Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Realms - The Gap

Today we will examine what a Realm is, and what lies between them, coming to our new Realm location: The Gap.

So what is a Realm anyway? It is currently ill-defined in many ways, but we have a few pieces:

  • A Realm is a "world" of some kind, defined by its own lifeforms, physical and magical properties, and culture or cultures.
  • You cannot travel from one Realm to another through any traditional transport, whether walking or rocket ships. They are in completely different physical spaces, accessible only through the magic of Realmshifting.
  • There is some form of geography between the Realms, with some being "near" the City of Lives and some being "far." The Far Realms are noted to have radically different physical and magical properties.
From these pieces, we can see that Realms are very similar to the concepts of "planes" in Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering, or parallel universes in the vein of Sliders or innumerable sci-fi stories. The question I have yet to answer for myself is how large a Realm is. Is it an entire universe, with planets and galaxies and what have you? If so, why do we only explore one small part of one planet of each Realm that is featured in the game? Is it a tiny, magically-contained area a few hundred or thousand miles in diameter? If so, is that natural or created by some god? What does that mean for the cosmology of The City of Lives?

Functionally, every Realm should serve the purpose of a town in The Fugitive or a planet in Star Trek, a new place to explore every adventure—and as we see from those two examples, they can be of any size and still serve the same story function. So maybe it doesn't matter. Except that someone will want to know, and won't be satisfied without an answer. Perhaps we aren't prepared to answer those questions yet.

In any case, since we know that the various Realms are impassable to ordinary travel, and yet have some form of geography, this would seem to imply that there is something "between" them, some magical barrier or void. So let's run with it. In between the Realms is an emptiness, with absolutely nothing in it, not even the vacuum of outer space.

But that's boring. 


The Gap once was empty, defined by its emptiness. However, the Realms are unstable, occasionally falling to pieces. Because of human conflict, natural disaster, or godly intervention, sometimes Realms split, and pieces of worlds spill into the Gap. Floating islands of reality drift in the darkness, each ruled by its own physics, twisted by the neighboring realities spinning by. A few people inhabit these shattered realms, refugees and foolhardy explorers, doing their best to transform the bits and pieces they have left into a coherent world.

The Archetype of the Gap is that of the "junk city," the makeshift world formed of bits and pieces from everything and everywhere. The best example I can think of is Armada from The Scar, a city created from innumerable sailing ships lashed together. HoL is a (frankly bizarre) RPG that takes place on a landfill planet, and there always seem to be hobo communities thriving in any fictional garbage dump. The Gap is this archetype writ large, with pieces of landmasses fused together haphazardly to create a hodgepodge of realities. I see pieces as small as a city block and as large as a state, sometimes connected, and sometimes simply floating in the void nearby each other, reachable by bridges or ziplines or magical airships.

...and with that imagery, we'll pick up the Gap next time. See you then...