Runequest Thursday #74 - Wizardry, Part One - Summoning and Binding of Demons!

Clint Staples

Note: Wizardry is a Specialty for those who have Mastered Sorcery, by which I mean "A New Sorcery". Thus it is an advanced discipline, not even remotely accessible to lesser practitioners.

The path from sorcerer to wizard is long and fraught with peril, but for those called to wizardry, the risks are worth the reward. Wizardry is concerned with the summoning and binding of demons to the will of the wizard. In the mind of the wizard, there is no greater challenge, and nothing more demonstrative of his mastery over magic and the spheres.

The Nature of Demons

Demons are entities of the outer realms, distant worlds or dimensions that give rise to incredibly diverse beings and environments. Most have no interest in the affairs of mortals, but some have become curious or acquisitive of mortal things, including mortals. All of these entities are considered demons, but those who are interested in the mortal spheres are the ones who have come down in legend, often as powerful demon princes.

Note: There are Chaos Demons, but most demons are not inherently “of Chaos”. Demons are definitely tied fundamentally to the Disorder rune, and resent the imposition of order or Law. Only Chaos Demons detect as Chaos. Unless a wizard interacts with Chaos, or Chaos Demons, he is not at risk of taint from Chaos. A wizard that becomes tainted generally will quickly fall to Chaotic influence. The taint allows Chaos Demons access to the wizard’s soul, which they corrupt until the master becomes a servant – and thus a demonologist – a servant and summoner of Chaos – is born.


The Pursuit of Wizardry

Some wizards are careless of details and rely on raw power, but these rarely survive as free souls for long. The ones who excel are meticulous researchers who study their quarry, and the wards against it, assemble the necessary items and ingredients and craft a ritual with all the time and care they can manage. To some, this may not seem exciting, but to the wizard, this is the meat and bread of his craft. Besides, no matter how carefully he plans, a wizard’s life becomes far more exciting when the ritual begins, or when it ends abruptly at the behest of the summoned.

All beginning Wizards gain two rituals as specialty abilities of Master Sorcery. These are rituals, but the skill used to work them is always Wizardry.


Summoning is a ritual (in fact, the ritual framework within which many elements combine) to call forth a demon.  The parts of the ritual are detailed below, but if all goes well, the wizard will roll against his modified Wizardry Skill – any Summoning Resistance the demon is question might possess. If the roll is a success, the demon appears within the Binding Sigil, but is not yet bound (see Binding Sigil and Binding below). If the roll fails, the demon has not been drawn to the ritual. If the roll is a Fumble, the demon may choose to appear, and is not held within the Binding Sigil, which means it is free to act until you Dismiss it (see Effects of Failure and Fumble below).

Demons are tricky

No matter how well a wizard has prepared, there is always a chance of a failure. A 96-00 is a failure even if the percentage chance for summoning is high enough that it would normally be lower. In addition, demons are so unpredictable that the Fumble chance is double what it normally would be. So a summoning at 70% would fail on a 71 or higher, but would fumble on a 95 or higher [rather than 98]. Thus even a summoning chance of 130 would fail on a 96 or higher, and Fumble on a 99 or 00. The advantage to such high summoning chances comes in the ability to summon demons with Summoning Resistance more reliably, but there will always be risk.

Note: Hero Points are very useful to a wizard, who could use one to reroll in case of a Fumble.


The Summoning ritual requires many consecrated items, magical unguents, potions and paraphernalia, which must be assembled to bait a trap constructed as part of the ritual. The trap is a Binding Sigil, within which the summoned demon is forced to manifest in the case of a successful ritual. The Binding Sigil may be a pentacle of power, a magic circle scribed on the floor with silver dust, or a number of other magical barriers. The Binding Sigil works exactly as the sorcery spell: Ward, but with the addition that a creature within the Binding Sigil may not pass out of the Sigil, because it is specifically tailored to affect demons. A wizard may well know the Ward spell, but understands that it is a general spell, and that every summoning requires a unique set of wards. Wizards that do know Ward, often incorporate it into a summoning on the understanding that it can’t hurt to have another layer of protection in case of a Fumble.


