Introduction to the Realms
|This story is a work in progress.|
"Up until August 10, 2001, history is precisely as normal. At that time, three regions of the earth suddenly revert into a state of deity-controlled magic and mayhem. Specifically, Scandinavia, Greece, and Egypt all lose the capacity for modern technology to function, as they return to being dominated by their classical pantheons and populated by an array of mythos and humans.
However, from our perspective in the year 2020, these three realms of magic have been around for 19 years, plenty of time for trade and diplomacy and time to have taken some of the edge off of the aftershocks. People and goods move freely in and out of these areas, for good and ill. The complex geopolitical and interpersonal relations that the new array of species and religions creates forms the backdrop against which our game is set. The play itself tends to deal with moving in and out of the realms for a myriad of reasons, be they for purposes of adventure, commerce, religion, research, or anything else.
This allows for modern individuals to conflict with some of the classic staples of mythology, in tandem with how the setting itself does. None of this faffing around in the shadows, everyone knows these things exist, and there are entire sectors of industry and politics built around it." -Jay Enfield, Setting creator (Slightly edited with permission to make it realistically in character)
While writing this book, it came to my attention that I speak pretty freely in realmwalker slang, and discuss more advanced topics regarding the realms without a lot of forewarning at times, and sometimes I'll only discuss something once or twice in the main text. Since this is often disconcerting to many people not familiar with the Realms, I've compiled this appendix of basic historical facts, terms, realm concepts, and other information which should be quite helpful in reading the rest of the book, or as a reference guide for mine, or any other, realmwalker's, written stories.
The Realms: A Beginner's Guide
What IS a realm?
"In the realms, guns don't work, explosions don't happen, and artificial synthetics decay in an awful hurry." -Dawn Renfrew
Put simply, a realm is any location where magical power can be used. In Major Realms (Hellas, Kemet, and Midgard) this is accompanied by a total failure of most modern technology and flouting of many standard physical principles. Miniature realms, which are transitional over many other locations, tend not to include such technology "supression".
The boundary between "In Realm" and "Out Realm" (Often referred to my realm denizens as "the Scientific Realm") is very stark, to the point that one can watch a cell phone cease to operate as one takes a single step across the boundary.
Any realm present on the Earth itself may be referred to as a "Middle Realm" by some denizens, although in common parlance it is often synonymous with "Major Realms." This serves to distinguish realms on Earth from the Overworld and Underworld.
Inside a realm, many things work differently; again, many basic physical things work differently. For example, radioactive half-lives are greatly accelerated, and this can cause almost instant decay to safe levels of any radioactive material. Many other things that are 'advanced' will also begin to degrade at a rapid rate, such as advanced lubricants, plastics and most petrochemical byproducts, machined metals, polyester, etc., and different materials decay at different rates. As a rule of thumb, the physically harder and more massive something is, the longer it will take to degrade, though there are many exceptions.
Damage so incurred does NOT recover after leaving the realm, so it is important to verify all equipment of value is realm compatible (or that the trip will be short enough not to render the device permanently inoperable). This includes clothing; much modern consumer clothing, even that which is 100% cotton, includes polyester on the stitching, and will consequently fall apart at the seams after little more than an hour inside a realm.
Similarly, many base physical laws work differently, or not at all. For example, all combustible materials will burn, but regardless of amount, there is no kinetic energy associated with it. Therefore, standard gunpowder firearms are essentially useless (though the gunpowder itself will work well as a combustible material, such as for starting a fire.) Similarly, controlled forms of electricity, such as ALL modern electronics will not operate, therefore, many realmwalkers carry analog, not digital, watches. Magnets, inexplicably, DO operate. Radio, high UV, Microwave, Gamma, and X-Ray waves do not exist; only low UV to Infrared spectrum light is present.
There's much more to the setup of how the Realms work, but this should at least give a general base of knowledge from which to expand.
The Underworld is almost exactly what you'd expect; the location that the souls of the dead go after death, and the primary control realm of the various gods of the dead. The Underworld is classified as high-danger, and greatly exceeds the normal realms in threats; no Underworld expedition should be taken unprepared.
The Underworld is accessed by reflecting through an Underworld Mirror. Such mirrors are owned by various temples, and using one will generally require a donation, tithe, or other offering for the privilege. As a general rule, one cannot self-activate a Underworld Mirror on their own from the "Middle Realms", and will require assistance, though returning from the Underworld is usually self-achievable.
The Underworld is shrouded perpetually in night, often, but not always, with a full moon. Light sources are critical. The terrain is also quite rough and you will get a significant workout traversing it. Navigation is difficult at best, further compounded by the fact that the chaotic nature of the Underworld meaning that the geography will shift and change on a semi-frequent basis, meaning that you cannot always retrace your steps to get back up. However, if a way out is what you seek, you generally can get towards that by attempting to move upward. Cthonic compasses can be used to reliably navigate in the Underworld, and only work there. They are highly valuable for this reason.
The Underworld has many unique monsters, and several other monsters are also much more common there. Additionally, certain rules regarding magic are relaxed further, allowing greater harm to occur, and certain things which are impossible elsewhere can happen. For a simple example, Lamia cannot hatch anywhere but the Underworld.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the Underworld (and the Overworld as well) is that it seems to exist as its own single realm for all three pantheons and Middle Realms. On a practical level, this means that one can enter the Underworld from one Realm and leave through another, IE: entering in a temple of Thor in Midgard and exiting through a temple of Set in Kemet. However, any such journey requires planning and good navigation, as well as a method to ensure you do not exit in the temple of a hostile faction, and can compensate the owner if necessary.
A mark is a form of buy-in protection in realm, and can also indicate alliegance. A mark, once received is (almost always) permanent and cannot be removed or altered by normal means. The individual's spirit/soul/essence is 'marked' by the god. Some gods also include external signs, such as 'tattoos', or body alterations, to make the mark more obvious. The relationship is symbiotic; the god gains power from all marks currently in realm, and the mark gains limited protection from the mark, primarily limited to the fact that he cannot be marked again, and is thus no longer of value to those who would forcemark someone.
A person in realm is either "Marked" or "Unmarked", depending on whether or not they have a mark. Extended forays in realm without a mark of some kind are dangerous at best, due to the fact that many gods see no issue with forcing a mark upon unwilling individuals. This process is known as 'forcemarking', and frequently involves a forced bodily transformation into an alternate form (which, again, is usually permanent).
Marksense is the ability of any Marked individual to, while in realm, detect the mark of anyone else nearby that you're already aware of (IE you cannot use marksense by itself to detect someone lying in ambush), as well as the 'feel' of that mark. In practical terms, using marksense will give you the deity that owns the mark, and a 'feeling' on that deity's relation with your own.
For example, an Odin mark and a Tyr mark would generally have positive resonance(on a mark level), while Typhon and Echidna marks don't 'feel' nearly as positive.
It should be noted that on a practical level, this is just a feeling, and a marked individual is in full control of his own actions towards or against another individual, regardless of the marks involved. It's essentially a bit of a 'cheater' of, in the absence of other connections with an individual, the level of trust your own deity would place in them based on the mark. Most people with marks have one solely for protection from forcemarking, and may not extensively use marksense, or make judgements based on it.
Unmarked individuals do not show up on marksense.