Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Flux Hack: The Fringe

(This is a hack of John Wick's The Flux, available for download for only $5 and soon to be in print in the Big Book of Little Games, available from his website.  It's named the way it is because the best Fringe episodes are those dealing with the two universes battling each other.  "Are there are lot of Fringes in this movie?" - Stuart Wellington never said this.)

(You are just not going to understand this without reading The Flux.)

Many scientific theories posit that there are an infinite number of universes - as each particle's quantum states simultaneously fall one way and the other, branching the universe into an uncountable number.  Perhaps true, perhaps not.

It's not the whole story.

Indeed, if there were infinite universes, there would be nearly infinite numbers of identical universes - where two air molecules are slightly closer together or slightly further apart, where one electron halfway across the galaxy vibrated a tiny bit more energetically.  The identical universes aren't the problem.  They go on their merry way and don't bother each other.

It's consciousness that's the problem.  When consciousness enters the picture, things become twisted.  Consciousnesses from dissimilar universes may begin to echo each other.  Their patterns begin to connect even across the barriers of universes.  Items with strange properties leave one universe and enter another.  Sometimes catastrophic events cause two universes to connect, or to permit the unformed space between universes to pour in, enlarging what is possible.  A universe can die, like a person dies, suddenly and accidentally, or inhabited by a metastasizing cancer, or lingeringly, facing the future with more annoyance than oblivion.

Of course, the player characters exist in many universes, and their stories may parallel...and leak into each other.

The Fringe

Like the Flux, the Fringe is a campaign model, but instead of focusing exclusively on the characters as they pivot through many different orientations of the same universe, the Fringe describes universes that are colliding and interacting.

As in the Flux, GMs should provide everyone with three ring binders and document protectors for each character sheet.  Note that some three-ring binders have business card holders - these are ideal for the cards listing their various Fringe ratings.

However, there are significant differences from the Flux:

  • Each universe is completely real and exists at the same time as other universes.  There are multiple versions of each character simultaneously living their lives.
  • That doesn't mean the universe can't change - but when it changes, it's different from just focusing on another universe.


The characters take on Flux energy as their travails begin to parallel each other and their conflicts begin to interact with each other.  Universes are also affect by the interaction between worlds.

Instead of Memory, give all characters a "Flux" rating of 3.  This indicates that they're far more likely than the normal everyday inhabitant of their worlds to connect with the other versions of their other characters in some way.  Instead of recalling something that "they" used to be able to do when the universe was different, they are able to do something that "they" can currently do.

  • Flux works as Memory does for Modification purposes.
  • Recall also works the same way.  However, instead of assigning Whiplash to the character when they use Recall, assign a point of Disruption to the world.
  • Anytime you Recall something from another world, you increase the chances of Slippage between your world and that world.  When you roll your Recall, any pairs that you roll indicate one thing, creature or person has Slipped between worlds.  Add another point of Disruption to the world.


The universe doesn't hate or love Disruptive things. The laws of nature really don't give that much of a shit - just because consciousness is power doesn't mean the universe has any kind of consciousness.  You can hit a nail with a hammer without the nail becoming a hammer.  Disruption is the rating of how much the current universe is disrupted by workings of other universes.

All universes start with a Disruption rating of 2, because no matter when your campaign starts, there have already been 2 disruptions in it from other worlds.  Work out what that is when it comes up, or think about it now.

Anyone with a Flux rating of less than the current Disruption rating cannot access Memories of any kind.  (They still get to do Modification when you introduce a new world.)  If someone's Flux rating increases over the Disruption rating, they become aware of the existence of realities beyond their normal universe, though how they interpret this is variable.  

When a universe reaches Disruption 10, it begins to disintegrate.  This process cannot be reversed, though it may take anywhere from weeks to many years.  Causality breaks down, suns go out, space-time itself happily tears itself to nothingness.  A falling-apart universe is dangerous to other worlds, as refugees and "fallout" may hit other universes (the ones whose pages are next to each other in the binders).  If those universes are highly Disrupted too, then there may be a chain reaction that wipes out all known universes.  Don't worry, there's an infinite number of others, right, smarty pants scientist types??

A universe sometimes reduces its Disruption.  Here's how:
  • The rules of the universe shift dramatically.  Magic becomes possible in a world where it wasn't possible before, or it leaves a universe where it was.  A new species of being arrives - elves, selkies, vampires.  Something big - something from the world that provided the last Disruption.  This reduces the universe's Disruption by 2.  After all, it's perfectly okay for that character to have remembered what they remembered or did what they did if this universe is like that other universe where they did those things routinely.
  • The universe takes bold, singular action to erase the Disruption or Slippage.  See the Whiplash rules in The Flux for more on this.  A more "natural" method of erasure would risk further infection.  Basically a freak accident or hostility erupts.  This reduces Disruption by 1.  If forces inside the universe eliminate the Slippage then the universe gets the benefit too, whenever and however it happens.
  • Time passes.  If the universe gets through a whole month without suffering Disruption, and its current Disruption is over 2, it loses 1 point of Disruption.
  • A breach into an "interstice" happens.  See below.  This is worth 1-2 points of Disruption.
  • A character who has Remembered something from another world establishes something in their world that is similar to something that is in the world they Remembered.  For example, if a character remembers a swordfighting skill from a world where they were a dramatic swashbuckler, and they also remember they were crazed lovers with the palace poisoner, they can eliminate the Disruption caused by their memory by striking up a relationship with their universe's version of the poisoner.  The universe gains the benefit of this Disruption reduction even if things aren't exactly the same between the worlds.  Basically, the consciousness of the two versions of the character become more in sync and the universe becomes less Disrupted.
  • A universe may lose 1 Disruption by moving away from its disruptive neighbors.  Suddenly it may be much harder to "slip" between worlds.  Have people move a sheet in their binders 2 up or 2 down...


Interstices are not fully formed universes, but exist more on the realm of ideas - human desires form one interstice, Heaven and Hell are common interstices. These are not fully formed universes, but they also provide a method for universes to reduce Disruption.  By becoming more open to "miracles" from "Heaven", universes can "excuse" many weird occurrences.  However, it does make that universe more susceptible to big changes as the entities and ideas that exist in those interstices would very much like to have a universe of their own.  (Sometimes they do! See Heaven & Earth...) 

Universes like White Wolf's World of Darkness which have "spiritual realms" or fantasy realms with "astral planes" can be thought of as having already-established interstices.  If the universe opens itself up to an interstice it hasn't opened up to before, it loses 2 Disruption.  If it goes from being partly connected to wholly intertwined with an Interstice, it loses a further 1 Disruption. 

Also, if the same Interstice is fully intertwined with two different universes, Flux Recall no longer causes Disruption - the characters are dipping into the same collective unconsciousness or calling on the same celestial beings to achieve what they're after.  (Slippage still causes Disruption as normally.)

This may give some more strategy to using Flux Recall in different ways and putting a little more impact on the worlds and settings that hopefully people will be attached to as much as their characters!