Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Campaign Design - Cosmology of the Three Worlds

Cosmology of the Three Worlds

The Three Worlds does not use the standard Dungeons & Dragons cosmology. This is a basic outline of the structure of the planes in the Three Worlds setting. This is more or less "common knowledge", those who study the geography of the planes (such as, for example, characters who have invested skill points in the skill Knowledge: the Planes, and to a lesser extent Knowledge: Arcana, Knowledge: Fæy, or Knowledge: Religion) will have more specific, detailed, or in depth information available to them. What follows is the "majority view" concerning the planes of existence in the Three Worlds setting. There are those who hold contrary positions: Some of these individuals base this on alternate interpretations of valid evidence, other are essentially crackpots. Figuring out who is correct is one of those endeavors that has bedeviled scholars for dozens centuries as they attempt to hunt down elusive answers based on fragmentary information, snippets of experimentally determined facts, and out-and-out conjecture.

Note that while the descriptions of planar geography include various spatial directions, referring to planes as being "up", "down", "above", "below", or "around" and other similar language, this is purely a rhetorical device used to try to explain an extradimensional space in three-dimensional terms. As they exist in nonphysical space, the cosmological geography of the planes cannot be understood in normal human terms. Consequently, all of these descriptions are meant to be taken metaphorically, not literally. Each individual plane is, so far as anyone knows, unbounded and limitless, and does not physically touch any other plane in the ordinary sense of "touching".

The Three Worlds
The Three Worlds are three separate but interconnected planes named Cærulus, Ilkeas, and Midrun. These are the common planes of existence for mortal beings, and mortals are able to travel between them provided they can travel to one of the many connections that bind them together, usually portals and gateways that are well-known and typically clearly marked, but sometimes travelers unwittingly stumble upon previously unknown"soft" spots between the worlds and find themselves accidentally transported from one plane to another without knowing it. Sometimes the ways between the worlds move for reasons that even the sages find mysterious.

The Three Worlds are conceptualized as being stacked one atop the other, with Ilkeas at the "bottom", Cærulus at the "top" and Midrun "in between" the two. Scholars justify this arrangement by highlighting the fact that there are many more connections between Midrun and the other two worlds than there are between Ilkeas and Cærulus. By means of this arrangement, the learned also highlight the fact that Cærulus seems "closer" to the Heavens, while Ilkeas is thought to be "closer" to the Hells.

The city of Enselm is the only known nexus between all three worlds, with the city being laced through with portals and gateways - there are even some streets where going down them one way leads from one world to a second, while turning around and walking back the same way one came from leads to yet another. Some scholars believe that the sires of dragonkind are aware of all three worlds at once, and also exist in all three in some manner that no one quite understands.

The Færie Realms
Adjacent to and coterminous with the Three Worlds are the Færie Realms, inhabited by the mercurial and often capricious creatures collectively known as the "fæy". Unlike most of the Lords of Heaven, who reside in the Heavens, Brid makes her home in the Færie Realms. Both the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court are found in the Færie Realms, presided over by powerful and unpredictable rulers of the fæy.

Creatures from the Færie Realms often visit the Three Worlds, seemingly coming and going freely as they will. Sometimes mortals can find their way into Færie - indeed many of the tales about the doings of the heroes of myth and legend involve a journey into the Færie Realm, often to petition the lords of the Seelie or Unseelie Court - but finding one's way out seems to be a much more difficult proposition.

Little is known about the geography of Færie, in large part because it is a bewildering and often entirely alien place. Locations within the Færie Realms often seem to move about at random, many of the passageways between Færie and the Three Worlds seem to come and go without any rhyme or reason as well. Some pathways seem to be one-way, and when one goes up a path, one finds that one cannot return from whence they came. Sometimes a pathway that leads to one place at one time will lead to another at a different time. And so on and so forth. For their part, the fæy seem to have no trouble understanding and navigating their realms.

The Heavens
Positioned "above" the Three Worlds, the Heavens are the realm of the Celestial Lords. The Heavens are where the Great Hall of the Heavens is located, where Hlín tends the Divine hearth, and where Woda sits upon his Celestial Throne. It is where Forseti's fortress of Glintir and Þunor's great hall of Bilskinir floats upon the thunderhead Þruþheim.

