Sorcery & Social Class
So, I am rereading both the Elric novels as well as Stormbringer. There is so much I have missed or forgotten in both. I have always been better with storytelling than rules keeping, but seeing the great cues for inspiration in the rules makes me warm to the old game even more. The only thing is that the rules don’t go far enough in emulating the fiction in many cases.
The chapter on magic in the rulebook and the comments in the novels about sorcery have lots of implications for the game. This also connects to the idea of social class, which is loosely touched on in character generation, specifically sorcery and skill selection, but which could be articulated in a more useful way.
Basically, there are three main questions to answer when deciding to use sorcery:
1) Does the player and his PC accept the risks of using supernatural aid?
2) Does the PC have the skill and status to summon otherworldly creatures?
3) Will the entity they summon help or hinder them?
Here is what I found.
1) ALL MAGIC LEADS TO TROUBLE
Characters in the Elric novels are very wary of magic. For example, here is Dyvim Tyar on the fickleness of sorcery:
“Like most things of sorcerous origin, the ship appears to have vices as well as virtues, like a double-bladed knife which you raise to stab your enemy and which, instead, stabs you…”
- Dyvim Tvar
Basically, if players are happy or complacent having magic in Stormbringer, you’re GMing it wrong. For people coming from D&D with its fire and forget, no backlash magic, this can be a big shock, so prepare them accordingly.
In game terms, whenever you use magic, be it elemental or demonic, you give the GM power over your PC. The GM has to think what is in the best interest of the magical entity summoned, and play that as well as he or she can. It’s not the old ‘killer DM’ trope, but instead faithfully playing the unreliable magic creature with its own agenda that you’ve summoned. Just remind players that the demon or elemental their PC has summoned has its own plans, and is NEVER 100% under control. Summon basically means ‘Pray they’ll come’, and Bind means ‘Put them into an object.’ NEITHER of these means control.
GMs have to be careful not to overdo it, for as the rulebook states,
“While you are busy simulating the world, you need the consent and participation of your fellow players. You are the conductor of an orchestra and the players are the instruments. Together the music you make is a collective fantasy that should entertain you all. It is not an excuse for an ego trip at the expense of your players.”
To help the GM, it is useful to articulate the motivations of summoned entities, and then play the elemental or demon accordingly.
Motivation of Elementals
Elemental motivations are thus:
1) Follow the command of their Elemental Ruler
2) Preserve their element and themselves
3) Destroy opposed elementals they encounter
4) Return home as quick as they can
If you are a friend of the element or its Ruler, the elemental will mostly aid you, but the elemental is never your slave. They will not do any action to undermine their Ruler, their element, or destroy themselves needlessly. That said, they are created to fight opposed elements, and will destroy them unflinchingly even at the expense of their own life.
Being on the Young Kingdoms plane, being bound to some mortal fool, these are pain to an elemental or demon, and they’ll do anything to end it. The section for fire elementals notes, “The wielder of a flaming weapon must wear some sort of flame-resistant gauntlet to avoid being burned by his/her own weapon.” If you ever need proof that bound elementals don’t care about their summoners, this is it. By the same token, a water elemental might forget to allow an annoying mortal breathe underwater, or a sylph become distracted when carrying its binder over a chasm.
If elementals are this unreliable, one can only imagine the dangers posed by bound demons – as Elric found out to his chagrin.
Motivation of Demons
According to the rulebook, “Magic is defined as the opposite of Law. Law is predictable, reproducible, and constant. Magic is unpredictable, not reproducible, and random.”
This seems at odds with point buy, but I get the drift. Yet demons too have their own motivations, and understanding these is key to both GMing them and using them in relative safety.
The rulebook states, “Demons are not always happy to be summoned. Frequently, they are very displeased, and will vent their anger upon the summoner if given the chance.”
The implication here is that demons CAN be happy to be summoned if it meets their goals, as coming to the Young Kingdoms, swallowing souls, then destroying the plane pleased Stormbringer. As an example, you could randomly determine demon attitude towards summoning as follows:
Demon Attitude Towards Summoning
(roll 3d6, keep the result secret from the players, but allow it to come out in play)
2-3 Hostile: The fiend swears to destroy the PC and his lineage, and will never stop trying to enact vengeance. Expect its supernatural allies to hound the summoner hereafter.
