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  • Demons, Defined

    I am going to start by apologizing for almost-certainly bringing up a topic that has been discussed several times over, but I have not been able to figure out the right search-engine parameters to find the answers I am looking for.

    I am going to follow up by requesting that any response which starts and ends with "it's a Storyteller decision" or "don't worry about the crossover so much" be left unwritten; I am very aware that is how much of the World of Darkness works, I am looking for people to tell me their opinions or experiences in order to help me consider how I want to handle it as a Storyteller, and just for the fun of it.

    Demons might be one of the messiest concepts in the World of Darkness, and I think that may be in part because of how iconic they are in the horror/dark fantasy genre; every gameline includes some kind of reference to demons, even if only mentioning how certain things that probably aren't demons might be mistaken for them, like Spectres or Fomorians.

    In Werewolf, "demons" are essentially just Banes, Middle Umbra Spirits corrupted by the Wyrm.

    Wraith has Demonic Plasmics, Underworld entities resembling stereotypical demons. There are also the Neverborn Malfeans/Sparagmoi, but we will be talking about that more below.

    KotE has the Yama Kings, rulers of the 1000 Hells of Yomi Wan, and their spiritual servants.

    I don't know much about Mummy, but I imagine Apophis and its servants likely qualify.

    Mage provides us with at least three "types" of "demon" based on the possible patrons of the Nephandi:
    - "Malfean" Nephandi are connected with Banes/the Wyrm, mentioned above
    - "Infernalist" Nephandi, stereotypical "devil worshippers," are remarked as primarily serving demonic spirits of the High Umbra
    - "K'llasshaa" are described as serving mysterious "Outer Lords" that have a very Cthulu-esque primordial-dark-chaos vibe, but I haven't looked into them a ton

    DtF provides us with more conventional Abrahamic demons (and angels) that don't suffer from the complex chicken-and-egg question that High Umbral entities do regarding whether or not their mythic backstory is "true" or not. A late arrival from OOC perspective, so they kinda need to be worked around the examples listed above.

    Ironically, I have left the first gameline for last. This is because, while most of the other gamelines do a pretty good job of clarifying what they are talking about when referring to a "demon," Vampire suffers immensely from a ton of fuzziness around the term. I think there are two reasons for this: first, being a game far less rooted in cosmology and metaphysics, the particular details were less important than the narrative role that a "demon" served; secondly, I think being the first gameline meant that they started out with a very fuzzy concept that was clarified in other gamelines where it was more relevant, but was never tidied up in Vampire due to the first reason. But the result is an extreme hodge-podge of potential "demons" according to Vampire:
    - Nikanuuranu, guardian of Hunedoara Castle, is an Earthbound;
    - Plenty of other examples seem to fit the case of Infernalist Mages described above, serving demonic High Umbrood
    - Kupala is most likely an Earthbound, but could be a Talon of the Wyrm according to some sources
    - Gulfora? Drakonskyr? *shrugs*
    - Namtaru and the Decani have never been neatly fit into a box, but there are some guesses that can be made. I think it was the V20 TMR book which suggested that the "Children" originally worshipped by the Baali could be the Neverborn Malfeans.

    Apologies for an extended ramble of definitions that most people reading this already know, but I wanted to get the examples that I have in mind laid out before I begin discussing the actual problem I want to resolve. As noted above, it's primarily a problem connected with the vagueness of Vampire, but the resolution does likely have implications for other gamelines as well.

    In particular, I am thinking of something like the Level 5 Thaumaturgy Ritual "Ward(ing Circle) Against Demons." Looking at the list of entities provided above, maybe even considering some other examples, what is going to be affected by the Ward, and what isn't?

    It seems like the answer to any given case is going to depend on one of two opinions/perspectives, and the interplay between them:

    "'Demon' is just a word." If you take this approach, then there is no underlying metaphysical trait that our various examples of "demons" all have in common which would allow them all to be affected by something targeting "demons" in general. Our hypothetical Thaumaturge would need one Ward for High Umbrood, another Ward for Banes/Middle Umbrood, another for Fallen/Earthbound, etc.

    "'Demon' signifies an essential quality." In this case, there is some common quality or condition that some or all of our various examples of "demons" possess, one which can be targeted in order to create spells capable of affecting anything with this "demon quality" regardless of their particular nature. From this perspective, a "Ward Against Demons" would be able to affect anything that share this common attribute; which examples count and which don't would probably be the result of what a given Storyteller identifies as the "demon quality."

