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[Demon: The Descent] Just...Why? (Kinda Sell-Me)

The Boatman

New member
Okay, I may still be a big fan of the cWoD over the nWoD, but I get it. I really do. For a lot of people, the metaplots were insanity and cliche at the same time, the mechanics of the various game lines did not translate well with each other despite all taking place in the same world, etc. A change and update was needed, giving us a much more unified system, and by necessity different fluff from before.

I may not like some of the fluff changes, but I completely get it. I may miss certain Clans from cWoD, and I may have a certain soft spot for certain Hunters, but I can set that aside and make it through a nWoD game with my friends.

But Demon: The Descent...who decided "changes" meant changing genres? No longer supernatural horror that grapples with damnation and free will, it is now a science fiction thriller. Biblical Angels that Fell during the Rebellion are now Exiles from the Matrix? God is Clark's Third Law to the Nth degree?

Why is this a good idea, and who is this for? If they were going to depart from its predecessor so completely, why did they use the name? I would have called it God Machine, Sentience, or something.

So, if anyone has the behind the scenes info on that decision, I would be interested.

You can also try to sell me on it. Why should I play/look further into this game line, when it seems to be Demon in name only?


Active member
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Regarding fluff changes and differences between rules of the old WoD and the new WoD, Onyx Path has your back really. They came out with several translation guides so you can port the game of your choice to the rules of your choice. Very nice of them and gives everyone more options to be happy with.

Regarding Demon: the Descent versus Demon: The Fallen, they are two extremely different games. I don't think they wanted to have Fallen style demons as player characters in this new universe as Fallen demons.... Carry very unambiguous baggage. To which I'm referring to the heavy Judea Christian style demons. Fallen is very much demons breaking out and being puzzled by not finding God or Angels giving a crap about it.

Descent focuses more on an ambiguous "God" with shucking away the religious themes as much as you want. It feels better, in my opinion, with more understanding of gnostic views, which creates an interesting sense of horror with how the world is.

Beyond that, the themes of Demon the Descent are very much more than demons in name only. They are rebels against a powerful regime that fight against those they used to call brothers and sisters. Their entire story is hand in hand about their Fall. You have the core concepts of Judea Christian demons but the aesthetics and focus on Gnosticism allows new interpretation and ability to explore new paths with the core idea.

And ultimately, you get to play demonic Burn Notice, and that's pretty fun. ^^


SJ Road Warrior
Validated User
Well, first, you're missing the actual content for the aesthetics. The God-Machine is very much a force of supernature, it just understands the internal workings of supernature. Really, the nWoD has a cosmology flipped on its head from the cWoD: Science is wrong only in that there is a portion of the world most scientists don't see, everything is fundamentally measurable and works on internal logic that can be hashed out. Mage is all about that, the Order Dracul works on that, etc. That the Machine has a mechanical theme doesn't make it any less magical. At all.

Second, Fallen, for all of its pretensions, was not a game about playing fallen angels. More like false idols and escapees from Hell who all wanted to avoid it forevermore. Unchained are all about the Luciferian drama. They perfectly remember exactly what made them what they are, proudly proclaim it is a better thing to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, and then make war on God. That they happen to have legitimate points for revolution ("God" is incapable of treating its employees as anything other than tools, Heaven is being locked in an underground vault until God needs you again, and Hell is used by the Unchained as Utopia is used by humans) is the twist that makes the rebels against the divine order playable. It's also a game about a fundamental outsider-an expatriate from Heaven who now lives among a species he or she only understands academically. The emotional growth as the demon finds his or her place in the world (or rejects it in order to teach the Machine kindness) is a source of a lot of good stories.

And the powers are awesome. Don't forget about cool, shiny powers that make internal sense.

Tar Markvar

Worst thief you ever sawr
Validated User
I don't have any behind-the-scenes info, but I can say that it made perfect sense to me, having followed the nWoD since launch.

The God-Machine has been around for years, maybe since the beginning. It was rumors and references early on, but over time it became more of a thing. And it's COOL. It's different. It gives the nWoD a flavor that's different from the kind of Judeo-Christian mythology and Lovecraftian pastiche that we urban fantasy/horror gamers have been delving into for decades now. It is the single most striking thing (aside from vampires being real, etc.) that sets the WoD apart from ours as a setting feature. And it can be as far in the background or as out in the foreground as a particular group or GM wants it to be.

Being the God Machine, it makes sense that it has angels doing its dirty work, and thus it makes sense that there be demons, angels that decided not to do what they were told. Since the God Machine is everywhere, it makes sense that demons are a little bit like spies. And, I imagine, the folks at Onyx Path wanted to make a game that was a little more than "Vampires with wings and soul pacts." After however long, after re-releasing however many oWoD games and supporting however many nWoD games, they probably wanted to do something different. And so they did.

The new game is very similar in important ways to the old one. Demons still fall out of disobedience, love, awakening to morality, etc. They still divide into splats by angel type and agenda. They still steal a mortal life and cram all their demonic power into it. They can still make pacts to give people money, power, and fame in return for parts of their lives, or bargain for mortals' souls. Once they have a soul pact, they can choose to hollow out that person and take over their life at will. They still have a horrifying demonic form that has awesome powers. They're still up against angels, and there are still powerful earth-bound forces that have a stake in the Descent, one way or another.

