By David Edelstein (DavidEdelstein@compuserve.com)
No, this is not a joke or a satire. <g> I thought it was appropriate, though, and figured I'd contribute something a little more *useful* than what we've seen most recently....
Go ahead, make your wisecracks.... ;)
Corporeal Forces 3 Strength 6 Agility 6 Ethereal Forces 5 Intelligence 12 Precision 8 Celestial Forces 6 Will 12 Perception 12
Human/3 (Charisma +1), Human/1 (spare vessel)
Comedian-Producer/3 (Status 5) (Melvin Brass)
Attraction (Ethereal/4), Charm (Ethereal/4, Celestial/4), Harmony (Corporeal/6), Numinous Corpus (Tongue/3), Possession/3, Tongues (Corporeal/2, Ethereal/3, Celestial/4)
Dodge/5, Emote/4, Fast-Talk/4, Knowledge (Hollywood/5, Comedy/6), Lying/4, Savoir-Faire/3
Balseraph of Dark Humor, Habbalite of Dark Humor, Baron of Hysteria, Knight of Influence, Subliminal (both granted by Nybbas), Put-Down, Demon of Sarcasm
Acerbial isn't a combat monster, and he avoids situations where someone might express their opinion of him in a physical manner. He's very smart, and even before he hit the big-time, he was pretty good at avoiding repercussions (there's a reason he has a high Dodge skill...). Now that he's well-situated in Nybbas' media empire, he always has some demonic muscle nearby as protection...usually Calabim of the Media, preferably demons who are too stupid to know when they're being insulted.
"Oh, you thought you MIGHT be interested in working for me, did you? Praise the Almighty, why just this morning I said to myself, 'We don't have nearly enough presumptuous half-wits around here, wherever will I find more?' And now I am blessed with the presence of a freshly-minted Lilim who's going to show off her talents for me. Well, you don't have skinned knees, I assume you have some OTHER talents?"
"Aww, what's the matter, did I huwt youw widdle feewings? Is the poow widdle Wiwim gonna cwy? I'm sorry, perhaps you think I'm the Demon of Giving a Rat's Ass?"
"Well, I'm certainly glad you KNOW who I am. Gosh, whatever tipped you off? Oh no, your powers of observation are simply brilliant. Why with perspicacity like that, you'll earn a Word in no time. Yes, I'm sure Lucifer is just aching to hand out the Word of Duuuuh!!!!"
"Don't glower, dear, it's unattractive. So do you really think you have a thick enough skin to serve me? More importantly, do you have a sharp enough tongue?"
"Hah! Not bad. Needs a little polish, and a dash more venom. But you might have potential. Maybe -- just maybe -- I can use you. You and your tongue. Let's talk about your future working for the Angel of Sarcasm."
"Yes, you heard right! Damn straight I'm an angel! And wipe that sarcastic look off your face!"
There are all kinds of temptations....lust, greed, gluttony, pride.....all catering to mankind's basest impulses. And one of the most overlooked temptations is the desire to verbally lash out at anyone who annoys you. Tact, etiquette, concern for the feelings of others, or simple self-preservation often holds a caustic tongue in check, but deep inside the most courteous, well-bred person is the desire to rip apart that irritating child who's asked you the same question four times now....the clueless boss who can't find a stapler without help...the moron who drives down the freeway for ten miles with his turn-signal blinking, and then forgets to signal a lane change....the yammering spouse who just Won't! Shut! UP!
A sarcastic response gives quick satisfaction and often has the desired effect of silencing irritating people, or at least giving you some measure of gratification when the victim of your retort shows wounded indignation -- there's nothing like puncturing an overinflated ego. Of course it also provokes fights, intensifies animosities, and generates bad feelings all around, making a rational, polite discussion almost impossible, but doesn't it feel gooooooood to see the look on someone's face when your barb scores a direct hit?
Sarcasm has always been a fairly coveted Word among the Servitors of Kobal, Demon Prince of Dark Humor, but the fact is, until recently, it really didn't grant much power. It had cachét, it had name-brand appeal, it had resonance, but it was really just another way of being humorously nasty, and the Demon of Sarcasm was typically just another one of Kobal's favored court jesters, along with the Demons of Ridicule, Irony and Satire.
