Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Demon City Character Gen (Revised)

For Demon City--with the notes to Shawn, my graphic designer, still in it

The default Demon City game is set in the present, in a terrible version of some modern city. Players can play any sort of person, from any walk of life: a depressed high school student, a bank robber, a drug-addled forensics expert, even a werewolf.

Sometimes it can be fun to play a game with a limited scope—every character is a detective on the homicide squad, or a part of a crew of bank-robbers out to make one big score, or a clique of plucky high school kids trying to find out who killed their drug dealer—if the group decides to go in that direction, make sure everyone agrees to it and knows before making a character. The changes you need to make to the rules to play this kind of game are covered in the “Pitches and Sketches” chapter. These are the rules for a more typical game.

Making a character basically requires making some decisions and writing down some terms and numbers—some of these terms and numbers you won’t understand right away, don’t worry, they’ll be defined soon enough.

There are two ways to make a character: totally random and custom. A random character gets a set of characteristic scores and then the player decides what occupation and motive fits that set of characteristics. A custom character allows the player to decide what kind of character they’d like to play first, then they can assign the scores that come up based on that. Random characters will, on average, have slightly higher Characteristics than custom characters.


To make characters, the Host should prepare a Character Deck using their tarot cards, it has these cards in it:
Four Aces/1s (of any kind, which can include The Magician, which has a value of 1)
Four Twos (of any kind)
Four Threes (of any kind)
Three Fours (of any kind)
One Five (of any kind)
The Fool (0)
Then shuffle it.

(If you don’t have cards or must make a PC mid-game while someone’s using them, roll d100 for each score: 1-5=0, 6-29=1, 30-53=2, 54-77=3, 78-95=4, 96-00=5, no repeat 0s or 5s.) 

To make a custom character, simply read through this section in order and follow the directions.

To make a totally random character:

1. Go down to “Characteristics”
2. List each Characteristic in order on a piece of paper vertically
3. Pull a card from the Character Deck. The numeric value of the card is the numeric value of your PC’s Calm—the first Characteristic (the suit doesn’t matter). Aces are worth 1, The Fool is worth 0. Then do this 6 more times: Pick one card for each Characteristic and write the number down.
4. Then go up to Motives—pick or randomly throw a Motive (keeping in mind each group can only start with a maximum of one Problem and must include at least one non-Friend).
5. Add one point to any characteristic (this is your bonus for making a custom character).
6. Adjust your Characteristics (points over a maximum for a given Motive are lost) to match the Motive
7. Then follow the directions for Occupation, Starting Contacts, Skills, and The Rest.


Motives are kind of like what function as “classes” in other RPGs, but while in those games classes are kinds of jobs, in Demon City motives describe your relationship to the corruption and horror that Demon City characters investigate when the session starts. Characters can grow out of their original motives over time, but this is why they start investigating.

Some motives restrict or augment a character’s Characteristics (the seven stats—Calm, Agility, Toughness, Perception, Appeal, Cash, Knowledge—that all characters have), Skills (special trained abilities or aptitudes) or Contacts (non-player characters the PC can rely on for help).

Motives can also affect what actions the character gets advancement rewards for.

All have a Panic Mode—a way of behaving that takes over when the character is at 0 Calm or less, and gripped by fear.  If a character begins a campaign at 0 Calm (ie, they are generated that way), the special mechanical effect that applies in the first round after they fall to 0 Calm does not apply.

Pick a Motive from below and write down any changes or limits on your character the Motive entails:


The Curious character is motivated by fascination. Typically an academic or a former paid investigator, the curious character wants to know what’s causing the horror, where did it come from? And maybe even…can it be controlled?

-The Curious character’s Calm Characteristic is treated as 2 lower for the purpose of any test which might allow the character access to hidden knowledge. Make a note of that on your character sheet.

-The Curious character gains the Research Skill at Perception+2 or Knowledge+2 for free, whichever would be higher.

-The Curious character gains 2 extra Knowledge Skills (ranked at the associated Characteristic +1 as usual).


-The Curious character regains 1 Calm during Downtime if they finish the session knowing more about the Horror than they did since the last Downtime.