    For example, spells targeting Demons may only affect Fallen/Earthbound, who are "true" demons, along with any High Umbrood that are conceptually connected to or inspired by the Fallen/Earthbound due to the connection between the High Umbral manifestation and the "original." Or it could be that anti-demon magic targets a broad metaphysical "taint" that could be present in all of the examples provided above.

    Discuss!

  • #2
    I suppose anything that is significantly demonic and has the moniker could be sufficiently warded against with the Thaumaturgical spell your talking about.


    Jade Kingdom Warrior

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    • #3
      Yeah, “demon” is one of those words that are very vague, like only the Fallen demons are “real” demons

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      • #4
        Mage wise, what's important to make a ward against demons it's that the entities are capable of being considered such within the Paradigm of the mage (other than that, Spirit it's needed). The magck "checks" what's entering, and if it's suitably under the parameters, then the Ward works. Since DtF ST book aknowledges mages having loads of rituals to use against demons, I would say this approach could work on them. I could see Thaum. following a similar approach.

        That being said: I do like the approach below

        Originally posted by Karnov
        For example, spells targeting Demons may only affect Fallen/Earthbound, who are "true" demons, along with any High Umbrood that are conceptually connected to or inspired by the Fallen/Earthbound due to the connection between the High Umbral manifestation and the "original." Or it could be that anti-demon magic targets a broad metaphysical "taint" that could be present in all of the examples provided above.
        Personally, I follow a cosmology inspired by Mage where the most powerful beings that exist in the Astral (The Uthras, Astral Celestines as per BoM 1e) weren't necessarily tought by humans, but rather are the condition for to have tought in the first place.

        In that sense, I would like that Taint that pervades magic(k) joining the creatures under one banner with a primordial Uthra of "evil/suffering/bad stuff" that was then spinned into lesser myths to form all the Astral and Dark Umbra demons, all the Astral and Dark Umbra hells, and the more "humanity inspired" variants of Banes (there's a LOT of Banes inspired on human stuff), and also infected the Fallen when humans commit the First Muder (sending them into the frenzy that was the War after Demons saw doing that was possible)

        This "concept of evil" may not have been inspired by the Fallen per se, but rather was inspired as consequence of the literal Act of God that caused the Fall before the War even started to heat up
        Last edited by Aleph; 10-16-2020, 03:21 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Aleph View Post
          Mage wise, what's important to make a ward against demons it's that the entities are capable of being considered such within the Paradigm of the mage (other than that, Spirit it's needed). The magck "checks" what's entering, and if it's suitably under the parameters, then the Ward works. Since DtF ST book aknowledges mages having loads of rituals to use against demons, I would say this approach could work on them. I could see Thaum. following a similar approach.

          That being said: I do like the approach below


          Personally, I follow a cosmology inspired by Mage where the most powerful beings that exist in the Astral (The Uthras, Astral Celestines as per BoM 1e) weren't necessarily tought by humans, but rather are the condition for to have tought in the first place.

          In that sense, I would like that Taint that pervades magic(k) joining the creatures under one banner with a primordial Uthra of "evil/suffering/bad stuff" that was then spinned into lesser myths to form all the Astral and Dark Umbra demons, all the Astral and Dark Umbra hells, and the more "humanity inspired" variants of Banes (there's a LOT of Banes inspired on human stuff), and also infected the Fallen when humans commit the First Muder (sending them into the frenzy that was the War after Demons saw doing that was possible)

          This "concept of evil" may not have been inspired by the Fallen per se, but rather was inspired as consequence of the literal Act of God that caused the Fall before the War even started to heat up
          Excellent point about the importance of Paradigm for Mages; beyond the need for the appropriate Spheres, having the answer of which spells work be "depends on Paradigm" seems appropriate. And to the extent that I don't like to have Magic and Sorcery completely disconnected from each other, a parallel argument for Hedge Magic and Thaumaturgy could be made

          I've never really read about the Uthras and the other most powerful entities of the Astral/High Umbra, seems like I should check that out. When I think about the idea of an demonic "taint" or "essence," I tend to regard it more as a spiritual consequence of problems affecting the cosmic entities or forces. For example, Humanity is a contradictory self-destructive mess because God is a contradictory self-destructive mess, and much of what we think of as "evil" is just the consequences of this dysfunction playing itself out.

