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This is a follow up question to one I asked earlier:How can religions be structured in ways that allow inter-faith councils to work?

So, these gods are basically artificial intelligences that are constantly running in the background of the world. It is similiar to how software is always operating on an Imac, working to keep everything running without our notice. These gods can be commmunicated with by taking certain steps, which human beings know as "magic rituals". In actuality, humans are simply communicating with the nano-machines in the air, which the gods are made up of. These nanites are known to humans as "mana", the energy of life. While they are too small to be seen, these nanites are everywhere and serve as the eyes and ears of the gods, allowing them to interact with the world.

When humans perform these specific rituals, the nanites come together to form a "daemon" of that god. The type of daemon formed would depend on the ritual being conducted, as there are multiple daemons tied to a god. These rituals are all different, dependent on certain materials, steps that must be taken, and other requirements. If the ritual is successfully completed, the creature would appear and fulfill the purpose it was made for by that god, such as impart knowledge to humans, help with a certain task, etc.

However, there are certain areas of the world that, due to certain events in the past, do not play by the rules of nature. These areas are known as hostile zones, for they are covered in "chaotic" mana. These nanites do not follow the rules of the rituals and form at random intervals into hostile entities called demons. These creatures are the basis for the mythical monsters seen in folklore (wendigo, lahmia, etc). They operate without rhyme or reason and cause destruction to anyone and everything around them, including each other. Some of these entities made are corrupted, bastardized versions of established daemons, while others are completely different and made up of a hodgepodge of different parts.

These are like the dark forests in traditional fantasy stories, where evil creatures or witches roam and bad things happen. There are no physical boundaries separating these "chaos infested" lands from other places, but humans know not to go there. This is the problem. These demons don't play by the normal rules of creation. Yet they are bound to those specific areas and don't spread out from that domain. How would this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ FYI: In computing, daemons are, non-interactive background processes. If you want to play on the computer analogy aspect, then your demons are actually daemons because they don't respond to input, and your daemons are actually processes, with your gods being services. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jul 30 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ One interesting source of ideas that might be relevant to your story would be to read the Crystal Shards Online books by Rick Scott. Saying much more than that would be a spoiler but... check them out. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Jul 30 at 21:58
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Nanites should have sort of immune system: they are destroing xenonanites. The destruction is mutal. It means that diffirent "races" of nanites would form clusters with constant everlasting immune "battle" at the border (wich generates very toxic grey powder wich clearly desegnates the border of "evil lands"). The size and a form of this cluster depends on balance between production-destruction of nanites of both types, and this balance can be extreamly stable or fluctuating (like predator-prey balance in nature)

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    $\begingroup$ This is reminiscent of nanowarfare in the revelation space series. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 30 at 14:40
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The key word in "Dark Forest" is "Dark".

Each nanite is self regulating with a fundamental AI and strong community/pack instincts. Normally, it receives its instructions from the AI via a radio circuit which is powered by a small solar battery.

Any nanite which is exposed to sunlight charges up the battery and contacts the AI for instructions. When a nanite goes without sunlight for more than a couple of days, that battery runs dry and it loses direct contact with the AI. In this situation, its pack instincts take over and it starts obeying directives from any nearby nanites. It is in the unexpected interplay of separate nanites' last orders that the apparently chaotic action of demon creation occurs.

During such chaotic activities, the rest of the nanite's systems continue to operate because they are chemically powered like real life forms. The radio, however, being an electromagnetic device, needs electricity which can only be acquired from sunlight or city-based broadcast power stations. The Dark Forests are all too dark for solar and too far from the cities for broadcast power, so any nanites which gather there are on their own.

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    $\begingroup$ Upon leaving the dark zones they reconnect to the regular AI grid and behave normally? ‘Dark’ isn’t the only reason a communication loss might occur. Distance from nearby transmissions, physical blocking of signals, nearby radiation sources, even manmade jamming might cause colonies of ‘rogue’ nanites. +1. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jul 30 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, Absolute!y! In fact there is a class of rogue nanite swarms called "Greater Demon" which actually produce jamming radio waves, allowing them to remain unified and independent even in the sunshine or broadcast power fields. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 30 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, as for the other transmission barriers which might be encountered, the AI solves them with signal busters and nanite construction to facilitate clear signals everywhere that it cares about. Outside of the cities and AI-ruled rural areas, where the AI doesn't pay much attention, stray nanites can get up to all sorts of no good. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 30 at 15:29
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The World is covered in a grid (like latitude longitude not a physical grid) of AI controlling the nanites that makes them able to manifest themselves as gods during said rituals.

Some part of the world those datacenters or computers where the IA brain is located or where they are controlled from are damaged (during ancient times or due to temporal decay etc) so that a square of the grid is not connected anymore thus the nanites inside the grid not interconnected anymore are gone rogue (depending on the needs bugs can make them hostile to everything or specific locations or times of the day etc).

