Reality Quake
rating: +1+x

Basic Information

A reality quake is when the entire reality of a world or even dimension becomes temporarily unstable. It will then subsequently shift into a new configuration, which might differ significantly from the previous reality. From the perspective of living beings in that reality, usually nothing happened - things "always were this way", and the reality quake even changed the past retroactively. However, there might be Out-Of-Place Artifacts which give hints or trigger memories of the previous reality. Some creatures might also be left behind, possibly triggering tales of mythological creatures or other legends if such creatures no longer commonly exist in the "new" reality. Individuals could also be left behind.

Reality quakes might be caused by time travel or other tampering with cosmic forces.

See Also


2. short story: "Sidewise in Time" by Murray L. Leinster — possibly the original Reality Quake story.

Game and Story Use

  • Since reality quakes wipe out memories and evidence, those who can cause them can play a high-stakes game with reality without normal people even noticing. Those who are or want to be in this game will need a way to remember what really happened when a quake takes place. The ideal setup is to have an HQ somewhere unaffected, like another dimension, a parallel world or a place "outside of time". If this is not possible, one can improvise by merely having archives at an unaffected place or using people who somehow remember the real history.
    • People who remember the real history after a reality quake takes place but otherwise aren't powerful may find themselves hunted by all kinds of power groups who want to abuse or maybe just silence them.
      • This can be a good way to make a character find out The Secret.
  • If you decide that time travel causes reality quakes, you may want to consider when the reality quake happens. It's not entirely straightforward.
  • If you are using a published campaign setting for your game, there might be a setting lawyer in your group who will complain about every little change from setting canon (the Forgotten Realms seem to be especially prone about this, possibly because that setting has so much canon material). In such a case, just nod and say: "You are right - you don't remember any of this. This is strange." and point out other minor changes from his memory, while everyone else doesn't see anything out of the ordinary. Eventually, he will learn the truth - he is one of the few remembering survivors of a reality quake which shifted the world from its "canon" description to what he experiences now. This should satisfy his complaints - and if he wants to change it back, you will have all sorts of adventure seeds. Especially since others likely wouldn't want the timeline they live in to revert…
  • Given the ambiguous evidence surrounding it, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event might have been the mother of all reality quakes.
  • Characters displaced by a Reality Quake might end up in the Super-Sargasso Sea
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License