Thralls

Many demons expected to return to a world where they could easily control and rule over humans. They didn't plan for a world where faith was all but dead, where six billion people teemed over a haggard planet and where they would have to work in secret to achieve their goals. The demons expected humans to be weak and easily manipulated — and they are — but they are also the key to achieving the plans and schemes of the Celestials. For demons to reach their goals, they need humans — as sources of Faith, as tools, as agents. As for the fallen, diey have remembered something even more terrible — the urge to protect and even love humanity as they once did long ago.

Empowering Thralls

Demons need servants, and servants need tools in order to do their masters' bidding. It's often very useful to gift a thrall with a portion of your own spiritual power, so that they may better serve you. It's also an excellent bargaining chip — easy to win someone's loyalty when you can promise her eternal beauty or immense power. The biggest limitation on blessing a dirall comes not from the demon, but from the mortal herself. The demon reshapes the mortal's faith and belief into a new configuration, a shape that draws power from the cosmos. The demon can bestow only a weak blessing if the mortal's faith is weak, but if her belief is strong the demon can fill her with awesome power.

Within certain boundaries, demons can empower their thralls with their own abilities, gifting them with supernatural powers. The system for doing so is fairly simple, but it's not something to enter into lightly. Characters should never nish into empowering their followers or offering pacts to all and sundry. Choosing when to do so is an important moment in the chronicle, and it should be treated as such.

Demons can only impart abilities that they themselves possess — to grant the gift of invisibility, the demon must be able to become invisible himself. The demon can give four kinds of gifts — Attributes, innate abilities, the enhancements of his apocalyptic form and evocations.

  • Attribute: The demon can increase the thrall's Attribute ratings, making her stronger or smarter. A thrall's Attributes cannot rise above 5, however. Mundane abilities only go so far.
  • Enhancements: The demon can impart one of the eight enhancements of his apocalyptic form to a thrall, giving her the ability to grow fangs, soak lethal damage and more. Low-Torment demons can impart one of their high-Torment special abilities if desired at the cost of a temporary Torment point.
  • Evocations: The demon can even imbue a thrall with a weaker version of one of his evocations. The demon must decide on a specific evocation to bestow upon his servant.
  • Other Abilities: Demons enjoy many special abilities, such as their immunity to possession. The demon can impart one of these advantages to a thrall. Similarly, the demon can bestow a gift of a more general nature, such as the ability to see or walk again.

Once the demon has decided on what abilities to bestow upon the thrall, the two enter into a pact. The demon agrees to imbue the thrall with power, while the mortal agrees to serve in whatever way the two agree upon. At the Storyteller's discretion, die mortal might qualify as a source of offered Faith, but there are many other ways in which a mortal can help her master. With die pact finalized, the deal is sealed with the demon's gift. Imparting a gift to a mortal requires nothing more than a turn's concentration. Many demons, however, like to add ritual and ceremony to the procedure in order to impress their new thralls. After concentrating, the demon mentally reshapes the thrall's soul, using die mortal's Faith as a tool. The stronger die thrall's Faith is, die greater the changes the demon can make to her essence, and the more powerful the gifts the demon can bestow upon her.

Faith Potential

Mortals don't have a Faith rating. Instead, they have a Faith potential, a measure of how much Faith a demon can use to reconfigure their souls. The Storyteller decides what Faith potential a mortal possesses. Most humans have a Faith potential of 2. Someone such as a devout priest with strong religious beliefs (no matter how twisted) would have a potential of 3. A Faith potential of 4 is the province of the fanatically religious, such as a fundamentalist preacher or Buddhist monk. Only a handful of people possess the determination, belief and devotion necessary for a potential of 5 — this is the hallmark of the pope, Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama. Mortals with a potential of 1 are spiritually weak, with no religious beliefs and little ability to believe in the demon's power. Such mortals make poor thralls, but may have other abilities that compensate. People with zero potential exist, but they are rare. Such spiritually dead, deeply skeptical mortals cannot enter into a pact with a demon.

No rolls are needed to reshape the mortal's soul. The mortal's Faith rating is used as a "pool" of points for buying effects and gifts that benefit the thrall, according to the following guidelines:

  • • A point of Faith can be used to repair chronic injury or impairments - allowing a paralyzed character to walk or giving sight to a blind thrall. If the mortal is missing lethal health levels as an effect of his condition, they are converted into bashing levels, which can then heal normally.
  • • A point of Faith can be converted into 10 freebie points. These points can be used to buy or improve traits such as Attributes, Abilities or Willpower. They cannot be used for improving Backgrounds.
  • • One point of Faith can be used to impart one of the demon's inherent powers, such as immunity to mind-control. The thrall permanently benefits from this power, rolling Willpower (difficulty 7) to activate its effects.
  • • One or more points of Faith can be used to give the mortal a limited evocation from the demon's lore. This gift costs one to five Faith points, depending on the level of the evocation in question (i.e., a three-dot evocation would cost the mortal three of her Faith points.) To perform the evocation, the thrall must make a Willpower roll (difficulty 8), with the number of successes determining the scope and effect of the evocation.
  • • One point of Faith bestows one of the enhancements of the demon's apocalyptic form on the thrall. To benefit from the enhancement, the thrall must make a Willpower roll (difficulty 6). Success allows the thrall to use the enhancement for a scene. The demon can bestow more than one enhancement, but he must spend a point of Faith on each.
  • • Up to half of the thrall's Faith potential can be used to make the mortal a source of offered Faith, if the Storyteller approves.

