Campaign Cosmologies


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Playing off of the Panes thread currently up ....

In your home campaigns, if not using a pre-established world, what sorts of cosmologies do you use?

In the least 'Normal' of my worlds in this respect you could describe things thusly: Envision two coins or discs, one is the material plane(Or second world)(There is only one, no alternate primes), The other is 'Above' the Material pane and is called the 'First world'. The 'First World' is the original home of all things Fae - and where the realms of the Gods are located. 'Above' and adjacent to the 'First World' is the Positive Energy plane. 'Below' and adjacent to the 'Second World' or Material plane is the Negative Energy plane. Surrounding and adjacent to all of the above is the "Elemental Expanse" A sort of Maelstrom of raw elements and primal elements.

Those are, quite literally, all of the planes. Originally, there was only the First World and the other mentioned planes, until an event which I am not naming here in case there are roving eyes of players, caused the Material Pane to split off from the First World.

Where other planar creatures exist - not all of them do - they are from a subregion of the First World. There are no demons and devils, as such. There are the Fae, and those are bad enough, capricious and manipulative. Of which those seen on the Material Plane are often pale imitations. The first world is in many ways a geographic mirror of the Material plane.


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I made a world once that was set "close" to the elemental planes. Around all this was the Ethereal. Like your setting, above, I had no fiends, but the elemental planes were breaching into the setting world. There were huge swathes of land that had been tainted by a certain elemental plane, like permanent storm systems up in the high air, irregular blobs of water out in the ocean, lava fields, ooze pits, and so on. The reason for this was arcane magic, which was being shunned, and the druids fought to protect the remaining natural world before the various elemental populations devastated entire regions with their genocidal warfare against each other and against the natives. This place also featured ethereal ships and travelers across the planes, which would be the latter part of the campaign.


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Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

I tend towards stripped down cosmologies. I've got three settings actively being developed (at different paces).

One of them has something similar to the 4th edition cosmology. In this setting, the prime material is coincident with three other planes, each of which is a distorted mirror of the prime. Similar terrain, but different in obvious ways. Basically, I defined three axes, and each mirror plane is shifted on two of them. Mathematically, it's like saying the prime is at (0, 0, 0), and the mirrors are at (1, -1, 0), (-1, 0, 1), and (0, 1, -1). And that's about it. The gods have their homes in the space outside these planes, but they're distant enough that for all practical purposes, that's outside the cosmology.

In another one, so far I've only got the prime and the realm of the dead, though both are seeded with planar layers. The gods each dwell on planar layers on the prime, generally on mountaintops, and the realm of the dead has planar layers for the different afterlives. As this one is intended to use Pathfinder rules, I'll need to incorporate at least some of the standard planes, or re-describe how some categories of magic work.

In the third, I don't have anything in mind yet, though I may end up with something very similar to the first, as they're intended to use the same mechanical system.


I haven't made any decisions yet on my home brew but I'm thinking I want something without too much complexity. Taking the quote from Highlander, "Are the stars just pinholes in the curtain of night?" and saying they are, I kind of imagine a Solar system with the one sun and planets including the campaign world as a sort of inner sphere and a hollow outer sphere beyond the curtain where the divine/planar/elemental realms are on the inside surface of that and light from them shines through to the material realm. Going to the outer surface of the outer sphere, is the dark side.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Honestly? A very generic one, so I can tie it into other cosmologies as I need to (i.e., steal from Planescape or Golarion or whatever as suits me). It is depicted alternately as islands in an astral sea or a general typical Cosmic Tree (a la Yggdrasil) configuration. There is the Primordial Realm (elemental planes and negative and positive energy planes) and the Soul Realm (celestial, neutral, and fiendish planes). The Soul Realms three subplanes have an infinite number of further sub realms (hell, the abyss, whatever). I try to focus on the neutral Soul Realm as less being entirely a place of bland balance and more of a place that focuses on non-moral (but not amoral) aspects of philosophy and existence, so within there are planes of knowledge, of artistry and dreams and passion, etc., alongside the usual soul-cleansing purgatories and so forth.


Dot for later.

Silver Crusade

I just use Planescape, with the added assumption that the Plane of Shadow connects to alternate-universe versions of everything (IE, the typical plane of shadow is 'shallow' shadow, in the same manner as the 'shallow' ethereal is coexistant with the prime material. Just as crossing the deep ethereal can reach 'shallow' ethereal coexistant with the inner planes, so can you cross 'deep' shadow to reach shallow shadow coexistant with other worlds.


Arssanguinus wrote:

Playing off of the Panes thread currently up ....

In your home campaigns, if not using a pre-established world, what sorts of cosmologies do you use?

