Create a universe

Create a universe

Designing a universe uses the same organizational structure - sources, themes, tropes - as designing a universal spell list.



The Three Sources

The most salient divisions of tropes of magic appear to be the three sources:

Psychic - mental effects (telepathy, enchantment, charm, fear, inspirational healing, hallucenatory phantasm, blindspot invisibility, telekinesis, force, flight, outofbody, remote viewing, clairvoyance, prophecy, divination, lore, prescience, luck, probability, fate) (negative: insanity, meaninglessness, amnesia, unconsciousness)

Lifeforce - mental-physical effects (shapeshift, heal, lifeform, shamanism, summon avatar, ghostly quasi-real illusion, teleportation) (negative: necromancy, undeath, death)

Elemental - physical effects (the five mystic elements and transmutation into elemental forms: earth, fire, water, air, and ether, where ether is the substance of spirit but includes effects such as electromagnetic radiant, lightning, etherealness) (negative: disintegration, corrosion, annihilation)



The Universal Table

Help identify the essences of the D&D settings.

D&D Next players can choose either the Axis Cosmology (4e) or the Wheel Cosmology (2e), or other settings, including Eberron, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, or so on. What are the essential features?

The goal is to clarify the features of the cosmologies of the D&D settings to their minimalist, simplest, and tightest tropes. Then everything else is combinations of these basic themes. In the analysis, a binary structuralist approach serves well.

The first table goes into detail about what the common D&D themes are. It also organizes them to show how they work together.

According to the analysis, every aspect of the D&D tradition corresponds to one of the sources: martial, arcane, divine, and void. These correspond to nonmagical action, arcane transformation, divine creation, and void negation. At the same time, each source has three aspects: mental, physical, and vital. These aspects correspond to mental mind, physical matter, and vital lifeforce. The vital aspect is a blend of the mental and physical (mind and body) and focusing on the special dynamics of the vital lifeforce (soul, aura, etcetera).



Sources: Psychic, Lifeforce, Elemental
Sources: Martial, Arcane, Divine, and Void
Schools
Keywords (Concepts, Themes, Tropes, Features)
UPDATE 2012 NOV 01



































 



Elemental
PHYSICAL ALCHEMICAL
MATTER



Lifeforce
VITAL PRIMAL SOUL
MIND-MATTER



Psychic
MENTAL PSIONIC
MIND



Martial
ACTION



Maneuver

Equipment
• Tools
• Weapons
• Armors
• Proficiency

Techniques
 



Instinct

Soul
(Physical & Mental)
• Lifeforce
• Aura
• Ki
• Holistic Efforts

Body
(Physical)
• Athletics
• Acrobatics
• Agility
• Endurance

Instincts
• Impulse Appetite
hunger, thirst, sleep,
sex, fertility, sensuality,
territoriality, rage,
bonding

 
Medicine
• First aid
• Triage
• Folkmedicine
• Herbal remedies
• Diagnosis
• Disease
• Poison
• Treatment

Nature
• Ecosystem
• Community
web of life,
diverse lifeforms interacting as a system,
society  
cooperation, competion, evolutionary niche, exchanging resources
• Lifecycle
reproductive cycle, birth, aging, mating
• Environment
to the degree,
they are parts of an
interacting living system: 

weather, skyscape,
landscape, seascape,
even urban engineering,
habitat 
Survivalism



Thought

Mind
(Mental)
• Memory
• Recognition
• Emotion
• Concepts
• Intuition
• Willpower
• Rapport

Morale
• Empathy
• Inspiration
• Inspire Healing
• Competence
• Vigor
• Focus
• Concentrate
• Persuade
• Intimidate
• Bluff

Surveillance
• Perception
• Notice
• Find Hidden
• Hide
• Sight
• Listening
• Scent
• Find
• Recognize
• Exploration
• Detection   
• Investigation
• Espionage
• Scouting

Humanities
• Lore
• Sageness
• Libraries
• Research
• Performance
• Art



Arcane
TRANSFORMATION



Evocation

Alchemy
• The 4 Elements
• Inorganic substances

Air Element

• Lightning damage
• Thunder damage 
• Electricity
• Sound
• Wind
Water Element
• Cold damage
• Ice
• Blizzard 
Fire Element
• Fire damage
• Flame
• Smoke
• Heat
Earth Element
• Slash damage
• Pierce damage
• Bludgeon damage
• Land
• Minerals
Soil, dust, clay, salts,
Stone, marble, gem
Metal, gold, steel
• Lava 

Fabrication
Change nonliving object
• 4 Elements
• Control
• Bend
• Shape  
• Sculpt
• Alter
• Animate 
• Grant lifelike motion
• Manipulate
• Fly by Air
• Make nonliving object
• From raw materials
• Earth especially
• Forge metal
 
Spirits
• Elementals



Shapeshift

Shapeshift
Change living creature
• Polymorph
• Lycanthrope 
• Barkskin  
• Fly sprouting wings 
• Invisible camouflage
• Control living creatures
• Plants & Animals 
• Bend, shape, sculpt
• Alter
• Animate living plants
• Control living bodies
• Override as puppet

Illusion
Objective illusion
• Ghostly quasi-real illusion
• Intangeable manifestation

• Dream Figures
• Shamanic vision quests including real effects
Hologram
• Star Trek Holodeck 
 
Spirits
• Nature spirits
• Totems
• Dream creatures
plant spirits, 
animal spirits,
land spirits,
sky spirits,
water spirits,
as neighbors
needing understanding
as living psyches
as part of ones mind
Nature spirits
often manifest
in an illusory way 




Enchantment

Narrative
• Story
• Plot
• Fate
• Archetype

Telepathy
• Empathy
• Shared Consciousness
• Collective Dream World

Charm

• Reshaping mind
• Thoughts
• Feelings
• Morale
• Friendship
• Fascination
• Diplomacy
• Hostility
• Fear
• Intimidation
Compulsion
• Command
Instinct
• Impulse Appetite
• Sleep
• Empathy
• Stimulation
Phantasm
• Subjective Illusion
• Mental hallucenation
• Distorting Perceptions
• Dream
• Virtual Reality
• Blindspot
• Psionic Invisibility

Telekinesis
• Force
• Explosion
• Acceleration
• Pressure
• Motion
• Mind-over-Matter
• Psychokinesis
• Parakinesis
• Mind-over-matter
• Consciousness
• Disembodied Force
• Force of Mind
• Existential influence
• Quantum observer
• Probability
• Fly by telekinesis

Culture
• Identity

Languages
• Tongues
• Unencryption  

Mood
• Humility
• Despair
• Confidence
• Arrogance
• Beauty
• Admiration
Compassion Love
• Ally
• Assistance
• Comradery
• Charity
Judgment Overpowering
• Enemy
• Trial
• Effort
• Temptation
• Self-Discipline
• Heroism




Void
NEGATION



Annihilation

Negation
• Emptiness
• Disintegration
• Destruction
• Darkness

Abjuration
• Dispel Elemental
 
Fiends

• Demons

Exorcism
 



Death
 
Negation
• Death
• Disease
• Famine
• Undeath

Abjuration
• Dispel Lifeforce
 

Fiends    
• Destructive Nature Spirits
• Undeads
Angels of Death,
Undead Minds,
Undead Bodies
  
Exorcism



Insanity

Negation

• Insanity
• Falsification

• Meaninglessness
• Confusion
• Oblivion

• Distrust
• Dispair
• Nihilism
• War
• Predation
• Unconsciousness 

Abjuration
• Dispel Psychic 
• Dispel magic generally

Fiends
• Devils

Exorcism



Divine
CONJURATION



Ether

Ether

• Fifth Element
• Quintessence

• Substance of Spirit
• Celestial Bodies
• Philosopher Stone
• 4 Elements Source
• 4 Elements Unity

Electro-Magnetic
• Ether
• Light
• Radiance
• Lightning
• Magnetism

Etherealness
• Etherealness
• Ethereal Plane

Permanence
• Eternal effect

Restoration

• Undo negation
• Replenishment
• Reintegration
• Repair
• Return light




Immortality

Health

• Undo Death
• Undo Harm
• Healing

• Miraculous Healing
• Curing of impairments
• Restoration
• Resurrection
• Ideal lifeforce

Teleportation
• Send mind-body
• Teleport
• Adjoin Distant Location
• Speed of thought
• Gate
• Planeshift
• Timeshift
• Haste
• Time Hop

• Deja Vu
• Gate in beings

Create Lifeform
• Out-of-nothing
• Lifeform product
• Organic substances

• Organic item
• Create being
• Awaken consciousness
• Cloning

Spirits
• Ideals
• Archetypes
• Immortals
• Spirits of the living

• Saints
• Celestial beings
• Angels



Divination

Restoration

• Undo negation
• Emanate Ideal 
• Meaning
• Truth

• Memory
• Clarity
• Sanity
• Trust
• Faith
• Vision
• Cooperation
• Altruism

Spirits
• Archons
Archangels


Prescience
• Prophecy
• Precognition
• Divination
• Augury
• Oracle

• Knowledge
• Acquire Lore
• Psychometry 
• Detect Magic
• True Seeing 

• Omniscience

Projection
• Out-of-body
• Scrying

• Clairvoyance
• Remote Sensing 

• Immaterialization
• Omnipresence
• Mindwalk
• Thought

Luck
• Fate
• Probability
• Bless 








Universal Table of Classes

This next table gives an example of how every aspect of D&D corresponds well to these four sources (martial, arcane, divine, and void), their three aspects each (mental, physical, and vital), the resulting twelve schools. Here classes and related concepts such as specialties and backgrounds correspond well to the various schools. For example, the Wizard is a generalist arcane class that covers all three schools, Enchantment, Evocation, and Shapeshifting, horizontally. Meanwhile the Druid is a class that covers the vital aspect across all three sources, thus the covering the schools, Instinct, Shapeshifting, and Summoning. Notice, both the Wizard and the Druid are masters of the school of Shapeshifting.



     
Sources and Aspects
Schools
Classes (Also Traditions, Domains, Specialties, Backgrounds)
UPDATE AUG 26




































Generalist
Bard



Elemental
PHYSICAL ALCHEMICAL
MATTER



Lifeforce
VITAL PRIMAL
MIND-MATTER



Psychic
MENTAL PSIONIC
MIND



Martial
ACTION
Rogue



Maneuver
Fighter
Athlete



Instinct
Ranger
Monk
Barbarian
Physician
Herbalist



Thought
Warlord
Spy
Scholar
Diplomat



Arcane
TRANSFORMATION
Wizard



Evocation
Evoker
Elementalist
Bender
Pyromancer
Alchemist



Shapeshift
Druid
Shaman
Illusionist



Enchantment
Enchanter
Telepath
Phantasmalist
Telekinetic 



Void
NEGATION
Warlock
Exorcist



Annihilation
Sorcerer



Death
Necromancer



Meaninglessness
Dementor
Abjuror



Divine
CREATION
Cleric



Conjuration
Invoker
Conjurer
Creator



Summoning
Teleporter
Summoner
Healer



Divination
Paladin
Seer
Diviner
Disembodied Mind







Note: This Original Post continues to update according to discussions in the thread and ongoing developments in D&D 5e.
  

Wizards, shave and a haircut

Sources and Worlds
































ELEMENTAL

Matter



PRIMAL

Lifeforce



PSYCHIC

Mind



MARTIAL

Human World

• Mundane World













ARCANE

Spirit World

• Spirit Journey
• Feywild
• Alfaheimr
• Avalon
• Narnia
• Never-Never
• Harry Potter Wizard Realm





Universal Force

• Force
• Fifth Element
• Quintessence
• Ether
• Ethereal Plane
• Elemental Chaos
• Inner Planes
• Earth Element
• Fire Element
• Water Element
• Air Element
• Jotunheimr
• Muspelheimr
• Niflheimr





Universal Soul

• Primal Spirit World
• Interconnecting Living Auras
• Nature Spirits
• Plant Totems
• Animal Totems
• Realm of Ancestors





Universal Consciousness

• Collective Mindscape
• Entering World of a Book
• Twilight Zone
• Dreamscape



DIVINE

Eternal World

Positivity
• Positive Plane

Negativity
• Negative Plane

Restoration





Positivity
• Philosoper Stone
• Perfect Elemental Realms

Negativity
• Demonic Realm
• Void

• Abyss

Restoration





Positivity
• Paradise
• Communion of Altruists
• Utopia

Negativity
• Undead Realm
• Underworld

• Shadowfell
• Grave

Restoration





Positivity

• Realm of Ideals
• Bliss
• Beatific Vision
• Angelic Realm
• Celestial Outer Planes
• Astral Sea Domains

Negativity
• Devilish Realm
• Pergatory
• Infernal Outer Planes
• Hells
• Far Realms

Restoration








Spirit World

Within the Spirit World, such as within the Feywild, the Universal Force, Universal Soul, and Universal Consciousness all coexist, overlap, and entangle.

The Spirit World has many levels that blend, shifting from the Mundane World all the way to the Eternal World. The lowest or most superficial levels resonate the Mundane World. Within these levels the Mundane World is faintly but clearly discernable. The higher levels begin to vary, sometimes wildly, as an infinity of possibilities become actual, bearing little resemblence with the Mundane World.

However, the highest levels of the Spirit World calm as they enter the perfection of the Eternal World, where infinity is already fully realized and unchanging, beyond the ability of finite Humans to comprehend.



Positivity and Negativity

Humans on a Spirit Journey dont exactly enter the Eternal World. They are still within the Spirit World, but at its highest levels where it overlaps the Eternal World, becoming indistinguishable thus uniting with the positivity of the Eternal World.

Similarly, there is actually no negativity in the Eternal World itself. Rather negativity is part of the lower Spirit World and Mundane World. The Spirit World includes a boundary ending negativity near where it overlaps the Eternal World. Thus this boundary separates the finite lower Worlds from the infinite Eternal World. Despite the potential of extreme negativity, this separation from the infinite what make the finite world and its unique individuals possible. Only those who are worthy can reach the highest spiritual levels overlapping Eternal World.

Ultimately the positivity emanates from the Eternal World, but the Spirit World itself depends on the Mundane World. It becomes more positive when when ordinary Humans to positive actions.

Ultimately the origin of the negativity is simply the finiteness of the Mundane World. It is possible for infinite positivity to not be everywhere. But any ruptures that occur in the absence of positive actions can tear upward into the heights of the Spirit World.

The positivity of the Spirit World “bridges” the Mundane World to the Eternal World. In the same way, the negativity bridges the Mundane and the Eternal too. This is why negative spirits, such as shades and vampires, sometimes manifest in the Mundane World. Indeed, these principles of positivity and negativity entangle within the Spirit World, with consequences that depend mostly on the day-to-day behaviors of ordinary Humans.

The Mundane World is the point of origin of the potential negativity. Nevertheless its quality of “uncreation” means that only those who pursue Divine studies - and its principles of creation - can exorcize this negativity to restore positivity and wholeness.



Spirit Journey

The Spirit Journey occurs in phases. For example, ascend the Spirit World by means of the Universal Force.

The lowest levels of the Force overlap the Mundane World and are almost indistinguishable from it. As the journeyer ascends higher, the Mundane World dematerializes more - whence etherealness. If able to enter the Spirit World bodily, the journeyer can walk through solid barriers within the Mundane World.

Etherealness also hightens the presence of the five elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Quintessence. Quintessence - the fifth element - is the substance of spirit, essencially force and radiance. Quintessence is universally present as ether, and is absolutely present in the Eternal World as infinite spirit. Quintessence inherently includes the potential of the four other elements. Separation by Air makes it possible for both Water and Fire to come into existence at the same time. Then all three recombine to form Earth. (Compare how forces, gasses, liquids, and energies - during the Big Bang - eventually form mass.) In sum, the “fifth” element, is really a unity of the four elements, but this whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

These five elements are the substances composing the Mundane World. (Compare a printing press that has four color plates. Together they form a multicolor image. But it is possible to just look at just one plate to view a single color.) By attending to the Universal Force, it is possible to navigate the Spirit World to regions that only emphasize the presence of Fire that the Mundane World resonates. The journeyer looks at a torch. Its flames blaze, and even the potential fire within the wooden handle glows, but the rest of the handle fades to immaterial.

Far above the Mundane World, the journeyer can visit realms of Fire that the elemental spirits of Fire inhabit.

Because all elements intertwine, the elements of Air and Earth exist to some degree in most of the elemental realms, often as analogues of atmosphere and land.

The vertical journey is described as “ascending” or “going deeper”, but really the journey can happen while remaining in the same place, sotospeak. From the viewpoint of the journeyer, it is the Mundane World that shifts and warps, as various aspects or alternate realities actualize at higher levels. Then the World shifts wildly, often beyond recognition, before approaching the unchanging ideal of the Eternal World.

Arcane studies, especially, strive to shift horizontally to weave Force, Soul, and Consciousness within the Spirit World.