4-6 Displeased: The fiend is angered, and will require negotiating at a loss to become reluctantly cooperative. Not to be trusted, refuses to promise not to harm the summoner.
7-9 Negotiating: The fiend offers to cooperate for a limited time or set of circumstances, but will become enraged if this promise is not kept.
9-10 Cooperative: The fiend is happy to sow chaos for a time, on the condition it gets to do what it wants, which is usually destroying any mortal it desires, including the PC’s friends.
11-12 Pleased: The fiend has wanted to come play among mortals for some time. It thanks the PC for the chance.
The rulebook also gives other points for the sorcerer to ponder:
“Demons, unless bound, must generally be persuaded to perform the function for which they were summoned. The sorcerer's most common promise is to return the demon to its own plane if it will perform the desired service. The sorcerer should also exact a pledge from the demon to do the summoner no harm before releasing it from the octagon to perform its mission.”
In addition to determining the demon’s initial attitude, it is useful for the GM to understand its motivations to roleplay them well.
In general, demons want the following:
1) Freedom first and foremost
2) Revenge on their summoner
3) To sow chaos in a way suited to their nature
4) Obey their Chaos Lord if they must
Bargaining with Demons
The rulebook gives a somewhat clunky mechanic for negotiating with demons:
“To see whether the demon agrees to the sorcerer's bargain, the GM should roll lD100. If the roll is less than or equal to five times the summoner's CHA rating, the demon will obey. If not, the demon will betray the summoner and possibly attack him/her. The GM should keep the number rolled secret until the demon is released. Dealing with demons is always risky business.”
Since a Persuade skill already exists, let’s use that instead, but modify it based on the sorcerer’s proposal:
Modifiers to Demon Persuasion Roll
Stupid, insulting, or grossly unfair proposal = 1/10 Persuade skill
Unsatisfactory or minimally fair plan = ½ Persuade skill
Reasonable in meeting demon’s demands = normal Persuade roll
Plan favours the demon = +10% to Persuade skill
Begging for Demon Mercy
And what if the plans go awry, or the demon manages to put the PC at its mercy? In this case it is time to beg for your life or soul. The rulebook outlines it this way:
“Players whose lives or souls are being threatened by a demon may attempt to bargain their way out of it. In such cases the GM should play the demon and choose one of the player's attributes such as INT, POW, or CHA to roll 1D100 against. If the number rolled is less than or equal to twice the player's selected attribute, the demon will accept the new bargain and spare the player.
Once again, the Persuade skill already exists, so use that instead, but modify it based on the Demon Motivation previously rolled:
2-3 Hostile = 1/10 Persuade skill
4-6 Displeased = ½ Persuade skill
7-9 Negotiating = normal Persuade roll
9-10 Cooperative = +10% to Persuade skill
11-12 Pleased = +20% to Persuade skill
Note the PC can increase their chances of success by one level by offering a sacrifice to the demon, as below:
- Agree to take a roll on the Wounds table
- Offer the demon to take its allies instead
- Promise their soul to the demon
Remember that, according to the rules, demons with INT of 5 or lower cannot be bargained with.”
In a way, summoned and especially bound elementals and demons are like the Meseeks from Rick and Morty.
"Meeseeks are not born into this world fumbling for meaning, Jerry! We are created to serve a singular purpose for which we will go to any lengths to fulfill! Existence is pain to a Meeseeks, Jerry. And we will do anything to alleviate that pain."
The final word on using sorcery comes from the man himself:
“I hesitate to use sorcery, save where absolutely imperative…”
2) SUMMONING AND SOCIAL CLASS
Although games are democratic spaces where we try to empower all players, this is not the case in the world of Elric. Elric is an emperor, and although he rubs shoulders with sailors (Smiorgan), priests (Rackhir), and thieves (Moonglum), the nations of the Young Kingdoms all display a medieval hierarchy, an unbreakable Chain of Being leading from the highest gods, down to their mortal representatives (nobles & clergy), then on to lowest beings (beggars). Elric alone can summon Arioch because he is both emperor at the top of this hierarchy, as well as sorcerer.