It's possible to give new gifts to a thrall you've already empowered, but it's very difficult to do so. In order to further alter a thrall, the mortal's Faith potential must increase — which only occurs if his belief and dedication to the demon becomes significantly stronger. The Storyteller is the sole judge as to whether a thrall's Faith potential increases. If a thrall's belief grows, the demon can spend the extra point of Faith on new improvements — but doing so requires a new Faustian bargain between demon and thrall.

Invoking Celestial Powers

To reveal one's true nature to another is risky for anyone, but far more so for a demon revealing his Celestial self to mortals. For demons, Faith is like air — they need it to survive. Yet modern mortals are cynical and bereft of faith, and exposure to high levels of disbelief makes life very difficult for the fallen. The presence of unbelievers can even disrupt the use of Faith. It's often more difficult (and expensive) for a demon to invoke her powers around skeptical mortals. Whether a mortal is skeptical enough to disrupt the use of Faith is up to the Storyteller to decide. As a rule of thumb, the "average" mortal doesn't believe in the supernatural, but her disbelief isn't forceful enough to affect the demon. More strong-willed people, or those who have a major problem with the notion of the supernatural (such as a pragmatic scientist) can cause the demon problems. One observer might cause a problem, but a group almost certainly will. Mortals are pack animals, and they draw courage from the presence of their fellows. When a group of mortals witnesses a demon's use of Faith, their resistance is stronger; they back each other up on an unconscious level to reject the outsider. Even if the mortals would not interfere with the demon on their own, they will interfere as a group. Only among true believers and worshippers will demons be able to evoke their spiritual powers without interference.

If a demon uses an evocation in the presence of a resisting mortal or wishes to assume her apocalyptic form, the Storyteller makes a Willpower roll for the observer at difficulty 8. Each success on this roll raises the difficulty of the demon's roll by one. For a group of observers, the Storyteller decides on the average Willpower rating of the group's members (usually 3 or 4) and makes the same roll. She adds another die to the roll for every five members of the group, (so for a group of 20 members with Willpower 3, the Storyteller rolls seven dice).

The presence of unbelievers makes life increasingly difficult for demons, which is a good reason for them to work in secret or surround themselves with thralls and worshippers.

Revelation

Each time a demon uses her Faith, mortal observers can make a Perception + Awareness roll to sense the demon's true nature. The difficulty of the roll is 10 minus the total number of Faith points the character spent (or lost) in the scene. Therefore, a small expenditure of Faith is likely to go unnoticed by all but the most perceptive of mortals. A great expenditure of Faith, or repeated small uses of Faith over a short period of time, make it more likely someone will notice. If the difficulty reaches 0, all mortals automatically perceive the demon's true nature. Demons can also allow mortals to perceive their true nature without spending Faith, whenever they wish. Finally, if a character invokes her apocalyptic form, mortal witnesses automatically suffer the effects of Revelation.

The mortal's reaction depends on two factors: the character's Torment and the mortal's Willpower. Fallen with a low Torment (less than half their Willpower) are glorious and awesome, shadows of the divine beings they once were. Fallen with high Tonnent (greater than their Willpower) are living nightmares who are terrible to behold. Those in between may be either or both, depending on the mortal's preconceptions (and the judgment of the Storyteller). Mortals with low Willpower scores are likely to be overwhelmed by the demon's true nature, while those with greater Willpower can overcome the initial shock and deal with the Revelation (although it still comes as a shock, even to the most jaded and confident of mortals).

When a mortal has a Revelation, roll the mortal's Willpower against a difficulty of the demon's permanent Faith. Mortals whose players fail the roll are so awed or horrified by what they see that they are incapable of doing anything but standing and staring raptly. If the demon directly threatens them, they flee as quickly as possible and later rationalize what happened to them. They believe it was a dream or hallucination, or they simply forget about it altogether. Mortals whose players succeed in the roll are still impressed, but they remain capable of taking rational action (which may still involve fleeing as quickly as possible). They also remember some or all of what happened, although they're not likely to be believed. One success is enough to recall that something extraordinary happened, two successes provide basic details, and three or more successes mean that the mortal recalls exactly what happened (and will probably never forget it). A botch on the Willpower roll means that the mortal suffers a complete collapse, either fainting dead away or turning into a gibbering mass, overcome with awe or tenor. Those with a particularly weak constitution may even suffer a heart attack, stroke or other complication at the Storyteller's whim. Upon recovering, the mortal recalls nothing of the experience, but may still exhibit after effects, such as recurring nightmares or hair gone pennanently white.

One effect a Revelation does not have is to reap Faith from those who witness it. While the witnesses are filled with a momentary awareness of the character's nature, it's an unfocused and impersonal awareness. Reaping Faith requires the demon to form a relationship with a mortal, even if only for a short time — not just to flash his horns and forked tongue. While revealing one's revelatory form may certainly aid in reaping Faith, it's never enough in and of itself to gather power for a demon.