Sources and Abilities





























 

ELEMENTAL

Matter



PRIMAL

Lifeforce



PSYCHIC

Mind



MARTIAL

Personal
Exertions



Action



Strength
(Lift Weight)

Strength-Dexterity
Agility (Explosive Power)

Strength-Constitution
Endurance (Persistent Power)



Negativity: Weakness
• Clumsiness
• Fragility



Instinct



Strength|Intelligence
Vitality (Physical|Mental)

Dexterity|Wisdom
Grace (Body|Mind Agility)

Constitution|Charisma

Vigor (Body|Mind Endurance)



Negativity: Harm
• Disorder
• Faintness



Thought



Intelligence
(Recall Memory)

Intelligence-Wisdom
Perception-Art (Mental Agility)

Intelligence-Charisma
Willpower-Rapport (Mental Endurance)



Negativity: Amnesia
• Blindness-Vagueness
• Surrender-Isolation



ARCANE

Contextual
Transformations



Evocation



Shapeshift



Enchantment



DIVINE

Cosmic
Creations



Invocation



Healing



Divination





The Lifeforce is both physical and mental

Notice vertically, how the “Contextual Transformations” of the Arcane bridges the “Personal Exertions” and the “Cosmic Ideals” of the Martial and Divine respectively. The transformation allows the personal finiteness to participate within the infinite ideal.

Likewise horizontally, the “Lifeforce” of Primal is the bridge between physical “Matter” and unphysical “Mind” of Elemental and Psychic, respectively. The Lifeforce synthesizes the material body and immaterial mind, so the aura of the lifeforce of the body comprises both.

In this sense too, the “vitality” of the Lifeforce sythesizes both physical Strength and mental Intelligence. The “grace” of the Lifeforce synthesizes both physical and mental agility, Dexterity and Wisdom. Likewise, the “vigor” synthesizes both physical and mental endurance, Constitution and Charisma.


 

All those charts seem sort of confusing to me.  I can't grasp what they are all trying to get at.  If I were creating a universe, I'd never start with such contrived binary themes.  I would think more along the lines of how the universe started, what the divinity is like, and what the material plane is like.  I can't even figure out how I'd classify existing campaign settings like Eberron and Ravenloft using this system.  Another thing that is interesting to me about different worlds isn't the most general themes, but certain assumptions, like magic being very common, or uncommon, or the land was recently wracked by a cataclysm, or the land was recently created with all its inhabitants only 100 years ago.  Things that make for interesting stories.

Anyway.  Can you explain how these charts are to be used? 
The charts are here because it needs to be a *gaming* universe. Different options need to be equally appealing. The universe needs an optimal balance between simplicity versus abundance of options. Also the gaming mechanics need to make sense in the context of the story. Especially, the features that classes and races get need to make sense within the story.

For example, if the Wood-Golem (Warforged) is created to be sword-wielding soldier automaton, it can become a problem story-wise if their mechanics actually the make the best Bards (not that this is the case), so virtually all Wood-Golems become Bards. At the very least, the setting story would have to change to account for the fact the Wood-Golems engage a Bardish culture, and are prominent entertainers. Not soldiers.

While it is good for players to go against type, it is important to make the class and race good at the type that the narrative says they are supposed to be good at.



Part of the reason for this thread is to make sure the High-Elf and the Wood-Elf make sense within the D&D Next Universe. The High-Elf seems to produce excellent Wizards, while the Wood-Elf seems to make excellent Druids. So there are several mechanical conflicts that interfere with the story where they are supposed to be the same race with the same origin.

• High-Elf > Wizard > Arcane
• Wood-Elf > Druid > Primal

• Primal > Nature World
• Nature World > Martial?
• Arcane >  Feywild?

In the context of the 4e setting story: If the Wood-Elf is Primal, then it seems the origin should be Nature, not the Feywild. At the very least, the story needs to explain why the Wood-Elf no longer feels affinity with the Feywild, and now prefers Nature. (Actually 4e does a decent job explaining why the Wood-Elf left the Feywild. They fled the Fey war between the High-Elf and the Drow-Elf. And ended up adapting to Nature.)

But there is ambiguity about whether the Feywild represents Nature Spirits. At first 4e said yes, but later 4e decided no. Now Nature is where Nature Spirits live. So the Feywild is no longer “natural”. The latest book Heroes of the Feywild, explicity makes the Feywild a realm of fairy “tales”. It is a dimension where stories come to life - sort of like Twilight Zone or maybe Fantasy Island. Thus the Feywild is strictly unnatural.

So, if the Feywild is strictly unnatural, then it makes no sense for High-Elf flavor to have any affinity for Nature or with anything natural. It does make sense for them to have strong affinity with the Arcane, as inhabitants of a World of fantasy, literally.

Finally, there is ambiguity about whether the Nature World is strictly non-magical, where the Martial power source prevails, or oppositely it is profoundly magical, where the Primal power source prevails.

The above glaring conflicts beg “retcons” (retroactive continuities) to make these Worlds make sense. Instead of just being random nonsense. If everything is everything, then there is no reason to have different worlds in the first place. Or even have different races, really. If different worlds and races exist, then explain what makes them different, and be consistent.



The purpose of the charts in the first three posts is to outline what the different tropes are between the worlds (and by extension between the races). The charts analyze what the 4e, 3e, and 2e stories and mechanics are currently saying - and try to make sense of them. Later, I might go back to Eberron, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, and so on to see how these universes fit within the framework of the charts here.

I guess the charts are a kind of retcon. For example, it explains why both Wood-Elf and High-Elf are Fey (belonging to the Spirit World), even tho one is Primal and the other is Arcane. It also explains why both Clerics who are Divine and Druids who are Primal are prominent Healers, even tho they otherwise have little to do with each other. It also explains why the Ranger can be strictly Martial even if the class has some Primal flavor, focusing on animal Instincts. And so on.

But rather than being random ad-hoc retcons that can lead to future contraditions, these charts strive for a systemic, holistic, exhaustive analysis that can make sense of all prominent D&D themes and mechanics. Thus the charts help ensure any D&D universes make sense, remain as simple as possible structurally, but offer the most freedom of choice at the same time.

Eberron Setting

Here is an analysis of the themes in the Eberron setting. See how they organize.

The first chart gathers data about which themes the setting emphasizes. The chart likewise organizes them to see how these themes fit within the D&D game.

Notice for example, one of the foundational setting themes is the Dragon Prophecies. Their Divine-Psychic location in this chart suggests the Dragons in this setting should generally be either Psychic or Divine - and indeed in they are Divine, with even the name Eberron itself referring to a cosmic dragon.

The premise of the Eberron setting seems to be the juxtaposition of Elemental versus Psychic.




Central Setting: The Foreground of Khorvaire

































ELEMENTAL

Universal Force



PRIMAL

Universal Soul



PSYCHIC

Universal Consciousness



MARTIAL

Human World

• Eberron



• Swashbuckling



 



• Mystery and Intrigue
• Nothing is exactly what it seems
• Politics



ARCANE

Spirit World



• Chaos of Khyber
(Elemental Chaos spills into subterranean Khyber)
• Artificer class
• Warforged-Golem race
• Elementals power airships
• Elemental lightning rail
• Auto farming equipment



 



• Dal Quor (Realm of Dreams)
• Kalashtar race
• Sinister fiends influence dreams



DIVINE

Eternal World



• Sentient freewilled constructs
• Teleportation portals

Negativity
• Demons of havoc



 



• Dragon Prophecies
• Siberys (Astral Sea)

Negativity
• Army of horrors just beyond Reality
• Xoriat (Far Realms)






Sorting thru the data


“Arcane”

Dragonmarks: Altho these are “Arcane”, they seem random. There seems no clear pattern for the use of this word.

Dragonshards: Again altho these too are “Arcane”, the name arcane seems to be used in a random (meaningless) and unfocused way.

Without a meaningful pattern, it seems best to just treat the word “Arcane” to vaguely mean anything “Non-Martial”. So its better to ignore any mechanical implications from the use of this word.



Elemental versus Psychic

Without any ambiguity, it is absolutely clear: The central themes of the Eberron story involve

• Psychic themes
• Elemental themes

The story is about a kind of Yin-and-Yang where the physical realm and the mental realm balance eachother.

We should expect to see many classes, races, and characters that focus on Elemental powers (and indeed the setting features the Artificer class and Warforged-Golem) and that focus on Psychic powers (and indeed it features the Kalashtar race).



Moreover, where Primal themes are nearly absent, except for “exotic” locations, the setting is decidedly “anti-nature”, and urbane. The urban and industrial-esque themes distinguishes the Eberron setting from typical medieval-esque settings.



I would like the point out, the Eberron setting is intensely focused and well-organized, around Elemental versus Psychic. This clarity is part of its appeal. The various aspects of the Eberron universe *make sense*.



Cosmology

The cosmology comprises 3 primordeal dragons.

• Siberys = the Sky Ring = Eternal World (Astral Sea)
• Eberron = the Land = Human World
• Khyber = the subterranean caverns = the entrance to the Spirit World (Elemental Chaos)

This cosmos also interfaces the Far Realms, thus the negativity of Divine-Psychic in the Eternal World is also prominent. Basically these aberrants are devils wearing a different costume.

Despite the diversity of races, the cosmology presents the point of view of an essentially Human World. Indeed, even the diversity of races feels more like a Human cosmopolitan city. So even Primal races like Shifter get lost within the anti-nature theme.

The anti-matter negativity of the demonic versus the anti-mind negativity of the aberrant, resonate the central Elemental-versus-Psychic theme, and form the challenges that the heroes must overcome in the setting story.



A Metal-Golem After All

By the way, the only oddity I can see is the fact the Warforged-Golem is actually a “wood” golem. Wood is something I might associate with the wilderness woodcarvers. Since Elemental magic is so strong a feature and Nature is so absent a feature, it seems more coherent to make the Warforged actually be an Earth Elemental, or more accurately an Earth-Element construct. Yet, every picture of the Warforged covers them in metal. It seems the deep structure of the narrative setting has already guaranteed the Warforged will be a “metal” golem after all. LOL! Everybody thinks of Warforged as “metal robots” anyway. So, the theme would just be one step tighter if the story went ahead and called them “metal golems”, even if this metal is more like a hollow suit of armor. (The concept reminds me of Full Metal Alchemist.)



Changeling as Psychic

According to the chart, the Changeling race qualifies as a Primal creature of the Spirit World. In other words, their shapeshifting power is no different than the shapeshifting power of lycanthropes, except for a greater range of flexibility. Nevertheless, the flavor of the Changeling has nothing to do with being in tune with ones body, much less being in tune with universe as a living “body”. The flavor has everything to do with being in touch with perception and deception, involving mental abilities and strictly Psychic flavor.

These Changelings are city folk, nesting in the “espionage and political intrigue” of the rival guilds and rival cities. They excel at “deception, misdirection, and trickery”.

Because the bodily pretext seems incidental to their story, it is possible to make their disguises a product of Psychic Illusions, rather than bodily shapeshifting.

Perhaps it is no accident their racial abilities make them either Rogues whose Martial-Psychic powers can disguise themselves, or else Enchanter Wizards whose Arcane-Psychic powers can misdirect.

In any case, these Changelings function well as part of the urban (anti-nature) setting of Eberron.






Peripheral Settings: The Background “Beyond Khorvaire”
































ELEMENTAL

Universal Force



PRIMAL

Universal Soul



PSYCHIC

Universal Consciousness



MARTIAL

Human World



• Dragonborn warriors
• Half-Orc warriors



• Halfling herder nomads



• Dwarf merchants



ARCANE

Spirit World



 



• Aerenal-Elf
• Elf Ancestorism: Un-Undead
• Goliath Druids in wild mountains
• Shifters



• Fey Eladrin
• Fey Gnome curious mages



DIVINE

Eternal World



• Devas fighting demons

• Negativity
• Tiefling new demon pact



 



Negativity
• Tiefling old devil pact






Sorting thru the data


Un-Undead

The Elf of Aerenal express the Primal flavor of ancestor veneration. Despite the fact these ancestors are actually undead - and living next door rather than visiting in visions - the Eberron setting reframes these undead as non-negative, and strictly within the Primal tradition.



“Arcane”

Despite the use of the vague word “Arcane”, the background of the Tiefling with its either-diabolical-or-demonic flavor seems tightly within the juristiction of Divine exorcism. In any case, the anti-mind devil versus the anti-matter demon echoes the general theme of the Elemental versus Psychic.



Nature ... in order to highlight urban

Generally, via the races - Elf, Shifter, Goliath, and Halfling - the background exhibits a hint of Primal nature themes. While the setting is prominently urban, the “exotic” Primal background gives players more options and serves as a foil to emphasize the urban flavor in the foreground.
Oh, so are you saying you would choose a campaign and be able to look at the charts and design PCs accordingly, or see what PCs would be most effective in those campaign types?
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
Oh, so are you saying you would choose a campaign and be able to look at the charts and design PCs accordingly, or see what PCs would be most effective in those campaign types?



You are right, by analyzing an adventure setting, you can optimize characters to flourish in that setting. For example, if the setting features numerous psychic challenges, such as intrigue and espionage, then a hero with psychic features, like Empathy and Telepathy, will do well.



Even so, my intention for the Source-School Table is to think about how to create adventure settings. What themes and tropes will the setting emphasize. Which possibilities become the background rather than foreground. And so on. It encourages to the DM to pick and choose among the various possibilities that D&D offers, and to organize them in a salient way, to reinforce eachothers themes. Eberron is an excellent example. In order to emphasize the flavor of an industrial society, it deemphasizes flavor of nature.
It seems more helpful to split off the anti-divine aspects from the divine schools. Thus there are seven sources (the four worlds of Martial, Arcane, Anti-Divine and Divine, each with the three aspects Elemental, Primal, and Psychic). So there are twelve schools of study that classes can specialize in. These sources and schools then inform the cultures, and depending on setting, even the races and planar origins.




Sources of Power
Schools of Study




































 



Elemental
PHYSICAL MATTER



Primal
VITAL LIFEFORCE



Psychic
MENTAL MIND



Martial
ACTION



Maneuver



Instinct



Thought



Arcane
TRANSFORMATION



Evocation



Shapeshift



Enchantment



Anti-Divine
NEGATION



Annihilation



Death



Oblivion



Divine
CREATION



Invocation



Communion



Divination



This anti-divine source - or rather the anti-source, void - is the antithesis of divine creativity. It is the absence of being. More than destruction, it is uncreation, as if never having existed. Its schools involve negation of the targets existence, but can also extend to anti-magic abjuration in a defensive sense, or extend to the sinister trafficking with evil spirits, fiends (demons, undead, devils). By definition, this is “black magic”, namely sorcery or warlockry, a magic whose only purpose is to destroy.

In 4e terminology, the anti-divine source corresponds most closely to shadow, however, the conflicting meanings of shadow can sometimes become confusing. Also the Shadowfell, Elemental Abyss, and Infernal domains of the Astral Sea, would together be aspects of the negatory source.

Other names for the anti-divine source could be the negatory source, or perhaps even the warlockly source or sorcerous source.

The divine source inherently includes the anti-divine source too, whence the divine generalist class, the Cleric, can “turn fiend” (including demon, undead, and devil) and can “abjure” magic phenomena.




Haldrik is secretly Primus, The One, and resides on Mechanus. This is Primus' attempt to fit the multiverse into the cogs of Mechanus.
Heh. The efficiency of machinery!





While I have been focusing on how the sources and schools organize the cultures of an adventure setting, they organize the functions that individuals adopt within these cultures, namely the classes, themes, and backgrounds.

Thinking about classes in terms of which schools they occupy, helps design classes with specific mechanics and flavors, and without stepping on the toes of other classes.



Classes, Themes, Backgrounds
Sources of Power
Schools of Study



































 



Elemental
PHYSICAL MATTER



Primal
VITAL LIFEFORCE



Psychic
MENTAL MIND



Martial
ACTION
Rogue



Maneuver
Fighter
Athlete



Instinct
Ranger
Monk
Barbarian



Thought
Warlord
Spy
Scholar
Diplomat



Arcane
TRANSFORMATION
Wizard



Evocation
Evoker
Pyromancer
Alchemist



Shapeshift
Druid
Shaman



Enchantment
Enchanter
Telepath
Illusionist (phantasm)



Void
NEGATION
Warlock



Annihilation



Death
Necromancer



Insanity



Divine
CREATION
Cleric



Invocation
Invoker
Telekinet
Illusionist (hologram)
 



Healing
Teleporter
Summoner
Healer
Herbalist



Divination
Paladin
Seer
Diviner
Disembodied Mind








Notes:

The traditional Paladin is all over the place and lacks focus. Probably it is best to understand the Paladin as a Psychic class (sort of like a psionic striker), who uses divine-psychic divination to discern “Truth” and to detect the presence of hostiles to search-and-destroy them. Meanwhile, Charisma represents spiritual resolve and personal commitment to actually function defensively as if armor class and saving throw bonuses, a kind of changing fate. Meanwhile, the Paladin especial targets the psychic-negativity by smiting seductive-or-terrifying devils or insanity-inducing aberrants. As a kind of psychic-arcane “enchanter”, the Paladin focuses on encouraging morale and discouraging hostiles, meanwhile using Charisma to stay in tune with allies and hostiles, aware of motives and needs. Finally, the Paladin functions tactically, at the psychic-martial level. However, unlike the Warlord who focuses on organizing team behavior, the Paladin focuses on intervening to rescue an individual ally, and to coordinate to smite (strike) a particular hostile.

The Cleric is mainly a divine generalist, able to invoke elemental forms (divine-elemental Flamestrike, Wall of Blades, etcetera), heal (divine-primal resurrect), conjure food (divine-primal), and divinate information (divine-psychic). However, the “domain” is defacto a form of multiclassing. The War Cleric picks up Fighter features, and other domains may dabble in other classes. The Sun Cleric seems to pick up some specialization from the Invoker (divine-elemental) class, rather than dabble in a non-divine class.

Here, the Sorcerer returns to the more sinister meaning of the English word “sorcery”, specifically the practice of magic by means of spirits, especially evil spirits (fiends: devils, demons, undead). In other word, sorcery is explicitely “black magic”, magic whose only purpose is to cause harm. The Charisma is to influence and even to intimidate evil spirits.

