Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012
I keep saying I’ll write a column about how people in the Ingressa shape its reality. Since we’re in our last month of columns and the least three are already planned out, this is my last chance. There’s a lot to say, so let’s just get to it.
What It Is Not
The way thinking beings manipulate the Ingressa is not based on science. While we tend to try to obey the laws and theories of science in most parts of the Ingressa, it remains largely a science-fantasy universe. Emphasis, as you see, on the fantasy.
- Reality shaping in the Ingressa is not based on the anthropic principle, although elements of it certainly play into the effect.
- It is not conscious effort, except when it is. (Helpful, right? Let me explain.) Humans, dwarves, kdarr, and everything else that thinks in the Ingressa unconsciously shape reality around themselves. Their direct effects tend to be limited in scope and power, except in one specific way addressed below. Deities and other godlike beings can shape reality consciously and with intent, but doing so takes effort. Since deities seem to be pretty lazy, it’s just a lot easier for them to find mortal worshipers and have their followers effect the changes the deities want, even if the worshipers don’t understand why, how, or even that such changes are taking place.
That second point segues somewhat into what reality shaping is…
What It Is
Reality shaping in the Ingressa, with the exception of powerful supernatural beings, is unintentional. Except for deities and the relatively limited abilities of mages, most reality shaping is brought into effect by pergressors Stepping. In fact, it should be noted that it’s possible the ability of pergressors to modify the universe is on par with that of deities. More on that below.
So how do pergressors shape the universe? And even more so, how is it they can shape reality as well as deities? Perhaps the easiest way to answer that is by using an example.
Consider a pergressor who doesn’t know she’s a pergressor, who takes her first Step under duress (which is how most first Steps occur). If she is fleeing something—or more commonly, someone—and steps through a doorway of some kind to get away, she instead Steps through it to an entirely new world. (And remember that “a doorway” can be something natural, like the mouth of a cave or a naturally formed arch.)
Although it is easy to short-handedly dismiss her destination as random, it is not. In fact, and especially as the Ingressa continues to expand (in both an in-universe sense and a meta one), where she emerges can be predicted with some amount of accuracy. Several factors determine where she ends up, with random chance becoming decreasingly important with each passing decade.
A pergressor’s portal tolerance (how door-like a portal must be for her to use it to Step) strongly limits what she can Step into and out of. A pergressor with the lowest portal tolerance simply won’t emerge out of anything that isn’t actually a doorway, with a door, separating two spaces. This affects the destination of a pergressor—if a portal she can use simply can’t exist in the general direction she’s Stepping, she won’t go anywhere. (Note the very important difference here between a portal that can’t exist and one that merely doesn’t. This will be important below.) Most pergressors are able to Step out of at least some kinds of natural opening, so only those with the lowest portal tolerance require a pre-existing manufactured door-like structure. If that were not true, there would be far fewer refugee-founded civilizations throughout the Ingressa.
Also important for our discussion is what kind of environment a pergressor Steps away from. When she Steps, a pergressor brings not only her physical self (and a few companions) but also her culture. Something we haven’t talked about much is that she also brings a bit of her home with her—here meant in an intangible, metaphysical sense. A pergressor who Steps out of a desert tends to emerge into one, while one who Steps out of a longhouse nestled in a forest emerges into a similar forest. This stretches beyond just her biome, too; a pergressor who lives on the eastern end of a continent usually arrives on the eastern end of another continent. In short, a pergressor without an address or the interference of a beacon Steps to a place as similar as possible to where she Stepped from. Like attracts like.
This, then, is where the power of Stepping can create or shape the universe in ways on par with those of deities. While it’s possible a pergressor Stepping to an uncharted planet merely happens to go there because the world has a natural portal within her tolerance limit in an environment much like the one she is Stepping out of, evidence and abundance of examples suggest that these natural portals actually spring into being to accommodate the emergence of a pergressor. Reality bends itself to make her Step happen.
Consider Novagallia, a world with extensive documentation. Ebrasae very obviously mirrors Earth’s Eurasian continent. Did the geography of Novagallia exist as it does now before the first pergressors appeared, or have the many Steps to the world from Earth changed its geography and climates to accommodate them? The general layout of Earth-originating cultures on Ebrasae reflect Eurasia pretty well: British Sakasta and French Mureure stand on a peninsula on the western side of the continent, Mesopotamian-Persian Suri Nur-Ramsur and Russian Kasalfki occupy the middle of the continent, and Chinese Xindaming and Japanese Toshima dominating the eastern shores. Yes, over time the various cultures and civilizations have shifted, expanded, and contracted (Xindaming extends into what on Earth would be Central Europe), but at least initially the cultures began on Novagallia in direct analog to where they existed originally on Earth.
In the Ingressa, that sort of thing is no accident.
This unintentional change in reality to reflect a pergressor’s origins is limited neither to Novagallia nor to where nations grow on a planet. It also extends to other aspects of the planets and worlds themselves.
For example, Denuo, Novagallia, Nysa, Sanctuary, Socrates, and Thule all very closely resemble Earth in most measurements. Diameter, gravity, mass, atmosphere, and the lengths of days and years all very accurately reflect those of Earth. Moreover, each of those planets possesses an immense moon comparable in size, mass, and distance to our own Luna.
But nowhere is this carbon-copy effect more noticeable than Cetera Mundus. By every physical measurement made, to within the greatest accuracy possible, Cetera Mundus is identical to Earth. It might be even that the landmass of continents are identical, even if their shapes are not, since Shonos is exactly the same size—and covers the same latitude, generally speaking—as Australia. Until a rediscovery mission returns with information about Olriso, though, we might not ever know for sure.
When Sean and I started putting together the Ingressa, I don’t think we had an idea for a subtheme about reality manipulation in mind. As others came to the universe and started adding their own takes on it, though, it swiftly became something we recognized.
The idea of shaping reality does help us explain a few aspects of the Ingressa that otherwise strictly don’t make sense scientifically. For example, as far as we currently know from our small sample size, a planet with a moon as large as ours (relatively) is… well… unique. But in the Ingressa (and across many fantasy worlds) it is pretty common. Ditto the size, mass, composition, &c. of all these Earth-clone worlds. Further are the worlds where European analogs are in the western part of their respective continents and the Asian analogs are in the east; this is still very common in make-believe worlds, although it is far less ubiquitous than the single large moon. We could just ignore these coincidences that show up in other imagined universes and let them go without explanation, but the reality-shaping effect subtly introduced by other writers actually helps us in that regard.