So faithful readers, I return at last to my Demon: the Descent chronicle, the Unusual Suspects. My players and I searched a long time for a viable time to play since my schedule constrained by the work of raising two children. Thankfully we were able to schedule a few games this summer thanks to helpful in-laws.
Basically my wife and I can’t really play before the kids are asleep at 8PM. But my players are on the East Coast. An 11PM game is a nonstarter.
The game will continue however since the players remain enthusiastic and I have many more story ideas. We will be moving to a play by post format, the specifics of which I still need to work out.
The Lacuna Job, Part III: Double or Nothing
To start off, I had my players remind us what was going on last session. They would mention a plot or subplot element and I would elaborate. Each of the players who did so learned a Beat (though not Hunter who was late).
The technique worked really well and I intend to use this in the future.
Next up we covered Ciphers. Everyone (except Accabish) had an opportunity to get one step closer to learning a key. Accabish already knew her last key.
Everyone succeeded and Daemon also learned his last key.
Both Daemon and Accabish purchased their final keys, raised their Primum one last time, and learned their kaons.
Accabish learns Strength Through Adversity and gains the following final interlock:
Preemptive Strike: the demon retroactively inflicts a weakness upon the target. The storyteller will decide an appropriate Tilt which the demon instinctively knows about. Perhaps the target fell down the stairs that morning injuring their leg, or ate a bad burrito leaving them sickened. They suffer a negative Tilt during the scene (see p. 334 in Demon: the Descent for examples).
Dice Pool: Manipulation + Brawl – Stamina
Dramatic Failure: The power recoils upon the demon who suffers the effects above.
Exceptional Success: The demon can choose the Tilt to inflict and the target suffers a -2 penalty to actions above and beyond that (subject to a maximum -5 net penalty).
Her koan is “the spider strikes swiftly but only once its prey lies entangled in its web.”
Daemon meanwhile purchases Fractal Reality and gains:
More than the Sum of Its Parts: The demon optimizes the workflow within a group, significantly boosting their speed and capability. For extended teamwork actions the time between rolls is reduced by half. Instant teamwork actions add the demon’s Primum to the main actor’s roll.
Dice Pool: Presence + Socialize
Dramatic Failure: The team ends up getting in each other’s way. The main actor gains no bonus dice from the team.
Exceptional Success: The experience reinvigorates the participants and they regain a Willpower point.
His koan is ”the key to freedom lies without.”
I’ve decided to treat the kaon as a permanent Aspiration and award a Beat a session for anyone who pursues theirs. I have further ideas but I’ll save them for now.
Then Accabish raised her Manipulation to 5! She also raises her cover to 8.
Lastly we updated Aspirations.
Daemon has resolved to investigate Bainbridge (and also resolve his Spooked Condition) and learn the connection between the Dream Machine and Verdant Technology. He is still working to learn who was watching the sewers with webcams.
Weaver’s aspirations include helping Melanie, a little girl with an abusive father; find out who is investigating her; and analyzing the strange powder Dr. Ilyes brought to her.
Accabish intends to blow up Infinity, discover who is Lilith, and pop the daughter bubble.
Hunter still has the aspirations to defeat 3+ opponents in a scene, kill an angel, and get David (his cover) promoted.
Lastly Nat still has the goals acquire a bolt hole, make a deal for someone’s “striking looks”, and gain Primum 4.
We pick up with the demons discussing their next steps.
With the matter of their deal with the Black Pyramid settled, the ring discuss which of the doppelgangers they will attempt to exterminate first.
“Joseph is becoming a liability,” Hunter says.
“Becoming?” Daemon asks.
“We need to be sure this won’t damage our covers,” Nat says. “As far as I can tell ’killing’ them and using the scepter has at least a 61.2% chance of working. That’s not good enough.”
Nat rolls Intelligence + Occult to gauge the odds of this working.
The demons decide Joseph is the least valuable cover to preserve. Daemon begins tracking his purchases. Accabish offers to handle the footwork if Hunter investigates the doppelganger trailing her.
Talk turns to how they will handle isolating “Joseph”. Daemon suggests using his cats.
“What are your cats like, Hunter?” Accabish asks.
Joseph describes Mr. Whiskers, a tabby with a torn ear, and Stalking Death, a fluffy white Persian. Unfortunately both cats went missing when Hunter retired ‘Joseph’. The ring considers making flyers advertising the “found” cats.
I awarded a Cover Beat after the session for this amusing detail for the Joseph cover.
“We could then direct him to meet us at a motel,” Accabish adds.
“He wouldn’t be that dumb,” Daemon says. “Would he?”
Hunter remains silent.
