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Friday, 24 November 2017

Dealing with demons - part 2

Not long after this part of the "Dealing With Demons" article came out (White Dwarf 45, September 1983) I learned that Citadel Miniatures was releasing a set of figurines based on my demons. I never did seem able to get across to the GW guys that the articles were my copyright and that I therefore owned what was in them. After mentioning it I got a tenner and the promise of a couple of free boxes of figurines, for which I gave Citadel a free demon-summoning scenario to put in the box; there's a collector's item if you can find it. Next week, in the final instalment, we'll tiptoe in for a closer look at the lords of demonkind.



Part Two: THE LESSER DEMONS

It is a rash student of demonic magic who expects to start his career by summoning the great demon lords and princes. Such a career would be short-lived. It is best to begin with lesser demons, even though their services are scant beside their masters’ powers.

To the would-be summoner, knowledge is most definitely power. His Demonology score determines how much he knows about each type of demon. Any novice will know the names and general skills of common demons such as those listed here, but their exact strengths and vulnerabilities can only be found out through exhaustive study and calculation. For example, a character who had done no more than to leaf through a few compendia of demons would know that B'krath are stealthy killers that operate to best effect in shadow, but it is hardly common knowledge that the B’krath do not haggle and will only serve in exchange for a precise quantity of gold.

Demonology rolls are usually made by the referee on the character's behalf, so that the character can never be entirely sure that his information about a demon is correct until he has actually tested it out. Information is broken down for convenience into five categories:

  1. The demon's abilities — POW, hit points, fighting skill and damage, etc. A successful Demonology roll means that each ability is known to within ±25% (randomly determined by the referee).
  2. Special wards against the demon, if any.
  3. The demon's tractability –the proportion of friendly, neutral and hostile individuals among a given demon race.
  4. The demon's probable requirements in bargaining.
  5. The demon's resistance to Binding. A successful Demonology roll lets the character know this to within ±10%.

Characters trying to discover these facts for a particular type of demon check for them after every 2-20 days (roll two d10). This represents the time taken in research and meditation. The check is made for each of the five information categories separately. In each case, if the referee makes the character's demonology roll then he gives the player the correct information —within the limits given above. On a fumble the Referee gives the player completely erroneous information. Any other result on the Demonology roll simply means that the character has turned up nothing useful and will need to spend another 2-20 days in study.

A character might want to double-check his results: he can go on devoting study time to a demon as long as he wants. For example, Hajpool the Wary is a student with a Demonology ability of 30% who is trying to find out about Storm Demons. Hajpool's master has told him most of what he wants to know, but insists that as an exercise he determines for himself any wards that can be used, After his first study period, Hajpool is informed by the referee (correctly, because a 27 was rolled) that the appropriate ward is a fence of sharp copper rods around the perimeter of the pentacle. Wanting to make sure, Hajpool spends another 2-20 days in his master's library. This time he turns up no further information. After six more study periods Hajpool has twice been told that copper rods are the proper warding, four times drawn a blank, once been told to use garlic and once that the proper ward is a gold Life Rune. He realises that the last two must be incorrect results from fumbles and that the two answers which agree are almost certainly the right answer.

Note that because Demonology is a complex subject, highly liable to error and miscalculation, the chance of a fumble is twice what it would normally be for any other skill. A Demonology skill of 30%, for instance, leads to a fumble on 93-00 rather than 97-00.

In the descriptions below, the first paragraph is general information about the demon that any demonologist would know or that could be found in some demon bestiary. The second paragraph is specialized information that can only be discovered through the right Demonology roll.

Amorphs
At first glance an Amorph could be mistaken for a Gorp – an oozing blob of grey-mauve protoplasm. But the form of the Amorph is full of eyes and chattering mouths, and it will occasionally extrude temporary appendages.

Specialized knowledge: Amorphs are best used as guards in dank places or as assassins where there are moats and rivers to be crossed, as they travel freely through water. Fire causes an Amorph 50% extra damage. Amorphs take 3d3 damage if they cross a line of eucalyptus oil, so this makes an excellent warding material. Amorphs serve in exchange for a litre of Gorp acid, on which they feed.

B’krath
B’krath are slender, prowling killers, roughly humanoid in appearance but with musculature and stance reminiscent of a jaguar. The jet-black fur of a B’krath makes it particularly adept at stalking in shadows; its Defence and Stealth abilities are halved in bright light. B’krath fight with their long powerful talons and needle-sharp teeth.