Notice, there are two kinds of Illusionists. One manipulates the mind to form the psychic subjective hallucenatory phantasm that is a mental effect. The other manipulates radiant light, thunder sound, telekinetic force, and so on to form the elemental objective hologram - transient simulations, like a Star Trek holodeck - that is a physical effect, albeit can be insubstantial if light only.

This primal Monk is Dao-esque, in tune with the Ki/Chi, the lifeforce of the bodily aura. Individual Monks may specialize in strictly primal-martial, especially focusing on animal-esque fighting styles, or else specialize in primal-arcane, to become in tune with the cosmic lifeforce and express flashier magic albeit conveying the life of nature. The interconnectedness of compassion, connects with the primal-divine school, to become in tune with the transcendence of the Dao, the acheivement of Buddha-esque enlightentment, manifesting the higher self, transcending death, and so on.

The Bard is the extreme generalist, of all Twelve Schools. Certainly, the Bard masters the arcane-psychic school of enchantment, in the form of charm and intimidation. But also the arcane-elemental school of evocation in the form of air, sound, thunder, even force and light, essencially the fifth element of quintessence. Moreover, the Bard - for historical reasons - should probably pick up Arcane-Primal Druid features and flavor. Meanwhile the bardic knowledge uses divine-psychic divination, heals by means of divine-primal school. And enjoys the suite of martial elemental-primal-and-psychic schools. From Fighter fighting styles to Warlord tactics, and trickery.


 


 

Needs to be relevant and needs to lead to adventures there. 

My problem with planar travel is there's never been an excel;lent reason why those who can travel to thsoe planes dont just come down and smash the face of Ansalon into submission. 

So planar travel maybe needs to be described in a way that does niot allow easy access and egress is even more difficult. 

the planes themselves need to serve a purpose.  The howling winds of Purgation need to have some try that linkis to the Prime material.  what goes there?  how does it get there.  how would it return and would it ever?  what makes that so?  Planes make little sense if they have no real chance of ever being adventured in.

Deities should have their own plane of existence.  many of the existign PLanes lore should be tied to that and these are the "Heavens and Hells" we asire to on the prime material plane and where our deeds receive a just reward.

Once we know that, only death or Gawdly miracle can get you there.  Otherwise, whats the point?

Then there are the nine hells where the faithless and the lost who never chose a side go.  I actually love the ideas that Warhammer gives about what daemons are:  immaterium that is the essence of avarice, greed and all the negative things in the world, sort of manifesting itself and growing with each ages angst.  A place of unholy torture and depravity, for all the most banal thoughts and faithless creatures are here, in constant war.

And there needs to be a way to explain why thsi never spills out but in dribbles on the Prime material.

The elemental planes have always made a Plato sort of sense to me.  He envisioned this sort of thing:  perfection, reflected into reality.  If we use Plato's ideas, we coul imagine that the four things our planet is primarily made of must have come from somewhere...and stopped coming from somewhere at some point.  r perhaps a plane that replaces that which is lost.  the Earth plane is tough to explin though...  Denizens of it would make the most sense if they are volcanic, but that gets into fire and so on...  tough plane to put a thumb on.

I want the planes to make adventuring sense and to be seen as nearly unattainable where epid deeds are written in thestars forever and returning may never be an option.  the gates we create to those places are small, feeting and dangerous to open.

The details of how they connect should be represented in the way that it makes the most roleplaying snese that they did.  Even if that seems structurally impossible, nothing is when the Gawds and their playhouses are concerned.
[Planar travel] needs to be relevant and needs to lead to adventures there.

My problem with planar travel is there's never been an excellent reason why those who can travel to thsoe planes dont just come down and smash the face of Ansalon into submission. 

So planar travel maybe needs to be described in a way that does niot allow easy access and egress is even more difficult. 

the planes themselves need to serve a purpose.  The howling winds of Purgation need to have some try that linkis to the Prime material.  what goes there?  how does it get there.  how would it return and would it ever?  what makes that so?  Planes make little sense if they have no real chance of ever being adventured in.

Deities should have their own plane of existence.  many of the existign PLanes lore should be tied to that and these are the "Heavens and Hells" we asire to on the prime material plane and where our deeds receive a just reward.

Once we know that, only death or Gawdly miracle can get you there.  Otherwise, whats the point?

Then there are the nine hells where the faithless and the lost who never chose a side go.  I actually love the ideas that Warhammer gives about what daemons are:  immaterium that is the essence of avarice, greed and all the negative things in the world, sort of manifesting itself and growing with each ages angst.  A place of unholy torture and depravity, for all the most banal thoughts and faithless creatures are here, in constant war.

And there needs to be a way to explain why thsi never spills out but in dribbles on the Prime material.

The elemental planes have always made a Plato sort of sense to me.  He envisioned this sort of thing:  perfection, reflected into reality.  If we use Plato's ideas, we coul imagine that the four things our planet is primarily made of must have come from somewhere...and stopped coming from somewhere at some point.  r perhaps a plane that replaces that which is lost.  the Earth plane is tough to explin though...  Denizens of it would make the most sense if they are volcanic, but that gets into fire and so on...  tough plane to put a thumb on.

I want the planes to make adventuring sense and to be seen as nearly unattainable where epid deeds are written in thestars forever and returning may never be an option.  the gates we create to those places are small, feeting and dangerous to open.

The details of how they connect should be represented in the way that it makes the most roleplaying snese that they did.  Even if that seems structurally impossible, nothing is when the Gawds and their playhouses are concerned.

Different story settings will explain the planes in different ways. Some setting will have a “Feywild” others wont, some will have deities inhabiting a kind of “Mount Olympus”, others will lack deities, and so on. The rationale for planar travel will likewise differ.



As far as “core” assumptions go, I think its ok for D&D to assume the existence of at least three or better four “levels of reality”, regardless of how each setting describes these and maps them out.

Mundane world = martial power source.
Spirit world = arcane power source. Potentially this is the abodes of nonhuman spirits: psychic mindscapes, primal nature spirits, and elementals.
Nether world = anti-divine power source. This is potentially the abodes of fiends, psychic devils, primal undeads, and elemental demons. This is a negativity without creation: void, lifelessness, primordial confusion versus the substance, life, and meaning of positivity. “Nether” literally means “lower”, but this emptiness could be anywhere. The nether world itself is nothingness. It has zero power. So the apparent power of negative fiends is actually a misuse of the positivity creation. Consider how the nothingness of a blackhole can wrap itself inside the positivity of a star that it is destroying, and how even the power of the gravity of the blackhole comes from the positivity of the mass of the star.
Eternal world = divine power source. This is the infinite source of creativity, potentially unapproachable like the Positive Plane, or explorable like the Astral Sea, an angelic platonic realm of ideals featuring diverse archetypes that inform the symbols by which the universe becomes sensical.



Each setting needs to decide what these three “worlds” look like, and importantly how and how frequently they interact.

I agree, most adventure settings need some reason for stability. For example, demons dont normally tear thru a village in corporeal form, so somehow something prevents them.

Typically, a D&D setting can explain the stability of these worlds as: Karma. The eternal world is infinite, and the mundane world is its finite center. (By definition a finite place is the center of infinity.) The spirit world is a wavering bridge connecting the two, representing how the finite engages the infinite potential. The entire mundane universe is like a small empty bubble inside an infinite sea of light. Into this dark bubble, light trickles in, and all the stuff of this mundane world is made out of this partial access to infinite light. The bubble is the center of this infinite sea of light, but Humans are somehow the center of this buble - the center of this mundane universe, existentially speaking. Everything that happens in the mundane world is because of the mental intentions and the actual physical actions of Humans. Therefore, Humans unwittingly invite or prevent the influences from the infinite eternal world and thus from the resulting spirit world, depending on the collective and individual decisions and actions that Humans do. Whence Karma. When an individual becomes altruistic and helpful, the universe itself becomes altruistic and helpful toward that individual, in other words more of the infinite light of positivity trickles in to enhance the life and power of that individual. So the individual (who is leveling upward) can become even more altruistic and helpful. The opposite can be true too, shutting out light thus allowing darkness and void.

So Karma is an explanation that can apply generically to most D&D settings that use the worlds. Of course, each setting can still create its own explanations for stability, or even prefer if there is no stability, so the planar worlds intermingle in a churning chaos.

In sum, beings from other planes (whether good or evil, lawful or chaotic) cannot enter to interfere with the mundane world ... unless Humans are specifically doing something - knowing or not - to invite them.

This principle of Humans as the center of the universe (humanocentrism) - even if existentially true - can also extend to why planar travel is difficult. Humans must be “thinning” the veils between these worlds in order to project their consciousness, or to enter bodily thru gates, or to transmogrify into the spiritual essenses of these other realms. Other beings can only break into the mundane world if humans have already created the breakthru.
In light of the recent survey on spells, divine spellcasters can do some cool stuff too.

Divine spellcasters can be the main ones responsible for:

DIVINATION SCHOOL
• Divination > Clairvoyance > project mind > project body > Teleportation > Dimension Door > Planeshift > Gate
• Divination > see future > influence future > probability manipulation > luck > Bless
• Divination > probability manipulation > Entropic Shield 
• Divination > see future > project into future > time travel > Time Hop
• Divination > time travel > Time Stop
• Clairvoyance > project mind > transfigure body into immaterial disembodied mind

HEALING SCHOOL
• eternal world > realm of ideals
• connect to ideal self > higher self beyond space, time, death > Resurrection > Heal-Cure
• connect to ideal self > boost Strength, Intelligence, etc.
• connect to ideal self of other creature > summon avatar > Planar Ally
• connect to ideal self > Wish, Limited Wish, Miracle

INVOCATION SCHOOL
• invocation > quintessence, fifth element, immaterial substance of spirit > light and force
• light and force > positivity, positive energy > both gentle healing and harsh harming
• light and force > “laser” radiant damage, gravitational/high-pressure force damage
• manifestation of light and force > Flamestrike (not really fire element, but searing light and force) 
• light and force > manipulate force > Telekinesis
• light and force > animate force > force construct > Invisible Servant
• manifestation of light and force > Blade Barrier
• manifestation of light and force > hologram > Star Trek holodeck > physically existing objective illusion (but not mental subjective hallucenatory phantasm)
• manifestation of force > Shield 

Note, when angels appear in the material world, they are really manifestations of light and force, in other words, made out of quintessence.
I am continuing to finetune the twelve schools, to make them as coherent, universal, and easy to understand as possible.

A look at how the 3e psionic disciplines fit in, suggests Teleportation may work best as an aspect of Primal. It brings in both mental mindforce and physical matter to a new location. It relates strongly to communion with ideals of the eternal world, such as summoning Planar Allies, as avatars. It also relates to nature spirits manifesting as avatars, and summoning natural creatures as allies. Ultimately Teleportation suggests the interconnection of things and the transcendence beyond space and time. Teleportation is tricky. There is a fine line between Divination sending your mindforce to a location, and Teleportation bringing your body with you.



Psionic Disciplines
Schools
Sources 























 



Elemental


PHYSICAL FORCE



Primal


VITAL LIFEFORCE



Psychic


MENTAL MINDFORCE



Arcane


TRANSFORMATION



Evocation
/Psychokinesis
4 Elements: Inorganic Form



Shapeshift*
/Psychometabolism
Organic Form



Enchantment
/Telepathy



Divine


CREATION



Conjuration**
/Metacreativity
5th Element: Force-Light



Teleportation
/Psychoportation

(Healing***)



Divination
/Clairsentience




* Note, I divide the transmutation school into two separate categories. I see a big difference between “transmogrification” into inorganic forms, like gaseous form, stoneskin, wall of iron, and so on, which feels more elemental, emphasizing matter - versus “shapeshifting” into organic forms, like animals and plants, including wildshape, barkskin, fabricating leather, and so on, which feels more primal, emphasizing lifeforce. Shapeshift also includes being in tune with nature spirits.
** Here, arcane Psychokinesis only refers to manipulating the four elements, similar to “bending” in the Last Avatar series. By contrast, the ability to manipulate the fifth element corresponding to force-and-radiance, namely telekinesis as manipulating force itself, is divine.
*** Healing is something that both divine Cleric and primal Druid do well, but D&D psionic generally doesnt. This method of healing connects to the eternal ideal of the lifeforce, even beyond death.
From the Gen Con conferences, it seems Forgotten Realms, FR, will be the default setting for 5e.

Sounds workable.

It seems there probably wont be a “generic setting”. Great! 

There will simply be full-on settings to choose among. WotC will focus on one setting at a time to present it comprehensively and in depth. Each is an intensive project lasting about two years. FR is simply the first setting WotC is focusing on.



For me, this means the rules and mechanics must be as setting neutral as possible. At the same time, the initial rulebook can come with specifically FR content, as an example to show how to use these rules in a specific setting.

For example, the Cleric class can be as setting-neutral as possible, referring to “spirituality”, without any cosmological or theological assumptions, thus avoid referrences to gods. Then the Forgotten Realms Setting, where polytheism is an objective reality, can show how the Clerics fit in, each being dedicated to a specific god.

But in other settings, the Cleric class will function differently with different spiritual traditions, such as animism, monotheism, and so on. The Eberron Setting is officially agnostic, with many spiritual traditions but none with ontological objectivity, and the Dark Sun Setting is officially atheistic, albeit arguably animistic.

In any case, the lack of a generic setting means the D&D players will choose for themselves which setting is most appropriate for their current adventurers, including the option of homebrew. Hopefully, the rules will be as neutral as possible without any assumptions about the cosmology and theology. At the same time, the books can present as a sample, a fully fleshed out setting that is rich in detail - such as FR.
In the video interview by Kentucky Fried Gamers at Gen Con, Mike Mearls confirmed the default setting for 5e will be Forgotten Realms.

However they will strive to provide conversions of other settings electronically, to serve in the meantime, until later, when they can focus on each setting more comprehensively.
[Planar travel] needs to be relevant and needs to lead to adventures there.

My problem with planar travel is there's never been an excellent reason why those who can travel to thsoe planes dont just come down and smash the face of Ansalon into submission. 

So planar travel maybe needs to be described in a way that does niot allow easy access and egress is even more difficult. 

the planes themselves need to serve a purpose.  The howling winds of Purgation need to have some try that linkis to the Prime material.  what goes there?  how does it get there.  how would it return and would it ever?  what makes that so?  Planes make little sense if they have no real chance of ever being adventured in.

Deities should have their own plane of existence.  many of the existign PLanes lore should be tied to that and these are the "Heavens and Hells" we asire to on the prime material plane and where our deeds receive a just reward.

Once we know that, only death or Gawdly miracle can get you there.  Otherwise, whats the point?

Then there are the nine hells where the faithless and the lost who never chose a side go.  I actually love the ideas that Warhammer gives about what daemons are:  immaterium that is the essence of avarice, greed and all the negative things in the world, sort of manifesting itself and growing with each ages angst.  A place of unholy torture and depravity, for all the most banal thoughts and faithless creatures are here, in constant war.

And there needs to be a way to explain why thsi never spills out but in dribbles on the Prime material.

The elemental planes have always made a Plato sort of sense to me.  He envisioned this sort of thing:  perfection, reflected into reality.  If we use Plato's ideas, we coul imagine that the four things our planet is primarily made of must have come from somewhere...and stopped coming from somewhere at some point.  r perhaps a plane that replaces that which is lost.  the Earth plane is tough to explin though...  Denizens of it would make the most sense if they are volcanic, but that gets into fire and so on...  tough plane to put a thumb on.

I want the planes to make adventuring sense and to be seen as nearly unattainable where epid deeds are written in thestars forever and returning may never be an option.  the gates we create to those places are small, feeting and dangerous to open.

The details of how they connect should be represented in the way that it makes the most roleplaying snese that they did.  Even if that seems structurally impossible, nothing is when the Gawds and their playhouses are concerned.

Different story settings will explain the planes in different ways. Some setting will have a “Feywild” others wont, some will have deities inhabiting a kind of “Mount Olympus”, others will lack deities, and so on. The rationale for planar travel will likewise differ.



As far as “core” assumptions go, I think its ok for D&D to assume the existence of at least three or better four “levels of reality”, regardless of how each setting describes these and maps them out.

Mundane world = martial power source.
Spirit world = arcane power source. Potentially this is the abodes of nonhuman spirits: psychic mindscapes, primal nature spirits, and elementals.
Nether world = anti-divine power source. This is potentially the abodes of fiends, psychic devils, primal undeads, and elemental demons. This is a negativity without creation: void, lifelessness, primordial confusion versus the substance, life, and meaning of positivity. “Nether” literally means “lower”, but this emptiness could be anywhere. The nether world itself is nothingness. It has zero power. So the apparent power of negative fiends is actually a misuse of the positivity creation. Consider how the nothingness of a blackhole can wrap itself inside the positivity of a star that it is destroying, and how even the power of the gravity of the blackhole comes from the positivity of the mass of the star.
Eternal world = divine power source. This is the infinite source of creativity, potentially unapproachable like the Positive Plane, or explorable like the Astral Sea, an angelic platonic realm of ideals featuring diverse archetypes that inform the symbols by which the universe becomes sensical.



Each setting needs to decide what these three “worlds” look like, and importantly how and how frequently they interact.

I agree, most adventure settings need some reason for stability. For example, demons dont normally tear thru a village in corporeal form, so somehow something prevents them.

