This article on the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on DyingEarth.com between 2004 and 2007.

Demons of the Dying Earth

by Ian Thomson

The publication of Turjan’s Tome marks the dawning of a new and far darker style of Dying Earth RPG play. We do not claim to replace Cugel-level play; the satisfaction of wearing a superior hat or the thrill of slicing through another’s argument with a well-placed point of pedantry. Instead, we offer a sombre and even heroic alternative. This difference is highlighted in the publication: Demons of the Dying Earth.

This book does not offer reckless instructions on how to create and play witches and warlocks, nor how to use demonic forces to casually attack your foes – for such would make a mockery of the dangerous and blasphemous nature of the awful demonic legacy of previous aeons. Instead we provide the resources to fully describe occult horrors, insane archenemies, cruel and secretive demonic cults, and dangerous journeys to the bizarre sub-worlds. Those magicians who do wish to take up demonology as magical specialty can expect to suffer awful consequences for their taste of power – possibly to turn up again as a superior henchman to the campaign’s most intractable foe. For the path of demonism soon turns its adherents to utter evil! (In advanced campaigns, Diabolist characters may to some extent break this ruling – but even they study demons and sub-worlds as an abstract pedantic specialty – rather than through personal involvement.)

Contents specifically include:

  • numerous demons (various types – and their drives and powers)
  • new spells (for demons, witches, diabolists, and witch-finders)
  • an overview of several subworlds
  • the Kaiin Witch-Cult
  • the Green Legion of Valdaran the Just
  • demonic (and anti-demonic) magical items
  • new tweaks to enhance the demonic elements of your campaign
  • several highly detailed scenario outlines

Expect in Demons of the Dying Earth to discover a brand new angle on Dying Earth RPG: foes that even the most jaded of magicians and adventurers will find sufficiently abhorrent to unite them in their attempts to outwit, evade, thwart and destroy their mutual enemy. But beware, for your most favourite spells may prove useless against beings of other dimensions, and even your precious magical adjuncts may lack efficacy. A new world lurks amidst the shadows of the old!

But perhaps the greatest change is in the overall tone of the game. Gone are the tales of flashy bravado and erudite linguistics (although please feel free to keep them if you wish; after all, this is for your entertainment). Instead there is danger, intrigue and great reward for those brave enough to search for it (as long as they are prepared to pay the often heavy price). The boundaries are less clear, the morals potentially more dubious. The noble succeed and the wicked fall prey to their vanities. Are there shades of grey? Perhaps, but perhaps the world is more clear-cut than you previously thought.


Get an embarrassment of Dying Earth treasures in the Compleat Dying Earth Bundle of Holding until July 18th!

The Dying Earth — and its rules-lighter version the Revivification Folio — take you into the world of master fantasist Jack Vance, where a flashing sword is less important than nimble wits, persuasive words,and a fine sense of fashion. Survive by your cunning, search for lost lore, or command the omnipotent but quarrelsome sandestins. Purchase The Dying Earth or the Revivification Folio in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

The blurb for Goëtia, or, the Summoning of Demons, which is the upcoming issue of Ken Writes About Stuff, mentions three demons: Bifrons, Glasya-Labolas, and Marchosias.

Not these guys. Three other guys.

Unfortunately, as we (or rather, as Simon, and you, and Cat, and everyone but me) learned with the Voodoo kerfuffle, writing up a new magic system — in this case, as the name indicates, goëtia, the demon-summoning art of European magic — can run a little texty. So the KWAS issue in question wound up only having one demon in it, Buné. Now before you get all outraged, note that this time I worked very hard to provide a good general demon-statting matrix. Also, goëtia already has a great list of demons in its major sourcebook, the Lemegeton Clavicula Solomonis. But, bearing in mind what we (or rather, what Simon, and you, and Cat, and everyone but me) learned with the Mind Control kerfuffle, it’s always a good idea to honor the spirit of the blurb. Especially if it’s a blurb about spirits. Who command, you know, legions of demons.

So here, then, are the three Demons of the Blurb of Goëtia, statted up per the guidelines in the Goëtia issue of KWAS. Zim-bala-bim! As one never says in goëtia.