There have been many Demons of Sarcasm, all Servitors of Kobal, usually nominated by the Prince of Dark Humor and approved by Lucifer after a short interview. If you can survive an interview with Lucifer where you have to demonstrate your fitness to hold the Word of Sarcasm, _without_ provoking the Prince of Darkness into lining Haagenti's colon with your hide, you've earned a Word. But smarting off to Lucifer is often more survivable than smarting off to the likes of Baal or Saminga, and if a Prince doesn't take poorly to being mocked, angels are even more humorless. No Demon of Sarcasm has lasted long.
Enter Acerbial, the current Demon of Sarcasm (or Angel of Sarcasm as he calls himself....can you guess what Band he belongs to? Gosh, what tipped you off?)
Acerbial got his start as just another caustic Habbalite of Dark Humor, whose razor-sharp wit was fueled by an implacable hatred for every living thing. To Acerbial, the world is full of blithering, droolingly stupid idiots, insignificant and small, every last one of them, and the MOST annoying thing, the most IRRITATING thing, what really, really pisses Acerbial off is that THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT VAPID, PATHETIC LOSERS THEY REALLY ARE!
He regards it as his personal duty to explain it to them. Everyone must have their flaws brutally exposed, no one must be allowed to hide from the truth of their own worthlessness. He wants you to know that every simpering word that comes out of your mouth is inane drivel, every thought that runs through what passes for a brain in that empty skull of yours is insipid, unoriginal and stupid. AND THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS IT! You must not only realize that you are a laughably ignorant little worm, deserving of all the scorn and derision a world forced to put up with you can dump on your waste of a soul, but that's what EVERYONE thinks of you! Face facts, you're nothing, you're a piece of s***, and it's not just him saying that, it's everyone who's ever known you.
Acerbial is NOT fun to be around. If you spend more than a minute in his presence and aren't forced to make Will rolls to avoid the impulse to throttle him, he isn't trying. Acerbial wants to punish people for their stupidity and banality. How DARE anyone believe they have something worthwhile to contribute? How dare anyone believe that someone might find them worthy of admiration or respect? As far as he is concerned, every creature in the Symphony should feel guilty just for being, and he is serving God by making sure all His creations suffer for polluting His Symphony with their existence. He wants to tear down undeserved self-esteem and replace it with either insecurity and pain, or mindless defensive rage. He never has a kind word for anyone, and his Servitors quickly become inured to his barbs or else they flee to friendlier superiors. Or they break down and wallow in self-pity, and become verbal punching bags for Acerbial and his more strong-willed servants to abuse.
Acerbial's unrivaled malevolence brings a smile to Kobal's lips, but what has elevated this Demon of Sarcasm above any of his predecessors is the way he conceived of his Word as not merely a particular brand of Dark Humor, but an attitude, a worldview, a way of life. Under Acerbial, Sarcasm is not merely delivering snappy answers to stupid questions, but looking at _everything_ through a glass darkly. The world is a bad joke, and the only sensible response is to treat it as one. Take nothing seriously. Respect nobody's feelings, call 'em the way you see 'em, and f*** 'em if they can't take a joke.
And he's had Nybbas' help in making that attitude seem attractive and admirable. It started in the 70s....at that time, Acerbial's Role, Melvin Brass, was doing stand-up comedy, characterized by biting satire in which he singled out members of the audience for abuse. He'd won some minor notoriety on the comedy circuit, and published a couple of books; collections of insults and pithy one-liners for all occasions, designed to reduce people to quivering puddles of wounded pride. The Demon Prince of the Media happened to catch Melvin's act in a New York nightclub, and he saw Star Quality.
Ironically, Nybbas didn't even know Melvin was a diabolical when he had the comedian signed for a sitcom deal. "The Melvin Brass Show" was panned by critics for being "mean-spirited", "crude", and "a new low in broadcast comedy". Audiences loved it. Melvin's character insulted everyone -- his girlfriend, his boss, his mother -- and got away with it. He got to crush hopes and bruise egos with impunity, and the audience laughed their heads off, viciously.
