Each Thursday this year, I focus on a different aspect of the world I’ve created and played D&D in for over 20 years, in the hopes of cementing enough in place to settle the world in my own mind. This week, I take a peek into the cosmology of the setting and the gods themselves
In the Begining.
Building from last week, the Gods were a major focus of the world I wanted to and continued to, be building prior to when I started to play it. They had to be powerful, known entities within the cosmos, the undeniable and palpable force behind the world’s religions and a factor in every person’s life in the setting. I really felt that the gods could be a great driving force behind much of the setting, much like religion here in the real world is a driving force, especially in the time period that we generally associate a fantasy world with, spanning from the Late Roman Empire until the Renaissance. Religion is a huge factor in the character of the medieval period, and many of its institutions, policies, and norms that we foist on the settings we create are of direct result.
It took a lot of trial and error, and a bunch of retconing over the course of time, but the final cosmos is something I very much enjoy, with complexity and nuance all its own while also being both of and by the universe. The gods and religion make little sense without the cosmology, and the cosmology feeds direction off the gods, requiring intertwined explanations in order to make them both understood.
I wish I was a better illustrator, but I don’t have the practice to make this work in any manner that I want, so instead, you’ll have to deal with my descriptions of each of the locations, and how they intertwine. It’s not terribly complicated, but a good illustration would be nice.
The Iron Marches
The Home of the gods is the Iron Marches. Here, the gods, known as
The Iron marches is shaped, to mortal comprehension, as an infinitely long board. the two ends stretch out to infinity, in distances unknowable, while the sides of the boards are a known distance.
on one side, known colloquially as heaven, live the Paltonarchs, the gods, each with their own compound, fortress or safe haven where they and their followers live, train, and prepare while not on the front lines fighting in the godswar. At the edge of heaven, everything is made of glittering, shining metals. Trees and grasses are made of pure gold, with clouds of platinum and streams of pure silver. Cobalt and Copper flowers bloom while brass bees and bronze grasshoppers flit among them, making glorious music that pleases the senses and relaxes the spirit. It is here that the cosmos is in its most glorious, where the gods all rest and the world itself is a deific reflection of reality.
The other side of this plane, infinitely long but bounded on two sides, is the demesne of the Accursed Gods and the Demon Queen, known as The Abyss to the denizens of the Prime Material. Here, the Accursed who are not on the front lines of the war against the Paltonarchs constantly train and war amongst themselves, vying for power, strength, and prestige. The Demon Queen, too, resides here, providing the Accursed with demonic legions with which to fight the gods and plotting how to best devour the entire universe. Here, it is the opposite of the blessed metallic fields of heaven. Here, Blackened iron mountains pour rivers of rust and mercury down into corroded green valleys of acid covered in the blackened, tarnished blades of grass that never grow. Boulders the size of mammoths shed motes of abrasive and persistent ash as they crush all in their way. It is a bleak and wasted land where only those inimical to life dare to dwell.
In the center of the plane, as each side hold loosens and the creatures and vegetation return to a semi-natural state, are the great battlefields of the godswar, where hordes of demons and legions of the faithful clash on a daily basis in an attempt to rid the other from the universe. Here, the battlefields run with the blood of fiends and followers alike, who push forward fighting elemental beings and the gods themselves at times, looking to gain a foothold or create a breakthrough in an interminable and blood filled conflict, yet each dawn the dead from the day before are revived at their gods stronghold, ready to sally forth once again when their liege calls their name.
The Prime Material Plane
Situated below the Iron Marches, not touching but within traveling distance, is the Prime Material Plan, called Kasan by those who inhabit it. It is here that most adventuring takes place, and it was once the refuge and home of the gods. The First stage of the Godswar was even fought on the Prime, before the Black Accord. Here, the mortals live out their lives, hopefully catching the notice of one of the gods with their words and deeds to be taken into the Iron Marches and work with their patron deity until the end of the war, and the end of time.
The Elemental Planes
The Four Elemental Planes – Fire, Air, Ice, and Stone – Orbit the Iron Marches, passing around the known edges, and underneath between the Iron Marches and the Prime Material, and their proximity to either causes specific effects to those other planes.
On the Prime Material Plane, the orbits of the Elemental Planes cause the Seasons. The plane of Fire has a long, elliptical orbit that has it over top Iron Marches for long Stretches, and only at its perigee dipping below the Plane and coming close to the Prime, bringing summer. Ice has a much quicker and tighter orbit, staying over and under the Iron Marches for a fairly equal amount of time, and staying near the Prime Material for the majority of the trip. Both Earth and Air have elliptical orbits, though not nearly as extreme as fire, and they do not maintain their trajectory overtop the Iron Marches as long. Their time with the prime material is also more regular. The combination of these orbits creates fairly regular, if cold, seasons for most of
One the Iron Marches, the effect is different, though not in any way less spectacular. On the Iron Marches, the orbiting Planes creates waxing, waning and zenith periods that tie with a god’s elemental composition. When Fire is high in the sky above the Iron Marches, Fire is said to be Waxing or in Zenith. This grants gods tied to fire and of the fire family greater powers and more intense influence. Reciprocally, when Fire is under the Iron Marches and creating seasons, the power of the fire gods wane. Each of the Elemental Planes has its own orbit, creating its own waxing and waning powers independent of the others, creating a complex web of powerful, weakening, and growing Paltonarchs and Accursed, and this is the main focus of both sides in the war, as they try to plan out their reinforcements, attacks, and counterattacks based on the strengths of the gods that are in Apex, waning and waxing. It is imperative to make sure that a god whose powers are waning does not confront even a lesser god whose power is at apex, as the fight can quickly turn into a disaster for the weaker god and could easily spell their death, the only deaths of any permanence on the Iron Marches.
