2013-04-24 Cosmology of Love and Strive

 Maximilián Pirner, Empedokles As I was listening to the episode on Empedocles on the History of Philosophy “without any gaps” podcast, my thoughts turned to cosmology and D&D. Basically, there is a big cycle between the rule of Love, where all the elements mingle and everything is a single perfect sphere, and Strife, where all the elements separate, fire over here, water over there, and so on.

Implementing this in fantasy role-playing games we need to change some of the Great Wheel cosmology of Planescape. The inner planes are now the outer planes: The four elements are the chaotic forces pulling us in different directions. All elemental creatures must be very chaotic and enemies of life. At the center, where all elements meet, there is but a humongous sphere of gray goo. I guess all the slimes, puddings and oozes must be creatures of law– Love. They bring all the elements together and none better than the gray ooze. Given all that, the world we know must necessarily be between the elements and the spherical goo, ie. on the spherical surface.

What about dungeons? What about the “mythic underworld”? I think we have various options:

  1. The concept of Love that pulls the elements together is just as inimical to life as Strife: the civilizations that have gone before us have all been pulled underground, closer and closer to each other, until war and attrition destroyed them all; perhaps a few gaunt dessicated members of the old Atlanteans still live down there in the deepest depths, close to the gray goo, guarding their nuclear weapons and their nanotech weapons.
  2. The concept of Love offers some form of transcendence over the material world; it attracts good and evil alike; it tests us, breeds us, selects the finest amongst us, and like zygotes we penetrate the deepest secrets to eventually reverse the great cycle, to break the stalemate.

In either case, monsters are drawn down to the center of things just as we are. The traps can be set by our competitors down there, or by the gray goo defending itself against unworthy plunderers.

I think we need one final idea to make it all work: How to explain the heavens and the moon and the stars if “up above” we expect to see the four elements?

  1. Our known world exists where earth and air have started separating; the oceans is where the water is. If you sail far enough, there will be no more land and eventually, no more air. You’ve reached the plane of Water. If you climb the highest mountains, eventually you will realize that you have reached the wall of walls. Air ends and the plane of Earth begins. Up where the sun is, fire reigns. It has already left most of the known world. Whenever we light a fire, the flames leap up, up towards the sky, towards the sun, towards the great fire in the sky that burns far beyond the sky.
  2. Alternatively, the known world is just like present day earth. The air protects us from space. Space is in effect the Void separating the four elements under the dominion of Strife and the gray goo under the dominion of Love (and its tiny crust of weirdness that is life).

Food for thought, in any case.

I like how the podcast provides two interesting links:

The second link uses “font-family:comic sans ms, verdana, arial, sans-serif”. Comic Sans. You have been warned. :)



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