Friday, June 7, 2013

Digging Into Demonlord

You want exegesis of obscure gaming texts? You got it.

Right now I'm working up a campaign backdrop based on the old Heritage USA/Dwarfstar Games minigame Demonlord. I've been a fan of its Charles Vess cover artwork for years, and since I discovered that it's available for free download courtesy of Reaper Miniatures, I've started revamping its lovely hexmap for my own uses. (More on that another time.) Here's a little blurb I threw together on Google+ to describe my approach:

"The latest conflict between the Demonlord's armies and the alliance of Hosar ended in a stalemate that would better be described as a mutual loss, partly due to both sides' inability to rally the neutral factions -- the Ancients, Lyung, the Altu'han cragsmen, and the forest barbarians -- in any meaningful way. 

With its failure to convincingly defeat the infernal powers of the southeastern steppe, the Hosarite religion has lost much of its sway over the people, and cults both old and new, wondrous and terrible, are re-emerging. Petty princes and bandits rise up in the place of lords disgraced or slain during the war. Monsters and vile warlocks once pressed into the Demonlord's service are now unleashed to do as they will. Into this vacuum come the player characters, looking to establish a new power in the lands where Hosar stumbled."

Thus, my setting might be described as post-Demonlord. Today, I'm combing the rules pamphlet for Demonlord for setting information. The opening text contains some interesting information about "the demon domains":

 "On Narth, once called the “continent of man”, the origins of the Demons are obscure. Some say a wizard’s summoning went out of control. Others suggest that the Demons themselves opened a magical gateway, still extent at the gate of Tor’zem, the Demonlord Capital. A few philosophers even believe that the Demons are a natural race, like humans or dwarves, except the Demons became stronger than others.

...Demons are now the power on Narth, and each Demonlord rules his own province under the Emperor. Although Demons are a tiny minority, through their great power, magic, and capacity for evil they act as captains, administrators, and governors of many lesser races such as half-men, demi-men, goblins, orcs, and other manish races of darkness."

We're told that the continent is called Narth, there are multiple Demonlords ruled by a single Emperor, and Demon provinces are not crawling with Demons, just ruled by them. The word "Demon" is consistently capitalized throughout the text, as is "Troll". "Dwarf" is also capitalized everywhere except in the first mention ("dwarves"). Oddly, none of the other races get the fancy capitalization.

I'm going to have fun figuring out what "half-men" and "demi-men" are. I also get to figure out what "other manish [sic] races of darkness" means. The use of "other" implies that all the ones mentioned thus far (including goblins and orcs) are also "manish". (Hmm... the word "human" is also not capitalized. Maybe if you're "manish" you're not a proper noun.)

"But here, humans and semi-human allies resist them, banding together under the influence of Hosar, a sun-god cult."

So, humans have "semi-human allies". You might assume that the Dwarves would be one of these, but that's unlikely to be the intent here, since in the game, either the humans or the Demons are able to strike an alliance with the Kingdom of Ula, the Dwarf region. (There's also a 50% chance that the Kingdom "is ruled by the Balron character and has the Trolls... and two slave miner... units". I guess the Dwarves dug too deeply.) So it's not the Dwarves. Who, then? Elves? Halflings? Something else?

Also, the phrasing here is interesting. It's likely that it's simply clunky grammar, but reading this literally, "Hosar" is the name of the cult, not necessarily the "sun-god" it worships. Subsequent references I've found thus far also consistently refer to either "the Hosar alliance" or "the alliance of Hosar". I'm not sure if this is worth exploring, but I did find it worthy of comment.

(Oh yeah, the blog is back.)


  1. I've printed the game and played it solo a few times. The boardgame itself I think needs to let the Hosar player have a free set up if they ever plan on having a chance to win.

  2. "(Oh yeah, the blog is back.)"


  3. We played this game alot when it first came out. I think I was in grade school. From what I remembered, it was fairly well balanced. I usually played the good guys and I had the first turn pretty much nailed down as to what to move where and which allies to go after first. The result of the game often came down to which of the demon units the bad guy drew. That was a nice mechanic, picking a certain number from a pool. It gave the game a nice variety. Sort like Awefull Green Things which was another game I played over and over.