An Excerpt from Aria Cosmos
by Andrew Watt


According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, humans are political animals. But in light of archaeology and history, it might be just as easy to say that humans are religious animals. The oldest cave paintings are thought to have some sort of religious-magical significance, while some of the oldest decorative objects dug up in the oldest civilized places in the world seem to be cultic fertility figures. Religion in some form would appear to have been with us from the beginning.

It is likely to be the same with any cultural group which you create in ARIA, unless one specifically exempts religion from their character. Even then, such a culture would likely find other ways to express their thoughts about the universe, in some form of philosophy. A society without culture or thought into cosmological concerns in some form or other is without precedent in Earth culture. In any other world, a society without them would be viewed as wholly alien. Such a group would be hated and feared passionately by any other culture which knew of them.

Civilized societies especially are affected by the structures and patterns of religious life. Agriculture is predominantly a function of civilized societies; it operates on a calendar of planting, growing and harvesting, which lends itself well to a cycle of religious festivals. Religion, in turn, often provides the calendar to monitor the crops, the scribes to tally the harvest, and the organization of manpower to irrigate and store the food efficiently.

Religions often evolve and change with the society in which they exist. Modern synagogue worship would likely be a surprising experience to an pre-Exile Hebrew transported to the twentieth century. A Christian of the first century A.D. would be appalled by the denominational divisions of the modern Church. On the other hand, some things remain the same. Religions tend to adopt traditions and modes of life which become deeply grounded in the essence of the faith. Often, these traditions are seen as being instituted by the gods rather than mortals. Thus, Islam remains rooted in Arabic as the language of the Quran, and Shintoism relies on the practices of centuries-old rituals performed by the Emperor of Japan to secure the blessings of Heaven upon the workings of Earth.

In ancient and even more recent times, there was rather a lot of interaction between society and religion, to the point where the lines between them blur. This is less true today, however, especially in Western countries where this book is likely to be read. Yet it is still appropriate to talk of most people of European descent today as being culturally Christian, just as some traditionally Islamic nations once behind the Iron Curtain as part of the Soviet Union are rediscovering that heritage two and three generations later.

In anthropological and sociological circles, the decline of religion is attributed to religion's intrinsic tradtionalism. Most religions practiced today developed under what has been called the 'classical' world-view. In Western terms, this would mean a Ptolemaic, Earth-centered universe based on Aristotle's physical and metaphysical understanding of the world. It means a world ordered by divine powers and manipulated and twisted by powers of divinity or demonism, depending on whom one listens to. By contrast, most improvements in the world are part of the 'modern' world-view, based in the West on the Scientific Method, the triumph of reason, and the supremacy of human ingenuity over the universe.

However, most Westerners live in a 'post-modern' world-view, in which the supremacy of human ingenuity has been demonstrated as fundamentally dangerous through the creation of toxic waste, and superweapons. For many, the triumph of reason has left a spiritual or imaginative gap in their lives, and the Scientific Method is a much-publicized, often-abused credo which often fails to account for ethical considerations. Most religions for such people are seen as at best deluded and at worst some form of spiritual terrorism for fun and profit.

Perhaps the problem really lies in the particular approach which we often take with religion. When we are in Church, for example, in order to believe and understand, we must put ourselves at times into the 'classical' world-view. When we are in school in the chemistry lab, the 'modern' worldview is the preferred mental picture. When we are having deep philosophical conversations over a beer, the nihilistic forms of the 'post modern' cognative map are encouraged. So we switch back and forth between the three (for some people, more) basic mental pictures of the universe, and it's no wonder we are so frequently confused. Since most of the classical writings on any given religion belong to the 'classic' world-view, to destroy that classic world-view is to appear to damage the basic underpinnings of the religion.

In most average fantasy literature, the world is 'classical' and the characters are 'modern' or 'post-modern'. This does not necessarily mean the characters are from a modern or post-modern world; more often than not, they are intended to be integrated with their setting. Switching from one world-view to another requires some effort, and many authors are not even aware of the discrepancy.

Switching world-views is not terribly difficult, however. We do it all the time in our lives and work. It is very hard to do good work at a gas station or a store or a law firm in the 'post-modern' viewpoint- the universe is so vast in the post-modern world that the actions of individual humans are essentially meaningless. No one wants to be reminded in a tender moment that their attraction is just a complex interaction of organic chemicals. In the classical model, however, at least in the West, individuals and societies are very important, and individual actions matter enormously in the overall pattern of life.

