Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Dream of Wyrd - The Secret Behind Lamentations of the Fallen Lords

(There may be some small spoilers for Death Frost Doom in this post.)

First, some common knowledge in the Cath Bruig Empire:
  • Judging by the Cycle of Light and Dark, the pattern of history dictates that either Balor or Soulblighter should have defeated the Light, destroyed the Cath Bruig Empire, and cast the world into the next regularly-scheduled Dark Age. This did not happen.
  • The world is commonly called "The Dream of Wyrd" or "The One Dream." That latter phrase also seems to refer to some highly technical theory among mages involving the origin or operation of magic.
  • Magic spells are often called "dreams." Until recently, all magic has been derived (if not directly, then secondhand) from the study of artifacts that are believed to be "Fragments" of Wyrd and/or The One Dream (of Wyrd). Now, people seem to be inventing new spells or discovering long lost ones that have no connection to these fragments, and at such a rate that no one can keep track of them all. These new spells did not begin to appear until after the death of Soulblighter.
  • Traditionally, the Church of Wyrd has held the doctrine that everything beyond the borders of the known world (mostly comprised of the Cath Bruig Empire at the height of its power, not counting its current colonial expansion) is less "real" than that which lies within the approximately 800,000 square miles of what was the known world.
  • Explorers, cartographers, and adventurers always seem to be telling tales of time and space refusing to remain entirely consistent, although the Imperial government officially insists that such phenomena are rare.
  • Very little history has actually been pinned down. Scholars are constantly arguing over the scant and contradictory evidence available for scrutiny. Many mutually exclusive possibilities seem to have equally strong indications of truth.
  • Official church doctrine states that Wyrd, the god who created the world, and who prevents the Light from ever being fully extinguished (just as Nyx prevents the Dark from being fully illuminated), was injured in a battle with Nyx shortly after the world was made. Wyrd is said to have been broken into 49 pieces, but he did not die: he fell into a sort of coma, a deep sleep full of dreams, from which he may eventually recover.
What secret unites these disparate pieces into a whole picture? Every Leveller has known it. Perhaps a few others do, as well. The vast majority of people do not, but the conclusion is plain.

Perhaps Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus, formerly known as Emperor Alric, the next would-be Leveller, who was slain and forevermore denied resurrection by a group of adventurers on February 20 of the year 2842 AE, said it best:

"Suppose God were just a man who fell asleep. He dreamt of people, their struggles, their thoughts, their own dreams, the world they inhabited. What do you suppose will happen to them, to the dream, when God wakes up?"

The Cycle and the Dream

As long as the Cycle was in effect, the Dream was relatively stable. The demiplane that comprised the One Dream remained, for the most part, consistent in terms of geography, weather, physics, magic, time, space, and the process of cause and effect - at least within the area located directly above the largest fragment of Wyrd's sleeping corpse. In its stable state, the One Dream was also an isolated demiplane, magically "walled off" from the rest of the universe; at its most stable, perhaps nothing short of a god would have been able to enter or leave. The summoning of the Myrkridia and the Fetch indicate that the Cycle may have been slowly breaking down for years, or perhaps that something at least as powerful as Wyrd willed these events to take place.

On the one hand, the Cycle required great bloodshed and long millennia of oppression for most of the living people of the world. On the other hand, the world faces two major consequences now that the Cycle is broken.

First, planar travel is becoming easier over time. This means that beings and magic from the "non-Dream" universe outside of the demiplane are now able to enter or otherwise affect the One Dream. This often happens unintentionally - blind cosmic forces being what they are, collisions are to be expected. The Dream is even incorporating places from other worlds into its own "world map," although it is ambiguous whether these places have actually been physically removed from their original worlds or simply copied or simulated in some fashion. The elves, fairies, and other alien beings, the "new" magic not derived from the Dream, the Duvan'Ku (who are the most insidious invaders, because they've inserted themselves into the world's history retroactively), the Monolith from Beyond Space and Time, the new lands discovered across the ocean that some suspect weren't there before...all of these and more have entered the demiplane as a result of the Cycle's end.

Second, because Wyrd is slowly waking up, the One Dream is becoming less real. When the awakening is complete, every single bit of the Dream, everything in or originating from the demiplane, everything created in Wyrd's sleep will vanish from existence, down to the last subatomic particle. If you are a native of the demiplane, born from Dream-matter, fleeing from the demiplane will not protect you. You will always be a part of the Dream, and you will die with it.

