In the year 2020, reality took a decisive turn.
It began with the people of the world. Pestilence drove them apart, into seclusion, and into condemnation of their fellows. But man was not made for living alone, caged by fear. Tragedy and loss rattled the population, and unrest suffused the globe, escalating into at-times violent opposition. Isolation and division severed the connections of the world, leaving many adrift and in despair. From the other side of the wall a song could be heard, dim and muffled, but as the cracks grew longer the tune became clearer. It was a song of otherness, of restlessness, its simple and beautiful suggestion that this tormented world couldn't possibly be real. Many lost touch with reality, sinking into the gloom that surrounded them, dreaming unsettling and incomprehensible dreams when they slept, and seeing a unfamiliar world that flashed and blurred when they could not, staring into their ceilings and computer screens. As the year got older, even the weather of the world grew aimlessly active. The people could feel it—that sensation of impending disaster, of teetering on a precipice and peering down into the bottomless pit below, and of wondering if what lay below could possibly be worse than what lay behind.
In December, the cracked wall, groaning under the weight of the song on the other side, gave way. For nineteen days and nights, reports came in across the globe of bizarre sightings, of colors that moved and danced, of water where none should be, of things that moved in strange ways in the corners and the shadows. Then the first Well opened, and the rest was history.
All over the world, Wells of bright blue water sprang forth where none should be. Within, no matter what lay there before, lay an infinite Deep. Some Wells came and went like riptides, divulging otherworldly things before sucking worldly things back in, and some came like earthquakes, changing the terrain where they erupted. Whether sanctioned as Divers by the governments of the world or not, people ventured into the Deep, and found an astral sea with no surface. Among all the inexplicable things the Divers saw down there was one discovery: the existence of other wells, like those they came through. And of other worlds beyond them.
For a long time there was chaos. Even as exploratory teams traveled through the helpful currents of the Deep to other worlds, establishing bases and giving them names, other things filtered through onto Earth from beyond. Some arrived subtly, others like explosions, changing the world irreparably. Chief among them was the Lucid Dream, taking over the great cities where multitudes of people lived their lives, clouding them in a tangible malaise, creating surreal doldrums that cultivated distortion. Countless people were changed, both on Earth and other worlds, giving rise to entire subspecies collectively falling under the classification 'More Than Human'--MTH for short, pronounced (and often spelled) 'myth'.
But that's old news. Twenty-eight years have passed, with weirdness becoming the new normal. A state of equilibrium was reached, allowing business to proceed more or less as usual, but the scars of those early years never faded. The Lucid Cities remain effectively lost to the outside world, their residents living unthinking lives on repeat. Gone is the security of the old world, making whole countries into frontiers.
It's in this changed world that you live, and not just as a civilian, no. You're a problem solver, the sort who can fend for yourself. And you or your employers have been contacted by the Interest. A shadowy organization extant principally in rumor and superstition, the Interest has requested your help in a raid on a base of the infamous Gilgamesh Co. Established in the early days of the Opening, as it came to be called, it sought to boost the economies and livelihoods of the world by abusing the resources of other dimensions, and abusing their employees -including the criminals, the purposeless, and the desperate- to get them. Though long since publicly denounced and dissolved, Gilgamesh continues to operate in secret around the globe, and the Interest seems eager to see this branch put down. To that end they're offering fabulous sums of money for professional help, and other things besides—they seem to know exactly what it is you need.
So, a raid on an evil corporation in a world changed by the Opening to other dimensions and peopled by those deemed More Than Human...are you in?
After the Opening, Wells emerge across the globe that offer access to the Deep, and through it access to other dimensions. Some wells only appear briefly, but others stay permanently, tinging the surrounding area with features of the nearest dimension. The trip can be made with conventional diving equipment or submarines, or even without as long as one gets really lucky with the currents. Still, travel is risky and inconvenient. Since this RP will be taking place on Earth, knowing the other dimensions isn't that important.
- The Cave – A rich subterranean world of massive caverns. Bioluminescent fungi of all shapes and sizes illuminate a safe and peaceful haven, its temperature comfortable and its meaty flora bountiful. The air is thick, and vapors carry a stimulant that excite the imagination while slowing down biological processes. The lower one goes in the Cave, the heavier the Haze becomes; at its depths, its strong enough to be hallucinogenic and to halt the body's biology completely, eliminating the need for food and sleep, and preventing aging. Since the Cave's discovery, a number of human colonies have flourished there, with large amounts of people from earth immigrating for the sake of a life of indulgent indolence, free of any hardship in paradise. The Haze is addictive, and long-term partakers undergo mutation that intensifies over time, becoming Kin.