Daemon’s search turns up a transaction just after noon the next day. Joseph just bought some beers, coincidentally at the bar Dorian works at.
Dorian, a.k.a. the Naturalist, checks into work early. The demon finds a tired looking Joseph talking to an increasingly shocked and drunk Bob Jensen.
Hunter makes the Cover roll (Wits + Manipulation) at -2. His cover doesn’t degrade or raise red flags.
Listening in after dropping off another round, Nat hears the doppelganger explain how he has no one to turn to.
“Don’t you have family?” Bob asks. “Friends?”
“I have one friend,” the man says before staggering to his feet. “Yes, I’ll see him.”
The Naturalist texts the ring and a few blocks away Jane McCall, a reporter for the Slog, begins tailing him.
The temptor however slides up to Bob and asks him what is going on. Bob soon tells him the story: how his friend “died”, came back and seems sure someone is stealing his life. The Naturalist also learns about Joseph’s other oddities: super strength and the encounter with the bathroom alligator.
Nat tells him to pick better friends.
Weaver meanwhile spends the day working and researching. In the morning the demon spends an hour in its bolthole analyzing the strange dust that Dr. Ilyes brought her.
Tiny filaments emerge through its Cover’s hands, sampling and categorizing the grains of dust. Strangely the demon detects no chemicals whatsoever. Instead, it experiences foreign memories.
We skip the Compromise roll for the partial transformation. Weaver rolls Intelligence + Science to analyze the dust.
A house flashes in its mind, gray and decaying. A faint warmth touches its wooden heart. Home.
Then it recalls a handsome man it has never met. The man smiles, standing confidently in an old fashioned brown suit. Trust but also fear.
Finally a white hot fragment of God-Machine core code races across the demon’s mind. A cipher or perhaps a key.
The Weaver earns a Beat for its Aspiration.
Weaver considers digging deeper but the timer goes off on Jean’s phone. Time for work.
On Jean’s lunch hour, Weaver calls Daemon.
“I need help identifying someone who has been asking questions about me.”
“Where and when?”
It tells him about the library and when Kelly told Jean about the visitor.
“Do you have a description?”
“Tall and thin. Average.” The Weaver considers the conversation.
“That’s not much.”
“A snarky T-shirt. A professional investigator.”
“That’s helpful,” Daemon says to the last item.
He scans through the library security footage until he finds the three targets that match the time window and descriptions. A college student, a man in his late 20s and an older balding man.
Daemon hacks library cameras and rolls Wits + Computers to narrow the field.
As an aside, Nat’s player is a librarian and can confirm the quality of library surveillance. They are surprisingly well covered.
He cross references them with the city database and finds a hit.
Robert Mill, 33, employee of One of a Kind Investigations for the past 7 years. He emails his findings to Weaver.
Do you want me to look deeper, he asks in the message.
The other demon replies yes.
The Weaver also earns a Beat for making progress on another Aspiration.
Elsewhere, Jane reports back to Accabish’s cover Priscilla. “He’s entered a shop named Magambo’s. Looks shady. There’s a wrinkle though. I think he made me before he went inside.”
I gave the doppelganger a Wits + Composure roll to detect the tail. He has a -2 penalty due to drunkenness and having not slept recently. He succeeds.
The demon directs her to leave and tells her to find some cats for her. She forwards descriptions of Mr. Whiskers and Stalking Death.
Accabish considers the situation as she researches Magambo’s. Why did he go there? She finds the owner’s first name is Yves. Yves Magambo is Joseph’s friend from before Hunter fell. But Yves also wants Joseph dead and is unafraid of putting himself in harm’s way.
Yves is an angel, she concludes.
Accabish uses her logical leap from her Agenda condition.
Accabish settles into her car from a block away. The alleyway lines up well to give her a direct look at the shop’s exit. From this far, no one can see her.
She gets an Exceptional Success on her Wits + Stealth roll. I forgot to award a condition at the time. I’ll give her Steadfast next session.
After a half hour, Yves exits with Joseph. Flanked by a pair of bodyguards, the angel waves goodbye. Accabish trails Joseph in her car. Her hair glows softly as she sense his aura for angelic interference. He is clean for now.
Again I skip the Compromise roll for a partial transformation.
She calls Timothy, a stringer for the Slog, and directs him to follow Joseph until he crashes for the night.
I do another perception roll for the doppelganger and he fails this time.
An hour later Jane texts her some pictures of the cats she found. Accabish confirms with Hunter that they match well enough.
Around 5 that afternoon, Timothy tells her that Joseph is staying at a fleabag motel. He guzzling some red bulls. But he isn’t alone. A man in a dark car is watching the motel room from the parking lot.
