Demon Playtest: Jim’s Group – Subtle Like a Bus

Playtest #3 – Putting the “b” in “Subtle”

The session started with us going over what various characters did during the afternoon apart.

Dice did a few runs in her job as a messenger, while keeping an ear to the street to see if anyone was talking about the Ramirez murder. Things were (perhaps unusually) quiet there.

After visiting George’s apartment, Marv returned to his church to run a Bible study and to gauge which of the attendees might be ready to hear a bit of the “higher truth.” Translation: the demon pastor is looking to start his own little cult.

Anya, meanwhile, visited the police station to see what, if anything, she could learn about the Ramirez case. She posed as someone trying to get into the police force, and the desk sergeant handed her an application form for the police academy. She then asked if there was maybe a detective or someone she could talk to, just to see what she’d be in for. While the desk sergeant checked to see if there was anyone available, Anya scanned over the desk for anything pertinent, getting several names and numbers of a few detectives and senior beat cops, committing it all to memory.

The desk sergeant came back and informed Anya that there wasn’t anyone available due to priority of cases, plus a number of officers at the convention center prepping for the annual police ball being held this evening. She inquired on how to get tickets, and the sergeant gave her a web address.

Brock, meanwhile, was around the corner but keeping an eye on Anya through Clairvoyant Sight, risking his Cover. He succeeded on his compromise roll and accepted the Guilty Condition, which he then resolved when Anya left the building by talking to her on the phone about it.

Lastly, Victor thought to go have a look at the area where they had last seen George in person. Checking around the area, he didn’t find any particular evidence, so he decided to try to get into the nearby door where the thugs the previous evening had exited from.

The door was locked, and, lacking any particular tools to open it, Victor attempted the old “slide the credit card in the jamb” trick. After some time and a few attempts, he gave up on that tactic and somewhat ironically just knocked on the door. To his great surprise, it opened not long thereafter, and an older man in a grey suit asked Victor if he could help him.

Victor’s Aetheric Magnetism had flared just before the door opened, so he knew that in this case he should be even more cautious than he normally would. He introduced himself, using a fake name, and explained that he was investigating the murder of a George Ramirez. The man in the door introduced himself as Mr. Grey and invited Victor inside for the discussion. Victor declined and suggested that he come back later with “some equipment,” such as a tape recorder and so forth. Mr. Grey claimed he had no desire to be recorded about that or any other topic, bid Victor good day, and suggested that if he were investigating a murder, that he should be careful.

As Victor was leaving, Mr. Grey called after him in a dialect of French, wishing him good luck and that he would leave Victor his card if he needed to contact him. Pleading ignorance on the language front, Victor took the card after Mr. Grey repeated himself in English. Victor copied the number from the business card into his phone and promptly threw the card into the nearest trash can.

Victor dropped by the police station on the way to the scheduled rendezvous at Marv’s church, but had even less luck than Anya, so he just decided to head on over to the church.

Everyone arrived as the Bible study was letting out. Brock waiting until they were all out of earshot and remarked how crazy it was that Marv was pushing faith when he was perfectly aware of what “God” was, and that he (Marv) used to take orders from it (“God”). This sparked off a wonderful conversation/argument between the Integrator Marv and the other four members of the ring.

Once that cooled down, they began to discuss where they’d been and what to do next. Anya and Brock pushed heading to the police ball and attempting to schmooze, get contacts, and continue to investigate things.

The plan eventually solidified that Brock and Dice would head to the police station to investigate there and try to get some of the evidence while it was understaffed due to the ball, while the others would head to the event. They split up again to get ready for their respective tasks, although Marv took the opportunity to use Voice of the Machine to see what he could find out about the God Machine’s current plans.

Listening to the hum and ticks of the church’s heating and cooling system, Marv soon attuned himself to hearing the message, which came across as “CLEAN UP LOOSE ENDS. MOVE SPENT RESOURCES TO STORAGE FACILITY.” Marv immediately passed that along to the rest of the ring, who collectively decided not to trust the Integrator after their previous discussion, and promptly ignored it completely. After some thought (and no response from the others), Marv took off towards the Luxor with a half-formed plan in his head to try and investigate the Facility there. En route he decided against it and turned back to go to the convention center instead.

