View Full Version : The Manifold (All comments appreciated!)

2013-04-18, 02:15 PM

The Manifold

Brief History:
In The Beginning, the Manifold was crafted by beings known as "The Savants". It is hypothesized that the Savants are responsible for The Beginning itself as well, but nobody really knows.

The Savants saw through the void into realms of infinite possibility. These possibilities include every single thought of man, or thought man could possibly have, as well as infinitely more things that would drive man insane. But it was with worlds that would seem oddly familiar to the reader that the Savants were infatuated.

Their thoughts were alien to the Savants, which made them fascinating. They took concepts and things from these worlds, incorporating them into the Manifold. (Whether these things were stolen, or merely cloned or copied, it is literally impossible to say.)

However, they did not understand the wants, the needs, the very sentience of the beings they brought into the Manifold. And, more gravely, they did not understand the corrupting nature of Evil.

The result was as tragic as it was inevitable. The garden they had so carefully yet cluelessly tended in the manifold began to tear itself apart.

What happened next has been an eternal topic of debate. Some theorize that it was a last-ditch act of the Savants, trying to preserve their work. Others believe that the fundamental laws of the Manifold itself were somehow damaged in the chaos. Still more claim proof of Quantum Immortality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_suicide_and_immortality) on a universal scale.

Regardless of the cause, it is apparent that the Manifold has been somehow frozen in a metastable state. It is as if Fate itself seeks to preserve the status quo.
{Need a good way to explain this.}

There are exceptions to this rule, though. Sporadic events where these restrictions are lifted. Often they seem to focus on individuals, although it's rarely apparent whom until well after the fact.

It is because of these events that the situation in the manifold has been slowly winding itself down. However, many scholars have claimed that their scope and frequency has increased over time. If this is true, and the trend continues, there are two possibilities for the future: the Manifold develops into a dynamic world like those it was based on, or that which was stayed so long ago finally consumes it.

2013-04-18, 02:16 PM
Everything in this post is in need of a rewrite, but it's still here for now.
Right, so I've posted here before and got some good help coalescing my ideas, but now I think it'd be better to start a fresh thread.

I should start by mentioning that I'm tossing pretty much all basic D&D assumptions aside, only picking through it for good ideas. "Convention" is more or less irrelevant to me; for though in some places I deliberately avoid following it, at other spots I don't care how cliched something I like is. So, just assume everything is being built from scratch.

(Honestly, I'm not even certain what system this will be for. It doesn't seem to work right within the few I know of.)

This setting isn't intended for general use (although if anyone wants to use it, PM me), rather it's intended for a single campaign. However, I don't have any sort of planned date or even a group for it. I'm also likely to reuse the setting afterwards and/or re-run the campaign (or an improved version thereof) with another group, so I'm content to keep polishing this world indefinitely.

However, this means there are a few things I don't want to post in the open for all to see. I'm probably just being paranoid though, so I'll try to be as transparent as I feel comfortable with. If anyone wants to help specifically with some of the "secret stuff", PM me about it.

The Manifold (working title)

Basic Premise:
The idea here is that the entire world is artificial. No matter where you go, you're still in a massive building complex, even if the sky is artificial and the walls don't exist (but aren't needed because of a strong positive local curvature).

Everything in it is borrowed (or copied) from elsewhere, that is to say from other dimensions. (Which is to say, other works of fiction. :smallwink:)

At one point it was structured, tended even as if some sort of garden. Many things within it were placed with seemingly no purpose other than to exist; or possibly to serve as props in a massive "theme park dungeon" (which itself seems purposeless). However, the creators of this place did not understand what they wrought, and proved Ian Malcolm right once again.

The whole thing fell into chaos and decay, but then something happened. Something took the drive and desire for change out of the minds of everyone in the Manifold, rendering its inhabitants in a sort of "cultural stasis".

So, a few centuries later when the PCs come along, there hasn't been much progress since then. Most looming threats have loomed for generations. But the PCs get to change all that.

