Friday, November 22, 2019

The Path of the Void

The Path of the Void is the second of the new paths I created.  It focuses on the infinite and the mathematics of higher dimensions and the incomprehensibility of both.  It is also a "space"-focused path, appropriate for a space opera setting like Psi-Wars.

Meditations on Nothing

"I tried, Sir, see the stars..... so cold... so far... and so very lonely. Oh so lonely. All that space. Just empty... space. And so far from home. I've circled round and round this house... orbit... after orbit. Sometimes I wonder what it'd be like, never to stop. And circle lone up there, forever. And what if I got there. Got to the moon. And couldn't get back. Sure... everyone dies... but I'm afraid to die alone, so far from home. And if there's no god, then that's *really*... really... alone."
--The Ninth Configuration

Once I had realized I needed something like the Path of the Devourer, I thought "I can't break the symmetries, and I can't think of anything for Broken Communion." My reasoning then was that between Death, Madness and the Other, you had "everything" that Broken Communion represented.  Then I thought harder and realized I lacked something for space.  The Other represented the alien, but in sci-fi, we don't actually talk about space.  Space is just the barrier between you and the cool world you want to get to. Star Wars almost completely dispenses with space, despite being set in space: you never see someone in a space suit (at least, not in the films); the only times you see space are during space battles, or long shots of a planet to remind you that, technically, this is space opera and not planetary romance.  I had done this too, and I knew why: space is too hard to really think about.  We recoil from its immensity and sort of compartmentalize it down into some simple numbers.  It's something barely on the edge of our understanding and thus something perfect for Broken Communion

The idea of a Path focused on Space itself intrigued me.  It suits a setting where people travel the stars, and in that sense, it's absence left a hole in the setting. It might represent that which a cult of Traders or Eldoth worshipped: the void is the ultimate cosmic, the only true infinity that we can physically interact with.  At the same time, it's deliciously terrifying.  It is nothing. It has no color, no smell, no air to carry sound, no substance to touch; there's nothing. Endless, infinite nothing.  I needed to add it.

Obviously, the Void embraces Broken Communion as high weirdness.  The Void isn't malevolent or tragic, it just represents something really hard for us to face and embrace because it's so far from our experience.  If you walk the Path of the Void, you leave the familiar world and enter the unfathomable world of higher dimensions and unbounded infinities.  You can go anywhere, but you can't go home again.  You've become a creature changed by your experiences.  For the milestones, I drew on stories of travelers, especially Star Trek and Doctor Who, but also the Odyssey.

I suppose it's a black mark against the Void that it's so hard to interpret as tragic or monstrous.  There is a certain tragedy, loneliness, to the Void.  You'll go and never come back, not really.  You'll lose touch with everything and in the end, you'll have nothing (that is, after all, what you seek when you explore the Void).  If we touch on the void as oblivion, we can start to picture it as a lovecraftian super-evil, but it becomes more of a "blind, idiot god," a sort of amoral nihilism that dissolves all things because that is its nature.  People might fight the Void more out of fear of what it would cost them rather than a hatred for what it represents.

If you want to make the Void central to your game, Broken Communion becomes a thing that just happens when you get far enough in space.  Perhaps the reason we don't see people colonizing other galaxies is that once one leaves the galaxy, madness inevitably follows.  Perhaps those haunted space wrecks are the natural result of too much space travel, or spending too long in the higher dimensions of hyperspace.  Perhaps hyperspace itself is dangerous, and you have hyper-madness.  The "ghosts" of Broken Communion become higher dimensional shadows or lovecraftian, alien gods of uncaring, higher dimensional concepts.  The Shape of Corruption begins to dissolve one's humanity and turns one into strange creatures native to space: void dancers.  Finally, contemplations of the infinite or higher dimensions can lead to psychic illnesses as those higher dimensions begin to expand one's mind to the point where it doesn't "fit" into lower dimensional thinking anymore.

Once I considered this path, I began to consider others.  If I had to add a new Path for Broken Communion, I might do one of the following:
  • The Sleeper: Broken Communion is ultimately about human(oid) psychology.  We could explore the unconscious, the autonomous functions beyond our control, including concepts like alien hand syndrome or what happens when you divide a brain in half so that it still controls the body but can no longer speak to itself.  This would also tackle the existential question of whether or not the self can meaningfully be said to exist, or you're just a biological robot with delusions of grandeur.
  • The Unameable: GURPS Cabal has some interesting ideas, such as the Decan of Anoster, the impossible, the paradox.  We sometimes find ourselves locked in logical loops that we cannot or should not contemplate, and this path would explore those paradoxes.  Such a path might be an exercise in contraditions and impossibilities, and thus frustration and futility to build; what sort of person would follow it anyway?
  • The Eternal: If we look at the Paths less as concepts and more as containers for power, then we've explored the powers of death and space, what about the powers of time?  This would explore another infinity and our inability to grasp time or to deal with our mortality.  This would likely grant some form of immortality, making it more tempting to follow.

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