[MUD-Dev] A Metaphysics System

s001gmu at nova.wright.edu s001gmu at nova.wright.edu
Fri May 22 13:01:50 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


In previous discussions I'd alluded to our game's metaphysics system, and
even promised to post them.  So, to that end, here they are.  :)

This is intended to be a summary of all sentient beings' current
understanding of the universe.  Most people in the game would be unaware
of large parts, if not most of, this 'big picture'.  Parts of it are left
purposefully obscure, and parts of it are explained as "that's just the
way it is" (usually because we couldn't find a better way to explain it).

------------

1) The 'stuff of the universe' exists in 3 primary states: high energy
   (spirit), moderate energy (physical), and low energy (void).  It's 
   actually an analog system, with each state defining a narrow range 
   of energy where 99+% of all the 'stuff' is found.

2) Stuff is attracted to stuff of the same state.                    

3) Stuff is repelled by stuff at other states.  The greater the 
   difference in energy levels, the less likely you are to find the 
   two co-existing. 

As a result of 2 & 3, stuff forms into what is conventionally called 
universes or realms.  Spirit stuff generally remains confined to the 
spirit realm, physical mater generally remains in the physical 
universe, and void generally remains in the void.

4) Direct links between the realms are possible and do exist in nature.
4a) Stars are direct links between the spirit realm and the physical 
    universe.
4b) Black holes are links from the physical universe to the void.
4c) There are no known direct links between void and spirit.

As a result of 3, direct links between the universes of the states are
unstable at best.

5) Stuff tends to travel from high to low energy.  

6) It is possible to locally raise the energy of some stuff, but only 
   at the cost of lowering a proportionate amount of higher energy 
   stuff elsewhere.  When higher energy stuff is in the presence of 
   lower energy stuff, the lower energy stuff accelerates the decay of 
   the higher energy stuff, and the higher energy stuff 'warms up' the 
   lower energy stuff to some extent.

7) Spirit stuff is what causes changes in the specific form of physical
   stuff.  (IE: application of a certain amount of spirit stuff, in a 
   certain manner, will convert a lump of lead to a lump of gold, or 
   more mundanely, convert vegetable matter to stuff your body can use 
   to build muscle, etc).

8) Life is derived from spirit stuff.  Plants capture and store it, 
   which herbivores and omnivores acquire by eating said plants, etc.

9) Sentience is derived from spirit stuff.  All* sentient beings are 
   dual beings, with a form in both the spirit universe and the 
   physical universe.  All* sentient beings have and maintain a small 
   link between the two.

* The only known exception to this is the vampire, which will be 
  discussed more thoroughly below.

10) The energy associated with sentience is much higher energy than 
    that stored by plants, etc.

As a result of 3, 9, & 10, sentience is a very fleeting, unstable thing.
Every day life doesn't tamper with the link much, but any substantial 
tampering will cause the spirit stuff to retract from the physical 
world, killing the physical body of the person.  Death in the physical
realm is always the result of this retraction of the being's associated
spirit stuff.  Vampires, again, are slightly different, and being 
killed by a vampire can be a little different, but the rule holds in 
general.

SPIRIT:

It is easy to incorrectly infer from Rule 9 that only dual beings are 
sentient.  Spirit stuff has a very high energy and is constantly 
changing its form.  When this effect is brought into the physical 
realm, which is characterized by fairly static, only slowly changing 
forms of matter, it is called life.  By definition, then, the spirit 
realm _is_ life.  Sentience is simply life characterized by the 
presence of some spirit stuff at a certain, fairly high level of 
energy.  As such, there are myriad examples of localized accumulations 
of such high-energy spirit stuff, confined to the spirit realm, with no
link to a physical body.  In other words, there are sentient, 
spirit-only beings, commonly called gods, angels, demons, fairies, 
spirits, or any number of other things.  There is little or no proof of
any form of spirit stuff with higher energy than that associated with 
sentience, but if there is, one can only wonder at what properties it 
would posses, and what it might confer upon a physical being if brought
into contact with it.

Spirit beings have been known to manifest into the physical universe, 
but primarily remain in the spirit realm.  (Most likely they accomplish
the manifestation by condensing part of themselves into physical matter,
and establishing a temporary link, though even they can't say exactly
how they do it.)  It is known that sentient, dual beings, upon physical 
death, can become very powerful, spirit-only beings.

For as long as sentient, dual beings have been aware of these spirit 
beings, they have participated in the folly of worshiping them as 
higher beings.  Despite the obvious oddity of worshiping something 
anyone is capable of becoming, there are perks to such behavior.  
Because sentience, and therefore thought, is made of spirit matter, 
it is very easy for some spirit beings to pick up on the thoughts and 
emotions of us dual beings.  Most of them simply ignore or pay little 
heed to such things, but occasionally one will find the thoughts, 
particularly the ones surrounding worshiping its ilk, appealing.  When 
this happens, the spirit being becomes what is conventionally called a 
god.  It is able to gain power from its worshipers, dedicating their 
thoughts to it in the form of prayers, and in turn, can channel part of
its power through its worshiper's links, performing 'miracles'.  These 
gods often also provide some amount of protection to their follower's 
links, maintaining them and helping them survive as long as possible 
(most of these gods have found that us dual beings usually like to get 
something for what we give).  Worshipers of these gods, particularly 
the ones that ask for 'divine intervention', tend to call themselves 
clerics.

MAGIC:

Magic is the conscious application of spirit stuff to alter the form of
part of the physical realm.  The nature of the link between the 
physical universe and the spirit universe allows a being to pull some 
spirit stuff into the physical world and 'condense' it into physical 
matter, or apply it to some existing matter and alter the matter's 
form by raising it's energy level.

