My daddy is a handsome devil
He's got a chain five miles long,
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he's loved and wronged.
(from) Silver Dagger trad.
A cambion is, according to legend, a being born of intercourse between a human and a demon or, more rarely, the offspring of an incubus and a succubus. Occasionally the term may also be used as a cognate for changeling1 - which should not be ruled out as a further complication to the child's upbringing, especially if the demonic parent happens to be the mother.
The most straightforward source of cambions would seem to be the union of a succubus or incubus with a mortal, leading to a pseudo-normal pregnancy. However, many authorities deny the ability of demons to participate in conception in their own right and follow the idea of a succubus harvesting semen and then transforming into an incubus to father a child with it - presumably introducing some metaphysical corruption along the way. This alone would allow for a cambion being "the offspring of a succubus and an incubus", however even weirder legend suggests that the two types of demon (if, as already discussed, they are two different kinds of demon) could reproduce in their own right, albeit producing a child that showed no sign of life for seven years - except for crying out when touched - and was too heavy for a horse to carry.
Regardless of the mechanics of their origin, a cambion seems a far lesser deal than one of the Nephilim - which would argue for fallen angels being a higher class of critter (or, perhaps, that the watchers were not yet fallen when the Nephilim were conceived…).
No-one knows if cambions breed true - or, indeed, at all … although the Black Legend of Anjou implies that something similar is capable of spawning an entire royal house.
Game and Story Use
- Could be assumed to vary a great deal from hideously ugly to unnaturally beautiful … possibly with assorted unnatural features such as tails or horns in either case. Nature may also vary - evil may or may not be heritable, and ugly-equals-evil may be applied or subverted (perhaps those with the most human appearance have the most demonic soul2).
- How well these facts are know within a campaign setting may vary - do people recognise a half-demon when they see one? Do they assume such a creature is always evil?
- An excellent, if somewhat dark, "unusual background" for a PC that needs to display unnatural powers - such as magic in a generally magic-free world.
- Famously, Merlin himself was said to be a cambion - specifically the child of an incubus and a nun.
- Witches were the other traditional source of cambions - presumably conceived at a sabbat somewhere - the graphic novel hero Hellboy, and a variety of less pleasant things having this sort of parentage.
- The conflict of heritage against intent can be a major theme - a cambion striving to be a hero of good (even a Paladin) could be an interesting idea.
- Following the entire lyrics of Silver Dagger could inspire an Abbess, or similar character who also happens to be half demon.
- For those tired of subversion, it also makes a perfectly good heritage for a villain.
- For the deeply cynical, a villain who first tried to be good, but was rejected on the grounds that "he's half demon so he must be evil", eventually coming to the conclusion that "if I must, I must".
- Destruction of a villain might leave the PCs with an unexpected orphan … if that orphan happens to be a cambion, that still may not be an excuse for infanticide.
- More generally, this could make being foisted with a changeling even less fun - you're now not dealing with the tricky but hidebound fae, but with a demon … and probably a female one at that. Also, the child is liable to be even nastier than might be expected of a changeling.
- These could be a good general source of monster species for a campaign setting - orcs could be the offspring of humans and one type of demon, hags of another type of cross, etc.