Dungeons & Dragons, Fantasy, House Rules, Labyrinth Lord, LotFP, Magic, OSR, RPG, Spells, Stormbringer, Summoning, Weird
Most of my campaigns focus on the battle between Law and Chaos, not Good and Evil. Even if it isn’t the focus of the campaign, it will turn up. Like in my latest campaign, the party has traveled far enough to the North that the veneer of Law is breaking down, and the planetary crust is less than a mile deep before it breaks off into chaos – and someone was trying to break down one of the anchors that keeps it that way.
This probably has to do with two things that are closely linked in my fantasy history.
1. I love the Eternal Champion series by Michael Moorcock. It was my introduction to “adult” sword & sorcery fantasy at the age of 9 (prior to that, my first fantasy novels were the Chronicles of Prydain) and because of it, I have never been able to truly enjoy Tolkien’s works or the many Tolkien-derivative works out there.
2. The first D&D set I owned was the Moldvay Basic set. No Good and Evil alignments to be seen, which reinforced the concepts I had picked up from my Moorcock readings.
Thus I look at my Elric! and Stormbringer RPG books with great fondness – even though I’m not a fan of the BRP system overall and prefer my fantasy RPGs to be D&D-based. But what is lacking in these D&D-based games is the awesome demon summoning from Stormbringer. I tried in vain to make the system from the d20 version of the game (Dragon Lords of Melniboné) work, but it wasn’t all that well ported to the d20 system (actually, very little of that book was, sadly).
But then I picked up Lamentations of the Flame Princess. You can too – the Rules & Magic book is a free download on RPGnow, and for a week or so the fully illustrated version is only $2.50.
While much of Lamentations is a lightly house-ruled B/X D&D (with awesome art and production), hidden away in the spells is the wonderful level 1 Magic User spell “Summon”.
Originally, I was going to reproduce the whole spell here, with the OGL declaration and everything. But really, just go download the PDF from RPGnow. The spell in question is on page 134 of the no-art version. It actually goes from 134 to 143. At heart, it is a chaos-demon summoning spell ripped right out of the old school love for all things random, chaotic and magical. It’s as close to a Stormbringer summoning as I’ve seen yet, and it makes me ecstatic.
In fact, it was the inspiration for what burned down the house in Imp Brucke. A summons gone tragically wrong, but where the summoned beast didn’t get to stick around for long.
For use in a regular campaign, I would recommend sitting down for an hour before hand and rolling up a selection of random summons at each Hit Die level you expect the player(s) to use, just to speed up play a bit (well, a lot).
Now that you’ve read the spell, give me one good reason why you aren’t incorporating it into your OSR D&D-alike game. Right now I’ll tell you that your reason is bunk. This spell has legs. Let it run free!
Anthony Burke said:
Actually Dyson I am a big fan of Moorcock as well and have always thought it a shame that demon summoning wasn’t in any D&D. White Dwarf did an article for demon summoning in runequest and followed it up with a demonist class that could summon all sorts of critters. At the moment I am quite enamoured with Dungeon World and am currently looking to convert the basic classes into something that can be used to replicate the Young Kingdoms settings. The wizards class has an ability called Ritual that essentially allows a character to do anything. I was just going to rename it Summoning and specify that it allows the wizard to summon a demon to do whatever magic is required.
Simon Forster said:
There is also this lovely web page that will do all the calculations for you: http://summon.totalpartykill.ca/
Dyson Logos said:
That is awesome!
Brett Slocum said:
Okay, you’ve now sold me on LotFP Rules and Magic. That summon spell will be perfect for my C&S conversion. I’ve also picked up Qelong, Seclusium, Carcosa, The God That Crawls, Monolith, and Pembrooktonshire.
I’m a fan of Chaosium’s BRP (prefer it to D&D-style, truth be told), and I adore Stormbringer. The demon summoning system is *gorgeous*, an infinite amount of fun for both GM and player. I think it hit its stride in 4th edition (with the green Moorcock cover). Thanks for the lead to Lamentations; in spite of what I wrote above, I’m likely to be running a B/X game, soon. This spell will make it much more “entertaining.” 🙂
I just started a Labyrinth Lord game on G+, and I’ve seriously considered adding LotFP’s Summon spell to MU’s spell list in order to inject some weirdness into the setting. I’ve already snagged a bunch of other rules mods from LotFP, this just makes me even more inclined.
Jay Murphy said:
I lost my 4th edition hardbound copy of Stormbringer in a drunken debauch in Daytona Beach Florida. Yeah I was a teenager who never left home without a copy of this rpg, and Kerouac’s on the road. Naked in the rain surrounded by thick jungle foliage is not friendly to books. Happy to report that I now travel with my pants on, and any copy of Stormbringer/Elric! I can get my hands on in my back pocket. The game is art. Keroac is jazz:)
Dyson Logos said:
Aaron Whitley said:
While I love the idea of this, my players would never use it. Waaay too much risk and very few rewards for them. That said, it is awesome for NPCs and villains to use. In fact, I could see this spell, or its results, as the basis for a campaign.
Jim Mc said:
Summon. Great for evil NPC’s. Not so good for the “heroes”.
Good = order/balance = Law
Evil = entropy/out of balance = Chaos
Moorcock and B/X definitely have good/evil, just a slightly different take on them. Not unlike virtually every eastern religion I can think of. I’ve found that most players who want to play chaotic/evil characters are usually just trying to gain an unfair advantage and circumvent the rules, i.e. “I’m evil/chaotic so I can do whatever I like with no consequences.”
I’m a huge fan of Moorcock, so I’m always glad to see a mention. I definitely need to check out LotFP a bit more.
Anthony, I’m not the sharpest stick in the pile, but you can definitely summon demons in 1e (gate, geas, cacodemon, monster summoning, etc.)
Sorry for the thread necromancy here, but for me the first version of Stormbringer it’s a favourite of mine.
Spells in FRPs tend to be “flash bang nonsense” as (Greg Stafford was it?) so aptly put it once, in the King Arthur Pendragon rpg. I myself really like ritual magic, and what I mean with the phrase is that: there are no real “spells”, only creatures that can be summoned and bound, and who gives spell-like effects. When these creatures are “spent” (have returned to their natives planes), the supply of “spells” is ended, and the magician has to go through the whole summoning/binding ritual again. I think: NICE!
Even more thread necromancy! And appropriately, too!
(Why is thread necromancy not-a-good-thing? Please feel free to reply to any posts I’ve ever made, especially on my blog or my forum!)
I’m going to save those Summoning pages and incorporate into my Tekumel game immediately!
But back to the “appropriateness” of thread necromancy, does anyone know of something similar for creating undead in D&D-ish games? My Sarku-worshipping players need to know!
Dyson Logos said:
Not for creating, but I have a system to produce non-level draining undead of various power levels based on the wight template.
The article on the blog is here:
and I think I updated it significantly for the version in the Dodecahedron Zine in issue… three I believe.
Neat, thanks! You did in fact expand it from d30 to d100 in the zine. I have so much gaming material that I completely forgot I own a bunch of your stuff on Drivethru, so I will save out those undead pages from issue three.