Dealing with Demons

2008 Apr 2

Sorcerers generally bind demons by, first, defeating them through direct combat or trickery and, second, using sorcery to bind the vanquished or humiliated demon to them. Defeating demons before binding or banishing them with sorcery is mechanically useful because any dice remaining from the previous conflict (besting them) are kept when you escalate to sorcery. Furthermore, the dice you have remaining at the end of the binding/banishing ritual (negotiated using Polaris’ ritual phrases) is the strength of the sorcery, measured in the demon’s Fear of disobeying you, it’s master.

For example, say Lilith is binding her first demon, Adremelech, who she has already defeated using the Devilexicon. She opened the unholy book and the corrupting symbol of the Tree of Knowledge (perhaps an upside-down Tree of Life?) burned itself into the demon’s forehead, showing it a glimpse of the dark fate that awaits all demons at the End of Days. At the end of this conflict, Lilith has the following dice remaining, unspent for Sees, Raises, or Taking the Blow: d6 d4 d4. It doesn’t matter what values remain on the dice.

Lilith and Adremelech work out a binding agreement (using ritual phrases) that is amicable to them both, ending with “And so it came to pass.” If the negotiations had ended with “It shall not come to pass,” there would be a follow-up binding conflict in which Lilith and Adremelech competed in a battle of wills over whether the binding would hold. As it is, the details of the binding contract are written down in the appropriate place on the demon’s sheet and the demon’s Fear (of disobeying Lilith and the rules of the binding) is marked as being d6 d4 d4. If there had been a follow-up binding conflict, these dice would have been re-rolled on Lilith’s side and Lilith’s remaining dice, if any, left at the end of a successful binding conflict would be the demon’s new Fear value.

Fear dice are intimidating to demons because sorcerers get them as a bonus in every conflict against a demon that is bound to them. Once a demon is bound, the sorcerer can expect the demon to honor the agreement as long as their Fear remains sufficiently strong. Minor, unimportant violations may be near constant, since demons chafe under binding restrictions, but they cannot openly violate the agreement without paying the consequences. If a demon violates the terms of a binding agreement in a significant way, they suffer sharp pain and their Fear increases, symbolized by ALL the Fear dice going up in size one step (for example, Adremelech’s Fear would become d8 d6 d6). However, if the sorcerer violates the agreement in a significant fashion, all the Fear dice go down in size one step, with d4s disappearing entirely (Andremelech’s Fear would only be one d4).

Demons cannot completely disregard or utterly violate a binding contract, however much they would like to, but humans can, since they are not themselves creatures of sorcery. In the event that a sorcerer completely forsakes their agreement with a demon, the contract is broken and all Fear involved evaporates. Furthermore, all other demons current bound to the sorcerer have their Fear decreased one step, since the sorcerer has been shown to be an oath-breaker.

If a demon’s Fear of a sorcerer is low, the sorcerer can always attempt to re-bind the demon more firmly to them, using any remaining Fear as bonus dice in the attempt. However, failed attempts to rebind mean the contract is annulled and the demon’s Fear evaporates, which is often not a great situation for a sorcerer to be in.

Banishing demons is a lot easier than binding them. For one thing, the ritual phrases are more fixed, generally dealing with the demon leaving the surrounding area and not returning. Additionally, the resulting Fear serves as a measurement of how long the demon has to honor the banishing contract. Dice remaining are read in order as time units, where no dice means a few hours time, d4s are days, d6s are months, d8s are years, and d10s are centuries.

I’m a bit worried about measuring things in dice and not the values on the dice, because you could roll a 1 on your d10 and then not be tempted to use it in the conflict, saving it for the binding/banishing value. But that might be okay. After all, rolling a 1 means you’re much less likely to win the conflict and it makes sense that hard fought conflicts earn you more powerful sorcery.

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