The material below is designated as Open Game Content.
A wizard who consciously chooses to set aside much of his normal research and concentrate on the lore of demonology is one who gambles his innermost soul in the quest for knowledge. We have looked at the risks involved in the practice, as well as those who undertake this dangerous pursuit. Now we will begin the first steps on the Dark Road.
This chapter will examine, in detail, the underlying fundamentals involved in the summoning and controlling of demons from the infernal planes. A wizard following these steps and performing his first initial research into the lore will have everything he needs to attempt his first summonation. To begin with, the fledgling demonologist is well advised to concentrate his energies on calling forth the weaker demonic entities – hell hounds, dretch and imps. Such creatures are relatively easy to control when summoned and the consequences of failure are greatly reduced. It is imperative to keep in mind that so long as the required rituals are known, there are no limits to what a demonologist may attempt to summon. In the unlikely event a fledgling demonologist learns the complicated rituals needed to summon a balor or pit fiend, there is absolutely nothing to stop him calling these insanely powerful creatures into the material world. His chances of controlling such entities are, however, non-existent. At best, he will be slain within seconds of completing the ritual. At worst, the enraged demon will carry him off to the infernal planes to suffer an eternity of torment amongst the most evil and twisted races known. In short, every demonologist is limited in what he may achieve by just two factors – the forbidden knowledge he is able to uncover and his own good sense. The successful practitioner will always recognise his own limits and never push himself too far too fast. Always remember that there is no such thing as a bad demonologist – such people quickly succumb to the excesses of the art they vainly attempt to control.
Research and Study
The cornerstone of demonology is pure research. Practitioners spend much of their lives locating and interpreting forbidden lore, material often descending through the ages from the most ancient of times. It is a basic requirement of every demonologist that he become linguistically skilled in the use of languages that no mortal creature may have spoken or written in, perhaps, thousands of years. Such are the texts that speak of the creatures of the infernal planes – their names, capabilities and what forces are necessary to bring them into the material world where they may be bound or controlled by practitioners of sufficient will.
This knowledge is extremely rare and thus can pose the would-be demonologist with the immense difficulty of locating the information he needs to attempt even the most basic of summoning rituals. Some of the largest libraries of the world may hold a few sought-after scrolls and tomes within their darker recesses, though it is a common practice for periodic purges to destroy these valuable resources at the behest of well-meaning librarians. In the same vein, the personal libraries of arcane wizards may also contain a few books of interest to the demonologist, gathering dust on a forgotten shelf in some mystic study, treated as nothing more than a curiosity. Again, though, this is rare. It may also be worth watching any merchant or trader who regularly deals in ancient books. Tomes of forbidden lore occasionally pass through their hands, though it is highly unlikely they will recognise the worth of such an item.
It is doubtful that a practitioner relying purely on these sources will progress very far along the Dark Road over any period of time. In this practice, knowledge is most certainly power and those wishing to increase their abilities will have to work hard to uncover the forbidden lore vital to their studies.
The most obvious source of knowledge is another, more experienced, demonologist but this raises its own problems. Demonologists are, by their very nature, reclusive and small in number, suspicious of any who dare intrude upon their own studies. The practice of taking apprentices or sharing information is unheard of within demonology, such are the risks each practitioner runs of discovery. In addition, the process of physically taking another demonologist’s library by force is fraught with danger as not only will they have the power to call upon demonic creatures from the infernal planes, they are also highly likely to be accomplished spellcasters in their own right. All this said though, a demonologist’s collections of books and notes will be considered a real treasure trove by any other practitioner.
In reality, a demonologist will likely be forced to travel far and wide, throughout the dark and evil places of the world, following every story and rumour concerning the location of ancient texts. Unless the practitioner is unusually lucky, it may take a great deal of time to uncover the deepest secrets of demonology.
Once works of forbidden lore have been located, a demonologist’s research may begin. First the texts have to be translated into a form more readily accessible to the practitioner as they will usually be written in languages long since forgotten or even not of this world. This can take a great deal of time in itself, particularly for the inexperienced demonologist who will be encountering such languages for the very first time. This done, the demonologist must then employ his intellect into comprehending what he reads – deciphering is not understanding. There are many subtle nuances and twists within the art, all of which must be firmly fixed in the mind of the practitioner if he is not to court disaster. The knowledge he seeks may be buried within several texts, hidden by riddle and code, as is the nature of many forbidden and heretical lores.
With hard work, dedication and a great deal of lateral thought, however, the demonologist may emerge from his studies with the knowledge he so tirelessly sought to uncover. He will be ready to begin the summoning ritual.