Wizards may incorporate practices, items or ingredients into the summoning ritual that increase their chance of success. A Wizardry success can ritually prepare items pertinent to the summoning at hand, adding 5% to the Summoning chance per addition, up to the Wizardry Manipulation Limit.

Prepared items or ingredients may be found, bought or crafted (incurring whatever costs the GM determines appropriate, but generally this should be Demon’s Rank, x d100L per item or ingredient) and maintained (which costs 10L, and 1 Temporary POW, per week per item or ingredient until the time of the Summoning). Such preparations often make the difference between success and failure especially for new wizards, or when summoning potent demons –who sometimes have resistance to Summoning (and to Binding, but we will get to that).

During Preparation the wizard may act as he wishes, shopping for unguents, questing after rare items or materials, gathering POWer and power. This may increase the amount of time before summoning, which is up to the demands of the story and the dictates of the GM. In this way, a wizard can continue to act in the world, adventure, etc, until the time of the summoning itself.


A wizard may include assistants or apprentices in the summoning ritual, who fetch, carry, donate temporary POWer for spells, even act as guards. Each such assistant must be consecrated just as an item must be, and can add to the Summoning chance in the same way, up to the total allowed by the Wizardry Manipulation limit.

Summoning: The Ritual itself

Once all preparations have been completed, the actual ritual of summoning may begin. This takes 1d3 hours +1 hour per rank of the Demon, during which the wizard may not cease in his summoning without the ritual failing. At the end of the time, the wizard must roll his modified Summoning skill to see if he has succeeded. If the roll is equal or less than the modified Summoning – any Summoning Resistance, the wizard has succeeded.

Finally, the required POWer (10 POW+1d10 POW per rank of the Demon) is spent to open the way to the outer realms and summon the demon. This amount of POWer might require use of a familiar, spirits, assistants, sacrifices and/ or stored POW.

The Binding Sigil of a successful Summoning can remain empowered, potentially trapping a demon, for months, years, even centuries, sustained by the magical structure created. The demon held within is trapped for that time. Eventually, however, all Binding Sigils fail, releasing their captive – who may be extremely angry. If a Sigil fails, or is broken, the demon is not constrained in any way, and may leave, attack or act as it chooses. The only exception is if it was subjected to a Binding ritual that is still in effect [See Binding and Strictures, below).

Example of a Summoning:

After spending weeks in research and preparation, the new wizard, Wyrmhere, believes he is ready to summon his first demon. He has consulted the Ebon Book, and believes his Wizardry of 54% is equal to the task of summoning a Rank 3 combat demon – if he is careful with his preparations. The player of Wyrmhere decides to name the demon Ycorax, and spends some time with the Demon Creation rules making his wish list for Ycorax. The Summoning will take 1d3+3 Hours to complete. Wyrmhere bolts and magically seals the door to his tower, allowing only his apprentice Falgar to aid him.

      Wyrmhere, whose Wizardry Manipulation Limit is 6, has spent 18xd100L to prepare for the Summoning of Ycorax thusly:

  • He commissioned the creation of seven small silver swords to serve as the focus for the Binding Sigil, consecrating them ritually, and closing the Sigil by pouring a ring of powdered silver. [+5%]
  • Since the Ebon Book suggested that Ycorax has a form not unlike that of a minotaur, Wyrmhere has Falgar wear armor crafted from the hide of an aurochs (the wizard’s scruples about not using the skin of a sentient creature prevented him from using actual minotaur hide). He draws a disorder rune on the armor in aurochs blood. [+5% for Falgar, +5% for the blooded Armor]
  • A large bronze bowl of the blood of three wolves rests in the center of the Binding Sigil. [+5%]
  • He burns costly incense containing rowan and myrr to aid in the opening of the Way. [+5%]
  • Finally, Wyrmhere loosens the Binding wrap upon his demonic left arm, as like calls to like, and Ycorax will respond better to a demon than to a wizard. [+5%]

