The following sample article from the Dying Earth RPG‘s Compendium of Universal Knowledge originally appeared on between 2004 and 2007.

The Asm

The asm is a demon-insect cross. They are primarily black in color, humanoid with compound eyes, and with other insectoid features such as their grinding mandibles and bristling antennae. In many specimens several large fangs protrude from the mouth, as many as eight being recorded. They are known in Ombalique and especially the Plain of Standing Stones. When full grown, asms are confident of victory in single combat against an armed opponent.

“Asms, who have spread into both Ascolais and Almery from the Land of the Falling Wall, are sometimes capable of considerable understanding, including such concepts as symbolism and theology.
Members of the more intelligent subspecies of asm have unusually human sensibilities, and sometimes rob victims without killing and eating them as well. No one is sure why some asms behave in such a human-like way.”

“Some not only covet goods and foodstuffs but also engage in smuggling and resale, and sometimes even fight with crude weapons. One imagines that at first their human accomplices were reluctant to trust their intentions; and only after recovering from their surprise at remaining undevoured did some kind of mutually beneficial trading agreements evolve. It is likely that part of the reason why robber asms do not automatically slay their victims is in order to cultivate a relatively benign presence in a region and avoid evoking armed response or fearful avoidance – which would disrupt their business. Robber asms may be enticed into regular conversation, and clearly possess a different level of intelligence than their more bestial counterparts. In particular, the robber asm has a solid conviction that its presence and behavior in the world is part of the Law of Equivalence – in that its relative successes make up for the treatment and poor social condition of half-men the world over.

Even if a traveler has no ill intent, it is nevertheless wise to approach asms cautiously. Around their dens, asms may place deadfalls, spiked pits, branch-spear traps and the like. Some are designed to capture their foes, others to slay or disable. When exploring a likely area for prey, the Asm also uses net-traps and non-spiked pits – hoping to capture its victims alive. It is important to note, that as with all half-men, humans play only a small part of their diet (or virtually none in the case of the Robber Asm), and they mostly subsist on medium and small game animals.”
Sakonity the Adamantine

Game Statistics: Asm
Persuade (Forthright) 1~[12], Rebuff (Wary) 1~[10], Attack (Ferocity) 1.5~[14], Defense (Dodge) 1~[8], Health 1.5~[10], Athletics 7, Concealment 3, Perception 4, Stealth 6, Tracking 3, Wherewithal 1~[8].

Special Rules

Victims take a levy of 1 on their Persuasion rolls unless they evidence interest in the anticipated culinary process.

Using Perception to spot a trap, as one moves across the terrain, requires a single die roll against the trap’s Concealment rating. The GM assigns this rating as suits their campaign, depending on the PC ability levels, and how well the asms have performed their jobs. Traps that the asms have had plenty of time to prepare should be extremely hard to spot. Typically a trap’s Concealment rating should be assigned against the Perception ratings of the party, at somewhere in the range of 1~ to 1.5~. Note that those PCs with high Perception may Wallop (DERPG, p33) this Concealment. This happens automatically if it is possible – even though the PC does not consciously act against the trap. Since ‘Living Rough’ is said to embrace the habits of half-men (DERPG, p64), GMs might consider this as a valid alternative to Perception. Additionally, if any PC has been declared as using ‘Tracking’ and this ability is higher than their Perception, it would be unnecessarily cruel to disallow it as a counter to the trap’s Concealment.

Rumors of Impending Hazard

Dealing with Robber Asms
Travelers to Cuirnif have been routinely ambushed by robber asms. These creatures attack in groups of eight or more – lunging from concealment in ditches and wild hedgerows. Fortunately for the travelers, those that surrender are spared harm, and those that fight or flee are subdued with injuries whenever possible. Instead, the asms make off with all trade goods and valuables, including fashionable clothing. Even the most pedestrian authorities regard this as most unusual.

Only three days ago, Duke Orbal’s daughter, Clarassa, was part of such a group returning from Azenomei. She was unhurt, but two of the guards fought back so fiercely that one was slain on the spot and another died later of injuries. Additionally, one of the items taken was a gold amulet – an heirloom to Orbal’s family, and the Duke has posted a staggering reward for the person who recovers it, before the asms can pass it on to their human contact. (A person about whom the Duke knows nothing, but is certain must exist.)

The asms are from the forest twenty miles to the east of Cuirnif, but range across the entire district between, using a variety of hideouts. Adventurers might pose as wealthy travelers, engage in an asm hunt, or trawl the curio shops of Cuirnif seeking trade items believed to have been stolen. The mastermind behind this venture is unscrupulous trader Antamara Gollip, who herself was a victim of the asms last year. Since then she has been supplying them with details of trading groups, and rewarding them with quantities of hallucinogenic herbs that she imports from Val Ombrio. The stolen goods she collects at pre-arranged drop-off points near Cuirnif on her regular trade expeditions between Troon and Azenomei.

The Bandit Trail
Through the mountains east of Efred is an ancient trail leading to certain ruins on the edge of the Songan Sea. This trail passes across stark hillsides, through primal forests, and sometimes through long rocky gullies between craggy peaks. Though the remains of the venerable roadway, and the shells of blockhouses that once provided nightly shelter, reflect better days, this trail is now fraught with hazard. Asms of the more dangerous and primitive kind wander this area in bands, hunting wild game, but are particularly eager for human prey.

These canny creatures know that human magicians and wizards can be dangerous quarry, and so set various ambushes and traps along the way. The asm leader is an aging, yet powerful, individual of unusual cunning, armed also with three stolen magical items that it has learned how to use. For adventurers unable to fly or teleport, this journey becomes a battle for survival. Even at their objective the humans are not safe, as the asms follow them into the ruins.

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.

This article on the Dying Earth RPG originally appeared on 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.

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.


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.


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.


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).