Demons in WOD

by Chet Erez

Demons are a class of semi-corporeal beings which feed on Humanity. In their search for 'food', they are responsible for much of the anguish and suffering in the world. They consider mortals (and Kindred) their unending herd of cattle, to be fed on and discarded at their leisure.

NATURE OF DEMONS Demons do not have physical bodies. They are purely creatures of intellect and emotion. Despite this, they cannot travel through anything solid; Even a pane of glass is impenetrable for them (see WEAKNESSES). Demons move by levitation, traveling typically at about walking speed, although a few are known to be able to travel much faster.

Each demon has its own Visage, which humans see when looking at it. This varies from demon to demon and is usually based on past experiences. For example, a demon who had spent its time around Medieval churchs might look like a gargoyle, while one who had spent time with the Mayans would take the form of a feathered snake. The Visage is translucent and obviously not solid, so most people ignore them as product of their imagination. If a demon has learned Obfuscate (see POWERS), then it may use that Discipline to turn invisible, change its Visage freely, etc. Visages tend to be about a foot in diameter.

Animals are very uncomfortable around demons, and will act strangely in their presence.

Demons cannot be hurt by physical weapons, sunlight, fire, silver, etc. With few exceptions, they are invulnerable and immortal (see WEAKNESSES).

FEEDING HABIT Demons gain their nourishment from humanity loss around them. In many situations, such as battle fields and brothels, they can simply hang out and feed. Many gluttonous demons do this, but most find it much more satisfying to have caused the humanity loss themselves (home-made meal as opposed to going out to eat). Some prefer certain types of humanity loss (much as the Ventrue like certain types of Blood) and so will specialize in certain types of corruption, like hate or greed.

The rate at which a demon needs to feed is approximately 1 humanity point per week, though this may be adjusted as necessary. This means that there is a limit to the amount of time that a demon can dedicate to a particular person before moving to easier prey. Demons have a Humanity Pool just like Kindred have a Blood Pool; hunger and certain powers (see STRENGTHS: POSSESSION) drain from the pool, while causing corruption fills the pool. It is very possible for a demon to get several points ahead.

The capacity of a demon's Humanity Pool is based on how powerful it. A demon identifies its rank by its titles, like Duke of Miseries, or Knight of the Hangnail. Whether a demon works its way up in the ranks though practice and experience, is born/spawn/created with a certain rank, or if demons perform some sort of Diablerie to become tougher is unknown. A common demon (about Knight level) has a maximum Pool of 5, while Beelzebub, King of (F)Lies, has a Pool of 50.

Pool points can be used in the same way Kindred used Willpower and it takes the place of Blood in any Discipline that requires it. It also has demonic uses, like resisting unwanted Summonings and Bindings, Possessions (see STRENGTHS: POSSESSION), and anything else that seems appropriate for a demon.

If a demon goes a week without any points in its Humanity Pool, it will enter a form of Torpor. It will lie inert and unnoticed wherever it finally collapsed until something happens in its proximity to give it food. A inert demon has no Visage, though it will produce anti-social feelings in anyone near it. People with high Humanity will tend to avoid the area, while people with low Humanity may actually be attracted to it. The area will give them feelings of greed and bloated self-importance, and may give them the excuse to do unpleasant things they normally wouldn't do. This increases the chances of a demon feeding and restoring it to 'health'. It is sort of a mystic evolutionary change to improve chances of survival.

PSYCHOLOGY Although they act calm and and calculating, at 'heart' demons are petty, emotional, and lazy. If made fun of, insulted, ignored, they will sulk, plan elaborate revenge, whine, etc. They are very much like the school bully, who acts like king of the mountain until someone beats him, and then goes crying to mommy. For this reason, it is very uncommon for demons to work together, since they always end up fighting with each other.

Although years of exposure have given them human-like qualities, it is important to remember that they aren't truly human. They have no humanity, no honor, no pity, no conscience. They lie freely and often if it is to their advantage.