-Curious-Motive PCs get an extra throw if they Work/Train and do so alone. They do not gain an extra throw if they choose to Work/Train with another PC (ie they don’t benefit from the Pal Throw) but they do 

Panic mode:
The curious character's panic will come in the form of wanting to know more. In addition to this general role-playing prompt, in the round after they hit 0 Calm they must try to find out something new about the situation they're in.


The Friend doesn’t know what all this is about and doesn’t want to guess. But the friend is loyal to someone else on the case and that’s what counts.

-At the beginning of the game, the Friend picks another PC they are devoted to. If they aren’t there that session, they have to pick someone else.
-Every party must include at least one non-Friend.
-The Friend gains an extra throw (see Getting Things Done In Demon City section) when protecting whichever character they are devoted to from direct physical harm. 
-The Friend maintains a sense of detachment and perspective, giving them a +1 to their Perception Characteristic or the Calm Characteristic, free. Maximum of 5.
- If a Friend’s friend dies, the Friend-Motivated PC’s Maximum Calm goes down by one, and they select another PC as their new pal.


-Friend PCs get an extra throw if they choose Other Hobbies, Exercise, Cooking, Drinking, or Drugs as their Downtime activity and do it with their friend. They get the benefit of that extra throw only for themselves.
-The Friend character regains 1 Calm during Downtime if they finish and their Friend is alive and sane (this is before any other thing that might happen in Downtime to improve their situation).

Panic mode:
When in a panic, the friend character's loyalty will override everything and they'll try to get whichever character they are most loyal to (or one of the characters they are most loyal to) out of the situation. In addition, they must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm trying to get/keep their friend out of or away from the situation—even if they aren’t there.


Someone wants to get to the bottom of this, and they’re paying the Investigator to do it. The Investigator is typically a private detective, or--up until the supernatural gets obviously involved and the department decides it's bullshit--a cop, but they can also be a journalist, an insurance adjuster, or almost anything else. There are lot of reasons to pay a private citizen to sort out a sticky situation.

-The Investigator starts with either 2 extra Skills (at Characteristic+1 as usual) and 1 extra Starting Contact, or 1 extra Skill and 2 extra Starting Contacts.
-The Investigator wouldn’t have been hired if they didn’t have Knowledge or Perception of at least 2. If you’re making a custom character, be sure to assign a 2 or higher to at least one of these Characteristics. If you have no high numbers (wow) or made a completely random character with low stats in both, the player may choose one of these stats and raise it to two.
-The Investigator cannot start with a Cash Characteristic higher than 3. If you’re making a custom character, be sure to assign a 3 or lower to this Characteristic. If you have no low numbers (wow) or made a completely random character with a high Cash, the player must lower it to 3.


-Investigator-Motive PCs get an extra throw if they spend Downtime hanging out with their contact and their people alone—they do not gain an extra throw if they bring another PC along (Ie they don’t benefit from the Pal Throw).

-The Investigator character regains 1 Calm at the end of a session if they know more about the Horror than they last Downtime or if they’ve made more money since then.

Panic mode:
Used to relying on method, the investigator in a panic is simply less effective. In addition, the must spend the next round after they hit 0 Calm either fleeing or acting with only 1 throw.


They say victimhood doesn’t define you--well, for The Victim it does, at least at the start of the game. Something terrible has happened to the character or one of their loved ones and it’s left a scar.

-Victims’ earnestness is manifest—they automatically gain the Persuasion skill equal to their Appeal Characteristic plus two, free.
-The Victim is privy to special information, the victim was there—the Victim gains an extra Perception Characteristic throw when in the presence of any clue associated with the crime or kind of crime they were witness to.
-The Victim gains an extra throw in combat with any entity they believe to be responsible for the crime that has traumatized them.
-If the initial crime is solved and avenged, the above bonuses apply to investigating and fighting all supernatural threats.
-A Victim’s cannot start with a Calm Characteristic higher than 4.  If you’re making a custom character, be sure to assign a 4 or lower to this Characteristic. If you have no low numbers (wow) or made a completely random character with a high Calm, the player must lower it to 4.


-If Victim PCs choose Volunteering or Isolation/Meditation as their Downtime activity, they gain an extra throw.
-The Victim regains 1 Calm at the end of the session if they hurt a Horror in some way.

