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Sep 13

Fanciful Online Worlds

At long last, I have finished writing the new grid for Multiverse Crisis MUSH, that being an online game I’ve been a part of for a while.  It’s like an online RPG, but text-based, and people fill out applications for characters they want, then roleplay with their characters on the MUSH’s grid, i.e. network of roleplay rooms.

The current grid is small, general, and the guy who wrote the descriptions (or “descs” for short) for the rooms is a guy whose life has been hell, and tragically his writing style reflects that.  The rooms he created had an overemphasis on danger to the point where they basically said, “don’t roleplay here or you will die”.  Wanting to do better, I leapt on the opportunity to help design a new grid.  What happened was the same poor depressed guy who made the last grid built a skeleton for a new grid, then told me to fill it in with descriptions.  (That was exactly the sort of starting boost I needed.)

Doing it in my spare time, as muses came and went, took about a month, and a few days ago I finally finished it.  Originally it was a writing exercise and an opportunity to prove myself to the rest of the MUSH’s administrators, but as I heard how people liked my descs, I began to insist that I finish it all by myself.  With my current real life having and having had an undercurrent of nervousness and uncertainty for a couple years, roleplaying on the MUSH doesn’t feel as comfortable as it once did, and I wonder semi-regularly how much longer I’ll be a part of the game.  With the grid finished though, I’ll be able to leave on a high note whenever it happens.

It’s been a fascinating project.  I’m not only glad I was able to do it, but also able to FINISH it.  At first I was afraid I’d taper off like with so many other projects I’ve attempted… and yet I did it anyway.  I had to fight my lack of focus and skittish attention span, and yet I did it in the end.

I just thought I’d share some of my favorite rooms from the new grid project.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Planetary Plains

Thousands upon thousands of miles of farmland and cattle land run up and down the landscape. From the sky, it looks like a patchwork country; lettuce turns one field green, wheat turns another field yellow, beets turn yet another field red, and it goes on and on like that. Look a little closer and you’ll see racing lines and stripes everywhere due to crop arrangement.

This is thoroughly rural country. There are some civilized towns because modern farmers have to get their tools and machines fixed somewhere, but they’re few and far between. Some communities here have not even heard of electricity, while others have only heard of whiskey and shotguns at best. Even the simplest folk here though have the brains to know that being the ones who feed the world puts them in a position to make unique demands, so it’s wise to mind your manners around the locals. And if you’re planning to steal crops, it really helps if you can outrun bullets.

Resonant Cavern Maze

The term “cavern maze” is a bit of a misnomer as this region’s main feature isn’t all the winding and twisting caves and tunnels one can get lost in. Instead it’s the music. The crystals from the preceding valley and jungle appear only in plant forms now, and they all seem to “sing” together in endless chorus. It’s a quiet song, most often whispered among the life here, but occasionally it rises as an orchestra, filling this unified region with an inexplicable power and might.

Characters with a musical affinity, whether they make music or come from whole worlds rooted in music, often feel stronger here and recover more quickly from blows and ailments. Heck, even those without any musical leaning may feel amplified by the harmonious verse that echoes throughout. The crystal plants everywhere sway and dance in tune, lighting up with the notes they breathe. They even seem to be kind enough to point the way out to lost explorers.

The Corrosion Brines

In the deepest parts of the vast marsh, sensors and motors are liable to mysteriously give out. The water collects all kinds of alkalines and becomes acidic enough to dissolve cloth. The plant life seems pretty well off despite this, though its long spaghetti roots that stand it above the water’s surface are often adorned with thorns or secrete toxins seemingly absorbed from the marsh. There are plenty of vines, branches, and lilypads to climb upon if you fall in the stinging murky water.

Various kinds of trash and pollutants litter the bottom of the marsh, adding minerals like lead and nickel to the water. In fact, due to the acidity and heavy mineral deposits, the marsh is like a giant battery. Long ago, someone even got the idea to stick two conductive plates into it to harness its electric potential, but it kind of backfired, and as a result of that experiment, the entire Corrosive Brines are now magnetized.

That’s right, this whole zone stretching thousands of miles emits its own electromagnetic field. That’s why compasses go crazy, instruments blank out, and engines barely work.

Volcanian Mount

The center of the literal multiversal hotbeds is a cluster of volcanoes, culminating in one gargantuan open volcano. Its sides bleed lava that cools into scars, making the mount ever bigger over time. At the peak, its maw opens up, showing off tall rock islands and pillars scattered throughout its interior. Jumping across them is safe, but one slip could mean a long plunge into a lava bath. Occasionally the whole volcano rumbles, yet it’s never been known to erupt for some reason.

Perhaps this is why warriors LOVE it here. Martial artists will challenge each other here and fight while hopping and leaping across the stone poles, and Pokemon trainers are known to bring out their Fire-types to battle each other. Not all of them weigh the risks versus the rewards, but that’s life on the edge for you.

Radiation Plains

Put on your lead underwear. You’re getting into a place where one too many A-bombs have fallen.

This is a place where Geiger counters go to break. At the outskirts are deadwood forests and dried grasses covered in crystalline needles from the radioactivity. Yes, you will actually find a glass crater or two if you explore, and more than a handful of abandoned towns and cities where it’s as if the people suddenly vanished into thin air, leaving everything behind. The way everything is preserved, it’s as if time stopped. If one can resist radiation poisoning, this could be an urban explorer’s dream come true.

