Cosmology of Creation
- Note: Players wanting the 'purest' experience, with maximum mystery and all the surprises, should Skip This! Nothing here bears directly on any mechanic you will use in a combat. The Devils and Demons and things that go bump in the Night will be perfect surprises, and if that is what you like, then stop reading here.
First, last, and forever, there is the Astral Plane. The Astral Plane, the Silver Sea, the Forever Endeavor, is the true, utterly unending and Infinite (in the third meaning of Infinity) Place. All else is contained within, or is a dark reflection of, the Astral Plane.
Running next to, and formed as a reflection of, the Astral Sea is an equally infinite and endless place, the Deep Dark, the Last Cold, the Outer Madness. The Outer Madness is created by the existence of the Astral Plane, and will finally end when the Astral Plane is undone in some impossibly far-distant future.
Within the Astral Plane there is a place where the Sea experiences a strange degree of turbulence, a place where there are titanic stresses on the Tapestry Argent. Indeed, this is a place where the Astral Sea twists up so tightly that it actually sparks and burns and consumes itself, and thus creates the Fountain.
The Fount of Reality is a place where unimaginable energies are born of the Astral Sea, and spew forth in a titanic spout of potential and light and ever-evolving spectacle. As part of that colossal foaming turbulence of pure energy, there are occasional pockets of relative stability. Those pockets of stability tossing wildly about in the energetic stream of the Fount of Creation are universes. Similarly, in the Deep Dark, as a reflection of the Fount, there is a place where the cold, hateful fabric of the Outer Madness is twisted up and crushed together, and under that awful, infinite pressure, the Nascent Seed bursts forth.
The Fountain is born of the peaceful Astral Plane, yet paradoxically, it's massive energies are full of screaming violence and are utterly sterile.
The Nascent Seed is born of the dark and terrible Outer Madness, yet paradoxically, the Seed is full of gentle potential, bursting with fulsome, fecund,fertility.
The Fount is the source of all the bright energy of all creation, but it is a pure, unliving brightness, utterly clean and eternal.
The Seed is the source of the living seed, the life force that sparks all germination, that which makes possible all life and unlife.
The Fount bursts forth from the Astral Plane, a thousand universes scattered in its flow like gemstones in a flow of saturated fluid.
The Seed pours the essence of Life into those universes, causing them to burst forth with a million times a million forms and types of life.
Balanced in the very focus of those two gigantic forces, there is a single universe, the largest and most fortunate of all universes. That universe is the Prime Material Plane, that place where the adventures of Epic Path are played out.
Swirling in the turbulence around the Prime Material are dozens of other entire, separate realities.
Some of these realities are in places of stable flow, swirling in eddies created by the wash of the Seed against the Fount. These universes are the domains of the Fundamental, Elemental, and Rudimental Beings.
Some of these realities do not enjoy natural stability, and are instead tied to the Prime Material, through the actions of tremendously powerful Gods. These Deifically attached universes are the Outer Planes, those places where nigh-unknowable Beings hold utter dominion, and trillions of uplifted or benighted souls live out their lives. These places are the dwellings of beings high and bright, or abyssal and dark, and everything in between.
And some of these lesser realities are not stable at all, and those poor, doomed realities drift away, settling further and further from the Silver Sea, until they eventually sag down into the Deep Dark, and drift ever further away, into the True Night...and yet, even these poor doomed realities give rise to Existence, of the most terrible sorts.
The manifold universes which are far from the Fount and barely able to stay in the Astral Plane are the home of the untold trillions of the Crool, the race which exists eternally, doomed forever to the struggle to stay afloat.
The far larger number of universes which have fallen into the Deep Night and succumbed to the Final Indignity molder, and decay, and eventually give horrid un-birth to the night-black legions of the Atropal. The less said of their horror, the better.
Completing the structure of the cosmology are the reflections.
As the Astral Plane shines its silver existence through the universes within it, each of those universes casts a bright and wavering reflection upon the face of the Deep Dark. That bright reflection of each universe is a separate, lesser, version of each reality. This is called the Ethereal Plane, and every Material Plane of any sort has an associated Ether.