Across the city Hunter sits in his patrol car, sipping some lukewarm coffee.
He studies the house on the other side of the street. The for sale sign looks a little worn and the grass a bit rough. Otherwise nothing seems out of the ordinary.
Then he spots her.
The teenage girl matches the photo almost exactly. Who is this doppelganger to Accabish? What would a demon be doing with a 16 year old?
The dark haired woman paces in front of the house, occasionally glancing at the house and biting her lip. After fifteen minutes she looks back one last time and starts walking away.
Hunter tails her to the local high school, another location on the list Accabish provided. He drives slow and she fails to notice him.
As she resumes her anxious loitering and fidgeting, Hunter blinks.
He also makes a Wits + Resolve roll and succeeds.
A figure in rags stands in the street. Somehow Hunter can’t remember how the emaciated man got there.
Slowly the chalk white creature turns, revealing a rotten visage and black soulless orbs. Hunter shifts gears and begins rolling away slowly.
He turns around to spot four faceless men blocking his path.
He rolls Wits + Composure so I offer him the choice of watching the memnovore or the road.
Events spin out of control. The dark suited things move toward the patrol car as Hunter shifts to reverse. A shotgun blast stops him in his tracks as a woman, a woman resembling an older version of the kid he was tailing, blows chunks out of the memnovore.
He pulls out his phone and hurried texts the ring.
Memnovore found while staking out. Avoiding
Autocorrect changes Memnovore to Mennonite.
Accabish texts: good job
Meanwhile the featureless men begin banging on the car. The side window cracks but holds.
Hunter pulls away quickly, retreating with the car back into the school’s parking lot. He quickly calls for backup. “Shot fired at Shorecrest High School. Officer under assault, requesting backup.”
As a crowd grows at the entrance to the building, he warns them to stay clear. ”Remaining inside and lock any doors until further notice.”
The woman breaks away from the memnovor and races to the school. She drops her sawed off shotgun, her long dark trailing behind her. As she reaches the mass of students and teachers, she vanishes.
Lost in the Crowd Embed.
Sirens begin to close in. The faceless men and the teenage target move out of direct sight of the crowd before winking out. By the time the cops arrive both them and the memnovore are nowhere to be seen.
Accabish earns a beat for the daughter bubble popping.
The memnovore managed to beat Hunter’s Wits + Composure roll. It now knows about him.
Hunter helps sweep the area and answer questions about the attackers for the next hour. “They were wearing nylon masks.”
Security cameras are not an issue here. My wife, a teacher, assures me they are typically very crappy and mostly fake at high schools.
With no sign of the mysterious woman, either version, he heads back to the city and arranges to meet the rest of the ring that evening.
Daemon spends the rest of his afternoon alternating between level grinding a new character on WoW and researching Robert Mill.
Accessing hidden reserves of knowledge, the demon learns that Mill originally applied for the position of an IT specialist. He acquired his detective licence in 2006. There was a suspicious arrest in 2011. He turned himself in after discharging his gun in a threatening manner outside a nightclub. But someone squashed the charges.
Using Download Knowledge, Daemon gets 4 successes on his Wits + Investigate roll.
Stranger facts surround his coworkers. The company hired an ex-Seal sniper named Vittorio Vitacelli after the firm’s founder, Frank Brooks, went missing for three weeks. Frank is back on the payroll but he spent a few years at Hillcrest Mental Health Facility to deal with his odd memory loss. Shortly after his release, he reported shooting and intruder. No body was found.
The whole mess screams hunters to Daemon. He tells the Weaver.
The Weaver thinks over how they decided to come after it.
Cory. He knew something was up and he only backed off around the time her cover suffered a minor compromise. He found something and then he found enough money to hire these investigators.
Weaver makes her own logical leap using her Inquisitor Condition.
The ring meets up in the early evening. After ribbing Hunter about how his phone autocorrected memnovore, Daemon asks, “is Mennonites going to be our code word for them?”
“I think it already is,” the Naturalist replies.
Accabish explains that the woman, at least the teenager, is a doppelganger of her daughter, Mercedes or “Mercy”, her natural born daughter as an angel. “But I don’t know about this older woman. I thought my daughter died, that I completed my mission.”
The rest of the ring suggests she might be an alternate dimension version of her daughter. Perhaps even from the same world as the Black Pyramid.
Shelving that thought for a moment, the ring decides to strike at Joseph no while he is isolated.
The demons enact a plan after a long debate. I might want to get an NPC voice into the team just to cut down on that in the future.
Daemon pulls his car alongside the one watching Joseph’s motel room. As he lowers the window, the man inside barks, “Who are you?”
Daemon fails his roll to activate the Joiner Interlock.