Further in though, everything starts to break down and glow in the dark, not just because the radiation gets heavier, but also because it’s given birth to quite a few mutant lifeforms. They’re kinda violent, as is to be expected. Some people come here to capture them though. Since they live here just fine, their anatomy can provide clues on how to build effective radiation shielding.

The Malformed Zone

Unlike most of the Multiverse, this area has no unifying theme. It seems like a little bit of every world has unified here. Fantasy and sci-fi, slice-of-life and military, urban and rural, utopian and dystopian settings are all next door neighbors, and the overarching physics here resemble those from video games. This means that visitors will find they have mid-air control over their jumps and falls, point tallies that don’t mean anything appear when performing feats, and people may drop money and pick-ups when defeated, among many, many other things.

But these physics seem to disguise the true nature of this region. Where Earth physics are actually able to assert themselves, such as on the borders of every world that unifies here, the land is rugged and barren with no life whatsoever. It’s not even possible to grow crops. The land heals as one moves from this vast unified region to the next, but beneath the game-based front reality is all a jumble and the cracked dry land seems to be spots where it collided with disastrous force. Heck, the locals often refer to these parts as “bugs” and “map edges”. The overarching game physics here may have been one custodian’s attempt to save this region from devouring itself.

Bit Bucket

Spare bits and bytes from the neighboring regions end up dumped here like so many scraps into a bucket. Actually, more than a bucket. Binary and hexadecimal characters litter the ground like fallen leaves. Strings of data dangle from wire frame structures Bug fragments, junk data, and viruses both active and inert can be found all around. Fighters and virus busters stand the best chance of survival here.

The region is shaped kind of like a funnel, and where it dips down in the center, a vast pit yawns wide. It’s known as the Puzzle Pit, and it’s where naturally refined junk data is given new tangible form. All sorts of blocks, gems, crystals, giant coins, blobs, balloons, bubbles, capsules, and puzzle pieces in every color of the rainbow fall or slowly float down into it. They form lines and vanish in spots, but in many other places they stick to the pit’s sides and build up, forming colorful bluffs and arcane structures.

The Deeper Regions

This starts as a series of earthen tunnels leading underground. They come in many sizes and are good for hiding things in. There’s one main tunnel containing several railroad tracks for mine carts, with wenches at the start for lowering and pulling them in and out.

Gradually, the tunnels become caves dotted with underground life and water reservoirs. Underground lakes and streams twist everywhere; wading is almost unavoidable. Quartz crystals and geodes become common finds.

Still deeper, it becomes a patchwork mine. The railroads from the start lead to hundreds of different unified mines, where one can dig up things like salty rubies and iron diamonds. Crude oil slowly seeps and drips from the ceiling in many places, making the decent treacherous. When one finally reaches the bottom though, they’ll find the Great Caverns.

The Maw

This is the widest, deepest pit anywhere in the multiverse. It may not even have a bottom, so if you slip and fall in, you could spend the rest of your life falling, unless you land on or can grab one of the many ledges or outcroppings jutting from the walls without dislocating or shattering your skeleton.

The walls of The Maw are quite complex, with tunnels and mazes that go as deep as the pit itself. Cave trolls, goblins, and other subterranean people have built cities in them, and they’re often ruled strictly and with fear, since a simple push over the edge can mean execution or eternal exile.

It’s rumored though that there are deeper cities within The Maw’s walls, past the point where light finds the limits of its reach. These cities are supposed to live off the scraps and water discarded by the people above them. Their scraps in turn feed the people below them, and it goes on and on to infinity.

Void: Debris Field

Derelict ships have been seemingly dumped en-masse here. Cargo ships, star cruisers, space stations, orbital labs… heck, there’s gotta be the ghosts of dead aliens and adventurers lurking here too. That doesn’t stop junkers though, who can make a steady living salvaging and selling all the scrap here. It doesn’t deter bandits either; more than a few gangs have established bases by welding and fusing multiple old ships together. The mechanically inclined have even stripped wrecks of their good parts and used them to hollow out and reinforce whole asteroids, turning them into veritable battle stations. Space explorers have taken to calling these fortresses “space potatoes”, and the number of “eyes” they have indicates their number of armaments, traps, and overall danger.

Naturally, this does not deter the adventurous, who hunt for preserved cargo, usable parts, lost loot, and bandit bounties. They make tidy profits doing so too.

Void: Astroidia

At first, there’s only asteroids here, so the name of this sector is obvious. Space rocks float everywhere and navigating them is treacherous. Some even seem to contain the remains of long-dead civilizations, ripe for looting. They indiscriminately jostle and smash whatever ends up in their way, and shooting them often causes them to just split into smaller asteroids, making the curtain thicker.

Behind the asteroid curtain though, things begin to get more exotic, even whimsical. Planetary fragments start to intermingle with the asteroids, but most of the fragments aren’t just dull and dead. They inexplicably sustain life, exert normal earth gravity, and fill the region with color and light. They come in an endless variety; you might a fragment of giant crayons and paint lakes, a fragment of tree cities and slides, a fragment of beaches and fountains, a fragment of toys and railroads, a fragment of lightning and ghosts, and on and on, the possibilities seemingly endless. A skilled jumper can even leap from planetoid to planetoid and use the fragments’ competing gravity to slingshot their way through the bite-sized worlds.

And the lifeless stone curtains outside protect all of it.

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