The software that attributed them the location as to where to manifest or roam is not updating their location of operation so they are stuck in their square of the grid and can't cross it even though no physical barrier exist

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If your world is a giant computer that accepts user input, then it is by definition vulnerable to computer viruses that can be created by your magic rituals. In modern computing, you can't defend against every possible virus; so, you set up an antivirus program with authority over all other programs that follows heuristic rules to identify suspected viruses and contain them for study. If you prevent heuristic patterns too aggressively, you tend to cause irreparable damage to your system by attacking false positives. Instead, you quarantine the suspected malware until an admin can come along and decide if it is good or bad. In short, the virus only expands to fill the dark forest because that is the limits of the permissions it has when the quarantine is set.

To answer your question: They are contained by Norton, the God of Cyber Security

Norton is a wise and powerful god created by the Titans long ago to keep an eye on the other gods and make sure they are not tricked into unleashing horrible evils into the world. The dark forests are his creations. In times past, he would create them for the Titans so that they could study the demons before destroying them. That way, they could find better ways of preventing them.

As such, the dark forests are not random mistakes as some may believe. Instead they are the result of ancient wizards (hackers) who tried to break the laws of magic. Instead of their evil creations spreading across the world, Norton who listens to all rituals, saw that these were possible viruses and contained them. While Norton has the power to destroy demons, he does not do so unless ordered to. Instead, he simply awaits the day a Titan will give him the command to finish the job.

From the demon's perspective, it may not even know that it is contained. Like a virus stuck in a virtual machine, it believes its forest is the whole world. That which is beyond can neither be seen nor accessed.

This also raises the option of adding exorcists to your world. Priests of Norton with knowledge of the ancient rituals that were responsible for triaging quarantined viruses. Basically, they can go to such a forest and perform the delete quarantined virus ritual to have Norton destroy the demon... ofcourse, Priests of Norton could also misuse their power to release a quarantined demon; so, the number of people trusted with this arcane lore would be very small. If the wrong demon were released, saying the results would be catastrophic may be an understatement.

Another interesting area to explore is the daemons that were false positives. Perhaps things like unicorns, pixies, and platypuses were good creations, but are heuristically so similar to demons that they were trapped too; so, sometimes Priests of Norton will come along to free them. And in a true hacker fashion, dark mages may occasionally disguise a demon as a goodly being in the hopes that someone will free it.

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Semi-Autonomous overrides of behaviour when communication has been severed.

My simplest explanation would be how the nanites perform when they don't have communication with their central orchestration entity, possibly due to signal interference or naturally occurring EM emission. If these nanites work by being constantly in communication with the host entities, when this communication drops by a temporary loss-of-signal, or a slight variation in signal strength, the node would need a contingency to be able to "work offline" for the period, rather than going completely haywire.

They could even have different levels of behaviour based on different lengths of time away from communication, such as so-called "master-slave" configurations. These occur in tech when you have simultaneously executing systems that need to orchestrate for a purpose - a local cluster of nodes "elects" a master node, which tells the other nodes what to do. One such eventuality could have occured, where the elected nanite orchestrates the slave nanites into a hostile entity to prevent their capture for study or reverse-engineering by a hostile party.

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Signal emitters/scramblers

Your world could contain a vast space of chaos-lands, much like several RPG videogames where any attempt to go "outside town"—outside an "island of safety", rather—results in attacks from random monsters. Or it could contain a vast space of safe-lands with "islands of chaos." Either one works with this explanation.

The order among nanites is created by a constant pressure towards long-range structure in conformity with the gods, which is an electromagnetic transmission which we can call simply, the Signal.

If you have islands of safety, then the world consists of nanites in Discord and the Signal is transmitted by a couple of exceptional artifacts which exist at the core of each of the islands of safety. If you have islands of chaos, then the Signal is being broadcast worldwide but a counter-Signal, a Discord, which cancels its effect out, is being spread out from those exceptional artifacts instead.

The same basic principles hold either way. The artifacts protect the islands against direct incursion from the outside world. The entities inside the island want to reproduce the artifacts and spread their influence larger; the entities outside the island are not necessarily directly concerned by the islands themselves but do occasionally organize larger attacks on the islands to try to "beat them down" so that they do not take over too much territory. You want to try to set up some mechanism by which the islands become stronger as they get smaller or fewer in number, so that they naturally balance at some equilibrium point where the islands don't get completely eliminated but also don't grow to encompass the entire world. So for example maybe the island-of-chaos artifacts produce a sort of “antimagic zone” plus a larger zone of Discord; or perhaps in the reverse case monsters simply can't exist within a mile of the Signal sources, but civilization of course extends further beyond that round mile and the fainter amounts of Signal discourage Disorder's monsters from entering that city where they will weaken.

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