Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Sessions 14&15 – Tuesday (Parts 6 & 7)

Things have been busy at work lately, and I have been working on setting up a new laptop (which still doesn’t quite work the way I want it, it is what I get for picking a non-noob friendly distro of linux), and also have recently been getting into Crusader Kings 2 again, which is a huge time-sink.

Anyway, these last two sessions (and we have another tonight), were pretty good. Since Caine and Venkata split up at the end of last session, I ran a one on one for both of them simultaneously (which is an advantage of the text form).

Caine talked with Jake for a bit and asks about the men that attacked Chris and ruined his farm. Jake replies that the two men, to atone for their failure, are spending time in “reflection chambers”. It’s a funny little bit where Jake is trying to dress it up as nicely as possible for Caine, and it WORKS, except it just makes Caine MAD about the conditions they are in.

Caine asks to meet them, and I decide that it is more interesting than not allowing it, so Jake takes him to them. The “reflection chambers” are guarded, and, when he goes inside to talk to the first one, named Simon, he sees that they are completely dark inside and that this man has not had food or been out of here since the attack on the farm. Caine tries to get some information out of them, and it mostly seems to go along with Jake’s official story of things getting out of hand. Simon though, mistakes Caine for a cult member, reveals that the prophet is female. Before now I had been careful to either avoid pronouns, preferring ‘The Prophet’ when possible, or using a singular they/their when not. He realizes his mistake when Caine presses further and clams up.

Caine weighs his options and decides he is probably not getting any more out of these guys, and, while he would like the punish them somehow, he doesn’t think he can get away with it, and these guys are already in a bad spot for what they did anyway.

Meanwhile, Venkata changes into his robe, and goes in to find his girlfriend, Vanessa. She’s made a mess of this area and is munching on some snacks, but it seems like the room is a large magic circle of some kind. Venkata is on guard because it seems like she is here willingly, but at the very least she is happy to see him.

Venkata begins to ask her some questions, but she first asks him if he knows who the prophet is. He admits he doesn’t, and she tells him that means there is stuff she can not tell him. That naturally pisses him off, but she clarifies that she actually MEANS incapable, not merely will not. Still she can tell him about IG’s plan.

Summoning demons damages reality, and, in order to create their new world, IG will need to poke enough holes in the fabric of existence. Once that happens, they will consume the existing world and use it to make their new one, bringing a select few along for the ride.

Vanessa also confesses her role in all this, she is a demon, possessing a human body. It takes Venkata a while to get it, partly because she keeps beating around the bush. The key thing is though, that she has been a demon for as long as Venkata knew her. She is the goddess Mut and was summoned into an unborn baby as a means of her resurrection (the literal meaning of Shin Megami Tensei is “True Goddess Reincarnation”, and the rebirth of a goddess is a common theme in the series as a result). She will be the medium by which the Prophet will remake the world.

Venkata is not taking all this too well, but she manages to somewhat redeem herself in his eyes by saying that while she can not defy the Prophet due to their contract, she would be willing to let him kill her if he really wants to put a stop to it. He elects not to, and asks if there is an alternative. She tells him that IG can not proceed with their plan while the lockdown remains in place, and if he can gain control of the demon summoning programs before then and stop more demons from coming through, the world will eventually recover from the holes in reality on its own.

We call it there for both players. The week after ends up being a mostly player driven session, as the two of them mostly catch each other up IC. It’s a good session from a roleplaying point of view, and they did a good job coming up with their own next objective when I admitted OOC I didn’t have a “next step” planned for them.

They debate for a while, and decide that Ryan might be their best ally against the cult. He seems to have the demon summoning program already, and has an investment in the status quo which they are worried O’Connor’s people won’t have. Caine feels a bit torn, as he likes O’Connor and is a lower caste member himself, is pretty sympathetic to their plight. In the end though, he decides to trust Venkata’s judgement, and so they make plans for their next step to get out of here.

That’s where we will pick up tonight, I might be too busy to get tonight’s session written up by the weekend, but I will try to get it done by monday.

Bowed out of Sunday Night Game

No real role-playing insights for this one. We had ended The Good Shepherds, and were thinking about starting a game of Mage. We had a prologue sessions which I think went fine, if not a bit railroady, but hadn’t really done anything else for it since. Which is why I haven’t written anything about it.

Practically, I am getting to be a bit too busy to keep blocking off my Sunday Nights for a game that rarely happens. Would totally play with this group again though if we work out our scheduling issues, though, so will try to keep in touch.

Currently just running Devil Survivor so that’s all the APs I can give you at the moment, if I add another game, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 13 – Tuesday (Part 5)

Our sessions of Devil Survivor on Wednesday nights have pretty consistently become a single scene or two short ones a week. It’s the nature of the beast when we are playing text and only have about 2 to 3 hours to dedicate to it. I don’t think there is really anything wrong with this, but if these last few recaps (including this one) have seemed short, that’d be why.

