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What is a Demon?

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I know what the book says and I know what some literature and other games say, but I am curious how others think of or describe demons in their campaigns. What role do they play, if any, outside the specific uses for magic? 

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Anything weird and magical could be called a demon by superstitious locals, including undead but on the more powerful scale you could include elder gods etc, such as your average cult shrine demon, ranging up to Nyarlathotep or Cthulhu -- super powered science-fictional beings with godlike powers. It sort of depends on religiousness of your campaign too. In the Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe and also in Chronicles of Future Earth, 'demons' are aliens or interdimensional beings; but in paintings by Hieronymous Bosh, demons have a religious or moral function of punishment. Having said all that, I use demons only for magic in my campaign, when I use them at all, and I just explain them as amoral other-dimensional beings with needs that seem to  us bizarre, obscene, dangerous or all three.

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They are inhabitants of other worlds, other planes of existence, belonging to species much like humans, apes, dragons or mice. There, they may be simply magic users, a magic which translates into demon abilities in our world, or they might possess those abilities as a natural gift, or they might have it received from one of their gods, etc.

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On 10/31/2018 at 1:36 AM, Thot said:

They are inhabitants of other worlds, other planes of existence, belonging to species much like humans, apes, dragons or mice. There, they may be simply magic users, a magic which translates into demon abilities in our world, or they might possess those abilities as a natural gift, or they might have it received from one of their gods, etc.

Would that mean that a "normal" human from another plane of existence would qualify? For instance imagine a Granbretan soldier with a flame lance in the Young Kingdoms. 

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In Magic World terms I tend to think of demons as being something like jinn; amorphous entities of some otherworldly plane/dimension/reality that lack individuality until they are drawn forth and formed in the material world. Mechanically this explains sorcerer's being able to define a demon. in Cosmological terms, maybe this is one reason why they are so eager to make deals with sorcerers or allow themselves to be summoned at all? They become "real" (or at least more real) once they are summoned.

Whatever demons are and where they come from, I tend to want to rebel against the carefully laid out cosmology by Gary Gygax for the Dungeons & Dragons game with its outer planes and their clearly defined hierarchies, species, politics, etc.

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43 minutes ago, Nick J. said:

In Magic World terms I tend to think of demons as being something like jinn; amorphous entities of some otherworldly plane/dimension/reality that lack individuality until they are drawn forth and formed in the material world. Mechanically this explains sorcerer's being able to define a demon. in Cosmological terms, maybe this is one reason why they are so eager to make deals with sorcerers or allow themselves to be summoned at all? They become "real" (or at least more real) once they are summoned.

 

An interesting view. I'm not sold on it though. I think it might hold true for some demons but not all. One interesting tidbit in one of the series (Hawkmoon or Corum, I forgot which one) is that one of the baddies summons Yyrkoon as a demon. If this is the same characters from the Erlic saga is unknown, and if so, if the  the summons occurred before or after his death. If it is the same Yyrkoon, then either way, it opens up some interesting lines of thought. Maybe sorcerers themselves are vulnerable to being summoned, or maybe those who follow Chaos or are slain by Stormbringer can be summoned? 

 

43 minutes ago, Nick J. said:

Whatever demons are and where they come from, I tend to want to rebel against the carefully laid out cosmology by Gary Gygax for the Dungeons & Dragons game with its outer planes and their clearly defined hierarchies, species, politics, etc.

I don't blame you. But I do think as this is Moorcock's Multiverse that we are dealing with beings from some other plane/dimension/sphere.

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It depends on the setting.
In my old homebrew game they're spirits of various sorts... as varied in temperment, intelligence and motivation as the people who summon them. Definitely not purely good or evil.

In my 30's war campaign they were straight up Christian fantasy, red-skinned devils with horns, pitchforks and a complicated hierarchy.

Either way, they're outsiders who don't quite belong in the world and cannot normally come across without aid of some sort. Not un-natural but other-natural... maybe?

Edited by Simlasa
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On 11/3/2018 at 7:33 PM, Atgxtg said:

Would that mean that a "normal" human from another plane of existence would qualify? For instance imagine a Granbretan soldier with a flame lance in the Young Kingdoms. 

I would say so, yes.

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16 minutes ago, Thot said:

I would say so, yes.

I played in a game recently where our party was summoned (mid combat on the back of a dragon) by a wizard in need of aid. POOF! We were there in his citadel, fought off the monsters plaguing him, and before we could ask any questions POOF! We were back on the back of the dragon... so I suppose that means WE were the summoned monsters/demons in that scenario.