Typically, a D&D setting can explain the stability of these worlds as: Karma. The eternal world is infinite, and the mundane world is its finite center. (By definition a finite place is the center of infinity.) The spirit world is a wavering bridge connecting the two, representing how the finite engages the infinite potential. The entire mundane universe is like a small empty bubble inside an infinite sea of light. Into this dark bubble, light trickles in, and all the stuff of this mundane world is made out of this partial access to infinite light. The bubble is the center of this infinite sea of light, but Humans are somehow the center of this buble - the center of this mundane universe, existentially speaking. Everything that happens in the mundane world is because of the mental intentions and the actual physical actions of Humans. Therefore, Humans unwittingly invite or prevent the influences from the infinite eternal world and thus from the resulting spirit world, depending on the collective and individual decisions and actions that Humans do. Whence Karma. When an individual becomes altruistic and helpful, the universe itself becomes altruistic and helpful toward that individual, in other words more of the infinite light of positivity trickles in to enhance the life and power of that individual. So the individual (who is leveling upward) can become even more altruistic and helpful. The opposite can be true too, shutting out light thus allowing darkness and void.

So Karma is an explanation that can apply generically to most D&D settings that use the worlds. Of course, each setting can still create its own explanations for stability, or even prefer if there is no stability, so the planar worlds intermingle in a churning chaos.

In sum, beings from other planes (whether good or evil, lawful or chaotic) cannot enter to interfere with the mundane world ... unless Humans are specifically doing something - knowing or not - to invite them.

This principle of Humans as the center of the universe (humanocentrism) - even if existentially true - can also extend to why planar travel is difficult. Humans must be “thinning” the veils between these worlds in order to project their consciousness, or to enter bodily thru gates, or to transmogrify into the spiritual essenses of these other realms. Other beings can only break into the mundane world if humans have already created the breakthru.



Another alternative would be anti-Karma, where the universe throws in opposition to the adventurers to try to maintain a sort of balance. Heroes , doing good, would mean more, and more powerful, evil beings would emerge. Likewise, if the players were playing corrupted power-hungry individuals, more and more good things would be cast into the world. This would also provide a means for the DM to justify the player's adventures. ;)
Another alternative would be anti-Karma, where the universe throws in opposition to the adventurers to try to maintain a sort of balance. Heroes , doing good, would mean more, and more powerful, evil beings would emerge. Likewise, if the players were playing corrupted power-hungry individuals, more and more good things would be cast into the world. This would also provide a means for the DM to justify the player's adventures.

There is some truth to that, as people do more good, they the bring more good into the world - more positive power - but also more negative energy gathers to oppose the increase to balance out. I never thought of the negativity as “anti-karma”. Still there is a sense the negativity depends on human behavior, and the positivity is infinite, so eventually - after many generations - the negativity runs out and meanwhile there are noticeable improvements in the world. I guess the essence is, the community that does good can take on bigger challenges.

In the video interview by Kentucky Fried Gamers at Gen Con, Mike Mearls confirmed the default setting for 5e will be Forgotten Realms.

However they will strive to provide conversions of other settings electronically, to serve in the meantime, until later, when they can focus on each setting more comprehensively.


Looks like we're going to have to struggle with un-linking the setting from the rules again, just like in 3.x and 4e. When will WotC realize that some of what made 2e lightning in a bottle was that it was completely setting- agnostic?
In the video interview by Kentucky Fried Gamers at Gen Con, Mike Mearls confirmed the default setting for 5e will be Forgotten Realms.

However they will strive to provide conversions of other settings electronically, to serve in the meantime, until later, when they can focus on each setting more comprehensively.


Looks like we're going to have to struggle with un-linking the setting from the rules again, just like in 3.x and 4e. When will WotC realize that some of what made 2e lightning in a bottle was that it was completely setting- agnostic?



I agree, I strongly want a setting-neutral, setting-agnostic, core.

On the other hand, the official use of Forgotten Realms might be a good thing. Possibly, each setting could reprint the core rules. The core rules themselves would have open suggestive flavor, but a window on the page can go into great detail for how these rules take shape within the Forgotten Realms Setting.

You are probably right, a setting-agnostic core made AD&D successful.  
I updated the table in the Original Post.

Mainly, the Psionic (psychic) D&D tradition so closely links telekinesis to telepathy, it is undesirable to separate them too far from each other. This requires a reevaluation of the deep structure in play.

Mainly the D&D concept of “force”.

In sum, there needs to be two kinds of “force”:
• embodied force, such as the force of gravity or the force of extreme pressure deep under the sea.
• disembodied force, the power of the mind-over-matter.

In fact, these function different enough to deserve two locations, the first belongs with the Fifth Element among the fundamental forces of the universe, like light and gravity. The second belongs with divination, among other aspects of mind-over-matter such as out-of-body projection and esp clairvoyance.

In the D&D tradition, the term force has been somewhat of a non-word. For example, a blade “made out of force” might deal “force damage”. But really, it doesnt. A blade made out of force would be a virtually real object with the qualities of solidity, and would deal normal physical damage, in other words, “slashing damage”.

Force damage should remain for extreme gravity, extreme speeds, extreme pressures, ... as well as telekinetic pushing.

Finally, the disembodied force of telekinesis is even more mysterious than the embodied force of gravity, a quality of mass. Here it is an aspect of quantum probabilities and the ability of a mind as an observer to interfere with and influence outcomes. In this sense, it works well with other aspects of divination such as luck.

As a result, the quasi-real objective illusions that are manifestations of the quintessence (similar to how angels manifest physically), a kind of conjuration, dont involve telekinetic force, per se. These focus on actual physical manifestations of objects and creatures, in the D&D tradition of temporary “conjurations” made out of arcane energy and “psionic metacreativity”. Meanwhile, telekinesis is almost strictly movement and motion.

Thus a Telekinetic Psion becomes much less “flashy”.

The “void” source of magic has some curious qualities.

It relates to the 4e concept of Shadow, but avoids that highly confusing term that means different things. It also relates to necromancy and demonology. Negativity generally.

However it is literally nothing, the magic of nothingness. The effects are the results of creating partly nothingness, while the rest of the something continues on with the lack. Hence the void magic source includes the schools of physical Annihilation (such as disintegration and darkness), vital Death (such as disease and undead), and mental Insanity (such as amnesia and lack of trust).

But void magic also includes the themes of abjuration (such as to negate and dispel spells), and even exorcism to eliminate the fiend spirits who dedicate themselves to destroying the cosmos.

The void source is clearly not a force in itself. Indeed, it is an absence. A rupture in the infinite that makes the finite limits possible.

In this sense, the void source is weird. On the one hand, the mage who masters divine magic also masters void magic as well, both to exorcise fiends and to abjure harmful spells. Also philosophically using nothingness as part of the creative process, as well as to restore an absence to repair damage.

On the other hand, the mage who masters void magic, instead, masters arcane magic as well, using the powers of transformation to inflict the damage of nothingness. For example, a void mage of the school of insanity will master the arcane school of enchantment to create charms and phantasms to inflict unreality - a lack of sanity.

It is awkward to structure the void source, but it seems best as the threshold between the divine creativity from the infinite and the arcane transformations within the finite.
The alchemical elements connect well with the damage types.

Ether (fifth element, quintessence, celestial, positive energy, spirit, mind, aura, etherealness)
• Radiant
• Force
• Psychic
• Holy 

Air
• Lightning
• Thunder

Water
• Cold

Fire
• Fire

Earth
• Slash
• Pierce
• Bludgeon

Corruption
• Poison
• Necrotic
• Acid
• Unholy

 
The elements are never completely separate from eachother. Normally, even a person who focuses on a single element in the foreground, still accesses at least one other element as background, to round out the feel of the element. Similar to a yin-yang balance.
[UPDATE NOV 1]



Here is an analysis of all of the spells and spell schools in the new Playtest Packet (102912) - summarized in the table below. The spell themes fall clearly into clusters corresponding to the table.

Note, in the Playtest, some of the spell “schools” enjoy a meaning that is useful and crystal clear, such as evocation and divination. But other schools are sprawling randomness, such as abjuration, since some spells are called abjuration while virtually identical spells are instead called by other schools. The unclear organization makes abjuration a useless gaming mechanic that will ultimately confuse and hobble future game designs. On the other hand, the word “abjuration” seems like a good name for a school dedicated specifically to anti-magic spells, such as Dispel Magic and Protection from Evil.

In the analysis, spells clearly cluster by themes. Each cluster groups into a “school”, and corresponds somewhat to the schools of 3e, such as Enchantment and Evocation. The clustering schools organize by power sources: Arcane and Divine, plus Void, which is a kind of anti-school. Now each of these power sources divide into Physical, Mental, or Vital. Vital is a blend of Physical and Mental (body and mind) and focuses on the themes of lifeforce (soul) of living creatures.


   
So far, the spells that the Playtest identifies with the illusion school, are clearly mental or clearly intangeable. This quality makes the Playtest illusion school meaningfully different from the conjuration school that can produces tangeable effects. Yet the categorization for this illusion school remains ambiguous: is it a Mental aspect as a subjective hallucenation or a Physical aspect as an objective conjuration of a hologram? Such a conjuration might be made of intangeable light, but light is Physical nontheless. This is the ambivalent nature of D&D illusion, sometimes Mental hallucenatory phantasms and othertimes Physical holographic glamers. I would love to split these into separate, obviously different concepts. But for now, the analysis relocates the illusion school, as a whole, into the Vital aspect as a blend of both Mental and Physical. Even if the effect involves a Physical change, the power of illusion relies on the sensations and interpretations of living creatures.

Perhaps it is fitting if the illusion school as a Vital aspect correlates with the dreamy phenomena of primal (animistic) cultures. It also seems fitting the “Shapeshifting” school includes both alteration by physical transmutation and alteration by perceptual illusion. Likewise in the Anti-Vital aspect of the Void source, the deathly ghosts associate more closely with the Vital aspect of illusion.
 
Organizing illusion in the Vital aspect also means removing illusion from the Mental aspect. So now the Mental aspect focuses mainly on Arcane Enchantment (Telepathy and Telekinesis), and also on Divine Divination (Scrying and Luck), which is how many players view the essence of the Psion class.



In the playtest, transmution is also a sprawling less well defined school. It seems to mostly relate to the shapechange of a living creature.

This focus on “living” versus “nonliving” forces me to reconsider an earlier taxonomy. Earlier, the Physical and Vital aspects clearly distinguish between “inorganic” substances versus “organic” substances, respectively. In other words, it is the difference between a rock and a plant. By extension the Physical inorganic would manipulate objects of metal and fire, while the Vital organic would manipulate objects of wood and leather. There are a number of good reasons to divide the manipulation of objects, thematically this way. But it seems too fine a detail for many players to find helpful. By contrast, players are more  familiar with the distinction between “nonliving” versus “living”.

Certainly, this distinction between nonliving versus living corresponds well to Physical versus Vital. The result of the analysis is, the Physical aspect will handle all the alterations of “nonliving objects”, whether wood or metal, or fire or bone). Meanwhile the Vital aspect will handle all alterations of living beings, even people who shapechange into iron statues. Ultimately this is inelegant for organizing themes. For example, Druids who are Vital associate closely with shapechanging into metal (albeit the D&D tradition does this anyway by wildshaping into Earth Elemental). But the living-versus-nonliving divide seems more useful for gaming purposes.



By the way, many spells relating to transmutation seem to be missing with the delay of the Druid class.



Soon, I will revise the Original Post to reflect some the refinements resulting from the analysis of the Playtest Spells. In any case, with the above in mind, the analysis of the spells and spell schools in the Playtest is as follows. 



SOURCE
SCHOOL
THEME





























 


 


 



ELEMENTAL

(MATTER)

(PHYSICAL ALCHEMICAL)
 



LIFEFORCE

(MIND-MATTER)

(VITAL PRIMAL SOUL)



PSYCHIC

(MIND)

(MENTAL PSIONIC)



ARCANE

(TRANSFORMATION)



EVOCATION

evocation
0
Burning Hands
Ray of Frost
Shocking Grasp
1
Thunderwave
2
Melf’s Acid Arrow
Scorching Ray
3
Fireball
Lightning Bolt
4
Ice Storm
Wall of Fire
5
Flame Strike
Cone of Cold



transmutation (fabrication)
0
Prestidigitation
2
Knock
 



SHAPESHIFT

transmutation
3
Water Breathing
4
Divine Power
Polymorph

abjuration (transmutation)
4
Stoneskin



illusion
0
Disguise Self
Minor Illusion
1
Color Spray
2
Invisibility
Mirror Image
Phantasmal Force


 



ENCHANTMENT

enchantment (telepathy)
1
Command
Charm Person
Sleep
2
Hold Person
Zone of Truth
5
Dominate Person
Hold Monster

abjuration (telepathy)
1
Sanctuary  


  
transmutation (telekinesis)
1
Feather Fall
2
Levitate
Spider Climb
5
Telekinesis

abjuration (telekinesis)
0
Mage Armor
Shield of Faith

evocation (telekinesis)
1
Magic Missile
2
Spiritual Weapon

conjuration (telekinesis)
1
Shield
3
Fly




VOID

(NEGATION)



ANNIHILATION

evocation (annihilation)
2
Darkness

illusion (annihilation)
2
Silence



DEATH

necromancy (harm)
1
Inflict Light Wounds
2
Inflict Moderate Wounds
3
Inflict Serious Wounds
4
Inflict Critical Wounds



necromancy
3
Speak with Dead

divination (necromancy)
1
Detect Undead



MEANINGLESSNESS
 
abjuration

1
Protection from Evil
3
Dispel Magic



DIVINE

(CREATION)



CONJURATION

conjuration
0
Create Water
Mage Hand
2
Web
3
Create Food and Water
Stinking Cloud
5
Cloudkill



evocation (ether)
0
Lance of Faith
Light
3
Daylight



SUMMONING

conjuration (heal)
0
Cure Minor Wounds
1
Cure Light Wounds
2
Cure Moderate Wounds
Lesser Restoration
3
Cure Serious Wounds
Prayer
4
Cure Critical Wounds
5
Cure Wounds, Mass
Raise Dead

enchantment (heal)
2
Aid

abjuration (heal)
4
Death Ward



conjuration (teleportation)
4
Dimension Door

transmutation (teleportation)
2
Rope Trick
3
Blink
Haste




DIVINATION

divination (prescience)
0
Detect Magic
Guidance
Read Magic
1
Comprehend Languages
Identify
2
Augury
4
Divination
5
Commune
True Seeing


  
evocation (luck)
1
Divine Favor

enchantment (luck)
1
Bless

abjuration (luck)
0
Resistance






The Three Aspects

The most salient divisions of tropes of magic are the three aspects:

Psychic - mental effects (telepathy, enchantment, charm, fear, inspirational healing, hallucenatory phantasm, blindspot invisibility, telekinesis, force, flight, outofbody, remote viewing, clairvoyance, prophecy, divination, lore, prescience, luck, probability, fate) (negative: insanity, amnesia, unconsciousness)

Lifeforce - mental-physical effects (shapeshift, heal, lifeform, shamanism, summon avatar, ghostly quasi-real illusion, teleportation) (negative: necromancy, undeath, death)

Elemental - physical effects (the five mystic elements and transmutation into elemental forms: earth, fire, water, air, and ether, where ether is the substance of spirit but includes effects such as electromagnetic radiant, lightning, etherealness) (negative: disintegration, corrosion, annihilation)



These three aspects organize spells into a useful and flavorful selection of tropes. Each enjoys a plethora of options to choose from.
In the sorting thru the tropes that prevail in D&D, Illusion has been difficult to catagorize. Seemingly it is everywhere from physical Elemental angelic ethereal manifestations, to mental Psychic telepathic hallucenations reinforced by telekinetic force, even something that necromancers do. The key to Illusion is it is both - physical and mental. Thus it is an aspect of the Lifeforce, the energy of life. Catagorizing Illusion within the Lifeforce source feels satisfying and stable. This context of Illusion within Lifeforce allows fruitful discussions about the tropes concerning Illusion.



The following quotes from my posts in threads elsewhere seem pertinent here too.




Illusion is vivid, bright and colorful, the opposite of shadow. I feel it is an important point.
That is why Illusion has more to do with the manifestations of the energy of life - mind and matter.

That said, Illusion can addition to brilliant experiences, can also include the appearance of absence, invisibility, and the appearance of murkiness, mist, darkness, and masks of obscurity.






In this context, the “Shadow” of the Shadow Dancer involves tropes that organize solidly within the magic of Lifeforce.

This kind of Shadow really refers to an aspect of the spirit world, whence the ghostliness: spiritualizing, teleporting, fading, invisibility. However, it doesnt necessarily involve “death”, this spirit world is just as easily the realm of nature spirits or the celestial realm of angels.

This kind of ghostliness corresponds to semi-real objective illusion. Different from imaginary subjective “hallucenation”, this partially real illusion is the interface between this world and the spirit world that lies behind the “veil”. As manifestations of the spirit world, it is unclear whether the illusion is real or unreal because it is both. Potentiality and realization intermingle.

This kind of interaction with the spirit world, resembles shamanic spirit journeys that also accompany real objective effects. This connection with shamanic traditions links it with Lifeforce magic.

This kind of entry into the spirit world, thereby achieving vanishing and teleportation, represents a moment where mind and matter are the same thing. The physical body is wherever the mind imagines. This fusion of mind-and-matter is the essence of the soul, thus links it with Lifeforce magic.

