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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Default But what IS a Universe?

    So, I recently asked for some help with a few elements of the setting which my not-anywhere-close-to-being-done stories are taking place in, and I actually got some really great help- but I also felt that, with how much of the wider setting I had to reference there, I may as well put up the rest of the main details for anybody's thoughts and critique.


    The first thing I should clarify is that, in addition to the mythological and classic D&D inspirations for this cosmology, I'm taking a ton from good old fashioned Real World SCIENCE- adapted and twisted as needed, of course, but I've always been a big fan of cutting edge Theoretical Physics, and find a wealth of inspiration in the discoveries we make.

    So, the first and most apparent inspiration from science is the dimemsional model of String Theory and subsequently Membrane Theory- the first predicts that, in addition to the Height, Length, Width, and Time, there are six additional spatial dimensions in the universe that we don't know about simply because they loop back on themselves before you can even cross the width of an atom, so we cross the whole universe and back in those directions countless times a second without noticing. Membrane Theory adds a final Eleventh dimension, each Universe being a particular spot along that dimension.

    In our universe, as far as we can tell, those six other dimensions are folded up tight in what's called a Callabi-Yau Manifold, and one of the big questions in String/Membrane Theory is exactly which possible Manifold it is, as that will potentially help calculate a lot of unknown constants in the universe. In this universe, however, the six additional dimensions are merely invisible because a few aspects of the shape make it unusual for mortals to move in more than just the normal three plus time.

    Each Plane of existence has, of course, a 3-dimensional extent to it, though I suppose there may be some lower-dimensional demiplanes. The 4th through 6th spatial dimensions, though, differ from Plane to Plane- in the mortal realm of the Materium they are mostly the same deal, it's just a bit more difficult to move through them; in other Planes, they allow the whole place to loop in on itself three different ways backwards and make everything confusing. The 7th through 9th dimensions (time being 10th), is where we finally get to the main structure of the Universe.

    Within the last triad of dimensions, the Universe takes the shape of the great tree Yggdrasil. It sprouts from an island of Existance in the shapeless void, its six great Roots twining to form the six pillars that hold the Firmamentum, the barrier that separates the Universe from the void. Energy flows from a one-way Gate at the heart of the root system, flows throughout the tree, then exits through another one-way Gate at the very zenith of the Firmamentum. The branches hold the Materium aloft, connecting the many worlds together in a network that extends into the lower dimensions to define the shape of matter in the universe, eventually trickling down to the Ley Lines accross each given planet. The branches also act as pathways for the magician that discovers them, allowing near-instantaneous travel at far greater efficiency than regular forms of teleportation.

    Each of the six Roots is its own Plane, one defined by one of the six aspects of Magic or perhaps defining that aspect of Magic. That will take up it's own post, but to summarize: Du'at, the Great Library, realm of Word magic; She'ol, the Abyss, realm of Sympathy magic; Tartarus, the Labyrinth, realm of Alchemical magic; Barzakh, the Matrice, realm of Numerical magic; Gehenna, the Dreamlands, realm of Psionic magic; Naraka, the Hollows, realm of Harmonic magic.

    These Outer planes are not tied to alignment, nor are they afterlives. While it is a rule in my setting that the soul is genuinely indestructible, the natives of these other planes won't have any more answers than your common Materian as to where it goes.


    Now, most of this is not known to almost anybody in the setting- some of the older civilizations have begun to piece things together, but only the Precursor race could really have given you a passable Manual of the Planes or the like- and you don't usually call people Precursos for hanging around.

    In coming posts, I'll elaborate some more on the Magic system, which is intrinsic not only to the structure of the universe but to the nature of the Soul, and then start getting into the specifics of the various Planes. In the mean time, any thoughts? Anything I botched the explanation of and need to start over on?
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Alright, no idea if anybody's reading this yet, but let's proceed to the next bit of the setting; What is Magic?

    This is another aspect of that reconstructionism I mentioned in the Dragon thread; in designing the magic system, I wanted to really get down to what Magic means, what it would have to be in a 'hard' enough setting, to fit in with what we know of the laws of the universe.

    What really comes down to it, and what makes the most sense, is that Magic is the set of rules over reality that govern the interaction of ideas and concepts the way that Physics governs energy and particles. We see this in that the most truly significant applications of magic never happen naturally, but are harnessed by the most powerful Ideas of all: an Identity.

