Help me with my cosmology!

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Blacky the Blackball
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Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Wed Jan 27, 2010 2:07 pm

I'm sorting out the cosmology for my homebrew setting. I'm going to be using the RC/WotI rules (well, the Dark Dungeons rules to be precise!) but this isn't specifically an RC specific thread, more of a general ideas thread.

I'm also intending this cosmology to be compatible with Spelljammer, but again, it's not a Spelljammer specific thread...

Here's what I've got so far.

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The Prime Plane is infinite in size, and is the only plane that is. It is also central to the cosmology rather than being just one of many planes.

The vast majority of the Prime Plane is full of Luminiferous Aether. This is a volatile chaotic substance that is composed of all four elements (Air, Earth, Fire, Water). On the picture above, I've shown it as a one-dimensional orange line, but it is actually three dimensional, of course.

Dotted around in the Luminiferous Aether are an uncountable number of Celestial Spheres. Within each of these spheres (and these are physical structures, not planar boundaries) there is no Luminiferous Aether, only Void (just like real-world space). Spheres may be empty, but the majority of them contain stars and planets - although not all of them are heliocentric; some are geocentric or even more bizarre. On the picture above, I've shown two such spheres; the left one has a star and two planets, and the right one has a star and a single planet.

Within each sphere, the chaos of the Luminiferous Aether has become ordered. Each of the four elements had been removed from the Luminiferous Aether, and forms an Elemental Plane, the size and structure of which match the Prime Plane sphere - so they too have planetary bodies that correspond to the planetary bodies within the Prime Plane sphere, although those planetary bodies are comprised only of the element of the plane itself.

Between the Prime Plane sphere and the Elemental Planes lies the Ethereal Plane. This overlaps (and "glues together") the Prime and Elemental planes, and is comprised of Ether, which is basically Luminiferous Aether with the elements removed from it.

The correspondence between the Prime, Ethereal and Elemental planes means that, for example, if you go ethereal and then travel 5 miles north before returning to normal then you will also have travelled 5 miles north in the real world, and the overlap means that creatures in the real world can affect those in the ether with some abilities/spells and vice versa.

In much the same way, the elemental planes also correspond with (although don't overlap) the prime. If you travel from point A on the prime plane to point B on the plane of fire (via the Ethereal), and then walk 5 miles north, before returning to the prime, you'll end up 5 miles north of point A.

Because the planes touch (or even overlap) at all points, a Travel spell can get you from the Prime to the Ethereal and back, or the Ethereal to an Elemental and back.

The other type of plane is an Outer Plane. Outer planes may be much smaller than a Celestial Sphere - ranging from that size all the way down to the size of a house. These planes are also connected to Celestial Spheres, but there is only a single point of correspondence. Each Outer Plane is attached to either the Prime plane (always within a Celestial Sphere) or another Outer Plane at a single point, and that is the only point at which the planar boundary can be crossed via spells such as Travel.

Because of this single connection, there may be branching "layers" of Outer Planes effectively descending (or rising, depending on your point of view) the Prime Plane; but there may never be circularity. Sooner or later you'll come to a "dead end" where an Outer Plane is only touching one other plane. A second consequence is that it is never possible (via Travel spells) to get from any plane that is connected to one Celestial Sphere to a plane that is connected to a different Celestial Sphere. Without actually travelling through the Luminiferous Aether, each Sphere and it's associated planes is a completely self-contained system.

No other planes are ever accessible from the Luminiferous Aether - not even via Gate spells.

Spells such as Teleport only work within the confines of a single planetary body.

Spells such as Commune and Contact Outer Plane can operate within the planes connected to a single sphere, but not between spheres.

The Travel spell can get you around the planes connected to a single sphere, but not between spheres.

However, the Travel spell can get you through a sphere shell into the Luminiferous Aether or vice versa.

A Gate spell can get you from any plane to any other plane, even if they are connected to different spheres - but it needs accomplices at either end to make it work.


