This is an actual play of a Sorcerer campaign called Devil Ex Machina. It is set in San Francisco in 2023 and I wanted the demons to have the vibes of malevolent, conscious artificial intelligence. Sorcery in our game is characterized by an obsession with programming, extensive use of IT, and getting lost in the depths of the web. Humanity is defined as treating other people as an end and not a means. I defined Humanity in that way because I wanted to explore the blurred lines between treating machines as people and people as machines.
The two characters are Adam, a 60-year-old man with a disability pension because of a bad accident that made him lame. His life is quite miserable. He is obsessed with success and has opened a channel on Twitch where he is a streamer. He summoned his first demon, Synthethix, to become rich. The demon has the ability to perceive and change people’s bank accounts. Its Desire is knowledge and its need is to cover the walls of a room with hand-drawn arcane glyphs. Adam once tried to repaint over the glyphs and Synthethix took great offense. So, Adam rented several storage units which he promptly covers with the arcane glyphs to satisfy Syntethix’s need. The first thing he did was to ask Synthethix to make him incredibly rich, and so it did. He now has a nice house in Russian Hill and a yacht in Sausalito. His Kicker is falling in love with Bailey, his yacht neighbor. The first love after 20 years. Synthethix also cured him of lameness through Vitality. I defined in my preparation that Bailey is a bored woman. She is married to Dimitry, a wealthy businessman who inherited a large sum from his father. Bailey is attracted to Adam because she thinks he is a self-made man and so far she has not told him that she is already married.
The other character is Noah. A 35-year-old man who, with his father’s money, founded DataSight a startup that collects big data and develops artificial intelligence, along with his partner and college buddy Michael. However, The financial market is putting a lot of pressure on DataSight and the revenues are not as high as expected. One night Noah’s father showed up demanding his money back. Noah refused and in the argument that broke out, Noah inadvertently killed his father. Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do, he locked himself in his office and summoned a demon to help him out of the situation: Mindwave AI is a demon that can sense when someone is thinking about a person, and make them forget. It can also erase a person’s digital traces from the Internet. So, Noah used it to completely erase his father from everyone’s memories. He got rid of the corpse by throwing it into the bay where it was fished out and labeled as John Doe. Mindwave AI’s Desire is Death and his need is witness its master wash their hands in a basin filled with blood. Noah, to fulfill the need, takes prostitutes to a run-down apartment he owns in the Tenderloin, knocks them out with chloroform, and kills them to extract their blood. He then stores the body in a fridge to extract more blood when Mindwave is in need again. Then, using Mindwave, he causes everyone to forget the existence of the missing person. Noah’s Kicker is that one night Michael, his partner, shows up at his office asking what happened to his father; Michael is actually a sorcerer and his demon protects him from Mindwave’s powers.
Noah has a +1 bond with Mindwave to his advantage, while Adam has a +2 bond with Synthethix to the demon’s advantage. By binding the demons, Noah loses a point of Humanity, while Adam does not.
Using the diagrams I clearly see that Adam’s first scene will be on his yacht in Sausalito while talking amiably with Bailey. Noah’s first scene, on the other hand, is in the office of his start-up in Downtown San Francisco, where Michael has just made that revelation to him.
Adam starts talking to Bailey and is overjoyed to be in her company. However, when Bailey asks about the source of his good fortune, Adam hesitates and lies, claiming he made smart investments in the financial market. This lie is clearly meant to impress Bailey, but it costs Adam a Humanity roll, which he fails.
Bailey mysteriously loses some interest and decides to leave, saying she’ll be in touch soon. Adam is confused, wondering what he said wrong. Fueled by his Desire for Knowledge, Synthethix wants to know everything about Bailey and invites Adam to ask questions. Adam tries to ask Synthethix if Bailey realized he was lying. Synthethix answers with a forceful “No” (Hint), causing Adam to convulse with a severe headache and risking a brain aneurysm. After being rescued by his yacht crew, taking a painkiller, he wonders what could have upset the woman. He decides to summon another demon to spy on Bailey’s conversations. Adam spends the entire night on his yacht, fiddling with his laptop, and eventually contacts and binds Devilgram, a demon who can read any private conversation. His Desire is Falsehood and his need is to witness its master chatting with someone while pretending to be someone else. Adam loses several points of Humanity to contact, summon, and bind Devilgram, but quickly tests its powers by asking it to read Bailey’s chats. He finds a chat between Bailey and a friend of hers, in which she talks about Adam! Reading into Bailey’s private conversations costs Adam another Humanity roll, which he fails. In the chat with her friend, Bailey mentions being somewhat attracted to Adam believing he is a self-made man, unlike her husband Dimitry who inherited everything from his father. Adam struggles to believe what he is reading. Bailey is married! After some investigation on the Internet he discovers that it is all true. In anger, Adam asks Synthethix to drain Dimitry’s bank accounts to zero dollars. Synthethix instantly obeys. Now Bailey’s husband is a completely ruined man! This action leads to another Humanity roll for Adam, which he fails, causing him to reach Humanity 0 and lose control of the character. I decide to give control back to Adam at Humanity 1 after using the character for a bit. Adam now finds himself married to Bailey, who has divorced Dimitry, and they are on their honeymoon in the Caribbean. However, Adam continues to regularly chat with a girl from San Francisco while pretending to be a girl himself to fulfill Devilgram’s need.
