Using AI for Shadow World: Demons of the Pales

I’ve been going through my various projects and generating and inserting quick artwork to capture the flavor and essence of persons, places and things. I’m a novice at AI generated art, and I completely understand the issues around using AI in commercial projects. This isn’t that. One of my major roadblocks for content creation is my limited art and floor plan skills–abilities that Terry had in spades (given his architectural/design background) and really drove the Shadow World aesthetic and narrative. I was tinkering with my “Book of the Pales”. I had excluded the descriptions of the main Demon types for copyright and IP issues, but I wanted to create include more accurate artwork. I’ve literally put 30 minutes of effort into these generations, but I think they work great!

A Pale I Demon with pale grey skin and the clump of wiry hair atop its large skull, wielding a club.

A Second Pale Demon in traditional line drawing. Needs some more work and the hands and feet need webbing!

The Demon of the Third Pale, capturing its towering, lithe form with dark grey coloring and huge, bat-like wings extending from its long arms.

A Fourth Pale Demon. I really like this–a very catlike and serpentine feel. One of my modules takes place on Charon and I utilize these Demons there in the tunnels…

Fifth Pale Demon. I like this–especially the technology touches with hints of the fusion of flesh and metal.

Shadow World Creature Review: The Agothu.

A Overseer

One of the least utilized of Shadow World creatures are those that dwell “Beyond the Pale”. Known as the Agothu, they seem to have appeared in the “Atlas Addendum” found in the Emer box set. I’m going to write more about the addendum in a separate blog, but in my mind, it’s where much of the essence of Shadow World was set down after a number of generic third party SW modules.

The Agothu, or “Older Ones” are very reminiscent of the Cthulhu mythos: indescribable extra-dimensional beings of terrifying appearance and power. They are brought full-fold into the setting by at least the Master Atlas 3rd Ed. (anyone have 2nd edition to check?) with some changes and expansion from the original Addendum material. Generally, these creatures come in two types: Agothu and Agothu Servants (also known as Destroyers) although it’s not given that an Agothu is more powerful or higher level then a servant. In fact, several of the Destroyers are formidable…

Terry expanded the creatures by adding a Agothu (Breathless) and increasing the Destroyers from 5 to 7. Interestingly, one of the Destroyers, the “Nof-Kef” was eliminated in later books. If I recall, the Nof-kef was specific to the third party module “The Orgillion Horror” and it appears that Terry struck that creature out of Canon quite early? My own impression is that the Agothu were added in the Atlas Addendum to incorporate the material in Orgillion, but Terry then embraced it and made the Agothu his own.

Unfortunately, he never really incorporated the Agothu into his later material. There is a mention in the Grand Campaign, but aside from that, the Agothu are only used in reference to Shrek.

A Tresh

That’s unfortunate because the Older Ones are yet another cool element that makes Shadow World a unique setting and not another Orc/Skeleton/Dragon fantasy world. Agothu are between 5th and 30th level so they can be incorporated into any campaign. Agothu are also an example of Terry’s creativity and feature some of his most descriptive writing.

For example:.

are vaguely humanoid, but their
oversized heads are little more than skulls. Their bodies are covered
by a skin like grey parchment, dry and peeling
. Their large,
claw-like hands are skeletal. Their eyes show moisture, however,
oozing a bloody liquid as they move in their sockets.

Or this:

They are covered by tough,
toenail-like protrusions, which form a scaly skin. Life Eaters have
beaks instead of mouths, surrounded by an array of eight squidlike
tentacles, tipped with hollow spines. They have four eyes in
the front and four in the rear of their elliptical skull. Four ears
crown their heads, each protected by a bony tusk. Their four arms
end in four-fingered talons.

Imagine your players encountering this fella:

are vaguely anthropoid, with a certain ‘melted’ look.
Closer inspection reveals a tripedal rather than bipedal structure,
with skin pulsing with external veins and arteries. Their
feet are mere stumps, and their three long arms each end in three
strong tentacles, each equipped with a row of powerful suction
cups with sharp serrated rims. The head is no more than a
neckless ovoid punctured by three nostrils and three unblinking

This is really the stuff of nightmares and in line with the grim dark feel of the Emer: The Great Continent. At this risk of being redundant I’ll say that it’s this Shadow World specific content that brings the setting to life.

Tell us about any of your Agothu encounters!

Named Things in Shadow World: Known Demons.

Is this Susymog or Aztaur?

As part of my cataloging all things Shadow World in our Master Atlas and indexing for the “Nomikos Library” project, I thought I would start a new blog topic: “Naming Things in Shadow World”. Today I thought I would start with named Demons that are mentioned in various SW books and are considered newsworthy in the timeline or elsewhere. Like the Dragonlords, powerful Demons play a major part in the SW history and are still major forces to be reckoned with!