Not surprisingly, heroes generally belong to the classical model of the universe. Where individuals are important, heroes become crucial- the movers of the world. Yet we, and many authors, often give them sight through our eyes. The heroes we create with paper and pencil and imagination fall flat, because they see the worlds of imagination as we would, through modern or postmodern eyes, rather than the classical eyes which they deserve. No classical hero would think about trying to kill a god, unless it had already been proven to her that the god was a disguised demon. Solemn oracles are severe warnings to be considered carefully, and not laughed off. It is no accident that one of the most interesting characters in English literature, Shakespeare's Hamlet, cannot decide what to do about his possibly-murderous uncle. His indecision is a direct result of straddling world-views: is the ghost of his father real, or a psychosomatic figment of his imagination, pressing him to terrible crimes because of jealousy?

This book is about designing Classical world-views. It is about cosmology- an overall picture of the universe which helps define how we think, act, and interact. It is a continuation of ARIA's basic intentions, to create the best and most complete worlds possible. In the Classical world-view, cosmology is basically about three things- gods, the mortal world, and the interactions between them: in other words, religion. Religion is about more than just rituals, however. Especially in the classical worldview, it is about taboos and spiritual injunctions. It is about what is forbidden and what is encouraged. It is about how one sees the universe: is it stars at uncountable distances, or lanterns in the dome of the sky? Does every tree have a spirit, or are they so many board-feet of timber and nothing else?

Hard questions. We're not always comfortable with the answers a classical world-view gives us. We tend to poke fun at people who hold them, and ridicule their beliefs. They, in turn, express fear and doubt at the size of our universe, and our own individual insignificance within it. People who have had electricity at their command, and have used it to tell us stories through television and light their homes and workplaces well past dark, find it hard sometimes to enter the world of old gods and dangerous spirits.

Go into an dark place outdoors sometime, and lie down beneath the dome of the sky. As the stars come out, ask yourself: are they balls of burning plasma and fire? Or are the angels of the Most High Gods lighting the golden lamps while the chariot of the moon rides by, as all the company of the heavens bow down low?

The Universe Around Us

When a person looks to the night skies unclouded by the glow of cities, highways, and airplanes, he cannot help but feel a sense of wonder. No matter how close civilization might be, the stars evoke a sense of wonder in us, and the moon is writ large upon the canvas of the night. The moon looks down upon us, though whether in benediction or curse we cannot know. The heroes and villians of ancient ages shine down from the constellations, reminding the present age that they are but dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.

When we look to the stars with the unaided eye, certain things about the universe are almost automatically apparent. The moon is larger than the stars and covers them; therefore it must be closer. Most stars are fixed in relation to one another. A very small number of them wander, and these appear larger than the fixed stars in most cases. Since these wanderers sometimes block the view of the fixed stars and don't keep to the same position with regard to the same stars, they are probably closer. Finally, over the course of an evening, the stars move vast distances at a noticeable rate- in fact, an amazingly swift rate.

Without instruments and without years of patient and careful observation, a few things become apparent to the intelligent but uninformed observer. The moon is the obviously the closest object to Earth, excepting only the clouds and the birds. It grows brighter and darker according to a particular pattern caused by the light of the sun against the shadow of Earth on the moon. This pattern is occasionally interrupted by the shadow of Earth as the sun is directly opposite the moon with the Earth between them.

Second, the stars are either very far away and large, or very small and close by. The wandering stars- named for the Greek word for 'wanderers', planets- are somehow between the moon and the stars. Finally, the sun appears moves according to a set and predictable pattern. In fact, the line which the sun is observed to trace (called the ecliptic) can be precisely determined according to a regular, predictable schedule. Since an observer cannot feel the motion of the Earth, the only non-moving body in the universe must be the Earth. The sun is a wanderer like the planets, which are all in orbit around Earth. Even the stars move around the Earth.

Chances are, you agree with all of this chapter so far except the last few sentences. Scientific examination in the last 400 years or so have proven the Earth moves despite our unawareness of that motion. For the modern human, it is an established fact that the sun is the center of the solar system, and the solar system is just one place in a vast galaxy which is but a tiny fraction of the whole universe. The chain of logic which led to preposterous conclusions must have a flaw in it somewhere.

Strangely enough, the chain of reason has only one real flaw: the failure to observe the motion of the Earth itself. Moreover, this particular observation is a matter of empirical data, not logic. Stunningly, our skyward-looking ancestors got it more or less right based on the information they had. Which is not to say they didn't see their model as perfect. Planetary motion was extremely difficult to work out, and extremely complex systems of cosmological 'cogs and gears' were required to fix the problems.

