Demon Thesis (or, An Anthropological Study of Eldritch Horrors Native to the Canadian Maritimes) is a creative project from Chris Doucette, creator of the webcomic The Last Days Of FOXHOUND and programmer for Loot Drop. It is hosted at Doucette's website, and here is a direct link to the game.
Most of the story takes place in or around MacPhee University, a small, remote, private Liberal Arts college in New Brunswick. The main characters are a group of four students (Alain, Clady, Sam, and Val) some of whom have a long history, some of whom have only just been introduced to each other. One day, a couple of local construction workers dig up a strange stone totem and bring it into the anthropological office at MacPhee. Being that the head of the department is on vacation and Sam is working in the office, he's the one who receives it.
When Sam heads to the school library for a little after hours research, (thanks to Val, who works the front desk part-time) he sees something nobody had noticed before: there's a spot near the front with a recess exactly in the shape of the totem. When Sam tries fitting it in, suddenly there's an explosion, the four are gifted with Elemental Powers, and find themselves using those powers to defend themselves from Blob Monsters, The Undead, Living Snowmen, sentient plants from another dimension looking to take over our plane of existence, French werewolves, and more. And all the while, a strange presence called Mesmerus, (speaker of the Arc Words quote at the top of the page) is speaking in their heads, encouraging the violence a little too much for comfort.
This Web Original contains examples of:
- Bad Ass Bookworm: Everyone to a degree, but Alain and Clady are Math and Bio students, respectively, who are about to go into grad school, both are skilled fencers and they're both rather taller and in better shape than Sam and Val.
- Baleful Polymorph: Both Gordon, (one of the construction workers who first brought the totem to Sam) and Clady suffer this thanks to Mesmerus.
- At the end of Chapter 4, the entire party is transformed into the phlegm monster enemies for one battle.
- Battle Couple: Alain and Clady.
- Blow You Away: Clady's power.
- Canada, Eh?
- Cassandra Truth: Gordon, the construction worker who finds the artifact, tells his boss that he feels like something awful will happen if he lets it out of his sight.
- Deadpan Snarker: Clady is the most consistent example, but everyone has their moments. (Even Val, who isn't generally the deadpan type)
- Death Seeker: Deveneur.
- Degraded Boss: A loup-garou (basically a French werewolf) was the boss of the first chapter. In the last two chapters you will fight them several times being used as mooks, sometimes taking on multiple ones in a single battle.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Damn right they did!
- Dishing Out Dirt: Alain's power.
- The Dragon: Deveneur is essentially this to Mesmerus.
- Dual Wielding: Try equipping Val with the axe... never mind that the party owns only one axe. See Morph Weapon and Giving Up on Logic below.
- Eagleland: Val has a few traits of the less nice version, but for the most part she's just a little more aggressive and abrasive than the others.
- Eldritch Abomination: Mesmerus. Also, one chapter has a group of them let loose on the campus. The mere sight of them sends people into a brain lockdown, and Mesmerus has to keep the protagonists from seeing their true form to prevent the same thing from happening to them.
- Eldritch Location: MacPhee is built on a place where our dimension can interact with others. It was originally intended as a line of defense against these other dimensions, but over time almost all of the supernatural courses and influences have been forgotten.
- Elemental Powers: Each of the four main characters get empowered with one of the four classical elements. (Well, close to it anyway. Sam gets ice instead of water.)
- Elemental RockPaperScissors: To a degree. The elements will interact in various different ways, Doucette created a cheat sheet to help players keep it straight.
- Energy Absorption: Certain enemies will be completely immune to, or even gain health from certain spells. Also, the entire gambit of Mesmerus turns out to be that he's gaining power from every spell the heroes cast and using it to bring down the barrier between his world and ours.
- Evil Counterpart: Deveneur.
- Fanfare: Every time you win a fight (barring the tutorial), Canadian anthem will play, with Canadian flag. Sam, Alain and even Clady salute. Val on other hand seems to wave American flags, resulting in a glare from Clady. When some of the characters has to be fought, the poses change appropiately.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Deveneur was an adult during the French and Indian War who went into a kind of magical stasis after it. Naturally, that doesn't seem to affect him getting around in the 21st century in the slightest.
- Foreign Exchange Student: Both Val and Clady, Val is American and Clady is Danish, attending a Canadian school.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: Done pretty well throughout, but especially in the last fight with Deveneur, in which it is pretty much a given that you'll throw out more spells than you've ever used before in a single fight, due to the way the arena is set up. After the battle, this is tied into the narrative justification for Mesmerus' entering the world.
- Giving Up on Logic: Several examples.
- The following conversation happens after Clady notices that the foil she gave Sam before a battle has morphed into an easier to wield broadsword:Clady: Sam, where'd you get that sword?
Sam: Uh... you gave it to me?
Clady: I gave you a fencing foil, not a broadsword.
Clady: Yeah, never mind. I'm going to stop asking questions like that.
- When Mesmerus tells the group that he's giving them time off for Spring Break, and then proves that he is in fact knowledgable about the concept, this trope is the only possible way to describe their reaction.
- The following conversation happens after Clady notices that the foil she gave Sam before a battle has morphed into an easier to wield broadsword:
- Hot-Blooded: Val. In spades.
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: Remember those Eldritch Abomination enemies whose appearance Mesmerus censored so the group wouldn't mentally shut down as soon as they look at them? Well, those "abominations" are terrified of these strange creatures called humans and see themselves as frantically fighting for their lives when a group of humans start killing them off in ones and twos, Slasher Movie style. The group is horrified to realize this, and refuses to continue slaughtering them for the amusement of Mesmerus. Mesmerus is not pleased at this revolt, and stops even pretending to be on their side.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The story is divided into 6 Chapters, each of which is named after a part of the college experience. (For example: recruiting, midterms, spring break, finals, etc.)
