Author Topic: A daemon summoning character  (Read 1920 times)

Offline Brother_Brimstone

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A daemon summoning character
« on: October 13, 2011, 11:46:30 PM »
Hi all, apologies if this has been asked before - i did a few quick searches and couldn't find anything along the same lines so i thought i'd ask for input.

We often talk about 'cultists summoning daemons' in campaigns and battles, with the implicit assumption that the ones doing the summoning are NPCs. Those who know my characters know that, in general, I enjoy playing the mad cultists and the daemons!

I recently had the idea of a cultist entirely at the bidding of their daemon master; a master who doesn't actually reside in realspace (as is generally the case with daemons). However, this minion carries around a powerful artifact of their master, summoning him for short durations into realspace.

On the board, this would mean that the 'warband' would start each game with one relatively puny character carrying the artifact and doing reconnaisance for their master, and upon finding that it is 'worth his time', she will summon him using a foul ritual. In terms of cold, hard stats, i was maybe thinking that she should have to take one action setting up a summoning circle with the artifact at its centre, and then she must take three actions summoning (with either a wp test at the end, or a wp test each action, depending on what people think), the end result of which is a summoned daemon, present for the rest of the game (or until he is banished!).

I  like the idea that the 'warband' starts weak, but gets significantly more powerful partway ino the game, and obviously the fact that the summoning could be interrupted means that it will create some very frantic gameplay, as one player tries to stop this mad witchery and the other tries desperately to create Chaos!

What are people's thoughts? I know that obviously, a lot of balance would depend on both the stats of the daemon and of the cultist (while the daemon would be powerful, I wouldn't make him gamebreakingly so; about the power level of a space marine, which seems reasonable considering that the entire warband would be him and a snivelling cultist, and that his entire entry into the game is dependent upon a weak cultist not dying before he is summoned!), but at least theoretically, do people think that it's a workable idea for a warband?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Offline Ynek

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2011, 09:40:38 AM »
As an idea, it's a fairly original one that I don't think I've seen before, so done correctly, it might be a rather fun character to have running around on the tabletop.

I would say that the daemon he/she summons should probably be a very low level one. The way I always understood it, the stronger a daemon is, the longer it takes to summon. For instance, the Keeper of Secrets in the third Ciaphas Cain book required multiple rituals, each taking several days, in several key locations around the planet before she could take material form. (And subsequently getting bitchslapped back into the warp by a commissar and a low-level pariah.) The greater daemon in the ill-fated German fanmovie, Damnatus, required the release of a planet-wide plague in order to provide enough sacrifices for a greater daemon to manifest.

So, in short, if a daemon requires only four actions to summon, (totalling around 10-20 seconds) then you're probably talking about something in the region of a slightly bizarre partially daemonic cabbage slug, or maybe a daemonic paramecium. (Daemonic paramecium might actually be an interesting narrative device in themselves, given how easily micro-organisms divide… You’d have entire corridors of hive cities blocked by bacterial colony goo, the slightest touch of which invites possession…. And it would just keep on growing, and growing, with no real intelligence behind it, and no heart, brain, or weak point at which an individual can strike… It would just be a continuous stream of white/pus-yellow goo. Maybe it’s just a low-level Nurgle daemon possessing a terrestrial paramecium, existing as a strand of genetic code that is passed on to each of it’s daughter cells…. Hmm. Sounds like a great idea for a mini-campaign there….)

You could probably get some mileage out of arguing that the artifact the summoner carries is the reason he can perform "shorthand" summoning rituals. Which would in turn open up narrative threads, such as Inquisitors wanting to capture / destroy / study / use the artifact for themselves.

However, I would still say that the summoned daemon should be relatively mild. Assuming that the cultists themselves aren't too powerful, you might get away with having a bloodletter or something of that ilk. Forge World does a very nice Khornate Daemon Prince model that would actually make quite a nice bloodletter, given some careful remodelling. (It has quite a few 28mm skulls on it.)

