Inspired by Magic the Gathering and Soul Sacrifice
I spy, I spy
With my little eye
A soldier that will not die
Day after day
For how long I cannot say
He must let the devil within him stay
Deep inside, deep inside
That dark voice will not subside
But may give him the power to turn the tide
We live in the Age of Demons, much to our behest. Heaven will not answer our calls, and we cannot rely on the Angels to aid our plights. For as long as mankind could think and feel, the two otherworldly sides of Earth have persisted along with us; Heaven and Hell. Called by many names, imagined in different ways, they all share similar traits.
Heaven bears Angels, beings of benevolence, heroism, and other 'good' aspects. Humans with a positive life, a positive attitude, and an otherwise generally 'good' disposition ascend to Heaven to become an Angel themselves. No matter who you worship, where you live, you may be granted entry to Heaven if you display a good soul.
Hell bears Demons, entities of evil, nefariousness, and other 'evil' aspects. Humans who commit heinous crimes, live a destructive lifestyle, or a negative attitude may find themselves thrown to Hell. Here they are tortured for any length of time by the vile creatures residing within Hell. A human may not necessarily become a Demon, but those of especially potent evil might. Demons are generally born of the extreme emotions circulating within Hell; they are generally inhuman in nature.
For an untold time Heaven and Hell combated each other, if only for their stark differences. But one day, the war fell suddenly silent. Angels no longer roamed the Earth as miracles, and the Gates of Hell were thrown closed, albeit poorly. Slowly, progressively, the beings of Hell were left to walk upon Earth at their whim. Calls for the Angels received no response, and Man thought themselves facing the Apocalypse.
But one group of individuals would not lie back and accept fate while the so-called benevolent Angels turned away. While any normal man cannot hope to defeat a Demon on their own, one possessing supernatural powers could very well do so.
And thus the hesitantly accepted relationship with Demons was forged. For to defeat a Demon in your path, you must have one on your side.
The art of Diabolism was rendered legal (though highly monitored) and the practice of religion outlawed in many countries. Diabolists could channel the souls and energies of Hell to come to their aid... at a price. The dark magicians could utilize any manner of Hellish conjuration, from sacrifice to possession, all of which required a generally hefty price to be completed.
Demons bear no alliance to each other, and are fully willing to defeat another. Thus a more powerful demon could get what it wanted by way of a Diabolist, and the Diabolist in question could defend themselves (or others) from dark entities manifested on Earth itself. It is a difficult relationship, one that often leaves many dead, or entire families cursed, but it is the only way.
What is a Demon?
A Demon is any entity born within the confines of Hell. Modes of origin vary, but all share this same beginning. The vast majority of Demons are created by the compression of negative spiritual energy and the emotions flooding the catacombs of Hell. Powerful, intelligent, and extremely evil, Demons generally adopt a specific personality attribute linked with the emotions that formed them. Things like greed, anger, lust (along with the other well-known Seven Sins), as well as sadness, madness, ambition, fear, and even insubordination. The trait they exemplify drives them in specific ways, obviously pertaining to their personality.
What binds all Demons together, however, is their insatiable desire for the souls of the living. No matter their traits and personality, a Demon would never turn down the succulent soul of a human being. Souls of the living empower Demons, granting them greater strength and intelligence. Every pact made with a Demon ends with the living losing their soul.
Upon Earth, Demons take a variety of shapes and sizes and demeanor. Where one Demon may revel in slaughtering villages, another may prefer tempting humans into giving up their soul. There is no rulebook behind Demonic behavior, nor do they abide by one. In Hell, anything goes, and Demons carry this over to Earth. Morals and ethics are maintained in Demons on an individual basis; not all are chaotic evil maniacs. Many do indeed fall under the lawful evil alignment.
Now, you may ask, how does a Demon of Hell even manage to find its way up to Earth anyways?
The Gates of Hell and You
"Ol' Gruntle found one at the lake just yesterday. He knew it was there when his dog was dragged under."
Unfortunately, the Gates of Hell is plural here. There is no one entrance (or exit) to and from Hell leading to Earth. They are riddled across the world, having various sizes and appearances. Most, however, only allow certain Demons to exit (any Human could enter, but no one's that crazy). See, when Demons gain power within Hell, they grow spiritually, and gates have a sort of spiritual bandwidth; if you're too large spiritually, you won't fit. Thus, extremely powerful Demons cannot exit Hell (depending on the size of the gate), while weaker Demons can merrily waltz onto Earth as they please.