- The Grove – a world of forest steeped in endless twilight, lit up by bioluminescent flora, countless twinkling stars, and dancing motes of light. Its landmasses matches that of Earth exactly, although the terrain differs. It is the only world known to man with its own inhabitants: the Unseen. Split between the more humanoid and diminutive Fey and and more malevolent and variable Yokai, the denizens of the Grove bear unmistakable similarities to creatures mentioned in folklore throughout human history. Which one shaped the other remains to be seen, but humans can form connections with them and become Bound. Though many human settlements have been established here, the interference of the Unseen prevents large-scale development.
- Morass - A world of mud beneath a pale yellow sky. From the mud its oddly-shaped islands rise like the tops of plateaus and the heights of mountain ranges, and occasionally they descend as well. Seismic scanners have long identified vast things moving beneath the mud, slowly but surely wandering the realm beneath. Morass is too unstable and harsh to be widely populated, but it's possible to live aboard ships and stationary rigs. The existence of the remnants of an ancient civilization deep below the mud has driven two very disparate industries in this dimension: scientific research, and dredging. Dredge crews operate in secret as penal labor facilities on behalf of various interests on earth, risking the wrath of the world's dangerous, bone-armored life-forms while pulling up artifacts and resources from the ancient cities deep below.
- Horizon - A world of endless sunset sky and dark clouds, which themselves form the only terrain. It demonstrates rare weather patterns in the form of elemental drifts, in which streams of wind, fire, water, and snow dance across the sky. Most interestingly, while Horizon extends infinitely in a lateral sense, it loops vertically. Anything that falls, for instance from a cloud, will pass that same cloud a short time after, again and again ad nauseum. It has no naturally occurring life or resources of its own, making life and even something as simple as exploration here extremely difficult. As such, Horizon is inhabited solely by those who choose to live an ascetic life in pursuit of enlightenment. Temples, monasteries, and even cathedrals long predating Horizon's discovery reside on and within the clouds themselves, slowly drifting through the infinite sky. Those seeking enlightenment live in these structures, and at great length to some attain it. As they tread the path, they slowly grow wings, and upon finding enlightenment most ascend into the sky, while others remain behind as Shepherds.
- Pendulum - A dimension of gargantuan machinery. Clad in the unflinching twilight of a purple atmosphere that's light enough to see by and thick enough to obscure distant objects, the hanging towers of brazen cogs, wheels, and plates stretch as far as the eye can see. Pendulum is a world in perpetual motion, the make of its towering engines as unknown as their purpose. Human ingenuity has allowed adjunct devices to be attached to machinery close to its main wells that link back through the Deep to earth, providing power. Tearing up machinery for salvage is profitable but tricky work, since one wrong move can wreck a vital function to keeping an entire platform from plummeting into the abyss. Clockwork animals live on the machines, maintaining an artificial ecosystem and providing the most reliable source of quality parts. The air is highly static, and low-yield lightening storms often sweep through the towers. Some sections of Pendulum are polluted by a creeping, oily, black and yellow techno-corruption.
- Corpus - A visceral dimension of flesh. Either the world itself is alive, with meat its dirt and bone its rock, or exists within a gigantic organism. The high chance of sickness, the tricky terrain, and the presence of hostile fauna make it fairly dangerous and unstable, so the risks of coming here typically outweigh any rewards. Worst of all is the environment's propensity to 'eat' unwary travelers, either absorbing or infesting and then rejecting them as dangerous Blights. Corpus's biggest benefits to humanity is its abundance of natural tissues. Some formations, like veins of rare ore, possess resilient 'uber cells' that can allow them to survive even if removed and can act as binders for other materials. This has led to the invention of 'living weapons', an experimental arms technology.
- Areia Grande - Better known as Areia, it is a desert dimension of permanent day, its multicolored suns painting monolithic formations of white sand and stone in magnificent displays of color. It remains harsh and difficult to inhabit, moreso than an Earth desert thanks to the verticality of its landscape, but it's widely regarded as a gorgeous and inspirational tourist destination. Few, however, know of its secrets. A percentage of humans are affected mentally by the celestial colors, inducing dizziness and drunkenness at first that eventually lead to paranoia and delusion. Those who wander out into the desert on their might rarely stumble upon hidden oases taking the forms of other biomes replete with elemental power. The materials found in such oases are extremely useful, especially for creating elemental weapons, but eating the fruit can cause debilitating elemental afflictions or even monstrous transformation.