    As I said, the structure of the Universe is tied to the nature of the Magic system, which is tied to the nature and anatomy of the Soul. What is a Soul, though? Before addressing the physical properties, the Soul is what makes you you, right? What makes you different from another person, or from a bird, or from a chair. All humans share many, many personality traits that form what we call human nature- but each individual is different from any other in specific ways. These differences, these traits, these concepts are what define a person at all. The Soul is, essentially, the central Idea of who you are, your Identity, and the consequences that spring from it.

    Now, if an object in physics is a concentrated mass of particles, a thing in magic is a concentration of concepts that form a distinguishable Thing separate from its environment- the size, mass, hardness, shape, boundary, solidity, weight, and so on of a rock as opposed to the dirt it is buried in. Some of the specifics of these concepts are related to six very important categories- the Name of the Thing, the Numerical measurements of it, the Material composition and properties, the Shadow which bears its image, the capacity or lack thereof to consider ideas in a Mind, and the natural Harmonic resonances.

    The same is most especially true of the Soul: The Egyptians believed the Soul to have seven or eight parts, which I found fit very well with my fledgeling system; Your central Identity and core personality is at the heart of the Soul, and what gives it power beyond the ideoforms of other Things. That power, simply put, is sapience and will. While the Mind brings sentience to the body, allowing it to comprehend concepts, Sapience allows reflection of concepts, concrete decision-making regarding stimuli, and ultimately, the ability to make choices rather than simply being acted upon. That power of Will, found in the central core that the Egyptians called the Ba'at, is what powers real Magic.

    Around that Core, the six pillars of magic form the portions of your Soul that you need to stay alive, what keep it anchored here rather than passing on to the unknown.
    The physical body, the Materius, is defined by the chemical composition of your DNA, that dictates the shape and matter of your body. It governs what we think of as Biology and especially Biochemistry.
    The mathematical properties of that body, the kinetic forces and potential energies and tensile strengths, are the Numera of the soul, and dictate its interactions with the immediate environment, and thus also stores most of the magical energy a caster uses, or which non-casters would think of as 'life force.' This essentially is the main protective shell around the Core.
    The Name of the soul is the transmissible form of the Identity; it is the aspect of the soul that can be spread far and wide as ideas are communicated and others are influenced by the idea of your person simply by awareness of it.
    The Shadow bears your image and thus is powerfully connected to you; it chiefly contains a record of the Materius as it normally is, which is how your body knows what to turn back into when the Transmutation spell wears off, or how many fingers to grow back when being healed from injury. Further, it contains a record of... everything. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, every interaction has a mark on both parties- that is what we call Entropy. That information, beyond the numerical data, is conceptually stored in the Shadow. The Shadow thus connects you to all you have touched, and all that has come from you- the Sympathetic ties used in many rituals.
    The Psyche is the connection point between your Materius and Core, the brain filtering yourself into electrochemical pulses and back. Its impaired function can thus cause thought processes or even personality traits not native to your Identity in the form of psychological disorders.
    The Heart keeps the rhythm of your body, the steady beat that brings you life and in some ways both expresses and affects your emotions as it changes. Like the Harmonic magic it represents, it is a mysterious thing that seems derivative and subservient yet seems to dominate as it wishes.


    So, that brings us to the specifics of the six forms of magic; while each civilization that discovers magic will have their own specific system, all of them eventually stem from some combination of the six pillars: Psionics, Numerology, Logomancy, Sympathy, Harmonics, and Alchemy.

    Alchemy is, of course, chemistry, the magic of materials and their interactions with one another. The right proportions of the right substances can cause bizarre effects, from the incredible functions of a living body to the improved properties of alloys over the constituent metals. Combined properly, violent chemical reactions, potions of various effects or intrinsically magical alloys can be created. Thus, Transmutation, the purely protective forms of Abjuration, and Evocation are the most easily wrought spells with Alchemy.

    Numerology is math. A vast sphere of concepts sometimes seemingly disconnected from reality, yet so intrinsic to our ability to understand its laws. In its most basic form, Numerology lets us make predictions and codify consistencies in reality that allow for a simple, reliable form of Divination. As the storage form for energy, some affinity is felt for Evocation as well, but most significant is the Abjuration effects as Numerology dictates so much about interactions, proper use can allow precise control over the manifestations of other magic. This makes it a fundamental basis for most ritual magics, as it allows for more ambient energy to be gathered for the final spell. Magic circles and repeated numerical themes make heavy use of Numerology.

