Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last President

The President sighed as she packed her things. "It figures the first female president would be the last one" she noted with bitter irony. Still it could have been worse, she was alive and the United States was ending peacefully instead of being torn apart by war.

Looking at The White House one last time, she thought of the long history of the once great nation. The ideals it fought for, at least, were not dead. That pride of being an American... that still was something she could hold on too, even as the nation splintered and broke apart. The White House would still remain, maintained and preserved, if only for it's historical value.

The nation as a whole though, was ending. It was doomed ever since what was known as "The Second Great Depression" had started. The nation had survived one, but this time, as congress bickered and bucked heads about the solution, the number of people who struggled with unemployment and financial trouble grew and grew. A gap was forming between the people and their government. Politicians spend more time advocating their own party's position then helping the problem, and law after law was passed attempting to save the problem that were just ignored or misunderstood. One party wanted to spend more money on programs, the other wanted to cut taxes for the rich and get rid of regulation.

After a while the people at large stopped caring. Then a bold new movement was born, if the nation could not solve their problems, they cried, what use is it? Slowly they began to distance themselves from the government. First, they advocated changing banks to local-run banks. Once people began to follow it, they started to advocate investing only in the community and withhold their money from federal organizations. After a while the more radical members simply stopped paying federal taxes. The movement gained great power in local and state governments who started to give less and less to the federal government. Of course, the federal government panicked and tried to suppress the movement, but this just fueled it's resolve.

The President sighed again. Her campaign platform was one of reform, and of attempting to make a peace between the incressingly independent local wonderments and the federal one. Of course her predecessors were more hard line, almost going as far as causing another civil war. The result was that even more states went rogue, and while the military commanders were all for it, the solders were more loyal to their states then their nation. In the end, there were two choices: Become a police state, or give in. Both were resisted, and she offered voters a third choice. but she had failed. Despite reforms and changes the states were too self sufficient now to rejoin the crumbling union. Though hard negotiations, a compromise was reached where the United States would exist as merely a body of representatives for common issues akin to the United Nations, but each state had it's own taxes and laws independent of any federal control. The army was restructured into a peacekeeping force governed by all states. The congress was preserved as a delegation but it's power was greatly reduced. The supreme court would only relate to lawful between states. As for her office of President, it had no place in this new system.

She accepted this because this was the best solution, but to her, this was the end of the United States of America that was founded all those years ago by colonists from england. The constitution was finally broken and the states would likely drift apart and may even declare war on each other some day. At least she could take solace in the fact that it's ideals were still being upheld, but for how long she wondered?

(I could probably expand this a bit with details and more reasons, but the basic message of this story is clear enough. I just thought I would write a little story about how I think the nation is going to end :P)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pokémon Magical Mystery Tour

I have been playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time lately. I got it a few years ago, but never seriously played though it until now. Since that time, a slightly updated version was released don't think it's really worth buying at this point, since I already "won" the main game in Time and am going though the post-game content (which is actually between 25% to 50% of the game and includes extra story bits... they always gotta go that extra mile). There are also apparently three new games coming out for the wii, but I probably won't be playing them as I haven't played anything on my wii in ages and don't feel like dealing with it. I also played though Blue Rescue Team quite some time ago, but besides the plot and some of the details, there really isn't that much difference. I will say I found Blue/Red's story a bit more touching though, even if a lot of elements seem to cross over a tiny bit.

In any case, I have to say as far as roguelikes go, the games are quite watered down and boring compared to most, even compared to most of the other "Mystery Dungeon" games. Most dungeons have no traps, and the items you can collect are mostly uninteresting. Whats worse is they completely took out needing to identify items, which was one of the cornerstone roguelike gameplay elements. The games do somewhat make up for it with a bigger focus on followers and character building, as is fitting to a Pokémon game. Like the main Pokémon games, you can get almost any enemy to join you, though instead of catching them, they just randomly sometimes join you when you defeat them. Each of them learn different moves just like the main Pokémon games, and some can evolve, although now you have to wait until the post-game to do so. In Blue/Red (btw, incase you didn't figurer it out, like the main Pokémon games most of the games are in pairs or triplets that is more or less the exact same game with different features or Pokémon) you are somewhat limited by who you can get to join you by each needing one of several "friend areas" that need to be unlocked before they will join, but that was done away with in Time/Darkness. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not overall, but it does make the party organization interface a lot less tedious, but it also means you can get anyone to join anytime you find them.

