A Brief Overview of the Shattered Worlds
The continuity of reality has shattered. Instead of one Universe, there are hundreds of pocket realities (called Shards) floating in a vast emptiness called the Void. These reality shards are referred to almost ubiquitously as “The Many Worlds” by the millions of sentient beings that dwell within their fragile embrace.
The first step to understanding Palaethos is to understand the basic nature of Shards, the Void, and Riftwalkers.
Reality shards vary dramatically in size and composition, but all of them are bound by The Mist, a silvery threshold that completely envelops the shard and separates the tangible reality from the desolate Void. Walk far enough into the Mist and you will eventually find yourself in the Void (which is a horrible death sentence... unless you are a Riftwalker. More on them later).
All shards have a central nexus called a Heartstone. It is said that attuning yourself to a Heartstone allows you to rewrite the rules of the reality to which it’s linked. These are rumors only, but most established shards secure their Heartstones with mighty citadels and powerful guardians... just in case.
There are three “classes” of shard, a subjective classification based on the nature of reality with the shard and their proximity to other shards.
- Core Shards – Standard physical laws are firmly in place here. The chemistry, physics, and biology of these shards function the same and establish the baseline against which other shards are measured (Palaethos is a Core Shard)
- Rim Shards – The continuity of reality is more distorted in Rim Shards. Gravity may not work as expected or death may not be the final rest as it is in more predictable shards.
- Reef Shards – These are truly bizarre realities where physical laws are warped and distorted (often with lethal results)
All shards are isolated, adrift in the vast desolation that is the Void.
Characterized by distant indigo clouds that billow serenely in the uncertain distance, there is no tangible continuity here. Being that find themselves in the Void can stand on some kind of surface, but it does not linger after their passing. Ships can “sail” through it, floating in the vast nothingness of the place.
To enter the Void is to be doomed to a slow and harrowing death. There are no landmarks, no direction, nothing to orient one’s self. Even if one could stave off the madness invoked by the utter deprivation of the senses, eventually, the fate of all things lost in the Void is to be unmade, the essential elements of being deconstituted into the vast emptiness.
There are uncommon individuals that have the ability to navigate the Void. They “hear” the reality shards adrift in the Void and can make their way through the emptiness to find them. These precious beings are called Riftwalkers and they are the only thing that connects the Many Worlds. Communications, commerce, culture... all the essential components of civilization are transported from shard to shard by the grace of these individuals.
Novice Riftwalkers can only transport themselves, but with time, they can extend their ability to include others. Special items called Void Crystals allow them to dramatically extend their embrace. All Voidcraft, from sloops to galleons, are fitted with them to allow their Riftwalker to encompass them (and their passengers and cargo) in their journey.