The Heavens are mostly inaccessible to the denizens of the Three Worlds. This was not always the case, but after the War in Heaven, the Celestial Lords barred the ways into their realm. The Lords of Heaven appear to be able to come and go as they please, and there are rumored to be some pathways that are still open, such as the rumored undersea tunnel beneath the Isle of Hlesey that leads to Hler's divine underwater palace, or the occasional sightings claimed by some sailors of Bilskinir atop a great thunderhead. For the most part, however, there is no practical means for a mortal to enter the Heavens without being permitted to do so by one of the divine beings who reside there.

Because of its inaccessibility, little is known about the landscape of the Heavens. What is known is derived from ancient and fragmentary texts that purport to be accounts of the War in Heaven, and the liturgical writings of the various faiths. Whether these sources are accurate is an open question subject to much debate amount scholars and theologians, but they are the sources that are available.

The Hells
Lying "below" the Three Worlds are the Hells - a realm of imprisonment and punishment for the wicked. Of course, the most important denizens held within the Hells are the Demon Lords, who both rule over and are imprisoned within this realm. This is where Bål was crushed under an entire mountain, and Iku-Tyrma was imprisoned within a great glacier, and Lug wanders an endless cavern forever seeking an exit. This is where the Infernal swamp that serves as a refuge for Lyßa and a prison for Kalma is located. The Hells are the home of dæmons, demons, devils, and creatures even more horrifying.

Fortunately for the denizens of the Three Worlds, the ways into the Hells are somewhat limited. After the War in Heaven, the Celestial Lords barred the way into Heaven for their own protection, but also placed the Hells under interdict to prevent both entry and exit. This blockade is mostly effective - demonic creatures have not invaded the Three Worlds in force since the interdict was imposed - but it is not impermeable. Some demons are able to escape the Hells, often aided by mortals seeking wealth and power in exchange for their assistance.

As with the Heavens, the landscape of the Hells is not well understood, and for much the same reason. The realm is difficult to access, and oftentimes those who journey there are too busy dealing with the vile inhabitants to spend much time studying the geography. Because there is more contact between the Hells and the Three Worlds, there is more information about them, and there are even some cartographers who have claimed to have made maps of portions of the Infernal Realms, but the information is still fragmentary and generally regarded as unreliable at best.

The Elemental Planes
Surrounding and bound to the Three Worlds, the four Elemental Planes of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water are the fundamental building blocks of the world. Some scholars maintain that the Elemental Planes don't actually exist as independent entities, but are rather part of the Three Worlds themselves where concentrations of the element in question are particularly strong. Even those scholars who hold to the notion that the Elemental Planes exist as planes in their own right describe them as being interlaced with the Three Worlds, with the planes described as crisscrossing the Three Worlds like a latticework.

Travel to and from the Elemental Planes is possible, but rare, as the planes themselves are inimical to most life in the Three Worlds. Gateways to these realms may be found in places where the element in question is particularly strong. Calling elementals to the Three Worlds is fairly commonly done. Even so, the layout of the Elemental Planes is not well mapped, as those who journey there are rarely able to bring back usable information due to the very alien nature of these worlds.

The Realms of Shadow
Of all the planes, the Realm of Shadow is the least understood. Some scholars don't even believe this realm exists as its own entity and that all of the evidence that is used to support the notion that it does are simply misunderstood pieces of the other planes of existence. Others insist that not only does it exist, it must exist as a necessary side-effect of the shape of reality. The Realm of Shadow is held to be, quite simply, the extradimensional "shadow" cast by the other planes, surrounding them in a poorly understood primal state of semi-being.

The Shadow Realm is held to surround and touch every other plane, and as such, it is believed by some to be the means by which the Navigator's Guild is able to traverse the Three Worlds so effectively - but that is merely conjecture, as the Navigators are not telling. Almost nothing is known about this plane and the nature of its inhabitants. What is known is that there are strange creatures that some spellcasters are able to summon that are made out of shadow stuff who apparently come from this realm. Whether this is true or not is unclear, and will probably be a debate that rages among academics for some time to come.

Home     Three Worlds

No comments:

Post a Comment