I think the games' biggest flaw is just that they are much too easy, especially for roguelikes, which are basically meant to kick your ass in as many nasty ways as possible. Not that it's totally a cakewalk, but as I said, though most of the game traps are missing, needing to identify items is completely gone, and you even keep most of your stuff if you die. I mean I know nethack-style "You accidentally bumped into the wrong thing. Too bad, you die. Start over from square one." stuff is a little much, but most of the other Mystery Dungeon games offer a good balance between starting over from scratch and death being nothing. Also the games don't autosave when you enter a dungeon like Izuna does.

By the way, I have Izuna 2, and it is absolutely fantastic... I kind of wish it had a follower system like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon though. Just tag switching between two partners is kinda lame compared to having an actual follower. Although the follower system in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is not perfect either, as you can never directly control what they do. Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (which is basically Mystery Dungeon mixed with Final Fantasy... they sure do make a lot of crossover games with other corporations) did something interesting and had a partner character who could be controlled by another player, but it was sort of odd because the turn-based nature of the game and the two controller inputs often didn't work together that well. Ideally, I would like to see something like in Ultima 6, where you could more or less control each party member in turn if you wanted and could switch in and out of combat mode. It's a game mechanic I would like to see used more often because I feel it's a good balance between turn-based and real time combat. That reminds me of another little gripe about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's followers, namely that to get them to go after enemies, you have to switch around a tactic setting, which is annoying if you constantly want to switch between "follow me" and "go after foes". If set to "follow me" they will never attack unless the enemy is in their range. Also sometimes their pathfinding if they are too far away will make them wander aimlessly and get killed, which can happen if you go in a U shaped corridor or such while one is behind a wall... it's complex to explain, but bassily they try and follow you in a direct line without moving around a bend in the road.

I also miss the ability to "fuse" equipment like in some of the other Mystery Dungeon games. Fusion works by combining two items into one that does the effects and has the power of both, Both Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (although you can't seem to be able to tranfer weapon's abliltys, just some attributes) and Shiren the Wanderer (which, along with it's squeals, are probably the only non-crossover games in the Mystery Dungeon series) as well as probably others have this feature. Izuna has a interesting gameplay mechanic that works in almost the same way, at least in regard to transferring a weapons special ability, but is a bit more limited because each weapon has a limited number of slots that can be used to attach ofuda to, including ones you get by transforming weapons that give you the weapon's special ability (you can "burn-in" some to increase a weapon's stats, but abilities are not transfered this way). Of course in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the only type of "equipment" is held items anyway, witch are more like collars in other Mystery Dungeon games which could never be fused anyway. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon you can link moves, but thats not really the same thing.

You know though all my complaining, I still find the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games fun. In fact I find them more fun then the normal Pokémon games, which I often find involves a lot of tedious walking from place to place and backtracking whenever I suddenly find I need some HM move or something. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon there is basically only one town and various random areas you can go to on a map. Also since combat is seamlessly integrated into exploring and never random, it usually is a heck of a lot faster and less tedious. Also I just really really like roguelikes.

Lastly, on the subject of roguelikes in general I have to say they really need to find more advanced dungeon generation methods. The "rooms connected to corridors" method gets old fast. Though a roguelike is always fun more because of the stuff in the dungeons then the dungeons themselves.

Also Lastly, on the subject of Pokémon, is it just me or does do the designs for pokemon get more and more retarded? I mean seriously what is this? Are all those random metal spikes really necessary? All of the later legendaries seem to have odd metal parts, but then I am not always fond of some of the original Pokémon ether.

(Note: From now on, I will try and make my pictograph link to any source image I may have used either as reference or directly traced as I did the last two times)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Desperately Seiken Densetsu

I was watching some videos of Seiken Densetsu 3 and some comments reminded me of complaints I had with the various games in the series so I thought I would do one of my pointless rants about it like I did with the SaGa games.

You may remember in my SaGa rant I compared the series, which is known both as the "Mana" series in the US and the "Seiken Densetsu" (usually translated as: "Holy Sword Legend") series in japan (I'll leave it up to you as to what name better reflects the series, but the titular "Holy Sword" seems to have become much less important as the series went on), as the "the lovable bouncy tree-hugging hippie child" in Squaresoft's little family of games. What I mean by that is, of the three main Square series, it's easily the most storybook-like. While not always lighthearted, it usually is far less serious and more fantastic. That, and it also has a giant tree who's power gets abused as one of it's most important recurring plot elements.

