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Kaurne
2012-12-26, 03:34 PM
Okay, I don't post on here often, but my friends and I are having a go at creating a campaign setting because we think we'll enjoy it more if we've constructed it, at least a little, ourselves. We also think this will make it more realistic, since we'll all understand the basic aspects of a setting as our characters logically would (well, not my character, since, as the 'best storyteller' of our group, I've been assigned as DM).

Now, one of the main things we don't like is cosmology. We're all quite... scientific, and so the system of elemental planes isn't to our liking; while we can accept the four elements of fire, water, earth and air as individual planes or spiritual building blocks of the universe (especially since they can be associated with non-physical abstract concepts such as emotion, reason, stability and change respectively) all the other elemental planes seem, to us, to be a bit naff. Not only can they not be identified with any real abstract concepts, but they also don't make sense as building blocks of the universe (ooze, smoke, salt and dust, really?).

So, we're looking at other possible cosmologies for the inner planes. The whole positive and negative energy thing sounded ok to us, but the mixes with the other elements were, in our opinion, dull and added nothing but uninteresting and nonsensical (on a cosmic scale) environs. We even considered getting rid of positive and negative energy at the cosmic scale (although keeping it for game mechanics) to be replaced with two sets of opposing, but conjoined, ideas: Growth vs Decay and Light vs Dark. None of them are truly good or evil, in the way that positive energy is good and negative is evil. They're all part of the natural order of things, and decay and darkness can be good as well as evil, just as growth and light can be evil as well as good.

One idea was to make the four standard elements form a trtrahedral shape, with each vertex one of the elements. Instead of having four planes, you have one infinite plane, that surrounds the entire universe, beyond which lie what are essentially the Far Realms. This elemental plane would be infinite yet traversable. Say you were at the centre of the air portion of the plane. This portion, the realm of pure 'air' nature, would be infinite; if you wished, you could travel in one direction and stay in pure air essence for eternity. However, if, either through a skill, force of will, some form of magic, a bloodline; maybe even a feat, you could make it so your travel carried you towards, say, the water section of the plane. This would result in you moving into areas more filled with water essence and less with air essence; this might be an infinite cloudbank, or icefield, or whatever (not sure how the transition from a solid plane to a liquid one or to a gaseous one would work) and you could eventually end up in the centre of the water plane.

In fact, the mixed areas might, instead of being a slow transition, might instead be an area of interchanging bubbles; maybe some cloud, but also areas of water, areas of air, and areas of a mixture. This way, instead of following the edges between vertexes, you could head for areas on the faces of the tetrahedron. Some of these might even have the correct balance of elements that humans could be reasonably confortable there; a place where those fleeing normal civilisation could hide (adventure hooks ahoy!)

We love the idea from Planescape of the 'rule of three' where everything revolves around a certain number. Given we have eight elements (four abstract and four physical) we're tempted to see if we can create a 'rule of eight' - with regards to Outer Planes, this gives us every alignment but true neutral, which presents a problem.

BTW: I know that the rule of three seemingly doesn't apply to the Outer Planes; see the link at the bottom of this post.

As for the outer planes, that is still being decided upon; we're tempted to roughly sketch out individual alignment planes and only expand upon that if our characters ever need to visit them. We'll need some of the info sketched out, if only so we can describe the backstory behind creation, where the angels and devils come from etc. We're tempted to make the tie between deities and the Outer Planes stronger in this setting; the devils are merely servants of evil gods, the angels servants of good ones. This does present a problem of distributing gods evenly, and creating a whole new set of gods, but we're a creative bunch.

Prime material is simple; we create one world to begin with, add more if we can be bothered or have time (which we probably won't).

Astral is... interesting. We think it could be useful for linking planes together, but aside from offering little towers to hide in for wizards, we're not sure what function the astral plane could serve. Our best ideal is to have it actually divided in two; it represents thought (and thus psychic energy), divided into two sections, memory and dreams, which incidentally represent the past and future respectively. This could be similar to the Elemental plane, but an ellipsoid instead of a tetrahedron.

Finally, as to the overall structure, we like the idea of a series of spherical (or at least 3D shapes) wrapped around one another, with the prime material at the centre, then moving outwards. There are others we've considered, though, based on the articles at this site: http://mimir.net/mapinfinity/index.html.

Incidentally, I recommend that website, simply because the articles are a real interesting read, and add some nice depth to the world. They also show something rarely seen in fantasy; depates over the nature of reality, since it's almost always known pretty well.

So, if you have any commentary, advice, or suggestion, or want to talk about the link, or want to talk about the cosmology of you setting, feel free. I'm just looking for interesting discussion.

