Manual of the Cosmic Realms
An exhaustive list of the Realms, as well as a short description and how they fit in relation to each other.
Fundamentally connected to my primary submission, Primal Essence, Primals, and the Creation of the Realms as well as several others linked to from there. I'll provide a link at the top of this article, though I'd recommend at least reading the main one before this.
As of the assumed modern era (the 3 Great Nations of men and elves, the initiation of Godfall, reawakening of the great machine) there are 9 Realms in total, not including the Abyss; while it isn't technically a Realm, it certainly merits description!
De-facto center of the universe, at least as far as most beings are concerned. It is where mortal souls live, where gods dare not tread in person, where Graces and Viles scheme to tempt souls away from neutrality and divinity alike. Initially composed of the excessive cosmic detritus left over from the Abyssal War, compacted into one solid mass, the Materium is tied for largest Realm with the Aetherium. This is where adventures start, and a great many never leave, for the Realms beyond are dangerous and difficult to reach. The Materium can be thought of as a life-bearing planet, and many a scholar view it just so. In more metaphysical terms, the Materium is akin to a flat disc. The Aetherium is another disc of equal size on top, the Obsidium another disc below, the other Realms sandwiched between, all of it prevented by the Obsidium from sinking into the maelstrom of the Abyss.
Vaguely parallel to the Materium, this is the Realm from which souls are born. They are created here, and return here by default upon death to await reincarnation. This Realm is also home to the fey, whom are formed when souls do not incarnate and instead develop on the Aetherium. Fey typically work to promote neutrality on the Materium, thus causing mortal souls to return to their Realm on death. The Aetherium is often seen as the stars in the night sky, and many believe those stars are souls awaiting mortal life; the brighter the star, the greater the soul. The Aetherium was created when Primal Essence was split into its fundamental states of energy; Positive, Neutral, and Negative. Where Positive and Negative are considered energy types, Neutral energy manifests as the soul.
Also known as the Seal, though the overwhelming majority of mortals (and indeed, a fair number of cosmic beings as well) are unaware of its existence. It is an utterly empty Realm, a barrier between the Realms and the Abyss. It was created by the great machine in an attempt to seal off the Abyss from the rest of creation, yet it remains just barely incomplete (about 95%) as a result of the various cosmic powers of the time stopping the great machine from finishing their construction. Were the Seal to be made whole, it would cut off the flow of Primal Essence from the Abyss, and everything in all the Realms would wither and die, leaving nothing but worlds of lifeless grey. However, the Seal does serve to drastically limit the fury of the Abyss to a manageable trickle, and were it to be destroyed, the raging Abyss would devour the Realms entirely and end the universe. Among those few mortal scholars who knew of its existence, the Obsidium was thought to be the lack of night, the backdrop upon which everything else is visible, as the Obsidium lies between the other Realms and the Abyss. The overwhelming majority who remain ignorant of the Seal's existence attribute this to the Aetherium, or possibly the Abyss.
Realm of the Graces, the fundamentals of Good. The Praesidium is the destination of sufficiently good-aligned souls. From here the Graces work to secure souls for their eternal war with the Viles. In much the same way that a Vile might tempt a soul with power in order to lure them to evil, Graces sometimes offer power to those willing or predisposed towards acts of good. The Praesidium appears as a bright blue star of notable size, commonly known as the 'north star'. It was originally formed as a result of the accidental creation of the fundamental concepts of Good and Evil, where the original Graces and Viles were born from tiny fragments of the lone Primal who later formed/became the Abyss.
Realm of the Viles, the fundamentals of Evil. This is where those who fell to evil are taken after death. The Viles delight in tempting mortals to their doom here, where their souls can be converted into lesser Viles, spent for raw power, or reborn with a predisposition towards cruelty and vice, thus becoming very likely to return after death and with a more potent soul. The Malignium is seen as a sickly red star in the night sky, often called the 'south star' or the 'blood star'. When the Graces and Viles are in a position of particular power or weakness, the brightness of their star waxes and wanes accordingly.
As the Aetherium is the realm of Neutral energy (the soul,) the Lumenium is the realm of Positive energy, or Light. It lacks fundamental beings of its own, as it exists instead as a polar form of fundamental energy. All energy, at its core, is composed of Positive and Negative energy woven together in different patterns. Positive energy represents life, and is seen as light; thus it heals the living and harms the undead. The Lumenium is the Sun, the herald of day. Of particular note is the god Solaris, originally an elemental of light, who claims a significant portion of the Lumenium as his own Domain. His is the largest Domain in existence, and it's notable for taking up the largest share of its home Realm, at slightly over half.