The plot usually goes like this: There is some giant tree that may or may not be actually a form of the goddess that created the world and has power over all of the world's mana, but bad guys want the power and stuff. One interesting thing is unlike the Final Fantasy and the Saga series, there is apparently some overall timeline of events and inter-game continuity. I say "apparently" because there are so many contradictions and strange inconsistencies that it's hard to tell. But the plot is really not that interesting overall so, whatever.

The gameplay of each game save some of the later ones can be classified as an "Action-RPG" style game, where battles are real time and you move around. Unlike most "Action-RPG" games, most of them are more RPG then action though some elements of Zelda-like action still remains.

The problem with the series is each of the games has at least one notable flaw. And since I did it for SaGa, let's step though each game.

Number 1 - Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden/Final Fantasy Adventure:
If there is one word that can describe this game it's this: Primitive. Of course, it was a gameboy game, and 80% of the games on the system can be described the same way. In this game's case, however fun it might be (and it is fun), it lacks almost all the features people may expect from other games in the series, or indeed most other games in the genre. A good example of this is, you talk to NPCs by running into them. There doesn't seem to be any collison detection with those people too, so you may end up in a situation where you get stuck inside them and they talk to you over and over. Very very annoying. At least it uses a button to attack, unlike some games. Otherwise the gameplay is almost identical to the first Zelda game only with the addition of different weapons, spells, some usable items, and a special attack you can do by letting a bar fill up. There are partners that follow you sometimes but they mostly just throw attacks at random. Enemies do too in a method like the first Zelda, without any sort of AI at all. You could gain experience and level up, which let you choose from 4 stats to upgrade. As for the story you play a guy who is a slave gladiator for a guy named Dark Lord, you escape, discover a plot to find the mana tree, and have to protect a girl who is the only one who can open a way to it with the help of a member of the "Gemma Knights". Overall the game is entertaining but, as I said, primitive as hell. Almost to the level of some armature programmer's first game. Interestingly, it was originally developed as a NES game but moved to the gameboy later. It also was considered a spin off of the Final Fantasy games and re-uses some of the sprites and characters from some of them.

Number 2 - Seiken Densetsu 2/Secret of Mana
The next game makes the leap to the SNES and is said to be one of Squaresoft's classic SNES games. It is also apparently a direct sequel to the first game as there are several plot hooks that make reference to it, however there are also several ones that seem to contradict it. The plot revolves around a "Mana Fortress" that was once built as a weapon ages ago which destroyed the world pretty much and a group of bad guys (who may or may not be the same empire Dark Lord ruled) who are trying to find it. Then your character pulls the Mana Sword from somewhere and is tasked by the Gemma Knights to repair it. And their are seeds inside Mana Palaces that are related to something, and elemental spirits that teach magic, and stuff. I donno. The gameplay is interesting because you have three characters in your party and you can control them one at a time or have other players control them. Weapons and magic can be leveled up by use, and there are a verity of weapon types and magic as well as equipment and items. The are a few annoying quirks with the gameplay that annoy me though. One is that when you hit something, you have to wait a bit before your attacks are at full power again. If you don't, your attacks become much weaker. There is a stamina counter measured in percentages that effects how powerful your attacks are. This all is fine in theory, but the problem is that every time you attack it goes down to 0 and hitting a enemy causes it to enter a stun frame which only registers hits after they get out of it. You can MAKE hits on them while they are stunned, but for some dumb reason it doesn't actually show damage until after they return to normal. This means you can rapidly whack enemies and they will get stuck being stunned for a long while after you stop hitting them. This serves to slow down combat to a crawl sometimes. The other huge problem is spells freeze their in place and cannot be blocked or dodged in any way, and the boss battles become spell spamfests for both sides very quickly, making the action again slow down like crazy. Also because spells are unavoidable, some early boss battles become almost impossible because you have no healing and no way to use skill to avoid damage. Overall, it's a good game but can get annoying as hell. Fun fact: Apparently it was developed for a SNES CD addon that never was finished. I wish I could see what was cut so it could fit on a cartridge.

