The word ‘daemon’ in Vaarnish parlance can refer to a number of different phenomena. What these disparate entities hold in common is that they are bodiless intelligences, often malicious, that seek to influence the material world or to inhabit the flesh of humans. The term is loosely applied: a swarm of invasive nanomachines might be called a ‘daemon’ by common Vaarnish folk, as would a language virus or a predatory cloud of gas. Those unfortunates described as ‘daemon ridden’ may have been infected by a neural parasite, or integrated into an unstable psychic gestalt mind.
There is another, older meaning for the word ‘daemon’: a divine messenger or herald. The beings known as Quantum Daemons draw their title in part from this older etymology, as they are believed to be messengers from parallel realities, creatures that draw on arcane sciences and unknown reserves of psychic puissance to project themselves into our universe. They are living paradoxes, beings that both exist and un-exist, dancing between the two states just as the shadows prance at the edges of a campfire’s light. Some see them, others do not. Some come under their influence and believe them gods; others take up the mantle of Exorcist and vow to root out these paradoxical daemons wherever they are found.
The great tree of creation has many branches, and the halls of existence extend much further than many care to contemplate. Consequently the beings that insinuate themselves into our reality are varied and strange. Some are human, while others are so alien to our universe that all observers recoil from their presence. Their goals and behaviour likewise vary so wildly that only a fool could attempt to predict them. Quantum Daemons share only one aspect: that they are not of this universe and thus exist in a liminal space, one step outside of it. They may be seen and heard but not touched, and likewise cannot touch our flesh and matter, save for in the strangest of circumstances.
These beings can be benevolent, and they can also be unimaginably dangerous to those who treat with them. Hegemony Law sentences those who summon or aid Quantum Daemons to death, and spirit-speakers and haruspices believed to make pacts with such creatures are driven from the Hegemony. In other times and other places Quantum Daemons have been venerated as deities, or employed as spies and advisors. The Autarch Kheppest-Auk is said to have bound seven hundred and seventy-seven daemons in his court and to have conversed with them nightly, asking them to plumb the roiling seas of his future and guide his bloodline to greatness. He was victorious for a time, and stewarded the Autarchy through a period of great prosperity, although it is whispered that Kheppest-Auk was eventually found dead in his chambers, completely drained of blood but without a wound upon him. When the House of Silence prepared the ruler for burial, they discovered that his internal organs had become glass models of themselves.
To summon a Quantum Daemon is to invite the unknown. There are sites across Vaarn where such creatures have appeared before and may appear again, and those who unpick the seams of the universe with the correct incantations and exotic wavelengths of light may treat with the herald of another reality.
Vaarnish PCs can summon, treat with, and make pacts with Quantum Daemons. These incorporeal paradox-beings are the representatives of powers and worlds far beyond the ken of your average vault-raider, and as such are pretty dangerous. However, Daemons are also said to grant great boons, so many desperate souls make the attempt.
Summoning a Daemon requires the usual paraphernalia: psychedelic mushrooms, ritual salt, ulfire candles, octarine oil, a golden bowl, and an Aspect of Uncertainty. Different Vaarnish cultures use different objects to represent Uncertainty, but the most common is a set of polyhedral dice. Note that although these objects aren’t individually illegal, carrying all of them together is a clear indication that you treat with Quantum Daemons and will get you sentenced to death in Hegemony territory.
Daemons can be found everywhere and nowhere, but they seem to be particularly drawn to paradoxical locus-points and hypergeometric rifts; in other words, anywhere that ontological stability is at a minimum. Examples might include time-travel research facilities or active Labyrinth gateways. Sleeping near these places is another surefire way to be contacted by a Daemon.
The summoner should perform the necessary rituals and make an EGO save. On a failure, nothing happens. On a success, a Daemon appears. Roll 3d20 to determine some basic details:
|1||Juvenkates||Identical to Summoner||Colourless|
|2||Beheri-Hemushi||Man with Peacock Tail for Head||Black|
|3||Dzoavitumnus||Strobing Light; Shape Dimly Visible Beyond||Rainbow|
|5||Eishthbou||Reptilian||Flickers Between Shades|
|7||Naamakhyasta||Woman with Eyes on Her Hands||Blood Red|
|8||Iratan-Shediel||Recursive Fractal Void||Matches Ambient Colours|
|9||Meenaeeswariax||Huge Stone Head||Zebra Striped|
|11||Jhul Candigo||Fish That Swims in the Air||Ulfire|
|15||Behemhamsiel||Shards of Dazzling Crystal||Mirrored|
|16||Urielbol||Tiny Shrill Humanoid||Curious Orange|
|17||Chemonetza||Like a Huge Soap Bubble||Neon Yellow|
|19||Ravaikund||Biomechanoid Horror||Sickly Pink|
|20||Zarak Zil||Classic Horned ‘Devil’; May Be Mocking You||Awful Un-Urthly Hue|
Now that you’ve summoned your Daemon, what would you have it do? Quantum Daemons have a varied set of skills, but commonly proffered minor Boons would include the following:
- Metamorphosis. The Daemon reaches into the summoner’s tangled pasts, and picks out a cacogenic path not taken during conception. The summoner gains a Mutation (either random or chosen).
