Professor Arthorius: An Introduction to Quantum Realities.
Are the Quantum Worlds “Real”? At first glance there isn’t much of a question. When you visit a quantum world, things that should be solid are solid, colors are as vibrant as usual, you can be hurt or killed by the things which would normally do so, you can interact with the people there, you can take things and creatures from that world and carry them elsewhere, and you can even bear or father children with the locals. The place will probably be pretty self-consistent, and its natural laws apply to everyone there.
At second glance there are problems with this simple view. The quantum realities do exhibit characteristics which separate them from the “real” or “core” universe. For discussions sake, these are usually divided into “Internal” characteristics – the ones which apply inside a dimension – and “external” characteristics, those which are only apparent to dimensional travellers.
Internal Characteristics include:
The Technology Level. It has often been said that “anything that works in the Core, works in the Manifold”. This is reasonably close to the truth in realms founded on modern visions and entertainments, in composite realms (such as the infamous x-rated “adolescent fantasy zone”), in those which are founded on popular entertainments, and in those who’s basis remains popular. Even there, it isn’t always true. Some authors and realms explicitly limit certain activities- although personal items are far more reliable than major external ones. In particular, unattended computer and electronic systems (whether simply programmed,expert, or true AI) become increasingly erratic – and normally fail entirely very quickly – outside the core, even if the local equivalents work perfectly well. Such devices are extremely sensitive to quantum-level effects, and do not possess whatever quality it is that protects living creatures against variations in the local laws of nature.
Many other realms – especially those primarily created or populated by persons long dead – are far more limited in what they allow. The most mythic realms may not allow much of anything.
The Magic Level is a measurement of how resistant a world is to manipulation by external energies, drawn into it across living creatures links with other worlds. True Magic always defies the local laws of nature to some extent, the question is merely how tolerant the local reality is of such manipulation. There is some evidence that the magic level can be adjusted locally in a universe (including in the core) by the constant importation of exotic energies, allowing a gradual increase in the level of magic available locally. However, since no evidence for such an effect has been observed on the cosmic scale, it seems likely that such adjustments are purely local (at most planetary), fade away unless maintained, and are subject to upper limits. Since magical energies are drawn into a universe through their user, the Magic Level is somewhat more readily “pushed” than the Technology or Psi levels. Magical devices do not share this advantage: other than minor personal charms and talismans powered by their users and those rare relics which serve as foci for their user’s abilities – apparently imbued with a portion of a sentient beings essence during their creation – most magical items are only usable in their realities of origin.
The Psi Level is mildly unusual. In the Core, psi functions are electromagnetic phenomena tuned by the nervous system – relatively low energy waveforms exploiting the Keith-Erissin electromagnetic-quintessence links. Until recently there has been no explanation for how such precise tuning was accomplished: it is now believed that the energies of the Manifold play a role – explaining why Psi phenomena also seem to be limited to sentient organic beings. Almost uniquely, low grade psionic abilities really do seem to work everywhere that no specific world law forbids them: apparently most sentient beings are at least unconsciously aware of their existence. Greater psionic abilities are available in many worlds, apparently this is simply due to stronger energy-coupling and amplification effects, the underlying mechanisms remain the same. Such amplified psionics – drawing on local forces – are absolutely limited by the local psi level, but work consistently anywhere they do work.
World Laws are something of a catch-all category: some worlds have their own local rules. Quite a few worlds have these – whether they support specialized branches of “magic” (really exotic technologies), allow everyone there to fly, cause every sizable organization to contain traitors, or allow the creation of complex automatons and impossible devices using steam, clockwork, or imprisoned jinn. In their own realms, such things are merely another branch of technology. Using them outside it is simply another way to use magic – and often a more cumbersome one.
External characteristics include:
Adaption measures the extent to which a world transforms visitors to “fit in”. Some worlds don’t seem to do this at all: but even those usually make small adjustments to a visitors metabolism and biological makeup. Many worlds – especially those with strong themes, older origins, or of a particularly literary bent, will transform external equipment. Some will transform personal equipment as well, and a few will (very rarely) even transform a visitors species, especially if their original form could not survive in the local environment and they’re unprepared. A very large number indeed will provide the local language and cosmetic adaptions to the environment. Others, especially the more cosmopolitan or “open” realms, will not.
Casting measures the extent to which a world shapes itself around visitors. It can be very disconcerting for new travellers to find that they are widely recognized, hailed by name – whether theirs or that of some fictional character who’s role they’ve stepped into – in places where they’ve never been, and suddenly have identity papers, families and children, an assortment of responsibilities, and a complete history for a life they’ve never lived. If you enter the world of a tightly-plotted novel, you can expect to be worked into it – albeit hopefully not as a victim.
Narrative is a common feature of more literary worlds: they come with a built-in plotline – and fighting it is difficult at best and an exercise in futility at worst. It’s far easier to go along with the plot and try to steer it a bit – and possibly to continue beyond it – than it is to buck the trend. In the worst cases, virtually any action you take will be turned to somehow continuing the plot and it may be near-impossible to escape without reaching a plot-appropriate point for doing so. Other worlds have no such complications.
Reversion is the most spectacular external characteristic. Quite a few worlds – especially those with their origins in single, specific, works either have multiple manifestations or tend to “reset” themselves after their visitors leave. Thus, for example, any number of people have taken the rolls of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – each replaying a part or all of the same storyline. Debate continues as to whether each is occupying a separate version of the world, in which changes continue beyond the time of departure persist (but which is then really hard to find, since only a few people even know about it) or whether toe world literally resets itself. In practice, there’s not much difference – although various “real” individuals have reported actually observe worlds reverting to form after crude attempts to disrupt them.