Immortals can:
  • Use Travel spells to traverse the planes connected to a single sphere.
  • Survive in the Void with no ill effects.
  • Fly through the Void at incredible speed, from planetary body to planetary body; or out to the edge of a sphere.
  • Cross a sphere into the Aether.
  • Survive in the Aether with no ill effects.
  • Fly through the Aether to other spheres, and cross into those spheres.
  • Create empty spheres within the Aether.
  • Create outer planes from within a sphere (of within an existing outer plane).
  • Move outer planes from one place to another - even to different spheres, but they must physically travel between those spheres to do it.
  • Create planetary bodies within a sphere.
  • Move planetary bodies around within a sphere.
Mortals can:
  • Use Travel spells to traverse the planes connected to a single sphere.
  • Survive in the Void for over a limited time only with magical help - e.g. a Create Air spell a Survival spell, or a Voidship - else suffocate and die.
  • Fly in the void to other planets or to a sphere edge only with magical help - e.g. a Voidship or maybe some special mount - else drift aimlessly.
  • Cross a sphere into the Aether only with magical help - e.g. a Travel spell or a Voidship.
  • Survive in the Aether only with magical help - e.g. a Create Air spell, a Survival spell, or a Voidship - else suffocate and be petrified.
  • Fly through the Aether to other spheres only with magical help - e.g. a Voidship - else drift aimlessly.
So - What are the problems with this set-up?

Are there any implications or situations that I seem to have missed?

What should the Elemental planes be like? They have planets on them, but how closely should those planets match the Prime equivalents? Only the location, or gross physical properties such as mountains and seas?

Any other questions? Things that I need to clarify?
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Re: Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Ashtagon » Thu Jan 28, 2010 11:20 am

As I understand it...

The "most central" plane is the luminous ether, which corresponds to SJ's ether (space between the spheres) in many ways.

"prime planes" connect to the luminous ether.

Ethereal planes and some outer planes connect to the prime planes. Each prime plane has its own unique set of ethereal and outer planes. The only normal way to travel between tow different sets of planes is via the luminous ether.

Each prime plane's ethereal plane connects to its own set of four elemental planes.

Each prime plane connects to one of more outer planes, which in turn can connect to one or more additional outer planes. There are no complex paths for outer planes. From any single outer plane, there is exactly one route (series of outer planes) that can lead you from that outer plane to its prime plane.

----

The main disadvantage that I can see is that it doesn't allow for cross-sphere gods. Thor, for example, is represented in many game worlds as well as RW mythology, and it doesn't easily allow for him to be active on two spheres at once.

The other disadvantage is that, with circular outer plane paths banned, concepts such as 2e's Great Wheel are impossible, as are most of the "emergency backdoor escape routes" that many cosmoloies allow gods to maintain.
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Re: Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:37 pm

Ashtagon wrote:As I understand it...

The "most central" plane is the luminous ether, which corresponds to SJ's ether (space between the spheres) in many ways.
Yep - in pretty much all ways, actually. The idea being that you only need to change a few names to use Spelljammer with it.
"prime planes" connect to the luminous ether.
Yep - although there's only one prime plane. The various celestial spheres are physical regions on that plane rather than being planes themselves.

That's important because you can use a gate spell to move between different planes even if they're connected to different spheres; but you can't use one to connect two spheres directly because they're on the same plane.
Ethereal planes and some outer planes connect to the prime planes. Each prime plane has its own unique set of ethereal and outer planes. The only normal way to travel between tow different sets of planes is via the luminous ether.
Mostly, yes.

As I said, you can use a gate spell to connect two planes even if they're attached to two different spheres, but that's quite hard to organise since to cast a gate spell you need to know an individual in the destination plane (see my example below with Thor and Sif). Normally, to go from sphere to sphere you'd need to cross the aether.
Each prime plane's ethereal plane connects to its own set of four elemental planes.
Yep.
Each prime plane connects to one of more outer planes, which in turn can connect to one or more additional outer planes. There are no complex paths for outer planes. From any single outer plane, there is exactly one route (series of outer planes) that can lead you from that outer plane to its prime plane.
Yep. Although I don't think I mentioned it, I don't see why outer planes can't connect to the ethereal or elemental either, but even in that case there's still only one route back to the sphere.
The main disadvantage that I can see is that it doesn't allow for cross-sphere gods. Thor, for example, is represented in many game worlds as well as RW mythology, and it doesn't easily allow for him to be active on two spheres at once.
Well, it can be set up - it just needs planning.