Number 2.5 - Secret of Evermore
Not really part of the series, but I put Final Fantasy 2 in my SaGa rant so and I am putting this here. So there. Secret of Evermore is a SNES game developed by the American branch of Squaresoft back in the day, and may very well be the ONLY game developed by said branch. Although it's gameplay is based heavily on Secret of Mana, it's setting and story is completely different, and seems more to take from old scifi movies and historical settings then the colorful lush fantasy worlds of the Mana series. The story involves a dopey b-movie nut and his pet dog who stumbles across a abandoned mansion and finds a machine that transports him into some kind of virtual world called Evermore created by a mad scientist. One interesting thing is though the story is wacky and lighthearted, the music and graphics are very dramatic and dark, which creates an striking contrast between the goofball characters and the incredibly sinister environments. Kind of like Samurai Jack. The gameplay is almost exactly like Secret of Mana but a bit less annoying in that enemies no longer are locked in stun animations, or at least not as much. One interesting thing is spells come in the form of alchemy formulas which use a system not unlike the Ultima series where instead of MP, spells use combinations of special ingredient items. While this makes it harder to use spells as you can't just rest at an inn to recover them, it makes spells a bit more balanced in my opinion. Some people dislike this game, but I like it better then Secret of Mana in a lot of ways. Also one of the forms your dog can take is a K-9 inspired robot toaster dog who fires FRICKIN LASER BEAMS. HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE THAT?!?

Number 3 - Seiken Densetsu 3
Also for the SNES, Seiken Densetsu 3 is the only one which was never translated, mostly because it used heavily compressed text and was too big for American carts (though some people still unfairly blame Secret of Evermore for being a substitute for it). It wasn't until ages later people learned of it's existence and translated it, and is was considered the most technically difficult translation effort to date. Only though massive effort by a genius ASM hacker did it ever get finished. Of course nowadays ROM translations are relatively commonplace this game was one of the first really big breakthroughs in game translation. But enough about that, let's talk about the game it's self. The story apparently takes place ages before both the other two games, but really has no connection aside from the Mana Tree/Sword and the elemental spirits. The story involves a bunch of villains all going after "Mana Stones" for various reasons and six heroes who try and stop them, although you can only play three of them at a time. The interesting thing is there is some non-linearity in parts and some branching paths. Each hero has his or her own intro if you choose them as the first character and his or her own little section neer the end of the game. In addition the story branches into three paths at the end each with it's own final boss and it's own (almost) final dungeon. The 6 heros are divided into 3 male/female pairs and each pair takes one of these paths. In addition to that each hero can do two class changes to either light or dark, and depending on your choice you get different spells or abilities. This makes the replay value higher then normal but there is still not much difference between all the options. The gameplay is much more refined from Secret of Mana and flows better, but the different weapons and interchangeable armor is gone, as well as weapon and spell levels. The combat is somewhat faster and yet also slower as instead of stamina, each time you hit there is simply a short pause before you can hit again, making rapid attacks impossible but also making the time between attacks shorter. Oddly, the short pause doesn't happen if you don't actually hit anything. Also you don't actually need to aim your attacks this time, as it automatically faces the nearest enemy. You can even hold the button to automatically run up to one. One thing I liked is they brought back choosing what stats you level up, making your growth customizable somewhat. It still has flaws though. It still suffers from spell spam problems, maybe even worse then Secret of Mana did, but now spells just pause the whole game rather then making their target float in place unable to move. This means you will probably spend much more time spamming on the menu button hoping to open it before bosses pause the game, but Secret of Mana sort of had that problem too and it didn't bother pausing at all so its probably slightly less annoying overall. The game also has the problem that as much as one level can make a difference between enemies being almost impossible to kill and being a cakewalk. If you are as much as a few levels under an enemy, they will take 1 HP from most anything. If you are a few levels over, they almost always die in one hit. The later areas can be extremely annoying for this reason. One of the biggest flaws is after a while the story sort of petters out and sends you to a long annoying enemy-infested area after another doing some task or another and offers little in the way of anything new or interesting for a while. It seems like 50% of the game is filler, and not very entertaining filler. Overall good, but lacking, especially later in the game where it becomes way to tedious to be at all fun. It's still probably the best of the series though, because it's all downhill from here.

