Outlining A Setting

Today I’m going to be continuing from last week’s post; last time I did the broad outline of the multiverse itself, where today I’ll be detailing the most important parts of it. In this case, that means the Travelers, the biggest cliques of them, and some of the regions of the slow tumult of shifting worlds they inhabit.

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So let’s talk about the Travelers – individuals attuned to either Order or Chaos, who can walk between the worlds, manipulate the fabric of them to a degree, and who can manipulate the entropic charge of a world they’re in, either packaging some up to move away or dumping some that they’re carrying into the world.

There’s no requirement that these creatures originally be human – unless the multiverse operates according to some meta-anthropocentric principle, humans shouldn’t be any more common than any other kind of Traveler. At the same time, the attunement and ability to rewrite things also means that a Traveler can reshape themselves over time; belonging to a given clique might involve adapting yourself to look like them, too.

This has advantages and disadvantages, from the standpoint of writing them – the advantage is that as long as they seem internally consistent, you don’t have any reason to write a given Traveler as having a human mindset. You can write them as alien as you like, following thought processes that have nothing to do with human thought modes. It allows for some deeply disturbing antagonists and allies to be written into existence.

The disadvantage is that unless you’re good at writing interesting and comprehensible alien minds, you’re still going to want to stick to a human-analogue for any viewpoint Travelers until you’ve established the reader in the world. Travelers that aren’t relatively new and human are going to be hard to make an audience comfortable with while they’re still getting settled into the setting itself.

Use the human one to establish the rules that all the others have to follow, and writing the others gets a bit easier. With that in mind, let’s talk about the rules for Travelers: what they can do, what they can’t do, and what they wish they could do but can’t.

What they can do is travel between the worlds of the multiverse, as easily as walking from one room to the next. This requires actual motion on their part – while there are almost definitely sapient plants among them, there aren’t any that are permanently rooted in place. You can trap one for a while by not giving them enough room to make the trip, or by preventing them from moving.  Similarly, depending on their attunement, they can either dissolve the rules governing a world in their immediate vicinity, making anything possible, or they can overwrite and impose a different set of rules. Neither one is permanent, and both take a measure of effort on the part of the Traveler. A Traveler could use it to pack a gun into worlds where firearms otherwise won’t work for various reasons, or to let them use what amounts to magic in worlds like ours, but both of these are tiring. One of the few permanent things they can do is siphon off or deposit entropy, either extending or shortening the lifespan of a given world.

What they can’t do is permanently change the rules of a world, no matter how long and hard they try; this doesn’t stop new Travelers from trying, once they realize that they can bend and break the laws of a world. It’s far simpler to simply wander the worlds until you find one that works the way you want, although the odds are you’ll run into other Travelers with similar preferences. They can’t travel without actually moving, and even the ones attuned to Chaos are limited in what they can try when they dissolve the laws of a world – whatever they want has to fit in the area they can influence. They also have to be able to make sense of what they want to do – if they can’t conceptualize what they want, they can’t make it happen.

Naturally, this means every Traveler is chasing rumors and myths of worlds or artifacts that will allow them to do more with their powers with less effort. Worlds that can be shaped by the will of a Traveler to their furthest extent, artifacts that amplify their power to the level of mythic deities, and so on. Each of them is, essentially, a powerful fae creature – but all of them want to be gods. Of such yearnings and cross-purpose desires are stories born.

Next time, I’ll put together a protagonist – a human who finds themself attuned to one of the two sources of power, and who discovers that the entities that their people regard as demigods are a lot more petty and dangerous than they understand.

Outlining A Setting

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