Friday, October 26, 2012

A Quotable Cosmology

I saw this in a thread on megadungeons over on the RPGsite, and it's worth reposting:

IMC Law is in the sky, and Chaos is beneath the ground. Near the surface the chaos is weak; the deeper you go, the stronger Chaos grows. Weaker chaos things climb as high as they can, to keep their distance from the stronger predators beneath. Stronger chaos things need to remain in the depths where chaos sustains their power.

The higher you climb, the more perfect the order of the heavens, until you reach the sphere of the stars where everything moves in perfect circles. The light of the sun is the light of law, and it blasts most chaotic things out of existence. So the dungeon entrances are best avoided at night but the villages are, by and large, safe----even though they're often only a day's travel or so from the entrance to a mythic underworld teeming with terrible magical predators.

Early in time, Chaos made a thing that could live on the surface (elves). Law made a thing that could live beneath the ground (dwarfs). Neither was very satisfactory for their makers, and both tend towards neutrality; their makers abandoned them and now they're grouped with humanity.

Anyway, life is chaotic. It teems and seethes. Life can't survive in the heavens, but it constantly crawls and scuttles up from the depths. The dungeon predators eat one another, of course, but their numbers are always being replenished by the raw chaos beneath.

Chaos is linked to greed, so a thing created by chaos often has treasure on it or near it at the moment it appears. Generally a weak creature loses much of its treasure as it climbs towards the surface (in payments to stronger creatures for safe passage).
- -Author P&P (Papers & Paychecks)

I like how this ties Mythic Geography to both cosmic Alignment and demihuman origins, while also providing an explanation for dungeon depth = danger, and why treasure tends to pool in the deeper dungeon levels.  It's a fantastic background cosmology for your BX or OD&D game, and upholds the dungeon as an underworld.  Great great stuff.


  1. Beautiful! Might have to steal this...

  2. Goddamnit, this was the whole premise of the underworld supplement I started making...

    Well, its beautifully expressed here.

  3. So Dwarves are Chaotic in this environ?

    1. No no - the underground is the realm of Chaos; Dwarves were early creations by a power of Law that was made hardy and tough to live in the underground, chaotic environment; explaining why Dwarves are Lawful, yet live in the underground amongst various chaotic races.

      The same logic applies to elves.

      Law and Chaos here isn't good vs evil. I also like using it as an axis for Divine vs Arcane.

  4. This is pretty close to the cosmology for my current campaign world as well. Primal Chaos burns off its half life in the depths, slowly diminishing in influence as its accidental creation, Law imposes itself virus-like upon the universe. As time marches forward the universe becomes increasingly orderly until science supplants magic etc. etc.
    Justifies bezerko underworld settings handily.

  5. The sun as a burning ball of Law made me wonder about its chaotic counterpart - what would that be like? And then it hit me: The molten core of the planet, of course! Like the sun, it's hot and spherical (but not perfectly spherical - and that's good because it's supposed to be chaotic) and it lies at the most extreme part of one end of the continuum between the underworld and the stars.
    And is just as ultimately unreachable as the stars.
    This is the kind of thing that could be added as the religious beliefs of a monastic order or church in any campaign. It doesn't have to be true - it explains so much that seems otherwise illogical that people living in most OSR worlds would feel a ring of truth about it, and that makes it a great belief for the world's denizens whether or not it's the true explanation. I love it.

    1. Further thoughts: Birds were a more successful creation of chaos within the realm of Law than the elves, and they remain mostly chaotic to this day, though the influence of the Law around them can be seen in things such as formation flying.

      Law's most successful incursion after the failed Dwarves into the Chaotic realm was the creation of ants. Their structured existence is tempered by the chaos around them, but they maintain strict social hierarchy and orderly cooperation within their groups.

      Yeah, this is going to show up as the teachings of a monastic cult in my game. Thanks!

  6. This was a revelation! Thanks for sharing :)

    The chaos-greed angle explains nicely what happens if dwarves dig too deep. This is really good stuff...