Narrative Spheres

The Encyclopedia Superium

Narrative Spheres

It is a commonly accepted fact that those with superpowers are more entangled by narrative law than the average person. Narrative theory has traditionally believed that this is a side-effect of possessing strange abilities, but more recent studies have begun to suggest that it is quite the opposite – that people who are tied in to narrative causality develop super-powers from the exposure.

Another traditional mistake of narrative studies is to assume that all narratives are the same. It was not until recently that studies were able to resolve several contradictions in narrative theory through the study of the narrative engine constructed by Rex Mundi during his attack on the universe’s narrative laws. In fact, there are four dominant spheres of narrative, whose interactions encompass the whole of the narrative laws that affect the universe.

The Personal Sphere: Manifestations of Will

The Personal Sphere is the narrative of personal triumph. The narrative of the personal sphere values determination above skill, passion above practice, and perseverance above tactics. Those whose power derives from this sphere find that their ability to triumph over obstacles is tied to how much it matters to them to do so. Heroes usually find that their faith in their friends and their causes lends them strength, while villains are driven by their ambition and arrogance to ever-greater success. The personal sphere has no morality, only drive.

The Personal Sphere is the domain of the psychic and of many physically-enhanced powers. Those whose powers stem from this sphere usually advance their powers through focus, not training, and do not branch out into new powers. Instead, their existing powers simply grow more powerful over time, occasionally developing new minor manifestations.

The Personal Sphere is the lowest narrative sphere. When it clashes with other narrative spheres, it submits and infects them, adapting its narrative to theirs in order to inject elements of personal will into broader ideas. Personal narratives never dominate, but they can never be completely suppressed.

The Cultural Sphere: Manifestations of Theme

The Cultural Sphere is the narrative of obligation and reciprocity. The narrative of the cultural sphere values honor above survival, tradition above anarchy, and inheritance as a form of merit. Those whose power derives from this sphere are able to exploit patterns, fulfill technical obligations while leaving themselves ultimately free, and act according to narrative themes instead of logical progressions. The morality of the cultural sphere is that of societal survival, not of good or evil, and all morality is ultimately relative within the narrative – what is good from one angle becomes evil from another, depending on the moment that the story takes place.

The Cultural Sphere is the domain of magic. Its powers never truly vanish – magical heroes take up the same powers again and again, changing their uses and their purposes but never their natures. Powers often pass through bloodlines, and the narratives of royalty derive from this sphere. The powers of this sphere adapt themselves through theme, and are reflected by a broadening of power through vastly different powers within a single concept (Control, Fire, or Cats, for example).

The Cultural Sphere is the central narrative sphere. When it conflicts with other narrative spheres, it does so through evasion – refusing to integrate narrative elements, and giving way unpredictably before reasserting itself wherever the opposing narrative is weakest. Cultural narratives can be overwhelmed, but not avoided.

The Cosmic Sphere: Manifestations of Domain

The Cosmic Sphere is the sphere of universal truth. The narrative of the cosmic sphere emphasizes right and wrong, forgiveness and justice, and the greater purpose of the universe. Those whose power derives from the cosmic sphere forge empires and alliances by finding such unity, or sow anarchy and terror by acting against it. The cosmic sphere is morally judgmental, holding that all things are good or evil, and there shall be no congress between them. And ultimately, the cosmic sphere supports ‘good’.

The cosmic sphere is the domain of innate superpowers. It may pass through the blood, but each power will adapt itself to a person’s identity, bringing them into the fold. Individual powers develop themselves through domains – control over a particular element of reality, such as flame, shape, or time. As power increases, control over that element grows in power and versatility, but control never branches into other elements.

The cosmic sphere is the uppermost narrative sphere. When it conflicts with other narrative spheres, it does so through confrontation – laying down its laws on top of whatever happens to get in the way and refusing to surrender an inch. Cosmic narratives can be outmaneuvered, but not overpowered.

The Metatextual Sphere: Manifestations of Connection

The Metatextual Sphere is the sphere of connection and hidden meaning. The narrative of the metatextual sphere is the story of unity, understanding, and the ways in which all things reflect one another. Those whose power derives from the metatextual sphere connect their power through others, showing abilities that almost seem natural if not for slight differences, and find themselves faced with reflections and mirrors of their own beliefs and actions. The morality of the metatextual sphere is of self-discovery and self-improvement, growing in power by understanding one’s place in reality and one’s true nature. Those who understand themselves prosper, while those who lie to themselves fail.

The metatextual sphere is the domain of narrative powers, which change the way that the story interacts with the character by reaching out to connect her to the world in new ways. It is also the power of the pseudoscientist, who shifts natural laws to embody the world order that he believes is possible. Those whose powers derive from the metatextual sphere never truly grow in power. They merely grow in understanding of the power they have always had.

The metatextual sphere surrounds and inhabits the other spheres. It does not ever conflict with other narratives, but instead adds to them and grants them increased depth, drawing them together into a smooth and flowing whole.

Manifestation Comparisons

To quickly demonstrate the differences between the manifestations of powers, we will review four theoretical heroes, each of which has power over Fire, but drawing from each of the four narrative spheres.

The first hero draws his power from the personal sphere. Early in his career, he can generate flame. As he grows in power and experience, the amount of flame that he can draw upon increases steadily, allowing him to generate an ever-larger firestorm to bedevil his foe. He never develops any truly new flame-based powers, but his raw might also never stops growing.

The second hero draws her power from the cultural sphere. Early in her career, she can generate flame. Later, she imbues her body with fire, causing her touch to burn flesh, then learns to move with the quickness of flame, leaping from one place to the next, or to transform her body into flame and become a living elemental. The amount of flame that she can generate changes little, if at all, but her command of its themes becomes total.

The third hero draws his power from the cosmic sphere. Early in his career, he can generate flame. Over time, he learns to put fires out, to shape them according to his will, and to throw bolts of flame or cause fires to sprout at a distance, or even to only burn what he wills. He will never do anything but affect true fire, and the power of his flames will not grow significantly, but what he can do with that fire will expand outwards.

The final hero draws her power from the metatextual sphere. Early in her career, she finds that flames are always onhand when she needs them, and that when she passes through flame it never seems to hurt her. This will not change, but over time she will learn how best to take advantage of these abilities, bringing her power further under control to become increasingly precise in how flames manifest around her and when they do not.

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