As the True Black stares eternally at the True Silver, the universes block the view. The sucking hunger of the Fuligin Well pulls so hard on the structure of the material planes that they form a dark, terrible, twisted shadow of each material plane. That dark, twisted shadow formed between the Material and the Outer Madness is the Plane of Shadow. Every material plane forms its own Plane of Shadow, and terrible indeed is the life that lives there.
That, then is the overarching cosmology. The eternal Silver Sea creates and mirrors the Eternal Madness. The Astral Plane twists into the bright, hot, energetically sterile Fount of Reality, in which a multitude of Material Planes are created. The Prime Material is the largest and most stable, and has sat upon the Fount for untold millennia. The warm, life-giving reflection of the Fount is the Seed, where the dark well of the Outer Madness is destroyed to create the Spark of Life. The Spark infuses the Material Planes and life arises, fed and powered by the Fount.
The Prime Material has a number of stable satellite Material Plane realities, both naturally and through the agency of the Greater Gods. These are known by many names, and have many characteristics. The Elemental Planes are satellites of the Prime Material, as are the Outer Planes, which are deifically anchored Material Planes, and include heavens and hells, paradises and wastelands. Mixed in with the Elemental and Outer Planes are many even smaller realities, the so-called Alternate Planes, where sub-universes strive to stay close enough to the Fount to remain viable.
A far larger number of Material Plane realities eventually break free of the Prime Material and drift away, slowly sinking into the Deep Dark. These realities are doomed to drift and molder forever, and these crumbling, hopeless infinities are the domains of the Crool, and the Atropals.
In this amazing constellation of planar realities, there is one that is truly enormous, rivaling the Prime Material. This second largest reality, the most recently evicted Prime Material, is the closest reality to the Prime Material. This is the weird, wild, reality known as the First World, and is a place of manifold dangers as it begins its long, slow slide into the Dark.
Finally, every material plane casts two reflections, one the bright, insubstantial Ether, the other the dark, far-too-real Shadow.
This is the stage upon which adventures are drawn in Epic Path.
The Prime Material Plane
Excerpts from the book, The Nascent Seed, by Elliard Baskerbury III
- "In geology, there is a notion of volcanic activity called "hot spots," a spot in the planet's mantle which is particularly hot, right at the planet's crust, causing volcanoes to form in this space. As tectonic plates slide over this spot, the hot spot in the mantle remains stationary, but new areas of the tectonic plate swell and breech with new volcanoes, and over time these new breeches cause island chains to form, such as Devil's Teeth. These events occur over millennia of volcanic activity and tectonic movement.
- A similar case is true of the Prime Material Plane. The Prime Material Plane is called the Prime because it is the plane that sits at the hot spot of all Creation, enjoying the perfect conditions for the sustenance and comfort of the vast majority of life. And, like tectonic plates, the Prime Material is slowly sliding off of this perfect hot spot of elemental confluence, losing its place in the Primacy of all the infinite planes of Creation.
- This hot spot is called the Nascent Seed among civilized races, though it has many names, depending on how far afield you encounter other cosmologists (or, indeed, how educated they are).
- From this, we have determined that there are an unimaginable number of other Material planes besides the Prime Material, perhaps even an infinite number. Certainly there are the once-Prime planes which most recently occupied the Nascent Seed, but were shunted aside for us, as well as those planes which might sit upon it once our own, currently-Prime Material plane is shifted off of it. Rather than some linear parade of planes marching inevitably through and past the Seed, these planes are all shoved together like bubbles in a foam, and numerous external forces seek to influence their position in relation to the Nascent Seed.
- Furthest away from the Nascent Seed are the two competing forces which cause it to exist. In the broadest terms, these are entropy and enthalpy, but more specifically, they are the Silent Black and the Well of Power, which each exert tremendous energies over all of creation to constantly shuffle matter about, though typically over the course of thousands or millions of years. Both of these planes are so inimical to life that nothing can exist there. Probably.
