by Matthew Pook
Publishing has continued its successful product strategy for the d20 market:
instead of publishing scenario books with their inherently limited usefulness and
shelf life, Mongoose created a range of sourcebooks useful to the DM in the long
term. The first of these have been the Slayer's Guides, which expand upon
the information found within the Monster Manual to give detail and depth
to a classic monster. In the same spirit of expanding into new areas, Mongoose
has begun a new series of sourcebooks. Entitled the Encyclopedia Arcane
series, the books will focus upon different aspects of magic within the D&D
rules. The first of these is Demonology - The Dark Road.
As with other Mongoose titles, this 64-page
book is well laid out and lacks many of the typographical errors seen in other
d20 releases. Some of the art is excellent, especially the illustrations of
various Monster Manual demons and devils drawn by Eric Lofgren, Scott
Purdy and Anne Stokes. A little of the remaining art is rather scratchy and drawn
out of proportion, but it would be unfair to name the culprits!
title suggests, Demonology - The Dark Road expands upon the mechanics for
summoning and binding creatures, more specifically evil outsiders, from their home planes.
While the book's title suggests it covers just demons, the Chaotic Evil Tanar'ri
outsiders, it actually goes further than that and lumps in their Lawful Evil
counterparts, the Baatezu or devils in its coverage. Thus its discussion and
examination of demonology is applied to both types of outsider, and in keeping
with that, so will this review.
Central to this sourcebook are three new prestige classes, made possible by a
singular idea: that the study of demons shouldn't be limited to NPCs. The
assertion that demonologists are inherently evil, and thus the preserve of a DM's
cast of NPCs, has been part of D&D from the beginning. In Demonology - The
Dark Road, the doors to the art of demonology are opened wide to player
access. The 'Dark Road' begins with the humble magic user summoning demons or
devils, not for evil, but to gain access to power or knowledge that has been
otherwise denied them. Instead of demonology itself being inherently evil, its
practitioners are exposed to the evil nature of the creatures they summon. Thus,
they might start as good aligned characters, but in their desire to learn more,
demons will place temptations in their path that will set them on the Dark Road
and see them corrupted.
The first of these Demonology classes is, fittingly, the 'demonologist.'
As the demonologist grows in ability, his skills at calling and controlling
demons grows, but the rules still contain a definite chance for mishap and even
death if they fail. Beyond the basic demonologist, there are two even more
specialized prestige classes. One is the 'binder,' who can summon and bind demons
into objects, creating a unique category of magical items and even demonic
artifacts (Elric's possessed greatsword, Stormbringer springs to mind, though its
creation would be beyond all but the most powerful). The second prestige class is
the 'possessed,' who summons demons with the aim of allowing them to temporarily
co-habit the summoner's body and actually gain some of the demon's abilities.
These are three powerful prestige
classes, because in addition to the abilities granted by each prestige class, the
character actually keeps the advances in spell casting he would have gained had
he remained an ordinary wizard or sorcerer. Thus a sixth level wizard/second
level demonologist would be able to cast spells as an eighth level wizard and
were he to gain another level as a demonologist, he would be a ninth level
caster. He does not, though, gain the other abilities of a wizard or sorcerer;
instead he receives those granted by the demonologist prestige class.
Not surprisingly, the mechanics central to Demonology are for
summoning and binding demons. A d20 is rolled for both the summoning and the binding,
modified by the character level of the demonologist and various situational
modifiers. For summoning, the difficulty is determined by adding the CR of the
demon that is being summoned to a DC of 10. Control of a successfully summoned
creature is more difficult, being a battle of wills, in which the demon's CR is
doubled and then added to a DC of 10. An unsuccessful attempt to control a demon
is invariably perilous to the summoner - a summoned beast is an angry beast!
Much of the rest of the book builds upon and applies these basic rules and ideas.
Thus the new feats are really only appropriate to the demonologist class, as they
ease and speed up the summoning process. It is also likely that only demonologists will be
interested in the new magical items given here, as they perform similar functions
to the new feats. The second set of magical items is that of examples of those
created by the binder prestige class, having bound actual demons into objects to
There no rules for the GM on how to control a player character
demonologist's access to the various types of demons. Instead he is advised to
maintain control through regulating the availability of the ingredients and
information required to perform a summoning. Some ingredients are decidedly
difficult and expensive to obtain, such as that needed to summon a Nalfeshnee of
the Tanar'ri family. Its pentagram must be laid out using the powdered rope of a
noose used to hang the instigator of a genocide and a golden mirror at least four
feet high and costing 7000 GP be used as the summoning focus. Other demonologists
and secret tomes will prove to be the source of the information on the rituals
and summoning. Both these and the necessary ingredients could be used as the
inspiration for actual adventures.
Nor are there rules for instructing
demons, except to provide a word limit, which can be increased through level
advancement. Again, there are guidelines and suggestions, but in general,
Demonology - The Dark Road is low on rules and high on discussion and ideas. The
last part of the book discusses the attitudes of various races found in D&D3e,
including the drow, duergar and yuan-ti, before going on to detail the summoning
requirements for each of the demons and devils to be found in the Monster Manual.
If I have one final complaint, it is that Demonology - The Dark Road is
perhaps a little expensive at $13.99 for what you get, especially when you
compare this with the prices for other d20 books of a similar length. That said,
it is the perfect complement to Green
Ronin's Legions of Hell, and will be useful to any DM wanting to
expand upon the nature of summoning demons within their own game. DMs may choose
to restrict the material found within Demonology - The Dark Road to just
NPCs, but that would mean your players missing out on all the possibilities to be
found within Mongoose's risky and rewarding new approach to the dark art.