Paradigm Shift

A rebooting of the Planescape setting.
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Idabrius
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Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Mon Aug 11, 2008 3:23 am

The mysterious Paradigm Shift
Thomas Khun, the Fraternity of Order
For Indexing Use Only: #AX10883745 Kuhn

There are some greybeards who speculate that the world was not always now as it once was. The powers of speculation are a wild and wonderful thing; certain work by a close friend of mine in the Fraternity suggests that speculation has the same power as belief to make or unmake truths. While this is still unproven theory, it begs the question of whether or not the speculation of the greybeards has changed the past -- or perhaps the thoughts of some earlier creatures have changed the present. A conundrum, indeed. This seems the most likely when we are presented by some of the work currently being done in the Sign of One, of which no more will be said at present. Suffice to say, this paper will explore the possibility of such a Paradigm Shift, what it would mean if it were true, and how it may have come about if it really occurred.

Firstly: What was the Paradigm Shift? It is hypothesized that once upon a time the Multiverse had a different face on it. For whatever reason, collective thought caused this face to slide ever so slightly away from what it began as and it continued to crawl inch by inch until the Shift entire happened, moving the truth of the multiverse over onto an entirely different set of rules. Truth is, of course, a relative term. What we know of the War of the Gods (which still colors Elemental-Astral relations to this very day) seems to be in the candidacy for inclusion as part of the new paradigm; ie, something that was foisted upon us or that we foisted upon ourselves that once did not exist. Another word to help explain this is, of course, RETROACTIVE CONTINUITY in which, lest the multiverse feel silly after making a mistake, all traces of that mistake are erased as the past is corrected to be in line with the present.

[more to come]
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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Mon Aug 11, 2008 1:43 pm

In order to understand what a Paradigm Shift might entail, we must first accept that it happened (whether it did or did not) and examine it in terms of our own history. Firstly, we must analyze our current paradigm in order to know what a different one might have looked like. Let us then lay out the elements of our current paradigm:
  • I. Open cosmological structure. We all agree that the multiverse is not knit together by any particular set of forces or planes that connect each and every point to one another. For example, the Primal Chaos is not connected directly to any point in the Astral Sea.
    II.War of the Gods. We know that the Gods and the Primordials (the Elementals, that is) have been in conflict since the beginning of time.
    III. Presence of Sigil. We know that Sigil exists in the center (if such a thing can be) of the infinite multiverse.
    IV. Prime Material Construction. In addition to the more esoteric planes that most of us call home, we also recognize the existence of two Prime Material demiplanes or subplanes, namely the Feywild and the Shadowfell.
Now, any and all of these assumptions would be challenged by a paradigm shift. Allow me to present just one possible other paradigm:
  • I. Closed cosmological structure. Travel between planar groups is rigidly defined by the presence of what the greybeards refer to as "transient planes."
    II. War of the Fiends. Instead of the Gods at war with the Elementals, it is the fiends (devils & demons) who are incapable of cohabiting.
    III. Presence of Sigil. Not everything need be different.
    IV. Prime Material Construction. Only the material portion of the Prime Material plane exists in this example.
You can begin to see how things might have been different. We can even extrapolate this imaginary paradigm further, presenting ourselves with something of a thought-challenge.

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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:28 pm

Let us imagine, for a moment, that the paradigm I've just outlined actually existed - this "other iteration" of reality. It would be filled with scholars and wise men, greybeards who had deduced its workings down to the most intricate clockwork cycles of Mechanus. However, there would never truly be any way of testing to make certain that the planes truly followed some of the stranger rules that were layed out. For example, we look upon the multiverse today and we say "The Outlands is located in the center of the multiverse, but Mount Celestia is located in the Astral Sea." Why do we believe this? Well, for one, because it is possible using magic to arrive at Mount Celestia from the Astral but one can travel to the Outlands from any location. However, this does not describe WHAT the truth is but rather HOW we perceive it to behave. We cannot SEE Mount Celestia from the outside, nor can we see from one plane and into another. Therefore, they do not inhabit the same physical space but rather the same mental space in the common perception of the multiverse. We perceive them to be there because it helps us to understand how the multiverse works.

