Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celestial Geometry of MyAereth

I’ve always had an underpinning structure to the cosmology of my home-brewed game world, but since it doesn’t conform to the standard cosmology that the more popular fantasy RPG settings and supplements it has mostly been sitting on the shelf collecting dust for the last few years.  With the arrival of DCCRPG and all of its wide open spaces I thought I might put it out there for others who may also like a little structure to work with and who may not have the time or desire to write it all out from scratch.  Having a detailed understanding of how magic functions adds depth to the game’s milieu and helps the Storyteller by supplying a consistent framework that players can explore. What follows is an excerpt from the as yet unpublished Liber Arcanum, a book of DCCRPG compatible spells and lost lore to supplement its magic system.


Quoted with permission from Cognition Pressworks:

“Originally I had thought to devote an entire chapter of {Liber Arcanum} to the cosmology of a gaming Universe, but after I thought about it for a while I realized that the nature of the DCC RPG system and the flavors of the Appendix N universes really don’t have room for too much standardization of Cosmology; everyone’s RPG universe will be so different as to render books on cosmology largely useless. Besides, most of the realms have either been covered at length and are sitting on the shelves of gamer’s libraries already; or, they are off limits due to product licensing. However, as the basic building blocks of a fantasy universe the Primal Elements could be thought of as common to all universes; in theory at least. But that’s not enough for DCC; Appendix N has no room for ordinary, so I diverted from the classic 4 part elemental division familiar to most gamers. This section is offered as a set of ideas for the Storyteller to use or ignore at their leisure and is intended to spur him or her to new ideas and possibilities for their own game milieu.  However, since this approach is ingrained in everything that I write, perhaps a few words of explanation are in order to facilitate the reader’s understanding of the spells and other concepts in this book.

I first introduced this elemental system in Critters, Creatures, & Denizens, but there wasn’t enough room in that work to really explore and explain this quintessence of forces. Though I should really say; ‘re-introduced’, because I’m certainly not the first to try to bring this concept into the Fantasy RPG paradigm. It is also fair to say that the idea never really went anywhere; I’d be surprised if I had any greater success in this endeavor. But, with the unique opportunity to re-shape and re-define the gaming environment afforded by the arrival of DCC RPG, I simple couldn’t resist the chance to try.

The concept of 5 elements has been with humanity for millennia, Aristotle and Plato both postulated a 5 element theory, but the idea never became popular in Western Philosophies. However, the 5-element theory is as strong today in the rest of the world as it ever was in antiquity. The difficult part for most people seems to be the idea of Thought and Intention or ‘Spirit’ as a physical force; but if you think about it for a moment, we see the ebb and flow of this force every day of our lives. This force can be seen in the cycles of life shared by all creatures of the world; or when we open a newspaper and read of the world’s events. It soon becomes evident that not only are Thought and Spirit capable of acting upon the world to wreak havoc and miraculous changes just as any other physical force; but that Spirit is the most powerful of the 5 elements. It challenges us, shapes the world around us and our individual and collective destinies constantly as we make the decisions to navigate through our journey of life.

But energy unbounded and ever growing is dangerous when left unchecked; the animating force is no exception. For what is Life without Death? In this model of the meta-verse the 5th element supplies the consciousness of all living creatures so it must also be conscious, else it couldn’t impart this gift to others.  As the most powerful of the elements and being self-aware, the elemental force of Spirit is capable of self-regulation.  The mechanism for this regulation is the de-animating force, the negative corollary to life itself; Entropy, or to use the more common term...Death. This bifurcated nature makes Spirit truly unique among the elements, but this dualistic character further occludes the nature and potential of this strange element when studied.

As stated on page 15 of the CCD the interactions between these 2 halves of the Spirit are balanced within all living creatures, at least those who are in good health. But these forces would annihilate each other like matter and anti-matter were it not for the buffering effects of the other 4 elements also present in balanced amounts. The interactions of the elements are shown on table 1-9 reprinted from the CCD and expanded slightly.

Table 1-9; Elemental Energies & Damage


Air – Sonic, Music, Charms

Fire – Fire, Heat

Water – Acid, Ice, Cold

Earth – Electricity, Bludgeoning

Spirit (+) – Heat/ Force/ Paroxysm/ Healing

Spirit (-) – Cold/ Force/ Paralysis/ Draining

Table 1-10 outlines the various interactions between the elements. While the destructive properties are easy enough to understand, the process of enhancement is left vague so as to allow for wider use. Generally enhancement refers to things like the ability of fire to create refined metals and alloys, or to describe the ‘air’ made available to aquatic creatures, or the winds carrying clouds of water vapor gently through the sky.  Positive energy creatures act to enhance the flow of the elements where ever possible. Negative energy creatures work constantly to unravel the elemental forces and are constantly at odds with the growth of the natural world. When earth enhances fire, the results are nothing less than… well… volcanic. 

