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Monday, December 13, 2010
Inception and D&D Cosmology
Rewatching Inception on blu-ray this weekend I thought of another way some of the film's concepts might inform an rpg setting. Its portrayal of descent through “levels" of dream got me thinking how that might be applied to the standard model of AD&D cosmology.
First, you’d have to take the occult/mystic view that the multiverse beyond the Prime Material is largely a conceptual or spiritual place. The macrocosm (all that is) is reflected, perhaps even encompassed, in the microcosm of a human being. This is hardly a new view, but a different from D&D’s more mechanistic approach.
If the planes aren’t necessarily physical places in the usual sense, but more like states of consciousness or spiritual planes, they’re probably mostly reachable by astral projection, mental/spirit travel, or the like. Travelers’ bodies are left behind in the semblance of sleep.
The first stop would be the astral plane. This area would be malleable (to a degree) to the mind of an experienced traveler. Maybe it also impinges on dreams so random dream stuff is here that can be utilized. The distance through here to any “outer” plane might be a factor of attunement to that planes dominant emotion/ethos/mind-set, or maybe it has to do with some other factor.
Like dream-levels in Inception, I think it would be cool if time ran different in each planar level. The further from the Prime Materal, the “slower” time runs. The astral is only a little slower than the Prime, but in Hell things seem to last forever.
Anyway, that might mean that while each outer plane has a particular theme or character, it will be filtered through the consciousness of the traveler. Everybody gets his own heaven and hell--and nirvana, or whatever. I don’t know how that would work for a party. Maybe the lead traveler would have the biggest influence, but if they split up, individuals would gradually find themselves in very different realms. Of course, maybe the planes are sentient too--iconic representatives, after a fashion, of certain ideas. Maybe they assert their own influence which establishes the broad strokes of their appearances.
Anyway, I think you can see where I’m going with this. I suppose this idea might work better in a modern occult game or something like that, but I see it as playable with traditional fantasy, too. Characters (or players) need not have a real understanding of how the planes operate for them to work this way. In fact, it might be more interesting if they didn’t.