should the splinter be rejoined to the mainstream timeline, the Machine could take control back of all of it, restoring whatever matrix they were meant to cause.

1962's fractures have a number of coincidences that lead many to believe they were made intentionally. They are largely unguarded and accessible, though one of the two requires you to be able to fly or survive a hard fall. The first fracture can be found at the Fremont Troll, a public sculpture under the Aurora/George Washington Bridge that was put in in 1990 to replace a drug-ridden industrial area. It is a large troll emerging from the ground, clutching an old VW bug - real and built in to the sculpture. If you climb through the window in the bug at night, when no one else is around, it empties out into a burnt-out car of the same model, left under the bridge in 1972. This works only at night and only if no one is around the Troll. In 1962, it doesn't seem to matter if people are there, but the homeless will warn you away because they believe the car is haunted, as they can hear voices from it at times.

The second fracture is on the observation deck of the Space Needle. No one is sure how anyone found it, but it's there. Day or night, any time, though it's difficult to access when crowds are around - which is any time the Needle is open. This is largely due to the means of access - one window on the lower deck can open, but not easily or subtly. It's only ever opened when the Needle deck is closed for maintenance. But if you open the window and step through, either in 1962 or the mainline timeline, you land in the other timeline. This also works if fly up to it and enter the deck from outside via the window - you can cross over from either direction.

Next time: Northeast Quadrant, 1999 and Y2K


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Demon: the Descent

The Northeast Quadrant is primarily high-income, except for the University District. The rich and the poor have very little in common, and the tension of town and gown is managed largely by them ignoring each other. The northeastern part of the Capitol Hill area is full of large, beautiful houses, and was once home to Kurt Cobain, and the Lake View Cemetary is the final resting place of several ntoables, including Bruce Lee and the daughter of Chief Seattle, Princess Angeline. At the north end of Union Bay is a large garden and park, the Arboretum. It's been allowed to grow mostly freeform, but has a strange precision to it anyway, a subtle control. It's beautiful and beloved, but has a nagging sense of the unnatural - for good reason.

University District, meanwhile, is one of the grungiest and most low-rent areas in the NE Quadrant, with a lot of bars, bookstores and other shops catering to the student body and the lower class. The main quad of campus is home to Red Square, a red brick plaza between the campus' two libraries and the administration building. It has three brick monoliths standing together, and a broken obelisk balanced atop a pyramid off on one side. It's about the size of two football fields put next to each other, and the paving seems to draw people to it. Underneath Red Square is a parking garage, at least for a few levels, but there is a locked room on the bottom floor containing an elevator with 16 unmarked buttons. It heads down to a series of catwalks and walkways over an immense space. The space is full of massive storage containers, made of something like mostly opaque glass or stone, suspended on conveyor systems and stacked in arrangements of extreme precision. Strong enough light will turn the blocks translucent, revealing that their contents are vaguelyh human in shape, but indeterminate in size and unclear as to what's actually casting the shadows. The three monoliths of Red Square hum constantly. One of them is a ventilation shaft for the parking garage. Another is full of machinery that controls block storage and retrieval in the facility. And the third is a dummy tower, but if it were removed, the entire facility would stop working immediately.

So, let's talk about 1999. The world expected disaster, in part because of a natural human anxiety about mathematical milestones, but also because of the rush of technology over the course of the century. People expected the world's computers to cascade into failure due to shortsighted inability to swap from 1900s to 2000s. In Seattle, it seemed even more liekly. The tech companies there went nuts trying to patch and update everything before it was too late, and an earthquake in the north part of the city that July made everyone really nervous. The meeting of the World Trade Organization there in the fall came with riots and fear that the world was going to fall to chaos. Survivalists stocked up and even skeptics bought some canned goods and water, just in case. But...well, the collapse never came.

1999 Seattle is full of late-nineties grunge music and a sense that the revolution is coming, since the world is ending anyway. The splinter timeline runs from July 1, 1999 - the day before the earthquake and two weeks before the opening of Safeco Field - to January 7, 2000. This is the six months prior to the world's end, and one week of watching it fall. To a very great extent, the dominant timeline and the pslinter run in parallel. The difference is what happens at midnight, January 1. In the main timeline, the world does not end, because the Machine will not let it. The angel made to handle the problem does so, and the world continues. In the splinter timeline, this angel Fell. No one was there to save the Earth. The errors multiply and escalate very quickly, system by system. Everything shuts down, and the Industrial Age ends overnight. Electronics shut down across the globe, a cascading failure that moves time zone by time zone. On January 7th, the timeline does a hard reset back to July 1st and the whole thing starts over.

