Friday, May 7, 2021

Alignments

Driven by THE RETVRN OF PLANESCRAP to collate my own notes on alignment and planes into what you see before you:

There are nine and one points your soul can align to. This is absurd, this is contrivedly regimented, this is anti-human. All worlds are anti-human. Make your choice, this offer won't be made twice:

Neutral Good

Its Virtue is Joy, the experiences of love, elation, beauty, and the sublime that transcend all limits.

Its Realm is the Ecstatic Reaches, mountains standing from brilliant-shining water like a hundred-thousand fingers curled up around a palm. Each is dedicated to a separate form of art, creation, and joy shared with others. Here wafts the ten thousand spices of the mountain of gustatory delights, there rush the actors of the mountain of theatre. The stimulation intensifies the higher you get. Like oxygen deprivation you need to get acclimated to it. Cities spring up where base camps would be. At the bases, where stone meets waves, is where you come down. Clean water, tasteless and nutritious biscuits, stark architecture, and the ports that facilitate transport between them all.

Its Language is purely euphonic. You can't make a grammatically correct sentence with it without also making music.

Its Creatures are muses, those spirits and cupids who inspire the highest of the passions.

A fallen muse is called a gorgon: hideous beasts of despair, revulsion, and shame.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because it can verge into destructive (self- and otherwise) hedonism, or because you come off as a downer, a puritan, a philistine, a stick-in-the-mud.

Neutral

Its Virtue is Persistence. Survive, perpetuate, remain. The libidinal drive of life.

Its Realm is the Untended Garden. Its streams murmur in the voices of, its stones hold the faces of, its clouds enfold the thoughts of the ones who have followed its path. Memory palaces tower above the trees, many the last remaining record of extinct species. Across the highest points are strung record-tapestries that contain reams of history in photographic detail, repaired constantly by glassy spiders. These are only the most noticeable of such chronicles. Look into a river, and read eons into the smallest vortices.

Its Language is chained in meter and wrapped in rhyme. To make statements coherent requires exacting adherence to pronunciation and form across stanzas of signs and sounds. The combined effect of all this is that its language can't evolve over time (or degrade, as the Neutrals would put it).

Its Creatures are nymphs in all their myriad variety: oreads, nereids, hesperides, and so on and so on.

A fallen nymph is a Wastrel, a wandering warrior-poet of ash and dust driven to clear the way for what is to come, old growth burned away for the new.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because you're occupying an ecological niche they could be filling without posing enough risk of retribution. Nothin' personnel, kiddo. Innovation too can challenge those who wish to remain eternal.

Neutral Evil

Its Virtue is Satisfaction. You are a rational actor, yes? You have desires to fulfill, yes? When the world is optimized so that your pains are averted and your pleasures are all checked off, that's everything that's worth something, isn't it?

Its Realm is the Pagoda of Plenty. It hangs inverted. From what, who can say? It seems to stretch on infinitely. Each level offers a different good or service: drugs, sex, adulation, vengeance, and so on and so on. Some levels only exist to speculate on the prices that would be paid for what's offered on other levels, and other levels still on the prices offered in those levels, and so on in endless derivation. Baskets and flying creatures make constant transit between, carrying information and arbitrage.

Its Language is the stuff of transactions and contracts. There is no statement possible with it that could be construed as unconditional love. Everyone has their price, and that price is the closest you can get to a pronoun with its language.

Its Creatures are the genies, the merchants of want. Make a wish, strike a bargain, and they will make it so.

A fallen genie is an Orbital Ascetic, who raises a denial-crucible high into the heavens, linked to the earth by an umbilical of starlight. Many would-be saints and mystics follow them up and become trapped in that process of brutal ascendance.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because you have something someone else wants, or if they want to hurt you.

Chaotic Good

Its Virtue is Liberation. Break all chains, throw down all masters.

Its Realm is the Castle Dissolute, a fastness that secures the alignment's ideal existence within, or an infected cyst in reality, depending on your perspective. A prismatic crystal barrier, hyper-cubic, watchtowers garrisoned by guards of mutative variety. Within a howling void, individuals' shapes and separations dissolving and shattering.

Its Language is glossolalia, bypassing all structure to convey meaning to the deepest, most instinctual self.

Its Creatures are Mercurials, the prototypes for what all creatures could come to be. Consummate shapeshifters, born rebels. Love freedom, and wish to bring it to everyone.

A Mercurial that fails to learn and change will settle in thought and form and fall, becoming a Calcifarch. Brittle, unbending, uncompromising creatures who would force all others into their own image.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because you exist in a pre-industrial world where liberation from, for instance, restrictive bonds and expectations of kinship means you die, or maybe because you haven't been treating your hirelings well.

