Demon Playtest: How an Angel Dies

So! Some time ago, we played a session of the forthcoming game from Onyx Path, Demon: The Leopard Gecko (OK, I’m not gonna keep doing weird names for the game. Much. Just remember it’s Demon, we have a subtitle, we haven’t released it yet because it might changed, move on).

Before you read any further, I want to be absolutely sodding clear about a few points:

  • THIS IS A PLAYTEST. Things might change. Names of powers might change. Names of splats might change. Names of everything might change. Some of this might be “official,” some of it might be things I’ve done for my own game. But beware of making too many assumptions, is my point.
  • THIS MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS for the Demon SAS, which I’m writing, and I’m using this playtest to hammer out some kinks. I did with this Gloria Mundi and Fallen is Babylon (run the game and then write it) and it works pretty well.
  • I MIGHT NOT TELL YOU EVERYTHING. We’ve been pretty open so far about Demon, and the stuff we’ve deliberately held back is either a) stuff that has a good chance of changing (like the subtitle) or b) stuff that I’m saving for a special occasion (like the signature city). If you see something in the playtest write-up that’s marked as [REDACTED], I’m not being coy, I’m just not willing or able to tell you yet, but I really want to.
  • I’M NOT EXPLAINING EVERYTHING. If you have a look over at this thread, you’ll see that we’ve spoiled a lot of stuff about Demon. Why there? Well, honestly, it’s mostly because I like their software. It’s easy to follow and I can answer people’s questions easily. I’ll probably do some more official releases, but for right now, you’re well served to read that thread if you want a lot of the background assumptions about the game.

Let’s move on! The game is set in Seattle. Meet the characters:

  • Will Jerico (Destroyer/Saboteur): As an angel, assigned to kill a barista working at the original Starbucks. He Fell when he realized that Edgar was assigned to protect her. Definitely the combat-monster of the group. Works as a bodyguard.
  • Jamie Stephens (Messenger/Inquisitor): One of a pair of Messengers. She Fell when the other one (Amy) did, trying to save her. Works as a bartender at a bar called Thrift Shop in Fremont. Fun note: She refers to drinks as “bar things” when she’s not paying attention, but she’s really good at mixing them.
  • Saskia Ellis (Destroyer/Tempter): Sent to torch a building, but Fell when she saw a beautiful pregnant woman living there and couldn’t bring herself to kill her. Now has kept her Cover as a building inspector.
  • Dr. Luke Fear (Psychopomp/Tempter): Once in charge of taken the souls of the unborn to the Underworld (when the God-Machine needed such souls moved). He didn’t object to this on moral grounds. He objected because he felt it was inefficient to give a person a soul if they were just going to die before being born. Keeps his Cover as a doctor.
  • Amy Staley (Messenger/Inquisitor): She Fell because she realized that she was giving people messages that weren’t true. Now she plays bass in the house band at Thrift Shop.
  • Edgar Motte (Guardian/Integrator): Sent to guard the barista that Will was sent to kill. Now he performs as a street perform at Pike’s Place (which is actually a pretty sweet gig, so as Covers go that’s not bad). Wants to get back into the God-Machine, but he wants to fix it so that things like this don’t happen.

The characters know each other, but aren’t necessarily allies or chums. Edgar and Will are, obviously, as are Amy and Jamie (yes, their names rhyme. Their stats are also all but identical), but otherwise they’re just acquaintances. Still, it’s good to stay friendly with the demons in your area. Never know when you might need help fighting off an angel.

We start off in Fremont, not far from the George Washington bridge (under which is the Fremont Troll, which is awesome). Saskia is drinking at the bar, Jamie is behind it, and Amy is tuning her bass. Will and Edgar are hanging out a block down (Edgar is busking in Fremont today, rather than in Pike’s Place – maybe too much rain down by the water?), and Luke is on his way to the bar in his car.

Will gets a text from another demon he knows, a fellow name Gordon. The text simply says “help.” Gordon lives in an apartment just a block away. Will wonders whether it’s worth the risk, but shows it to Edgar, whose Guardian instincts kick in. They head for the apartment. As they get closer, they feel a large amount of Aether, dwindling down. That’s not good – demons read as more localized blobs of Aether. What reads as a large burst is an angel using its powers.

