WOW! So, not only is this post late but I totally messed up on the scheduling for the notice that this post would be late. My humblest apologies. But wait, why is today's post late? Honestly, because I had planned to write about something I was going to do in my Shadowrun Game (which was last night) then decided I'd wait until after so I could also show how it played out. Only, after the game I was tired so I decided to sleep. Now though, now I'm ready to share it. So what happened? Well, I had a bunch of PCs - who aren't very good against magic - fight against a very old and powerful demon. It was stylish, it was challenging, and it was a lot of fun. How did it work? Well, let's begin.
The setup for this was in the form of a job with a large pay day. the PCs were one of several crews hired to retrieve a stolen ancient katana from a Renraku subsidiary business office. The fee? 600,000 nuyen for the sword and 200,000 nuyen for the thief if returned alive. The PCs checked the job with another johnson friend who offered "a fee in the six digit range" for 20 minutes alone time with the thief, and then the thief would be returned to the PCs still alive. So, a lot of money for a job.
This was the job the PCs were working on when I gibbed a PC, and the aftermath of that is that they had one of the thieves prisoner. The still standing group members (3 of the 5 main stay PCs) talked to their prisoner and found out that the sword was stolen because the thief needed it to kill a demon. A decision was made: the PCs would help the thief kill the demon and let the thief go in exchange for the sword and anything else that was stolen recently. The thief took the deal.
Now here I took a seguay from the rules and went full on Harry Dresden on the game. Basically, I hand waved the mechanics and set things down narratively. The NPCs helping the PCs had set up 7 circles to help contain the creature they'd be killing. They had also acquired several high profile magical items: the katana the PCs had been hired to retrieve, a drum from the Great Ghost Dance, a mirror from a French treasury rumored to be the inspiration for the witch's mirror in Snow White, and a magical cloth stolen from Germany. There was one magically adept person to power each ring, one of the two PCs that went in was given the mirror (more on this later), the physical adept was given the sword, and the NPCs manned the drum (literally) and powered the protective circles.
The Mirror and the Sword
So, like I said above I had 3 PCs for the session. One stayed outside to make sure no one disturbed the ritual. The two who went in were each given a magical item: a mirror and a sword. Now the sword's purpose is obvious. This is the weapon required to kill the demon. The mirror though served another purpose. The demon in question is a vain demon, one that suffers from narcissism. If the demon caught sight of himself in the mirror he would become distracted and thus easier to defeat. In other words, this fight put the PCs in the active role for the fight with one person there to do the killing and the other required to make the killing a lot more likely to happen.
Even with the proper equipment the demon was going to be way above the players' power level. I mean, we're talking a demon that requires an ancestral awakened katana to kill and my PCs are only about 24 karma over stock new 400 point characters. This fight is going to be a one way stomp in the TPK fashion. Except that along with making things more narrative other things had been placed for the fight. Namely, the 7 circles.
The circles were laid out so that the 7th circle encompassed the entire building they were in (an open and cleared out warehouse prepared for the ritual.) The 6th circle was further in. The 5th circle even further in. The 4th circle even further in. The 3rd, 2nd, and 1st circles were pressed up right against each other around a hospital gurney with a sleeping boy that the demon had taken a hold of. The idea behind this being that the drum is used to draw the demon out of the boy. The person with the mirror - standing on the outer most circle for their own protection - lets the demon see themself in the mirror. The demon becomes distracted. The sword is used to kill the demon. The downside is that to get to the demon and kill them the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st circles would be broken during the attack. This means the PCs have one best chance before things become a fight. To make a long story short, it became a fight.
So, like I said, we have a demon that is ridiculously powerful and two PCs who aren't up to his league. So what did I do? I cheated. How? Well, like I said, 7 magic circles. After the first strike 3 of the circles are broken but 4 are still holding true. The demon's power is held outside of him by the 4 circles keeping the fight localized and winnable. Even with that, the demon is powerful and skilled. He has 3 initiative passes, good dice pools, and his sword is a Weapon Foci (the PC also has a weapon foci so it kind of evens out there, but the initiative passes is a big deal.)
The fight then becomes a game. Can the Physical Adept hold out long enough for the other PC to distract the demon enough times that it is defeated? This brings the focus off the fight itself, though it is still relevant, and to another matter that the players can solve. The PC with the mirror takes to using a gun to shoot the demon. The bullets don't do any harm, but the demon is vain and a shot to the face still smudges with gun power. The roll then comes down to a contested roll.
In the end, the phys adept almost died but the mirror bearer managed to distract the demon long enough for a killing blow to go through. The demon got sucked into the mirror, and the NPCs all vamoosed. The job is done, the sword is recovered. Of course, now the PCs have a mirror with a powerful demon in it, a magical cloth stolen from Germany (read: the dragon Lowfyr), a magic drum stolen from the Native American Nations, the sword they were hired to retrieve has blood on it and has been used, and they also have the demons daisho. So problems abound, but a hell of a pay day. Oh, they also have gained an enemy in the form of the demon they defeated, and since some of his power was outside...well, who knows what might happen.
Why All The Gushing?
Why am I talking about this? Honestly, because I'm proud of it. It was a fun situation and the PCs got to feel like badasses. It is also an example of how you can take a monster that is way over the PCs powerlevel and use other things to bring the fight down into something winnable. The PCs got to take out something big and badass and the fight got to be challenging while still being winnable. Had the PCs acted differently, for example had the 4th circle been broken, they would have died as the demon got back more of its power. Instead, they managed it and they won. The two PCs inside got hero moments. the PC outside got to be a badass face punching zombies and stabbing other undead with a spine he ripped out of a zombie's body.
It worked, I liked it, and I think everyone had fun.