Behind the scenes, Melvin was cutting deals and networking, Hollywood style.... Acerbial saw a big opportunity to popularize his Word. Nybbas finally clued in to the fact that he'd brought a Word-bound demon under his wing without even realizing it, but he played it off as if he'd known all along. "The Melvin Brass Show" went off the air after just two seasons, but Acerbial was already helping develop many other shows in a similar vein. In the past two decades, the Demon of Sarcasm has been a shining example of inter-Principality cooperation, helping unleash a wave of irreverent comedies that pushed the envelope of acceptability and good taste, scorned role models and moral values, and gored sacred cows at every opportunity. Melvin Brass, now a major Hollywood producer, has been responsible for some of the worst programming on TV....the sitcoms that are most vapid, insult the audience's intelligence, and hold up the most cherished icons of decency for ridicule. And which score big with a growing generation of jaded couch potatoes. Acerbial has helped make sarcasm a genre in itself. The public loves a comedian who has mastered the art of put-down. He's spreading out, sponsoring talk shows and comedy clubs and films. Wherever there's a comic with a nasty, biting edge, Acerbial is there with a smirk, helping them sign their souls away for a shot at the big time. Hell gets more humans led to their Fate, Nybbas gets more material for his media empire, and Kobal gets to see pop culture turn more edgy and profane every year, with humans laughing until they hold _everything_ in contempt.
The Prince of Dark Humor likes Acerbial's work just fine; he has no problems with the Demon of Sarcasm getting cozy with the Prince of the Media. After all, if he ever gets out of line, Kobal is sure he can arrange for Acerbial to have a run-in with Asmodeus, or Lucifer in a bad mood. Acerbial has served the Word of Sarcasm better than any other Servitor, but Kobal can always find another smart-ass.
The Demon of Sarcasm has a fair number of Servitors himself. Most are fellow demons of Dark Humor, but a few are on loan from Nybbas. Any demon of Sarcasm keeps all attunements (and dissonance restrictions) of his Prince, but gains Acerbial's dissonance requirements as well. They also gain his Rites, and the opportunity to buy his one Servitor attunement. Acerbial isn't quite powerful enough yet to grant Band attunements of his own; in the next few years, he may become so, at which point Kobal and Nybbas will both have to decide whether Acerbial's star should continue to rise.
Those who benefit the most from serving Acerbial are other Habbalah, and Acerbial prefers them as Servitors; they make up about half his minions. Strangely enough, they don't like sarcastic comments from other demons about "Angels of Sarcasm."
Demons of Sarcasm must be sarcastic.....duh! Their dissonance restriction requires some Gamemaster discretion, since being sarcastic once a day isn't nearly enough, but even Acerbial can't be sarcastic _all_ the time (though he comes pretty close). In general, a demon of Sarcasm must always give a sarcastic response in favor of a straight one if he thinks he can get away with it. If you have reason to believe that being sarcastic will get you killed (or endanger the Status of your Role), you can stifle it....but any Servitor of Acerbial who's curbing his tongue too much isn't being nearly acerbic enough. The GM should award 1 point of dissonance for any day where a demon of Sarcasm hasn't been abrasive enough, and more if he's actually passing up opportunities to take shots at people. (Refraining from sarcasm in order to avoid hurting someone's feelings _always_ generates dissonance.) Demons of Sarcasm are almost always known as jerks, and no one who cares in the slightest for other peoples' feelings will last in Acerbial's service.
This Servitor attunement is available to any demon of Sarcasm for 10 points. (Acerbial can grant it to others if he wishes.) It gives the demon the ability to know at a glance how to "push someone's buttons." The GM should require the victim to make a Will roll, with the check digit of a failed roll determining how severe his reaction is. Even on a 6, not everyone will become violent -- some people burst into tears rather than losing their temper -- but even a saint can be provoked with this kind of abuse. Note that the demon accomplishes this "button pushing" with witty, sarcastic comments that may appear humorous to an audience....demons of Sarcasm usually use this ability to embarrass and ridicule people in public, often to provoke someone into an inappropriate display of temper and then say "He can't take a joke!" afterwards.
Subtract any Anger Discord from the subject's Will roll.
Elohim are particularly hard to provoke, and add their Celestial Forces to their Will roll to resist this attunement. _However_, if an Elohite fails his Will roll, he will earn a point of dissonance (and demonstrate a violent emotional response) if the check digit is equal to or greater than 6 minus his current level of dissonance!
An angel with Laurence's Vassal Distinction is immune to this power.
Habbalah of Sarcasm are particularly effective at pushing people's buttons -- they may use the equivalent of the Put-Down attunement, above, as part of their natural resonance, at no cost! (They do get the characteristic-reducing effects, and risk having the "Put-Down" rebound on them, as usual.)
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