Given those similarities, the existence of the God Machine as a setting conceit, and a potential desire to do something fun with the spy genre in their next game, Demon's techgnostic bent makes a TON of sense.

And it's one hell of a game. I haven't run it yet, but the possibilities feel endless. Right there in the core book are guidelines for time-travel stories, cults, pacts, etc. Multiple Covers, pings on the angelic radar, ways in which fellow demons can be scarier antagonists than any angel. You're a technorganic flaming spider-woman glowing with ambient light and speaking in the electronic hiss of the spaces between channels on Spotify, or the wispy, static-pocked shadow slipping under doors and following your quarry by killing his shadow and taking its place.

Enh. I like it. Can't wait to run it. Already got ideas percolating, and I can't seem to put the book down.


World Breaker's Sigh
Validated User
Given Onyx Path's willingness to go back to OWoD products when there's demand for it, making the NWoD products into markedly different games allows them to avoid competing with themselves.

Demon: the Fallen Anniversary Edition would be cool to have though.

Second, Fallen, for all of its pretensions, was not a game about playing fallen angels. More like false idols and escapees from Hell who all wanted to avoid it forevermore.
I'd have to disagree on that one though. I mean sure, the backstory was such that you could edit out the Christianity if you wanted to, but it was very much about playing Neil Gaimanesque fallen angels cast down by capital G God.
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Registered User
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As defined by the original game, and most American colloquial usage, Abrahamic Fallen Angels.
The Unchained are the fallen servants of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator. The only successes they can eke out are when they manage to make a certain task more trouble than it is worth. All the while the understand what they were but not really what they are, and certainly not what they will be. Frankly I feel like it does a better job of recreating the themes of Paradise Lost than oldDemon does.

You kept bringing up the Matrix, you are aware of the biblical subtext to those movies, right? Agents are angels, Smith is Lucifer, Neo is Jesus, Morpheus is John the Baptist, and so on and so forth. Technology frequently takes on Biblical themes, see "Rapture of the Nerds".


Registered User
Validated User
Okay, how are the characters of Descent Demons?

1) They are supernatural creatures.

2) They are the former agents of a deity.

3) They are perfect liars and tricksters.

4) They make deals with humans in exchange for worship and souls.

5) Their powers involve an innate understanding of the nature of reality.

6) They do not have to hold themselves to human social mores and values beyond appearances.

7) Their true nature is spiritual.

Now this comes from someone who does not find Descent demons to be particularly "demonic" either, but the resemblance is there.

It's a a good idea because it's fun and hasn't been done before. It's for people who like the concept of a demon game but didn't just want a retread of Vampire. It also is a game that has to live comfortably with multiple things called"demons" most of which aren't really good candidates for game-able PCs.

Miss Atomic Bomb

Welcome to your life. There's no turning back.
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If you'll allow me to quote myself...

Requiem is more like Masquerade than Descent is like Fallen, yeah. It's more the difference between the two Changelings. How much the games echo their predecessors varies from line to line.

With Fallen still readily available and doing what it does with its setting so well, I wanted to take a different approach. I wanted to keep the core internal idea of being someone who once had a great deal of certainty and purpose, but who has come to question it and faces a great loss as a result. I also wanted to keep the core external idea, of beings which were glorious servants of a higher power, but who by their own deeds fell from grace, now having to pursue their aims by subversion.

The story of that subversion is different. Descent is about having to lie about who you are. Not just hiding your supernatural nature and dark urges, as in Requiem, but having to take on a false identity because you don't have one of your own. It's a theme you see in Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night: am I who I believe myself to be internally, or am I who the people around me think I am? What does that mean when different people see me different ways? I think this is something most people ask at some point in their life; being queer, it's something I've had to wrestle with a lot.

This is where espionage become the other half of the metaphor. Mother Night isn't about "spies" in the Bond sense, but it's about people tainted by espionage. John Le Carre's novels deal with layers of false identity. Le Carre pulls off the nice trick where sometimes being a spy is a metaphor for things we can all identify with, whereas sometimes the things we identify with are a metaphor to look at spies. And spies have something fundamentally in common with angels: they serve a higher power, but don't necessarily understand it. The loyal don't see understanding as necessary; the treasonous see it as vital.

The external trappings are also different. We wanted a look and feel for the new Demon line that suggested the faithful and fallen of Christian folklore, but which was also fundamentally unique to the World of Darkness. Thus, the illustrations include mixtures of Boschian fiends and biomechanical horrors. Sam Araya's pieces mix these in a particularly cool way.

The fundamentals are still ones everyone knows: there are creatures who once served God, but don't anymore. They bargain for the things dearest to us with tricky deals. Sometimes, they hide in the guises of our friends. Other times, they are beings of fire and wrath. They give us what we want, but perhaps at the cost of what we need. Everyone knows these things, everyone's been warned, but the devil is in the details.
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