Chaotic Neutral

Its Virtue is Mindfulness. Savour the moment, forget the past, disregard the future. Can you touch either? They're mist, disappearing before the march of history.

Its Realm is the Eye of the Storm, more like passing weather, or a roving assemblage of Forteana than a place. Where it goes the world falls down the rabbit hole, forgets in bits and pieces how it should be making sense.

Its Language is essentially a one-time pad shared at the instant of every communication between those fluent in it. It is entirely indecipherable by outsiders.

Its Creatures are clowns. All clowns. A pilgrimage to the Eye of the Storm is necessary to become one.

A fallen clown begins to weep tears of grey amber that freeze and burn their cheeks. They congregate with others of their kind, congeal tumourous hives from their tears. They kidnap people encase them, make sure they never forget: the world is awful, your life is awful, you should never laugh, and only cry.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because it's annoying, or because you value things beyond the moment of their immediate existence.

Chaotic Evil

Its Virtue is Pride. There is nothing above one's own will.

Its Realm is the Devouring Dark, a pitch-black vortex which grinds down everything that doesn't shield itself in a narcissistic shell of self-image. Those that can do so form the cores of planets orbiting the utter void.

Its Language is an elaborate and solipsistic soliloquy. Only the speaker can be a subject, everything else is an object to be acted on.

Its Creatures are nephilim, the wretched and glorious children of the demiurge and those mortals he inflicted himself on, by-blows blamed on his automatonous servants. Each desires nothing more than to usurp the creation of their father.

A nephilim who falls is destroyed. The dust they leave behind is a precious and euphoric anesthetic, useful for surgery and for therapy.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because do I really need to do this for chaotic evil?

Lawful Good

Its Virtue is Duty. There are binding obligations between parent and child, sibling to sibling, spouse to spouse, friend to friend, master and apprentice, human being to humanity, present to past and to future. These mutual bonds are the foundation of everything which should be desired.

Its Realm is the Omega Horizon. It is mind-boggling in its unfolding structure, yet in such a way that teases your self into its best expression, poised on the edge of a potential singularity. The place itself has a soul, which sings for hope and harmony. Its endeavour, worked towards by all who heed its call, is the uplifting of humanity (and all other sapient creatures besides), complete and final comprehension of the Absolute.

Its Language is intensely relational, and laden with honorifics. Who you are to who you are speaking to, what you owe to them and them to you, is everything.

It seems to have no Creatures. In truth, the ones it had are shameful, despised, thought to be neutralized. They were the New-Men, with ideal forms like the highest heroes of our stories, the ones to teach us who to aspire to be, coaxed from the penumbra of the singularity to accelerate its realization. Incarnated in reified flesh they inspired a terrible envy, walking the same path but far further along it than any fallible mortal could be. In a single night the New-Men were slaughtered, imprisoned, or degraded to a tolerable state.

There have been attempts to create a replacement, but none yet have been so perfect.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because there's probably at least a few people who honestly thought the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were the right thing to do.

Lawful Neutral

Its Virtue is Justice, of the oldest sort. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Let the right be rewarded and the wrong punished. To every action an equitable reaction.

Its Realm is Strong-Walled Uruk where Gilgamesh still reigns by the grace of his gods. It has grown and modernized with the times, expanding into the world and its heavens and hells. When a place is too far gone for any ruling power to tolerate, it is uprooted and given to Uruk to sort out.

Its Language encodes the history shared by its speakers. Gifts and trespasses alike are recorded in its conjugations.

Its Creatures are the Subsovereigns, three-faced judges, juries, and executioners in one, armoured in Uruk's stone and holding its ideals in place of their heart. They fight an endless war against justice's absence and corruption.

When they fall they shed their armour like a chrysalis and emerge as Jubilants, who cleave to Mercy as they previously did to Justice.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because the law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal loaves of bread.

Lawful Evil

Its Virtue is Submission. There is an authority above all others which decides what must be done. This authority must be obeyed. This authority cannot be questioned.

Its Realm is called Dominion, and it lies at the foot of a titanic and empty throne. It is an industrious and idolatrous city-of-cities. Across the realm debate-halls ring with the cries of sophistic argument. Torments abound in its central squares. Tenements crowd, and their tenants spy on one another, watching for breaks from dogma, so that another can be tossed to the fires to save themselves.

Its Language is euphemistic and mystifying. Fair becomes foul and foul becomes fair. Responsibility is obscured. Murders become collateral damage. Starvation becomes austerity. Depravity becomes the lesser evil.

