Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 5 – Monday (part 2)

We picked up this week right where we left off last time, with the demon Wendigo charging at the Jack Frost to start the battle. This was any of our first combat in sorcerer, and we were all a bit shaky on the rules, but we dove right in. Wendigo and Caine both got a bonus to their first action roll due to surprise, and the Pixie and the Jack Frost both had fairly bad stamina, so I thought it would be a rather one-sided fight. Caine ended up looking for a weapon, and I told him there was a pipe he could pry off the wall with some work. Wendigo wanted to get bite and claw at the Jack Frost. The two fairies wanted to stop that big monster, and Venkata and Jackalope were taking a wait and see approach.

We roll the dice, and even though the fairies aren’t rolling very many dice, Jack Frost kills it on init/attack (which I find weird is the same roll, but that is how the game works), turning right at the last moment and sticking Wendigo with a Bufu (Lethal special damage fluffed as an ice shard). Wendigo goes down with some heavy lasting penalties, while Caine can’t get the pipe free with a single action (due to a failed roll).

I point out Venkata has the chance to bail, but he doesn’t take it, instead, he sicks Jackalope on the Pixie and tries to banish the Jack Frost. I didn’t make ordering the demon an action, because at the time, the demon was already waiting on a attack/flee order, he wasn’t demanding anything TOO specific, and if the demon was going to help or not wasn’t a question at this point. Caine finishes prying off the pipe, while the fairies both try to defend themselves.

Jack manages to get off another Bufu before Venkata can really test his luck, which takes him pretty deep into the negatives (5 lasting damage, and way more temp damage). While Jackalope and the Pixie both manage to defend themselves against each other.

Most of the demons are already running up to the limits of how often they can use their powers in a conflict, so the rest of the fight is a bit less lethal. Caine and Jack Frost clash a little, neither really hitting each other, but they do exchange a few puns. Meanwhile Jackalope gets a few minor penalties on the Pixie. The fight ends with Caine getting a total victory on an attack vs Jack Frost, which I mistakenly apply the edged damage table to instead of the blunt, causing him to be destoryed (banished). I said he had earned the Jack Frost’s respect and so he’d get a bonus if he tries to contact something in the Jack Frost family in the future. At the same time the Pixie gets barely taken out of the fight, and so tries to surrender.

They take the opportunity to try and get information out of her, and she willingly tells them what she knows, but it quickly becomes apparent that she doesn’t know much. She says she is working for the queen of the fairies, Titania, and was out hunting for “Camps”, which it takes them a little bit to realize she means COMPs.

She’s a bit confused by them calling their COMP a medical device, since as far as she knows, it’s just a tool that “Hunters” use. Her only explanation on why she is looking for a COMP is that the queen told her to. I hadn’t really decided if she actually knew why the queen wants them or not, but they assumed she did not and didn’t follow up.

Caine asked if there was a way to help Wendigo, and she suggested either to give him his need, or to give him a few life stones. It was getting late irl, so she then asked if she could leave, and they let her go. They probably could have demanded money or a life stone or some such from her, or maybe even formed a binding with her, but decided not to bother and just let her fly off.

Fun session overall, even if the combat was a little wonky. Next week, we’ll probably deal with the fallout of Caine discovering Venkata has been hiding a demon from him.

Recap: Devil Survivor 22XX – Sessions 2, 3 & 4

My Wednesday night Sorcerer game done in SMT style have actually still been meeting every week since Session 1, and it is actually going fairly well. Text based games are fairly different beasts when compared to in person or online voice games, but one of the perks of which is having a log. As one of the key reasons I write APs is to help me remember what happened, the logs kind of hurt my motivation to actually get them out. The commentary, on the other hand, I think is still pretty valuable (to me at least), which the raw logs don’t capture, so I really should try harder to get those out on a regular basis.

For now, just to clear out the backlog on the three sessions since my last post, I’ll just give a high level recap of the events of the last few sessions.

Session 2 had Caine and Venkata go to Christopher’s house on the promenade, a large, open, upper class residential, shopping, and meeting space near the top of the building. They arrive and find police having partitioned off the building, and seem to be searching it.

Venkata is recognized by one of his contacts on the force, Frank Erickson. They let slip that they know Chris is dead, which the police didn’t actually know yet. They fail a roll, and so Frank wants to take them in for questioning, but they basically want to try again. The conversation sorta devolves into a ‘”Come on”, “No way”, repeat’ thing. I feel it was some bad consequence setting on my part.

