I’ll Cover You

Well, actually, that’s the title of a song from Rent, which has nothing thematically in common with the concept of Cover from Demon: The Diiiiidontthinkso, but I started thinking about this entry and now it’s in my head. So there.

We’ve talked about Cover in a lot of the playtest write-ups, and in some of the other spoilers I’ve tossed around on RPG.Net and other such places, but really, what is Cover? I’ll tell you (and I’ll do it without posting a lot of text from the book, just to keep you on your toes).

You know by now that a demon is a Fallen angel. The God-Machine creates the angel by use of occult matrices, and once the angel’s mission is finished, the God-Machine either takes the angel apart to recycle or, if the God-Machine thinks that angel might be useful for another mission later, puts it in storage.

But when the angel is on mission, the angel usually* has a Cover. A Cover is an identity on Earth, a way for the angel to fit in among people and not get a lot of attention. Some Covers are flimsy as hell – the angel has a human form and maybe a name, and that’s it. Some Covers are much more complex and intricate, because some missions last a long time. If you have the God-Machine Chronicle (and I’m betting you do, because it just went platinum on Drive-Thru RPG, WHAT WHAT), check out Emilio Rubio. That’s a fairly complicated Cover; Emilio has a name, a job, a van and an identity that he uses to fulfill his mission.

Suppose, though, that our Storyteller has picked up the God-Machine Chronicle and is using the Wellington School as the focus for the game. The characters somehow become aware that Emilio is a person of interest, and start investigating him. They find his birth certificate, maybe, but it says he was born in a city that doesn’t exist. Or they can’t find his employment records – and if they go and talk to his supervisor, she gets fuzzy and light-headed if the conversation goes on too long.

Or, hell, they break into his apartment, and it’s untouched. There’s a bed, but it’s never been slept in. There’s a TV, but it’s not plugged in. There’s a fridge, but no food. If the characters they somehow rig a camera, they find that he comes home, stands in his bedroom, and just waits. All night.

Why? Because his Cover doesn’t, well, cover being Emilio in any other context than his employment at the school. Remember, he’s not really Emilio Rubio. He’s an angel, and his Cover is Emilio Rubio.

OK, you with me? So what if Emilio Falls? (By the way, if Emilio Fell, what would his Incarnation be? You could make the argument for Destroyer, since he’s ultimately trying to disrupt whatever is blocking the God-Machine’s influence at the school. Based on his methods – ultimately causing chaos to try and shake the truth loose – that’s what I’d go with. His Agenda depends on the circumstances of his Fall, but if I were to play him, I think he’d make a fun Inquisitor. Anyway.) If Emilio Falls, that Cover becomes his “real” life.

Now, let’s be clear, here: He’s now not an angel using a Cover called Emilio, he’s a demon using a Cover called Emilio. Detaching from the God-Machine means that the God-Machine loses track of that Cover (otherwise demons wouldn’t last very long as a rule), and demon-Emilio still enjoys all of the benefits he did as angel-Emilio. Except now that Cover is more firmly grounded in reality. Emilio’s birth certificate doesn’t change, but now he needs sleep, so his bed gets some use. Now he gets bored, so he’ll watch TV. Now he gets hungry, so he has to buy food (the good news is, he’s been drawing a paycheck for however long it’s been that the mission has gone on, so he might have some money saved up).

So he’s got a life, pretty much fleshed out. But there’s a downside here: He needs to live that life. Angels don’t have Cover ratings; their integrity is maintained by their mission (and even if they’re compromised, the God-Machine can just recall them). Demons do have Cover ratings, and if they lose their Cover, they’re Burned. They’re stuck in demon form until they can find a Cover, and they’re big ol’ aetheric beacons. Sooner or later a hunter-angel will find them.

What, then, does Emilio do? He’s got a few options.

First, he could live as Emilio. He’ll need to keep doing his job, and keep acting like Emilio did. If he does things that are grossly out of character for Emilio (performing heart surgery, going on a killing spree, sniping targets with laser precision), he stands to lose Cover (so, you might ask, does that mean I can make a character whose character is a serial killer and not lose Cover for committing murder? And the answer is, what is wrong with you and why would you ask that?). But since Emilio has a lot of areas that his life isn’t fleshed out, demon-Emilio can work to define that Cover a bit more. Supposed demon-Emilio wants to learn to play guitar. Nothing says that Emilio knows how, but it’s by no means out of character for a man to want to learn to play an instrument. And indeed, such details can help cement a Cover (raising the rating).

Second, he could run. He could cut ties with the school, quit, maybe take another, similar job. That would be risky in the short term (making big changes like that can harm your Cover rating, but the Storyteller has a lot of leeway there), but might pay off in the long term because Emilio isn’t close to the school, which, as we know, already has the God-Machine’s attention.

Third, he could get himself another Cover. That would require either building it from scratch, using patch jobs (which I’ll cover – tee-hee! – in another update) or a soul pact. In brief, a soul pact means that a mortal promises a demon his soul and signs the contract in blood (the mortal generally gets something out of this, but it doesn’t have to be fair). Whenever the demon chooses, he can find the pactbound person, touch him, and enact the soul pact. That person then vanishes from existence. The demon becomes that person…or rather, that person becomes the demon’s new Cover. The demon has to learn how to be that person (there’s no manual for “how to be Bob Fishbein”), but a smart demon does some research before enacting a soul pact, a remember that demons have perfect memories anyway.

This all raises questions about the degree to which demons identify as their Covers. For instance – Emilio, let’s say, is a gay man (his sexuality isn’t really important for the Cover, so as angel he’s probably effectively asexual, but for the sake of argument let’s say he’s gay). If demon-Emilio gets a new Cover does he take on the sexuality of that Cover? Or, here’s a better way to ask the question – does demon-Emilio deliberately seek out a soul pact with a gay man because “he” prefers to identify that way? Or does that not matter to the demon?

The answers to these questions are up to the player. If you want to explore themes of shifting identity, Demon is a great game for it.

Any questions?


*Angels do not always have Cover. Again, check the God-Machine Chronicle; things like the Mirrored Vulture and Black Nathaniel don’t really have Covers, because their missions don’t require them. Likewise, angel-Covers can be buildings, animals or supernatural-looking things. Could a Cover be a vampire? Sure, but it won’t be Kindred, if you see what I mean. As written, Demon does not have rules for playing such outre Covers…although there is a power called Demon House.

28 thoughts on “I’ll Cover You”

  1. That’s pretty awesome. I’ve been digging the Cover system already and this firmly cements my satisfaction. Previously I’d thought that Cover didn’t act in any way as a moral system, which Integrity still does to an extent, but the revelation that acting out of character for the Cover causes problems put a damper on alot of acts. Murder sprees are, after all, not especially common for most people.

    The soul pact thing makes more sense now that I’ve read through God Machine and seen the focus on occult matrices. My first thought was “why would anyone agree to a soul pact?” and then I remembered that the human likely isn’t getting the whole story. They don’t know what “signing away your soul” actually means until its too late. And sometimes what you desperately want seems more important.

    As for questions… could two demons, theoretically, swap Covers? We know that a demon have have more than one Cover, so a method exists to move from one to another without them somehow vanishing. So, could one demon wriggle out of it’s ‘skin’ and let another slip in, then take the skin of the other demon? Now that is some experimental identity gaming, letting a friend be you and vice versa.

    Oh! And if demons can trade, then can they steal? Could someone drive a demon out of a Cover using some occult trick and allow another to take it’s place?

  2. If a Demon gives up a soul pact Cover, could the person who signed the pact come back? Probably rather suddenly, into unfortunate circumstances, with no idea what the Demon’s been doing with their life since it took over… It would certainly be a good way for a Demon to throw hunters off the scent.

    • As written, once a soul pact is invoked, the person is gone. Annihilated. Stricken from existence, and a copy of them (the Cover) is what’s left.

      With that said…the author of the pacts section brought up the possibility of destroying the pact itself (all pacts are physical, literal written pacts) as a way to “save” the person. And that’s got too much cool story potential to ignore entirely. Likewise, your idea has merit.

      • So as “alternative rule” soul pacts would work as Vessels from Inferno book, yes? Human life is “stolen” by Demon after soul pact and if soul pact is broken, the human is “released” and get’s back his body?