The Elemental planes themselves, even outside of their proximal effects on the other planes, are their own unique realms, each fairly similar to the other, being of infinite length and width, yet bound within its own sphere within the cosmology itself and being composed primarily of a material referred to by sages as Planar Detritus. None of the cosmological sages have come to completely understand what this material exactly is, even with it permeating all four elemental plans and the plane of shadow.
Planar Detritus is a spongy, gray-green material with the bizarre property of being the exact density and buoyancy that it is needed to be in the context of its surroundings. Its semi-malleable, semi-permeable and feels roughly akin to standard earth were you to stand on, it. When picked up, cut or piled, however, it becomes spongy and elastic, retaining its shape and size regardless of many forced placed upon it, both magical and mundane.
The Plane of Fire is a perpetual monotonous, inferno. Huge blocks of Planar Detritus stretching from horizon to horizon, forever burning and never consumed, rest on massive oceans of liquid flame and magma, while searing clouds of incendiary gas and choking ash scorch the sky. Sporadic volcanos, rising like searing boils on an otherwise trackless landscape, peek into the sky and vomit forth toxic gas and molten ooze the falls like rain in their proximity. It is extraordinarily hot, as to be expected, creating an oppressive atmosphere that ignites all but the most durable of materials after just a few moments of exposure. Digging underground is of no relief to the heat, as the known blocks are no greater than 30′ deep at their furthest extents, and breaking through the surface into the oceans below leads to devastating and explosive calamities.
Here and there, scattered across the plane, are small enclaves and hovels of superheated stone and metal, the domains of the denizens of the planes of fire – Demons, Genies, Salamanders, and other natives unknown to even the most seasoned cosmologist. These are the outlying evidence of the fabled city at the center of the plane, the city of
The Plane of Air is an wide open expanse of nearly endless sky, punctuated by floating islands of Planar Detritus. These Islands very in every dimension, and are permeated with great holes and caves where avian creatures of all types settle down for a rest from time to time. Gentle clouds flit by, often just as solid as they Detritus that they Cap, but so do stormy, thunderous and violent storms wilder than anything that can be imagined on another plane. Lightning and thunder shatter the sky and often can be seen from leagues away. There is a definitive sense of up and down on the plane, and it is easy to fall off of an island and plummet for eternity until starvation and fear set in to finally kill those unlucky enough to suffer such a fate, unless of course they strike one of the many islands in one of the infinite layers first.
Great castles, modest nests
The Plane of Ice is an arctic hellscape, an interminable land of massive glaciers, frozen mountains, and snow dunes as far one can see in the unending blizzard that forever blankets the land. Beneath the frozen solid layer of Planar Detritus lies an ocean stretching deep and cold to infinite depths, where eternal leviathans slumber, awakening only when they sense warm-blooded food on the surface. The wind, cold and merciless, howls at all hours, quickly driving those mad who aren’t prepared for its
Still, huddled hidden at the base of mountains, or clinging to the side of the glaciers at the edge of a perpetually frozen sea, some dwellings still exist for creatures that have inhabited the plane since before the Godswar. Here they speak of a great, carved ice city in the center of the plane, Kragraak, with shining buildings made of ice packed tight into each other, where flame is finally able to ignite and warm the houses of those few who dare to eke out a meager
The Plane of Stone is a single, continuous stone formation, with jagged and relentless mountains of all forms of stone thrusting into the air at unbelievable angles. The ground itself is solid stone, with paths worn inches deep where others have tread over millennia. The sky is crisp and clear, unbroken by clouds, unpierced by the sun and the continual gray of early dawn. Here, unlike all of the other planes, the ground is stone instead of Planar Detritus, and the stone extends deeper than can possibly be fathomed. Giant Wurms churn through the stone, deep below the surface, consuming everything in its wake and leaving quickly collapsing tunnels behind. The great stone plates slowly grind against each other, creating the massive mountains the plane is known for.
There are a few towns of earth dwelling beings above ground, though few are able to survive long in an interminable land of barren stone. Most of the denizens survive in underground caverns with but one or two routes to the surface, if they even have that much, living in complete blackness within. Some have discovered ways to shed light, but many more are simply more comfortable in the dark. These towns extend deep unto the plane, well past where one would expect such creatures to exist, and they all tell of the city at the center of the plane, Durumall, filling the entire surface of a massive cavern, such that the city looks down on itself from being astride its own ceiling. Towers stretch between surface and ceiling, and left to right, creating crosswalks on their outer surfaces and workplaces in the center. It is supposedly the greatest center of learning the cosmos, containing sages and scholars who discovered the city long ago and have extended their lives on the plane in order to continue studying.
The Plane of Shadow
The Final Plane in the Cosmology is that of the Plane of Shadow. The Plane is a transitory realm, connecting and binding all the others within its grasp. It is also a reflection of the prime material plane, coterminous with it in all locations. It is semi-coterminous with all the other locations, but only along the borders and vortices. The Shadow plane is a dire and ominous realm devoid of nearly all life, and seemingly outside of time, showing the past, present, and future of its coterminous locale with seeming haphazard and clearly random changes that morph its structure from one era to another. It is also extremely susceptible to change, with it latching onto the time period of strong-willed and powerful beings traveling its realms, reflecting their current time where they tread, yet showing them visions further out, all the way to the horizons.
Well, that is about it for a basic wrap up about the cosmology of my setting. I’ll be trying to work this into “game usable” form sometime in the next few weeks, and seeing if I can post these pages as we go along. Its hard to both write this out and put together the actual game notes, but its worth a try.
Until next time!