Sunday, January 17, 2010


WARNING: The following concept came about during a sleep-deprived brainstorm, and has proven tricky for me to express in a coherent fashion. It's a metaphysical idea that leads to an original premise, resembling a fusion of Silent Hill, Bleach and The Matrix. At the moment I'm actually looking for suggestions as much as I'm after questions; when I don't give more details on something, it's often because I haven't worked out just what those details are.

To start off, you've got the modern-day world as we know it. Nothing supernatural here- no vampires in the shadows that we've somehow overlooked as a society. The trick is that this world we know is like the surface of an ocean, and there are people out there who can "dive" beneath. They don't physically move- instead, they concentrate, and the world around them starts to change.

The location they're in transforms into what you could describe as a more "stylized" version of itself, revealing its inner character. An apartment where someone was violently murdered years ago would start to feel dangerous and sinister, with fresh bloodstains appearing on the walls (assuming you can dive that far). These Depths are basically given form by the experiences people have on the surface. Demolish an office building and its spiritual equivalent will fade away over time. Replace it with a playground and it'll get overwritten much more quickly, because the excited children are having experiences which are much more intense than those of the bored office workers. The influence goes both ways; much of what we attribute to social psychology or describe as the "mood" of a place is actually the Depths subtly influencing us. Visit a devout church and there might be a sense of peace and community, go into a bad neighborhood and you'll feel more inclined to hold a grudge. The result is a feedback loop that slowly builds up over time, one that's can be vaguely sensed by many Feng Shui experts and psychic mediums.

Divers, on the other hand, can be the abrupt wrench in the works. Because when they dive it's not just the world around them that transforms to reveal its inner nature-divers change as well, developing supernatural abilities in the process. Use your powers to destroy the parallel version of a building, and it'll reform in a week or two- but the real-world building's structural integrity will decrease in the process. By meddling with a location's parallel equivalent divers can "exorcise" the evil aura of a haunted house, or "defile" a church to diminish the sense of devotion felt by the people who worship there.

An initial 'stylization' of predatory facial features could foreshadow a transformation into a bestial monster. Other potential powers include telekinesis, or an aura of light that restores everything around you, or the ability to summon the archetypical 'memory' of an object or person and use it to assist you. The deeper a diver goes, the stronger their abilities become- but only while they're at that level of depth. Divers improve in steps, first learning to dive further and then spending time at that level of depth, developing their abilities beyond the previous limit.

When someone dives in the presence of others, the pressure that pushes them downwards is applied to everyone present instead, keeping them all on the same level. To use metagame numbers: Say you have a diver who can dive down four 'levels' (in this context, an arbitrary unit of depth). If he fights a diver who can go down to level 6, and both are trying go as "deep" as they can, their tug-of-war leads to them fighting on level 5; but the first diver will stop transforming after he passes level 4, and thus be at a disadvantage. Here's a similar example: A level 6 Diver has to face a SWAT team. He pulls them all down as far as he can, but they're all instinctively tugging the level back towards 0, so the lowest he can get things is 2. This limits his superpowers to the degree of raw power possible at level 2, but if he takes out some of the team fast he'll be able to pull the rest deeper and become strong enough to finish them off. On the other hand, one of the SWAT team members could manage to unlock some of *their* inner power mid-fight, instinctively using telekinesis or moving at super-speed for the first time.

Phew! Okay, I think that's enough for one post. Thoughts? The above piece of art was done by Alexiuss.


Anonymous said...

It’s look like the gloom.

Dagda said...

That illustration just shows one possible kind of Depth an area might have- in this case, an urban street becomes cold, gloomy, and decaying to match the experiences of the homeless who've spent their time in the area.

The Night Watch series is another example with alot of similar elements- frankly, almost any piece of supernatural modern-day fiction is going to have some kind of parallel, just because a hallmark of the genre is exploring some semi-mystical version of the world we know.

vazor said...

Hmm, interesting concept. The best thing about it is how you've already made it so concrete and able to be visualized from the persepective of a finished product.
Many famous people in history could be explained as "divers".
Does the impression of a place come from its future as well? As in what people think/know is going to happen there? So in a sense you could tell what people are going to be doing there, and it explains premonitions somewhat.
What about artifacts or symbols? Perhaps some mystical objects that are the same no matter what "depth" you go to, and provide hints or clues or access to powers...
What does going REALLY REALLY deep mean? Going back in time? Or just disconnecting completely from the real world? Is there a limit?
Is there an opposite to "diving"?
Good post, hope this helps. :)

Dagda said...

It's funny- I do indeed have an end concept to divers, one that led me to the metaphysical idea of the Depths in the first place:

A way to have high-powered supernatural fight scenes in the urban modern-day world, without society being aware of this supernatural element (Because then it wouldn't be our world) or somehow being blissfully ignorant of the property damage these fight sequences tend to incur.

That vision's still in effect, for the record. But it's just a criteria, rather than the central pursuit. Anyway, enough of this tangent. Focusing on your other thoughts/questions:

On going REALLY, REALLY, DEEP: There's no one who knows for sure, but theoretically things would keep getting more and more archetypical/symbolic, until the point where you resemble a god in some ancient myth. In practice, you'll dive down to a really deep level, start trying to unlock your powers further and then abruptly be eaten by some giant entity whose attention was attracted by your rash actions.

On famous people being divers: A diver's abilities lend themselves more to subtle influence than any spectacular real-world feats. A Diver who rises to prominence on the Surface probably benefits most from the insights the Depths can provide regarding the nature of humankind. (Now, if you want to start casting fictional characters as being divers, that's much easier.)

On future premonitions: Nope, don't intend to do that. Though since the Depths influence the Surface as well, witnessing an area's depths definitely helps the accuracy of an 'educated guess' prediction involving the region.

On immutable artifacts and symbols: The deeper something from the "surface" goes without changing, the closer it must be to the fundamental nature of the human existence. I do think one diver ability would involve personal 'talismans', but that's more about channeling the manifestations of your inner nature through a relevant object.

On an opposite to diving: As the analogy indicates, there's nowhere higher to go once you're at the surface. Though those who favor logical decision-making and the physical sciences are about the least likely to have an intuitive talent for diving.