The Alexandrian

Chicago Daily Tribune - Front Page Headline

Based on a request from one of my Patreon patrons, we’ll be kicking off a new irregular series here at the Alexandrian where I offer up templates for some of the props. Interest in these seems to have grown as a result of the 300+ props included in the Alexandrian Remix of the Eternal Lies campaign.

This props template is based on Chicago Daily Tribune articles from 1900-1940. It was originally researched developed because one of the PCs was a reporter for the paper. The template allowed me to create era-appropriate versions of the stories he wrote for the paper.

The template package includes:

  • Several raw images of actual pages from the Chicago Daily Tribune to provide historical context.
  • The fonts necessary to match the Tribune’s style.
  • A Word document giving examples of several different article formats.
  • A PDF file to show what the Word document should look like (to make sure the fonts are correctly installed on your machine).

Chicago Daily Tribune - Article SampleNote that a number of other papers used very similar designs, including the New-York Tribune and The Waco News-Tribune. So you can easily use these templates for articles from any number of sources (including fictional ones).

ADVANCED TIPS

  • Purchase actual newsprint to print on. This will generally work best with an inkjet printer. Some printers may have difficulty feeding the thin newsprint, but I’ve found success by feeding the newsprint one sheet at a time.
  • Trim the paper down to the dimensions of the article.
  • If it’s an article which someone in the game setting has been preserving (found among their papers, for example), you might consider pasting the article onto white paper or cardstock. (An example of this is given among the original samples.)
  • For added verisimilitude, you can also print content on the opposite side of the paper. Advertisements are generally the easiest way of doing this, and a selection of such ads has been included in the template package.

Everything is included in the zip file linked below.

PROPS TEMPLATE – ZIP FILE

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SPIRE

Interlude: Visions on the Edge of the Void

In which lost memories return as the party lingers on the edge of oblivion…

Snape's Flashback

As I mentioned in the last installment of Running the Campaign, the near-TPK in Session 7 led to the lengthy break which resulted in the campaign’s Retcon.

When the campaign started back up, I decided to kick things off with the visions described in this installment of the campaign journal. If I recall correctly, I e-mailed these visions to the players a few days before the session to gin up anticipation. I also printed out individual copies so that the players could review them at the beginning of the session, with the joint-but-separate cliffhanger at the end of each vision leading directly to the first moment of Session 8.

In addition to simply getting people excited about playing again, I also wanted to make an experience which had ended up being unexpectedly traumatic and significant to the group in the real world an equally significant milestone for the characters, and I hoped that these visions would help drive home how close to real and meaningful death the PCs had come.

The actual visions themselves, however, were not created for this particular moment. They had been designed before the campaign ever began.

PURPOSE OF THE FLASHBACKS

The campaign began with the PCs experiencing a period of “lost time”. I took extra efforts to make sure that the players really felt this missing gap in their lives, because the things which had happened to them during that time were really significant.

The next step was to make sure that this missing time continued to be significant to them throughout the campaign, so that it wouldn’t just fade into “something that happened awhile back and isn’t really significant any more”. One way of doing this, as I’ve described previously, was to create a meta-scenario featuring a mix of investigating the past and also consequences from the past coming back into the oblivious lives of the PCs.

The other way I decided to keep the “lost time” as a pervasive factor throughout the campaign was through the use of flashback visions: Glimpses that the PCs would have into their lost memories. These visions were carefully excerpted from the “secret history” I had prepared regarding the period of lost time, and would hopefully also tie-in with the various meta-scenarios revolving around that lost time. (The idea was to create synergy between multiple tracks running persistently throughout and behind the other adventures of the PCs.)

FLASHBACKS IN PRACTICE

The triggers for these flashbacks were intentionally designed flexibly. (And most flashbacks had multiple triggers.) They generally weren’t things like, “During Adventure #5 when X happens, the PCs receive this vision.” Instead it was, “If something kind of like this happens, it’ll probably cause the PC to flashback to this moment.”

