Excerpts from the Infernal Player's Guide
The two strongest factors in the demonic mind are self- preservation and self-deception. They are what define demons, what differentiates them from everyone else.
Survival is Everything
The secret to demonhood is in understanding that demons are out to change the way things are. At present, God is in charge and the universe is unfolding according to His will. Demons – all demons, right up to Lucifer – are making a desperate gamble. And their bets only win if they can usurp this order. Lucifer's kingdom at present is a limited one, still bent on conquest and far from the ability to mold the cosmos itself.
Demons have a strong drive to gain more personal power - both recognition and political power in Hell. With power comes more freedom and more lackeys. Along with power and freedom, any enhanced abilities they might acquire only further their odds of survival.
Demons must win the War to see any lasting reward from their actions – unlike the angels, who are on the side of the status quo. Their single undeniable concern is self-preservation. Every demon places the preservation of his own existence above all else, even above Lucifer himself. Sure, Lucifer is incredibly powerful, but right now he's in the same boat as the rest of the demons. Without a final victory, he's nothing.
Truth is Nothing
Unlike angels, who continually acknowledge a power greater than their own and who are humbled by it, demons can deceive themselves better than anyone as to their place in the cosmos and the realities of their daily life. Demons will believe anything they need to in order to survive.
The demonic capacity for self-deception is largely born of their need to forget that they are fighting an uphill battle, and that without a victory they lose everything. It is also, however, due to the ongoing presence of Lucifer. It's one thing to be an angel, with a God who is never seen and only dimly understood and yet whose role in the cosmos is accepted as a tenet of reality, even by the enemy. It's quite another to be a demon, with a leader who's known mostly for his skill at lying and who has just as much to lose as you do. Lucifer's personification makes him a powerful leader, but his shared vulnerability with the rest of the demonic horde paradoxically makes him appear weak.
The never-ending power struggles among all the Demon Princes only serve to suggest – at least subconsciously, that Lucifer could be overthrown just like any other denizen of Hell. In a strange way, Lucifer is just one of the guys. He is not a cosmic principle like his Adversary.
That's not a very comforting thought. And that's why demons are so adept at deceiving themselves: on a cosmic scale, they're foot soldiers in an uphill struggle following a leader who has no proven mandate. That isn't just "not a very comforting thought" – it's downright hobbling.
Now of course, most demons will maintain that Lucifer does have a cosmic mandate, that the universe needs Lucifer, that Lucifer is destined to rule the cosmos. If the infernal horde wins the War, guess what – they were right all along.
But first they have to win.
This basic insecurity about the validity of their cause and their chance for victory produces the powerful need for self-deception in demons.
An audience with a Prince is fraught with peril. If you make yourself look good (and/or make others look bad), it's an opportunity to earn accolades and promotions. It's also an opportunity to get your infernal behind kicked down to the deepest pits of Hell, or have your Forces fed to your Prince's pets. A Prince having a bad day may take it out on a loyal Servitor whose only mistake was being in range. Smart demons study their Superior's ways carefully. They learn how long they can stay on Earth without communicating with their Prince, before he decides they're overdue for a visit. They learn what to say and what not to say. They learn how much flattery their Prince will accept before their toadying annoys him. And sometimes, they still catch him on a bad day and get fried.
Most of the advice that applies to angels meeting their Archangel is doubly true for demons meeting their Prince. Diabolical Superiors are an unforgiving lot. Below are a few guidelines for proper behavior in the presence of one's Prince:
1. Be discreet.
Demons tend to be paranoid, backbiting conspirators, and Princes are no exception. Even if a Prince gives a mission briefing to a group of Servitors all at once, more than likely he'll convey individual instructions to each separately. Anything a Prince says in private is private. They almost never bestow awards publicly, and Servitors have many reasons not to reveal what their Prince has given them, not the least of which is that it will seriously irk the Prince. The few Princes who permit dissent will only tolerate it outside of anyone else's hearing.
The worst crime of all, short of defecting, is to reveal a Prince's secrets to the Servitors of another Prince. Even casually mentioning mundane operations that are common knowledge, when outsiders are present, can land a demon in hot water . . . boiling hot, up to his eyebrows.
