The Federation Campaign used an omniversal setting – and characters could hail from any part of it. Fortunately, you can build any style of character with Eclipse: The Codex Persona (available in print Here and in a shareware edition Here).
Where is everybody?
The question is known as the Fermi Paradox.
Life started on earth very early. Perhaps as soon as it could. It spread. It encroached. Species that did not fight fiercely to spread and encroach were overrun by those that did.
There is no reason to believe that this is unusual. Any advanced life form is going share that heritage. It will tend to spread and encroach when it can.
We could already launch colony ships – slow and lumbering to be sure, but good enough to do the job. It would take perhaps a hundred million years to colonize the galaxy – but the galaxy is a hundred times that age. Once such a process has begun, what is to stop it?
If quicker forms of travel are available, things can be expected to go a lot faster.
Are we alone in our galaxy?
Perhaps life, or intelligence, or technological civilizations are vanishingly rare. Perhaps they inevitably destroy themselves. Perhaps some mechanism we do not yet understand is at work – since the people of earth have already spread to a hundred solar systems.
Sentient life shapes it’s environment.
The observer influences the thing observed, and is influenced thereby.
It imagines, it interacts with things that do not exist, should not exist, cannot exist.
And in the quantum foam of probability, they begin to do so. A spiraling outgrowth of dreams, myths, and improbabilities swirls outwards.
The endless realms of the manifold – the spiral of quantum realities which spins “out” around each sentient race – is devided into “circles” – realms that share enough characteristics to be physically linked, permitting movement between them without a dimensional nexus.
When a species hits the critical point – a number of imagining minds both past – deceased in the core, yet (like all sentient minds) immortal in the manifold – and present, the gates begin to open. As a species hits the limits of core reality, as the prospect of new discoveries and sciences fade, and as they begin to spread and take over planets on which other races might someday evolve, the gates begin to open. The limitless vistas and endless possibilities of the worlds of imagination made real, an eternal infinity of new realms for both the living and the dead become available.
And another civilization fades from reality into eternity.
Such are the worlds of men:
The First Circle: Space Fantasy. Unlike most of the others, this circle hosts a modest “galaxy” of planets – including numerous versions of earth. While even the most vital fictional realms contain no more then a few hundred worlds, this is still a lot of space – and space in which convenient forms of FTL are available. In general, the first circle allows psionic abilities, but not magic. A few of the major regions of the first circle include;
Federation Space; A relatively benign realm, with massive energy sources and some major – if rare – psionic abilities. Here you can find new frontiers, lost colonies, and aliens who act a lot like funny-looking humans. The various worlds of Star Trek, Larry Niven, Hal Clement, H. Beam Piper, and many other popular science-fiction series appear here.
“Imperial” Space; While superficially resembling Federation Space, Imperial Space tends to be dominated by a repressive government and has few apparent frontiers. The action tends to be dominated by rebellion, rather than by exploration. Imperial Space does tend to be a bit temporally confused, if only because the same basic situations keep coming up again and again. Star Wars is perhaps the single best known example of an Imperial Space realm, but there are many, many, others.
The Phantom Zone; A composite fantasy realm of incomprehensible aliens, technologies, and oddities. NOT a good place to go.
The Invasion. Whether from Mars, the deeps, or some inner, immaterial or extradimensional source, this version of the solar system has been invaded, usually by overwhelming alien forces.
The Battle Zone; Another composite realm, this time of space and interplanetary warfare. Includes various “games” (Battletech, Centauri Assault, the Warhammer series, and many others). A dangerous, and somewhat pointless, place.
Exploration; A fairly realistic realm, loosely based on the ongoing process of planet exploration – albeit with alien artifacts, horrific creatures, and various natives, thrown in. Can your small group survive and demonstrate that the planet is worthy of colonization, or will you die trying?
