Jim’s Group Playtest: In My Pocket

Not meaning to suggest that Jim’s group is literally in my pocket, just…well, read on, you’ll get it. Here’s session one, just to keep it straight.

Demon: The Rashomon Playtest Report

Jim Fisher’s Group 

The next morning after the run-in with agents of the God Machine on the Strip, the ring got some breakfast at a local IHOP and discussed what to do. They were conversing quietly in Italian while keeping an eye out for anyone who seemed to be interested in the discussion.

While the discussion was ongoing, Victor maintained a check on his Twitter feed, looking for things to blog about or stories to chase. The local news channels offered up a link to an article with the following headline: “Would-be Strip pickpocket beaten and left for dead at local hospital.” Following the link to the full article, Victor found that a George Ramirez, the same man who attempted to steal from Anya the previous night, was beaten and then dropped off at Sunrise Hospital early that morning. Despite doctors’ best efforts, he succumbed to his wounds and died. The article further went on to mention that the police had received an anonymous tip that the man was seen being chased by several individuals from the Bellagio, and that anyone with further information should contact the Las Vegas Police Department.

The ring immediately started discussing what the hell they should do, and devised a two-prong plan: distraction and investigation. The former was to cause some other form of big news in town, burying the murder, while the latter was to find out what was going on and who implicated them in the situation.

After some debate about the police station, they decided that the hospital would be the best place to start looking. Before heading out, Victor helped do some quick research to find out which celebrities were in town; he then left with Marv en route to the hospital.

Knowing that their target celebrity was staying at the MGM Grand, Brock and Anya went there and found a cozy corner in the lobby, where Brock used In My Pocket to obtain the celebrity’s cell phone. (Note: see list of issues we came up with in regards to In My Pocket, below.) Realizing that it would be locked, Brock borrowed some makeup from Anya and dusted the screen, finding which numbers on the passcode had the most distinct fingerprints, indicating the most use. They then did some more research to try and figure out if the numbers had any importance to the person in question – birthdate, awards, albums charted, that sort of thing – and with some help from Victor over the phone, the eventually unlocked their target phone. They then posted a location to Twitter with the intent of causing a bit of a ruckus and stirring up some news, and then wiped the phone of prints and made sure it ended up somewhere in the lobby where it could be found.


Meanwhile, Dice had gone off to check with the local runners/messengers to see if any of them had heard any gossip about George Ramirez, or how he may have died. She arrived at the “office” to speak to find most of the runners presently out on jobs, but talked to one of the handlers. He hadn’t heard anything about this guy specifically, but theorized that if someone actually tried to challenge the peace on the Strip, that the local crime organizations probably wouldn’t take too kindly to that. He further reminded Dice that organized crime in town had pretty much “gone legit,” and that the Strip was a huge money maker for both the crime syndicates and the city. If there was open crime on the Strip, that would reduce tourism and thus nobody would make any money. The only difference was that, even though they’d basically gone legit, the guys in organized crime still knew how to protect their territory as it were. So, maybe it was just a lesson that went a little too far? Dice thought about that, and realized that to most, that made sense, but they why would someone go to the extra trouble to implicate the ring in the process?


Marv and Victor, after getting interrupted by Brock and Anya’s phone call, made a quick side trip to a costume shop before going to the hospital. Victor picked up a lab coat and assorted accessories to appear like a doctor.

Arriving at the hospital, Victor and Marv split up, with Marv heading into the front entrance to the hospital, and Victor in the ER entrance. Marv fast-talked his way past the front desk, claiming that he was there to minister to the sick and dying, and got directions to both the dementia ward and the ER. Of course, he had no intention of actually going to the dementia ward, but that got him into areas of the hospital where he could then have an opportunity to get through a door needing a security badge.

He found his opportunity, attempting to sneak in behind an orderly, who noticed and confronted him. After some serious back-and-forth, with Marv attempting to appeal to the man’s faith, Marv realized that without a further push, the orderly wasn’t going to let him in. So he called upon the Muse Embed to instill in the orderly the notion to help a minister pray over a dead man, as it’s the right thing to do. Between the supernatural push and the discussion, the orderly relented and let Marv in, getting his word that he’d go straight to the morgue.

