Making a better Demon in FATE core

As mentioned in my previous blog post (available here) one of the potential encounters for the 28/07/13 session is with the warp entity that is currently causing trouble aboard the ship; this will be the first time that I have designed/built a non-human (or humanlike) antagonist using the FATE core rules system and this blog entry details my thought processes during its creation.
First things first, I wanted to quickly review the information that had currently been divulged about the entity (mostly last session), so I quickly looked through my notes and came up with the following.
  • Possibly connected with Khorne or Chaos Undivided.
  • Can create phantasms and illusions based on a persons past to plague them.
    • This would suggest that the entity is capable of reading minds or somehow viewing the traumatic events in a persons past.
  • Is a creature of fear & violence (possibly somehow feeding on these emotions).

Reading up on the gods of Chaos
Since the entity is some sort of chaos beast or warp creature I leafed through my copy of Fantasy Flight Games Black Crusade to refresh my memory about the various gods of chaos; one of the things that struck me in particular whilst reading was the mention of societies worshiping the chaos gods as a pantheon rather than simply devoting themselves to a single one of the gods, this struck me as far more interesting than having a simple khorne berserker or the equivalent devoted to a single god. IMO whilst the iconic chaos ‘specialists’ are great for the WH40K miniatures battle game (and it’s easy to see why they were made like this for ease of use in a miniatures game) they seem a bit one-dimensional and flat as far as an RPG is concerned.
Whilst reading this it struck a chord with some earlier material from the WH40K universe that I had been perusing whilst I had been deciding on the chapter of the chaos space marine Lorgar Khan encountered in the previous session; eventually I had decided on the Word Bearers, since I thought their religious following of the chaos pantheon would provide a great contrast and opposition to the staunchly Imperialist views of Chief Confessor Cornelius.
A small diversion
As is often the case when I sit down to write notes for a session, I often end taking some twists and turns whilst on my to my eventual destination; my musings on the worship of chaos as a pantheon rather than as isolated entities lead me to considering the worship of the chaos space marine Lorgar Khan. Lorgar had been encountered for the first time in the previous session when his space marine battle barge the Dark Omen had fled attack at the hands of the Venerus and Lunatic Pandora; mulling this over lead me to ask myself one question, where did Lorgar flee to?
After looking at my notes for the various systems in the sector of space that we had created, the nearest system that made any sense was the Endeavour system; the Endeavour System was also the original planned stopping off point of the player party on the way to Footfall. The potential of the players and Lorgar heading to the same system gave me a chance to highlight one of the things I love about the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the uncertainty of travel through the warp; although two ships may set off from the same point and be heading towards the same destination, travel through the warp relies on the skill of a ships navigator and therefore the two vessels may not arrive at the same time.
Making the rolls for Lorgar’s travel through the warp I scored a result indicating that it would take 50 Imperial days for the Dark Omen to arrive at it’s destination (a copy of the imperial calendar that I use can be found here, although I have adapted the time scale somewhat to make it easier to manage); it will arrive on Imperial Date 062817M41, I jotted this down on my game calendar for future use. This means that, whenever the players make it to the Endeavour System (assuming that they still go there) I will know either how long Lorgar has been there (if the players arrive after him) or, if they arrive first (a possibility given the high skill level of Navigator York Benetec), how long it will be before the chaos space marine arrives.
This also raised the question of how long it took for the Lunatic Pandora to flee to the Endeavour System after it was boarded by renegades from the space marine battle barge in the previous session (it made sense for them to flee there since it was their only known rendezvous point with the Venerus); rolling a result of -2 meant that there journey would take 175 Imperial days and they would arrive on Imperial Date 0186817M41 (over 100 days after the Dark Omen arrives in the system. This creates the interesting situation of the Lunatic Pandora arriving in the system after their attacker (itself now also damaged) – potentially the Venerus may have already dealt with the Dark Omen before the Lunatic Pandora arrives, it also raises the question of how long (given that they have no idea when their sister ship will arrive) the Venerus will wait for the Lunatic Pandora before moving on?
Back to the Demon
Getting back to designing the warp entity, I wanted to make it more a focal point of the session rather than simply some sort of rampaging berserker that would challenge the players for a while before eventually being put down; a straightforward combat scene didn’t seem all that interesting as a main event for the session.
Thus far the demon had mainly confined itself to menacing the players (and some NPCs) with dreams of past conflicts, sometimes even bringing these visions into reality; I recalled reading a number of posts on the FATE G+ community about using the fate fractal (the idea that anything and everything can be created as a character if desired in FATE) to create scenes that challenged the players and actually giving the scene statistics with which to challenge the player party. Given that the demon was haunting the players with scenes and grisly dioramas this seemed like a great way to represent the demon in my Rogue Trader game; each player or small group of players would be challenged by a (semi)illusory scene designed to disorientate them and have them kill each other (feeding the creature in the process).
How to represent this?
Considering the matter further I decided against splitting the player party up and would initially have the two characters on the Venerus (York Benetec and Chief Confessor Cornelius) sucked into the illusion-like scene/diorama; if Admiral Black and Enginseer Prime Pak succeeded in their own mission and returned to the ship before the matter with the demon had been resolved then they would have a chance to shake their comrades out of the vision that had seized their minds.

    How will the entity first make itself known?
    Demons normally require some sort of focus or entryway into the mortal realm, normally an unprotected psychic or mutant of some kind (hence why the Imperium is so intent on tracking down and either destroying or training all psykers); in our game there are numerous astropaths working on both ships but all are trained to resist routine psychic assaults and demonic possessions, however there was one obvious candidate who had never been trained to make use of their (rudimentary) psychic talents – Dana, the young, blind verminspeaker that they had recruited and taken in during their adventures in the Decusis System on Hiveworld Scelus.
    How will I use the FATE fractal to represent the scene?
    Since the scene that will plague the character is largely illusory in nature I will come up with a simple set of stats that the demon can use during the illusion to vex the players.
    After thinking about it for a while I decided to use some of the Approaches in Fate Accelerated Edition:

    • Clever: Wrapping the player characters up in puzzles and conundrums.
    • Flashy:  Distracting the players with overt displays of opulence or powers.
    • Forceful: Confronting the players direct with visions of violence or combat.
    • Sneaky: Pulling off things without the players noticing and deceiving their senses. 
    How do the players end the “vision?
    The most obvious way for the players to end the visions is to cast out the demon or slay its mortal host (the girl verminspeaker Dana).
    What are the demons plans?
    The player characters will just be one group trapped in their illusions, the rest of the crew will be split into groups and will also be caught in strange dioramas; the demon hopes to use the scenes to have the groups attack each other, the mass deaths will allow it to open passage to the warp and bring forth more of its fellows.

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