Number 4 - Legend of Mana
If there ever is a game I have mixed feelings about it's this one. Released for the first Playstation, this game certainly has an edge in the eye candy department. Wonderful hand-painted backgrounds, cool music, flashy effects, huge bosses, ect. The problem is, the game isn't really that good. First of all, the story tries to do a SaGa-style thing where everything is more or less a collection of sidequests. It is siad to take places ages before even Seiken Densetsu 3, but it's impossible to tell really. Apparently the world has been more or less destroyed following a war involving mana and everything in it has been turned into these artifact things. I think. It never really is clear. Anyway you can find and place these artifact things on a world map to rebuild the world, but there is almost no point to this except some special things involving "mana levels" which is never really explained. Yeah this game likes to not really explain things. Unlike SaGa however, there really doesn't seem to be any explanations at all no matter how hard you look. Anyway, things happen, and then suddenly you use the Mana Sword as an artifact to make the Mana Tree and fight the dark version of the Mana Goddess. And thats about it. Yeah. Well okay there appears to be lots of backstory and side quests but none of it really builds to anything, unlike most of the SaGa games where there is usually at least one main thread connecting everything that happens. There are however three "main" quest threads that lead to the final battle, but they are sort of unrelated to anything but themselves. Gameplay-wise Legend of Mana actually has a fair amount of depth to it. You can learn special moves and attacks, forge weapons, make magical spells by combining instruments with cards given from elemental spirits (which in this game seem to be creature types and not unique characters), make yourself a robot-like golem partner, capture and raise monsters, and even harvest fruit. The problem is that all of that is almost entirely pointless because combat is a complete joke. Combat in Legend of Mana resembles a old arcade-style beat 'em up in almost every way. It even annoyingly locks the screen when you encounter enemies in a similar style to old arcade games. The thing that is different is combat is easy as hell. Like even way beyond Symphony of the Night level easy. Enemies mull around and attack very rarely (with the exemption of zombies who will kill your ass dead. Frigging zombies... They are always annoying in all the games in the series) and do almost nothing to avoid hits. You can repeatedly attack most enemies with your weakest attack and they will do almost nothing to you. Bosses are no better, letting you wail on them almost without retaliation. In addition special techniques and boss attacks have long flashy pointless animations that play before they are used, letting any target easily step out of the way far before the attack. Then they have a pointless cooldown animation after also. And during all this, the user can't be harmed at all. The thing is, this is not even the animation of the attack it's self I am talking about, just the pre-attack and post-attack flashes. They are pointless, useless, annoying, and idiotic in every way and who ever thought such things are a good idea in a realtime game is a complete idiot. The thing is though there are lots of short attacks without those problems anyway so it just makes those attacks utterly retarded. Bosses usually use nothing BUT those types of attacks making boss fights ridiculously easy because you can just mash the button and back off when he starts to use an attack then go back and mash some more. If there is any game I wish had the source code available somewhere it is this one, because this game more then any other is one that has the potential to be good if it were just done RIGHT.

Number 5 - Shin'yaku Seiken Densetsu/Sword of Mana
This game is a Gameboy Advanced remake of the first game. It somehow managed to ruin it. I know, I am shocked too. Maybe it's the infusion of extra angst to the story line. Maybe it's the altering of the basic but functional magic system to one that is dependent on the weapon you have equipped and is much less useful in general. Maybe it's the fact that it is utterly boring and ridiculously easy. I donno. How did they mess up this game? The original was simple and fun, if they had done the same thing with some of the annoying aspects fixed it would have been great, but somehow they ruined it. After this game, my love for the series was over. Legend of Mana was disappointing but had they fixed it's problems I would forgive them. But this... this is just... UGHHH!

Number 6 - Children of Mana
A sort of realtime semi-rougelike game for the DS, only the dungeons are boring as hell (and possibly not random, I forget, but they might as well be, because they look repetitive enough). It's biggest problem is there are only a handful of different items and spells to get. One interesting thing is it has a sort of bouncy physics system in play and you can knock enemies and objects around into one another, which is sorta fun, but never gets used for anything interesting. It also reuses a lot of graphics from Seiken Densetsu 3. Over all a lazy attempt to cash in on the name.