Mur Fostisyr

While the book that started it all, The Iron Wind, is really a proto-SW product, most of the content continued into Terry’s later canonical material. Unfortunately, unlike Cloudlords, The Iron Wind never received an update due to authorship and IP issues around Peter Fenlon’s authorship. Nonetheless, I believe that The Iron Wind sets the tone for a darker, more menacing tone for Shadow World. In this product we learn about two powerful Demons: Susymog and Aztaur.

Susymog. An Ordainer Demon, he is lord of Var Ukaak and master of Priests of Arnak. He is also 50th lvl and secretly the Syrkakang. Elor was right to avoid this confrontation!

Aztaur. Master of Taurkytaal (K. “Dark Ice-stone”). Aztaur is known as the “Lord Demon of Cold” and “Beyond the Pale” (which had slightly different meaning than later SW book). At 30th level he is quite powerful.

Other Named Demons

Khortus. It’s unclear what type of Demon he is, but he was drawn into Kulthea by a sorcerer but was able to escape his spell bonds and “decides to remain in the Shadow World“. {see by notes on Summoning}. Anyway, Khortus is really up to no good, and now leads the Vulth Horde.

Muarga. An Earth-Demon who is the King of Murlogi battling the Lankani and embroiled in various high-level plot points in Shadow World.

Mæzebrasân. A female Demon that entered Kultha via a portal, she is now disguised as the Mayor of a small village in Sarnak…

Kharuugh. More of a historical figure, Kharuugh the Ordainer battled King Hanreth (wearing the Wyvern Crown) during the Wars of Dominion, his whereabouts remain unknown…

Quard and Urno. Demon servants of the Dyar Mage Shanarak. They are entrusted with guarding the Ark of the Worlds! (they must be powerful)

Orlhach. An Ordainer Demon that resides in a volcano in Kailoq, he is worshipped by the inhabitants as a fire god.

Gorlhach. At first I thought this was a mispelling of Orlhach, but no. (maybe a brother?). This named Demon lives under the Mountains of Gold and controls an army of Lugroki. He may also be known as the “Ordainer of Argaath”, but it’s a bit unclear.

Wargur. The Demon lieutenant of Schrek. Was banished to Rael after being defeated by Sigrius.

Raathmaauriig. An Ice Demon, he is the half-demon son of Aztaur. Has his claws in all sorts of things up in Saralis.

Vargus. A Demon Lord that resides in the Hall of the Cloudlords.

Gha’ath’uk (also known as Gha’ath’uz). A Demon of the Void, a Guguth, from Folenn. He has a Compass surgically mounted to his skull!!

Mauk, Geth and Wrang. While they sound like “sidekicks” they are all powerful Sixth Pale Demons that reside in Aalk Athimurl.

Morloch. I saved the best for last. Perhaps the mightiest, he is named Lord Ordainer and was once known as Shuraax the Fire Claw and bodyguard of Kadaena. Morloch is featured quite a bit in the story of Shadow World and I use him extensively in Priest-King of Shade. There is even a cult in his name!

{UPDATED 8/17}

Wurliis. Not sure how I missed this, thanks Alan! One of the 12 Adherents, Wurliis is a Demon of the Fifth Pale.

Wurliis is a master of arcane mechanisms. His favorite weapon is a terrifying device which fires four heavy crossbow bolts in a volley. Wurliis is somewhat smaller than most of his Demonic type

Turasoq. Another Adherent and a Procreator Demon.

If you like to use Demons as big baddies, some of these may work well. Have you used any of these in your game? Did I miss any?

Rolemaster Spell Law Deconstructed: Are Summoning Spell mechanics broken?

I thought the commentary on “Illusions” in my last blog post was pretty good, so I thought I would discuss another spell mechanic that might need to be re-examined: Summoning.

Spell Law contains a number of spells to summon/conjure Demons, creatures and other beings in Essence and Channeling.  But really it’s a just a big hot mess of vague, confusing spells.

The 2nd level spell Summoning (Evil Magician Base) says “Caster can instantly summon a first level non-intelligent creature”….  Does this mean that the creature teleports to the caster or does the creature have to travel to the caster. Is a teleport affect powerful for a 2nd lvl spell? Is this a Summoning spell or a Gating spell? Per the spell, the duration is 10 min/lvl normally (or 1 min/lvl when put in danger). What happens at the end of the duration? Does the creature disappear and teleport back from whence it came? Does that mean the spell generates 2 separate teleport effects?

Now lets contract that with a 9th level spell “Animal Summons I” from the Animist Base. You would assume that an Animist would be better at summoning general creatures than an Evil Magician? Well, you would be wrong. The spell states: “Caster can summon any 1 animal within radius (1 mi/lvl). That’s a ninth level spell compared to a 2nd level spell and implies that the creature has to travel to the caster. Yes the Animist has a built in control function when concentrating but the duration is only 1 min/lvl. I think there is a discrepancy here.