  3. “The characters somehow become aware that Emilio is a *person of interest*,”

    “…and if they lose their Cover, they’re Burned. ”

    Frakking awesome. You just evoked two of my favourite shows, and probably did it deliberately. Well played, sir.

  4. Oh man! The current name is totally Demon: The Damned! Earlier someone called it Demon: the Tautology and now we know it starts with a D!

  5. What is wrong with asking the question that a Cover could be a serial killer? Isn’t it through asking those questions we come to understand the system and mythology?

    Plus, if a demon in the world of darkness can’t be a serial killer, than who could?

    • Humans, mostly. And vampires. Werewolves too. Sin-eaters likely. But mostly humans.

      It isn’t that asking if that works as a method is a problem, it’s a player trying to game the system by making themselves a serial killer. There isn’t a rule against it; it just circumvents a big piece of the experience of the game.

      • Ding, ding.

        Also, wanting to play a serial killer rubs me wrong. YMMV.

        (And yes, I know lots of PCs in the WoD kill lots of people. There is a difference, in my mind, between “vampire” and “serial killer.”)

  6. When a demon assumes a cover, does his physical appearance change to match? Does he slither out of one skin and into another when assuming a new cover? Or, does his body transform into the new cover’s shape?

    Likewise, when he assumes demonic form does this tear through his cover’s physical form?

    Basically, how attached is a demon to his body/shell?

    Also: If there’s no reason for a demon to search out a person with the same sexuality as their former cover, then it wouldn’t be necessary to find a new cover with the same sex either. Correct?

    • From the way the playtests seem to read I’d guess demons are very attached to the physical shapes of their Cover. The Cover isn’t a literal shell the demon hides inside; the demon just gains the ability to conceal itself as the individuals in question. So when a demon changes Covers or changes into its demon form there isn’t a body left lying on the ground, the demon just changes its form.

  7. So.. basically, a soul pact is less “hahaha! Now, when you die, I get your soul which can be broken into fuel or Resources or something”.. and far more “Hahaha, you’ve given me your AOL/Google/WoW sign in name and passwords, and as soon as I need it, I can haxx you so that I can continue existing under the Machine’s baleful eye without as flimsy an identity as IT gave me”?

  8. Soul pacts don’t seem to use the traditional notion of a soul from other WoD games. Based on the details so far it might be closer to call them a ‘history pact’ or an ‘existence pact’. ‘Soul pact’ is probably only the phrases due to the long tradition of soul purchasing in ‘demon’ games.

  9. My guess would be that you get a new demon. Probably of the Integrator Agenda; an angel forced into falling, as opposed to one that makes the conscious decision to fall, probably wants to get back to the God-Machine ASAP.

  10. How many Covers can a demon have at once? Obviously, you can only use one at a time; but could you, say, have two that you alternate between as is most appropriate for a given situation?

    • The number of Covers a demon can have on tap at a time is based on Primum. The progression is gradual, but (afaik) the option to switch between multiple Covers starts as early as Primum 2. Now, there isn’t really a limit to how many soul pacts a demon can have in his file cabinet at any given time. These can range from “awesome back-up Covers” to “invoke this when the time is right” to “burn Covers” (a Cover that is meant to be used for only a short time either to hide more important Covers or to be used for one big, noisy act before the demon jettisons it).

      Some demons specialize in sort of “flipping” souls. They find desperate folks down on their luck and convince these mortals to sign soul pacts. Then the demon does everything she can to make that mortal as successful as possible with an eye toward putting him in a position that would make a great Cover. Eventually the demon sells the soul pact to another demon who cashes it in (or keeps it in his own file cabinet until he needs that Cover).

  11. Man, Cover is so awesome. I kind of want to run variants of every other game with Cover spliced in. Changeling, Promethian, Vampire … even Mage has the Exarchs to hide from.

    Of course, that raises the question of whether to replace the previous morality-stat or have them both. Promethian without Humanity probably wouldn’t work so well, but it could replace Disquiet instead … I never really liked Clarity, though, it seems shoehorned in. Avoiding the wrath of the Keepers integrates much better; you could even keep Soul Pacts!


Leave a Comment