Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What's a 'demon' anyway?

Recent post here with my first reaction to Paizo's Book of the Damned.

You should also try reading THIS post from Against the Wicked City, and the "conceptual density" one linked on the side of the page. I find ATWC pretty accurately drills into some of my objections with Pathfinder's setting.


Sometimes the Book of the Damned has really cool ideas. They are often in the smaller paragraphs of hints or suggestions. The most fun I've had reading this book is in the section on infernal dukes, qlippoth lords, kyton demagogues, nascent demon princes, etc. Pages upon fucking pages of entries like this, most which could be the inspiration for a super-cool demon cult.

The kyton demagogue Fharaas:

As one might read a tree’s years in the exposed rings of its stump, followers of the Seer in Skin divine all a mortal’s days by scrutinizing the whorls and layers within its flesh. Some even teach that, if a destined bond exists, a killer’s life is reflected in a victim’s fateful meat.

Pretty cool right? Other times, Paizo's style really makes me sad:

Orcus is the ruler of this realm of frozen seas, haunted cities, infested swamps, and ragged mountains... The demon lord’s minions include powerful liches and undead-demon hybrids that populate necropolises and ruins across the realm.

What in the hell ass is an "undead-demon hybrid"?

I just... ugh. Words fail me. If the word 'demon' means anything at all, how can such an entity be undead too?

This is what happens when design decisions are made by what we might call "restricted association." The nearest related thing. The shortest possible distance between two points.

Demon prince of undead? Put in a necropolis! Never mind the question of who/what could possibly be buried in a necropolis IN THE ABYSS. Or who the fuck built it in the first place. It's just meaningless window-dressing. Style without substance. How can you tell me that someone actually thought about this before writing it?

I guess this is my fundamental objection to extraplanar settings in D&D generally. Planescape fought against this mightily, but detailing these ineffable realms could only go one way, eventually. It reduces them to human terms. Hell - by definition the worst place that could possibly exist, the very inferno of damnation itself - has mountains, cities, marketplaces, forests, houses, graveyards and even sewers! All the same terrain that clutters the normal world, only the inhabitants have red skin and horns. I find this deeply vexing, and I wish some more imagination could have been put into these other dimensions.

On the other hand, Moloch does look fucking awesome.


That guy makes me want to sign up with the forces of darkness. Also on the upside, the book has SO MANY demons in it that I could pick a handful for every campaign I run and never exhaust it in my whole life.

That's the strength of the book. It's a big multiverse and the weird, almost throwaway nature of the one-paragraph entries I find most exciting. Like someone at Paizo got stuck with writing pages and pages of minor demon prince filler entries and said "Fuck It, I'm going to have fun with this!"

Maybe in Land's End I could team Orcus up with: Shax, the Blood Marquis; Zurapadyn, the Beast who Waits in Smoke; Slandrais, the Watcher in the Walls; Jiravvidain, the Duke of Fissures; or Sugroz, the Voice in Screams? Now I'm actually getting excited!


Let's listen to something ACTUALLY demonic for once:


  1. Are you aware of Kill Six Billion Demons? Has demonic cities.

    1. It does. I have not kept up with the comic recently but I remember liking it quite a lot. I think it does demons RIGHT. A few factors contribute to its imaginative breadth and depth, making the cities more interesting in my mind:

      1 - The artwork has huge juice.
      2 - The more eastern-flavoured hell depicted in the comic adds an exoticism, so even if it were a boring depiction thereof, it would seem weirder and more otherworldly to most western readers (ie. me).
      3 -