This is a refinement of my views of the structure of a fantasy game universe, which should be compatible with most D&D like games. I never did much like the model that has been used, and this makes more sense to me – but it is also flexible enough that it can be used with a variety of models – but still leave enough space for the DM to play 🙂
I know it needs a bit more refinement – but that will come in time. Theses things hang around in the back of my brain for ages, getting tweked and reworked all of the time – however, I don’t think the core of the model will change much.
And yes, I probably do need a decent editor to make it read better 😛
The Structure of the Cosmos
I use a different ‘Cosmic’ structure to most D&D style game settings. My world doesn’t have inner planes and outer planes, or even separate planes for different elements or alignments – I use a simple, much more flexible model.
The Ethereal Plane
Back in the beginning there was chaos – nothing really existed, it was all just ‘Stuff’. I have no idea where the stuff came from – we just have to accept that it was there. Although it would make an interesting project for a theoretical research sage.
Then something happened. There are many different explanations for this – The great Ey-Oy swimming, the natural separation of heavy ‘stuff’ from light ‘stuff’ – probably as many as there are religious groupings. It doesn’t really matter how it happened, what is important is that it happened – because it separated ‘stuff’ out into five different things. Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Aether – the elements. We all know what Fire, Air, Earth and Water look like – but Aether has always been a source of interest for sages, because no one is really sure what it is.
Most sages think it was the original ‘stuff’ and that bits of it changed to make up the other elements – however, they all agree that it is everywhere in the whole of the physical cosmos. If you think of a giant snow-globe – with red flecks for fire, white for air, brown for earth and blue for water – shake it up and watch them all swirl around mixing up and swirling around each other. The Aether is the liquid that they swirl in – it touches all four elements, it is everywhere – and it makes it all possible. Without Aether everything would just fall to pieces.
The Elemental Planes
One thing the sages can agree on, is that the four physical elements have an affinity for themselves – and they clump together. Think of lots of little magnets sticking together, or fat forming into greasy clumps after you roasted a joint, or even starlings flocking together. Again, it doesn’t matter how or why – it just happens. And that forms the elemental planes.
The sages argue about how many there are – some say there is just one plane of each type of element, others argue that there might be many different planes of each element. The most radical argue that there could be planes where two elements come together – Fire and Earth, to make a Magma plane. Who, in this tiny little bubble of a world, can know all of these things?
One thing the sages are sure of is that the Aether, the Ethereal Plane, touches all of those other elemental planes, and holds them together.
The Astral Plane
Is the key to life. Some sages say it is the life blood of the primal creator god Ey-Oh, who sacrificed itself to create life in the universe, others say it was released from a water droplet that fell and burst, and I am sure that there are other ideas out there as well. However, they all agree that The Astral Plane is the source of all life.
However, rather than a snow-globe, the Astral is more like a tangled ball of yarn, threads stretch everywhere and practically impossible to separate. Indeed, you can see one of those threads if every you enter the Astral Plane – all you need to do is watch your own silver cord stretch back to your material body. However, there are many other threads, and only a few of them stretch back to a living being. Worse still, the Astral is a matted mess of more than one type of thread – think of strands of spider silk, mixed with the down from a baby’s bottom and the fluff of cotton-wool – among any other type of thin fibre that comes to mind. And those treads wind right through the Ethereal and touch everything in the cosmos.
Sages are not sure what these threads are, or where they go, but they are sure that there are at least three things involved – either as threads themselves or, as most think, caught up within them.
Sparks of Life
The first thing that any form of life needs – from the smallest simplest thing swimming in a primordial sea, right through to the greatest of the gods. Some sages argue that the bigger your Spark, the greater your life force – others argue that you can accumulate more Life Sparks. Others just say they don’t know. What they do all agree on, is that every living thing has at least one Spark of Life.
Motes of Magic
Sages believe that Motes are the source of all magic in the cosmos. Mages learn how to manipulate motes when they read their spell books, priests learn prayers s that grant them divine access to motes, while sorcerers just have an innate ability to manipulate them. Some sages even say that sorcerers and bards have motes of magic in their makeup. It doesn’t really matter, of course, so long as the magic works.
Shards of Immortality
The stuff of the gods. However not everyone who has Shards of Immortality in their makeup is a god, and they aren’t even immortal – however, they have taken the first steps along that way. However, as you incorporate more Shards, you may become immortal, and may (eventually) become
The Prime Material Plane
There isn’t just one of them, there are lots, because each world is its own self-contained plane. No one is quite sure how they came about, but a Prime Material plane is where bits of all the elements exist close to each other. The world itself is a chunk of Elemental Earth, the Sky is Elemental Air, the sea is Elemental Water and the sun Elemental Earth – and somehow they all co-exist together in the same little bit of the Ethereal Plane. Sages debate it endlessly. Most agree that there must be something special about that particular piece of the Ethereal. The Interventionists maintain that it a part of Ey-Oh that wasn’t completely destroyed, the Naturalists argue that it is a small piece of the original drop that remains, still others argue that it is a ripple in the fabric of the astral. None of them really know, but there are many different theories.
All believe that it needn’t just be one piece of each element. Moons are generally seen as an extra piece of Elemental Earth, while dual suns are each made of Elemental Fire. Some argue that that ‘extras’ will all slowly move closer together until they coalesce into one large piece. Some even argue that there is Elemental Fire inside the great ball of Elemental Earth, which would explain volcanoes and magma. But none of them really know.
What all the sages agree on, is the Miasma. This is a region close the the Prime Material where both the Ethereal and Astral planes act differently to normal. Some describe them as ‘thicker’ others describe them as ‘more dense’, while another group describes them as ‘closely intermingled’. The all agree, however, that something is different, and most believe that The Miasma creates a sort of border plane around the Prime Material – although it isn’t consistent. Some recognise it as a Border Ethereal, some as the Plane of Shadows, while still others call it the Paths of the Dead.
However you see it, all three seem to co-exist in the same space at the same time, like some twisted, not quite right, version of both planes, which have become twisted and interlinked.