Roleplaying demons


I'm trying to figure something out and am really "stuck".
My main source of information come from RoP:tI, notably page 46 box "roleplaying demons".

Let's say this.

A top ranked demon has been imprisonned for 300 years somewhere he couldn't get out. Due to his efforts, one of the few infernalist looking to save him finally succeed, while he has betrayed some of the other infernalists (who died trying), and let other infernalists behind him.

The major demon is "freed", but due to the PCs, the infernalist find himself having to hide in the prison where the demon is stuck, to avoid death or a fight he would probably not win easily.

Now I'm trying to decide if the demon would, or would not, send help to save the infernalist who helped him.

For context information: from what is known by the demon himself at the time he has to decide, saving his man would not be really hard. On a scale of 1 (easy) to 10 (dangerous), it would be a 2 or 3. (For comparison, to save him from the prison, it would have been a 9 for the infernalist). It's just finding some mundanes, using NOT magical means (payment, authority...) to push them in the prison, search the place - eventually kill the magi's soldiers if any is left - take the man, go out. The demon itself will not come close the entrance of the prison anymore but there are little risk the magi would check, because they do not know the prison holds the infernalit at the moment.

On the "wouldn't, obviously" side, I have those arguments (marked by "-" sign):
On the "would, of course", I have those (marked by "+" sign)

a demon cannot display caution :

  • why would the demon be cautious and help one of his most loyal and efficient servants?
  • right of course, but why would the demon not do something showing to his cohorts that they should indulge more in sinning and sell more souls to him to gain more power? saving one to gain potential soul-sellers customers is just good buziness, and a demon cannot think "bigger is not always better".

a demon can never act when doing so would benefit another

  • the infernalist is trapped, that's his problem.
  • right... but by getting his most skilled man, he keeps a useful tool for himself. So saving the infernalist is in fact a egoist act; and he is really "putting his needs before the needs of his loyal servant" (a contrario of "a demon can never put another needs before its own")

a demon can never remain loyal without coercion.

  • That's say all.
  • sure, sure, but the demon is NOT loyal to the infernalist, the infernalist is loyal to the demon : for 350 years, he tried to save him (for what knows the demon because both have only had 1 hour to speak before the demon got out of the prison, and the infernalist stayed in...)

a demon cannot exhibit a conscience.

  • Why save someone even if he did help him?
  • you say "saving" the infernalist... I, as demon, say "putting his life (and thus soul!) at risk once more time, for my own benefit". Saving him is thus not conscience, but plain evil.

a demon cannot acknowledge its own weakness

  • the demon will win because he is a elector of hell, that's all. No chance of the ORder winning any day.

but a demon cannot act bravely in the face of a superior foe

  • it's brave to go against those enemies without using all my human pets. Thus saving him is being coward and assuring the most power to win.

a demon can never request assistance against an inferior foe.

  • First, the demon is not asking assistance, and secondly, his human foe had him - an elector of hell - imprisonned for 300 years, and has proven to not be an inferior foe. The man himself may be down, but the organization of which he was a member, the Order, is quite functionnal and is now the target of the demon's revenge. Getting back his human pet who has proven skilled is thus good for a revenge! (thus he is not showing control of his anger, which a demon could not do!)

Additional fact: if the infernalist stays in the prison, he will not die from old age and has few chances to get discovered and killed, which means the demon may never collect the soul.

At the moment, I'm really undecided and as you can read, I have both ways arguments.
What would you choose?

If it were my game, the demon would abandon his ally. Because demons are assholes. And if the demon is eventually defeated later, I'd stress that it was defeated because it abandon its ally. The whole thing would then illustrate a moral lesson, which is the point.

In my game, too, the demon would abandon the infernalist: "A more powerful demon rarely steps in to assist a weaker demon or a human dupe, even if it means the downfall of its schemes" [RoP:I, p.45].

Note the rarely! In general, I'd allow a demon with the right nature and/or expending extreme effort (Confidence points) to display sufficient forethought to help a useful minion if clearly, and in the relatively short term a) the minion has some specific, crucial function AND b) more grief is caused than prevented, overall. But I would not allow a demon to save a minion because "uhm, he showed loyalty, so he might be useful in the future". That way of thinking is just alien to demons.