    Logomancy is the magic of words. Like Numerology, its most basic form is the transmission of information, Divination that is however focused on very different things, conveying abstract concepts intrinsic to the Psyche. This connection to comprehension of concepts and emotion thus makes it very naturally prone to Enchantment, be it as basic as diplomacy in use. The invocation of names and promises, however, is very frequently tied to forms of Abjuration or Conjuration as beings are bound or summoned. Sometimes, one may discover pieces of the pseudo-language that seems to be the intended tongue of the universe itself- these words are the basis of incantations and chanted spells. Many magic circles and glyphs rely on the magic of the Universal words and letters as much as on the equations and geometry put into them.

    Psionics is, of course, the magic of the mind. It is the most easily used, as again the Psyche is the direct connection of the Soul to the world- in its most basic it is the nerve signals that cause the body to obey the will of the individual. Emotions like fear or anger can enact minor Transmutation or perhaps Abjuration on the body in that it triggers the Alchemical signals that enhance its performance. In the talented, this naturally manifests itself in Evocation as energy spikes with their emotions, fires or kinetic force lashing out in behalf of their anger. The more meditative aspects, however, can also bring about incredible Transmutations- the concepts that form the world around us can be influenced by our ability to dissect those concepts, redefining substances into collections of bits of the substance, or redefining one thing as simply part of a larger whole. Just as the effects of quantum mechanics are influenced by the inclusion of an observer, the inclusion of a mind that can reflect on the ideas around them can cause both subtle and marked changes in their nature.

    Sympathy is the magic of Quantum Entaglement, of like affects like, of symbology and contagion. Ideas that are similar to each other are connected, allowing changes in one to cause changes in another. This naturally lends itself to Transmutation and Necromancy, curses or transformations finding their targets through pieces they've left behind or images that represent them. It also leads to Divination concerning location, seeing the traces of what the target has interacted with. Over generations this can manifest itself as Evolution, a slow Transmutation as the environment reshapes a species in its own image.

    Harmonics is the most mysterious magic. At first, it would seem to be a mere consequence of Numerology or Psionics or even Logomancy, a form of communication using numbers to convey emotions. Yet, music has an undeniable power of its own, a chaotic power. It has great Enchantment potential, naturally swaying the hearts of listeners, but also Transmutation as resonant frequencies cause solid things to shatter. On the smallest scales, the basic particles of the universe are tiny strings or membranes vibrating to notes that define what the particles do and become, the universe defined by a song played on a quintillion drums and viols, the greatest act of Conjuration in the universe.


    Now, in application, magic consists of using the aspects of the six pillars of magic along with the energy stored in the soul's Numera to catalyze a reaction in the ambient energy around them; there is hardly enough energy in the Soul on its own to manifest a great fireball or materialize steel walls from nothing; rather, that energy is within the Aether, a conceptual matrix not quite forming a Plane that is superimposed on the world- this is the space in which the leylines flow from Yggdrasil, where vast amounts of unused mass-energy float around the places where planets and stars eventually gather, waiting to be directed by a spell into a specific form within the material world. (Wait, crap, did I just explain Dark Matter?) As it is not truly a separate Plane, the Aether is still present in the other Planes, though naturally the environment of each outer plane facilitates one form of magic over all the others.

    Each form of magic, ultimately, still depends on the Will of the user for its prompting and final direction. This respect for the will of the user is what most clearly defines magic from any other field of science, save for one other aspect: The Aether experiences time in reverse.

    Magic has long been used for the sake of prophecy and prediction. The most basic need that persists through any stage of civilization is knowledge of what to expect. The future is far from set in stone, however; from any given point thousands of possible futures diverge, the Determinism of physical laws limited by the uncertainty of individual decisions and, perhaps, quantum uncertainty itself. With each moment that passes, numerous futures vanish as their path is not taken. Summarily, there is that much less information to be pulled directly from the Aether. Conversely, there is that much more information in the material world to draw from, the current state of the summed particles of existence growing that much more complex, storing enough data to potentially extrapolate the entire past. This constant increase of energy is what defines Entropy as we know it, the arrow of time that defines irreversible reactions. In certain uses of Magic, however, this information is given back to the Aether. As broken things are mended, heat is leeched from areas, and order is restored, information seems to vanish from the material world, but the Conservation of Information requires that it go somewhere- that is to the Aether, where the Shadows bear an additional record of every magical interaction in the world. More information becomes available in the Aether, and in a minute way, balance is restored.

