Strand Theory
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The workings of the multiverse are a subject of infinite mystery, and have baffled great men for centuries. It feels, therefore, somehow fitting that it should be a very nasty piece of work who finally came up with the theory which seems, within Combat Dome at least, to be correct.

History

Professor Hojo (full name unknown) of the Shin-Ra Science Department, Midgar, Gaia, the FFVII Universe, worked in secret on his Strand Theory for many years before passing the gauntlet (perhaps unintentionally) to his renegade underling Loki and ex-colleague Bugenhagen upon death. Following Loki’s subsequent demise, Bugenhagen and the Sourceworlder appear to be the only beings in all of Creation who know the truth. Prior to Hojo’s experimentation, Project Multiverse was mainly run by one Professor Gast, who’s theories were unable to account for the reality.

The Theory

The theory states, primarily, that there is only one original universe in all of the multiverse, known as the Sourceworld. Where this universe came from is unknown – it may have been brought into being by some Divine Creator, or perhaps by another Sourceworld in another multiverse, or – given the way things tend to work in this multiverse – it may have been an accident.

“All alternate choices create parallel universes, as do all dreams and illusions. It’s Quantum Mechanics 101” – Kryten, Red Dwarf.
A quote from a character with no current real links to Combat Dome, but helpful as an illustration. All other universes were brought into existence by the imagination of those in the Sourceworld – every idea or fragment of fiction thought up in the Sourceworld turns up in reality elsewhere. The stronger the idea, the more prominent, it would seem, the universe – while FFVII, with a game, several spin-offs, a film and a heap of fanfic behind it, has a universe which keeps bouncing back from everything, the Game World, with only a single RPG, appears to have vanished for good.
However, parallel universes created by alternative choices only seem to exist in the event that they appear in a work of fiction – such as the universe of It Runs in the Family. A prominent theory is that these universes all exist in potentia, as ‘Shadow Universes’ which cannot change or interact with the established canon universes, until they are converted by a surge of energy from the Sourceworld – i.e. someone working them into a piece of fiction. This, however, is something we will all learn more of in the future…

The Strands

“All books in the present reference those in the past and inspire those in the future – therefore they are all linked” – the L-Space Theorem, Discworld
Strand Theory is named after the metaphorical ‘strands’ that link universes together. So far, there are only three types of strands which have been identified, which each link universes in a different way, and each of which was assigned a colour by Hojo.

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Red Strands
These appear to be the physical manifestations of minor links between fictions – everything from a similarity between too unrelated characters to a direct parody of a particular scene. In general, the red strands are not very strong, but some can be even stronger than green strands if, for example, an actual individual from one universe has been deliberately stolen and put in another (the Gods of Asgard and the Summons of Final Fantasy spring to mind).
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Green Strands
These appear to signify links which are more evident, such as when two universes are very similar in design and the way they work. All Final Fantasy universes, for example, are connected to each other via multiple green strands. These tend to be stronger than red strands, and are the ones through which Hojo tended to travel.
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Blue Strands
These form links between canonically-connected worlds, which are manifested by the will of the author rather than as the result of similarities between universes. These tend to be fairly strong and constant, usually allowing people to travel down them without protection.
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Gold Strands
These are the strongest of all strands, and link all fictional universes to the Sourceworld. Most universes have only a single one of these, but a few seem to have two – including the FFVII Universe. Why this is and what this signifies is unknown – although Hojo does mention that all the double-gold-stranded universes are based on particularly prominent works of fiction (and indeed, while largely obscure in most countries, FFVII is the most prominent of Final Fantasy’s works).
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Strand Travel

Intentional
Matter and energy cannot be completely created or destroyed in most universes, but it would appear that in all they can be transferred in and out of the universe by travelling along strands. How much matter and/or energy can travel along a particular strand depends on its strength – Hojo notes that most are only strong enough to support the transport of ‘a single atom every hundred years’, while others can have whole people plus accessories travel down them. It appears to be possible to choose, within reason, where and when within the universe one wishes to travel to - say, narrow it down to a specific planet and century – but even then the transportations are often imperfect.
Method of travel appears to vary – Hojo managed to send an atom, a block of wood, a dog, a fellow scientist and eventually himself through the gold strand linking his universe with the Sourceworld – although only himself came back, and he required extensive protection to arrive alive – using a vast lab full of machinery and ethically-questionable science (“is there any other kind?” said a representative of the project). The Sourceworlder, however, can travel between universes, with varying accuracy, almost at will, using only some unidentified equipment which can fit in a rucksack, part of which is possibly made from gold.
So far, only one individual has been conclusively shown to travel between universes sans equipment – the Grim Reaper of the Game World, who merely fades from existence in one universe and reappears in another. With this kind of travel, however, it seems that something from the universe into which he travels is dragged through to compensate. This can be anything from a volume of air to a large wooden chest. It is perhaps worthy of note that so far, this kind of travel has only been seen between the Game World and a universe that could, possibly, have been the Sourceworld – perhaps indicating that it uses the imagination, reversing the links by which universes are created.
Other beings who may be capable of equipmentless strand travel are Bob, seen at the end of the First Game, and the Gamemasters themselves.
Dungeon Dimensions and Dragons shows several members of verious unidentified universes apparently able to project a 'shadow' of themselves into the DD&D universe.
It has been noted that it is possible to block strand travel to a particular area of the multiverse if one is significantly powerful enough - the SS&S universe was blocked off until the shields around it were forced to breaking point.