Panic Mode:
The victim in a panic is energized. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they will act with 1 additional throw and will keep that throw for that purpose until the menace is defeated or driven off (again: only in combat). 


Like the Victim, the Problem starts the game having already come into contact with the enemy—only for the Problem, the scars are not just mental, but physical and even spiritual. The Problem is manifesting strange abilities and aversions. The Problem may have demon blood, they may have dawning psychic abilities, they may be turning into something more than human. 

-There may only be one Problem PC at a time. If the game group has players that regularly pop in and out of the campaign, have players who want to play a Problem make an additional non-Problem PC in case two players with Problem characters show up to the same session.
-The Problem’s player can choose the kind of Problem they are or they can let the Host pick.
-The Problem gains abilities specific to the brand of Problem they are.
-So far Artificial lifeform, Vampire, Lycanthrope, Psychic, and Part-demon characters are supported by this book (see the Horrors section in the Part 4: The Library for specifics on each). Hosts are officially encouraged to make more if these aren’t enough.
-If the player chooses, The Host must state which kinds of supernatural creatures (and which kinds of PC Psychic abilities) they wish to allow before the player makes their choice.
-If the player chooses the type of Problem their character will be, their maximum starting Calm Characteristic  is 3. If you’re making a custom character, be sure to assign a 3 or lower to this Characteristic. If you have no low numbers (wow) or made a completely random character with a high Calm, the player must lower it to 3.
-If the Host chooses the kind of Problem they are, they gain a +1 to Calm up to a starting Calm of 4 (no more). 

-If Problem PCs choose Isolation/Meditation as their Downtime activity, they gain an extra throw.
-The Problem regains 1 Calm at the end of the session if they use their abilities in a way that helped their fellow party members.

Panic Mode:
The problem will revert to instinct when in a panic. In the round after they hit 0 Calm they must use their special abilities


Any modern occupation or job is fair game in Demon City, you get to pick. There’s a list of 500-odd modern occupations in the back of the book if you’re not sure. This can determine what your Occupational Skill is (see below) and affect your Contacts, but it doesn’t directly impact anything else in character generation, including your Motive. You can be a wealthy night clerk at Circle K in Demon City if you really want to (maybe your rich uncle just died).


Characters in Demon City have two kinds of stats: Characteristics and Skills. Characteristics are broad descriptors and things that every person generally has to come degree (Appeal, Cash, etc), skills are things which require specific training or experience that not all modern humans can be expected to possess (knowledge of Firearms, Biology, etc).

Some common learned aptitudes like swimming, driving and using a cell phone are so common that they do not have a specific skill associated, but the lack of that ability will be noted separately. 

To make a new custom character, choose 7 cards from the Character Deck, then assign the numbers (ignore the suit—Aces are worth 1, the Fool is 0) to the characteristics below as you see fit, following the restrictions for your motive.

If you decide your character has a major disability not covered by a low Toughness score—they can’t, for instance, see or can’t hear or can’t walk without assistance or have only one arm or one hand—they gain 2 extra points to put into Characteristics of their choice up to the maximums for their Motive. 

Characteristics for humans are ranked 0-5 
0: Terrible
1: Bad
2: Average
3: Good
4: Very good
5: World class

These are:


(CATPACK for short)

Characteristics can go up and down. These scores are—right now—your “Starting Calm”, “Starting Agility” etc. They are also, for now, your Maximum Calm, Maximum Agility, etc.

Calm and Toughness can go down easily, but then come back up again. Next to Calm put “Current Calm” and “Maximum Calm” and mark them all the same number as you Calm score. Also put “Current Toughness” and “Maximum Toughness” on your sheet and give them all the same number as your Toughness score.


The number of Starting Contacts you have when the game starts is equal to your Appeal or Cash, whichever is higher. 

Contacts are people you know and are guaranteed to help you with an investigation if it’s within their field or area of expertise (though they are oddly cowardly, they rarely accompany PCs). You have a certain number of slots—you can pick who these people are now or let them “float”. Also, there are some occasions when you’ll get a “free” Contact—that is, a Contact that won’t take up one of your starting Slots.