The Galactic War; A subtle, age-long, struggle on a quasi-cosmic scale. Unfortunately, the sides are not totally clear. This realm includes Babylon 5, the Xeelee, Lensmen, etc, etc, etc.
Time’s End; A realm of fading and extinguished stars – and an endless struggle against the ultimate foe; the heat death.
Stargate Worlds; Less a realm then a series of them – united by various forms of planetside gates allowing near-instantaneous “jumps” between wildly divergent worlds. Whether you’re following the television series, the story of Morgaine, or many other sources, the problem is being plunged into a radically new situation with no preparation and no easy way to back out.
Tradeworlds; A composite realm, populated by a wealth of alien races united by a network of trade and exchange. Most are relatively primitive.
The Collapse; A realm where “civilization” has collapsed, leaving primitive peoples wondering and mystified by it’s mighty relics. This borders on the Tradeworlds, and often interacts with them.
Faulty Towers; A series of interlocking sitcom worlds, characterized by silly aliens, incompetent business owners, stereotyped characters, etc, etc, etc. You can stumble into this realm from almost anywhere within the first circle – but getting out again is quite another matter.
Sector General; The “Emergency Services” realm is also fairly easy to reach, but tends to be just a bit frantic. It’s a composite of Rescue/Police /Hospital/Etc dramas and series.
The Belt; Asteroid mining and development. Sort of a wild west in space zone in which planets have a tenuous, and mostly offstage, existence.
Prospector; A complex of dangerous worlds with unique resources – Crystal with unique properties, natural supplies of exotic biochemicals, metals of unheard-of durability, etc, etc, etc.
The Second Circle: The industrial age through the early 21’st century. Most of the second circle is confined to earth – albeit a version of “earth” with room for a lot of extra territory. The second circle generally allows low-level “psychic”/mystic abilities, but usually not epic magic.
The Secret Supernatural; Powerful supernatural entities – many of them more or less hostile – are hidden in a relatively normal 20’th century world. A composite reality, with sources ranging from the works of H.P. Lovecraft thru various games.
Pulp Fiction; Gangsters, Adventurer’s, Horrors from Beyond, and Shadowy Powers inhabit a world that consists of the east and west coast of America and a selection of hidden locations “around the world”.
The British Solar Empire; Based on Jules Verne space travel methods, this quasivictorian realm is one of the few second-circle zones to reach beyond the atmosphere – if no further then Mars.
The Weird West; A mixture of Cowboys, Sheriffs weilding peculiar Talents, Undead, and Mystic Indian Lore. Commonly wanders over into the realms of the Secret Supernatural and the Robber Barons.
Here Be Monsters; Skull and Monster Island, Dr Moreau, and The Lost World all figure prominently in this realm of giant creatures. The Tropical Jungle at the south pole and the hidden lands of the Hollow Earth await visitors.
The Cold War; Espionage, Ninja, Hacker and Spy fantasies make for an exciting and treacherous realm – but one it is virtually impossible for outsiders to deal with effectively. Drugrunners and incredible martial arts simply add to the mix.
The World Wars; Bloody, brutal, and more or less heroic, evil, or pointless (Depending on the views of a particular account) this Zone includes a good deal more then WWI and II – it includes almost every battle, revolution, and revolt in three centuries.
The Colonial Era; The Foreign Legion, Dirty and/ or Rebellious Natives, Blatant Racism, the British Secret Service, and the “White Man’s Burden” are a memorial to the massive effects of a technological edge among competing and colliding cultures.
The Books Of Magic – AKA; the “English Fantasy Zone”. Mostly based on materials written for young adults or children – Narnia, the Wind In The Door, The Dark Is Rising, The Young Wizards series, the “Harry Potter” novels, and so on. The usual plot revolves around youngsters who gain limited special powers, find themselves facing horrific menaces, and display the value of basic personal virtues. An extremely dangerous – if superficially “cute” – place.