- It is important to note that, when speaking cosmologically of the many planes of Creation, the ideas of spatial relationships are largely irrelevant, and highly ambiguous. While the Nascent Seed could be seen as the perfect nexus between the Silent Black and the Well of Power, its 'position' between the two is hard to explain, since, to someone living within any one of these planes of existence, that plane appears to be the entirety of existence. There are no edges or curves -- they simply go on forever. Thus, while the Silent Black and the Well of Power must, by definition, be the furthest apart of any two planes of existence, they are also in all places at all times.
- (It is for this reason that my colleague, Sir Forderick Alamand, retired early, complaining of constant headaches and also of being constantly watched by invisible monsters from other dimensions.)
- I leave it to the sociologists and anthropologists to describe what the Prime Material Plane actually is. You, my dear reader, may also take it as an exercise to determine it for yourself, if you feel brave enough to do so. Beware, however, that your limited sense of what is should not limit your judgement to what could be, and most especially to what must be."
Inside the Prime Material there are many structures. Natural forces have eddied and curdled in a reality as large and old as the Prime Material in a trillion, trillion different ways, and then on top of that, unnumbered hordes of deities, demigods, and arch-fiends have wrought their will on the fabric of the Prime.
Miles below the safe, sensible ground of the Prime Material, the unseen, the mad, the bad, and the merely desperate have eked out an existence that dates back to the First Day. This titanic underground realm is, by every report, far larger than the surface lands, and filled with all manner of hungering fiends, species, clades, races, cultures, and Empires. Refugees from the fall of the First World, cthonic Early Life, degenerate but invincibly vital spirits, monsters, castoffs, leftovers, mistakes, and trash from the surface world litter every darkened inch of this titanic underground realm.
Indeed, it is so large that the very name, "Unterwelt", means 'World Beneath'. It is an entire world down there, with terrors and treasures enough for a thousand lifetimes.
The So-Called "First World" of the Elves
The Elder Prime was the last Material Plane before the Prime Material Plane to sit upon the Fount, bathing in the largess of the Nascent Seed. It is old, wise, and bitter with the knowledge of its impending doom. Many inhabitants are tremendously mighty, and utterly, ineffably alien, compared to the Prime Material. It is a place of wonders, terrors, and awe, a place of heart-tearing beauty laid into lovely ruin, and a place of bloody aching wounds for the unwary.
The Elemental Planes
Air, Earth, Fire, and Water
These four Material Planes seem to be fairly stable 'Inner' planes associated with the Prime material over a long time span. They are manifestations of the basic physical building blocks of the universe. Each is made up of a single type of energy or element that overwhelms all others. The natives of a particular Elemental Plane are made of the same energy or element as the plane itself.
The Elemental Planes contain the building blocks of reality, a 'well' from which the Prime Material and all its countless imitators appear to be constructed by some unknowable agent.
The four classic Elemental Planes are the Plane of Air, the Plane of Earth, the Plane of Fire, and the Plane of Water. It is from these planes that the creatures known as elementals hail, yet they house many other strange denizens as well, such as the genie races, strange metal-eating xorns, unseen invisible stalkers, and mischievous mephits.
Despite their extreme danger and high levels of peril, the Elemental Planes are relatively easy to get to from the Prime Material, as they are connected in many ways to the Prime Material. As a result, they are comparatively well-known compared to such places as the Astral, Ethereal, Shadow, or Energy planes.
The Energy Planes
Positive, Negative, Light, Dark, and Force
These five Material Planes seem to be fairly stable 'Inner' planes associated with the Prime material over a long time span. Five commonly known energy planes exist: the first four in two pairs, in opposition, and the Plane of Force, which is posited to be a 'filter' for the Fount of Creation, or possibly a reflection of such a plane.
The first pair consists of the Positive Energy Plane (from which the animating spark of life hails) and the Negative Energy Plane (from which the sinister taint of undeath hails). Energy from both planes infuses reality, the ebb and flow of this energy running through all creatures to bear them along the journey from birth to death.
The second pair consists of the Plane of Light (from which all light originates) and the Plane of Darkness (into which all light flows and is extinguished). Both of these Planes bleed their characteristics into all other planes, which is why light and dark are universal in most planes. Note that there is some high-level debate as to which way Light and Dark flows: Some sages believe that light washes into dark, while others feel that darkness tarnishes the light.
