Originally there wasn't going to be a backstory for FreakMUCK. It simply was what it was, and there were no answers to be found. Why can't anyone leave? Where did the ocean go? What happened to the Guild?
Mystery was an essential part of the game's theme. Unfortunately, this often left those who would be interested in playing here if they had more to work with in a bind when it came time to fashion a character concept. It also lent itself to aimlessness amongst those who didn't need any such thing, and is thus being reconsidered as 'nifty, but ultimately best left IC'. So, in-character, only those who choose to focus on a facet of the game's metaplot will have any knowledge of it, while those who don't care either way can run about in blissful ignorance of the bigger picture. Either approach is laudable for its own reasons.
What is this place?
Although it's not always worded the same way, this is the question that we (or at least BadWiz) were least inclined to answer. It took all the fun away to say for certain what the city and its outlying bits of oddity were, or how they got to be that way.
FreakMUCK's setting is a shard of reality cut off from the rest of the universe. It's a rather hefty chunk, and the city around which the game is centered is only one of countless possible pockets of civilization. There are definite boundaries, and the 'central' city of the game is situated on the ragged edge of the dimensional map, meaning that wandering in most directions will eventually result in reaching a point where one can travel no further. Each terminus is different, ranging from an impassable opaque barrier to a sheer drop beyond which the cosmos spreads in a dizzying lightshow, like the sum of creation viewed through a telescope. Fragments of the metaphysical planes adjacent to the 'mortal coil' were also included in the shard, bits of Heaven and Hell and other, less quantifiable realms which can be reached more easily than in conventional reality.
The place is an oubliette, a catchpool for the dimensionally displaced, and a stopgap in between the holes in the normal universe. As such, it tends to harvest its new inhabitants from all across space and time, and is home to the oddest beings ever to live (or not live, in some cases). It also serves as a dumping ground for things far too dangerous to exist elsewhere, artifacts and forbidden lore, technological wonders and schools of thought capable of bending reality through their mere contemplation. It's a complete secret to the rest of the universe. Nothing goes out, and nothing comes in that isn't going to be sealed there for all eternity. Otherwise, surely someone would be able to manufacture an escape route, or to open a stable passage from the universe to this condemned pocket of reality. Theoretically that remains possible, but some of the brightest and most dangerous minds to ever exist have wasted their entire lives attempting to pierce the veil and succumbed to madness from the sheer frustration of it.
Once one has arrived, it's impossible to leave.
Most residents are either resigned to this fact or still haven't let the notion sink in yet. Given the sheer oddity of their new surroundings, many simply believe this is a strangely realistic dream. There are also those who have been born in this place and will die here, perfectly contented with the place that is their home. Culturally, the realm enjoys a glorious and sometimes frightening diversity, with a steady influx of new things bleeding in from the rest of the universe. Despite its being a prison for the guilty and innocent alike, this realm offers boundless opportunities. Sinners rub elbows with saints, thieves with the self-appointed constables who pursue them, demons and angels, the living, the dead, and the undecided, all exist together in a tapestry which the rest of the universe would surely find unsightly, but which is not without a unique beauty. Some of the most powerful entities ever to exist dwell here, severed from their webs of intrigue or the choruses of their worshippers. Everyone begins the rest of their existence here with the same opportunities for good or ill, greatness or obscurity. For some it's living damnation, but for others it's a second chance at a perfect life.
The city is a mess. No one has ever decided on a single name for it, and perhaps this has something to do with why no one's ever organized an effort to repair the considerable damage to even the better-maintained districts. It was once twice the size it is now, and a large crater sits where much of it once was. The 'downtown' portion of the city, its northernmost expanse, is a frightening ruin, its mighty skyscrapers gutted (for the most part) and toppled and reduced to a badlands of concrete, glass and steel. Once a port city, it now perches above a lifeless expanse of silt, with only a soft, salty mist where there was once an ocean. It appears, even to this day, as though the ocean had in the course of a second decided to shun the city altogether, leaving its ships to settle to the ground.
