This sub-section describes cosmology, theology, spellcraft, all aspects of death, what comes after, and what comes back.
- 1 Demonology
- 2 Necromancy
- 3 Necronautics
- 4 Pneumatology
- 5 Spellcraft
- 6 Theology
- 7 The Undead
- 8 The Underworld
- 9 Other topics
How to scare away the things that go bump in the night.
Demons make their spirit and flesh out of subjects and/or victims, but retain their own twisted soul. In this regard they're the opposites of the Possessed, for whom the soul is the exterior acquisition and the spirit/flesh are native.
How the living speak with the dead.
Necromancers are those individuals able to communicate with the dead. Often, they possess other powers over the dead, such as necronautics, or the power to animate the dead.
A necromancer (often called a mystic or medium) can call up ghosts still residing in the living world, sometimes even allowing the ghost to temporarily possess the necromancer's body, or steal enough of its energy to manifest itself in some fashion. The necromancer can thus gain knowledge otherwise lost when the being died.
Since ghosts can often go where physical beings cannot (e.g., into a heavily guarded fortress), necromancers have been known to make use of them for gathering intelligence on foes, or for finding lost items.
Because of their enhanced awareness and knowledge of spirits, necromancers are often employed in watching for spirits and guarding against them. They may know of methods for protecting buildings from prying spirits, for instance.
Necromancers provide a means for players to contact compatriots that have died. It's probably easier for the players to contact the other players via some OOC means like irc or email, though.
However, necromancy can be used to access the knowledge-logs of (N)PCs that have died. This permits the player to gain basic info from the dead character even if it lacks a player behind it.
Necromancy can also be used as a means of learning. A necromancer can call up the dead spirit of a great (evil?) mage and learn powerful spells from them. Or can call up an ancient philosopher or a military general to learn historical details.
How the living visit the dead.
It is expected that in the living world, mages and shamans will develop means for communicating with characters in the underworld, and very powerful individuals may even be able to visit the underworld temporarily (perhaps to help lead a fellow out of the dark lands?) These "necronauts" are risking their own lives to do this, as the pitfalls are ever present and the dangers mortal and permanent.
Adventuring in the Underworld
There are numerous ways to travel the world of the dead. Being dead is one means, obviously, but there are other ways as well. Necronautics, the art of traveling in the plane of death, is done by simulating death in one's body. This is a dangerous process and any who try it run the risk of ending up dead for real, should they take a misstep or forget a critical procedure. It is also possible to travel to the underworld physically, bringing one's body and equipment into the world. Portals to the underworld can be found in the real world on occasion.
Traveling to the underworld with one's physical body is obviously unsafe; beings already in the underworld can attempt to grab the spirit/soul of the visitor and try to pull it out of the body (using spiritual combat). Failure to resist these efforts are, obviously, very undesireable.
If the visitor's spirit and/or soul is ripped from the flesh, the beings of the underworld can leap into it and attempt to escape the underworld. Some ghosts, desperate to escape, will not even bother to fully rip out the spirit/soul, but instead simply weaken it and overpower it, thus carrying the original inhabitant of the body "along for the ride".
Leaving one's body to travel to other places is not without its perils. Bodies that are alive but devoid of a soul are very attractive targets for ghosts, who can take complete and total control over the body, essentially returning to life.
The study of the spirit and the soul and the process of death.
Flesh, Spirit, and Soul
Every living being is made of three parts - it's flesh, soul, and spirit. The flesh is the material form of the being that remains after death. The soul is that which makes the being what and whom he is, it's mind and memories. The spirit is that animating force which binds the soul to the flesh and gives it life. The spirit is the essence and power of life. All three parts are intricately bound together as long as the being lives, but at death the three parts begin the irreversible process of dissolution.
At death, the soul and spirit depart the flesh. Typically, the spirit's breaking from the flesh takes longer than the soul; the spirit lags the soul by several days, or even a week. Thus many cultures delay cremation, or instead conduct inhumation of the corpse, to permit the soul and spirit to rejoin before continuing on to the afterworld. If the character has died a natural death, the soul and spirit travel together to the afterworld. Various evils may interrupt this process and twist it into a form that we call Undead. But let us not yet dwell on this horror.
When a character dies and travels to the underworld, its player has the option of continuing to play the dead character or to simply "let it go". The player might want to continue playing the character if, for instance, she wishes to attempt to rescue the character and bring it back to the land of the living.