    The ultimate implication of this is that Magic used on a large enough scale can preserve the lifespan of the univsre, staving off the Heat Death of entropy theoretically indefinitely so long as more and more of it is transferred from Material to Aether.
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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    That was an interesting reading.

    Some remarks:

    You're kind of vague on the 3 additional dimensions of the material plane. What are they? You only need one additional dimensions for all the "phase" stuff, maybe one other dimension for the "walk through shadows" stuff, but is it what you meant?

    On souls, do you assume duality of the soul and brain, both influencing each othrrs? Or do you reject chemical influences on the personality of peoples? In other words, could a brain injury actually change the personality of someone, is depression also a physical illness (on top of a mental one)? Or is the soul something essentially unalterable by material means.

    Last remark is a small technical remark in quantum mechanics, which you may already be aware of: quantum entanglement do not allow "communication", or a "change of state influencing another change of state". Quantum entanglement is much more subtle, but also much less powerful, than that.
    While the following interpretation has been proven wrong (or at least, I think it was), it is more correct to consider that quantum entanglement is just "the two particules are initially in the same state / in two correlated states, and modifying one has no influence on the other".

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Hm I was under the impression the entire point of Quantum Entanglement was that observing one entangled particle caused the other to change as if you had observed it, which would imply a change of state causing another change of state.

    The additional three dimensions in the Material Plane are mostly the same as the first three- essentially, at each point along any of the additional three you'll find a layout of stars and galaxies similar to its neighbors but slightly larger or smaller as one moves farther or closer to the 'edges' of the plane. The final three dimensions of Yggdrasil are the ones more used in the phasing and shadow-walking examples you mentioned, as the first six are folded through them.

    The chemical and physical effects on the mind don't directly change the core personality, I think. The experiences caused by living with those changes can, just as normal life experiences change a person's personality. In that sense, yes, the soul and brain do influence each other- I'm not sure what you mean about Depression being a physical illness rather than mental, it's already known to have chemical aspects due to hormonal imbalances, whether that is a cause or an effect; I don't know quite enough about psychology or neuropsychology to make a universal statement, but I think (at least in this system, if nothing else) most quantifiable disorders are at least mostly in the brain or mind rather than the Core Personality aspect of the soul; some may be reflected in the Core, especially if it's something that that person considers part of their Identity, but mostly they are layered onto the Core by malfunctions in the brain and its ability to properly express the Core personality.

    Thank you for taking an interest, though!
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  5. - Top - End - #5
    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Quantum:

    No, measuring an entangled particules give you information on what you will obtain if you measure the other entangled particule, but it does not modify its state. In particular, if you have only one of the two entangled particules (and the other is far away), you cannot detect of the other particules has been measured or not, and whatever someone is doing with it has no influence on your experimentation.

    (Though if he communicate to you which experience he did with its particules and it's result, you can use those information to predict the results of your experimentations with the particule)

    Additional dimensions:

    I understand for the tree. For the dimensions 4-6, is there a reason for wanting that many additional dimensions? What you describe would also be possible with a single additional dimension (for each point of this dimension, you have a 3D space with galaxies and planets). Is it just because you like the symmetry in the number 3 everywhere, or am I missing something?

    Depression:
    I was not saying physical illness rather than mental ones, I was saying in top of mental ones. Some depressions are cured through drugs, so I'd qualify them as physical illness too.

    Soul:
    I did not wanted to enter in the debate on "how it works in the real world", as I don't think we have access to enough informations to say if we're simply biological computers, entirely characterised by our brain structure and data's (both of them shaped trough our education and experiences) or something more than that.
    But as a world builder, you have the choice to give a definitive answer to this question for your universe, and you can chose how much of the brain has influence over the soul.

    For example, if a mad scientist remove from the brain of someone (in your universe) all the parts needed for the feeling of satisfaction and happiness, essentially forcing a physical depression on this person. What happens?
    1) Through the power of friendship/love/willpower, the soul can overwrite the body, and rebuild whatever is necessary to feel happiness. (Similar to robots gaining free will, overwriting their programs)
    2) As long as the soul is in this wicked body, it will never experience happiness trough normal means. However, the soul is still able to experience happiness, and will find a peaceful afterlife.
    3) The brain being the host of the soul, the soul was also hurt by this operation. The soul, as much as the body, is now unable to reach happiness until being healed, even after death.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Quote Originally Posted by MoiMagnus View Post
    Quantum:

    No, measuring an entangled particules give you information on what you will obtain if you measure the other entangled particule, but it does not modify its state. In particular, if you have only one of the two entangled particules (and the other is far away), you cannot detect of the other particules has been measured or not, and whatever someone is doing with it has no influence on your experimentation.