Since Wyrmhere’s Manipulation Limit is 6, that is all the ritual preparation he can incorporate into the Summoning. This increases his Summoning chance for Ycorax, to 84% for success, leaving a 16% chance of failure, and a Fumble of 97 or higher. Ranks 3 demons generally do not have Summoning Resistance, so Wyrmhere feels fairly confident. He casts the final summons, draws 10+3d10 POW from his familiar, Falgar, and a Power Storage Crystal, and hurls it across the aether.

Effects of Failure and Fumble

Any preparation time is wasted. Items remain, but must be Maintained to continue to be useful, ingredients are lost and must be replaced, and any other preparations must be redone or replaced. Further research may be required, or the wizard may simple have had an off day (the player rolled badly).

In the case of a Fumble, the Demon may choose to appear and is not confined within the Binding Sigil. This means that it CANNOT be bound by the wizard, and is free to act as it wishes, including attacking. The wizard may attempt to dismiss the Demon on his action. If he succeeds, the demon is banished and that wizard cannot attempt to summon it again for one year and a day. If he fails to dismiss, he may fight it traditionally, or attempt to dismiss it again until successful, until the demon leaves of its own accord, or the wizard is dead.

If the result was a Fumble AND the wizard did not have enough POWer available for the Summoning, some demon OTHER than the intended may choose to answer the summons instead of the intended, and is not bound within the Binding Sigil. Such occurrences have given rise to stories of powerful demons appearing at a botched summons and taking the opportunity to wreak havoc, staying in our world as long as it suits them or they are Dismissed, driven out or destroyed.

Dismissal of Demons

A wizard can dismiss any demon he has bound, including those successfully summoned onto a Binding Sigil, simply by willing it away. If a wizard attempts to dismiss a demon not under his control, he must succeed on his Wizardry – the higher of the demon’s Summoning or Binding Resistance.

Dismissed demons are banished to their own realm, but retain any connection to binding items or locations. Thus a wizard can dismiss one of her own demons at will and call it again from the item or location as she wishes. A demon with a connection to an item or location can return at will unless the Owner or the Dismissing Wizard refuses it admittance, which may be a constant struggle if the demon is persistent. Demons that have no connection to an item or place cannot not return to the world from which they were dismissed for at least a year and a day.


Binding: The Utterance

Once the Summoning has been successful, the Binding is, by comparison, a simple – if nerve-wracking – affair. The wizard must state the terms of the Binding he desires clearly and concisely. The terms must include the Object of the Binding – the demon, the Subject of the Binding – the wizard, the Nature of the Binding – the service to be performed. They may include Strictures from the list below. Each Stricture gets increasingly difficult to impose (See Strictures for details).


Terms: The Primes – mandatory for a Binding

  • Object – the demon to be bound
  • Subject – the binding wizard
  • Nature – the service to be performed

Object and Subject of the Binding are relatively straightforward in comprehension. The difficulty in the interpretation of the Binding inevitably is in the Nature of the service – which must be a single stated service that may be performed and completed - a single command relating the Object and the Subject, and comprising what the demon’s Service will be.

In the Prime form, this Service is a single act or action to be performed, at which time the Binding will cease, which automatically dismisses the demon. A wizard might summon a demon to protect her, carry her, advise her, to answer a single question, to be a body-servant or concubine, or any number of other relatively simple commands. Unless Extended (see Strictures, below), the time that the demon may be bound to such a service may be no more than a number of days equal to the Wizardry Manipulation limit.


Strictures: Other Terms (Optional for a Binding)

Strictures can enhance a Binding, making terms of service more useful, enjoyable, subtle or even ensure or restrict actions or behavior. Each Stricture becomes progressively more difficult to impose on a Binding however, with the Limit being the Wizardry Manipulation limit.

