My World(s) Cosmology
Hello everyone! It has been a few weeks since I have gotten out more than the GM Dictionary and for that I am sorry. Life has a way of hitting you all at once. Work, school, PC troubles. The full gamut. But I am back! For the most part anyway. Still catching up on the Untamed Forge for patrons and getting Plague Doctor finally released. PS you can expect some preview images of that PDF on Monday along with a link to buy it! For today, though, what I want to do is share more about my cosmology. I have been working on and thinking hard about my home brew. You know this already. With the coming expansion of Cypher products and updated rules, the new Savage Worlds edition coming, and my general love of D&D I need to commit to a building a setting that is both approachable and mechanically sound. In the past this approach has been, simply, whatever I need for my home campaigns. More recently it has been, how can I make this work in Savage Worlds. Little by little I reach a better …..thing….but I know that even my latest approach has the assumption of 27 Realms. Sure that’s ALL there is but it is a lot to work with/on considering it is all free of franchise IP. I’ll say more on what that means for how I am working out actual releasable material later, but for now I want to start smaller. Well sort of. Let’s talk cosmology.
Aspects of Cosmology
So I could be talking about anything here right? Planes of existence, different dimensions, history, alternate realities, and more. The whole point of the City Above being the center of the multiverse is freedom for this stuff. Then we could also be talking about the powers that be. The gods of the City Above or the gods of the multiverse. Who are they? Why are they around? We can also get into my very obvious and vocal love of cosmic horror and the backdrop of the Mythos and my own Great Old Ones through the multiverse. But I think that even that is a bit of a heavy and big topic. See, even I am trying to reign it in and cut fat. The point is to have everything right? But a book only needs what everyone needs. We can say that all the Lovecraftian gods are in there but we don’t need to mention them all by name. I don’t even need to mention mine. That’s the stuff of later articles, supplemental products, and future-y stuff. For now lets go even farther back to something far more vague: the building block of the cosmos.
Now, right off the bat, I want to say these aren’t your standard elements. These aren’t even your standard non-Eurocentric elements. Oh sure I will have planes of fire and water and metal and the like. But I want those to be a little more malleable. We are talking multidimensional travel and the idea of a society where the elements might be fundamentally based on flavors like sweet, bitter, sour, and savory are entirely possible and interesting. *takes a moment to take notes for future*
Anyways, no, what I am talking about is a different kind of element. A way to categorize the existence of life in a multiverse and help explain why that world has these powers or that one as those powers. At least to a degree. This concept is going to stem from my Pathfinder campaign of many years ago where I designed a group of MacGuffins for the campaign as we approached session 50. The end of the game would have culminated in what is essentially spoiler territory for the City Above’s history. These were artifacts of coalesced concept. Aspects, if you will. There were 5 of them and they included the Aspect of Will and the Aspect of Legacy and within them were a range of powers. Legacy, for example, concerned persistence and, while not the life/nature based aspect, it does include the concepts of reproduction as well as literal legacy, history, and even undeath. The whole point was to see how the players tried to manipulate such raw potentials with their characters and how the aspect itself might flavor it in a certain direction depending on the wielder, desire, goal, etc. Now, nearly seven years later, I realize I started the foundation stones of how I run my worlds way back then in those MacGuffins.
Five Cosmic Elements
There are and will be, integral to the setting as a whole, five cosmic elements. They are the following: will, belief, legacy, life, magic. Each of these encompasses different types of abilities and powers as well as different large concepts. Many also overlap each other in concept. Will includes psionic powers, simple will power, martial prowess, and anything that comes down to determination. Belief is the foundation of faith and divine powers. I firmly hold in my games that divine magic and divine beings are as such because of other beings belief in them. Belief begets power and power begets belief. Some even become gods. Legacy is pure persistence, continuation, resilience. It is your classic haunting but it is also the pervasiveness of storytelling. Life is creation. It is animals and plants and fungus, growth and development. Magic is the tapestry through which things are woven. Not just arcana but physical laws, matter, and energy.
This is not a perfect system, but few are. It is, however, working very well for my purposes and has done so for a long time. Other things I am considering as major concerns is the difference between order and entropy on a slightly more cosmic scale than the usual lawful versus chaotic. Then there are cosmic horrors. The stuff of D&D’s Far Realms and the Mythos. These are, for me, that which lies beyond these five cosmic elements. These are things that make you question all of those elements and all their forms. They defy what those things mean and exist outside the structure they create. They are absence of these things but they are not nothing.
Another reason this framework is really working for me is because it is a bit more vague than our normal cosmology (D&D-wise) but can still act as one. The D&D cosmology can fit within it but does not dictate it. It also allows me to explain planes of existence in my worlds. The various fey realms are, often, life and magic in harmonious majesty. That works great for me. I believe I can fit in a shadowy realm, and ethereal one, the dream world, and another to have one major plane that combines two of each of the aspects. As infinite reflections of a multiverse, these are massive planes that can defy regularity or limit while still having some common “hot spots” if you will. Not only that I can manipulate portions of them through that axis of order versus entropy such as perfect dream heavens being more towards order and rampant nightmare realms being more entropic.
What it really comes down to is that this framework is something that, with some time and working out of details I can explain over a portion of a chapter. It is something from which other material can be derived and categorized without being too set in stone. I want there to be wiggle room. For example, I discovered that Legacy is not all undeath but different types of undead tend to incorporate legacy into other elements. A lich may be driven by continued personal legacy and persisting existence but does so with magic. Certain ghosts and poltergeists may be purposeful or accidental, but are the enacting of pure will the maintain their mark upon the world. A mummy can very well be explained through belief combined with legacy and the potential concepts go on and on. These codify the setting without, necessarily, changing what we all already know about such things.
In the coming weeks I am going to continue working out this stuff. This includes defining those planes of existence, figuring out how to best hand-wave traveling to other dimensions regularly, and having a set pantheon for a city at the center of a multiverse. So much is coming together and so much will be written here, but it will also be drafted into cohesive and detailed forms which will be available to Patrons *cough* shameless plug *cough* if you would like to see more!