Historical Mentions: Demonologist Ideas Involving a Johann

While bouncing ideas around, I tend to draw from history a lot. I love history, and I even spent way too much of my younger life in school studying it. These days, I put all that academia towards roleplaying ideas… and, uh, research for copy– but that’s a darker story for another time.

One fellow who pops out from history is Johann Weyer, student of famed occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and, of course, ardent demonologist. Weyer is best known for writing  De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Venificiis in 1563, leading a life of research into the occult, working as a physician, and basically taking the piss out of radical woo-doo types. In fact, Johann might just have been a bit of a cad in terms of the occult, as some of his works could be considered prankish satire, like Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, which lists 69 entities in a “false monarchy of demons”, which some brainy, experty folks argue that he was mocking the mere thought of a “Hellish hierarchy”. But where Weyer really shined was the way he took on contemporary witch hunters, whom he must’ve thought of as complete prats. He considered so-called witches to be delusional at best (or worst, I suppose), and even used terms like “melancholy” to describe their condition– which is essentially like saying “mentally ill” today. Go ahead and follow the links when you get a chance. He and his works make for a fascinating read.


I’m willing to bet that the character of Dr. Weir in Event Horizon was at least partially inspired by Weyer, at least in name.

Anyways, in terms of your game, Johann Weyer serves as a great example of a non-evil demonologist. Sure, he didn’t think all demons were evil, as demons were originally meant to be spirits and such; but Weyer was still someone who researched the roots of supernatural evil (from a certain moralistic point of view). Those who dabble and dabble with demons, devils, and other infernal indulgences can be really anyone from any walk of life. Maybe they’re a poor priest who broke off from their church in order to better obsessively pursue demonic knowledge, whether to fight evil, use evil, or be just plain evil. Maybe they’re a rich aristocrat who wishes for easier power, or have become a “lay academic” because of some kind of demonic encounter. Reformed witch hunter. Obsessed witch hunter. Ruined merchant. Enlightened mercenary. The ideas abound. Combine some thoughts and paste on some stats, if necessary.

If you’re looking for a good angle to mess with your players, dear GMs, which involves demonologists and necromancers and the like, take a gander at Black Death, which I plan to cover in a future entry.

As for more on this particular idea, I’ll probably incorporate it into BGG at some point. And I already kinda have in some respects. Usually, I find some of the best game aspects evolve from the gray ooze resulting from the vigorous mixing of black and white.

Until next time, game the hell on.

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