Any sort of D&D planar cosmology is out. The Manifold a single... Well, I'd call it a "Dimension", or a "Plane", but neither would be an accurate description. "Universe" is probably the best term, since it is self-contained and such.

The Manifold:
The Manifold is literally that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifold): a mathematical manifold, specifically a 4-dimensional space-time. One that also happens to be cut up and twisted around in far too many dimensions to count.

From a practical point of view, this means that quantum uncertainty applies on a macroscopic scale. In layman's terms, nothing is fixed unless you're watching it. It's not that it's actually changing or moving within the Manifold, it's just that Manifold itself is rearranged. (Although, strictly speaking it isn't moving, since there's no time for it to move in.)

Thankfully this isn't that pervasive; generally speaking things will remain "unchanged" for a fair amount of time, and one can usually retrace one's steps for a while before they find things different from what they remember. (But there's nothing stopping the door they went through five minutes ago from changing.) There are also large substructures which remain "fixed" relative to themselves, such as most places of habitation.

(Oh, and since astute readers will note that this creates the possibility of time travel, the Manifold itself follows a "Fixed History" model. However, I don't expect it to come up much.)

Now, I expect people to still ask what is outside the Manifold. Well, that's still a tricky question since it's no more possible to leave the Manifold than it is to leave our own universe. However, Magic is nothing if not doing the impossible.

"Elsewhere" is sort of an iffy term, since it's not even clear that there is a where else than the Manifold. (At least from an in-manifold point of view.) They can't be accessed in any way other than magic, which is not understood, so they could just be grand illusions, with anything "taken" from them being fabricated from nothing. Still, in practical terms they might as well be real.

The Void:

Other Dimensions:

Tech and Magic Level:
Technology is about 1600's era, although with some anachronistic/punk components. There's primitive matchlock firearms, but they take long to reload and aren't as powerful or accurate as crossbows. (They're cheaper and easier to use, though.) The dominant weapon is still the sword.

Powerful explosives like stabilized nitroglycerin (e.g. dynamite) exist, but are expensive, and medicine is to late 1800's levels (they understand the concepts of sanitation and pasteurization, but the best anesthetic is alcohol).

As for magic, I'm not sure to call it "Low-Magic" or "High-Magic". Magic is powerful, but not on the scale that the players will be working with. Fireballs and such are sort of on the epic-tier of spells: a PC wizard would be a support character, more dangerous due to his wits than his enchantments.

Clerics likewise are more subtle: their prayers may inspire their allies and dismay their enemies, but they can't make wounds magically disappear. They can make wounds heal faster and better than seems possible, but it will be a matter of days, not seconds. (That would be a high-tier wizard's job.)

There are also a few things which probably qualify as "magitech", but they are always specific exceptions to the general rule. (And usually aren't very well understood.)


The first thing I should mention is that nomenclature is NOT universal. What one peasant calls an "ogre" another may name a "giant" or "ettin". And who is to say that either is wrong? A puma is a bobcat is a mountain lion; they all mean the same thing.

But conversely, the same name (or set of names) can refer to a variety of creatures. Just like the word "dog" can mean a rottweiler, a poodle, a great dane, a chihuahua, a dalmatian, or even a jackal; or "frog" can mean one of hundreds of different species. If it's big, brutish, ugly, and roughly humanoid, who cares how many heads/eyes/arms/horns it has, if it's seven feet tall or twenty? The peasant who just watched it eat his sheep certainly won't, and probably doesn't know much about taxonomy anyways.

However, to keep the headaches to a minimum, I'll be consistent here.

Intelligent Species:
I should first mention that most of these are not actually PC races. In fact, the only non-mannish PC I can imagine in this setting is a Dwarf: everything else is either significantly more or less powerful than Men.

The dominant species in the Manifold. They number more than all other intelligent species (except perhaps goblins and trolls) put together.

Their cultures are widely varied, as are Men themselves. Some are fair but fragile, others short and nimble, still more gruff and bulky. They are on average stronger than all others save trolls.