I also never hesitated to use a flashback — or create a new flashback! — if something that felt dramatically appropriate happened which I hadn’t anticipated. By and large, that’s what happened here: There were some flashbacks that had “near death” as a trigger; others that felt thematically appropriate. (I was also trying to strengthen the relationship Elestra and Dominic had before the lost time, since I had identified that this had not really been as deeply invested in by the players as the Agnarr-Tee relationship had been because the Elestra-Dominic prelude didn’t actually happen at the game table. It still didn’t really take. Things that happen at the game table are just more “real” than things that are only written down in character backgrounds.)

You’ll also note that the flashback visions are static. I’ve talked in the past about using playable flashbacks, but in this case I didn’t want the players to feel authorship of them or the ownership which would come with it. I wanted them to be alienated from these experiences; for these experiences to feel as if they had “happened to somebody else” even while they knew that it was, in fact, something that had happened to them.

This would not remain invariably true as the campaign progressed, although there were some unique twists which accompanied their first opportunities to “live” these memories. That, however, is a tale for another time.

TEE

There is darkness… And then you find yourself standing in a long hall of stone. Ten black-scaled reptilians stand guard upon another reptilian in robes who shouts, “Behold Serrek Tarn, the Acolyte of the Master! He who shall be your doom!”

Agnarr is beside you. He scoffs. “Only an acolyte? Hah!”

There is a shattering flash of prismed light, and when your vision clears the reptilians lie dead and Agnarr is laughing. You walk down the hall together and throw open the door at its end.

You’ve seen this before. You know what to expect: A room of gold and a door of ebony…

… but that’s not what you see. The door opens onto a large chamber. The ceiling is several dozen feet above you and the entire room is choked full of bramblous growth reaching to a height at least twice your own. Before you a path seems to have been hacked out of the dead or dying brambles. You step forward onto the path…

… and wake in chains.

AGNARR

There is darkness… and out of the darkness a chamber filled with shadows emerges. There are others around you. Your companions? You can’t tell. Their faces are veiled by the shadows and seemed blurred besides.

Before you, however, is the sarcophagus of a dwarven thane – his cold and stony features etched in profile atop it. On a narrow ledge before the sarcophagus lies a gleaming greatsword. Your hand reaches out, you grasp the blade. It fits your hands perfectly. You raise it aloft and a glorious shout erupts from your throat, “FOR THE GLORY!”

The blade bursts into blinding flame, the light spreads and fills the room…

… and you wake in chains.

ELESTRA

Snowy Mountains

There is darkness… and then slowly, horrifically, the darkness fills with an unnamed dread. Your eyes are sightless and your ears hear no sound, and yet the certainty of horror ebbs into your very soul.

And then, suddenly, there is a light – impossibly bright; impossibly warm; impossibly soothing. The darkness is banished before it. And the light grows and grows and grows… And then it’s gone, but the darkness it leaves behind is merely the lack of light, not a manifested malevolence.

You open your eyes, and find yourself lying in a bank of snow upon the edge of a mountain. You can see for miles in every direction. The snow is chilling you, but there is a burning warmth in your left hand, which seems to be clenched about an object. Looking down and opening your hand, you find a mithril snake – the silver snake of Vehthyl; the serpent doubled. It seems to smolder, but is cooling rapidly.

You turn and see Dominic lying, much like yourself, in the snow. He, too, is holding the doubled serpent of Vehthyl. He looks up at you, and you see that his eyes are two glowing orbs of silver…

You wake in chains.

DOMINIC

There is darkness… and then slowly, horrifically, the darkness fills with an unnamed dread. Your eyes are sightless and your ears hear no sound, and yet the certainty of horror ebbs into your very soul.

And then, suddenly, there is a light – impossibly bright; impossibly warm; impossibly soothing. The darkness is banished before it. And the light grows and grows and grows… And then it’s gone, but the darkness it leaves behind is merely the lack of light, not a manifested malevolence.

You open your eyes, and find yourself lying in a bank of snow upon the edge of a mountain. You can see for miles in every direction. The snow is chilling you, but there is a burning warmth in your left hand, which seems to be clenched about an object. Looking down and opening your hand, you find a mithril snake – the silver snake of Vehthyl; the serpent doubled. It seems to smolder, but is cooling rapidly.