Specialized knowledge: B’krath when summoned always appear in groups of three. The summoner thus temporarily loses 3d3 points of CON. The three B’krath are identical in their characteristics, reaction to the summoner, etc, and are in permanent mental rapport (not mindlink) with one another so that they hunt and fight as a team. The B’krath will not haggle over payment for their services—indeed, they never communicate with humans except to receive their instructions. The B’krath will undertake only assassinations, and must be paid 3000 L worth of gold dust for this.

Demon Wolves
Large, black wolves with red eyes. They have excellent tracking skills and are best employed as hunter-killers.

Specialized knowledge: Demon Wolves are partially resistant to weapons of non-Runic metal (which cause them only half damage), and moreover anyone striking a Demon Wolf with such a weapon must resist its POW or suffer one of these curses:

  1. Arms paralyzed
  2. Struck blind
  3. Struck dumb
  4. Transformed into a rat
  5. Leg withered (halves movement)
  6. Horribly disfigured (-10 from CHA)

A curse can be removed with dispel magic 2. Demon Wolves take double damage from aconite-based poisons. The minimum payment for a Demon Wolf's services is the sacrifice of a sentient being. They must be summoned by night, as daylight demoralizes them.

Gremlins
These are small (two and a half feet tall), thin humanoids with elongated toes and fingers like a lizard’s and a globular head perched on a narrow neck. They have pale green skin and their large, saucer-shaped eyes give them a rather comical look. Gremlins are demons of (bad) luck.

Specialized knowledge: Gremlins are ineffective fighters, but their special ability is that anyone within 8m of a Gremlin suffers bad luck. Any rolls that the character makes are adjusted by 1d3x5% so as to be less favourable. Any luck rolls must be made by the character rolling POW as a percentage, rather than the usual POWx5%.

Gremlins have 85% natural camouflage in all surroundings and utilize this to skulk near their victims and bring down upon them the vicissitudes of disaster. If forced to fight, Gremlins use long straight-bladed knives. Gremlins will require a minimum payment of 350 Lunars. They cannot harm anyone tied to the Luck rune.

Nightmares
These large, black demon horses are usually summoned as a mount for the demonologist, as they can cross any terrain at 30 kilometres an hour.

Specialized knowledge: Nightmares can only be evoked after sunset, and dissolve into mist if exposed to sunlight. There is no other special defence against them. A nightmare will require a pint (equivalent to 1 d3 STR) of the summoner's blood in return for its services.

Pazuzu         
These demons are thin and manlike., Their taut, glistening skin is ruddy-bronze in colour, their leonine manes are dusty grey and their eagle-like wings and talons are darkest black. They can breathe flame up to 10m.

Specialized knowledge: Pazuzu make particularly useful servants because of their powers of illusion (they can cast image creation at will for no POW cost) and their partial resistance to magic (one-point battle magic spells cannot affect them). Pazuzu require payment of about 750L worth of ivory. Offering a Pazuzu water brought from an oasis causes it to become more tractable (-10 from its reaction roll).

Porphyrs
Vampiric blue-skinned demons, porphyrs are very tall and gaunt and have all the normal powers of a vampire. They have bald, veined heads, eyes of limpid yellow and long, seemingly delicate nails. Over its robes a Porphyr will wear a silver cuirass with intricate designs worked upon it.

Specialized knowledge: Porphyrs have all the vulnerabilities of any vampire. They have great difficulty controlling their passionate thirst, and the summoner should wear a garlic sash as this gives an effective Defence bonus of +10% against the demon’s attacks. The Porphyr demands at least one bound spirit familiar as payment. From this it will drain all blood and POW, destroying it.

Rult
Rult have hunched bodies with dry, shredding flesh, a large head like that of a fly, and skeletal wings draped with a torn web of skin.

Specialized knowledge: Rult must be summoned at the place of execution of a man who has murdered more than once. They will haggle for gold, silver and gems—a Rult usually requires about 1,000 Lunars. Rult have two special abilities. First, they can teleport over distances of up to 4 kilometres, with the restriction that some living or once-living body which they have encountered is at each end of the teleport. Secondly, Rult can breathe a poisonous vapour doing 1d3 damage that cannot be healed by magic. Any character wearing a Man rune amulet has a +10% bonus to harmonize a Rult.

