Banestorming Infinity Unlimited
Yrth (and more) as Alternate Earths
by J. Hunter Johnson
Art by Fredd Gorham
The GURPS line, true to its universal name, has multiple ways to get from one dimension to another. You can take a parachronic conveyor or projector from Time Travel, get caught in the Banestorm and be deposited on Yrth from Fantasy, use a gate as described in Grimoire or Time Travel (perhaps creating the gate with a silver rod pulled from a random box in Warehouse 23,) ride the Merry-Go-Round or the Rift Raft from Magic Items 2, cross the Dimensional Bridge from Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, inexplicably find yourself in The Hole from Pyramid #1, or do it yourself, using the World-Jumper advantage from Time Travel or the Plane Shift spell from Grimoire. Dreams can also take you, willingly or not, to the Dreamlands (Cthulhupunk) or the Dream World (Voodoo). Or a quick walk across the Illuminati University campus would probably do the trick.
Pretty impressive list, eh?
In many campaigns, having multiple dimensions is sufficient complication without having multiple ways to get there and back again. But then there are the GMs (and players!) who want a more labyrinthine stomping ground.
Twisting Infinite Worlds
The Infinite Worlds campaign setting from GURPS Time Travel sets up its primary conflict by limiting parachronic travel to just two timelines, Homeline and Centrum (or Us and Them). But if the GM wants more than just the Big Two power struggle, she can add other dimension-hopping camps from the available GURPS sources. This is such a campaign setting. The power players on the timeline scale are (get your score cards ready) Homeline and Centrum from Time Travel, Yrth from Fantasy, the world of International Super Teams, Shikaku-mon from Alternate Earths, and Merlin from Technomancer.
Another pretty impressive list, eh? But don't worry about it being daunting. It all comes together below.
Homeline (current year 2021)
Homeline parachronic scientists have reached Merlin (the "Soulburner" adventure in Time Travel Adventures has already taken place) and Shikaku-mon. Shikaku-mon was a Research-class timeline until they began their own parachronic missions. Homeline has since relaxed restrictions on travel to Shikaku-mon. Merlin has been Research-class since its discovery.
They also know that the Yrth timeline exists through the efforts of one of their world-jumpers, Ed Gruberman. Gruberman patiently tried to locate hundreds of different myth parallels, finding Nottingham and Mermaid-1 early enough (in Homeline 2002) to keep up his spirits through the many failures. After going through scores of fairy tales, novels, and movie concepts, Gruberman tried a couple of settings from role-playing games. In 2004, he succeeded with the world of the International Supers Teams (which the Infinity Council calls Krypton, after Superman's homeworld). He returned from Krypton almost immediately, after reading the Times' front page articles about the U.S. superteam's hostage rescue mission in Iran. His second game world success was Yrth, where he found his world-jumping abilities nonfunctional. He managed to leave Yrth after only 14 months (being chased by Megalan mages most of this time) by finding the Rift Raft (p. MIT110) in Sahud, owned by a descendent of Ikito the World-Dreamer. Naturally, the Rift Raft did not take him directly back to Homeline, but he was able to world-jump back to Homeline from the new world. Gruberman's long absence is the reason Infinity Unlimited is no longer willing to risk world-jumpers on blind jumps (see sidebar p. TT100).
Gruberman's current theory on those myth timelines is that Steve Jackson must have been caught in the Banestorm and managed to research the Plane Shift (Homeline) spell himself in order to return and develop the world as a setting for his new game, and that Bob Schroeck was probably a latent psychic, able to see the IST world subconsciously.
Infinity Unlimited has been trying to find the mathematical settings for both worlds ever since.
Incidentally, Gruberman was right about Schroeck. Steve Jackson, however, is actually one of the Dark Elves responsible for the Banestorm. When the cataclysm occurred, many of the elves were thrown across the 8 dimensions. Steve alone ended up on Homeline, nearly a millennium ago. Homeline's Steve Jackson Games never published GURPS Time Travel or any of its supplements, so Ed Gruberman never had to face any temporal paradoxes.
Centrum (current year 2021)
Centrum knows nothing of Yrth, Merlin, or Shikaku-mon; they are unreachable by Centrum's parachronic conveyors, and no travelers from those timelines have shown up in Centrum. They do, of course, know of Homeline, but can't make the trip there directly. Krypton is a different story . . .