Number 7, 8, and 9 - Friends of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 4/Dawn of Mana, Heroes of Mana
Never played any of these, and likely never will (I may take a look at Heroes of Mana, but I doubt it). Friends of Mana is a strange mobile phone MMORPG. Japan stop with these strange MMO games I will never be able to play already, I am getting sick of it! At least develop for flash, java, or something else I can use on my PC too. Seriously. Anyway it doesn't even have it's own wiki page so bah. Dawn of Mana is for the Playstation 2 and apparently the official forth game in the series, even though I was pretty sure Legend of Mana was known as Seiken Densetsu 4 at one point. Anyway it apparently gets rid of all the RPG elements and is just pure action. So yeah. Pass. Heroes of Mana is a real time stratagy game like Warcraft (not World of) for the DS. I never like those types of games very much, but if there is enough RPG stuff too, it may be fun. I will need to check for videos of it or something.

So there you go. As you can see, I felt the series was always kind of flawed and it rapidly went to crap after 3 and never recovered, but hey, maybe one day they will get it right. Heres hoping.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What happens when figments of my imagination get bored

The following is a collection of notes written about various subjects by Zuru, current maintainer and researcher of the library in “Killovania”.

The statements herein are based on my own opinion and research primarily conducted with the books within this library which maybe unreliable as they are actually manifestations of knowledge accumulated in the mind of the entity known as “Killo Zapit” and as such may be unreliable, however a good portion is actually partial text of other work and is, if unreliable, at least interesting and worthy of study (I would not advice browsing if you are easily offended or disturbed however).

About Other Worlds:

Often other worlds can be strange places, filled with exotic creatures or strange objects, but also just as often filled with things that are familiar, or even outright identical. Traveling between worlds or just observing them though magical means can be quite confusing for people who don't exactly understand what other worlds actually are and why they behave like they do.

As a mage, I am used to using the term “world” informally, as magic users often do, to refer to a number of things. As magic is often used to transcend dimensional barriers as often as to cross physical space, often without being able to tell the difference, the use of the word “world” to refer only to a planet in space as people from universes without magic or equivalent technology often do strikes me as slightly odd, but on the other hand I realized the precise meaning of the terms are often unclear.

Magic users and mystics can refer to other planets in space, other universes, nearby planes, alternate realities, and even states of being as different “worlds”. Thus the term “world” can be thought of as any sort of distinct space, physical, mental or even, rarely, in time, for which a stark boundary exists. For example the “spirit world”, while often occupying the same physical space as another world, is none the less distinct from it because of the class of beings that inhabit it, or the rules that govern it, and there is definitely a sort of barrier between them.

Thus a world is not the same as a “planet”. A “planet” refers only to a physical mass of matter. Though all planets are also worlds, not all worlds are planets. Also there can be more then one world on a given planet. Some people think of a planet requiring a particular shape and size to really count. Usually they need to be round balls, or in some universes, flat circles or squares. Also small rocks, and even some large ones, don't seem to count. There are also “stars” which, at least in most universes, are basically balls of fire and fuel, but they mostly don't count as real matter in magical terms. Of course in terms of science, they actually do count as matter, but are sill not counted as planets. In any case, in some magical systems, planets are thought of as a warped vision of an infinite plane, or a goodly realm, which is really flat but only appears as a circle. Similarity “stars” are similar or actual holes in a massive sphere surrounding the universe, or sometimes even spirits of the dead. It is sometimes hard to tell, without visiting or observing them close up, if this is literally true in exotic magical universes or if this is just a folk explanation.

The term “universe” is much more technical, but shares much of the same ideas as a “world”. The difference is scope and particulars. A “universe” can basically be described as a world that is physically closed, or in other words, there is no way to plot a path from it to another universe. A “plane” is similar accept that planes can “touch” in certain places and in certain conditions. When planes touch at a point, both planes share that point and things can pass between them. Alternate timelines can act this way, as well as planes that serve as an afterlife. Magically, universes are often travailed simply by a process of “connection” where if some aspect of a universe is shared with another, they are in theory connected, but this doesn't always works the way people might expect. Often only projection is possible this way, and limited projection at that. Planer travel works more directly, but if two universes shares a plane, it may be considered one universe by some schools of thought, but it is also thought that if universes to share planes moving though a plane to another universe doesn't count as directly moving from one to the other directly. A system of such indirect links can be known as a “multiverse”. Some schools of thought even discard the concept of planes and just use universes in it's place with a multiverse being like a universe. It usually simply depends on how easy it is to travel between different planes either people consider planes part of their universe or other universes all together.
All of these different types of worlds follow a hierarchy of sorts, from closer to farther, but this isn't a measure of distance so much as a measure of connection. Two planets for example can be quite different, but often follow the same physical and magical laws, unless something about the planet it's self alters those laws. Different planes however, don't often follow all same laws, but usually follow at least some of the same ones, or a general set of them that is slightly different in the details. Other universes don't have to follow the same laws at all, although they can, and there does seem to be a few that repeatedly crop up. For other multiverses, if such a term is applicable, all bets are off. But even then, there is usually one thing that connects everything. Well maybe two or three... it's hard to tell. But what I am talking about is “magic”.