2. Be brief . . . and patient.
Demon Princes despise having their time wasted. Demons who waste their time will never do so again. On the other hand, Princes don't mind wasting their Servitors' time at all. If a Prince wants to rant and rave for a while in his underlings' presence, a smart Servitor smiles and nods, chiming in with ecstatic agreement every now and then. But whatever you have to say to a Prince should be kept succinct, embellished with honorifics and platitudes only if that Superior expects them.
3. Don't take too much credit, and don't take any blame.
The fine art of accepting just the right amount of credit while evading as much blame as possible is one that successful Servitors must master. Balseraphs have an obvious advantage in this area.
Demons always want to present themselves in a good light when speaking to their Superior. The mistake some make is speaking too highly of their own accomplishments. Even if a demon's boasts are true, diabolical Superiors regard ambition and competence as a dangerous combination. Demons who are good at their jobs earn recognition and rewards, but demons who are too good at their jobs may get sent on suicide missions. Rapid advancement is rare in Hell, and only a select few manage to climb quickly to the top and stay there. When a rising star falls, on the way back down he will most definitely meet the same people he bullied on the way up. The smartest Diabolicals learn to temper their ambition; patience is a survival trait.
While not taking too much credit for your accomplishments, you should have someone else to blame for your failures. When a Demon Prince receives bad news, be sure someone is going to take the fall for it; make sure it's not you. The best choices are Servitors who are not present to give their own side of the story. If they're dead, so much the better; that makes it hard for them to defend themselves later. And of course, since most Princes assume (with good reason) that other Princes are conspiring against them, outside interference is often a good excuse.
Remember, though, that no Prince, except of course Saminga, is stupid. They're very good at detecting lies, and they know when they're hearing a snow job. Also, they're prone to punishing the bearer of bad news even if he really isn't at fault. This presents a dilemma, since the messenger is often the one who gets shot . . . but he's also the one who gets to present his side of the story first, which can be a life-saver.
4. Don't ask for too much, or too little.
Another important skill for dealing with Princes is learning how much to request, when you need assistance or when it's time to collect rewards. Some Servitors think it's safest to never ask for anything, and leave it up to their Prince's judgment. This is the safest course, but it also gains you nothing. Princes are tightfisted with their resources, and stingy with rewards. If a Servitor presents a problem, but doesn't ask for any aid, the Prince may assume the demon can solve the problem with what he has on hand. When the demon fails to do so, he'll be in big trouble for not asking for help when it was available. Likewise, if you don't claim your due, obviously you're happy with what you've got (or else you're too passive to be worthy of further favors.)
On the other hand, Princes abhor greed. (Except Mammon; he loves it, but he's no more generous than any other Prince when it comes to bestowing favors.) Servitors are an investment, and investments that don't pay off get liquidated. Some Princes assign a value in Forces to each Servitor, and punish anyone who goes over his expense account. This can leave demons who know they're close to their limit scrambling to acquire money, equipment or celestial aid from other sources. Princes don't send Servitors to Earth so they can keep getting requests for help and support.
When a Prince offers a boon, try to guess what he's willing to give. Then ask for just a little bit more. The teeniest bit of audacity may gain an extra favor or two, as long as it's merited. Outrageous demands, of course, earn an extreme negative response.
5. When in doubt, suck up. When you're in real trouble, grovel.
Believe it or not, sucking up works. Princes like flattery. They recognize it for what it is, of course, but they still like it. Going overboard is dangerous, since no one likes to feel they're being mocked, but most Princes consider a little bit of sycophancy to be healthy.
On the other hand, if you've earned a Prince's wrath and there's nowhere else to divert it, groveling is your only hope. Abject pleas for mercy might, just might, earn a Servitor another chance, if his previous record is exemplary. There's no guarantee, but a sufficient amount of bootlicking may placate an angry Prince enough to consider whether a failed Servitor is worth keeping alive. Good luck.
If things go badly, see Punishments, p. 91.
"Better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven!"
"Better to rot on Earth than to serve in Hell."
Hell was spawned by mutiny. It is a land of rebels, ruled over by the first and greatest rebel. The first of the Fallen gave up everything for their right of self-determination, and yet, as soon as they began consolidating their new territory, the Princes of Hell went about making sure that no one would ever start a rebellion there.