For those who choose to remain in the Underworld rather than proceeding to a final resting place, the bond between spirit and soul gradually decays, reducing the character's power. The soul will live forever, but the spirit gradually runs low and eventually ends. Some gods, who derive power from the spirits of their followers, help guide their follower's spirit/soul to an afterworld at the price of taking the spirit for their own use, typically providing the soul with sufficient nourishment to survive for a very long period of time.
In the living world, spirits do not decay, but rather rejuvenate themselves off of the surrounding mana and life energies. However, in the Underworld and afterworlds these energies are tapped out and so spirits decay unstoppably. Thus the spirits of the living are very valuable to powerful afterworld beings, and are coveted beyond any gold or jewel. A god with many followers will have the spirits of many to provide the power he needs to create miracles. One with few followers may require blood sacrifices before she can help her followers. Some evil gods, desiring the giddy high of vast amounts of power, will incite its followers to conduct vast holocausts in its name, conduct mass-sacrifices, or even cause masses of its followers to commit ritual suicide to provide the god with the power it so despicably craves.
A spirit is basically pure mana/essence, so a powerful spellcaster would be able to push a massive amount of mana at a soul, giving it a spirit and making it a ghost. This would only work temporarily, however, and wouldn't be the same as binding it to a spirit (which would also probably automatically happen if it came in contact with its original spirit). It should be possible to bind this pseudo-spirit to a soul, making it a full ghost, but this should be pretty tough to do. Where there's a lot of raw mana floating around (mana nodes), you'd see more ghostly activity, as lone souls pick up scraps of mana and are able to visualize, move stuff, etc. These would also be places like abandoned churches, near powerful artifacts, and other mana nodes. One would find lots of lone souls in graveyards, as they "missed" their spirit and are just hanging around. After a person dies, their soul should immediately come out of their body. In this state they'd be standing above their dead body. Five seconds after this, their spirit would exit their body and unite with the soul. When a soul that has died without yet traveling to the Underworld (set a bit upon dying, and unset upon traveling to the Underworld) comes in contact with a spirit and is bound to it (either his own, or another or psudo one that's bound via magic),he immediately travels to the Underworld, properly dying.
Sometimes, this process is interrupted my a powerful magic user. The most notable on these are Wights. Wights, of course, have a body and soul, but need the spirits of others to live. After they kill a person, they grab their soul, and consume it, leaving the soul trapped in the Prime. A group of adventurers coming to slay the Wight would be wise to have a Necromancer with them, for he could see and communicate with the souls wandering around the Wight's lair. He could talk to them and ask them for help, and agree to help them get to the Underworld if they helped him slay the Wight. The Necromancer could supply them with mana so that they could distract the Wight, or he could get a lot of dead bodies that the souls could possess (they would likely need to be their original bodies), making them the Damned. These zombies could attack the Wight with the adventuring party, surrounding him and making him easier to kill. Upon slaying the Wight, the souls fall upon it, stealing back their spirit that are left and peacefully dying at last.
Some mortals steal souls and spirits, as well. Shamans hungry for mana for a spell, clerics looking for sacrifices, mages needed spirits for a magical item or power, necromancers wanting a soul for information and deal-making, and mages who steal them for the black market. An entire market may exist for the trade of bodies (good for undead and spirits looking for new bodies), spirits (mana, shaman spells, magic items, good for a soul in need, sacrifices, etc.), and souls (good spies, informants, making deals with, and twisted experiments).
There are two kind of zombies. Animated Zombies are exactly like animated skeletons, but they still have flesh. Damned Zombies are much different, being spiritless beings wandering the Prime trying to accomplish some unfinished task before their spiritless body gives way.
Souls cannot be seen by the Living except those with spiritual powers. They can move normally and even talk, but cannot speak with the living, affect anything, appear to non-spirit people, or use any powers of ghosts without mana (ie, a spirit of some kind). They would probably look like the spirits in Indiana Jones and the Search for the Lost Ark, or possibly a green, glowing mist.