Basically, I parse the social pyramid of the Young Kingdoms thusly:
Urbanites (ie Merchants, Rogues)
Rural Folk (ie Hunters, Farmers)
Dispossessed (ie Beggars)
The higher you are in this hierarchy, the more sorcerous power you can learn to use relatively safely. The fact that Elric is at the top of this chain is why he has little trouble with elementals and demons, save for Stormbringer. As he notes,
“On Melnibone, Tanglebones, emperors control demons, not the reverse.”
The implication is that in other lands, it is the demons who gain the upper hand because people who summon them lack the proper pacts, the history, the habitus and social capital. This accords with the previous section about elementals and demons having their own agendas. This means that any Noble character who studies sorcery and has the required INT and POW can expect assistance within limits (see 3rd section below).
To see which deity is aligned to the nobility of each nation, see the table [126.96.36.199] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS. For example, just as Elric of Melnibone could get aid from the Elementals (lamentably omitted from the table) and his patron Chaos Lord, a Merchant Prince of the Isle of Purple towns should be able to expect support in some shape from Donblas of Law, as well as Elemental Lords. Available Elemental Lords should reflect the terrain of the nation ruled by the noble, for example, islands would prize Straasha, deserts Grome or Laasha, volcanic areas Kakatal and Grome, etc.
Note that all entries of ‘None’ on the table should instead be considered Elementals & Beastlords. Entries of ‘Other’ should include minor or local deities and godlings the GM should create, such as the undead ancestor worship in the Forest of Troos.
According to the rules, “Cults exist primarily to channel worship, which is a modified form of life force, directly to the deity.” Royalty, whether emperor or queen, are the representative of gods on material world, and thus are most favored with supernatural aid due to the worshippers below them. Next in line are Priesthood, who organize the flock and keep faith strong, but are below the divinely chosen rulers.
The effect of social rank on summoning is as follows:
Sorcery & Social Rank
5th Rank – Summoning the Lords of Law and Chaos.
Only Royalty of aligned nations may do this with impunity, but results are limited by the Lords themselves. As outlined in the next section, Lords only assist if
1) there is an ancient pact (ie of the Lord is appropriate for that nation on [188.8.131.52] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS)
2) if fulfilling the request is in their own interest
3) if the request is not impossible, insulting, or harmful to them.
An ursurper to the throne, such as the Theocrat of Pan Tang, may also claim this right, but the Lord may or may not accept their position. Having PCs find a way to gain royal title so they can safely summon more powerful entities could be a useful story hook.
(NB: Royalty is determined during character generation when, if a PC is determined to be Nobility and has INT 13 or more, then Noble is again rolled for their second occupation, this indicates they are the 1D6+1th in line for the throne). See rulebook section [2.3.8].
4th Rank – Summoning the Beast Lords
Only Nobility of aligned nations may do this with impunity, but results are limited by the Lords themselves. Conditions are as for the 5th rank.
3rd Rank and below – Summoning and bargaining with Elemental Rulers
High priests of aligned nations
2nd Rank – Lesser demon control.
Priests or sorcerers
1st Rank – Elemental Control.
Priests or sorcerers
Note that sorcerers like Thelab Kaarna are those who try to gather mystic power OUTSIDE of this framework. They are basically believers in meritocracy, and sneer at the organized power structures. They may gain the knowhow to summon at any level, but face a Faustian bargain or eternity in hell for getting them to do their bidding (see part 3 below).
One other factor to note is the language required for sorcery. The novel tells us the following about Elric’s efforts to summon Arioch:
“These grimoires were written in the High Speech of Melnibone – the ancient language of sorcery with which Elric’s ancestors had been able to communicate with the supernatural beings they had summoned.”
- To Call The Chaos Lord
By this token, summoning also requires certain linguistic abilities in addition to social rank:
5th Rank – Summoning the Lords of Law and Chaos.
Royalty, High Melnibone
4th Rank – Summoning the Beast Lords
Nobility, any language
3rd Rank and below – Summoning and bargaining with Elemental Rulers
High priests of aligned nations, common language.
2nd Rank – Lesser demon control.
Priests or sorcerers, chaotic language.
1st Rank – Elemental Control.
Priests or sorcerers, common language.
Acknowledging this social pyramid also means PCs can work to rise up the ladder and thus gather access to supernatural power. A Sorcerer who takes control of a nation can then access the privileges of his rank in requesting sorcerous aid. There are some great plot hooks in here.