Basically, however, the model worked. The three most important objects in this closed-system universe, the sun, the moon and the sphere of stars, perfectly supported the Earth-centered model. Since the chief test cases worked, there was no reason to suppose the movement of the other celestial bodies would not be discoverd eventually.

Instead, it took centuries, even millenia, to accumulate enough data to correct the Earth-centered model of the universe to a sun-centered one. By that time, religions and states had enormous amounts of cultural significance invested in the Earth-centered model. The new paradigm was received badly, which should come as no surprise. It chanced, however, that Europe discovered the sun-centered model at precisely the right time, when its chief religion was in upheaval. The traditionalists had an interest in holding to the old model. The reformers didn't. Perhaps, just perhaps, we might be reading Ptolemy's earth-centered cosmology theories today.

All of which is intended to show just how powerful cosmology can be.


Cosmos- Greek word meaning "the whole of everything". A well-structured cosmology can be a very valuable tool. It can provide structure and order to a universe, or totally deprive it of that same structure. The thirteenth century Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas exulted in the order and beauty of the universe; the physicist Albert Einstein was clearly upset by the implications of quantum mechanics. Cosmology is intended to answer a number of important questions about the nature of divinity, mortality, and the relations between them. Our own history has had hundreds of physical and metaphysical concepts regarding the nature of the world, some of which may be true. In real religions and philosophies, cosmology affects religions which in turn affects cosmology. It is an unending cycle, with each reflecting its concerns upon the other. Any model of the process is certain to be inadequate. The point is do provide a degree of verisimillitude and playable realism. For the Mythguide and Ensemble, this requires a starting place as a foundation on which to build. ARIA Cosmos chooses to begin with cosmology rather than with deities, because a set of beliefs about the world can provide useful limiting factors upon the nature of the divine. The design of cosmology begins with the scope of the cosmos. Because a Cosmos by definition contains all possible options within the context of a given world, the scope is often quite large. In the opinion of modern science, the cosmos is the universe, a vast, largely empty bubble containing potentially billions of suns in millions of galaxies. By contrast, the Earth-centered universe of Ptolemy was a few hundred thousand miles across in its entirety, not counting the space outside place where god was. If it had been any larger would have been highly inefficient. As a result, the Scope of cosmos is largely a question of effective scale, rather than real scale. A cosmos can be theoretically unlimited. It is advised, however, that only societies in the Knowledge/Thought Philosophical Orientation have such an expansive vision of the universe. To this end, three things should be considered: Time, Space, and the Narrative Boundary.


Time is perhaps the single greatest limiter upon the nature of the Cosmos, with far-reaching implications. Time can be either infinite, finite, or merely undetermined. It can also be cyclical, linear, or helical- a form which combines some aspects of both cyclical and linear time.

If time is infinite, with neither beginning nor ending, the cosmos is a closed system which is perfectly balanced. All things will eventually occur, because there is an unlimited amount of time in which they can happen. By contrast, time may be finite. This places a boundary upon the potentials, but an exciting one. If time comes to an end, then so does the cosmos. A judgment by a supreme deity may follow, or a new world might be created by the survivors. Apocalypse is only one option for the end of the Cosmos, and we will consider other options elswhere in this book. Finally, the nature of time may be undetermined. Knowledge of the final disposition of the cosmos is as yet unknown, though it may be revealed at a later date by divine or mortal action. When Time's nature is undetermined, it usually exhibits many of the characteristics of infinite time.

Time is also usually described as cyclical, linear, or helical. Where Time's length determines length of a cosmological existence, these three options describe the nature of that existence. Cyclical time is seen as continuing round of life: the same patterns of life are repeated again and again, the same sorts of things happen. Linear time, on the other hand, is not repetitive, except in coincidental cirmumstances. It moves towards some future point, which is seen as different from what is now in the past. Helical time combines features of both: Time moves in a circular fashion, but each cycle actually ends at some point above or below where the cycle began. A new age or epoch begins at each new start of the cycle, either progressing towards the future, or slowly regressing backwards.

A number of combinations are obviously possible. In a world with a finite cycle of time, a certain number of passes on the wheel of the cosmos are expected, at which time there will be a major change; until then, no great changes will occur. An infinite linear concept of time is founded upon an understanding of progress: the future will almost always be better than the present. Infinite helical time, oriented downwards, presumes that the world is gradually getting worse with each new cycle. This can be reflected in the Roman belief in a Golden Age, followed by a Silver Age, followed by Ages of Bronze and Iron as the world becomes bleaker and bleaker.


