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Thread: A Playable Utopia
- Join Date
- Dec 2010
A Playable Utopia
Based on the thread on worlds worth living in, here's a thought about constructing a (system-agnostic) utopian setting in which one could still viably run games. The core of this idea is shamelessly stolen from Permutation City by Greg Egan and then further adapted.
After a time, people make their way to the Waiting Room of the Wishworlds.
Constructed intentionally using peculiar metaphysical manipulations, the Wishworlds are part afterlife, part solipsistic dream, part simulation. The inhabitants of the Wishworlds at first started elsewhere, lived full or mostly full lives there, and through a leap of faith in an obscure cult managed to create a shared conceptual space in which copies of themselves could exist regardless of happened over the rest of their lives. That was the seeding event. Since then, the Wishworlds have acted as an afterlife to those from that original elsewhere who find out about them during their life, but have also given rise to their own inhabitants from whole cloth.
The core conceit of the Wishworlds is that one's true self remains in the Waiting Room, but one can live any number of lives (even in parallel) across a series of attached Worlds, each created from the wishes and utopian imaginings of a subgroup of the population. These individual Worlds have their own rules, anything from 'you only live once, and if you die thats it' to being able to spin up a new body whenever one might want; from having strict societal rules enforced as laws of physics to being open wildernesses where you can spend a life never encountering another soul. Some Worlds might force you to lose your memories when projecting into them, while others might encourage cross-polination and acknowledgement of the other realms. Regardless of what your individual projections experience or do, your true self remains aware and able to intervene at minimum by withdrawing any projection at any time, reintegrating what they choose and discarding what experiences they think would best not be part of who they are. In most (but not all) Worlds, the true self is constantly synchronized with the projection anyhow, and choosing to withdraw the projection is like stepping away from your computer, not having a copy of yourself die.
But whatever happens to someone's projection into one of the Worlds, the core identity is deeply protected at a metaphysical level. Transformative experiences can occur, but memories lost or taken by disease and age will always be available to be reclaimed; impacts of a particular body choice on the psyche when projecting will eventually fade; and the only permanent changes are changes that the person's self chooses voluntarily to ratify in themselves. As such, the stakes are firmly bounded - you can end up kicked out of one of the Worlds, you can have a traumatic experience, you can lose your faith in something or gain a new obsession, you can be separated from other souls who choose to make difference choices of where to exist than you did, and you can even have an existential crisis of self where 'what is that which I am?' comes into question; but you can't really be killed, can't really be enslaved through force or prevented from just letting that projection go, can't be imprisoned or punished outside of the bounds of that particular World, can't be forced to suffer against your will, and so on. The only end for a true self is an oblivion of their own choosing. The rules of the Waiting Room itself permit very little in the way of forceful interaction - direct communication between true selves is possible, but every soul essentially has their own sacrosanct space that they have absolute control over and their own sacrosanct avatar which has no physical needs the soul does not choose to experience.
Every interval of time - carefully chosen so as to keep the set of Worlds as a whole metaphysically connected enough that they do not fall off and become separate universes - a World is added that satisfies the greatest common Wish not covered by the existing Worlds. As of this particular moment in the setting, this happens around once per century of Waiting Room Standard Time. This is a big event, and starting about a decade before each new World is added people begin to confer with one another, creating detailed Proposals that lay out the rules of a potential world, its properties and places, the sorts of ways of life that would be expected there, and the overarching philosophy. People campaign for their Proposal, trying to get the odd souls out who have yet to find a place to truly be their home to form the majority group and have their idea be the World that becomes.
Scopes for play:
1. 'Street-level' play would center around the interpersonal dynamics of the players and a specific core coterie of NPCs, experiencing a particular World together and deciding whether to stay or leave, what to pursue within that world, etc. The stakes amount to decisions about whether to remain connected or go separate ways, whether to pursue one or another type of purpose.
2. 'Setting-level' play would center around going from World to World, trying to campaign for a particular Proposal; finding disaffected souls or souls who could be convinced about the flaws in each particular utopia to join in with the new idea.