In addition to the big three of the worlds available in The Strange for players to explore, there are also numerous smaller and less developed recursions. Some were made deliberately, through the use of reality seeds and the efforts of dedicated recursors aiming to have a hidden home away from home, while others exist as the result of fictional leakage from Earth proper. Each of them is a two-edged sword – each is linked to the Earth in some fashion, and so potentially exists as a road to the real world for the creatures below, but each also forms part of the Earth’s defensive screen.
The best part of this is that you have every excuse you could possibly need to finally drop ridiculous pop culture references into your game. Is everyone a Doctor Who fan? Drop your favorite episode in as a recursion that loops; perhaps the Doctor has the spark, and has become a full-fledged recursor in his own right. If you’re Star Trek or Star Wars fans, drop your favorite bits into the Strange as self-contained recursions. King’s Landing and the Wall probably exist, as do multiple iterations of zombie-overrun cities.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the premade recursions in the Strange.
First up, for all those who are fans of anime, is the recursion of Atom Nocturne, a recursion that creatively hybridizes psychic powers, superheroic/sentai antics, battle tournaments between members of the populace showcasing their psychic Talents, and so on. Everyone is young and attractive, talented and successful, and occasionally their Talents go awry and produce villains of incredible power.
One of the greatest appeals of this recursion to outsiders is that if you can compete in the most impressive of the battle tournaments under the Splendor Dome and gain enough approval and enthusiasm from spectators, you can get a custom-crafted artifact. Of course, the more powerful and impressive the Talent, the more likely that person is to either crumble under it to become Fallen or to be asked in if-you-want-to-keep-competing-do-this terms to fight the latest Fallen to emerge.
If you like anime, you can easily fit your favorite tropes into Atom Nocturne’s framework in almost all cases. If not, well, you can spin off a side recursion where your preferred tropes override those of Atom Nocturne, allowing you to create a constellation of anime-inspired worlds as a part of the Shoals; many will likely, in the nature of anime itself, have interlinked translation gates connecting them. Genre hop at your own leisure and discretion!
The recursion of Crow Hollow at first seems almost Disney-like, as it’s a recursion inhabited by avian humanoids called Kro, full of glittering shops built amid the branches of a colossal tree. In practice, it’s something of an inter-recursion bazaar and black market that trades in trinkets, cyphers, and artifacts from recursions and the Strange itself. Deals are often made in crow coin, which is a manifestation of a creature’s vital essence.
The odds are that if you want something, you can find it in Crow Hollow – but so can people you’re opposed to, and the Kro are nothing if not wily about making deals and setting up bidding wars. It doesn’t help that the Beak Mafia exists, and that they’ll happily enforce the rule of Don Wyclef; people trying to buy or sell cyphers and artifacts without the Don’s permission may find themselves facing a gang of kro thugs looking to extract the ‘merchant agreement’ from them in kro coin, whether or not they’re willing.
Crow Hollow is a good place to look for leads on MacGuffins and the like, including terrifyingly powerful artifacts like reality-altering ‘seeds’ that can manipulate even the physical world by drawing on the nearly infinite computational power of the dark energy network. Rumors and information also get sold here, making Crow Hollow an ideal place for players with no idea how to proceed on whatever tasks they have in front of them.
Gloaming is a recursion where the night is ruled by supernatural forces; vampires, werewolves, and worse come out after sunset, split into factions dedicated to Law and Chaos. It’s a recursion built around the core concepts of urban fantasy, with magic and myth hiding behind a daytime facade of mundane nature, only to emerge at night in a battle betwen the rigid control of the Code and the anarchic abandon of the Conclave.
During the day, the recursion could be any fair-sized city on modern Earth; people go about their business, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, children play in parks and go to school, people go to work and come home each evening. In this guise, recursors new to the idea might not even be fully aware that they’ve left Earth, other than the instinctive knowledge that translating gives them – chiefly that the night is dangerous, even if no one can quite articulate why.
At night, the recursion becomes the playground of the supernatural as mortals hide in their homes. Werewolves, vampires, and those mages sworn to either Law or Chaos struggles with one another in a shadow war thanks to the Gloaming Pact. Recursors who come here can find some surprisingly useful resources and fonts of information, as more than a few inhabitants have the spark and some are even quickened themselves. Of course, to do so the players will have to navigate the intricate politics of the supernatural world while remaining off the radar of the daytime authorities.
There are also other recursions, mostly getting a paragraph or so in the main book; each of them has grown up around a seed idea, although some have evolved in baffling ways.
Goodland is a recursion grown up around the never-was black-and-white world of 1950s and 1960s television, where everything is perfect and happy as long as no one gets out of line. On the surface, it’s the kind of happy and harmonious place that some people on Earth speak of when they talk about the Good Old Days, with no signs of discontent or discord. Of course, those who step out of line are likely to find themselves experiencing the dark side of that dream – the citizens of the recursion may well pay a visit to those who don’t toe the line in the form of a midnight lynching by the ‘good folk’ hidden behind faceless hoods and masks.
Singularitan is a recursion built up around dystopian dreams of an AI revolting against those who made it, creating a recursion where the AI itself is the only mind, with instances of it running on robotic bodies and the leftover inhabitants. Going there can be dangerous, as the AI is well aware of the Strange, and those who leave likely do so infected with a copy of the AI instance. Going to Earth rapidly degrades these instances, but they survive quite well out in the Strange.
Old Mars is a recursion grown up around the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, with an inhabitable Mars dotted by the ruins of a fallen civilization and barbaric descendants of what once was. Recursors who come here can find all manner of strange and enigmatic cyphers and artifacts, detritus of the recursion’s theoretical past, all guarded by savage barbarians and hungry beasts.
Innsmouth is just one recursion seeded from the creepy vision of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, containing the town of Innsmouth itself and a stretch of shoreline and ocean inhabited by the Deep Ones of his stories. One major risks of the Lovecraftian constellation of recursions is that something squamous and horrid might develop the spark if interacted with, with the frightening prospect of the Elder and Outer Gods being unleashed upon the world if they become quickened.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as far as recursions go; several others sit in the main book, others have been developed in additional sourcebooks by Monte Cook Games, and still more can be found at the Recursion Codex!
I certainly encourage people to give it a try; the game can scratch most any genre mashup itch.