In the least 'Normal' of my worlds in this respect you could describe things thusly: Envision two coins or discs, one is the material plane(Or second world)(There is only one, no alternate primes), The other is 'Above' the Material pane and is called the 'First world'. The 'First World' is the original home of all things Fae - and where the realms of the Gods are located. 'Above' and adjacent to the 'First World' is the Positive Energy plane. 'Below' and adjacent to the 'Second World' or Material plane is the Negative Energy plane. Surrounding and adjacent to all of the above is the "Elemental Expanse" A sort of Maelstrom of raw elements and primal elements.

Those are, quite literally, all of the planes. Originally, there was only the First World and the other mentioned planes, until an event which I am not naming here in case there are roving eyes of players, caused the Material Pane to split off from the First World.

Where other planar creatures exist - not all of them do - they are from a subregion of the First World. There are no demons and devils, as such. There are the Fae, and those are bad enough, capricious and manipulative. Of which those seen on the Material Plane are often pale imitations. The first world is in many ways a geographic mirror of the Material plane.

Replying to myself to keep the context of the previous post. It is perhaps notable that I did not mention where the would of the dead go. There is a reason for that. Izhda the Judge of Souls won't tell, and anyone resurrected or reincarnated ... simply does not remember the time in-between.

Which brings up the matter of the gods which are not traditional either. Originally, there was but one god, Suverran, that god grew lonely and split off a portion of his power and vested it in a mortal named Ihlvar, so he would have a companion. Now Ihlvar deceived Suverran and in the end, Suverran ... Disappeared? Splintered? It is unknown. But the portfolio of the sundered god flung far and wide and his aspects attached themselves to suitable mortals. And from time to time the holder of the portfolio ... Changes. Usually to someone very similar as they must be 'suitable' to the portfolio, but change they do though it is a momentous occasion. Thus a "god" is almost someone holding a term of office, assuming a mantle of a domain and its powers - the domain is eternal, its holder - is not.


NOTE: miraculously, it seems that after my power fluctuated on and off five or six times in a row, my post is still mostly here. EDIT: I'm sorry if the below is really confusing. I didn't know if I had the time to edit it into coherence from rambling. :/ Sorry. I might try something more clear later.

For me, it heavily depends on the game we're playing.

Obviously, you excluded pre-published settings, so I guess that would leave my home-brew settings.

In most, it never comes up in-play, so it doesn't matter so much. (As Syssil has been promoting in the other thread, though it drives me crazy when I don't *know*.)

So, let's go world-by-world. (Breaking it down into quotes, even though these are original writings for this thread for easier reading.)

Taereon or Oreon (depending on the language you speak) wrote:


Golarion cosmology as a kind of base, but import the Forgotten Realms base cosmological places from 4E and their (or similar) traits from 3.5.

This is kind of our "let's run it now" world where we do weird and wacky things, there is little in the way of rules continuity, and it's just fun to be had.

OR there's

the one temporarily titled 'Mudirt' (please help me come up with a better one wrote:


Harder to describe in full (as it's still under construction) but the basic idea is that there is a literal and figurative Underworld (with underworld rivers like the River Styx and everything), a Spirit World (and Ethereal) on "one side", a Dark World (Shadow realm) on the other, and the "Abyss" below the Dark World and below the Underworld. Duat is a heavenly realm created by one of the gods bound to the Darkness and the Abyss (Aser, the more powerful and independent, unwilling Thrall of Yoth, the evil Abyssal goddess). The dead are judged by a number of dead gods, depending on where you are and who you worshiped. They are sorted by the Valkyries who (though not always happy about it) "serve" all the other gods in this capacity.

Aser, Bacchus (and/or his servitors, if he's busy), Nergal (the binding fire), the Saint (he's a non-evil lich), Sheol (and/or the elven Eternal Court or Ancestral Spirits), Tetu, Vulcan, or Yoth. Most all of this is done at Yoth's extremely bitter allowance, though the pressure put on her by the other twenty gods (including those listed above) is more than enough to prevent her from withholding the dead arbitrarily (as Yoth isn't suicidal, and no one, including her, wants to "push" the "limits" of her power over her Thrall-gods, like the Lawful Good Aser who is known to be able to ignore her direct and powerful commands... at least to a limited extent).

They are often all advised by Enigma (another lich).

OR there's

Terra, a highly-variant (4E-rendered) take on Rich Burlew's homebrew world (that he hasn't touched in a while, but it's still on his site) wrote:

There is a Divine Order called Ma'at that holds all of the physical and spiritual world together, although this order is not immutable. It was originally established by Taiia (the sun) and Toldishar (the moon) - the only two gods, though "Terra" might or might not be one herself, it's unclear - and outside of all reality, there's the Chaos and abyss (both of which include the Shadow and Ether). Ancient evil deities and demon lords were summoned from this place, and destroyed Toldishar, sending the world into chaos for two hundred years. When the new moon Toldanus appeared (causing problems of his own) and began "absorbing" parts of Toldishar that hadn't impacted with Terra previously. Along with Taiia and the aid of the Moon's Children (devas, most of which were destroyed by this), a new (different) Ma'at was recreated. Taiia effectively collects most all of the souls of the dead mortals, while Toldishar keeps all undead, living immortals, and similar.