Space is the second major principle of cosmological scope. Space may be Open or Closed, and either Whole or Partitioned. In an open system, there is potentially access to other universes which lie outside the cosmos. In a closed system, the cosmos is the boundary for all things within it. It is an absolute which may not be crossed under any circumstances. Such a boundary is more of a serious obstacle in a Whole cosmos. In a Whole system, the entire cosmos consists of one space, in which may be found all parts of the universe. There are no subdivisions: no planes, no pocket dimensions, and no abberations in the fabric and substance and nature of the whole. Partitioned space, on the other hand, implies the division of the cosmos into planes, pockets, dimensions, esoteric realms, and other regions often associated with a metaphysical landscape.

Narrative Boundaries

The final consideration in developing the scope of a Cosmos is the question of the Narrative Boundary. Every religion has taboos, and every Cosmos has limits; one of the Narrative Boundaries of our universe is the speed limit of light. It acts (at least for the moment and in the context of this book, anyway) as a permanent boundary to the action of persons. Crossing the Narrative Boundary is a one-way trip. This is very important, and a Mythguide should make it clear to any member of the Ensemble: if a Narrative Boundary exists, it is an absolute barrier. A persona who crosses it may have other adventures and other experiences, but those events lie outside the context of the main story. A persona who crosses a Narrative Boundary has permanently left play, unless a Canticle occurs at some later date, specifically dealing with things in the same cosmos on the opposite side of that boundary.

The Narrative Boundary is a useful tool for the Mythguide, to close out parts of the universe that she has chosen either not to develop at this time, or to close options which she does not wish explored at this time. For example, a Narrative Boundary may be placed around the Kingdom of the Gods, or around the Land of the Dead. Someone may go to the Land of the Dead- but they will not be coming back. A hero may go to battle the gods; such a hero, win or lose, has done a mythic act. It was also his final act in this life in this particular Canticle.

Crossing a Narrative Boundary is an irrevocable act. When a persona is about to cross one, the Mythguide should allow a soliloquy or other appropriate moment, just as though the character was about to die. The departing character then leaves the Canticle. The current Canticle should be played out, regardless of how much time remains in it. Then, the Ensemble may decide whether to follow across the Boundary or not.

(Possible Addition: Note that the Ensemble is not told about the other side of the Narrative Boundary. Depending on the Rating of the Boundary (see chart: a scale from 10 to 1, with 10 representing very hard barriers and 1 representing relatively soft ones), there may be no information at all about the other side. Narrative boundaries generally exist between widely separated locales, or between one state of being and another. In the case of death, this may be a permanent boundary. If the Mythguide has determined that death is a state of non-existence, crossing over is nothing other than mass suicide, and all the characters are gone.

Boundaries are established by Origins, in the sense that boundaries serve a purpose in the cosmos. An Origin is always assumed to have unlimited Omnessence to control its boundaries.)

The Truth

Those interested in making things complicated should note that a culture or people may firmly believe in one cosmology while actually living in another one- just as our ancestors believed the world was at the center of the universe when in fact it lay at the edges of one small part of it.

We suggest you construct two or more cosmologies: one which is the true nature of the universe, and one or more for each belief system which needs a cosmology of its own. Thus, you can from time to time make revelations about the nature of the universe. These can be traumatizing events not only for individuals but even whole societies. An example of this can be found in the philosophical school founded by the Greek mathematician and mystic, Pythagoras, who decreed that all numbers were rational. Long after his death, his students began to experiment with numbers, and discovered a quantity of numbers which were in fact not rational, but decidedly irrational, among them the famous pi. The Pythagorean system of mathematics rapidly collapsed under the weight of this problem, leaving nothing but the Pythagorean Theorem and some of their teacher's more enigmatic sayings, such as "Justice is 4."

The Narrative Cosmos

At this point, you know a good deal about the cosmological structure of your new world, though it may not seem like it. It has concepts of time and space, and a sense of what is open to exploration and what is off limits. Depending on the kinds of choices you made, you have also determined a bit about the shape of your future options.

Take a moment to consider the kinds of effects cosmological choices have likely played on the society which accepts this world-picture as its own. These are principally a function of Space. As a general rule, the more partitioned and closed a cosmological system, the more gods there are likely to be within it. The more open and undivided the cosmos is, the fewer gods will inhabit it. In addition, the more partitioned the universe is, the smaller it is (or at least appears to be). As it approaches total unity without divisions, the larger it is.

