*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 23, 2014, 04:17:22 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 70 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Author Topic: Very very very powerful demons (and how to keep them)  (Read 4802 times)
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« on: August 10, 2004, 06:52:44 AM »

I'm almost done with Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore- a quirky, funny, quick read.

The Demon is a bastard thing named Catch- a full-bore-monster-from-hell kinda demon.  

Catch likes to destroy things and bring ruin.

His normal form is a 3-foot invisible imp (well, invisible to anyone who isn't his bound keeper), though anyone can see his huge 'eating form'- a giant reptilian monster.  Catch like to eat people.

He's virtually indestructible, nigh unstoppable, and petty, nasty, mean, and untrustworthy.  He combines the worst characteristics of a petulant child and a scheming bitter old man.  Catch is good at destroying things.

The pact with him (read- the binding) renders his Keeper virtually ageless, & pretty close to invulnerable.  

And the keeper can- when his will is strong- tell Catch what to do.

In Sorcerer terms, I'd put his Power in the 10 to 15 point range (with all his other scores up there as well).  Between his huge Stamina, Special Damage, Armor (for self and sorcerer), Protection (for self and sorcerer), Vitality (for self and sorcerer) and Big, he's a really awful sort of thing to try and keep control over.

In the games I have run, the biggest demon I have seen a player go for was a Power 10 tricked out demon-car, and it sent the game teetering on the brink several times- both when it worked as intended, and when it got out of control.  As GM it is much harder to deal with than a little Power 5 imp (though the trouble you can generate for players with either one still amazes me sometimes).

But here is the meat of the question- what are the biggest nastiest demons you have seen come into play, and how have you dealt with them (as GM or as players)?

-Ben
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2004, 07:19:12 AM »

Hiya,

I'd put Catch down more at the Power 8 level, Ben. People are forever overestimating demons in the literature; I once came up with a very passable Stormbringer at Power 7 or 8. I strongly recommend not defining demons' scores based on Champions-style "how much can it lift" or "how much damage can it take" thinking - certain abilities alter these features dramatically.

I've GM'd players with demons up to Power 12, specifically Manu (a big horrible dream-demon inky thing), especially since the sorcerer was high Lore and crazy. Such a thing is a very central feature of play, as it rapidly becomes personally and actively relevant to nearly every player-character and NPC. That's not a bad thing at all, just a notable one. The same thing goes for a well-constructed demon at Power 8, as with Veniamin in my necromancy game. You can check out how whacky that one got in the threads I posted here.

In many cases, what would be "out of control" in many other role-playing experiences is merely where Sorcerer needs to go in this particular instance.

Also, in my experience, when a player says "I want my demon to have Power 20!" I merely ask them to describe it and what it can do ... they poop out at about six or seven abilities, and we just write it up from there at Power 7 or 8.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Doyce
Member

Posts: 442


WWW
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2004, 10:50:36 AM »

In my recently concluded Bibliophage game, I had two demons with Power in the double digits.  One was the "Moth Queen", who was presented as the sort of demon who often would rebel after some time spent acclimating, break the Sorcerous bond, and become Immanent.  With it, I was looking for something along the lines of the Queen in Aliens -- she had quite a laundry list of Abilities, including the ability to Spawn creatures that would eventually become independent demons in their own right ("Moth men"), allowing her to Spawn again.   The Queen had been summoned by an ignorant and power-hungry neophyte NPC during the game, and was eventually banished in a big showdown by the PCs.

The other high-power demon in the game was the (immanent) ghost of the father of one of the PC's (and a Sorcerer before he died).  I believe he was something like Power 11, and had all sorts of nasty things going on, notably Taint and Hint, linked together or used seperately... several kinds of perception, that sort of thing.  He fed on the blood of his descendants to stay strong and could not be bound, only Pacted.

What Ron says I've found to be entirely true, however -- in most cases a strong concept for even a powerful demon can be well-expressed with a Power of 7 or 8, which can be quite potent and quite dangerous -- one character in my Grimm Therapy sessions has a dragon as his demon, and at Power 8 the thing certainly feels exactly like a dragon to me -- deadly breath attack, claws like knives, flight, impenetrable scales, and you should never look a dragon square in the eye, you know.

