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Demon of the First Circle or any of the Demon spells seems ripe for exploitation. I'm wondering how other storytellers have dealt with this issue.

I'm worried because of the ease of summoning, and the length the demon will serve you. The way I read the rules there is nothing preventing a sorcerer from summoning one demon every night. The risk of failing Int + Occult vs the demons resolve is also very small. Spend willpower and a stunt, and you're almost guaranteed to succeed. That is before taking into consideration that most sorcerers will have high int and occult, and possibly an excellency to boost the roll if they feel like it. Once summoned the demon is your slave for a year and a day.

Given the system, it feels like most sorcerers should be surrounded by a small army of demons to do their bidding.

How have other storytellers dealt with this issue? Is there anything from e3 or the other editions that can be used as a guide to reduce the exploitability of the summon spells?

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First Circle demons simply aren't powerful enough to be a balance concern. Any decent Exalt could raise a small army of loyal mortals far faster than summoning one demon worth maybe three to five mortals per night. Demon of the First Circle is more of a Swiss Army Knife than a game-breaking cannon - my only (2nd edition, but still) character who bothered summoning more than a handful of First Circle demons was an Immaculate Monk who had around 15 summoned at a time, but they were a few of the armors that translate languages for you, one giant wasp per party member in case we needed to fly, one each of a few types to use their unique Charms or fill gaps in our skills, and five blood apes to use as disposable distractions if our front-line needed shoring up - or we needed to run away.

That said, (at least in Second Edition, assuming the task-binding option is still a thing in 3e, I don't have the book handy) there are a few circumstances where summoning a demon every night could be useful. If you're performing geomancy, either building a manse or altering a demense, and you've already got the plans drawn up but need the manpower to get the job done, you could task-bind a demon every night for a few years. Call up a few Second Circles (if you can) on those nights to use as taskmasters and security, and use First Circles as menial labor. You'll build it a lot slower than if you just recruited a small city's entire adult population to do the job, but you can do so with a lot less notice by using demons that'll vanish when the job is done, especially if you're somewhere (or have some ability) that it's harder for Fate to notice the massive demonic presence.

Speaking of massive demonic presence, remember that that's a thing that can be detected, so if you're walking around a city with a few hundred demons on retainer, the Immaculate Order will likely notice, as well as the Chosen of the Maidens being able to see it from literally the next plane over.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Without a lot of combat experience in 3e, it looks to me that a 1st circle demon would be much closer to a starting character dragon blooded than a mortal. But still the above is a valid argument, especially the parts about drawing attention to oneself. \$\endgroup\$ – Marius Jan 23 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Marius I'll happily admit that I have significantly more experience with 2e, but my point about hiring/recruiting mortal help being much faster and easier for a Solar who is geared for that holds true even if the demons are worth 10 mortals each. And mortals don't vanish in a year - you can train them and equip them and improve them over time, instead of maxing out at (year length - 4) demons, assuming you never miss a night or fail a roll. (However, Second and obviously Third Circles use vastly different calculus...) \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 Jan 24 at 1:04
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While summoned demons will be subservient to you, they are still bound by their unique physiology. They require upkeep and maintenance that is far more complicated than that of a comparable force of human labourers/soldiers. Just because they must obey doesn't mean they have to make it easy; a dissatisfied demon ordered to keep you safe might well throw you in a dungeon until it's year is up.

Many demons require expensive, esoteric or grisly sustenance to maintain their existence that makes keeping them around for extended periods troublesome. Others have drives that that must be catered to or risk the demon becoming recalcitrant or setting out to fulfill them themselves.

Neomah for example have a drive to sculpt flesh that is great if all you want is an adorable hybrid animal companion or two. Keeping one around however could result in dozens of bizarre homunculus being left to wander about, to say nothing of the missing people/animals that went into creating them.

Assuming you could set up the supply lines required to keep your demons happy and healthy (the more numerous and diverse the demons, the more complicated that is) you then have to worry about being discovered. These sort of things get noticed and then there are uncomfortable questions at best. In addition to your supply chain leading right back to you, demons don't have a Fate in Creation, one or two might get looked over, the Pattern Spiders have bigger problems, but an army of them is grounds for sending a Sidereal to investigate, if not a whole Wyld Hunt.

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