The mundane populace of the city, and even 'foreigners' who have since settled and intermingled with their neighbors, have terrible memories. People remember their trades and retain their academic knowledge, but there are no reliable historians to be found here. No one remembers when the ocean retreated or why. No one remembers having family in the place where the crater now sits, nor do they remember a time when they could travel north into the concrete jungle and be perfectly safe. Very few people even consider these things anymore. They also tend to forget unpleasant things that transpire around them, making them ideal meat for the city's predators, both supernatural and mundane.
Okay, so what happened?
Feel free to skip this part if you don't care, or think it'd be more fun not to know. The staffer writing this finds such things wholly irrelevant to gameplay, but proposes this as a courtesy to those who absolutely have to have answers:
The water within most of this splinter of the universe is tainted in a subtle and almost harmless fashion. By the time a native is one year old, the taint is in their bloodstream and their diets pretty much assure that it will remain there. Animals and plants are also laden down with this powerful substance. The taint inhibits the thoughts of any being in contact with it so that certain things simply don't occur to them, while eroding away specific memories from those who have them, such as of events which led to the current state of the realm. Supposing someone could protect themselves from this contaminant, and was able to detect it, theoretically this condition could be cured. There is a very easy way to do this, but as yet circumstance hasn't allowed for it. There are pockets of pure water spread across the realm, but since only a select few even realize there's anything amiss, and the tainted water in their bodies continues to cloud their thoughts, no one knows the difference.
This is why no one remembers the answers to the questions that drive newcomers crazy. It's also why there are fewer angry mobs with torches and pitchforks chasing out the monsters. Their minds are so dulled that they accept the oddity of their neighbors as completely natural. They can still be frightened, or enthralled, but the apprehension one would expect from an ordinary human being encountering something like a goblin on the sidewalk simply isn't there. Prejudicial biases exist, but they are mundane compared to the screaming hysteria many creatures are used to experiencing.
What's in the water? The blood of a god.
(Author's aside: Invariably, this is the part where disappointment sets in. Now that we know the big secret, it's not fun anymore. The practical-minded (often beyond their character's intellectual resources) will sieze upon this morsel of information until it has been trivialized and the conflict it engenders resolved completely. Meanwhile, those for whom uncertainty remains a delightful, ticklish thing will sigh and look for some other unexplained thing to enamor themselves with.)
The realm, especially the city which was once its heart, used to make a lot more sense. It was more than a prison, it was Hell on 'earth', or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. It was a forced comingling of the most stable, baseline reality and all the divergent planes formed by untapped possibility and the dreams of those condemned to mundanity. In spite of this, things held to a standard of rationality that everyone could readily accept. Buildings didn't move when they got tired of being where they were, the beasts and godlings made more an effort to disguise themselves, and all the natural laws were still in place. Science could triumph over most adversity as readily as magic and both poles of the spectrum were dependable within their own sets of rules.
No one knows the name of the pandimensional entity whose incarceration in this realm brought about the madness that exists today. It didn't sit still long enough for anyone to find out. Whatever it was, it was angry, insane, and beyond the reach of mortal comprehension. The thing made war with everything its perceptions could reach, punishing its fellow prisoners for its inability to escape and flailing against the boundaries of the realm in an effort to tear it asunder. Desperate to survive and in disagreement as to where the best course for survival lay, the other inhabitants of the oubliette went to war against the 'god' and against one another.
No one is certain who won. The being was destroyed, and the realm was much smaller afterward. Great gobbets of pandimensional matter rained from the sky, laying waste to everything. Just as the lands became quiet again, a ripple of unreality coursed through the entirety of the splinter, turning everything topsy-turvy and further weakening the natural order that governed it.
The city, whose name was one of the first things to be forgotten, lost its best and brightest to a piece of god-flesh three miles wide. The waters were withdrawn by their inhabitants to stave off the corruption they sensed would come from the thing's unholy blood. That's what happened.
And in future posts, I'll be describing bits about what life in the oubliette is really like, and maybe answering questions that haven't been asked yet.