You turn and see Elestra lying, much like yourself, in the snow. She, too, is holding the doubled serpent of Vehthyl. She looks up at you, and you see that her eyes are two glowing orbs of silver…

You wake in chains.

NEXT JOURNAL ENTRY

Go to Part 1

TRANSLATION AS QUANTUM LEAP

In stark contrast to inapposite recursion travel, the process of translation — which has been hypothesized to use the “normal” transfer protocols of the dark energy network — is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a strange one.

A fundamental part of the translation process, of course, is that the Strange alters the recursor in order to fit them into the local context of the destination recursion. This can include physical alterations, but also notably includes new skills and abilities, too.

The experience of having these new skills, however, is similar to an amnesiac’s: The recursor has semantic memories of how the skill is performed, but lack any episodic memory of how they were acquired. This can be disorienting and sometimes confusing. Even more disturbing for many is the realization that the Strange overwrites some of their normal semantic memories in order to… make room? for the new semantic processes. (Or possibly the Strange is blocking those semantic memories without actually removing them? But for what purpose? Or is it just a random bug resulting from whatever catastrophic event caused the Strange to malfunction into its current form?)

(Note: Although it’s customary — and recommended! — for players to choose their new Focus when traveling to a recursion, this is generally not an experience shared by the character. Most characters are surprised by their new appearance, skills, and the like.)

Fitting the translated recursor into the context of the recursion is not merely a matter of changing the recursor, however. The Strange also seeks to integrate them into the life/narrative/social topography of the recursion. Generally speaking, there are two versions of this.

The Man With No Name: This is widely considered the easier variant. The Strange decides that the quickened individual should be cast as some form of outsider who has just arrived in town (or similar scenario). There may be some evidence that they’ve come from somewhere else (travel papers, identity card, or the like), but that life is largely irrelevant to current circumstances and often turns out not to have left any meaningful trail to it (dead parents, no friends, classmates who don’t really remember you all that well, etc.). In some cases, a recursor will find that their identity’s “former life” never existed at all, with continuity gaps in to the recursion.

Quantum Leap: The other variant has been nicknamed quantum leaping by Estate Agents. Here the recursor finds themselves slipped into a fully fledged identity within the recursion: They’ll have family, a job, friends… and no memory of any of them. Figuring out the parameters of the life they’ve found themselves in can often be a little tricky.

(Even worse is “cliffhanging”. That’s when you show up in a recursion hanging off of a cliff or having a gun pointed at you with no idea how “you” got “yourself” into this situation.)

In some cases, this new identity and its full supporting cast will have been created out of whole cloth by the Strange and integrated into the recursion. In other cases, the translating recursor will have taken over the life of some previously Spark-less member of the recursion.

Translation Orientation: Upon arriving in a new recursion, recursors typically have no knowledge of the recursion or of their place within it. However, in some cases recursors gain episodic memory in addition to semantic memory, often manifesting as a basic knowledge of what the recursion is. (It’s been suggested that this is the subconscious mind in some way picking up knowledge from the Strange’s data stream.)

Quickened individuals with sufficient skill can sometimes force this acquisition of information about a recursion they’re arriving in via translation.

(Note: This is a specific house rule. Players can spend 2 XP when translating to a new recursion in order to get the standard “recursion briefing” described in the core rulebook. If they do not, they simply arrive in media res and will have to figure things out as they go.)

Persistent Recursion Identity: In very rare cases, translating out of a recursion won’t cause the PC’s identity there to disappear. Instead, a spark-less duplicate (seemingly possessing only the knowledge of the “recursion identity”) will continue living their life there. (This construct will, of course, be once again replaced by the PC when or if they return to that recursion.)

Many find this disquieting for obvious reasons.

No one has ever observed a persistent recursion identity gaining the Spark (let alone becoming quickened in their own right). It’s possible that it’s impossible for this to happen. But if it did, no one knows what the consequences would be for the recursor to whom the identity “belongs”. (It’s possible that they would simply kill the new Sparked individual. Or it’s possible that they would just temporarily inhabit their body. Or it’s possible they’d both end up in the same head, able to talk to each other and wrestle for control of the body. Or maybe the recursor would simply find themselves in a new identity, since their former one has been “claimed”.)