    (Though if he communicate to you which experience he did with its particules and it's result, you can use those information to predict the results of your experimentations with the particule)

    Additional dimensions:

    I understand for the tree. For the dimensions 4-6, is there a reason for wanting that many additional dimensions? What you describe would also be possible with a single additional dimension (for each point of this dimension, you have a 3D space with galaxies and planets). Is it just because you like the symmetry in the number 3 everywhere, or am I missing something?

    Depression:
    I was not saying physical illness rather than mental ones, I was saying in top of mental ones. Some depressions are cured through drugs, so I'd qualify them as physical illness too.

    Soul:
    I did not wanted to enter in the debate on "how it works in the real world", as I don't think we have access to enough informations to say if we're simply biological computers, entirely characterised by our brain structure and data's (both of them shaped trough our education and experiences) or something more than that.
    But as a world builder, you have the choice to give a definitive answer to this question for your universe, and you can chose how much of the brain has influence over the soul.

    For example, if a mad scientist remove from the brain of someone (in your universe) all the parts needed for the feeling of satisfaction and happiness, essentially forcing a physical depression on this person. What happens?
    1) Through the power of friendship/love/willpower, the soul can overwrite the body, and rebuild whatever is necessary to feel happiness. (Similar to robots gaining free will, overwriting their programs)
    2) As long as the soul is in this wicked body, it will never experience happiness trough normal means. However, the soul is still able to experience happiness, and will find a peaceful afterlife.
    3) The brain being the host of the soul, the soul was also hurt by this operation. The soul, as much as the body, is now unable to reach happiness until being healed, even after death.
    Oh, great, that's one of those patented explanations they come up with for how there's no need to get your hopes up about FTL travel. It gets the idea across, though.

    The reason I wanted 3 additional dimensions? Well, part of it is the repetition of 3s and 6s and 9s, yes, but part of it is also, as I led off with (it was a long segue, I don't blame you if you missed it), that that's the number of spatial dimensions predicted by String Theory- thus, if you have the three normal ones and the three for the tree, you have three left that don't have anything to do in the Material Plane. I could have them wrapped up together microscopically like the ones in String Theory are, but then there's the numerological things like you mentioned. Part of the backstory for the setting's main overarching villain involves an apotheosis ritual that involved an FMA-style giant magic 'circle', or in this case magic 6-simplex, which requires points to define it- just like you need at least four points to define a space outside of a flat plane. Six being, again, the number of pillars of magic, then a point of origin for the seventh.

    Right, yeah, I get what you mean with the diseases.

    As for the soul, I wasn't meaning to bring up the real-world debate either. It would be normally the second case, but methods would exist to facilitate the first- not usually raw willpower unless the subject has both extraordinary willpower and extraordinary magical potential (the two are related, but in most cases the latter is determined by the Numera and it's storage capacity).

    That's not to put an outright moratorio on things being overcome through the power of Friendship/Love/Hotbloodedness, though. as coincidentally that is a theme of the setting (There even is at least one character that fits the 'awakened robot' idea), but it also takes some amount of practical resources to accomplish that. My hope is to portray that theme in a more concrete way, a way that won't immediately get scoffed at by anybody more cynical than me- the intended takeaway needs a practical application, after all.
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Alright. Been a bit, things got a little crazy here on my end so I was pulled a way, but I'm back and ready for another installment.

    So, let's get started on the individual Outer planes. Each Outer Plane is in some ways a source of its aligned Magic, an actualization of it, a physical incarnation or manifestation of it, and so on; closely tied in ways the mortal mind struggles to fully comprehend. In being so distilled, and so removed from the Materium, they are also closer in essence to the void Outside the universe, and as such have much more eldritch and bizarre natures in both environment and denizens.

    Du'at is the plane aligned with Words- with communication and information, meaning and story. It takes the form of a great library, filled with books, scrolls, loose papers, and written works of countless other formats, the shelves taking up even the floors and ceilings- which are relative, of course. Gravity is aligned to the nearest surface, as the shelves themselves are made of dense physicalized words that are given immense weight by this place.

