Saturday, January 30, 2010
Spirits and shadows have a good deal in common. Both can be found throughout the depths, and will generally be stronger and stronger the deeper you go. Key to their natures is the close bond both types of entities possess with the section of the depths in which they dwell; a connection that strengthens both sides, while allowing them to heavily influence one another. So what's the difference?
Shadows imitate human behavior; they're like echoes, or a reflection in the mirror. But Spirits are bona fide sentient beings- intelligent, with a decent amount of free will. And the reason for this is that all of them- from the pitch-black silhouette of a lost child to a wiseass talking crow to the twisted nightmare demon- used to be human.
When someone loses their connection to their surface body, they're effectively cast adrift through the depths. This can lead to them gravitating towards/"snagging onto" a given location and depth, becoming bound to that place. All fairly straightforward- the variety comes into play when you consider all the various ways that this severed connection can actually happen. A diver who pushed their range much too far or whose surface body is killed while they're submersed, a depth that acts like a trap for the hapless individuals who're drawn into it (usually with the assistance of other Spirits the depth has already generated), or even cases where a malevolent Diver deliberately subdues someone and then severs their connection (perhaps as a way of holding them hostage).
In terms of powers, Spirits and Divers are nearly identical- which makes sense, since the latter can easily become the former if they're not careful. There's two key differences. The first is that a Spirit is tethered to their location in the Depths, rather than having a the more flexible/elastic link to one's surface body. The second involves an important diver skill- that of that of 'channeling' the nature of your current environment on a temporary basis- with the corresponding risk that you'll get caught up in your assumed role. Similar tradeoff to going into a berserker rage in a fantasy rpg, but with a huge variety of situational benefits/drawbacks. Spirits channel the power of their location in the same way- but they can't turn it off. The resulting mutual influence is a battle of wills no one can hope who completely win; the best you can do is adapt, carving out a 'niche' for yourself that lets you fit into the Depth you're at without having to change too much.
Sometimes a Spirit didn't even have any prior diving experience. People who have near-death experiences seem to start to Dive during the process, and tend to be alot more likely to develop full-fledged Diver abilities later on (all it takes is one brush). There's a couple different theories explaining this and several other phenomena. One of the more commonly accepted ones among Divers is that when you die, your soul sinks through the depths like a rock- all the way down to whatever awaits at the bottom. Going off this theory, these people caught a snag on the way down- that and/or were the type to try and grab onto something as they passed.
Regardless of the precise metaphysical sequence of events, there's no question that these Spirits rarely retain their selves for very long. Since these people have no experience with the Depths, they usually have a pretty unstable reactions to their new circumstances, and can lose their humanity pretty quickly. Altruistic divers will generally try to help such spirits on their way- ideally a cooperative effort, but if they're too far gone the Diver will probably fall back on force to send the spirit on its way. It's what their old self would have wanted.
Of course, a responsible diver will have done their homework first. Just because a spirit's lost their connection to a body doesn't mean it's actually dead. The vast majority of coma patients are cases of this; if a diver can identify a spirit and track down their physical body, they can slowly push the spirit back down into it (over the course of several days), restoring them to their old selves. Of course, not all spirits will go along with this willingly. . .