We just launched The Strange Kickstarter, but since it’s already funded (actually, we’re raised almost three times our goal in just one week), we know it’s a game we’re going to publish. So we’re already having meetings and getting to work.
Bruce and I have only just started working on The Strange, but I’m already so excited about the ideas we’re generating that I almost can’t write them down fast enough. Here’s a few ideas (nothing finalized here), as much for my own reference as anything else:
At the core of the setting for The Strange lies our very own modern-day Earth. But in The Strange, not all is what it seems. Covert organizations keep the secret of the Strange, the alien data network that lies beneath our own reality and hosts a number of hidden worlds within its ever-twining fractal tendrils, hidden from public knowledge.
Recursors are people who have learned many possible ways of translating themselves into the recursions of the Strange. In these expeditions, however, the recursors take on new forms appropriate to the recursion into which they travel. A character on Earth might not look at all the same in Ardeyn. And they must adapt to the unique rules of that recursion. As if this wasn’t dangerous enough, different groups on Earth with different agendas are working at cross purposes. Enemy agents spy on recursors and attempt to sabotage their work in a recursion or attack them on Earth.
At the same time, beings native to the recursions of the Strange likewise come to Earth. The slang among those in the know for these beings is “Strangers,” and the name couldn’t be more appropriate. Because like a recursion, of course, Earth has its own laws and rules. A creature whose form and nature relies on the rules of its original recursion–like, say, the magic of Ardeyn–finds itself changed in sometimes shocking ways.
Once the basis for an epic fantasy MMO, Ardeyn gained a real existence in the Strange. That means that magic works there. The dead walk. Evil spirits haunt ancient temples, sorcerers command mind-blowing supernatural powers, and a legendary warrior with an enchanted blade can take on whole legions.
But for now, let’s focus on that word, “ancient.” Even though Ardeyn’s not actually very old, from its own perspective it is of course quite ancient. What’s it like to know that your grandmother was the reeve of the town in which you live, but then to discover that your world has only existed for a few years? Did your grandmother actually serve as the reeve or not?
And it’s more complicated than even that. Because the answer to the question “is Ardeyn new or is it ancient?” is yes. Both are true. Because within a recursion, that recursion’s rules hold sway. So only from the perspective of someone outside of Ardeyn is Ardeyn new. The people of Ardeyn who think that is it ancient aren’t deluded. They’re correct–from the perspective of the recursion.
Unlike Ardeyn, Ruk is ancient no matter how you look at it. And although it is very large, it is not as large as Ardeyn. Which means that you can see the “edges” of the Strange in the distance. That’s right–when you stand in the chaotic jumble that is Ruk (Ruk is a sort of shipwreck, and that damage comprises its landscape) you see the faint tendrils of the swirling chaos of the Strange in the distance.
This means that at no time when you’re in Ruk are you likely to mistake the fact that you are in a recursion in the Strange. And–again, unlike Ardeyn–everyone in Ruk knows full well that they are in a recursion and not a prime world. All the natives of Ruk are very aware of the Strange. And there is a much higher percentage of the population that can translate to other worlds. Some of them have been visiting the Earth for a very long time, but now that they have recently learned of the existence of Ardeyn, how will they react? Already the agents of Ruk are secretly infiltrating that world with various agendas. And unlike on Earth, they are not always simply taking human guise, for there are many interesting biological forms to take in this world with very different rules governing it.
Like Ruk, not all recursions are huge. Some–like the ones the PCs might create for themselves, at least at first–are very small. Fictional bleed from Earth can lead to what might be thought of as “world fragments” taking hold in the Strange as recursions. Lovecraft’s Innsmouth–not the whole world, but just the town, and perhaps the nearby deep one conclave–could be a recursion. Would anyone there know they were in a recursion? Would they have the so-called “spark” of awareness? Maybe not. Or at least, not yet. But what happens when recursors arrive there? (Other than that the recursors are in a lot of danger, that is.) If even one resident of Innsmouth learns of their “world’s” true nature, and they see the swirling fractals of the Strange at the frayed edges of their reality, what will they do? And will the spark spread–like a virus? What might be unleashed on the world(s) from such a place should they learn to leave their tiny town?
And who knows what else might be lurking down in the deeps of the Strange?
The Strange Itself
Although vast and expanding, mapping in some extra-dimensional fashion to the prime universe (Earth’s universe), the Strange has different distinct regions within its barely-understandable, chaotic twists and turns. Recursors that have plumbed its depths, heading into the Strange itself rather than a recursion, using special vehicles or their own unique personal talents or skills. These hardy souls report that there are ever-shifting landscapes within the Strange, some resembling swirling fractals and others resembling impossible spacescapes with stars and planets that form and disappear in the blink of an eye. Still others describe areas that move like vast creatures, as though portions of the Strange have gained sentience, or are inhabited by immense intelligences that wear its essence like flesh. Those truly in the know navigate the Strange by means of these regional changes, like landmarks or signposts. “I found a new recursion seed growing in the Starscape,” one might say. Or “if you go beyond the region of the Glaring Eye, you will find an access point back to Earth.”
This is so very much a setting ripe for imagination. I’m loving working on The Strange.