Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Evil Gods and Summoners

I like evil gods. I like them a lot.

This is, in part, why I am immensely appreciative of James Raggi's discussion of alignment in his LotFP Grindhouse rules, about which I have mused at length before. The main idea is that Law and Chaos are palpable cosmic forces affecting the game-world, not just moral abstractions. So almost everybody in the human and demi-human species are neutral. Demons and the undead are aligned with Chaos, as are those who meddle in the arcane arts (which could simply be called "chaotic arts"). All clerics, unless they serve demons or chaotic demigods, are aligned with Law.

In some ways, this Law/Chaos business all ties back to the presumption of a multi-dimensional universe and the possibility for inter-dimensional travel: Law is what "naturally" occurs in one's home dimension, including its "indigenous" gods, and Chaos always comes from without, crossing into a foreign dimension via the energies of Chaos.

Again, I did not really make this up on my own, although it makes a lot of sense to me. I am once again indebted to Mr. Raggi, who succinctly describes arcane power thus:

"Magic fundamentally works by ripping a hole in the fabric of space and time and pulling out energy that interacts with and warps our reality. Various mages have managed to consistently capture specific energy in exact amounts to produce replicable results. Spells.

"The Summon spell opens the rift between the worlds a little bit more and forces an inhabitant into our world to do the Magic-User's bidding. What exactly comes through the tear, and whether or not it will do what the summoner wishes, are unpredictable."

[from the Summon spell description on Grindhouse Rules and Magic pg. 142]

This description fits perfectly with the core assumptions about how magic works in Ara. We have always included summoners as part of the Lands of Ara setting, and acknowledged in our own original writeup how dangerous Summoning could and should be. Summoning is a major part of what attracts demons -- i.e., Evil Gods -- to Ara in the first place. That is why it is technically an outlawed Art in the Lands of Ara now.

Yet Summoning surely still persists. Hell, the PCs in my current campaign are hot on the trail of some demonic entities that seem to have access to Summoner-created dimensional gates of some kind!

On a practical note, I wonder if I should technically make Raggi's Summon spell available in the Lands of Ara setting? Seems logical. . .


  1. I say add the spell: it's nice and dangerous, and I know my players have so far avoided using it due to the risks involved, despite having a wand of summoning.

  2. I used to supply True Names of Demons, etc., but never had a player use Cacodemon, Spiritwrack, etc. Always wanted one to do so! It's the classic operation of European magical lore and doesn't get enough play in D&D!

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  4. This post has me thinking a lot about an idea that popped into my head reading this post you made Carter, especially with James referring to True Names. My idea formed when reading your editor's comment about the "..."chl" at the end of Zorchl's name...". What if a demon/devil had a letter, or even a whole True Name, that was so vile, corrupt, and hard to speak that it would slowly drive anyone who spoke it mad? Eventually, the Master would become the Servant (although mostly insane). I could easily see a being using this to their advantage to acquire powerful minions. It makes me think about how a creature granting three wishes (IE: Genie of lore) would probably be hostile and try and find ways to work your wishes into your own demise. Summoning is great for plot hooks, rewards, and even intrigue. Summoned creatures generally have their own values, needs, and secrets. The idea of summoning specific creatures repeatadly can also make them a strong part of a party. It reminds me of an article on the Wizards site referring to them summoning a player's replacement character (after his previous had perished). He was played up like any other random summon, which made it even better in my book. I also think the taboo around summoning is a nice twist, and very realistic. I think anyone would fear someone who could possibly summon up dark beings, not to mention the ability to bind sentient creatures to your will. Even if you only summon fluffy kittens and sugar sweets, it still eludes to being able to dominate things (possibly even people). That would certainly scare me.

  5. @James and Mike: Wow, that's a great idea! I have always felt that Demon's names should be dangerous to utter, and I like the madness angle a great deal. As described, it would allow for more of a power struggle between the summoner and the summoned.

    @Simon: Good point, I should just add the spell.