Since such low-level daemons are hardly the sorts of beings to be "daemonic masters of a mortal cult" (Being little more than soldiers / drones in themselves) you could always argue that in any given tabletop circumstance, the greater daemon / daemon prince to whom the cult actually prays doesn't consider it worth his time to intervene, and instead sends one of his lowly servants.

This would keep the feeling of urgency that comes with a character who could summon a greater daemon at any moment might bring, but would simultaneously maintain a certain level of game balance.
One further thing to consider would be the narrative gravity of such a character. If an Inquisitor is going into the underhive to talk to an informant about illegal gun trafficking, and is suddenly confronted with a daemon, no matter how small, he'll probably get his priorities in order and kill the daemon, entirely forgetting about his original mission.
Then factor in the fact that any game involving the Inquisition is likely to go down a similar path, and you might find yourself getting just a tiny bit bored of playing “KILL THE VILE ABOMINATION OF CHAOS!” type missions, even when that wasn’t the original mission.

Another alternative that is worth considering is that instead of fully manifesting a daemonic presence on the table, the character merely invites possession upon themselves.
I had a few ideas of how the rules mechanics for something like this might work, if you’ll allow me the liberty…..
Once the daemonic circle is complete, place a disc of paper measuring 2 inches across anywhere within 6 yards of the summoner character. This disc represents the summoning circle. To recognise the circle for what it is requires a successful sagacity check with a negative modifier equal to -60. (Which may be waived in special circumstances, such as an Ordo Malleus inquisitor with extensive proscribed knowledge laying eyes upon it, in which case, a positive modifier may be appropriate, as it’s not entirely likely that he would mistake the summoning circle for something else.)
The summoning circle creates unholy sounds, and glows with warp-light. Characters have a +20 modifier to their awareness to detect the daemonic circle. (So they might detect it with ease, but not easily recognise what they’re looking at.)
Any character who steps into the circle can either elect to embrace or submit to daemonic influence. If they choose to resist the daemon, both the character and the daemon roll a D100 and add their willpower. If the daemon passes by a margin of 30% or more, the daemon wrestles the host’s resistance down and seizes control of the host body. If the intended host character passes by 30% or more, they gain their freedom and may step out of the circle in any direction in their next action.
If the daemon successfully scores higher than the intended host, but rolls less than 30% higher than their host, then the daemon makes some headway in breaking the human’s resolve, but has not yet taken total control. The host may not move any further this turn, but loses 2D10 from their willpower, making it easier for the daemon to take control in subsequent turns.
If the host successfully scores higher than the daemon, but rolls less than 30% higher than the daemon, then they make some headway in breaking free from the daemon’s curse. The host may not move this turn, but the daemon loses 1D10 from their willpower, making it easier for the host to break free in subsequent turns. (Notice how the daemon loses less than hosts when he loses. This is to represent the daemon’s stronger resolve, and the fact that he’s probably done this a million times before, and is not easily dissuaded.)
Blunts gain +30 to their willpower for the purposes of these tests, representing the inherent difficulty that the daemon would find in locating the host’s soul. Tau, for instance, fall into this category.
Blanks are immune to the daemonic circle’s influence. They can pass over it with no effect to either the character or the circle.
Pariahs automatically snuff out the daemonic circle when it enters their sphere of pariah influence.

When the daemon takes control of the host, the host replaces all of their mental statistics with that of the daemon, and gains several daemonic traits. In effect, they become a daemonhost for the rest of the game, under the control either the GM, or the summoner’s player.
Damage totals, injuries etc sustained by the host before possession are carried over to their daemonhost self.

Illuminati characters, if you wanted to really add a bit of flavour to these rules, could be quite interesting. Instead of simply throwing the daemonic possession off of themselves, they could wrestle the daemon down and use his powers for themselves. In this instance, they would gain all of the daemon’s traits as described above, but still remain under the owning player’s control. Perhaps some sort of positive willpower modifier would also be appropriate, considering how any illuminatus will have invited and fought off daemonic possession before now…

[EDIT//] The reason I liked the idea of the “possession” rather than outright summoning idea was that the summoner would actually be able to set traps for certain enemy characters, leaving a circle drawn in an area, and then hiding/waiting for someone to step into it, before beginning his chanting/praying/activation of the circle…. It would open up a lot of interesting gameplay options, and would also help reduce the narrative gravity of a daemon walking around on the tabletop.