Though summoning rituals can vary wildly in their specifics, the fundamental practices of all have much in common and any demonologist will readily identify any ritual he witnesses as such, even if he is not familiar with the demonic entity being called. All summoning rituals call for a pentagram to be inscribed upon the ground, though the design is different for each demon and an incorrectly drawn form will have no power during a ritual. The ritual itself will require perhaps many hours of chants and calls, along with the consumption of various components, expended in much the same way as with the casting of arcane magic. Such rituals are the most lengthy part of the summoning process, particularly if the demonologist is unfamiliar with the demon he is attempting to call.
If the summonation proves successful, the demonic entity will appear, drawn from the infernal planes, into the pentagram before the demonologist. Now begins the shortest part of the ritual but also the most hazardous. The practitioner must apply his force of personality to break the spirit of the demon and bend it to his own demands. The successful application of this last process is the ultimate goal of all demonologists. Failure does not often grant one a second chance to correct mistakes.
It must be noted here that, contrary to popular beliefs, the sacrifice of animals or sentient beings is never required for the successful controlling of demonic entities. On the other hand, such offerings can greatly aid an evil demonologist with no remaining scruples and even the most accomplished of practitioners will be hard pressed to control the greatest of the demonic powers without a valuable soul to offer in exchange for services…
We have spoken in previous chapters of the immense risks demonologists face in the practice of their art. But why is demonology a lore to be greatly respected, not just by those whom it may be employed against, but also by its actual practitioners?
The first stage of demonology, the uncovering of knowledge and the maintenance of secrecy whilst engaging in the practice is little different from that which other adventurers face on a day-to-day basis and need not be covered here. The summoning ritual itself holds little danger for the demonologist, other than the fear of discovery for it tends to be a fairly lengthy process. Failure in summoning a creature from the infernal planes is likely to result only in the loss of potentially expensive materials for no gain. The danger lies in the attempted control of a demonic entity. Such beings do not enjoy being ripped from their homes within the infernal planes and will be greatly enraged by the intrusion into their often incomprehensible plans and designs.
Upon the completion of a successful summoning ritual, the demonologist will be confronted by the entity he sought to call, standing within the pentagram he laboriously toiled over, its power now spent in pulling the demon into the material world. Such an entity will be murderous in nature, its desire for cruelty and destruction magnified by the temerity of a mortal seeking to dominate it by his sheer will. The demonologist has but one chance to bring the creature under control. A single slip, just one break in concentration will leave the demon free to roam the material world. Its first act will be to exact vengeance upon the summoner, either rending him limb from limb in an orgy of blood-letting, or carrying him off to the infernal planes where he will suffer for an eternity as the plaything of demons. Even if the demonologist manages to somehow survive and escape such a baleful existence, he is unlikely to ever be… quite right again. Every demonologist is all too aware of the risks they run every time they practice the art. Most fervently pray for a quick end should they ever make a costly and fatal mistake at this most critical of times.
In some cases, the demon may seek to stay in the material world to wreak havoc for a little longer than the summoning ritual ordinarily permits. In such circumstances, the demonologist will be viciously assaulted physically, mentally and spiritually as the demon attempts to possess him, gaining absolute control of his functions and twisting his body beyond all recognition. Bones bend and snap, skin warps and muscle expands as the mortal body strains to contain the demonic energies it is subjected to. The chances of surviving such a fate unscathed are non-existent.
A demonologist of any level is free to attempt the summoning and control of any creature from the infernal planes, provided he has the appropriate research materials and texts. Information on how to supply player characters with these texts is given in the Help for Games Masters chapter but, for now, we will concentrate on the rules used to summon demons and force them into service.
Throughout these rules, the Challenge Ratings of individual demons are used to gauge their relative strengths and the difficulty in summoning and controlling them. This provides a quick and accurate measure of a demon’s power, taking into account Hit Dice, spell abilities and special powers – obviously, the stronger a demon is overall, the harder it will be to summon and control.
Any scroll, tome or other resource a Games Master deems to contain demonological knowledge must first be read and comprehended by the player character before it can be used in a summoning ritual. A successful Demon Lore check, DC 15, is needed to identify any such material and discover which demon(s) it pertains to. To actually decipher and comprehend these inevitably complex texts takes 1d3 days + the Challenge Rating of the demon concerned and requires a Demon Lore check, DC 20. A Games Master is free to modify the DC of this check by up to + or –10 to reflect varying degrees of ease and complexity of ancient or relatively new texts. No other tasks may be performed during this period. Where such a resource holds the knowledge of several demonic entities, the time taken and a separate Demon Lore check is required for each. Failure in the Demon Lore check will result in the demonologist being unable to understand the information contained within the resource. He may not make another attempt until his rank in Demon Lore is increased.