Luke is driving by at this point and feels what they do, and sees them heading up. He joins them, but sends a text to Jamie, Amy and Saskia (since he knows that at least two of them are nearby; we fudge this a bit for the sake of getting everyone together). Will charges up the stairs, while Edgar and Luke take the fire escape. Edgar pauses a minute to activate Interference, to try and hinder any angelic attempts to find them.

The other three demons get there a minute later (they’re just across the street; evidently Fremont is demon-town) and head up the stairs.

Will gets to the door, and sees it has been smashed in. He enters, and sees several people with weird, circuit-like tattoos on various parts of their bodies. He also sees a man in a black coat standing over Gordon’s body, pointing a gun. He shoots Gordon twice, and then turns the gun on Will.

Watching from outside the window, Luke uses Just Bruised on Will. The man shoots (and the gun expels a puff of steam, like your breath on a cold day), but the bullet just wings Will. Will, noting that he’s outnumbered, decides to pull out the stops, and goes to demonic form.

His demonic form, armor and super strong, is pretty terrifying. One of the man drops back in fear. There’s a downside, though; he fails the compromise roll and loses a dot of Cover. Rather than take a Condition, he takes a glitch instead; Will can no longer drink straight water (minor glitch, but it’s permanent).

At this point, Edgar goes demonic form as well. He phases through the walls into the apartment and over to Gordon, hoping to get him out before he dies. Luke manifests a few of his demonic forms powers, but doesn’t go full transformation. Neither of them fail the compromise roll, though they both pick up a Condition (Shaken and Spooked, respectively).

The women get to the top of the stairs. Saskia stays by the elevator, figuring that with gunshots happening the police will be here soon and she can talk them down. Amy and Jamie run for the doorway. Will punches the ground in front of the man in the coat (he missed), but the cultists can do nothing to get around his armor. The man in the coat draws in a breath, and Edgar and Will both feel some of their Aether drain away as their bodies get cold.

Luke, who has teleported near Gordon, doesn’t lose any Aether but hopes to use this power against the man (probably actually an angel). He tries, but fails. Edgar picks up Gordon’s body and heads for the door. Jamie and Amy are there, and see a cultist draw a pistol behind Edgar. Amy draws her own gun and takes a shot, but misses. Jamie charges in, brandishing her nightstick, and swings…but misses. The player decides to make it a dramatic failure and get a Beat out of it, and the nightstick goes out the window onto the landing of the fire escape, out of reach.

Will rears back and punches the angel, this time he connects. The angel freezes solid and then shatters into a million snowflakes (probably just bugged out, rather than getting his ass pounded). The cultists, still there, attempt to escape. Will breaks one of their arms, and then intimidates the others into getting on the ground and shutting up. One of them pushes past Jamie and gets down the fire escape. Another fights past Edgar and lands on Gordon’s body, smashing his head in with a small club.

The demons try to stop him, but the dice weren’t going their way. That one runs into the hallway…but now he’s got to contend with Saskia. She manifests one of the powers of her demonic form (and picks up a minor glitch – her hair goes fiery red – instead of a Condition). She gives him the Swooning Condition, and then turns on her Addictive Presence power. Normally she’d need a few days to make this work, but because he’s Swooning she can roll once per turn. It only takes two – he’s addicted to just being in her presence, and that plus Swooning basically makes him a Retainer (at least for the time being).

They go to flee, because now there are sirens out on the street, but the cultist tells her that they need to take the painting. What painting? The one on the wall in the hall of Gordon’s apartment. They do, and go to flee down the fire escape with Jamie and Amy. Jamie tries to use Lucky Break to get by the cop now walking down the alley below, but fails.

Fortunately, Edgar, Luke and Will (all having teleported to a nearby rooftop) can see this. Edgar uses Ellipses to make the cop just…keep walking. The others get down the alley (and Jamie finds that her nightstick is still there on the stairs; I rolled to see if the cultist that escaped noticed it, but he didn’t) and they all head back to the bar. Luke, actually, takes his human form and then goes back and tells the cops he’s a doctor, and can he help? He’s able to confirm that Gordon is truly dead, but his use of Synthesis doesn’t reveal anything the characters don’t already know – door kicked in, gunshots, blood, fight, death.