You don’t have to decide who your Contacts are until you feel the need to call on someone in the game—however, if you want to have a contact in a specific field right away, you can write in one now—without having to make any checks (see below).

If you let a Contact slot float—when you want a Contact you make an Appeal check against a Host-chosen number (depending on how likely your character as-played-up-until-that-point would know such a person) to see if you happen to know someone in that field. Once you’ve filled up all of these Starting Contact slots you have to meet new people in-game or through special rewards from the Host and cannot simply add Contacts at will by making Appeal checks.

If you fail the Appeal throw, you don’t know anyone you trust in that field, and you can’t make a new Contact in the same field that way using floating slots (though you could try to know someone in a related field—if you don’t know a chemistry professor you may know a pharmacist).

Once established, a Contact exists—they immediately need a name, a part of the city they live in, an appearance (the player can decide this but if they don’t want to, the Host can)—the rest can be developed in play or decided between sessions. Losing a Contact after they are invented costs a Calm point permanently off your maximum—so be good to them.

Here’s a rule for the Host: you can’t just say a Contact died (or went insane, or betrayed you). If a Contact is threatened, that means the characters have a chance to save them. Finding out a Contact is threatened is a hook for an adventure and the Contact can only be taken away permanently if the characters fail to meet some in-game challenge.

Contacts can’t be real people from our world—like you can’t have Oprah as a contact—because it gets really silly really fast. You can, however, have “A prominent african-american tv host known for her comforting takes on hot button issues” etc.

Occasionally a Contact will ask for help with something potentially life- or sanity- threatening—this is almost always going to be the Host’s way of getting players involved in the next investigation. Not helping them could cost you Calm.


Skills are specialized abilities not everyone has. Skills are associated with a Characteristic—they are ranked 1-9 for humans and usually they start at least one point higher than the associated Characteristic score.

Assign skills as follows:

1. Broadly speaking you get one Occupational skill + 5 Basic Skills + Any skills your Motive gives you. There are a bunch of details and nitpicky options from there but that’s the basics…

2. First nitpick: New characters start with one Occupational Skill—this is a skill associated with their job (or school or lifestyle of indolent wealth or whatever) there are two ways to do it and you get to pick:

-Name a custom skill after your job and rank it at Perception +1, the skill will not be on the list below but it represents what the character knows from their own job. A plumber with Perception: 3 could have Plumbing: 4. This is an extra skill in addition to the basic 5 you usually get (see below).

-If your PC’s job substantially involves a skill already on the list below, like, for instance, you’re a burglar so your job is basically Burglary or if you’re a used car salesman and so your job is basically Deception, or you’re a bouncer so your job is basically Hand to Hand combat you may choose to take that listed skill at (associated characteristic)+2 instead of taking the separate extra Occupational skill. This isn’t an extra skill and counts against the total number of skills you get (5 skills).

The job-specific Occupational Skill is generally broader than the skill on the list, so it can be a difficult choice: if you’re a stage magician you can choose “Stage Magician” at Perception+1 and be good at performing, choosing costumes, assume a familiarity with how theaters work, plus know some magic tricks, or you can choose a job-related skill off the list—say “Sleight of Hand”—at Agility+2 as your Occupational Skill, which is possibly a higher number, but means you’re only especially good at the actual tricks and you probably let your assistant handle the rest.

3. Some PC Motives grant additional Skills, as noted under the Motive description.

4. The basic 5 Skills you get come off the lost. The rank at (whatever the associated Characteristic is) +1. Some of the skills, like Athletics, Science or Humanities, allow you to pick a bonus skill afterward. Others, like Exotic Weapon, require you to specify a concentration.

5. Specialization option—if you give up one of your 5 basic skills, you gain 2 skill points that you can add on to the rating of any other skill you already have. Maximum rank of 9 for any skill. Spend them all now. Characters cannot trade in specific skills they got because of their Motive or bonus skills like the ones you get to pick after you get Athletics, Science or Humanities, nor can they be a skill that grants bonus skills. In other words: do not use this option to “game the system”—the gaming comes later when you actually play the character you made.  You’re taking your 2 skill points in lieu of one of those initial 5 skills you get.