Victor and Anya got to the convention center to find it done up nicely for the fundraiser, complete with an ice sculpture out front of a group of life-sized officers. They entered and began to schmooze, Anya attempting to find some of the officers whose names and numbers she had memorized off of the desk at the station.

At the police station, Dice found a secluded corner to climb to the roof in order to keep watch while Brock entered the public entrance to the evidence locker, where suspects being let out of the holding cells and so forth would pick up any confiscated personal items.

Posing as a vice cop from another precinct, Brock spun a story of George being suspected of involvement in a drug ring and that he’d like to have a look at George’s personal effects. After some slick fast-talking (and a few rolls), Brock managed to get ahold of the meager collection. Looking through the cell phone and wallet, he discovered not much out of the ordinary – phone numbers for family, for a number of people with single names like “Joe,” and so on. The one oddity was a phone number listed with the name “Mr. Silver” attached.

Checking to see if the officer was watching, Brock saved everything in George’s phone to its SIM card, swapped cards with his own phone, and copied the lot before replacing it to the original phone. He then returned everything to the evidence locker, thanked the officer for his help, and left, gathering Dice. They decided to head to the police ball as well.

Meanwhile, back at the ball, Anya had managed to talk to some of the people she’d wanted to talk to, and had pointed Marv in the direction of another one by the time Brock and Dice arrived. Dice immediately took advantage of the open bar, while everyone subtly checked in with everyone else.

After a short while at the ball, a man came over to Brock, introducing himself at Detective John Fenton, and suggesting that maybe he’d seen Brock before. Brock managed to weasel his way out of the situation, and decided to keep an eye on Fenton as much as he could the rest of the evening.

Very shortly thereafter, a ruckus was heard from out front. Anya and Brock investigated, and found officers arresting a pair of (obviously drunk) young men, who had thrown bricks through the ice sculpture, managing to break it beyond repair. At first thinking it was just perhaps a silly, juvenile act, Anya gave it a second thought and became more suspicious. Activating her Aetheric Magnetism, she began to sense a very small, almost residual amount of Aether concentrating in the area, signifying that this act had something to do with an occult matrix, likely one of the first steps (if not the first step).

She quickly informed the rest of the ring, who all concluded that things were starting to get more involved and that perhaps George’s murder, and the events surrounding it, were more significant than they’d thought.

(Side note: this began the part of the session wherein all pretense at subtlety started being thrown bodily from the nearest window, perhaps joined by a healthy dose of good sense. As if several “persons of interest” in a murder case going to a police ball the night after the suspicious event occurred wasn’t enough of an indication.)

Brock had been more than a little concerned that a detective had been asking him pointed questions suggesting that he was recognized. He maintained as much of a watch on Detective Fenton as he could, managing to notice when the man finally had to “break the seal” in the vernacular.

Deciding that drastic action needed to be taken to protect his privacy, Brock followed the detective into the bathroom. Finding himself alone with the officer, he quickly activated Strike First and Hush, respectively and then attacked Detective Fenton using Knockout Punch.

The poor detective was out cold instantly, and without a sound. Brock dragged him into a stall and called upon his form ability Memory Theft, attempting to excise the memory of identifying Brock from Fenton’s mind.

Unfortunately for Brock, after nearly 30 minutes of trying, he didn’t prove adept at the task. Deciding that things had gone too far at that point and that when he eventually awoke he’d pin Brock immediately, Brock allowed himself to assume his full demonic form, use Clairvoyant Sight on his apartment, and then Teleport home. Once there, he reassumed his Cover, although as he did so he realized that his display had not only damaged his Cover, but alerted the God Machine to his presence (the player failed his compromise roll and accepted the Flagged Condition as a consequence).

Brock quickly texted the others to let them know what had occurred. He had no idea that the others were handling their own problems.