About Reality, Science, Magic:

If there is one thing any true scholar of magic has to deal with eventually, it's the notions of what is real and what is not. Depending on how magic works or is thought to work in any given world, this may not seem like a problem. If all magic comes from a god, or from the planet, or such, people have at least one thing they can latch on to as real. But one might ask: Where does a gods power come from? Where did the planet's power come from? Then people might realize, that they don't really know for sure. This is probably the reason powerful magic users tend to go mad. At least on my world, it was a real possibility and even the sane ones could be... eccentric.

That is one reason why we are often taught, along with magic, philosophy and mental discipline. In order to resist the implications of a power that can change reality as if it were words on paper that can be erased or rewritten. The analogy is apt, because in some ways thats exactly what we are. Possibly in all ways. Of course that is not to say that nothing is ever real, just that it isn't that simple. There are many worlds where there is thought to be no magic. This isn't quite as it appears however. Magic can take many forms, even forms that appear at first glance to be pure science.

But first, I should explain exactly what “magic” and “science” are. Most people I think, have a general idea of what magic is. Magic is, basically, attempting to find the underlining force that controls reality to observe and manipulate it. Science is, in some ways, the complete opposite: Attempting to observe and manipulate things in order to find their underlining source. There is actually a fair bit of hostility between people who practice them despite the fact they are ultimately attempting almost the same thing. One wise may once said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The usefulness of one over the other is not really fixed. Sometimes, magic is more powerful, and sometimes science is. It all depends on how responsive this underlining source is to direct contact.

Sometimes, people can change reality just by thinking, and sometimes, they never can, except by using things already in their reality. The problem is, if you can change anything just by thinking, nothing really lasts or has substance. Things become unstable and fade or pop into existence only to vanish. Such is the world of human thoughts and dreams. On the other hand when you never can change anything, things become almost completely unable to be changed at all. No progress or real change is possible except by what already exists. In the worst case, time and matter don't really exist at all. There is just nothingness and no way anything can ever be. Luckily most worlds are between the two extremes. Things can change but not without effort.

In my personal experience with magic and other worlds, I came face to face with the possibility that I, and my world, were nothing more then a story written by a being from a “real world” beyond my grasp. It is a disturbing notion but an inevitable one for someone who bends reality and pushes the boundaries of knowledge. It was a possibility my magic training had long prepared me for though. Some people simply reject such a possibility. But such is just denial. I decided instead to look into it.

First, I have to acknowledge that, indeed, this “real world” in fact exists and indeed, I am part of something written about there. But does that mean that I don't have my own existence too? Killo, the one who's library I use for my research at least thinks a valid argument can be made that I exist at least as an idea, and there is no way to tell if that alone is not enough to exist. An interesting idea, but a little unsatisfactory. As an idea, I too may vanish as one who only exist in a mind or dream. However, Killo also thinks if we world to write down a record of my thoughts, this idea can become something a bit more real. This seems to be the way new worlds are born. The one called Muse seems to think so.

As Killo also points out, even in this “real world” there is a element of “magic” that seems intertwined with it. Besides the ideas which have trickled down into written word and other worlds, some seeming almost as real as this “real world”, such things such as the possible spotting of ghosts, strange spiritual beliefs, and even some elements of it's science such as quantum mechanics, point to a world that is at least somewhat unreal.

This “real world” may be simply the base of a world tree of ideas, branching upward and outward into worlds that while less real, still exist in their own way. However I wonder if Killo is making excuses for his own existence as much as mine. In any case, my thought must come from somewhere even if it is from someone's head (who, by the way, is also typing this document, so any topographical errors can be blamed on him). In any case, I have a headache from thinking about it, so I think I will drop this line of thought for now (though a figment getting a headache is interesting in it's self).

(If you got though all that, try clicking on the pictograph)