Dozens of Gates are monitored closely, though this constant human vigilance has its own issues. The only thing that can actually kill a Demon is the power of an Angel (and vice-versa) which means that a dead Demon is merely cast back to Hell, perfectly welcome to come back. If a Demon realizes the gate they recently used is monitored, they'll just find a new one (and if Demons see that certain gates are being avoided...!) and return unnoticed. Thus, Demons always find a way to get back to Earth, no matter how hard you try. Human powers cannot fully seal the gates, and there are many so well-hidden that mankind cannot possibly hope to monitor every one.
And so humanity reserves itself to being a reactive force, as opposed to a preventative one.
"You'd be a fool to say 'A demon's a demon, no specialty to each!' Would you not distinguish between a bat and a lion when both are hunting you?"
Though there is an incredible variation to Demons, they can generally be placed in various categories that allow hunting Diabolists to better understand their foe. Categories range in criteria, from worldly location, to their powers, as well as appearance. A number of texts exist dedicated solely to the classification and description of Demons across the world, including the Ars Goetia and the Dictionnaire Infernal.
Despite appearances, Western Demons tend to maintain the calmest, least violent disposition out of all Demonic classifications. Large, intimidating, and generally winged, Western Demons are classified not because of their appearance but because of their range. Western Demons appear almost uniquely in Western countries, likely due to their association with the once-powerful religions located there. They adopt personalities based on the Seven Sins, and tend to prefer forming pacts with any number of living beings to eventually steal their souls. That is not to say, however, that Western Demons will not resort to violence, and are a force to be reckoned with.
Western Demons are well-known for their extensive supernatural powers, ranging from elemental manipulation to transformation and necromancy. Witches and Warlocks are fond of Western Demons, using their powers themselves to appear wizard-like and magical in nature. Diabolists utilizing Western Demons find themselves signing pacts that require blood or flesh sacrifices, or ones promising the souls of yet-to-be born children.
You'd be hard-pressed to find an Oni that doesn't want to cleave you in two, devour your flesh, and throw the bones in an ever-growing pile somewhere in the mountain's caves. Oni are violent, territorial, and very hungry. A lot. Oni tend to appear in Eastern countries, though because they include any voracious ogre-like Demons across the world they are not simply called "Eastern Demons". Unlike Western Demons, Oni are difficult to deal with, especially using words. They are highly independent and prefer to get their souls by ripping them from the corpses they create. Many Oni make homes in secluded places and (when holy methods were still legal) are difficult to exorcise. Oni very rarely possess people, though are contained by other means.
Diabolists of the East have mastered the art of demonic sealing, often imprisoning Oni into inanimate objects like armor and weapons. While eliminating the Oni problem, the possessed objects take on very dangerous characteristics. Weapons may require certain conditions be met lest they harm the user, and armors may continually sap life essence from the wearers. Those who work with Oni either make use of them in sealed form, or have bested them in combat. Eastern Oni tend to maintain a high sense of honor, and if they are granted mercy by a human warrior, may in fact serve them for a certain length of time.
Can you imagine trying to fight a shadow? Probably not, because you're either not a Diabolist or you've been killed by a shadow and you imagination doesn't count. In all seriousness, Abyssals are like the cockroaches of the Demonic world; really difficult to get rid of. Even experienced Diabolists struggle to identify the sub-class of Abyssal they're dealing with, as the traits tend to meld or shift constantly. Abyssals are Demons who appear as shadows of various forms, either in the literal sense or as walking "3D" shadows. To add to the difficulty, they can either be Possessive Abyssals or Wandering Abyssals, both with their own problems.
Possessive Abyssals literally haunt buildings or entire areas, having such a faint trace of spiritual energy that even inanimate objects can sustain them. Houses, graveyards, and really creepy dolls all serve as vessels for Possessive Abyssals, and frequently the only way to get rid of them in this way is by exorcism (unlikely to be available) or by destroying the possessed object. Setting fire to the house, removing the bodies from a graveyard, and severely breaking a doll are all viable options. The problem is what happens afterwards.
Wandering Abyssals are free-roaming Demons that take the form of a shadow upon a surface, or a walking bestial or human-like entity. Despite their misty forms, they could very well slash a person to bits, and their vapor bodies are difficult to defeat. Magic by way of Witches and Warocks, or possessed blades can harm an Abyssal, but other methods tend to fail outright.
Diabolists using Abyssals generally possess objects possessed by the Demon, and use them as chaotic and wayward weapons that could easily turn back upon them. Abyssals that are contained in pre-prepared objects are easily subdued if they become a danger to the Diabolist using them. Dolls, arrows, and even traps are all viable hosts for Abyssals being used by Diabolists.