Though all technically human, various More Than Human (myth) subspecies exist in this world. Due to their newness, there aren't really separate cultures, though that hasn't stopped people from trying to establish them.
Some subspecies are uniformly deleterious to humanity and/or the world. These monster subspecies are considered kill-on-sight if threatening or outside of their home dimensions, and their escape into other dimensions are considered emergencies.
- Kin – a magic subspecies. Inhabitants of the Cave who've been mutated by exposure to the Haze. The mutations can be quite extreme and even highly debilitating depending on time in the Cave, and no two are quite alike. The only observable logic is that they appear to be warped by their desires. Long-term Kin carry Haze within themselves and can use it to cast illusions or glamours. They typically resist leaving the Cave strongly, but if forced out, they can be brought to their senses, typically at the cost of permanent depression.
- Deviant – a physical subspecies. A person either traveled to or born into the Cave with a resistance to the Haze. They develop minor mutation in the form of demonic or bestial features, but otherwise resist change. They're energetic, hardy of constitution, and tend toward aggressive personalities, putting them at odds with Kin society. If they don't leave the Cave, however, they will eventually succumb and become Kin.
- Bound – a magic subspecies. Someone who's formed a bond with a supernatural entity of the Grove. Difficult to cleanly catalog, they run the gamut in terms of traits and abilities, and even the method of bonds' establishment. Bonds can be made through heartfelt connections, contracts, and even possession. Successful possession physically alters the host, but other methods do not. Bound have limited access to their partners' abilities, only able to manifest and command them for brief periods unless they allow their partners to take over, which can result in possession of the entities don't give them up.
- Masque – a physical subspecies. Once in a while the cranes and machines of Morass dredge crews bring up odd sluglike creatures the size of rats, each bearing oddly human features. These Faces, acting with subtle intelligence, seek humans in isolation to form a parasitic bond. Once inside a human, they merge with the host and rapidly alter his or her internals, leaving only the exterior intact and human. The hosts maintain their personalities, aware of the changes as well as whatever physical abilities they gain as a result.
- Shepherd – a divine subspecies. Someone whose life of ascetic self-reflection in Horizon resulted in enlightenment, but gained the knowledge that he or she was chosen to remain behind. Able to fly freely through air and the Deep alike on flawless wings, they either remain in Horizon to guide others toward enlightenment, or journey beyond to evangelize in other dimensions. Most humans and other myths fear and avoid them to an extent, wary of their dedication to an unknown authority. Shepherds live simply and alone, or with one another, and travel often to meet new people. They exhibit kinesis, the ability to apply force to themselves and expel it outward, and can perform healing.
- Lost - a divine subspecies. Someone whose life of ascetic self-reflection in Horizon resulted in enlightenment, but upon ascending experienced rejection and fell back down with cursed wings and some degree of mental scarring. Outcasts in Horizon, they return to Earth or travel to other dimensions to try and live their lives. They possess the kinesis of the Shepherds to a stronger degree but have less control and range, so much so that they can force themselves to fly despite whatever's become of their wings.
- Blight – a physical monster subspecies. Someone infested and grotesquely deformed by malignant biological subsystems in Corpus. Most are little more than monsters driven by a need to consume and reproduce, bringing sickness wherever they go, although they maintain some shreds of their human minds. Some who aren't completely infested do maintain their minds, however. Killing them on sight is considered standard practice, if one is capable. They're very dangerous, and any that make it to other dimensions are considered emergency threats that must be dealt with.
- Clockers – a technological monster subspecies. If touched by the corruption found within Pendulum, a human will begin the process of clockwork conversion starting at the contact point and spreading inward before manifesting outward. Due to being contagious and not very self-aware they're not allowed to leave Pendulum or come near humans or other myths, instead forced to live in their own secluded societies. Clockers outside of Pendulum are typically considered kill-on-sight. Any outbreaks that appear outside are considered emergency threats.