The Fuzzy Papers; The talking animal zone. An area based on Beatrice Potter, Watership Down, and similar stories. Again cute, but often viciously dangerous. Naughty and disobedient children here are routinely eaten.
Anarch; The cyberpunk zone. What is it to be “Human” in a world where man merges with machine and society is coming apart beneath the stress of such transformations?
The Karate Zone; The Martial Arts Movie realm. Need we say more?
Anachrona; These modest realms are variants on the “Lost World” theme, but consist of “survivors” of extinct cultures into the later industrial age. isolated islands full of vikings, stone age tribes in hidden valleys, etc, etc, etc.
Blood River; The “Horror Movie” realm. Often fatal to visit – with many indestructible natives.
The Master Race; First Contact – but with our- selves in the role of hostile aliens. Whether born of eugenics, “scientific” experiments, possession, drugs, or exotic mutations, they walk among us.
Catacomb: The world of first-person shooters, populated with demons, undead, and a wide variety of horrible menaces. Oddly enough, it has connections almost everywhere – if you can survive the trip.
The Third Circle: The renaissance, exploration and the age of kings. Oddly enough, no matter how much wilderness is explored, or how many primitive tribes and settlements are slaughtered or plundered, there are always more. The conflicts of the third circle are smaller, and more personal, then those of the first and second, but are perhaps all the more intense therefore. This circle generally allows “lesser” magic in mortal hands, but reserves grand powers for those from beyond. Technology tends to be a bit limited in the third circle, and is often “converted” into something more appropriate. Major regions of the third circle include;
The High Seas; A swashbuckling realm of pirate ships, swordfights and overly romanticized action- adventure. There is, however, a dark undercurrent of “voodoo”, slave trading, and religious war.
Castaway; An easy realm to reach – but quite a bit more difficult to escape from. You never know when you’ll stranded on a hostile shore. Subrealms here range from isles full of cannibals to the pleasant naturalism of Swiss Family Robinson – or the inescapable Isles of Gilligan.
The Hurricane Realm; More a “situation” then a “realm”, the theme here is “Man against Nature” in the form of storm, earthquake, sandstorm, volcano, drought, blizzard, and flood.
The Musketeers; Corruption, nobility, politics and tiny warring states make for an extremely busy realm, albeit one which often seems a bit silly to those with larger concerns.
The Napoleonic Wars; A continent at war, in an age without decent medicine. Beware of pressgangs, disease, and cannon fire.
Con Pluma’; Blending the spanish conquest with religious missions, shapeshifters, horrific native magic, the lost cities of gold, and the occasional stray dinosaur.
Pathfinder; Breaking paths – and moving modest bands of settlers – into the depths of the wilds.
The New World; The bustling colonization – and exploitation – of new continents free of the rigid social structures of the old world.
The Tall Ships; A realm of multi-year voyages, whalers, traders, and travels. Curiously enough, this realm trades far and wide across the manifold, since its vessels operate virtually anywhere – and almost every setting has seas to sale and a tradition of reaching faraway places and exotic realms by doing so.
Kensho; The last flowering of Feudal Japan.
The Far Voyages; The great journeys of ancient exploration – as well as such modern reproductions as the Kon-Tiki and Brendan expeditions.
The Dark Continent; Dangerous primitive tribes amid ferocious monsters, the relics of elder – and perhaps inhuman – civilizations, and spirits. The “Geography” tends to mix Africa, Australia, and South America – with an occasional dose of the arctic.
The Kali Yuga; Oriental mysticism mixes with a hidden war between the Myriad Gods and the Rakasha of the underworld.
The Mandate Of Heaven; Mystery and taoist arcane secrets against the backdrop an a corrupt dynasty.
Faith and Blood. The Inquisition and Reformation. Not a good place to be a stranger, and one haunted by a variety of spirits.
The High Renissance; Home of legendary genius, fantastic craftmanship, and spectacular artwork – as well as some equally spectacular egos, grudges and petty intrigues.
