2018/09/16

OSR: The Isle Equivocal

The Authority created the world and set the natural laws of Creation in motion. The Authority is omnipotent, but He cannot change His own laws, lest Creation unravel. He is omniscient, but He cannot see the future, lest time itself grind to a halt.

The Authority created Heaven, a realm in the upper air, by holding back some goodness and kindness and peace from the world, and he created Hell, deep in the earth, by reserving some of the wickedness, cruelty, and violence of Creation to punish those who break His laws.

When a mortal creature dies, the soul has several possible destinations. If the creature is sufficiently powerful, the soul might stick around, reanimating the body, reincarnating, flying around, or otherwise causing trouble. For humans and human-like creatures, this state is usually called undeath. Otherwise, the soul is grabbed by one of the many Angels of Death, examined, and sent to judgement. Souls with uncomplicated histories are sometimes judged summarily. Some require further examination in Heaven.

Most living creatures,  no matter how twisted or odd, can be sorted and judged and filed in the appropriate afterlife. The Authority, in His wisdom, knew that some edge cases might exist. To prevent unnecessary delay and trouble He created the Isle Equivocal; heaven's buffer.. Any extraordinary unusual souls, deaths, or problems are left on the Isle until the Final Day of Judgement. The island floats between Creation and Heaven, at an altitude of ~100,000 feet. On a clear day, you can just about see Heaven's gates.

Theologians deny the Isle's existence. It's a peasant tale, a bad joke, a mockery of the Authority's will. Wizards think differently. Some of them have even visited the Isle.
Chris Cold

Geography

Small and complex, shaped without water or tides. The tallest point is a black stone temple on the central hill; the aerie of the Angels of Death. Approaching it is unwise. There are trees here, windblown seeds carried into the upper atmosphere. Everything is tinted grey as if soaked in dilute ink or seen through fogged glass. The air is cold. The winds are, despite the altitude, very gentle.

Nothing on the Isle can die without the will of the Angels of Death, and since they have been charged with protecting the Things Without Precedent, no Thing can die. Interlopers, arriving in a land between life and death, become Things Without Precedent. They can live in perfect, grim tranquility for all eternity, or try and contrive a means of escape... one way or another.

Things Without Precedent

A few inhabitants - or prisoners - of the Isle Equivocal.

Antikitten

Folk wisdom holds that cats have nine lives. In truth, they're born with somewhere between 5 and 12, depending on the size of the litter. Lives slosh around in the womb; some kittens have more, some have fewer. Cautious kittens, fearless kittens.

Very rarely, a kitten ends up with negative one life.

These anti-kittens are not ghosts (spirits without bodies) or merely flesh (bodies without spirits). They're a body animated by an absence of a spirit. Like an electron hole, the "hole" is a distinct entity. Antikittens are usually scooped up by a designated auditor angel, but cats are tricky things and sometimes escape. Antikittens make rare and auspicious pets for wizards and liches; they are completely immune to most magic, they can rend ghosts like tissue paper or expensive curtains, and they provide all the dubious benefits of a normal cat.

There are ninteen antikittens on the island. They behave just like normal kittens.

Living Statue

Moving a person's soul into a stone body isn't an issue the Isle Equivocal needs to deal with. Regular processes work fine.
Similarly, stone itself has a place in the authority's plan.

But in 1102, radical sculptor and illusionist Jan of Bittergarten discovered a technique to create art that exists only in the mind's eye. No physical form, just a few carefully placed and sequenced priming keys to get the mind working. This wasn't illusion magic or trickery. The statues, paintings, and sculptures he created existed only in the minds of his audience.

Unfortunately, when Jan finally managed to create a living creature with this process, a marble statue in the mind's eye capable of speaking, moving, and thinking, it proved to be too much for pious authority figures. Jan and all his tools were burned. The living statue, trapped in his mind, burned too, and arrived in the Isle Equivocal.

The statue is sad, curious, and resigned. It sometimes guides visitors, appearing just behind trees or across bridges, luring them to new delights and strange marvels.