    While each 'room' in the library can be massive and complex, to a notable extent there are no proper doors. Rather, navigation is made through the books. Not all of them function; while the nature of the plane is reliant on some actual meaning to words and as such no text is purely gibberish, many fail to contain quite enough meaning to truly describe another room. It is also difficult to pass through texts that you can't read, as part of the process of actualizing the room is the understanding of the traveller. Still, progress through the rooms is made as they unfold or unroll with their host text, and the previous room closes into a new text.

    Some of the texts, rather than leading to another room, lead into a story. Like the fabled Library of Babel, you can eventually find any possible narriative represented somewhere, every book ever written and many books that never will. Part of what makes a given text able to manifest a story is fueled by being told, however, so it is the stories that have been written and spread that will most often create such gates.

    The natives of this plane are instances of communication with enough substance to attain animation and substance. In the Materium such entities would often be trapped in written form, but the nature of Du'at means even that written form can be inserted into a 'room' that can thus bring a physical form to the creature. Again, the most powerful denizens are pieces of narriatives that have been spread and retold again and again, be it characters, archetypes, themes, or even sequences of events common to myth and fable throughout the universe. Given the nature of the oldest stories, these great creatures can be extremely dangerous.

    -

    And, there we go. There's definitely more potential for development here, and I hope that becomes the case for each of the planes. I'm not smart enough to explore all the possible ideas myself here, so I would love to hear any ideas that stick out to you; a better way of explaining a trait, or a trait that would better fit the supposed explanation, ideas for new phenomena or creatures you might find within one of these planes, and so on.

    At the very least, don't feel like these are at all finished products with no room to grow- I try not to call attention to it in the thick of it, since I don't want to break the immersion while I'm really describing it all, but there's certainly things I'm stumped on or forgetting, especially as each of the Pillars of Magic is something people can and have built entire magic systems and settings out of. You could easily write a story only interacting with one of these planes and systems and still have it be incredibly immersive. This one, especially; I can barely imagine all the really meta stuff you could get into with living Tropes and Plot Devices running around in this place. I would certainly like to find a more robust idea for how traveling into stories works, as the established nature of navigation in the plane demands something along those lines but the aesthetic doesn't entirely mesh well.

    In terms of what kind of aesthetic I am going for in this plane overall, it's an Egyptian one. Du'at is, of course, from Egyptian myth, and aside from Greco-Roman they are the ones most closely associated with things like the Library of Alexandria. I haven't figured much out as to how that applies to the creatures aside from giving more spotlight to middle-eastern myths in general, though.
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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Well, no idea how to really drum up interest in this so I can get more feedback, so I'll just have to press on and hope for the best. At the lesat, it's good to get this all written out.

    She'ol is the plane aligned with Sympathy- with part and whole, image and reflection, shadow and substance. It takes the form of two connected sub-planes; the first is a titanic chasm rent in the barren ground of a comparatively small desert- space takes a toroidal shape here such that any direction in the desert eventually leads back to the chasm, while said chasm grows paradoxically larger and wider as it goes deeper- until the spacial dimensions are spread to a limit of some sort, where a river of blood or primordial soup flows achingly slow through the chasm.

    Anywhere that a stable reflection is made, however, by any surface, forms a portal to the opposite side, almost the inside-out of the first. The chasm is exactly matched by a towering, fused mountain range, the sludge of the river trickling back down its slopes in reflected paths to the small, looped flood plain at its base.

    The native life of the Abyss is chaotic and diverse, evolution occurring within each individual entity, new life spawning from every shadow or partial reflection on the river in near approximation of its progenitor, but the differences of the warped projections quickly add up to form distorted, deformed beasts that often cannot support themselves, collapsing back into the soup of the river.

    -

    So, yeah, this one is not quite as developed. Part of it may be the number of ideas I had to group into it, but there isn't a better place to put any of it than here; Shadow/reflection/image magic as a distinct concept from just illusions are shadow-themed magic are ultimately reliant on Sympathy in the same way as Blood magic, and the magic responsible for heredity is the most logical place to express evolution. It is also, of course, meant to somewhat echo the hordes of the Great Wheel's Abyss, if on a general level.
    Definitely a plane that needs more development and ideas, so again, your thoughts are welcome.
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  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    this sounds cool...
    Current characters:
    Drakirr (Blue Dragonborn Warlock)
    Alyfyldyr Hyalythki (Rock Gnome Wizard)
    Harilidir (Half-elf Bard)
    Kazaharad Akaztkl (Goliath Barbarian)
    Luft (air-genasi druid)
    And of course Lizard Wizard (Lizardfolk Sorcerer)

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Jan 2011

    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Thank you!

