Alignment, Cosmology, People and Monsters

I stopped using the old Lawful-Chaotic-Good-Evil alignment system a long time ago. There are many reasons why one might want to use it but I don’t.

When I started running Swords and Wizardry as my main game, I adopted the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment system.

It is a declaration of what side you are on in the eternal fight between Law and Chaos. It isn’t a declaration of Good or Evil. It is not a declaration of “This character will always behave according to this specific set of rules and if they don’t the referee can punish them.” It allows me to have a lot more nuance in my campaign. I prefer that.

Law attempts to create and maintain order. Chaos tries to destroy that order and leave only formlessness and the ephemeral.

Where there is balance, life flourishes. The forest must have the Chaos of fire for the old growth to be cleared and new growth to emerge. Too much order, such as a factory, and life is crushed. Too much entropy and life does not have the material it needs to live. Life exists between the extremes.

I’ve developed/borrowed/stolen a cosmology for my Swords and Wizardry games. It has been in my head for quite some time but not written down. Hopefully, it is somewhat coherent.

This cosmology characterizes the kinds of beings that exist in my campaigns and their essence.

This is a draft that I expect will be altered over time.

Cosmology

The various People of the multiverse have some version of the story of how the worlds were made.

Some People tell a story of how the multiverse and all the things in it were made by just one consciousness. The Gods always laugh at that jest.

Many of the stories involve the meeting of Ice and Fire or the birth of a God who eats his children and is slain by them. There are stories of giants whose blood is the sea and whose skull is the sky. There are stories that say the multiverse is a God’s dream and when he wakes up the multiverse will evaporate.

The stories People tell of how the multiverse came to be have some truth. The stories People tell of how the multiverse came to be have some falsehood. Not even the Gods and the Demons know the whole story.

In the beginning, there was pure order (Law) and pure entropy (Chaos) with a void between them. Primal Law and Primal Chaos were drawn toward each other. Where they met, eternal beings emerged. They have many names. Gods, Demons, Devils, Titans, Jotun, Deva… perhaps infinite names.

Some of these beings were almost entirely Chaos but had a small amount of Law within them, otherwise they could not take shape.

Some of these beings were almost entirely Law but had a small amount of Chaos within them, otherwise they could not cause change.

The beings of Law took the stuff of order and the stuff of Chaos and shaped it into the multiverse.

The beings of Chaos played with the creations of Law but found them too constant and boring. The Chaos beings altered the creations of law to be more pleasing or found joy in smashing them.

In parts of the multiverse Chaos and Law fight. Some say the war will never end. Others say it will end and Chaos will be the victors. Still others say when the end comes that Law and Chaos will destroy everything.

Who is right? No one knows, not even the Gods.

In their battles, the beings of Law and Chaos are ripped apart and dissolve back into their primal substance. The stuff of Law and the stuff of Chaos mix and new worlds and beings form.

Some beings are half Law and half Chaos. They can create like Law and destroy like Chaos. Sometimes they fight for Chaos. Sometimes they fight for Law. Mostly, they fight for themselves.

As Law and Chaos battle across the multiverse, the stuff of Law and Chaos is broken into smaller and smaller parts. New beings emerge spontaneously, unbidden by Law and Chaos. These are mortals.

Mortals can choose Law or Chaos because their essence is equal portions of both things. Some choose Balance. Some don’t know about the war between the Gods. Some prefer to stay out of the fight and just live.

Beings

People are sentient beings who have free will. People take many forms. They can be human, elf, gnome, dwarfs, dog people, bird people, wolf people. They tend to be bipedal and upright walking but can take other forms. There are People of the air and People of the sea.

A People can come into being a number of ways. Sometimes, Law creates them, though this is rare. Usually, they emerge spontaneously from the places Law has created and have been touched by Chaos. People are like the Gods who emerged from the meeting of Law and Chaos.

How this happens is a mystery. How is it that a thing can take shape without a will to form it?