Right around the time Brock was following the detective into the bathroom, Dice decided to use Find the Talker in order to grease the wheels to find out who might want to discuss the Ramirez case. She succeeded, and discovered the identity of the person…..which quickly “winked out” in mid-power use as that person was knocked unconscious. (I know this isn’t really in the power, but I felt it was interesting narratively, and as Detective Fenton is the officer in charge of the case, he’s obviously the one most likely to want to talk about it. Matt’s Note: I literally laughed out loud at this. This so could have been my Monday night group doing exactly the same thing.) So, she started asking around for Detective Fenton, and was told he’d just gone into the bathroom. Dice waited, not wanting to make a scene by walking into the men’s bathroom.

Immediately after the sculpture incident, both Marv and Victor had decided that they were going to keep an eye on the crowd to see if anyone was attempting to sneak out anywhere. After a little while, Marv caught sight of a woman ducking out of a door at the back of the ballroom and opted to follow. Victor followed suit, and gestured to Anya, who had just returned from investigating the incident out front.

They all followed the woman through the door and found themselves in a wide hallway with a concrete floor and white-painted walls. This was the staff portion, where employees could transfer any number of items from decorative cakes to lighting equipment or other items to various portions of the building without disturbing guests.

Marv called out to the woman, who rounded on him and coldly asked him what his business was and why he was following her. He explained that it seemed like she was upset and as a man of the cloth, he was called on to council her. She informed him that she wasn’t upset, and that it wasn’t any of his business where she was going.

He pushed the issue, and she told him that she was on business and that if he continued to interfere, she would arrest him for obstruction of justice and interfering with a police officer in the execution of their duties. She flashed her badge as she did so, and Marv caught the name “Eliza Florence” from her ID.

He backed off and allowed Eliza to leave, glancing back at Anya and Victor, who had kept their distance. As Eliza exited the building, Marv’s curiosity got the better of his good sense, and he followed her to the parking garage.

Unfortunately for Marv, Eliza turned out to be a rather observant cop, especially when up against a not-very-stealthy pastor. She promptly made good on her threat, and from a short distance away, Anya and Victor witnessed Marv getting slapped in cuffs (they were “just heading to their car” if anyone asked).

Marv made a valiant effort at trying to talk his way out of the situation, talking right over Eliza reading him his Miranda rights. Sadly for Marv, Eliza wasn’t having any of it. Desperate, and really not wanting to go to jail, Marv did the only thing he could think of at the time.

He assumed his demonic form, of course.

Eliza found herself confronted with a luminous angelic being that effortlessly phased through the handcuffs on its wrists. Its aura was nearly palpable and intimidating, and its beauty was beyond compare. It browbeat her, demanding to know why she would dare to lay violent hands on such a creature. Eliza was immediately cowed before the creature.

Anya and Victor immediately turned the other way, suddenly remembering that they’d parked at a different place. Say, another hotel down the block? Yeah, that’d be far enough away. Something like that.

Dice, on the other hand, who had managed to follow the rest of the group at a distance, came onto the scene just as Anya and Victor were leaving. They signaled to Dice that she should also leave, but she didn’t take the hint and investigated instead.

Entirely misinterpreting the scene (or perhaps doing it on purpose in order to try and get on Eliza’s good side), Dice called on one of her Form Abilities and teleported behind the officer. Immediately grappling her, she tried to pull Eliza away while Marv (in demonic form) started using some of his abilities in an attempt to plant seeds in Eliza’s mind that she should see Marv as a holy being worthy of service.

Completely intimidated and freaked out by the scene, plus suddenly being grabbed by an unknown assailant, Eliza surprised both demons by lashing out with intensely biting cold, doing some damage to Dice.

After getting injured by some sort of obviously supernatural effect, and knowing that they’d made a hell of a lot of noise (and that a rather large number of police officers were right next door), Dice and Marv decided to get out of Dodge. Dice turned and looked out from the parking garage and teleported to the furthest point away under some cover she could see, which turned out to be a copse of trees beside a green on the nearby golf course. Marv phased downward through the parking garage’s deck to the level below and found a way out, reassuming his Cover as he went.

Just as Brock had found at his apartment, Dice felt her Cover slipping and picked up a Glitch, changing her hair color to an unnatural, circuit-board green. Luckily, Marv managed to not fully compromise his Cover, although he felt shaken by the experience.