Lucifer says that in Hell, everyone has perfect freedom . . . including the freedom to dominate and exploit the weak. You can go as far as your strength, your will, and your cunning will take you. Demons can gain a Principality simply by being strong enough to claim one.
And yet, Hell has remained almost as static as Heaven for millennia. For every Nybbas or Haagenti, there are millions of demons toiling away at the same job they've held for centuries. Princes squash any new idea that might change the status quo, unless it's guaranteed to change it in their favor, and some of the best and the brightest demons have been ruthlessly exterminated because a Superior felt threatened by their potential.
There is, to put it mildly, a considerable amount of discontent in Hell. Some believe that if Lucifer ever declared Hell truly open, and all its celestial residents free to come and go as they please, most would leave. Others say that it's only the malcontents who stand out, and most of the diabolical hordes are quite content, or at least, don't believe there's anything better on the other side. Still, the discontent is obvious and pervasive.
It is hard to go Renegade, as any Renegade will tell you. And yet, every Prince has former Servitors living a Renegade's life on Earth, and the number is higher than anyone will admit. Asmodeus' minions hunt them constantly, and sometimes Nybbas broadcasts the capture and/or execution of high-profile Renegades.
This deterrent doesn't prevent the steady trickle of demons fleeing their Princes. Even in Hell – or perhaps especially in Hell – some just weren't born to serve.
Diabolicals say "going Renegade" rather than "becoming a Renegade," because it is fundamentally different from an angel becoming an Outcast. Demons don't just spontaneously become Renegades after one too many notes of dissonance; most of them choose to be Renegades, or are declared one by their Prince or by Asmodeus. There is no immediate change in a Diabolical's status when he decides to stop serving his Prince, no tangible difference in his celestial makeup, as there is for an angel who becomes disfavored. He simply stops obeying orders and walks away.
Of course, rebelling against your Prince is a capital crime. A Prince will destroy anyone who leaves his service, if he can, and Asmodeus will destroy anyone who leaves any Prince's service. In fact, Asmodeus can declare someone Renegade for doing anything that he considers rebellious, including gaining certain Discords, and his Servitors have the same authority. Thus, a Diabolical never becomes Disfavored "randomly" – it is always a conscious decision. It just might not be his decision . . .
Breaking Your Heart
For demons who choose to go Renegade, there is one major impediment: their Heart. As long as a Prince possesses a demon's Heart, it's nearly impossible for the demon to run far. The Prince has only to look into the Heart and locate his Servitor, and then send as many minions as necessary to bring him back (or go after the Renegade himself, if he's perturbed enough). He can also remove the Renegade's Rites (though not Attunements, Distinctions, etc.) through the Heart. The Prince may also shatter the Heart himself; he loses his ability to track the Renegade, but he instantly inflicts three levels of Discord. The only way a demon can truly strike out on his own is to steal or destroy his Heart first.
Most Princes keep their Servitors' Hearts under lock and key. However, they have to be somewhat accessible to the Prince himself, and so Servitors returning to Hell from the corporeal plane have somewhere to materialize. The exact safeguards each Prince uses are described below (Demon Princes and Renegades, p. 101), but a determined demon can usually steal his own Heart, if he really wants to. But once a demon has his Heart, he probably can't walk away with it. Most Princes post guards at the exits, and a celestial Heart can't be taken out of the celestial plane. A demon must make a successful Will roll to destroy his own Heart. Having done so, he must flee to the corporeal plane immediately, as his Prince will know what he's done.
Thus, a demon who wants to go Renegade may not have the skills or Songs (or Will) necessary to do what must be done. A demon (or his Heart, if his Prince is suspicious) may also be under too much scrutiny. And though anyone might be able to steal a Heart if his plans were clever enough, it is normally impossible for anyone but a Superior or the Heart's owner to actually break one. In such cases, a would-be Renegade has only one other recourse: Lilith (see Lilith and Renegades, p. 99).
PCs who begin the game as Renegades are assumed to have already succeeded in destroying or stealing their Hearts. A demon who wants to go Renegade during play will have to figure out how to accomplish this.
Demons Without a Heart
Renegades are demons with no Heart (or in possession of their own Heart) and no Superior. They remain members of their Band, keeping its natural resonance and its dissonance restrictions. Renegades also keep their Band and Servitor attunements, and any Distinctions they had (if the Prince could reach them to remove attunements and Distinctions, he would just kill them). If their Prince has their Heart, though, he can take away their Rites, and probably will. (As a small compensation, the loss of Rites also relieves the demon of his Prince's dissonance restrictions.)