The quasi-real quality of these fleeting illusions involves the same kind of magic as the summoning of avatars from the spirit worlds. These avatars manifest physically from the spiritual world into the material world, similar to the way ghosts do. But these avatars are not ghosts. They are angels, animal spirits, and so on across the chain of being of living beings. In this way too, this kind of semi-real manifestation of spirit relates Lifeforce magic.

Finally, undeathly necromancy is also an aspect of Lifeforce magic, albeit a negative one. The bodily zombie is a dead body that uses magic to mindlessly animate it. Oppositely a ghostly shade is a dead mind that uses magic to insubstantially animate it. Where Lifeforce magic is the blend of both mind and body, negative necromancy is the sickening rotting oblivious lurching of one aspect being dead because of the absence of the other.

That said, there might be necromantic Shadow Dancers who achieve their magic precisely by entering the undeathly worlds of shades. But perhaps most Shadow Dancers have nothing to do with undeath. Ultimately, illusion and teleportation are a manifestation of the lifeforce - the soul - whether personal or collective.

The Bard class blends Psychic magic and Lifeforce magic, plus Martial.



Psychic Source
• Inspiration (Morale, Buff, Debuff)
• Prescience (Prediction, Lore, Clairvoyance, Luck)
• Enchantment (Charm)

Lifeforce Source
• Healing
• Shapeshifting

Psychic-Lifeforce Blend
• Protection by means of various themes (prevent wounds, prevent evil spirits, etcetera)

Martial Source



The above sources and their specific themes supply the options for Bard class builds for various character concepts.




  
I hope to see a historically accurate Celtic Bard, as the default Bard.

This Bard is a court poet, whose songs of either praise or satire, magically inspire or demoralize, respectively.

Above all else, the Bard personifies magical inspiration.



Bards are actually families, a sacred caste, learning their magical skills from their parents. Unfortunately, not all of the children were able to find a noble court to patronize them. These are the ones who used their talents to entertain in taverns, sometimes traveling like minstrels. On the one hand, it was a dishonorable situation demoting the reputation of their family among the nobles. On the other hand, they often enjoyed celebrity status among the general population. The poverty of an artist, hanging out in taverns, surviving on the streets, can prompt the aquisition of roguish skills. Interestingly, these bardic families are historically known for their medical skills, enjoying a literate and sophisticated education, and apparently healing magically as well. They are also known for their legal skills, serving in the noble courts in various official functions, including lawyers. The Bards themselves believed it was the Sidhe (comparable to the Faerie) who originated the bardic tradition. One third of the Sidhe were nobles, one third were priests, moreorless Druids, and one third of the sidhe were Bards. Taliesin, an archetypal Bard, is known especially for prophetic inspiration, prophetic prescience, knowledge, enchantment, and even shapeshifting. Wildshape into animals and plants.
 
Bard
• Inspiration (Buff, Debuff)
• Heal
• Prophecy (Prescience, Luck)
• Lore
• Diplomacy
• Law Codes
• Enchantment (Charm)
• Shapeshift

Minstrel
• Roguish skills
• Roguish combat



The Norse Skald is also a court poet, whence a magical inspirer. But this kind of Bard build is less roguish, moreso a warrior poet. The Skald also uses runic magic, which is protective, defensive and healing. In runic magic, ones own mind is the personal source of magic, but the technique often employs spontaneous songs to focus the intent to imbue magical effects. The impromptu song is a kind of verbal component that functions like an optional 4e implement. Actually carving written runes is unnecessary, but is a method of imbuing the spontaneous magical effect into a specific object. Rune carving corresponds to D&D ritual magic. This protective magic is understood as masculine, allowing the spellcaster to enter into dangerous situations honorably. By contrast, deluding magic, especially Charms and Phantasms, are considered feminine magic. However, in Norse society, each gender of magic includes both men and women. For example, some famous Skalds are women.

Skald
• Inspiration (Buff, Debuff)
• Heal
• Prophecy (Prescience, Luck)
• Lore
• Diplomacy
• Law Codes
• Protective Magic (singing to prevent wounds, protect against hostile spirits, and much more) 

Warrior Poet
• Fighter, Ranger, or magical Berserkr (Shapeshift, Rage)

The Skald is the epitome of Norse civilized society. The Berserkr is the epitome of the antisocial behavior of the wilderness. Norse society fears the Berserkar similar to the way moderns might fear lawless drug gangs. Nevertheless, the Skald know the Berserkr shamanic traditions, its violent magical shapeshifting, and some Skalds are known to practice it.

Historically, both the Celtic Bard and Norse Skald are known for high Intelligence. Their poetic skills required extreme memory, and members often competed to show off their knowledge. They were broadly knowledgeable in just about everything there is to know. For example, Snorri who is a Skald is often called “the most educated man in Europe”.

The flavor of a less intelligent entertainer, along the lines of the comical Bard, Elan, would need to refer to a different historical artistic tradition.

The difference between a Bard and a Warlord is the difference between magical and nonmagical.





Skald (Psychic, Lifeforce, Martial)

The Norse Skald (the Viking Bard) knows protective magic, understood to be masculine magic.

There are some famous Skalds who are women, and these appear to take on a transexual identity at least to some degree. The situation is similar to women who choose to become warriors.

In the Poetic Edda, the Hávamál includes a section that lists eighteen magical songs. These are magical effects that a Skald achieves by means of impromptu singing. The source of the magic is personal, ones own mind. The purpose of the singing is to focus the intention of the Skald. It isnt to entertain, but in some situations can be to impress psychologically, memorably, on a target of a magical effect. The singing is impromptu and changes from Skald to Skald and from situation to situation. It is an awareness of the spiritual power of music, especially to inspire courage.

These eighteen songs represent a useful list of the kinds of the protective magic that a Skald can preform. This post analyzes them in the context of D&D, to exemplify a character build for the Bard class that models a Norse Skald.

• Basic Needs (Lifeforce-Psychic): This appears to be a kind of wish spell that specifically fullfills any needs that are necessary for survival of life (Lifeforce) and for restoring cooperation among people (Psychic: Morale). Fulfill basic needs: nourishment, breathing, youthful vigor, restfulness, morale, courage, shelter, etcetera.

Heal (Lifeforce): Achieve medical techniques, heal injuries, cure illnesses, neutralize poisons, etcetera.

• Prevent Injury (Lifeforce): Possibly similar to Temporary Hit Points. Prevent weapons from injuring, prevent plans from harming.

Escape Grabs (Lifeforce Shapeshift): Freedom of Movement, escape grabs of various kinds including restraints.

Stop Flight (Psychic Telekinesis): Stop in midflight any missile weapon or flying object in sight.

• Reverse Curse (Psychic Luck): Prevent curse. Reverse it back onto curser.

• Fire Rescue (Elemental Fire, but possibly Psychic Telekinesis and Luck with Lifeforce Heal and Shapeshift): Grant immunity to fire, extinguish fire, heal and repair damage from fire.

Peace (Psychic Morale Diplomacy): Increase tolerance. Remove hate.

Calm Weather (Elemental Air, but possibly Psychic Telekinesis): Calm winds, especially for smooth sailing.

• Banish Enchantment (Psychic Charm, Lifeforce Spirit): Banish spirts, prevent nightmares, banish remote presence, block scrying, deny telepathy, break enchantments.

• Force Armor (Psychic Telekinesis): Boost AC of teammates. Ritual: Sing under any shields, to imbue all team members with an ongoing protective telekinetic shield. It is similar to the Shield spell that uses telekinetic force to boost AC, but more like fullbody armor protecting from “every side”.

• Calm Undead (Lifeforce Necromancy): Calm hostile undead. Ritual: While singing, carve runes at location of killing, to calm hostility of ghost and to speak with ghost.

Regeneration (Lifeforce): Heal and regenerate broken andor lost bodyparts. Ritual: While singing, sprinkle water on team member. The person benefits from ongoing regenerates hit points. One will not fall in battle and will not sink before swords.

Remember (Psychic Prescience Lore, Lifeforce Heal): Protection against amnesia, healing of mind. Succeed on knowledge check.

Mindforce (Psychic Prescience, Luck, Morale, Competence, Courage, Lifeforce Cosmic Order): Lifeforce power (afl) of Aesir, Psychic success (framr) of Alfar, and mindfulness (hyggja).

• Win Love (Psychic Telepathy, Morale, Competence, Lifeforce Shapeshift): Note, there is a blurry boundary between making oneself more appealing to win the love of an other, versus charming and deluding the mind of an other. However, this effect is in the context of Skald magic that is honorable, not Seidhr enchantment that charms and phantasmalizes. Notably, the purpose of this magic is to actually become the perfect lifelong mate for someone else.

• Find Love (Psychic Telepathy, Prescience): This leads loved ones to each other, as well as conveying the urgency of being together.

Sexuality (Lifeforce): The eighteenth song is intentionally cryptic. The magic effect is something that the Skald doesnt let women know about, except for ones wife or sister, apparently to protect ones masculine honor. In the context of protective magic, it possibly refers to healing impotence and enhancing sexual potency.



In sum, the singing magic of the Norse Skald is protective, and generally blends Psychic magic (including prescience, luck, morale, telepathy, and telekinesis) and Lifeforce magic (including heal, shapeshift, and protection from spirits).

Two effects are simpler to explain as Elemental magic - Fire Rescue and Calm Weather - but it is possible to reexplain these two outliers by means of Psychic and Lifeforce themes.

The last three effects relating to love resemble effects that are known to be part of feminine Seidhr that corresponds to Enchantment Charm and Phantasm. Some scholars suspect these three are an interpolation into the document, added later. However, since it is possible to explain these in a way that betters oneself rather than deludes an other, it is plausible they are an authentic aspect of Skald magic. Sharing ones life with a loved one is part of the wider theme of safeguarding life and wellbeing. This reading strengthens in light of the masculine Skald magic being sung to a tune, as in this context, versus feminine Seidhr magic being spoken.

Because the Skald is a warrior poet in the context of reallife battles, the magic here seems remarkably useful for the D&D game in the context of gaming battles.

Likewise, the Skald protective magic corresponds surprisingly well with the traditional D&D Bard.
The three sources resonate almost any setting. For example, the technological sectors in a near-future setting.

Psychic: Neuro-Cyber Technology
Lifeforce: Bio Technology
Elemental: Materials Technology

Here is a map of the abilities of the mythologically accurate Bard, including both the Celtic Bard and the Norse Skald. As you can see, the protective and enchanting magic of the Bard involves entirely Lifeforce and Psychic themes. There is no Elemental theme.

BARD



































 Psychic
Mind
 
Lifeforce
Mind-Matter
Elemental
Matter
ConjurationPRESCIENCE
Prediction
Guidance
Clairvoyance
Lore
Remember
Mindforce
Find Love

LUCK
Luck
Reverse Curse
 
HEAL
Heal
Regeneration
Prevent Injury (Temp HP)
Fire Rescue (Heal-Kinesis)
Sexuality

WISH
Basic Needs
 
Negation FIENDS

• UNDEAD
Calm Undead
 
 
FormationTELEKINESIS

• THRUST
Stop Missile Flight
Protection from Weather
Force Armor

ENCHANTMENT

• CHARM
Charm
Suggestion

• MORALE
Inspiration to Buff/Debuff
Peace
Win Love (Morale-Shapeshift)

• ANY ENCHANTMENT
Banish Enchantment
 
SHAPESHIFT
Freedom of Movement
Animal Shape
Plant Shape

 
ActionFACE
Diplomacy
Bluff

SCHOLASTICS
Knowledge (Any)
Law Codes

ART
Music
Performance

FOLKMEDICINE
Surgery
Herbalism

ATHLETICS
Run
Jump
Climb
Wrestle
Combat

STEALTH
Disguise
Hide
  
 




Unlike the Lifeforce-Psychic Bard, the Playtest Druid (3/20) is Lifeforce-Elemental.

Actually the Druid has a few spells corresponding to the Psychic source, but these seem undeveloped, unimportant, and peripheral to the Druid flavor. The analysis here strongly recommends deleting these Psychic spells from the Druid the spell list, in order to better distinguish the Druid from other spellcasting classes.

Note, the mythologically accurate Druid has no connection to shapeshift. The Druid is a priest, a member of a sacred caste who serves as a community spiritual leader, ranging from scholar to social worker, and who voice the conscience of the community - similar to Irish Catholic priests today who continue in the Celtic heritage. The Druid spirituality involves agriculture, herding-farming, the cycle of seasons, fertility, and health. Tradition has the Sidhe (corresponding to the Faerie) as the founders of the druidic priestly tradition, with one third of Sidhe forming the aristocratic government caste, one third the priestly druidic caste, and one third the scholastic bardic caste. The historical Druid used various methods of divination, but all of these seem to involve the omens of nature, such as reading clouds (weather witching), the flight of birds (augury), and the alignments of planets (astrology). Thus, rather than engaging the Celtic gods by means of trance, the druidry appears to moreso monitor the activity of nature.




DRUID
Gray: Delete from the Druid spell list






































Psychic
Mind



Lifeforce
Mind-Matter



Elemental
Matter



Conjuration



PRESCIENCE
Guidance
Forseight
Commune



WISH
Wish

HEAL
Cure Wounds
Restoration
Regeneration

TELEPORT
Dimension Door
Plant Door
Plane Shift

DWEOMER
Read Magic
Detect Magic
Dispel Magic
 



ETHER

• RADIANCE
Moonbeam
Sunbeam
Sunburst
Daylight
Flame Strike (Ether-Fire)

• LIGHTNING
Call Lightning



Negation



INSANITY
Confusion
Feeblemind



DEATH*
Blight
Finger of Death




 



Transformation



TELEKINESIS 

• THRUST
Thunderwave
Reverse Gravity


ENCHANTMENT

• CHARM
Charm Person

• COMPULSION
Hold Person
Dominate Person
Dominate Monster



NATURE SPIRITS
[Omens]*
Faerie Fire*
Awaken
Insect Plague
Creeping Doom

SHAPESHIFT
Druidcraft
Pass without Trace
Freedom of Movement
Web
Water Breathing (Gills)
Polymorph

PLANT
Shillelagh
Entangle
Spike Growth
Plant Growth
Bark Skin
Tree Shape
Wall of Thorns

ANIMAL
Animal Messenger
Locate Animals & Plants
Speak with Animals

NOURISHMENT Goodberry
Purify Food and Drink

POISON
Detect Poison
Protection from Poison
 



AIR
Fog Cloud
Gust of Wind
Storm of Vengence
Air Walk
Wind Walk

WATER
Create Water
Water Walk
Sleet Storm

FIRE
Fire Seeds
Flame Blade
Flaming Sphere
Wall of Fire
Firestorm

EARTH
Mending
Meld into Stone
Stoneskin
Wall of Stone
Move Earth
Earthquake

ANY ELEMENT
Resistance
Elemental Mantle
Protection from Energy



Action





FOLKMEDICINE
Herbalism
Surgery



SCHOLASTICS
Knowledge
Religion
Herding-Gardening
Astrology

FACE
Diplomacy
Intimidation
 



Notes
* Druidcraft lacks a spell description.
* Faerie Fire, here it is understood, the light of the soul aura of nature spirits illuminates the targets.
* Harm, the anti-life magic of Blight and Finger of Death, seems to be a statistical outlier in the Druid spell list and seems antithetical to the wider themes of vigorous life and environment. It seems helpful to remove death magic from from the Druid spell list.
* [Omens]. Here, the Lifeforce nature spirits spell, “Omens”, is interpolated to replace the Psychic Prescience spells, Guidance, Foresight, and Commune. This information from Omens derives from the observation of nature spirits and elemental spirits.



Compare the Druid and Ranger. Both classes epitomize the Lifeforce-Elemental sources.

The Druid is a priest of Lifeforce and Elements.

The Ranger is a gish that involves the utility magic of Lifeforce and Elemental.



RANGER
Gray: Delete from the Ranger spell list






































Psychic
Mind



Lifeforce
Mind-Matter



Elemental
Matter



Conjuration



PRESCIENCE
Commune



HEAL
Cure Wounds
Restoration



ETHER

• RADIANCE
Daylight
 



Negation









Transformation





NATURE SPIRITS
[Omens]

SHAPESHIFT
Expeditious Retreat
Barkskin
Pass without Trace
Water Breathing (Gills)
Freedom of Movement

PLANT
Spike Growth
Plant Growth

ANIMAL
Animal Friendship

NOURISHMENT
Goodberry
 



AIR
Fog Cloud
Silence (Air)

WATER
Create Water
Water Walk



Action












 

Just a brief glance at the Playtest (3/20) skill list. The skills divide thematically into the three sources. Lore is a bit tricky because the medium is principally Psychic - knowledge, memory, records, analysis, insight - but the subject matter is often aspects of life. So here Lore lists separately from Skills, according to its subject matter.



Playtest Skills

























Elemental
(Matter)



Lifeforce
(Mind-Matter)



Psychic
(Mind)



Skills



CRAFT
Break an Object Strength



HEAL
Administer First Aid Wisdom

ATHLETICS
Jump Strength
Climb Strength
Balance Dexterity
Swim Strength
Tumble Dexterity

SURVEILLANCE
Listen Wisdom
Search Intelligence
Spot Wisdom

STEALTH
Drive Dexterity
Conceal an Object
Dexterity
Sneak Dexterity

ANIMAL
Handle an Animal Wisdom
Ride Dexterity
 



AFFINITY
Persuade Charisma
Intimidate Charisma
Bluff Charisma
Perform Charisma
Gather Rumors Charisma
Sense Motive Wisdom



Lore



ELEMENTS
[Alchemy]
[Metallurgy]
[Astrology]

ENVIRONMENT
[Terrain]
Subterranean Lore
[Weather]
[Seafaring]

CRAFT



ARCHETYPES
Religious Lore

DWEOMER
Magical Lore

FIEND SPIRITS
Forbidden Lore

NATURE SPIRITS
Folklore

ANIMALS & PLANTS
Natural Lore

COMBAT
Military Lore
 



HUMANITIES
Political Lore







Slightly off topic of thematic organization - some passing comments on the new Playtest skills.



