Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2009

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 124th issue of The Guild Companion and our sixth podcast

It's All About the Demons

I'm still toiling away slowly but surely on Something Wicked, and am still enmeshed in the snares and temptations of the Demons chapter. In my initial conception of this chapter, it was entitled "Servants of the Abyss". I eventually remembered my Milton - "better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven" - and duly renamed it "Masters of the Abyss", which is more in keeping with Demons. At the last checkpoint, I mentioned that I was working on the subplanes of the Abyss, the hell plane of existence. I have since completed the thirteen example subplanes. These are intended as examples, not an exhaustive list. Any GM who wants the Abyss to have 666 subplanes is welcome to come up with another 653.

The real mountain to climb is writing up the demons themselves. There are only a handful in Monsters: a Field Guide, though they are all very evocative. The game needs more, so after much wrestling, I came up with twenty-two concepts. I had intended to include the Nuckaleave of Orkney legend as it is described as a sort of demon. In the end, it clashed with my idea for Midnight Steeds and I decided that it would be better served as an inclusion into some future Faerie sourcebook for HARP. That also means that all of the demon concepts are imaginary creations rather than directly derived from legend and folklore.

So there I was with twenty-two demonic concepts, some of them no more than a descriptive name. The next stage was to rattle around these concepts, adding more and more notes to them, but deliberately not writing any of them up fully at this stage, lest I lose the surge of inspiration through focusing on the detail. Eventually I have all of them with some words of physical description, expected abilities, treasures, misconceptions, etc. Now again I have twenty-two of these infernal (pun intended) things taunting me. Everyone has experienced it - you have to do X and X is a huge amount of work and it is all very daunting. Unfortunately for the demons, there aren't any dependencies between them so I can do them in any order. So I break them into batches based on how hard they'll be to stat up and whether they'll need to be done at multiple classes of power. The first batch of the simplest demons is tackled. Lest my will to write be sapped, I do this batch in two rounds, a first round of pure statting and then a bout of writing up. Five demons are now complete, so that's a quarter of them in the bag (yes, I know 5 isn't a quarter of 22, don't give the demons an inch). Of the remaining seventeen demons, there's a batch of mid-level demons, a trio that should come in a lesser and a greater form, and a final batch that ought to be statted up at multiple Classes. So in I go again in a round of statting. I seize the opportunity to stat Ice Demons and Rock Demons from the trio, kicking the third member of that group into the final batch as I deem it to be really awkward and I'm not going to get trapped with problem cases at this point. I chase down the batch of mid-level demons and stat all of them. So now I have five fully complete demons and nine demons statted up but not described and another eight in note form only. And then I get interrupted and the demons get a reprieve. For a little while...

While I quite like Midnight Steeds and Hell Hounds as demon names, I'm not enamoured of pedestrian names such as Ice Demons and Rock Demons. But I have no intention of worrying about thinking up better names until I've gotten all of them statted and written up.

For those interested in the numbers, the Undead chapter of Something Wicked ("The Unquiet Dead") provides eight new Undead templates. The Elementals chapter ("The Elemental Powers") includes the four types of Elemental being and nine assorted monsters from the elemental subplanes. Once the demons are all bound, Something Wicked will be a bestiary of perilous fiends as much as it is a grimoire of dark magics.

And that concludes this checkpoint on progress.

Farewell for now ...

I will be at UK Games Expo (5th to 7th June, Birmingham) on the Saturday, arm-twisting people into joining the Constitution convention, so if you chance to be there, feel free to say hello. In the between time, I have some demons to exorcise, so enjoy the rest of the issue. We'll be back in July with issue 125, but until then ...

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion