Game: Encyclopaedia Arcane: Demonology
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 15th, January 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 23
Average Score: 5.75
Demonology, the Dark Road, is the first of Mongoose Publishing’s Encyclopaedia Arcane series. I am not normally a great one for demanding more spells and special powers but I was expecting a book on demonology to provide a couple of new incantations but they’re simply not there. There aren’t any new demons either, instead the book recaps on those in the Monster Manual and adds a bit more flavour text, suitable ingredients for the pentagram and the summoning focus. In terms of mega-super-blasto-power-ups for wicked demonologists this book might start to sound like a bit of a failure. On the other hand there are some rather snacky new demonologist feats. The thing is, though, this particular Encyclopaedia Arcane is not about added superficial bells and whistles to the character class. Instead, the book aims to flesh out demonologists and, in fact, create the initial class in the first place.
Whether you like it or not the book pitches itself at a rather more academic level. I don’t mean that the authors describe realistic demonic rituals for you to lift and put into your game either, which is probably a good thing (even though we can’t taunt the religious weirdos with them). Instead you’ll get some fleshed out information on the various steps of demonology; from researching the summon, to attempting to pull the malevolent force from one dimension to yours and what to expect when it goes wrong. On the other hand, if the demonologist is able to summon and control the demon there are some suggestions as what to do next. One of the more successful sections in the book separates out mere blood sacrifices from soul sacrifices. Then there’s stuff on the possession, accidental possession (your accident, not the balor’s), familiars and bound magic items. The problem with this is that I felt rather too much of it was either common sense or the sort of flavour that individual GMs were all too likely to create for their own game. There wasn’t all that much in the way of stuff that leapt out form the page and struck me a great and inspired idea.
Judging the summoning difficulties and the controlling challenge by using the demon’s DC rather than it’s HD was clever. Simple twists like doubling the effective DC of the demon for attempts to control it are cleanly effective and very much in theme. The sample summoning on page 19 acts as a very good summary for the entire collection of mechanics in the book.
The book starts off with the actual Demonologist class and makes a pretty good job of it. There’s nothing inherently more powerful in the demonologist class than, say, a mere wizard. I liked the fact that there was no access to special abilities at level one; you have to have had a bit of experience before you can start to wrangle extra benefits. I welcomed the Binders and the Possessed, two specialised forms of demonology, a little less. Neither struck me as so solidly built as the main demonologist premise although I will admit that the Possessed struck me a great archetypical villain but perhaps only because I could imagine the demon side of the possessed returning in the form of a strangely re-occurring villain to torment the heroes once the group was significantly more powerful.
The Dark Road failed to inspire me in the same way that the Chaos Magic: Wild Sorcery book did. Demonology benefits greatly from its favourable price and it’s need-to-buy factor increases in proportion with the role of such dark magicks in your own game. The advice to GMs, “Don’t Panic. You are in complete control” is value for almost all levels of Games Master. The typical Mongoose quality and attention to detail also helps, the summary page at the back will see plenty of use if you decide only to use parts of the tome.