The Autocrat & The Secret Regulations of Desire

The Autocrat is one of the six Powers That Be whose existence widely believed (including, among others the Queen of Ravens and the Machine at the Heart of the World).  He is known to the well educated magicians of the realms as the individual who created the Secret Regulations of Desire.

In ancient times there were magical formulas which could translate any specific whim of a magician into reality at any level.  These formulas are variously known as Entelechies of the Will, Arbitrary Thought Instantiations, or more commonly "Wish spells".  In the heyday of the Wish spell's use, it was employed so freely that it changed reality on both vast and subtle scales.  As a result any attempts to determine the true nature of eras prior to it's use, based on the evidence available, is exceedingly unreliable.

At one point the re-writing of reality is thought to have gotten particularly intense as various mages competed to make their vision of the universe dominant.  However, Wish spells often balanced certainties of desire with uncertainties of side effect.  So the mage who wished his vision to be dominant forever would accidentally end up creating a reality in which a new crop of Wish-inventing magicians would arise to sweep away his changes.

This period is labeled by some historians as the First Existential War (The Second Existential War being the conflict that precipitated the Cataclysm), but has entered the common lexicon as The Wish War.  The conflict is thought to have taken place several thousand years ago on at least one of the worlds which now make up Hypethra.

The popular conception of this event involves two or more wizards squaring off, wands and staves flourishing as the world around them changes repeatedly in the blink of an eye, attempting to out-do their opponent.  In practice each "round" of conflict was more often simply against the current age, rather than against an equally armed opponent, with individual magicians or teams there-of working in isolation to invent and enact the necessary ritual.  In reality major changes to universal continuity likely took place no more often than once every one to ten years on average.

The war is determined to have ended with the ascension of the Autocrat to Wish-casting status.  Ancient sources suggest that the Autocrat's wave of existence included the rise of a school of philosopher-magi, among whom the Autocrat was the first to formulate the Wish protocols.  Out of motives unknown, but likely informed by his philosophical background, the Autocrat codified and implemented an extensive system of Wishes.  This code, later referred to as the Secret Regulations of Desire, had little effect on the universe at large, but strongly inhibited the effects of future Wish spells and punished their overuse.

Rumors about the Autocrat abound:
  • He still exists and takes an active role in certain misuses of wide-scale and world-altering magic.
  • He died long ago, and the Secret Regulations continue their function blindly in his absence.
  • He sometimes walks among modern circles of magicians as one of their own, but can be picked out by the discerning because he fits the current magician stereotype too well.
  • He appears superficially human but his expressions, mannerisms, and inflection suggest that something is not right with him.
  • He lives but has sworn off direct intervention in worldly affairs.
  • He can be persuaded to interact when the need is great . . . or in some ballads out of True Love!
  • He is behind every conspiracy and legitimate power, pulling the world's strings from the shadows.

Evidence of nearly any scenario about him may turn out to be true, untrue, or a smoke-screen obscuring deeper mysteries.

The Secret Regulations of Desire
Although the constraints of the Secret Regulations are poorly understood, and often appear to be fickle in what they allow, some trends are well established.  In game mechanical terms the following may be assumed:
  • No known changes to reality on any scale can remove the Secret Regulations, though of course a quest to dig up the Autocrat's lost backdoor system password may be the stuff campaigns are made of.
  • Trivial changes to local reality, especially to the caster's own person, automatically succeed with no side effects.
  • Changes similar to spells of levels 0-8 are increasingly likely to fail or have additional side effects (Roll 1d20.  If you roll higher than the spell level then the spell takes effect normally.  If you roll the spell level or lower then the GM will offer you the choice of a dear price (e.g. lose all but one hit point and vitality points, lose a magic item, be afflicted with a disease, etc.) or having the spell fail.)
  • Changes similar to 9th level spells always involve a dear price or inconvenient, long term consequences for the caster.
  • Changes on the scale about half an acre to 25 square miles (prior to the Second Existential War it is believed that larger effects were still possible) fail on a roll of anything lower than a 16 on 1d20.  They also always involve a dear price and far reaching long term consequences for the caster which tend to counteract some element of the spirit of the wish, poetically punishing the caster for hubris.
  • Changes on larger scales, or which seek to alter fundamental properties of the universe as a whole, automatically fail (though casters persist in thinking they've found a way to circumvent the rules) and nearly always wipe the caster out of existence as if he had never been.
There are two details expanding on these rules, however:
  • These limitations apply to all spells, procedures, talismans, and other devices created and used by casters in the modern era, whether of mystical manufacture or based on scientific rationale.  Typically the user of the spell or device is the one who draws any backlash from it, however where it seems appropriate, the creator of device or procedure may be effected as well or instead.
  • There are certain spells, procedures, artifacts and other devices from previous eras which seem grandfathered in to older, more forgiving versions of the Secret Regulations.  However, such ancient wonders generally have their own limitations, and can not negate the Secret Regulations' influence on other wish effects.