Noah’s first scene takes place in his office at his start-up headquarters located in downtown San Francisco. Michael has just told him that he knows what he did to his father and also knows that he is a sorcerer. Noah tries to justify himself by saying that his father was going to take away all his funding. Michael won’t listen to him; he’s disgusted by what Noah has done. He will let him go as long as Noah makes him a 100% shareholder in the startup. This is something Noah is not willing to do, so Michael says he has left him with no choice and leaves. Mindwave, Noah’s demon, asks him why he didn’t think of killing Michael – also because he would need his Need fulfilled, it would have been a good opportunity to obtain some fresh blood. Noah tries to explain that he cannot do that, Michael is his friend and he is not a monster. But Mindwave does not understand why he then so easily kills prostitutes to wash his hands in their blood. Noah tries not to think about all this, trying to compartmentalize the atrocities he has committed. He also decides he wants to take Michael’s demon away from him – the only way to make him forget about his father. Mindwave seems to approve of the initiative. He hopes that in the direct confrontation someone might die, and even if Michael’s demon were banished it would be like witnessing a sort of death. He even decides to delay the fulfillment of his Need (resulting in a loss of 1 Power) in order to observe the outcome between Noah and Michael. Noah drives to Michael’s house, but once there he receives a phone call from Andre, one of his employees at the start-up. Andre is desperate. The Internet is full of fake news stories about him raping a girl. He’s afraid that if Noah found out he would fire him, but he claims he is innocent and doesn’t even know that girl. It’s a bang I have prepared: Michael’s demon can spread false news on the internet, and Michael wants to blackmail Noah by destroying the lives of all his employees until Noah agrees and makes Michael a 100% shareholder. Noah suspects that Michael is behind what is happening to Andre (Noah’s price is Paranoid). Mindwave tells him that Andre will most likely commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Noah asks Mindwave to erase all traces of Andre from the network, so as to clean up the fake news – but Mindwave rebels. Doing so would prevent Andre from committing suicide, and the demon wants to see his death instead (Death is its Desire after all). Noah and Mindwave clash their will but Noah loses. So he decides to postpone the confrontation with Michael for the moment and drive to the Golden Gate Bridge to talk some sense into Andre. This gets Noah a roll to regain Humanity and Noah is successful! At the Golden Gate Bridge, after a few hours, he is actually joined by Andre. Noah manages to reason with him; after all, he is his boss and assures him that he will not fire him. He takes him to a hotel in Downtown to rest and calm him down. He promises him to issue a press release stating that one of his employees was the victim of a hacker attack that has spread some disgusting fake news. Andre finally seems calm and thanks him for believing him. Noah locks himself in the bathroom to have a conversation with Mindwave. His demon demands fulfillment of his Need and indeed wants Noah to kill a new prostitute and take their blood (not from the body he keeps in his run-down apartment in the Tenderloin). After all, Noah has already saved a life, and now Mindwave is frustrated and wants to see someone die (since it aligns with his Desire). Noah agrees, at least apparently. He comes out of the bathroom, sees Andre fallen asleep from too much stress on the hotel room bed, so he leaves and heads for the Tenderloin.
I am very satisfied with this first session. Many interesting things have happened, various situations have triggered Humanity Rolls, and the demons are really tempting their sorcerers. I actually think Adam’s kicker has been solved. After all, his kicker was to have fallen in love with Bailey, and now he has just married her. There are various other conflicts in his story that can be explored (considering that he still has 2 demons bound to him and their nasty needs to fulfill). If I understand correctly, I should not ask the player to think of a new kicker but wait until the other character’s kicker is also resolved, to finish the first story arc, advance the characters, and eventually continue with a new kickers for both of the character.