Imagine a world where any human suffering caused by other humans creates demons in the world. A cruel word may spawn a mischievous sprite. A murder may create a prowler that would crawl the streets and kill a dozen more people before stopped. Battlefields become corrupted lands uninhabitable for centuries.

This is not a 1 to 1 relationship. Maybe 1 to 10, or 1 to 100. Things add up in locations. Maybe a theater would be haunted by one harmless spirit of "not laughing at jokes".. On the other hand places like a prison would be death traps where demons slither behind every corner.

It would lead that the culture would have no tolerance for any such crimes. It would be unthinkable to commit even small crimes with a victim as the consequences could be dire.

But how would this culture enforce its laws? What would you do with a murderer or a thief if anything bad done to them would spawn demons from their grief or their families'?

EDIT The demons are created by the evil in the hearts of men, not by the actions. This is why natural events, accidents done by humans, and the demons don't usually contribute to the cycle.
This may mean that if the judge, the jurors, and the executioner all have pure hearts and take no pleasure in the act of punishing the guilty there could be no consequences. Unfortunately that's not how real life works, and no one could ever ensure that.

closed as too broad by sphennings, L.Dutch, DaaaahWhoosh, Thucydides, Mindwin Jul 4 '17 at 1:27

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    First of all, is there a way of trapping the demon? Second of all, does the harm caused by the demon itself cause further demons? I'm thinking the punishment could be that you're forced to live with whatever demons you create... – colmde Jul 3 '17 at 14:38
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    The essential problem I see would be enforcement. How do you enforce the rules without causing more suffering? And what exactly is counted as suffering. It is essentially impossible to enforce rules unless you are willing to resort to physical violence. In some cases overwhelming force might work without a threat to life but it is extremely hard to pull off in even a medieval society, almost impossible in a technological one at our level of sophistication. – DRF Jul 3 '17 at 15:16
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    Lobotomy - a surgical operation involving incision into the prefrontal lobe of the brain, formerly used to treat mental illness ... its not suffering if they dont have the faculties to comprehend suffering – CaffeineAddiction Jul 3 '17 at 15:20
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    A lot of humans in our world cause other humans to suffer even when no law has been broken. Would this culture outlaw causing any suffering, or are you imagining a society with laws similar to ours? What about accidentally causing suffering? Would that still produce demons? – jinglesthula Jul 3 '17 at 15:39
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    I'm not a military person, but from those I know, they're just hoping to get themselves and their friends home safely. Soldiers are trained not to think about this. The purpose of military training is to produce soldiers who don't do that kind of thinking - men and women who will kill the person in front of them with no hesitation, simply because that's what they've been told to do. And more than that, if the "other side" have been shown to be evil in some way or that the battle/war is necessary, whether that's truthfully or not, they may actually think that killing them is a good thing. – Graham Jul 3 '17 at 17:26

10 Answers 10

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Use a Robot Judiciary

If demons are spawned only by suffering that's caused by humans, why not automate the judiciary process? Criminals would have their cases reviewed by an AI, after which they'd be placed in an automated prison where their movements and actions would be regulated by a warden robot. Each prisoner could be fitted with a disciplinary collar that would deliver either minor electric shocks or a sedative to the prisoners, if they're misbehaving. The prime directive of the robots would be to ensure that the prisoners don't cause themselves or their fellow prisoners to suffer. Persistent trouble makers would be placed under general anesthesia to render them unconscious and unable to cause suffering.

The prisoners may suffer, to some extent, due to their imprisonment. Their suffering, however, would be caused by robots, not by humans, and as such wouldn't produce any demons.

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    I really like this. Have the law be completely faceless. Maybe there are even no robots or golems. Maybe it's all humans, but as long as the law has no face, it works – Andrey Jul 3 '17 at 15:34
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    Reminds me of Gort (from The Day the Earth Stood Still) – Marc.2377 Jul 3 '17 at 18:48
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    But who created the AI? – Azor Ahai Jul 3 '17 at 19:46
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    Kinda like a psycho-pass type thing. – AJMansfield Jul 3 '17 at 20:15
  • @Andrey mine as well make them headless too (so it's not athromorphed robots, but just factory machines). – PyRulez Jul 4 '17 at 10:44

Don't punish them, just exclude them from society. This is how for example the "San" are doing it. I assume because of your question that the spirits appear where the suffering occurs.

Given your premise, we most likely will not end up with 8 billion people and no place to go but way fewer and a lot of uninhabited and haunted land. If one acts against society and causes so much harm, there is no place for that person anymore. It is time for the criminal to leave society and take his chances in the wilderness. If you have to, ban his entire family. But in such a society, they will understand. What family means exactly might even change given your premise.

