View Full Version : Cosmic Alignments (not the planetary kind)

2017-09-09, 07:44 AM
Over in the Level Adjustment Reassignment thread, a discussion grew, starting from a discussion relating to how nonhumanoid creatures often have to burn a feat just to cast spells and leading to...

Also, isn't it strange that the laws of magic are so...anthrocentric? Humanoid beings can talk and gesture to cast spells fine, but anything else had best burn a feat to be able to unlock any magical potential beyond that given to them by the gods. Kinda makes you feel sorry for the naga equivalent of the Dark One...

In the myth of Prometheus, Prometheus has to distribute gifts to animals and his lack wit brothers forgets to save enough for humans so he gets them fire. One can imagine similar events in a fantasy setting.
But really, there are far fewer wizards per capita than most magical creatures have per level hitter powers. Keith Baker said that in Eberron the monster races worship the Shadow as a Prometheus figure who gave them magical powers that Aureon held back from the civilized races, which seems more likely to be a natural explanation than the reverse.

@White Blade: That makes quite a lot of sense. To take it further: How about adding a pro-humanoid/anti-humanoid axis to the alignment system? For example, tanar'ri and obyrith demons would be at different sides of the axis, you could have nature vs. technology* deities, even some positive energy vs. negative energy debate could tie into that**. The pro-humanoid side would say it's fair to grant humanoids luck (to compensate for lesser natural power), the anti-humanoid side would variously claim it's not fair, or that the pro-humanoid side overcompensated, or something like that. Ties in well with the idea that humanoids are (currently) the dominant species of the Great Wheel, making it a really current debate. You could even go so far as to create generations of old, weak, pre-humanoid deities, and young, weak, post-humanoid deities in the anti-humanoid camp (who represent past and future shifts in alignment/multiplanar politics).
*The distinction isn't so useful IRL, but, like the law/chaos distinction, it's consistent enough for D&D :smalltongue:.
**I like to map good/evil to positive/negative energy, but that does require a lot of reworking of fiends, because they are still living creatures, harmed by negative energy.

Just ditching the moral alignments and going with more cosmic-level stuff sounds more interesting to me. Pro-mortals who consider such life inherently valuable versus anti-mortals who think they mess everything up, and maybe a few who are against life in general; static versus dynamic, maybe with dynamic being broken down into builders/tenders and those who just want to see chaos blossom; with or against a theoretical universal sovereign; for or against celestial cooperation; etc. There are probably more that you could add with the right lore (e.g, something thaumatological, how to handle/ignore a given curse, stance on some setting-changing event, etc).

I'm sorry I didn't notice this before. I'd say that I think pro civilization and anti-civilization would probably be a very real debate among gods (though I dislike drawing the line on "humanoid"). I think that anti-civilization gods would represent a strong contingent. Builders vs. Breakers might make sense of the standard D&D setting, with lots of "dungeons" being old school bunkers layered with traps and resource vaults. Of course, you could easily fold this back into the law/chaos distinction.
I don't know a ton about the Great Wheel, but I think the gods being made up of either the "monster" gods, who represent and are worshipped throughout the areas PCs adventure into, or the "civilized" gods, who rule over what mortals build and harvest, is an entirely natural one; albeit that it is the same sort of mythology that underwrote most of the imperial powers of history.

The distinction I make is generally Cycles vs. Progress, because I prefer a debate where both sides have a valid point.
But I think this is not the thread to discuss the topic further.

Clearly, I agree.

I'm interested to know which mythologies White Blade is referring to, and how they relate to the proposed cosmology he mentions; I don't think most imperial powers encountered monsters, or regarded foreign gods as comparable to their own (generally either considering them inferior to or the same as their own). Or are you simply referring to the divide between "our" gods and "their" gods? ...And is there a way to keep this discussion focused on real-world mythologies (e.g, Roman), or will it inevitably drift into a discussion of real-world religion?
As for Nifft, I'm curious as to what you mean by Cycles vs. Progress. I'd also like to suggest that having divine beings who care more about realizing their vision for the world than how mortals would perceive the morality of their actions makes them feel more...different than mortals, which is good if you're not going for the moderate, down-to-earth kind of deity.

I'm also interested to hear others' thoughts, if they'd like to share.

White Blade
2017-09-09, 09:04 AM
Marduk conquers Tiamat, justifying the Mesopotamian conquerors was what was on my mind. Zeus against the Titans. The Aesir against the Jotun and Vanir. All of these legends of divine war underwrote military style conquest of other nations, representing divine power imposing order on the world.