Victor, meanwhile, walked up to the ER entrance, noting that there was a forensics team in a cordoned-off area still collecting evidence and investigating the scene, with four uniformed officers overlooking the process. He calmly and confidently walked past them and went straight inside.

The waiting area seemed a little sparse, as some people were seemingly put off by the police attention, or just deciding they weren’t that sick after all. Victor walked up to the triage nurse, and told her he was a medical examiner sent as an independent consult on the George Ramirez case. With some fast-talking (and use of Authorized), he convinced her of his right to be there, and she had another nurse escort him to the morgue. When he arrived, the only person there was an intern doing some casework. He was quickly assured of Victor’s authority and went back to his work, leaving Victor with George’s body. Victor used Download Knowledge to acquire several dots of the Medicine Skill so that he could perform an autopsy and attempt to determine cause of death. Just as he starts on his examination, Marv arrives in the morgue, and noticing the intern, acts like he doesn’t know Victor, thus keeping everyone’s cover identities intact. Victor responds in kind, telling the minister that he can do his religious stuff after the autopsy. Marv sits down to wait.

Dice arrived at the hospital independently from Brock and Anya, but roughly at the same time. While Brock and Anya went inside, Dice took a look at the uniformed police and used Find the Talker to figure out which one of them would be the most likely to talk about the case. Going on that information, she walked up to the appropriate officer and started a conversation.

It turned out that the cops are almost as baffled by what went on as the characters, and that they really don’t know too much as of yet. As the investigation continues, they are confident that they will find more information, but so far pretty much everything they know has been released to the media. Dice thanked the officer for the information and wished them good luck on solving the case, noting the dark stains on the asphalt as she walked into the ER.

Once inside, she wandered into the waiting area and sat down, taking a mental account of who all was there, and she started keeping track of the comings and goings of the patients as she waited for everyone else to investigate the scene.

Brock and Anya, meanwhile, attempted to just walk back into the ER and then into the more secure area, but Brock’s use of In My Pocket to produce a security badge failed. So instead, he tried again to pull out a detective ID, and they redirected to the triage nurse. Although the nurse was initially confused about another set of detectives looking at things, the demons covered their story by claiming that a fellow officer had been sloppy in his report and that they were there to clean up. Convinced, the nurse let them pass.

The two got to the morgue as Victor was almost complete with his examination. Introducing themselves to the intern, they asked him a few routine questions, and obtained George’s medical report. They scanned that, getting pertinent information such as cause and time of death, address, next of kin, and so on, as Victor finished up his examination, confirming those results for himself. Three of the demons then left in their separate groups, leaving Marv to do his ministering to the dead.

In the ER waiting room, Dice had been tracking everyone’s comings and goings over time. She noticed normal traffic, and a few people who seemed to just be waiting. One of those folks kept texting on his phone periodically, and then suddenly left the ER. Dice got up and moved to the entrance, where she looked outside and saw the man quickly get into the passenger side of a beige Camry and drive off. She managed to get a few pictures of the man and the car, but failed to get a good shot of the plates.

Convinced that they were being watched, the ring coordinated an in-person meet through texts. Adjourning for a late lunch at a local restaurant, they pooled what they found out and discussed options again.

They decided that they had a few avenues for obtaining clues, and that going to the police station would probably be a large risk, although perhaps a necessary one, to confirm that the personal effects listed in the medical report were all accounted for in the evidence locker. Brock suggested that he could simply pull George’s cell phone out of his pocket and check for contacts, messages, and so on, but the ring didn’t act on that yet.

After lunch, the group went their separate ways for the afternoon, agreeing to meet up again that evening. Marv, relying on his minister cover, went to George’s neighborhood and started preaching door-to-door, eventually reaching George’s apartment. The door was locked and the entrance covered with police tape, so he moved on and struck up a conversation with the next-door neighbor. She said that she did hear two very quick gunshots early that morning, nearly on top of one another, seemingly from right out front. Otherwise, she didn’t hear or see anything particularly suspicious, and she didn’t interact with George too much.

While this conversation was going on, Victor arrived and tried the door. Finding it locked, he went in search of a maintenance man, and bribed the man to let him into the apartment. Seeing this, the neighbor asked if she should call the cops, and Marv, feeling that he should not do anything out of character for a minister, said that she should.

