Back in the early 90s, I discovered Mayfair Games' Role-Aids supplements on their Demon Campaign Setting. I really enjoyed their fluff, as well as the great development they provided for the use of demons as foes in an AD&D campaign. The flavor of their setting was awesome. I think the following tidbit from the Demons II introduction really encapsulates the essence of their approach:
The chapters which follow introduce a great number of Adventure Seeds, hints, settings and inspiration for GMs to expand into full adventures. Above all, this book is a resource pack, containing thousands of ideas that GMs can weave into their own adventures. However, there are certain key rules which GMs should always remember when using demons in their campaigns:
- Demons want to gain souls above all else. This is usually done by inspiring mortals to sin, but pacts and tricks are also common. Demons rarely take an interest in events on the mortal plane which do not gain them souls.
- Mortals are always a demon's prey. The mortal plane is merely a source of sustenance for demons, a place where they may hunt. Mortals are never truly befriended by demons. If the creatures cooperate with mortals, it is merely because they believe that mortal can help them to gain more sustenance - more souls.
- Demons are destructive and corrupting, wholly evil. They do not create anything that does not in turn corrupt or destroy.
- Demons are not like mortals, and do not think like mortals. Often, their survival is dependent on understanding their prey, as a fox hunter must understand a fox, but their minds are ultimately alien to the mortal plane.
- Though lesser demons can be slain on the mortal plane, demon lords are immortal. They cannot simply be killed, because they can always come back again and again. To destroy a demon, a mortal must journey to the Infernus itself and slay the creature there, a quest which would challenge the greatest of heroes.
I really like that. Demons are not good guys, nor should they ever be considered as such. It's very easy to see who the bad guy is in a Demons-based campaign. While people can argue for hours on alignment issues and the slaying of orcish infants, ad nauseum, there is no such ambiguity with these extraplanar fiends. Furthermore, they have a specific style, expressed in terms of their motivations and their interactions with the mortal world. Finally, I find a lot of adventure potential in the books and supplements for this setting, and more inspired by the material presented therein. These works have impacted and improved the quality of my games in the last sixteen or so years since I first discovered them, and in rereading them this weekend, I thought I'd share some of that essence with you.