Dwarrows: (Singular: Dwarf)





Also known as "Fairies", they are NOT like D&D elves. Closer to Discworld elves, but not quite that. They're based on the aspects of Tolkien's elves that are most often left out of derived works (like D&D).

It's kind of hard to describe, which is why Elves are something I need help on.


It is a well-known fact that goblins are more or less everywhere; they're an infestation of sorts. What is not well known, though, is where they keep coming from.

Nobody has ever seen a female goblin, although there are always rumors. In the absence of conclusive evidence, folk tales abound about their source.

Some theorize that goblins cannot truly be killed, merely banished temporarily; others believe that they spontaneously appear in the dark corners of the world. Still more suppose that they reproduce by budding, while parents tell their children that the goblins kidnap naughty children to turn into new goblins.

Whatever the case, it doesn't appear that the Manifold will run out of goblins anytime soon.



Also known as "Wild Men", "Woses", "Beast Men", or "Ape Men".

It is said they're actually fairly intelligent -certainly they possess a great deal of cunning.


The Savants:

Mythical shapers of the Manifold. What little is known about them is mere legend passed down the generations, but it is said that they spoke in echos and had minds that were totally alien.








There are many strange fauna that have adapted to life in the Manifold.


Unnatural things.


Places of Interest:
Towns and Cities:
(I should probably mention now that one of my major sources of inspiration is NetHack.)

Part of the Gnomish Mines


Dwarven Fortress.


The culture here is best summed up as "Nordic Pirates", I think. :smallbiggrin:



Fort Ludios:




Hyperspheres which are just barely big enough for their non-euclidean nature to go unnoticed. Until one walks long enough in a straight line, that is. :smallwink:

They each have some sort of biome, but most if not all have been damaged in some way, rendering their environment inhospitable. (For instance, one might be desert, the next ash, a third ice, etc.)

They are usually accessed from "beneath", but some of them are integrated into larger structures.

A frozen wasteland. The Sun of this Bio-Glome is broken, and sheds light but little heat. It is forever frozen in the sky, locked in a state of permanent eclipse.


Local Wildlife:

The Sea of Fire:
Massive desert, blasted waste.

Getting caught in a sandstorm can lead to death, undeath, mutation, or other unsavory things.



Once the most fertile Glome, now reduced to ash by the fires of war (and dragons).

Nova Roma


The Forgotten Land:
Based off The Lost World, The Land That Time Forgot, and Jurassic Park (the book, not the film).




The Subterranean Sea:

The Caverns:

The Dungeon:
Winding pathways and corridors which link everything together.

The Gnomish Mines:

The Tubes:
"The Tubes" is a network of large metal-walled tunnels which is used for trading.

Trade through here is very difficult, and relies on ancient artifacts and magic to accomplish. Still, it's (usually) safer than the alternative.



Political Entities:
The Order of the Stone:


The Army of Yendor:


2013-04-18, 02:18 PM
Reserved, just in case. (But I doubt I'll need it.) :smalltongue:

2013-04-18, 02:38 PM
I realized I forgot to actually ask for anything. (Oh well, might as well reserve another post while I'm at it...) :smalltongue:

Anyways, mostly I need help organizing my thoughts, and building specific places in this setting.

So, any sort of question, comment, or idea would be helpful!

2013-04-18, 02:47 PM
Just off of the top of my head, an artificial world like this would have artificial mechanics making it "run"?

Hopefully I can dig it up, but there was a campaign concluding adventure that would fit in nicely to this sort of thing *goes hunting on google to find a link*

Edit: That was a lot easier than I thought it would be.... Here's the link: http://www.rpgarchive.com/index.php?page=adv1&advid=650

2013-04-18, 03:43 PM
Just off of the top of my head, an artificial world like this would have artificial mechanics making it "run"?
Yes, actually, although most would be in a state of disrepair. Most of the Bio-Glomes, for instance, have some sort of glitch that's turned their environment to some extreme (desert, ice, ash, etc.)

On a wider scale, things are more abstract. For instance, the main pathways used for trading seem to be some sort of conduits, or maybe maintenance shafts. They don't ever seem to service anything specific, though.

