Long ago, the Akashic Records spoke of a compendium of mystical knowledge encoded in a non-physical plane of existence. These records believe that all human experience can be found in a collective consciousness that exists outside and beyond the physical realm – with every new soul and every historical event, this amalgam of information and emotion inevitably updates itself. Some psychologists believe that this collective consciousness can explain away the universality of symbols, and the common visions that people encounter in dreams.
Because Cards have already been brought to the Borderlines during their initial death, they are capable of accessing a part of the planes of collective consciousness that the Akashic Records described. Cards across the globe have taken to calling the main planes that Persona users can travel through the Dark Hour, something that many also refer to as the 1441st Minute, or the Fog, or the Thirteenth Hour. It appears to exist, paradoxically, both within and outside of time.
For all intents and purposes, the Hour appears to be a shadow of a shadow – that is, it is the even darker and more mysterious reflection of Pandemonium, “deeper” than the Kingdom of Nightmares. Some are even convinced that Pandemonium isn’t the collective subconscious of the universe – the Hour is. Exploration into its depths, however, has revealed some glaring inconsistencies that disprove this theory. The largest inconsistency, for example, is the fact that Persona don’t ACTUALLY appear to be the splintered part of a Card’s soul with its own agency. It’s almost as if, prior to becoming Persona, they had their own mortal lives – but the few disjointed accounts that Hunters have recovered indicate that their descriptions of their “homes” and the people they knew don’t match anything in the World of Darkness as people know it.
During the Dark Hour, normal human beings remain asleep. The only things who remain sentient and mobile are Returned Cards, “sleeping” Cards, and Shadows…
…Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
So What IS the Dark Hour?
The long and short answer for Storytellers is that it’s up to you. The Waking the Dead canon ties the Dark Hour in with the Fourth World, such that Persona are actually sentient remnants of entities that had existed in the Fourth World and everything in the Dark Hour are places and things from the Fourth World. If we’re to follow World of Darkness canon of any kind, the Dark Hour could alternatively be related to Arcadia, or it could be Pandemonium itself. You might also opt to use Persona or Shin Megami Tensei-specific lore. The sky’s the limit.
What’s the Dark Hour Like?
Visual: like our world, except everything’s shrouded in shades of green, black and gray. Blood – or something much like it – also seems to flow freely from unknown sources (even the walls), and mist perpetually hovers over everything.
Normal mortals appear to be coffins standing in place wherever they happened to be prior to the onslaught of the Dark Hour.
Audio: Deathly silent, with distant echoes that sound almost like the ticking of clocks, or the tolling of bells whose locations you can’t ever pinpoint. Every sound made in the Dark Hour appears to be sharper, more crisp than they would in real life.
Other Important Notes
- Human technology does not work in the Other World at all – or it shouldn’t, anyway. Some tech from particular companies in Waking the Dead works just fine.
- The Dark Hour overflows with Essence, Plasm, Mana, and Anima.
- Cards and “sleeping” Cards can also enter the Dark Hour, as can any creature from the World of Darkness… this usually occurs by accident, especially when the Borderlines are weak. There are, however, spells, abilities and items that allow them to enter at will.
Persona fans will see that obviously the Dark Hour I’ve used for my campaigns is based directly off of Persona 3‘s Dark Hour. Storytellers are free to make their own versions, or draw from other “Metaverses” (to borrow Persona 5‘s terminology) that might better suit their campaigns.
Storytelling systems specific to the Dark Hour have their own dedicated section.