THE CRISIS POINT

The Strange - Crisis Point

Contrary to what the core rulebook says, the Aleph component buried inside the Earth is not why Earth has generated so many recursions. The Aleph component may prove important, but Earth isn’t a special snowflake: The Strange is drawn to concentrations of sentient life. Any planet with 7+ billion people on it would have a similar corncucopia of recursions all around it.

And that’s part of the problem.

Historically, Earth’s population was small and its collective creative consciousness was heavily limited due to the lack of mass communication. The lower concentration of the Strange around the planet meant that ideas needed to be bigger and more persistent in the collective subconscious of the planet in order to instantiate as a recursion, and the limits of literacy and communication meant that it took very long periods of time for ideas to reach that threshold.

Now, however, the population has caused the Strange to concentrate. That lowers the threshold for the creation of new recursions at the same time that the sheer size of the population — combined with mass literacy and mass communication — has caused an explosion in memetic content.

There’s also some evidence that the concentration of the Strange around the planet is resulting in a higher proportion of the planet’s population becoming quickened, at the same time that the population boom would already be radically increasing the total number of quickened.

Simultaneously, the sheer quantity of recursions means that recursion natives with the Spark (and even quickened recursion natives!) are increasing at an exponential rate.

All of this, in turn, increases the number of interactions between recursions. Which, in turn, causes more Spark events among recursion natives. Larger recursions also tend to naturally possess a larger percentage of natives with the Spark, and, of course, those are also on the rise.

Some refer to this as the Strange Point. Planetovores are a real and prevalent threat from the Strange, but they’re not the only one: The Estate is arriving on the scene at the very moment that the Shoals of Earth are transforming from a handful of isolated worlds into a burbling and interconnected morass of recursions. What the consequences of this may be would be impossible to predict even if we fully understood the nature of the Strange itself.

Which, of course, we don’t.

THE QUIET CABAL

Virtuvian Cabal

When the Estate first made contact with the Quiet Cabal on Ruk, the Cabal told them that Ruk had been hidden in Earth’s shoals since before humanity evolved.

This is a lie.

Or, if you want to be more polite about it, a cover story.

Ruk — the recursion of an alien world transformed into a life raft for the survivors of their race — arrived in the Shoals of Earth three or four hundred years ago. When they arrived, the Quiet Cabal decided the best way to make their new “home” secure was to try to isolate Earth from the Strange. The reason all of the “magical” stuff went away and science now reigns supreme is because the “real” magic was all about pulling stuff from recursions or manipulating the Strange, and the Quiet Cabal eradicated the inapposite gates and suppressed the “magical” teachings which allowed people to tap into the Strange.

Age of Enlightenment? Inadvertent byproduct of the Quiet Cabal.

It’s hard to say how the Estate will react to this when the truth comes out, but the Quiet Cabal would tell you bluntly that they did it for humanity’s own good. The first danger a civilization faces from the Strange is that it obscures the civilization’s ability to interact with and understand the physics of the prime reality.

The second danger? Look at what’s happening now.

The problem is that the Recursion Renaissance created by the massive boom in Earth’s population and our technological advances has made the Cabal’s “seal Earth off” plan non-viable. The Cabal is trying to figure out how to deal with the new situation, but this is also why the Karum is gaining political strength on Ruk: An increasing number of Rukians are forced to conclude that, if humanity can’t be protected from itself, then the problem of humanity needs to be dealt with. Permanently.

As the Estate digs deeper into researching the Strange and investigating Strange-related incidents, they’re going to increasingly discover evidence of this historical cover-up.

ENDGAME: STRANGE INCURSIONS

In addition to the emergent dangers of the increasingly chaotic system forming from the increased recursion and quickened activity in the Shoals of Earth, it’s possible that the increasing concentration of the Strange itself may manifest new properties.

One hypothetical possibility are Strange Incursions: The Strange literally overwriting the prime reality instead of merely creating pocket universes within its dark energy network.