[FURTHER EDIT///:] Just an idea: You may want to include a NEGATIVE modifier to the willpower check for daemonic resistance for unsanctioned psykers who have not gone through the blackships. This might help to add a negative consequence for blackship dodgers. :P
« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 10:18:39 AM by Ynek »
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Offline Brother_Brimstone

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2011, 01:32:18 PM »
Hey, thanks very much for your really in-depth response. I appreciate the time you've put into sharing your advice. I must admit that as far as this idea is concerned, the model is the father of the the fluff/rules. I've bought the (in my opinion) amazing Dragoth miniture and wanted an excuse to field a character sitting on a throne of skeletons and flesh. Obviously, such a character would't be moving around like that, sitting on a chair which is clearly attached to the ground, so I struck on the idea of making him a summonable character, who is summoned on his daemonly throne, and once he gets off the throne, you know you're in trouble... I was going to sculpt robes on the daemoness that comes with him who is bearing his helmet, and lop off her tail, making her into cultist carrying a powerful artifact of her master (his helmet).

Therefore, rather than actually just having an immaterial daemon character, i wanted some excuse to be able to put that beauty of a model on the board as a PC. I already have a daemonhost as my main character in another warband, and so i wanted to go in a slightly different direction with this one, and actually just have a summoned daemon..

I get what you are saying about the amount of effort it takes to summon a powerful daemon, and am myself wanting to strike a balance between what makes sense fullf-wise and what will be workable game-wise. While a year-long ritual will, of course, be more realistic for a summoning, it wouldn't be very workable on the board! I was intending to say 3 things with regard to the summoning;

1) the cultist already does 'pre-mission pre-summomning rituals'. Perhaps before any mission in the name of her master, she slays a virgin and takes a vial of their blood, or some other fould preparation
2) the cultist is the daemons arch-thegn, his soul-bound servant, and as such she perhaps knows a portion of his True Name, or has some sort of bond with him, allowing a much greater level of communication than is normally possible. Beyond this, she has summoned him many times before, and is well versed in that specific ritual.
3) the artifact the cultist carries is a portion of the daemon's armour. It is a part of his very essence, and as you suggest, makes summoning easier, as the cultist starts with a portion of the daemon's essence here in realspace

The daemon himself will be quite khornate in character (just based on the fact that the character is quite literally sitting on a throne of skulls!), but i think he will be an independent daemon, which explains why he himself is a master, rather than a drone (maybe he is an old khornate warrior who acheived ascension and has since found some way to strike out on his own, maybe he is the embodiment an aspect of bloodshed not quite covered by the blood-god himself etc...). As to why he won't be massively powerful, i thought simply this; he is in realspace, and it is not his home. In the Warp he is a LOT more powerful than he would be on the board, but when he is summoned, suddenly he finds himself using a lot of his energy simply trying to ensure he doesn't get ripped back into the Warp. He is a thing that shouldn't be, and nature itself is fighting him every second. The fact he can retain the form of a large, well armoured man alone is evidence of his huge power, and being able to fight natural inhabitants of this world on their own terms, even if he isn't eating planets and raining fire, is evidence enough that he is a fairly powerful daemon!

While I also agree about your 'inquisitor priorities' point, I think it somewhat misrepresents the situation. An inquisitor investigating illegal arms smuggling isn't going to be equipped to deal with a big, armoured daemon! Yes, he will make it a priority to try and destroy the daemon, but not all inquisitors are suicidal lunatics, and I find it quite plausible that although he may swear he will make that foul beast rue the day it crossed him, a reasonable Inquisitor may be quite satisfied to simply win a small victory (i.e. whatever their objective was pre-daemon) and retreat to safety to plan revenge. I realise that playing an obviously Chaos character makes games a lot less about tense diplomacy, but i still believe there is a place for them as PCs in Inquisitor (once again, Zophar, while less obviously Chaosy and able to pass himself off as an Imperial official in many situations, spends a lot of his time being hounded by the Emperor's Servants, and I find it makes for quite interesting gameplay).