There are two exceptions for gaining power above your station in the Chain of Being:
1) Becoming an Agent
2) An act of intervention at great sacrifice
Becoming an Agent is as the rulebook. Only Player Character or NPC antagonists can become Agents. See [184.108.40.206] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS to see their choice of Patron.
As for intervention, a non-sorceror PC could call for this only when in dire circumstances. Basically, this option is equivalent to the behelt in the manga Berserk. Just as the mutilated Griffith of Berserk sacrificed his followers to demons to join the Godhand and be reborn, a PC should have a small chance (1%) to summon relevant aid (based on profession, nationality, or social rank). For example, a Vilmarian Sailor should be able to call on Straasha to save him from drowning, and might get a lucky gust of wind or ride on an elemental for making this difficult roll, but may have to abandon their mates to the sea in recompense.
3) LORDS DO WHAT THEY WANT
So, the PC has accepted the danger of dealing with sorcery. He or she has also the skills and social rank to call the big names – Beast Lords, Elemental Rulers, and Lords of the Higher Worlds (Law & Chaos). The last question is, will these entities listen to PC entreaties?
If merely contacting and summoning elementals and demons is as difficult and limited as above, getting their rulers to aid you reliably is even more challenging. Reading the Elric books, the autonomy and capriciousness of the Beast Lords & Elemental Rulers, and the Lords of the Higher Worlds, stands out, as does the respect and deference Elric pays to them. They come when they want and give aid in their own inscrutable or conflicting ways. The reasons for their cooperation range from obligation to ancient pacts, as between Straasha and Elric, to their own inscrutable ends, as with Arioch. About Elemental Rulers, the rulebook states, “They cannot be bound, only persuaded.” Similarly, Elric notes, “No sorcerer, however powerful, can summon the Chaos Lords or, for that matter, the Lords of Law, if they do not wish to be summoned. That you know. You must know it, Yrkoon. Have you not, yourself, tried. And Arioch did not come, did he?”
This principle of autonomy thus holds more or less true for all the greater entities. Let’s look in detail at the considerations and consequences of summoning these 2 types of supernatural ruler – Beast Lords / Elemental Rulers and Lords of Law and Chaos.
1) Summoning The Elemental Rulers & Beast Lords
I put these two together because, all though their powers, personalities, and purvey differ, they are both representatives of life on the Young Kingdoms, and thus are opposed to any threat to existence there. In this light, they are more likely to aid PCs attempting to save the plane from the combat between Law and Chaos, or destruction by either side. Elric’s summoning verse for Straasha reflects this:
“For enemies of mine and thine / Seek to defeat our destiny, and drain away our sea”
Summoning Beast Lords
In general, Beast Lords are willing to help nobles with ties to them. As Staasha counsels Elric, “… remember the beasts – they, too, can be of service to you. There is no need to suspect their help.” There are four conditions for a Beast Lord to fulfil a request, then:
1 The summoner has the social rank (noble or high priest) to summon a Lord
2 There are ancient pacts between the summoner’s homeland and the entity.
Although the rules state only Melniboneans can summon Beast Lords, I find this too limiting and suggest replacing the Other or None results with the possibility of locally relevant Beast Lords (see [220.127.116.11] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS).
3 Doing so is in the Lord’s own interest, ie protects animal life or the elements of nature
4 The request is not impossible, insulting, or harmful to them
The social rank reflects the ancient pacts of cooperation between the nobility of beasts or elementals. Beast Lords will not acquiesce to any request that needlessly wastes animal life, that threatens their own existence, or is couched in less than polite terms. In general, follow the rules of the game, except for limiting the aid of Beast Lords to Melnioneans. Opening the summoning of Beast Lords to Oin & Yu shamen and others will add a great dynamic to play.
If a player or his PC is insulting or dismissive to a Beast Lord, have them roll and instant CHA roll. If they succeed, the Lord will refuse to aid them any further and consider their pact nullified. If they fail, the Lord not only refuses to aid them, it declares them an enemy of their species, and the GM has license to have animals of that kind hassle the PC whenever inconvenient or amusing.
