[D&D] Summoning a Fish Demon

edited May 2012 in Story Games
I think mainly this thread is just bragging about my game, but I have a genuine question too!

So in Saltmarsh one of the scholars found an old history book:

The Sea Came Unto the Mountains
This is an ancient book detailing a war that was so old as to be legend even when the book was written, a war that is now almost entirely forgotten, between the race of man, and the Fish-Demons. The Fish Demons invaded the land, trying to sink everything beneath the waves. But the race of man fought, and cast back the sea back. They were unable to pursue the fish demons into their watery home, however, and instead they were forced to sign a truce. The terms of the truce were that the Fish-Demons would swear not to again invade the land, and would serve humankind instead. But when a thousand demons had served a thousand years, the Demons would be free of their pact, free to attack the surface world again. The humans swore they would never summon the aid of the Demons, that the end of the pact would never come. But humans are weak, and their memory is short.

This session, the scholar managed to decipher the ritual for summoning the demons!

Here's what we know:
- The demons are sworn to serve
- One thousand demons must serve a thousand years before they are free (one million demon-years, in other words)
- No one knows how many years have already been served
- The summoning ritual must take place near water

Give me some cool rules for summoning Fish-Demons! It shouldn't be too dangerous, but maybe not risk-free either. It'd be cool if it didn't let the scholar summon a huge army of demons right away, but it's ok if it does. Bear in mind we're playing heavily strategic D&D, so costs and benefits are ultimately weighed in how they affect future aquisition of XPs (of course, one of the joys of D&D is how even minor things can have strategic importance).

Thanks!

BTW: The new combat rules are working great!

Comments

  • A good start would be to have the summoning be accomplished by tossing some specific item into the waves. The item should be rare (and adventurable for) and you can scale the number of fish demons summoned to the quantity or quality of the offering. Let's say for example it's the fossil of some extinct sea creature the fish-demons used to prey on in ages past that, conveniently, lived in a section of the ocean that is now dry land. So more fossils, more complete fossils, would be better offerings for the summoning. The PCs might need to contact a sage to get a lead on where to go fossil hunting, and then you can have PCs scaling cliff faces to chisel the fossils out of them while being pecked at by giant vultures, etc, all that good stuff. The ritual might go awry if the PCs accidentally offend the demons with the wrong fossil.

    Now this is just one example that's maybe not super exciting to you. But you could substitute anything else that's [something needed for the ritual somehow] and tie it to place, so the PCs can travel and have adventures to get it, that's something you can leave it in the PC's hands how good a ritual they can achieve, allow for a danger of error, etc.
  • edited May 2012
    Maybe it is cliché these days, but have you considered
    FISH SEX‽Supply the lusty fish queens with young, healthy, human husbands and once they complete their cavorts they will do you any service within their power!

    I guess human sacrifice works too, but yawn.
  • John,

    Barely a day passes in which I do not consider fish sex.

    I think the kind of thing I'm looking for is a cost/benefit or risk/reward tradeoff. Some tasty strategic choices for the player to make about how much a Fish Demon slave is worth. To my mind, a Fish Demon or two (or more) is a valuable thing, but not alarmingly outside the normal range of resources available to a low-level character. Not much more powerful than a paid henchman, for example. The cost/risk should be related to that.
  • Your first-born child... maybe yawn... but it does imply a strategic trade-off of the sort you seem to be looking for!
    Maybe if none of the party have children this could involve some sort of inter-planar travel to capture the essence of a character's future-to-be first-born? The more of these potential children you sacrifice, the more barren you become... so I suppose ultimately we are back to fish-sex :-)
  • Way too costly! You can get a peasant to stand between you and a horde of skeletons for the price of a few rounds of beers. A fish demon who does essentially the same thing shouldn't be substantially more expensive than that, the cost should just be something more interesting than gold.
  • I like the image of the player characters piling hundreds, maybe even thousands, of fish at the edge of an old dock as a sacrifice, themselves smelling of mackerel. Did they actually go fishing? Did they rob some fisherman? What happens if the pile of fish isn't enough to satisfy the fish demon and the only other thing that smells like food is the PCs?
  • You need bait to catch a fish. What bait you use will determine what kind of fish you lure ...

    This is 4E, right? In 4E, when making characters of a higher level, you get three magic items, at levels n-1, n, and n+1.

    Determine the value of the "bait", and they get a demon of level n-1 to n+1.
  • Not human sacrifice as such but someone has to agree to go and live with the Fish Demons for them to come and serve. This person will be well-treated, but what the Fish Demons considered good treatment is anyone's guess. And I hope they can breath underwater.

    What Fish Demons really crave is entertainment. Sounds are all messed up under the sea so they want musical theatre to entertain them as they come to the surface (and a youtube video of the performance).