Once successful, the demonologist may make a note of the demon he has studied – from this point, he may attempt the summoning and control of the creature at any time. The Games Master will inform the player of the capabilities and special powers of the demon, as well as any specific materials or rites required in its summoning ritual, this being the knowledge the demonologist has uncovered through his study.
Knowledge (demon lore) (Int; Trained Only)
This skill represents your ability to comprehend all aspects of demonic knowledge. It is most commonly used to decipher and understand demonic based texts, but may also be utilised to recognise demons and predict their natures and special abilities.
Check: Answering an easy question regarding demonology (could that beautiful woman with bat wings possibly be a demon?) has a DC of 10. Basic questions (what is a balor armed with?) has a DC of 15 whilst really tough questions (what is the true name of the pit fiend in front of me?) could have a DC of 20 or 30. The difficulty of deciphering demonic texts is covered in the Required Knowledge section.
Retry: No. The check represents what you know. Simply thinking about a question again will not permit you to know something you did not know in the first place.
Special: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, a character is likely to be relying only on myths and legends. Generally, only demonologists, binders and possessed have access to this skill, though the Games Master may rule otherwise in his campaign.
The Summoning Ritual
Summoning rituals vary between the differing demons they are designed to call forth, with certain pentagram designs, components and binding chants having power over one being but not another. The core rules used for summoning demons, however, are very simple though there are many modifying factors a player must be aware of so he may swing the odds of success further into his favour. This practice of minimising the chances of failure in summoning and controlling demons is the heart of demonology. A summary of the rules presented below can be found on p65.
Summoning rituals take as many hours to perform as the Challenge Rating of the subject demon. The summoning of a Tanar vrock, for example, takes thirteen hours. During this time, the demonologist prepares the pentagram, expends components and masters the chants of summonation, all of which were learnt through his study of the demon. Whilst performing the summoning ritual, the demonologist may take no other action and so cannot cast any spells.
The Summoning Check
The basic Summoning check is DC10 + the Challenge Rating of the demon.
The summoning ritual requires the acquisition of various components for both a pentagram and a summoning focus. These vary for each type of demon and are covered on p54.
Failure in the Summoning check results in nothing more than the expenditure of any components used and the absence of said demon. Of all the steps used in demonology, this is the one that is safest and least costly to fail in.
A successful Summoning check will draw the demon from the infernal planes into the pentagram, where it will appear before the demonologist. Now comes the most difficult part of the ritual – controlling the demon and making it subject to the summoner’s will.
The Control Check
The basic Control check is DC 10 + twice the Challenge Rating of the demon.
If passed, the Control check will allow the summoner to give the demon instructions to be carried out, as detailed on p20. A failed roll will likely mean the demonologist is in very serious trouble as the summoned demon frees itself of the bonds that have been placed upon it. It will immediately attack the demonologist as described on p22.
For both Summoning and Control checks, a roll of a 1 is an automatic failure and a roll of 20 an automatic success.
Pentagrams and Their Uses
As with the study of demonology itself, there are many misconceptions based around pentagrams and their use within magical labours. It is a common belief, for example, that a pentagram exists to protect the wizard from malevolent spirits that he calls upon for boon and aid. There are some fields of magic, witchcraft being the most prevalent, where this holds true but for demonology the pentagram serves a much different purpose. To pull a being of any power from the distant infernal planes and make it manifest in the material world takes a tremendous amount of magical energy, the type of which few mortals are able to withstand let alone manipulate to their own ends. The pentagram used in demonology is, quite simply, a carefully constructed magical focus designed to channel and magnify a practitioner’s own forces in order to build enough power during the summoning ritual to call a demon into the material world. By focussing this much energy over a relatively short period of time, the power inherent within a correctly drawn pentagram is completely expended when the summoning ritual is complete, leaving the practitioner with no protection against the creature he has just summoned other than his own knowledge and force of personality.
The correct drawing of a pentagram during the summoning ritual is of utmost importance if the attempt is to be successful and the margin for error is incredibly small. Even a single human hair lying across a critical juncture of the pentagram can be enough to dissolve its power and decrease its potency, thus placing a far greater burden on the summoner who may instead benefit from saving his strength for controlling the demon rather than just summoning it. In this way, a badly drawn pentagram can have a marked effect upon the controlling process even though its power has been expended during the summoning.
A demonologist cannot, of course, cast any spell or activate any magical item whilst performing either the summoning or the controlling process. He must rely purely on his demonological capabilities during these critical times.