The ring had a few leads, but they had perhaps made things far more difficult for themselves, causing so much notice with so many police officers. They all got away from the scene, scattering to various places across the city.

End Session


–          The “Gone to Ground” Condition is, so far as we could tell, missing in the documents we have at present. Not a big deal, just a note. (Matt’s Note: I’ll check. We renamed a few of those Conditions in revision.)

–          All in all, things went rather smoothly. As we’re all starting to get used to the setting and systems, we’re starting to not only use it more, but also exploring more options than the base expectations. I expect soon that we will get into Pacts (Marv especially), and I really want to start getting into Interlocks, as that’s the one process in the game that intimidates me a little bit, so I want to conquer it.

–          The new presentation for Demonic Form Abilities took a short while to get used to. At first, I thought I preferred the previous “point-buy” system, but after making an NPC or two, I quickly came around. I like this one better as it forces a certain level of cohesion – the Form Abilities are broadly organized enough for customization purposes, but also organized enough that, unlike the previous version, a player doesn’t end up with a bit of a “mishmash” of powers to fit together.

–          Today was the day that my players decided to treat Conditions like Pokemon in order to “catch ‘em all!” Brock and Marv both ended up with three over the course of the session – Brock still had his Shaken Condition from the previous session, followed it up with Guilty by using Clairvoyant Sight (and resolved it by admitting it to Anya) and then got the hat trick by failing his compromise roll and accepting the Flagged Condition. Marv passed both of his compromise rolls (for Voice of the Machine and assuming demonic form, respectively) picking up Guilty and Shaken and also picked up the Imposter Condition calling upon Legend to give himself Skill dots to have a better chance of success at Voice of the Machine in the first place.

–          As Eliza happens to be one, I really like the term “Esper.” Random note, maybe, but there it is. (Duly noted. I still hate it.)

–          Just a general note, good lord this game is fun. This is our second playtest (the other being the big public “D&D Next” playtest that we’re all basically bored with and are eschewing in favor of Demon), and it is the only one where I’ve now run one side scene over IRC (Victor’s meeting with Mr. Grey wasn’t done during today’s session; it was done between sessions), and have three more planned sometime during this next week. We’re playing next Saturday to see how much more trouble the characters can get themselves into.

9 thoughts on “Demon Playtest: Jim’s Group – Subtle Like a Bus”

  1. Comprimise seems to be an odd system. I see people picking up Conditions when they pass and when the fail. So, it seems like you pick up a Condition regardless of passing or failing(perhaps some being more difficult to deal with than other) but if you fail, you have to test for Cover “degeneration” and risk picking up Glitches when your Cover actually begins to erode.

    • “Success” Conditions are generally easier to get rid of than “failure” Conditions, much like in the Integrity system. You can also take glitches instead if you don’t want to mess with a Condition, but glitches don’t give you Beats.

      • The benefit of doing so being that glitches are largely narrative rather than mechanical? They do seem to be alterations to the behavior and appearance of the Cover rather than affecting rolls and actions like Conditions seem to. In some of the other games players did seem to elect to take glitches rather than Conditions.

  2. Reading this summary, a certain expression comes to mind: “Hell is other people.” These demons really seem to be one another’s own worst enemies, above and beyond anything the God Machine could possibly do to them…

    Is that deliberate on the players’ part, or did it just work out that way?

    Also, I’m getting the impression that this particular playtest is going to be a lot less “dark fantasy”, “sinister conspiracy”, and/or “mystery-horror” and a lot more “comedy of errors” than the others. Again, intentional or did the group just roll with it?

    Regardless, it’s cool to see the range of genres that Demon: the Gnaturf is capable of supporting.

    I find the notes on Demonic Form and how it’s apparently more involved than a simple point buy interesting as well. Any chance of elaboration on this? Does your “menu” of form abilities change based on something like the themes the form is centered around, or the demon’s Agenda, or some other criteria? Are form powers arranged in trees or something similar? Do they have prerequisites? Are the powers tied in some way to appearance, such that whether your demon appears to be angelic, diabolical, mechanical, monstrous, or a mix of the above in demonic form depends on what form powers he has? Are forms and form powers fixed from the point of character creation, or can they change under the right circumstances?