6. Hyperspecialization option—If your character can’t swim, drive, read, or use a cell phone/computer, you get 2 extra skills (at Characteristic +1) or 4 points to use on existing skills for each of these limitations you have.

Skills can be improved later, so don’t freak out if they’re low.

The Skills and their associated characteristics are:

-Driving (it’s assumed you can drive, this is fancy driving, and also general car trivia)
-Exotic Weapon (this includes pre-modern things not covered under melee or firearms like bows, throwing knives, whips, etc. You have to pick one category specifically like “Exotic Weapon: Bows”, but you get it at Agility+2)
-Pilot/Drive Other (anything not a car that requires training: motorcycle, boat, helicopter, plane--pick one now)
-Sleight of Hand (any kind of tricky task involving manual dexterity)

Toughness or Agility, whichever is higher
-Athletics (if you pick this, in addition to Athletics at the normal score you also get to choose a specific sport or kind of training: swimming, triathalon, tennis, mountain climbing, etc. and you get that at +2. Additional specific sports chosen after that are also at Toughness/Agility +2. If your sport is wrestling, boxing, martial arts etc you have to take Hand To Hand instead—it comes up a lot. Same with target shooting and Firearms, etc.)
-Hand to hand combat (also includes using most simple melee weapons like swords, clubs, brass knuckles, knives, etc)

-Occupational (soldier, student, truck driver, etc—this represents your current job—see above for the special way this works)
-Outdoor Survival/Tracking
-Therapy (talking other people down from certain Calm loss incidents, but can also be used to see if someone’s lying, etc)

-Deception (this includes both ability to disguise yourself, and acting/lying generally)
-Persuasion (being good at talking—this only includes telling the truth though or advicating for something you want, unlike just Appea, it doesn’t make you good-looking)

-Humanities (if you pick this, in addition to Humanities at Knowledge+1, you get to choose a specific subject—Literature, Anthropology, History, etc—you get that free, at Knowledge+2. Additional specific Humanities subjects chosen after that are also at Knowledge +2.)
-Local Knowledge (this is for wherever the campaign starts unless you specify otherwise)
-Other Languages (Pick one at Knowledge+2 or a number of languages equal to your Knowledge score each ranked at Knowledge minus 1)
-Science (if you pick this, in addition to Science at Knowledge+1, you get to choose a specific subject—Biology, Chemistry, etc—you get that free at Knowledge+2. Additional specific Science subjects chosen after that are also at Knowledge +2.)

Perception or Knowledge, whichever is higher

Knowledge, Perception or Cash, whichever is highest
-Well-traveled (a successful check means you can add Local Knowledge of a place other than where the campaign began at Knowledge/Perception/Cash minus 1—minimum of 0. You can use this any number of times.)


Looking at the details you’ve got, tie it all together. Figure out why they have this mix of aptitudes and weaknesses. Give your PC an age and a name and decide what they look like and you’re ready to go. Height, weight, eye color, etc can be decided now or when they come up.


Once the characters are made, you want to think about how they’re related to The Horror and how you’ll get them involved in the first investigation.

You’re going to have to fit them into some adventure whose initial conditions you’ll devise. This means you may devise some details of the PC’s backstory for them, you might say “Our story begins in Pittsburgh, your father was a coalminer…”—as long as they’re ok with this (most players will be) you’re fine. If they strongly object to some background thing you attach to their PC: bend.

Also: at the beginning of each session, write down player characters' names in ascending order of Agility and leave some space in between. Decide ties randomly. The reason will be clear soon. 

Also note each character’s Perception stat, in case you need to secretly determine if they’re surprised or notice something and don’t want the players to know something’s up.

WHAT THE CHARACTERISTICS MEAN (Graphic Designer: put this facing the Characteristics page in character generation)

-Chill, Cool, Self-Control.
-Sanity too, for most people. Though psychopaths can be very Calm.
-Current Calm goes up and down but throws are made using your Maximum Calm score. 
-Used to resist and sometimes use paranormal powers and magic that mess with your mind.
-0 Calm means you’re off in some clear way people notice.
-Negative Calm means you’re maybe going insane, see details under PANIC AND INSANITY.

