The following bit of Lore dump and insanity was brought to you by BDC
It was one of those classic moments. The DM takes a player to the side to roleplay an important scene. In this instance, a new character that had only had two sessions gets caught up in a regional conflict between valiant Paladins and a rampant werewolf infestation. The catch is that this new character is a Lythari; a racial strain of elves that can shapeshift into wolf form. They are good aligned lycanthropes. The encounter was between the Lythari, a handful of werewolves and their ‘leader’, a Succubus named Onza Mouri.
The party had made quick work of the werewolves and the Lythari had gotten separated from them. This is when he came into contact with the Succubus. The weird thing is neither of us can remember what was actually said in this encounter. But, after failing miserably at attempting seduction, the Lythari said something that changed the fiend’s life. It had broken her to the extent that she could not only not return to her master a failure, but she could no longer function as a succubus.
Side Note: Onza’s master was a Baernaloth; one of the most ancient of evils. He had made the wild mountains of this continent his home and had grown a lycanthrope army that was of great concern to the good people and Lords of this region. In my homebrew world, there are seven such Baernaloths who came here to study during an apocalyptic event ages ago. This particular evil studied the lust and hunger that led to horror and evil. And, whether it was true or not, he claimed to be the source of all Lycanthrope.
This moment also changed the life of the Lythari and spawned a whole new campaign of 20th level werewolves who had risen in the ranks of a rebellous set of weres to fight the Baernaloth, stop his reign of terror and make a place for all of the werewolves, werebears, wererats, etc. who didn’t want to live life under the rule of their baser natures. The Succubus stayed with them for a while, but, knowing they would never truly trust her (and with good reason), she disappeared. She knew also that her being there put them all at risk from her dark, former master.
Onza Mouri reappeared, years later, changed and ready to help the ‘CLAW’, the leaders of the Lythari’s rebellion, finish the Baernaloth for good. One of the Paladin Clans on this continent worshiped Lathander. And it was this church she had sought refuge in. Using a disguise, at first, she stayed with them and learned from them. But it was more than knowledge she gained. She saw their faith in action and she found, not only a place of refuge, but a home. She learned love by being loved. She learned faith by their faith in her.
It wasn’t long before she found more than brothers and sisters among the monastery. One of their number taught Onza true love. Even after revealing herself to him, he adored her still. They were united and that union produced a daughter. Unfortunately, her past was soon to catch up to her. She should have known she couldn’t run from it or her angry master. In the course of one night, her loving husband was dead and her little girl was gone. Unfortunately, she knew not only who took her (it was all too obvious) but what nefarious plan he had for her.
RULES AND EXCEPTIONS
As a DM, I have several things that I truly believe. I believe in what I call ‘The Natural Progression of the Story’. This basically means that, once you have the world set, the many players and their motives and a course of action that sets the drama in motion, the story tends to tell itself. Of course, the players are heavily involved in the story development. It’s their story.
A second thing that I absolutely believe in is ‘exceptions to the rules’. Don’t give me absolutes. Tell me one race is this alignment or that only and I will usually find that fringe character that breaks this rule. It is the order (or chaos) of life. Life hates to be put in a box. ‘Nobody puts baby in the corner’. And, usually, the most unique, cliche breaking characters are those in the party or around them.
This all came to a fruition in that one role-play. It changed the course of the game (at least, for a couple of characters). And I knew that there was an adventure to be had here. I was running two games at the time and was about to move. SO I had no time for this adventure. It took about six plus months to actually get it rolling. The frame work was in the hands of the player who had played the Lythari. What happened to the Succubus, was up to me.
But, although it was easy enough to just say, ‘this just happened, deal with it’, I found, not only was there precedent for this, but that it was almost a trope in D&D and many editions had mapped out ways to accomplish just such a transformation.
DARK ROAD TO REDEMPTION: FROM THE SOURCE
Examples abound across the many editions in adventures like “The Well of Worlds”, “The Deva Spark”, as well as, the book “Chant of War”, the sourcebook “Faces of Evil: Fiends”, “Planes of Conflict” and even in the computer game PS: TORMENT. These are mostly tales of love much like the one I’m telling now. Various affairs between different demon types, although they are racially motivated to hate one another, overcome all to find love and redemption in the strangest of places. There are even stories of angels and demons falling in love among the varied tomes of D&D. So, the event of one fiendish Succubus actually having feelings for a human and it reciprocating isn’t beyond the bounds of reality within this roleplaying game. In fact, it has almost become a cliché across the years; the go to question of redemption. Like myself, many before me see the exception to the rule. And this situation is the most rule breaking trope of all tropes.
Grappling with the hows and the whys, much like myself, one fellow searcher asked Mike Mearls, who co-led design for the 5th edition of the game, how it was possible to even get a Succubus to feel ‘human feelings’. He tweeted back, “Would require finding sliver of human emotion in a fiend, building on it. Think of it as the reverse of corrupting a paladin or other hero”. We have fallen Asimars and oath-breaker Paladins. How hard is it to make the leap in the opposite direction?
In my story, Onza Mouri found that sliver among a religious commune which was strengthened by the love of one man who defied the logic and morals of his culture to reach out in love to another creature in need of it.