A Renegade who can steal his Heart will keep his Rites . . . but any time he uses them, their Prince will know he is still alive, and may gain more information. And he does keep his dissonance restrictions!
If someone other than his own Prince gave the Renegade any Rites, that Superior might not remove them. It depends on who the Superior is, and who the Renegade defected from, and whether or not the Renegade is likely to reveal where he's getting his extra Essence. Most Superiors will immediately strip any Renegade of all his Rites, even if it's a Renegade Servitor of an enemy Prince. Asmodeus makes it too dangerous for most Princes to provide any overt aid to Renegades.
Renegades can't invoke their former Prince. A Renegade cannot return to Hell on his own, though he could follow another celestial there. (This is not a good idea, though.) Renegades are also less obvious in their celestial forms; an Outcast is usually marked by the amount of Discord accruing to him, but demons are more casual about such things, and some Servitors are more Discordant than many Renegades. However, they do share one major problem with Outcasts: corporeal death.
Renegades and Trauma
Like Outcasts, a Renegade who suffers Trauma goes to Limbo (see Heaven and Hell, p. 79.) In fact, Renegades have been known to commit corporeal suicide, banishing themselves to Limbo, rather than be captured by Asmodeus' minions.
Of course, having an extra vessel makes it much easier for a Renegade to avoid Limbo. It won't help much when one is about to cornered by Servitors of the Game, though. Body Bags (In Nomine, p. 71) are highly desirable artifacts for Renegades!
Shedite Renegades have the same problems as Kyriotate Outcasts; if they exceed their time limit in celestial form, they can't return to Hell, but the Symphony will no longer tolerate their presence. If a Shedite leaves or is expelled from a host, he has (10 × Celestial Forces) minutes to find a new host. At the end of this time limit, he must make a Will roll. If the roll is successful, he suffers one note of dissonance, but takes no damage.
However, this roll must be repeated after a number of minutes equal to the Shedite's Celestial Forces. If he fails his Will roll, he gets a note of dissonance and takes Soul Hits equal to the check digit plus his Celestial Forces! (More powerful Shedim provoke a more violent reaction from the Symphony as it tries to expel them.)
This process will continue indefinitely until the Shedite either finds a host or becomes stripped of all his Forces and dies.
If a Shedite is expelled from a host because it was killed, the Shedite takes a note of dissonance as usual, and begins the process described above. Like Kyriotates, Shedim cannot go to Limbo.
There are a number of reasons why a demon might choose (or be forced) to go Renegade. The differences don't matter much to Asmodeus, but they might matter to other Superiors.
A fugitive Renegade probably didn't choose to go Renegade on his own; he screwed up, and was forced to run for his life. The reason doesn't matter; he's now in the same boat with all the other Renegades. However, a fugitive does have a slight chance of gaining refuge in the service of another Prince, if he can prove that he's valuable enough to take in, and deal with the disapproval his new Superior will get from Asmodeus.
Some demons decide they know better than their Prince, and are tired of taking orders from an unappreciative boss. The rebellious Renegade hasn't forsaken the cause of Evil; he believes he can do a better job on his own. This requires a tremendous amount of arrogance, not to mention guts, but a rare few Renegades have proven themselves so effective, while operating independently, that Lucifer has granted them amnesty and a Word. This is a Renegade's dream, and infernal propagandists say it proves Lucifer really does value independent thought and initiative, if you prove yourself worthy. A Renegade too independent to accept recognition even from the Lightbringer will be destroyed by him.
Many demons love their work, but some burn out. Having second thoughts about the side one chose is a common symptom among War veterans (on both sides), and some demons, while not ready to join the angels, decide they can't keep fighting a losing battle. Some believe they're locked in a stalemate, and are unwilling to continue risking their lives pointlessly. A few actually become disgusted with what they've done in the name of their dark lord. These few Asmodeus hunts most relentlessly, because with a little encouragement from the other side, they might become penitents.