I end up giving them another roll to avoid getting arrested, and they manage to get a bit out of Frank in exchange for what they know (although they leave out the details of whose greenhouse it was or where the body is). In return, they find out that the Arc’s de facto leader, Samuel Ryan, is looking for Chris, and that the symbol they found is for some cult called “Immaculate Genesis”, and that Venkata’s mom worked the case a while back. They decide to look into the cult and Caine thinks he might know someone who could tell them about it.

Session 3, Caine goes and meets his ‘contact’, who also happens to be his Bartender. Caesar O’Connor, owner of O’Connor’s Pub, and something of a community/activist leader among the lower class of the Arc. Caine’s timid nature, plus a combination of forgetfulness and inexperience on his player’s part, lead to O’Connor controlling much of the conversation. While the cult never came up, he did learn O’Connor’s take on the lockdown, that Ryan did it to trap a good chunk of the farmers outside so they couldn’t come to the demonstration they were planning. O’Connor extracts a verbal commitment from Caine to show up at the demonstration. And Jackalope causes a bit of trouble but Venkata manages to reign it in.

It is getting late, and given the information they withheld from the police, it is likely not safe for either man to go home, so the duo crash with a contact of Venkata’s, in a less than legal “hospital”.

Session 4 started with Caine’s COMP getting an email for Chris, in which one of his friends asked him to meet during the demonstration. They debate it for a bit, before deciding to meet with this guy and find out what he knows. I give them plenty of time before either event to investigate more or change their mind, but they decide to just get there early.

One failed roll later and I decide to introduce some wild demons. They encounter a duo of two iconic Fairy Race demons, Pixie and Jack Frost. They listen in on the two demons chattering away (about eating humans, about how they are looking for something for their Queen, about how the human world is strange), until Venkata tries to simply walk past them.

There’s a bit of confusion for a bit because I thought he was still trying to be stealthy, but apparently he is hoping ignoring them will be enough. The Pixie notices his ‘Camp’ (COMP) and tries to get his attention, which freaks Caine out enough that he sicks Wendigo on the wild demons. I kinda threw these demons in on a whim, so I didn’t have them statted out in Sorcerer, and haven’t reviewed the combat section in forever, so we called it there and will get into a demon fight next time.

Actual Play: Devil Survivor 22XX – Session 1 – Sunday’s Encounters

Been trying to get this game off the ground since before the holidays (see my initial idea post here), but things just kept not working out. It was a huge pain in the butt, but luckily my players and I stuck with it. As discussed in the previous post, I’m trying to run Shin Megami Tensei in Sorcerer, and see how well that works out. I’m also getting back into text-based gaming (by player request) with this, which is neat, as the format has its own pros and cons.

Anyway, the premise we came up with since we got together involves a more post-apocalypse setting than the present apocalypse of the normal Devil Survivor games. Many years after some great disaster, people have spent generations living in Arcologies called “Citadels”, because the world outside of them is toxic. Things aren’t exactly great in the Citadel the PCs live in, LNC-13, commonly called “the Arc”, but are about to be made more complicated by the sudden distribution of a program that can summon demons. COMPs in this world are arm-worn computers, they are useful for interfacing with certain machines, have some poorly-understood medical properties, and of course, can summon demons.

The two PCs we have are:

  • Venkata Durga: The son of a high profile, and well connected security officer, Venkata makes his living as a PI. His ex showed back up in his life just in time to disappear again, leaving behind only a heavily encrypted data file containing a very peculiar program. He has had a COMP his whole life thanks to his mother’s connections. His demon is the Beast Jackalope, a funky flying rabbit thing (this is the pic he sent me)
  • Caine Laurens: Caine is a farmer who dreams of a better life. He and his friend, a high up technical worker by the name of Christopher Wilson, were attacked when Chris showed up as a favor to Caine to help him out with some technical issues in his greenhouse. Chris was brutally murdered, while Caine was merely left for dead. Caine took his dead friend’s COMP, and discovered the demons summoning program on it that way. The Demon he summoned was the man-eating Jaki Wendigo

Our first session was basically a set up, and as we had already done our initial binding rolls beforehand, we didn’t roll any dice this session. I know some people LOVE sessions like that, and I don’t think this was a BAD session, but it is difficult to judge a systems suitability for a given purpose when you don’t engage the system.