I agree with the "abandon the infernalist" route, with the following caveat - when I RP demons, I have them spend confidence points every so often, in order to critique their own plans.
Generally speaking, this allows the demon to put together and maintain plans that don't outright violate the Evil Overlord list. ("I will run my plan by a 5-year old child...etc.") In this particular circumstance, it allows enough self-awareness to figure out the whole "oh, yeah. I have plans in the future, that that tool may be useful for that."

However, if it's between times during which they spent their confidence points (and thus, the PC's have potentially come in and used their free will to muck around with the demon's obviously brilliant plan), then no - they'd just abandon them. However, If the infernalist is still alive the next time they refresh their plan, then they may consider it.

It would depend on the demons and its particular vice. It depends on the needs of your stories. There's a lot of good reasons for abandoning the poor bastard, but there may be a few arguments for rescuing him. The demon probably won't PLAN to rescue him, not to repay his services nor any other reason.. But the demon may decide to at a later point to re-include him in his plans. Perhaps the demon needs someone to do a thing, and realizes he has a cultist in storage. Perhaps he just wants to send more people to their deaths in an attempt to 'rescue' the cultist. Or maybe he just really, really wants the soul.

To me it would come down to utility- what is the future value of the infernalists versus the cost? It sounds to me that the cost is a bit of material wealth to sacrifice some non-followers to save a follower (the demonic nature probably won't let him consider any risk to himself as real given the description posted.
So will the infernalist be of more use to him in the future than the cost is worth? I would say probably, given the value he has already shown himself to be, assuming he didn't do anything in the process to reduce his apparent value (like sacrifice his own power or sustain scars that would impair his ability to work in human society unnoticed)


I suppose some questions:

  1. Why doesn't the demon just kill the infernalist right now? The incompetent boob left him there for 300 years to languish and suffer. So selfish.

  2. Ok, maybe there's a reason not to kill the infernalist. Maybe it's better to let him suffer the very same imprisonment for 300 years. True Justice! But why rescue him? Surely a demon has more important things to do.

  3. Ok, maybe there's a reason to exert oneself on behalf of this very undeserving human. But is the benefit significant and imminent enough to be worth the risk, the effort and above all, the willingness to do the wrong thing?



Hi folks,

First many thank for your time answering here.

Ovarwa, your questions are good one.

In fact, I really have a hard time with the fact that Demons are presented as dangerous/cunning while in the same time they are so flawed. It's not easy to roleplay i must say.

The demon personality traits are (quite uninspiring maybe, sorry ^^) : Personality traits: cruel +6, proud +6, overconfident +6. He is known as the Grand Bookkeeper of Hell (at +9 reputation being one of the Electors).

Like most demons, this one is involved in rivalry with other high ranked, and this human is seemingly the most potent of his followers. Most of the other followers turned to his rivals during his captivity, but he quickly will react by targetting humans who are not yet protected by the Divine, some pagan come from Far East.

Towards the prison, I see the demon as deciding to destroy all the doors, so that nobody can use it against it again, if it cannot seize them for itself to use against his rivals and enemies.

From all of your answers, I'm slowly (that adventure would be for in like 3-4 weeks at least) going for the "no salvage, but if it puts hand on a door, he can then send some of his new toys to get his follower back" route. This way the follower is motivated to think the demon cared for him, and give him more loyalty, and the demon do not take any extra step from what he would have done anyway. And if the human shows any sign of discontentment, killing him gives one long due soul.
That's just sloth added to cunning, a no risk policy, with a bit of short-sightingI assume demons should have if we accept that they are flawed.

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They are dangerous. They are cunning, but there are limitations to this, just as a fox can be cunning yet has vast limitations compared to, say, a seven year old.

It is the proverbial 7 year old child who is most relevant here, because there are great Internet guides to roleplaying demons, in the form of Evil Overlord lists. Just as an evil overlord would never degrade himself and ask a 7yo to check over his cunning plan, so it is with demons.

Ars Magica demons, rather than being a rare, weird, corner case kind of character, actually belong to one of the most common character cliches!

