Some cosmological world-building for my theoretical “sometime-in-the-future” Nobilis campaign. I will convert things into OSR terms as I go to see how bat-shit crazy this can get. I like the idea of taking a game where the players run demi-gods and trying to apply the same concepts to a strictly mortals-only, 20th-level-is-the-end-of-the-line type game like D&D.
As a default the universes of Nobilis hang suspended on the World Ash, and you march around on the tree exploring the realms of creation. I’ll have that of course (who doesn’t love Yggdrasil?) but I’ll also include a completely separate cosmic model that competes with it.
The Cube of Space & The World Ash
Consciously maneuvering through higher or lower dimensions requires a completely separate “reality map” that not many Powers master. Those of Creation use the Ash to travel, but Those from Beyond use the Cube instead. The Cube of Space applies to the Entirety (Creation and Beyond) while the Ash is limited to the Created Worlds. The “Cube of Space” is a Noble-level skill that is required to navigate the multiverses in this manner. The higher the skill, the better the Power can move and fight and hide in other dimensions, but the less easily they can travel on the Ash. The two cosmic models are mutually exclusive and the more you subscribe to one, the more tenuous your grasp of the other becomes.
Infinitudes and Zero-Dimentionality
Imagine a broken line, unending, extending in both directions for all eternity. The break is in the Center That Cannot Be. It is a small gap, infinitely small. As such it contains one of the Three Eternities. Infinite diminitude is exactly equivalent to infinite vastness, so though it is impossibly small, the amount of smallness it contains goes on forever. The gap is the realm of Non-Dimensionality, the Eternity of Ain Soph (Limitless Non-Existance).
The line to the right represents the positive dimensions in common usage by sentient entities of every description. A monadic single point, length, breadth, height, time-perception-of-causal-event-sequences. These are the first four positive dimensions experienced by mortals and most Powers. Beyond them are the hyper-dimensional realms that even the gods find treacherous to navigate. To go further is to leave the Fifteen Known Dimensions behind and approach the Eternity of Shemesh Olam.
The line to the left represents the little known negative dimensions. There the aborted possibilities of reality crawl away to die. The phases of evolution that nature refused to select, the souls of the unborn and the never born, the rejected thoughts and actions, the mad urges towards self-destruction that burn bright with apocalyptic splendor. Here the known angles of the world are bloody absences, tunneling through the corpse of God. The mad or desperate fools who crawl these Unwalked Roads to their end come at last to the Empty Plateau, the unbeating heart of the Eternity of Solis Nox, The First and Final Darkness, the Irrefutable Negation of All Things.
Those who cross the break in the line (the Zero-Dimensional Realm) can only do so by not existing. Once that happens they lose all agency in the positive dimensions, they can affect nothing that they left behind. Only the strongest sorcery can even detect their presence. Likewise, nothing from existence can affect them ever again. Lord Entropy might be able to intervene, but he’s more likely to offer an amused grin and forget he ever heard of you. The longer a character doesn’t exist, the more the world forgets them, the wounds of their absence slowly scab over and causation rewrites history without them in it. Particularly legendary deeds take years to sort out. They drift into folklore and find new owners eventually. If the fading character is a PC, the other players can divide their heroic triumphs between themselves in any way they like. The easiest way back lays at the end of the path away from reality, Agents of Mother Night are free to return. A High Summoner might dare a Word of Command and survive the transition back to existence, but it’s only happened twice.
The Unborn – Denizens of Negative Reality
For every birth there are billions of spirits who fail to be born, who’ve waited and missed their chance. Those who have never before taken on a mortal shell are known as the Unborn. The oldest of them have been trying for ages. They are from parallel and failed branches of evolution, their species died in infancy and yet they linger on. Strange and abhuman spirits that have sunk so far into the depths of the negative existence that they can no longer hope to reach the light of the living world. They clog the tunnels of their realm and claw out new ones, gorging themselves on the basic proto-elements of reality.
Start with normal human stats and roll on your favorite Chaos Demon Traits or Corruption Table until they are good and messed up. The Esoteric Creature Generator or the tables from DCC would work well.
There are two main ways of using this understanding of reality to move around. The first requires god-like strength and philosophical cunning, the second is a dark and terrible thing that violates the Laws of Heaven.
