In the series, Proton is only one planet in a galaxy of human-inhabited worlds. Most of the atmosphere of the planet has been destroyed through the mining of Protonite, a valuable energy source, and the inhabitants of Proton live in domed cities with artificial life support.

Despite its advanced science, Proton's socioeconomic scheme somewhat resembles the medieval period. The planet is run by fabulously wealthy Citizens but the bulk of the inhabitants are serfs. Serfs must be employed by a Citizen and remain naked at all times unless ordered otherwise by a Citizen. A Citizen has complete authority of his serfs and may order them to do anything he desires. Serfs, however, are not slaves; the serfs of Proton have all chosen serfdom as their occupation (or are descended from those who have). After twenty years of work, a serf earns a gram of Protonite, and his retirement. While a paltry sum on Proton itself, this is enough to make the former serf comfortably wealthy elsewhere in the galaxy. Even then many serfs would choose to stay on Proton after their twenty years are up, but it is not permitted in most circumstances.

In addition to the Citizens and serfs, Proton is home to advanced robots, some of which are self-aware and possess their own free will. As the series opens it is not common knowledge that some robots are self-willed. Humanity has also made contact with alien species, some members of which make their homes on Proton as well.

The Game[]

The main pastime of Proton inhabitants is The Game. When two persons want to play a round, they proceed to a Game console. There, one player chooses one of four categories: 1. PHYSICAL, 2. MENTAL, 3. CHANCE, or 4. ARTS. The other player chooses among A. NAKED, B. TOOL, C. MACHINE, or D. ANIMAL. (In this context, naked does not necessarily mean unclothed but rather unassisted by external tools.) Once the grid is completed, players continue on subgrids until they select a particular game to play. For instance, in the books, Stile plays a Naked/Arts round in interpretive dance, while later on the same category produces extemporaneous poetry. Chance/Tool covers board and card games, among others. Most sports are under Physical, but so is Tiddlywinks. Due to the wide variety of contests available, any given round could take any one of thousands of forms.

In choosing categories for the Game and then particular contests once the main category is selected, the intelligent player uses his knowledge of his opponent, trying to play to the opponent's weaknesses and his own strengths. Of course, his ability to do so is limited because half the grid is in the opponent's hands.

Every year, the top-ranked players are entered into a Tourney. The final winner of the Tourney is immediately made a Citizen and given a small percentage of the annual Protonite production equal to about one kilogram at the moment of Citizenship. (Assuming, of course, that the winner is not a Citizen already.) Other Tourney participants who last until the final rounds are rewarded by being allowed to stay a serf on Proton for an additional term of years. Not only do Citizens participate in the Game, they also wager vast sums amongst themselves in any conceivable fashion. However, should a Citizen lose so many wagers that he is unable to pay his debts with his proceeds from the Protonite mines, he is prevented from wagering further until once again solvent.


In contrast to Proton, Phaze is a lush and verdant world. Besides humans, it is also populated by several species common to the fantasy genre such as unicorns, werewolves, vampires, trolls, and animalheads -- humans with beast-heads like the Minotaur or Anubis. As in classic fantasy fiction, magic is a daily part of life in Phaze. It is powered by Phazite, the same substance as Protonite on the other side of the curtain.

Just as magic does not work in Proton, advanced technology does not operate in Phaze. For instance, when one of Proton's self-willed robots crossed the curtain into Phaze, she became inert until returned to her home dimension. Later, the same robot was magically made into a golem, allowing her to operate in both worlds, using electrical power in Proton, and magical power in Phaze.

Most humans in Phaze are able to do some minor magic but are not magicians by trade. The exceptions are the Adepts, extremely powerful wizards, each with his or her own special mode of magic use. Most of the Adepts in Phaze are named after colors; for instance, the Brown Adept makes and animates golems while the White Adept performs magic by drawing sigils in the ground. Not only are Adepts able to achieve almost anything through their magic, only they are powerful enough to magically affect resistant creatures such as unicorns and animalheads. As a rule, Adepts cannot harm or otherwise affect another Adept through magic for very long; however, a group of them working in concert can usually overpower a lone Adept. Each spell an Adept uses can only be worked once by that Adept, though countless variations can be created.

Unicorns in the Apprentice Adept series are somewhat different from those traditionally described in fantasy. First, Phaze's unicorns are as intelligent as humans. Also, they are not colored in blacks and greys like horses but rather in more dramatic colors. For instance, one unicorn character, Clip, is a blue stallion with red "socks," that is, ankles. In addition to their coloring, unicorns with socks can actually remove them. If humans don them, the socks cast the illusion that the human is in fact a unicorn of the sock color. Furthermore, unicorns in Phaze are shapeshifters; most can learn two other forms. If a unicorn learns to shift into a hawk, he can fly in that form; if a human, he can speak. Finally, unicorns in the series have hollow horns which they use as musical instruments. Each unicorn character described in the books has a distinct instrument. For instance, Clip's horn sounds like a saxophone, while his sister Neysa's horn makes harmonica sounds.

One final, important feature of Phaze is the Oracle. Although the actual Oracle is hidden from sight for reasons explained later in the series, it is accessible through a speaking tube. The Oracle will answer any querent a single question. But like the original Oracle at Delphi, the pronouncements of Phaze's Oracle are usually cryptic and self-fulfilling.