Kaurne

AuraTwilight
2012-12-26, 04:21 PM
Now, one of the main things we don't like is cosmology. We're all quite... scientific, and so the system of elemental planes isn't to our liking; while we can accept the four elements of fire, water, earth and air as individual planes or spiritual building blocks of the universe (especially since they can be associated with non-physical abstract concepts such as emotion, reason, stability and change respectively) all the other elemental planes seem, to us, to be a bit naff. Not only can they not be identified with any real abstract concepts, but they also don't make sense as building blocks of the universe (ooze, smoke, salt and dust, really?).

...Um...what edition do you play? The Para- and Quasi-elemental planes don't exist in third edition and afterwards.


We even considered getting rid of positive and negative energy at the cosmic scale (although keeping it for game mechanics) to be replaced with two sets of opposing, but conjoined, ideas: Growth vs Decay and Light vs Dark. None of them are truly good or evil, in the way that positive energy is good and negative is evil. They're all part of the natural order of things, and decay and darkness can be good as well as evil, just as growth and light can be evil as well as good.


This is what Positive and Negative already are. They have never been 'good' or 'evil' in of themselves, only that they appeal to different people for their most obvious applications or healing and hurting people.


Astral is... interesting. We think it could be useful for linking planes together, but aside from offering little towers to hide in for wizards, we're not sure what function the astral plane could serve. Our best ideal is to have it actually divided in two; it represents thought (and thus psychic energy), divided into two sections, memory and dreams, which incidentally represent the past and future respectively. This could be similar to the Elemental plane, but an ellipsoid instead of a tetrahedron.

In the standard cosmology, the Astral Plane is the road the dead take to their afterlives, and is also the graveyard of dead gods. Does this help at all?

Kaurne
2012-12-26, 04:42 PM
Forgive me, most of what I know about the Planes comes from playing Planescape: Torment and doing related research :p few of the D&D games I've actually played hav. Gone into cosmology in any real way; they've also petered out despite never going very far, or being very interesting, in the first place (I'm hoping playing with friends will change that).

Still, we don't see the need a place for souls to go through before they die, so we don't need the astral plane - as for dead gods, I'd prefer to leave their corpses to warp reality in the prime material plane, like the Ribs in New Crobuzon.

Anyway, we just want to try and create something new and interesting for ourselves, to have new ideas about how th cosmology could work thrown about - that's what I created this thread for.

akma
2012-12-26, 04:43 PM
You say you want to make a new cosmology, but you seem to relay on the "standard" cosmology a lot (elementanel planes, the notion of outer planes, prime material plane being the center of the universe...). Maybe you should try starting from zero, unconstrained by so many conventions.

I feel that planes that revolve around only one element will end up being boring (as all areas would be the same) unless a lot of effort is put into them. If that doesn`t convince you, I suggest you pick more metaphorical elements (exemples: compulsion, change, feeling) and dump the standard ones entirely - the four standard elements are heavily used and I think new elements would lead to more intresting planes.

About angels and demons being servents of gods - maybe each god has it`s own kind of servents?* And the power of each god army doesn`t have to be equal - in fact, I think you could make intresing plots based on the lack of equality (god X is losing the war, so he opens a portal to a kingdom that worships him and asks his followers to help him. His enemies respond by...).


*In one of my settings it`s like that, although I haven`t made the servents of every god yet. The gods don`t fight against each other, and their powerfull servents have a lot of free time to mess with the world.

BTW, air->water = steam (I once heard that steam is technically liquid).

AuraTwilight
2012-12-26, 06:42 PM
Still, we don't see the need a place for souls to go through before they die, so we don't need the astral plane - as for dead gods, I'd prefer to leave their corpses to warp reality in the prime material plane, like the Ribs in New Crobuzon.


Well, what are the Outer Planes FOR then, in your cosmology? If you have them at all? What happens to dead people?


You say you want to make a new cosmology, but you seem to relay on the "standard" cosmology a lot (elementanel planes, the notion of outer planes, prime material plane being the center of the universe...). Maybe you should try starting from zero, unconstrained by so many conventions.

The thing is that if you don't fill roles such as elemental planes, Outer planes, and transitive planes, you're going to need to reinvent a good portion of the magic system.

How do spells that interact with alternate planes function in an altered cosmology? Where do classic monsters and antagonists like Tanaari come from if there's no lower planes? Etc.

akma
2012-12-27, 07:12 AM
The thing is that if you don't fill roles such as elemental planes, Outer planes, and transitive planes, you're going to need to reinvent a good portion of the magic system.

How do spells that interact with alternate planes function in an altered cosmology? Where do classic monsters and antagonists like Tanaari come from if there's no lower planes? Etc.

A few things:
A. I hate the alignment system, so that invalidates all of the outer planes. It also invalidates any war based on alignment - the only part left of alignment based outsiders is crunch. I don`t have them in my settings at all, although some beings can be considered pure evil.
B. I dropped many of the standard monsters. I made many of my own.
C. Regarding spells, many of them can be refluffed. Summon monster doesn`t have to summon a being from a diffrent plane. Maybe the spell creates a being for a few rounds? Incorporal things don`t have to be explained by another plane. I can`t think of a specific spell that would be hard to refluff.
D. Classic monsters that I want to include can just switch habitat. For exemple, elementanels exist in the setting, they live in the prime material plane - earth elementanels under the ground, water elementanels in the oceans, etc.