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    @Hobbamok I can think of several ways on how to prevent this from being an issue, most of which consider that such a haunted society would work fundamentally different than a modern Western society would. Please bare in mind that I'm not suggesting that one implements such a system in say modern day England since it wouldn't work for the reasons you've pointed out. However, this is a lot of effort for such an old question. I would consider addressing this via an edit if you are actually building such a world and not just if you are pointing out a flaw in an old answer. – Raditz_35 Sep 14 at 10:36
  • Yeah, I was really far too centered on how western society currently works, so I deleted the comment. – Hobbamok Sep 14 at 11:35

You would punish the same way you punish kids. You do not want the kids to suffer. You take away privileges and benefits. A person would suffer for lack of dinner but not for lack of desert.

The problem with this system is not the suffering caused by governmental actions. The problem is the suffering caused by disenfranchised or psychopathic people who figure the demons produced will be someone else problem.

Also, if suffering produced by the demons also caused demons this would be a runaway reaction very quickly. I do not think this is a workable world.

  • I specifically said "suffering caused by other humans". It's man's evil that spawns the demons – Andrey Jul 3 '17 at 14:26
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    "Please, stop killing people or you won't get your desert!" – Ender Look Jul 3 '17 at 15:03
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    @Andrey How direct the causal connection has to be? If you accidentally crash your car into transformer and shut down power in city block, causing people to lose unsaved work, do you spawn minor demons which wlli porceed t ocreate pytos? If connecting is allowed to be vague enough, then suffering caused by demons can easily be pinned on whoever spawned them, spawning more demons and causing runaway positive feedback loop. Those tend to be very destructive, often weaponised. – M i ech Jul 3 '17 at 15:46
  • @Miech It's a fantasy setting. So it's about the evil that men do, and the metaphysical, not about causation. So a drunk driver would, but a genuine accident would not. In the same way the demons would only be a problem if someone INTENDED to create demons. – Andrey Jul 3 '17 at 16:18
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    @Miech These are all themes that I plan to explore. The only shoehorn that I have is that humans still desice to live in cities and not tiny tribes. After that there must be something society does to function, even if it's not perfect, or even logical – Andrey Jul 3 '17 at 16:43

The only way for the punished to not suffer is that at no point he should know that he is suffering.

  1. Quick execution. And it should be really quick - no appeal process, no "death row", no last meal. Maybe even no court process in a traditional way.

  2. "Lobotomy" - turning a person into an idiot or make him lose all memories. He won't really suffer, but this would be a good example for the others.

All of the above will work only if we solve "judge and jury" logical riddle. How would a lawful sentencing is not causing any daemons to spawn, while the same act perpetrated by a criminal (with the same level of conscience, or the same lack of it), would bring daemons to the world?

  • I "like" the lobotomy Idea, technically it wouldn't be suffering for the person, so that would work. What a society that would be though – Hobbamok Sep 14 at 10:23

Suffering is very general and even "done by other humans" is not clearly understandable. For example you can use exile as the worst punishment, exile in itself is harmless, but won't an exile sentence make the culprit suffer? And what about the family of the exiled?

And when the exiled is forced to live with no other human contact he will suffer hunger and probably he will be attached by demons. That's pain inflicted by demons or by the people who exiled him?

Given this question I'm not entirely sure I can give an answer but I'll leave an idea that I think is worth exploring. Kill the culprits in a painless and quick way, so fast that they can't grasp what's happening and feel anything. You would have moral issues because you can't have public trials as the culprit can't know he's being condamned and you would need sort of legalized assassins who can blend with other people and enforce the law

Your concept of "evil" is rather vague, and leads to a lot of awkward contradictions.

Still though, you say that this is all possible, and that the prowlers or whatever can be stopped, and that it's linked to the location. In which case there's no trouble in keeping the judge, jury and executioners all in a well-controlled area whilst they carry out the trial and execution, and for some period on the other side. If any of them are not of clear heart, or if they just get unlucky, any prowler which appears is confined to the location. The demon hunters can do their thing, and then everyone carries on.

All pretty simple really.

  • This was the closest to what I was originally thinking. A fortress designed to keep things in, and a hundred knights ready to fight the monsters – Andrey Jul 3 '17 at 17:49
  1. Self-punishment (by moral or religion belief,...) Create a moral (or religion) which citizen feel guilty when they do something bad. The government try to drive the 'bad'to disobey they law.

  2. Use propaganda: in your specific case, when people suffer, a demon is create. Thus, when you kill someone, you know that demon may kill someone else. The government may use some propaganda such as 'if you kill a man, a demon may kill your son.'

  3. Genetically modified (by biology or magic method) citizen, so when they disobey a law, a punish-gene is active. Xenocide, the godspoken in World of Path is an example. Obsessive–compulsive disorder gene active when godspokens have any rebel thought.

