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The Phase Space Continuum

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12/05/2013 01:21 AM

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The Phase Space Continuum
Multiple co-realities overlay the familiar; myriad planes of existence are arranged in a circular or spiral pattern. This isn't quite as cool as it sounds: everything but The Familiar (the primary reality) is mostly empty. The gods split reality to create "dummy realities" so they could hide from both their outside enemies and the humans they toyed with (the gods' old base of operations is in one of the empty-ish phases.)

Though the many “dummy” phases of reality were designed to be empty, life found ways to leak from the primary phase that the gods had designed, colonizing the other phases bit by bit. A small minority of plants and animals were randomly gifted the ability to wander through phase-space; due to the lightning pace of evolution on Skelter (thanks to intentional magical influence) many species were able to adapt and colonize these relatively empty environments. Currently, each region of phase space has its own distinct character, depending on which (if any) species were first to colonize the region, and the particular progression of the ultra-rapid evolution that took place there. However, vast swaths of phase space (especially the space opposite the original “living” phase) are still mostly-empty wastelands of rock and dirt.

Most of Skelter's human population is vaguely aware that other phases of reality exist, or that there's some sort of parallel "shadow plane" that certain gifted people can escape to. Most humans discount the other phases of reality as being either totally empty, uninteresting, or a solitary "shadow phase". More commonly known are history's infamous burglars and dark lords who could hop in and out of the primary phase ("reality") at will.

The ability to travel between the phases of reality is a rare gift; a gift given at random. Any entity might be lucky enough to have this ability – it is found with equal frequency in humans, animals, plants, and even inanimate objects. (This frequency is roughly one in fifty thousand, though it seems to vary slightly by geographical locale.) Plants, inanimate objects, and certain animals with this phasewalking ability drift seemingly at random through the phases, as they have no consciousness to directly control their travel. (Their motion is not completely random; their movement is slightly biased toward higher reality, thus they are more likely to be found in one of the 895 phase quanta, especially the primary phase.) The lucky few humans and higher animals with this ability can move through the phases of reality at will, though they may spend most/all of their life unaware of their ability, or how to control it.

Though phase space is traveled as a continuum, reality "pools" into precisely 895 equally spaced (but not equally "real") quanta (or phases, planes, dimensions, local maxima of reality, etc.) These distinct phase quanta are conveniently spaced; they are just slightly farther apart than the maximum distance at which physical matter from one point on the phase continuum can interfere with matter at another point. (Magic is a different story; it has a larger radius of effect, and can interact with matter or other magic at a much greater distance.)

Matter in-between phases will slowly drift to one or the other neighboring phase quanta as per the 1st law of phase dynamics: matter will always seek to be more "real". This effect is especially potent near the primary phase, which is the most "real" of all. Note that, at the lower spiral levels (at which most matter, including humans, exist) all phases are below the reality threshold (within the white zone on the image), and thus perceived as equally real. The so-called "shadow phase" is essentially all phases above their reality threshold. (This becomes noticable first for the 895 local reality minima, aka shadow barriers, between the phase quanta.)

The "shadow phase" is not a place one wants to stay for any length of time unless one seeks to disappear from existence. It can be traveled through with no permanent ill effects, so long as one can make it back below the reality threshold within the span of a few hours. As even stationary matter will drift out of the spaces between phase quanta in a matter of an hour or so, this is rarely a problem for phase travelers except when traversing the upper reaches of the spiral. The advantage to traveling through above the reality threshold is that it is mostly non-corporeal, and tends to be much safer so long as high speeds can be maintained.

Some creatures or objects of the primary phase exist very high up the spiral. They are surrounded by the "shadow phase" (unreality) in all directions, making phase travel both more and less dangerous. It is less dangerous in that they have significantly less chance of experiencing a corporeal collision event while traveling (the shadow phase is essentially empty; even other travelers can't physically interact here) - and it is MORE dangerous in that they must return to the primary reality within a few hours or risk fading into a dream-like state, then nonexistence.