GM Advice - Beast Lord Personalities
In addition, knowing the entity’s personality allows both GM and players to know how they will react to a summons and request for aid. I have listed below both a negative trait and several positives for many animals, based on the Chinese animal zodiac.
Rat: Sneaky but quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind.
Ox: Simple minded but diligent, dependable, strong, determined.
Tiger: Arrogant but quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind.
Rabbit: Cowardly but quiet, elegant, kind, responsible.
Dragon: Uncaring but confident, intelligent, enthusiastic.
Snake: Treacherous but enigmatic, intelligent, wise.
Horse: Flighty but animated, active, energetic.
Goat: Stubborn but calm, gentle, sympathetic.
Monkey: Mischievous but sharp, smart, curious.
Rooster: Aggressive but observant, hardworking, courageous.
Dog: Single-minded but lovely, honest, prudent.
Note that Beast Lords may show their good side to anyone who they deem worthy, but won’t hesitate to show their bad side to anyone they feel unfit to serve.
Summoning Elemental Rulers
Just as with Beast Lords, there are four conditions for an Elemental Ruler to fulfil a request, then:
1 The summoner has the social rank (noble or high priest) to summon a Ruler
2 There are ancient pacts between the summoner’s homeland and the entity. See [18.104.22.168] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS.
3 Doing so is in the Ruler’s own interest, ie protects life or the elements of nature
4 The request is not impossible, insulting, or harmful to them
The social rank reflects the ancient pacts of cooperation between the nobility of beasts or elementals. Straasha, Lord of the oceans, explains his choice to help Elric thus: “You sent the summons. You need our aid. We honour our ancient pact with your folk.” Elemental Rulers will not acquiesce to any request that needlessly wastes elemental life, or reduces the amount of their element in the Young Kingdoms (ie Grome will refuse to sink an island, Kakaktal may refuse to silence a volcano, etc). They also balk at any entreaty that threatens their own existence, or is couched in less than polite terms.
If a player or his PC is insulting or dismissive to an Elemental Ruler, have them roll and instant CHA roll. If they succeed, the Ruler will refuse to aid them any further and consider their pact nullified. If they fail, the Ruler not only refuses to aid them, it declares them an enemy of their element, and the GM has license to have elements of that kind hassle the PC whenever inconvenient or amusing.
GM Advice - The Personalities of The Elemental Rulers
Just as with Beast Lords, the personalities of the Elemental Rulers should affect whether they help a PC, in addition to the four conditions noted above.
Straasha = Life giver, bound to humans through the sea salt in our blood.
Kakatal = “The Destroyer” according to the rulebook, the only Elemental Lord who demands human sacrifice.
Grome = Comparatively stupid and selfish. Nurtures all, refuses to kill.
Laasha = Cold and detached from humanity, governs seasons & cycles.
Rivalry of the Elements
One big consideration when summoning Elemental Rulers is their age old rivalry. As the rulebook notes,
Water destroys Fire
Fire destroys Earth
Earth destroys Air
Air destroys Water
Thus Rulers will be loathe to help or work with the Ruler of an element that can destroy them. Kakatal will refuse to help Straasha, Straasha rebukes Laasha, Laasha refuses Grome, and Grome shies away from Kakatal. This is in addition to other petty rivalries, like Straasha and Grome’s disagreement over The Ship Which Sails Over Land And Sea. However, if the entire Young Kingdoms is in danger, the elementals can work together in limited ways. As Straasha tells Elric, “… remember that our brothers of the air and of fire will try to aid you also.”
A Final Caution
Once again, it should be noted, both Elemental Rulers and Beast Lords are nobility, and thus are not to be ordered about, but pleaded for aid. Elric did not dictate terms to Straasha when he saved him from drowning, nor when he gifted The Ship Which Sails Over Land and Sea. He was equally mannered and humble with the Beast Lords who assisted him. It is the GM’s choice what type of aid the supernatural entity will offer, and attempting to dictate their actions will be frowned upon and may be met with negative consequences.
3) Summoning the Lords of the Higher Worlds
The Gods Do As They Please
If beasts, lesser demons, elementals and their rulers aren’t strong enough to aid the PCs in what they need done, they can call on the Lords of Law or Chaos. As Elric explains, “The Water Elementals are not the powerful creatures that The Lords of Chaos are. Their strength is limited and, moreover, they are inclined to be capricious, in the manner of the elements.”
