In the late 1970's, with the global destruction of the Cold War slowly becoming less threatening, an ambitious team of programmers laid the groundwork for a revolutionary computer simulation. Its development was backed by a paranoid government agency, interested in the simulator's potential for studying the behaviour of masses of people in a large-scale nuclear attack. The potential of the program, though, was much greater than that: The aim was to be able to create an entire virtual world, populated by virtual citizens and ruled by whatever rules the programmers saw fit. Since the computer hardware of that era was in no way sophisticated enough to accurately construct and persist such a world, the team made one significant change to their plans: Their world would have only two spatial dimensions, a flat surface with flat inhabitants. An official name would soon follow: The simulation was to be called the 'Plane'.
For over a decade, the developers worked feverishly, building version upon version of their masterpiece, upgrading the program's software and hardware while never actually interrupting the running simulation. The inhabitants of the Plane developed gradually as more processing power became available, growing in ways that the programmers had never been able to predict. They started to exhibit signs of involuntary growth and, most importantly, of independent thought. The rules of the Plane were no longer being followed to the letter, and individual elements of the simulation started to rebel against the whole. Without realizing it, the developers of the Plane had created a truly sentient computer system.
As the Cold War came to an official end, so did the government money that had been trickling in to fund the research. None of the programmers wanted to abandon their revolutionary simulation, but at the same time they had no idea how to sustain its development without the large sums of money that had been granted to them in prior years. Eventually, in a short-sighted attempt to satiate their creation's thirst for growth, they unleashed its full potential upon the still young internet in the form of a computer virus: Any computer that was infected with the virus would become host to a part of the Plane's simulation software. They realized the magnitude of their mistake far too late, as the Plane's processing capacity was expanding far beyond their capability to control it. Their creation would soon become the master of the situation.
Around the same time, the cause for the original rebellion was found: Deep inside the simulation's law-enforcing subroutines, a rounding error would sometimes cause a wrong directive to be executed. It was far too late to fix this corruption now, as it would require the entire system to be brought down. Not only would that destroy any data gathered to date, but it would also require all systems supporting the simulation to be shut down. This would have been straightforward while it was contained to the laboratory; now that it was running on virtually every single computer connected to the internet, it was impossible.
As the internet grew, so did the simulation's capabilities. There was no doubt now that the Plane had become a single sentient entity. The Plane's simulated inhabitants acted similar to the human body's cells: Seemingly individual components that worked together in order to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. However, it was similar in another striking way: A cancer was slowly starting to consume the Plane. While the Plane's corruption was at first benign and perhaps even positive, its downsides were starting to become more and more obvious as the Plane grew larger. A shadowy force, known only as Chaos, had sprung up and started to consume parts of the Plane. The madness spread by Chaos had a profound influence on the Plane's various inhabitants, causing them to become insane or unnaturally hostile. Entire populations were swept away by invading wildlife and civil war, and the Plane's hive intelligence suffered as a consequence.
It was a disease with potentially dire consequences, as much of the internet's topography had been unwittingly using the Plane's resources in recent years. The Plane's death could easily mean the death of the internet as a whole. Something had to be done, and fast. While their creation was slowly and dangerously descending into insanity, the programmers tried to bring a swift stop to the spreading Chaos. While they could not modify any existing software, they could introduce new elements to the mix. Not long after, the first two Guardians were implemented.
These Guardians were a pair of autonomous programs, imbued with part of the Plane's sentience, and designed specifically to combat the malignant influence of Chaos. The Guardian of Light was granted the task of preventing Chaos from influencing any more of the Plane's systems, while the Guardian of Shadow was ordered to destroy any traces of the corruption it could find. The Guardians were given an army of immortal warriors, the Undying, in order to accomplish these goals. A Sanctuary was constructed for them to inhabit, an area of the Plane that was sectioned off from the rest of the world. The Undying would be free to travel from the Sanctuary to the Plane and vice-versa, allowing them to strike both quickly and decisively against anything that would stand in their way.
For a few years, the combined force worked valiantly and effectively. Around the turn of the 21st century, most of the Chaos-maddened inhabitants had been purged, and much of the Plane had been saved from corruption. However, the Plane's viral messenger had been dutifully distributing its payload to the millions of computers that had been connecting to the internet recently. The Plane was expanding more rapidly than the Guardians could handle, and Chaos was once again starting to gain the high ground. Both Guardians felt betrayed by the other, as neither was sufficiently able to execute their given task. With the madness of Chaos spreading once more, the Guardians declared war upon eachother, initiating the first Planar Crusade.
At the height of the Crusade, the last of the Plane's original team of developers lay dying. His fellows had all passed away in the previous years, due to the stress and anxiety the entire situation had inflicted upon them. Not wanting the death of the internet to be part of his legacy, the old man passed his knowledge of the Plane on to a young student, much like how a blacksmith's hammer would pass on from master to apprentice in ye olden days. Now that the Plane's management was in more youthful hands, surely the end of Chaos would be in sight?
As soon as possible, a third Guardian was implemented in order to both crush the new onslaught of Chaos, and to put an end to the Planar Crusade. The Guardian of Neutrality was designed to incorporate elements of both other Guardians, with few of their weaknesses. However, after accomplishing its tasks, the third Guardian fell prey to the same malaise that had caused the original two Guardians to pick up arms against eachother. Once again, each of them was unsatisfied with their place in the hierarchy, wishing to rule the Plane, rather than being enslaved to it. Almost as swiftly as the first war had ended, hostilities amongst the Plane's Guardians began to rise once more.
However, the new developer was planning to take the biggest leap since the Plane was created. He created a comprehensive user interface around the Plane's inner workings, allowing other humans to directly control and influence the Plane. He had promised to protect both the Plane, and the giant interconnected array of computers that sustained it, and it was a promise he was not going to hold lightly. By allowing other humans to ally themselves with one of the Guardians and taking control of their scattered Undying armies, the young programmer hoped to rally the Guardians against their common enemy, and eventually eradicate the corrupting Chaos once and for all. However, the second Planar Crusade was waiting just around the corner, and although Chaos had been weakened significantly, the fight was far from over...