Imagine, for example, a day when Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is overwritten by the popular conception of the laccolithic butte which exists in the popular consciousness as a result of Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Alien spaceships stream into the sky above the United States.

Disturbingly, some of the Estate’s investigations into inapposite gates suggest that this sort of phenomenon is already consistent with the mechanisms of the Strange: The difference between a very large inapposite gate and a recursion being written “over” the prime reality may be an entirely academic distinction.

Is this end? Perhaps. Perhaps some of the worlds which have been torn asunder by their exposure to the Strange have died not as a result of planetovores, but due to the Great Filter of the Strange itself. Perhaps that is, in fact, what led to the destruction of the civilization which originally created the Strange in the first place.

Or perhaps not.

Lyapunov Fractal

DESIGN NOTES

My primary goal with these tweaks to the metaphysics of The Strange is to open up scenarios that the existing metaphysics make impossible. For example, “Fantasy creature comes to Earth!” is already the basis for a large number of scenarios for The Strange, but the stakes are always relatively low because even if the PCs don’t do anything at all the creature will generally decay and die within a few days. I think it’s more interesting to have a setting which is, in fact, under meaningful threat not only from the planetovores, but from the recursions themselves. It also allows for the recursions to function as a more meaningful resource to be exploited (both by Earth and by each other).

I believe the intention of the Strange “half-life” for entities from other recursions is to help explain why Earth isn’t already overrun with things from the Strange. My revised background for the Quiet Cabal provides an alternative solution for this, while leaving wide open the possibility that they (and the other emerging organizations like the Estate) will lose control of this situation.

The revision of the translation mechanics has a similar motivation: First, I like the idea of truly exploring the strange new world you’ve come to, which you lose if you follow the rulebook’s procedure of providing a brief primer to the players/characters of the recursion they’re arriving in. Second, the “quantum leap” dynamic adds some really rich possibilities for scenarios which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Note that, in both instances, I leave open avenues for the GM and/or players to bypass the “let’s figure out where we are and who we are” portion of the scenario whenever they wish. It’s one of those best of both worlds things.

I was also seeking throughout to clarify certain points where I find that the core rulebook isn’t necessarily clear about whether decisions are being made by the players or the characters. I find this primarily happens because, in The Strange, character creation bleeds over into actual play (with character creation activities taking place every time you translate to the new recursion). Once again, I find the, “Who am I?” question to be an interesting one for the character to confront; but this is balanced against the player’s interest in controlling the type of character they’re playing.

I’ve found that many people feel this is very different from other RPGs, but I think it’s more similar than you think: The dissociated decisions you’re making in selecting a new Focus for your character in The Strange is not that dissimilar from the dissociated decisions you’re making when you level up a character in D&D or spend skill points in GURPS. These are all character creation/development/advancement mechanics and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, such mechanics are virtually always dissociated.

The final thing I did was remove the idea of Earth as a “special snowflake” of the setting. This just boils down to my belief that the setting is more interesting if you can imagine lots and lots and lots of alien recursions floating around out there. (Later stages of a campaign could even feature ways of traveling from the Shoals of Earth to the shoals of alien worlds. Perhaps that could be the true purpose of the Aleph component in your game?)

This is, in many ways, a house rule document, although it is primarily concerned with setting material rather than mechanical content. I’m a big fan of Bruce R. Cordell’s The Strange. I find its premise fascinating and the possibilities of the setting refreshingly vast. It’s a truly delightful twist on the interdimensional genre.

But having spent a few years playing around with The Strange, there are a few tweaks to the metaphysics of the setting which I think enrich it for the purposes of gaming, and I think other prospective GMs of The Strange might find them useful to consider.

REWIND THE TIMELINE

I’ve talked about the potential benefits of rolling back the clock on a published RPG setting previously.

For The Strange specifically, the thing I note is that the Estate — as described in the core rulebook and sourcebooks — is aware of and has relationships with a lot of different organizations and threats. The Estate has fully established itself among the major players, carved out a specific role for itself, and is also very knowledgeable of the current state of affairs as far as the Strange is concerned.