For example, Thor lives in Asgard, an outer plane connected to the Celestial Sphere of Midgard.

He decides that he wants to expand his influence into the Celestial Sphere of Arda.

The simplest way for him to do this is to simply visit Arda (travelling via the aether) and make some clerics there. There's nothing stopping him having clerics (and worshippers) in the two places. The only problem is that while visiting Arda he's out of range of commune and contact other plane spells from people in Midgard and when he returns to Midgard he's out of range of commune and contact other plane spells from his new worshippers in Arda. While travelling through the aether, he's out of range of commune and contact other plane spells from both sets of worshippers. Both sets of clerics will still get their spells, however.

If he's clever, he'll cut down the "commuting" time by doing the following:

1) Tell Sif to wait in Asgard until he contacts her.

2) Travel to Arda via the aether.

3) Create an outer plane "New Asgard" connected to Arda.

4) From within New Asgard, cast a Gate spell, targeting Sif in the original Asgard. Sif allows the gate to open. There is now a temporary one-way gate from Asgard to New Asgard.

5) Sif, who has been waiting for this, casts permanency on the new gate.

6) Sif now casts a second gate spell targeting the far end of the one-way gate to make the gate temporarily two-way.

7) Thor casts permanency on his end of the gate too.

There is now a permanent (unless dispelled) two-way gate between Thor's home in Asgard (which is connected to the Midgard sphere) and his home in New Asgard (which is connected to the Arda sphere). Thor can step between the two spheres as quickly as walking through a door into another room (although he can't quite do it at will since it costs him some of his daily power points each time he does).
The other disadvantage is that, with circular outer plane paths banned, concepts such as 2e's Great Wheel are impossible, as are most of the "emergency backdoor escape routes" that many cosmoloies allow gods to maintain.
Escape routes can be established using gates in a similar manner to the example above. Something like the Great Wheel could be set up by one or more enterprising Immortals by creating a Concordant Opposition outer plane and then creating all the others connecting to that. The others would have to be connected to each other manually via gates, however.
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Re: Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Thu Jan 28, 2010 1:46 pm

In case you're wondering about why the "only one route back" concept is there, since it can (relatively) easily be circumvented by gate spells...

That is there because it gives each outer plane a single "location" in the multiverse.

One of the powers that an Immortal has is the power to (at a large cost) move an outer plane from one location to another. That is made a lot more straight forward by this setting, since it is clear where the "location" of an outer plane is.

Regardless of how many gates there are in and out of the plane (if any); the "location" of an outer plane is the single point at which it connects (directly or indirectly) to the prime. That is also the only point at which a Travel spell will allow someone to access the plane in the absence of a gate.
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Re: Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Big Mac » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:53 pm

Here are my thoughts so far:

Your Prime Plane thing is very similar to the "One Material Plane" model of the SJ universe (supported by later AD&D material* especially Planescape). So I think that will work.

* = Earlier material had Alternate Material Planes, so the flow would have been something other than the Material Plane. The One Prime Model has the flow and the spheres as one unified plane.

The fact that the Luminiferous Aether consists of all four elements (by implication the Prime Plane makes that five) is interesting. That is different to Spelljammer, but making it five planes folded into one can perhaps help sell it having unusual properties (which may or may not be similar to SJ's Phlogiston).

The possible flaw with the Luminiferous Aether having the four elements added to it, is that you might want to (later) have something like an Oriental Dark Dungeons world, where they have different Elemental Planes (the Plane of Metal or the Plane of Wood perhaps). Your folded in logic would appear to prevent that as you are creating a universal mechanic that will imply universal Elemental Planes for all Celestial Spheres.