Shifting the Odds
With his very life and soul at stake, any demonologist will work hard to increase the chances of a successful summonation and control of the demon he calls. At the same time, however, other factors may intrude upon the summoning ritual to make it far more difficult. There are many different bonuses and penalties that may be applied to Summoning and Control checks listed throughout this book but those most applicable to the fledgling demonologist are detailed here. All are summarised on p65.
The experienced demonologist will naturally be far more capable than one just starting his journey down the Dark Road. Even when confronted by an unfamiliar demon for the first time, he will have the strength of will and purpose to cover minor mistakes and errors, becoming consistently successful in the art. A character’s combined demonologist, binder and possessed class levels are added as a bonus to every Summoning and Control check.
Study and Preparation
Demonology is not an art that can be easily mastered by those short of memory or failing in their mental faculties. It requires precise observation and recollection, for a mistake made in the preparation of the pentagram or in the summoning chants can cripple a ritual. A demonologist’s Intelligence modifier is added as a modifier to every Summoning check.
Force of Will
Whilst specific rituals and rites are absolutely essential if any demonologist is to control a demon he has summoned, it is often his sheer force of will and personality that can make the difference between success and failure when he comes to actually controlling the creature. A battle of titanic wills can erupt in a fraction of a second as the demon strains to break free of the bonds being imposed upon it, even as the demonologist exerts his mind to bring the entity under control. A demonologist’s Charisma modifier is added as a modifier to every Control check.
High Quality Components
By acquiring the finest examples of the components necessary in any given summoning ritual, a demonologist can greatly minimise the risk of failure in calling the demon into the material world. If the components used are at least double the base monetary value required, a modifier of +1 may be applied to the Summoning check. If the value is at least four times greater, a +2 bonus is granted. For components of eight times or greater value, the maximum bonus of +3 is awarded. For items without a strict monetary value (an ancient war banner, for instance), the Games Master will be required to exercise his judgement in applying these bonuses.
It should be noted that if undervalued or misidentified components are used, there is no penalty to the Summoning check – the ritual will simply not work and every component will be consumed and wasted.
Demonologists, by necessity, take great care in their preparations for the summoning ritual. Given enough time, greater safeguards can be employed, with every stage of the ritual being checked and re-checked for any possible mistakes. By doubling the time required to perform a summoning ritual, a demonologist will be granted a +2 bonus to both his Summoning and Control checks.
By the same token, there may be times when a demonologist will be put under the severest pressure to summon a demon as quickly as possible. Under such circumstances, it is almost inevitable that errors and mistakes will creep into the ritual, making the whole process harder and a lot more dangerous for the demonologist. Hurrying a ritual will reduce the time required to perform it by half but will impose a –4 penalty to both Summoning and Control checks.
Previously Summoned Demon
In performing the same ritual again and again, a demonologist will inevitably become more familiar with its subtleties and nuances until they almost become second nature. If a summoning ritual has been successfully performed before by the demonologist, a +1 bonus is granted to the Summoning check.
Previously Controlled Demon
Once a demon has been summoned and the practitioner has established his control over it, he will find future attempts at imposing his force of will to be much easier. Apply a +1 bonus to the Control check if the demon has been successfully controlled by the demonologist in the past.
Fledgling demonologists, those just starting the practice of the art, often make sure others are present during the summoning ritual in order to provide a physical defence against the demon if control is not established. There is a –1 penalty to both the Summoning and Control checks for every creature, sentient or otherwise, present at the ritual other than the demonologist himself. They need not be present for the entire ritual for this penalty to be applied – even poking their heads around the door of the demonologist’s laboratory can shake the concentration required for a summoning ritual.
Demonology in Practice
Fallora is a 1st level demonologist attempting to summon her very first demon. Having studied an ancient scroll for the past five days and passing her Demon Lore check, she feels reasonably confident that she can now summon a dretch, one of the lesser Tanar.
This being her first attempt in the art, Fallora makes sure she will be undisturbed during the summoning ritual and takes her time, gaining the +2 Slow Ritual bonus to both her Summoning and Control checks. She also locates fine quality copper powder, the component needed to draw the pentagram for dretches, adding a further +1 bonus to the Summoning check.
Taking four hours to perform the ritual, as she is making sure no mistakes enter her preparations, Fallora attempts to call a dretch from the infernal planes into the pentagram. A dretch has CR 2, so the check becomes DC 12. However, Fallora is a 1st level demonologist (+1), has an Intelligence of 15 (+2), is using high quality components (+1) and is taking her time (+2), giving a total bonus of +6, meaning only a 6 needs to be rolled. Unsurprisingly, she manages to call the dretch to the material world.