Something that needs to be decided is how hard it is for a Damned to absorb spirits. It would probably rely on intelligence, or a skill: a Wight would know about it, but your common zombie wouldn't. What about other people or animals? If I kill a wolf, bind its soul back into its body, then pump some mana into it, then send it off to kill stuff, will it kill them and absorb their souls? If not, what if I kill a peasants and put his soul into the wolf corpse? Would he be able to do this? As DarkZero pointed out, this opens many interesting possibilities. A Necromantic Mage could kidnap a few peasants, kill them, stick their souls into a few wolf bodies on ice, pump in some mana, a charm spell, and he has a pack of very good guards. Then he could use the peasant bodies and spirits to make some nice animated undead servants. As you can see, I'm been thinking about these possibilities a lot, being the sick person that I am. :)
The study of how and why magic works, and the phenomenology that surrounds it. Magic theory and philosophy goes here. Grimoire and magic rules go elsewhere. This explains "why", not "how".
The Afterlife, and the gods who reside there.
People worship deities for several different reasons. The first and most obvious is to gain power in the living world. For some religions, especially demonic ones, this is the _only_ reason. Another reason is to gain access to a better existance in the Afterlife.
Characters who have followed the teachings and guidance of a particular god will likely be greeted by an avatar or servitor (aka angels, valkyries, charon, Death, etc.) of that god, and guided to the final resting place. This could appear as a golden gate, a silver stairway, a dark hole in the shadows, a shallow boat on a river of blood, or a black robed figure wielding a scythe. Whatever the form, this is the character's last chance to resist eternity for another chance at life. If the character successfully resists, she may remain in the afterworld for a longer period of time.
People who do not believe in the gods, or who fail to meet the requirements of their religion, end up in the Underworld, a purgatory between worlds.
Sometimes gods will realize that it is not quite "time" for a character to die. The god may perform a miracle to give the dead fellow "a second chance". Obviously, a god would only do this for a character that has been particularly devout, and/or might bring the god more benefits alive than dead. Someone suffering from a terminal illness might suddenly get better (especially if many people prayed to the god for the miracle, or if the god's avatar specifically requested the deed).
The Underworld connects to a number of other places besides the living world. Based on the perspective of the beings inhabiting the living world, these places are collectively termed The Afterlife.
It is unknown how many afterworlds there are, but it is known that there are many. Many afterworlds have deities associated with them, who use their control over an afterworld as a lure to attract followers in the living world. In exchange for the living being's faith, the god agrees to assist the individual with reaching the god's afterworld after death. Devils, on the other hand, promise to provide temporary benefits in the living world in exchange for eternal service in _their_ afterworld.
How the dead visit the living.
Here we must turn our attention to the most horrid consequence of the spirit / soul / flesh phenomenon: The Undead. The Undead can be grouped in four: Those with spirit and soul, but no flesh (the Uncorporeals), those with spirit and flesh but no soul (the Animated Undead), those with soul and flesh, but no spirit (the Damned), and the ones with flesh, spirit, and something *elses* soul (the Possessed).
The Uncorporeals are those Undead who exist outside the flesh. These may be beings who never traveled to the afterworld, or those who did so and returned but could not find their flesh, or those who were brought back from the afterworld but not reconnected to their flesh. Those with strong bonds between soul and spirit are termed ghosts. Those more spirit than soul are known as poltergeists, banshees, wraiths, and shades. Those with weak spirits but strong souls are apparitions. In cultures where cremation is common, there exists a strong danger that the deceased will return from the afterworld only to find their flesh destroyed, thus forcing them to exist in Uncorporeal form for an indeterminant amount of time.
Ghosts tend to still retain self-awareness. All but the weakest ones retain the ability to think and plan. So why do they inhabit the living world, instead of proceding to the afterworld? Some ghosts remain because they do not accept that they are dead. Others do so out of duty, a need for closure, or a desire for _revenge_. In some cultures it is traditional for the strongest and wisest people to remain after death as ghosts to provide advice, guidance, and power to the living.
The Animated Undead are the most common of the undead, as the talents needed to create them are within the grasp of mortals. Any spirit and any body can be used; for example, a human skeleton and an animal's spirit. The result is a nearly mindless automaton. Some mages have taken to using non-living matter to create "better" beings, calling them Golems instead of "Undead", as they truly are. In cultures where burial is preferred over cremation, necromuters have been known to raid cemeteries in search of fresh corpses to create sepulcranauts: ghouls, ghasts, zombies, and skelites (animated skeletons).
History recalls many men who, in their twisted madness, sought to raise vast armies of the dead in order to further their insane ends. The effort required to create (and maintain) a large host of such soldiers is truly monumental; history has shown time and again that such efforts are easily spotted and put to an end. For every man who would command an army of undead, there are hundreds more who would stop him.
