Day 3: Challenge Your Vigil with Complex Monsters

Hunter: The Vigil, Sales

mortal remainsOne of the things I love about Hunter: The Vigil is the unique perspective that hunters have compared to the rest of the World of Darkness’s inhabitants. Hunters don’t know everything there is to know about the supernatural and, in many cases, this lack of knowledge works against them. Even if they have all the facts and details required to hunt, however, most hunters find that upholding the Vigil isn’t as easy as identifying monsters and simply shooting at them.

While monsters can be vicious and brutal, not every supernatural creature is—nor can they be easily captured, trapped, or killed. In fact, many monsters could look and act as if they’re still human, which can impact how and when a cell deals with their target. Other supernatural creatures might possess motivations that seem noble or helpful to the hunters, too. If you knew a Changeling was targeting child kidnappers, for example, would you save the kidnappers or go after the monster? How would you take out a mummy’s cult filled with flesh-and-blood humans? Or one of the Created you wind up feeling sorry for?

Mortal Remains introduces questions like these as it explores how Prometheans, Sin-Eaters, Changelings, mummies, and demons fit contextually into Hunter: The Vigil. The supplement also incorporates a patch for the new World of Darkness 2.0 ruleset with a list of Dread Powers, and adds new Compacts and conspiracies, like Habibti Ma and the Knights of Saint Adrian, to the setting. For me, however, the thing I like most about this book, is that each type of monster is not presented simply as a “thing to be destroyed”. Rather, every chapter takes a nuanced approach to the complexity of these monsters and opens up a wealth of possibilities for Storytellers and players. After all, nothing in the World of Darkness is ever that simple—even when hunters come face-to-face with demons.

The section I’ve included that refers to institutional demons, which is taken from pp. 124 to 125, is an example of an interesting monster I’d throw at a cell. Though an institutional demon’s influence might be clearly seen and felt, Demolishers, Cryptics, and Libertines cannot be killed, which forces hunters to rethink what they know about monster-hunting. Since an institutional demon doesn’t usually possess a physical body that can be attacked, a cell might not be able to accurately identify or capture a specific institutional demon when they do go on the offensive. Worse, while other supernatural creatures may not care about the innocents that get caught in the crossfire, hunters often wrestle with their decisions because they might hurt other people along the way. How do you take down a twisted corporation that’s been infected by a demon when hundreds, if not thousands, of lives are at stake? Would you sacrifice dozens of unsuspecting demons to capture a single demon? Or, would you put everyone’s life on the line because you’ve decided the end justifies the means?

Like many story hooks and antagonists, I feel the answer to these questions can be found in a chronicle. I hope this section inspires you to take this piece and explore institutional demons—or other complex monsters—in your Hunter game.

Institutional Demons

Some demons don’t bother possessing humans at all. They don’t take one face at a time; they have many. They don’t live in a posh apartment downtown; they’re the entire building. They don’t corrupt a Wall Street brokerage; they are the brokerage. Institutional demons are the monsters that “help” society function. Hunters can’t kill them, but they can diminish their influence. Instead of demonic possession, these demons are the masterminds operating vast flows of personnel processes, information, and above all, “outreach” — a euphemism that describes how they inflict their corruption upon the world.

The nature of an institutional demon is enigmatic. Are they fallen creatures who oppose the demiurge like greater demons do? Are they broken processes of creation, like lesser demons? Hunters aren’t sure. Some work to preserve the status quo. A development company pursues contracts to gentrify an old neighborhood, keeping the poor poorer while the demon and its investors become even wealthier. Some seem genuinely committed to change. A startup is at the forefront of American energy independence, while oil spills and derricks fed on human blood are damned.

Regardless of what, if anything, they serve, institutional demons make the World of Darkness a little darker each time they succeed. They’re not grand conspirators. They are entities who care about their own survival — regardless the cost.

Purposes

Institutional demons can be divided into roughly the same purposes as greater demons.

Cryptics gather intelligence. They know what consumers buy. They know who they call. Their constituent employees exploit personal information as if it didn’t belong to someone. Heaven forbid the creature is a government agency, with access to the ability to act on that information. It doesn’t worry about “terrorist” or “un-American.” It just sees a disruption to its system, and moves to possess or destroy.

Libertines exploit society’s endless need to be entertained. They’re not all movie studios and media companies. Sometimes, they’re the casinos off the highway or the liquor store that’s always fully stocked and never makes the right change. They play both sides of the pornographic-religious complex that keeps believers ashamed of their urges while paying to indulge them. They’re the churches that pack stadium seating and blast salvation from jumbotrons, even as they solicit donations for a private jet.

Demolishers are the institutions that exist to crush society. Sure, they seem like they do something useful. The payday loan store that occupies a harmless-looking unit in a strip mall. The massage parlor next door. The urban planning commission that razes homes in the name of development, but never builds anew. The phone company that always finds a reason to disconnect the lines of the “undesirables.”

Unholy Strengths of Institutional Demons

Institutional demons, for all they seem rooted in our everyday lives, aren’t entirely real. They manifest as fears of the establishment as much as they are the establishment. As such, they possess characteristics similar to greater demons.

Attributes, Advantages, and Merits

Institutional demons possess Power, Finesse, and Resistance Attributes. They use these when resisting magical effects – which do work against demons, provided you can find a person or thing that embodies the demon.

