Demons in RPGs are nothing new. They tend to be something like Aki discussed yesterday – big and scary. Rarely something else. It might have to do with same kind of prejudice as in the case of MtG. Or not. It actually does not make that big of a difference.
I do not pride myself as an expert of RPG lore. But I have played several games and read even more. So as a part of Demon Week I decide my angle to be demonic possession as it will feature heavily in the Wayward Sons hack.
My first encounter with demonic possessions was with the original Deadlands. My character died and returned as a Harrowed with a demon inside of him. It so was fascinating the play a character who had two different goals (and actual identities) that I was intrigued ever since.
Deadlands handled the thing quite nicely. Once you had a demon in you there was no escape. Except death. It was raiding you until it took total control of your character or your character faced the final death. This was the kind of doom and gloom I liked. Later supplements introduced Voodoo possession too (at least if my memory serves me right) but they did not feel that interesting to me.
Later on when Dark Heresy was published I was once again fascinated by its approach. The demonic possession in WH40K universe was introduced (to me at least) by the Inquisitor war game and Dark Heresy did a good job adapting the power of possession. I absolutely loved the random table for side-effects of possession and ended up using them in a game of WFRP I ran.
For all the rpgs I’ve read and played I’m yet to find an interesting representation of exorcism. I suppose it is somewhere to be found. But actually having missed something like that is an interesting point by itself. Sure, there are numerous magic spells and rituals to exorcism. But no such imaginative rules as those of possession spring to mind.
This is likely because of the specific nature of such an act. In most games the roles of the characters are definite and diverse. Having one character with a special kind of “mini-game” to exorcism just is not that important. Anybody could be possessed by an evil spirit but it seems to be more that a group of characters could/would be involved banishing it from its host.
For me this seems fair. Exorcism is not as important when considering the flow of the story as the actual possession. But it could be. I think that Dread could make an excellent game for exorcism. The characters would all be taking part in the ritual while the demon would be fighting against them. “A little Exorcist and Poltergeist for the evening” so to speak.
Image from: http://www.acliparthistory.com/church/cbr/The-Devil/R-20-58-39