Centrum's first foray into Quantum 6 happened to be to the world of the IST, in Centrum year 1992. They were very intrigued, but they were frustrated at the difficulty in reaching Krypton. This led them to their first attempts to move a timeline to a closer Quantum. They succeeded in 2005 (Krypton year 1981) when a Centrum-placed bomb killed Anwar Sadat and several of his metahuman bodyguards (p. IST98), an event that caused Krypton to jump to Quantum 7. (This shift, within a year after Gruberman discovered this world for Homeline, is why Homeline has not found the settings for the IST timeline -- they are looking in the wrong Quantum!)
The shift was not without consequence, however. It seems to have caused a domino effect, displacing a timeline from Quantum 7, which displaced a world from Quantum 8, and so on. No further shifts were attempted until a group of rogue agents caused the atomic destruction of London in an echo timeline (p. TT88). Seeing the results of the shift (which caused no domino effect) led Centrum scientists to make new shift attempts on other echo timelines.
Since Krypton is the only world with native parachronic capability that Centrum can reach, Centrum is actively working to establish good relations with the Kryptonian U.N., with some success. Centrum parachronic scientists are already working on a plan to shift the timeline back to Quantum 6 in case they are able to "set up shop" on Krypton. They will then be in position to confront Homeline more easily! The domino effect is less of a concern, since the shift is away from Centrum.
Yrth (current year 1997)
The Banestorm that resulted from the Dark Elves' disastrous attempt to destroy the orcs of Yrth does not just pluck creatures from other worlds. It also reaches to other dimensions to snare beings from other timelines as well. The concept of Quanta that limits the reach of Infinity Unlimited's parachronic conveyors (and World Jumpers) does not hinder the Banestorm.
Most of the incoming stuff brought by the Banestorm comes from Homeline (see Technobabble below). The people of Yrth do not call it "Homeline", of course, and neither do most of the people from Homeline. To them, it is simply "Earth".
The Banestorm does occasionally bring beings from other worlds as well. There were at least three transferences from Gabrook and one from Loren'dil (p. F8), which the Ytarrians realize were different worlds from Earth. But some of the transfers came from other Earth-like timelines (including Centrum!). Most Ytarrians have no way of realizing that the people from one of these timelines are not from Homeline, and neither do the people themselves. They all come from Earth as far as they can tell. Sometimes two Earthlings will disagree on this or that fact about their homeworld, but it is usually dismissed as part of the Banestorm effect or as simply unimportant given their new surroundings. Sahud, in particular, has collected people from many different timelines. This has contributed to the peculiarity of their culture.
Some Megalan sorcerers have figured out more of the truth. The Ministry of Serendipity kept finding more and more contradictions in their "Liber Terranum Primus" (p. F9) until they finally concluded that there must be more than one Earth. The Ministry's sorcerers know of only one version of the Plane Shift spell, Plane Shift (Merlin). And they know that one only because a mage from Merlin passed on the information (unwillingly) before being allowed to return. They believe they are close to success with Plane Shift (Homeline). The Ministry of Serendipity now has the Rift Raft, which they took from Ikito's family upon its return. Many of Ikito's descendants were killed by Ministry agents, but perhaps not all.... The Ministry of Serendipity could soon find themselves embroiled in a Sahudese low war (p. F99).
The Jesuits of Yrth (p. F27) are also secretly capable of traveling to other Timelines -- most often to Shikaku-mon where they can "talk shop" with the Japanese Jesuits (p. AE72). The Jesuit mages researched Plane Shift (Shikaku-mon) themselves, but had an easier time with it since any Jesuits that were taken from Shikaku-mon by the Banestorm usually found their own way to the Society's church in Megalos. The mages had an abundance of information about the timeline that they were trying to reach.
Yrth shares some features with Coventry (p. TT105). Parachronic travel to Yrth by conveyor or world-jumping ability is possible, but leaving Yrth by those non-magical methods is not. This could be another effect of the Banestorm or just a natural phenomenon.
Shikaku-mon (current year 2021)
The weird cyberpunk/prep world of Shikaku-mon has taken in the sudden ability to hop dimensions without batting an eye. The peoples of Shikaku-mon had been quite accustomed to the internal quadripolar balance maintained on their world, and having a few more external, infrequent players didn't seem to matter much to the common man. Homeline, Merlin, and occasionally Yrth factions just made up more of the sociodynamic (p. AE77).