    Tartarus is the plane aligned with Alchemy- with composition and mixture, reaction and volatility, solidity and material. It makes full use of the additional dimensions to form a twisted network of passages in a genuine 6-dimensional Labyrinth, so distorted even the general advice to just always pick right is of little help; and that's before it starts changing. Gravity is variable, both in strength and direction, typically orienting to either a single surface or distributed to the nearest from a given position, but also taking more bizarre layouts.

    The majority of the plane's natural surfaces are made up of metal or ore, limitless varieties both pure and alloyed. The metal forms itself into shapes resembling artificial structures, but ultimately they are made by natural processes. Among these are numerous forges and boilers, geysers of molten ore or harsh chemicals driven by heat-generating magical alloys or other chemical reactions. These often form the heads of rivers of the given material, bubbling along channels until interrupted or cooled.

    The rivers are central to much of the native life, much like any Material world. Even such denizens are not safe from their hazardous nature, however; most are scarred and deformed from the effects of the harsh chemicals and unrefined potions that transform and mutate in terrible ways. In this way, the rivers are similar to that of She'ol, save that the magic being in the river instead of the life itself means they do not have the focus or drive of evolution to encourage beneficial changes.

    The denizens protect themselves as best they can by fusing metal to themselves, if they do not naturally possess metallic exoskeletons already. Save for the withered dregs of the weakest beings, they are hulking beasts of fire and steel, from the stalking bovine humanoids that prowl the most twisted spaces to the great titans with countless arms that rage accross the open spaces. Ultimately they draw their existence from spawning pools where several rivers meet, the right mixture of concoctions reached to create living creatures.

    -

    This one has a pretty different problem from the rest of the planes. I have a very good concept to work from moving forward- it's flaming steampunk Greek mythology. We have the Labyrinth, we have Minotaurs, Hecatoncheires, potentially all kinds of such nasty things. You could imagine Hydras hanging out in these baths (especially given the original's ridiculously powerful poison), Nemean Lions being deadly Adamantine-skinned predators, and so on.

    The thing is, there's not as much eldritch going on. Part of it is that chemistry is a very recognisable part of the real world; the properties of a region being determined by the composition of its ground is normal for us, unlike being determined by what's been said nearby or how many people are thinking about it. It's difficult to come up with ideas to make the physics work based on Alchemy that doesn't wind up sounding just like magic use in the Material plane in the setting. I could make it much more pronounced there, but that doesn't have the same effect as what's going on in the other planes.

    On one hand, it does make sense for Tartarus to be the least Eldritch outer plane. Alchemy is the magic of the material, it was historically the closest to modern science and it deals with the most concrete effects we could observe before we unlocked nuclear and astronomic physics. On the other hand, I don't want it to be too mundane, either, as this is still supposed to be the borders to the Outside. It may be the least Eldritch, but I still want to evoke the kind of alternate, conceptual-level interpretations you see with the Minotaur in Danielewski's House of Leaves. (Obviously I can't just yank his idea, for the obvious reason and because that Minotaur doesn't mesh with the Alchemical magic system).
    It's a falcon. Wearing a Fedora. Your argument is irrelevant.
    Official Member of the No Cussing Club

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Gideon Falcon's Avatar

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    Jan 2011

    Default Re: But what IS a Universe?

    Gehenna is the plane aligned with Psionics- with mind and imagination, emotion and focus, perception and dreams. Many call it the Dreamlands, but unaware visitors may find the title startlingly misleading.

    Gehenna is a vast, bleak, empty waste, as grey as ash with a sky of eerie, dusky reddish color with no sun yet still illuminated by that same ghastly color. There is no wind in the waste, the dirt too tough to be sand and to dry to grow any plant life. It is simply dead air, as far as the eye can see in any direction. It is also entirely flat, and yet any travel always seems to be just uphill enough to be inconvenient...

