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Impressions of Demon: the Descent

I just finished running a Demon: the Descent campaign and I figured I would share my impressions. This isn’t quite an Actual Play or a review, if anything it’s somewhere in between.  I’m also going to take a glance at the God Machine Chronicle rules, as I never played with them before. Let’s not waste anymore time on introductions and get started.

God Machine rules: These are really good. While there are a few things that I didn’t end up using and am given to understand that the combat math is off now, it’s not something I dealt with as the game was combat light. In paticular, the revised Merit list and Beat system; in conjunction with dramatic failures is really solid. There’s no reason to not use these rules asides from some compatibility issues that you don’t want to bash out, and even then I’d pick and choose the rules.

Demon’s premise:  In short, Demon’s premise is that the God-Machine is the enemy and the PCs are Demons, fallen Angels who are now engaged in a Cold War called the Descent. At face value it’s equal measure Le Carre, the Matrix, and Ghost in the Shell with the ability to do games themed after so many other properties. It’s evocative, it’s flexible, it’s awesome.

Demon’s setting:  Like any other NWoD game the setting is agnostic for lack of a better term. It lays out how Demon society works in broad strokes and then has the city of Seattle written up.  The more freeform nature of Demon compared to say Vampire or Mage means that it’s easier to tailor each game to your needs. Also the vignettes of cities that aren’t Seattle are really good, they resulted in me doing write ups for a bunch of cities that were all different.

Demon’s mechanics (PCs): Making Demon PCs is fun, the character concepts are interesting and the mechanical options are pretty diverse.  The thing about Demons is that they have a lot of innate powers and while Aether is incredibly useful, it isn’t all that essential. So from a min/max point of view Suborned Infrastructure is a very powerful Merit and the fact that it’s capped in the book is for a reason. Also, Demons are incredibly powerful, the box in the book about Demons’ goals being very high and only stopped by the power of the God-Machine isn’t kidding. Demons need proper antagonists, mortals are assets to be used by things far more powerful. This is mainly from Embeds and Demonic Forms. With so much power available up front, it means that a ST has to be a bit more thoughtful in antagonists in a way that othe splats haven’t in my experience.

Demon’s mechanics (Other stuff): In a lot of ways, these are how you’ll shape the game to be more specific. Some games won’t care much about Ciphers, others won’t care much about Pacts etc. Nothing really stands out from here either way to be honest.

Stuff I disliked/didn’t make sense: The big one is that Demon’s Virtues and Vices sound good on paper and serve as a good way of conveying the alien nature of Demon. The problem is that neither my players or I could really figure out how these worked in practice. Following on that, there were a few other things, like how Pacts and taking parts of lives works out in play. These issues aren’t insurmountable but do require some improv from the ST.

Overall: I still really like Demon. It handles well for the most part and my main gripes can either be houseruled or require more familiarity with the system. While supplements will no doubt flesh out the game, I don’t feel like they’re really needed. All told,I highly recommend Demon.

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