The last Energy Plane is the Plane of Force, which is an extremely hostile realm (even for a higher energy plane). The Plane of Force suffuses into all reality and is the source of all motion, power, and agency. Pure Force effects tend to be rare, very strong, and difficult to resist.
Based upon extensive studies, the highest mages, sages, and ciphers believe that there is a (possibly infinite) progression of 'nested' demi-planes within the Plane of Force, each of higher and higher power, leading toward the Fount of Reality. These tales are probably apocryphal, as no mortal has direct evidence of any of this, although the ciphers and sages insist that their arithmetic scribbles provide compelling proof.
These 'nested demiplanes' may include such places as Solaria, Hellecore, and Apocolyptica, assuming such places exist at all.
Excerpt from Solarian Waspines: The Great Abominations of Solaria, by General Mortemius Roam of Celegia.
- "Solarian Waspines originate from a magically hyperactive version of reality, often called 'Solaria', adjacent to the higher energy planes of The Sunward Reaches, Temperest, and Hellecore. Solaria is highly difficult to reach from the Prime Plane, and even more difficult to survive due to the extremely hostile environment. (See Report: Bathing in the Firestorm: Living, Moving, and Spellcasting within High Mana Realities.) The reasons for Solaria's difficult conditions lie in the fundamental aspects of the plane itself. Solaria is a version of reality in which the overall power level is extremely high, compared to most. As a result, Waspines express very high levels of power compared to most creatures of the Prime Material, at the expense that they have difficulty surviving in less energy intense realities. (See Report: Conversion of Mount Canderly Caldera to Extra Planar Habitat.) Most versions of reality are what they consider to be freezing cold and dark places with nothing of interest within them. Of all the known realities, Solaria is the highest-energy place known to support any intelligent life, although the degree of sentience of the Waspines is debated. There are semi-apocryphal reports of even higher-energy realities, but no intelligent life is said to originate there. (See Report: Apocolyptica, The Infinite Well?)
- Solaria is very high in energy and mana, and as a result looks little like the Prime Material. There is no 'ground', the entire demi-infinity instead being a limitless expanse of blazing light-filled space. Gravity is partially conventional for such realities, being locally expressed but universally defined: Away from any mass all creatures seem able to fly by will, but will experience a universal 'down' next to any of the floating features. Within this buoyant photonic sea exists a realm of white-hot clouds, giant drifting stones (driftstones) and long floating strands of viscous fluids. (In truth, the clouds are actually vapors of stone: The liquids are usually molten metals and the stones are far more durable substances with no known Prime analog.) (See Report: Solarian Driftstone: Potential Resource for Ultimate Dweomermetals?) Masses of free-floating flames are very common terrain features, often clinging to the drifting blocks of stone. (Again, the flames are vapors of Prime material fundaments.) "Plant" life here is heavily mineral and flame based, although the viscous ichor/lava fluid also figures prominently. Many of the "animal" lifeforms are partially or totally incorporeal or energy-based or both, with bits of flesh/stone/ichor mixed in. One hundred and one suns blaze their light into the realm, and since there is no fixed earth, the suns blaze from all directions, above, to all sides, and even from beneath. There is no nighttime, although the motions of the suns create very complex patterns of shadow and analogs of constellations. "
Editor's Note: Roam's journals, while apparently quite well-referenced and thoroughly researched, have been widely debunked by several scholars of the Celegian Ministry of Science. In fact, Roam himself publicly renounced many of his works as exaggerations and lies, claiming he only wanted to further his career in the Exploration Corps of the Celegian Legion. His death soon thereafter was only quietly noted by authorities, making it apparent that he died of shame. Those conspiracy kooks who claim he was forced to recant his research because the Celegian Legions wished to weaponize the entities living within the Plane Solaria have never found any shred of evidence to support it.
Sadly, as few other scholars claim any knowledge or expertise on Solaria, Roam's journals are the only potential source of information.