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On 11/3/2018 at 12:49 PM, Atgxtg said:

An interesting view. I'm not sold on it though. I think it might hold true for some demons but not all. One interesting tidbit in one of the series (Hawkmoon or Corum, I forgot which one) is that one of the baddies summons Yyrkoon as a demon. If this is the same characters from the Erlic saga is unknown, and if so, if the  the summons occurred before or after his death. If it is the same Yyrkoon, then either way, it opens up some interesting lines of thought. Maybe sorcerers themselves are vulnerable to being summoned, or maybe those who follow Chaos or are slain by Stormbringer can be summoned? 

 

I don't blame you. But I do think as this is Moorcock's Multiverse that we are dealing with beings from some other plane/dimension/sphere.

If this was Stormbringer/Elric! we were talking about I'd fully agree with you, but in Magic World all we're left with from the old games is the mechanics and not a lot of guidance on what something "is." As a generic fantasy RPG it seems like this was done intentionally to leave it up to the GM to define.

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28 minutes ago, Nick J. said:

If this was Stormbringer/Elric! we were talking about I'd fully agree with you, but in Magic World all we're left with from the old games is the mechanics and not a lot of guidance on what something "is." As a generic fantasy RPG it seems like this was done intentionally to leave it up to the GM to define.

True. I stand corrected. I forgot which forum this was in. 

 

All this does beg the question just what (or whom) is summon-able? Can anybody be yanked from their home into another world by a summon spell?

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Interestingly, Magic World itself says that demons need not be inhabitants of other dimensions. Origin on another plane is not a necessary attribute of demons. Quote from the Summon Demon spell p125:

"The spell contains the key phrases that open a pathway to the other planes (or hidden places within this plane at the Chronicleer's discretion), allowing communication with a demonic entity..."

We should remember that other dimensions are a very modern idea and whether it be the underground hell of early christians or the home of the gods on Olympus mountain, or the Land of the Young far across the ocean to the West, for most of history incredible beings lived in unreachable places on our own world, then we reached those places. My worlds tend to use this model.

 

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On 11/5/2018 at 5:47 AM, Atgxtg said:

All this does beg the question just what (or whom) is summon-able? Can anybody be yanked from their home into another world by a summon spell?

If anyone is interested there are some alternative rules for Stormbringer fifth edition that allow a sorceror to summon creatures from another plane that aren't generally classed as demons that could be used for Magic world, if you want that sort of summoning to be part of your games.  "The summoning skill is a useful measure of the general magic proficiency of a character and can be used in a simple way to deal with the summoning of creatures that are predefined as coming from another plane, such as the Creatures of Matik, the Elenoin, the Steeds of Nirhain, or even a Vadagh from Corum's world, an Eldren from the ghost-worlds of Erekose's Earth, or a traveller of the spheres like Wheldrake the poet."  http://www.stormbringerrpg.com/docs/Alternate Magic.pdf

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On 11/3/2018 at 6:33 PM, Atgxtg said:

Would that mean that a "normal" human from another plane of existence would qualify? For instance imagine a Granbretan soldier with a flame lance in the Young Kingdoms. 

Yes it would.

In fact there was a series based upon that fact, Myth series of books. There was a scaly 'demon' called Aahz that was in fact an inhabitant of another universe. They could be summoned and although not supernatural, were treated as demons.

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On 11/3/2018 at 1:33 PM, Atgxtg said:

Would that mean that a "normal" human from another plane of existence would qualify? For instance imagine a Granbretan soldier with a flame lance in the Young Kingdoms. 

That’s pretty much what happened to the kids from “Lion, Witch and Wardrobe” in the sequel “Prince Caspian.”  One minute they’re waiting for a train in London, the next they’re on a deserted wooded isle ... someplace, with no idea why or where.

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Wow doubled quoted six months later!

 

1 hour ago, RogerDee said:

Yes it would.

In fact there was a series based upon that fact, Myth series of books. There was a scaly 'demon' called Aahz that was in fact an inhabitant of another universe. They could be summoned and although not supernatural, were treated as demons.

Yes, I'm fond of the Myth books, and that in that series Robert Aspirin uses the word Demon to stand for Dimensional Traveler, but that is setting specific.  

1 hour ago, seneschal said:

That’s pretty much what happened to the kids from “Lion, Witch and Wardrobe” in the sequel “Prince Caspian.”  One minute they’re waiting for a train in London, the next they’re on a deserted wooded isle ... someplace, with no idea why or where.