If you’re running a campaign in which the PCs are (or are likely to become) Estate agents, I’m going to recommend that you roll the timeline back to a point before that’s all true. Let the players experience the “first contact” experiences of the Estate and help determine exactly what place the Estate carves out for itself (and how that will affect the fate of the entire planet and the many recursions which it sustains).

One option would be for the PCs to be among the very first agents recruited by Katherine J. Manners after her experiences with Carter Strange (as described in Bruce R. Cordell’s Myth of the Maker novel). This would make for a campaign roughly equivalent to the first days of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the summer of 1942; much as the agents of the OSS were confronted with figuring out how an intelligence agency should work from scratch, the PCs would need to invent what it means to be a Strange agency from scratch.

The approach I would advocate as a more general structure for The Strange would place the action four or five years after that (the equivalent of joining the CIA during its early days): The Estate is an established organization, the campus in Seattle has been built, and they have at least several dozen active agents. At the moment they:

  • Are well-established in Ardeyn and Ruk.
  • Have explored or “made contact” with over a hundred other recursions and have active missions in at least a dozen of them.
  • Using the Morrison Fellowships (and other, more nefarious means) to detect, monitor, and shut down individual projects which threaten to ping the Strange.
  • Tracking and shutting down incursions from the Strange.
  • Tracking and recruiting quickened individuals.

They have just recently:

  • Discovered that independent “recursion miners” exist. They are now tracking the activities of several, and this department is ramping up.
  • Made contact with the Quiet Cabal (see below), who has also made them aware of the existence of the Karum. These are the first major Strange-related organizations that the Estate has become aware of an begun interacting with.

The Estate is NOT aware of:

  • Circle of Liberty; they may discover the Circle’s activities as a result of investigating Dr Gavin Bixby (The Strange, p. 154), and then later uncover its connections to the Karum as a result of liaisoning with the Quiet Cabal
  • September Project
  • Office of Strategic Recursion; the CIA discovered quickened individuals as a result of the MJ-12 projects and the OSR has been around for decades
  • Spiral Dust; which may not even have started being distributed yet (I imagine the PCs being the first ones to make contact with it)
  • Butterfly Objectors; these disaffected former recursors are only just beginning to organize (and Dedrian Andrews is still an Estate Agent, see The Strange, p. 155).

Basically, the vibe you’re looking for is that the Estate feels very large and well-established and the big fish in the Strange pond when the campaign starts… but they’re about to discover that there are more big players out there than they ever suspected.

Taking a little peek into the future, I will also now suggest that what will set the Estate apart from the other extant organizations is their willingness to form alliances and working relationships with the inhabitants of the recursions they interact with. Where most of the other “big players” take an Earth First (or Ruk First) approach and look on the Strange as a resource to be exploited or a danger to be guarded against, the Estate has a more holistic approach to the problems of Earth and its shoals.

STRANGE SCIENCE

One of the major priorities of the Estate’s research department has been to explore how “Strange Science” works. Their initial efforts at a Unified Theory of the Strange was that different recursions operate under distinct “laws”: Mad Science, Magic, Psionics, and so forth. The reality, however, has proven more complex than this.

Standard Physics — the rules of physics as they exist in the prime reality of Earth’s universe — is also fundamental to all recursions.

In any circumstance where recursions appear to allow effects impossible under the laws of physics, that is almost always because the Strange is actively creating and sustaining that effect. When you cast a spell in Ardeyn, for example, the fundamental reality is not that the laws of physics on Ardeyn allow spells to work; it’s that the dark energy network of the Strange recognizes the spell as being consistent with its model of the Ardeyn recursion and it actively creates that effect. The distinction is subtle, but important.

Substandard Physics: In a recursion with substandard physics, the Strange network appears to do exactly the opposite. Instead of enabling acts which are not compatible with physics, it actively prevents or suppresses actions which physics would normally allow. A common example are fantasy recursions where gunpowder won’t ignite.

Exotic Physics: The exception which proves the rule are exotic recursions. In these recursions, the Strange has fundamentally altered the laws of physics. These effects are generally fairly minor (like varying the gravitational constant), but radical departures are also possible. These recursions are incredibly dangerous to visit through inapposite gates, as the proper functioning of the human body is rather dependent upon the laws of physics. (Visiting them through translation is just fine, since the translation process creates a body consistent with the local exotic laws. Although, in this case, leaving the exotic recursion can be equally dangerous.)