    • So many good questions!

      Well, for right now, let’s say this about demonic forms: You’re picking a set number of abilities from a number of categories. As demons get more powerful, their forms get more elaborate. Upgrades, let’s say.

    • Agreed – lots of good questions! To answer the stuff about my group specifically:

      “Reading this summary, a certain expression comes to mind: “Hell is other people.” These demons really seem to be one another’s own worst enemies, above and beyond anything the God Machine could possibly do to them…

      Is that deliberate on the players’ part, or did it just work out that way?”

      I strive in my WoD games to have groups of characters who have conflicts as well as reasons to be together – much like groups of real people. For our Requiem game, for instance, we did a relationship map tying all of the characters (and 1 NPC each) together in a large, entangled web. I wish I could lay claim to the idea, but I got it from David Hill, one of the freelance writers for WW/OPP. And it worked amazingly.

      We didn’t do a relationship map for the playtest group, knowing things were going to change (perhaps drastically), etc, etc. However, the group still worked out nicely with various characters either working well together (Brock and Anya work together really well, with Victor a close second (third?), for instance, whereas Marv rubs everyone else the wrong way because he’s an Integrator and Dice rubs everyone else the wrong way because she just does crazy shit all the time.)

      So….usually deliberate, although in this case it just seemed to work out that way. In addition, some of the players are new to the group as a whole, this is the first time I’ve actually run a WoD game for this group, so they’re getting used to my style while I’m getting used to their playing style, and we’re all new to the GMC rules and Demon. So it’s just a learning experience all the way around, with the bumps that come with that. But we’re still having fun, so that’s what counts I think.

      “Also, I’m getting the impression that this particular playtest is going to be a lot less “dark fantasy”, “sinister conspiracy”, and/or “mystery-horror” and a lot more “comedy of errors” than the others. Again, intentional or did the group just roll with it?”

      Actually, the group kinda caused it in this session. If you read back to my earlier playtest reports, they are less “comedy of errors” than this one (at least I think so). In general, my players have been really good overall with doing things subtly, trying to cover their tracks and keep under their Covers, and so on.

      In this game, they took one casual mention of the police ball, grabbed it, and ran with it like a ferret on speed. So I took a look at my 16 pages’ worth of plot stuff I’d written, and the stack of NPC’s, pulled the plot out of my three-ring binder, and jokingly threw it into the air. I then proceeded to pull the rest of the session pretty much out of my nethers, reacting to what the characters wanted to do. Thanks to writing out my plot (in scene chunks), as well as making myself a flowchart so I could keep track of what the hell was going on, I knew what was going on well enough to still give them certain clues and plot leads that I’d wanted, just not necessarily in the manner I’d intended. So in that way it was a success (in addition to the aforementioned fun, of course).

      We didn’t intend for a “comedy of errors.” Most of us are fans of Burn Notice, and I also really like Fringe, and Demon does those really well. Those are the sources I’m drawing on the most, as I’m familiar, so from a Storyteller perspective, I’m going for more of a “sinister conspiracy” feel (which I feel overall we’ve been doing fairly well, but then I’m biased). Also, in this session, towards the end, we just had one of those inevitable runs of the dice just not cooperating whatsoever and rolling lots and lots of failures. You know how it goes.

      But in the background, where the characters can’t see, there do continue to be other players in this plot doing things. I just don’t want to speak to them because 1) that’ll spoil later playtest reports and 2) my players might read this, and I want to keep them in the dark.

      I hope that helps answer things from my group’s perspective. It honestly just turned out to be one of those game sessions, I think. Now they need to figure out how much (more) trouble they’re in and how to deal with it.

  3. Does Eliza have one of the new Supernatural Merits, or are Espers something new – Demon’s Minor Template, perhaps?

    • The characters found out the hard why that Eliza has Cryokinesis, the cold version of the Psychokinesis Merit from God-Machine Chronicle.

      That’s….all I can say for the moment because my players might read this. Sorry.


Leave a Comment