This can be hard to follow. yet it is clearer than one might think. Imagine this: all possible cosmologies have precisely the same outer dimensions. The more divisions a cosmos has, the smaller each individual section becomes. Even dividing infinity in half with a single boundary leaves two smaller infinities.

The other reason why individual portions of the cosmos become smaller has a lot to do with the abhorrence of a vacuum. It could be that some cultures in some worlds don't have a problem with emptiness. But most have, and most should, especially in more primitive cultures. To them, voids in nature are as unnatural as voids in political systems. And we know how fast political vacuums get filled.

In fact, it wasn't until the 17th and 18th century that Earth began to conceive that the space between planets and stars was empty space, and we were unhappy about it for a very long time. Isaac Newton, for example, believed the motion of the planets produced a horrendous amount of noise, which filled the void completely. Only humans and all living creatures didn't know about the sound, because having lived with it all our lives, we could't imagine the profound silence which would exist afterwards.

The action of Time, on the other hand, will help to determine how involved the gods are, and what their function is. For example, in a helical infinte model, the gods can be involved in one of three possible tasks: pulling the cosmos up, towards better things; pulling it down, towards an even worse future; or removing personas from the cycle forever. These questions will be considered more fully in Part II - Divinity.


Cosmology is not complete just by determination of space, time, and boundaries. The universe is more than its opinion of time and space, and it contains more than uncrossable barriers. Thus, some attention needs to be paid to the components of the cosmos. These components are the meat and drink of Narratives and Canticles, and so it is worth taking some time to develop them.

What kind of components exist? The vision of the cosmos is not even close to complete with only space and time considered. Chances are you have only a few Narrative Boundaries, as well. It is hard to know where to put them until some issues about content get resolved. Thus, you should feel to add or subtract them at any time in the process of Cosmos creation, or even afterwards.

In order to determine the content of the cosmos, two options exist. One is to simply start assigning space to ideas, setting aside space for first one pantheon of gods and then another, then elemental powers, then local spirits and so on. Such a cosmos eventually begins to feel cluttered. While it may be cosy and fun, one begins to wonder just what the Creator was thinking of. When the creator might be identified as a member of the Ensemble, a certain amount of forethought in placing cosmological regions can be very helpful.

Establishing some cosmological priorities is another way to go about putting together the universe. Such priorities are the realm of Metaphysics.

Metaphysics, the study of the fundamental nature of reality and being, has gotten a bad rap. Named after a book which Aristotle wrote (and Aristotle's students placed after his book on physics, hence the name) on the subject, it is sometimes treated with contempt in modern philsophical circles because its subject is the study of things outside of objective experience. Only one modern metaphysician is usually considered worthy of study: the founder of the school of process philosophy, Alfred North Whitehead, which is seen by some as a major reworking of Aristotle for the 'modern' world-view. Prior to the modern age, however, metaphysics was an important area of philosophy, with major contributions made in Western philosophy by Plato and Aristotle as well as other Greeks, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In Eastern philosophy, Buddhism and Taoism introduced a number of concepts into metaphysical study. The Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, and its focus on the Way which cannot be truly known, represents an ideal of metaphysical beauty- motions of utter harmony between the creative force and humanity.

Metaphysics has always been one of the most fascinating and abstract fields of study. It is the study of first principles and the examination of the underlying assumptions behind a given set of premises regarding the universe. As such, it can be very complex and more than a little convoluted. At least one medieval metaphysician was locked up, described as hopelessly insane. Others trod the same fine line with varying degrees of success. Some philosophers have gone so far as to decree it useless.

Metaphysics can be simplified, fortunately. Here, we will establish certain metaphysical constants, based on a series of scales rated from 1 to 10. Each scale deals with one major area of metaphysical inquiry within a 'classical' world-view. By choosing a rating for at least some of the scales, one will be better prepared to answer further questions about the nature of the cosmos.

Once at least some of these scales are fixed, certain cosmological patterns come into play, and new questions emerge. But these new questions are concerned with a radically different set of problems. You will no longer be concerned with what fits into a given cosmology, but how and where desired elements will fit into a particular world-view. The metaphysical structures listed here will help determine what is and is not possible.

Metaphysical Constants

A number of basic questions have been investigated by mortals in our world for centuries and millennia. They have been asked in a number of different ways, and answered in a number of different ways. Men and women in a variety of roles and times and situations have turned to their priests and their prophets and their shamans to answer them, and the answers have been at least as interesting as the questions, especially since they agree on some points but not on others.

