Friday, December 6, 2013

Character Creation: Demon: The Descent

If you're just joining us, it was just shy of five and half fucking years ago when I started doing this character creation project. The idea was simple: Make a character, using the book rules, for every game I own.

The problem was that I kept accumulating more games. And then, two events occurred that basically ensured I'd never be finished. First was the emergence of bundles for charity, which let me spend $25 or so and get upwards of $1000 worth of RPGs. And then came Kickstarter.

So if you clicked that link, you know I've got a bazillion games left to do. I might never finish. But I seem to enjoy such projects, so what the heck. Figure it might be fun to do this game before the Kickstarter ends.

The Game: Demon: The Descent
The Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: Very yes. I wrote about a quarter of the book (my lord, really?) and I co-developed it with +Rose Bailey.
Books Required: The Demon core (the text of which is on the Kickstarter page because we love you, but I have the pdf of the game in its proof state) and the World of Darkness Rulebook.

So! In Demon, you play an angel of the God-Machine that decided, for whatever reason, to abandon its mission and Fall. I came up with the phrase "defected to the human race" in writing the script for the Kickstarter video, and I really wish I'd thought of that earlier, because it's a good way to describe what demons do and to encapsulate the feel of the game. It's a spy story with biomechanical angels. You can go full-on Night's Black Agents with it and run with the spy story (Blowback is also good inspiration on the RPG side of things), or you can be more classical demon and have the characters making pacts and collecting souls.

It's been a good long while since I made a character for any White Wolf game. The last one was (hold on) Hunter: The Reckoning. I have a couple to do; I could make a Ghouls character and I need to do Mummy: The Curse at some point.

Anyway, Step One, as anyone experience in these games knows, is Concept. For a demon, I could start off by thinking about the Fall and what kind of angel I was, or I could start off by thinking of my demon circumstances and do history later. I think I shall do the latter.

My character wants to make sure he never gets caught without a Cover again. It isn't that he doesn't like being in his demonic form; he does, in the same way that a person might like to skinny-dip. It feels nice, even natural, but it makes him feel exposed. (This could bring up all kinds of erotic subtext to the whole "share Aether with another demon in demonic form" thing, but let's save that.) I say "again," which implies it happened once.

He was sent down to the Earth as an angel with a simple enough mission - escort a truck from Toledo to Florida. His Cover was a drug courier (fun fact: I75, which runs all the way from Detroit to the coast, is nicknamed "Cocaine Lane"). Now, whether this was the result of demonic interference or just bad luck, the truck got stopped in Tennessee and raided. In case of police interference, he was supposed to cut and run. Instead, he went loud.

The press still isn't sure what to say about the "Highway Holocaust" that claimed 44 lives, many of the police officers. There are reports that it rained fire, but no one really believes that. He fled, and eventually wound up in the fair city of Wherever This Game is Set.

(Now, do note: Angels don't go loud. That means he was already a demon when the shit hit the fan. I'll get to that).

Anyway, somewhere along the way he bought a Cover from another demon, in the form of a soul pact. He claimed the guy's soul and existence; turns out it was a pretty good one. The guy was an adjunct professor of film with very little family, so not much to trip him up.

OK, good start. Now numbers. Step Two: Attributes.

Well, this guy seems pretty Mental to me. I'll put one of my five points into each, and then the rest into Wits.

Secondary...hrm. If he's gonna convince people to sign pacts, he'd better have some chops socially. But y'know, actually, I think I'll go Physical, here, because I think all of his social stuff will be done through Skills. So, yeah, two points into Strength, one each into Dex and Stamina.

So that's social tertiary, so I'll one each, for 2 across the board.

Step Three: Skillz. I want Social first. I'll put four into Persuasion, two into Socialize and Subterfuge, and one each into Empathy, Intimidation and Streetwise.

Hrm, Mental or Physical secondary? He needs some Mental for his Cover, but nothing says he has to be especially good at it (that's what Legend is for). I'll make Physical secondary. Two each into Athletics and Firearms, and one each into Drive, Larceny and Stealth. I want more points.

Mental, finally. Two Academics, one Computer, one Occult.

Step Four: Specialties. Demons get an extra Specialty that's out of place for their Cover. I'll take a Streetwise Specialty in Drug Dealing to represent that. And then I'll take Specialties in Academics (Film), Long Con (Persuasion) and Academia (Socialize).

Step Five: Apply Demon Template. Now's the fun stuff. I know my Incarnation (Psychopomp) and Agenda (Tempter, but with Inquisitor leanings). And I have to address his real catalyst.