- Elementals – a magical subspecies. A person who's been altered by consuming a fruit from an elemental oasis in Areia Grande. In small doses, a person can gain minor elemental powers (Elpo), but there's a fine line between that and elemental affliction (Elaf), which is the middle state. An Elaf has some power as a byproduct of the affliction that he or she suffers from, and may be classified as a monster subspecies depending on the severity of the affliction. Overdosing on fruit can result in a huge elemental monstrosity (Elmo) driven by an overriding need to destroy, and which are considered monster subspecies.
- Other - many things are possible. What can you come up with and justify in this setting?
Playing a myth is not necessary. There's plenty of technology, both old and new, for humans to use. And it doesn't take a myth to practice distortion.
The Opening was not an apocalypse, but for many it was the end. Out of the realm between worlds, or from worlds far beyond, swept the Lucid Dream. It spread like a plague through the night sky, tinting the night with odd swirls and colors that crept into the realm of sleep. People all across the world began to dream strange dreams, of distant realms and far-off planes, in incredible detail and color. And they could could remember. And some never woke up.
It happened quickly. Fog spread across the largest cities in the world, Tokyo, Shanghai, Delhi, New York, Beijing, Istanbul, Chicago, and more. Wherever the dreams of multitudes coincided. Afterward, research designated a terminal point for the population of any city: 8.5 million. After that, the inhabitants risked the Lucid Dream. These cities became permanently overcast, separated from the outside world by a barrier of fog, and the places within fell asleep. The people of those cities continued to go about their lives, but dully, numbly, as though sleepwalking. It was as if they chose to ignore the strangeness blossoming all around them, like weeds nobody wanted to prune, or mold nobody wanted to clean.
For from the cracks and corners came the nightmares. Things watching from the drains. Noises in the basements. Spiderwebs between buildings. Buses that run on millipede legs instead of tires. People in the stairwells. Eyes in the traffic lights. Don't look at the face of that man by the tracks. Don't follow those kids beckoning you to play. Don't look too closely at that shape on the building. Don't ask directions from people in hoods. If you pretend they aren't there, they won't come after you. The Dreaming Cities are where the monsters are.
Most Strangers and anomalous entities that come to Earth find their way to Dreaming Cities. They are awake, but so too are some of the people. The watchful, the careful, the paranoid. And those who enter with a purpose in mind. Those who stay awake in a Dreaming City have a powerful weapon against the unknown: distortion. Sometimes things happen that aren't quite right, or don't quite make sense. Sometimes people can make them happen. Disappearing around a corner. Finding a lucky deadbolt in a hiding room on the run. A door where there wasn't one. Wearing an inconspicuous appearance. An extra magazine.
With some practice, anyone can pull off a few tricks to stay alive or get ahead. Someone with a lot of know-how can really shake things up. At the same time, causing distortions can get unwanted attention. distortions, after all, are the tools of monsters, and they don't like people turning it against them.
With no authority, anything goes in the Dreaming Cities. That means a world of opportunity for some, so long as they don't provoke the wrong monster. There are even some companies that take advantage of and commercialize this strange segment of reality, but one should beware. Not all monsters stay inside city limits, and not all distortions, either.
When wells opened the way between worlds, humanity found waterways leading through the Deep to a few new dimensions, but those are by no means the only worlds out there. Once in a while, things drift in from farther still—from beyond. Myriad in their natures, forms, and even existences, these 'strangers' sometimes wind up on earth or its neighboring dimensions and settle in. They can be virtually anything; a phantom circus performing across the globe in secluded places, attracting audiences and always open to recruits. An eldritch thunderstorm rolling through the desert, its touch animating the dead. A submarine appearing from bays, lakes, ponds, and puddles that's manned by empty diving suits. Strangers aren't available to be played as, but perhaps one factors into your character's backstory, responsible for affecting them or their surroundings in a formative way.
Name: (Can be nickname, codename, etc)
Species: (Human or myth. If myth, name the type)
Job: (Something that describes your character's class or role, IE brawler, gunner, thief)
Background: (No need to be exhaustive. Focus on formative events in your character's story. If you're unsure of anything, want to run ideas by me, or want ideas period, please ask)
Talents: (Include physical, magical, divine, and technological abilities where applicable. This is also the spot for weapons and equipment. While definitely above street level, we're not dealing with a team of superheroes here, so don't go too nuts with powers)
That was a lot of text. Probably too much. But I hope it was somewhat interesting. I'd be happy to hear any feedback.