As an aside, I think that the notion of "cognizance" is even more useful for thinking about demons than about faeries: To what extent does a demon know about its limitations? That it cannot love. That it knows nothing of loyalty. That it is a coward. That it is damned. That it cannot change.

For example, two demons might kill off their loyal followers. But one mocks them for being stupid enough to trust a demon, and now they are damned too, mwhahaha! And the other sorrowfully kills them off for what seems to be good and other reasons. This one broke a rule and that one died in an impossible mission and that other one was killed for refusing the impossible mission...

Kind of like the Simpson's episode in which Mr Burns tries to do good and winds up inventing the Omni-net, "no sea creature wasted."



This bit is interesting. If the demon wants to collect the guys soul he'll probably send some people to kill the Infernalist. If he wants the guys help again the demon might send some help, but I don't see the demon sending any help before that. I mean, the guy is alive and safe right? Heck, the infernalist can probably spend time practicing his abilities. I guess it comes down to if the demon wants to add a soul to his tally or wants an infernalist in storage.

Eh. Try to make it so any "plans" are really just a series of steps to gain power, corrupt people etc. with quick pay off. Demons might like making complex plans, but they have no follow through. If they see a chance to corrupt a priest they take it out of greed and desire to corrupt. If a hero comes along and murders the corrupt priest that's a soul. If the corrupt priest is exposed and faith in the Church is damaged. If it looks like the priest might repent the demon kills him and collects a soul. No matter what the demon wins.

If the demon sees another opportunity he can use the priest to help him. He might help the corrupt priest rise in the Church hierarchy because he wants a corrupt bishop. That's plain greed. Then he'll probably try and get the corrupt bishop to corrupt more priests or nuns or something. And so forth. It might end up with the demon getting a whole team of infernalists, or causing widespread loss of faith or something grand, but it started just to corrupt one priest. Later, no matter when it all comes apart the demon can say it was his plan all along, he won, and then vanish in a poof of sulfur and run very, very far away.

I always found the biggest problem with trying to use Demons as villains in Ars Magica is the 'Demons do not plan' clause. At least for my own game, it's more turned into 'Demons don't make contingency plans', otherwise I seem to fail on long-term plot. My demons end up cocky and confident, so they never make plans with 'if X happens, then Y', instead falling into the 'When X happens, then Y' because they can't realize the possibility they may be wrong. The bigger the demon's might/reputation, the longer and crazier their plans go. The Might 5 implings will try and cause immediate sins, while the Might 25 demon barons will happily give a young man a magic sword, and figure that it's going to cause Wrath and Envy along the way.

Demons might not plan, but they are likely to waste a lot of time thinking that they are planning.

They also can have schemes that have many different contingencies, but these are not full plans in the sense of something that can be reviewed and adjusted. Not that this would be helpful: Anyone capable enough to appreciate the genius of my plan is likely to steal it for himself or ruin it with 'improvements.'

This is how you spend 20 years building a Death Star with a fatal flaw, and then have a genius plan to let Obi-Wan's sidekicks go--with the plans--so you can track them, rather than just capturing them. This is how you then build another Death Star with only one legion of stormtroopers protecting it. Why not build two, and have one already complete? Why not exterminate the Ewoks? Why not build the thing in a system without pesky life forms? Why trust Vader with your back when you are vulnerable while torturing Luke with force lightning? Overconfidence, laziness, greed, and a total inability to acknowledge one's limitations.

Technically demons do not plan because they have facilities that are better than planning- a sort of access to a cosmic sense of what is going to work out the best for them- one that derives from their formerly angelic nature... they also have a tendency to use humans to help develop plans, depending on the demon. Which really, most of this comes down to "deepening on the demon" and how they deal with the special circumstances of being a demon. Because while they won't ask for help they will use anybody as a tool to achieve their ends.

Forget about the demon. He has 300 years of catching up to do.

The infernalist probably has a contingency. Something the demon wants or needs to coherse the demon with.

Basically your answer should stem from the infernalist not the demon.


I think it may depend on the type of demon. a False God is used to being worshiped, and could see the infernalist as a potential worshiper, while other demons might be suspicious of the infernalists motives and decide to leave him there- after all who would free a demon they didn't believe they could control?