The story I've heard passed around from mouth to mouth (especially by the Society of Sensation) is one of the old paradigm. Imagine then, that at some point in the old paradigm world, within that iteration of the planes, there was a great war. Here I mean something like our war of Primordials and Gods; Asmodeus would likely have been involved and the battle lines would not have been so clear cut -- for example, those deities who rely on things like fire or stone as part of their influence may have joined the base elementals in proclaiming matter as the foundation of all things. So, imagine a war in which matter and thought tore at one another. The elementals of the imaginary paradigm found a way to circumvent whatever bonds had been keeping them from assassinating a few Gods for all those millenia. This gave way to all-out Planeswar.

Now imagine that someone, somewhere, it is unclear on which side, found a way to cause a great Paradigm Shift. To rewrite history, as it were, in order to make certain that they didn't lose the war. In my opinion were such a thing possible it would be the Gods who could discover just such a mechanism as they represent thought in this little construct, but it could just as well have been the elemental princes. And so the world was shifted, and the war carried over as part of the collective memory. Is it possible? Yes. Anything is possible. Although I must admit, it is extremely unlikely.
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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Philosopher » Mon Aug 11, 2008 5:22 pm

I can hear Kuhn turning in his grave at his name being used in this manner. ;)

Still, what you describe is quite fitting for Planescape. Here's a suggestion. According to Kuhn, new paradigm must explain (or, at least, explain away) most of (if not all of) what a previous paradigm explained, in addition to explaining new things that the older paradigm could not. So, take the following element from each of the paradigms you present:
Idabrius wrote:II.War of the Gods. We know that the Gods and the Primordials (the Elementals, that is) have been in conflict since the beginning of time.

[SNIP]

II. War of the Fiends. Instead of the Gods at war with the Elementals, it is the fiends (devils & demons) who are incapable of cohabiting.
In 4e, Asmodeus is a god, and the devils are (former) angels, while the demons are (corrupted) primordials. Perhaps there may still be a "Blood War", in the sense that demons and devils are in conflict, but it is now understood in a larger context of the god/primordial conflict. Perhaps this different conceptual framework allows new details to be explained that were previously mysterious.

I don't know enough about Planescape to do more with that, but I'm hoping it might be a useful suggestion. If this doesn't move things in the direction you wanted to take them, feel free to ignore it.
- Selman

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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Tue Aug 12, 2008 2:05 am

Thanks, Phil. I knew you, of all people, would get the Kuhn reference. I'm hoping to do some stuff like that, yes; we'll see as the paper grows. Of course, since Planescape is an inherently postmodern setting it wouldn't be that out of character for multiple conflicting voices/viewpoints to all weigh in. I'm not shouting "Hey, some other folks should address this issue and help flesh it out in interesting and contradictory ways!" but I MIGHT be implying that.
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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:23 pm

So, let us take a more in depth look at the differences that would be present between two varied Paradigms. We have already established the general outline of what our current paradigm looks like as compared to a sample paradigm that we wish to examine. Firstly, let us address the ever-pressing problem of the Nine Hells. We know, as all educated people of today know, that Asmodeus was a powerful servitor of a god who betrayed that divine creature and even perhaps killed it. In return, other gods cast him down from the Astral Sea into the Elemental Chaos. This belies the general antagonism of our times - the Astral Sea is at war with the Elemental Chaos in a vague sort of way. Using Asmodeus as our focal point, we might try to rewind time and understand a different set of reasons; as it is, our current understanding of the Asmodeus problem is extremely vague. However, redesigning how we imagine it will perhaps answer some questions for us while eliminating others from our vocabulary.

How did Asmodeus kill a god? How is it even possible for the nameless, faceless, angelic beings to betray their masters? Well, suppose that Asmodeus wasn't one after all. Suppose that he was instead the embodiment of the forces of maliciousness, of evil. If we return to our sample paradigm, we can imagine Asmodeus as not being on anyone's side in the great war of ideas but his own. However, we must also imagine a force of equal but opposite power (for when one force exists, there is nearly always a counterbalance, eg. the Rule of Scales, please see the excellent paper by Fraternity member Jules the Apostate on the Rule of Scales) to exist in this other paradigm. Just as the gods are counterbalanced by the primordials in our paradigm, the elemental force of selfishness must have been balanced by a force of generousness.