2013-04-18, 08:00 PM
I didn't think this would work out when you proposed it in the other thread, but I like how it has turned out. :smallsmile:

Honestly, I don't see what real input anyone can give. Judging from your outline, it's evident that you already know what needs to be done. Now you just need to do it.

2013-04-18, 09:18 PM
Well, I wouldn't say I've got everything figured out yet...

For instance, I haven't figured out what the goblins and trolls actually do other than sit around and look menacing. Or even where they sit around and look menacing. :smalltongue:

So far, I've got six, maybe seven towns in the world. In the entire world. And only the slightest inkling of any sort of ruins or abandoned site.

So, any sort of idea for a ruin would be a useful suggestion.

I also need some help with figuring out the character of two of the Bio-Glomes. One needs be a Schwarzwald-inspired forest, filled with monsters straight out of Grimm's Tales. The other needs to be far eastern themed, with possibly the most hospitable climate of any Bio-Glome, but with an extremely isolationist culture.

However, while I find both of these cultures interesting, I don't know as much about either of them as I'd like to. (Especially the Oriental one; I don't watch much anime.) So, I'd really like someone who knows more about them to help.

2013-04-18, 11:06 PM
I think your "ruins" should reflect the failing infrastructure of the machine, and maybe not be obvious locations, but require the players to delve into the theme of the world a little bit...

That's poorly worded, so let me use an example instead:

Several villages in a river valley have fallen on hard times due to recent heavy flooding - the reason? A broken pump station or clogged pipe somewhere needs fixing... your "ruins"

2013-04-18, 11:51 PM
I've got an idea for your goblins and trolls.

Scattered throughout the Manifold are these dispensing machines, right? These machines have two slots, one on the top and one on the bottom. The goblins and trolls drop a severed head (or other appropriate trophy) into one, and a tasty Troll Treat pops out into the other. :smallbiggrin:

I think it goes a long way towards explaining their stereotypically violent and antisocial tendencies.

2013-04-19, 07:45 AM
I think your "ruins" should reflect the failing infrastructure of the machine, and maybe not be obvious locations, but require the players to delve into the theme of the world a little bit...
Something similar to that could be possible, but I think you may misunderstand my geography.

There aren't going to be many river valleys, since the only place you're going to find a valley is in one of the Bio-Glomes. But those, as a rule, each have a good reason why you don't want to live there.

More importantly, though, the artificial nature of things isn't going to need "delving into". It'll be fairly obvious wherever the PCs go. Only in the Bio-Glomes could one forget for a second the artificial nature of things, but they're too small and too inhospitable for one to linger long.

By "Ruins", I'm looking for things to put in the space between the Bio-Glomes.

I think it goes a long way towards explaining their stereotypically violent and antisocial tendencies.
Heh, I'm trying to make a more serious setting than that, but the concept of vending machines isn't too bad. :smallwink:
(Only, they'd run off coins instead of heads, or something.)

Anyways, both trolls and goblins have reasons for their behaviors already.

Goblins are that way because it's what defines the term "goblin", if they were nicer they'd probably be called "elves" or something. :smalltongue: Anyways, I think they might reproduce through some sort of budding, and would certainly destroy any goblin that didn't uphold their "standards".

Trolls, on the other hand, have a reputation for being beasts because they are. They aren't dumb, but their brains are very ape-like, and they think like apes. There's a whole bunch of "civilized" concepts which just mean nothing to them. One probably could "civilize" them, given enough effort, but nobody has been willing to do the work yet.

2013-04-19, 12:55 PM
You might want to flesh out the true history of the Manifold. Who were the Savants? Why did they build this? Are there any left? If not, what happened to them? Were they n-dimensional beings? Powermad wizards? Insane gods? Neglectful gods?

You seem to be basing it on strange cool extra dimensional things, so you might want to drag in Lovecraftian themes with aberrations, subtle feelings of not quite right, mutations, and things man was not meant to know. Was this a zoo or experiment run amok? One fun angle might be that this is a group homework project for a physics/programming class being taken by members of an n-dimensional species.