It's much less common in my experience thus far to see someone with a demon with a Power around 4 or 5 -- while you run out of things to add eventually, the urge to add 'just one more thing' to what you'd originally envisioned as a one-trick pony always seems to push those totals up.
Logged

--
Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Bill Cook
Member

Posts: 501


« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2004, 09:28:45 PM »

Biggest demons, by measure of Power, were Ripper Bear and Vanth. Ripper Bear was . . . well, a bear, but with snaking entrails that hung from his belly. And he had a snout like Alf. He was a vicious, uncontrollable brute. His sorcerer (an NPC) kept him in a cell in a torture chamber and fed him kidnapped orphans. I think his Power was 11; not by ability count; I pushed it up by setting his Will high. Ripper quickly dominated every scene after he was released from his cell. There was really only one sorcerer among my players who could go head-to-head with it, and his parasite had about a Power of 8.

Vanth was a combat pawn that one of my players created to "get more into the game." He set her Power at 12 with a laundry list of abilities plus high Will. She was like an amazonian, vampiric succubus. Ripper incapacitated her in two rounds.

By other measures, demons of lesser Power featured more highly than the above mentioned heavy weights. Freddy the Freak had a knack for ambush and escape; everyone hated that sorcerer.

Everyone was scared shitless of the Spider Butler (Power 6) because of his tactics, concept and reputation. When faced with three FBI agents bearing shotguns, he tore off the door he'd just come out of and swatted them like flys. Then he stomped through the chest cavity of a player character's best friend and mentor, killing him instantly. He was a tall, broad black man in a Men In Black suit, complete with shades. His head was clean-shaven, and he had silver, tear drop earrings. When his cover dropped, his ribs would distend and transform into terrifying spider legs. When he walked through the door in the scene I describe, players said things like "Watch out for this guy. He kicked ass at the mansion."

Another demon that kicked off an arms race was Winston, a Power 6 posessor who conferred Special Attack: Lethal (jets of flames). He inspired fear mainly by the style in which the player's sorcerer commanded him. He killed innocents with joy and caused his master to quickly advance through the ranks of the Order of Force.
Logged

Judd
Member

Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2004, 10:48:07 PM »

In the Dictionary of Mu's initial run I made a ton of mistakes as a GM but the one shining element of the game was one of the PC's Demon.  In the setting, Demons are the spirits of dead things be they ideas, people or places.

The player's Demon was the ghost of the dead world upon which they lived.

Woof.  Its power was somewhere in the lower double digits but I don't exactly recall.

He basically worshipped it and treated it like a revered God. I reckoned my job was to allow him to enjoy his first game with a God in his pocket until it slowly began asking him to do things that he didn't want to and a rift became evident.  My job was to drive towards that rift.

The game never came about, I had set it up on shaky stilts.
Logged

Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2004, 05:50:52 AM »

In the past, I have convinced players that a given NPC controlled Demon was waaaaaaaay more badass than it actually was, simply by playing him smart and ruthless.  I had them terrified of TV sets for a while, as they tended to manifest an enemy demon's Travel/Perception Spawn (which took the form of the TV character on screen when the demon came through).  After seriously maiming one player with Joey from Friends, they moved all the TV sets out of any room they were in.  The demon itself was only PL5, but it gave them tons of trouble.

I think my main hangup with really really powerful demons (power 10+) is how they can (in one roll of the dice) totally blow a game out of the water.  It  can get into TPK territory pretty fast... the Demon house from the 'Training Run' is hellish powerful- its Special Damage can pretty much kill any character in one round.  

Does it come down just playing the Demons in such a way that it doesn't come down to this kind of direct insta-death confrontation unless the PC's go looking for it?

-B
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2004, 05:59:53 AM »

Hello,

This is all giving me flashbacks to an essay I wrote in The Clobberin' Times, a Champions APA, about sixteen years ago. It was about villains.

Those of you who played Champs in the mid-late 1980s will recall, I am sure, that one great pleasure of the game lay in making up supervillains and playing them almost as player-characters - protagonists in their own minds, to be sure. Given the wide range of role models from the comics, the free hand at plagiarizing or simply lifting them, and the desire to "do [fill-in-name] right for once," the Champions GM who liked playing villains was in hog heaven.

My essay concerned the difference between piling on points and elegant construction based on theme. (One might say "psychology" or "motivation" rather than "theme," but I think both of those terms land us in dangerous territory when talking about decisions during role-playing.)

For those Champions-heads among us, I am emphatically not talking about the degraded skill of packing a million Active Points into a deceptively low total of Real Points. I am talking instead about every point, every Framework, every Limitation, every last little Psychological Disadvantage fitting into the villain's mode of operation and interactions with others. It's even better when some of these features are contradictory or problematic for the villain.