If we chose, we could pick out certain archetypes of the questions and answers. Copernicus said that the world was a ball of rock in space, orbiting a ball of hot gas. Some Native American myths say a giant turtle carries the world on its back. Plato thought the world was fixed with regard to certain constants. Aristotle saw change everywhere. Isaiah prophesied the great mercy of the God of Israel, while Zoroaster saw a coming Judgment which would consume the world. Ancient religions quivered in a world filled with spirits. We ourselves walk proud and unafraid, people of flesh, bones, hormones and DNA. Christians proclaim the total triumph of Jesus over the forces of evil, while some atheists see in the depravity of humanity the total defeat of good will. The Delphic Oracle claimed a predetermined fate for all, while the Romantic poets proudly proclaim themselves captains of their souls.

All these viewpoints reflect basic questions. Is the world physical, in the sense of a sun and planets; or is it poetic, carried on the backs of a giant sea turtle? Is the universe unchanging, or are we free to change the things we don't like? Is the world more idea or spirit, or is it just matter or substance? Does good triumph over evil, or is life more complicated than that? Do I have free will, or did someone know I'd ask that beforehand?

Real religions often have complex answers; books the size of encyclopedias could be written on any one question, and in fact many have. The most important of these works became Scripture. Others are derided as heretical or blasphemous. Sometimes, they were or are both, to different groups. The most accessible sources and commentaries are listed in the bibliography at the end of this book.

In the interests of playable realism and space, the system for answering these questions has been simplified, so that a Mythguide will not be writing until his hair is gray. The questions have been codified on the following pages into a set of five scales, called the Cosmological Constants. Each has a value beween one and ten, indicating a spectrum of possibilities.

The five Metaphysical Scales are designed to provide a quick answer to the basic questions and their variants. For example, in Narrative play, the Mythguide may remind a persona who becomes too concerned about controlling her destiny that her faith believes in predestination, and trying to avoid the course set for her will affect her place in the afterlife. The Mythguide should be careful to use this option sparingly as a plot device to keep the Ensemble in line, however.

In additon, the Metaphysical Scales are intended to help a society or culture answer questions about the world it lives in. As in the case of the earth-centered universe, their opinions might be wrong- but they will interpret it in a particular manner. A tree which nearly falls on top of an over-eager woodcutter is a warning from the spirits of the forest to someone with a particular worldview. To another, it is merely a sign of rotted wood and some mis-strokes during the actual chopping.

The question is, which viewpoint is superstition? To modern eyes, the one claiming a natural, scientific cause for the mishap is being reasonable and rational. In truth, in designing your own cosmos, the difference between perception and reality is important. In a classical vision of the cosmos, what is observed is what is true. Tradition has a lot of authority in such a society, because Truth is an absolute concept. What is true for one generation is true for future generations. We have to constantly remind ourselves that this classical vision is part of what we have lost. Personas and personalities in a fantasy environment should possess it. Perception drives truth.

The scales are arranged on a 10-point sliding scale, with an extreme position at 1 and 10. However, although there are extremes, there is never perfect balance. Thus, a purely neutral position does not exist; instead, 5 is weighted towards one experience while 6 is slightly weighted to the other.

Poetic-Physical Scale

The Poetic-Physical Scale is a measure of a particular worldview's opinions on the world's natural order. In a classical world-view, societies and cultures tend to range all over the scale. Peasantry may see the world in terms of chariots for the gods of the sun and moon, dancing spirits for the stars. They might call upon the spirit of the rabbit which they kill for their food, and pray to the oak in thanks for its wood before they lay axe to the roots. Scholars and nobles may know that there are physical objects called planets in the sky, and deny the existence of spirits.

A more Poetic society, in general, may have more classicist leanings. It will adopt a high regard for Spirit and Order, and have a powerful swing towards either Good or Evil depending on other environmental factors. It will probably adopt any position on Fate or Will. It will tend to be a very religious society, with frequent (possibly casual, like drink libations) offerings to gods and demi-gods and spirits.

A more Physical society, in general, may have more modernist tendencies. It will tend to swing towards Chaos, Mortal, and Will, and adopt a moderate position on good and evil. The society will tend towards monotheism or secularism, and will rarely make casual offerings to gods other than prayer.

