Elric, Demon Lords and Sorcery. Modeling it all.

Started by Paiku, August 09, 2010, 09:41:44 PM

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I'm currently preparing to GM a game of Sorcerer based explicitly in Melniboné and the Young Kingdoms (the Elric Saga), and I'm toying how best to model the interactions and relationships between sorcerers (like Elric and Yrkoon) and Demon Lords (like Arioch), as they were portrayed in the books.

Elric's first Contact and Summoning of Arioch, in Elric of Melniboné, is a hell of an ordeal.  Fasting for days, psychedelic drugs, physical exhaustion, the whole bit.  And we get the sense that he barely succeeds.  Well, given Arioch's likely Will and Power in the 15 range, that's not surprising.  What then follows, I don't know if it qualifies as a Binding, it's more like a conversation with the Godfather.  Arioch says, essentially, "I'll help you out now, and one day you can do me a favour."

Elric swears to serve Chaos, and Arioch returns to his own realm, ready to be Summoned for aid when needed.  Subsequent Summonings of Arioch are much easier (Elric pulls off 1-die Summons all the time).  Surely, possession of an enormous necromantic Token in Stormbringer helps with that, but is that the only difference?  Or is this ease of Summoning a feature of the new relationship between Elric and Arioch?  Elric doesn't always have to bargain for help either, sometimes he does nothing more than promise to feed Arioch's Need: "Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!!"

How to model this dynamic in Sorcerer?  First of all, let's say that Humanity is one's independence from the Cosmic Struggle between Law and Chaos (I've read the discussions about Humanity=Love, I want to do things differently).  I played with the idea of some sorcery rules that were specific to Demon Lords.

Solution 1: New rule: A Bound Demon Lord is free to leave the sorcerer's plane.  Binding strengths are high.

The Binding strength acts as a bonus in subsequent Summons and other rituals involving the Demon Lord (this isn't new).  This would explain how Elric can so easily achieve those 1-die Summons when he needs help.  At first, I thought that the circumstances of your typical Binding roll with a Power-15 Demon Lord (say, 7 dice vs 15) were nearly certain to result in large Binding strengths (in favour of the Demon Lord, but still a large bonus to Summons).  But then I did the math and found that large Binding rolls are by no means assured in this situation (see thread "Sorcerer Dice Mechanic, Examined").  Okay then, here's a refinement: sorcerers tend to throw their Binding rolls with Demon Lords (essentially rolling over in the negotiations), in order to secure a large (negative) Binding strength.  This would be the sorcerer purposely using fewer dice than he would otherwise be entitled to.  (Elric was the exception, of course.  He had a large positive Binding strength with Arioch, because he's so bad-ass... and because of his Destiny.  Arioch needed Elric.  I figure.).

Every time a sorcerer desires aid from his Demon Lord, he must Summon it anew.  This means a Humanity check every time, which fits the Demon Lord's agenda of securing more soldiers for its faction in the Cosmic Struggle (0 Humanity means you're a mindless tool of Chaos/Law).  The sorcerer is only responsible for feeding the Demon Lord's Need when it is present in the sorcerer's plane.

Solution 2: No new rules.  The Demon Lord isn't Bound, but must be Summoned and Pacted every time.

In other words, use the S&S rules straight up.  The problem with this is, sorcerer's can't have much hope of their 1-die Summons working when they're in a bind and need their patron Demon Lord to help them out.  Unless every sorcerer with a Demon Lord also secures a huge Token.

Solution 3: The Demon Lords don't really go back to their own planes.  They're just Inconspicuous until called upon.

I don't like this solution, it doesn't match the canon.  Arioch really IS absent, busy elsewhere in the multiverse, battling Law and scheming in the eternal Cosmic Struggle.

Solution 4: The Demon Lord is complicit

After that initial Contact & Summon, and the sorcerer swears to serve Chaos, the Demon Lord and sorcerer enjoy a special relationship of some sort.  It's not a Binding in the traditional sense.  The upshot is that the sorcerer gets a big bonus for subsequent Contacts and Summons (and Pacts?) of THAT Demon Lord.

Is this equivalent to Solution 1?

(Implicit in this whole discussion is also the allowance that Demon Lords can un-Summon themselves at will, despite the general rule that Demons can't do sorcery.)

Other approaches?

Thoughts and ideas on this conundrum are solicited!  I want to put together a Sorcerer game that solidly reflects Moorcockian sorcery, but that still works as a Sorcerer game.  Thanks,

PS: Ron, welcome back.

Ron Edwards

I think you are confounding the in-fiction "Plane" concept with the "Not-here" concept which informs the Contact and Summoning rules in the game.

The term "Plane" is actually doing double-duty in the story, if we are talking about thematic logic rather than either real-world or in-fiction causality or identity.

1. It refers to the demons' unnatural and awful qualities, implying that being summoned from that plane to this one is terribly conceptually destructive to anything imaginable as reality.

2. It refers to a place in the fiction which people happen not to be able to walk to.

I actually quite like your Solution 3, with a minor change in phrase, to say, "in the fiction, such inconspicuousness is defined as going back to their plane." In other words, such "going back" has nothing whatsoever to do with Banishment. Banishing such a demon would mean it couldn't come back unless some sorcerer went through all that ritual all over again. I think it suits the canon fine. Summoning Arioch in that scene corresponds beautifully to my #1 and in fact, the rules were written precisely with that scene in mind, practically sentence by sentence. After that scene, the plane shift is merely #2. It doesn't matter in causal terms that those are supposed to be the same thing, because in thematic terms, they are absolutely not the same.

With all that in mind, I think the Sorcerer rules plus the additions in Sorcerer & Sword, are perfectly suitable to the setting without modification.

Best, Ron

P.S. You've probably found all of these already, but here goes, in order from oldest to youngest:
Stat Scaling in Sorcerer (God damn was Sean a pill when he first started posting here ...)
Elric books for Sorcerer and Sword background (Help!)
How did I miss this? (which of course you've seen since you quoted it recently)
[& sword] Humanity in Moorcocks Stormbringer?
and Elric & Moonglum (I never did address Jesse's final post, did I?)


Aa-hhaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh......!   The penny drops.

You're right, I wasn't distinguishing between a demon being called into existence "here" and a demon traveling to and from "here."  Yes I think that's a workable interpretation.  Demon Lords don't exist here unless Summoned here.  Once Summoned, they can planar-travel to/from here of their own volition, unless/until Banished, after which they cease to exist again on this plane.  But regardless of all that, they exist in The Higher Worlds and on other planes.  Thanks.

Yes I did notice how closely that scene, Elric's initial Summoning of Arioch, conforms to the Sorcerer rules. ;-)  In preparation for this game I've been re-reading the novels, and they're just great.  It's especially interesting to experience the books again after having read many of the discussions on The Forge about demonic love triangles, adolescent power fantasies, the sexual metaphors, etc.

Thanks for including the links to those other threads.  I have already studied them at length, but it's good to cross-reference them again here.

As I get ready to run this Elric game, I'll post my draft player hand-outs for feedback and for posterity.  As I mentioned a few months ago, I'm working on a "Dictionary of Elric."  Not to force our game to slavishly re-create the events or "facts" of the books, but to provide lots of good Moorcockian flavour and crunch for a smashing Sorcerer game.  Meanwhile, we're only a few weeks away from starting our Dictionary of Mu game (Ry presiding).