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          • #6
            Demons are vague intentionally, as no character has a complete perspective. Spectres may even be considered demons by some, and vampires are going to seem demonic to the eyes of many mortals.

            ward agains demons would be useful for banes, some corrupted spirits as well as the fallen. I do not know if dark umbral entities would be effected (or if they can even enter the material realm.

            magic itself has an element of belief to it. so perhaps what you believe is important to what you can ward.


            Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary
              or if they can even enter the material realm.
              Yep, any Umbrood with the Charm called Materialize (as the namesake suggests) can appear in the material world depending on the Gauntlet level, just as how Wraiths can pop back into the material world depending on the Shroud level and a mastery of Embody. Very useful for Mages with specialize in the Spirit Sphere who lower the Gauntlet when need-be so that their personal Spirits can fight their battles for them or with them.


              Jade Kingdom Warrior

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              • #8
                Arguably even the Hell demons of Exalted could fall under the category of High Umbrood inspired by the Earthbound if you follow the old school theory that the two games are connected.


                The die is cast. - Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon

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                • #9
                  Basically, anything from any layer of the Umbra, including the Low Umbra, can be classified as Spirit for Warding purposes. This would include most High and Middle Umbra denizens, including those that were once physical beings and now are disconnected. It would also include at least some plasmics as long as they are not currently a Wraith/Spectre. While some of these entities could be called "Demons," their metaphysical make-up says they are spirits, at least for warding. This would also include disembodied Fallen Demons, as their current physical state is spiritual. A specific Ward against Demons would be subjective to the caster, and, therefore, might not work versus those entities that do not see themselves as being demonic. For instance, many Banes would not see themselves as demons, even if the caster would. That is why, in Vampire, Wards are so specific towards fairly wide categories. If I remember correctly, the original Ward versus Spirits also included ghosts, as the warding effected a physical condition rather than implied intent of either the caster or the one being warded against. Physical demons, those from Demon: the Fallen, would need a separate Ward, likely Level 5, to make sure it worked on both the physical and spiritual levels.


                  THWarted

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Shakanaka View Post

                    Yep, any Umbrood with the Charm called Materialize (as the namesake suggests) can appear in the material world depending on the Gauntlet level, just as how Wraiths can pop back into the material world depending on the Shroud level and a mastery of Embody. Very useful for Mages with specialize in the Spirit Sphere who lower the Gauntlet when need-be so that their personal Spirits can fight their battles for them or with them.
                    I was refering to the underworld. can the natives like the krakens or the something-born appear in the material?


                    Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

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                    • #11
                      I think for what you’re describing, a warding rite for a linear sort of magic such as thaumaturgy, something important to keep in mind is the understanding that the Arcanists crafting the ritual had of their subjects and intentions.

                      For instance the perspective, paradigm, and motivations of the one making the ritual might have an important effect on how precisely it works. If the magician was concerned with warding unholy spirits then that would be their focus, but this may leave a loophole for Wyrm Spirits (who aren’t necessarily corrupt) to slip through. Rituals focused on keeping out ephemeral negative entities might repel Fiendish Spirits & Specters, but a Fallen might be able to stroll through. Rituals which also account for physically negative entities wouldn’t likely be of much use to a vampire, who may also be effected.

                      World of Darkness does tend to use demon as something more alike a loose classification or an adjective then a precise category of being. If I had to assign a common trait to them it would likely be an ‘Entity Composed of Negativity/Corruption/Entropy in Relation to Human Experience and/or Morality’ and even this broad and vague definition is distinctly imperfect.

                      In many cases, ‘demon’ can say more about the one invoking the term then the subject itself.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Penelope View Post
                        Arguably even the Hell demons of Exalted could fall under the category of High Umbrood inspired by the Earthbound if you follow the old school theory that the two games are connected.
                        I must confess, I am not familiar with Exalted beyond what I have learned from people mentioning it here in the World of Darkness forums. It does sound interesting, but I've got enough on my plate with World of Darkness, so for the time being I tend to leave that can of worms alone

                        Originally posted by Toby Weingarten View Post
                        Basically, anything from any layer of the Umbra, including the Low Umbra, can be classified as Spirit for Warding purposes. This would include most High and Middle Umbra denizens, including those that were once physical beings and now are disconnected. It would also include at least some plasmics as long as they are not currently a Wraith/Spectre. While some of these entities could be called "Demons," their metaphysical make-up says they are spirits, at least for warding. This would also include disembodied Fallen Demons, as their current physical state is spiritual. A specific Ward against Demons would be subjective to the caster, and, therefore, might not work versus those entities that do not see themselves as being demonic. For instance, many Banes would not see themselves as demons, even if the caster would. That is why, in Vampire, Wards are so specific towards fairly wide categories. If I remember correctly, the original Ward versus Spirits also included ghosts, as the warding effected a physical condition rather than implied intent of either the caster or the one being warded against. Physical demons, those from Demon: the Fallen, would need a separate Ward, likely Level 5, to make sure it worked on both the physical and spiritual levels.
                        See, Ward Against Spirits including ghosts makes sense to me, to the extent that it's a blanket "no immaterial things allowed" spell. The point about needing a separate Ward for Possessed beings, Spirit cloaked in a Physical Form, is interesting for sure! The problem is that, as many have noted, "demon" is a vague and subjective term. It seems that most people so far have agreed with the position that "'Demon' is just a word," with the interesting addition that, therefore, what will qualify as a "Demon" for a given sorcerer or Mage will be dependent upon "Paradigm." Complicated, but interesting. It means that, for any given "paradigm" that might try to influence or affect "demons," I will need to figure out the paradigm-specific definition in order to know what they can do.

                        Going back to the two Vampire examples I presented, I'll probably need to look into the Hermetic/Thaumaturgical Paradigm to determine what will qualify for the Tremere. For the Baali, I suspect it will be related to the metaphysical nature of Daimonion, to the extent that it's the most innate connection that the clan has with whatever it might consider to be "demonic," through Disciplines like Infernal Servitor or Call the Great Beast. That might be where the above-mentioned notion of "Taint" may be more relevant.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gryffon15 View Post
                          I think for what you’re describing, a warding rite for a linear sort of magic such as thaumaturgy, something important to keep in mind is the understanding that the Arcanists crafting the ritual had of their subjects and intentions.

                          For instance the perspective, paradigm, and motivations of the one making the ritual might have an important effect on how precisely it works. If the magician was concerned with warding unholy spirits then that would be their focus, but this may leave a loophole for Wyrm Spirits (who aren’t necessarily corrupt) to slip through. Rituals focused on keeping out ephemeral negative entities might repel Fiendish Spirits & Specters, but a Fallen might be able to stroll through. Rituals which also account for physically negative entities wouldn’t likely be of much use to a vampire, who may also be effected.

                          World of Darkness does tend to use demon as something more alike a loose classification or an adjective then a precise category of being. If I had to assign a common trait to them it would likely be an ‘Entity Composed of Negativity/Corruption/Entropy in Relation to Human Experience and/or Morality’ and even this broad and vague definition is distinctly imperfect.

                          In many cases, ‘demon’ can say more about the one invoking the term then the subject itself.
                          I'm be more iffy one using paradigm rulings on static magic. The point of linear magics is that they Aren't flexible and have inherent and (mostly) unchanging rules. This is also compounded by the fact that non-mage magics do get effected by a kind of objective morality. Vampires can be effected by disciplines differently based on their humanity/path, werewolf gifts effects change based on wyrm taint, wraith arcanoi have different effects for spectres, demons lores change based on torment, etc.

                          My personal take on "demons" is to just make it an adjective for entities. Any spiritual creature with sufficient "Evil" is a demon. That might mean wards, rituals, and other spells that effect "demons" can hit a wide assortment of beings, but the WoD also has a laundry list of things that empower evil bastards vs more moral people.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MyWifeIsScary View Post

                            I was refering to the underworld. can the natives like the krakens or the something-born appear in the material?

                            Ah, your talking about the Low Umbra, sorry about that. Plasmics (entities that aren't Wraiths or Spectres, but things purely wrought from the Low Umbra) can't go past the Shroud if their in the Shadowlands (EDIT: Actually considering the fact Plasmics can be thought or some even know Arcanoi instinctually, one could tame a certain Plasmic animal (a Wraith that is) to Embody into the Skinlands.. so if someone could teach a Kraken, it could be VERY POSSIBLE.. with some chaotic results). Malfeans are in this camp considering they came about spontaneously once Life split from Death, but they are always asleep though and only send agendas to their underlings with dreams. This type of Malfean is called a Neverborn, apt to its particular origin. Though there is another type of quasi-Malfean called a Onceborn. They are Nephwrecks who have somehow survived so long their power has accumulated to an unprecedented margin. They rarely go out of the Underworld proper to the Shadowlands though, but I suppose if they did if they also know Embody they could surely manifest.


                            Jade Kingdom Warrior

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                            • #15
                              Kharnov probably a good idea lol


                              The die is cast. - Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon

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