Anyway, last time Caine and Venkata agree to basically be kidnapped in order to get access to the Cult’s sanctum. They get searched for weapons, Caine is unarmed, and Venkata willingly gives up most of his, but tries to sneak a stun gun by them. I call for a roll, his cover vs the guards will, and he just barely passes it. I describe it as a close call where the guard came THIS close to finding it.

They leave their demons behind, and Matthew asks them about their needs. The players are curious if there is a magical disadvantage to telling him this, and I tell them there isn’t (in fact, if anything it actually strengthens the binding), but it does mean that they’ll know what the demons want and could try to bribe them. They reply in vague terms and leave the demons behind

They get bags put over their head, since this game takes place inside a large building AND the elevators are out, the mode of transportation was being slung over these large men’s shoulders.

They are brought down to this area without much incident and are greeted by a man I tell Caine that he knows. His name is Jake (would have to check the logs for his last name), and he ran a greenhouse down the hall from Caine. Now, my original plan was to have this guy be someone Venkata knows, as the cult is the faction I tied most of his stuff to. I changed my mind at the last minute, because of how we’ve been lingering on Venkata stuff for a while, and I wanted to try to get Caine more involved.

Anyway, this Jake guy is NOT the Prophet either, who he says is “conserving their strength”, but says he is able to negotiate on the Prophet’s behalf. He apologizes for Caine’s farm, calling it “collateral damage”. He says they were trying to take Chris into their custody to contain the demon summoning program, and things got out of hand due to the people they sent jumping the gun. He comments that not only did those two fail in bringing him in, but they didn’t even take his COMP, inferring (since he knew Caine didn’t own one) that it was the same one Caine now had.

He offers Caine and Venkata a place to lay low as way of apology, and the two of them ask what the cult is planning. He replies, in fancier words, this world has gone to shit, so they are going to use demons to make a new one. When pressed for details he admits that the current world will be destroyed in the process, but he sees it as a necessary sacrifice.

Venkata wants to see his girlfriend, and so Jake has one of the cultists take him to her (I joke OOC that in the anime version this woman would be dressed as a Miko). He is lead down a hallway which has a dog-headed demon guarding the far door. The woman shows him a side door and asks him to go inside and bathe to “purify” himself. When he asks if that is really necessary, the demon insists.

We call it there, if I have time during the week we might try to do some one on one sessions for the split party so we can reunite come game day, but if not, I probably can just do both at once next Wednesday.

Building the Gulf of False Hope (Part 1)

I’m still kicking around the idea of that West Marches game I mentioned a few weeks back. I haven’t really got the ball rolling because I am not really sure if I have the time to commit to running it on top of my non-gaming obligations, which are kind of up in the air at this point. We’ll see where things settle, and worst case I will just have to wait until my schedule clears up to actually try to get anything off the ground.

Still, I have spent some time thinking about the region itself, both in terms of some cultural elements, physical geography, and other background information. This is more of a brain dump for my own benefit than anything I expect my future players to read, but if they (or you) are interested in this random world building stuff, feel free to read on.

Basics

As I briefly mentioned in the previously linked post, the setting is the “Gulf of False Hope”, a large natural bay across the sea from the civilized world. The Gulf appears a natural landing site for would be colonists attempting to tame the continent, and there have been several attempts to do so in the past. While some of these attempts lasted longer than others, all eventually met their end, which is how the Gulf earned its name.

Still, in every age there are those that are willing to risk it all for a chance to start over or improve their lot, and the Gulf has once again begun to see an influx of migrants believing that they will succeed where those that came before failed.

The game will start about 40 years after the first of the newest wave of settlers arrive on the Gulf. Humans, Halflings, and even young Dwarves will be young could easily have been born in the Gulf area. Elves, meanwhile have almost all been born overseas, but it is said that there is a hidden village of Elves that has survived since the last previous attempt. The coastal areas have mostly been cleared, and quite a few towns and villages have been established since then, but further inland remains wild and mostly unexplored. The previous attempts at taming the Gulf will have left lots of ruins, tombs, and other remnants of a bygone age that makes for classic dungeon crawling.

East and West

In the classic West Marches game, the adventure was, as the name implied, to the west, and civilization was back east. The Gulf of False Hope, however, is on the West Coast of its continent, meaning adventure is out east, and civilization to the west. There is no particular reason for this reversal, just that my very rough sketch of the Gulf placed it on the west coast.

