Friday, August 16, 2013

What Is A Demon? (Part I)

Though my campaign is called "The Demon Verge", I don't really have a clear idea of what the titular "Demons" are. This is largely because the game it's based on doesn't provide much information about them. That sketchiness has mostly been a boon for me thus far. Still, I feel kind of strange about leaving the villains of the setting in such a vague state, so I might as well start figuring some things out.

As I've discussed previously, the wargame Demonlord includes a dwarven kingdom that is menaced by something called "the Balron". It's one of the few things in the game that is a transparent Tolkienism. For the Demon Verge campaign, I try not to directly contradict anything from the game that inspired it, but I have to admit that I kind of roll my eyes every time I have to mention the Balron. For that reason, I decided that the Balron is understood to have been slain by a powerful wizard during the last war. (I figured if I'm going to have a Tolkien ripoff stomping around in the backstory, I might as well write it out with another Tolkien ripoff.)

For laughs, I decided to do an image search for "Balron" (as opposed to "Balrog", which gets you a lot of images of the monster from Jackson's Lord of the Rings films and the big boxer from Street Fighter II). Here's what I get:

Both are apparently from manuals for the Ultima series of computer games, which also used the name "Balron" instead of "Balrog". They've both got the sword-and-whip thing going on, just like the Balrog. Like the designers of Demonlord, the Ultima people obviously liked Tokien's Balrog enough to use it in their game, but probably feared legal trouble from those controlling his intellectual property. Fair enough, but I find this kind of direct ripoff a bit uninspiring, even though I have a soft spot for Denis Loubet's artwork.

I stumbled across another "Balron" during my search, though:

This Balron is a villain from the Saint Seiya anime series, as far as I can tell. The sword has been jettisoned from the standard Balrog armament, and instead of a big leathery beast, this version is a pretty man in demonic armor. I actually find this take kind of interesting, because to me it seems to be somewhat in line with what little is written about the Demons in the Demonlord rules manual:

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 [sic] 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.

In that rulebook, it's never stated that "the Balron character" is a Demon.  But the mention of the Demons possibly being "a natural race, like humans or dwarves," suggests to me that they are probably not completely monstrous in appearance. The Demonlords themselves are depicted on their chit counters as horned heads with Dracula-style collars, and one could reasonably assume that the individual on the cover of the game is meant to be a Demonlord. (The Balron's chit looks a little different from that of the various Demonlords: its silhouette is vaguely humanoid, with horns, wings, and big feet.) Whether or not the Balron was a Demon, the idea of mostly human-like Demons like "Balron Rene" is an appealing possibility for my campaign.

1 comment:

  1. Balron is to Demons as Ogre(?) is to humans, perhaps?

    Another idea, Demons are humans (maybe elves & dwarves?) that have made a pact/sold their soul to Chaos/Evil/the Big Bad. Since humans are weak and frail the Big Bad has enhanced them so that they will be of use. The horns and the newfound fashion sense are the marks of the pact.


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