Unintentional
It has become apparent from the experiences of one Springheel Jack of London, Earth (which one remains unknown), that it is possible for a being to be pulled through from a parallel universe unintentionally, or even against their will. Springheel was first dragged through to the Game World along with at least one other, female, Londoner (who may or may not have been a prostitute he was chasing), and later he and Nibbles the goat are dragged through to London again (although we cannot be sure that it was the same London…), shortly before all life on the Game World is annihilated. Both times, he and his companion were deposited, slightly confused, by a strange portal in the air. A similar portal is seen when Bob comes through to join in the fun (very late), implying that this universe may ‘open’ its own strands at set times and places, allowing those who know to use them as doors into the world. How Bob knew when and where the portal would be is a complete mystery, however.

The Void

Between the universes and the strands, there is a sizeless void of nothing at all. At least once, Hojo's team managed to blow a tiny hole into the Void from their universe. It had no noticeable effect on the universe in question. Light entering the Void 'blooms' like a laser through fog, and magic entering it disappears with an 'inaudible pop'.

Anomalous Universes

There are several more unusual types of universe which must be considered in the light of Strand Theory:

Parasite Universes
These presumably exist since they are well-known to several NPCs in DD&D. A Parasite Universe is one which cannot survive on its own, either because it doesn’t have a past, it doesn’t have a present, it doesn’t have a future, or it doesn’t have any of these. To survive, it somehow latches onto other universes and uses them. The popular theory here is that they can generate their own strands, allowing them to tether themselves to any appropriate socket which the strand can be plugged into. Once there, they can feed of the energy of the host universe through these strands. It is theorised that some of these, rather than being dangerous, may actually function similarly to service stations.

Shadowverses
As chronicled above, Shadowverses are ones which exist in potentia. As yet we have no evidence of how these fit into strand theory – that is something that will come in time…

Dungeon Dimensions
After which DD&D is named. These universes don’t seem to be actual universes at all, rather the sort of antithesis of universes – the alkali to universes’ acid. They are attracted by the light and warmth of real universes and endeavour to get close enough to warm themselves against them. It has been noted that if they actually broke through to a real universe, the effect would be akin to a tidal wave ‘warming itself’ against a candle. As with Shadowverses, this is something we will learn more of later…

Unanswered Questions

“There’s ALWAYS bloody quantum,” – Lu Tze, Discworld
The very nature of quantum mechanics, quantum physics, quantum chemistry and just plain quantum mean that any theories about the multiverse and how it works throws up an awful lot of mind-boggling puzzles. Here are just some of these, which we are working on answering:

1. How does Combat Dome fit into all this? (see the Geography of Combat Dome)
2. Is there only one Sourceworld? Could there be other multiverses out there created by different Sourceworlds – in which case we would have an omniverse?
3. Is it ever possible for a universe to exist without a connection to the Sourceworld?
4. If they can create their own strands, does that make Parasite Universes similar to the Sourceworld? Were they once Sourceworlds themselves? Was the Sourceworld once a Parasite Universe?
5. Can a universe be completely destroyed?
6. If so, what happens when the Sourceworld is destroyed? (This one in particular will be revealed in time…)
7. How come several fictional universes contain their own version of trans-universal travel as part of their canon?
8. What happens when even the established canon contradicts itself?

Mapping

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Due to various minor factors, such as the irrelevance of time and space in the depths of the void, it is technically impossible to produce a conventional "Map" of the strand networks. As with most impossible things, this has not stopped the human race from trying. Various different methods have been tried in mapping the multiverse;
Hojo tried to diagrammatically represent the strand networks as a spider diagram, with the central bubble as the Sourceworld and the extraneous arms being the gold strands, with the others forming links between them. As will be apparent from a moments consideration, this method is impractical as the diagram has to be enormous before any apparent pattern can be spotted. Even represented on a computer monitor, this system is heavily flawed. The next system he used was, ironically, the one used by Professor Gast, who's previous work had never been able to completely explain any of the phenomena he hypothesized. Perhaps it was this which made Hojo hesitate in considering this superior model. Gast's Model, as it is now known, centers on select particular "Groups" of Universes and drawing the links between them. The Sourceworld always forms the center, conventionally as a gold circle, and it is surrounded, usually in two parallel lines, with the members of the "World Group". These are often represented as white discs of varying size, demonstrating the energy attributed to a universe. Gast quickly realized that having many lines crossing the diagram, one from each world to each other world and then some, would cause confusion. He therefore created the concept of a "Node" which, he stressed, has no physical reality They are purely a graphical tool and cannot exist in his, or indeed Hojo's, conceptual multiverse. These nodes perform a very particular function on a chart: Where a number of worlds greater than two are linked in All Directions, by the same color of strand, a node can be added. Each world need only be linked to the node once and, as long as all are correctly linked, a trained observer will instantly know that all connected worlds interact completely in that color. These nodes are represented as a disc of the strand's color connected to a web of strands leading to the participating worlds. Occasionally a white arrow is added, pointing out of the chart. This is to show a situation in which ALL worlds connected to the node are also connected to a point (Whether it is another world, node or system) outside of the World Group. An interesting example can be seen above where we have a cut down version of Hojo's first sketches of his own World Group, that is to say the Final Fantasy Series, from I to X. He did not include the later games for simplicity and the map has had all individual external strands removed. This example is interesting because i is one of the few where a World Group is connected not only by a red node, but also by a green. This "Twin Nodding" (Which could, perhaps, have been better named) is very rare. Here, also, we see a double gold strand and two sets of the white arrows.

Coming Soon…

Strand Theory will be touched on in more detail in future games. Stay tuned to find out about some whole new colours of strand; more on the anomalous universes; and a knowing nod to one particular fictional universe which, it turns out, is what keeps the multiverse alive…

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