On reading the description for the difference between “Spot” and “Search” ... uggh. There is no difference.



I like Listening as a separate skill. It is useful and flavorful. It can pinpoint the location of an invisible person, for example. As a rule, an unseen person needs to make two noises. The first alerts a presence but surprises. The second allows pinpointing after the listener is focusing. A blind person, however, is always focused when listening. It involves a perceptive Wisdom ability check to Find. But a possible Listening skill bonus can add to it.

Add Scent as a separate skill. It can detect the presence of a close hidden person, even the trail, but not pinpoint a location (until bumping into the person). Scent seems useful for identifying poisons and alchemicals. It includes taste, and is something chefs, perfumers, and other Backgrounds would have. It is more helpful for mechanics to give a hound a bonus to a Scent skill, than to give the hound angelic superhuman Wisdom.

Listing specific senses suggests, the Spot-Search skill should specifically involve Sight. Call it the Sight skill. So if the DM is checking to Find a hidden person, roll Wisdom to Find, then add the highest sense skill, or whichever is specifically relevant. Then relate the discovered phenomenon according to the sense.

Merging and renaming the Spot-Search skill as “Sight” also makes the Blind condition more meaningful. Invisibility, darkness, dense mist, even blindfolds and dirt thrown in eyes, happen often enough. Specifically referring to the Sight skill makes all of this easy to adjudicate. Likewise, the benefits of Listening makes the Deaf condition meaningful. Similarly, a Scent skill can make the presence of overwhelming odor mechanically useful. And fun. Normally, players use Sight to notice something, but situations call for Listening and Scent.



I get the idea of using Intelligence to find clues. But the Playtest “search” skill is doing it wrong. Rather, this Intelligence skill should be called “Recognize”. The Recognize skill never actually finds anything hidden. Rather, after a perceptive Wisdom notices something odd, it is the Recognize skill that figures out what the observer is looking at. Or listening to, or scenting. Usually the hero automatically recognizes the phenomenon. But sometimes, the Difficulty Class is 10 or higher, and identification remains uncertain, obscure, unfamiliar or obscured. For example, a successful Wisdom check to Sight something might reveal a scuff on the floor. But then, a successful Intelligence check to Recognize it, figures out this mark is displaced dust caused by a foot print of an  invisible person, who is still standing there. A Wisdom check to Scent something reveals a peculiar familiar odor. But then a successful Intelligence check can Recognize it is the resin of a rare exotic plant, that the hero once came across in a medicine cabinet. A bruise might be from a specific item. And so on.

Clues that are in plain sight, may still require an Intelligence check to Recognize.



Ride is a useless skill. It can only happen in the same contexts that require either a Dexterity check to Balance, or else a Charisma check to Handle the mount. If saddle or reins are unsecured, make a Dex check to Drive the mount. Delete Ride.

Gather Rumors is an awkward, or even silly skill. Just fold it into the Persuasion skill to determine if people are volunteering information. Likewise, Persuasion is the appropriate skill to seduce information from difficult people.

The description of Intimidate needs to make it clearer that it need not be a personal threat. Simply explaining the undesirable risks and consequences of an endeavor is an example of intimidating dissuasion that can still maintain friendly relations.



Otherwise, the skill system seems pretty good to me. Saying “make a Wisdom check to Listen” works fine with me. Because. I am comfortable with freeform improvisation. With little effort, I can say, “make a Intelligence check to read lips”, a form of the Recognize skill. So, when the rules list “typical” skills that ability checks can accomplish, it doesnt preclude atypical uses of abilities.
Damage Types in Sum

In Sum:

• I like the damage types in play in the playtest. They allow fun flavors and sensible mechanics.

• Force needs to split up into different damage types:

Force = Psychic Telekinesis: invisible force, pushing or pulling, force fields
Spectral = Lifeforce Illusion: visible spectral objects, semi-real illusions

Thunder damage can improve by mentioning the word “explosion”. Downplaying sonic vibration is fine. Explosions are more fun. In addition to shockwave, mention pressure damage in extreme environments.

• I like the different wound types: bludgeon, slash, and pierce. They make weapons feel different in the game. The description of bludgeon can improve by mentioning gravity and the resulting falling damage.

Radiant includes both Elemental Ether and Lifeforce Positivity, namely natural light and spiritual light, and this is ok.

Acid and Disintegration possibly relate with Elemental Void.





Damage Type Themes

Overall, I am happy with the Playtest damage types. Thematically, they divide up as follows, and exhibit satisfactory distribution.



Damage Types Themes





























 



Elemental



Lifeforce



Psychic



Conjure



ETHER
Radiant
Lightning
 



 





Negate



VOID
[Disintegration]
Acid
 



DEATH
Necrotic





Transform



AIR
Thunder

WATER
Cold

FIRE
Fire

EARTH
Bludgeoning
Piercing
Slashing 



ILLUSION
[Spectral]

SHAPESHIFT
Poison



ENCHANTMENT
Psychic

TELEKINESIS
Force






Elemental Damage Types

Thematically, most damage types lean toward Elemental magic: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Ether. This seems appropriate. Elemental magic is physical damage. It tends toward combat application, such as the spells Fire Ball, Lightning Bolt, Cone of Cold, etcetera. Earth magic generally involves trauma from solid shapes, including metal weaponry, whence its forms of damage: bludgeon, slash, pierce. The flavor of the Elemental Wizard can range from an Alchemist geek to an Evoker jock.



The Playtest defines “Thunder” damage. It is an explosion. Especially a detonation.


Thunder damage results from sudden, concussive bursts of sound, usually manifesting as a shockwave or a deafening noise. The shatter, shout, and sound burst spells are examples of effects that deal thunder damage.



To make the description of Thunder even clearer, it would help to use the word “explosion”. The word shockwave refers to the waves of extremely high and low pressure changes that spread out from the blast. A detonation specifically means the shockwave is travelling faster than the speed of sound. This explicit reference to shockwave and sound solidly organizes its theme within the alchemical element of Air. The nomenclature, thunder, likewise seems appropriate for Air.

But note, lightning specifically links with the fifth element, Ether, both in the sense of luminous celestial spirit and in the sense of the electromagnetic properties of light.

Thunder damage results from the “concussive bursts”, the explosion. There is no longer sonic damage, per se, in the sense of structural damage from specific frequencies of sound vibrations. For example, an opera singer can shatter a wineglass by means of voice, not because it is concussive, but because its specific frequency destabilizes its crystalline structure at the molecular level. Just as well, this kind of sonic damage is high tech and futuristic in flavor. If it ever shows up, the DM can just substitute thunder for it. Meanwhile, all pushy explosions deal thunder damage. Good to know.



Natural gravity is something different. In the playtest, gravity damage is identical to bludgeoning damage, especially falling damage. Adventurers are unlikely to encounter extreme acceleration, such as travelling near the speed of light or leaping into a black hole. Still, some D&D planes might exhibit extreme gravity. In these cases, the DM can stick with bludgeoning damage, generally “crushing” damage. As such, gravity damage organizes solidly within the theme of Elemental Earth magic.

Absence of gravity is moreso an aspect of Air magic, and Ether magic. Extremes of pressure such as in a vacuum or on the seafloor, are aspects of thunder damage, specifically aspects of shockwave pressures. Thus pressure damage - exploding or imploding - is an aspect of Air magic, even when it occurs in the vacuum of Void or the weight of Water. Compare, lightning is an aspect of electro-magnetic Ether even when it occurs in the clouds of Air.



Each element includes the seeds of the other elements. For example, weather magic is an aspect of Elemental Air magic, but includes the clouds and rains of Water and the lightning and daylight of Ether. An other example, Fire magic includes the lava and smoke of Earth, steam of Water, even the ashes of Lifeforce Plants.



Radiant damage includes both natural light and spiritual positive energy. Hypothetically, it might be possible to imbue “pure” positive damage without any luminous properties. Holy water damaging undead, comes to mind. However. Pure spiritual energy is itself luminous, the essence of the energy of light. Compare the enlightenment of Paradise, the beatific vision of the divine, the creation of the cosmos out of the primordeal light, the shine of a halo, the sightful consciousness of a living being, and so on. Likewise, in alchemy, the pure elemental Ether is the substance of spirit, and includes properties of life, whence the concept of the “Philosopher Stone”, as a perfect materialization of Ether within the physical world. The concepts of spirit and light entwine, so it seems ok for radiant energy to include both simultaneously. That said, Elemental magic uses radiant energy for its luminous properties, while Lifeforce magic uses it for its healing properties. For the sake of the intermingling, possibly holy water is non-luminous like natural water. However, when it comes in contact with a fiend (including undead), the holy water releases intense light.



Acid damage remains difficult to organize thematically. It can associate with Elemental Void magic along with Disintegration. It can associate with Lifeforce Shapeshift magic, in the sense of stomach acid and the many kinds of acids of Animals and Plants. Likewise Earth in the sense of the minerals forming chemical acids and bases. Also Water in the sense of liquidation and dissolving. Despite the Lifeforce bio acids, acid seems primarily Elemental involving matter itself. Here acid is an aspect of the negation of elements, namely Void, but its location isnt stable yet.



Psychic and Lifeforce Damage Types

Force damage has a poor description in the playtest. But it can organize well thematically. Essentially, force equals telekinetic energy. Compare Star Wars. Ideally the description simply defines force as telekinesis. And be done with it.

Here is the description of the force damage type. A critique of it follows.


Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form. It takes many shapes, including spectral objects that batter a target, invisible kinetic energy that tears a creature apart, and magical rays that disintegrate. Most effects that deal force damage are spells, including magic missile and many of the spells that bear the name of the wizard Bigby. Even ethereal creatures can rarely resist this damage.



It seems unhelpful to define force as “pure magical energy”. “Magical energy” is meaningless mechanically. “Arcane energy” counts as pure magical energy, but divine magic can too, positive energy, likewise the telekinetic energy of mind over matter, the damage from illusion magic remains vague but is presumably magical too, disintegration energy, and so on and so on. Ultimately the phrase “pure magical energy” means no specific thing, in other words, nonsense and unhelpful.

More useful is the list of different kinds of force “energy” damage.

• visible spectral objects
• invisible telekinesis
• disintegration

In context, “kinesis” means telekinesis. Technically, this term just means “motion” and could refer to natural acceleration, with acceleration damage occuring in situations where gravity or speed is extreme. However, in the context of “pure magic”, the kinesis specifies non-natural telekinesis.

Each hero has a mindforce that can potentially influence the reality of matter. Mind-over-matter. Importantly, psionic fans generally agree the archetype of psychic powers is “non flashy”. This subtler flavor distinguishes psychic magic from the more flashy flamboyance of Elemental magic, especially Fireball. In the D&D tradition, telekinesis could sometimes includes fire magic (compare 3e psychokinesis, pyrokinesis) or bodily shapeshifting magic (3e psychometabolism), or so on. But most fans seem to feel psychic powers should avoid Elemental and Lifeforce magic to maintain thematic distinctiveness.

Altho Telekinesis is “invisible” it can still be a source of an “aura” of illumination, especially during high-energy telekinesis. Equivalent to a Light cantrip. It can even be bright. But telekinesis cant extend to high-energy radiant damage. Thus even a telekinetic aura avoids “flashy” magic. The light is moreorless the Psychic equivalent of bioluminescence. Generally the force is invisible, like consciousness is invisible.

Note, the reference to “visible” “spectral objects” seems identical to quasi-real Illusion, an aspect of Lifeforce magic.

The optimal explanation for force is, the mind - mystically and synchronicitously - unites with the Space and Time of matter. Reality is both subjective and objective, and for telekinesis it is the same. Thus can directly and immediately influence the matter. This is the case if a mind is “strong” enough. (As magical as this sounds, modern physics reaches similar conclusions with regard to “observation” altering quantum outcomes.)

Generally, Psychic magic utilizes the force of the mind invisibly, whence telekinesis. “Pure” telekinetic force can send objects and form repelling fields of force.



By contrast, Lifeforce magic blends Psychic force with Elemental matter, into a single energy. This blend of mind-matter is the nature of Illusion. The “spectral object” is semi-real. Spectral is ambiguiously part mind, part matter, but holistically a manifestation of soul. It relates to the spirit journey of shamans and mystics, where the material actuality and the spiritual potentiality intermingle wierdly.

It seems best to split the force damage type into the following types:

Force: Psychic Telekinesis
Spectral: Lifeforce Illusion

Possibly, also split off:

Disintegration: Elemental Void

Note, the negative aspect of Lifeforce magic, namely Necromancy, can reuse the “spectral” energy of Illusion as a vehicle to propel the remains of a dead mind, whence the shades of the bodiless undead.

Disintegration relates to Elemental Void. An important principle in alchemy: the Void isnt an element but is the absolute absence of any element. Any magic that annihilates employs the negative aspect of Elemental magic. Compare Ray of Disintigration, Sphere of Annihilation, etcetera.

Meanwhile, specifying “force” as telekinetic energy makes the rules concerning force clearer. It also coheres with popular understanding. Telekinesis is central to psychic powers. Popular culture already connotes “force” as telekinetic phenomena of the mind, via traditional spiritualities across many cultures, and artistic works such as Star Wars. The concept of “telekinetic energy” is vital to the fantasy genre, but the phrase has too many syllables. As a technical term, the one-syllable term “force” to mean telekineticity is friendly. By extension, the term “Forcer” refers to a Psychic Wizard whose magic specializes in telekinetic themes.

Again, force is a mental principle. This is why force can reach into spiritual realms, affecting it directly. The mind is aware of it, thus thinking about it inherently alters it. For example, force damage even reaches ethereal beings.



Note, since Radiant includes both Elemental Ether and Lifeforce Positivity, it is tempting to similarly unify Force as both Psychic Telekinesis force and Lifeforce Illusion spectral. Hovewever, Psychic non-flashiness versus Lifeforce vividness are significant thematic distinctions. Adding to this, this “spectral energy” explains coherently the semi-real nature of Illusion. Moreover, the use of spectral energy in Lifeforce Necromancy similarly pulls the spectral damage type into the themes of Lifeforce. Spectral damage is indeed an aspect of the soul, whether the personal soul or the collective cosmic soul. It is the emanation of the lifeforce aura. Compare Ki. Yet spectral energy is distinct from Radiant energy, and not necessarily antithetical to undead. Spectral blends mind and matter as a single substance, and allows an ambiguous reality that blends the material and spirit worlds, simultaneously. Memories of past and hopes of future manifest as breathing actually, via spectral energy, even if often fleetingly. The “pure force” of Psychic Telekinesis relates but differs.

Again, force damage can refer to telekinetic force, only. Not any natural forces. Thunder covers explosive pushes and extremes of pressures, while bludgeon covers gravitational damage. Meanwhile, a salient spectral damage covers illusory, ghostly, and semi-real objects.
The Five Elements

The Elemental themes follow the Classical Elements: Ether, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. I usually refer to these as the Alchemical Elements to destinguish them from modern chemical elements.

These five elements, represent a binary pair of pairs of opposites, plus one. Fire versus Water, Earth versus Air, plus Ether. Here the “plus one” represents the combination of the four elements interacting with eachother. This holistic interactivity is a new entity beyond each element alone. So the whole of the four elements together is greater than the sum of its parts. The element of Ether represents the holism of the dynamic unity.

These four elements are indigenous to the mythological themes of most West Eurasian cultures, from South Asian India to Northwest European Norway. For example, the Norse culture describes Water (Niflheimr) and Fire (Muspelheimr) as primordeal polar worlds. Air (Ginnungagap) mediates between them, to allow them to intermingle. Only within Air, it becomes possible to weave the solidity of Earth (Midgarðr) from the coolness of ice and the dryness of ash. The Israeli culture too describes primordeal Water (Abyss, Tahum) with the divine Air (Wind, Ruakh) hovering over it, to reveal a dry Earth (Land, Erets), while various examples of divine Fire (Esh) inhabit the skies. Ether (Light, Or) seems the most primordeal entity. And so on, with these four plus one elements featuring across West Eurasian worldviews.

However, it is the Hellenic (Greek-speaking) cultures who speculate protoscientifically about which of these primordeal entities supplies the fundamental, irreducible, “elements” that all things are made out of. Some said all things are made out of malleable Water. Some said all things are ultimately made out of even more malleable Fire. Some said things form from combinations of more than one element. The four emerging elements are Air, Water, Fire, and Earth.

It seems the famous philosopher, Aristoteles, is the first one to formally define the Five Classical Elements. He saw how the bewildering variety phenomena change and transform because of the shifting combinations of the four elements that comprise them. However, Aristotle look at the skydome and saw there an apparently changless and eternal position of stars, and an orderly rational cycle planets, moving perfectly, while generations of humans come and go. Reasonably, he speculated the celestial sphere must be made from a different element from the four, one that is luminous, eternal, pure, perfect. The stuff of the realm of ideals. The rationality of the stars and the enlightenment of daylight are made out of this fifth element. This fifth element is the primal material. It emanates, surrounds, and pervades the four elements that rearrange within it. Aristoteles identified this fifth element as Ether.

