Okay, so I took a couple of days off to defend my doctoral dissertation and finish my Ph.D. Sue me. 🙂
Working on Tore’s alternate-reality prompt highlights just how Manichean the standard trope of mirror worlds is: I even fall into the assumed duality in House of Cards, although I posited the Beyond as natural and not intrinsically malignant, the inscrutable motives of the denizens and alienness of the mirror-ways to waking logic make it seem hostile.
Looking for alternate inspiration, I recall a scam I recently heard about, one of those bogus pseudo-mystical courses you purchase as an audio program. This particular specimen, called “quantum jumping,” promises to teach you to tap into the expertise of the other versions of yourself in other parallel universes. Somewhere out there, according to the creator of the program, there is an iteration of you that has dealt with whatever problem you face, and if you can find them and reach across the many worlds to consult with them, you can use their advice to fix things in your own life.
Dubious personal philosophy, but there’s rich gaming material there. There of course has to be a catch, or else this premise would quickly become a multiversal utopia with nothing of interest happening. I’ll skip the obvious cue from the Jet Li flick The One – you don’t have to defeat your doppelgangers to get their power. Instead, there has to be a trade: something of value to you changes, as your universe begins to conform to that of the twin from whom you borrowed information. Thus, to get something you want, you not only get something you once wanted (to use Neil Gaiman’s phrase), but you have a ripple effect outward that may cause changes you didn’t foresee.
This might make it seem like tapping into the many-worlds versions of yourself for guidance would be more trouble than it’s worth, but people can adapt pretty well. If the changes are something you can live comfortably with, then there’s no real downside. It’s all in what you’re happy with. Douglas Adams posited that, if presented with an alternate reality in which only one minuscule difference existed that you couldn’t even reasonably know about, you’d still be able somehow to feel the divergence, and it would eventually madden you; I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, and would be counterproductive as a game-world element. Thus, Tore’s stipulation that ‘both realities are palatable choices’ is satisfied, so long as you can make peace with the dominoes that fall in response to your actions.
I realize I’m not getting too deeply into mechanics on some of these ideas yet, but I plan to come back and revisit them. I just want to make sure I have a solid start to each of them and then rotate through them with further elaboration. With that in mind, I’ll be going back to the questing game shortly, with some more pondering about matching up the moral qualities of the tokens and the narration of actions in the fiction.