At the abandoned edges of the demon metropolis, its streets touch on all cities, in all times. In one winding and twisted block, brass and ichor give way to concrete and steel. No winds blow. Wolves roam the streets. Empty eyes gaze from broken windows.
Memories stolen from the future, citizens taken from Creation, and demons birthed of frustration mingle here in an obscene experiment. An Accursed Academy rises to crush thought and stifle creativity. Demons bound within mortal forms impose age-old passions on youths already overwhelmed with emotion. One being moves to end it all.
Come see a different twist on Exalted, inspired by our modern world. Come see it before it all collapses. Witness the end of… Demon City Project X.
Creation has many cities, from the glorious to the filthy, but none of them compare to the Demon City Malfeas. Does Nexus have over a million inhabitants? Malfeas has billions. Does the Lap have its tremendous, beautiful statue, gleaming in the sunset? Malfeas has the green sun itself. As Malfeas is the heart of the demon world, so are Creation’s cities its heart (at least in the mind of the Demon City), and Creation’s heart is weak in comparison. It rankles Malfeas that its old oaths bind it away from such easy prey.
Born of this frustration is Raiokon, the Face Reflected in Oil, Despising Soul of Malfeas. Raiokon has taken miles upon miles of the black streets of Malfeas and wound them strangely through time. There are places where one can watch the First War from a rooftop, or see the ultimate victory of oblivion at the end of a crumbling alleyway. Somewhere on a street that touches Creation’s future – only a potential future, one hopes – one of Malfeas’ great souls conducts a strange experiment.
Raiokon reaches into twisting alleys in Creation’s darkest cities, seeking for those who hate their homes. It draws these mortals from Creation and carefully prunes the memories of what they were. These it replaces with new thoughts and feelings – some from the denizens of this strange future, some from its own imagination. Then it pairs the mortals with its own lesser souls, and places them all into this fractured time.
The inhabitants of the Contorted Blocks have no homes. They have no families. They attend the Accursed Academy (officially, Public Upper School #142) from the first bell at 7 AM to the last at 4 PM. They play at sport or love, quarreling with or pursuing each other in the evening. They walk in a suspiciously deep park, and frequent shops stocked by faceless people, less living beings than animate scenery. Then the darkest hour comes, and shadows sweep the world – and the first bell rings again. Raiokon denies them true sleep, so that they may never dream of home. Each day their memories of the past fade, replacing lived experiences with mere footnotes.
Is this an experiment to create deadly warriors against Creation? Are the Contorted Blocks nothing but a sadistic pasttime for Raiokon, created as they were from frustration? Is Raiokon seeking a particular individual, or simply taking those unfortunates who are saturated enough to urban despair for it to touch? None of those within the Accursed Academy know. Many don’t even suspect that anything is wrong. They remember Creation only as a figment, fading during the day – a dream they never could have seen. And yet they do remember, they do have scraps of dreams to cling to. Some piece of their connection with Creation remains intact.
Its gods have not entirely forgotten them.
There are a lot of things about the Academy and the Contorted Blocks that don’t make sense. The school is much too large for the number of students it has. There are always empty classrooms and unused, overgrown courtyards. The blocks surrounding the school are a mishmash of residential and business, but all abandoned and empty. The park is well-groomed in some places (but where are the gardeners?) and utterly overgrown in others. It has wolves. The entire city has wolves.
There isn’t much need for a map in this setting. The park with its tiny forest is next to the school, and the city surrounds them both. If that seems half-finished, Raiokon was never one for completing a task to perfection. Storytellers should assume that if they need a set-piece that could fit in a city, a school, a park, or a forest, it can be shoehorned in somewhere. If someone needs to go from one place to another, they can arrive in time to make a difference.
The People of the Accursed Academy
Don’t look too closely at the shopkeeps. Who are they? What are they? Most people never notice. They only exist to sell you something. No need to pay attention. Most of the teachers, too – another algebra instructor. Another grammar nazi. Just vacant faces, empty minds inside an empty educational system. There’s no one here to interrogate.
The characters don’t talk about their parents. They think about them sometimes, and then forget. Sometimes they talk about friends who moved away, or teachers who don’t work at the Academy any more. Raiokon has tested and discarded many individuals in the past.
Those who ask questions will immediately see the cracks in the facade. Those who don’t? Simply won’t notice. Any concerns are gently soothed away from their minds, the way a parent soothes a fussy child, or a killer soothes its prey.
How to use the characters
Each of the NPCs in this setting is a mortal bonded to a second-circle demon. The demon grants them power, but the Intimacies of the demons leak through into the everyday interactions of the mortals. Each of these compound entities should be roughly on par with a young Dragon-Blooded warrior in terms of power. Some of them will be more dangerous (Soma, in particular); some will be less so. Most of the mortals don’t realize that they have a demon bound to them at all – again, Soma is the exception – and they just think that these powers grew in them because of their training. The nightly memory wipes keep most of them from prying too deeply into why they are so different from the other students at the Academy.
Killing any one of the children here will release the second-circle demon within them. Each of these demons should be a match for a newly-Chosen circle of Solars or a pair of combat-ready veteran Exalted. Why Raiokon is concealing a stronger power within a weaker vessel is left as an open question for the Storyteller. Perhaps the mortals would eventually become more powerful if given time to train and grow. Perhaps they’re merely intended to be very capable bomb casings.
There are three suggested modes of play for Demon City Project X:
- Have the players create their own teenaged characters, pulled from somewhere in Creation, as well as second circle demons with which to bond them. (A sampling of character and demon names can be found later in this work.) Then, tie them into the social web here. Replacing an appropriate number of NPCs with PCs is optional. Do it if you want to keep down the complexity of the setting.
- Have each player select one of the existing NPCs to play. This may work best for one-shots and convention games, where there is little time for character creation.
- Bring in more typical Exalted characters from Creation, who are either drawn into the Contorted Blocks (by Raiokon? by someone else?) or who learn of this place and seek it out.
Whatever the reason these particular mortals were recruited, the demons who have possessed them are paired with characters whose essences are already fairly like their own. The demons themselves know each other well, and have relationships that are often thousands of years old. Their feelings for one another can be powerful. What one of the mortals feels for another is shaped both by their own emotions and the ancient passions of their demons.
Demon City Project X is a complex social setting, with a web of alliances that will be utterly upended by the time this scenario runs its course. It’s important to for the Storyteller to know both the mortal characters and the demonic ones. Their relationships drive these characters, and either set of ties could lead to betrayal or alliance.