Many phasewalkers purposefully travel far up-spiral, despite the fact that no other realities are accessible from this position; they must travel significant distance down-spiral first. The benefits of existing far up-spiral are mostly significant magic resistance (though if their spellbox exists with them up-spiral, magic they cast will have little effect) and the existence of a convenient "shadow phase" in either direction for quick escapes without much chance of a corporeal event. (The risk of corporeal events is associated with coming back - especially if starting from a city.)

Though the paths through phase space form Fermat’s Spiral (a symmetrical double spiral, with the spaces between lines unofficially dubbed “half-octaves”) not all realities are fundamentally equal. The narrow region of phase space centered on the designed, “living” phase was allocated significantly more “reality” than the other phases. This means that only the spiral paths near the very center of phase space traverse bona-fide REALITY through the full spectrum (all 360 degrees; 895 quantum) of reality. Beings from the primary reality that exist at high phase levels (paths farther out on the spiral) find themselves in a shadowy netherworld when they travel even small distances on the spiral paths, in either direction. There is very little “reality” here; the world is fuzzy and ill-defined, and travelers risk being absorbed by unreality if they linger too long. After descending through a number of levels along the spiral path, (where there is but one oasis of reality per turn: the designed, “living” reality) a phase traveler will finally be able to visit other locales in phase space as true realities, rather than shadowy wisps of said realities.

Phasewalkers can bring along non-phasewalking items, plants, animals, and people – though it takes more concentration, and often something is left behind in the wrong phase. (Not disastrous, but the lost item or friend could be difficult to find, if the phasewalker wasn’t paying attention.)

There are significant risks inherent to phase travel: though the general geographical layout of the phases (especially nearby phases) are similar, they are not exactly identical. Phasewalkers must take care not to travel into a mountain, building, tree, or a host of other potential obstacles. Phasewalkers traveling at slow speeds can sense the coming objects and avoid them – but faster travel (and gifted phasewalkers can travel VERY fast) is very dangerous. For this reason, the phasewalkers of old designed a system of markers to denote areas of the landscape that are safe for travel throughout all the phases (or at least a significant portion – with obstacles described on the marker.) These marked areas have become known as portals.

The portal sites themselves possess no innate power – they are simply areas where very rapid travel through the spectrum of reality (all or most of the phases) is known to be safe. When non-phasewalkers chanced upon a phasewalking portal, they typically took the coded runes to contain some manner of powerful magic, when really they only denote how clear the path is for travel at the given position. Phasewalkers learned to play off this misunderstanding to keep the general populace mostly ignorant as to the nature of their ability. (An example of a commonly circulated myth: "We possess no special powers, we are simply the ones chosen by the portals".)

Note that the secretive, ancient order of phasewalkers that systematically scouted potential phaserunning sites and established most of the so-called portals is long-gone. As such, most of these portals are not current, and their locations in other realities may have been blocked through the ages by growing forests, cities, landslides, etc. Also of note: the portal markers exist primarily in the designed (“living”) reality – the safe high-speed phase travel locations (aka portals) are often poorly marked (or not marked at all) in other phase quanta. Currently, there is a loose umbrella organization of phasewalkers dedicated to carefully scouting all the old portals and checking which ones are still viable, as well as scouting out new portals (or, the more accurate modern term: run-safe locations).

True phase portals have existed; these were technically plants with the capacity to phase"walk" (drift), harnessed by human mages to take them to specific locations in phase space. The enchantments controlling these plants (which modern mages have not learned to reproduce) faded with time, and the plant "portals" eventually drifted out of the primary phase of reality. The capacity for mages not born with an inherent phasewalking ability to traverse phase space meant there were historically many more phase travelers, thus the "portals" (the non-magical kind; merely clear and safe travel locations) were marked and maintained.

