Netherworld Portals within Pop-Up Junctures?

We've been running some Pop-Up Junctures in my game, and I've got some questions. Most of these are probably of the "Just don't think too much about it" variety!

Suppose you go from the Modern Juncture to a portal into 1982. You're in 1982, and maybe you meet the "chrono-local" Dragons. They probably know of a Netherworld portal.

If you're in 1982, and you go into the Netherworld portal, are you in the Netherworld, as it was 40 years ago? What if you then go from the Netherworld into the Past Juncture? Is it 1810? Or still 1850?

Some of the Pop-Up Juncture descriptions refer to the "chrono-local Dragons", and I have a player whose melodramatic hook is that he was in the Netherworld while his parents ceased to exist after someone wiped out their ancestors. When he finally returned to the modern juncture, he learned his parents no longer existed anymore.

The heroes have gone to 1982 now through a Pop-Up Juncture, and I'm just trying to game out what would happen if they met the local Dragons and went into an actual Netherworld portal.

Anyone have any ideas? Thanks!

Overthinking this is often good sport. This is how I understand it.

All portals open onto the same Netherworld and only the Netherworld, it's the universal joint which connects junctures. So in your example your portal in the contemporary juncture took you to the Netherworld from which you found a portal to 1982. There the local Dragons showed you to another portal which took you back into the Netherworld. The same Netherworld you just left. Then you took a portal to 1810 which is still 1810 because that's the juncture which is open from the Netherworld.

I'm sure the rule book states that time passes at the same rate in all junctures and the Netherworld in parallel but I can't find it at the moment. What it comes down to is that you have a set of time-streams in parallel and the Netherworld bridges between them.

1 Like

Interesting--I was definitely thinking of the way it describes there being one single timeline that progresses forward, so if you're in the Modern Juncture on Oct 1, and you go to the Past Juncture for 5 days, you come back and it's Oct 6 in the Modern Juncture.

But, wouldn't it mean that the local Dragons in 1982 would go into their portal from what is, to them, the Modern Juncture, to the Netherworld, and be unable to return to their own time? If there's a portal in a cave on Maui from 1982 Hawaii, into the Netherworld, and you enter it, and then exit it immediately, would you come out in 1982 or in 2021? (or whatever the "present day" is)

On page 263, it says

Sometimes a J-meter gives a reading of only a few hours on a newly manifested portal. No one goes through these. (Someone might have been pushed, once.)

If a portal opened up to 1982 for an hour, and you went through the portal, then it closed, wouldn't you simply be able to find an existing portal into the Netherworld from 1982, and then return to the modern day through the Netherworld?

I've found the easiest way to grok this is to realize that the linear timeline or "true" history is strictly that of the Netherworld / the Secret War.

This is somewhat obfuscated by the game line's desire to maintain continuity (instead of changing the primary junctures).

Laying aside pop-up junctures for the moment, consider a Netherworld Era in which there are portals to 1492/1888/1976.

Now there's a critical shift in 1888 and 1976 gets overwritten with 1976-B. This can be confusing if you think of it from the perspective of the outside world. But if you think of it from the perspective of the Netherworld it isn't: Yesterday 1976 was happening, today 1976-B is happening.

Now there's a shift and portals are instead connecting to 152/1492/2021. What happened to 1976-B? If you were in 1976-B, where would the portals go?

The answer is: Nowhere. There are no portals in 1976-B. The Netherworld isn't there.

In the Netherworld we went from October 6th, 1492/1888/1976-B, to October 7th, 152/1492/2021. There is no Netherworld connection to October 7th, 1976-B. That's the true timeline by which all history proceeds.

Pop-up junctures work the same way, but just on much shorter time scales: There's seven days in which the portals exist in Paris in 1942... and then, if you're still in Paris, they don't any more.

The trippy part is to think of all those epochs where these big organizations of the Secret War continue to exist, despite the fact that their connection to the Netherworld no longer exists.

The metaphysical corollary here is that critical shifts can only be precipitated in those temporal moments currently connected to the Netherworld. (Which then raises a chicken-and-egg question about whether the Netherworld connections allow for these shifts; or if the Netherworld connects to those temporal moments in which shifts are eminent.)

1 Like

Where things can get conceptually crazy is if you imagine a pop-up juncture opening up at a time when junctures were "previously" open. For example, say a 1999 pop-up juncture (when we know there was an era from 1996-2014 where the Netherworld had portals).

The books largely steer clear of this by just not having it happen. Gotta run, but I'll try to come back and post some more thoughts on this.

2 Likes

I went through a period where I thought, there are just no portals to the Netherworld in 1973 after the Pop-Up Juncture closes. Is that right? How are there "chrono-local Dragons" if there's no Netherworld?

Correct.

You can have chrono-local Dragons the same way you can have chrono-local Ascended or chrono-local Microsoft executives: They're just people living in a time period that doesn't have Netherworld portals.

1 Like

Very cool, I think I have a clear model in my head now!

Check this out:

In one version of reality, there were Junctures pointing to 1984, to the early 1800s, and the 1500s.

In 1984, a team of undercover federal agents, including Brad and Denise Johnson, parents of 10-year-old Blake Johnson, investigated Leslie Lau, a shady businessman who was making millions scrubbing pollution and toxic waste by sending it into the Netherworld, and from there into other junctures.

The agents didn't know about the Netherworld. They didn't know the chrono-local Dragons, who were also investigating Leslie Lau and his patron, Huan Ken, King of the Thunder Pagoda.

Brad and Denise Johnson helped the 1984 Dragons defeat Leslie Lau, blow up his mansion, and kill him.

Huan Ken was pissed that his drinking buddy was killed, so he decided to erase the Dragons and the Johnsons from history. He and his Thunder Knights ambushed the 1984 Dragons and killed them.

Thunder Knights attacked Brad and Denise Johnson and 10-year-old Blake Johnson. In the chaos, Blake Johnson's mother pushed him into a portal for protection, without realizing she was sending him into the Netherworld.

Blake got lost in the Netherworld and emerged in the 1500s, where he was trained as a Ninja by Hattori Hanzo. After 15 years, he found a portal to 2021 and emerged in the Contemporary Juncture to find that his parents no longer existed. They'd been wiped from existence!

What happened was that Huan Ken went back in time and killed ancestors of Brad and Denise Johnson and destroying some feng shui sites, which ended up causing a Critical Shift removing the 1984 portal to the Netherworld.

Huan Ken had caused Brad and Denise Johnson to never be born, as well as shifting the main junctures around.

Now, in our current game, the Dragons (including Ninja Blake Johnson), have traveled to 1982 through a Pop-Up Juncture. Blake is trying to find out what happened to his parents.

Brad and Denise Johnson don't exist, but Blake meets Dan and Belinda Wilson, who are the souls of his parents laterally reincarnated. They're still federal agents investigating Leslie Lau, but Leslie Lau no longer has access to the Netherworld. He knows something has changed and he's pissed about it.

Leslie has captured Dan and Belinda Wilson and it's up to the Dragons to rescue Blake's "parents", defeat Leslie Lau, and decide how to deal with the fact that Huan Ken caused all of this chaos in the first place.

Huan Ken has been this group of Dragons' patron for a bit, alternating between celebrating their successes and warning them that he can wipe them out at any moment if they cross him.