Between getting our box of vegatables from our CBA, making dinner and cleaning up, driving the the game store to pick up the new books and going for a long walk with my wife last night I only was able to spend about an hour looking over the book. I started at the beginning and just read for a while but then realized that with this tactic I wouldn't get to the crunchy bits until the weekend. (Don't get me wrong, the distinctions between metaphysical vs moral vs physical evil were really quite interesting, they just didn't have the draw of the numbers.)
So I did a top level sort of look through on the whole book and I'd like to hear the authors thoughts on a few of my initial reflections
The infernal mights for demons don't go as high as I was expecting. In my game (with magi in their mid-forties) all of the magi can pierce a thirty might with at least a few of their spells. Of course in my quick glance I didn't really have time to absorb an understanding of thier powers. The "powers available to all demons" section made me think that they could be subtile enough to provide worthy foes for my PC's despite not having the power to meet them face to face. Was this the design intention?
Sorcerers on the other hand (Ars Goeta, is that spelled right?) they're darn scary. Formidable foes indeed.
The devil children have a note that says something to the effect of "these are very powerful, if a player wants to play one they'll work much better with a group of elder magi". Now addmittedly I didn't give this section a real close look, but my initial impression is that the example character wouldn't be at all comparable in power to the magi in my game, he'd be much weaker. What did I miss? Why are devil children scary?
The might scale in the new edition is lower, and the examples given in the book are common demons of each type. You want to roll out demon princes with Might 75...then you have a few examples, but basically we wanted a lot of variety.
You also have scaling rules in there, to ley you take Demon X, and design his boss. And his boss.
As I recall, and not remembering this well, its because because there are two different sets of "devil children". One set is based on early Jewish approaches, which allow you to literally have half-devils. These guys have all of the power of devils, in the sense that they have hierarchical position in the Infernal Realm, while simultaneously being able to be sorcerers. These are the guys in the big black cloaks with the flaming swords and the nasty cackle, OK? The big opera Faustian guys. I didn't write them, so I may have all of those details wrong, but they are your classic world conquering villains.
The other approach , the Chrisitan one historically speaking, is that half-devils are an anatomical impossibility. People who thin kthey are half-devils have been liewd to. We consider what it means to have reality distorting spirits of pure evil in a world with unprotected infants in it. This set of tainted people aren't necessarily combat monsters, no...but they are some deeply screwed up individuals, with a lot of power to do evil. People who -think- they are the son of the Devil are bad enough, but a guy who thinks he is the chosen servant of Saint Michael is worse, both are supernaturally powered killing machines, but only one of them is utterly certain that its all for your own good, and you'll want to thank him afterwards.
You can play him as a PC, if you like, at any stage of his rise to early power, fall before the might of the real good guys, his attempts to break away from discovered evil, or the part where he finds out that his entire life has been a lie, but the scheme failed and now its time to put him back in his box.
And that's not as weird as it gets...that's just the simple bit. Seriously think about what it means if the the world is full of invisible, cunning sociopaths that can take human shape. Think what happens when one of these guys raises a child as a disposable tool for one of his intricate plans. I think some of the new diabolists are scary because we have a new string in our bow on demons.
In some of the older editions they were the orcs of Ars Magica: the things you could just kill and not need to think about all that much, in terms of right and wrong. Simple combat enemies, with a bit of sneakiness...we still have that, but we also seriously look at the idea that these are immortal, eternal, intelligent, amoral beings, who think that humans in pain are chuckle-til-you-puke funny. The devil children are scary because they are just tools in the hands of the devils, and this time, Evil is Clever.
Or not...remember, I just wandered in with some ideas about children in dystopic societies and football hooliganism. I could well be wrong.
Curses, you broke the spell! It doesn't corrupt you as well if you don't read it straight through!
From what I remember, yes, that is the intention. There's a lot of lower-level demons because even those with Might 30 will tear apart starting level magi, but even something as insignificant as a famulus with Might 5 can totally ruin a character's reputation with its powers. Generally speaking, once the magus has unmasked the demon its days are numbered, except with demon princes and the like. Most demons are more effective when they don't engage their foes directly, and even after the magi start up the DEO speedwagon, the effects of their machinations can last for a long, long time.
Ars Goetia, the Goetic Arts. Yes, the folks who practice that are closer to the sort of antagonist that is better at direct engagements. The best are probably the infernalists who practice maleficia, at least against mundane armies and so on, but experienced sorcerers can easily go toe-to-toe with Hermetic magi. Demons, I suspect, almost always prefer to use mortals to fight their battles for them. Less risk of harm to themselves, and if the mortal dies, oh look, another damned soul to reap.