TRANSFERRING REALITIES

When traveling via translation, the Strange takes care of realigning people, creatures, and objects to their “new reality”. Where things become complicated is when inapposite gates allow matter to transfer directly from one recursion to another (or to Earth) without going through the translation process.

Transferring Technology: The first thing to note is that mixing-and-matching reality is not something which can be easily generalized. The Menzoberranzan, Harry Potter, Ardeyn, and Middle Earth recursions all feature magic wands, but the wands which work in one recursion may not be “compatible” with another. The same thing applies to, say, laser guns from different science fiction recursions. On the other hand, sometimes they do.

Technology taken through an inapposite gate to an incompatible reality will become “buggy”, becoming subject to a depletion roll once per use or once per day. On a failure, the technology stops working. The severity of the depletion roll usually defaults to 1d20, but the GM can set a different threshold if they feel it appropriate.

Note that technology with an Earth origin will work in virtually all recursions, the exceptions being those with substandard or exotic physics.

Stabilized Technology: Some technology, however, will become stable within the new reality. This can happen as a result of a GM intrusion, but can also occur if the technology succeeds at a number depletion checks equal to the die type. (For example if a 1 in 1d20 depletion roll succeeds 20 times without breaking down, the tech becomes stable.)

Some stabilized technology actually becomes an artifact, but most stabilized technology will become unstable again if it’s taken through another inapposite gate.

Working with Impossible Technology: Although existing items can be brought through an inapposite gate, attempting to create new versions of those items (or repair them) outside of the incursions where their creation is part of the simulation never works. (You can import Star Trek phasers, but you can’t create them on Earth.)

The underlying cause of this behavior appears to be that items are “tagged” by the Strange network as possessing certain attributes. Inapposite gates move those items to a new context (possibly bypassing the normal translation-based safeguards of the Strange), but they’re still tagged with a particular functionality and the Strange will continue to actively enact that functionality.

Revelatory Technology: Sometimes, however, the Strange is allowing technology to work because it follows the normal laws of physics in ways that humanity doesn’t understand yet. This technology is incredibly valuable, because you can bring it back to Earth, figure out what makes it tick, and replicate it.

Some believe that this technology actually offers a glimpse into the unimaginable civilization which originally created the Strange. But it’s also possible that the Strange is simply working from templates created by other civilizations. Or perhaps the Strange itself is some sort of insane (or simply incomprehensible) artificial intellect. We just don’t know enough to be sure.

Cyphers and Artifacts: Cyphers and artifacts fundamentally seem to work due to the same principles that allow other forms of technology to work in alien recursions. The distinction is that cyphers and artifacts can also pass through the normal translation-based firewalls of the Strange. (Carter Strange once described these items as having “sysop privileges”.)

Transferring Life: Unlike technology, lifeforms passing through inapposite gates usually have no difficulty, although environments which would naturally be lethal to them will, of course, continue to be so (including exotic recursions, as described above). The best hypothesis for the distinction is that the byzantine, alien operating system underlying the Strange somehow gives priority to life.

Vitruvian Man SymbolIf that’s the case, the Strange network’s definition of “life” seems to be fairly broad, encompassing virtually any independently operating entity (including things line animate skeletons and robots).

Fortunately, it appears that the Strange contains some sort of limited hazmat protocol that weeds out viruses and most microscopic / sub-atomic entities. “Gray goo” nanotech can’t propagate through inapposite gates; nor can the civilization-ending flu from The Stand.

It should also be noted that taking sentient creatures without the Spark through an inapposite gate will often awake the Spark within them.

In a manner similar to that found with technology, creatures with physiologies sufficiently incompatible with their current recursion (or the prime reality) are also unable to breed or otherwise reproduce: You can bring a Tribble to Earth, but they won’t take over the entire planet. (Taking a Tribble to a Star Wars-derived recursion, however, will probably result in varied forms of hilarity.)

Go to Part 2

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