I can't see a rule for how good starting demons can be. Is the idea for the players to be allowed to start with a demon as powerful as they want as their starting demon, and then laugh maniacally as the demon rebels, assisted by the poor binding roll, or should the GM rather be dilligent to limit starting demon Stamina and Lore to avoid unbalancing the game? If the latter, what is a good rule of thumb?
I realise that PCs can, in any event, attempt to Contact, Summon and Bind demons of any degree of niftyness in the course of play, but with the need for successful Contact and Summon rolls (not required for the starting demon) and extra Humanity checks, a very powerful demon would be hard to obtain in subsequent play.
It's that first one, Marcus. Let the player have as much hanging rope as they want.
I'll back up what Josh said with an example from actual play. A while back my group did a "Space-Western" game of Sorcerer. One of the players wanted to be a "Railway Baron" figure and so she decided that she was the owner and operator of a space station that was central to trade and commerce way out at the frontier of space exploration.
For a while, she and the group struggled over what her demon should be. Finally someone suggested that her demon should be the space station itself. After we finished writing the thing up it turned out to be a Power 13 Demon with a Need to Eat People (I'll save stories about Cellblock 13 for latter) and the personality of a spoiled little girl (inspired by the Red Queen from the Resident Evil movie).
Note: At the time we wrote up every function of the space station as a demonic ability. I have since learned that this is probably not correct because Object Demons still function just as the object would and the Abilities only a apply to the Demonic aspects. Example: An Object Demon that happens to be a car does not need the Travel or Transport ability to take the normal number of human beings from point A to point B just as any car would. If it can fly on the other hand...
But even if you stripped out the "redundant" abilities it would still be a power 8 or 9 demon.
Yup. Strong as they want.
The best approach, I've found, is to have the player explain what the demon can do, usually with as much atmosphere and "style" as possible. Then just figure out the abilities, which sets Lore, and work from there.
"I want my demon to hop into people and take them over, and make them do what I say."
Possessor demon with Hop. Q: "So you can tell what it's doing, and it can understand your commands from a distance?"
"Yeah! And it's invisible, when it's outside a host."
Link, Perception (commands), Cloak. Q: "What about if you're in trouble while it's off poncing about in someone else's body?"
"It can zip straight back to me, no matter what, and stop the guy!"
Travel, and Perception 2 for the long-distance application of Travel. Q: "By taking him over, or by something more direct?"
"By freezing him in place; it can do that."
Q: "Is that it?"
Okay, 7 abilities means Lore 7. Standard demon construction puts it at Stamina 7, Will 8, Lore 7, Power 8.
That's not set in stone. Will could be popped higher, for instance (which would raise Power as well); Power could be popped higher by itself; or Stamina could be dropped (not really recommended, but possible).
I suppose if a player goes really overboard by, say, asking for a demon with a Stamina of 50 and every power in the book twice over, the GM, depending on matters such as his or her outlook, does one of the following:
1. Chuckles, knowing that the binding is going to be so weak that the PC will have to work very hard to avoid being one of mega-demon's first victims. The player has thus purchased great power at the expense of great insecurity and limited freedon of action- the demon is likely to emerge as master and the PC as slave to its Need and Desire;
2. Looks at the effect that a mega-demon could have on the storyline, vetoing the concept if the demon's power is likely to spoil the story, but encouraging the concept if the demon will fit in nicely with the general theme (premise?) of the game.
3. Tell the player "There are no demons that you know of in the game world that are that powerful, sorry but you'll have to scale it down a bit!", or alternatively "From your description, your demon is Dread Cthulhu, and you are its chief slave- I mean best friend. That's what you wanted, right?".
Actually, thinking more on the Cthulhu example, it strikes me that there would be plenty of room in many games for a mega-demon, provided one conceived of it as a god that might bestow favours on the PC from time to time as a reward for worship, rather than as a super-powered bodyguard that would slay dozens at a time at the PC's merest command. Certainly when one looks at the relative Wills, the PC will certainly not be wearing the trousers in this relationship!
Good call all 'round.
I've encountered the semi-challenging player call for a "100 Power demon, man!" on occasion.
I usually tell the player he has to describe what the demon can do (as above). Usually it tops out at about Power 11 or 12, and he's going, "And, um ..." Then I say, "C'mon, you're just flailing. Give me a demon you really have in mind."
Then he either goes with a pretty cool demon of Power 11 or 12, or he starts over.
Damn, you ask good questions, Marcus. These really hit the "actual interaction among real people" buttons which are necessary to hit for Sorcerer.