Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Worldbuilding Wednesday: Twelve Domains

Wherein I take an hour or two to expand a concept of mine and see how far I can take it. I have something like 50 pages of story ideas (just the ones I've sorted, moreover) and this will be an exercise in seeing how much potential they have. It's all basically stream of consciousness, thrown out as it occurs to me, with only some polishing at the end to make sure that everything is grammatically correct and I didn't leave any sentences incomplete.

Like last week's entry, I took a bit more than two hours to work on this post, specifically the part where I look at the other Domains and throw some traits down. 

There are twelve Domains, including Earth. Each one is a parallel universe with four Constants, or principles, which differentiate it from the other Domains. For example, in one of the Domains matter reflects the mind; how you look depends on your personality, current thoughts, &c. Earth also has some Constants, and so it is not at all the "baseline" world that provides a yardstick for normality.

Travelers to worlds other than their own are subject to that world's Constants with two exceptions: first, they carry with them a broken version of one of their home Domain's Constants. Werewolves, for example, are beings that hail from that universe where matter reflects the mind, and while they appear to be human each one also has an alternate form which most closely approximates their usual form in their home domain, but filtered through the lens of this world (Most werewolves turn into wolves, hence their name, but wolves do not exist in their world and are merely the closest thing, symbolically, to what they usually look like in their world. A werewolf and a werejaguar are the exact same kind of being, but operating in different cultures in different places of the world).

Second, all people, including travelers, can only be killed by their own Domain. Humans are pretty easy to kill but only because we're in our own Domain. Put us in the Domain that werewolves come from and we'll be as hard to kill as a werewolf is here. Which is to say, we'll only be killable by something from our Domain or touched by our Domain. Now, this does mean that travelers from other Domains can't kill us with their bare hands (Even disemboweled, you'll still survive and eventually heal if the act was done without anything that was connected to your Domain) but it is kind of easy to just pick up a knife and stab something with it. There are also some exceptions: Werewolves, while transformed, are touched just enough by the Domain to kill people, but also touched enough to be killed by things from our Domain if you put enough effort into it (they can lose limbs and keep going).

There are sometimes other beings that are permanently touched by a second Domain and are also in this "can be killed by either Domain but only if you hurt them a lot" category, which is sometimes better than being solely of one Domain. It is easier for people of the other Domain to hurt you, yeah, but a traveler normally dies as easily as a human in this Domain if you're using something that has been touched by its Domain. If vampires exist then they are usually creatures that are native to one Domain or another but have been infected by another kind of creature that comes from one Domain in particular.

All magic is ritual magic. It takes awhile to perform and works by drawing one or more Constants from one or more other Domains and temporarily or permanently imbuing those Constants in something. Sometimes it's a living thing, but more often it is an item or a location. Incidentally, anything that is imbued by a Constant can now be used to kill something from the Domain that possesses that Constant, for as long as the magic sticks.

Earth's four Constants are Absence, Dead Matter, Entropy, and Variety.

Absence: In other Domains coldness and darkness are distinct forces in their own right rather than the lack of heat or light. Our Domain is the only one where forces have absences opposing them rather than things that are forces themselves.

Dead Matter: Nonliving things aren't alive in our Domain. Obviously. In other Domains, though, spirits are possessed by everything from rocks to countries, though they operate on a different scale than we do and generally only have an indirect influence on us. Travelers from other Domains feel like they've walked into a desert when they come here, and travelers from Earth sometimes feel like they're almost suffocating on the density of sheer life that exists in other Domains.

I am also bouncing around the idea that organizations and such, being alive, also need fuel of a sort. It is chiefly due to the influence of travelers of other Domains that we have practices like sacrificing people each year to keep the empire healthy. In other Domains you really do need sacrifices (though not always that kind_ in order to keep the country, or the city, or the family thriving (leaving out milk for the domovoi is the kind of sacrifice that you might make to the family spirit).

Entropy: In other Domains, systems do not tend toward disorganization and decay. Lots of things still need fuel, like suns and living organisms, but they don't fall apart of their own accord. Ours is the only Domain where things rust (normally), people get old, and the natural tendency of systems is to get chaotic and confused. This also happens to justify the existence of things like really-awesomely well-kept scavenger tech and really, really old organizations in other Domains, since they don't just fall apart for no other reason than "things break down when they get old."

Variety: Things in our Domain get really complicated and different. Blue has more shades, people aren't as simple, &c. This may be related to our Domain's tendency toward chaos, but is definitely its own Constant. Travelers from other Domains get thrown out of whack when they come to Earth because all of a sudden they are dealing with a lot more (especially emotionally and psychologically) than they ever were before. In other Domains people are easier to fit into little boxes and have less baggage. They fit into roles and archetypes, although this hardly means that everybody acts the same, even in those particular roles. This also happens to justify our world's superiority in the "Who has thousands and thousands of distinct cultures?" competition.

If this all sounds kind of dismal except for the fourth one, then don't worry, the rest of the Domains agree. It wouldn't be wrong to describe Earth as a kind of Hades or Niflheim or Pale Land, maybe even Hell, so far as everybody else is concerned. It's empty, it's scary, it does stuff to your mind, and it is eating you (insofar as you now start to get old).

Also, there is something called "crossover phenomena." Weird stuff happens when you get the influence of one Domain mixing in with another. Rust, for example, becomes a disease of sorts when it is brought into other Domains. Rust spreads in other Domains; sometimes, even living organisms can be "infected" by rust. This is especially bad since not only are you, well, slowly disintegrating into red metallic dust stuff (which, by the way, is still infectious) but the only way to "kill" it is through electricity or fire. And both of those hurt.

Domains... Domains... What are they? Let's map them to the Chinese Zodiac. First off, twelve signs are organized into four "trines" so let's carry that over and say that each of the Domains connects more easily to two other Domains.

Let's map Earth to "Rat" (how things break down and are just plain dead here). The other two Domains in our trine are Dragon and Monkey, whatever those turn out to be like. 

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  1. I like how you describe our own world as, well, otherworldly. I'm greatly looking forward to the other 11 Domains. :)

    1. I dislike having Earth always be the baseline. Same with humans always being the baseline. I'd rather we be weird in some way, and not by being "the really adaptable ones" or, only slightly better, "the diplomatic ones".

      Alas, I won't be getting to the others for a long time.

  2. Ooh, this is an amazing idea! I can't wait to see how it gets developed.