At any rate, I'm actually getting ready to get a university friend of mine into Inquisitor and i'm making two new warbands - an Ordo Malleus Inquisitor and this daemon and its cultist, in order to get a campaign going wherein the Inquisitor crosses paths with the daemon, and vows to track it down and kill it, as the daemon tries to build up a sufficient force to overcome the planet (in game terms meaning the daemon and the Inquisitor must fight for a series of Maguffins/other objectives, culminating in a final showdown which will determine the fate of planet Genericus IV (which in turn will provide background for future campaigns)). Thus 'fitting the daemon in' won't be too much of a problem for me, as the campaign will be centred around him and his nemesis.

Thanks again for the input, any further comments are appreciated.

Offline InquisitorHeidfeld

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2011, 01:39:44 PM »
Although it's not always the case I like limit summoning of daemonic entities to two methods, the first being sorcery (the real stuff which got Magnus the Red into such hot water) but would tend to make the wimpy cultist a little less wimpy.
The second method is ritual (which are the sorts of events we generally feature in games) involving carefully drawn circles, chanting, mystic runes (or if you're feeling Pratchettian then chanting "Mystic Runes"  ;) ), and most importantly reasonable quantities of human sacrifice.

I might have a warband of 1 + the significant number, the leader of the cult (the 1) could spend a turn drawing the circle (with each of the others filling in their bits), 1 turn dropping an antidote tab then drinking from and passing "The Sacred Chalice"... Then as the poison in the chalice takes effect a further turn slitting throats.

This has a few effects.
First it leaves evidence of the event (always important).
Secondly, if it isn't worth the time for "The Master" then you give all of the cultists knives and drop a couple of autopistols into the mix (plus the leader's) and you have an interesting group who will die satisfyingly to the opponent while scaring the pants off him  ;D

Offline Brother_Brimstone

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2011, 01:47:10 PM »
Got to say, I quite like the human sacrifice idea. Perhaps start the game with a regular warband of 4, and then to summon the daemon, the three non-arch-thegn characters must die ritualistically and are replaced by the daemon. It would mean the lead cultist would have a better chance of survival pre-daemon, or if the summoning is interrupted, but that the party wouldn't be  too overpowered once the daemon is 'tagged in'.

Thanks for the input - going to give that idea some seeeeerious consideration (by which I mean i'm already researching models for generic cultists :p)

Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2011, 02:48:19 PM »
I think I like Heidfeld's suggestion here. I've found that glass cannon characters (which, essentially, is what your cultist is) aren't a great balancing solution for Inquisitor - it might be theoretically fair, but whether they shatter or whether they turn the entire opposing warband inside out, it's not hugely thrilling for the players involved.

If you tone that back a bit by having a less frail starting solution, then your opponents will feel more satisfied when they avert the summoning.
I recall RobSkib finding it somewhat anti-climatic when he shot Maya Avens a couple of times at the Summer Conclave and she just dropped unconscious.
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Offline Brother_Brimstone

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Re: A daemon summoning character
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2011, 07:08:24 PM »
I think that's a very good point, and has effectively swung my decision. I agree with the glass cannon point; while making things constantly change and mixing things up can really spice a game up, I think making a giant leap from 'pathetic' to 'devastating' will quickly wear thin.

The starting group will still be vastly less powerful than their opponent (three mid-to-low stat cultists with swords and autopistols and one with a revolver versus a high-stat ordo malleus inquisitor with  a powerfist and bolt pistol), but not so much so that they're going to be instantly ripped to shreds (as just one cultist with a revolver would be!).

Thanks for the advice!