However, increased power comes with a price. Straasha counselled Elric thusly: “… beware of gods, Elric. Beware of the Lords of the Higher Worlds and remember that their aid and their gifts must always be paid for.”
The implication is that either side, Law or Chaos, are not to be trusted entirely.
First off, the four conditions to summon an Elemental Ruler also apply here.
1 The summoner has the social rank (noble or high priest) to summon a Lord.
The rulebook states that the faith of human followers are the lifeblood of the gods. It stands to reason, then, that the gods only help those with power over others, and have a higher chance of acquiescing to the demands of rulers of greater nations than lesser ones.
2 There are ancient pacts between the summoner’s homeland and the entity
(see [22.214.171.124] NATIONALITIES AND RELIGIONS). Note that a royal member might theoretically create a new pact, which would be a great adventure seed.
3 Doing so is in the Lord’s own interest. That interest is detailed below in the Motivations section.
4 The request is not impossible, insulting, or harmful to them. Making such a request would also be considered an affront and could be met with refusal to answer further summons, divine anger, and retribution ranging between anything from transformation, to exile or death.
There is also the extra, fifth condition:
5 They feel like doing it
This gives GM fiat power in deciding whether a Lord of Law or Chaos will aid a PC. Basically, if there is no incentive for them, if it does not advance their struggle, they can’t be bothered to do anything. Add to this an insidious sixth caveat:
6 They expect any debt to them to be repaid
As Straasha warned, there is no free lunch with Gods, and the bill will always come due at some point. But before these conditions can be invoked, a pre-condition must be met. The Lord must be given access to the plane of the Young Kingdoms, and although a PC may curry favour with a God by inviting them onto the plane first, they may regret it later.
Access to Planes
Lords of the Higher Worlds need to be invited to gain access to the planes, for as the rulebook states, “it was only when Elric managed to summon Arioch that they regained access to that plane after several hundred years.” If they manifest or intervene directly, they invoke the Balance, and can lose access for some time, as when Xiombarg enters the plane of Corum in book The Queen of Swords. This implies that in the distant past of the Young Kingdoms, Arioch had overstepped his bounds and been barred from the plane. Although the interval of banishment should reflect the severity of the god’s indiscretion and is left up to the GM, rolling on the following table is also an impartial option:
How Long is the Lord Banished? (roll 3d6)
3 A thousand years
4-5 Five centuries
6-8 Two centuries
9-12 A century
13-15 A decade
16-17 A year
18 Until summoned again
To avoid this punishment, Lords of the Higher Worlds go through mortals like Elric, and bestow upon their agents artifacts or Objects of Power such as the runeswords Stormbringer and Mournblade.
Moorcock foreshadows this need for planar access in Elric when he writes, “Then, suddenly, they were riding at full tilt back to Imrryr while the lightning flashed around them and the thunder roared like a furious giant, like some great old Lord of Chaos attempting to break through, unbidden, into the Realm of Earth.” Arioch implies both the social rank requirement of those who can summon the Lords of Chaos or Law, as well as their need to be invited for planar access, when he opines, “You alone are fit to serve Arioch. It is long since I was invited to this plane, but now that I am here, I shall aid you, Elric.”
It is thus suggested that games start with the Lords of the Higher Worlds cut off from the Young Kingdoms, but gradually seep down as they are invited by the PCs or antagonists.
Note that, as the rulebook states, Lords of Law refuse to be summoned directly, as it reeks of sorcery. Instead, their Agent Myshella is their contact on the plane. This is true for YK, but not other planes.
The Need for Mortals
The necessity of a mortal summons for gods to access the planes further reinforces the concept of pawns being necessary to play the game.
Yet not all pawns are created equal on the chessboard of the Young Kingdoms. The best are free willed subjects, such as Elric. Not only are they undetectable by opposing Lords, they often think of clever solutions to problems even a Lord cannot solve. They might, however, not cooperate entirely with the Lord’s plans.
Next are Agents, such as Prince Gaynor. These follow orders and command armies, but are rough tools at best, lacking the subtlety and flexibility of free-willed subjects like Elric.