-Flexibility, ability to dodge stuff, fine motor control.
-This is your dodging punches stat if you don’t have Hand To Hand skill.
-…and your shooting stat if you don’t have Firearms.
-Also good for getting out of the way of explosions, people aiming at you, gouts of blood, etc.
-Decides who announces when in a fight, high Agility characters get to decide what they’ll try to do after low Agility ones announce.

-Strength and health.
-Current Toughness goes up and down but throws are made using your Maximum Toughness score.
-This is your punching & kicking and general melee stat if you don’t have Hand To Hand skill.
-Someone with Toughness 5 might backlift up to 2 tons, something Toughness 10 can backlift up to 50 tons.
-O Toughness means you’re debilitated in some clear way.
-Negative toughness means you’re maybe dying, see details under DAMAGE.

-Senses plus ability to notice things in general.
-Used to resist delusions and illusions.
-Used to find clues.

-Overall charm, due to appearance, manner, or both.
-That is: the player can decide how much of this is they’re good-looking and how much is charm.
-Includes lying and convincing people you’re telling the truth—get the Deception skill to get better at the former, the Persuade skill to get better at the latter.

-How much money you have.
-Cash can go up and down—throws are made using your current score.
-Cash 0 doesn’t necessarily mean you have zero dollars, just that you’re borderline homeless in general.
-The Intensity of a Cash Check is roughly equal to the number of digits in the purchase.
-You can never purchase anything more than 2 Intensities above your Cash level.
-More details about buying things are in The Store in the Library section of this book.

-How much useful information you have in your head.
-This isn’t logic or deductive reasoning, the players have to do that themselves. Figuring out a tall building would cast a shadow pointing west in the morning is, for example, a deduction the players would have to make without a throw. Knowing there is a specific tall building somewhere in the city is a Knowledge throw.

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jwagnaar said...

Artwork is great as always. May want to mention to your graphic designer about getting rid of the widows in the type. There are 2 under Motives (1st and last paragraph), 1 in the last paragraph of Characteristics, and 4 on the CATPACK page (under Calm, Toughness, and Agility). Keep up the good work!

TPmanW said...

I think there's a typo.
"4. The basic 5 Skills you get come off the lost. The rank at (whatever the associated Characteristic is) +1. "
SHould be "they rank".

TPmanW said...

And it should be off the list.

-Persuasion (being good at talking—this only includes telling the truth though or advicating for something you want, unlike just Appea, it doesn’t make you good-looking)

Advocating and Appeal

Feel free to stop me if I'm not hemping.

Wizard Lizard said...

Maybe this has been asked before, in which case sorry for asking again, but do you have a character sheet for all this playtesting, or is everyone doing their own thing on scratch paper? If the latter, any particularly cool looking sheet that I could copy?

I've been trying to figure out how to make a cool, ergonomic sheet, although I'm tempted to just go with a simple:

Name, Motive, Occupation
(And other "everything else" infos here)


Skill 4
Skill 3
Skill 6
Skill 5

Contact, his job
Contact, her job

Important Stuff:
My gun, my car, etc.


Something else entirely: do you know if the game has gathered attention in some place where people typically chat like a G+ or Discord or something? I'd like to hear more aobut other peoples' experiences with Demon City.

TheDiceMustRoll said...

Zak! When are we gonna see something resembling a sheet? :)

Zak Sabbath said...


Thanks! Might or might not. I think a lot of graphic design orthodoxy is stupid and "readibility" is as much a matter of inertia in the field as the vaunted "good storytelling" in comics. I'm inclined to trust Shawn's instincts about leaving widows in if he put them there. It's more important that it look cool and be (literally) usable than the text follow the rules



@Wizard Lizard @TheDiceMustROll

I think bespoke character sheets are a little overrated. It's pretty easy to keep track of what's involved in a Demon City Character and I definitely want to encourage players to think that way.

HOWEVER: I do think it'd be really cool to invent a DC character sheet that had all the character creation rules baked into it so you can do it all from one page, that is something Cheng and I will be talking about in the future.

TheDiceMustRoll said...

Oh, I know Zak, but people love fancy character sheets for no reason.