Seven Ring Ritual initially arose from a sort of side aspect of the lore that doesn’t usually have a reason to interact with a lot of the more resonant and pressing powers colliding in Mythgard. Early red ideation contained a subfaction themed around Greek metal that was very roughly inspired by Brutal Legend, and it REALLY was not coming together or resonating with the team at the time.
There was something interesting lurking in the themes of performance as ritual and audience attention as power though, so the pivot wound up being the Circus Diavolos, a carny-themed group that would offer up far more opportunities to lean into red’s hedonistic intentions and stand out visually from a lot of the other work going on at the time.
This demonic circus may ironically avoid the lore limelight in a lot of cases, but here’s a one of Xeneth’s old bits of “tone microfiction” on the subject:
“A seven ring sigil was incorporated into the main stage of the Circus Diavolos show. Little did the vacant crowds know that earlier that evening, when the big top was packed with spectators, their collective energy was being gathered. Through the attention and focus of a rapt audience, the symbols were charged and primed for this moment; The darkened tent would now serve as a stage for a very different kind of production.
Sinister grins split the lesser demons pale, eyeless heads as they emerged into our world from a place with no light. The ritual was complete.”
Much ado has been made out of some of the supposed crimes and kidnappings hinted at in various Oberos lore boxes, but it’s interesting that even at this early creative stage there’s hints of restraint baked into the landscape of entertainment-as-demonic-ritual. Running away to join the circus is an old but valid fantasy and we shouldn’t leap to conclusions!
Fans have no idea what their rapt attention allows the Circus Diavolos to summon after the show.
Where they come from, eyes are a liability.
Early drafts of the single player story had much more focus than there currently is on the structure of a “post-ragnarok hades” and the details of Percy’s escape from it. A lot of this speculative detail is bound to be muddled or lost to time given the need to jump-start a journey without getting mired in such things, but Seven Ring Ritual still bears some of the reference marks of these potentially outdated or less useful ideas:
Hades’ (the place) “pilot light” eventually going out after Hades’ (the god) failure to return.
A slightly colder and darker hades becoming attractive to the kind of more cosmic horror inspired demons than would ordinarily be there.
Demon-touched people performing summoning rituals on mortal planes.
Them breaking in and being called somehow weakening the system that Percy would need to circumvent to break out.
Summoning rituals being a natural fit where demons are concerned, and long before design roundtables might have raised the question of whether or not mass minion creation was slated to be an Oberos strength, (bah, Mythic designs bend archetypical rules all the time!) the original Seven Ring Ritual looked like:
7[R]RR Mythic, Carny Spell
Create 3/2 Imps in all of your unoccupied lanes.
It’s a touch stronger and more cost restrictive than its modern incarnation, but that’s actually very close to the current implementation!
The commission was assigned to James Zapata for his mastery of ethereal and otherworldly compositions! Here’s a relatively early sketch:
Art Director Hoon worried that the spell would look too blue and not red enough, so later iterations got much more dire crimson pumped into them…
Interestingly, as the atmosphere and arcane power of the piece amped up and took over, one detail receded; Almost no one today notices the striped roof of the big top in the background…
So, as the demons summoned by the Sovereign Architect visually and mechanically gained the power of flight, they also stole away the Imp name and forced these little guys to become called Hellions. Plans to make additional demons in the game visibly sightless also changed, because as it turns out, eyes are a very useful artistic focal point; note how these guys’ grins can be freely interpreted as either predatory OR joyful without eyes for context.
That sea of 3/2 Hellions proved to be too difficult to deal with, and dropping them to 3/1 helped open up some counterplay in the range of things that could kill off a lot of them. This eventually revitalized an interesting two-pronged debate that had been occurring both externally and internally; that it would be thematically cute if the abbreviated casting cost of 7[R]R better aligned with the card’s name.