A bit of history
In the time of the war of creation two gods rebelled against the rule of their mother. The first God to rebel was Leethana. Leethana’s birth and existence marked the formation of a true invasion of one being by another. Before Leethana beings of the Universe were aware of one another, able to lust after one another, admired one another and even cooperated with one another but they could never truly connect or understand with one another. The possibility of this connection gave the universe four other realities: Language, Sleep, Loneliness and Mischief.
Leethana wanted to tear down all the boundaries of the world, and create a chaos in which there would be no discrete lines of coconsciousness despite their being discrete lines of existence. She was defeated and exiled from creation, but she is still a god and the nature of her being is still accessible to the world. Furthermore her contribution to creation, her demons, still exist as autonomous beings. Her demons are separated from creation only by death and thus may return to it.
In this plot the PCs are tasked with finding people who have become possessed by Leethana’s demons and exorcising the demons. Demonic possession as it was imagined and realized in my Parna campaign was relatively subtle. The demon’s are passengers in their hosts, effecting the behavior of the host slightly, but waiting until they could gain enough strength to fully manifest. Leethana’s demons represent discrete sorrows that arise from living in a society connected by language and culture. The list below roughly outlines how seven of Leethana’s demons, each representing a different sorrow, would change the behavior of the possessed.
Leethana is the Goddess of sleep and dreams, thus cases of demonic possession by her demons I imagined as being characterized by nightmares (we never actually dealt with Leethana’s demons in the campaign). This scenario suggests that the nightmare is the primary tool of Leethana’s demons. The nightmares are a mystical means by which the demons change the behavior of their hosts and afflict them with a specific form of sorrow or grief.
Vemodalen : Vemodalen brings with her the frustration of creation and appreciation. Vemodalen touches those seeking to express an observation of beauty by crippling them with knowledge that thousands have thought to express this appreciation before, thousands have done it exactly as they will and thousands have done it better. For example when examining the beauty of a child or a moonrise the person touched by Vemodalen who is trying to express the feelings of awe and amazement will be paralyzed by the belief that their sentiments are banal and crass because they are shared by so many. The ubiquitous nature of the sentiments associated with beauty reduces the value of observing beauty and any art inspired by it.
Onism: Brings with her a feeling of smallness and limitation. The person struck by Onism is overcome with frustration and anger because they only inhabit one place at one time. Even if they were to achieve immortality they never achieve oneness with world. This sorrow is further compounded by the knowledge that even oneness would be dilution of the splendor inherent in discreteness. Thus even when doing everything they can, and doing it as well as they can they are always missing something. Every choice and experience is sacrifice or a loss.
Cruthu : When Cruthu inhabits a person they are often left mute. The person becomes awe struck and frustrated with all the different interpretations a single phrase may have, because that phrase is subject to the audience’s interpretation. The ability of the audience and the speaker to interrelate is tripped up by the vanity and bias of both. Further despair follows when the touched individual realizes that their word choice is based upon their vanity and bias. It is impossible to ever know what one is truly saying because one may never now what others truly hear.
Seculoportance: Seculoportance affects those seeking to gage the importance or success of their own creation or art. She gives them the feeling that those evaluating the material are not doing so in the context of the material itself. Seculoportance convinces those she has touched that the critics are viewing the material through the context of their own desires. Thus, the person’s only value and the only value of their work is dependant on the uncertain desires of another which they have only a limited understanding. The greatest talent and skill in all of creation can not over come even smallest amount of favoritism, prejudice or laziness in the mind of the beholder.
Mulga: Mulga forces on her victims an unpleasant sense of self-awareness. A person infected with Mulga will acknowledge how well understood and well recognized their habits are by others. Mulga reminds people that they are not each beautiful snowflakes, and that the snap superficial judgments that people make of them are generally accurate. For some it is a terrible fate to have people understand them or to understand themselves.
Sonder : Sonder implants in her victims the realization that each other person, even the ones her victims have never met, is living a life as vivid and complex as their own. Most of these lives, which contain as much depth as any other life, will never know that Sonder’s host existed. Sonder tinges this knowledge with sorrow, by forcing her host to see themselves as an insignificant unnoticed player in countless lives. The entire universe as we know it exists in equivalency in the minds of others, and we neither have access to or a place in those universes.
Saffagon : Saffagon reaches out to those with a deep inner life who sense of self worth is based on hope and imagination. She forces them to consider the inconsequential nature of their own thoughts. Her victims tend to be very proud of what they would do in given situation or what they would say in the right circumstances. Saffagon’s preferred victims believe that they are talented and gifted, but simply without the opportunity to prove it. Saffagon chooses people who spend a lot of time wondering what they would do if they were king or general or chief and then forces them to recognize that such thoughts are only conceited fantasies. Until one’s worth is proven it is only imagined.
These demons like all Leethana’s demons travel through dreams and the PC will have to enter dreams of the afflicted. A conceit going into this plot is that the PC will be well briefed and equipped. They will have a knowledge of the demons, and items or skills that will allow them to enter the dreams of victims.
Inside the dream their skill sets and the absolute consequences of dream action are unimportant to the narrative, but should be resolved prior to entering the dream world. The only important point is that if a player dies in the dream they are ejected from the dream and cannot return until after this dream is resolved and new dream has started. I can certainly understand wanting to increase the risk and having dream equal real death. But it is important that when player dies in the dream they are ejected from the dream. As far as skill I suggest letting the player keep their real world skills, less hassle, you could explain this with some hand waving. Our perhaps you want to switch things up, say that in dream wisdom is dexterity, wits is equivalent to stamina or charisma is strength.
