[First Impressions] Demon: the Descent Quickstart

Posted: August 28, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Demon: the Descent, First Impressions, Reviews, Roleplaying Games, World of Darkness
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I have to admit that I could never run a game of Demon: the Fallen. I had the corebook, and I loved it to bits, but being Catholic, there was something about it involving Judeo-Christian elements that made me uneasy about running it. I would still recommend the book for purchase in a heartbeat, but there was an irrational block that stopped me from ever running a game.

It was little suprise then that I was really excited to hear that the Onyx Path people are coming up with an nWoD version of Demon, one that doesn’t rely on real-world faith as a backdrop but still dealing with the similar themes that made Demon: the Fallen awesome.

That game is Demon: the Descent.

As soon as I saw the Quickstart pop up on DriveThruRPG, I downloaded it and started going over it, hungry as I was with regards to more information. Matthew McFarland, the writer of Curse the Darkness is the Developer of this game line, and I have high expectations.

White Wolf / Onyx Path Quickstarts have always been excellent, and the one for Demon is no exception. The document opens with a quick summary of the Demons in question, the Unchained, renegade angels hiding among humanity after they fell out of their unquestioning loyalty to the enigmatic God-Machine. As you can imagine, this game relies on the mythology established by the God-Machine Chronicle and builds on it. Whereas the God-Machine Chronicle introduced the concept and workings of the God-Machine, Demon builds on it by introducing the Unchained as player characters.

Angels in this context are the agents of the God-Machine. Unquestioning program-entities that enact the God-Machine’s will according to instructions. They may look human, but they often have the bare minimum existence required to pass off as what they need to be. An Angel that is posing as an office worker for example, might have a company ID and an employment record, but no family to speak of. It’s a wonderfully creepy concept that works well in the context of the World of Darkness.

Demons are created when these Angels come to question their directives. While this doesn’t happen often, certain circumstances might push an Angel to doubt their role and instructions. This moment of questioning the God-Machine whether through altruism or pride is when the Angel falls and becomes a Demon, a rogue element in the God-Machine’s perfect plan.

As Demons, the Unchained retain the manufactured identities they had as Angels, which they refer to as their Cover. These cover identities can be reinforced (though I believe that the mechanics for these aren’t covered in the Quickstart) and are crucial to keep under the radar. The Unchained live paranoid lives as they stay hidden within humanity while working to find themselves and determine their purpose in life while dodging the attention of the God-Machine, who is more than willing to capture, kill or recycle them back into itself.

Demon: the Descent goes on to describe the 5 different Incarnations that the Unchained take. These Incarnations reflect the Angel’s role before the Fall. Among these are the Destroyer, Guardian, Messenger and Psychopomp. These roles are pretty self explanatory, except perhaps for the Psychopomp, which are angels sent to gather raw materials for the God-Machine. These Incarnations most likely have an effect on Character Creation, but that is beyond the scope of the Quickstart.

The document also goes through 4 different Agendas, the reasons for being that the Demons often pursue. After being divorced from the God-Machine, the Unchained feel an overwhelming need to have a sense of purpose and they gravitate towards becoming one of the following: Inquisitor, Integrator, Saboteur and Tempter.

The Quickstart gives a summary of the nWoD rules as per the God-Machine Chronicle Rules Update. I found this to be rather helpful as the summary does a great job of condensing the nWoD’s central rules into an easy to read (and learn) format.

The rules also give a glimpse to the Demon’s powers systems, which are split between Embeds and Exploits. As former agents of the God-Machine, Demons are able to tap into the underlying Infrastructure that the God-Machine has constructed to pull off feats of hacking reality. Embeds take advantage of the laws and rules set by the God-Machine that the Unchained can still tap into for specific effects. Exploits on the other hand are more vulgar manipulations of the same rules that pretty much bend the rules to the point of breaking them. Interestingly Angels are generally unable to use Exploits, and those that manage to are often on the very edge of Falling.

The return of Demonic Forms in the Demon game is a welcome sight. Demon: the Fallen had these, and the Demon: the Descent forms are biomechanical horrors which grant the character various aspects from claws and wings to other things. Sadly the character creation rules aren’t available in the Quickstart.

Other rules involving the Demons are their ability to Spoof abilities to determine truth, and their ability to sense Atheric Resonance. Finally there are mechanics involving how Cover can be compromised by various actions that blatantly reveal that they’re not people at all, manifesting Glitches or gaining the Flagged condition.

Four different pregenerated characters are given in the Quickstart, each one representing a different Incarnation of Demon, along with a different Agenda. All of them are interesting, and I do like the fact that each one is gender neutral so any player can pick it up and play it while fleshing out the other details. The Quickstart ends with a short scenario called “Honey & Vinegar” which involves a fun little scenario and has one of the most memorable Angels of the God-Machine that I’ve seen to date. I won’t spoil anything as the scenario is full of spoilers for those who would play it, but I can say that it’s a nice little adventure for an evening’s worth of play and will leave players asking for more.

Overall the Demon: the Descent Quickstart is well worth the download. The game hits all the right buttons in my head, and strangely it reminds me of Mage: the Ascension in some fashion, which is always a good thing. Definitely looking forward to the release fo the corebook so that I can get to work on a Let’s Study series on it.

You can download the Quickstart over at DriveThruRPG for free.

  1. Asura says:

    While mostly I’m burned out on White Wolf games this does sound like it could be interesting. I’m a huge Planescape fan, so when I read about the god-machine, and its demons and angels, I can’t help but think of Mechanus, Modrons, Inevitables and rogue Modrons. Granted those are much more steampunk, and White Wolf’s demon sounds much more cyberpunk (and of course horror).

    • Hey Asura!

      It’s a good comparison actually! If the God-Machine is some sort of crazy Lawful entity, then the Demons are it’s agents who have been infected by a healthy dose of Chaos to find a strange sort of freedom.

  2. nod20 says:

    The problem with DtD is that the machine spirits are Angels and Demons in name only. What you get is a mixture of Tron/Matrix/cold-war spy game, but it has nothing to do with the classical definitions of Demons/ and Angles. It is the same as calling the GOD-Machine God in the nWOD world. Is not, it is a powerful entity, but not God, but is sound fancy.
    The rules and presentation of the game itself is good, but the setting is bland.

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