Some of Shikaku-mon's movers and shakers feel that the balance of power might be disturbed by these external forces, making the threat of a "Last War" a little more real. The powers of mages from Yrth and Merlin are harder for the nations of Shikaku-mon to gauge, but they are tempered by Shikaku-mon's low mana level. (And some of the governments are working on making their capitals no mana zones to further reduce the risk.)
At first, several different Brazilian multinational corporations tried to gain sole possession of parachronic technology; it is not even clear which corporation developed (or stole from failed Homeline missions) the technology first. Industrial espionage was (and is) rampant, and when the dust settled, the Brazilians found that the Kingdom of France had added parachronics to its list of dominated areas. After a brief round of finger-pointing, many of the multinationals now admit (at least to themselves) that having the technology in France might be for the best. They could get back to their regular business and let the French set the standards for the new technology, which wouldn't be any harder to steal later than their computer technology.
The Japanese and Swedish empires are also content to let France have the commercial success of time tours, mining operations, etc. They developed their own government programs for parachronic operations with the public eye conveniently distracted. All of the Shikaku-mon powers pay lip service to secrecy regulations to avoid reprisals from Infinity Unlimited. They are not, however, above killing people during a parachronic mission.
The Japanese Empire interacts primarily with the Jesuit mages on Yrth, while the Swedish Empire views itself as allied with Merlin. The Holy See is busy trying to address the perceived heresies of the Conclave of Archbishops on Yrth and the Holy See of Merlin. The most glaring of these is the view that the practice of magic is not a sin.
Homeline, resigned to the presence of parachronics on Shikaku-mon, has tried to keep its interactions neutral, although each of the four Shikaku-mon powers feels as if it is being slighted in favor of the others. France, in particular, often argues with the Infinity Council over mining rights to Empty timelines.
Merlin (current year 1997)
Since the initial encounter with other timelines in the "Soulburner" adventure, the Pentagon on Merlin has wasted no time. Manadynamics' parachronic devices, as with everything else, are a mix of magic and science. They are even more cautious than Homeline in their use of these devices, since dropping in on a no-mana timeline would be problematic. There is a handful of tech-only, "scout"-type parachronic vehicles for handling some of these tricky situations.
The U.S. on Merlin is quite distrustful of Yrth, after having one of their citizens abducted and forced to reveal the details of the Plane Shift (Merlin) spell. Both Delta Force and the Necromantic Operations Command are now prepared to handle any further problems, and there are even some preparations for fending off an invasion from Yrth, if it comes to that. They really have no idea what to expect, since the Megalan sorcerers were not big on explanations. The Pentagon has assumed that the prowess of magic on Yrth rivals that on Merlin -- an over-estimate, to be sure. Yrth mages do not have sentient Crays to aid spell research.
The mageocratic government of Surinam is a little more forgiving of Yrth's "indiscretions". Some researchers in Surinam secretly work with some members of the College of Necromancy in Megalos, and others with some members of the Dark Elf Cult (p. F37).
The U.S. government is happy to work with Infinity Unlimited, although they are a bit skeptical about the whole "Centrum" thing that Homeline keeps mentioning (but they scanned Russian communiques for any mention of Centrum anyway). Just as Infinity has classified Merlin as Research, the Department of Defense has classified all timelines as Top Secret.
The U.S. is also in a comfortable relationship with the Swedish Empire on Shikaku-mon; both parties are feigning forthrightness while trying to hold back as much "leverage" as possible.
The Pentagon may also have other contacts too far "downstream" for Homeline to reach; the Russians may have secretly contacted (or been contacted by) timelines unknown.
Krypton (current year 1997)
The U.N. of Krypton is corrupt! (See pp. IST59 and TT97.) It's still no Evil Empire, but it is no utopian power either. They do maintain their authority through carefully veiled repression, and they are certainly not above increasing their power by manipulating new resources, such as those from other timelines.
But all that does not change the day-to-day lives of most of the metahumans, who are blissfully unaware of the U.N.'s motives. Most of the metahumans are also blissfully unaware that other timelines exist. Other planets, sure, aliens, no problem, but other dimensions are simply not considered. Perhaps some metahumans (or even normals) do consider the possibility, or they might have even come into contact with people from other timelines, but they have no recollection of these ideas and events. How curious....
