Confronting your demons, and making them work for you.

January 27, 2023 at 9:44 pm

“He who does not see the angels and devils in the beauty and malice of life
will be far removed from knowledge, and his spirit will be empty of affection.”

– Khalil Gibran


The lack of gods or any divine power is one of the defining characteristics of the Fantasy Trip and — to us at least — one of its greatest strengths. There will always be entities more powerful than the PCs, but the idea of actual gods involving themselves in the campaign can make the players’ own actions seem insignificant.

What it does have is demons — tremendously powerful creatures from another plane with inexplicable agendas and the ability to alter reality on a whim. With the possible exception of the most ancient dragons, they are the strongest creatures that can be encountered, and any dealings with them should not be entered lightly. Nothing else in the game is quite so godlike.

Also, in TFT demons are not the servitors of any greater evil. Nor are they even described as evil. Hideous, yes, not but evil. Merely tremendously powerful beings from another plane. While this is not how games like D&D and its descendants describe gods, it does resemble the ‘gods’ of a lot of the sword and sorcery literature that inspires RPGs.

It also works with the concept of gods bound to natural features or locations. A hot spring could be the domain of a lesser demon who may destroy defilers or heal and provide guidance to the faithful. A forest or mountain might be protected by a greater demon, and woe to those who trespass on its sacred ground. Since demons have no hard-wired morality they may be as beneficial or as dangerous as they wish, and may change their moods depending on how pleased they are with their worshipers.

Within this construct, demon-summoning spells would have to be very difficult and complex. Perhaps even using completely different rituals for each demon. Or the spell could be location-specific and can only bring down a demon on their sanctified grounds. Once a demon is summoned, it may be bound for a time in a pentagram or held to service by strange unknown rituals. This should be rare and dangerous, and such contracts might be broken by technicalities or by specific actions. For example, a dark wizard might command Pachydemus Demon Lord of Elephants, but if someone should remove the platinum tusks from his shrine it would be free to wreak terrible vengeance on its captor.

Planar spirits, a more encompassing name for a demon, would not be the gods worshiped by entire nations. But those gods are not the types to meddle in the affairs of mere adventurers either. In campaigns where these gods are prevalent, planar spirits could be their servitors or risen heroes. While the Sun Lord Heliok will accept your prayers, only Glimmerkin the spirit of the first light of dawn might be drawn into service to a wizard.


New IQ12 Spell: Beseech Spirit (S)

This spell attempts to contact a planar spirit and request a boon such as guidance, a single-use benefit, or to remove an affliction. The ritual takes 10 rounds to cast, and up to six may join in the attempt. Successfully beseeching the spirit does not guarantee compliance. To gain the boon, the supplicant must succeed at an IQ test at -10, modified by several factors:

Priest talent
Hallowed location+2IQ
Relevant offerings+1-3IQ, determined by the GM
Contacting lesser spirit +4IQ
Additional supplicants +1IQ

This roll should be made by the GM, and modifiers should be applied by them as well. Being a trained priest is effective, but in not every circumstance. Also, different spirits will be appeased by different offerings — a nature spirit might appreciate rare incense or handicrafts while a darker entity might only accept sacrificial blood. Critical success on this test could mean a much greater boon offered and may garner the attention of the spirit itself. Critical failures arouse their ire and may not bode well for the caster. Costs 10ST, which is spent whether or not the boon is granted.

While you could use demons as planar spirits as written (ITL, p.80) you might want to make a few tweaks. Their Wish powers are titanic, but may not be for all occasions. For example, you could give them access to spells equal to their IQ, either randomly or give them all the spells they are eligible to learn. You might also want to increase their IQ to 10+1d. They might also be invulnerable to mundane weapons, or they could become Insubstantial (ITL, p.31)at will. Even if one were to kill a spirit in the material world, it would only be banished to its home plane for a period of time.

What a planar spirit looks like is up to the spirit, and may not be its true shape at all. From 3-hex giant to sparkling mote or stupefying beauty to horrendous monstrosity, spirits claim shapes and aspects at a whim. Some are constantly shifting and others have maintained the same form for centuries.

In addition to their own powers, most planar spirits command servitors. Call them fiends or angels, aspects or avatars, these spirits serve as extensions of their will. Their aspect is similar to their master’s but they are one-hex creatures. They can Teleport (as the spell) in the movement phase of a round with standard ST cost. They have an ST of 24, DX12, and IQ8 with an MA of 12. Winged aspects may fly, but their MA is still 12. Their skin stops two hits and they do 1d+2 bare-handed but can use any weapon. Planar servitors can be encountered on errands for their master or for those who summoned them, and will normally fight if accosted or if spells are cast on them. They can cast any IQ8 spell but normally don’t think beyond Blur or Drop Weapon.


New IQ14 Spell: Summon Planar Servitor (C)

Brings a single hex planar entity (ST24 / DX12 / IQ8 / MA12 / AD2 / D1d+2) to follow the wizard’s orders, but will not cast spells for them. Unless summoned in a specific hallowed place, the servitor can look fiendish, celestial, or animistic at the cater’s choice. Like real planar creatures, a summoned servitor will not bear spells cast on it and will immediately attack any who do so. Costs 4ST, plus 1 each turn the servitor stays.

Using demons in a more godlike capacity can add a feeling of mystery and power to your game, or give your heroes an enemy that can try to foil for an entire campaign, but it is important to treat them carefully. Reckless players might try and enter into combat which could easily destroy an entire group. Or worse (for you at least) they may get extremely lucky and destroy or take command of the spirit, which could upend your whole story. Like horror movie villains, they should lurk in the shadows, pulling strings and hatching schemes, and only come out of the darkness at the climax of the tale.