If that is not desirable, you could perhaps have the Luminiferous Aether take on the properties of the Elemental Planes within the Celestial Spheres that it surrounds. This could give you the same sort of thing that you have now, but if you ever wanted to have the hypothetical Oriental Dark Dungeons world, it could have a sphere that is surrounded by a region of Luminiferous Aether that has properties associated with wood and metal (or whatever).

Your "inner plane" setup (Elemental and Ethereal Planes) is intersting. I very much like the fact that you are duplicating your planetary system on all of these planes. I think that where you have a terrestrial world travelling through the void and orbiting a sun, the fire elementals would live on a fire world that travels through regions of empty fire in orbit around a larger more powerful sun. Things like volcanoes may form a natural link between the Prime Plane and the fire version of the same planet. (In fact volcanoes could perhaps be cold regions of the Plane of Fire, where the fire is leaking out of the world.)

The comparison of Ether and Luminiferous Aether might not be enough of a hook to hang things onto. I see where you are coming from, but Dark Dungeons may need a bit more put into the planes to explain what both are.

One potential problem is that your system would not seem to allow elemental creatures to spread from one Celestial Sphere to another. But if it was possible to create portals from the Luminiferous Aether into any of the "inner planes" (as well as the Prime Plane) then you could have Skysailers from all of these planes sharing a single Luminiferous Aether river and then splitting up when they get to a new sphere.

I've got to agree with Ash, that your "outer plane" setup is going to be a problem. Your workaround seems to be a bit kludgey to me. For a god to come onto the Prime Plane and then move between spheres, they are going to need to disconnect from other worshipers. That would seem to cut off their power source.

I would personally recommend outer planes that work a lot more like the Luminiferous Aether (i.e. a big line that goes all the way across the universe). If you were to do that, then you could draw, and more importantly - not draw, your dotted lines up from the Prime Plane to any number of "outer planes". Outer planes could connect to other outer planes (giving you the ability to make a Great Wheel cosmology...or something similar). And better still, you would be able to do bespoke things (like start with the Great Wheel, but remove all the lawful planes).

If you do that sort of thing, then the outer planes will always be available everywhere...but they will only be accessible, where you choose to put in the "bridges" that the dotted lines represent.

Creating a new connection would then be a matter of building a new dotted line, which could be something that a god can not do on their own. Worshipers could get to both sides of a dotted line and help form the connection. Some dotted lines could be wide open (so that any "planewalkers" can pass through them) and other dotted lines could be restricted (with gods and their worshipers trying to maintain control of their own conduit). Gods could even hijack the dotted lines from other gods (shutting down access to Celestial Spheres from certain planes or shutting down access to a specific deity...so that they can usurp their portfolio in a specific sphere).

It needs a bit more thought, but something like this can turn the outer planes into more of a battleground...and give high level PCs uber-quests to build, defend or destroy temples at the ends of these dotted lines. :twisted:

I'll have a think about this some more and see if anything else springs to mind.
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Re: Help me with my cosmology!

Post by Blacky the Blackball » Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:19 pm

Big Mac wrote:The fact that the Luminiferous Aether consists of all four elements (by implication the Prime Plane makes that five) is interesting. That is different to Spelljammer, but making it five planes folded into one can perhaps help sell it having unusual properties (which may or may not be similar to SJ's Phlogiston).

The possible flaw with the Luminiferous Aether having the four elements added to it, is that you might want to (later) have something like an Oriental Dark Dungeons world, where they have different Elemental Planes (the Plane of Metal or the Plane of Wood perhaps). Your folded in logic would appear to prevent that as you are creating a universal mechanic that will imply universal Elemental Planes for all Celestial Spheres.

If that is not desirable, you could perhaps have the Luminiferous Aether take on the properties of the Elemental Planes within the Celestial Spheres that it surrounds. This could give you the same sort of thing that you have now, but if you ever wanted to have the hypothetical Oriental Dark Dungeons world, it could have a sphere that is surrounded by a region of Luminiferous Aether that has properties associated with wood and metal (or whatever).
It's not five planes folded into one. It's just a single plane.