SANCTIFY THE WICKED
One of the most ‘hands on’ approaches to the subject was laid out in the aptly named 3.5 “Book of Exalted Deeds”. Mostly a book about the paragons of good in their many forms, it took aside a bit to deal with mercy and redemption. Although the book also states:
“Most creatures described in the Monster Manual as ‘always evil’ are either completely irredeemable or so intimately tied to evil that they are almost entirely hopeless. Certainly demons and devils are best slain, or at least banished, and only a Naive fool would try to convert them.”
But the book also creates a tangible in-game mechanic for ‘redeeming the irredeemable’. SANCTIFY THE WICKED is a 9th level spell from the ‘Sanctified Domain’ that brings with it the actions and timing of the ritual needed to recreate a creature into a ‘good’ being. There is also a nifty template later in the book that may help with converting that evil PC or NPC. It is all 3E so yourself and DM will have to get together, convert and negotiate. But it gives you ideas and that’s a start. (All of the spells, domains and templates can be found, obviously by searching google)
But, of course, it’s not as simple as casting a spell. Those offering the spell need signs of repentance and penitence. Most of the time, before the ritual is done, the creature seeking rebirth must commit righteous acts of bravery and sacrifice. They selflessly put their life on the line in defense of others. Only then, may they accept this gift. On top of that, the penitent fiend/creature, as a byproduct of the ritual, must spend either one year or the time needed to find true repentance through reflection on past sins. It is then that the creature can return a changed creature.
But Onza isn’t a PC. And I wouldn’t suggest trying to convert a Succubus to be a PC. But, as an NPC, it makes a great story element, occasional ally or companion.
ACTIONS OF THE DIVINE
Obviously, this transformation can be done, not by ritual, but through an act of the divine. Either through acts of righteousness and heroism under the service of said deity or a godly reaction to one or a series of selfless acts, the tainted petitioner can find rebirth at the hands of a deific gift.
Once again, there is plenty of precedent for this in the canon of D&D lore. In Dragon Magazine #350, in an article about the god Wee Jas, there is a mention of a succubus that through a bit of coercion, transformed the fiend into a servant. The idea is that it has to finally be the decision of the creature. There is no truly forced redemption. We Jas simply bypassed all of that which is a god’s prerogative.
More like the situation with Onza and the priest, Dragon Magazine #290 speaks of a deity named Nusenmee included as part of the default setting for 4E, Nentir Vale. She began as, not only a devil, but a daughter of Zehir (an aspect of the interloper, Set, on Faerun also). She attempted to kill a high priest of Pelor, but, being mortally wounded, all she could do was wait for death. Like Onza, she found compassion among those who should have been her enemy. Her road to redemption led to her ascending to become a goddess of ‘heroism and redemption’.
In Onza’s story, she is walking a tightrope between retrieving her young child and battling her instinct to exact vengeance against the Arch Fiend, the Baernolith, and starting on her road to redemption by selflessly aiding the Lythari in his quest to destroy the demon only because it is a sacred goal. Strangely enough, one of the nine Paladin sects on this continent is that of Lathander, the Morning Lord, which she has become a devotee of. Ed Greenwood, during a discussion about using the spell, Sanctify the Wicked in the forum of Candlekeep, said that the use of this spell “in particular for followers of Lathander, who bring about a ‘new beginning’ for the demon”, basically makes sense.
A HAND ALONG THE WAY
In Dragon Magazine #417, a whole article about the ecology of the Succubus called ‘Fallen Angels‘ goes into a bit of detail about the option of having one of these fiends as a companion to a PC or a party. It states that these creatures sometimes join up with a certain adventurer or adventurers in order to tempt them to the wrong path. But adversely, this Succubus could just as easily pair up with a Cleric or Paladin as a part her path to redemption. It would be fitting to have a Paladin of the Oath of Redemption (found in Xanathar’s Guide) to lead her to the light. In fact, it would make a great story to see the constant interaction with the party change her slowly along the way.
Side Note: The trial of redemption for an NPC could be an interesting love story also between the pentitent and the paladin or cleric.
IT even goes on to talk about a tangible road to redemption. Although Onza was already on this world, many Succubus would need to find a way out of the Nine Hells. After this, according to this 4th Edition resource, she would need to commit 7 good acts for every betrayal of the gods. For some, this could take centuries. But these fiends are a patient type, at least, having nothing but time on their side. All along, she would have to commit to a chaste and holy life. Only then, should they be allowed to be returned to their former, angelic glory. And, even then, they still retain their original form.
REDEMPTION BY THE NUMBERS
If you want or need a more concrete way of grading redemption Dragon Magazine #306 had a system to do just that. Basically there were certain actions have the possibility to either tempt you to evil or lead you to redemption. There were DCs given on the charts listed below. It doesn’t say, but I assume you would get your Wisdom modifier when rolling your tendency toward one or another. You could allow the player to keep the numbers or keep them private, behind the screen. Either way, you weigh them against each other and gauge how the road to redemption is going.
But, this is going to be a bit difficult to keep up with so both DM and player need to be dedicated to this story. For the NPC, of course, you could keep it all to yourself and see where the road goes.
There are still many questions to be answered. According to 5E, will the child be a Cambion? Are there drawbacks or disadvantages to being a holy cleric with fiendish blood? Will the penitent make it to the ritual alive even?
Onza’s fate is yet to be seen, but soon she must confront her former master and all she was and try and rescue her daughter in the meantime. What are your thoughts? Do you have any in-game examples? How did you handle it? Drop them in the comments or hit us up on social media.