One of the students of Aristoteles is Alexandros the Great. He conquered the known world. Thru him, many cultures adopted Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) traditions. Whence these Five Elements are “Classical”. These cultures were already familiar with these elements as primordeal entities. The known world was fertile for the revolution in rational protoscience.

Today the English alchemical tradition uses the names: Ether, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth.

However, it is worth mentioning, the Greek elements themselves are slightly different in conception. The literal translations of the corresponding Greek names are:

Ether: Ethero ( aithēr, αἰθήρ )
Haze: Aero ( aēr, ἀήρ )
Water: Hydro ( udōr, ὕδωρ )
Fire: Pyro ( pur πῦρ )
Land: Geo ( gē γῆ )



Fire versus Water endure as consistent archetypes.

The Land means land. It means the opposite of the skydome. This dome is the part of the starry celestial sphere that is above the horizon. Land also means the opposite of sea. Land also means property, such as the estate of a farm. Land means more than soil. Land supplies the concept of space. A place where things can happen. 

Ether and Haze are ultimately two kinds of Air. Originally, the Greek word for Ether literally means “air”, while the Greek word that literally means “haze” later comes to mean Air.

This atmospheric Haze is misty and dusty, sometimes smoky. Dingy. Gloomy. A Haze is a dense fog.

Protoscientific observation led to technical speculation. The Ether itself is the pure clean air that is above the haziness of the clouds. Meanwhile all of the air below the cloud level is more or less Haze to various degrees.

The distinction between “upper air” of Ether and “lower air” of Haze develops further. The pure Ether is actually luminous. In other words, the shining daylight itself is a swath of Ether across the sky. Meanwhile, the gloomy Haze lacks this radiant light. By extension, humans who inhabit the Land breath the gloomy Haze. But the immortals who inhabit the high altitudes in the sky breath the pure luminous Ether.

When Aristoteles looked to the stars, he explains them as perfect immortal spheres of luminous Ether. Thus thru him, the Haze becomes the mundane air that humans breathe. But Ether becomes identical with light itself, a different element entirely. Ether is light: enlightement, brightly shining, pure, fine, subtle, celestial, eternal, enlightening, rational, true, ideal, immortal, indestructable, blissful, divine.

In modern times, when scientists observed the quantum properties of light as a wave, they understand “ether” as substance that the wave is spreading thru. Radio waves are “ether waves”. Ether is the waving of electro-magnetic radiation: light. The gaseous nuclear plasma of the sun relates to Ether. The pervasive cosmic rays relate to Ether. The celestial flashes of lightning relate to Ether. The spectral lights of the magnetic aurora borealis relates to Ether. The substance of atoms ultimately emanates from Ether. Possibly consciousness itself is actually the quantum fields that interplay with cellular neurons. The ancients might have it right. Consciousness is light, thus Ether the substance of a living soul.



Meanwhile, the gloomy murky mortal Haze inherently blends the other elements: energetic Ether, misty Water, smoky Fire, and dusty Land. Haze blends the other elements. The Haze is no longer the ethereal light of Ether, but a new that kind of element that results from the entanglement of Ether with the elements of a temporal changing world. In this Haze, fire and water can coexist and can even intermingle. Opposite the Ether, the Haze comes to mean Air, the Air that humans breath.

The Ether is a cosmic sphere. Inside of this sphere, all four elements can coexist, intermingle, and recombine into changing temporal forms.



In sum, the elements are Ether, Air, Water, Fire, and Earth. But it is worthwhile to remember their vivid qualities according to the alchemical tradition.

Ether: light, radiance, spirit, ideal, eternal, indestructable, pure, enlightening, rational, energy, heavenly, divine, blissful.
Air: haze, gloomy, murky, fertile, temporal, fleeting, restless, atmospheric, inclusive, peace-making, expanding, breezing, directing, moody, storming, forgiving, risky, exhilarating, daring.
Water: flowing, settling, lucid, substance, ice, cold, wet, cleansing, nourishing, altruistic, compassionate, mellow.
Fire: combustable, destructive, consuming, illuminating, cleansing, useful, demanding, angry, judgmental.
Earth: solid, dry, cool, opaque, enduring, independent, realistic, place, pragmatic, patient, sentimental, yearning.

The destiny of the cosmos is for the reality of the Earth to figure out concrete practical ways to become more like the bliss of the Ether. The philosopher stone. Advanced technology. Solid harmony.























 



ETHER



 



FIRE



AIR



WATER



 



EARTH



 



Curiously, every culture assigns colors to these five elements, but each culture has its own color system.

For example, among medieval cultures:



The Norse culture understands the rainbow as a causeway to the sky. Thereby, Ásgarðr where the nature spirits gather for their council meetings (which is on the earth in the center of Miðgarðr) bridges to the estates above the clouds, where these nature spirits live. This rainbow is understood to have four colors, intermingling four elements.

Blue Air: sky
Green Water: sea
Red Fire
Yellow Earth: gold

Norse understand Earth to be either white or yellow. Raw primordeal Earth is “white muck”. However refined idealized Earth is “gold metal”.



Differently, Jewish culture also understands the rainbow as an intermingling of the four elements, but assigns the colors as follows.

Green Air: hazy atmospheric sky
White Water: pure water
Red Fire
Blue Earth: lapis lazuli

The light pale luminous yellow catagorizes as white, similar to how pale yellow “white wine” contrasts dark purplish “red wine”.

While rarely referring to green Air per se, the symbol of green and the symbol of Air equate to the same principle of self-discipline and sharing, and are used interchangeably. Likewise the Air equates to the green of the Tree of Life.

The gem lapis lazuli represents the Earth in unity with the Heavens, an ideal state of Earth. (In Hebrew lapis lazuli is called Sapir, but this evolves into the name for a different gem in English, sapphire).

However, there is also a tradition, where Earthy metals additionally express affinity with the different elements. So, iron corresponds with Earth when remaining disconnected. Silver corresponds with Earth inflowing the compassion of Water. Gold corresponds with the difficult but extremely valuable challenge for Earth to harness the judgment of Fire. Copper especially as an alloy, especially bronze, corresponds to Earth inflowing Air. Note, the Gold is only possible when the balance of Air enables the harmony among all the elements, and only then the ability to constructively harness Fire into Gold. Like the Norse tradition, gold is the perfection of Earth.

The blue of lapis lazuli is when the Earth is aware of the ideal, but gold is the achievement and fulfillment of the ideal, after actions that coordinate the other elements.

Also in, relation to precious pigments

Purple Ether: royal purple pigment, ideally the color of amethyst.

Compare how the metal is Gold when all elements harmonize within Air. The Blue Earth (royal indigo pigment) can interweave both compassionate White Water (shining white linen) and judging Red Fire (crimson pigment), within the balancing self-restraint of Green Air. By means of Earth, all elements harmonize within Air. Then, Air becomes Purple (royal purple pigment) as it unites with the other three elements. Also it becomes able to unite with the fifth element, Ether. In this sense, the Purple Air functions as an interface of infinite Ether. A kind of Purple Ether.



In Islamic culture

Red Ether

Or rather, the philosopher stone is red. This is an Earthy physicalization of Ether. The art of Al-Kimiya derives from the Greek word for “transmutation” ( khēmeia χημεία ). In this era, the Greek tradition of Chemia evolved from obscure Hellenistic Egyptian magical texts involving the production of artificial gems, and so on, to an empirical mood of laboratory observation with a quest to create the philosopher stone.

The differences between metals were understood to result from various recombinations of mercury and sulfur. The goal of a philosopher stone was to find the combination that aligns the metal with the properties of Ether: transcendent, blissful, immortal.

In fact, mercury and sulfur can create the pigment, vermillion, a brilliant orangish red color. From this, Al-Kimiya expected the philosopher to be red as well. Relatedly, cinnibar is a naturally occuring dark orange red mineral of alchemical interest, that can produce the pigment.

Once the alchemist achieves the etherealization of metals into a philosopher stone, all of the cosmic creative properties of Ether along with the enlightmentment to wield them come within the grasp of the alchemist. The philosopher stone is the ultimate catalyst. It can transmute matter into anything. It can catalyze base led into noble gold, grant immortality, achieve paradise, heaven on earth. (Compare the anime, Full-Metal Alchemist. The philosopher stone is luminous ruby red, gleaming with flashes that can alter the matter of lifeforce.) In Al-Kimiya, the colors are more concerned about describing the various chemical reactions of metals as they interact with catalysts, rather than about the colors of the five elements.



During the height of the Medieval Era, the Islamic-Christian holy wars stimulated international trade. The Holy Roman Empire cultures reacquainted with the Classical texts on Chemia. Mainly Jews exiled from Christian Spain, brought with them Arabic texts on Al-Kimiya, that in turn translated ancient Greek texts on Chemia, that mainly came from the Islamic conquest of Christian Konstantinoupolis. From the Arabic name, Latin called this art, Alchymia, whence via numerous spellings, English “alchemy”.

The fundamental ingredient to create the philosopher stone starts with Ether itself. Sometimes this Ether is understood to be the soul of the alchemist, or rather the consciousness of the alchemist and the proper intention. The substance of the soul was understood to derive from and maintain connection with the infinite Ether. For this reason, alchemical texts can make mystical states of mind as important as technical chemical proceedures. In any case, Latin called this Ether of the philosopher stone, the “primal material” (prima materia). The alchemist used sulphur and mercury to process the Ether, integrating it by means of the metals to acheive a luminous stone, possibly crystalline, but brilliant red.



In Tibetan culture, the colors correspond to the five elements as follows.

• Blue Ether: skydome, daylight, triumph over fear and anger, wisdom.
• Green Air: atmospheric haze, harmony, also associating tree and nature.
• White Water: pure water, white clouds, and knowledge.
Red Fire: blood, desire, and self-preservation, but can channel into good judgment and strength with discernment.
Yellow Earth: yellowish soil, humility, renunciation, the scrutiny of pride, and the ethical impersonal point of view.

Note, the above colors come from the Sarma schools that belong to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, whose texts have Green Air and White Water including clouds. However the Nyingma school of the Vajrayana branch of Buddhism has texts that instead have, White Air and Green Water.

Even when the colors for the elements “swap”, the colors of the Tibetan prayer flags stay in the same order for all schools:

Yellow Earth → Green → Red Fire → White → Blue

For the Tibetan understanding of the rainbow, these five elemental colors commingle. Relatedly, the concept of a rainbow body is the developing self-awareness, as enlightenment illuminates the true self that is colors of pure light, before entering Nirvana.



The alchemical elements continue into the Modern Era. Paracelsus is a physician and alchemist during the 1500s during the Renaissance in the German culture. He retains the tradition of the five elements as five fundamental substances. His term for Ether is “astra”. (Compare “astral projection” as a kind of ethereal body.) The term derives from the Greek term for “star” (Astēr), referring to the stuff of stars. But he understands this Ether as being Being itself. This infinite eternal unchanging Being somehow “splits up” into finite temporal modes of being, the other four elemental substances.

Roughly these elements constitute levels of reality, ranging from ultra physical to ultra spiritual. For example, humans are made out of the physical substance of Earth, but their dreams being a higher level are made out of the substance of Air. Altho these two substances are different, the waking experience and the dreaming experience can feel the same. In other words, they can have the same properties, despite being different substances.

In addition to the five elements, Paracelsus posits a separate threesome of catalysts. He calls each catalyst a “primal” (Latin prima), a principle. These three catalysts can transmute any substance to exhibits any property. For example, the substance of fire can be made to appear as if cold and wet. This triad of principles is the alchemical catalysts: Mercury (a spiritualizing mind), Salt (an embodying matter), and to adjoin the two to the substance, Sulphur (a soul imbuing mind-matter). The combination these three alchemical catalysts can transform the properties of any of the five elemental substances.

The philosopher stone is the ultimate catalyst. Paracelsus calls it Alkahest, apparently blending the name “alchymia” in some way. He claimed to have succeeded in creating this philosopher stone, and using it to catalyze the transmution to gold and the healing of bodies.

In any case, for Paracelsus, the color of each element become malleable and contextual, depending on how the three catalysts transform it.



One of the important texts of alchemy is the Crowning of Nature, from British culture around 1600. It describes a sequence of chemical reactions as phases corresponding to the five elements. In this context, the elements take the following colors:

• Invisible Ether: Color too beautiful to have a name. But when the stone etherealizes, it transmutes from white to red.
Blue Air
Green Water
Yellow Fire
Gray Earth



From this point on, alchemical texts diverge into either increasingly mystical or increasingly technical. Eventually, they will split into the human sciences (such as Jungian psychology) and physical sciences (especially chemistry), respectively. The five elements persist in many spiritual traditions, as an intuitive way to organize the concepts of an ideal life.



Different cultures seem to easily reassociate the colors of the same five elements, depending on different applications.
Daoist Five Elements

In West Eurasia, the Classical Five Elements correspond to themes in the worldviews of most cultures. But the concept of them as fundamental building blocks derives from Greek philosophy. During the −300s (BCE), the philosopher Aristoteles defines the five. His student Aleksandros the Great transmits the concept across his Hellenistic Empire, ultimatelly to the Western World.

In East Eurasia, the Daoist Five Elements derive from Chinese philosophy. During the −200s, the courts of the Han Dynasty define the five. They transmit the concept across the Chinese Empire, ultimately to the Eastern World.



The Daoist elements emerge independently from the Classical elements. Where the Classical elements concern the fundamental materials that phenomena are made out of, the Daoist elements concern the fundamental behaviors, that phenomena undergo during any process of change.

It helps to think of Daoist elements as “agents”, namely five factors that result from a change and also cause a change. For example, in destructive behavior, the element of Water extinguishes the element of Fire. The Daoist alchemists observe how Water moves in a way that cancels the way that Fire moves. Indeed, the Chinese term that English translates as “elements”, Shying (Pinyin spelling Xing), literally means “go”, move. These are actually the five kinds of “goings”, ways of moving.

Where the Classical elements focus on the creation and transmutation of substances, the Daoist elements focus on healing and treatment of the body, whence Chinese medicine. A famous quest of Western alchemy is the transmutation of metals into gold. A famous quest of Eastern alchemy is immortality. That said, the West also sought immortality, and the East also sought transmutation. For example, Renaissance alchemists used the philosopher stone for healing, and Chinese alchemists discovered gun powder.



The Daoist Five Elements are:

Tree: The way that a tree moves.
Fire: The way that fire moves.
Water: The way that water moves.
Metal: The way that metal moves.
Soil: The way that soil moves.

These elements describe fundamental behaviors.

Interestingly, the Western Classical elements split air into two kinds of elements, Ether versus Haze. The Eastern Daoist elements spilt earth into two kinds of elements, Soil versus Metal. Concerning movements, the yielding Soil seems unlike the cutting Metal.

In both systems, the fifth element is the source that ultimately emanates the other four, surrounds them, pervades them, enables them to interact, and unites them together as one. In the Western Classical system, celestial Ether is the fifth element. This orients a transcendent otherworldly perspective when contemplating the five elements. By contrast, in the Eastern Daoist system, Soil is the fifth element. The yellowish soil is the ground of all activity, the place where things happen. This orients a pragmatic thisworldy perspective when contemplating the five elements.



The Daoist elements are roughly synonymous with the Chinese understanding of the seasons.

Tree: Spring, growth
Fire: Summer, flowering
Metal: Autumn, harvest
Water: Winter, withdrawal
Soil: Year, harmony, the boundary between any two seasons

The fifth element Soil encompasses the other four elements as a whole. The fifth element also functions as the threshold between the elements, being the ways that the four elements can interact.



The archetype of the number “5” can be expressed as a pentagram. This is true for both Western and Eastern alchemists. However, the 5 is virtually always “four plus one”. The four are two pairs of binary opposites: Fire versus Water, and Tree versus Metal. Alternatively, Air versus Earth.

The “plus one” is when all four members of the binaries are able to interact with each other, to form a dynamic system. The fifth element represents the very possibility of a system. While the fifth element is a result of the four, it is impossible to form the four as binaries, unless a system is possible. In this sense, the fifth element preexists the four, in potentiality, even if it requires the four to express it, in actuality.

While the fifth element is the whole of the four elements, this whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The interactivity is, in fact, a fifth kind of behavior or substance. It is able to interreact with the other behaviors as one of five. Where the fifth element is infinite, the other elements can interact with it when becoming open to infinity.

To emphasize the fifth element as the whole of four, it visualizes as the archetype of a cross, with the fifth element as the center. The four elements are explicitly binary opposites, forming a verticle and horizontal axis. The four bigrams of Yin ( ¦ ) and Yang ( | ) corresponds to each of the elements. Namely, Fire the full yang ( || ) contrasts Water the full Yin ( ¦¦ ). Tree the seed of New Yang within Yin ( |¦ ) contrast the Metal the seed of New Yin within Yang ( ¦| ). At the center, the fifth element is the Dao, the Way of all four, thus itself lacking a bigram.

Note, to emphasize the fifth element as interacting with the other four, it visualizes as the archetype of a pentagram.



Daoist Elements
(Here the “center” surrounds the four) (Bigrams are in parentheses)




















 



( |¦ )  TREE



 



( || )   FIRE



SOIL



( ¦¦ )  WATER



 



( ¦| )  METAL



 




Classical Elements
(Here the “center” surrounds the four)



















 



AIR



 



FIRE



ETHER



WATER



 



EARTH



 







The two systems, Eastern and Western, parallel each other.

The binary of Fire versus Water is self-evident, occuring in both systems.

