Monday, October 13, 2014

What's The Difference Between Devils and Demons?

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Now then, what was I talking about? Oh yes...

The Real Difference Between Devils and Demons

It's a rite of passage for a Dungeons and Dragons party to face down its first infernal foe. Whether it's a fire-belching demon from the pits of hell, or a bone devil in the service of Orcus the Lord of Undeath, devils and demons are the bread and butter of big boss battles.

Say that three times fast and there's a golden fiddle in it for you.
In between all of the holy magic, shouted battle cries, and oaths to send these foul things back to the pits that spawned them though, players sometimes find themselves asking what the difference between devils and demons is (in a totally non-racist kind of way). It's a legitimate question too; after all, how do you tell one scaly, filth-spewing abomination from another?

Is There A Difference?

The hardcore gamers among you will be the first to point out that in both Dungeons and Dragons as well as Pathfinder devils are lawful creatures, whereas demons are chaotic. There may be other cosmetic differences, such as the locations they're summoned from, the languages they speak, but the point is that while similar demons and devils are distinctly different dishes.

Anymore alliteration and I devour you directly.
While we might use these two words interchangeably, we shouldn't, because they each have a unique definition. You see the word demon (daemon, daimon, etc.) goes back at least as far as Socrates, and was used for beings of beyond human power (often beings of pure spirit) in Greek, and then in Latin. Devil, by contrast, comes from Old English. You can get the full details with times and changes in my article here, but the thing that brought these two words together was actually the translating and re-translating of the Bible.

You see these words were originally different, but due to the translations they kept getting mixed up. In modern contexts the word demon refers to evil spirits, but the word devil refers to the singularly powerful entity that rules hell.

Try putting that into your next campaign, and see if your players think Linguistics is a useless skill after that!

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