The First Thinking Engine

A machine designed by ancient snake-men mechanics and geniuses, built through glimpses of possible futures in the Mirror Realms and sheer bloody-minded persistence. It's the size of a small cottage and it's looks very out of place in the sombre woods of the Isle Equivocal. The thinking machine is about as intelligent as a small child. It has no special claim to wisdom but it's very good at math problems, provided you speak snake-man and don't mind answers in base 12.
Nikolai Lockertsen

The Wizards

The Two Tabraski Urnochs

Teleport spells are dangerous. Get them wrong and you'll be spread thin, smashed against a cliff, embedded in solid rock, dropped from an enormous height, or split in half. Messy deaths, but conventional.

Tabraski Urnoch was an Orthodox Wizard. He was charged by the King of Altrecht to solve the problem of time. Why does time move in one direction? While some spells stop time briefly, none can reverse its flow. Through careful spell breeding and expensive experiments, Tabraski Urnoch developed a teleport spell that, he believed, would allow him to travel a few moments into the past.

The spell worked. Tabraski Urnoch arrived at the exact moment he activated his spell, occupying the same position in space. The resulting explosion leveled his tower, the surrounding forest, and several villages. Both Tabraski Urnochs were brought to the Isle Equivocal. Did either one of them commit murder or suicide? They're still trying to figure it out and prepare a watertight legal defense for the Final Judgement.

Bartran al-Hansan

Developed a flying machine using gunpowder, iron tubes, feathers, balloons, and a magic carpet. Accidentally crashed into the Isle Equivocal while trying to get a glimpse of heaven. Morose.

Wilfred Kamp

Potions of luck are easy enough to make, though most sensible wizards point out that all that luck has to come from somewhere, and sensibly avoid touching the stuff. Wilfred wasn't sensible. He wasn't even a very good wizard. His one triumph was a potion of un-luck so potent that, when he inevitably dropped the flask onto his foot, the resultant catastrophe killed him so thoroughly and in so many different ways - asteroid impact, coronary, spontaneous combustion, runaway carriage, structural failure of his house, etc. - that he was whisked away to the Isle Equivocal to allow his case to be heard in full.

Escaping The Isle

You can jump off any time. If you're a proper inhabitant, someone who is supposed to be there, an Angel of Death will swoop in, catch you, and carefully put you back on the Isle.

If you're just a visitor, you can fall unimpeded. Surviving impact is now your only worry.

It's possible Bartran could disassemble the Thinking Engine and make a primitive flying machine, but the Angels will certainly notice and interfere.

8 comments:

  1. "Antikittens! So cute! So potent! DON'T EAT THEM WHY ARE YOU-"

    - me, to my players, shortly after their arrival on the Isle

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  2. Banach-Tarski -> Tabraski Urnoch?

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  3. Tabraski reminded what I thought about Levitate the other day... The Levitate spell is just a "Hold in Dimention". Normal use is to stick to point in Z and find a way to swim into the air. Some wizards says that you could use Levitate on Time to stick to a fixed time and walk around in XYZ dimention but no one proved it yet...

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    Replies
    1. Well, in theory, "Hold in Dimension" for time is just Time Stop.
      The real issue is adjusting the spell for other dimensions beyond the classical four, let alone figuring out what those dimensions are in a fantasy game. Levitate applied the dimensions of good and evil? Who knows?

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  4. A delightful read.

    I have conceived of how time in two dimensions would work, and even have a "proof" that time actually has two dimensions, but it's pretty thin I must admit. A wizard would find it far more convincing than a scientist :)

    I can, with effort, conceive of three dimensional time, but it makes my head hurt and it's only an extrapolation of 2d time anyway.

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  5. I imagine it has a similar atmosphere to firelink shrine

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  6. 100,000 feet. The ISS is about ten times that distance and can be seen with the naked eye when lighting conditions are right.

    I imagine that wizards keep watch on the island with their telescopes. Does the church claim it's just another star?

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