Their Willpower is equal to the total of all of their Attributes. Institutions can draw on extensive resources. Institutional demons typically possess the Allies, Contacts, and Retainer Merits at high levels, though their reach often goes beyond those Merits.

Cover

An institutional demon is wrapped in layers and layers of Cover. It can provide human agents with the advantages of a greater demon’s Cover at the cost of two Willpower points per mortal instead of one. Agents usually aren’t aware that they’re being helped out – these humans assume they had the object or contact all along.

An institutional demon’s Cover does not mask its supernatural nature, but successfully detecting the influence requires a person or thing that embodies the demon, such as a human agent or significant object. Institutional demons cannot acquire new institutional Covers via pacts, but they can make pacts and graft the resulting human Covers onto other human agents. These agents often experience identity crises reconciling their grafted characteristics with their former lives. Later in life, they often become Witnesses. For two Willpower points, an institutional demon can embody itself in one of its human Covers for 24 hours.

Fiendish Flaws

Institutional demons aren’t entirely spiritual entities. In order to fully possess an institution, a demon must lay down infrastructure in a place important to its Cover. This is physical evidence of the demon’s presence, and counts as an object that embodiesthe demon for the purposes of using supernatural powers. Here are some examples:

  • A vast network of sigils glows beneath the boring carpeting in an officesuite.

  • A massive heart beats in an old tenement’s boiler room.

  • Unnecessary assembly lines in a factory assemble puzzle boxes which are thenimmediately disassembled.

  • A founder’s portrait in a CEO’s office cuts anyone who tries to move it.

  • A maintenance door under a bridge has a clock that ticks down to the next time anaccident occurs.

  • An A/V surveillance system replaces random recordings with coded instructions tothe security staff.

For more about demons and how they might be used in Hunter: The Vigil, please refer to pp. 119 to 151 of Mortal Remains.

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  10 comments for “Day 3: Challenge Your Vigil with Complex Monsters

  1. October 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Love it. In a recent hunter game, I had a the city Vampires have a truce with the Hunters, they don’t kill, they don’t get killed. It was sort of a modern age of tolerance thing based on the Locale, Austin. The cell, new and ignorant killed the first Vampire they ran across which I had decided was the Prince’s childe, oops… and the whole reason they did that? a Strix had possessed a member of the Cell causing him to wake in the vicinity of the childe while she was asleep.

  2. Phaolan
    October 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Hunter: the Vigil is a special game, and not least of that is how it deals with the ‘monsters’ of the World of Darkness. I can’t help comparing it to the ‘classic’ World of Darkness Hunter: the Reckoning (even though I know it’s not fair), where ALL monsters are bad and must be stopped by mortals imbued with divine(ish) powers. In Vigil, the hunters know that’s not a realistic proposition – well, SANE hunters know that – but such truths don’t stop hunters from trying. Of course, the built-in system of Tiers totally helps those themes play out… Or that’s how *I* see it, at least.

    Mortal Remains only added to this lovely nuance, something that makes Hunter: the Vigil a kind of ‘second stage’ of playing any mortals in the World of Darkness. That is, without playing mortals who become vampires, werewolves, mages or others!

  3. Crüjen
    October 3, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    The current troupe I’m running (mixed) have an ongoing relationship with a custom Hunter group, sometimes running interludes / bridges with cells of Hunters as characters.

    One of the themes we visit can be summed up as “If the World of Darkness is blood-drenched grey, what does being a monster mean? What does being a Hunter mean?”

    My personal favorite was when I got a hold of Changing Breeds – the Hunter cell ran afoul of a spree of murdered college students. Turns out they we at the business end of a “I know what you did last summer” campaign by a werebear whose sister committed suicide after being raped by the college students.

    In the end, at the cost of the last perpetrator getting away, the cell ended up pursing the werebear. Cornered, he showed his true form, and they all fought to the death, leaving a fairly bittersweet ending.

  4. WuseMajor
    October 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I haven’t read hunter, but the above description sounds like the Institutional Demons are God Machine entities, probably Angels.

    Which is interesting.

    Is this book useful if you don’t have Hunter?

    • October 3, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      I’d say that it absolutely is! A number of the compacts and conspiracies make for excellent frienemies to the other game lines.

  5. Sean
    October 3, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I’m confused, is this the 2nd edition sourcebook for Hunter, or is it closer to what Reap the Whirlwind was for Vampire?

    • October 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      It’s more like the fifth expansion to H:tV but it has a “God Machine update” section. It is not 2e, but it adds 2e rules. I don’t know what “Reap the Whirlwind” was.

  6. Phaolan
    October 3, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    Reap the Whirlwind was the ‘introductory’ adventure for Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle (ie what became Vampire: the Requiem Second Edition)… And Mortal Remains is NOT that.

  7. Michael Stein
    October 3, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    The great thing about this is that it can be retrofitted to work with DtD as the covers of Primum 6+ Unchained. They get so potent that an individuals life story just won’t cut it against the God Machines surveillance so its time to turn into the PTA, with overtones of Autocthonian Metropoloi and Paratropoloi.

  8. Michael Stein
    October 3, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    The PTA … or a certain pizza restaurant with a hell of a turnover in security personnel.

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