Chances are, the thing that devoured your entire kitchen was an Imp. Always smaller than an adult human, Imps are the mischievous little rascals of Hell, but don't be fooled by their naughty behavior! Imps are absolutely willing to kill a human if it fancies them! It is safe to say, though, that Imps are the most easily extinguished types of Demons. Weak, dumb, and easily frightened, Imps are more of a nuisance than a danger. Whereas bigger, badder Demons relish the souls of the living, Imps could get by on some human food or blood offerings. They will gladly accept a soul, but dare not ask out of fear.
Imps have benefits and drawbacks, just like any other Demon. While they can be easily employed with some coin, some food, or a weapon, they are the most devious and backstabbing of all Demons. Imps cannot be trusted, no matter how much you give them. A demon could easily grant a greater bribe to the Imp you just employed to kill that same Demon, which leaves you some substance down and a tiny assassin after your soul.
Diabolists using Imps tend to employ them en masse, often called "Overlords" and are generally either very rich or very cunning.
The stuff of true nightmares, Horrors are in fact the resulting spawn of a Demon's dream. Their creation is still very poorly understood, and their extremely strange and highly supernatural nature makes dealing with them extremely variable, dangerous, and outright maddening. Horrors are unified only by their origin as a Demon's dream (don't get me started on their nightmares), and never share the same appearance. Thus, Horrors are never documented, as you'll never see the same one again. Much like Oni, Horrors are very violent (even moreso!) but lack the intelligence, instead acting very animal-like and mindless. A Horror desires one thing and one thing only; a living soul. They care not for pacts or deals, honor or food, only your soul, and they will kill you to get it.
Diabolists very rarely use Horrors, as they are unpredictable and unreasonable. Only Diabolists that have a powerful connection and a tight deal with another Demon can ask for the Demon to let loose their dreams upon specific targets.
The Path of the Diabolist
"The day you signed your name in blood was the day you forfeited your life, your child's life, and their children's life. I hope you will attain what you sought. The being you employed is not easily contained."
A Diabolist is a skilled individual who uses the powers of Demons to aid themselves upon Earth. The manner in which they achieve this varies from person to person, and can be decided based on preference of duty; entire powerful families exist that dedicate themselves to becoming Diabolists. To become one requires years of study, a proper attitude, and quite a lick of common sense and smarts. Dealing with Demons means you're playing chess with your soul at stake, and one must be careful to avoid losing it at the Demon's earliest convenience.
Unless found face-to-face, Demons must be conjured and subsequently dealt with in any manner of ways. Conjuration is a skill of its own, and is likely the hardest aspect of Diabolism as it can easily result in summoning the wrong Demon, or worse, a really angry or hungry one.
FORMING A PACT
Forming a pact with a Demon means you sign away a certain part of yourself (or even your entire being) away as your end of the deal. In return a Demon will grant you something that may aid you, whether it be supernatural power, wealth, or even the death of an enemy. With enough to offer and a powerful enough Demon, a Diabolist could sign in blood and spell the doom of an entire nation. Pacts are the most reliable forms of Diabolism, as they very rarely result in backfiring or mishaps. Just make sure to always read the fine print.
Just as the Diabolist cannot break the contract, neither can the Demon. These forms, whether physical or incorporeal, are impossible to break, even by Angels. If you sign it fully, you are bound forever until the contract is up or the offer is fully given to both parties. Be warned though, that pacts rarely end well for the Diabolist no matter how well-off he or she is.
Pacts can be done in a number of ways, the most well-known being the blood parchment. A simple piece of paper reads the terms, and both parties sign in their own blood with a finger. Another is the bloodline pact, one very common to Diabolist families. Bloodline pacts are long-lasting, going beyond generations and affecting entire lineages of people. The offerings are generally recurring, but all members of the Diabolists bloodline receive the benefits. Other pacts allow for partial possession (detailed later), or the physical summoning of a Demon to Earth, circumventing the need to travel through a Hellgate.
A Diabolist who has formed a pact is called a Bound Diabolist.
Dangerous but generally more powerful than a pact, as a possessed Diabolist can easily exert supernatural powers directly from their own wills. Partially possessed Diabolists host a fragment of any number of Demon souls, each of which grants any number of powers to the Diabolist. However, if the host's soul or will is weaker than the Demons('), then they will slowly lose control until their soul is completely sapped away. Allowing partial possession without a pact is extremely dangerous, as the Demon could turn on you and begin to take over at their discretion. Without a pact, however, Diabolists could expel their Demon with enough power and will, ridding themselves of any fate the Demon had in mind to live another day.
A Diabolist who is partially possessed is called a Witch (female) or Warlock (male).
Originating in the East, Demonic sealing is the forced insertion of a Demon's soul into some sufficient inanimate object. Note that no Demon ever likes to be shoved into an object, even less a commonplace one, and that given the chance, they will try to escape. Sealed objects tend to be either weapons or armor, and adopt characteristics mirroring the Demon within them. Weapons may take on elemental properties, or have extreme cutting power. Particularly preposterous weapons may render wounds inflicted unhealable, or induce death upon drawing blood. Armors could be invincible, resist temperatures, ward away projectiles, or enhance the wearer's strength or speed.