Last are clergy, who Lords prefer to keep tending their flock of believers than sending on adventures. Still, a theocrat or hierophant can blend both the power of sorcery and control of worshippers, although their ambition is often hard to control and easily opposed by rival forces.
Besides summoning, another reason for Lords to cooperate with mortals is that they cannot use Objects of Power themselves. As Elric noted, “I now know that the sword my only be borne by me. You cannot bear it, Arioch, or you would.”
Note that Elemental Rulers and Beast Lords are a very part of the fabric of the world, and thus don’t need access. They are already there. Conversely, they would need permission to leave the Young Kingdoms, and might not be able to continue existing outside of it. This spatial limitation also means that they cannot or will not truck with Objects of Power made by Chaos or Law, but only ones made by themselves.
Motivations of Chaos and Lawful Lords
The rulebook notes, “Lords of Law always help those who summon them if they are acting in a Lawful cause, but the Lords of Chaos do whatever they please.” Although this is valid as a general rule, knowing the personalities of the gods will help the GM roleplay them and their decisions more reliably.
The rulebook names only three Lords of Law and describes them briefly as such:
“Donblas – Justice
Arkyn - Natural law
Goldar - Business, money & barter”
Donblas is known for acting dispassionately. On the plus side, he will aid those fighting for justice. On the minus, he will leave his allies without hesitation when his mission is accomplished.
Arkyn is concerned that the laws of natural science be observed and maintained. He is most likely to assist in any attempt to protect the existence of life on the Young Kingdoms, but not interested in anything else.
“Goldar* Business, money . barter.” Goldar, Will happily assist any initiative that increases trade or economic infrastructure, but limit himself to acting through and for money or treasure.
Although the rulebook lists some 20 (!) Lords of Chaos, most of these are vassals and not nobility. To balance out with the three Lords of Law above, I detail only three:
Arioch – Knight of Chaos. Cunning yet duplicitous, he will aid for his own reasons and in mysterious ways.
Xiombarg – Queen of Chaos. The most direct of the three, she favours the raising of armies and change by force. This can be her undoing, as she acts on emotion and impulse.
Mabelrode – King of Swords. His primary means are magic and madness, his thoughts are inscrutible.
Another Chaos God of interest is Pyaray, who has raised in prestige by becoming a patron of Pan Tang, and by presenting himself as a pseudo force of nature akin to Davy Jones in our world.
Limits of Gods & Types of Aid
The rulebook states, “Short of destroying the world with a wave of their hands, there are no limits on the powers of the Law and Chaos Lords.” This is true, but due to the aforementioned repercussions of direct action, they prefer to provide giving aid to mortal agents to manifesting themselves and working miracles. Basically, there are two major types of aid the Chaos or Lawful Lord prefers to offer. These are 1) knowledge and 2) power.
Knowledge refers to intelligence or information the PC needs to fulfil their objective. Power usually comes through Objects, items or artifacts such as the runeswords. A Lord may also do magic, such as when Arioch holds the Gate to the Shadow Realm open for Elric after Yrkoon flees through it.
Knowkedge may include:
A summoning chant
An old book
Objects of Power include:
A piece of armor
A symbol of authority
A tool, musical instrument, or vehicle
A legendary animal
Note, even this indirect aid should be suspect. Lords may lie or conceal information, and Arioch could just as easily said he kept the gate open so Elric would not hesitate to go through it and obtain Stormbringer. As Elric tells Yrkoon, “We are victims of a conspiracy, cousin- a game played by gods, demons and sentient swords.” Those playing the games do it for their own ends, and have little concern for the pawns they use.
Thus the ‘gifts’ of gods also frequently turn against their wielder, as the end of Stormbringer shows.
Information is also partial and biased towards helping the Lord, such as when Arioch tells Elric of Yrkoon’s intention to obtain the runeswords. Whereas Lords of Chaos seem to do these things out of an evil cunning, the Lords of Law can be equally duplicitous in the name of fulfilling their designs, leaving out or glossing over certain details.
There seem to be four requisites for successful sorcery in the Elric novels:
1) Noble lineage or clerical power
2) Skill in sorcery
3) Linguistic ability
4) The agreement of the entity summoned
The explanations in this post should help the GM determine if a PC is entitled to summon an entity, what aid they can expect, but also what peril they run by doing so.