The Slavic Twilight; Baba Yaga, Shapeshifters, Turks, and the fall of Byzantium are a just bit off- period – but the producers who popularized the mix a century ago couldn’t care less.
Elder Egypt; Those who attempt to discover the secrets of ancient egypt may find them. This realm is notable for it’s links going much further out.
The Fourth Circle: The mythic dark ages. Magic is both common and effective in this circle – as are various supernatural beings. Realms of the fourth circle may be very tiny; a single legendary castle may suffice for one if it’s a strong enough image. The Prison Tower or the Castle Of The Black Knight would fall into this catagory. Such tiny worldlets can be quite dangerous, simply because the options they offer tend to be very limited. Grand magic is very restricted here; smaller spells are the rule.
The realms of the fourth circle include;
Logres; Arthurian England. Also closely linked to Sherwood Forest.
Sherwood Forest; The realm of Robin Hood. One of the major “crossroads” of the third circle with numerous links to other realms.
Faerie; The land “beyond the borders”, a place of mysterious powers, trackless wilderness, and deep mystery.
The Hundred Years War; A realm of sieges, mass battles, grotesque cruelty, and grueling poverty. A good place to stay away from.
The Crusades; Distinguised from the Hundred Years War by climate, organization, and regular intervention by magic and divine beings.
The Warring States; Who shall rule china?
Rune; The realm of vikings, nordic and icelandic sagas, and epic monsters. Usually a bit bleak.
Cathederal; While this realm also includes the building of various temples, stupas and shrines from many other cultures, the theme of erecting massive monuments to faith – with nothing but devotion and muscle power to work with – remains constant.
The Byzantine Empire; Politics and Faith. Which dogma shall endure?
Scourge; The conquest, and devastation, of the mongol hordes.
Naipon; The Shogunate; Quarrelsome clans mixed with deadly ninja and minor supernatural beings. Closely linked with Chin.
Chin; Dynastic China. A realm of considerable stability, martial arts, and mysticism. Notable for dragons and closeness to the Celestial Bureaucracy.
Bladefire; The realm of the inspired. Joan Of Arc is probably the best known, but there are many other examples.
The Hanseatic League; A trade federation realm with connections to the Far Voyages realm.
Parie Fantastique’; A quasi-modern realm where magic takes the place of technology. The European Dragon Exhibition is a regular, celebrated, event. and minor sorcery is all too common.
The Plague Realms; Disease, starvation, death, and petty wars are the law of the Plague Realms. Unlike most realms, “links” with the plague realms tend to be unstable and can occur almost anywhere.
Sanctum; A realm of faith, made up of villages and an endless array of various churches, shrines, monastaries (Christian, Zen, Shinto, or whatever), and other holy places. In general, a place of true healing and higher power.
Duranel; The realm of epic tales – The Song Of Roland, The Faerie Queen, Beowulf, and many more. It is a good idea to avoid being cast as an “extra”.
The Spirit Lands; The misty realm of spirits and the dead. Links to the spirit lands are found in a wide variety of locations – although burial mounds and such are always a good bet. This ill-defined realm is most notable for it’s connections to many of the realms in the sixth and seventh circles.
The Fifth Circle: Imperial rome, china and the ancient world. Realms here tend to be fairly small or a bit vague; while education has improved quite a bit over the last couple of hundred years unless a setting is specific and popular, people still tend to be rather unclear about the details of what was going on one or two thousand years ago.
Magic tends to be very powerful, if erratic, in the fifth circle – and often has unexpected results. Powers from the outer rim, and possibly from beyond, may meddle here fairly freely, although the amount of energy they can apply at any one point is still somewhat restrained. “Avatars” of mythic gods may make appearances on a fairly regular basis. Powers and abilities which don’t “fit in” in these realms tend to be somewhat surpressed or have the details adjusted to fit in better. The major realms of the fifth circle include;
The Epic Realm; The worlds of legendary heroes and the quasi-historical fantasy-novelist, as well as of popular fantasy productions. The apparently- endless string of “Hercules” epics is an excellent example.