Plants (and lower animals) with the rare innate ability to phasewalk will drift through phase space at random. The ignorant denizens of primary phase space call these plants Florageists; the ghosts of plants. Florageists have played curiously important (and wholly unintentional) roles in history. For example, seventy years ago a large melon tree appeared in the middle of the Greyling Desert and saved a band of tribal Farkin mercenaries who assassinated the Iltmin Emperor and freed their lands. In the Orange Age, a white flower's appearance in the Shairan royal court convinced the reigning queen (who saw it as a message from a deity) to end her nation's destructive crusades in Blunderfang. Most famously, the dark lord Serpin Kheft was spontaneously encased in a giant fungus when he was invading one of the underground cities of the Goomers in the Drakenbach during the Silver Age. Events like these have typically been mistaken for divine intervention.

Modern summoning magic has two branches: summoning small objects over short to mid distances, (from within the same phase) and creating simple, short-lived things (essentially semi-corporeal illusions) from scratch. However, the ancients of Farakulus practiced a third branch of summoning magic: they could summon out-phase objects into the primary phase of reality.

Non-phasewalkers required the use of a phasewalking-capable plant to perform this magic. Farakulus' Mages were purported to possess a most remarkable art: they could view all of phase-space near their location, then select any nearby object from anywhere in phase-space and summon it to them. Very massive objects could be summoned this way - for example, dragons. Unfortunately, this form of magic was never particularly reliable, especially since much of phase space is relatively empty (even more so in ancient times) and the caster could only summon nearby objects. Furthermore, summoned creatures were startled, bore no allegiance to the caster, and could not be easily returned.

This elder school of summoning magic was lost when the Amram Empire razed Farakulus. It is rumored that the mages of Farakulus were developing the inverse technique: banishment. However, it is not likely that they were able to make efficient use of this magic, or they could have simply banished entire Amram armies... armies which ended up razing Farakulus.

Souls follow different rules than physical objects when it comes to phase travel. Souls count as something halfway between magic and matter in this regard: they tend to stay on the spiral paths, but can be pulled from them. The souls of living beings are held firmly in place (usually) by their bodies, so long as they live. However, once a soul no longer has a body to anchor it to its phase of reality, it begins to drift slowly “down-spiral” - unlike corporeal matter, it is indifferent to the reality level (gray vs. white on picture).

Though the “gods” were surprised at the random ability of corporeal objects to drift through phase space, they fully expected it of bare souls, and used it as their mechanism of soul recycling. At a phase "valley" just downstream of their designed reality, they built what can only be described as a “soul magnet” to collect the souls of the dead. This so-called magnet was placed near the center of the spiral, and it effectively pulls souls from their paths on the spiral (which can vary – some higher, some lower) to the great vat of souls that exists at the bottom-most path intersecting the phase just downstream from the designed reality: the land of the dead. Here the souls are stored in the Vat of Souls, recycled, and pumped back to the designed reality as raw soul material, which then attaches itself to new life and nucleates the growth of new souls. Not all of the soul material is immediately recycled; the greater portion of it simply accumulates in the Vat of Souls. (Though the outflow has exceeded the inflow for some time, due to human population growth.) Sometimes a soul is rescued from the vat by a brave adventurer and returned to its body, but this is rare.

It is said that the land of the dead is run by one of the remaining gods. Due to the amount of maintenance involved, the “gods” must have at least established a very good automated system, or perhaps created a servant being for the task.

Note that phasewalkers who pass the soul magnet in their travels (it is located in the valley 3.5 quanta down-spiral) can feel its subtle tug on their souls. It’s not at all harmful or dangerous, but it feels downright creepy. (Especially since most humans are unaware of their souls – and may not even believe the soul exists.)
No one has ever seen a perfect circle, nor a perfectly straight line, yet everyone knows what a circle and a straight line are.
Perceived circles or lines are not exactly circular or straight, and true circles and lines could never be detected since by definition they are sets of infinitely small points.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 1053533
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12/05/2013 02:26 AM
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Re: The Phase Space Continuum

So, the modern phase walkers... What goals do they have, in this world?

Is this the main reality? Or is it one of the places on an outer arm?

Lots of neat information there. Possibly not sane or real, but who am I to judge that without more information?