The Poetic-Physical scale defines the how the universe is constituted with regard to physical structure and appearance. In a poetic world, the universe is described in accordance with mythic understanding. Angels hang stars in the sky every night, and dryads dance in forest glades. In a physical environment, scientific explanations are the norm. Gravity is caused by the rotation of the earth, and the stars are flaming balls of gas.

  1. Physical Triumphant. The world operates according to 'normal' natural laws, as in our own universe. Poetic or mystical explanations are utterly absent, and science reigns supreme.
  2. Physical Ascendant. 90-99% of the world is explained according to scientific natural laws, with a small number of irregular events which seem to require a more poetic understanding.
  3. Physical Favored. 75-90% of the world is explained through scientific laws. A large number of events seem to be better explained by a poetic explanation, however.
  4. Physical Advantaged. 60-75% of the world is explained by scientific explanations but a large portion of it is normally examined through poetic imagery.
  5. Neutral to Physical. The world is largely balanced between the physical and the poetic, with scientific explanations being slightly more common than poetic ones.
  6. Poetic to Neutral. The world is largely balanced between the physical and the poetic, with poetic explanations being slightly more common than scientific ones.
  7. Poetic Advantaged. 60-75% of the world is explained by a poetic understanding, but a large portion of it is normally explained through scientific descriptions.
  8. Poetic Favored. 75-90% of the world is explained through poetic natural laws. A large number of events seem to be better explained by a scientific explanation, however.
  9. Poetic Ascendant. 90-99% of the world is explained according to poetic natural laws, with a small number of irregular events which require a more scientific understanding.
  10. Poetic Triumphant. The world operates completely according to poetic natural laws, with lanterns for stars in the dome of the sky and spirits in every rock, tree, and stream.

Spirit-Mortal Scale

A more Spirit-oriented society will tend towards a classical worldview. It will probably adopt a high Poetic value, a high regard for Order, and tend to have a strong opinion leaning towards Fate. It could have any of a number of positions on Good and Evil. It will tend, on the whole, to have absolute views on ethical behavior, with acts not praised or condemned according to circumstance, but according to a generally rigid standard of behavior. These standards will generally be regarded as imposed though divine or demi-divine wisdom and initiative.

A more Mortal-oriented society will tend towards a modernist worldview. It will probably be oriented to the Physical, the Chaotic and the Will. It will probably adopt a more-or-less neutral position on Good and Evil, and ethical systems will tend towards relativism.

The Spirit-Mortal scale defines the priorities of the cosmos with regard to the relative value of mortals and spiritual beings. In a very Spiritual cosmos, gods, demons and other spiritual beings would hold most of the power and call most of the shots. In a very Mortal cosmos, mortal actions would have a greater effect upon the future fate of the cosmos. The actions of gods would be of minor importance.

{I haven't finished the chart for this section, but Spirit is 10 and Mortal, 1}

Chaos-Order Scale

A Chaos-oriented society will tend towards a modernist worldview in many respects. It will probably turn towards Will, Mortal, Physical, with a moderate position on Good and Evil. It might, however, turn strongly towards Spirit and Poetic, as well, in a universe with aberrant and mischevious spirits.

An Ordered society, on the other hand, will tend to be classical in its outlook. It will probably turn towards Spirit, Poetic, Fate, and have a strong position on Good.

The Chaos-Order scale defines how the universe is constituted with regard organization and anarchy, creation and entropy. In a very Chaotic cosmos, disorder will generally increase: instructions will be misunderstood and change is rapid. In a very Ordered cosmos, everything operates according to particular patterns, and all things have their place. Chaos and Order also represent principles of individuality and community.

  1. Order Triumphant. All things are fixed, everything is in its place and done according to its own pattern. The law has been laid down, for ever and ever, and change is illusory.
  2. Order Ascendant. The cosmos is very structured, with Chaos limited to relatively minor functions. Most of the cosmos is predictable, almost to the point that gambling is boring.
  3. Order Favored. The cosmos is largely structured, with Chaos playing some minor but important roles in areas. Cosmos is predictable, with chance playing an appropriate role.
  4. Order Advantaged. The cosmos is structured, with Chaos playing some important roles in large areas. However, structure and orderliness are significant in most cosmological issues.
  5. Neutral to Order. The cosmos is roughly in a state of balance, with slightly more things resolved by appeal to order and the rule of law than by resorting to chaos and randomness.
  6. Chaos to Neutral. The cosmos is roughly in a state of balance, with slightly more things resolved by appeal to chaos and the randomness than by resorting to order and the rule of law.
  7. Chaos Advantaged. The cosmos is unstructured, with Order playing some important roles in large areas. Chance and randomness are significant in most cosmological issues.
  8. Chaos Favored. The cosmos is largely unstructured, with Order playing some minor but important roles in areas. Cosmos is unpredictable, with order playing an appropriate role.
  9. Chaos Ascendant. The cosmos is very unstructured, with Order limited to relatively minor functions. Most of the cosmos is unpredictable, and caculating odds in poker is pointless.
  10. Chaos Triumphant. All things are constantly caught up in the process of change. Nothing is left untried or untested, and nothing is certain or fixed even then.