The “Mythic Archipelego”; The god-touched lands of ancient mythology. These tend to have radically odd geographies. This series of realms includes; Mythic Greece, China and the Vedic Realm, the cold Northlands of the ancient Nordic Sagas, the deadly Aztec Realm, and many more. An especially dangerous feature of such realms is their tendency to compel visitors to conform; powers, abilities, and items, which don’t fit the mythos ALWAYS fail to work, or are forcibly “adapted” to fit in.
The Shao-Lin Temple; A vaguely chinese realm of mystic martial arts, watered-down philosophy – and the occasional action movie. Several contending, and often inexplicably evil, schools are in an endless battle to control, defend, or survive, in imperial china.
The Trojan War; The realm of the Illead and the Odyessy. In general, not a good place to be if you get “cast” as anyone except the main hero.
Imperium; Based on a popular series (A “What if both Imperial Rome and China had expanded until they ran into each other?” alternate-universe program), this highly-political realm has little or no magic beyond the very-limited psychic talents which work in the Core, but has a lot of intrigue. Depending on the current ruler, it also commonly has quite a few assassinations and executions. Minor anachronisms are allowed, but nothing major; the producers kept the writers in line with the reasearch department.
The Storm Of Hooves; The Mongol Horde is always on the attack in this realm, and is victorious the vast majority of the time – although mighty walls, and heroic defenders, can sometimes throw them back.
Colosseum, A.K.A “Gladiator”; While the precise form of the arena varies, the theme here is always the same; being forced to fight and die to entertain an audience. As a general rule, most visits here consist of little more then efforts to escape – or to raise a rebellion.
The Siege Perilous; A fortified place, innocent people to protect, and a methodical attacking horde, cover the basics here. Masada, The Alamo, and an endless succession of castle and city sieges make up the foundation of this realm – with side dishes of treachery, starvation, plunder, and disease. More fantastic sieges, with attacking hordes of undead, birds, mutated alien monstrosities, and so on, are also to be found here.
The Golden Age; Atlantis, Athens, The Holy City Of David, etc. Utopias all – at least if you pay no attention to the slaves.
The Sixth Circle: Is the realm of pure fantasy – Middle-Earth, the several worlds of Dungeons And Dragons, the Atlantean World, Dystopian admixtures of science and magic such as were found in the old “Shadowrun” and “Rifts” games, Alien Colonies, and Anime Realms, as well as the Primevial Paleolothic realms of stone-age cultures, cavemen and prehuman races.
The laws of nature tend to be pretty thin here; “game rules” take precedence in many realms, while others have their own fictional quirks. Most of the realms here are pretty small as well; only the places where “most of the action takes place” have a firm existence – no matter what it looks like on the map a trip between such places is likely to be very short. Gods, demons, and other mythic entities/ monsters are a part of daily life – but technology usually fails to work.
The River Realms; The first civilizations. The earliest Egyptian cities and dynasties, Babylonia, and the first cities along the yellow river. An interesting, if rarely profitable, realm. Save for the occasional slave trader, there isn’t much here that anyone from an advanced culture would want.
The Earth’s Children; Hunting, roaming, and the discovery of things like fire, spirit magic, and a new way of chipping flint. However exciting it may be to struggle for survival, few outsiders come to visiting here unless they’re on Safari after a few of the anachronistic monsters (Dinosaurs,etc) that sometimes show up here from Sauria. The ice age is a major part of this realm and is even less friendly to visitors then the rest of it.
Sauria; Lizard men – varying from savages to an elder race – dinosaurs, and (un)natural primordial disasters. A nasty place to be stranded – which is what always seems to happen to anyone who visits.