ORIGINS OF DEMONS This is an area of great debate among Occultists. Each 'expert' has his or her own theory. Some say they have existed since the beginning of time. Others claim that they are the spirits of the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, cursed to forever repeat their wicked acts. The scientific-minded say they are a simply a different race. Religious folk say they were created to tempt the weak and test people's faith. When asked, demons typically says whatever they think will give them an advantage.

MODUS OPERANDI The greatest tool of demons is their knowledge. Their long existences have given them knowledge of many things forgotten by man. They are very willing to trade this knowledge for something they want. Due to their nature, it is easy for them to spy and eavesdrop, giving them access to countless secrets.

Sometimes demons will simply give away their secrets. Telling a woman the time and location of her husband's next rendezvous with his lover may be all that is necessary for a quick snack. This type of advising is tricky because the demon must be careful that the advisee doesn't guess its ulterior motives. It is best to mix in enough helpful suggestions that the advisee thinks the demon is on his side.

Other times, demons will make trades. Usually, the demon will offer something the character desires, like stock tips, the identity of an enemy, or a treasure map, in exchange for doing things which lower humanity. These acts will be cloaked in reasonable explanations, like stealing some ancient art that the demon wants to possess. For example, a Kindred/Magi/ Lupine wants to learn Blood magics from a demon. The demon would explain that they need fresh learning materials to study with, in time getting more specific and more heinous. "Get the life's blood of a couple that has been married for at least 50 years so I can show you how proximity can make people more and more the same." "Get me someone's arm, still filled with blood." "Bring a healthy person so that we can slowly remove all of his blood and watch the effects." If the 'student' isn't careful, she will have no Humanity left by the time she finishes learning.

Legend has it that the oracle at Delphi was a demon Prince of epic proportions, who loved to prophesize people killing their fathers or requiring people to sacrifice their own children. It made dire warnings about all of the awful things that would happen if it wasn't listened to (and which it would try to arrange if it was ignored).

STRENGTHS Demons can learn the equivalent of certain Kindred Disciplines. Most have at least some Obfuscate, so they can spy unnoticed. Others have Presence to make them more fearsome or Animalism to summon plagues of rats. They may not get Dominate or use Presence to directly control a person (whatever a victim does must be the victim's own choice). It is also common to have Auspex, since it makes finding victims easier.

There is a special demon Discipline called Possession. Not all have it, fortunately. It allows the demon to take control of a willing body. The word 'willing' is crucial, since it must be the person's free choice. This doesn't mean that the demon can't lie or be manipulative. The subject only needs to be willing for a moment. One demon trick is to get a victim into a life-or-death situation and then claim that only from within the victim's body can the demon save the person. Once possessed, the subject's body is under total control of the demon, though the subject can still see/hear/feel everything the demon does in the subject's body. Using willpower, a subject can regain control, but it only lasts a short time. Feeding for the demon is pretty easy, since most people don't react well to experiencing themselves killing people, even if they aren't actually willing the actions. Possession is very tiring for the demon, requiring the use of stored humanity points. An important limitation is that the demon must use one point to end the possession. If it has nothing left in its 'humanity pool', it is stuck in the body until it can get one. This is important because if the possessed body is killed, the demon is destroyed!

Level 1:  able to possess animals
Level 2:  able to possess humans
Level 3:  able to possess supernatural creatures (Kindred, Lupines, etc.)
Level 4:  able to possess and animate inanimate objects up to car-sized
Level 5:  able to possess large inanimate objects (buildings, planes, etc.)

WEAKNESSES By their very nature, demons cannot force people to do things. They must tempt them instead. Demons are careful to hide this fact or many of their threats would be seen as lies.

People with high Humanity can be painful to demons by their presence, especially if they are convinced of their ability to drive off evil. They can often repel a demon with their faith alone. On the other hand, if they every loose their faith, they make the best meal of all!

