Demons of Light – Conjuration

I’ve been working on the most involved and difficult part of Demons of Light’s spell system for a couple of months now. I’m sick of D&D Vancian magic. It does the job, but almost every RPG uses it. Plus, the underlying logic of locking spell energy into your brain to release later is weirdly specific to Dying Earth. Right now I’m working on doing conjuration justice. Most of the time conjurers get the short end of the stick. The good spells don’t come in till very high level, so they’re crazy under-powered for most of the game. A few games have tried to fix them. Nephilim had a pretty detailed system but I’ve never gotten the chance to play it, so I don’t know how it runs.

I’m modeling as closely as I can the structure and feel of Medieval Solomonic conjuration. I’m working primarily from the The Veritable Clavicles of Solomon and Book II of the Key of Solomon, with scattered references drawn from the Trithemian Art of Drawing Spirits Into Crystals and a few other places (all sources can be found on Twilit Grotto Archives). If you look into the history of the actual practices, they mostly flourished inside the Catholic Church (though Protestants had some of that action later on). It wasn’t a bunch of black robed Satanists, sitting in a basement, drawing magic circles and calling up demons. For the most part it was certain Christian priests and clerics themselves who secretly performed the rituals and passed them down to others. You had to be literate, wealthy, and know Latin to study and practice the Goetia. These were steep requirements in an age where most people couldn’t read or afford to have ceremonial made out of gold. The sheer number of tools and paraphernalia required to perform these rituals is staggering (and can get very expensive).

I decided to design a Consecration Ritual for every single tool and make the whole system extremely bottom heavy. Force the players to suffer a bit before they qualify for the good powers. Also the tools don’t grant bonuses to the Casting Check for Summoning Rituals. That way lies madness (believe me, I tested it as a 5th Edition homebrew. I ended up with DCs in the 80-90 range to keep up with the insane number of adds). Instead, each item fulfills a prerequisite of a given ritual. Each prerequisite that is ignored increases the Critical Fumble range. Getting all the ceremonial tools together and properly consecrated means you can do the rituals with a chance of success. It’s the expected baseline “normal” rather than extra credit. A player can always say “Screw it“, and try summoning a demon without doing the necessary groundwork first, but they’re taking an awful risk. The giant list of fetch-quests also incentivizes burgling high level NPC conjurers and just making off with all their tools (which is a bad idea for other reasons). I’ve written over twenty prerequisite Consecration Rituals so far and I’m finally getting to the actual spirit summoning stuff. Here are a couple examples:

Consecration of the Rod of Power

Ranks: Conjuration 1
Casting Time: 1 Hour
Max Range: Touch
Materials: Holy Water, Consecrated Aspergillum, Hazel Branch from a tree less than a year old (cut in a single stroke with the White-Hilted Knife), Consecrated Burin.
Location: Ritual Chamber
Time: Day and Hour of Mercury.
Sacrifice: None
Offerings: None
Special Requirements: Ritual Purity
Prerequisite Casting: Exorcism of the Fire
Casting Check: Conjuration (Mundane Psyche)
• Prerequisite Skill Check: Juggling (Mundane Shadow)

“The Staff of Algonn, Saint of Exorcists shall I catch. Mine in place of Thine O Lord, though mine be the poorer, with Thine I shall do all thy work. Amen.”

Effect: The conjurer cuts the branch during the proper day at sunrise and engraves runes of power onto it. Then throws it into the air three times, reciting the petition to Saint Algonn. If they fail the Juggling Check they drop the staff and the consecration fails. They must begin again with a new branch on a different day.

Success: The Rod of Power is created.
Failure: The Holy Water and Hazel Branch are wasted and the Ritual must be repeated.
Critical Success: A Blasting Rod is created. It performs all of the functions of a Rod of Power, but can also be used as a weapon to make Ranged Supernatural Attacks against spirits. Each attack costs 2 VF and if successful deals 2d6 damage. Such attacks pass through a Magical Circle without breaking it. The Blasting Rod can be used outside of a Conjuration Ritual as long as the wielder is Ritually Pure, and no action that would desecrate it is performed. If desecrated, it can be re-consecrated later, but it does not automatically regain its status as a Blasting Rod.
Critical Failure: Roll on the Conjuration Fumble Table.

Exorcism of the Victim
Ranks: Conjuration 1
Casting Time: 1 Minute
Max Range: Touch
Materials: Holy Water, Consecrated Aspergillum, Consecrated Blood Cup, Black-Hilted Knife or Consecrated Sword.
Location: Ritual Chamber
Time: Immediately prior to a sacrifice.
Sacrifice: None
Offerings: None
Special Requirements: Ritual Purity
Prerequisite Casting: Exorcism of the Fire
Casting Check: Conjuration (Mundane Psyche)

“O almighty God, who holdeth all the earth in thy hands, sanctify this victim by thy virtue, so that the pouring forth of its blood may please you, and since you gave me the power to slay it if I wish or spare its life, bestow upon it the same blessing. O angels and spirits, come and collect this blood, and offer it up to the Supreme God. Amen.”

Effect: This Ritual makes a sacrifice acceptable to the spirits.

Success: The sacrifice is consecrated and ready to be slain. A ritual requiring a sacrifice may now be performed.
Failure: The sacrifice is deemed unacceptable by the spirits. A different one must be offered.
Critical Success: The spirits are well pleased. +1 to the Reaction Roll.
Critical Failure: The purposed sacrifice is offensive to the spirits. The Reaction Roll is made at -1 unless the next Ritual in the chain is postponed a day and a different sacrifice is used. Roll on the Conjuration Fumble Table.

Donning the Garments
Ranks: Conjuration 1
Casting Time: 1 Minute
Max Range: Touch
Materials: Consecrated Vestments
Location: Ritual Chamber
Time: Immediately prior to a Ritual.
Sacrifice: None
Offerings: None
Special Requirements: Ritual Purity
Prerequisite Casting: Rite of Purification
Casting Check: This Ritual always succeeds.

“ANKHENOR, SATTOR, AMNYVORS, TAUGEZ, FOEGHAREL, PHANGORITH, EANETAR; through the grace of these holy seraphs will I robe myself in the vestments of power, through which may I bring to a desired end all that which I most ardently pursue, through thee, O boundless RYHAL, whose dominion endureth beyond the bounds of time. Amen.”

Effect: A short prayer is recited as the conjurer puts on their ceremonial clothing. This Ritual automatically succeeds without a Casting Check.

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