The various types of People have an inherent nature or essence. They have an essence born of the place and time to which they are particular. Bird People with wings see the world from a different angle than the People who go on two feet.

People learn to live in their place and time by the means of their nature. They receive these lessons from their triumphs and hardships. They create a culture. Their culture is how they live, what they believe, what they love, what they hate. Culture is incomplete, imperfect and like People themselves. Culture comes into being, it grows, it changes, it is damaged, diseased, incapable of change, changes too quickly, and can die. Only when there is Balance does culture persist.

The nature and culture of a People is influenced by Law. Law creates and maintains order. Though it is not fixed, the essence and culture of a People tend to be consistent over time.

The essence and culture of a People may come under the influence of Chaos. Chaos changes or destroys. It does not create. This change may bring growth and it may bring destruction.

With effort and desire, a person may decide to resist their nature and culture. Sometimes that brings change to their culture and usually not or in small measure. People resist their nature and culture at great personal cost. This is the internal and eternal battle of Law and Chaos within the mortal soul.

People are mortal. They may be long lived, resistant to certain forms of damage or disease but eventually, they perish.

Most People find Law to be more appealing than Chaos because Law creates worlds where people can live. The people who join Chaos often hate and resent creations of Law that stifle growth and regeneration. Some follow the practice of Balance and attempt to maintain the balance of Law and Chaos within themselves and their world. Seeking Balance is toilsome. Law and Chaos are always tugging at each other, seeking advantage.

Where there is Balance between Law and Chaos. life can flourish. Where this life exists, there are often People.

All player characters in my Swords and Wizardry campaigns are People.

Gods of Law are eternal beings. Many have existed since the beginning. They manipulate the stuff of order and Law. They have considerable ability to use the power of Chaos and infuse it into their creations though they are loath to do so. Too much Chaos and a creation has a will that may defy Law.

They do not exist because of mortal worship. They are eternal. The Gods require worship and sacrifice because they want to know you are serious.

The Gods do not have stat blocks.

Immortal Servants of Law are immortal agents of Law who aid mortals, fight Chaos, create and protect order in the multiverse. These beings are often created or born of the Gods of Law. The most powerful of these beings may be worshiped by mortals as Gods but they are not Gods. They can be destroyed by the agents of Chaos and even by mighty mortals. Sometimes mortals who have given great service to Law are elevated to this status.

Gods of Chaos are eternal beings. Many have existed since the beginning. They manipulate the stuff of entropy and Chaos. They can destroy or alter the substance of Law. They prefer to destroy or alter a creation so that it cannot retain a consistent form. A thing with too much Law has a will that may defy Chaos.

Contrary to popular belief, they do not exist because of mortal worship. They are eternal. The Gods require worship and sacrifice because they want to know you are serious.

The Gods do not have stat blocks.

Immortal Servants of Chaos are immortal agents of the Chaos gods who fight Law, destroy order and sew entropy in the multiverse. These being are often created but sometimes emergeant from the raw materials of the multiverse. The most powerful of these beings are often mistaken to be Gods but are not. They can be destroyed by the agents of Law and even by mighty mortals. Frequently, Chaos corrupted mortals are elevated to this status.

Constructs are creators and protectors. They are artificial beings created for the purposes of Law but mistakenly infused with too much Chaos. Some constructs are created by the Gods of Law and their Immortal Servants. Most are created by mortals who learn only too late of their error. Sometimes a construct will make copies or iterations of themselves which morph into entirely new constructs.

Constructs act within the will of Law but sometimes the shard of Chaos within them causes Constructs to do something unintended and unpredicted. They are the opposite of Monsters. They love creation. Their creations are inert and resist change. Too much inert creation by Constructs smother life.

A group of Constructs once covered a vast plain in pavers fitted so tightly together that not a blade of grass could come up between the cracks. They can be as dangerous as Monsters and sometimes mistaken for Monsters by ignorant People.

Monsters are destroyers. They are mortal allies and servants of Chaos. Monsters are the enemies of the Gods of Law and their servants.

