Naked Swords: Cosmology Picture
Before I start getting into little exposition bits about some of the Conceptuals, I wanted to take a look at the bigger picture of the setting's cosmology, specifically the foundations of the Conceptuals and the other extradimensional beings that already play a role in the setting structure. I want to start by saying that if any other writers want to go in a different direction than what's typed here, I've got no problems changing things. I'm not sure how much Prince Buffoon got into the Conceptuals, the heavens, the afterlife etc. when he started Naked Swords, but I'm taking some liberties here on my own, so I'll gladly change things if you guys want. The upper-left sketch was spur-of-the-moment, but it should become clear as you continue reading.Continue Reading: The Myths
I suppose I'll start by admitting I haven't thought about actual creation myth of the setting. In a very meta/4th-wall breaking sense, the Conceptuals know that the universe was built about a year ago, give or take, by the Writers. The mortal characters of the story who don't realize they're in a fictional universe however, have a wide variety of different creation myths and theories that the Conceptuals haven't given a true verdict on any of them, since they don't really have a consensus on what to tell mortals about the universe. Some Conceptuals say one thing, while others say something different, and some say nothing at all. For further reference below, there are two different types of magic: Arcane and Divine, just like D&D. Magic in the Naked Swords setting in truth comes from the Writers. It is deus ex machina in comprehensible form that can be studied and manipulated by mortals to explore all possibilities of their fantasy setting. While we know that, and the Conceptuals know that, mortals also have many different theories on the purposes and aspects of magic. Some magic is easy to understand and craft into a spell. Some magic is more abstract and difficult to understand. Divine magic is named so because it is the magic that fuels Conceptuals and their offspring. Arcane magic is named because of its more unholy connotations, and its relationship with the demons of Hell. The differences between the two are more cosmetic than anything, and any functional differences vary wildly between stories and characters.
The Conceptuals: Despite being worshipped as gods, the Conceptuals are deities in the same sense as the Gods of Chaos in Warhammer. They didn't create mortals; in fact, it's the other way around. Mortal imagination and comprehension of their universe spawned the Conceptuals from the fount of divine magic, and the process has never stopped. The foggy monster floating above that guy in the upper-left of the page was something I threw together with no rhyme or reason because I'me not entirely sure how to define a generic Conceptual. When mortals conceive enough thoughts of a certain subject or aspect, eventually their imaginations will give life to a Conceptual with power over that concept. This is why there is a pantheon of gods in the Naked Swords universe. Conceptuals vary wildly in form and function. They are genderless and immortal, and can exist within every known dimension of the heavens. The Heavens themselves are malleable and the Conceptuals are able to mold and shape them however they like. Different Conceptuals claim dominion over their own independent realms and dimensions between the lines of the mortal world. The majority of these are concentrated in the Ivory Tower, a massive spire extending from the world towards the sky. Sometimes it lines up with the Sun, and sometimes with the Moon (more on that stuff later). It is visible by those of heavenly virtue (good people attuned to divine magic) at various times of day, but otherwise it is invisible and incorporeal, serving as an interdimensional heaven. Otherwise, there are Conceptuals with realms beyond the tower, and there is a well-known divide among Conceptuals because of this. Ivory Tower Conceptuals tend to carry classic lawful-good imagery and motifs, and are capable of spawning angels if they are powerful enough. Those beyond the tower are more mixed but tend to have more lawful-evil imagery and themes, and are capable of spawning devils (fallen angels) if they are able. Every Conceptual pretty much has their own unique type of angel or devil. Conceptuals can communicate with mortals, but it's not an all-around thing, and the ability to do so varies from one god to the next. Priests and religious organization among mortals makes the process easier, but it often depends on the god and their concept. Conceptuals cannot manipulate the mortal world as easily as they can affect their private heavens.
War in Heaven: Conceptuals are constantly fighting with each other, due to their nature. All Conceptuals exist to consume one another until only one omnipotent god remains, with power over all concepts and all creation. To that end, Conceptuals can merge with one another, with the more powerful Conceptual having a more dominant personality and concept over those aspects of the consumed god. The trick is that Conceptuals can only consume other gods of a similar or related concept. For example, the Conceptuals of peace and war cannot consume one another, because their concepts are opposed, but war can easily consume violence and become the god of both concepts. This is why there is an ever-changing layout of alliances and oppositions between conceptuals, as they must avoid being consumed while also working towards fighting those they can consume themselves. Conceptuals can only become more powerful from imagination and worship by mortals, so the mortal world is their most important battleground. Religious war is not uncommon, but with so many conceptuals vying for mortal affection, it becomes difficult for large armies and holy crusades to form in earnest. Most mortal religious conflicts are kept in lower scale and scope because of this. Any mortal can give worship to a Conceptual, but only those skilled with divine magic, or chosen as a conceptual's acolyte or champion have the power to fight with the power of a god. Conceptuals are always wary of any of their brothers and sisters becoming more powerful, so the balance of power is always balancing and unbalancing to keep things even.