Now, if a conflict were to erupt from these two creatures, these two representatives of elemental forces, it would be mightier and more planeshaking than the Power War ever was. For, while each Power represents a small sphere of philosophical concerns, Asmodeus and his opposite would represent something altogether broader and more intrinsic. Most sages would likely assume that the conflict of two such opposing forces in direct combat would result in the unraveling of the multiverse - I, however, would pose an alternative. What if the conflict of such opposing forces ELIMINATED THEM COMPLETELY? Retroactively altering the history of the multiverse, the battle would transform Asmodeus from a being of pure philosophical energy into something lesser. This paradigm shift would be a multiversal change in belief, powerful enough to alter history itself. As a form of self-defense for a multiverse on the brink of destruction Asmodeus would HAVE to be reduced in status to an angelic being. This other force, representing his opposite, would likewise be reduced. Perhaps Bahamut was once the embodiment of Asmodeus' archnemesis?

Either way, the shift in paradigm would answer several questions: Why did Asmodeus rebel against his master? Simple, because he was originally not an angelic being but rather something greater than a Power and history was forced to rewrite itself to find a suitable explanation for his fall that was not concerned with his origins as an meta-philosophic being.

Thus, I have demonstrated yet another potential cause for the legendary (but hitherto unexplored and untested) folk tale of the paradigm shift.
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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Otogi » Sat Aug 16, 2008 8:16 pm

Idabrius wrote:So, let us take a more in depth look at the differences that would be present between two varied Paradigms. We have already established the general outline of what our current paradigm looks like as compared to a sample paradigm that we wish to examine. Firstly, let us address the ever-pressing problem of the Nine Hells. We know, as all educated people of today know, that Asmodeus was a powerful servitor of a god who betrayed that divine creature and even perhaps killed it. In return, other gods cast him down from the Astral Sea into the Elemental Chaos. This belies the general antagonism of our times - the Astral Sea is at war with the Elemental Chaos in a vague sort of way. Using Asmodeus as our focal point, we might try to rewind time and understand a different set of reasons; as it is, our current understanding of the Asmodeus problem is extremely vague. However, redesigning how we imagine it will perhaps answer some questions for us while eliminating others from our vocabulary.

How did Asmodeus kill a god? How is it even possible for the nameless, faceless, angelic beings to betray their masters? Well, suppose that Asmodeus wasn't one after all. Suppose that he was instead the embodiment of the forces of maliciousness, of evil. If we return to our sample paradigm, we can imagine Asmodeus as not being on anyone's side in the great war of ideas but his own. However, we must also imagine a force of equal but opposite power (for when one force exists, there is nearly always a counterbalance, eg. the Rule of Scales, please see the excellent paper by Fraternity member Jules the Apostate on the Rule of Scales) to exist in this other paradigm. Just as the gods are counterbalanced by the primordials in our paradigm, the elemental force of selfishness must have been balanced by a force of generousness.

Now, if a conflict were to erupt from these two creatures, these two representatives of elemental forces, it would be mightier and more planeshaking than the Power War ever was. For, while each Power represents a small sphere of philosophical concerns, Asmodeus and his opposite would represent something altogether broader and more intrinsic. Most sages would likely assume that the conflict of two such opposing forces in direct combat would result in the unraveling of the multiverse - I, however, would pose an alternative. What if the conflict of such opposing forces ELIMINATED THEM COMPLETELY? Retroactively altering the history of the multiverse, the battle would transform Asmodeus from a being of pure philosophical energy into something lesser. This paradigm shift would be a multiversal change in belief, powerful enough to alter history itself. As a form of self-defense for a multiverse on the brink of destruction Asmodeus would HAVE to be reduced in status to an angelic being. This other force, representing his opposite, would likewise be reduced. Perhaps Bahamut was once the embodiment of Asmodeus' archnemesis?

Either way, the shift in paradigm would answer several questions: Why did Asmodeus rebel against his master? Simple, because he was originally not an angelic being but rather something greater than a Power and history was forced to rewrite itself to find a suitable explanation for his fall that was not concerned with his origins as an meta-philosophic being.

Thus, I have demonstrated yet another potential cause for the legendary (but hitherto unexplored and untested) folk tale of the paradigm shift.
Which is all well and good, except that Asmodeus wasn't cast down to the Elemental Chaos. He was always part of the Astral Sea, and the Baator is still located there, as is Acheron

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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Idabrius » Sat Aug 16, 2008 10:24 pm

How silly of me, yes you're correct.
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Re: Paradigm Shift

Post by Otogi » Sun Aug 17, 2008 12:43 am

You wanna know something really silly? You're working on this on your trip, to montreal no less! You should be enjoying yourself, sight-seeing, drinking, meeting people. Don't worry about this, I got a lot of it covered and I've got a lot of time on my hands, so just have some fun

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