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Val tries to take this approach at first, but the situation doesn't exactly accommodate her.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Defied when Clady is the victim of a Baleful Polymorph and attacks the party. Only knocking her senseless with spells undoes the polymorph.
- Kill It with Fire: It's not long before Val starts showing an unhealthy enthusiasm for her newfound powers.Alain: Was she a pyromaniac before this started?
Clady: There was the incident with our "fireplace" in our first floor, chimneyless dorm room...
- Generally speaking, Fire is one of the more useful spells on offense, since the flames stay in place and keep on burning anything forced to remain standing in them.
- Kill It with Ice: Sam's power.
- Level Grinding: Averted. Upgrades (or the acquisition of new weapons and items) happened at pre-determined times, and which upgrade actually happens was usually the result of voting on the site.
- Lightning Bruiser: Deveneur, who moves 4 times as fast as the heroes, has full use of spells and physical attacks, and grows a resistance to any spell he's hit with.
- The Magic Goes Away: After the last fight. Without the influence of Mesmerus, there is no more magic. This is treated as being somewhat sad but probably for the best.
- Manipulative Bastard: Mesmerus, full stop.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!" The reaction to the Wham Line.
- The Medic: Everyone can use healing magic, but Sam is easily the most efficient at it.
- Morph Weapon: The fencing foils that Clady and Alain borrow from the fencing team will shift into a broadsword if you give it to Sam, due to the magical effect going on. Clady will notice this and there'll be a bit of dialog in the midst of the battle about it before everyone agrees to give up trying to use logic in the situation. Also, give Val the axe and it'll change into two smaller, hand sized axes that she dual wields.
- Motor Mouth: Billy from Newfie. When he starts talking at a normal speed, something is very wrong.
- Mundane Solution: At the close of the first chapter, Val attempts to smash the totem with a pick-ax. It doesn't work. The futility of this is lampshaded.Alain: C'mon, you've read The Lord of the Rings. You thought it'd be that easy?
- Only One Name: Mesmerus, of course. Also, the last names of the main characters are only mentioned in one scene. Going by likely order of elimination, their full names are probably Valerie Sun, (which makes her talking about how she should have gone to Arizona State University instead a bit of a pun/reference) Clady Vestergaard, Sam Guinness, and Alain Durand.
- Pair the Smart Ones: The story of how Alain and Clady wound up dating. Summed up by Val thusly:And you lived nerdily ever after, I get the picture.
- Playing with Fire: Val's power.
- Police are Useless: Justified due to the circumstances, which includes the fact that anyone who comes near a site where the four are battling the supernatural entities gets sick and is unable to comprehend what they're seeing. As for trying to get official police help, Detective Rogers sums it up like this:It's not that I don't believe you, if you can make fire appear out of nowhere I'll take the rest on faith, but I can't file a police report with the story you're giving me and be taken seriously. We can't press charges against a werewolf for starting a magical fire that caused no property damage... the justice system isn't set up to deal with your kind of problems.
- Poor Communication Kills: The first time the group encounters the living snowmen (or snowmunculus) Sam tries to peacefully explain what's going on and get the snow creatures to let them pass when Val butts in with "Get out of our way or I'll melt your ugly ass!" The snowmen don't take kindly to the threat, and become recurring enemies.
- Post-Victory Collapse: In a way. After the final battle everyone breaks down crying in relief and letting out all the stress they've been under. As the narration puts it: "And so 5 months of psychological trauma were suddenly released".
- Public Domain Soundtrack
- Puzzle Boss: Insofar as this is a tactics game, every fight is a puzzle, but both Deveneur (in both fights) and Mesmerus in particular qualify for the trope.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Both Professor Sheffield and Detective Rogers. The school's president, Fields, is noticeably less pleasant.Val: (After Fields essentially blackmails them into protecting the school) I'm almost positive that's illegal.
President Fields: Welcome to Shit Happens 101.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Val and Clady, roommates and friends with very different styles. Val is impulsive, abrasive, and Hot-Blooded, Clady is a level-headed, snarky intellectual with a tendency for nitpicking statements to death, which is pointed out more than once.
- Thanatos Gambit: After weakening the barriers between dimensions enough, Mesmerus needs blood to be shed in the library so he can cross over into our world. Deveneur (already a Death Seeker) accomplishes this by making the group believe that he is in the midst of summoning Mesmerus, and letting them pound him with spells. It works.
- Twofer Token Minority: In Canada, Alain counts, being a black French-Canadian. He lampshades the fact.
- Verbal Tic: The Canadian eh is avoided, but oddly enough Mesmerus uses it once in the opening chapter. Shows just how long he'd been watching Canada through the thin place in dimensions.
- Unwitting Pawn: The entire group plays directly into the plans of Mesmerus and Deveneur. Every time they use the powers Mesmerus granted them, it lets him get closer to entering our world.
- Weirdness Censor: Mesmerus imposes one on the group when they face a particular enemy. The mere sight of these creatures had caused Innocent Bystanders to go straight in mental lockdown.
- Wham Line: "And every spell weakens the barrier between his world and ours."
- World of Pun: It does this constantly when in game mode, as virtually any action you have the characters take is accompanied by a pun or reference. For example, give Clady the spear and let her attack with it, and the attack is called "Clad the Impaler". Give Val, the sole American, the axe, and it's called "American Chopper" when she uses it. If Alain, a French-Canadian, goes into a defensive mode to take less damage, it's Block Quebecois, and so on and so forth.
- You Will Be Spared: When Mesmerus appears, he offers to kill the group quickly and painlessly since he feels like he owes them.