Victor, however, didn’t have much luck searching George’s apartment, as the police had already been there and Victor didn’t find anything they hadn’t. Frustrated, he left the apartment and went about his business, planning on rejoining the rest of the ring later that night.

**End Session**


–          Finally got to use the Social Maneuvering system, and loved it. Coupled with some of the things demons can call on (like Muse in this instance), it really works, and my players were excited to use it.

–          One of my players asked about the Demonic Form Ability: Wings. That states “The demon is capable of flight, and has a species factor of 10 to his speed when flying.” Now, I know the demonic forms are being updated, but just wanted to point out that we didn’t know if that changed the Species Factor from 5 to 10 when flying, or added 10. I went with the former option rather than the latter. [Matt’s note: Demonic forms have indeed been revised, though Wings didn’t really change. The power should read that you get to fly with a species factor of 10, meaning if your normal Speed is 10 (Strength + Dexterity + 5), your flight speed is 15 (Strength + Dexterity + 10).

–          Download Knowledge doesn’t say that you can only have one instance of it active at a time, but I ruled it that way, as I thought spamming that Embed to just pick up Skills was somewhat cheap. [Matt’s note: Yes, definitely. I’ll add that note in.] While overall I’m being a bit more lenient since it’s a playtest than I would be in a normal game (I probably wouldn’t ordinarily let them pull a particular celebrity’s cell phone out of their pocket, for instance, but more on that below), that was still a bit much for me.

–          Okay…..In My Pocket. Oh good lord In My Pocket. We may have gone a bit overboard with coming up with ways to break all the things with this Embed, but as written there is no limit. When Brock used it to grab the celebrity’s phone, I put a fairly hefty penalty on the roll (-4), but he still succeeded. As written, there is nothing technically stopping a player from grabbing anyone’s cell phone, laptop (out of a briefcase or laptop bag for instance), or what-have-you out of an appropriate container. Some things we thought of as broken uses of the Embed:

  • Before combat even starts, look at someone you know you’re going to attack (who you know is armed) and say “I pull his gun out of my pocket.”
  • Pulling top secret files out of a briefcase or something – learn who really shot JFK, what’s really going on in Area 51, or any other number of things the government doesn’t want you to know.
  • Fail a roll to pull something out of your pocket, and then decide to use it on someone else’s pocket (although the way the power is written, I’d say this is quite unlikely)
  • Bring a change of clothes with you. Fail a roll. Change clothes. Try again. Lather, rinse, repeat until you succeed on pulling whatever you like out of your pocket.

–          Now, obviously, some of those are real corner cases/extreme/silly/will be squished by a Storyteller with common sense. [Matt’s note: A lot of these, too, miss some of the text of the power, though I admit it needs to be worded a lot more clearly. In My Pocket states that you can pull anything out of your pocket that fits in it and has not been established as NOT being in your pocket. As such, if you haven’t turned out your pockets and showed them to be empty, you can reasonable pull out “a gun” or “a badge.” You cannot, however, pull out “his gun” or “her badge” unless you would have reasonably had access to that object and the actual owner has looked at it or used it between when you had access and when you’re using the power. And even then it’s a tricky thing and would probably call for a high penalty and even a compromise roll.] However, we still felt that we should note it – especially if it means we’re just not understanding something about the power. Some things we thought of that might put some constraints on it:

  • Use of In My Pocket for anything specific (a celebrity’s cell phone or other personal belonging) calls for an immediate compromise roll
  • Use of In My Pocket to obtain things under strict security (top secret government files, say) is also a compromise roll and causes a Condition of some sort (Surveilled or even Hunted)
  • In My Pocket only pulls generic examples of the item in question, and you can’t pull specific things out of your pocket – or maybe you can, but only if you own them. Like you leave a gun or something back at your apartment, but you suddenly pull it out of your pocket (so long as you still can, and your pockets haven’t been established to be empty).

–          Demon is completely a game that rewards preparation and in-depth plots (part and parcel of the espionage theme, no doubt, especially coupled with things like Occult Matrices and the various forms Infrastructure can take within the God Machine’s plans and so on and so forth). The more in-depth my plot is getting, the more rewarding the game sessions are, I think.