Because the Daoist element of Soil corresponds to the transcendental Dao, it is functionally identical to the Classical element of Ether. True, Soil has a thisworldy sensibility. The Soil - the most humble of the elements - compares to the philosopher stone uniting with the Ether - the most exalted of the elements. The Dao.

Daoist Metal, solid and separating, corresponds to Classical Earth.

There is a surprising identification of the Daoist Tree with the Classical Air. See below.





Eight Trigrams

Daoism harmonizes two conflictive sacred systems:

• five elements
• eight trigrams

The eight trigrams go by the name, “eight divinations”, Pa Kua (Ba Gua). Structurally, the eight trigrams resemble the eight permutations of a computer byte ( 111, 110, ... 000 ). But here each bit is either assertive Yang ( | ) or integrative Yin ( ¦ ). Each trigram is a unit with an oracular meaning.

The trigrams emerge in the context of divination, especially via the “Book of Change”, I Ching. The name of each Kua trigram derives from the name of an oraclular explanation in the book. There are eight “divination” names:

• Dryness, Submission, Pit, Obstruction, Earth, Quake, Separation, and Cash.

However, these divination names are contextual. The Daoist tradition evolved the meaning of each trigram beyond its literal meaning here. Even so, the divination name remains a useful tag to refer to the archetype that the trigram represents, separately from its many corresponding concepts. Even so, the literal etymology illuminates how the archetype of each trigram emerges.

The eight trigrams refer to eight cosmic principles that recur within cosmic phenomena, as various kinds of eightsomes. The eightsome of “nature” are, respectively:

• Skydome, Wind, Water, Mountain, Land, Thunder, Fire, and Marsh.

The Daoist tradition prefers these nonambiguous images as the main way to visualize the trigrams.
 
Roughly around the −300s (BCE), the Warring States Period reapplied the concepts of this divinatory text to philosophy and cosmology, and it organizes Chinese concepts to this day.

The divination names are earliest expression of the system of the eight trigrams. Later, these developed the corresponding eight natures. The five elements are a separate tradition. The Daoist philosophers imported the five elements into the eight trigrams, harmonizing the two systems. 

The five elements equal the eight trigrams as follows. Fire and Water occur in both systems. But the remaining three elements split into two trigrams each.

Tree = Wind, Thunder
Fire = Fire
Metal = Skydome, Marsh
Water = Water
Soil = Land, Mountain

Hence a fivesome becomes an eightsome.

Fire, according to the divinatory meaning, connotes the benefit of dedication and discipline. The divination name is Separation, however it is understood in the sense separating something to dedicate it for a specific purpose. By extention the trigram is also characterized as “Clinging” to its dedicated purpose. The dedication includes that of a student to eduction, and the great rewards for such discipline. Whence the visualization of Fire clinging to its safely contained fuel, and “Bright” in its value.

Water connotes the power of sincerity to overcome dangers within dangers. The name is the Pit that Water falls into. When dealing with dangers, the learning experience is valuable, to master life. In addition to sincerity, mastery requires a penetrating mind. When helping anyone in danger, be intelligently compassionate. Not stupidly compassionate. The word Water includes a river, and is sometimes called Rain.

Soil splits into Land and Mountain.

• This Land (usually translated Earth) is the opposite of the Skydome. The land refers to the ground or a region, but here specifically refers to the cosmic Land as it stretches to the four corners of the cosmos. Like the element of Soil, Land connotes integrativeness as will as the place of activity, but also motherhood and nurturing. Land stands as the principle of feminity.

• The Mountain forms from Soil, but connotes Obstruction. The literal meaning of the divination name seems lost, but sometimes renders as Bound. The oracle describes blocking someones view. An other meaning of the Chinese character is, “blunt, tough”, generally Nonpenetration. Here, sight cannot penetrate. In nature, the Mountain too obstructs view. Mountain connotes unseen activities, unseen resources. Also, no interactivity, no mistakes. Also in the sense of Obstruction, it characterizes as “Being Still”. Generally, the positive and negative aspects of obstruction. Sometimes, all of these connotations harmonize to suggest knowledge and knowhow hidden within a person.

Metal, oddly, corresponds to Skydome and Marsh. Remember, the Daoist elements concern ways of moving, not substances.

• Skydome connotes warm lifegiving daylight. The divination name is Dryness, but its etymology relates to the sunny fertile side of a hill, and continues to stand for the principle of masculinity. The trigram characterizes as “Potent”, and generally connotes assertive, penetrating, fertilizating, and fatherly, possibly associating Metal as a phalic tool.

• The Marsh connotes the wetlands of rice, whence a farmer, possibly associating Metal as a harvester. Whence Joy from honest work. The divination name is Cash, metal coins and fair exchange. It extends to Marsh in the sense of abundance. (Marsh is often but less accurately translated Lake.)

Tree, remarkably, splits into Wind and Thunder.

• Wind connotes progress, direction, travel. Especially, to ally with someone else. The divination name is Submission, gentle and doclie. The oracle describes traveling to enlist an other power. Inclusiveness. Cooperation. By extention, traveling and encompassing others visualize as Wind. The subtle motion of Wind often compares to the progress and hold of a root of a Tree.

• Thunder connotes someone who reacts to a surprising thunder boom. At first fear, then laughter. Stay calm when caught off guard. Dont drop what you are doing. There is nothing to fear except fear itself. Keep your wits. Be daring. The divination name Quake, visualizes straightforwardly as Thunder, but it is the one who hears it that is shook. The person feels great noise, but without significant disruption. The Tree moves steady and constant.



Thus within the Daoist worldview, the five elements equate to the eight trigrams. The respective meanings in each system mutually inform each other.



Daoist and Classical, the Five Elements Parallel

The Daoist element of Tree explicitly conceptualizes as Wind and Thunder. Thus when comparing the elements of Eastern Daoism and Western Classicism, the Daoist Tree is equivalent to the Classical Air. Both are wind and thunder. Even the connotations are strong. Air likewise connotes progress, inclusiveness, subtly (Wind), and sanguine fearlessness and daring (Thunder). 

Reciprocally, some Western Eurasian systems equate the element of Air with Tree. The Tibetan “Green” Air explicitly connotes nature and tree. Likewise the Jewish Green Air explicitly corresponds to the mystic Tree of Life.

Possibly these cultures intuit, trees are the source of oxygen.



In any case, despite the fact the Western and Eastern elemental systems differ in origin and intent, it is possible to identify commonality after all.

Classical / Daoist:

Ether / Soil
Air / Tree
Water
Fire
Earth / Metal

The the elements of Classical Ether and Daoist Soil are equivalent because of their common aspect as empty Space.

While the empty Space is physical, in the sense of physical distances, it is the primal principle that makes reality possible. (Compare the modern equivalent, the Big Bang, that is actually the fabric of Time and Space exploding outward from a central point of origin.) Empty Space is an Ethereal principle.

This nothingness is threshold between the infinite and the finite. It is the place where finite things become able to exist with limitations, change, and interact. So while Space is “physical”, it remains immaterial. It is an aspect of Ether.



Jewish culture moreorless refers to the Classical Elements. The Ether (Ruakh) is especially the Infinite Light (Or En Sof). Somehow this Light undergoes a “constriction” (Tsimtum) - contracting, withdrawing, and restricting the “amount” of its presence - to hide itself from a physical point of view. The Ether becomes as if empty Space. A kind of self-emptying.

The physical point of view defines the Earthy “place” of experience, but at this point the nothingness is still a manifest aspect of Ether. A thin ray of light then shines into this darkness, and from this energy, the other four elements physicalize, each resulting from the other, until solid Land (Erets) emerges, sometimes called Dust (Afar). Within the emptiness, the elements made out of light can interact and recombine. (It resembles the modern concept of atoms, which are also made out of energy.)

In the Jewish understanding, this empty Space is an aspect of the physical world. However, it is fundamentally immaterial, perfectly in unity with the Infinite Light, albeit still needing to undergo the process of re-fulfilling the presence of Infinite Life. The Nothingness (Ayin) is sometimes even understood as being “higher” or at least more central than the Infinite Light.

Note here, the two kinds of “Earth”. One is solid substance, Land, but the other is Space. The Space itself is still an aspect of Ether, despite its physical possibility of distances.

Space as the place where things can happen is an aspect of Ether.



Similarly, in Hindu culture, The element of “Ether” (Akasha) is empty Space.

The Hindu tradition understands consciousness to be transcendent, ineffable, and immaterial. Consciousness observes but cannot be observed. It itself is “no thing”. Consciousness is infinite, yet somehow can entangle with finite physical bodies. The body becomes the physical perspective from which consciousness observes. The Hindu mystical tradition of “Not This, Not This” (Neti Neti), strives to pay attention to being an infinite observer, rather than to any particular finite observation. At first, a human experiences consciousness from the finite prespective of a sense of self (Atman), whose awareness slowly discovers ones limits. However, the consciousness itself is a universal principle. (A kind of Law of Physics.) Just like all humans are made of the shared properties of energy physicalizing as substances, all humans are made out of the shared properties of consciousness. Indeed, all living beings entangle and share the same infinite consciousness. The Hindu mystical insight is, the same consciousness that one experiences as a sense of self (Atman) within a finite reality, is the same consciousness that transcends Time and Space, utterly beyond, from the prespective the infinite reality (Brahman). “The Atman is the Braman.”  

In the context of the mystical “no-thing-ness” of consciousness, the Hindus understand the ultimate element, Ether, as nothingness. Space. Indeed, the physical body is made out of all five elements. The body exhibits the element of “Ether” (Akshaka) - or rather Space - in two ways: consciousness and nothingness.

Ether as Space
Consciousness: immaterial observer
• Nothingness: Open holes and empty cavities: mouth, nostrils, ears, pupils, lungs, stomach, intestines, etcetera

The eyes as an “opening” for external light beyond oneself, suggests a link between open Space and Consciousness, aswell as the interconnection between a finite self and an infinite reality.

Note, neighboring Tibetan Buddhism also adopts Space as an aspect of Ether. On the one hand, Ether is a luminous Skydome. On the other hand, Ether is Space. This duality of absolute infinity versus absolute nothingness, inspires feelings dread and punishment. Nevertheless, this insight into the properties of being, inspires holy Wisdom and ethical behavior.

Emphasizing the significant (and influential) understanding of Ether as nothingness, the Hindu five elements are the same as the Classical five elements.

Hindu Five Elements
Ether: Called “Ether” but understood as Space
Air
Water
Fire
Earth



The Hindu traditions concerning consciousness and the five elements, emerged within the philosophical texts of the Upanishads. This sacred text is a redaction of many texts, and it is often difficult to date specific sections. Nevertheless, two Upanishads that mention the Hindu elements are clearly early. The first text in the Tattiriya Upanishad dates to probably the −400s (BCE) or possibly a century earlier. It describes the formation of the universe as a series of emanations, each from the other. Infinite immaterial Consciousness forms Ether in the aspect of nothingness. Ether forms Air. And so on.

Consciousness 
→ Ether (Space) → AirFireWater Earth
→ Plants Food (connoting predatory animals) → Humanity 
Atman (entangling Consciousness) → MindPerception
Bliss (uniting with Consciousness)

Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth: the text doesnt stop at Earth. So it is unclear whether the five here function as elements, per se. Yet they are discrete entities. An other text explicates them as elements, out of which the physical world is made. This text in the Svetasvatara Upanishad dates to about the −200s.

• By means of Consciousness, “the work of creation [is] to be conceived as Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space”.

All of the physical universe is “conceived” out of these five elements.

Note, these Hindu texts date to just before (−400s) and just after (−200s) the time of Aristoteles (−300s), who formally defines the Classical five elements. The Hindu culture already has at least some sense of five elements before he does, and there is a question about who is influencing who. The centuries before Aristoteles appear to experience a spike in international trade, via the Persian Empire. While it is difficult to demonstrate specific instances, there seems surprising correspondences in the formation of concepts across Eurasia.



In sum, the traditions of the five elements align as follows, per Classicalism, Daoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism:

Five Elements
Ether / Soil: with the transcendental spects of Spirit-Consciousness-Dao, Light, Space
Air / Tree
Water
Fire
Earth / Metal



Notably, the early Hindu emphasis on consciousness and nothingness helps bridge the conceptualizations of Ether, between Daoist Soil and Classical Ether, as a physical Space, place, and ground of being.
Almost back to D&D (and hopefully shorter posts). In sum, the above surveys reveal the Five Elements seem sufficiently “universal”. D&D can use them for just about any culture for any setting.



Here, is a chart describing the various aspects of the Five Elements across the Eurasian cultures.


[spoiler Colors of Five Elements]



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Fivesome

The number Five seems to be an “archetype” - a biological impulse. It seems to relate to and develop from how the nervous system navigates locomotion. Forward, backward, left, right, plus the holistic system of orienting navigation itself.

Neuropsychologists suspect the brain organizes short-term memory (another kind of navigation) into groups of four or five elements. In turn, each mnemonic element can refer to a subset of four or five elements.

Organizing information into “Four Plus One” is a powerful and intuitive methodology.



Geometry

The geometry of binary square and encompassing circle, and corresponding cross and center, seems universal. In virtually every human culture, the “cosmos”, corresponding to the sum total of all existence, organizes into the four compass points of the cross/square. These are the Four. Additionally, the center/circle is the holistic horizon encompassing the interactivity of all four possibilities. Mandala paintings often visualize this as a cosmic circle for meditions to connect with the transcending whole. The whole center/circle is the Fifth direction.

The concept of Up versus Down seems less fundamental, but remains significant. When these two directions function as part of an organizing system, they tend to relate to the “fifith direction” - namely the encompassing holism versus the detailing atomism. Forest versus trees. However, sometimes up represents the transcending whole, and sometimes down does. Many Europeans associate the upward sky as the transcendent direction. However, many Asians associate the downward ground as the transcendent direction. Think of how “deep” - connoting downward - also connotes transcending the details.



Colors

Likewise, the colors seem archetypal.
• White: presence of light, purity
• Black: absence of light, fear
• Red: violence, aggression, lifeforce
• Green: calm, life sustaining
• Blue: truth, punishment
• Yellow: danger, treasure

Purple and Orange seem less elemental but remain significant.
• Orange: food, warmth
• Purple: majesty, existentialism

Note, most animals can green and red, with the blend as yellow. However, the ability to see “blue” evolved while tree climbing, to help distinguish the branches from the sky. Possibly the threat of falling when missing a branch relates biologically to “punishment” of misperception. It also relates to accuracy and uncompromising truth. Meanwhile the all-encompassing sky suggests blue as universal truth.



Elements of Sensory Patterns

The “elements” themselves seem archetypal. The contrast between cold water and hot fire seems virtually universal. These two emerge explicitly in most human cultures. They seem to refer to biological impulses to recognize these sets of sensorial patterns. To enjoy their benefits (nourishment, drinking and cooking, and coolness and warmth), but also to respect their dangers (drowning and burning). The elements seem fundamental to intelligent use of resources.

East Eurasia tends to describe the sensorial elements as motions, West Eurasia as substances.

It the context of these two elements, the solidity of earth, is a third element. Generally persistence. Air and Tree appear to represents a fourth element that is subtle, expansive, and encompassing. Even harmonizing.

Finally, in addition to these Four elements, there is the “Plus One”. The system itself as a whole, where the Four elements can recombine, is itself a kind of element. This can be the skydome that encompasses all, the soil that grounds all, outer space within which all things move. All seem to associate the unseen consciousness that itself sees all.



Archetypal Systems

So, each of these archetypal systems - Fivesome, Geometry, Color, Sensory Patterns seem universal. However, each archetypal system seems simple and independ from each other. Each culture seems able to combine these simple archetypal systems in different ways, in order to construct different complex cultural systems.

Linguistics seems to work the same way. Every human languages has certain basic elements in common, a “natural language”, resulting from the biological imperative to be able to speak a language. However, each language culture combines and abbreviates these natural elements to form different languages.




The Chart: Colors of the Five Elements

The chart is an excellent way to see how the spiritual traditions of each culture recombines the archetypes to form different complex systems. Each one a spiritual tradition. The descripitons of the Five elements reveal how these cultures influence each other.

For example the Norse and Hindu systems seem to share an ancient Indoeuro semantic. British alchemy seems to blend this tradition with the Classical humors. Calling the Air blue, associates the Air with the sky. However, usually, the Skydome is conceived as separate from the Air itself. So there is no reason to link the two as the same color.

Alternatively, associating the Air with Green and Trees prevails across cultures to a degree that impresses me. Sometimes, the Skydome itself is understood as Deep Blue, thus the haziness of Air obscures it making it seem greenish, closer to aqua. This Green then readily associates with tree leaves. Possibly, the connotation of Air and Trees is a vestige of our evolutionary ancestors having lived in trees.

The borders between cultural traditions are interesting. In Japan, Green and blue are understood as shades of the same color, Green/Blue. Thus the Green Tree of Daoism and the Green Wind of Buddhism can associate with Blue. In the Japanese Daoist system, the Yellow is transcendent Soil and White is solid Metal. However, the Japanese Buddhist system swaps these, so White is the transcendent Skydome and Yellow is the solid Land. Tibet is the border between China and India, so one tradition aligns with Chinese Green Air, while another aligns with Hindu Green Water.



In any case, despite the fluid recombinations from culture to culture, the archetypal concepts that structure the Five Elements (Four plus One) seem to persist, organize, and inspire.
Here, is a chart describing the various aspects of the Five Elements across the Eurasian cultures.

I take you've read Go Rin No Sho.

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