  4. Banish Just kick the person out of Kingdom. To wasteland, or anywhere the demon are haunting.

  • Self-punishment and propaganda, clever ideas! – Ender Look Jul 3 '17 at 17:53


When someone make something wrong simply kill them. If you kill someone you will make a demon, but not a farm of demons (people death can't suffer or make suffer other people).
You can also use the "Robot Judiciary" of Ckersch's answer to make the executions, they aren't humans!


If you don't want to kill people but you want to stop problematic people simple banish the from the society, they won't distrub anymore. You could banish them to a little island!

Lobotomy / Coma

Like Alexander said you can lobotomy them, they won't suffer and also won't make suffer others. Even you could use that like an example (well, you could use all this ideas like an example...).
I like his idea but maybe they could distrub, I don't know the grade of "foolness" of lobotomised people but if they need a servant or someone to survive they may distrub others, you could stop this with a simple way:
Sorry but I don't know the proper word in english (feel free to edit this), you could inyect them a sustance to become them unconscious (in coma). If you connect them some tubes (to get food, etc) they can "live" in a bed without need human assitance or interaction...


I like the idea of Haha TTpro and Will but I want to make some changes and combine them.
From child you can teach them and wash their brains, make suffer people is very bad and you will suffer the twice from the demons you made.
By this way you won't make nothing bad and if you do that you could:

  • Self-punish you: if you teach them right, when they make bad things they would regret and feel bad.
  • Privileges: if you do something bad you won't go to jail because you will suffer, simply reduce they privileges. E.g: this example isn't valid in a medieval age, but you could lose your drive licence (drive is a privilege of good people), maybe you could lose your ride licence?
  • Social punishment: like the goverment don't let you use a car, people will take away you privileges: they won't talk to you anymore, this is a kind of social punishment, you do a bad action and up to you don't regret about it we won't talk with you, we won't see your face, and even shops won't sell you stuff. (mmm, if loneliness is a suffering you won't be able to do that...)
  • plus one for execution. If the person is drugged beforehand, and/or the executioners carefully chosen, it may not spawn even one demon because there's no "suffering". – Megha Aug 4 '17 at 1:51

There are a lot of social implications to this world, and any concept of "punishment" would be in context as such. We start by assuming that humans have managed to survive for an extended period of time, and figured out ways to make their culture work, then go from there.

So we have demons. Specifically, it sounds like these demons are released on to the world any time a human takes an action for "evil" reasons that causes another human to suffer. You'll want to be really sure that you know exactly what causes these demons, because "don't spawn demons" is going to be one of the biggest social drivers any surviving culture has (only a bit below "don't have everyone starve to death"). Given the "human suffering caused by human evil", for example, everyone would know what "human evil" consisted of. There would be strong societal censure against showing or feeling those things, and even stronger against acting while under their influence. Cultures might include...

  • Small wilderness tribes. The opportunity for demons rises by population squared, and the existence of demons means that we won't run out of wild lands any time soon. These groups hang together in small numbers, and respond to any sort of social tension by splitting up - by exile, flight, or whatever. Primarily hunter-gatherers, though potentially more sophisticated than we'd think from that description.

  • Zen monks. They've learned some largely-effective means of cleansing themselves of evil thoughts (whatever those are) by dint of meditation, self-control, and so forth, and they are working it. If demons can be killed, they've probably developed some arts for doing that, too. No one is allowed in the monasteries except for those who are studying The Way. Likely spend lots of time in silence. Any failures along The Way are seen as failures of understanding, and are met with time spent in solitude, so that one might better contemplate The Way (and possibly some additional instruction).

  • Nomadic Groups. Likely herders, they keep moving, and leaving their demons behind them. They function ore or less like standard nomadic herding tribes, and any punishment is done on the move.

  • Raiders. They find established groups and demand tribute. If they are given their tribute, they take it and leave. If they are not, they perform evil acts for selfish reasons on a few of the more vulnerable people, spawning appropriately vicious demons, and then leave. They come back again after the demons have exhausted themselves.

  • Hellriders. They've figured out some way of actually harnessing demons directly, bringing the demons with them, and using them to attack others. They are Bad Bad People.

The Outer Limits S02E22 episode The Sentence discusses such no-actual-suffering kind of punishment.

In a near future plagued by prison overcrowding, Dr. Henson presents his new invention—a virtual prison where a subject's feelings of guilt literally convict them by subjecting them to a lifetime of imprisonment in a matter of minutes.

The idea is that the person punished is in some kind of a dream where he lives a miserable life in prison and afterwards. To him, this looks like reality, including the sensation of time passing at its normal rate.

He then wakes up (the dream actually lasts a few hours only) and realizes that he was not sentenced and that he is given a second chance now he realizes how his behaviour would have changed his life.

  • I wonder if DS9 stole this – Andrey Sep 14 at 13:56

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