Friday, October 21, 2011

Realms - The Decaying Fields of Forever

Welcome to our second entry in our second foray across the Realms. Last time, we examined the fairly mundane Realm of Taluna. Today we'll examine a place altogether more elemental and alien, tentatively named The Decaying Fields of Forever.

This will be one of those fairly stream-of-thought, making-it-up-as-I-go-along sort of posts, because I know nothing about the Fields but the name. I've always meant for the Realms of The City of Lives to be unusual, fantastical, and elemental in nature. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to over-analyze, and to try to lay everything out in internally consistent, very "science-fictional" worlds. They all seem like real places... but I really want some unreal places as well, places where the laws of physics bend and twist, and narrative causality trumps Newtonian causality.

So, knowing that much, but having no real ideas that hadn't already been done more completely by Planescape , I decided to start with a name, as so often works for me. No names appeared to me, so I went to and used an "outer planes" generator to give me a name in the appropriate style. Most of the results were unsatisfying, but the Decaying Fields of Forever struck me as interesting.

Let's examine it, shall we? After the jump.

Real-Life Inspiration: To me, the name implies two things: one, that things rot there. Things rot here, too, but we've got creation to help counteract it, to work against the neverending tide of entropy. In the Fields, I think, entropy is winning. In the simplest, likely-to-piss-off-physicists sense, entropy is the tendency of things to fall apart. The net disorder in any system always increases, the net useful energy always decreases. In the real world—in virtually any fictional setting, for that matter—people work against entropy by creating things: having babies, building machines, telling stories. Let us assume that in the Fields, this is not possible. I just started thinking about apocalypses and origin points, but let's not go there, it's not what we're trying to achieve with this world. Instead, let us address physics.

In the Fields, things fall apart, and they fall apart fast. Let's not say that building something is literally impossible there, as if nails and wood repel each other or something else that smacks of divine intervention. Instead, entropy and the forces of corrosion, rust, rot, etc. simply work at a much faster rate than in the world we're used to. You can build a house... but the nails will rust and the wood will rot to collapse before you can finish the first wall.

Theme: We've determined that everything falls apart in the Decaying Fields of Forever. This hasn't addressed the "forever" part of the name. If everything falls apart and just stays like that, the PCs will head in and discover a world covered in dust, with nothing to interact with. While that might be interesting in a kind of trap, as they soon discover all their equipment is falling apart, and their food is no longer nourishing them, it gives them nothing to do. So what about the "forever?" Well, here's where the theme comes in, methinks. "Everything's dead" is not nearly as effectively horrific a theme as "everything's dying and there's nothing you can do about it."

That is to say, not everything is gone in the Fields. In fact, very little is gone, everything is just continually falling apart. Forever. Two ways to implement this: one, go for the truly fantastical and say that entropy works faster and harder here... but also reverses itself, just a little, right at the end. The trees are always dying but never quite die, the rotting flesh never dessicates and disappears, the screams of agony always—always—fill the air. This is appropriately terrifying, and very reminiscent of some depictions of Hell. The other option is more hopeful, and a little more "science-fictional"/"realistic": there are visitors to the Fields. Perhaps they're deliberate, more likely there's something in the Fields that sucks them in. One day you're walking down the street, and suddenly you're in a world where you're rapidly starving to death and your fire won't stay lit. This second one still feels like it will give the PCs too little to interact with: a few recent visitors who haven't yet succumbed is all they're likely to encounter. And it's not nearly as scary. But perhaps if we combine the two... the Fields suck in people and animals and plants, and then they start dying forever...

The other two parts of the ARTT system, Archetype and Twist, we'll go into next time, as this post would otherwise stretch on rather too long. See you then!