The effect is to bring a character into play who simply terrifies and fascinates the players, who in turn start playing their heroes very differently toward this villain. They scatter in combat rather than face him, they feverishly investigate anything that seems to have him involved, and most importantly they try to earn his respect.

The analogy to demons in Sorcerer isn't quite perfect, because (like Paul Dini of Batman: the Animated Series) I think comics villains need to be painfully human no matter how whacked-out, and human is the one thing that demons are not. But what does match is that demons are better elements in play not because they have high Lore and a laundry list of "powers," but when their parts interconnect in ways that explode during play.

Demon components
Type (and secondary Type if you're using the Sword rules)
Desire + Need (understanding the difference is crucial)
Scores
Abilities (most especially the synergistic ones; think "Link" if you know the Champions rules)
Appearance and customization of all of the above
Entire history: original Summoning? Binding? Current Binding and strength thereof? Current agenda? Potential better plans, if offered?
Current potential crisis: need a host? need a master? need its Need?

I never fear a combat-monster demon in Sorcerer. They're just piles of goop and highly vulnerable to coordinated sorcery. What I fear is an demon who combines Taint, Perception, and Special Damage into a single exchange, played smart - e.g. setting up combats in its own time and on its own terms, rolling Lore to earn bonuses against demons (who said a demon can't do this? not me). And "smart" for what? Why, for whatever confluence or contradiction is embodied at the moment in its Desire, its Need, and its relationship with its master.

Even if its Power is only 4 or 5, this demon can rip up nearly anyone; give it Armor or some degree of Protection, and it can go toe-to-toe with a badly-constructed and mindlessly-played demon twice its size.

Perception, Travel, Hint, Hold, Daze, Confuse, and Shadow ... customize each and every one of them to this demon's particular spin on Desire and Need, and then your Armor, Protection, and Special Damage actually mean something besides X-dice-attack, Y-dice-defense, over and over.

Brian, I suggest that you might have set yourself and the rest of the group up for some dissatisfaction by choosing to set Ripper's Will so high; I suggest that you might have done better to set it from Lore (i.e. X + 1). Did you decide to set the Will so high as "Banish defense," or to keep player-character sorcerers from ordering the demon around? In which case I further suggest that this sort of protective thinking be abandoned - this is Sorcerer, and there's no reason why a player-character can't take over the most powerful demon in the game.

I may be off-base with these comments, but I do know that such behavior is very common among first-time or near-first-time Sorcerer GMs who are coming from long role-playing histories. They are used to thinking of their bad-ass NPCs as their "hands" in the game, much as the players are often used to thinking of their player-characters as their "hands." Keeping others' hands off one's hands is a big deal from this perspective, but it's a poisonous perspective to bring to Sorcerer and the demons in play.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2004, 06:14:12 AM »

Hello,

Ben, you wrote,

Quote
I think my main hangup with really really powerful demons (power 10+) is how they can (in one roll of the dice) totally blow a game out of the water. It can get into TPK territory pretty fast... the Demon house from the 'Training Run' is hellish powerful- its Special Damage can pretty much kill any character in one round.


I really don't know what you mean by "blow a game out of the water." If you mean "make it impossible for the GM to know what's next," then so what? That's the best way to play.

Here's my question for you, though: why would Yzor in the Training Run want to kill a player-character? That smacks to me of junior-high thinking: who can "beat" whom. The point in that run is not Yzor, but Yvonne - she has currently won Yzor's shaky favor by bringing it a horde of demons to eat. But she hasn't Bound Yzor. So what you're looking it is a golden opportunity, from the demon's POV, to choose a new master.

Look at Yzor's Desire! It's for Power. It is absolutely moronic for Yzor simply to start swinging wildly and attacking the player-characters. Never mind the whole combat orientation of "ack, Spawn attacks, kill it kill it, whatever made it must want to kill me!" Gamer-think. Remember, if a Spawn dies, it's no skin off the parent-demon's nose.

Quote
Does it come down just playing the Demons in such a way that it doesn't come down to this kind of direct insta-death confrontation unless the PC's go looking for it?


No. Never protect the player-characters in Sorcerer. Ever.

Instead, simply play the demons according to all the components that make them up. Consider my points about Yzor above, and what the thing wants - recall that its master is dead and that it knows it will not be able to feed its Need without one. Consider that all demons have a Desire and a Need, and a current status relative to Binding.

Side note about the book: Do I lay this stuff out in the text? No. Absolutely not. I loathe gamer-think, and would prefer that people who don't get the "it" of Sorcerer simply thrash around and die screaming in dissatisfaction, wondering why this game doesn't "do anything." Only here, in this forum or by email, am I nice to people about how to play Sorcerer, because they demonstrate the curiosity and creativity to ask rather than to flail around in the misconception that they are "experienced gamers."