Now comes the tricky bit. Incensed at being pulled from the infernal planes, the dretch would clearly like to exact revenge upon Fallora. Clearing her mind of the telepathic threats the dretch is hurling at her, Fallora attempts to control the demon.
The Control check is DC 14 as the dretch’s CR is doubled for this check. Fallora’s Charisma of 11 adds no bonus, but being a 1st level demonologist helps (+1), as does her Slow Ritual (+2), meaning she has to roll 11 or more. With a breath of relief, she succeeds and gives the dretch a very simple instruction – ‘protect me from all harm.’ The dretch will now effectively act as her bodyguard for the next hour but Fallora, overjoyed at her success, wants more. She exerts her will to force the dretch to follow this instruction for another hour. There is a –2 penalty to this next Control check as it counts as being an additional instruction, so Fallora needs to roll a 13.
She succeeds in this too and decides she can try for a third hour. The cumulative penalty for another additional instruction rises to –4, thus requiring a roll of 15 this time around. Unfortunately Fallora fails and the dretch breaks free of the magical bonds she placed around it. Fallora is about to learn even a dretch can be a very dangerous enemy when free…
The Demon Controlled
Upon the successful summoning and control of a demon, the demonologist will have the ability to command the creature to do his bidding. As with every other part of this practice, there are rules that must be obeyed.
A controlled demon is compelled to carry out and complete a single nine-word instruction issued by the summoner for a duration of no more than one hour. Once the instruction has been carried out or an hour has elapsed, whichever comes first, the demon instantly winks out of existence in the material world and is immediately returned to the infernal planes.
This instruction must be given at the moment of control, straight after the demon has been summoned or it will merely return to the infernal planes. Instructions cannot normally be issued after this time, no matter how powerful the demonologist is.
Anything may be demanded and the demon is compelled to carry out such instructions to the best of its ability. A demonologist may ask the demon, for example, to act as a bodyguard, or to assassinate an enemy. Many demons have existed since before the dawn of time and are thus incredible sources of long forgotten knowledge. Others, such as the nightmare steeds, excel as fast mounts or even beasts of burden. These are just a few of the most basic examples of what a practitioner may compel a demon to do. In practice, he is limited only by the demon’s powers and his own imagination. Due to the convolutions of demonic politics upon the infernal planes, however, a summoned demon can never be compelled to summon additional demons itself.
Passing the Control check when the demon is summoned allows the demonologist to issue a single nine-word instruction that will be obeyed for up to one hour. However, the number of instructions and the time the demon is compelled to stay in the material world may both be extended by a demonologist of sufficient power.
For each additional instruction issued or each additional hour the demon is required to remain in the material world, another Control check must be made with a cumulative –2 penalty. If any of these additional Control checks are failed, the demon will become uncontrolled with the consequences described below. No more instructions or additional hours may be added to the demon’s service as it is now free to exact its vengeance.
Note that any of these additional instructions or extended hours must be attempted straight after the first Control check. They may not be added to the demon’s service at a later time, so a demonologist must plan in advance to decide exactly what he will ask the demon to do if the summoning proves successful.
It happens to every demonologist sooner or later. Despite painstaking attention to detail during the summoning ritual, the demonologist will, at some point, lose control of the demon he is calling forth. Even those careful not to overreach themselves may make a mistake – the fact that it is far easier to summon than control makes this almost inevitable.
There are many terrible fates to which a practitioner may be subjected by an uncontrolled demon. However, those taking the first steps on the Dark Road will start by summoning the lesser demonic entities, those of a Challenge Rating of 6 or below. The reactions of these more minor creatures are always predictable and deadly. Their first priority is the destruction of the mortal who called them into the material world. The failure of the Control check negates the bonds placed on the demon by the ritual and the summoner’s will, allowing it to act with complete freedom of purpose. It will move with all speed to the summoner and attack with every resource and ability it has. Once the summoner is slain, it will either seek out and destroy all intelligent life for a period of one hour or simply return to the infernal planes, this being determined by the Games Master. It will also immediately return to its home plane if it is in danger of being slain.
This concludes the basic rules for summoning and controlling demons. The fledgling demonologist will be able to summon all manner of creatures from the infernal planes, provided he does his research. The likes of dretches, quasits, imps and hell hounds will all be within his power to command.
There is, of course, far more to the practice of demonology than this. Far more powerful demons can be called upon as the demonologist becomes increasingly more capable and he will be able to command them to do far more things once summoned. He may even be able to draw upon raw demonic power to fuel his own arcane castings to greater levels than he ever dreamed. For this, however, the demonologist must tread further down the Dark Road.