Obviously, for a wizard to have any hope of ever binding a demon, his Wizardry Manipulation Limit must be at least three – to include the Primes. The first Stricture added to the primes counts as 1, for a total of 4 Terms. The second Stricture counts as 2, for a total of 6 Terms, the third as 3, totalling 9, etc.

  • Item – A Binding Object – the demon may be bound to the object, and command into and out of it at will by the Owner. So long as the object survives, the Binding lasts (i.e. beyond the normal limit of the Prime). The demon may roam a radius equal to its POW in Yards, unless its range is Extended. A binding item must have a value in excess of the Number of Terms in the Utterance x 1000L to be suitable. 
  • Location – Like an item, the Binding location contains the demon, who may manifest there, freely, unless commanded or Constrained by the Owner, to enact its Service. The demon may roam a radius equal to its POW in Yards, unless its range is Extended.
  • Extension – A term that extends the duration or area of the service in a ritually significant, but not open-ended way. With this stricture, a limit on the duration, range or area a demon may be bound, is increased by as much as 10. Thus a demon may be Bound for a entire Moon cycle, or until it has completed a single longer term Service (like flying the wizard to another continent],  or it may range ten times the normal radius from its item or location.
  • Owner – the master of a demon, if it is not to be other binder (the owner must give consent to be so named).
  • A Stipulation – some clause that alters, or extends the definition of the prime Service. This allows a more complicated Service. The Prime might allow a wizard to command a demon to protect her in a general way, giving considerable leniency of interpretation to the demon. A Stipulation might be that the demon fight at your direction, or protect you without killing your assailants, or only protect you from assassins, etc.
  • A Constraint – Like a Stipulation, but a limitation of the Service, rather than a refinement or extension of it. So a Wizard could Bind a demon to Service as a counsellor, but use two Constraints to force it to always tell the truth, and to put the wizard’s best interests at the core of its advise.

As may be seen, the terms and strictures of a Binding are crucial to getting the service that a wizard requires, and to the continued health of the wizard. Demons are notoriously cantankerous about being bound however, and will often do everything in their power to pervert the terms of a Binding. Thus it is best to be careful.

Binding Example:

Wyrmhere casts his Summoning successfully, invoking the name Ycorax at the ultimate moment. The aether hisses and roils, the Wolf blood bubbles and sublimates into a red mist within the Binding Sigil, Finally, the hulking horned form of Ycorax congeals from the billowing blood, turning its red gaze on the wizard.


Wyrmhere has prepared his Binding, having acquired a binding item, in this case a large ruby on a steel chain, valued at over 7000L ( more than the 6000L minimum for the Utterance he intends). His Manipulation Limit of 6 restricts him to the Primes plus as many as two Strictures, one of which is obviously “Item”. For a second Stricture, Wyrmhere chooses Stipulation, hoping to increase the utility of the demon in combat.


Thus his Binding Utterance contains:

  1. (Subject: Wyrmhere) Prime
  2. + (Object: Ycorax) Prime
  3. + (Nature: Protect Wyrmhere) Prime
  4. + (Item: The Ruby and Chain) Stricture 1
  5. + (stipulation: Fight as I direct you) Stricture 2


A total of 6 Terms, equal to the Manipulation Limit – all in all a fairly standard Utterance, under the circumstance. By including the second stricture, Wyrmhere hopes to improve understanding and increase the ways in which Ycorax may be useful. Ycorax comprehends the utterance to obey the directions of his master, Wyrmhere, which modifies the Prime: Protect Wyrmhere. Adhering strictly to the Utterance, Ycorax could interpret that as meaning that he must only fight when told, and then, only to protect Wyrmhere. It remains to be seen how the Utterance will be interpreted in action, but it should at least have the effect of keeping Ycorax from killing a child that throws a stone at the wizard, or other such misunderstandings.


That's It for Part One! Check back next week for Part Two - Demons!