The Damned live without life, only flesh and mind -- zombies. Without the spirit's provision of life energy, the zombie is a temporarly thing; because its body (and brain) is rotting away, its soul will soon become incapable of providing guidance. These beings may return from the grave if the soul's desire is strong enough - perhaps to avenge a wrong, or to complete a task that must be done. A more powerful form of Damned are the Wights (and mummies), who retain their soul and body for a long period of time after death, deriving power from the spirits of slaves and followers slain at the time of burial. In cultures where burial or mummification is done, it is not unknown for the dead to return from the afterworld and re-inhabit their bodies for some obscure purpose; great fear is caused by the dead's return to life, but it is only temporary, since the body will shortly rot to the point that it will return to the soil and disturb no one forever.
The most highly feared group is the Possessed. Those beings who are a random amalgam of soul, spirit, and body. Being's who's soul have been suppressed by another being are truly posessed, in the sense that an exorcist can drive the demonic soul out. Other's are less hopeful, as a demonic soul has completely replaced the original being's soul. These creatures, known as vampires, only retain the original being's spirit by a weak tendril, and must suck out the spirit of other living beings if they hope to continue existance forever. Some mages, desiring for immortality, replace their natural spirit- soul-flesh bonds with magical ones, and thus become liches.
Returning from the Underworld
If a being is able to find the exit from the Underworld, he will return to the living world, but only as a _ghost_. A ghost can wander round the real world, though it can't affect it in any (easy) way. It can talk to or affect other spiritual beings, races who see ghosts, spell-casters using spirit magic and the like.
As one progresses as a ghost, one can learn ghost powers.
If you're particularly fortunate, a powerful being (your god, perhaps?) might assist in binding you back into your original body, assuming that it is in good condition or can be healed back to normal. Reincarnation into another body is another option that a player could pursue for her character if she wishes. No doubt the benefactor is going to require a non-trivial amount of service to recoup the investment they've made in you. And needless to say, you are now on borrowed time; your life is *not* going to be the same.
You may also consider stealing someone else's body. Now, you can't just swipe *any* body, only those with weak spirit/souls that can be easily "knocked aside". This includes: Mortally wounded individuals (below 0 HP, but not completely dead), the catatonically insane, the unconscious (possession lasts only temporarily, though), or necronauts (mages out spirit-walking). The rest cost too much energy to take over. If there is nothing guarding the body, then the phantom can step into the flesh and assert control over the body. Of course, when the original inhabitant's soul regains strength, it can pretty easily regain control.
A powerful spirit can even force itself into bodies occupied by active souls. Typically, possessing an animal is easier than a human, and insane humans easier than sane ones. In fact, taking control over a sane human(oid) being is impossible for all but the strongest ghosts. In any case, some amount of spiritual combat may be required (with the advantage given to the original inhabitant due to "familiar grounds"). It is possible to partially possess a body; for instance, the body can be possessed but the original soul not completely cast out. Or a spirit can get a "toehold" in someone's body but not completely take over control of the body. In fact, it is very difficult (nearly impossible) for any ghost to take *complete* control of a body - the bond between spirit/soul and flesh can be weakened, but it is not easy to break. Only demon-class beings have the power to fully wrest control of a body.
Even if the ghost lacks the force to take possession of the body, partially inhabiting it can cause trouble for the victim. The ghost may be able to sap away some of the victim's mana, thus weakening it. The victim's constitution will sometimes suffer in addition (whether the ghost wishes it or not), thus causing illness and disease to afflict the character.
Original inhabitants of bodies can of course fight to regain it. Clerics and other spiritualists can attempt to cleanse or exorcise the body of alien beings.
There are only two ways a ghost can leave a body that it has successfully taken over completely. The first is, obviously, death. Unfortunately, in this case the spirit/soul is returned immediately to the underworld and must once again fight to get out. The second is, if two ghosts have inhabited a body, one of the ghosts can weaken itself and let the second ghost "kick it out".
Ghosts rarely possess a dead body, for the simple reason that the body is *dead*. The mere presence of a ghost in a body does not give it life. Though if the body was subsequently reanimated the ghost could take control over it pretty easily (this is one of the reasons that resurrection is a complicated and dangerous art.)
Ghosts essentially die if their essence rating is reduced to zero. When this happens, the ghost's spirit and soul are finally divorced, with the spirit fading away and the soul proceding on to the Underworld. Without a spirit to power the soul, the ghost is most likely headed for its final resting place.
