Sealed Evil In A Can
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Basic Information

Sealed Evil In A Can is a trope common to Horror and Speculative Fiction. It refers to great evils that were defeated and imprisoned, but not destroyed, in the distant past. Now they await a chance to get vengeance.

Related Tropes



Game and Story Use

  • Adventure Seed: Zedekiah Brown
  • Traditionally, whatever culture or hero sealed them away in the first place is no longer alive to defeat them. It's up to the PCs yet again!
    • They may have to research how he was sealed away the first time, in order to do so again.
    • Or, being locked away for centuries (or longer) may have weakened the evil, and so he can be defeated by today's heroes.
      • Unless, of course, they dither so long that the evil regains his former glory and conquers the world.
  • Lesser villains of the current era may intentionally try to free the Sealed Evil, in hopes of stealing it's power, or serving as the evil's lieutenant. Of course, Evil Is Not A Toy. Putting that back in the bottle ain't easy.
  • Why'd the ancients lock the evil away instead of destroy it?
    • Could be the classic Balance Between Good And Evil scenario.
      • If your game universe has a concept of Karmic balance, then destroying the evil might have required an equal and opposite reaction that the good guys were unwilling or unable to face.
        • Even without a karmic balance, there may have been good reasons to maintain the balance. For example, the gods might have an agreement that none of them are to be killed by one another's agents; for the forces of Good to kill an Evil god would allow the Good gods to be killed.
    • Perhaps the good guys back in the day couldn't kill it … perhaps the stars weren't right, or they just didn't have the firepower. Trapping it was all they could do.
      • Like the Norse monster Fenris - not only was he fated to take part in the Ragnarok, but he was immortal - he could only be bound by trickery and betrayal, for which Tyr (their god of Justice) paid with his hand.
      • Or perhaps killing it would have brought about something worse - for example a lich whose phylactery also happens to be the lynch-pin holding shut the containment on a gate to a hell dimension. To permanently destroy the lich you would require to destroy the phylactery and thus unbar the gate…
    • Perhaps it's something that must exist - some cosmic principle that must be fulfilled. Or maybe it will just reform in an unpredictable location and form if killed.
    • Perhaps it was useful for something - a power source, an oracle or an ultimate deterrent.
      • Maybe it was even made for that: think of a nuclear waste dump or stash of atomic warheads in an 'After the Fall' type game.
    • Perhaps it wasn't evil when they canned it up (for those of us that like a darker campaign).
    • Maybe they just had a really powerful anti-capital punishment lobby, even where omnicidal eldritch abominations were concerned. Seriously, how about a transhuman sci-fi campaign in which SAIs have full citizen rights and capital punishment has been abolished … and a high end AI goes SkyNet? What happens? To erase or re-programme the AI would be tantamount to killing it, which would be illegal, so they're obliged to imprison it somewhere, perhaps in hard copy… possibly forever, since it won't die of old age. And there it is … sealed evil in a can.
    • You could tweak the magic system in your setting to make binding or banishing evil much easier than actually destroying it.
      • Or maybe just the ancients found sealing evil to be easier than destroying it.
        • The PCs may have to search for some Tome Of Eldritch Lore that describes long lost binding rituals.
        • Could be man has grown more violent over time.
          • The ancients only had spells to bind the evil, but modern wizards have Fireballs.
          • Or the PCs might have Machine Guns, LAW Rockets, and Tac Nukes. None of which the Sealed Evil was prepared for. Throw your gunfondler a bone.
            • See, for example, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Innocence in which the demon known as "The Judge", uncanned (so to speak) by being reassembled from his severed parts and protected by a "no weapon forged" clause is finally destroyed by an anti-tank missile.
    • It's in keeping with cosmic horror for the evil to be something that is completely unable to be killed, or even stopped once it fully awakens. Perhaps the best even the PCs can manage is to keep it from fully awakening this time, knowing that eventually, someone will fail.
    • Perhaps something during the binding period, or the act of breaking free, weakened the evil somehow. The evil god from the Dark Times no longer has a global cult's worship powering it, instead being diminished to a small group of fanatics; the leyline configuration that strengthens it has been paved over or otherwise disrupted; the parts it was cut into can be defeated in detail; it's groggy from being woken up and its defenses aren't at full strength just yet…
    • Maybe the sealing wasn't the work of the good guys, but a natural phenomenon or the evil itself. The stars were once right, but when they are wrong it cannot interact with the world; it gorged itself on everything in reach and then went into hibernation; it got bored and wandered off until a lesser villain called it back…
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