Demons (1993)

This is the Demons box set (1993), one of many supplements in the unfortunately named Role Aids line from Mayfair Games. Like all the Role Aids material, it was designed to be compatible with Dungeons & Dragons. This was a bit of a problem from TSR’s point of view.

In ‘93, Second Edition D&D was in full swing and it had pissed off a large number of players by removing references to demons, devils and downplaying real world religions, something that was seen by many as a capitulation to the Satanism fearmongers of the 80s. That the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix (1991) re-introduced demons and devils in the Scooby-doo disguise of Tanar’ri and Baatezu made no one happy.

With D&D demonstrably uninterested in the infernal, Mayfair swooped in with the Demons line. Underneath that delicious Larry Elmore cover is a new infernal plane, tons of demons (both rank and file legions and royalty modeled on demons from the Goetia and other real world occult sources), a pile of spells, a new character class and probably some stuff I am forgetting. It all bounces between interesting, slightly disturbing and laughably edge lord-y in equal measure (the interior art is pretty forgettable), but over all, there are some solid ideas here. My favorite thing is the secondary booklet, which is an in-universe tome of demonology, complete with cryptic annotations. Oh, and not only are the monster stats intended to be put in you Monstrous Compendium binder, but Mayfair included a custom divider in the TSR style, which strikes me as particularly cheeky.

This rode a fine line with TSR. The Role Aids line started in 1982 and, though Gygax advocated for Mayfair to receive and official license, the TSR board instead brought Mayfair to court in 1984 for infringing on their trademark. An agreement was reached that allowed the Role Aids line to continue so long as Mayfair limited its use of the D&D trademark (it could appear only once, and had to be small). Mayfair toed the line, mostly, but the two companies were back in court in the early 90s. More on that tomorrow.

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