The rarest and most persecuted type of Renegade is the penitent . . . a Diabolical who's decided he wants to switch sides. Maybe he finally started feeling guilty for all the atrocities he committed. Maybe he realized that there really wasn't a future for him in Hell. Or maybe he's just decided Hell is losing, and he wants to join the winning side. Heaven has little use for this last type of "penitent," of course. A penitent will try to avoid other demons, while very carefully looking for angels that might be willing to help him defect.
Many Malakim don't ask questions before killing demons and may not pick up the honorable action of seeking redemption, so until the Renegade is actually granted refuge by the Host, he's on the run from both sides, like every other Renegade.
Life on The Run
Unlike Outcasts (who are ignored or even tolerated by some angelic Superiors), Renegades are by definition marked for death. Servitors of Asmodeus are obligated to destroy Renegades on sight (unless Asmodeus wants the Renegade brought back to Hell). The Servitors of a Renegade's former Prince will probably be competing to bring in the traitor before Asmodeus' minions can get to him. Other demons may try to turn a Renegade in, or they may ignore him, but almost no one will help. And to angels, a Renegade is still a demon. Only Renegades are so persecuted that Asmodeus and Dominic will sometimes cooperate to hunt them down.
Though there may be exceptions (see Renegade Motives, above), Renegades probably aren't taking sides in the War any more. Most have already abandoned their own side, and very few want to join the enemy. They are fighting for survival, following their selfish instincts; a Renegade's only side is his own. Renegades usually go "underground" and avoid other celestials entirely. Some Renegades form gangs for mutual protection, but these groups are usually short-lived. Demons are too mistrustful and uncooperative to work together for long without a powerful leader, and any group of Renegades that gets too big and formidable will attract attention.
There are rumors of a network of disfavored celestials, including Renegades and Outcasts, that provides safehouses, contacts and occasional work for Renegades.
There are also rumors that some Superiors employ Renegades. Just as Archangels occasionally have a use for Outcasts, there are times when Princes may need expendable agents who can't be traced to them. Anytime a Prince wants to do something really illegal, something that would get him in trouble with Asmodeus and/or Lucifer if he's caught, or when he wants to do something that would have unpleasant political ramifications (such as acting against an allied Superior), Renegades may be employed. The Prince will act through intermediaries, and the Renegades will probably never know who's behind the operation. Usually the payment for such a mission is in tangible items that can be transferred without revealing the source, such as money or Artifacts, or Essence. On the rare occasions when a Prince is willing to reveal his own involvement, he may offer Songs or even Rites. A Renegade freelancer who is extremely successful might impress a Prince so much that he's willing to take the Renegade on as a Servitor. However, it's far more likely that a Prince will try to dispose of everyone involved; not many Renegades last long as freelancers.
It isn't just Princes who might employ Renegades. A Word-bound demon might also need help, and be unable to get it from his Prince.
A particularly powerful Renegade (or Outcast!) may even be in a position to hire others. Some Renegades seek aid from ethereal spirits – the Far Marches hide a number of pagan deities who have taken in disfavored celestials. And every once in a while, an Archangel may have a very special mission that only a Diabolical can perform . . .
It's rare for Word-bound demons to go Renegade; they've already been thoroughly screened by Lucifer himself, so their loyalty and dedication are usually exemplary. However, even the Word-bound can suffer burnout, or have a falling out with their Prince. And no Diabolical is immune to the wrath of Asmodeus.
Word-bound demons hold their Words only at Lucifer's pleasure. So why would Lucifer not strip a Renegade of his Word? Sometimes he does, but more often, he does not. The reason goes back to Lucifer's alleged fondness for true rebels. The darkest of dark lords never pursues Renegades himself. Most often, he's willing to let them run as far as they can, and if a Word-bound Renegade can maintain his Word even as a fugitive, it increases the odds that Lucifer will eventually recognize him, and perhaps even elevate his Word. It's up to a Renegade's former Prince, and Asmodeus, to prove that a rebellious demon doesn't deserve a chance.
Word-bound Renegades keep all the special attunements and Rites that their own Word gives them, even though those Rites draw on their Prince's powers (the Prince, of course, hates this). Moreover, they can grant these attunements and Rites to other celestials. No Servitor in his right mind would accept favors like this from a Renegade, but other Renegades might. Word-bound Renegades often form the nucleus of Renegade gangs . . . but they're almost always crushed sooner or later.