Table 1-10; Contrary and Complimentary

Elemental Energies:

Air – Starves Fire & enhances Water

Fire – Boils Water & enhances Earth

Water – Erodes Earth & enhances Air

Earth – Traps Air & enhances Fire

Spirit (+) – Cancels out Spirit (-) & enhances all other Elements

Spirit (-) – Cancels out Spirit (+) & has a degenerative effect on all other Elements.

How these interactions play out in the game environment is up to the Storyteller, as is the existence of any Para-elements such as Steam, Magma, Mud, and others. For the CCD and Liber Arcanum the default setting is that these Para-elemental Planes do exist and there are several critters based upon these sometimes contrary and always unstable hybrid elements. Within this paradigm, even contrary elements may be forced to combine disproportionately to the other elements or even in their absence. Mud Mephits for example are an unstable conglomeration of Earth, Water, and just enough positive or negative Spirit energy to qualify as a life form. These unstable combinations often have severe dietary requirements as well as restrictions to movement and environment when brought to the Material Plane. All of these Para-elemental

combinations are unstable by technical definition, but the enhancing effects between Elements

can create powerful hybridizations like the Cloud and Lava Mephits; see Critters, Creatures, & Denizens for further details on these creatures.

This model of the elements also allows for the expression of the Faerie Kingdoms as amalgams of nearly pure positive or negative energy with just a touch of another element. Thus Sprites and Spriggans are nearly identical and both are air spirits; they just have opposite polarities, view points, and goals. These goals are as varied as their physical forms, but faerie kind generally fall into one of two main camps: the faeries who see mortals as children to be guided & protected; and the Faeries who see mortals as cattle to be hunted and used for sport. Table 1-11 outlines the Para-elements and their attendant damage types.  Creatures constructed with such energies are vulnerable to all of the elemental energies to which their constituent elements would normally be susceptible. 

On a cosmic scale, all these elemental forces are balanced against one another and all are set into motion by the dynamic tension between the animating and de-animating force. In conjunction with the ‘smaller’ world theme favored within the DCC RPG system, this Elementalist view of the Cosmos allows us to enfold many of the functions and themes of other realms presented through the years into either the positive or negative aspect of Spirit. For my writing and gaming this has generally taken the form of the 13 Heavenly Kingdoms and the 13 Kingdoms of Hell. I have defined these greatly within the scheme of my game environment, but I have deliberately held off publishing many details so that the end user has more freedom to implement these ideas in their game milieu. However, it can be generally said that the 1st Kingdom of Heaven is the largest and is circular, like all other Kingdoms both above and below. The ascending Heavenly Kingdoms are each dedicated to a principle or mortal conception of Heaven and the afterlife; as well as the abodes of certain deities. Through meditation the souls ascend to find the place that makes them feel most at peace, or they choose to be reborn into the Material world again.

Table 1-11; Para- Elements and their damage types

Cloud – Acid, Asphyxiation, Sonic

Dust – Asphyxiation, Sonic, Slashing

Lava – Electricity, Fire, Bludgeoning

Mud – Acid, Asphyxiation, Sonic, Constriction

Smoke – Asphyxiation, Poisons and Toxins, Steam Acid, Heat, Steam

Faerie (+) – Any available to its elemental subtype, spells

Faerie (-) – Any available to its elemental subtype, spells

These other Heavenly Kingdoms may be assigned as the Storyteller wishes, but these three truths hold constant during the ascension: each kingdom is slightly smaller, and the available ambient power of the kingdom doubles. Lastly, at the pinnacle of this Celestial Mountain is the Eternal Garden. Only a few hundred paces across, the 13thth Kingdom of Heaven is a peaceful garden with several meditation platforms and delicate arrangements of flowers, stones, and intricately raked sands. All set within a single perfect summer day that never fades. There are streams within the Eternal Garden that flow from the eight points of the compass and into the Well of Forever; a central pond lined with jade and turquoise. Two ancient fish swim within its crystal clear water; Harmony and Wisdom, one has scales of gold smoothed by eons of languid swimming, the other has polished silver scales sparkling and glinting in the sun brighter than the finest of mirrors. The few enlightened souls which ascend to this level meditate here for centuries

or even millennia before moving on to whatever is beyond; for even the Angels know not where souls go whence they depart the Eternal Garden.

Most of this holds true for the lower realms; just in reverse. As the Kingdoms of Hell descend into the darkness, they too contract in size as their power grows. The Kingdoms of Hell are similarly arranged as the Heavens, in that each of the Kingdoms of Hell are dedicated to a particular concept or version of Hell associated with a specific doctrine or dogma and are the abodes of certain evil deities. The Storyteller should feel free to assign these as needed for their campaign; however, the 13th and lowest Kingdom of Hell is a small, nameless dungeon so bleak, so vile, that even devils are nervous when they must travel to this forsaken place. The reason for this trepidation is clear to any souls unfortunate enough to be interred within; at the center of the dungeon is a pit so malevolent that its dark corruption appears only as a mixture of viscous, oily mists and horrific visions swirling chaotically in its endless depths. Those who stare into this kaleidoscope of despair and wickedness find themselves dragged into the Outer Darkness where only demons and forgotten gods slumber and dream through eternity.