“Who are you?” the demon asks.
Under his steady gaze, the man o9pens and closes his mouth. The man’s face darkens before finally he drives off.
Daemon rolls Manipulation + Intimidation to drive the observer off for a bit.
Daemon exits, pausing a moment to download files on dimensional sciences from the God-Machine’s secret stores. Now a master occultist, he joins Hunter and the others as they pick Joseph’s door.
Daemon gets an exceptional success on download knowledge and picks an Occult speciality in Alternate Dimensions.
Hunter pops the lock quietly and the four demons burst in before the doppelganger can prepare.
Hunter rolls Dexterity + Larceny vs Joseph’s Wits + Composure at a -3 penalty (due to lack of sleep).
Initiative is rolled: Accabish (activating the Strike First embed), the Naturalist, Hunter, Daemon and Joseph.
As Joseph lurches to his feet, he stiffens with pain clutching his leg. Across the room, Accabish loosens her grip on the weave of fate and gets inside.
She uses her new Interlock, Preemptive Strike, to inflict a condition: Leg Wrack (-2 penalty to actions and Defense). On top of his existing -2 penalty from exhaustion, this fight will be over quickly.
The Naturalist gets out of the way as Hunter tackles joseph to the ground. As he pins him down, Daemon wrenches a hole in reality. As a vortex appears connecting the motel room to Weaver’s bolthole, his facade shudders but holds.
Hunter grapples Joseph, succeeding on a roll of Strength + Brawl – 3 (Joseph’s diminished Defense). Then he beats his double in an opposed Strength + Brawl roll (though Joseph has a -4 penalty). He chooses to immobilize him.
The Naturalist waits.
Daemon opens a gateway via his Rip the Gates exploit. He makes hit Wits + Manipulation roll even at a -2 penalty due to his facade.
Hunter hurls Joseph through the portal. While the others rush through the gate, Accabish gathers Joseph’s meager conditions. She dives through just before the dimensional rip seals.
Hunter gain wins the Strength + Brawl roll and forces his double through the gate to Weaver’s bolthole.
On the other side Accabish finds Joseph already subdued and duct taped by the rest of the ring. She takes her place nearby the Naturalist, scanning his surface thoughts with her demonic powers.
I skip the rolls for taking out Joseph. They have a 5 to 1 advantage and he has plenty of penalties.
Likewise I skip the partial demonic transformation for Accabish and the Naturalist. They have plenty of dice and little chance of exposure.
The Naturalist studies the doppelganger, digging into his memories. Slowly he pieces together “Joseph’s” story.
The doppelganger told Yves about which local Agencies Hunter works, with their methods of communication, and work he agreed to do. Basically everything Hunter did using his cover as Joseph. Luckily for the ring, Joseph’s direct involvement has been limited and he failed to mention them. He did however mention Ping who also bore a grudge against Hunter. Before they captured him, Joseph managed to tell Ping about Yves and arrange a meeting.
Accabish asks him about the cans of Red Bull and his fear of sleep. Joseph claims he will wink out if he loses consciousness. He thinks this happened when he was shot.
The demon test his theory by pummeling him into unconsciousness. He doesn’t vanish.
I originally was going to use this theory, lifted from the source in Antagonists. But then I realized that I had “Jenny” sleeping earlier. So I had “Joseph”’s theory be incorrect.
Hunter slits his throat and his body crumbles away. Daemon using the rod locates his remaining essence floating nearby. Accabish targets it with the scepter and it evaporates.
Later that night, the ring slips into Jenny’s new home and repeat the extermination.
The next day, Accabish turns over the scepter to agents of the Black Pyramid. They deliver the payment: three leather purses and two leather satchels each linked to the same interdimensional space. The black reptilian skin matches well to the gold latches and inked hieroglyphs. They also receive a doorway that once placed against a surface will sink into it to create a form of bolthole.
Now they just need to wait until they are ready to strike at Infinity.
Experience time! Everyone earns 3 Beats base plus 1 Cover Beat. Once we add in Aspirations and Beats for remembering the previous session the total are 6 Beats/1 Cover Beat for Accabish (3 base + 1 Aspiration + 1 for acting on her koan +1 for the recap); 4 Beats/1 Cover Beat for Daemon (3 Base + 1 for the recap); 3 Beats/2 Cover Beats. for Hunter (+1 Cover Beat for his cat details); 5 Beats/1 Cover Beat for the Naturalist (3 base + 1 Aspiration + 1 for the recap); 6 Beats/1 Cover Beat for Weaver (3 base + 2 Aspirations + 1 for the recap).
That is it for now. We have one more live session then we move on to Play by Post.