Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tommy's Take on API Demon Codex: Lochs

The first (and thus far, only) release in the Demon Codex series for Apocalypse Prevention Inc. is Lochs, detailing the fishy race found in the API corebook.

One minor strike against Demon Codex: Lochs right off is that the cover art is recycled from the interior of the API corebook...the Loch wearing surfer's shorts.  Otherwise Lochs, in PDF form for $9.99, is a fully searchable, indexed, bookmarked digital tome clocking in at 85 pages.  Obviously, its all about the Lochs...but is it worth buying, especially if you're not a big fan of them?  Let's take a look...

The book opens with a piece of short fiction introducing Jonah, a Loch who serves as a quasi-narrator/POV character in the book.

The Lochs are a fish-like demon species who have been cursed with the Contagion, which makes them unable to breed normally.  However, on earth they have discovered that they can implant eggs into humans...though only women have successfully given birth to the new Half-Lochs.  Men...not so much.

Anyway, that's the basic background.

The Codex begins with the history of the Sedrone, more or less what the Lochs were called before they came to Earth.  To sum it up, they were a savage, conquering race who took what they wanted and killed all that opposed them...until a rebel faction plagued them with the Contagion, which killed 90% of the Sedrone and left them unable to reproduce with one another!  A number of Sedrone tried to escape the Contagion by fleeing to Earth in portals, but it was too late.

The Voltics had answered a distress call by the rebels and came to aid them against the Sedrone...but they arrived after the Contagion had ended the war, and so they pretty much enslaved what was left.  API has crossed paths with the Voltics a few times since, and it hasn't been pretty.

Chapter one provides a lot of detail on Domainya, the watery dimension that was home to the Sedrone...literally a dimension entirely underwater...lit by glowing plants on the ground and no overheard source of light, as it all just fades into the Dark Horizon once you get too far removed from the floor.

In the present day, API has a contingent present in Domainya, helping aid the fight against the Voltics in the presumed interest of turning the Spandrels (which was the cradle of the Sedrone empire) back over to the Sedrone.  The human in charge of the operations has developed a growing fondness for the Rebels, while API's official stance backs the Lochs/Sedrone.  This chapter sets the conflict up nicely, then lays out three “this might happen” scenarios for the conclusion of the conflict.

There are a number of cool little layers in this war, such as API recruiting the Ondine (an Earth-based aquatic race) for help, who are motivated entirely by the idea that if they help the Lochs, the Lochs will leave the Earth and essentially stop challenging their supremacy of the seas.  Also, one of the Rebel races, the Scryers, is planning a second Contagion, this time aimed at the Voltics.  Chapter one basically lays out what could be a whole campaign on its own, completely aside from anything else presented thus far in the API line.

Chapter two details the exodus to Earth.  It started off as an invasion, as the Sedrone mustered up a massive army of 500,000 soldiers...then promptly went a different route once they realized how bad they were screwed numbers wise.

Their first portal transport to Earth was in a little body of water called Loch Ness, where they encountered API agents...and thus, they became known as Lochs.

The Lochs arrived en masse in Brazil, and wound up in open conflict with API, which they lost.  They were quarantined and then registered, with a large number of Lochs embracing human culture and even The Company.  However, there are still more than a few “anti-human” holdouts.

As extinction, due to The Contagion, loomed over the Lochs they grew desperate.  Given their dominating and violent nature, some Lochs engaged in rapes of humans and discovered...that they could breed together.  The Lochs have since learned that every attempt to breed, though the child may survive, results in the death of a parent.  So now the Lochs and humans are exhausting every procreational method they can to try to save Lochs from extinction.  Half-Lochs are being born, and the oldest right now is about four years old...so they may yet save the Lochs from extinction.

The human friendly Lochs have utterly embraced human culture, from movies to popular music and so on.  They stole hold out some traditions for themselves, but by and large, they had tried to integrate as much as they can on Earth.  This isn't universal, of course, as a number of other immigrants still hold tightly to their culture and frown on Loch integration...these immigrants also still use “Sedrone” as their identifier and not “Lochs”.

We get a little sidebar here by Jonah, from the beginning fiction, talking about the other demons and how Lochs view them overall...perhaps surprisingly, they like Burners the best and don't care much for...well..most anything else besides humans.

In another nice little touch, API has set up a series of underwater bases that they use Loch agents to man, in the Sea of Japan, Jamaica, the Mediterranean Sea, Antarctica, off the coast of India and in the Pacific Ocean.  Each base serves a specific purpose and has their own internal quirks.

A community in the Florida panhandle, called Black Moss Lake, is also detailed...being the place where the API first brought the Lochs after quarantine ended.  Its described as being a bit of a hodge podge of human and Loch architecture, but the Lochs who are there still consider it very much home.

Lochs and their relations with four other races are also provided, closing out the chapter: The Linx, which were a bit of a servant race back on Domainya, are split: Some still stick close to Lochs, others have begun to latch onto humans.  A very rare few are becoming overtly independent.  Ondine are not demons, but an aquatic race the developed on Earth and have had many a violent conflict with Lochs over the Earth's oceans, as they consider themselves the rules and Lochs as interlopers.  Scryers, the race that infected Lochs with the Contagion, obviously have very strained relations (at best) with the Lochs.  Finally, there are the Voltics.  Much like the Tarks from the core rules, they hit Earth for specific missions...however, their portals also allow the great Kraken known as The Vastness to access Earth as well, making it DOUBLY bad for everyone involved.

