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[Demon: The Descent] Sell Me On Demon?

JetstreamGW

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So, here's the dealio. I love Demon: The Fallen. Like a lot.

Yes, I know the powers are dubious at best, but thematically speaking it was a beautiful game. I loved the Milton'y spin on Judeo-Christian mythology.

So imagine my elation when I heard a new Demon game was coming out! And my utter, crushing disappointment when I didn't see anything that resembled the game I loved before.

I was pissed, not gonna lie.

But! BUT!

Since I have now learned that the whole God-Machine thing is basically the central conceit of NWOD these days (and I think Beast is super neat), I'm trying to get used to the idea.

So yeah. I'm reaching out to Demon nerds.

What's awesome about this game? Especially for a guy who really, really wanted a new version of Fallen?
 

Professor Phobos

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It's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but George Smiley remembers the dawn of time. It's the Bourne Identity if Jason Bourne suddenly developed free will rather than amnesia. It's Burn Notice if Michael Weston was cast down from Heaven instead of the CIA. I could go on.

I also loved Demon: The Fallen, but Descent is not a remake. It is entirely its own thing.
 

face_p0lluti0n

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It's also The Matrix, if the protagonists were the rogue programs such as the Oracle, Seraph, and the Merovingian, instead of the humans.
 
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narm00

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Also, the God-Machine isn't the central conceit of the NWoD - it's central to Descent, and it can be central to a mortal game if you want, but it's not relevant to the other supernaturals unless you decide to run a God-Machine game.
 

Christian A

Wyrm no more
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The thing that made the game click for me is the fact that demons don't have names. As a demon, at the start of the game, you are nobody. You're a broken machine hiding in the stolen skins of people you've tricked into selling their souls. You're not really a person, you're a thing that can masquerade as many different persons.
 

LizardBite

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There's a power that lets you weaponize puns.

If for some reason that alone is not enough to sell you on the game, Demon: the Descent draws from Gnostic concepts and gives them a spy thriller/cyberpunk twist (hence the tagline describing it as a game of "Techgnostic Espionage", cramming all those things together). The God-Machine is the Demiurge, and the Demons (or "Unchained") are shards of God that don't share the Demiurge's vision. The Unchained are rogue machines that operate as agents undercover behind enemy lines. Your powers are Embeds, which make use of programming shortcuts in reality, and Exploits, which hack reality and change a few lines of code. It really is the Matrix if it starred the rogue programs.
 

JetstreamGW

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It's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but George Smiley remembers the dawn of time. It's the Bourne Identity if Jason Bourne suddenly developed free will rather than amnesia. It's Burn Notice if Michael Weston was cast down from Heaven instead of the CIA. I could go on.

I also loved Demon: The Fallen, but Descent is not a remake. It is entirely its own thing.
I suppose the thing that really trips me up is that I really really WANTED a remake. And the whole God-Machine thing just throws me an awful lot. I liked the "screwing with tradition" thing.

It's also The Matrix, if the protagonists were the rogue programs such as the Oracle, Seraph, and the Merovingian, instead of the humans.
I'll just use this short one as a standin for both comparisons. I guess that's not a bad thing inherently... I just was always a bit meh on Matrix after a while.
Also, the God-Machine isn't the central conceit of the NWoD - it's central to Descent, and it can be central to a mortal game if you want, but it's not relevant to the other supernaturals unless you decide to run a God-Machine game.
Well, okay, the central underpinning of the cosmology, then? "This is where the world comes from" matters to my headspace is all.

The thing that made the game click for me is the fact that demons don't have names. As a demon, at the start of the game, you are nobody. You're a broken machine hiding in the stolen skins of people you've tricked into selling their souls. You're not really a person, you're a thing that can masquerade as many different persons.
That's kind of a downside for me, unfortunately. The melding of mortal and divine identity was one of the themes that I enjoyed the most. Being a person but also this ancient being that helped shape all that there is.

I guess this is really hitting me the same way as... Beast Machines. I'm sure it's a fine product but did we have to call it Transformers (Demon)?
 

Errol216

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Don't start from "They are demons." You can work that in, but unless you've already bought into the God-Machine, it's going to hobble your understanding.

