» There are no such things as demons – demons don’t exist «
Anno Daemonum is a GM-less roleplaying game about desperate people who have recently crossed an invisible line into the demonic realm. They only know this from the feeling that they now carry within them: A feeling of demonic presence. It grows in the vicinity of conflict as if the demons thrive there, feeding from the hostile energies at the same time as they fuel those conflicts with violence, sorcery, and corruption.
The game is played by 2-4 players over several sessions. Its eight-page rules-structure forces a certain kind of narrative with reincorporation and a tight web of people and places. It creates narrow, close-up and personal stories which focus on relationships and morals.
What’s it about?
The goal of the game is to explore the stories of your characters through the scenes that you create for them during play. You will find out what they are prepared to do to others to get what they want, thus exploring your characters’ moral boundaries. You will also see to what extent your character succumbs to the temptations of power, and how they handle the responsibility that entails.
The creative agenda
- Together you and your fellow players create a believable and intriguing story that revolves around your characters. You help each other make the characters’ lives interesting, dramatic and full of hard choices.
- The fictional world is there for you to make a personal impression onto. The existence of the player characters never goes unnoticed in the world you create.
- When it’s your scene you are the »narrator« and your character is in the spotlight. As the narrator you take on a director stance, controlling the camera angles and homing in on the details of your choosing. You have an overarching authority over the scene, but you’re never in complete control. Your fellow players always help you play the other characters in your scenes and they control how those characters act and react within those scenes.
This game takes desperate and unstable characters (the player characters), gives them dangerous and unreliable tools (the demons), and urge them to make spontaneous and emotional choices (to get what they desire). The player characters are real people in an unreal situation – a situation that they desperately want to change, and their only option is to take matters into their own hands. Because, once they crossed that border into the demonic realm they also became disconnected from society, and now no one can help them except for themselves (or perhaps each other).
The setting and the demons
Each player creates a trigger-event for their character that pushed them over the border, into the demons’ field of view. And from that moment on the demons restlessly stalk and watch them from beyond, ready to break through when desperation and conflict blurs the human mind.
Note however, that the demons are not characters – they are not supernatural henchmen that you can reason with, talk to, or even interact with. The demons are an otherworldy force that you cannot understand, rely on, nor tame. It is also important to recognize that sorcery in this game isn’t ritual magic. The demonic presence is a kind of sorcery in itself and it is instantaneous, impulsive, and constantly within reach.
Anno Daemonum creates stories with a few but explicit themes:
- Delusions and doubt of what’s real and not
- To lose control and act in desperation
- Vulnerability and to share one’s inner thoughts
- Emotional desires that motivate the characters’ actions
- The protagonists being the monsters
- Power balance and relationship focus
How does it end?
Each player character starts out with a desire that they can’t get. This is what drives the characters toward conflict initially. But, sooner or later the characters are going to get what they desire – or it might be clear that they never will. To see who they have become at that point, and what they’ve been through, is what this game is all about. Making this struggle real for the characters is a collective endeavour which in turn determines the pacing of your game. So, when the desires have been resolved, it’s time to end your story.