The Gaming Galaxy; The thousand worlds of RPG’s can be found in this realm. Such worlds tend to involve enormous amounts of gratuitous combat, but are usually the best places to find magical items; they’re usually littered with the things. Sadly, a lot of those same items lose power rapidly as they move to the inner circles.
The Creation; World-building for the technologically impaired. These realms include a variety of creation myths – and have little place for humans or even lesser gods. Fortunately they usually cast visitors in the role of creators. Unfortunately, if visitors get it wrong, they often wind up stuck in a dead-end pocket universe.
The Anime Realms; While the most art-oriented and oddest “anime” realms are definitely a part of the seventh circle, and the most reasonable ones are a part of the sixth, many are hard to place exactly. It usually doesn’t matter much. The Worlds of The Slayers, Silent Mobius, Yu Yu Hakushu, Warp, quite a lot of “superhero”/comic-book worlds, and hundreds of other worlds are to be found here. While people from such worlds may boast immense powers, they’re generally much less effective in less “permissive” realms. Still – if you can lure your targets out here – this can be pretty useful.
The Presence; This realm boasts substitute gods in the form of powerful, and fairly often psychic, aliens, who are colonizing, dying out, or stopping by to affect the evolution of life, mankinds early cultures – and the physical structure of the solar system. Often there is no apparent reason for this weird behavior, but it has a massive effect on the development of mankind. Oddly enough, mankind here seems to be incapable of doing anything important, or on a large scale, without alien assistance. Please don’t ask who helped the aliens.
Crusader: The superhero worlds. Oddly enough, Crusader proper – a very popular virtual-reality setting for superhero gaming – has tight ties to the core and numerous links to other realms.
The Seventh Circle: The worlds of the seventh circle are worlds of pure myth, places where any notion of consistent physics is discarded in favor of narrative. Secondarily, it’s the realm of classical gods and powers – beings who’s abilities are limited by their personalities and the demands of the tale, rather than by mere logic.
Cygnus X-1; A world where giant cyborg swans powered by love, hope, and other positive emotions fly through outer space, carry their human pilots in implanted internal chambers, and destroy planet-eating tentacle creatures (of no readily definable scale or possibly of randomly-varying size) with their ultrasonic honking. Apparently based on a popular anime series of the 2200’s, this is not a realm for anyone who wants anything to make sense.
The Wylds of Faerie; The realm of the tales that make no sense and obey no rules. Dreams, nightmares, and wild magic run amuck.
The Toonworlds; The various worlds of cartoons – a place where no one can possibly survive, but where – whether fortunately or unfortunately – you usually can’t die either. The more extreme anime worlds also fall into this category, but their transition between the sixth and seventh circles may be virtually imperceptible.
The Dominions; The various realms of the old gods – Valhalla and the Nine Worlds, Mount Olympus, the Abyssal Realms, the Dreamtime, the Celestial Bureaucracy, the Hours of the Night, the Old Gods of Egypt, and the Dreaming Thunder. Visitors here may be allowed to use their own powers and abilities freely, or they may be forced into classical roles. It all depends on what kind of tale is being told.
The Dragonworlds: In this realm practically everything is a dragon if you look at it properly – ranging from curled-up fire dragons that act as suns through cloud dragons, path dragons, and those whose spines are mountain ranges. It’s best to be polite.
The Isles of the Cyclops, where the mythic masters of the forge gather and trade with each other, are one of the best places to get special weapons – but most of them are unstable to non-existent in the inner circles and the prices can be terribly high.
The Outer Rim :
The Outer Realm is the realm of the absolutes; good, evil, order, chaos, life, death, creation, destruction. Not a realm for humans, and dangerous for gods. On the rim things change; time and space mean little, minds and souls merge, change, and divide. Powers from the outer rim reach inwards, mortals seeking transcendence move outwards. Whatever lies beyond the rim – Nonexistence, Nirvana, Kethyr, Godhead, or other dimensions of existence – remains unknown.