–          We did use some Resisted and Contested actions for some of the Embeds (Authorized comes to mind, plus throwing a penalty on In My Pocket to get a specific celebrity’s phone) and it went well. The players didn’t think they were getting unnecessarily penalized for using their abilities, and while they sometimes were sweating a bit on whether or not to spend Willpower on the roll, overall it went just fine. I made Authorized a Resisted action (using Composure), although next session I think I’ll make it Contested (and I’m thinking of changing to Resolve, so Resolve + Power Stat maybe) action and see how that goes, barring any official rules in the meantime on the matter. Find the Talker I turned into a Resisted action, penalizing it by the highest Resolve in the group. Other than that, nobody used an Embed in a manner fitting a Resisted or Contested action. [Matt’s note: I didn’t include many penalties or contested rolls for Embeds, mainly because I don’t like them. I like it when supernatural powers just work, and mere mortals don’t really get much of a resist. But I’m hearing from pretty much all of the playtest groups (except mine, actually, which might just indicate that my players are used to how I run things) that they feel that not having any resistance feels weird. So I’ll figure something out for revisions. What I will probably do is include in the usual “- Resolve” or “vs. Resolve + Primum” as appropriate, and then mention in powerz section that you don’t need to use the resistance rolls unless the NPC in question is important enough to the plot that s/he gets a chance to resist. The security guard in this session that the character used Muse on, for instance? Or the use of Find the Talker? Probably not something I’d bother with. But the option should be there, I agree.]

–          In general, I just have to commend my players for continually thinking of their Covers, and how to try and get what they want without ever having to hit a compromise roll. I don’t know if they’re just responding to the tone of the plot so far or what, but we’re all seemingly really gelling into the espionage part of it, while still having a supernatural overtone, both with the use of Embeds, plus stuff in the background that the players don’t know about yet.

7 thoughts on “Jim’s Group Playtest: In My Pocket”

  1. This game really is playing like a spy game. I enjoy seeing the players weaving through each other’s efforts; it’s like watching an episode of Burn Notice and Mission Impossible criss-cross one another.

    And getting to see notes on developement is really cool. Personally I like the idea of only having powers be resisted when the stakes are high (adds to the tension). If players are used to their abilities simply working than suddenly being resisted also services as a subtle sign to them that they are approaching a challenge.

    • Thanks! My players are fairly deliberately keeping their heads down, making it feel very much like a typical spy story/game. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, really. Knowing my players, when they finally say “screw it, we need to pull out all the stops,” things are going to go crazy. But, they’ve surprised me a few times so far, so we’ll see.

      And yeah, I’m fine with powers being resisted only when it’s relevant. Truth be told, I’ve had to actually mentally stop in the middle of game and remind myself that it’s a playtest and that I should be engaging mechanics as often as I can and have folks roll things I’d ordinarily just leave to roleplaying.

      In general, thanks for the kind words – I hope this story continues to be enjoyable for everyone (and for my group, of course!)

  2. The trouble with not giving a resistance roll is that PCs don’t get it when the same powers are used against them.

  3. Not just Demon PCs. Imagine the inverse of the “How an Angel Dies” story, where the demons are NPCs and the PCs are the VASCU agents. They wouldn’t want to constantly be manipulated with no chance to resist, esp. if one of them had concentrated on his or her Resolve+Composure to make a strong-willed agent concept.

    Anecdote about supernatural powers not working: One ST related how his Wraith players were going through “Ends of Empire”. They track down Charon’s mortal incarnation. One of them declares, “You have a great destiny, Mr. —. Unfortunately, you have to die first!”, and then launches an Arcana doing 17 dice of lethal damage. He only rolls one success.

    • Yeah. Kinda of the opinion, though, at a lot of the possible problems you’re raising aren’t mechanical. NPCs don’t work exactly like PCs in any respect, even if they are of a character type that could theoretically be a PC.

      But like I said, yes, Embeds definitely need resistances.

    • I don’t know, I think having the terrifying monster succeed without a roll would fit in very well with such a game. If you don’t want to lose, you shouldn’t be going toe-to-toe with a goddam Demon.

      For example, say a disguise power is resisted with Wits. What does it add to the game to give the player a chance to avoid being fooled? Much more suspenseful to have it simply work, and then the nice friendly cop you’ve been working with turns to you and pulls his face off.

      Supernatural powers can work when they are more “static properties” of a monster, especially in a horror game. In my experience, anyway.


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