- Gifted. The Daemon imparts the mystic wisdom of the myriad realities beyond our own. The summoner gains a Mystic Gift (either random or chosen).
- Far-Seeing. Quantum Daemons are not necessarily wiser than their summoners, but due to their unique subject-position to our reality, they are able to easily answer questions about current events in faraway places, know what’s contained inside a locked lead-lined strongbox, reveal the location of a gang of land parrot rustlers, etc. As long as you haven’t crossed them, they will answer truthfully.
- Far-Speaking. The Daemon can also be charged with bringing a message to another place (or time). They are able to cross great distances in an instant, and are impossible to intercept or detain.
- Augury. The Daemon projects itself into the roiling ocean of the future, attempting to divine your fate. There is no guarantee that its prophecy will be intelligible, but it will do its best.
- Memento Mori. The Daemon locates a nearby timeline where an alternate version of you has just died, and shows you a spectral image of the corpse. The nature of the death may give a warning about nearby dangers.
- Quantum Link. The Daemon links an object with its twin in a nearby alternate universe. Whatever happens to one will happen to the other. Commonly linked objects include a wax tablet (for trans-universe communication), a box or chest (objects inside have a 50% chance to be present, a 50% chance to be replaced with something else), or a betrothal ring (no practical use, but seen as a symbol of everlasting love). It is strongly recommended by all experts that you do not link your own body or brain to another universe.
Each Boon costs one Daemon Debt. The GM should privately record the amount. You didn’t think they would do all of this for nothing did you?
So now you’re in debt to a Quantum Daemon. After a certain period of time (often seven days, but sometimes they arrive sooner), the Daemon will manifest and demand recompense for its efforts. Each Daemon Debt must be settled individually. Daemons can’t affect our reality physically, so they usually want their debtors to carry out the Daemon’s will in the material realm.
Here are some common ways of settling Daemon Debt:
- Build a shrine to the Quantum Daemon. Make sure it’s of appropriate size, made from the correct materials, situated in an astrologically auspicious location, and spells the Daemon’s name correctly on the inscription (people get it wrong surprisingly often). If you can start a cult or sect to worship at the shrine, even better.
- Embark on a quest that pleases the Daemon. These are often absolutely baffling to minds that exist in only one reality, but presumably make sense to quantum beings. You may be tasked with travelling to a distant mountaintop and burying a peach pit, or ensuring a certain child grows up without a mother. The rationale and results of your task will forever be obscure to you.
- Create a body for the Daemon. Sometimes out of brass, sometimes clay, mostly however it will be flesh. Once it has a body it can do whatever it likes without your help.
- Feed the Daemon. Projecting oneself between the universes is exhausting work. Food is needed; a small chunk of your past self is ideal and much appreciated. You lose one maximum HP, and gain a small, long-healed bite scar.
Refusing to Pay the Debt
People do it, but it’s not a good idea. Best case scenario is that you have an incorporeal nemesis who always knows where you are and what you’re doing, and will actively attempt to tell your physical foes where to find you. Here are a few of the curses a Quantum Daemon might visit upon you:
- Jinxed. You are extra unlucky. The GM rolls a d20 in secret and records the number. Whenever you roll this same number, it is as if you rolled a natural one, no matter your modifiers.
- Possessed. The Daemon takes your body for a joyride. You wake up a day later with no memory of what happened, a new Wound, and some new local enemies.
- Evil Twins. The Daemon begins summoning evil parallel-world versions of you to hunt you down. The GM rolls a d6 at the start of each day: if they roll a 1, an Evil Twin will catch up to you. They look exactly like you (with one small difference), and have your HD, stats, and equipment, including Exotica.
Killing a Quantum Daemon
Not possible with conventional weaponry, as they don’t actually exist. Weaponised Normality Gas or other ontological anchoring devices might make the Daemon corporeal (stats should be decided by the GM in this case).
Alternatively, you could enlist a second Quantum Daemon to kill the first, although this may lead to a ‘swallowing a spider to catch a fly’ scenario.
This post originally appeared on Patreon. Big thanks to all my patrons and supporters who help bring Vaarn to life.