A ghost that has partially possessed a person, but not fully taken it over, is known as a _haunt_. It saps mana from the haunted person (usually unnoticed) and can use that mana to feed its powers. Many haunts choose to torment adolescents because of their pure, undiluted essences. Haunts with access to particularly large amounts of mana (such as if they are sapping energy from a particularly talented young person) can cause physical phenomenon to occur. These haunts are called _poltergeists_.
Ghosts have a bond with their remains. Some ghosts are unable or unwilling to part too far from their remains. Witch doctors take advantage of this, and strengthen it, to produce relics, talismans, and fetishes. For instance, the thumbs from an orc warrior's defeated enemies could be prepared into a necklace for the orc to wear, perhaps using the spirits of his defeated foes to fight off other spirits.
Churches and religious orders will often retain the remains of holy saints, respected kings, and famed heroes within the church grounds (sometimes buried in the church itself!) in the hopes that the spirits of these venerated folks will stick around and protect, heal, and guide the living.
Raising the Dead
People in the living world may attempt to bring a soul back from the dead.
If the dead fellow wishes to remain dead, or wishes to procede on to his final resting place, then he might resist being resurrected. Gods tend to be unhappy when their rightfully dead followers are brought back to life (if the god really didn't want the character dead, he'd have performed a miricle to give them another chance.)
Sometimes one might get a different soul back than desired, or may get the desired soul, *plus* another. Mayhem typically ensues, the moral being that sometimes the dead should stay dead.
The world of the dead and what lies beyond.
After a character has died, it's spirit and soul will arrive in the underworld. From here, it has three choices. It may attempt to return to the world of the living, remain in the underworld for eternity, or pass on to the Afterlife.
The character's spirit and soul will appear at some random spot in the Underworld, a vast wasteland populated by lost souls and the recently deceased. It is a dreary, transitory place, a waypoint between realities, where the dead wait to reach their final resting place. It won't be clear how to get *out* of the underworld; even players who have traveled to this world hundreds of times won't know the "shortcuts", as they will vary from character to character, and from time to time.
Characters can remain in the underworld for a considerable amount of time, but most will eventually procede on to one of the many final resting places. These afterworlds are remote corners of the underworld, places where souls seat themselves for eternity. It is the gods themselves who carve out these places and order them to suit their whims.
Escaping back to the living world is mostly an exercise in problem solving and roleplaying. Fighting one's way out is nigh impossible; only craft and guile will save onesself. Escaping death is a heroic feat, and not one that any old goatherd or shopkeeper would attempt lightly. There are many ways to escape, some less pleasant than others. And even when escape is accomplished, the character runs the small but dreadful risk of being tainted by her experiences, bringing a bit of death back with them. And of course, serious damage to one's body or the onset of rot, could make one's return to life unpleasant.
"Permanent" NPCs will be present in the underworld to provide guidance and hints, though these will often only be obtained at the price of a quest, promise, or service.
The most powerful being in the underworld is Orcus. His knowledge and magical skills are vast, and it is said that he has great libraries. Orcus controls a number of beings in the underworld, and possesses knowledge of how beings can escape from there to the living world.
The Underworld does not work *quite* the same way as the real world. TBD what the differences are. One thing is for certain, though, this ain't the material world...
Mana rejuvination might work differently in the Underworld, as well. TBD again.
Ghosts in the Underworld will slowly decay in two ways. First, they'll gradually lose knowledge of how to do physical things (like combat!) at the rate of a few percent per week, and can reduce the skills to about 75% of their original value.
You can leave the Underworld/Abyss by finding a portal out, questing for a powerful demon, etc.
However, when you leave by this method you're still a ghost. You don't get automagically reborn into a new body with the same physical appearance and statistics as you used to have. You are, essentially, <a href="undead.html">undead</a>. You've got several choices. First, you could remain a ghost in the living world. Second, you might be able to reinhabit your original body if it hasn't decayed too much and be reincarnated. Third, you could possess another body.
Technical Programming Issues
Since the underworld may have different physics than the living world, it may be useful to run the underworld on a different server (or at least on a different process.)
There should probably be no artificial limits to the number of players running around on the Underworld, but if the number becomes higher than a few percent, there may be a problem...
- Cosmology: Study of the material world, the stars, and how everything came to be.
- Ontology: Study of life and the nature and relations of being.