Another weakness is that demons cannot cross boundaries. Although their lack of physical form would allow them to go under doors, the door is a barrier and therefore cannot be passed through. On the other hand, an open window is an open barrier and can be gone through without hindrance. They cannot even pass over the tops of cubicles, but instead must go through the entrance. Anything treated as a barrier will stop them. An uninterrupted trail of salt or sand across a doorway works as well as a door, IF there are no gaps to squeeze though and if it is treated like a barrier. If anyone steps through the doorway, then there isn't a barrier and the demon can freely pass. A pentagram or circle drawn in chalk may as well be a column of plexi-glass as long as anyone inside doesn't reach or step across it. A common way to trap a demon is to lure it into an unfinished circle of sand and then close it behind it. The demon is then trapped until someone breaks or crosses the boundary. Running water forms a self-renewing boundary that a demon cannot cross on its own. It must follow a person, who by traveling across it temporarily breaks the boundary, or be carries across, typically by carriage or car. Anyone on the opposite side of a boundary can invite a demon through it.

Legends of vampires needing to be invited into houses and not being able to cross running water unaided may well have come from the actions of possessed vampires.

MASQUERADE Demons have their own version of the Masquerade. They thrive on doubt and fear, so announcing to the world that they exist isn't to their advantage. Also, they are careful not to let those who hunt them know of their location.

Even when contacting potential victims, they seldom announce what they are. "Hello. I'm a Demon, and have I got a deal for you!" doesn't tend to work well as an opening line. Demons with 3 levels of Obfuscate will often pose as the ghost of a loved one demanding revenge. Others claim to be daydreams, aliens from another world, a genii, or, ironically enough, a person's conscience.

Demons have the ability to be heard only by the person of their choosing. The subject will seem to be talking to the air, a strange picture on the wall, or even their own reflection in a mirror. It is very common for a demon to follow its dinner of a victim losing his humanity with the desert of his family being forced to throw him in an asylum! In my Chronicle, the Son of Sam killer actually was doing the bidding of his demon possessed dog. Demon are careful not to leave any physical proof, so their subjects simply seem to have been hearing voices and are considered insane.

SUMMONING Occultists have long known methods for summoning demons. These rituals usually involve animal or human sacrifice, because committing these acts causes humanity losses in the new members. This 'food' is consumed by the summoned demon and whets its appetite for more. Naturally, cults will need a continuous in-flow of new members who are horrified by these acts in order to maintain a steady supply of food.

There are two types of summoning: open and named. In an open summoning, any demon in the area is being invited to consume the 'food' that is being provided. The cultists will typically choose a place likely to hold demons, like an abandoned prison or the site of a gruesome murder. Once the demon(s) have arrived, the cultists hope that they can make a deal. In comparison, a named summoning is much more difficult. A specific, 'named' demon is being summoned, while keeping the others out. This requires making a boundary around the 'food' (and typically the cultists too, since others demons might be offended that they are being left out). The summoning gives the named demon permission to cross the boundary (in or out), while leaving it intact against others. This kind of summoning will draw the demon to it no matter where it was before, EVEN if it was in Torpor. This is the sole hope of forgotten demons, lost in abandoned mine shafts or buried in old pyramids.

There should be limits on summonings. More powerful demons may require higher level rituals, or perhaps a custom ritual solely designed for summoning a specific demon. If there is a barrier in its way, the demon may not be able to reach the Summoning site, though the ritual may allow communication so the demon can tell the summoners how to get the boundaries out of its way, or even how to travel to it. Each particular summoning should have it own requirements, components, strengths, and weaknesses (i.e. a shaman does it differently than a hermetic mage or a voodoo priestess).

Demons can use points from their Humanity Pool to resist summonings. A good rule of thumb is they will need consume as many points as are offered them by the summoners (resisting the offered 'food' by eating what they already have). Demons that have almost been trapped before may well resist all summonings (for a human lifetime or two) just to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BINDING With enough magical knowledge and skill, a demon can be bound to an object. Most binding rituals are slow, so the demon must either be willing or be trapped. The object the demon is to be bounded to must be present for the entire ritual. Typically, it can be no larger than a person. If it wishes, the demon can resist, using the points in its Humanity Pool to slow or even break the binding (the mechanics of this is up to the Storyteller). If the spell is successful, the demon is bound to the object until it is unbound or the object is destroyed.

