The Snarl is a god-murdering creature born of deific foolishness which, if unleashed, would end existence as we know it.
When the world was young, it was made up of threads of possible realities. The Gods arrived in their Pantheons (North, East, South and West), intent on creating a world of worshipers. The pantheons, unfortunately, could not agree on the properties of this world. There were arguments, and when this occurred the Gods would simply pull on the threads of reality. The tangled threads eventually gave way to the Snarl.
When the Snarl attacked it wiped out the entire Grecian Pantheon (which explains why Durkon Thundershield and others have never heard of them). The Snarl then proceeded to undo creation by tearing apart the world, which it succeeded in doing after exactly 27 minutes, showing how powerful it is.
The Gods retreated to their Celestial Realms, where they hatched a plan: when the Snarl tore the world apart the threads that created the world were now usable to create a new world. This time, each of the gods made his or her additions to the world a single thread at a time, passing the task between them in sequence, accepting the others' creations. They created the new world in exactly the same dimensional space as the Snarl, shunting it into a demiplane from which it could not destroy the world.
Aeons later, five rifts appeared in the Snarl's prison. Six PCs, the Order of the Scribble, embarked on an epic campaign to seal them and save the world. Though the party was ultimately successful, history repeated itself as they began to argue over the best method to safeguard the rifts from future abuses. A similar agreement was reached, by which the five surviving PCs would each safeguard the gates nearest to their homelands in their own way and never interfere with the others' under any circumstances.
Redcloak following orders of the Dark One, intended to release the Snarl and blackmail the gods, so that the goblins could have a better life. That way, following Xykon, they started to hunt for the Gates.
In addition, there is also something resembling another world within the Rifts, which the Snarl likely has something to do with. It could be anything from the remains of the old creation, to the locale the things it destroys end up (Possibly even including the Eastern Pantheon), or even something more strange and unknown. Whatever the world in the rift is, it is likely that we have not seen the end of it, and it may become more relevant to the plotline at a later time. Given that this world within the rifts was never mentioned by Shojo, it's also entirely possible that some or all of the information concerning the Snarl and the nature of the Gates is unreliable, having been related by Shojo who received it third-hand from Soon Kim via Ronjo. This is the opinion of Vaarsuvius.
Thor later confirms that the story is missing a major detail: Soon's story indicates that the current world is the second, when in reality there have been thousands, or possibly millions. The Snarl destroyed the first world in a matter of years, and even millions of worlds later the gods aren't able to make a permanent prison for the Snarl. In fact they can't, since the nature of the Snarl as a creation of four pantheons means that three surviving pantheons cannot contain it. The first sign of real hope has been the ascension of the Dark One, a god whose essence isn't the same as those of the major pantheons, and who might be able to help the three surviving pantheons contain it. Unfortunately, the Dark One and his followers have a bad history with the three pantheons and their worshipers, and therefore he doesn't want to work with them.
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