AuraTwilight
2012-12-27, 05:49 PM
A. I hate the alignment system, so that invalidates all of the outer planes. It also invalidates any war based on alignment - the only part left of alignment based outsiders is crunch. I don`t have them in my settings at all, although some beings can be considered pure evil.
B. I dropped many of the standard monsters. I made many of my own.
C. Regarding spells, many of them can be refluffed. Summon monster doesn`t have to summon a being from a diffrent plane. Maybe the spell creates a being for a few rounds? Incorporal things don`t have to be explained by another plane. I can`t think of a specific spell that would be hard to refluff.
D. Classic monsters that I want to include can just switch habitat. For exemple, elementanels exist in the setting, they live in the prime material plane - earth elementanels under the ground, water elementanels in the oceans, etc.

So basically your campaign world has pretty much nothing in common with any of the standards. Gotcha, that explains a lot.

The thing is, that's a lot of work. I'm not criticizing you for what you did but that doesn't seem to be what Kaurne wants to do; he doesn't seem interested in trashing the entire alignment system, basically all the monsters, refluffing all the spells...

He just wants a cosmology that makes sense to him personally, and he only has to tweak the existing cosmology to do that.

Kaurne
2012-12-27, 07:03 PM
So basically your campaign world has pretty much nothing in common with any of the standards. Gotcha, that explains a lot.

The thing is, that's a lot of work. I'm not criticizing you for what you did but that doesn't seem to be what Kaurne wants to do; he doesn't seem interested in trashing the entire alignment system, basically all the monsters, refluffing all the spells...

He just wants a cosmology that makes sense to him personally, and he only has to tweak the existing cosmology to do that.

Yeah, that's what I want. I don't really see the need for a place for souls to go to before they go to whatever alignment plane they end up in (why can't they go straight there) so is there something else I could use the Astral plane for (like the thought plane I mentioned) or should I scrap it entirely?

We can accept the alignment system, although we don't want to be adventuring too much there; we'd prefer it remained distant until one of the group died.

I've considered using the idea of the Elemental Chaos from 4e as a replacement for the Inner Planes, since it offers a lot more oppurtunity, being less monotonous. This, and a couple ideas I've found on the internet have given me some food for thought, but I'd appreciate a few more. :)

AuraTwilight
2012-12-28, 06:23 AM
Yeah, that's what I want. I don't really see the need for a place for souls to go to before they go to whatever alignment plane they end up in (why can't they go straight there) so is there something else I could use the Astral plane for (like the thought plane I mentioned) or should I scrap it entirely?

The usual justification I see is that reaching your resting place is itself a journey, either because of the trials put before the soul such as in the Egyptian afterlife where the soul needs to conquer multiple trials, or simply because the soul is lagging behind due to anxiety and uncertainty, much like a ghost.

That said, I do like the idea of the Astral Plane as a sort of mental/akashic records plane. Perhaps dreams occur there, as well as being the place where memories and thoughts linger before dying. Perhaps the fact that all planes float in the Astral Plane is proof for groups like the Signer of One that all things are mere mental constructs. Who knows?



I've considered using the idea of the Elemental Chaos from 4e as a replacement for the Inner Planes, since it offers a lot more oppurtunity, being less monotonous. This, and a couple ideas I've found on the internet have given me some food for thought, but I'd appreciate a few more. :)

The Elemental Chaos works fine for your idea...if you take out the whole "There's a big maelstrom of evil in there and it's where demons come from."

That was stupid.

Yora
2012-12-29, 08:28 AM
I went completely without any elemental planes. Instead, there is only the spiritworld which includes the spirits and magical essence of all elements as well as plants.

Frathe
2012-12-31, 03:09 AM
I've actually had a tetrahedral idea similar to that in the original post. I've also worked out a system in which the planes merge into each other at the edges, as you said with the cloudbank/icefield. It went basically like this:

{table=head]||||
Lightning|Smoke (Fire)|Air|Cloud (Water)|Ice
Light (Air)||Dust (Earth)||Mist (Air)
Fire|Ash (Water)||Steam (Fire)|Water
Magma (Earth)||Sand (Air)||Sea (Earth)
Metal|Stone (Fire)|Earth|Mud (Water)|Wood
[/table]

The italicized elements don't fit as well into the literal blurred-edge system; they're non-literal combinations of the "properties" of the primary elements that I used to produce other elements I specifically wanted.

The parentheses indicate the element that secondarily influences a substance (Sea is Water influenced by Earth, while Mud is Earth influenced by Water, etc.)

The color indicates the primary association.