In one that I call, "The Four: Reveal the Truth, Conceal the Mind" (really a set of five related Campaigns, one primary one, with four smaller side-campaigns in wildly differing settings and realities) wrote:

I've adopted Eberron's rotating plains, though I've also applied the "divine realms" of the 4E's astral sea with 3.X Forgotten Realms' specific godly realms (which are different from planes) compacted into the Great Wheel's divine realms (as opposed to generic planes, which have been blended with Eberron's planes, accept...), the inner planes still exist semi-independently of one another (and there are a lot of inner planes - more than the classic five) each of which also function like Eberron's planes, accept they do so independently of the others.

Mabar and Shadow kind of blend into each other and lead to other multiverses. The best way to get to other multiverses, though, is to find the "ethereal-shadow corridor" that exists "on the other side" of both the deep shadow and the deep ethereal.

Since the planes haven't otherwise come up (and it won't impact stories so far), I think I'm going to quietly ret-con the Maelstrom from PF into the outer planes as well.

The gods are rather weak due to past campaign reasons, and can't really do too much in the world. Divine magic exists, but it's a bit limited, and difficult to progress too far.

Arcane magic is wild, unpredictable, and unreliable (everything is wild-magic or dead magic), but exceedingly powerful (before PF, I granted the ability to use spells of 1/8 your level or lower at will, effectively starting with cantrips - I may alter this somewhat, as, again, it won't really affect the story so far).

Souls randomly head either to the ether or the shadow, then hope to make it to the outer planes before they get devoured or harmed (and transformed) by the lingering taint of the trapped and bound Toldeth (god of and incarnate aspect of Negative Energy - and also the reason that most gods are dead, and most things that suck, in fact, suck - imagine our version of Rovagug, if he weren't Beastial, but more just kind of an evil, sentient force of ending). The gods help as best they can (they send spirit-avatars into the world at large to assist, but they're limited, and occasionally they incarnate - there is a major exception in Thay [take Forgotten Realms They, the Scarlet Brotherhood, combine with a huge dose of Neutral, and have them worship a Neutral Ruby Dragon god, Wee Jas, and Kossuth] - their god - the Neutral Ruby Dragon Sardior - has a floating palace on the material).

The major themes of the world consist of the eternal horror of Undeath (and negative energy) opposed by the madness-inducing wickedness of twisted (aberrant) Life (and positive energy - think demons+elemental chaos+far realm+region of dreams).

Psionics is the most powerful, reliable, and consistent power source in this world.

Since there are eight different planets, I'm not sure which one to call this after...

Those are three of them. I suppose that's more than enough, really. I've got a lot more, buuuuuuuuuuuuut... meh. Most of them are either unrun, in older editions (and abandoned) or too vague to really talk about too much. :)

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The cosmology of my home world I give the nickname of "Marbles in an Astral Marble Jar."

There are nine spheres floating throughout the Astral Plane, one matching each of the alignments other than NN, and then at the absolute *center* of the Astral is a massive sphere housing all of reality (the material sphere). Great Wheel cosmology gave it a start, but much of the "lowercase" planes are transition areas near the fringes of the other spheres; I also have rejiggered some names around.

The Upper Planes
The Seven Heavens: LN
Nirvana: NG
Elysium: CG

The Lower Planes
The Nine Hells: LE
The Gray Wastes: NE
The Abyss: CE

The Social Planes
Mechanus: LN
Pandemonium: CN

Between the spheres, but not necessarily back in the Astral (there is a discrete boundary coming from Astral to outer plane, but not vice versa), those lowercase planes are transition areas like Arcadia, Asgard, Carceri and the Windswept Wastes. Most of them were formerly GW planes (or just splitting off part of the name like Pandemonium and Windswept Wastes).

The elemental, paraelemental, ethereal, and shadow planes all are alternate realities that exist within the material sphere. All of what is physically real (space, planets, galaxies, universes, etc.) is located in the material sphere.

There is also an anti-plane that allows for Sigil to exist if it needs to, where Sigil sits on the anti-plane in the exact point that the Material Sphere does on the Astral.

Finally, there is the Dungeon Dimensions from Discworld where all the goofy cthululand shenanigans originate.


Dotting for later.


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I have a significant amount of development invested in my campaign world's cosmology. It's a multi-tiered cosmology but does not exactly map to the PF cosmology. I am 'dotting' this for later so I can spend some time on a response.

