There has been a lot of recent buzz about a potential Kickstarter for a spiritual sequel to Planescape: Torment, my favorite RPG of all time. Recently on Kotaku, Chris Avellone (one of Planescape’s designers) laid out a few key points that a sequel would have to include. I have a setting idea that I think might be just the key in really uniting his points, keeping the past game’s flavor, while really revving up its potential to break away into something new.
“A plane-jumping universe with diversity in environments, cultures, religions, and people.”
Okay, to really communicate my idea to make this work, I want you to imagine three distinct cultural entities in your mind, side-by-side. First, remember The Matrix: a digital world that people believe is real. Now, Inception: a dream world where the world’s themselves can be constructed to defy any since of reality. Finally, remind yourself of the sort of addiction you might have had with any MMORPG, be it Everquest or World of Warcraft or some other kind of addicting game.
With those in mind, Imagine a world where everyone is very much aware that their world is not the real one, though they have no way of knowing that anymore. Picture it as a sort of Internet come to life with various cultures and religions and social groups building their own collectives in this infinite expanse of digital space. Instead of websites and Facebook pages, these collectives are their own digital worlds with their own rules. In this sense, they are new planes of existence born entirely out of collective thought and ideas.
Of course, even though everyone has the capacity to alter this digital landscape to their bidding, most people are hard programmed to still believe in some basic rules of reality, which inhibits some of their creative capacity and ability to migrate freely from world to world. Others, like the protagonist, are far more relaxed when it comes to bending these rules.
Video games don’t really exist in this setting because the setting itself is a giant video game. In a way, it’s like playing every conceivable MMO at once without any way of logging off.
While there is an incredible level of freedom to will into existence anything you might want, software put in place at the settings beginning do provide some sense of regulation and control. In a sense, they are the god-like figures that, like the Lady of Pain, have their own set rules on how a particular area should operate and exist.
Similar to how immortality was done for The Nameless One, everyone in this setting is immortal, but a death can corrupt, cause data loss, or in other ways change their personality file. It is similar to that feeling in Minecraft when you’ve explored for a while, then started building something amazing, only to fall into a deep hole before your bed was built and respawn half away across the globe – but with an added kick of actual human survival instinct thrown in.
The central theme would by ‘What IS the nature of a man?’ as opposed to ‘What can change the nature of a man?’ Why? Because in a world where you realize nothing is truly real, it is rather difficult for someone such as your protagonist to really feel any sort of connection or gain at all. In a sense, you are some sort of god-like figure without any real meaning or thrust to your life. You want to find what is real. You want to know what a man’s nature really is comprised of. At first that means traveling to other worlds and exploring opposing views, different ideologies, and increasingly bizarre and terrifying existences. Eventually, you’ll come to seek your morality once again, though it may mean the destruction of an entire multiverse.