Bifrons

The Lemegeton says of Bifrons:

He is an Earle and appeareth in ye forme of a Monster at first but after a while at ye command of ye Exorcist he putteth on ye shape of a man, his office is to make one knowing in Astrology & geomitry & other arts & siences, & Teacheth ye vertues of all hearbs, precious stones & woodes, he changeth ye dead Bodyes & putteth Them into one another [anothers’] places, & lighteth candeles seemingly upon ye graves of ye dead he hath under his command 6 Legions of spirits.

As an Earl, he has Aberrance 31, Damage +5, and -2 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 31 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 6+) to hold him.

He appears “in ye forme of a Monster” implying that his form is even more horrible than other demons; failing a Stability test when beholding him costs a further +1 Stability.

He teaches various abilities: Astronomy, Geology, and Mathematics (in games with that ability) for sure; likely Art, Pharmacy, Outdoorsman; possibly Occult (“vertues” means more than just healing and flavor profile); and “other arts & sciences” so at the GM’s discretion most Academic or Technical abilities, plus Mechanics. (Lots of Ashen Stars abilities, too, if you’re a space-demon weirdo.) If the GM is generous, he teaches Magic.

He changes “dead Bodyes” — not merely swapping them around (although that act likely only costs 1 Constriction, as it’s both mentioned specifically and requires a degree of player ingenuity to use well) but also reviving them as zombies, or performing other necromantic services. (Oh, I just thought of one — Bifrons makes a great crime scene cleaner. Swap out the guy you killed for some other guy who’s clearly been dead for ages.) He commands corpse-candles, which might be murony or chupas from Night’s Black Agents, or Space Eaters or Mi-Go in Trail of Cthulhu, or something else entirely.

Glasya-Labolas

The Lemegeton says of Glasya-Labolas:

He is a Mighty president & sheweth him selfe in ye forme of a dog with wings like a griffin; he teacheth all arts in an Instant, and is an author of Blood shed & Manslaughter, he telleth all Things past & to come, if desired, & causeth love of friends and foes; he can make a Man goe Invisible, & he hath under his rule 36 Legions of spirits.

As a President, he has Aberrance 53, Damage +8, and -4 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 53 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 8+) to hold him.

He “teacheth all arts” so probably any and all Investigative abilities, definitely including Magic. (Look, if you summoned a President, you got your money’s worth. Just like now.) His zest for “Blood shed & Manslaughter” tells you he’ll be eager to kill your foes. Or your friends. He probably accelerates other people who hate your foe into attacking them first, then comes in to finish the job, all for just those 2 Constriction.

He can predict the future, and change human minds to love you (effective Credit Rating upshift, or supernatural Flirting, is up to you). This un-natural love lasts longer than just the next sunrise — until Christmas or Easter, perhaps.

Plus, he can turn you invisible, which is nice.

Marchosias

The Lemegeton says of Marchosias:

He is a great and mighty Marquiz appering at first in [the] forme of a wolfe; having griffins wings, and a serpents Taile, vomiting up fire out of his mouth But afterwards at ye command of ye Exorcist, he putteth on ye shape of a man, and is a strong fighter he giveth true answares to all questions, & is very faithfull to ye Exorcist in doeing his Buisness, he was of ye order of Dominations he governeth 30 Legions of spirits, he Told his chiefe Master which was Salomon, that after 1200 yeares he hadd hopes to returne to ye 7th Throne.

As a Marquis, he has Aberrance 23, Damage +3 (actually +5), and -1 Armor. He requires a pentacle with Might 23 or more (total Inscription roll + spend = 5+) to hold him.

He breathes fire, or maybe vomits lava, which is important or at least cool to know, and changes from wolf (well, winged, snake-tailed wolf) to man. He therefore likely controls werewolves, and may have a shapeshifting skin to offer if you’re using the demonic item rules.

He is “a strong fighter” so he does an extra +2 damage even as a measly Marquis. In human form, he has a Hit Threshold of 5 or even higher if he spends Aberrance on it.

He answers questions fully and completely.

He is “very faithfull” so once he signs the Book of Pacts, the Difficulties of Invocation, Evocation, and Abjuration drop by 1. This is probably because he still thinks he can get back to Heaven and resume being an angel. Of course, in 950 B.C. he thought it would only take 1,200 years, so perhaps this motive is a little outdated. Still, it offers the rare chance to use Reassurance on him (2-point spend for +1CA).