Monday, May 12, 2014

Demon: the Fallen Politics - Liege Lords

Demon: the Fallen is a political game but the actual politics aren't always so easy to figure out.  What does a demon want?  Well, just about anything.  How do they organise themselves?  Well, into factions.  And the factions organise by....  Erm?  A lot of the actual politics behind the game need to be figured out through extrapolation and some heavy thinking.

Or maybe I was just dense and needed to really sit down and think on it.

Let's look at liege lords first as a major political consideration.

All Fallen Angels will have had *at least* one liege lord, probably more.  Back in the day of the five legions, each Fallen had a superior officer all the way up to Lucifer.  Before that point, each Fallen had to answer to somebody and that somebody was probably a Namaru (First House) though that wasn't so much feudal as bureaucratic so it might not have been as memorable or important to the Fallen, especially since their old boss might have been a loyalist.  If your Fallen swapped between projects or legions, then they may have had more than one to whom they swore their unflinching loyalty.

Now your Fallen has returned to this world, they may have a few additional bosses whose needs they need to balance.  These are your superiors in your House, Faction and Ministry (if you have one).  None of them are going to want to compromise (more often than not), and all of them have their own duties to fulfil and their own needs to manage.  Due to the dutiful and obedient core nature of even the most rebellious fallen, this can cause a lot of pain when they're lower in Torment due to conflicting duties.

And don't think that your initial liege lord is willing to be forgotten in all of this.  Many Fallen adore their old lieges (or at least give them fealty) that they will sometimes even serve them when they're Earthbound due to a sense of duty and obligation.  Since there is an expectation that old liege lords can call in favours from their vassals (and that vassals can call for protection from their liege lords), this system is also self-sustaining.  Since everyone does it, and everyone expects to do it, you are going to cause a real stink if you ignore this obligation since it undermines the entire social structure that other, very important people, rely upon.

While your current superiors are expected to change occasionally, perhaps when you move cities or are re-allocated duties, your old liege lord may have been with you for a thousand years or so.  You may have even served them while in the Abyss.  This gives them a certain amount of power in how they deal with you.  Most Tyrants would allow your old liege lord to speak with you, or for you, while you are imprisoned, and a valued vassal may also be accorded the same privileges if their liege were in prison.  In fact, such a person might be granted access to you even when you wished to never see them again.

For those who have played Vampire: the Requiem, you could see within it a similar concept to the sire - childe relationship in the Invictus, only with more respect accorded to the ties and obligations inflicted upon the two of them.  Only when your master remains in the Abyss can you safely ignore them and, even then, you may run into some serious trouble if they have other vassals who listen to them.

Luckily most liege lords and vassals are either happy enough to enjoy their lives independently or simply can't remember their old relationships.  Often times, one or the other still remain in the Abyss.

Can you swear to a new liege lord?

I'd say so, though the old ties would still have some potency to them.  It also wouldn't be as simple as being allocated to a new Fallen supervisor in your Faction, House, or Ministry.  You'd need to evidence real commitment and devotion and there'd also likely be some ceremony as well.  Demons, especially devils, should be really big into ceremony since they're primary resource (Faith) can be increased by it.  They'd have a lot of traditions involving drawing as much Faith from their followers as possible and much of that pomp and ceremony likely continues to this day.

Anywho, those are my thoughts.  How do you think the old liege lord - vassal system would work in today's Demon: the Fallen societies?


  1. I actually ran a D:tF one-shot recently (thanks to Onyx Path giving away the core book PDF to backers of the Demon: the Descent Kickstarter) and rather ignored this aspect of the game, since I think it's the sort of thing which manifests best in ongoing campaigns - certainly, if I were doing a more long-term thing I'd make the effort to detail the PCs' lieges and then seeing what happens down the road when the PCs either summon their lords to Earth or neglect to do so and find other followers of their liege arriving from hell trying to find out what the delay is.

    Dunno what Ministries are - were they in one of the supplements?

    As far as how I figured demonic politics worked from the core book, here's the picture I had:

    - Back before the Rebellion all the celestials were part of the various Houses.
    - When the Rebellion happened the House power structure was shattered. The Angelic Houses repaired their chain of command as best as they could. The Demonic factions of the Houses became the various breeds of Demon, in principle retaining their House identity but in practice finding it diluted due to Lucifer's overall command. That's the first major snafu.
    - When the Rebellion fails, the Demons all go to Hell, and Lucifer is found to be missing, what ensues is thousands of years of controversy, during with the Factions grow up. This is the second snafu. Although the Houses in principle could work together fine - after all, they constituted different departments of creation responsible for entirely different things, there's no reason why the lines of demarcation couldn't continue - the Factions represent a whole different story, since their agendas are frequently mutually exclusive. In my interpretation of Demon, therefore, the Faction is the major political unit and House merely reflects your background. Either way, the growth of Factions effectively shatters the demonic Houses further, with entire subsections of the Houses ceasing to see eye to eye on crucial matters to the point where they stop co-operating. (In particular, it's hard to see Raveners getting on with anyone except other Raveners.)
    - Some demons wind up on Earth and begin to piece together their Faction networks (and House networks, if their choice of Faction hasn't estranged them from most of their House) by seeking out other demons.
    - There's a third snafu here, however, which hits the chain of command which has already been thoroughly scrambled by the previous two snafus: the demons on Earth can't talk to the demons in Hell (at least not trivially), and the demons on Earth have found their nature fundamentally changed through exposure to the Faith of those human beings they have possessed - or, in the case of the Earthbound, through the trauma of turning into an inanimate object. Whilst there's a decent proportion of demons who are happy to follow the orders they were given in hell, equally there's a fair number who have gone renegade in one direction or another, either exploiting the freedom from oversight to set themselves up as masters in their own right ("Better to rule on Earth than serve in Hell"?) or revising their morality in the light of the human experience and either trying to live as a human or attempting to reclaim their former angelic nature. (I can see *stacks* of Reconcilers dropping out of their Hellish chain of command to try and attempt an individual reconciliation, justifying it on the basis that if they can work out how to accomplish it they can help their masters pull it off better when they summon them).

    1. (continued - ran out of space in last comment)

      So logically, what you'd end up having on Earth is:
      - A subset of demons who want to try and track down and make contact with the demons they knew in hell because they are loyal to the original power structure.
      - A subset of demons who want to avoid the demons they knew in hell most of the time, at least until they are powerful enough to crush them underfoot as part of the process of becoming gods among men.
      - A subset of demons who want to avoid the demons they knew in hell most of the time, except when it involves tripping up their more destructive and world-smashing plans, because they want to give up on the whole demon trip altogether.

      One thing I found interesting about Demon and a real departure from the usual WoD assumptions is that whilst Demons were *formerly* part of a wider demonic society, there seems to be absolutely no assumption in the core book that they remain in contact with that society, and indeed several character/party types may prefer to keep things that way.

    2. Plus you have the added complication that the first subset of demon would only want to make contact with those who were their allies in hell, unless they get an opportunity to take down a rival or foil their plans, because the power structure in hell is smashed into different factions and the demons sent to Earth who are loyal to the power structure will want to primarily empower their own faction.

    3. "Houses of the Fallen" goes more into detail about how the Houses work together. Probably the best way of seeing it is that each House is kind of like a family. You're born into it, you're stuck with it, you share most in common with each other, so like it or not you're connected. Some Houses, like the Malefactors, work together brilliantly still and generally function as a family. Others, like the Devils, appear to be cohesive on the surface, strike out at anyone who tries to undermine them as a family, but otherwise bickers and chafe against each other. The factions are more like ideologies or religions, so you might have the Catholic wing of the family in arms against the Protestant wing, so to speak. Then the ministries are more like jobs. I'll touch on that in another post as if you don't have any context for it, it won't make sense.

      I'd certainly go with what you're saying regarding lieges. There's definitely a whole lot of all of that. And then, of course, if you're playing a high enough Eminence you also need to worry about your own vassals. Do you want to avoid them? Collect them all? Destroy them?

      I'm playing someone formerly Eminence 5 who got demoted down to 2, so I've got a whole heck load of former vassals who may, or may not, want to either serve or destroy me, so that should be fun.

      Ooh, also remember that one's previous Legion allegiance can also have an impact, at least as far as reputation is concerned. No one expects the Iron Legionnaires to all hang out together, but someone who was ex-Iron will have a different rep just because of that then someone who was ex-Ebon.

      On the topic of one-shots, yes, yes, YES, Do Not Include The Political Sides! It's complexity makes vampire politics look simple. There are just so many layers to it that none of it can be done justice in a single session. Hell, it's hard to balance in a campaign based on it.

    4. Thanks!

      Which Demon supplements would you recommend? I understand their quality to be variable, though I've heard good things about the Earthbound one (which is good because the Earthbound were the hole in the core I was most keen to see filled in).

    5. Earthbound and Houses of the Fallen are GREAT additions. Houses of the Fallen makes Belphigor's later antics as the Faustian leader a lot sadder and has inspired a couple redemption arcs in different campaigns I've run / played in.

      The Player's Guide is pretty necessary, too, as it allows players to create their own apocalyptic forms (which is awesome) and goes into Lore of Forge in a lot of depth. I'd recommend reading it and reading it twice.

      The Storyteller's Guide really isn't essential, but is still a good look on the various groups the Fallen may come into contact with.

      "Fear To Tread" really isn't great (it's okay) and it ends on a major downer. The fiction trilogy is nice but doesn't really touch on the factions very much, which is a shame, though it does give one version of what's happened to Lucifer. The short story anthology is good, though. I didn't care much for the "End Times" book.

      I didn't mind Damned and Deceived as well as Saviours and Destroyers, but there's a hell of a lot of fiction compared to fluff OR crunch, so if you like short fiction, go for it. If not, don't.

    6. Cool, thanks for the pointers. Will probably investigate those since we're likely still 8+ years away from Onyx Path giving Demon the 20th Anniversary treatment...