The western (civilized) continent is called Asila, while the Gulf is on the continent of Pericolosa (not exactly subtle but still makes a cool name). In West Marches tradition, Asila is not a place for adventure, at least in terms of old-school dungeon crawling. No monstrous beasts, no unexplored ruins, no unmapped and unexplored sections of wilderness. Pericolosa, however, is the opposite. Outside of the (relatively) safe coastal areas, there are beasts and wild men, ruins and lost places, even dungeons and dragons.

Travel between Pericolosa and Asila takes about 4 to 8 weeks, depending on the winds and other factors. The Trade Winds along the latitude of the gulf tend eastward, so the return trip generally takes longer. It is not an impossible trip, but it is also not one that is made lightly, and, in the context of this game, if a PC gets on a boat to Asila, that is likely signaling that PC’s retirement.

The Salvatian League & The Gulf Colonies

I could probably spend a great deal of time going into the politics of Asila, but my efforts are best directed in keeping it to what is relevant for the game.
Most of the major sea powers of Asila have an interest in gaining the resources of Pericolosa, and over the last few decades, have been racing to claim their share of the pie. The region around the gulf is primarily occupied by the Salvatian League.

The Salvatian League is a loose federation of eight duchies. The federal government is an elective monarchy, with the eight dukes being both the sole electors and candidates. The Dukes generally see Pericolosa as a chance to not only expand the League’s power, but also their own power within the League, in hopes of leveraging that into becoming the next King or Queen.

The Salvatian League is a predominately human nation, with a noticeable Halfling minority. A few Dwarven Holds and Elven Forests exist as enclaves within its boarders, but aside from the traders, mostly keep to themselves. Salvati refers to the people, and the language (which replaces the common tongue given to all PCs), Salvatia is the name of the region, while goods and animals originating from there are Salvatian. Ethnic Salvati (of all 4 races), fall in line with the default rules in the rulebook, it’s boring, but it makes things easier.

Culturally, Salvati are a conservative society, and generally distrustful of outsiders or new ideas, although these traits are less pronounced in those that chose to start a new life in the Gulf, they are generally still present. They value self-reliance although not so much minding your own business. Both men and women Salvati are notorious gossips and rumor mongers; it is said that a Salvati would rather believe a well told tall tale than a boring truth.

This is starting to get a bit long, so I’ll leave other stuff for a future post. I still want to write on time/calendar, religion, locations within the gulf itself, and a handful of rumors/quest hooks for what is out there in the wilds, so those will likely be covered in a part 2.

Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 12 – Tuesday (Part 4)

The other night Caine and Venkata followed up on Ven’s mother’s information and made their way to a safe-house used by Immaculate Genesis, the cult they were pursuing. They didn’t quite know what to expect inside, but proceeded in with caution. Inside, they found a lobby area, with a pair of demons (Hathor and Horus) hanging out, and a man behind the desk.

The man greets Venkata by name, and says he has been expecting him. The man is Matthew Knox, the same Matthew that worked with Liam and Chris on the demon summoning program. For various reasons, the cult does not really want the PCs as their enemies at this point, and so Matthew is mostly cooperative with the two of them (although perhaps committing a few lies of omission).

The entirety of the session is taken up by the conversation with Matthew as he explains what he can, and the PCs are generally surprised at how reasonable he is, which is generally the result of two factors. First, in character, he is someone that IG specifically chose to make a good impression, there are raving zealots in it, but, that’s not who would be picked for something like this. Second, one of my goals for this game was to make all of the various factions (demons excluded), to have reasonable (from their point of view, at least) goals, the cult being no exception. I don’t honestly think that type of characterization is needed for EVERY RPG, sometimes the Lich just wants to take over the world because he can, but it was something I am going for here.

The conversation itself was a little disjointed, in my opinion. It wasn’t anything bad, it was just mostly two players both asking different questions of the same NPC at once, and sometimes changing subjects when they think of whatever new thing they want to ask, a lot like some Video Game dialog trees. I don’t think this is due to either of my players, as much as a result of the mediums. I’ve seen this a lot in RPGs in general, and text games tend to exagurate the issue when multiple players start typing a response to the same line of dialog before the other one posts.

Either way, they still get some good info out of Matthew:

  • He confirms that Chris was killed by some “overzealous” members of the cult
  • He will not let them meet/reveal the identity of the cult’s prophet, citing more security concerns than any religious reasons.
  • He claims that the cult has nothing to do with the lock-down/purges, and would generally rather that the lock down ended.
  • Finally, he admits that Vanessa is with them, and fine. He is willing to let Venkata meet her, but that involves taking them to their sanctum. which needs he has to take some security precautions.

We end with the group agreeing to be disarmed and blindfolded in exchange for being taken to the sanctum. I have to say I really do like that the pair of players I have in this game have the perfect mix of playing “smart”, but also are willing to jump into dangerous seeming situations like this when the situation demands it. Looking forward to the results next week!

Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 11 – Tuesday (Part 3)

We started off the other night with the group heading off to visit Venkata’s mother, they very quickly discovered, as they approached a more populated area, that Frost Ace did not have the super natural ability to hide that Wendigo had. According to him “Hee-horos of justice don’t need to hide!”. Still, they were pretty confidant that Venkata’s had the information they needed, and so they threw a coat on him and called it good. It helps that the frost family line looks much more like mascot characters than dangerous beasts, so he mostly got weird looks.

They arrive at the hospital room where Arya is being treated to find her already meeting with someone. I did a poor job describing him, so I think the PCs just assumed he was a doctor, but that really wasn’t my intent. The illness that Arya has affects her mind, but, for various reasons (her being the PC’s only current lead among them), I had today be a lucid day for her.

Her cat, Bastet (which I don’t know if the PCs picked up on or not), seemed to want to get at Venkata’s rabbit demon, but eventually gave up and settled into Arya’s lap, and Ven asked the other people there for the room.

Him and his mom exchanged some pleasantries, and generally had a fairly nice moment, before Ven got down to business and asked her about the cult. Arya, didn’t really want her son getting involved with them, but did tell him what he wanted to know. She explained that Immaculate Genesis believed that there really wasn’t much of a chance of humans rebuilding the world in its current state, but believed that it could be remade anew. Further, they believed that their leader had the power to summon and command demons, and would use this power to lead them into the new world.

Arya has been out of the game for a while, but she did say that she heard that an area of the Arc was evacuated under rather suspicious, under orders of an engineer she suspected of being an IG member. Venkata decides to check it out and promises to come back soon, and goes outside to tell Caine what he learned.

We called it there. It was a bit short, and Caine didn’t get to do much (I didn’t want to run two parallel conversations at once), but it overall went over well. I’ve been feeling like this game has gotten a bit railroady, so I think I will want to try to put some more open situations out there in the next few sessions when they confront the cult!

Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 10 – Tuesday (Part 2) (Plus recap for sessions 8&9)

As mentioned in my previous post, we have met twice in the last month. During which time, Caine and Venkata decided to swing by the protest, only to discover it had turned into a full blow riot, and the police were cracking down hard. The two of them managed to locate O’Connor, who had been injured, and managed to help him get off the promenade. They then retreated to a safe house that O’Connor knew about. They explained their situation and decided to give O’Connor the Demon summoning program, who in turn is likely to provide it to his resistance.

The next morning, they met Caine’s new Demon, Frost Ace. While O’Connor has managed to summon a lady in an american flag get up, who introduced herself as Columbia. They talked a bit more with O’Connor, who, while he didn’t know much about the information they were looking for, offered to set them up with one of his contacts in security who did. They agree to meet with him in an abandoned sector of the building, and after a period of their demons feeling like they were being watched, they hear a scream coming from their meeting point.

We start off session 10 there, with the two men kicking in the door to find their contact, and several demons eating through the walls to get at them. They decide that there are too many of them and decide to book it, when at the same time they get an email from the same source that informed them about the lockdown early on in the game.

The politely informs them that they have about 5 minutes to get out of that sector before it is “purged”, and provides them an outdated map of an evacuation route. Venkata manages to piece together their next best bet, and the three of them run, being pursued by demons (Mothmen). Caine, with Frost Ace’s help, manages to outrun the Mothmen, but Venkata rolls garbage and is almost caught. A few mothmen get through the exit right on their heels, as the sector is sealed off by a heavy iron door.

The PA system comes to life and a voice informs them to stand clear in case of “leakage”, and all the demons (friend and foe alike) double over in pain, while their contact doesn’t seem very comfortable either. The two player characters themselves though, are fine, although their COMPs seem to be working on overdrive. Caine tries to carry Frost Ace away while Venkata uses this chance to finish off the Mothmen.

They get to a space that they feel safe, and settle down to talk to their contact, who introduces himself as Jack Martin. He isn’t feeling too great after what happened, which Frost Ace calls a “Magnetite Burst”, but does teh best he can to answer their questions.

Ryan is trying to get control over the COMPs, and thereby, the Demon Summoning Program, supposedly there are some crazies out there who are summoning demons and letting them free, like the Mothmen they encountered previously. Further, Ryan certainly doesn’t want his enemies having those COMPs either. Still, Jack says that Caine and Venkata might be able to leverage their talents with the program to work with Ryan if they want to.

He doesn’t know much about the lockdown, nor does he really know much about the cult, but he does recommend that Venkata’s mother might know more, which Ven isn’t too happy about, but he doesn’t have much choice. They say their goodbyes and we call it there.

I was flying by the seat of my pants this session, and I didn’t give the PCs much opportunity to make many decisions, but overall I think it went alright. Looking forward to next week!