2017-09-09, 10:03 AM
"Cycles vs Progress" sounds like the tradition vs modernity breakdown that was brought up in several of my anth and poli-sci classes in college.

2017-09-09, 11:34 AM
For completeness' sake, this is what I was referring to in my second footnote:

I personally think of it as cosmopolitics: imagine that the inner planes are arranged around the material plane as the six sides of a die, with positive and negative, fire and water, and earth and air, opposite to eachother (you can add more dimensions, like wood/metal). The good-aligned planes are across from the positive energy plane, from the perspective of the material plane, while the evil-aligned planes are across from the negative energy plane. Fire and air are chaotic, water and earth lawful, and the relevant planes are near their elemental associates. These inner planes are big, regenerating bags of energy, and a lot of magic runs on their power.

Now, originally, the inhabitants of the outer planes just used the closest convenient power source, without any moral ideas about that. Humans, being the positive energy-aligned simpletons they are, equated the use of negative energy (harmful to them, and their food) to evil, and from there, the association with the 'lower', 'evil' planes is easily made. The 'good', 'positive' deities have used a mixture of propoganda and development aid to keep humans, elves and dwarves quite solidly aligned with Team Positive.

Now, these kinds of oppositions - squabbles over material plane* influence - can turn sour pretty quickly, and today, there isn't much left of the original neutrality of positive and negative energy. Using one or the other is immediately taken as support for one side or the other, even if you didn't mean it that way. The evil deities 'tax' any negative energy channeling (being in the position to do so, close as they are), effectively gaining a small part of every negative spell's energy for themselves. The 'good' deities do the same with positive spells.

Detect evil, and its cousins, quite literally detect alignment - cosmic alignment, the flux of planar power channels surrounding a given creature or object. A skilled caster can trace the channels to a particular deity, if any, and even siphon or redirect power, with Ur-Priests as most extreme examples of hi-jacking deific power channels.

*Naturally, the material plane is equally close to all inner and outer planes, making it impossible for any deity to get a 'home ground' advantage.

Outer planes might be wholly artificial; the hallmark of divine power is the creation of such a plane (or the inheritance/stealing of divine power later on, naturally). The original outer plane encompassed all inner planes. The second broke into the first and formed the first division of the elemental planes. Later deities had to amass ever greater power to ascend, squeezing more outer planes into the ring. With the current number of outer planes, ascension from scratch is practically impossible.

Note that due to its central location, only the Material Plane has enough power to ascend in the first place. All deities started from the Material, or in some cases the Ethereal, Plane of Shadow, or Astral.

2017-09-09, 12:15 PM
Hm... I think this is something D&D completely failed at by having the divide between classes and (R)HD. It always wanted to incorporate some aspects of Lovecraft and Morcook, but couldn't pull it off.

If we take the core concept serious, then reality is mutable and itīs a battle royale for which concept will be dominant.

Ars Magicka players will know that thereīre four "realms of power" besides the "mundane" world and that those will have a huge influence on how realty (as represented by the rule) works.

Important to talk about because a "Titan reality" will differ from a "Zeus reality" in fundamental ways.

2017-09-09, 12:44 PM
Not familiar with the term (R)HD.

2017-09-09, 01:51 PM
Not familiar with the term (R)HD.

You are. Racial Hit Dice. The odd notion to translate race into pseudo class to make it comparable.

Darth Ultron
2017-09-09, 05:44 PM
You'd have some vague groups of gods:

1.Nature First: Ones that want to keep things ''Wild''.

2.Progress with Nature: Basically, the (pure) environmentalist stand.

3.Progress First: Progress is all that matters.


1.Everyone should help everyone.

2.those with more should help those with less, within reason and with limits.

3.Everyone should take care of themselves.


1.Things must be done in a orderly fashion all ways and is more important then the individual.

2.Things should be done in an orderly fashion most ways and some free will is important.

3. This have no order, do whatever you want.

2017-09-10, 07:25 AM
For completeness' sake, this is what I was referring to in my second footnote:
Is it weird that this made me think of a universe with planes for successive Platonic solids?
Of course, that would require a total of 50 planes to be created, plus the Material Plane in the middle...

2017-09-10, 03:51 PM
Is it weird that this made me think of a universe with planes for successive Platonic solids?
Of course, that would require a total of 50 planes to be created, plus the Material Plane in the middle...
You mean multiverses for each of the Platonic solids, with inner planes arranged to correspond to faces? That's not a bad idea. Bit complicated at the higher end, but it does get you an alignment system that maps directly to a d20 :smalltongue:.