    Fish Demons are confused by anagrams of their names and so can be controlled if you enact these anagrams. A commonly used one is FED HIM SONS but it's not very popular.

    Fish Demons will serve anyone who can kill one of their mortal enemies, the giant land octopus, in single-handed combat, armed only with the sacrificial K'Nah.

    Fish Demons adorn their scales with gold leaf. Provide enough gold to cover 1 scale each for 1,000 demons for each word of your command (Gold does spread pretty thinly but you have to choose your words carefully, $50 worth will cover 40cm x 40cm, or about 16 scales).
  • edited May 2012
    The character must get a tattoo of the true name of one of the demons scribed in their flesh with the barb from a kraken a mixture of squid ink, mild fish toxin that can cause hallucinations, and other strange things from the sea.

    One demon can be summoned per tattoo as a free action requiring a fortitude save as the tattoo becomes inflamed and releases the toxins back in your system. If you pass the check you are nauseous for a number of rounds equal to 2x the number of demons summoned. If you fail you begin hallucinating (count the character as under the confusions spell) for a number of rounds equal to 2x the number of demons summoned. Once you dismiss the demons the tattoos return to normal and you are fatigued a number of minutes equal to 2x the cumulative number of rounds you had summoned each demon.

    What the players may or may not know is that even though they don't always have their demons summoned they are still in their service and the clock continues to tick for each tattoo. For deciding on how much time is left roll a d1000 to determine the number of years served and a d100 to determine the number of other active tattoos in the world.

    There could also be a cult trying to un the clock down.
  • I made a couple rituals like this in 4E. Here's the one that summons demons:

    The Binding Call
    You call a creature to this world from another plane.
    Level: Varies
    Component Cost: Varies
    Category: Binding
    Market Price: Varies
    Time: 1 hour per ritual level
    Key Skill: Arcana
    Duration: Permanent
    You call the true name of a creature known to you and tear a one-way rift between worlds. At the end of the ritual, the rift opens and you inexorably draw the creature through.

    You use this ritual to call and bind a creature from another plane. Each specific type of creature requires a different ritual; each ritual has its own level. The level of the ritual is 4 levels higher than the creature called for a standard monster, the level of the creature for a minion, 6 levels higher for elite, and 10 levels higher for solos. Market price is standard for that level.

    At the end of the ritual, you must make a check, the DC set by the ritual’s level. If the check succeeds, you open the rift and pull the creature through.

    No rest is allowed during the casting of the ritual.

    The creature is free to act upon its own will. Most sorcerers will prepare a Magic Circle to trap the creature before performing the call. This allows the sorcerer the time to attempt negotiations with the creature. The DM makes a Reaction Roll and runs a skill challenge in which the terms of the negotiation are set. If the skill challenge fails, the creature will not serve the sorcerer. The creature must obey the terms agreed upon, though most creatures resent the call.

    Requirements: The true name of the creature and a source of energy related to the creature summoned (e.g. a volcano for fire elementals, a fey circle for fey creatures, an oubliette for devils, etc.).

    Component Cost: Equal to 1/5th a random monetary treasure parcel of the bound creature's level.

    *

    This is kind of based on how much it costs to get hirelings:

    o Hirelings expect a weekly payment of one-tenth of a RMTP of their level (and double that per day for danger pay); this can be negotiated

    Where RMTP is a "random monetary treasure parcel", that is, you roll 1d6+4 on the treasure parcel table for that level.

    *

    I also have a ritual (Blood Sacrifice) that allows you to boost the level of rituals you can cast.
  • Simon,

    How do you award XP? Rather for what kind of things.

    ara
  • MOSH FIENDS, DISH NO FEMS! FEND HIS OMS!
  • edited May 2012
    Posted By: Simon C
    I think the kind of thing I'm looking for is a cost/benefit or risk/reward tradeoff. Some tasty strategic choices for the player to make about how much a Fish Demon slave is worth. To my mind, a Fish Demon or two (or more) is a valuable thing, but not alarmingly outside the normal range of resources available to a low-level character. Not much more powerful than a paid henchman, for example. The cost/risk should be related to that.
    Ah, so this is a mechanical purchase rather than a fictional purchase. Got it.

    How about these?

    "The fish-demons want to see you bleed. To earn the service of a fish-demon of level X, the party must perform a ceremony and sacrifice attribute modifiers that total to X. The modifiers will recover to their normal level after X more encounters."

    "The fish demons feed on cowardice, treachery, and tyranny. To earn the service of a fish-demon of level X, sacrifice, by drowning, a henchman of level X who has failed a morale roll."

    "The fish demons feed on luck and pluck. The ritual to earn the service of a fish-demon of level X is simple. All those demanding this loyalty must participate. The next X saving throws made by ceremony participants will fail."

    "The fish demons demand the tribute of deeds! The ritual to earn the service of a fish-demon of level X is simple, but following the ritual each participant in the ceremony must tithe X*5% of their earned XP for some number of sessions.

