SG: Descent

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Becoming Monsters and Madmen[edit]

Some games like to reflect the personal struggle of characters as they fight off their inner monster to avoid becoming the thing that horrifies them the most; becoming monstrous, mad caricatures of who they believe themselves to be. This Extra rules supplement provides such a mechanism.

A Descent track consists of 3 boxes. Check off a box when a character must expose his monstrous nature. Examples include:

  • Fae that indulge in reality-warping magic that reveals their true nature or exposes their supernatural power to mortals in the mortal world tend to lose their grip on sanity.
  • Spellslingers doing flashy magic witnessed by crowds of people feel the megalomanic rush of power that instilling fear among the people can give them.
  • Therianthropes forced to reveal their monstrous nature in front of mortals can give in to the rush of power and instinct to hunt and kill their Beast desires.
  • Vampires that "freak out", show their "vamp face" or otherwise expose their nature to mortals lose a bit of themselves to the raving, inner Beast.

A compel against a character's high concept can cost the character a point of Descent if the character takes some action that falls in one of the above categories.

When the Descent track is full, and the character must check off another box of their Descent track but can't, they instead get a Monstrous Compulsion number, and the track is cleared. Each time the Descent track fills, the Monstrous Compulsion number increments and the Descent track clears again. The Descent track never clears for any other reason.

What Causes Descent[edit]

Exposing her supernatural nature to the mortal world is what causes a supernatural character to Descend, to give in to her baser nature. In general, exposure to a single mortal or very small group of mortals isn't enough to cause descent, unless the case is extreme -- even if said mortals escape to blab it all over the internet, report it to the police, post pictures on Facebook, and the like. It's about the rush of power the supernatural being gets for displaying their power over mortals. It feels good. It feels right. And something inside supernatural characters craves it, be it their egos, their inner animals, or the monster that hides beneath their skins. Giving in lets go of the character's humanity just a little bit more each time it happens.

If a character exposes their power, their supernatural nature to a group of mortals uninitiated to the supernatural, they cause a lot of people to seek psychiatric help. Something can be damaged, or even break in the minds mortals whose worldview does not include the presence of supernatural beings. Fear, anger, shock; these and many other emotions rip through someone who just found out their neighbor is a blood-sucking monster. Or witch. Or whatever. Something inside the supernatural character responds to it, likes it, relishes it. This is the Descent.

Sometimes exposure of a character's supernatural nature even on a limited scale can cause descent. A werewolf delighting in tormenting, killing and/or eating a captive human is surely Descending as he gives way emotionally to the feral beast inside.


Monstrous Compulsion[edit]

The number here indicates the number of times the GM may compel the character's high concept against the character in a session for free. The recommended limit here is three -- at a Monstrous Compulsion score of four or more, it's recommended this character become an NPC under the GM's control.


Absolution[edit]

At major milestones when a character might otherwise gain a point of Refresh, the character might instead remove one point of Monstrous Compulsion. The player should describe what his character is doing to fight back the insanity or inner monster that threatened to overtake him.


Option: Mortals and Madness[edit]

These same rules can be used to model how a mortal might also slip into madness with very little adjustment. Instead of a rush of power or giving in to some inner animal or monster though, the mortal struggles to wrap his mind around the paranormal events he witnesses. Each time the mortal witnesses something that defies his sense of how the world works can be a moment where Descent happens. Should the mortal attain enough Descent to get Monstrous Compulsion, it makes sense to call it something else, perhaps "Breaking Point" or some such, but it works the same way mechanically speaking. A GM can compel the fact that the character is an "uninitiated mortal" even though there may not be an aspect for it for free once in a session per point of Breaking Point.

The character might react by rationalizing away what they saw even if it's unreasonable to do so, block it out of their memory and "just forget about it" (but it's likely to emerge in their nightmares), deny it ever happened, etc. Mortal characters with a Breaking Point number probably are developing various mental problems. Consider reflecting this in their Trouble aspect.

At some point the mortal's sanity will break using this method. Should the mortal become "fully initiated" into the paranormal world, however, a kind of acceptance can settle over them. Change one of their permanent aspects to reflect their understanding and acceptance of the supernatural world. We suggest "Initiated to the Supernatural" or something similar be added to an aspect or added new. From this point on the mortal is no longer susceptible to the Descent into madness simply by witnessing something unexplainable. On the other hand, supernatural beings don't suffer Descent by revealing their power or true selves to this "initiated" mortal -- unless the supernatural being does something especially cruel or twisted to the mortal, in which case they might still both suffer Descent. The mortal is initiated, but sometimes that simply opens the door to greater depravity...


Next: Extra: Organizations