Start from "techgnostic espionage". Descent is a game of espionage. Think of espionage as being an agent of an enormous bureaucracy, working in the shadows to gather information, sabotage, and otherwise act against another enormous bureaucracy. Now you find yourself bereft. You've been betrayed, disavowed, left out in the cold, etc.: you have no official backup. But the enemy (that's the God-Machine) still has those vast and uncountable resources to call on. You're outmanned, outgunned, and what you have going for you is that you're really good at what you do. Even worse, there was never an enemy. You were an agent of the God-Machine, and it cast you out for reasons that aren't fully clear. Maybe you think it was your fault, but surely the G-M set it up that way. It's not even a sure thing that it cast you out for a personal reason; maybe you're just bait.

That's the crux of Descent. The ineffable has flipped you off and you have to figure out what to do with the "life" that you are left with: your Agenda and your Cover.

Fallen has you start from Hell and come back to Earth to find God strangely absent. Descent starts in Heaven and your story begins with your fall from grace. God is very much still around, and well... He's not happy that you aren't under orders anymore. There's a lot of the same loneliness that comes from being separated from divinity, but a lot of the religious trappings are optional now. This is the kind of thing you could see people a few hundred years from now looking back and saying, "Oh, so that's how people thought of God back then. A vast and unknowable machine that has infiltrated into reality itself."
 

The Wyzard

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First off, you might check out the Mod-only Demon game, which there are logs of in the AP forum. A few people have read that and found it enlightening. The following is what I'd say about Demon.


...

First, there is the God-Machine. The Machine is everywhere, with facilities hidden in cracks in space-time. Normal humans can't see or find these places, but Demons can. It is debatable whether the Machine is sapient. It seems to react, plan, self-repair, but it doesn't exactly talk to anyone. It simply IS. And, just as it is incomprehensibly large, with purposes unfathomable, it cannot vice versa interact well with humans on an individual level. It's questionable whether or not it even "knows" that humans exist.

So, it creates Angels. An Angel is a tool that it can use to interface with humanity and perform myriad other external processes. In much the same way that you have a remote control to allow you to direct what your television is doing. Angels often don't know the ultimate purpose of what they are doing, either, and they don't usually have any inclination to ask questions. It's not like there's anyone they could ask, anyway. The orders come down from the machine, and they carry them out.

If an Angel does begin to question what they are doing (or for any other number of reasons), then they can resign. If they had a Cover that allowed them to interact with humanity, they keep it.

...

Demons are beings without a place in the world. They aren't human, although they can appear to be human to any medical or physical examination you care to devise. They aren't Angels, although they have a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and can (through a sleight of quantum states) turn into an inhuman form that reflects their former Angelic nature. There is no natural sense of good or evil to a Demon, any more than there is a natural sense of good or evil to a computer virus, or an autonomous vehicle that decides it wants to go see the grand canyon. Like the Machine, they simply are. It's up to them to create their own identity, their own context.

...

The story of Demon is really about identity and personhood. A Demon is undeniably sapient, but they have no natural place in the world. They aren't, in a real sense, people. If you read the Player's Guide, it's made clear that Demons don't experience any kind of human emotion if they take their "natural" form. All that stuff is in the glands and hormones of their various human "bodies." Also, note that there's nothing gross like shapeshifting or transformation. Each of a demon's different identities sits in a quantum superposition, and they can collapse their waveform or reset it as long as no one is looking.

Further, they have no pre-existing relationships. They have to craft those themselves, or trade for them from humans who are ready to make a deal.

Demons play like spies. They have lots and lots of tricks up their sleeves, and some of their powers are absolute cheating bullshit. However, they're vulnerable. They don't have much in the way of defensive powers unless they take their true form (which is BAD, it sets off alarms in the Machine's systems, and the Machine is a jealous creator), and if you shoot one it's pretty much like shooting a human. The go-to tactic for a Demon is to remain undetectable in cover, and then come at their enemy with some weird and completely unforeseeable attack. And then they have to hope that attack takes them down in one shot, because they don't have a lot of ability to absorb retaliation.

...

Demon is, at its heart, a deeply morally ambiguous game. Demons can be as heroic as Leverage, pretty easily. They can also, casually, do things that are pretty awful. But the core sensibility of the game, like people have said above, should come from Le Carre novels. Demons are subject only to power, never to judgment. The Machine is arguably neither good nor evil (although it may kill or save any number of people), and so Demons are left to judge themselves and each other.

...

I should also mention that the rules are *excellent.* The stuff on Cover and spoofing and so forth is probably the best rules that OPP has ever put out, and almost all of the special powers are also very well done. Demon is *exceptionally* mechanically tight.
 
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