The Well of Power
Also known as the Fount of Reality or the Nascent Seed, the Well is that place from which all flows. It is widely supposed to be 'within' the Plane of Force, but it exists at such a high level of power no mortal has ever gotten any proof of its existence. There is fierce debate among the learned as to whether there is one Fount or many, or even if the Fount, the Well, and the Seed are completely different things. Exploration of such matters usually drive the curious past the Apotheosis, and once that terrible threshold is passed, little useful information trickles back.
The Silent Black
The Silent Black is assumed to be what lies opposed to the Astral Sea and the Outer Madness. It may also be thought of as what lies 'between' the Silver Sea and the Outer Dark. The various Material Planes may be thought of as existing 'within' the Silent Black, or perhaps the material Planes are bubbles in the Silent Black caused by the energies of the Fount and the Seed.
It is sometimes called The Silence, or the Place of Stillness, or even Purgatory. It is the place where everything winds downs and grows tired and eventually grinds to a stop. The Silence is a place of uncertain borders and unstable existence, were things can easily slip into the Final Madness, the True Void. The edges, borders, properties, and even existence of the Silent Black is uncertain, and some scholars believe the Silent Black is simply the 'safe' portions of the Outer Madness, while others feel that the Outer Madness is simply those portions of the Silent Black which have gone mad. This is all made even more confusing by the proven fact that the Silent Black is infinite in scope, and yet contains the many Material Planes, which are also Infinite in scope. How these nested infinities may exist is beyond mortal ken, it seems, although the cyphers insist their arithmetic scribbles can contain hints.
The truth is unknown, and may actually be unknowable by mortals.
The Outer Madness
Also known as the Deep Dark, the End, the Terrible Black, the Void, and a million other names each as bleak and terrible.
Beyond (or perhaps beside, or within) the infinite expanses of the Silent Black, underneath the Hells and above the Heavens, outside the edges of reality as we know it, existence eventually grows mad with the ennui of nothingness. The expanse of the Outer Madness flows away in all possible directions through all possible flows of time, forever. This would be a very boring place, except that in the Outer Madness, there are monsters. It is almost certain that there is structure and purpose within the Outer Madness, but no mortal has ever discovered what it is and survived.
The Astral Plane
A silvery void that connects the many Material Planes (including the Prime, First World, Energy and Elemental and Lateral Planes, the Wards of the Will, and many others) to the Elemental and Outer Planes, the astral plane is the medium through which all parts of Reality are connected. The only planes which cannot be reached via the Astral Sea are the Ether and Shadow planes, which exist as reflections of a Material plane, and can only be reached by traveling through a Material Plane.
Careful study of the Astral Plane has revealed that there is structure and purpose within the Shining Sea, and some few of these structures are even vaguely understood by Cyphers and Sages. The Celestial Cascade is a vast structure within the Astral Plane which facilitates the transport of souls from the Prime Material to the various Outer Planes. Souls are valuable to those with few scruples, and as a result, the Celestial Cascade is enormously well-defended, and the secrets of reaching it require Deific might, or close to it. Despite the near-certainty that the Celestial Cascade exists, there is very little detailed information about it in the hands of mortals. Other vast structures within the Astral Plane such as the Mistflow, Gelid Billows, and The Cirrus Fringes are still completely beyond mortal ken, and travelers can simply marvel at their wonders.
A traveler in the Astral Plane sees the plane as a vast, complex ebb and flow of astral 'stuff' within the peaceful void, with a soothing infrasound background noise romantically called The Music of the Spheres. It is periodically dotted with tiny motes of physical reality calved off of the countless planes it overlaps. These motes may look like distorted 'bubbles' of reality, or as panes like holes in the void, or as circular motes of land, or flying mountains, or as disconnected, jagged landscapes, or many other manifestations. Despite the occasional terrors of the Astral Plane, it is generally the safest of the planes...for certain values of safe.