My main reason for wanting to respond is not to lay out the cosmology I've evolved for my world, but instead to address the issues I have dealt with over the years with my campaign world as the game rules that I am working with have evolved and continue to evolve.


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& the Warner-sister DOT.

Sorry. Felt the need for a little more than just "dotting"...
:p


In the Archmage setting (you may have seen the thread over in homebrew), I'm using no planes. It's significantly lower magic than Golarion.

There's no planar travel. People aren't sure where you go after you die and the gods give conflicting answers.

It's actually quite refreshing to write a setting without the planar baggage.


Umbral Reaver wrote:

In the Archmage setting (you may have seen the thread over in homebrew), I'm using no planes. It's significantly lower magic than Golarion.

There's no planar travel. People aren't sure where you go after you die and the gods give conflicting answers.

It's actually quite refreshing to write a setting without the planar baggage.

Mine comes pretty close to that, in essence. Really, people don't travel to the elemental expanses for much of anything, the negative and positive planes are obviously not hospitable, and the first world is mostly closed off save for very rare crossover ...


The cosmology I use is loosly based off the old D&D cosmology in part because the friends I game with are old, crusty, and have a foldness for nastalgia.

I created a 42 page documet to use with Pathfinder outlining the gods and the various planes of our realm.

If anyone is interested you can hit me up with a PM.

-MD


It's worth noting that, in my Reveal/Conceal setting, no one really knows either. Any knowledge that was there has been lost. Since the gods are distant... well, it just hasn't come into play yet. (One of the reasons some of it is so mutable.)


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Arssanguinus wrote:
In your home campaigns, if not using a pre-established world, what sorts of cosmologies do you use?

Various, depending on the campaign/setting themes and the types of stories that fit within that particular setting/cosmology.

In the past, I've used various iterations of the "typical" AD&D/D&D "Great Wheel" with the prime, inner, and outer planes. I've also used other cosmologies, for example:

1) The "upper" planes connected to the "mortal" plane by the astral plane, the "lower" planes connected to the "mortal" plane by the shadow plane, and the ethereal plane acting as a "spirit" plane and connecting the "mortal" plane to the elemental planes.

2) No "outer" planes, only the astral (which is the "empty" "space between spaces"), elemental, ethereal, and shadow (the "dark mirror of reality") planes beyond the "material" plane.

3) An "infinite slices" cosmology, where there are no "outer," "inner," or "transitive" planes; every plane is its own "prime material" plane and planar travel is dependent on location within the current plane and which plane(s) are "adjacent" in that region; summoning and calling is accordingly limited, as well as teleportation effects (alternate spells based on folding the space-time continuum, rather than planar travel, exist, but are higher level, only work within the same plane, and always have a chance of "missing" the target location).


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Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
PhelanArcetus wrote:

I tend towards stripped down cosmologies. I've got three settings actively being developed (at different paces).

One of them has something similar to the 4th edition cosmology. In this setting, the prime material is coincident with three other planes, each of which is a distorted mirror of the prime. Similar terrain, but different in obvious ways. Basically, I defined three axes, and each mirror plane is shifted on two of them. Mathematically, it's like saying the prime is at (0, 0, 0), and the mirrors are at (1, -1, 0), (-1, 0, 1), and (0, 1, -1). And that's about it. The gods have their homes in the space outside these planes, but they're distant enough that for all practical purposes, that's outside the cosmology.

In another one, so far I've only got the prime and the realm of the dead, though both are seeded with planar layers. The gods each dwell on planar layers on the prime, generally on mountaintops, and the realm of the dead has planar layers for the different afterlives. As this one is intended to use Pathfinder rules, I'll need to incorporate at least some of the standard planes, or re-describe how some categories of magic work.

In the third, I don't have anything in mind yet, though I may end up with something very similar to the first, as they're intended to use the same mechanical system.

Another point: planar travel is not through magic in any of these.

In the first, planar travel is like ending up in Faerie; at certain times, in certain places (where the boundaries are weaker, or the planes are closer), you can simply step over. It might require a simple ritual, in the vein of moving in a particular way, or focusing on a particular mindset, but no magical power. You'd need to be unthinkably powerful (i.e. no rules for it, and would probably bad for the world anyway) to simply rip a hole between the Prime and the Shadowlands. But instead you can go to a particular area, perhaps a grove of dead, blighted trees, and walk three times in a circle, counter-clockwise, at dusk, and in doing so, step through to the Shadowlands.

In the second, you enter a planar layer of your plane just by walking. Of course most of them are inhospitable in mundane ways; climbing Mount Olympus would be hard even if it wasn't a planar layer, and the guardians make it worse. A few specific places probably connect to the realm of the dead (i.e. a deep cave that leads to the underworld). The necessary transitive planes for spells like dimension door to work without rewriting exist (probably), and that's about it. The planar layers provide enough space for all the outsiders I want.

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