Most sealed objects have drawbacks. The famed mad blacksmith Muramasa forged swords that could not be sheathed unless they had killed a victim, and would haunt the one who unsheathed it until they did so. Other swords could incite madness, compel suicide, require specific things be killed, or slowly sap the user's soul. Armors can do the very same, some of which become irreversibly bound to the wearer until death. Armors are especially dangerous as powerful Demons within them can animate the set.
A Diabolist who uses a sealed object is called a Retainer.
Employing Demons requires a bit of finesse, or a particularly devoted cult. Depending on the muscle hired, Demons may require a single soul per task, either animal or human. Employment is one of the safer modes of Diabolism, as it does not bind as pacts do, nor does it put harm to your soul directly like partial possession. however it is generally the least reliable, and can be dropped if the Demon loses patience or fervor. Any number of Demons can be employed, though of course each Demon needs its own payment, upfront or afterwards. Demons prefer upfront, but aren't afraid to wait till after the deed; it's not like you'd be stupid enough to make off without paying a Demon, right? Demons who feel a duty towards serving a Diabolist are also considered employed.
A Diabolist who employs many Demons is called an Overlord.
Q: Can demons possess other demons?
A: A demon possessing another demon would result in fusion, with the stronger soul winning control over the result. However much like people, demons are very adept at keeping other things out, even more powerful things than themselves (humans being unwillingly possessed fight back quite well). This is why demons rarely try to possess one another. To add, demons can only possess one another on Earth. Their forms in Hell do not allow for such a thing.
Q: Can Abyssals possess more than one object?
A: Yes. Abyssals may possess more than one object, though are restricted by distance. More or less, an Abyssal possesses the concept of an object. Thus, suits of armor count as one object, rather than many despite being different pieces. Same goes for houses or buildings; they possess the house and everything associated with it, rather than just the structure. They can spread their influence across multiple unrelated objects as well.
Q: Can Demons eat Demon souls?
A: Simply, yes, they can eat other demon souls. They prefer living souls though.
Q: What would happen if a human soul was in a Demon's body?
A: Bodies are vessels: they may hold anything. It'd be weird, certainly, for a human inside a demon body, but it's possible. It wouldn't be unlike body switching, except that a human in a demon could utilize abilities associated with their body. Truly alien demonic bodies (such as those in Horrors or Abyssals) may drive a human soul mad, however.
Q: What would happen if a human walked into Hell via Gate of Hell?
A: Very bad things.
Q: What would happen if a human walked into Hell under a Demon's protection?
A: Slightly less bad things.
Q: How similar is this world to our own?
A: Think along the lines of 18th Century Earth. Steam engines are rare but rising. Electricity is making a surge throughout richer countries (Gerasas Academy too). Colonialism is fervent, but the world is relatively peaceful in terms of international relations (too many demons to worry about other things like politics). West and East take on similar meanings as they do in the real world; Western cultures are European-based, and Eastern cultures are Asian-based. The map is not similar, but is relatively unimportant. Just come up with places on your own!
The Gerasas Academy of Diabolism would like to cordially invite you to attend a year at our prestigious establishment. There you will expand on your knowledge of Demons, Hell, and utilizing their powers, as well as develop the will and skills to be employed by a protective group across the world, or simply to increase your own knowledge. With a large campus, dedicated staff, and top marks in worldwide rankings, we are sure you will enjoy your stay and further yourself well.
Attached is a packet with more information. We hope to see you attending our university this year!
Note that there is a pact written out on the last page of your packet. Below it is a line indicating you to sign. Do not sign this. Headmaster Ferdinand Alsers was forced to include a pact made with an Imp that forces those who sign to forfeit their first meals. DO NOT SIGN IT.
Head of Admissions
Images preferred, as they will added as icons to the character list.[include an appearance as an image at the top, or as a description somewhere within the sheet]
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Demonic Associations indicates any and all pacts, possessions, employments, bloodline pacts, etc that your character already has. Note that you will be entering as new students, and will have only general knowledge of Diabolism, especially in terms of Conjuration. That isn't to say, though, that the character's past hasn't presented them with various means to attain something Demonic.
Personality should be three or four positive traits, and three or four negative traits.
For Demons, their personality should also include in some manner the way they prefer taking living souls (through violence, trickery, pacts?), as well as the base trait that resulted in their creation. If they were originally human, or if they have had any sort of life outside of Hell, include it in the biography.[include an appearance as an image at the top, or as a description somewhere within the sheet]