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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Mystical States: The Physical Realm

In my re-thinking cosmology post a couple weeks ago, I revisited my default “one-plane” cosmology.

Short Summary:

The “other planes of existence” in fantasy media and RPGs are not parallel realities that intersect with ours, but are qualities that beings and objects may have.

Ethereal and astral beings are literally right beside us, but we are unable to see, hear, touch, or otherwise interact with them, nor they with us (except in limited ways.)

Mystical otherworlds like Hades, Hell, or Faerie exist as real places in the real world, but may be inaccessible because of their location and state (astral constructs in the center of the earth or high in the clouds.)

I want to explain more, and explain some of the new mystical states I’ve added. Starting with the Physical state, which is perhaps the key to understanding all the others.

My focus when coming up with new mystical states is to think about the physical senses, primarily sight, sound, and touch, and related physical qualities like mass, distance, and duration. In the Physical Realm, all of these are at their strongest.

  • Physical matter can be felt, even if only as sensations like warmth or coldness instead of as a physical obstruction.
  • Physical matter is usually visible and audible in some way, although not always so to ordinary humans without proper equipment.
  • Physical matter has heft, occupies space and follows laws of motion, taking time to cross distances.

Associated mystical states that are still part of the physical realm may stretch one of these concepts a bit, but will still retain them in some way. Mystical states that transcend the physical are going to violate one or more of those concepts.

Ghostly matter comes from some of my thinking on the undead. What’s the difference between a specter and an ethereal or astral spirit? The way I’ve explained it in undead stats is that undead spirits are bound to something physical. In the case of specters and ghosts, that physical matter may be extremely rarefied, but is still borderline physical, like the dust or gasses left over from decomposition. Ghosts have an astounding control over this physical form, but it is still physical.

Ghosts (my ghosts, at least,) can’t pass through walls, but can pass through nearly invisible cracks, flow under doors or through keyholes. They are visible, but sometimes hard to see, just a haze in the air, a shadowy figure, or a dim glowing outline. If they can fly, they follow the rules of other physical things that fly, like birds or clouds. They may move quickly, but must still take time to cross distances.

Eternal matter is practically the opposite of ghostly matter. Instead of becoming borderline intangible and highly mutable, eternal matter becomes more tangible and immutable… a “more solid than solid” object. Eternal matter loses its capacity to move or interact with other physical objects, becoming a pure obstacle, timeless and unchanging. To some extent, I was thinking of Flesh to Stone spells or stories like Philip José Farmer’s The Stone God Awakens. Or the victims of Forlorn Encystment.

Eternal objects are motionless and have a dull look about them, like wax or a painted statue. They cannot be moved, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be changed until they are transformed into something less eternal. They feel cold to the touch, since they can’t provide warmth, but do not feel icy cold, since they also cannot take warmth from someone touching them.

From the viewpoint of an eternal being, the outside world and even their own bodies cease to exist. Everything is an endless darkness, and they are alone with their own thoughts.

Originally, I described eternal objects as featureless and gray, but I’m thinking immutability would not necessarily have that side effect. I’m not even sure “monochromatic” would make sense as its own mystical state, as opposed to just a visual effect. The same applies to what I previously described as Silence and Thunder.

But there is at least one other mystical state in the physical realm: two-dimensionality. The state of things like living pictures or vampiric scribbles. Haven’t come up with a good name for this state yet, although I keep coming back to “Planar”. Which I’m not using for anything else, but I imagine that would be confusing for other people. I will have to revisit this idea later.

In the next cosmology installment, I’ll talk about the less-than-physical states of matter.

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