Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Secrets of Cinder, Intro and Part 1


Very little in this series of articles is directly designed for prospective players of my Cinder campaign. No one needs to read these Secrets of Cinder in order to explore dungeons, kill monsters, and win treasures. And my D&D campaigns will never stop being about that sort of activity. Other stuff can be added, but the core activity of dungeoneering remains. The first installment below was written to investigate how multiple campaigns using different rules might still interact. The rest sort of poured out. It’s very similar to how I got on a roll while working on my asteroid adventure. So consider the next few posts to be strictly theoretical exercises and/or flights of fancy, written primarily for me. Facts established in one entry may be contradicted in another. Some times this is intentional, other times it is simply an unresolved ambiguity in the setting. Maybe some day one of these little pieces will help me to explain a player-spotted inconsistency, or to rule on a weird edge case. Or maybe not.


The average citizen of Cinder and indeed all but a few wizards and sages generally conceive of time as a forward-moving arrow or a fast-flowing river. Unsubstantiated travellers tales of voyagers from the past or future have made their way into various chronicles, but it was the first verified reports of nilbogism that led to the strict formulation of time travel as a known possibility. And while the few students of time constantly speculate and theorize, no reliable method of time travel is known.

That the river of time is actually a fourth dimension (analogous to depth, width, and height) is well-understood by the masters of the arcane sciences. One of the hurdles that prevents time travel from achieving widescale practicality is the limits of the 4-dimensional spacetime model. Time in and around the planet Cinder has at least two dimensions, allowing for the possibility of sideways travel through time. Indeed, the totality of Cinderian history cannot be understood without mapping events on a “timeplane” instead of the traditional timeline.

On the local scale the 5th dimension has little impact on the day-to-day lives of most inhabitants of the realm, as the modality of the second dimension is limited to impacting three dimensional events at periods of at least a few thousand years in length. A few young dragons, elves, treants, etc may find themselves remembering events in the distant future, and immortals may be able to coordinate their activities across the eons. The latter, if such undying beings exist, could effectively experience concurrent lives in separate millennia.

The biggest effect of the 5-D nature of Cinder, wholly unknown to all mortal races, is that two entire eras may be connected in ways not easily grasped by normal folks. For example, inhabitants of the Age of Clerics have chronicles and songs detailing the events of the Age of Robodroids. Indeed, in popular culture the Age of Robodroids is vividly portrayed as a heroic past, an age of wonder. Meanwhile, sideways in time, the minstrels of the Age of Robodroids sing romances about the long-gone Age of Clerics. Both eras exist as the past of the other age, but neither is the other’s future.