"In this project you will create a simple implementation of three dimensional space. You have a month to complete it, and while it may seem simple, previous groups have experienced considerable difficulty. DO NOT PUT IT OFF TILL THE LAST MINUTE! If the project is not submitted by 1101001/1101010/1101010/1001000/1100100, you will receive a 0. As always, this project will follow the University of R'lyeh Honour Code, and violators will be submitted to the Honour Court."
This should naturally not be revealed or even hinted at until the very end of the campaign. And it should be mentioned somewhere that while it will be several billion years before the simulation is complete from the perspective of the characters, it should be implied that it is just being graded right now. For the goblin origins, someone didn't quite check the exit conditions for a loop somewhere but they finished it the day before it was due and there isn't time to fix it now. That will be -5 points in the final grade.

Whatever world origin you decide on, even if it doesn't come up in campaign, you should focus on where it came from and why. This will let you create a world that makes sense and build off it.

2013-04-19, 02:39 PM
You might want to flesh out the true history of the Manifold.
Well... I've got it, but it's the one thing I'm most paranoid about releasing... :smallfrown:

Might as well get it over with, then:

Who were the Savants?
Imagine if you will an entire race defined by "Savant Syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome)", given the power to build and shape a world as they desired. Imagine them peering through the void at other worlds, (other settings) and copying them without truly understanding what they saw. Now imagine the consequences of not understanding Evil...

Why did they build this?
Because they felt like it.

Are there any left?
At least two.

If not, what happened to them?
I'm not sure yet, other than losing control of their creation/having it turn on them.

Were they n-dimensional beings?

Powermad wizards?
Perhaps a few.

Insane gods?
From a certain point of view.

Neglectful gods?
They certainly didn't know how to care for their creation properly.

Was this a zoo or experiment run amok?
An experimental zoo, really. The best analogy I can think of is Jurrasic Park: the zoo is the byproduct of the science. :smallwink:

You seem to be basing it on strange cool extra dimensional things, so you might want to drag in Lovecraftian themes with aberrations, subtle feelings of not quite right, mutations, and things man was not meant to know.
Oh no, certainly not.

There's no Lovecraftian influence in this at all, it's just that I'm something of an armchair mathematician. :smallcool:

I want to avoid that feeling as much as possible, the target theme I'm going for is High Adventure. I want to focus on things turning for the better, where the PCs can always accomplish something meaningful. (It's just that the past needs to be dark if a brighter future is to mean much.)

One fun angle might be that this is a group homework project for a physics/programming class being taken by members of an n-dimensional species.
Nah, that's a bit too much on the silly side. :smalltongue:

Whatever world origin you decide on, even if it doesn't come up in campaign, you should focus on where it came from and why. This will let you create a world that makes sense and build off it.
I think I'd rather focus on the fall itself than what happened before it. Also, what's likely to happen in the present/future (when the PCs arrive)...

2013-04-29, 01:53 PM
Culture in the Manifold:

The Manifold is (for the most part) dominated by Man.

Men make up the vast majority of "civilized" peoples, with Dwarves a distant second. There are others, but they fail in one or more criteria: Gnomes and Wieroo are considered civilized, but they aren't very widespread. Woses and Goblins are widespread, but usually not considered "civilized". Elves are neither civilized nor widespread. No other intelligent species is well-known or well-organized enough to even qualify.

Men, like all other sapients, have cultures which vary significantly from location to location, but scholars generally recognize five distinct cultural groupings:
(I'll describe them in terms of real-world cultures and examples, although none of them are a pure expy.)

Primarily a blend of Nordic and Anglo-Saxon culture.

Based off Germanic (especially Prussian) sources, but with Slavic and Frankish influences.

Actually mostly from Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom, but a fair amount is taken from non-fictional Persian and Native American sources as well.

Distinctly Greco-Roman, but with an infusion of modern "western" ideology -after adaptations for a harsher existence are made.