The U.N. council members do know about other timelines. They are negotiating with Centrum, after all. The U.N. has one World-Jumper on staff, but she can carry less than 30 lbs. with her on each jump. Krypton would like to have the technology to carry more. Centrum wants to have a sanctioned presence on Krypton (and access to U.N. research on metahumanity), and Krypton wants access to Centrum parachronic technology. Negotiations are likely to go on for a long time.
Unbeknownst to the U.N., one of their IST Brasilia members, Karasu, is also a world jumper. Karasu has power over darkness, but he also emerges from the darkness he creates carrying whatever equipment is most useful to the job at hand. He doesn't even realize the extent of his world-jumping abilities; he simply knows that he can pop over to his own personal holding area (an Empty timeline, p. TT88) where he's accumulated quite a stash of useful items, and pop back.
Krypton-2, the "good" IST world, remains undiscovered. This is the dimension Bob Schroeck was able to see most clearly.
The set of timelines subjected to the Banestorm depends on a subset of the numbers that determine a world's T-Gamma force (see sidebars on pp. TT85-86). The eruption of the Banestorm did alter Yrth's own T-Gamma numbers and caused it to change Quantum numbers. Yrth now resides in Quantum 5, just like Homeline.
Yrth and Homeline also have identical values for the "Banestorm subset" of the T-Gamma number, which is probably why almost all abductions have been from Homeline Earth. The subset numbers of Gabrook are closer than Loren'dil's to Yrth's -- which is why Gabrook had three major transfer periods, while Loren'dil had only one. Similarly, Shikaku-mon's numbers are closer than Merlin's, which is why more Jesuits from Shikaku-mon come over than Chimera from Merlin. The kidnappings seem to be tied as much to time coordinates as T-Gamma numbers, so other worlds can (and probably have been) hit as well. Humans taken from close parallels before those worlds diverged will be indistinguishable from Homeline humans on Yrth.
Homeline has not been able to deduce the mathematical settings needed to make the jump to Yrth. The addition of the Banestorm acts like a new element of the T-Gamma number, unaccounted for in Homeline's computations.
There are a few people on the different timelines who have noticed that each known timeline capable of parachronic travel has a present year of either 2021 or 1997. No one has yet found it important enough to try to explain.
Tweaking and Debugging
This setting has a lot of room for variation. If six power players seems to be too many, some can be dropped while still leaving plenty of opportunity for adventuring. Or if it's not twisted enough, more timelines can be given dimension-hopping capability (Conan, Terradyne, Wild Cards, Illuminati University, Time Travel's United States of Lizardia, Alternate Earth's Reich-5 or Pyramid #15's Technate, Macedonia-Weird, Trotsky, Kirby or Spacenixon, for instance; if you decide to introduce a Georgian-era parachronic conveyor to the world of Goblins, more power to you).
Even the timelines discussed can be doctored a bit. Yrth does not have to be a Quantum-5 world. The GM can determine which Quantum will contain Yrth by considering on which timelines she wants to be able to reach Yrth by parachronic projector. For example, if Yrth is in Quantum 2, it would be unreachable by either Homeline or Centrum, but theoretically reachable by timelines in Quanta 4 or less if "native" working conveyors can be built. This seems likeliest for Shikaku-mon, Reich-5, or perhaps Merlin. Coincidentally, they are all Quantum 3 timelines.
World-jumpers would be able to reach Yrth (eventually) in whichever Quantum it is placed. These world-jumpers might work for Infinity, or they might be metahumans from IST (see p. TT97) or just gifted individuals for other timelines. The main hurdle would be for the first person making the first jump to Yrth. The jumper would have to have the "New worlds" enhancement, be in the same Quantum as Yrth or an adjacent Quantum, and make the jump with a large penalty for the difference between Yrth and whatever worlds he's experienced.
GURPS Tredroy (p. 48) hinted at a cross-dimensional trading company operated by Infinity Unlimited's White Star branch (p. TT98). If parachronic devices will not work on Yrth, then this House of the White Star is simply an eccentric and secretive merchant house, and the name similarity is just a coincidence. Alternately, it could be replaced with a Chili Wizard fast food franchise based out of Merlin.
Article publication date: June 19, 1998
Copyright © 1998 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to email@example.com.