The Ethereal "Plane"
The Ethereal Plane is a ghostly realm that exists as a buffer between the Material Plane and the Deep Dark, overlapping each. A traveler in the Ethereal plane experiences the real world as if the world were an insubstantial ghost, and can move through solid objects without being seen in the real world. Strange creatures dwell in the Ethereal Plane, as well as ghosts and dreams, many of which can sometimes extend their influence into the real world in mysterious and terrifying ways.
The Ethereal Plane possibly borders the Outer Madness, and from the Ethereal Plane some sages have detected multiple versions of the associated Realm of Shadows, as well. It is possible that the Prime Material is large and complex enough that it creates more than one Plane of Shadows, with their own complex structure.
Each Ethereal Plane is generally easier to reach from its associated Material Plane than the Astral Sea, but since it does not really lead anywhere except the Outer Madness, they are generally less well explored than the Silvery Ocean. The Ethereal Plane may be accessible from the Deep Dark, and unknown eldritch horrors may intrude into the Ether. As a result, each Ether is a perilous place indeed, and escaping the Ethereal Plane can be a severe trial.
The "Plane" of Shadow
Each eerie and deadly Shadow Plane is a grim, colorless 'duplicate' of its associated Material Plane. Each overlaps with its Material Plane but may be smaller or larger in size, and they are in many ways warped and mocking 'reflections' of the Material Plane, each one tainted with negative energy and serving as home for strange monsters like undead shadows and worse. Since Shadow Planes are reflection planes 'cast' by the Outer Madness upon the Silver Sea, it is possible that eldritch fiends from the Deep Dark can pass into and out of Shadow Planes, to add to their manifold terrors.
Explorers report that for every creature in the Prime Material, there exists an analog in the Shaded Place, and many times, there are many different versions of such analogs. Nothing is ever certain in the Plane of Shadow, except that every wonder you witness will be more awful than the last.
There is some evidence that the Shadow Realm of the Prime Material is actually many realms, and there may be multiple iterations of Shadow. There are reports of travelers who enter the Shadow Lands and come back to a Prime Material that they forever feel is slightly different than the one they came from. Such effects may be seen as permanent alterations of the mind of the traveler, because the alternative, that there are alternate Prime Planes, is almost certainly impossible.
Of course, the possibility that Shadow Stuff infects your mind and permanently alters you is perhaps even worse....
The Wards of the Will
These are unstable Material Planes that have orbited near the Fount, via the Will of the Greater Gods, for untold ages. They are home to weirdly alien cultures and races, with strange and terrible Ways of Power. There are uncounted numbers of these so-called 'Outer Planes', although many of them are apparently semi-permanently 'connected' to the Prime Material (and by extension, to the Fount of Creation and the Nascent Seed) by the Celestial Cascade, a vast semi-real structure in the Astral Sea.
Those Wards of the Will that are connected to the Celestial Cascade are almost entirely dominated by deific-level entities who apparently maintain the Wards through the sheer unbreakable power of their Will.
There are many lesser Planes in the Wards of the Will that are not connected to the Celestial Cascade, and include some Lateral Material planes along with lesser Wards. The Lateral Material Planes are sometimes copies, or echoes, of the Prime Material, and sometimes they are completely different versions of reality.
The Deific Agencies
These are sub-domains of the Wards of the Will, places where the Reigning Deifics are of a more kind, positive bent. Woe betide any who fall astray of the guiding strictures of a Deific Agency, however! The most well known of the Deific Agencies are heavily connected to the Astral Sea via the Celestial Cascade, and include places such as the Seven Heavens, the Elysian Fields, the Happy Hunting Grounds, and Valhalla.
The Realms of Hell
These are sub-domains of the Wards of Will, places where the Reigning Deifics are not kind, or positive, but hellishly efficient nonetheless. If you can stomach the guiding strictures here, you will certainly prosper. The most well known of the Realms of Hell include Carceri, Niflheim, Hades, Gehenna, and Acheron.
The Demesnes of Daemonkind
These are sub-domains of the Wards of the Will where the ruling Deifics consider all other life to be either fodder, food, thralls, or, reluctantly, allies. If you go here, be an ally. The other options are not...palatable. The most well known of the Demesnes include The Abyss, Pandemonium, Limbo, and Tartarus.