Why is Wyrd's Dream so Earth-like?

Maybe Wyrd is like an operating system, making the framework of the dream possible, and the people in the dream create the programs it runs, consensus reality-style, although this does not explain why those people are human (or human-like), and why they subconsciously created an Earth-like environment. Or maybe the "stable" part of the world was originally copied or taken from a "real" place, and this formed the basis for the way the demiplane "works." Or maybe Wyrd is a former human who ascended to godhood.

Why does a Cycle of wars and conquests among puny mortals keep a god asleep?

Maybe a predictable cycle of historical events keeps the dream consistent, maintaining Wyrd's standards of "realism" or other sensibilities, and thus makes the dream more believable to Wyrd, meaning that Wyrd is less likely to realize it is dreaming and choose to wake up. Or maybe the cycle is a magic ritual writ large, established by Nyx when she struck Wyrd down and maintained so that Wyrd will remain relatively powerless and sealed away for the benefit of Nyx or some other unknown party. Or maybe Wyrd is a god that is cosmically aligned with Law, so the continuation of the pattern somehow benefits Wyrd and prevents the god from being displeased enough to wake up and stop putting forth the effort to preserve this world.

Is Wyrd at the bottom of the Great Devoid?

Yes. One of the "bottomless" pits inside Deathfrost Mountain also leads to Wyrd, although strangely, the other "bottomless" pit does not.

How do the 49 Fragments of the Wyrd fit into this picture?

These are the pieces of Wyrd's broken body, if not literally than in some unfathomable, metaphysical sense. There are thought to be 49 Fragments in all, but it is ambiguous whether the presence of Wyrd at the bottom of the Great Devoid should be considered one of those 49 Fragments or some other thing (such as an unknown fiftieth Fragment, Wyrd's mind, or Wyrd's soul).

Is the Myth equivalent of the "New World" literally new?

It is new to the demiplane, yes, but not from the perspective of the "New World's" inhabitants. It is unknown what was previously located across the ocean or beyond the Untamed Lands to the east, if anything. Perhaps the demiplane is expanding as new locations are added.

How long will it take for the One Dream to disintegrate now that the Cycle has ended?

Cyris guessed that it would take another 200 years or so, but it is unknown how he arrived at that number. His source of information on this matter could have been flawed. For the humans, dwarves, and fir'Bolg living in the demiplane, it might not matter, since the ever-increasing number of monsters and magical forces arriving from other worlds could drive them to extinction long before the entire demiplane falls apart.

Is there any way to stop the disintegration of the One Dream?

Reestablishing the Cycle might do it, if there is still time, but doing so would be difficult since there is no known way to force the mantle of the Leveller to fall upon a new person - in the past, it always just happened by itself. If the Leveller is indeed some kind of god or other distinct being, perhaps it could be contacted and bargained with.

It may be possible to create a new Cycle, based on something other than successive ages of Light and Dark, but it is unclear how this could be accomplished. Since the Duvan'Ku have altered the very metaphysical nature of the demiplane before, perhaps their magic could be used to do it again.

If one were to travel back in time and prevent Balor or Soulblighter from being defeated, ensuring that the Cycle was never broken in the first place, Wyrd's awakening could perhaps be prevented from beginning in the first place. If changing the future simply creates a new timeline instead of altering the old one, this would not save the original world, however. It is also unclear whether or not the Cycle had already been partly destabilized at some previous point in history before the primary Cycle-breaking event of the Light's unforeseen victory. Furthermore, there is some debate over whether Balor or Soulblighter was the true Leveller, and over whether or not a victory by Soulblighter after Balor's death would have made any difference.

Finally, one could theoretically try to get Nyx or another god to injure Wyrd badly enough to sink it more deeply into its slumber. The risk inherent in this course of action should need no explanation.


  1. Hrrmm... This poses some questions. I must ponder my future course of action. I may need to research the Duvan'Ku and figure out how to take a few levels of the Retconjurer prestige class. (Can you work out those rules before our next session? :p )

    1. Changing history is going to be a little more complicated than taking a prestige class. :P Which reminds me: I've introduced the possibility of time travel to the campaign - I must really like headaches.

      I think you're barking up the right tree (well, one of many possible right trees) with the Duvan'Ku research thing. I don't need to warn you that Duvan'Ku stuff tends to be dangerous and twisted, though.

      By all means, ponder away!