Monday, May 13, 2013

Monsters: Demon vs. Dæmon and Daimôn

In many RPGs the words "demon" and "dæmon" often lumped together into the same group or groups of creatures.  This reflects a Judeo-Christian bias in popular thought that a "demon" has to be an evil, malign creature.  This was not always the case with dæmon.  in the ancient Greek tradition these creatures were something more along the lines of creative, benevolent spirits.

The dæmon is most famous to AD&D players as being the Neutral Evil race found between the Abyss, home of the Demons and Hell, home of the devils from Monster Manual II.  I liked the idea of more variety to the fiends but thought about these guys in terms of what a normal human would think of them.  That is how does one say "demon" vs. "dæmon"?  That was the start of my disappointment in them as a D&D monster type.  They would later change the name Yugoloth, the only time I felt the 2nd ed name changes were an improvement.

Other games have taken the concept the other direction and made the "demon" more like the classical "dæmon" and had the name mean anything that came from somewhere else.  Also not preferable really.

I had forgotten about all of this until recently when I started working on demons for Eldritch Witchery.

Dæmons seem to be much creative, if chaotic types.  Somewhat like what Deborah Harkness has in her books, A Discovery of Witches.  But in truth her Dæmons feel more like Fae or Changelings to me.  Moving mine more to the "outsider" type I get a race that is very chaotic, but not really evil.  In a sense what Jim Butcher has done with the Fae  in the Dresden Files and maybe a little of what Kim Harrison has done (or is doing) with Demons (the ancient enemy of the fae) in her Rachel Morgan books.
More to the point I have a race I can swap with Slaadi.

Slaad began their life in the pages of the Fiend Folio as inhabitants of the Chaotic Limbo.  Trouble with the Slaad were that know one played them Chaotic Neutral. They always ended up as Chaotic Evil.  Plus Slaad are not open and are not found in the SRD.  Dæmon's though are chaotic, can be good or evil and somehow in my mind fit the idea of a creature living between the Chaotic Good fae (and planes of Olympus in the old D&D cosmology) and the chaotic evil demons living in the Abyss.

I have not detailed many dæmons yet except for a Personal Dæmon, which is a bit like a familiar dialed up to 11.  Given that they need more conceptual work I am not expecting dæmons to appear in Eldritch Witchery.  But do expect the monsters-formerly-known-as-daemons-or-yugoloths to appear as a demon type.  Too bad I can't use Slaad, but hey.

And just to make matters more confusing I think the ruling class of dæmons are known as daimôns.

Enjoy? Please check out the other monster posts today!


L.G. Keltner said...

As a writer and general fan of language and history, I found this fascinating.

Henry said...

Perhaps the Proteans from Pathfinder can be of use here.

They fill the same niche as the Slaad. Not sure if all their info is open content though.

Unknown said...

It's been so long since I played D&D that I don't remember the various demons or daemons exactly. (I do remember weird stuff like Beholders and Wraiths though!) Thanks for refreshing my memory! :-)

Valerie said...

This was super interesting! Right up my alley.



Shah Wharton said...

Never play games so all this is news to me. Cheers for the lesson :)

Shah X

Anonymous said...

All very new to me, but still a VERY ng post, thanks mate.
Here's my day IV MMM at Design du Jour.