Gahh ... starting to rant.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Bailywolf
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2004, 06:49:15 AM »

When I've GM'd the 'Training Run' game, it never came down to combat with Yzor... but I dreaded it.  If one of the players (well, if THE player in the one-on-one game I ran to test the "power only" idea) had decided to try and actually kill the demon house...  well, I was dreading the gnarly beatdown that would amount to (special damage with that many dice is... man... pretty nasty).  

'Protecting the PC's' is one of those things I do habitually on the sly... and I suppse I should abandon it for Sorcerer, but old habbits die hard.  I've never liked killed player characters.

Ah well- in Sorcerer I suppose what you do is hand that choice entirely to the players most of the time.  Want to go for the big power?  Well, would you risk your life?  

Hmmm....

Thanks Ron.

-Ben
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2004, 07:00:08 AM »

Yup.

I have also protected player-characters in Sorcerer out of habit. It has always always always turned out to be a very negative play-experience. When I stopped, everything about the game got better.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Bill Cook
Member

Posts: 501


« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2004, 01:46:24 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Brian, I suggest that you might have set yourself and the rest of the group up for some dissatisfaction by choosing to set Ripper's Will so high; I suggest that you might have done better to set it from Lore (i.e. X + 1). Did you decide to set the Will so high as "Banish defense," or to keep player-character sorcerers from ordering the demon around? In which case I further suggest that this sort of protective thinking be abandoned - this is Sorcerer, and there's no reason why a player-character can't take over the most powerful demon in the game.

I may be off-base with these comments, but I do know that such behavior is very common among first-time or near-first-time Sorcerer GMs who are coming from long role-playing histories. They are used to thinking of their bad-ass NPCs as their "hands" in the game, much as the players are often used to thinking of their player-characters as their "hands." Keeping others' hands off one's hands is a big deal from this perspective, but it's a poisonous perspective to bring to Sorcerer and the demons in play.


Mainly to have something powerful running around to inspire fear, create intensity. They tried to banish it three times, but it was only in that moment that it occured to me that its high Will raised the difficulty for that ritual. I eventually subdued the thing by having one sorcerer (NPC) absorb attacks while another (NPC) Boosted her Will and Punished until it was weak as a puppy.

About the hands thing, not sure what you mean. I think after my second actual play post, I bought your argument about commited choices for NPC's, and ran the characters accordingly.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Desire + Need (understanding the difference is crucial)
Scores
Abilities (most especially the synergistic ones; think "Link" if you know the Champions rules)
Appearance and customization of all of the above
Entire history: original Summoning? Binding? Current Binding and strength thereof? Current agenda? Potential better plans, if offered?
Current potential crisis: need a host? need a master? need its Need?

I never fear a combat-monster demon in Sorcerer. They're just piles of goop and highly vulnerable to coordinated sorcery. What I fear is an demon who combines Taint, Perception, and Special Damage into a single exchange, played smart - e.g. setting up combats in its own time and on its own terms, rolling Lore to earn bonuses against demons (who said a demon can't do this? not me). And "smart" for what? Why, for whatever confluence or contradiction is embodied at the moment in its Desire, its Need, and its relationship with its master.


No one in my group (including me) got this (and I still don't): what is the difference between Desire and Need? And our focus on confluence/contradiction was less than clear. I perceive the shift in approach. I feel unsure about how to proceed.

I wish there had been a line in the text that simply commands the GM to direct chargen towards division.

This subject reminds me of one of my players. He'd never played a role-playing game before. His character was a five-year old girl. Her demon had Travel and Transport. That's it. She summoned it with the desperate premonition of her parents' murder. It liked to collect precious things to decorate its room in a pocket dimension, and such a precocious child seemed quite precious, so it whisked her away (binding) just before her house exploded. Her plotting aunt had commited arson to inherent her brother's fortune.

Another weird thing about this character: Logan gave her a Stamina of 1, and her highest score was Lore (can't remember the number), which everyone scoffed as a non-functional choice, and yet, made subtle assent to her mystery. As I recall, she (Mellisa, the sorcerer) was the one who Banished Winston (the pyro that had caused so much trouble) by doing the Lore bonus dice thing.