In the mainstream timeline, the angel's name is Y2K. People figured that the date error couldn't really be much of a problem...but they never bothered to really fix it, and the early software persisted, either in original form or as descendants based on it that used the same decisions to save computational space. With the prospect of such disruptive chaos, the Machine began planning decades before the shift, ensuring that the disaster would not happen. An angel was sent to fix the problem, designation Y2K. It appears as a scrolling string of amber text and code across an otherwise invisible humanoid form of indeterminate gender. When it speaks, its voice comes grom everywhere around you at once, as if it were in many places. It speaks slowly and deliberately, as if distracted by something else. It came into existence 30 minutes before midnight, December 31, 1999. It appeared, walked into a control room, stepped into a tube and plugged its hands into a command console tying it into every computer system on the planet. Even the ones that aren't networked. It has been there ever since, largely unaware of the world around it as it filters date requests and programs for date-related processes that would shut down systems, correcting them by adding itself as a called subroutine. The angel is the patch, and if it were ever removed, the underlying problem would resurge. It cannot leave or unplug, as its presence keeps the world going. If Y2K were ever removed, computer systems would immediately begin falling apart - the subroutine they called to fix the date problem would no longer be available. They'd hang, waiting for an answer that would never arrive without the angel's presence. If Y2K is removed, it will do anything it can to get back into the system.

In the splinter, Y2K does not do its job. It - he, this time - rejects his purpose and Falls. For a few horrible days, the splinter crashes, burns and then terminates and resets. Y2K does not. He stays on, knowing what is coming but unable or unwilling to prevent it. He works at the University of Washington as an adjunct computer science professor in the evenings, Carson thunder. When he isn't teaching, he is out around the city, drinking in the culture. He vanishes the week before Christmas and is unavailble by any means until the next semester - which never starts. In his demonic form, he has a nearly transparent humanoid shapp, like slick and partially opaque glass. His eyes are solid white and while he has no obvious weapons, lines of blue and green etching fade in and out of view under the surface of his 'skin.' He has invested time and willpower into getting a comfortable apartment, and he has friends that he makes each loop and a coffee shop he's ensured always knows his order. Because he's present, no angel will ever stop the crash. He was the angel, and so there can't be a second version of hime appearing, so the crash will always happen. He also can't leave 1999 - his angelic form exists in the dominant timeline, you see, and for some reason, unlike most things, he can't coexist with that angel. If the angel Y2K were to die, he might be able to escape, but he can't do it himself. If he died, his angelic self might appear at the right time and not Fall, saving the world of 1999 and possibly even reintegrating the splinters. The demon Y2K is well aware that there are people that want to kill him to find out if that's true.

The fractures for 1999 are the hardest of any to find, because they're mobile for reasons that remain unclear. One theory holds that the Machine has been trying to close them off for fear of contamination from the 1999 splinter, though there is little evidence to support this. The fractures have no set location and can, in theory, appear anywhere in the quadrant. However, they show up in some places more often than others, and often look quite similar on either side of the rift. However, once the clock hits January 1, 2000, the rifts all close until the cycle resets. Anyone on either side will be unable to cross until the reset happens, assuming they survive the week...which can't be assumed in 1999, thanks to the riots and police crackdowns. There are two locations where the fractures show up most often.

First, there's the Fin Project in Magnuson Park. It seems to skip along the former plane tailfins that stick out of hte ground there. Something about the installation seems to draw the fracture to it, though rarely the exact same spot twice. The second is the Suzzalo Library Stacks. The staff does not entirely discourage students from going to the stacks alone, but it's definitely true that they'll find what you want if you reserve it and let you pick it up. In part, this is due to the occasional disappearances in the stacks when a student wanders through an open fracture somewhere in the Reading Room. The time and place of these fractures opening is unpredictable, but something about overcast days and thunderstorms dramatically increases the risk.

All that's left is the standard CofD rules appendix and a canned adventure. So...

The End

I'm not sure where to go next. Our options are: Vampire: The Requiem 2e, Werewolf 2e: The Pack (focus on pack setup, dynamics and crossover), Demon 2e: Flowers of Hell (the Player's Guide), Demon 2e: Heirs to Hell (what happens to the children of demons?) or Demon 2e: Splintered City: Seattle (expansion of the Seattle setting).