The PC should be briefed by their information source about the nature of dream action and how to banish the demon. There are three simple steps.
1)Find the dreamer and defeat him or her. This will allow the PCs to usurp the dreamer position in the dream.
2) Follow the narrative of the nightmare and prevent its conclusion. The nightmare will have some conclusion that enforces the demon’s specific sorrow. Alternatively you may want to have twist here. Have the PCs think they need to stop the narrative, but in actuality they need to follow the nightmare to its conclusion.
3) Based on the narrative of the nightmare determine which demon has taken up residence in the dream world, and once they have ended the dream’s narrative call out the demon.
4) Defeat the demon by determining the true emotion or concept it is trying to transfer.
Sample Dream: Boraz Frieda Priest of Bell’ra
The PCs will find themselves on a dusty road on rolling plains with high grey snowless peaks in the distance. Despite the parched ground stagnant air is humid and there is a tight haze that leaves the sun a diffuse ball in a white sky. It will be an act of will to speak any phrase that is not a prayer for wind or rain.
The PC will walk along the road down into a low point among the sea of dry plains. Down in that dry wash is Boraz, carrying a staff and his book in his pack. The first step is for the PC to find and defeat the dreamer. The dreamer will be his true vision of himself or there will be several versions of the dreamer. This could be very different than the dreamer in real life, a King may be scared child or a child may be a fearsome dragon. In Boraz’s case he is himself, a little taller, a little fitter and a little older, but it is Boraz as the PCs know him. In Boraz’s dreams he has all the powers the Goddess can grant one of her priests. Thus the PC have to fight a high level or very skiled priest with a bunch of power. Once they defeat him Boraz’s conciousness is pushed aside and the PC inhabit the nightmare.
In Boraz’s nightmare he travels to small dusty village with single house of Bell’ra. He takes up residence there and begins preaching to congregation that is three men and one woman: a family. They are all foreigners they speak Boraz’s language but with strong accent and speech littered with forgein vocabulary. Boraz (or the PC standing in for Boraz) explains to them the origins of suffering. How the God of Pain and Suffering, Eminster, was torn apart and thus suffering leaked out into the world. Because the God Eminster was torn apart suffering is universal, everyone suffers. Then he explains how his Goddess Bell’ra represents hearth, home, family and community. He tells the small congregation that if they embrace Bell’ra they can have all these things. The people celebrate his message and they all break bread together. Then they take Boraz out back of the house and there are four horses positioned to face the four winds. Each horse has harness that ends in sturdy rope trailing behind the horse.
The congregation will attack the Boraz’s stand in and try to strap him to the horses. Based on his sermon they believe that if they pull him apart than the hearth, happiness, fertility and plenty of Bell’ra will be part of the whole world. They believe Boraz is Bell’ra. They only understood the sermon slightly and because of that there is a terrible consequence to this miscommunication. The demon is Cruthu.
At this point the PCs have to defeat the villagers to keep from getting pulled apart. I imagine two possible, 1) they defeat the villagers, but nothing happens Cruthu does not appear. The night passess and they all wake up and Boraz is still crippled by Cruthu. Perhaps one of the PCs is still crippled by Cruthu. The Key is to face Cruthu they have to let themselves get pulled apart. Thus they have to go threw the whole dream again, fight Boraz again and so on. 2) They defeat the dream villagers and Cruthu appear.
I imagine Cruthu appearing with a giant earth golem type creature, and smaller parrot type bird. The bird is actually Cruthu. The trick to defeating these demons in dream form is to nail down the meaning of the word they utter on this plain.
In the case of Cruthu in this dream the bird will start repeating a word: “ Hesitant”. It can be only one word. The PCs have to then start responding with related words until they get to the demons core word the demon is trying to relay. In this case Cruthu is relaying disgust. Hesitant to disgust is a tough one and simpler one may be panic to fear. The PCs will have to keep shouting out synonyms to hesitant until they reach the true one. If they go in the right direction towards disgust and away from other sources hesitation say fear or sadness, than the Cruthu will begin saying the new word they have shouted. The bird may begin saying “ Avoid” or “Averse” and this goes on until the demon is forced to say it core word. Disgust. This will reveal the nature of the demon to the mind of the host and the demon will slip back into the neither world. The demon mind set regarding meaning follows the chart below.
The other method to defeat the demon, if the PCs cannot find or fight the demon in the dream world than they can summon or re-incarnate the demon. The metaphysical conceit here is that when the demon is in a persons mind the creature is only pushing part of herself into the person’s mind. That mind is a foothold or a gateway to plain, but the demon is not here entirety. When the PCs summon the demon, they get the whole thing. This frees the afflicted person of the demon’s influence, but also brings the demon on this plain.
The way I imagine the chaos demons in my campaign, is that they were not the same as the truly evil demons. The chaos demons feed off confusion and uncertainty while the evil demons (children of eminster) fed off pain and suffering. Thus while the chaos demons were powerful creatures, with a lot of tough combat mechanics, the chaos demons real strength were enchantment and illusions magics. If the demon gets away, it will seek out an area where it can spread the most chaos and confusion as possible.
Inspiration from for this one came again from stumbleupon.com. With the freetext theme of nightmare I was led to the http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/. That website gave three demons of sorrow to help round my number out to seven.