A better way to describe it might be as chaotic ether with raw undifferentiated elemental material embedded in it. When someone creates a sphere they split it into the traditional four elements plus simple ether and (as part of that process) makes five planes to put those separated products in.

So if an oriental-minded Immortal wanted to create a sphere, they'd split the chaotic ether with raw undifferentiated elemental material into their traditional five elements plus a simple ether and make six planes to put those in.
Your "inner plane" setup (Elemental and Ethereal Planes) is intersting. I very much like the fact that you are duplicating your planetary system on all of these planes. I think that where you have a terrestrial world travelling through the void and orbiting a sun, the fire elementals would live on a fire world that travels through regions of empty fire in orbit around a larger more powerful sun. Things like volcanoes may form a natural link between the Prime Plane and the fire version of the same planet. (In fact volcanoes could perhaps be cold regions of the Plane of Fire, where the fire is leaking out of the world.)
Yep, that's the idea.
One potential problem is that your system would not seem to allow elemental creatures to spread from one Celestial Sphere to another. But if it was possible to create portals from the Luminiferous Aether into any of the "inner planes" (as well as the Prime Plane) then you could have Skysailers from all of these planes sharing a single Luminiferous Aether river and then splitting up when they get to a new sphere.
Elemental creatures could travel to the prime plane and through there, of course (although fire elementals may have trouble).
I've got to agree with Ash, that your "outer plane" setup is going to be a problem. Your workaround seems to be a bit kludgey to me. For a god to come onto the Prime Plane and then move between spheres, they are going to need to disconnect from other worshipers. That would seem to cut off their power source.
They're only cut off from their high level clerics doing the Commune spell.

They can still hear the prayers of their worshippers, and their clerics still get spells. And they still have their full power.

In fact, other than the occasional Commune spell failing to connect, their worshippers have no way of knowing that their patron has gone to another sphere.
I would personally recommend outer planes that work a lot more like the Luminiferous Aether (i.e. a big line that goes all the way across the universe). If you were to do that, then you could draw, and more importantly - not draw, your dotted lines up from the Prime Plane to any number of "outer planes". Outer planes could connect to other outer planes (giving you the ability to make a Great Wheel cosmology...or something similar). And better still, you would be able to do bespoke things (like start with the Great Wheel, but remove all the lawful planes).
The problem with that is that it conflicts with the WotI Immortals mechanics - which have them creating and moving planes around, and such outer planes usually being the size of a world or smaller.

I'm also conscious of the fact that if it's too easy to use a couple of plane shift spells to get to other spheres then no-one will go the "long way" by Skysailing.

Finally, I like the idea of having each sphere totally self-contained (barring the occasional Gate spell) so that a campaign world can consist of a single sphere without the GM needing to worry about whether other spheres even exist. A One-sphere setting can be a completely self-contained multiverse.
If you do that sort of thing, then the outer planes will always be available everywhere...but they will only be accessible, where you choose to put in the "bridges" that the dotted lines represent.

Creating a new connection would then be a matter of building a new dotted line, which could be something that a god can not do on their own. Worshipers could get to both sides of a dotted line and help form the connection. Some dotted lines could be wide open (so that any "planewalkers" can pass through them) and other dotted lines could be restricted (with gods and their worshipers trying to maintain control of their own conduit). Gods could even hijack the dotted lines from other gods (shutting down access to Celestial Spheres from certain planes or shutting down access to a specific deity...so that they can usurp their portfolio in a specific sphere).

It needs a bit more thought, but something like this can turn the outer planes into more of a battleground...and give high level PCs uber-quests to build, defend or destroy temples at the ends of these dotted lines. :twisted:
Most of that can be done via Gate spells using the setup I have above. The difference being that both Immortals and mortals can create gates - providing they have an accomplice at the other end of the desired "dotted line".
I'll have a think about this some more and see if anything else springs to mind.
Cheers - it's helpful to know which bits need more explaining (or tweaking!)
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