Monday, August 17, 2015

Workshop on Fronts for The Strange Part III -- The Ontovores

Welcome to the last in my series of three fronts I am developing for my home campaign.  In my previous segments, I discussed how I am using the Provost's Council from Holstenwall and the OSR as two opponent groups for my PCs.  The PCs will have some freedom in how they follow leads to confront these groups but evidence of ignored group will start appearing in the world around them.  I want them to have choices -- but choices have consequences.

This post will provide a brief introduction to the third front:  the ontovores.

Buckle Up.   This will be a strange one.

Shoggoth -- Anna (Flikr)

This front started as a reaction to the description of the planetovores in The Strange.  As written, the planetovores are giant creatures in the strange itself that consume recursions.  The sense (and some of the art) present this as something like a kaiju squared.  One way to envision it as the Midgard Serpent attacking the Earth during Ragnarok.  However, I decided that Earth (in my game) would also be an information construct like all other recursions.  This led me to wonder, was there another way to envision an information reality under attack.  Sure it could be a giant space monster gnawing on the outer atmosphere.  It could be something else, though.

From this came the notion of the ontovore.  My basic dissatisfaction is that a recursion devouring monster is consuming more than a planet -- it is consuming an entire reality.  Hence, it is an eater of reality (ont-ovore) rather than planets (planet-ovore).

This led to a variety of questions.  What does it mean to eat reality?  I want it to be more than eating big bites of land mass -- or even energy.  That sort of thing has been done and once it has been done by Jack Kirby and a dude in a purple skirt, I don't have much to add.  Instead, I went back to the notion of recursions as information networks.  An ontovore would be eating the "code" of the information network.  The basic rules of reality would start to erode as they were consumed.  This did not have to mean slurping out the Atlantic Ocean -- it could mean devouring the concept of gravity.

Now I felt I was on to something.

I will have to be brief here.  You will see how this thought process can spiral out of control.  There is at least a magazine article and possibly a whole book of potential material here (hrmmm).

So what are the aspects of reality that an ontovore could consume?

When I think of basic elements of reality, I start with basic concepts in physics.  I want to do more than just a mass or energy devouring beast -- so I need to get more fundamental.  The first thing that came to mind -- and I mentioned it earlier -- was gravity.  The ontovore could slowly devour the force of gravity itself.  This is not entirely new -- some creatures and cyphers have gravitational effects -- but it gives the ontovore a starting flavor.

In terms of other physical forces, I can go with the typical basic list:  electromagnetic (focus on the magnetic for distinctiveness), strong interaction (the force that keeps nuclei together), weak force (nuclear decay), and gravity.  I can add to this list other potential components of our physical universe like time and light (or its speed).

I am also playing with the notion that reality is composed of more than physical matter.  Our reality may also include social concepts that ontovores could also consume.  Just as gravity and the strong interaction can break down, maybe so can authority, community, or even identity.  This has a lot of potential.  While my starting notion was just a twist on an energy consuming monster, now I have a broader concept.  The ontovores (and their agents) invade recursions and begin to erode fundamental components of that reality ranging from gravity to social authority.  This gives me a lot of options.

The next step is to give ontovore encounters a flavor that is distinct from the other two fronts.  The other two fronts cover gothic horror and techno-thriller flavored encounters.  The ontovores will have a weird Lovecraftian feel.  These are creatures from outside recursions whose vary existence is predicated on undermining what we take as a given within the recursion.  I can use Lovecraftian monsters (shoggoths, colours, etc.) as the agents that are undermining different aspects of reality along with shapeshifters (maybe humanoid shoggoths themselves) to work the social angles.  The very presence of a shapeshifter serves to undermine our assumptions about individual identity, for instance.

Finally, I need to give the front a sense of progress.  How does the world change as the front proceeds?  This is where the move to the social forces angle pays off.  While losing gravity is too dramatic a shift in the early stages of a front, various assaults on social forces are easier to work with.
The early stages can be signs of social unrest and even a neo-anarchist political candidate.  As the front proceeds, the political candidate can further undermine political authority as other aspects of the front begin to erode social order (with riots, etc.).  All the while, the front is slowly introducing the more horrific creatures (like colours) to undermine the physical forces of the recursion.

As you can see, this is just a start.  If there is interest, I will elaborate on these more.  For now, you can see how I develop these within the framework of developing a front.  This front has a motivation, evidence of its progress, and a distinct flavor compared to the other fronts.

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