Tuesday, March 10, 2020

MTG Monday: Let's talk planeswalking

Because "Monday" and "Magic" both start with M, it seems like a good day for me to try consistently posting thoughts related to one of my favorite games (maybe my absolute favorite), Magic: The Gathering.  I have a lot of thoughts on it that usually just sit around in my head, so why not write them down here?  And, I mean, they both start with MIt's just too perfect.

So, around...wow, 13 years ago?  Man, I'm old...okay, so around 13 years ago, the makers of Magic took the storyline on a sharp turn and began to focus more on the setting's planeswalkers, the powerful individuals who are capable of traveling among the various fantasy realms in which the game takes place.  There were already some pretty cool pieces to the lore (I have fond memories of the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria), but most of the stories at the time focused on characters other than planeswalkers.  With the shift, planeswalkers were powered down to become more relatable, and they became the stars of the show.

Karn way back in the day.  He would go on to become a planeswalker.  A really powerful one.

This makes a lot of sense, since the premise of the game is that you take on the role of a powerful planeswalker battling another using your customized spellbooks.  It's also made me think a lot more about what it means to planeswalk.

The various planes of Magic are a lot like the D&D multiverse.  They all share a certain classic fantasy vibe, but they all also have their thing.  Innistrad is classic horror, Zendikar is adventureland, Eldraine is fairy tales + Camelot, and so on.  It's a nice way to keep things fresh from set to set and year to year, and the planeswalking protagonists and villains tie it all together.

Seriously, I've always thought Karn was a cool character.  I mean, a pacifistic planeswalking golem...

One thing that I've always grappled with, though, is why all of the worlds these planeswalkers happen to end up on have so many similarities.  Don't get me wrong...there's a lot of variation from, say, Kaladesh to Amonkhet to Ixalan to Ravnica.  But they're still worlds that feel like they belong in Magic sets.  There are wizards.  Usually humans.  Often goblins.  Why don't they ever planeswalk to the bridge of the Enterprise?  Or the middle of a battle between Mew and Mewtwo?  Or a superhero-filled Earth?  It seems like there must be something that ties these worlds together in a very specific way, and what makes the most sense to me (at the moment, anyway) is the magical mana upon which the game is based...specifically the five colors that represent five different philosphies and sets of values.
I didn't make this graphic.  I wish I did.

But how might this work?  So lately, I've been enjoying having my mind blown by watching and listening to a variety of shows and videos that try to break down concepts of modern physics for idiots like me.  Something that's really caught my attention lately is the idea of eternal inflation.  I won't pretend to really understand it, but the basic premise seems to be a Big Bang that just keeps on expanding, with universes constantly being formed in bubbles along the way, like holes in a growing block of Swiss cheese...or, maybe, like the planes of Magic.

I think most of us have also seen graphics that illustrate the connection of one point in spacetime to another by turning that 4-dimenstional concept into a flat...er, plane...and bending it.  Something like this:

The page I stole this from said this image is public domain, but I have my doubts.

Of course, to get that kind of warping, you need something REALLY massive or REALLY fast.  Or both.  If I understand it correctly.  And then if you consider that you might be reaching across spacetime not just within your own universe, but to an entirely different bubble in the multiverse...well, maybe you have to have something bending reality together from both sides.  Maybe even something that doesn't necessarily have mass or velocity, but which holds enough energy to act like oodles of both.  Like...mana!  Thus, if you're planeswalking using magic powered by mana, you'll only end up in another part of the multiverse that is similarly flush with this reality-warping substance.

That's how I see it right now, anyway.  I'll hopefully have more armchair geek-physics on the way soon...

Oh man...it just became Tuesday.  I'm still hitting "publish"...

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