Oh, and a final note is included on Lochs...apparently they LOVE cybernetic implants and, unlike Changelings, it doesn't limit their usefulness as agents.

Chapter Three gets into Loch groups...helpfully noting that not all Lochs like humans and not all Lochs are on board with API.

Aquatic Alchemists are creepy.  Aquatic alchemy is where the Contagion was spawned from, and it has been frowned upon ever since if killed 90% of the Lochs and sterilized everyone it didn't kill.  Everything from herbs to animals to people can be used as ingredients...and they are.  Currently, Alchemists are divided into two main groups now: Those striving to cure the Contagion and those who are striving to create a new Contagion...to be used on humans.

Deep Green isn't a Loch group exactly...its a plastics corporation who has inflicted damage to Lochs living in the ocean with their illegal dumping, and sparked a war with them over it.

The Forgotten Tribes are the Lochs that arrived in South America during the initial migration, and have become weakened over the years...the elder immigrants having largely died off now and the younger ones trying to make their way.

Hooks were kind of like the CIA on Domainya, and now are pretty much bounty hunters and PIs.  They welcome any law-abiding member of an aquatic race and are often used as sub-contractors by API, and as an alternate solution for demons that don't want to deal with API for matters.

The Hope Foundation is a group dedicated to save the Lochs from extinction.  It arranges two Lochs and a human, who attempts to carry the Half-Loch to term.  Only two Half-Lochs have been born through the organization, and they have done some...spotty ethical things to get that far, using the salvation of the Lochs as their justification.  They are a huge thorn for API, who would love to take them out, because they couldn't end the operation all at once, and a large number of Lochs look to The Hope Foundation for, well, hope.

The Red Steps are somehow creepier than the Aquatic Alchemists, being Lochs who have taken over Michigan slaughterhouses and are now pumping various races through there, turning them into food that they are selling off to fast food places.

Yeah.

Superior City is an Ondine city in Lake Superior that Lochs overtook.  Nestled in the heart of the city, much like Excalibur, is a trident that is trapped in a statue.  Full stats are provided for the Trident, should you wish to insert it into your game.

Chapter four gets more in depth into actually playing Lochs.

First off, it provides three methods for Lochs to work among humans, from Image Emitters, to the Trenchcoat Rule to the very creepy alchemists who use human skin as a disguise.

A reminder is provided on the creepiness of Loch-human sexual relationships, which have involved rape more often than once in the past.  Also, while Lochs make good fighters, the book provides tips on playing non-combat themed Lochs as well.

A new Passion, Redemption, is provided.  New Gifts include Aquatic Alchemy as well as other physical modifications such as tentacles and crab claws, which have their own advantages.

A new Drawback, Water Breather, is provided for those who just don't breath well out of water.

New equipment includes the H.I.C.C.U.P., an underwater transport, as well as M.U.E.s, which are special diving suits, and Compressor Cloth, which helps condense a large-framed individual who is using an image emitter.

New cybernetic options are provided, such as Waterproofing, a Current Generator (torso mounted, creating strong currents) and Air Lungs, which allow the recipient to adapt between two environments, such as land and sea.

A list of Aquatic Alchemy items are included, like the Siren Choker, which gives a bonus to Perform Checks, Aqua Lung (gives a land lubber the ability to breath in the water), the Infinite Box (made from the pieces of a Husk) and Human Skin, which makes for the ultimate disguise.

New Antagonists include The Afflicted (Scriers altered by the Contagion), Charcadons (scary, shark beasts), dolphins and sharks, krakens, The Vastness' Tentacles and more.

The new races are given profiles like those in the corebook.

The Linx are odd little guys...a single Linx is born into four bodies, which operate with one mind.  They cannot willingly go more than 300 ft apart, and being forced apart is Very, Very Bad.

Ondine claim to be the children of Poseidon, and are essentially merpeople...and as they were The aquatic race on Earth for thousands of years, they don't like Lochs at all.

Scriers are the guys that created the Contagion, and also have a second set of eyes, which allow them to see into the magical spectrum.

Voltics are war mongers who occasionally make in-roads into Earth and are considered very much illegal by API.

Finally, for those who want to run the timeline ahead or play around with the setting in other ways, rules for playing grown Half-Lochs are included, even though there aren't currently any older than the age of four, officially.

Two adventures are included as well, the first being Deep Run in the Tunnels, which serves as a primer on Domainya.  Reports are that a female Loch is apparently pregnant by another Loch, which could be huge news for the future of the Lochs.  The Agents are sent after the missing Agent who reported this phenomena.  The Agents get to experience some Domainya politics as well as possibly snatch up a Loch artifact.

Jaws Snapping In The Dark is a hunt involving a batch cloned Lochs gone bad.  It is pretty much a straight forward investigation culminating in a big, bloody fight (most likely).

Honestly, the adventures are the weakest part of the book...but that might be because the book is just TEEMING with plot hooks, seeds and goodness.  Seriously, even ignoring the adventures this is an amazing book.  The information on Domainya is enough to run a whole campaign on, and then throw in all the great stuff with the factions, plus five new races.

The Lochs are presented as complicated creatures...you can play them as fun-loving joke characters...giant fish wandering around in trenchcoats...or blood thirsty conquerors...or a fallen, tragic species driven to desperate measures in order to survive.  Throw in the quirky Linx, the poor Scriers who are stuck in a bad place no matter what they do, and the Voltics as pretty much unambiguous bad guys, and this is just a great resources.

Some minor failings bring the book down just a hair, but this is by and large an amazing supplement that really sets the bar for future Demon Codices.