As Timothy said, there's two kinds. The ones he's mostly talking about are called Demon-Tainted, I think. Demon Children are the other kind, actual demon-blooded creatures.
They're a kind of Mythic Companion, so they have access to a lot more powers. Experienced magi could probably make mincemeat out of them, I grant you, but if they're being played as characters in a saga, they're much more powerful than other companions. They have Might, for one thing, though that's not usually their greatest strength. Malachai, the sample character, could easily lead an army of a hundred crazed fanatics against the magi, plus anyone else who gets swept up with the tide.
The sample characters are intended more as story hooks with stats, rather than player character templates. Imagine what would happen if Malachai turned against his evil parentage and joined with the magi, for example. Scary, for both sides! He'd probably just get toasted, though, as soon as the magi realize he's infernal, and I doubt anyone would ever trust him enough to let him help them once they know that. (That's a big theme in this book-- evil powers are evil, but are all characters with evil powers evil?) I imagine he's damned no matter what.
Ok I skipped my walk at lunch to read some more. Cthonic magic; I realize that in order to make a magus risk their soul the pay off has to be pretty darn high. Cthonic magic is also used for folks who don't actually make deals with infernal powers. The kicker to cthonic magic is clearly the little bit that works like "magical focus (stuff and things)". That's a truley huge bonus, just about the biggest that we'd ever imagine putting into the game. Did you consider and discard other options? What was it that made that choice stick out to you as the way to go ?
You rock, Mr. Tyrrell. Thanks for posting your impressions.
Chthonic Magic is a Hermetic Virtue intended to lure characters into evil. It's extremely useful for those who regularly interact with the Infernal (like demon slayers). It's even more useful when you do something morally questionable with it. It doesn't seem like much to, say, utter a blasphemous word or kill an animal or something like that, considering how much better it makes your magic, and my hope was that players would take the Virtue and then struggle with the temptation to use it. When going against a demon prince, that boost might really be worth it, if you have the personal strength to fight fire with fire, and can deal with the consequences if other magi realize what you're doing.
I think what really sold it for me was the way it looks like Diedne Magic. I love the idea that characters might have to lie that they're Diedne in order to hide that they have Infernal powers. Which is worse, I wonder? Among a group of Tremere magi from the Burning Acorns vexillation, I suppose it might be better to admit to your Chthonic nature.
You are special. There's quite a lot of little gems like that sprinkled throughout the book, references to earlier material and such. I'm glad you appreciated it. I'm also extremely impressed you saw that so quickly!
I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the infernal traditions.
Yup, I think I saw references to Black Monks of Glastonbury and to Land of Fire and Ice (perhaps, I never did read that one as thouroughly) as well but they were neither as hidden nor as humorous.
I just sort of breezed through the infernal traditions up to this point reading a paragraph at most from each. I'll have an hour and a half or so before my D&D game tonight but I think I'm going to use this time to crack open that other book I purchased yesterday rather than delve further into yours. My thoughts on the traditions may have to wait a few days.
Something that I was pleased to see in both books was an additional list of shape and material bonuses.
If I'm feeling industrious I might compile a master list from GoTF, HoH: MC, RoP:I, TMRE, Ars Magica 5, and (noting that they were from an earlier eddition) WGRE. Then submit it to Sanctum Hermeticum, Durenmar , or John and Michelle to post for general use.
Well, I certainly can't fault you for that. I'm glad your first scan of Infernal was rewarding.
That's a great idea; it would be incredibly useful. I've thought about doing something similar for all of the Virtues and Flaws, perhaps with the name, type, brief summary, and a page reference rather than the complete text.
I think we can to turn to the Berklist for Wrath. You know that someone there will be outraged at you for making an insensitive parody of Medieval Satanism, nailing chamber pots, etc. It wouldn't be the Berklist otherwise.
And isn't this whole thread intended to titillate our Greed and sastisfy yours? Follow the money...
I admit I do wonder what sort of criticism the book will get from the Berklist. Most likely, though, as one of the other authors put it, it will be ignored for six months and then suddenly someone will bitterly complain that it depicts Joachim of Flora in an unfavorable light, or that it suggests that polytheistic religions aren't Divine, and a huge flamewar will break out. But I believe it's a very good (er, evil) book, and I think a lot of players will get good (er, evil) things out of it, and perhaps that's good (er, evil) enough for me.