Thursday, 28 August 2014

Demon the Fallen: Preacher Man, 05

I think you should eat him

This is a scenario dreamed up by Arthur, there are no spoilers here, so listen away as you please. As always, be aware that the podcast is not really family-friendly, if that sort of thing bothers you. Thankfully, this one is largely free of background noise, though there is some eating.

Episode 5

The Episode

As often happens in supernatural games (see also: On Silent Wings) we ended up kind of murdering a mortal because we couldn't really think what else to do with the guy. This is a genre problem really: in settings where supernatural stuff is both powerful and secret, you can very easily end up with people who are too dangerous to leave roaming free due to their knowledge or abilities, and yet with no effective way to stop them other than murder. I don't have a solution, but it does often leave a bit of a niggle. I think this is why so many fantasy books feature magic police or ability-neutering options, just to give the good guys another option, even though it often feels a bit unsatisfying when they turn up at the last minute despite not having been relevant throughout the book.

Mechanicsy bit

For what it's worth, based on the information I have (limited), I think I disagree with Arthur on the intersection of Dan's powers and the NPC goon's healing. It didn't seem very important at the time (as we see, it doesn't help the NPC much) and I didn't feel like having an argument, but let's take a look at it now for interest's sake.

"Each success inflicts one health level of aggravated damage (lethal damage to a mortal)." - power description

"Aggravated damage represents supernatural sources of injury which do not heal normally, or other injuries which require some special effort to heal. For humans, this is often an academic distinction: to them, Aggravated damage is just Lethal damage from a supernatural source." - Agg damage description.

As far as I can tell, mortals in Old WOD do not have an Aggravated damage tier. The natural reading of this power for me is that the decay power inflicts lesser (Lethal) damage to mortals only because they do not have an Aggravated damage tier, rather than because it's innately less harmful to humans than to demons. Thus, if they gain an Agg tier, I would expect the human to take Agg damage, since the power's effects seem to fit the description of Agg damage perfectly. What I don't know is the nature of the NPC's healing/soaking power, and how that would intersect with Lethal and Agg damage, especially in terms of whether the owner is expected to have an Agg tier. I'm guessing this was some variant of the pregen thrall Leo Daschell:

"By spending a point of Willpower, he can soak lethal damage with his Stamina for a number of turns equal to his Stamina rating. Once per scene, he can spend a turn concentrating, then spend a point of Willpower in order to heal one level of lethal or bashing damage."

Which is borrowed from the generic Demon abilities:

"When in their apocalyptic forms, demons can use their Stamina to soak lethal damage... Demon characters may use Faith to heal bashing or lethal damage. You can spend one Faith point to heal allof your character’s bashing damage, while lethal damage is healed at the rate of one health level per point spent. Separate Faith points must be used to recover from bashing and lethal damage. Aggravated damage cannot be healed in this fashion."

I note that this ability explicitly applies to the mid-tier damage level for demons, and that the broader rules for healing damage with Faith rule out any healing of Agg damage. As such, I'm inclined to say that the healing ability ought to let him heal effects that would normally deal lethal damage, but not those that would deal Aggravated damage to a demon. But you can certainly make the argument the other way around, especially since Leo does not gain an Agg tier.

This is the kind of thing that always crops up in play, and is very hard to anticipate, but it's always nice when designers have dealt with it.

The End

We've had a nice sweep through sub-parts of the game, with a bit of pacting, some fluffy roleplaying, some investigating and a reasonable amount of using cool powers, so we bring things to a close fairly naturally with a bit of B&E and a fight to the death.

I was a little bit disappointed that the fight was over so quickly, to be honest. On the one hand, it does make combat pleasingly brutal (and my character was, without particular planning, pretty much sick good in combat). On the other hand, it did mean not much chance to actually explore how combat works. Ah well.

As is usually the case, clawing people in the face turned out to be a better option than trying to do anything more complicated. I'd quite like to sometime encounter a game where pulling tricks was genuinely worth doing, without also being insta-winnilly OP. It's probably quite hard to write mechanics like that, though.

Copyright and suchlike

Demon: The Fallen is copyright and/or trademark White Wolf Publishing, who I think now belong to some other corporation but I can't be bothered to check right now; Arthur will be cross with me already for my vagueness. The podcast theme music is Vltava from Smetana's Má Vlast as taken from Wikimedia Commons under the CC0 licence. The episode intro and outro are, respectively, an extract from Black Vortex and all of The Descent, both by Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.

The hilariously portentous opening passage is read directly from the blurb from Demon: the Fallen, and any mockery should be directed to White Wolf.


  1. That was pretty much my reasoning re: damage.

    I think part of the problem is that Aggravated Damage has two distinct functions: firstly, it can't ordinarily be soaked by supernatural beings and, secondly, it is the only form of damage that can permanently kill supernatural beings (this was a comparatively new distinction in the days of Demon the Fallen, it used to just be Damage and Aggravated Damage).

    To be fair to Arthur, WW powers are legendarily poorly described and Arthur's ruling was strictly RAW here - it's just that this led to the specific power being less effective against mortals than demons, which is clearly silly for a power that is all about ... well ... mortality.

    1. The split function is a good point. That causes extra complication that could maybe have been addressed better in some other way (although admittedly, I don't know what).

      I should maybe note, I wrote most of that section a long time ago, shortly after the actual game, because I got to wondering about it. The exact combination of things going on here is really pretty niche*, and I'm not sure I've have expected a definitive answer even in a high-quality product. Having now bought and reviewed the actual product poor Arthur was working from, he has all my sympathy!

      In fairness, again, there was basically no actual problem here, because all that happened was instead of instakilling the guy, you got to do the interrogation scene and then use the same power again to kill him.

      *Demon uses gift to bestow an ability to thrall, instead of boosting stats: rare. The specific gift chosen grants the mortal a kind of property normally only available to supernatural beings: very rare. The mortal is attacked with a power that lists separate damage types for mortals and supernatural beings on the reasonable assumption that these have their normal traits: moderately rare. Combination: really pretty damn unlikely.

    2. Ate my comment again.

      I don't think it's as uncommon as it seems actually, since supernaturally enhanced mortals seem to be a default antagonist, and "can soak lethal" is a common minor supernatural enhancement for mortals.

      And to be extra-fair to both Arthur and the book it is certainly possible that the intent of the power was to allow the character to soak both lethal and aggravated damage, but with the assumption that mortals don't take aggravated damage, and so only protection against lethal damage was required.

      This whole thing could have been prevented simply by allowing Mortals to track aggravated damage.