The immediate result of this is that the demon loses the freedom of movement. It is at the mercy of whoever is carrying it. On the other hand, the demon no longer has to use its energy to levitate or to maintain a semi-corporeal form, so it needs to feed half as often (i.e. every other week). Demons retain their ability to speak and sense and are the most common 'sentient' magical objects found. Some demons find this form relaxing, since many 'colectors' will kill each other over these objects without any prompting from the demon. In time, the demon will tend to develop abilities that match the object it resides within: a violin will create beautiful music no matter who plays it, a crystal ball will show peoples auras and potential fates, etc. Of course to use its abilities, the demon will still need to be fed, so it is business as usual.

A demon bound in an object is vulnerable to destruction. If its container is destroyed, so is it. This is a fact that the demon will hide at all costs! For each point in its Humanity Pool, it can make its object temporarily invulnerable to ANY damage. At this point it becomes a game of nerves as the demon laughs at the person's useless attempts to harm it as it rapidly runs out of the ability to defend itself. Fortunately, most people will give up after one or two futile attempts (would you keep trying if you ran over a glass statue with a steam roller and nothing happened?). If the demon realizes that the person knows that she can eventually destroy it, it will become desperate and promise the sun, moon, and stars to make her stop (and probably have to deliver, since there is nothing stopping the person from trying to destroy it again).

A demon can be unbound by a ritual similar to the one that bound it, though this requires it to give out its name, which could also be used to destroy it. No one said it was easy being a demon!

DESTROYING Demons are notoriously hard to kill. If the person or object they possess is destroyed, so are they, if they can't escape before it happens (see STRENGTHS: POSSESSION). There are certain magical rituals which will kill a demon, but they require it to be present (and usually trapped) and its name to be known. If the Storyteller uses the Faith option, then a Miracle can destroy one, though the demon will probably run when it sees the Faithful person comming. A demon can hurt and kill another demon, so a weapon with a demon bound to it can harm another demon, though both demons will fight against this every step of the way. Demons can be fought astrally, but they should be very tough to fight this way. In most cases, it is easier for a person to get a demon bored with her than destroying it.

NAMES With the potential for being bound and destroyed, one would wonder why a demon would tell anyone its name. In many cases, it didn't have a choice. Someone threatened to leave it trapped in a pentagram in a sealed room forever if it didn't tell what its name was. All it takes is one Magi knowing, and it will eventually get passed around. Often, having its name known and available is a good business tactic, since cultists are always looking for powerful creatures to get favors from.

LOCATIONS Some areas are more likely to contain demons than others. Not surprisingly, they like to hang out where they are likely to find food or a new victim. Las Vegas is the Mecca of demons. In contrast, demons avoid, and even feel pain, in places where Humanity is restored. Examples of these are homes of honestly loving families, self-help meetings (perhaps like Alcoholics Anonymous), and some (but not all) churches.

SUGGESTIONS The motivations of demons should be kept secret. Players should always wonder what a demon is up to, why it gives them information for nothing one time and charges them heavily the next, etc. Once they figure it out, though, the demon's actions should make perfect sense.

Demons are a role-playing creature. They exist to tempt people and talk them into doing things they normally wouldn't do. They shouldn't be like D&D Demons/Daemons/Devils, which were for beating up with your Holy Avenger.

There are rumors of creatures just like demons, except that they feed on the increase of Humanity instead of its lowering.

Every demon should have its own personality. I usually give mine Demeanors. Their Natures are uniformly Sadist (enjoyings the suffering and corruption of individuals).

Demons can be classed in clan-like groups: Guardian (who specialize in fear/paranoia), Vengeance (hate), Wealth (greed), Pleasure (gluttony & lust), etc.

SOURCES The following is a list of the types of demons I like. I'm interested in any other sources people suggest.

Hellblazer (DC Comic) -- the story line 'Royal Blood' was centered on a possession by a demon named Calibraxis.

The Exorcist (Movie) -- A girl is possessed. To stop it, a priest allows himself to be possessed instead. He then kills himself (the sequels apparently changed this ending).

The Devil's Game (Novel) -- A good example of a man who doesn't know if he is talking with a devil, or if it is all in his mind.

Friday the 13th: the Series (TV Series) -- 3 seasons worth of evil, indestructible objects that give you power for a price.