In my last campaign, I had an idea for the origin of the universe, partially inspired by Jenna K. Moran’s work on Exalted: Fair Folk. I never found a direct use for it in the game, but I thought I’d share it here.
In the Beginning
The idea starts with the universe as nothing. Maybe it was a roiling ball of chaos. Maybe it was just non-existence. No one was there to report on it. But something shifted. Time and Space gained independent existence, embodied by two entities. Suddenly events happened in a sequence and could occur in different locations. The absence of time and space was congealed down into a single object which ultimately would become the Jewel of Judgment.
As Time and Space grew in power and awareness, they generated new entities by dividing the universe further into what it is and what it isn’t. As they culled away “what it isn’t,” some of that was layered onto the Jewel of Judgment and some was embodied in similar objects. These entities included things like Change, Form, Reflection, and others. And they became known by names like Serpent, Unicorn, Chameleon, Owl, and so forth.
These entities in turn experimented with shaping existence further, creating realms and races in new ways. Shadow was born of this, but so were realms like Undershadow and the Shroud. The realms were not necessarily called such then. These are just the names that remain.
Using in Your Game
The problem with big picture cosmology is that it’s not always useful to actual play. So here are some things that you an do with this.
- The Early Kingdoms: A whole campaign could be built around the early days of existence, a patchwork of small universe-kingdoms, each ruled over by an individual god. Players could be the ruling family over one of these universe-kingdoms, or they could be the gods themselves.
- Visiting Other Realms: The Merlin series and the short stories introduce places like the Shroud and Undershadow. Rather than weird anomalies, these could be potent realms in and of themselves still ruled over the first gods. They touch upon Shadow but are their own thing. This could even be a way to have crossovers with other multiverse settings like Lords of Gossamer & Shadow or Wizard101.
- When the Stars are Right: Possibly overlapping with the ideas of other realms, it could be that the other gods are sealed away. The spikards, for example, are noted to draw upon sources of power like the “blood of the beast on the pole” and the “shell that is cracked at the center of the world.” It could be that these gods were sealed away by the creators of the spikards in order to power their artifacts. A “visionary” could even take it upon themselves to release these gods. The plot of the game could be to stop the return or to deal with the aftermath of such a return.
- Shattered Judgment: What happens if the Jewel of Judgment is broken or destroyed? If it is crystallized anti-concepts, does time become disjointed? Does space become meaningless? What other anti-concepts might wreak havoc with existence?
- Easter Eggs: Not everything has to be a plot device. Sometimes it just makes interesting color to find a fragment realm outside of Shadow or a bound primordial god. Some players will just ignore it, some will fixate on it as though they’ve found The Secret Plot, but it adds depth to a setting.