Sraim
Sraim have a giant maggot’s body on four long spidery legs, with a face which is lumpish and misshapen as though made of putty. They can detect items that the demonologist has lost and will lead him towards such an item.

Specialized knowledge: Sraim serve in return for at least one dose of potency 20 poison. In addition to biting in combat, a Sraim can also spit corrosive venom (a potency 5 acid) up to 10m with an accuracy of 50%.

Stalkers
Stalkers are the premier demonic assassins. They can pass freely through wood, stone, etc, although they are tangible to metal and magical materials, and have excellent Stealth skills. Stalkers appear to be vaguely humanoid, hunched inside their dusty robes, but have withered brown skin like tree bark and a cowled vulture’s head.

Specialized knowledge: A Stalker’s abilities are not bought cheaply. The demon will require at least one POW storage crystal of at least 10 points capacity, and may often haggle for significantly more powerful items such as powered crystals or truestone. The only ward against a Stalker is to blow a silver whistle on which runes of Stasis, Movement and Air have been etched. For as long as the whistle is blown within 5m of the Stalker its attack chances are halved. If a Stalker wounds its foe it matches its POW against his or hers, with success costing the opponent 2 points of STR which later recover at one point per hour. Every fifth round a Stalker can cast bolts of white light up to 10m with accuracy of 85%, dealing 1d20 points of damage.

Storm Demons
These creatures of living lightning can only be evoked in the midst of a thunderstorm. They appear as flickering, electrical, humanoid figures up to twice the size of a man.

Specialized knowledge: Storm Demons are much like elementals in having no specific hit locations or CON.  A Storm Demon can hurl bolts of energy up to 20m that inflict four 1d8 wounds on the target, armour giving half normal protection. Alternatively it can grapple an opponent, causing heatshock like a fire elemental.

A paling of sharp copper rods will cause 4d6 damage to any Storm Demon that tries to cross it and will deflect lightning bolts cast by the demon so that their accuracy is halved. Storm Demons require 800 Lunars’ worth of sapphire dust for their services.

Afterword
This list of demons is not intended to be exhaustive. Referees are encouraged to shift abilities around and invent demons of their own to prevent players from becoming complacent.

Demons may have Battle Magic and (in very rare cases) Rune spells. Assume an 80% chance of 1d8 points of Battle Magic and a 10% chance of 1d3 Rune spells.

5 comments:

  1. This is again something that seems to me to be mostly useful only to the DM. The specialized knowledge would be something the PCs would perhaps use (although probably rarely because it seems to take a lot of time) if they're trying to deal with one of these things and need to understand it better so they can banish/eliminate it.

    The only time I could see player-characters wanting to summon a demon is if there's something they really want/need and simply cannot get anywhere else. Say, they've found something like the ruins of the wizard king from Fabled Lands 1, fought and defeated the demon guarding it but can't get inside because they don't have the password to lower the wards and gain entrance. They might end up trying to summon the very demon they defeated to try to learn the password from it.

    For the rest of the beings listed here, it's probably easier and safer to get what you'd want from them another way. If you want somebody dead, kill him yourself or hire an assassin. If you want something hunted or tracked, hire a ranger. If you've lost the keys to your flying chariot or whatever, hire a Diviner. Hell, if you've decided for some reason that you absolutely, positively need the powers of a vampire, well, vampires are intelligent undead, so find one, pack a few bottles of really high quality blood, knock on his castle/crypt door and make a deal with him.

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  2. Riffing off your first paragraph Dave, I am struck by the idea of a Dark Wizard’s plan to dominate the world with an army of Demons becoming bogged down by administrative red tape when the sorcerer who initially wrote the conjuring spell sues him for intellectual property theft ; )

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  3. Said lawsuit being filed by Demon Lawyers - a repetition if ever there was one. Oooh, now that's something that should have been included. Plenty of hunters, killers and the like, but how about a lawyer demon?

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  4. Dave, if you want to put up a Kickstarter to pay for the 3000 L worth of gold dust it'll take to bribe some B’krath to hunt down and murder Future Youtube, I'll happily donate to it.

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    1. Thanks, John -- though actually it may be safer for all concerned if I just zap their comment :-)

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