Tuesday 19 April 2022

Random Demonic Incursion Generator Test Case


Yesterday's post was about a campaign in which the PCs are figurative or literal knights-errant in a world beset by incursions from the Abyss. I threw together this little illustration of what I meant - the real life version would be much bigger, more detailed and better in every respect.

First, the key to the hexmap, scale 1-mile:

  • 00.04 - The camp of a travelling circus, a la Something Wicked This Way Comes. Complete with strange magicians, fortune tellers, sword swallowers, two-headed dwarves, and so on. 
  • 01.00 - A forest pool which according to legend is the home of an eel-haired woman, who seduced a wicked local petty king long ago and led him here to his drowning, thus freeing the people of the area from his tyranny. A small sect of nuns and their blind guards have administered a shrine here ever since. 
  • 01.05 - A ruined fortress, remnant from the days of an empire long fallen, which once stood on solid ground but is now slowly being swallowed up by boggy wetland that has spread in the eon since the fortress was built. Haunted (natch).
  • 02.04 - The village of Confluence, whose inhabitants fish the labyrinth of waterways, walled by reeds, in the basin around the Dank Lake (at 02.05). They were once headhunters, and remain only a step removed from that practice; some of most hotheaded youths are given to recidivism. 
  • 02.07 - The Graizelound Hole. A cave buried at the bottom of a mossy cliff face in a thickly-wooded valley called the Graizelound. The hole was burrowed by a race of bearded goblins whose wraiths, along with various outcasts, robbers and monsters, are still purported to infest its tunnels. 
  • 03.01 - The camp of the Quiet Company, a mercenary band who, returning from a distant war, have found this region to their liking and taken to sheer banditry. They communicate using their own jargon, a mixture of sign language, whistles, and semaphore. 
  • 04.06 - Lord Fane’s tower. The local lord and his thirteen sons and their households inhabit this high tower of red stone, built, it is said, by a race of giants now long dead. Lord Fane himself is a man of honour and dignity, who struggles to keep his rebellious progeny from running wild. 
  • 05.02 - The village of Hardgrounded, whose inhabitants fight an unending war to maintain their pastures and fields against encroaching marshland. Given to melancholy and stoicism, they are a people renowned as poets and bards. 
  • 06.07 - The Fivestone Gate. A small circle of five standing stones, twisted and scarred by eons of rain, on a lonely hilltop rising from the woods. A gate to the Abyss itself, shunned by all who know of it, but rumoured to be the site of wild bacchanals on black, windy nights. 
  • 07.04 - An abbey, home to a brotherhood of monks sworn to administer to a colony of victims of the Treacher Dance. This malady causes sufferers to undergo attacks of bizarre dance-like convulsions without warning, rendering them unable to lead normal lives. Victims come from far and wide to live with the monks.

Now that the basic setup is in place, we come to the Demon Incursion Generator. The idea here is to create a dynamic environment in which the PCs can either act at their own initiative, following up rumours, or be enlisted into 'quests' depending on taste. (Or they can simply go to the Abyss itself to explore, through the Fivestone Gate at [06.07].) Demonic incursions, in order to be interesting, are tied to existing hex contents: the demons are here for a reason, and interact with the natural world in more interesting ways than just "they want to kill people". 

The core of the system would be that every 1d30 days of game time, there is a chance of a demonic incursion (say, 1 in 3). For every demonic incursion, the DM would then roll on a set of nested random tables to find out the type of demon, its mission, where it appears and so on, and use that to create hooks. These tables in greatly simplified form would resemble something like this:

Demon Generator


Base Type


Ability Orientation








Rivalry with other intruders





Limited time



Pair or small group



Restrictions or oaths








Large group

Disease or poison spreading








Wounded or sickening

Incursion Location




Travelling circus (00.04)


Shrine (01.00)


Ruined fortress (01.05)


Confluence (02.04)


Cave lair (02.07)


Quiet company camp (03.01)


Lord Fane's tower (04.06)


Hardgrounded (05.02)


Fivestone Gate (06.07)


Abbey (07.04)


Random (2d8 for X/Y axis)


Random (2d8 for X/Y axis)

So, giving it a whirl, I just rolled for two incursions and got:

  • A large group of insectoid demons, built for combat, whose motive is conversion and who have been summoned. The location of their intrusion is random - hex 04.05. Just outside Lord Fane’s tower. I picture a band of many man-sized, bright-red lily beetles with the heads of beautiful women with jet-black eyes and forelegs tapering to narrow points with which to stab victims. They are intent on converting any humans they can find to the worship of their god, Sharagat the Scarlet, and the twist is that they were summoned by a wayward son of Lord Fane, who has been experimenting with demon worship without his father’s knowledge. 
  • A large group of reptilian demons, built for manipulation, whose motive is settlement and who are wounded or sickened in some way. The location of their intrusion is 03.01 - The camp of the Quiet Company. Here, I imagine a band of chameleon-things who are capable of heroic feats of persuasion. Having been sickened due to a curse laid upon them by enemies in the Abyss, they have come to the natural world to permanently settle within it. Arriving at the Quiet Company’s camp, they intend to use the mercenaries to conquer a domain for themselves in the region.

So now, hey presto!, you now should have no problem generating hooks from that material. 

I would suggest beginning a campaign with a much larger regional hexmap with many more locations and interesting contents, and a far bigger and more extensive set of tables to generate incursions. I would begin with, say, 6-10 incursions already in effect, so as to generate a set of beginning rumours. (One of these, of course, would refer to the gate to the Abyss itself - and there would be a further set of tables for generating Abyssal contents too.) And then I would have the PCs begin as newcomers to the area who fancy themselves as "regulators" - and watch from there. 

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  1. The more I read it, the more I thougt "huh, this would fit very well in an Oriental Adventures campaign."

    1. I would hope it could fit into any. I actually thought about a Cyberpunk 2020/D&D mashup version - might even post about it.

  2. I was actually thinking of going from "good vs evil" to "good vs chaos" and substituting fey for demons. I think fey can basically be used to stand in for the real world; they aren't evil, necessarily, but they are capricious, arbitrary, and cruel. They don't act as they do out of a sense of innate malice, but to fulfill their own mysterious purposes.

    I think I could still use the same framework - the PCs are peripatetic do-gooders who help people. No moral ambiguity - someone got kidnapped and taken to Faerie, and we need to get them back from the Prince of Flowers.

    As for a setting, I might try to see if Dolmenwood would work. Hmm...this is an interesting idea to noodle on for later.

    Thank you.

    1. Yes, there could easily be a fey version - and I like the idea!

    2. Thank you. I've read more of your blog. I like your style. And I appreciate your contributions to the hobby. Thank you for all the above!

  3. This is a great little system and a neat concept. I mostly play fantasy wargames, but I'll be adapting this for narrative skirmish campaign

  4. Confluence is a lovely little town tucked into the back-ridges of the Laurel Highlands. (SW Pa.) Fort Hill is nearby - an interesting flattened hill top Monongahela village site - though some of the locals claim the erstwhile inhabitants were actually ancient Phoenicians...