“Gating” also opens a number of questions about spell mechanics. (Some of this really depends on the setting and implied meta-physics of the world.) I’m finishing up “Book of the Pales” which is expansion material on the Demonic Realms: more creatures, environment, adventuring in etc. That effort along with my re-write of Demon summoning spells made me think about the whole premise. Let’s review:

Spell User casts “Lesser Demonic Gate”, a 5th lvl spell on the Evil Magician base list Dark Summons. This calls a Demon (Type I-III) that will slowly appear over a few rounds. If the Demon is not controlled in some fashion (control, master, barter, binding etc) the Demon “leaves”.

So what’s going on here? Does the spell open a doorway to the Pales and call a Demon through the gate or is this just a materialization? Now let’s assume that the Caster Masters the Demon in some fashion. Demon Mastery has no duration, just contingencies (range, kill or release).  But how does the Demon eventually return to it’s world/plane/Pale? If the Gate is now closed by what method does the Demon dissipate? Is there some spell reserve around the Demon that activates another Gate?

Some would argue that Demons  are just physical projections created by magic. When the spell “ends” the magic unbinds that projection and the Demon disappears. That’s a good solution but pretty powerful. In effect it’s creating a powerful physical form for a spirit creature from another Plane! And what about the other Summoning spells that work the same but on real creatures of the game world? They aren’t spirit beings given a physical form through magic. What about existing Gates that allow Demons to enter the world? Do the Gates have some implied “form physical body” ability?

For my own game, I am more interested in Shadow World and how Demon Summoning would work; and that required a spell re-write. Under my game, the Pales are other planes of existence and most Demons are physical creatures (thematic Demons are manifestations or possessors). That means that Demons do need a “Gate” or doorway to go from the Pales to Kulthea–or vice versa. This can be a spell, conjuring circle, natural Essaence Gate or other construct. Like any door, if it’s present and open it allows for 2 way travel: once a Demon enters Kulthea it’s there unless it returns via a door/gate willingly or sent back the same way. How else does Kulthea get populated by Demons? (Under Spell Law RAW I think  they would de-materialize when no longer controlled.)

For purposes of this discussion let’s delineate two different types of mechanics (despite naming conventions used in Spell Law) and use Shadow World for the default setting:

  1. Summoning. This “calls” a specific or general creatures from the local area to come to the caster. The creatures must physically travel to the caster.
  2. Gating. These spells create a magical “doorway” that teleports a creature directly to the caster.

So far so good, right? This is a simple differentiation that lays the framework for a variety of spells. The second part of the equation is “control”. I like the established vernacular used by RM: Control requires concentration. Mastery does not. Ranges and duration can be set by spell level, base list, profession etc. The final piece is protection. Without Control/Mastery there is no implied protection for the Caster. The Gate itself is a doorway, not a Circle of Protection or Ward. Opening a Gate and calling forth a Demon is no guarantee that what you want is what shows up!! Even a normal animal may not react well when Summoned and end up attacking the Caster if uncontrolled.

In conclusion, while various types of Summoning/Gating should be dependent on the world or setting, a few basic tweaks can vastly simplify these Spell Mechanics.


Shut the Damn Gate

It is not uncommon for characters to be able to summon creatures and even demons. The demonic spells start at 10th level and by 20th level you are summoning in some quite powerful demons.

So given the average life span of a demon why have none of them spent a mere decade or so researching a Summon Humanoid spell? A bit of hand waving and mumbling and ^poof^ there is a player character appearing before you. With a bit of opportune scrying and you summon the PC while taking their bath so they don’t have their +50 demon slaying sword and mithril armour of imperviousness with them either.

Surely what is good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say, so if PCs can summon demons then it works the other way around.

Imagine you are running a high level campaign, you start intermittently asking your PCs to make resistance rolls vs channeling (with a nod to BriH’s post yesterday).  If they fail then the rest of the party see a rift open around the character and they disappear.

The summoning demon has assembled a squad of demonic minions waiting for the summoning to succeed and when it does then let battle commence. One rather unprepared PC vs an adequate number of demons of your choice.

You could even try and arrange it so that the PC is summoned during a battle. One which the PCs were probably going to win but was also a close run thing. You then yank one PC out of it. It disrupts the PCs strategic planning, changes the odds and puts one PC in a very dangerous situation.

You suddenly get another interesting option as well. Can the party rescue their friend from a different plane? Can they even find them?

For the, now solo, PC how do they cope without their party to fall back on?

I have lost count of the number of times that I have been on a quest for a specific item and when I finally get it I get raided by the forces of evil and they steal it from me. This is just a more impressive version of the same thing.

Spell research can be a wonderful thing, especially in the wrong hands!