So, in my near constant Sisyphean torment of thinking up campaign idea after campaign idea, I’ve been thinking a lot about the setting I’d want to run if I ever got to pick up my alma mater game of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5E. That setting, which I’ve written about before, is a dimension-hopping setting where various worlds have to combat hordes of demonic armies travelling through massive Hell portals.
The thing I’ve been really thinking about, though, is the idea of what “demons” are. As far as prototypical fantasy villains, demons are up there with orcs, goblins, and dragons in their age, and thus, the rigidity of their tropes. They’re all red and scaly, occasionally slimy. They love fire and pointy shit, and they’re big ol’ jerks who like to mess with people. They sometimes possess people, usually have wings, and probably don’t like crosses or holy water or whatever. This is…fine, but not the most interesting thing in the world after the four hundredth time. So, I’ve been thinking about what my demons are.
So my demons start with God. Not the Judeo-Christian God, but nevertheless a singular deity of this universe, the singular source of divine energy in all of Creation. God created the entire universe, and all of the things inside of it. All beings, all rules of nature, all desires and emotions and thoughts, are a result of the cosmic law set spinning by God.
But, as God looked at the countless worlds of God’s creation, God wept, for God couldn’t actually experience anything that God created. God was too fundamentally different from God’s own creations, and as such was unable to eat or drink, to love or to hate, to feel happiness or to cry. Like a painter unable to see their own painting, God was unable to witness God’s own creation at work. God had to simply watch the mortals of Creation revel in their universe, and for this God was envious.
And so, God performed what is called the First Great Resurrection. Summoning forth the greatest sword in Creation, God killed itself, impaled on God’s own throne. However, a deity can never truly die, and the very essence of God was split, and from that essence came 666 new beings: the First Demons.
These Demons were similar in a lot of ways to the God that birthed them. If they died, they, too, would eventually regenerate into a new being. They had innate magical prowess, and could control their own forms to take any shape. However, these new beings encapsulated some of the world around them when they formed. They experienced emotion, they aged, they needed to eat and drink, and they had distinct personalities.
These First Demons found themselves in the throne room of their Creator, a palace surrounded on all sides by stone. With that, they began to dig, and dig, and build, and dig, slowly building the first structures to stand alongside the Palace of the Creator. As they dug, they discovered that the stone which encapsulated their world simply did not end. The world they lived in could be expanded endlessly, as long as they dug.
And so they did, and as they dug they reveled in the experience of mortality. They loved and hated, they had children and they killed one another, they ate and they drank, and the First Demons soon became an entire society of Demons. For a while, they were happy to be alone in their own world. But, eventually, the Demons remembered the rest of Creation, the countless worlds which were scattered across the cosmos just like their own. Moreover, the Demons found that the resources of their own world, once left untouched by a divine being which did not need them, were beginning to run slim.
The Demons used their magic to open portals to some of these other worlds, exploring the Creation which they themselves, in a way, had created. Some of these worlds were barren playgrounds, some had inhabitants more than happy to welcome the Demons, but others saw the Demons as invaders and sought to fight them off. Whenever the Demons obtained a foothold, they reveled with the local populace, often having Demonic children with the locals, and always eventually hoping to use some of the resources to bolster their own. After all, the Demons had a unique problem: their population could grow, but thanks to their immortality, never shrink. And, thanks to the longing for a mortal experience that caused their creation, the Demons experienced a great want for everything in life.
At first, the Demons spread their influence diplomatically and socially, hoping to coexist with others and share the plenty of Creation. However, the rate at which negotiations were struck and agreements made was dwarfed by the growing population of Demons and the growing size of their home city, now called Hell. This resource deficit, along with the Demon’s innate hedonistic tendencies, eventually forced a meeting of the 666 First Demons (some in original forms, some since reincarnated several times). This consortium met and spoke for ten thousand years, arguing and debating and shouting and occasionally fighting, until all 666 reached consensus: the Demons should take what is rightfully theirs from Creation.
From that point forward, the Demons marched as an army, conquering worlds in the hopes of collecting resources in order to support their infinite lives. To the Demons, this was but another new mortal experience to discover: the act of War. For those worlds conquered by the Demon armies, they found themselves under an unusual rule: harsh quotas were put on workers, and the land was destroyed as it was stripped of anything of value, but their rulers were far from savage or unfair, more aloof and efficient.
And so, these Demonic armies that live forever have been marching across an unending number of worlds, hoping to support an endlessly expanding population in a city without borders. Some say that the Demons have begun to prepare for a great project, a Second Great Act of Creation to rival the origination of the entire universe. Others claim that the 666 First Demons, now tired of an eternity of revelry, have begun to discuss re-merging into a single divine consciousness. All of this, while conquered worlds strip their own homes barren under Demonic rule, and free lands sign deals with devils far worse to protect their own worlds.