{I haven't written the orientation categories yet for Good/Evil.}

This scale describes the current moral state of the universe. In a very Good setting, the archetypal power of Good is almost sentient and definitely active in the extermination/limitation of Evil. The opposite would be true in a very Evil cosmos. It is advised, however, that the range between 4 and 7 is appropriate for a cosmos as a whole, and extremes be assigned only to distinct regions within a cosmos. A universe which is metaphysically committed to evil can be a very hard place to live.

  1. Evil Triumphant. The primal power of Evil is in total control of the cosmos. Good is an illusion, or a test of Evilness' character, or simply does not exist.
  2. Evil Ascendant. The primal power of Evil is largely in control of the environment. Good is largely illusionary, but it does have some insignificant power in personas.
  3. Evil Favored. The primal power of Evil is mostly in control of the environment. Primal Good is present, but its power is largely overwhelmed except in minor abilities of personas.
  4. Evil Advantaged. Evil's power and abilities are significantly stronger than that of Good. Good's power may be focused overwhelmingly in one locale, but is weaker than Evil overall.
  5. Neutral to Evil. The world is in a state of precarious balance, with a slight advantage to Evil. Individual contests between Good and evil are decided by persona action and the action of Fate.
  6. Good to Neutral. The world is in a state of precarious balance, with a slight advantage to Good. Individual contests between Good and evil are decided by persona action and the action of Fate.
  7. Good Advantaged. Good's power and abilities are significantly stronger than those of Evil's. Evil's power may be focused overwhelmingly in one locality, but is weaker than Good overall.
  8. Good Favored. The primal power of Good is mostly in control of the environment. Primal Evil is present, but its power is largely overwhelmed except in minor abilities of personas.
  9. Good Ascendant. The primal power of Good is largely in control of the environment. Evil is largely illusionary, but it does have some insignificant power in personas.
  10. Good Triumphant. The primal power of Good is in total control of the cosmos. Evil is an illusion, or a test of goodness' character, or simply does not exist.


{I haven't written the societal categories yet for Fate/Will}

The Fate-Will scale describes the current state of the cosmos with regard to the foreordination of events. In a highly Fated setting, the actions of personas and institutions are known beforehand to the cosmos or to the personification of Fate. In a very Willful cosmos, no prior knowledge is available, and each action opens up new possibilities which can only be guessed at.

  1. Will Triumphant. All things are based upon persona decision and action. Actions may be logically guessed at, but no reliable knowledge of the future is available at any time.
  2. Will Ascendant. All major actions require persona decision. Some insignificant actions may be pre-ordained, but prophecy and fate are largely inoperative.
  3. Will Favored. Most major actions require persona decision. Large-scale patterns cannot be known, but sometimes minor clues of the future will be revealed.
  4. Will Advantaged. Some major actions require persona decision. Large scale patterns cannot be known, but sometime major details can be pre-determined, suggesting an overall direction.
  5. Neutral to Will. The world is in a state of balance, with a slight advantage held by individual wills. Some patterns are pre-determined, but major events often hinge upon persona actions.
  6. Fate to Neutral. The world is in a state of balance, with a slight advantage held by the power of Fate. Large scale patterns are pre-determined, but even major details may be unknown.
  7. Fate Advantaged. Some major actions have been pre-ordained. Others require willful decision. Total clarity is impossible, but overall patterns can be discerned.
  8. Fate Favored. Most major actions have been pre-ordained. Some minor actions may be taken which have not been predetermined; willful action can sometimes catch unawares.
  9. Fate Ascendant. All major actions have been pre-ordained. Some insignificant actions may be taken which have not been predetermined, but willful action is largely impossible.
  10. Fate Triumphant. All things are pre-ordained. No action is unknown to the cosmos, and all things can be predicted with total accuracy.

©1995 Andrew Watt (; comments/suggestions welcome
Converted to HTML 1 May 1995 by Sixten Otto (