    It is true that gravity tends to point a little bit behind any moving body. It is part of the plane's nature to encourage desolation, as the mind is, after all, much better at latching on to negativity than to hope and joy. It is more than simply the direction of gravity that seeks to draw you into despair, however- the strength of it and the way it warps space and time around you naturally react to your emotional state. If one is able to hold on to hope, or at least to immense determination, you find yourself light as a feather, your destinations rushing to meet you and time shifting to aid your endeavors- but such hope is hard to hold onto in such an environment as this, and as soon as you slip, as soon as doubt and despair grips you, the weight of your worries drags and then crushes you, every inch of progress taking a mile, running full tilt hardly different from standing still, and time seems to speed away out of your grasp the tighter you try to hold it, yet screeching to a stop as dead as the Gehenna air when you want things to pass more quickly.

    You may ask, of course, what does make hope and determination so hard to keep in this world, if they can make you so much stronger? That would be the Nightmares. Paradoxically hidden in the featureless distance, the dark emotions of the Materian take form as terrible monsters, fiends of Rage and Fear and Despair and Greed and Hate... some prowl the waste in an endless hunt for victims to torture, others lie in wait for the unaware, still others simply lie, a danger to passers by by mere nature.

    The Nightgaunts, for example, are brutal, immensely strong creatures despite their wiry frames, empowered by their rage to take full advantage of Gehenna's gifts even as they relentlessly track down any life they can find and mercilessly beat them near to death... but never fully killing them, simply discarding them until they have recovered enough to maul again. When one finds a victim, others come quickly, adding to the pain and violence as more and more gather round, impeding any attempted action, drowning out any ambition.

    The Hives, another terror, are harmless enough at a distance- misshapen creatures that fuse together in fleshy masses to meld their minds together, usually content to bask in their grotesquery, until they sense another nearby mind. One or two split off from the hive to approach, seeking to touch and thus communicate with the source of the thoughts, to add another mind to the collective- but their form of telepathy does not work with other creatures, and as they slowly discover this or as a mind resists their attempts to touch them they briefly attempt a slurred speech, imploring in a broken grasp of what language they can glean for the other to join them, to communicate, to not be so alone... but as it becomes clear that the mind is not a Hive being, and cannot and likely will not join them, they will quickly turn hostile, more individuals splitting to help hold up the main mass even as the collective extends their many limbs and claws to give chase, shouting insults and hurling whatever chunks of rock or sloughed off flesh they can tear from their surrounding.

    There are truly sapient entities in Gehenna, as inhospitable as it may seem. They grow in the place that truly gives the plane its other name, the only true refuge, far easier than trying to hold fast to frail hope and will. It is the realm of Dreams- a place sometimes glimpsed even by those in the Materian deep in their slumber. Here, the mind and the soul is freed, liberated from the chains of the waste's physics and able to alter their world with but a thought (so long as another dreamer does not contest them). This place is where you will find more relatable creatures, beings almost familiar, though often with exotic, bizarre mental structures and aspects of their psychology. They manipulate their surroundings into beautiful vistas and landscapes, and are able to live out happy lives... but only most of the time. For to spend too long in the Dreaming is to vanish into it, your mind fading as you become simply another illusion freely shapeable by the whims of those around you. Even the natives of the realm must regularly return to the physical world of Gehenna and risk its dangers, in order to ground themselves and keep their identities centered and stable. It is a daunting prospect, and lends a constant unease to what would otherwise be a blissful existence.

    -

    This is probably the plane I have thought out the best. I am especially proud of my idea with how the gravity works- though of course gravity normally has a much more stable and predictable affect on space and time. I also included the whole 'always uphill' thing as a nod to the classic D&D plane (I forget if it was Gehenna or if it was Hades) that was entirely tilted at a 45 degree angle.

    Part of what helped develop this is that this plane allowed me to express some of my own fears and insecurities into the kind of monsters that live there- after all, these things are supposed to be your fears and insecurities. This extends further to the uneasy, seemingly unsustainable nature of the Dreaming. The Dreamlands, and the name for the Nightgaunts, are, of course, a nod to H. P. Lovecraft, and the closest my setting will get to an actual inclusion of parts of the Cthulhu Mythos. They aren't the same Nightgaunts and Dreamlands from his stories, however, I do want to make that clear.

    This is another one that has a lot of interesting potential for monsters- if anyone gets inspired with a way to make some similar manifestation of their fears or phobias, I would love to hear them, and add them to the list of Nightmares and Demons to make their home in this deceptively nasty plane.
    It's a falcon. Wearing a Fedora. Your argument is irrelevant.
    Official Member of the No Cussing Club

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