The culture with the most distinct definition: they live as a race apart, separate from traditional society as we know it.

The best way I could describe them as is "a post-scarcity 'priesthood' which follows a religion that is a blend of traditional Gallic and Japanese practices". This includes a spectrum ranging from "new age" hippies to "blood and bone" druids.

They also form a significant political force. Expect me to give them their own dedicated post later.

Of course, there are many more smaller cultures than these. These are just the four most recognized throughout the Manifold.

2013-04-29, 03:02 PM
A few monsters that exist in the manifold:

Ungol Spawn:
Abominations that exist only to consume. Beyond that, anything and everything is fair game.

Forbidden lore classifies them in three groups: Greater Spawn, Lesser Spawn, and Brood Mothers. All are intelligent, and all are malevolent.

Brood Mothers are the massive progenitors of the Ungol Spawn -each one of them unique. Their minds are vast, far beyond mortal ken. They produce many Lesser Spawn to serve them (exactly how varies by individual). They are plagues upon the land, threats to all life. Thankfully they are very rare indeed, coming perhaps once a millenium.

Lesser Spawn are produced en masse by the Brood Mothers. Like all Ungol Spawn, they are by no means fixed in physiology; however, usually a Brood Mother will create hordes of only a few forms. Independantly their intelligence is minimal, and they will temporarily go insane if their Brood Mother is killed. However, the few that survive indipendantly will eventually develop into Greater Spawn.

Greater Spawn are the most indipendant of the Ungol Spawn. They vary the most drastically of all Spawn, evolving as their situation demands (there doesn't appear to be any concious input on the Spawn's part). Their intelligence varies from ape to genius-level, and all posess a great cunning. Brood Mothers will occasionally produce a few (the chance seems random) to lead the Lesser Spawn.

When lacking a Brood Mother, the Ungol Spawn's instinct is to hide and feed and grow. They will grow bigger and bigger until eventually becoming Brood Mothers themselves. They are able to survive long periods without food, as well as enter a form of long-term (centuries-long) hibernation, although either weakens them and stunts their growth.

As for their form, nothing is fixed. Every aspect of any lovecraftian nightmare is fair game. Features of arthropods are usually favored, though. (Think Zerg or Tyranid.)

2013-05-02, 02:36 PM
I posted up (in the OP) a history of the Manifold, or as much as I'm confident about.

I'd like as much feedback as possible on it, since it's what's most unique about the setting I think.

(Everything I posted before is probably still valid, but not concrete.)

2013-05-02, 03:07 PM
Regardless of the cause, it is apparent that the Manifold has been somehow frozen in a metastable state. It is as if Fate itself seeks to preserve the status quo.

Did you ever check out the module I posted in my first post? (link to module (http://www.rpgarchive.com/index.php?page=adv1&advid=650))

Does that jog any sorts of ideas for you to overcome this problem?

2013-05-02, 06:41 PM
Did you ever check out the module I posted in my first post? (link to module (http://www.rpgarchive.com/index.php?page=adv1&advid=650))

Does that jog any sorts of ideas for you to overcome this problem?
I did check it out, and actually I thought of the solution before I did the problem. :smalltongue:

I've got a good idea what happened, and how it could be "fixed". It all revolves around a single artifact: the Amulet of Yendor. Exactly what is the Amulet's purpose or its location is unknown, but I'd compare it directly to the Ring of the Nibelungen. Either way, it's an often-overlooked and forgotten footnote in history, and only the very wisest have an inkling of its true importance.

However, "fixing" the situational stasis would be a literal Apocalypse scenario for the Manifold. Little has changed since it began, (of course) and the Manifold was on the brink of of self-destruction then.

(Although, it would be quite the sight... Each of the major factions holds in reserve weapons of mass destruction, and these would undoubtedly be used before the End. Immortal Undead and Dwarf Fortress Artifacts, Dragons and Tactical Nukes. But greatest of all, the Savants could be forced to wield their reality-warping might... Exactly what would happen then nobody knows, but nobody wants to find out.)