Yes, but my point is what constitutes a Demon according to the magic World RPG? According to the rulebook demons are supernatural in nature and as per Summon Demon spell "For purposes of this game “Demon” is a catch-all phrase used to signify an otherworldly entity of particularly malign disposition." 

That definition does not match up with the "any creature from another plane of existence" approach. Not that the latter isn't a valid approach, it just not the one that I think Magic World uses. Not unless one considers all the characters in the myth book and the children in the Narnia series to all have particularly malign dispositions. 

I think that, according to Magic World, most of those characters would not be considered demons and vulnerable to being summoned through spells like Summon Demon. Now there are probably other ways to summon such characters but I think it is something different. I also think that demons are somehow especially vulnerable to summoning and binding in ways than non-demons aren't. At least per the RAW. 

Now a GM might want to, and certainly could run it another way, but it don't believe that was the intention, and I do think that such an interpretation opens the door to all sorts of abuse and problems. Namely what happens when a character summons another character? Can the evil sorcerer summon a PC hero to his lair kill (or worse) bind them as a demon? Can a PC do it to get at the main villain of the adventure? It is a game changer.

 

 

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Isn’t the demon in Magic World originally from the BGB? Or was it from Stormbringer?

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4 hours ago, rsanford said:

Isn’t the demon in Magic World originally from the BGB? Or was it from Stormbringer?

Stormbringer. Originally it was Moorcock's multiverse demons, basically creatures from other spheres with a chaos affiliation. But even then there was a distinction between demon and Chaos beast (for example creatures of Matik). Magic World is a different setting through, so demons are somewhat more loosely defined to be adaptable to different settings. So just what a demon is is tied more closely to setting. 

If a GM goes with a more Myth-like interpretation, . with demons being any creature from a different plane, which is not how Magic World defines them, then Summoning spells and binding spells become much more powerful. A wizard can go off to another dimension, summon another character and just kill them or  magically bind them- bypassing a lot of their defenses.Which I consider to be a big game changer. For example the evil sorcerer could summon and bind all the PCs and control them as summoned demons. That could kill off a campaign. There would be little the PCs could do to defend against it too, as hiding, walls, and range have little effect on summoning. 

 

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In my world building, I have two types of "demon" - one is the more general notion of beings from another universe or plane of existance, the other is more specifically an entity participating in a higher (magical) energy realm brought into a more mundane realm and manifesting some of that higher energy as magical effects.

There is a possibility that the amount of energy carried over with an individual is dependent on the summoning. In Stormbringer, the summoner provides the entry window through the magic of souls consumed in the summoning. The success of the summoning technique determines the power the entity manifests in the realm it has been summoned to, likely capped by the energy provided in enabling the passage. If the entity was part of a collective rather than a self-aware individual before the summoning, then its control over this magic will entirely depend on the summoning. If the entity already was self-aware, it may still carry over a lot more power than it would have handled on its own in its other realm habitat - a bit like the boost John Carter experienced on Mars.

A similar effect might come into play when people from the mundane world enter other realms, like heroquests. The magic expended to enable their transfer may temporarily charge them up beyond their normal limits and abilities.

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I like to think demons in MW are spirits of shadow, perhaps even Fey, that are given material form through the summoning spell and fashioned to the will of the sorcerer by the amount of magic spent in their manifestation. 

I do, however, really like the cosmology of old school D&D devils and demons. The hierarchy and ladder of ascension. Even among the chaotic fey there is a lord. 

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9 hours ago, tooley1chris said:

I like to think demons in MW are spirits of shadow, perhaps even Fey, that are given material form through the summoning spell and fashioned to the will of the sorcerer by the amount of magic spent in their manifestation. 

Using the default setting for MW, one might imagine demons as the princes (gender neutral term) of the Winter or Unseelie Court. The dark underbelly of the already malignant Fey. 

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In the Southern Reaches I'd make Demons dark spirits of the bleak and forgotten places, tortured denizens of dark and abandoned lands, the bitter children of the misdeeds and vile ambitions of great lords and high princes of ancient times (Fey and Mortal) that sowed poisoned seed on twisted soil.

In other settings I'd stick with a more Moorcockian take and similar. I am very fond of the Malazan setting, and in Midnight Tides(the ffith book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen) there's a whole thread where a character befriends a summoned / bound demon - and discovers that is just a citizen of another plane, dragged to the characters home plane and bound in service. Some are also just comedy monsters... (spoilers, obviously!):

https://malazan.fandom.com/wiki/Lilac

https://malazan.fandom.com/wiki/Kenryll'ah_demon_princes

Cheers,

Nick

 

 

 

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