Counter to the Realm of Light, the Tenebrium is the Realm of Negative energy and Shadow. Negative energy is associated with death, and it is what powers the undead. There have been many theories regarding what causes natural instances of undead either in spectral or animated form, though the leading hypothesis is that it happens when an imbalance occurs between the Positive and Negative energies of a dying mortal, thus resulting in an excess of Negative energy once the Positive energy (life-force) fades rather than the neutral balance that usually occurs. The Tenebrium appears in the night sky as an oddly luminescent black disc, like an inverse Sun; it is most commonly called the Moon, though some disdain it as the Black Sun. Upon close inspection, it can be seen to faintly crackle with that shimmering black energy, and when a lot of mortal souls die within a short span of time that crackling sometimes intensifies; possibly enough to make the Moon visible during daylight.
Of all the Fundamental Realms (Good/Evil/Order/Chaos), the Sequentium is unique in that its fundamental race is absent. The Eminents, fundamentals of Order, were enslaved and driven mad by their own damned creation and subsequently buried with it during the Abyssal War. Instead, the Realm is ruled by the remaining, lesser creations of the Eminents, who while lacking in raw power, make up for it with their ingenuity and zealous pursuit of order. One of their functions, ever since the absence of their masters, has been to conceal the truth of the Eminents' fall. This includes any and every scrap of knowledge regarding the Abyssal War, the Obsidium, the great machine, and the Primals themselves. They have almost no dealings with mortals, and make exceedingly few appearances on the Materium, but on occasion they can be called upon to enforce law and they will relentlessly pursue any scraps of forbidden knowledge, even dragging mortals who know to much back to the Sequentium with them for imprisonment. Though not typically visible from the Materium, the Sequentium can sometimes be seen as an ever-turning gear, and it has been speculated that it's responsible for the steady orbit of the Sun and Moon around the Materium. The fundamental concepts of Order and Chaos were intentionally created by the Primals, as opposed to the purely accidental genesis of Good and Evil; this is where the distinction between Arcane and Divine magic comes from, and is why the Eminents and the Dragons are the masters of arcana.
Easily the strangest of the Realms, the Discordium is the Realm of Chaos and the home of Dragons. The current Discordium is actually the second incarnation, the only Realm to be reborn. The original Realm of Chaos was devoured by the Abyss at the onset of the Abyssal War, as well as any lesser Realms the Primals had created; however, as Chaos is a fundamental concept of creation, the Realm manifested itself within the lesser Elemental Realms and bound them together into one. Dragonkind has been diminished both by the loss of their original home to the Abyss and by catastrophic events in the Materium's early history, which accounts for the lack of imbalance between Order and Chaos even given the Eminents' absence. Due to the fusion of the elements, elementals are frequently tinged by chaos and act erratically, not necessarily in line with their nature. In turn, much of dragonkind became infused with the elements, altering their purely arcane origins. The Discordium is seen in the night sky as a color-shifting nebula, and is responsible for the changing of the seasons on the Materium. Sometimes auroras can be seen whether during day or night, signaling a flux of chaotic power and possibly the manifestation of elementals.
Ah, the dreaded Abyss. Originally the well of all creation, the seemingly boundless pool of cosmic energy from which the Primals were born, and the playground in which they created all their little Realms. The pain of its injury from the accidental creation of Good and Evil turned that particular Primal against creation, and it retreated from the others and started to meld with the latent energy of creation. Everything the other Primals made caused it pain and fear as a result, until eventually it snapped and decided to destroy all its siblings had made. Now fundamentally one with the raw Primal Essence of the universe, this lone Primal became known as the Abyssal One, or simply the Abyss, and it tried to destroy creation. The other Primals, having not learned fear as the Abyssal One had, went to confront it one by one, alone and unsupported, and they were subsequently crushed. Without their creators to protect them, only sheer suicidal desperation stopped the destruction, while nearly bringing about The End in another way. Now the Abyss is a seething maelstrom of pure hatred, the essence of annihilation, the antithesis of creation. As the origin of Primal Essence, it is also a source of unthinkable power; however, that power inevitably causes utter madness and ultimately destruction of the being that used it, irrevocably removing it from creation. Manifestations of the Abyss' will are called Abyssals, and these beings are all highly advanced and unfathomably complex, some driving mortals insane on mere sight. They steadily trickle into the Realms from the hole in the Obsidium, and the forces of Good, Evil, Order, and Chaos continually work to drive them back, even going so far as to briefly cooperate to ensure no Abyssal is allowed to reign free among the Realms. Whatever they do, however, the Abyss is eternal; someday it will inevitably end creation...
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? Responses (2)-2
This is a good encyclopedia entry for your campaign. There are some interesting bits here including the alignment with celestial objects with the planes.
Yeah, my big challenge here was making it as original as I could without invalidating the 2 main plots of the campaign this all started as.