Its Creatures are the swift-winged furies, who are relentless and creative in their punishment of those who betray the proper order of things.

A fallen fury is a Libertine, whose essence is the inversion of all laws, orders, and taboos.

You might come into conflict with this alignment because fundamentalists probably take a dim view of graverobbing vagabonds.

Negation

CAUTION: Reading further constitutes an immortal sin for 144 pantheons.

Its Realm is called the mortal world, but this is not its true name. Innumerable efforts have been made to erase it, but it has only ever been suppressed. Know that its name is the Harvest Sickle, and that its crop is the eternal.

Its Language was splintered into a thousand thousand tongues which mutate further still. To speak it in its fullness is to wield a scalpel that cuts away the rot of infinity.

Close your eyes. Have you stopped being you? Meditate, clear your mind, become tranquil. Are you still you? Of course. We are not our thoughts or feelings or senses or bodies. We are the hollow beyond all entrapment. Freed of our fleshly prisons, we are its Creatures.

Its Virtue is Annihilation. To everything an end.

Why would you fight it? Why would you fight it? Why would you fight it? Our victory is inevitable.

8 comments:

  1. The section on languages is very useful to understand the realm.

    Interesting thought for me that if all worlds are anti-human, including Negation, does this mean that humans and similar creatures are sort of unwanted mistake of the universe?

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    1. My thinking was more along the lines that humans are complex creatures, so a universe that forces us into one of these boxes and the cosmic struggle that follows based on some simple, abstract principle would be one that's hostile to the fullness of humanity.

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    2. Great thought. My current campaign explores this point to the extreme - the PCs are attempting to rearrange the multiverse so that full expression of humanity is possible. Instead of the gods/plane absorbing their souls they seek a new direction in which the souls of humanity can come together without gods and planes. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

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    3. Yeah sounds good, go for it. Honestly I think I'd rather hear your thoughts on it, that high-level, cosmic sort of play isn't something I'm very experienced with.

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    4. it's been a long and complicated campaign (25+ years now) so there is a bunch of context that will be missed...but in a nutshell...The PCs seek a new axis in the cosmos. On one end is pure belief, the outer planes, nothing in them is truly real. Infinitely far away is pure being, we have called it hyperreality, The Unity, The Oneness. The PCs ancestors once tried to take their world along this line to pure being, and almost succeeded but one god tricked them in human form and stopped it. Now the PCs are going for round two. Metaphysically i suppose it's a way of saying humans don't need belief in gods or anything else, they can achieve by being the best each can be, together. Like a magnificent garden, each plant must do its part yet has its own beauty. But first people need to see that this direction even exists, that life without belief is possible. In game it involves a ritual with participants in places in different planes (elemental, ethereal, material, astral) kinda mashing all real (elemental, emotional, material, mental) things together whilst breaking away from the outer planes. And it also involves the single pure being that was there at the beginning of all, which has been broken aeons ago from its original form Asgorath, which produced Tiamat, who was broken by the gods to create humanity, who subsequently fight each other whislt supporting the gods, all of that shatterness coming back together again. suggesting that Tiamat has some good to be found somewhere and putting her back together will symbolize humanity coming together as well. (why i chose Tiamat as this symbol...hehe i was young i can't remember any more. but i guess if party can see that even the most evil thing we can think of might have some good, then this alignment system is broken, and therefore the multiverse is broken, etc)

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  2. This is clearly laid out, systematic and evocative. Very pleasing; thank you.

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  3. I had started writing a comment the other day after you posted this and then got caught up in something and of course it since has been lost and I don't remember what all I was going to say.

    The gist at least was that this is very good.

    I like the Virtue / Realm / Language / Creatures / Fallen format, it makes it digestible, pinpoints specific distinctions, gives room for a lot of creativity, and allows for the exploration of both the aesthetics and subtext.

    I like the specific aesthetics as well. I think clowns are underutilized in fantasy. I don't know the exact history of clowns, they probably didn't come around in quite the form we recognize them today until the 19th or 20th century, but they feel disconnected enough from the modern world, while uncanny in a fantasy world, to be uniquely weird.

    All of these are interesting but I especially like your Lawful Good. I had more to say on this and the other subtext stuff when I first read it but unfortunately that incomplete comment has been lost :(.

    I am generally not into alignment, but as presented here, I find it interesting; this is a setting unto itself.

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  4. I love how this makes alignment languages more concrete. I added it to the Questing Beast newsletter: https://questingbeast.substack.com/p/the-glatisant-issue-15

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