We startafrshkjed off with Venkata, I narrated that he had heard that his ex, Vanessa, had been seen in some sort of argument with Christopher Wilson, and that Wilson had last been seen going down to the greenhouse area. Venkata came across the scene of the attack on Caine and Christopher shortly after Caine fled (taking Chris’ body and comp with him). Venkata, with a little help from his demon, investigated the scene. There’s a huge hole in the wall, blood everywhere, security system is shot and a number of plants seem to have been burned and frozen.

He also notices a symbol has been drawn on the door, one he can identify as cult related, and makes a note of it in his notebook. Finally, Jackalope discovers a dark green piece of cloth that had gotten torn on some equipment, and Venkata leaves to track down the owner of this greenhouse.

Said owner, Caine, had just finished making his contract with his demon, he agrees to feed the Wendigo, and the large mannish creature will help him out. At that exact moment, all the lights dim, a brownout. Caine is wary of the creature, especially in the dim light due to the power loss, but he’s out for revenge and could use the muscle. He and Wendigo both head out, leaving Chris’ body behind in Caine’s house… And run right into Venkata.

Wendigo can hide in the shadows, and so I have him do so. There could maybe have been a roll here, but Venkata’s player didn’t ask for one and I felt the two PCs interacting was the key point here. Since Wendigo was hidden and Jackalope hides in Ven’s pocket, this created a neat bit of dramatic irony where both PCs were feeling confident because THEY had the secret weapon ready.

Caine played the fool for a while, but broke down pretty quickly. Sorcerer social rules are a bit wonky to me still and they both seemed fine with just RPing it. Around the time they show each other their comps, both of them suddenly go off with an email notification. At the same time, metal plates begin to come down and cover the exterior windows of the arc. The message basically seems to be an automated message about the Arc going into lock down for “repeated security violations”, only listed by number. Once all the windows seem to be covered, the lights come back up.

The two men are confused and concerned, but stick to the matter at hand. Caine ends up showing Ven the body, who sees it is in as bad shape as the greenhouse was. The cloth he found earlier does not seem to match either Chris or Caine. Caine tells his story, even showing off Wendigo, and, although Ven does not return the favor with Jackalope, the two do agree to work together to try and figure out what happened.

We called it there, Sorcerer doesn’t have any end of session validation mechanic like Burning Wheel’s Artha, or Blades in the Dark XP, but overall I think things went pretty well. These characters didn’t have much in the way of connection, so I am glad I was able to tie their stories together and it was cool of them to go with it like they did.

Looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Peaceful Days Died – Devil Survivor via Sorcerer

I’ve been on a Shin Megami Tensei kick lately. I finished playing Apocalypse a few weeks ago, and have just finally gotten around to playing Digital Devil Saga. For those that don’t know, Shin Megami Tensei is a meta series of JRPGs about summoning and dealing with demons. By coincidence, I’ve also just discovered Ron Edwards’ Sorcerer, an RPG about, of all things, summoning demons. I’ve been looking for a way to take SMT to the tabletop, and Sorcerer seems like a good fit.

I’ve been working on a hack, but honestly, without any actual play experience, it is hard to see the line between what’s a truly necessary change and what’s just tinkering needlessly. Therefore, I want to dive right in and try a SMT game with Sorcerer with just a few minimal tweaks for the setting, and see what works and what doesn’t.

devilsurvivorjpboxartTo do this, I want to run a game in the style of the first Devil Survivor game. PCs trapped in a large area sealed off from the outside world with way too many other people and demons running about.  It was my gateway into the SMT series, so I got a bit of a soft spot for it. I also like it because it has a tight situation that is both desperate enough to (hopefully) make it easy to write kickers, and is also time-bound which should be good for an experimental game like this one.

The only real tweaks I am going to make initially (besides defining the things you need to define for ANY Sorcerer game), is ignoring the rules that don’t allow for wild or obvious demons. Demons do not have to be bound to stay in the human world, but they DO need to get their need still, and maybe also eat people. Inconspicuous demons can now be “Conspicuous” demons, which just means they don’t have to take cloak. If that ends up being enough of a drift that things break, then that means that Sorcerer isn’t as good of a fit for SMT that I expected it to be. Everything else, including elements, fusion, and the like, we’ll see what works during play.

I’ve got a restrictive, but workable, time slot for games on Wednesday Evenings that should be free for the near future, so we’ll see if I can’t throw a game together in that time!