This sorcerer's exploits and control of that silly, little Power 2 demon drove so much play. Everyone wanted her. Everyone wanted it. When Allison (the demon) died in the final combat scene, we all spontaneously observed a moment of silence.
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2004, 03:29:48 PM »

Hi Bill,

That is an amazing story about the Lore 2 demon. I really like that.

As for the "hands" issue, it might not apply to you, so no need to get into that in detail here - it's a big deal for a lot of folks, though, so maybe later.

Let me clarify Desire and Need. I've done this a number of times, but it's always worth it.

A demon's Desire is not associated with any specific thing, place, or action. Instead, it tries to bring about its Desire with whatever it encounters. Whether it does the Desire itself, influences others to do it, or simply wants to be around that particular Desire in action, is up to the demon at the moment - any of these are fine.

It does not crave its Desire in a drug-sense. It likes its Desire and thinks the whole world ought to tend that way, and might need a little help to get there. If the demon is a conversational type, then it will always bring a dialogue around to its Desire somehow.

The demon's Binder is not responsible for satisfying its Desire and Binding strength is not affected by how much the demon is getting its Desire stroked. Doing things in accord with the Desire might give a bonus die to interactions, but again, that's not a matter of Binding strength. Failing to satisfy a Desire does not incur penalties to interaction or ritual rolls, nor will it lead a demon down the path of rebellion. A demon will not lose Power by missing out on its Desire as it will with its Need.

A Need, by contrast, is for a specific thing or an action. There is no ambiguity, ever, about whether the demon received its Need and when the last time was. The demon may like its Need, hate it, or regard it as a physiological necessity. What matters is that it's literally addicted to it.

Binding by definition makes the Binder responsible for providing the demon with its Need. Both participants understand this in full, for any and every instance of Binding, even if the sorcerer is Naive. Failure to receive its Need makes the demon lose Power, just as a Parasite or Possessor loses Power when outside a host. Under-supplying or frequently-supplying the Need does affect Binding strength and the demon's tendency to rebel or not to rebel.

Desire is ideology, personality, taste, and preference. Need is addiction, payment, and power.

Best,
Ron
Logged
DannyK
Guest
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2004, 10:46:33 AM »

The demon in the book, Catch, seems to have a Need to eat people, but a Desire for mayhem, to kill and terrorize.  So in the book, the demonkeeper Travis reluctantly allows Catch to eat people, usually "bad" people if possible.  However, what Catch would really like to do is run amok.  

Ron, you mentioned that Desires can give a bonus to interaction rolls.  Does that mean that Travis (if the book were a game) would get a bonus in dealing with Catch if he fulfilled Catch's desire more often?   What if another sorcerer wanted to lure Catch away from Travis?  Would that sorcerer get bonus dice for promising to let Catch have more fun?
Logged
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #13 on: August 12, 2004, 11:25:07 AM »

Quote
The demon's Binder is not responsible for satisfying its Desire and Binding strength is not affected by how much the demon is getting its Desire stroked. Doing things in accord with the Desire might give a bonus die to interactions, but again, that's not a matter of Binding strength. Failing to satisfy a Desire does not incur penalties to interaction or ritual rolls, nor will it lead a demon down the path of rebellion. A demon will not lose Power by missing out on its Desire as it will with its Need.


But, a demon may certainly get bitchy and less inclined to be proactively useful if its master is actively thwarting its pursuit of its Desire.  And the demon's independent seeking to fulfill its own desires may frequently cause lots of collateral problems for the master to have to deal with.  


Having a Big-Ass killer demon with a Desire for mayhem and destruction and then ordering it to go kill someone is just begging for it

...and if somehow a device with your fingerprints and your missing wallet were to be discovered by the Fire Department at ground zero of your demons rampage
...and this lead the police to drag you in for questioning
...then maybe you should have spent a little more time keeping your demon happy, no?
...and if you have to summon a second demon to get yourself out of the jam the first one got you in?
...well then, now you're playing Sorcerer.
Logged

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2004, 12:57:06 PM »

Hiya,

Danny and Ralph, all of that is correct. A demon whose master contributes toward it being able to enjoy (perform, witness, influence, etc) its Desire will be a happier demon. Such happiness will certainly influence any number of rolls in any number of ways.

However, what I'm trying to make as clear as possible is that neither of the following is directly affected by the demon's master's actions toward its Desire:

a) Binding strength

b) formally proceeding down the path of rebellion

... whereas both of these things are directly affected by the master failing to provide the demon with its Need, or by going to great pains to provide it with its Need.

Can I get a confirm from someone, anyone, that this point is now clear?

Best,
Ron
Logged
Pages: [1] 2
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!