Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Demonic Conjuring in the Dark Country (Draft Rules)

I’ve been reading over a bunch of Tekumel stuff and Carcosa recently in order to help me get inspired for Uz.  Oddly enough, it’s actually given me quite a few ideas for the Dark Country.  I’ve long wanted to include some form of ritual magic in my Nightwick Game, and thinking about those settings has helped me identify a method by which I could: summoning demons.  

There are some differences between my version and those found in the Book of Ebon Bindings and Carcosa.  Conjuring in the Dark Country is not always 100% effective even when it is performed properly.  Also, my system for conjuring is more concerned with the acquisition of morbid items rather than perverse methods of sacrifice.  A ritual might require the eyeball of a child, but it’s not like there are a lot of unclaimed children eyeballs lying around.  This is not to say that they do not require sacrifices; they universally do.  Rather, the morbid detail is more focused on the items required rather than the way in which the sacrifice is despatched.

Note that these rules have not yet been playtested and that certain aspects - particularly the Wickedness Modifier - probably need significant overhauling.

Any character may attempt to summon a demon by using one of the rituals below; however, even if he or she completes the ritual in its entirety there is only a chance the demon in question may deign to heed the conjurer’s call.  To see if a demon arrives, consult the formula below.

1d20 + (level if Cleric, Cultist, or Magic User or ½ level if any other class) + Charisma Bonus + (Wickedness Modifier) - the Demon’s HD = or > 20*

A natural 20 is always a success.  A natural 1 is always a failure.  If the true name of the demon is used in the ritual, it is always summoned.

The Labyrinth Lord may assign a character a Wickedness Modifier based on the table below.

Wickedness Modifier

Especially Pious*+5
Especially Wicked+2
Italicized traits are up to the Labyrinth Lord to decide.
*Lawful and pious characters receive such a large bonus because demons take a special delight in tormenting and corrupting them.

Regardless of whether or not the ritual works, the Labyrinth Lord must still roll on the reaction table for the demon.  If the reaction is Hostile but the demon did not appear, the character is now cursed in whatever way the Labyrinth Lord finds most amusing and is most appropriate for the demon concerned.  If the reaction is Friendly but the demon did not appear, the character will receive will receive a +2 bonus on future attempts to summon the demon.  

If the reaction is Hostile and the demon is summoned, it will immediately attack the conjurer regardless of what he or she may offer.  If the reaction is Friendly and the demon is summoned, it will answer any questions put to it only asking for (apparently) minimal returns.

Summoning rituals must be carefully research as some, but not all, do not contain information vital to the survival of the conjurer.  Each ritual entry contains basic information and advanced information.  Basic information is that which is included in most books known to cultists and diabolists.  Advanced information is that which is not commonly known and must be sought out.  Not all rituals will contain the same amount of research, and it is advised that the conjurer should not be made aware whether or not he or she has all the information necessary to “safely” summon a demon.

Below is an example of the sort of ritual used to conjure a demon in the Dark Country.

Valax, the Master of Things Hidden
HDE: 13

Basic Information: This demon is one of the three Infernal Ones that serve the Demon Lord Armadeus, the Damned One.  He functions as part of that Lord’s memory, though he only contains a small fraction of his master’s knowledge.  He appears as a shadowy and indistinct form in the rough shape of a man in a deep cowl.  His eyes are hideously formed and are the shade of purest green.  Some obscure texts claim that he once appeared as a handsome youth with night-dark skin, teeth, and tongue, but even the most ancient of these say that this was in the past.  If it ever was true, it has not been so for millennia.  Valax will answer all questions put to him concerning hidden treasures and secrets being kept from the conjurer.  He also makes familiars of snakes, and will reveal their location or deliver them to the conjurer if given leave to do so.

To summon Valax, one must first obtain a jar filled with the blood of a man no younger than 16 and no older than 30 as well as simple robes of darkest black.  He may only be summoned in a chthonic chamber.  It makes no difference whether the chamber is manmade or natural, but an even floor is desirable.  The conjurer must use the blood to write Valax - or the demon’s true name if that is known - 12 times such that it forms a great circle.  Once this is complete, all flames or lights must be doused so that the chamber is completely dark.  Thereafter, the conjurer must chant the Litany of Armadeus.  At the beginning of the twelfth recitation a smoke smelling of brimstone will enter the circle, and at its end Valax will be fully manifest. The conjurer may then offer sacrifices and put questions to the Master of Things Hidden.

Advanced Information: The circle does not act as a ward and other protections must be provided.  Valax will only answer a number of questions equal to the HD of the sacrifices.  Further questions will be answered, but he will drain one level for each additional one before being dismissed, barring wards to prevent this.  Offering a sacrifice that is inside one of the conjurer’s wards will immediately destroy the ward and give Valax free reign.  Sacrifices must be bound or drugged in such a way as to prevent them from making noise during the litany as extraneous noise will cause the ritual to fail 100% of the time.

*Thanks to Zak S. for providing the basic idea for the formula.


  1. This is the good stuff. I need to think more along these lines.

    1. Thanks. I plan on doing some more ritual write up and posting them, but I think too many of my Nightwick Players actually read my blog.

  2. Excellent. The demon summoning formula is nice and elegant too.

    So when are we going to see a Dark Country supplement?

    1. So when are we going to see a Dark Country supplement?

      I get asked this quite a bit, and I'm never really sure how to answer it. Honestly, this blog is probably the closest you'll see to one.

      At various points I've tried to do one, but every time I start to work on it I realize that I'm eschewing actual game prep for writing a stupid setting doc.

      If I do put one out, there is almost a 100% chance it'll just be a free google doc you can download from the right side of this page.