The Ivory Tower: The most populated realm of the heavens is the Ivory Tower. It is comparable to Heaven, Nirvana, Samsara, Asgard, Olympus, etc from real world mythology. It is a glistening beacon of divine purity and light, but don't assume that all conceptuals and angels there are goody-two shoes paladins. Some are good, some are neutral, and some might even be objectively evil, but they all adhere to the mortal ideal of holiness and purity. The bigger qualifier to inhabiting the Ivory Tower is how one falls in line with the majority of "good" Conceptuals. Verecundia's a pretty good example of this. She's been pretty swell in stories so far, and the only reason she was ousted from the Ivory Tower in ages past was because of a squabble at the height of her power against some of her fellow Conceptuals. Association plays a big role in what part of the heavens are occupied by the Conceptuals. Those Conceptuals that still live on the Ivory Tower who are powerful enough to spawn lesser entities will create angels, who are similarly fueled by the idea of divinity from mortal minds. Angels take on a wide variety of forms, and tend to follow a certain style and motif of the god that created them. Angels can freely interact with mortal souls in the heavens, and are often used as management and labor for all the afterlife shenanigans of their parent gods. Conceptuals can become visible to mortals on their own terms, but tend to influence things more incorporeally. On the other hand, angels can be ushered into the world through divine magic, appearing almost like living matter. Angels often fight for their summoners and the servants of their gods, but other times they just do what comes naturally to them. Some angels are humanoid in appearance, while others appear more alien and incomprehensible, tying into their wide variety of different moralities and functions. While not all good, most Ivory Tower Conceptuals and angels tend to be benevolent and compassionate towards mortals.
The Rebel Heavens: I just made that phrase up on the spot, but it sounds really cool to say. "Rebel Heavens". Anyway, these are the dimensions and realms of divine magic not associated with the Ivory Tower. Many of these Conceptuals are evil, but not all of them. Verecundia and the Humanities count as this variety. More than the Ivory Tower gods, independent Conceptuals have a wide variety of aspects, appearances, moralities and capabilities at their disposal, and it's difficult to pin down any specific trait they have in common. Their opposition to the Ivory Tower is one of their only uniting traits, but they have no qualms about eating each other if they can get away with it. Powerful rebel gods can spawn devils, also called fallen angels, who are simply angels with a different paint job. They have even more variety than angels, but tend to be more sinful and edgy, in keeping with the connotations mortals apply to the rebel heavens. Their villainy or benevolence greatly depends on the god they serve, though. They can be ushered into the mortal world just like angels, and the same rules apply to them.
The Afterlife: This is something I didn't want to get too in-depth with, since it's not really that important over all, but I figure mortals go to 1 of three places when they die: The cycle of reincarnation (if they didn't believe in anything in particular), a dimension of heaven (depending on the god they worship), or hell (if they worshipped demons). Unlike God in Christianity being able to send sinners to Hell, Conceptuals lack that ability. The most they can do is torture you in the afterlife like the Greek Gods do in some of their legends, or send you to a different realm away from theirs. They can't do this without another Conceptuals' permission, though. Different realms have different aspects. Some are eternal pleasure, some are eternal suffering, and all the numerous possibilities in-between. Plenty of mortals choose their gods, faith, and eventual afterlife by making deals with angels, devils, demons, or gods, depending on where they want to spend their afterlife. Because of this, most afterlives are pretty nice, with a lot of freedom and pleasure. A large number of evil gods control fair and peaceful afterlives for mortal souls, simply so they don't miss out on a market of prayer. The good news is that the Conceptuals have so much power over their own realms that they can make any mortal's wish come true within it.
Hell: The exception to the above. Hell is a dimension parallel to the heavens that is fueled by arcane magic, rather than divine. Both tend to affect one another in different ways, but arcane magic is often seen as more chaotic and evil, but also more understandable. While divine magic is fueled by the mortal imagination, arcane magic is fueled by mortal comprehension. This tends to be why academics prefer arcane over divine. As the heavens are created by mortal hopes and dreams, wishes and aspirations, hell is formed by what they know: desires, temptations, and fears. There is a surprising amount of overlap and compatibility between Conceptuals and demons, and the two sides are able to affect one another in a manner that brings legitimate fear to both sides. The predominant theory from mortals (but not the only one, and I won't say it's true just yet), is that Conceptuals are formed by mortal comprehension of their own imaginations, and therefore are formed by concepts that exist in the eyes of mortals; stuff that mortals can quantify and understand. The theory goes on to state that demons, on the other hand, come from mortals attempting to understand everything around them and failing – the failure to understand the universe, which means demons are simply Conceptuals for concepts that don't yet exist. This is where demons get their power, because Conceptuals, with their fourth-wall-aware minds, are fully capable of thinking of nuclear-powered space demons, even though the technology and astronomy for such a monster isn't comprehensible to medieval-tech mortals yet. Either way, demons come in extremely large varieties, and their population and capabilities are impossible for mortals to know for certain. There might even be more than one dimension of hell, but no one knows for sure. However they truly come into being, demons have the same ability as devils and angels to be summoned to the mortal realm, but they also have a knack for sneaking through dimensions on their own. They can make deals with mortals just the same, and mortal souls can go to hell as an afterlife if the mortal chooses. Sometimes, mortals will be tricked or forced into submitting their souls to hell, but it varies on a case-by-case basis. Demons have more variety in their morality than angels or devils, and range from good to evil to chaotic to lawful and everything in between. Some are pure evil monsters obsessed with raping the mortal world and all life on it. Others are pretty cool and enjoy working with mortals and making people happy. The majority of them, obviously for the setting, are sex fiends spreading sin and vice all over the multiverse. Most mortals believe hell is fiery and deathly, but it might not be so simple.
I guess that's it. Some of this was on my mind for a while, and some of it comes from other D&D setting ideas I've been working on over time, while other stuff was made up on the fly. I hope you guys like where I'm going with this, and remember that given the setting we're dealing with, none of this is canon unless you want it to be.
Naked Swords was started by *PrinceBuffoon, and features stories from ~GreyBitter, ~imaginedslight, =Divides, and ~ajdrew.