Turning the Wheel of Atlas
The secret is to break the small hidden point that connects your physio-spiritual existence to the animus mundi. This contact point likes to hide and move around inside your existential authenticity (or lack thereof) whenever it’s bored, so catching it can be tricky. It’s best to lull it into a stupor with a prolonged internal philosophical inquiry, perhaps a dialogue between your ego and id about the different levels that Eros manifests on in the plant or mineral kingdoms. Once your connection point is soundly asleep, listen for a soft snoring sound that will lead you straight to its hiding place. Grab it firmly but gently and yank it out. You are now un-moored from cosmological concerns and adrift in the sea of infinity. Before you disintegrate into the meaninglessness of existence, take a firm grip on the multiverse and pull with all of your might until it rotates the direction you want. All the stuff still connected to it wont notice the shift, they’ll have no point of reference because they will move with it and everything will remain in the exact same place in relation to each other. Everything except you that is (and anyone else who’s currently disconnected from their reality umbilical). From your point of view you’ll be standing still and existence will twist 90°’s to the left, bringing whatever was over there right to you. Now just convince yourself that the obvious absurdity of reality actually existing isn’t as likely as it seems and jam your existential cord back into the womb of the soul of the world and you’ve arrived safely at your destination. Character’s who don’t use this means of travel are locked into the first three dimensions and can only unclearly perceive the fourth. That leaves eleven higher dimensions that they cannot touch or see, plenty of room to outmaneuver such limited creatures.
- Severing or reattaching the Reality Cord costs either 2 HMP or PMP.
- Turning the Multiverse costs 1 AMP per dimension transversed and / or every 100 miles moved.
Step 1: Either a Wisdom or Philosophy Check with a moderate to high difficulty. A -12 penalty (if it’s roll under) or DC 16 perhaps (depending on your system, super rough numbers so feel free to adjust). Failure means wasted time. This takes one turn per attempt. Give the player a bonus if they can give a convincing and super boring monologue at the table. Has to be extemporaneous (for added challenge), no reading from Wealth of Nations.
Step 2: A Cube of Space Proficiency Check to successfully grab hold of the entire cosmos. This is a demi-god level skill, so they have to do some serious shit to get training. Being a 20th level arch-mage or cleric is a good start. Achieving sainthood or enlightenment helps. Totally up to the DM. Make ’em suffer for it.
Step 3: A crazy hard Strength Check. -18 or DC 30. Something on that order of magnitude.
Leaping off a Bodhisattva’s Palm
Some Powers just don’t have the raw physical strength needed to turn the multiverse on one of its 15 axis’s or maybe that’s just too showy when they’re trying to sneak around, and there’s always the danger of another Power trying it at the same time and a cosmic tug-of-war battle erupting. That’s why some practice a far subtler, but vastly deadlier form of dimensional travel.
The multiverse is a Rubik’s Cube in the hands of the Unknowable. It turns in unfathomable patterns, in slow revolutions, each angle and facet observed in turn by god-knows-what. All one has to do is stop existing quite so much, fade away, go far enough and the tunnels start to appear. They burrow through the Entirety, bloody holes gnawed by hateful things. They are lined with millions of teeth that bite and tear any who dare crawl their length. If a Power can hold the image of the turning Cube of Space blazing in their mind, they will have a map to guide them on their harrowing journey and a mental talisman to hold them back from crossing into non-dimensional space. It is almost as though they’re struggling their way through the bowels of a titan. These are the Unwalked Roads, the roots of the abyss, some speculate that they are tendrils of Qlippoth eating their way through matter and spirit and spreading rot through the very substance of reality. If there are fifteen dimensions that encompass the Created Worlds and those Beyond Creation, these are their writhing counterparts that lead beyond existence itself.
Practitioners of this technique use the densest tunnels, the ones that cross briefly into the very edge of reality to move about unseen without being drawn down into oblivion. Those who delve too deep into their tangled, gory depths are almost never seen again and when they are it is to the ruin of Everything That Is.
- Almost not existing costs 4 AMP. Not existing is much easier, it only costs 2 AMP but isn’t reversible.
- Navigating the Unwalked Roads is an opposed miracle contest against Mother Night herself. It is Persona based but the character may add their Cube of Space skill rank as well. Mother Night has 5 Persona and may buy up to 11 Strike per day. She tends to use these sparingly unless the character has angered her. Her agents may move freely in her realm. If successful the character escapes to the location they wanted to go. If they fail, they are pulled into the Negative Dimensions and no longer officially exist.
Step 1A: Will yourself to the edge of non-existance with a Cube of Space Proficiency Check.
Step 1B: Cast Disintegration on yourself. No coming back once you do though.
Step 2: Roll for encounters.
Step 3: Make an opposed “Willpower Stat” check (Charisma or Wisdom depending on how you roll) against Mother Night. She has a 20 in whichever stat you use.