For those Storytellers and Players who enjoy a good romp through the Planes, I’ve included a basic diagram or ‘map’ of this Celestial Geometry. In this model of the multiverse any particular part of the Material Plane is a stable point of reference where all Elemental aspects overlap. This point of harmonic convergence is unmistakable, because it is usually a sphere that we would recognize as a planet. Even though the elemental planes are infinite in scope, only the small area near and within the overlapped area contains the vital forces needed for life and these regions are thought of as the various Planes, of Fire, or Earth, etc. because these are the only places where living beings of a non-elemental nature may travel. The deep reaches of any Elemental Plane are much too hostile for travel or use by mortals. The exceptions to this rule are the Planes of Positive and Negative Spirit Energy. They have the Kingdoms of Heaven and Hell housed within the Outer Reaches of their respective Planes; while the regions closer to the overlap

manifest as Para-elemental Planes. The near region of the Positive Energy Plane is called the Ethereal Plane, but it is sometime called Summer Home, or Faerie Land, the lands across the sea, and other names; it is where the positively aligned Faerie make their homes when not on the Material Plane. The near region of the Negative Energy Plane is called the Plane of Sorrows and is a land of shadows and the wandering, restless, dead that cannot find their way onward. The negatively aligned aeries call this place home when they are not tormenting mortals on the Prime Material Plane. 

The space between the spaces also needs definition and it too is bifurcated into a close and an outer section; both are referred to generically as Astral Space. The closer of the two regions is known as the Palace of Dreams and is where the Pattern of Reality is fixed by the dreams of the gods and mortals. The farther reaches of the Astral Plane are known as the Outer Darkness and it is where demons and forgotten gods slumber. It is the last and strangest frontier; appearing to be infinite, however sages, elves, and magi have theorized that if one were to travel far enough into the Outer Darkness, one could possibly find other worlds cocooned within their own dreams.

Who lives upon these planes and how magic spells function therein is up to the individual Storyteller because every game world is different. The four elemental kingdoms of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are straight forward and are ruled by the various Elemental Lords and Ladies. These four Planes are common to all universes, but let common sense rule the day whenever possible. For example, fire spells probably don’t work very well on the Plane of Water, Steam, or Mud. Likewise, how the Planes connect to one another as well as the means by which each is accessed is also subject to the whims of the Storyteller with the following caveat: in this model the Prime Material Plane is considered part of every Plane because it is the node upon which everything else balances. As such, the enterprising and powerful wizard (or cleric for that matter) can travel from the Prim Material Plane to any other Plane in a single ‘step’ assuming they

have the right spell, or item and enough power.

The following diagrams are offered as an aid to understanding; the first shows the Celestial Geometry of the Five Elemental Planes in relation to the Material Plane. Also shown on this first diagram are the Para-elemental Planes of Clouds, and Lava as well as Summer Home and the Plane of Sorrows. These diagrams have been stretched, pulling the planes away from each other somewhat to better illustrate their places. The second diagram omits the 5th element entirely in order to better show the Para-elemental Planes; both diagrams have representations of The Palace of Dreams, and the Outer Darkness.

Celestial Geometry 1

Celestial Geometry 2 (looking down from the 1st level of Heaven)

Random planes:
If there is need of a random Plane; roll 1d14. On a result of 5, 6, or 14, roll percentile dice to further clarify. If this is affecting a Player Character they apply their Luck bonus or penalty to both the d14 roll and to any percentile rolls needed. For the percentile roll, multiply the character’s Luck modifier by 10% and apply this result as a bonus or penalty to their roll. Anyone who ends on Positive or Negative Plane of Spirit is in the 1st Kingdom of Heaven or Hell depending on the result. 

1. Plane of Air

2. Plane of Fire

3. Plane of Water

4. Plane of Earth

5. Plane of Spirit (+), roll d100
< 50% = 5a. Plane of Spirit (-)

6. Plane of Sorrows, roll d100
< 50% = 6a. Summer Home

7. Para-elemental Plane of Lava

8. Plane of Clouds and Vapors

9. Para-elemental Plane of Smoke.

10. Para-elemental Plane of Steam

11. Para-elemental Plane of Mud

12. Para-elemental Plane of Dust

13. Prime Material Plane

14. Palace of Dreams, Astral Space
< 51% = 14a. The Outer Darkness”

Runes for the DCCRPG Core Rules

Now that I'm into the illustrating phase for Liber Acanum and one of the spells in its pages is an "elder" version of the Runic Alphabet (Mortal) spell with casting checks all the way out to 36 and an additional 15 runes for players to discover... as well as some other surprises.  In which is contained many things that have long been forgotten.  These are the standard runic symbols that I'll be using for my games from here on, so I thought I should post them for players. 

However, in the fine and long standing tradition of other DCC and Goodman Games products, I figured that this spell is an excellent candidate for a handout.

AND... with the permission of Goodman Games and Cognition Pressworks, a printable PDF of the runes above as well as a set of blank tiles are available at the following link:

Check back later for the standard set of Faerie Runes...  ;)