Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Plight of the Demons

Demons and devils occupy an odd position in the pantheons of most fantasy RPGs. For the most part, those terms are just two more names in a long list of monster classifications, not much different from fairies or talking animals. They’ve been stripped of their terrifying spiritual implications.

That’s a shame, because their unholy aspects are what make demons and devils so fascinating in our collective, churning imagination. Reducing them to scaly super villains deprives our fantasy campaigns of some fascinating potential. Sadly, the same affliction cripples most RPG “gods,” who are diminished to the status of remote, somewhat apathetic super heroes.

D&D’s cosmology throws more oil on the hellfire by pitting devils and demons against each other instead of uniting them in a mutual war against Heaven.

(Read the rest at Kobold Quarterly ...)


  1. The infernal and sublime occupy a strange place for me in role playing games. When I started, my group and I were not aware of the "sanitation" that game went through between the editions. Demons and devils were just high level monsters of an infernal nature. We never even encountered them until we started playing Planescape and only met a true demon in combat once (disastrous) though we did have a working relationship with a cambion who owned a tiefling bar.

    1. My friend started a pathfinder campaign the other day and I was surprised when we ran into demons...at level 2. It definitely adds an air of awesome when dms are willing to expose you to dangers like that, y'know?

    2. Things like having a cambion owning a bar is part of what makes Planescape so cool, but it's also very much in line with demons and devils being just another flavor of creatures that grew up in an especially nasty place. IMO Planescape is pretty much the acme of D&D setting design, but it's also the acme of divorcing demons and devils from religious connotations.

  2. On the issue of religion in rpg, I have to say that it is a real problem, especially when you live in the bible belt like I do. In my campaigns, the power of belief has always played a role in my group's adventures.

    For example, the tiefling warlock who sold his sold his soul to Asmodeus is constantly reminded of the price of his powers and his entire character arc has involve the temptation of power at the behest of such devils. Eventually, his character and his friends, will have to confront the results of his choices.

    On the issue of demons vs. devils, I personally prefer the division. Devils following lawful evil traits of control, corruption, and temptation and demons being more interested in consumption, destruction, and creating chaos. I think the division adds some fun to the flavor of your world where hosts of beings of all manner of alignments using the material plane as a battleground in wars beyond mortal understanding. If anything, the division creates more conflict, which is always a plus.