So I’m writing an urban fantasy story where humans start getting supernatural powers from an unknown source, and as several of these powers were intentionally and maliciously designed to wreak havoc, by the beginning of act 3 the entirety of modern society is in shambles and the infrastructure is in ruins. Technology still works, but only when everyone around it wants it to, thanks to one of the aforementioned powers. As this makes rebuilding infrastructure as we know it utterly unfeasible, this results in a sort of “power punk” world where people have to use the various magical powers they’re given access to to survive in a world with a tech level somewhere around your average zombie apocalypse.

Now one of the things I knew I needed to make possible with powers was some means of worldwide communication, because 1: It would be fascinating to still have that in a pseudo-apocalypse, and 2: I want a good reason why every single supernatural ability in my story doesn’t have a million different names in a million different places. I originally planned to use sci-fi satellites to make it so phones and the internet didn’t need terrestrial infrastructure, but this quickly turned out to be implausible, out of place and silly, so instead I came up with a power that would facilitate worldwide communication if used properly:

The power allows anyone who has it to sacrifice access to 2 of their other powers (you can hold up to 6, a new one is given to everyone each week, and you have to give up one of them whenever you get a new one) to summon a magic pylon that generates a visible energy field 20 meters in radius. This pylon has a symbol on it, which is a set of six different colored dots placed on a 9x9 grid. This is the pylon’s “address”. The pylon cannot be physically moved, only destroyed or dismissed by the owner and then re-placed. Only one pylon can be placed by a person at a time, and every pylon made by that person will have the same address no matter where it is placed.

Whenever a person enters the field of one of these pylons, a glowing 9x9 grid will appear in front of them and follow them around, constantly facing them at all times. If they touch the grid, they’ll start filling in the squares they touch with colored dots in chromatic order until all 6 are placed. When that happens, they instantly turn into a beam of light and shoot up into the sky. If that address doesn’t correspond to an active pylon, they beam back down the next second. But if they entered the address of a pylon that’s currently active anywhere in the world, they’re instantly teleported to that pylon as a sort of ghost who can move around within that pylon’s field and talk to people there. If they touch the pylon they teleported to, they’re instantly sent back.

If either the pylon a “projection” came from or the pylon they went to is destroyed, they’re immediately sent back to the closest open space to where they beamed from. Projections still age and still experience hunger and thirst, so they can’t exist in projection form indefinitely.

I’m pretty confident that I’ve just set up the framework for a viable long-distance communication network. Find other places with pylons set up, get their addresses, and then gradually pass on more and more addresses to more and more people until each town or eventual city has a whole address book of places to talk to and a forum of multiple pylons in the town square (set up and maintained by dedicated civilians who are okay with the power investment it requires) for people from all over to exchange news and information. But I can’t help but think there’s more that could be done with this that I can’t quite see, or that there’d probably be a better and less complicated way of organizing worldwide communication with this power.

If humanity we’re given access to this magic as the only means of long distance communication, how would they most likely use it to facilitate that, and what else might it be used for?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jun 4, 2018 at 20:27

1 Answer 1


Message boards

Right now your idea involves too much manual labour for a scenario like the one you have as a basis. You need to limit the involvement of humans as much as you can. Message boards are a perfect way to do this. Simply have one human be present physically at a time in a central location, like the market square, and whenever someone pops into the area in projection form the physically present person asks them for new information and writes that information down.

Afterwards the note can be pinned to some boards that are arranged in such a way that any projection can read them. Now you only need a human to be available a few times per day, for example "every day from dawn noon", but everyone can read the notes 24/7. If you are afraid of someone messing with the notes or them being destroyed for example through bad weather you could simply position the pylon in a cathedral or somewhere else that is indoors but accessible. Every other pylon could then be setup wherever it's convenient for other people, because their only function is to allow people to talk to someone during the "office hours" to leave a note, or to have a look at the existing notes.

This way your humans can still work and don't need to watch the pylon 24/7, waiting for someone to come in.

Every major city should have one big pylon and a list of all available major pylons in other big cities. This way someone interested in information from other places could easily look up the address at his nearest known pylon and then go check out the one where he is interested in.

Major attack vectors for this scenario would be that anyone anywhere could simply learn the code, then attack the creator of a pylon of some city and make a new pylon. This way he could mis-inform people who thought they were looking at the public message board of GreatCity, when in fact they were looking at the replica in EvilHideout. That's why you should at least have a couple hard-to-copy landmarks nearby so that visitors can learn whether their location is genuine. These landmarks could be noted next to the addresses on the message boards.

You could also have someone be responsible for regularly checking smaller pylons for new information. It shouldn't take them long with your instant-projection scenario, so if the person who is spending their time from dawn to noon writing down important information goes through a dozen pylons or so afterwards, that should still reduce the required manpower a lot and give everyone the opportunity to leave notes in quite hidden places that will be displayed in the big city soon.

This can also be used as an easy way of keeping your borders in check. Just set up a bunch of pylons go through them at more-or-less random intervals to see if some horde is approaching your town. Your people won't be able to check every spot 24/7, but they can check a very large region. And if some pylon is not accessible anymore you know something is up. Depending on how strong the structure is it could be something small, like a tree that fell on it, but it could also be an army that used their chance of your people not being projected into this pylon right now.

The massive advantage in this case is that you can utilize basically anyone as a guard, no matter how brave they are. They are in projection form after all, so they can't get hurt. Their only job is to watch the outermost regions and shout "Alarm!!!" at the base when someone approaches. But especially with military usage you want to be extremely careful about who knows which addresses are in use.


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