Demonsea: Setting Sail
Fact one: demons are awesome. Fact two: everything is better with pirates.
Combining them is an obvious move, yet I can’t think of a campaign setting I’ve seen that was dedicated to this concept. Hence, my new campaign setting: Demonsea.
I’ll be using Pyres of Vam as a place to preview material from Demonsea, so that readers can follow the development of this brand new campaign setting. But for now, read on to get the first sneak peek at this swashbuckling, demon-slaying world of mayhem and adventure!
Five years ago the Demoneye opened and the fires of Hell boiled the seas. Demons sailed their Hellships, lashed together from flesh and bone, out of the furious inferno and straight for civilisation. They arrived at the shores of the desert kingdom of Kalarash and brutal war has raged between the Kalarashi and the demon invaders ever since.
Further north, the colonial empire of Darbrin remains relatively untouched by the war. Their former foes, the Kalarashi, now serve as their primary defence against the attackers. Yet demons are insidious creatures and their influence reaches far. Demonic cults have begun to appear all over Darbrin. Smugglers bring in hellforged weapons, demonic artefacts, cursed writings, and a drug called Ambrosia that is rumoured to be made from demon blood.
Darkness stirs and fears become reality. Walls of old houses bleed red, the dead rise from their graves at night, and monsters that existed only in nightmares stalk the shadows of the waking world. The mere presence of demons has corrupted life itself, transforming harmless creatures of the land and sea into deadly threats, and turning already dangerous creatures into living weapons of bloodshed and destruction.
Even pirates cannot deny that the world has changed. On the waves, pirates are harassed by other pirates, sea monsters, hellships and zealous law enforcers who make captured criminals choose between death and becoming demon hunters. At shore, these dangers are replaced by demonic cultists, pirates-turned-thugs who have abandoned the sea, corrupted beasts and suspicious inquisitors who passionately seek to root out evil in the world.
Pirates being pirates don’t put up with any of this and even while fleeing from the law and other dangers, they often find themselves the unwitting heroes of this dark new age.
So, that’s Demonsea in a nutshell. I picture pirates being attacked at sea by demons on a hellship, or raiding a town during a demonic cult’s summoning ritual, or capturing a ship only to find vials of ambrosia, cursed artefacts or hellforged weapons on board. It’s a recipe for excitement!
But, you don’t have to play as a pirate. You could be a naval officer hunting down demons that have made it to Darbrin’s shores, searching out demon artefacts to destroy and capturing pirates and deciding their fate – or even working with them to fight the bigger threat. Some of these officers are extremely zealous – paladins of the sea, if you will – and are deadly serious about fighting evil, whether it’s pirates, monsters, demons or anything else.
Playing an inquisitor is another possibility, and one of my favourites. Imagine a wandering detective/exorcist and you begin to get an idea of what these guys do. Add a liberal splash of Inquisitor Glokta and Harry Dresden and you’re getting closer still. Grim loners whose minds are their greatest weapons and who are mortal but take on the supernatural on a regular basis.
Inquisitors travel the coast by land and sea, investigating crimes, particularly those where demonic influence appears to be involved; they root out cults and demonic smugglers, exorcise demons, and hunt down pirates from time to time – after all, pirates are cutthroat villains who spread the influence of evil in the world and are thus, knowingly or not, aiding the forces of Hell.
Speaking of aiding the forces of Hell, there’s nothing to say that you can’t embrace the demonic. Pirates, inquisitors or even hardcore naval officers could be ambrosia addicts, wield hellforged weapons, attempt to bind demons into service or even – oh yes! – capture and captain a fearsome hellship! There’s plenty of demonic fun to be had by all! It’s likely to corrupt your eternal soul, of course, but who says you can’t have a good time during the process?
As you can see, there’s lots of potential for fun and a variety of play styles. I don’t plan to expand much on Kalarash or the Burning War – as the Kalrashi-Demon War has been dubbed – for the “main” part of the campaign setting. Kalarashi will have a big part to play in the setting, but their homeland will remain “off the map” for the most part. If this setting takes off and I want to add more to it, Kalarash would be the obvious place to work on next.
But for now, I’ll be steadily developing Demonsea and posting articles and excerpts here on Pyres of Vam. As this is a campaign setting rather than a whole new roleplaying system, most of what I’ll post will be “fluff” rather than game mechanics. I haven’t decided what system I’ll use for Demonsea yet, and I prefer it that way – then I don’t feel limited by what each system does and doesn’t offer. That said, I’m running a Demonsea game for my wife to help me flesh out the setting, and for that we’re using Savage Worlds which appears to be an excellent fit so far.
I’m really excited about Demonsea, so you can expect to see more of it over the coming months. This is also my first time creating a campaign setting in this way – that is, using a website as the main place to brainstorm – so from time to time I’ll write about my thoughts on the whole process and what I’ve learned from the experience.
So, sharpen your hellforged cutlass, take a swig of ambrosia and get ready to set sail for Demonsea!