So, this guy was driving his truck full o' drugs (still an angel), and he was thinking about the drugs. He knew, on one level, what they were and on a chemical level what they did, and wondered what it was about humans that made them self-destruct. And the conclusion he came to was not so dissimilar to the point Don Marquis makes in "The Lesson of the Moth" - it's better to burn up and be happy than live long and be bored. And he's not sure at what point he Fell, but he knows it was sometime between realizing there was beauty in self-destruction and setting a big section of the road ablaze.

OK, now Embeds and Exploits, which is the bit I wrote. Let's see. As a Psychopomp, I have to take a Mundane Embed, so let's do that first.

Cuckoo's Egg appeals, given my character's history as a smuggler, but I think Meaningless is better for what he does not (good to use on people to show his subtle power over the mind). I'll take Merciless Gunman and hope that my ST is cool enough to use the Down and Dirty Combat rules. I think Find the Leak is also useful for what he wants to accomplish (Heart's Desire would also make sense, but I have a sense of this guy's tactics and he'd rather go the Ricky Roma route and talk people down until they sign).

And I think I'd like an Exploit, yeah? I think I'll take Possession, by way of Find the Leak - getting someone talking is getting into their head, Possession is just a more literal way to do that.

I need to decide which Embed is my first Key. I think I'll make it Merciless Gunman. Why? Not sure. I like the idea that everything about this guy that is all social and convincing is what he's made of himself - but the God-Machine had a much more brutal purpose in mind for him.

Demonic form! I get three Modifications, two Technologies, one Process and one Propulsion. I know I want to take Rain of Fire, which I believe is a Process, but let's see. Yep. OK, that's my Process down. I'll take EMP Field as a Modification. I'm feeling like this guy's demonic form is lean, slithery, and covered in coruscating lightning, but otherwise black. I'll take Inhuman Reflexes and Electrical Sight as my other Modifications. For my Technologies, I'll take Mind Reading (wisps of black ick that come from his head and attach to his target's) and Frost Aura (not sure why, just kind of sounds cool - HAW!).

Ahem. That leaves a Propulsion. I think Phasing would be fun.

Step Six: Merits. And now, a conundrum. I would sort of like to have a backup Cover for this guy; it's very much in-theme. But practically, doing that means spending six of my 10 Merit dots (5 to raise Primum and one to buy the Cover). Buying just the Primum is a better deal, slightly. But I think I'm gonna leave it, for now. My demon wants to have a bunch of Covers built up, but he's not powerful enough to use them. Yet.

That gives me 10 dots to spend on Merits. Lessee now. I'd like to take Quick Draw, but that would require a Specialty in Firearms. Hrm. Ah, crap, can't take Fast Talking, either. Should've thought that through when I did Attributes. Hrm. Well, I'll take Pusher, anyway. And definitely Sympathetic; that's just too perfect. I'll take Multiple Agendas (Tempter-Inquisitor), what the heck. If I were making this character in a group with a Storyteller, I'd ask about any local Agencies and whether taking Status or Contacts would be appropriate, but since I'm not, I'll assume he's new to the area. I will take Status (University) at one dot (basically I've got a shared office and a parking pass).

Four more dots. Well, I've never gone wrong with Fast Reflexes, so since I can't take Quick Draw, I'll take that at 2 dots. And then for my last two, I'll take take Efficient Dealer. I know, I know, it's in the Player's Guide and you haven't read it yet, and technically it requires an Academics Specialty in Law, but I think I'll have +David Hill change that to an appropriate Specialty in any Skill (so my Specialty in Long Con would apply).

Step Seven: Advantages. Mostly these are easy; Size 5, Willpower 4, Cover 7, Primum 1, Defense 4, Speed 10, Initiative 6 (including Fast Reflexes). His Vice is Exposed - it feels good to be naked in public, but it's a bad idea. His Virtue is Self-Reliant. He's not a social creature by nature, but he's got a clear idea of what he wants to be.

I need Aspirations, two short-term, one long. For the short, I take "Become full-time faculty" (this would be long-term for a human, but he plans to cheat) and "Secure a soul-pact" so he has somewhere to go if he has to go loud again. For the long-time, I take "Become a renowned pact-dealer." He wants to be the guy that demons come to when they need pacts written or traded.

Oh, and I need a name. Hrm. He thinks of himself as "the Courier." His initial Cover wasn't given a name (which he's never really stopped to think about - what was his mission, really?). The name of the guy whose identity he stole is Jacob Grettinger.

Steps Eight and Nine are prelude related, which I'd do with a Storyteller if I had one. But for our purposes, I think we're good!