At the bar, Saskia shows them the painting. Will studies it, and realizes that (in addition to depicting a covered bridge), it means “Go bail Regina Donahue out.” The characters all know Regina; she’s a local fixture, known for getting arrested every few months for vandalizing one particular phone on the George Washington bridge (emergency phones, y’see, it’s known as a suicide bridge). Jamie asks the bar if anyone knows where she is; someone yells back that she got arrested earlier. Someone else says that her brother jumped from the bridge at that spot; someone else yells no, she’s got three sisters, not a brother.

The cultist tells the characters that Gordon focused on that painting before they jumped him (the other demons aren’t crazy about this guy, and Jamie, having read the cultists’ aura earlier, knows that they’re touched by the God-Machine, which makes them unsafe). But he’s basically a Saskia junkie now, which means they’ll at least hear him out. In the end, they decide that Jamie will stay at the bar to finish her shift. Amy, Luke and Saskia went to the bridge to see if they could learn anything.

Edgar and Will bailed out Regina with no real problem. She gave Edgar a hug and asked for a ride back to the bar. He agreed, and she said that yes, she’d broken the phone – she’d had to. She didn’t say why, however.

At the bridge, the others found the broken phone. Synthesis told Luke that the receiver had been ripped off and used to smash the keypad, but the phone wasn’t working anyway. Amy looked more closely at the phone, and realized it didn’t seem to work anyway. The rest of them did, though. Odd.

They walked around down under the bridge to the troll, figuring that if Regina really did know someone that jumped, maybe they could find his ghost. Luke used Rip the Gates to open passage to the Underworld (and succeeded on the compromise roll, but gained a minor glitch – the smell of dirt – in the process), and the three demons entered, looking for a ghost that knew Regina.

Next game in April (sorry, just a monthly group). But we’re doing chargen for another game tonight, and that’s biweekly. I have actual play reports from Demon author Eric Zawadzki, too, so I’ll post those up soon, too. Lots of previews!

13 thoughts on “Demon Playtest: How an Angel Dies”

  1. I really like the flow of the game. Having done alot of Storytelling I can see this having been a bit of a mess with six players.

    The relative ease with which players pick up Conditions and glitches excites me greatly. I love to see a system that encourages (or forces) characters to leave a status quo and change the way they interact with the world.

  2. Interesting read. Demon: the Fallen was my favorite oWoD game line by far. I can see you have taken Frutang in a much different direction and I am looking forward to it very much.

  3. Sounds fun and exciting. I can tell that this is going to another one of my favorite games already. I too really like the way glitches and the such work with the game mechanics. Can’t wait to see what lurks behind the broken cogs of the God-Machine!

  4. Sounds interesting. I am new to this stuff, I mean, blogs used so we can read about the forthcoming games (like you did with mummy), so I wanted to know, am I allowed to suggest or ask info about the game?

    • Sorry, messed up the html tags. I meant to say:

      I haven’t read the God Machine Chronicle yet, but, ever since I read that bit in the nWoD Core, I’ve been curious. The above sounds sorta like a cross between the Matrix and the Adjustment Bureau, but the intelligence in charge is, well, broken.

  5. …I’ve started reading the linked thread and the following quote has aroused my interest in the game like nothing else:

    “If you want to play supernatural Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Burn Notice with Angels or Person of Interest where the Machine is obviously magical, this is the game for you.”

  6. From further reading in the thread, I’m curious how things are looking at present. Is everything working well? Have some of the fluid things settled down and firmed up into more solid things yet?

    Any kind of time frame on the subtitle yet?

    I’d also like to know where the espionage thing comes in. I mean, I can think of a few things they might be trying to get information on (like trying to figure out what the God-Machine’s plan is or how to fix/break it), but I’m sorta lost as to how spycraft comes into it.

  7. If those “glitches” are permanent, wont they just sort of … build up? Interfering with the players the whole time?

    • Some of them are permanent, but it’s hard to get permanent glitches, just like (under the old degeneration rules) it’s not easy to get derangements. I haven’t seen a permanent glitch yet in any of the games I’ve run or played (or read about).


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