Monsters are the enemy of Balance. Monsters hate life more than they hate Law.

Even when the monster is not sentient, they do the work of Chaos. They can not do otherwise. Chaos is the essence of the Monster’s being.

Monsters are created by Chaos, mortals seeking power, foolish dabblers in magic, and can spawn through the destructive behaviors of careless mortals.

Nature

There are a host of creatures that are part of Nature. Animals, plants and People are part of Nature. Nature is the balance of Law and Chaos.

Nature is emergent order. Order without intention. Change without a plan.

Nature is Law that is balanced by Chaos. Chaos that balanced by Law.

Law and Chaos are both fascinated and bewildered by this. Even the Gods do not understand how things can simply be without a will to shape it. Many sages who were taught the rabbit to be a manifestation of Law and the thunderstorm a manifestation of Chaos are confounded when they learn these are both Law and Chaos. These are things unintended by either the Gods of Law and the Gods of Chaos.

They have become.

The greatest artists among People are an embodiment of Nature. They create new things and do not know where their creations come from. The artist is as surprised as everyone else when they see the finished work.

Existence, the multiverse, is a mixture of primal Law and primal Chaos. In some places Law obtains. In others Chaos obtains. In the places where there is an abundance of life, there is an equilibrium of Chaos and Law.

When the balance shifts either way, even the slightest bit, there is less life. Life can be smothered by too much Law or annihilated by too much Chaos.

The Gods can’t help but mess with this emergent Chaos/Order. Such is the nature of Gods!

Many a God has come upon a People that emerged from Nature and infused them with a little extra Chaos or a little extra Law. Such People have an essence that leans toward Law or Chaos. Monsters and Constructs were created through this tinkering by the Gods.

There is no monster ecology.

Monsters have an essence like People. The essence of a Monster is primarily made of Chaos but has enough Law within it to defy the will of Chaos.

What culture a Monster may have is devoted to the destruction of everything. Monsters hate Chaos as much as they hate Law. Monsters reserve their greatest hatred for Life. Monsters are a mockery of Life and their strongest emotion is hatred. They love Nothing. Monsters desire the annihilation of existence. They want Nothing.

Goblins band together only because it makes them more effective at killing.

The monster may have been a creature that emerged from the Balance but were then infused with Chaos as a servant to destroy Law. The monster may have been a creation of Law that was infused with Chaos to make a servant of mayhem.

There is no monster ecology because monsters are antithetical to life. When there is just the slightest shift in the balance toward Chaos, there is death and destruction. Monsters are a localized microshift in the balance toward Chaos. Heroes who slay the monster shift back toward Balance.

People can mistake Nature (life) for a monster. A pack of wolves can seem like monsters when they eat your sheep but they are not. They are in Balance with Law and Chaos. There must be death in order for there to be life.

In Practice

In the campaign I just started, there are a few “beast-man” type People. One is a type of dog-people. Right after we got the campaign started, I came across this blog post and I’ll be using it for my game. Another are the Draug, a sort of wolf/bear/human hybrid. I found the Draug in Monstrosities by Frog God Games. My campaigns tend to be human centric but if a player wanted to play an elf or dwarf, skylin or draug, that’s fine.

The Gods send their agents into the world. Sometimes they appear to mortals in dreams or visions. Their purposes are inscrutable. Mortals are tools, easily discarded and replaced. Mortals align themselves with the Gods at their own peril.

In the history of the setting, many mortals and immortals called themselves Gods but weren’t. They were powerful indeed but not Gods. Gods don’t have a stat block.

Monsters and monster human hybrids are difficult to allow as player characters in my campaigns. The player will have to understand their character will not be trusted by NPCs and with good reason. A being that has an essence that leans toward Chaos is going to be a destroyer sooner or later. It is their nature. The various servants of Law will seek to destroy or drive off such a PC. That might make for excellent dramatic situations but the players have to be up for it.

One thought on “Alignment, Cosmology, People and Monsters

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