    If we're talking 4E (I don't think we are, are we?) there's lots of other rich mechanical touch points to jump off from:

    "The fish-demons respect those who are slimy with exertion and thus to earn a fish-demon's service, the party must perform a ceremony in which (party size x 2) Action Points are sacrificed."

    "The fish-demons feed on desperation and fear and the nearness of death. To earn a fish-demon's service, one character must perform a ritual in which they sacrifice their final healing surge."
  • Having a fish demon on the team should knock the crap out of henchman morale. In my opinion.
  • Posted By: RogerHaving a fish demon on the team should knock the crap out of henchman morale. In my opinion.
    Henchman morale is already very low.

    I'm playing the scholar concerned, by the way, and at this stage I'm purely looking at things from the perspective of "Will having a fish demon to help us be worth the possibility of unleashing an apocalyptic fish demon war on the surface world?" with a seasoning of "Is it worth risking what could go wrong with the summoning?"

    Oh, and we're playing a 0D&D hack, so none of these action points or healing surges.
  • Posted By: akooserSimon,

    How do you award XP? Rather for what kind of things.

    ara
    1GP = 1XP.

    We're playing a 0e/1e hack.
    Posted By: RogerHaving a fish demon on the team should knock the crap out of henchman morale. In my opinion.
    That's a really good point! It's kind of got me thinking that in a lot of ways, Fish Demons are their own cost. Having a bunch of nasty demons following you around is going to be hard to explain to people.

    How about this:

    To summon a fish demon, you must prise out one of your own teeth, throw it into a body of water, and call out the words of the ancient pact. The demons will come to serve you within the next 24 hours. How many demons come depends on the size and location of the body of water:

    Wells, Cisterns, sewers: 50% chance of 1 demon
    Streams and creeks, or large sewers: 1 demon
    Ponds or swamps: 1d4 demons
    Lakes, rivers: 1d8 demons
    Deep lakes, large underground pools: 2d6 demons
    The sea: 2d20 demons
    Certain points on the coastline: 2d100 demons

    The demons serve for as long as you require them (but they'll dry out and eventually die without daily access to water). The demons want to serve, and want you to summon more demons (so that the ancient truce will end sooner) but they can't supress their demon natures. If they fail a morale roll, there's a 50% chance that they turn on their summoner.
    Seth, I like your suggestions. A simple way of figuring how long is left on the clock would be cool. A million fish demon years is a lot! Maybe just a small percentage chance each time the summoning is performed that this time the clock has run down? Like, roll d1000 under the number of demons summoned, or something.
  • edited May 2012
    Why not just decide how many demon years are left and let the players sweat? I think D10 sounds like a good number. It would be cool to have them use fish demons a lot and suddenly when they are landed lords and just built their towers and going about adventure like normal and decide to summon a few demons THE SEA INVADES AND IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT.

    Remember they are demons, their psychology could be as alien as you want. Maybe a failed morale roll just means they can't deal with the uncertainty anymore and just close their eyes and let themselves be slain. Or maybe they turn in to normal fish and try to flop away as a method of escape without breaking the pact.
  • Posted By: KripplerWhy not just decide how many demon years are left and let the players sweat? I think D10 sounds like a good number. It would be cool to have them use fish demons a lot and suddenly when they are landed lords and just built their towers and going about adventure like normal and decide to summon a few demons THE SEA INVADES AND IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT.

    Remember they are demons, their psychology could be as alien as you want. Maybe a failed morale roll just means they can't deal with the uncertainty anymore and just close their eyes and let themselves be slain. Or maybe they turn in to normal fish and try to flop away as a method of escape without breaking the pact.
    All true. All good points.

    Keeping track of how many demon-years the players have used is going to be a bit tricky, but not too bad. The "pay a tooth" thing for summoning means that the summoner is gonna want to keep them around for next time, rather than summon a new bunch each time they're needed.

    Done!
  • Posted By: Bill_WhiteMOSH FIENDS, DISH NO FEMS! FEND HIS OMS!
    This is definitely how they're going to talk.
  • If you're looking for an excuse as to why there are so few demon-years left, then maybe a particularly ambitious warlord or wizard or someone decided to build his empire on fish demons, and kept careful track of how much time was left. He stopped with a pretty small margin of error.
  • Simon made it pretty clear that the text we found was old, and repeating even older stories, so there's plenty of room for there to be anything from almost all the time left to almost none. Also, who knows if errors have crept in along the way (e.g. 'actually, it should read "a couple of dozen" not "a thousand"')
  • And when it says "serve" it should actually say "eat".
  • Exactly.
  • It's a cookbook!!!
  • ENDS OF HIMS!
    MEND FISH SO!
    DENS OF HIMS!
    FENDS HIM SO!
    DO FENS HIMS!
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