A sentient being's link, as nature creates it, is very flexible, and 
can be used to alter physical matter forms freely.  It is possible to 
alter the nature of the link.  Magicians can mold part, or all, of 
their link to a specific purpose.  IE: by binding part of their link 
to dealing with changing or creating matter in the form of heat or 
fire, the magician gains the ability to pull more spirit matter through
that part of the link.  However, the magician looses some flexibility 
in what forms that spirit matter can take in the physical realm.  What 
form the molding can take is purely a psychological thing, with humans 
tending towards a 4-element system: earth, air, fire, & water.  Other 
species view things differently.

It is also possible to channel spirit stuff through someone else's 
link, in essence overloading their system with a power surge.  The 
amount of spirit stuff one can force through someone else's link 
depends on the size of the link, if it has been molded, etc.

The major limit on pure magic is that it is not possible to lower the
energy level of matter.  Raising the energy level is all that can be
accomplished (see rule 6).

VOID:

Void is the lowest state of energy of the stuff of the universe.  
Matter eventually decays into void, just as spirit stuff decays into 
mater.  Void has some interesting properties.   Void tends to have a 
considerably lower level of energy than physical matter, a much larger 
gap than between the energy levels of spirit and matter.  When physical
matter is brought into contact with void, the matter is decayed very 
rapidly into void, with little noticeable increase in the void's energy
(as per rule 6).  It's quite fortunate that the links between the 
universes are unstable, and tend to be few and far between.

It is possible for a sentient being to sacrifice part of their link to 
the spirit realm and establish a link to the void.  When a link to the 
void is established a proportional amount of the link to the spirit 
universe is tied up in feeding the void.  IE: if a mage dedicates 10% 
of their link to the void, they only have 90% of their original link to
the spirit realm, but 10% of that is tied up in 'feeding' the void, so 
they only have 80% of their original link to the spirit realm available 
for use.  The upshot of establishing such a link is that the mage can 
then 'draw' on the void for power.  In essence they can pull some void 
into the physical realm, creating a very unstable condition, and then 
use their remaining available spirit link to guide the manner in which 
nature re-establishes a stable state.  This allows for a great deal of 
raw power, but the larger the link to the void, the less control the 
mage will have over the end result.  Mages who dedicate up to 49% of 
their link to void are called Necromancers, or death mages, as they 
'constructively destroy' to accomplish their major works.

Most mages do sacrifice part of their link this way, to gain the 
ability to lower energy levels, as well as raise them.  Most mages tend
to limit the sacrifice to a small percent, so as not to fall too far
behind.  The term 'necromancer' is usualy used in reference to those 
who have sacrificed larger percentages (25%-49%), though technically 
any mage capable of calling on the void is a necromancer.

It is also possible to establish a link that is larger than 49% of the 
size of the mage's spirit link.  Doing so requires that the mage 
acquire spirit energy to 'feed' the void from another source.  The void 
is consuming more than what's left of their spirit link can supply, so 
unless they want to die a quick death, they must find other living 
sources to extract spirit energy from.  Mages who give up 50%-99% of 
their link to the void are called Lich.  They are only capable of magic
when they can find some outside source of spirit energy.  It is 
believed Lich have managed to find ways to store spirit energy in 
previously non-living containers, adding life to them, but scant 
evidence has been found as Lich tend to be very touchy about giving up 
their secrets.

Finally, it is possible to completely sever a link to the spirit realm,
and dedicate it totally to void.  Creatures who choose this path are 
called Vampires, as they must extract spirit energy from living beings 
to continue to survive.  When a vampire feeds, it usually taps into the
victim's blood stream and ingests the blood, which is known to be the
means by which the body transports spirit energy to its various parts.  
Once ingested the blood is drained of its spirit energy, which goes to 
the vampire's system, and is eventually drained away by the void.  This 
draining of the blood is quite traumatic to the spirit link of the 
victim, usually causing it to snap back instantly.  Very powerful 
vampires, however, manage to stabilize the link and drain from it 
directly, for a while.  Eventually, even this is too much stress on the
link, and it withdraws.  How long the vampire can hold the link is 
dependent on the size of the link, the power of the spirit portion of 
the victim, and the power of the vampire.  The more powerful the spirit
portion, the larger the difference in energy between it and void, the 
more unstable the link is.  

Vampires do not, technically, use magic, as spirit matter is not what 
is brought in to the physical realm.  Vampires are capable of molding 
their link to the void, as mages are capable of molding their link to 
the spirit realm.  This allows for some control over the void that 
vampires summon, but not very much.  Vampires are capable of pulling
vast amounts of void into the physical realm, and are a force to be
reckoned with.

Vampires suffer when under direct sunlight, because the energy level of
the light is too high and starts to raise their body's energy level.
This widens the gap between the energy level of their body and the void
link, causing the void link to become more unstable.  Wooden stakes 
through the heart, crosses, garlic, and holy water have little to no 
effect, unless somehow vested with higher energy spirit matter.  
Vampires are inherently more vulnerable to magic that summons spirit 
energy and applies it to change the form of physical matter, as this
has the same effect as direct sunlight, destabilizing the link.
Vampires are also inherently immune to magic that attacks through a 
spirit link, attempting to overload their system.  They have no spirit
link.

------------

We were originally planning on using this system to justify an
afterlife, but on further discussion and design we realized it would
probably split the game too much.  It's hard enough to stay focused on
just one goal whilst designing a game.  I personally haven't abandonded
the idea of a game with an afterlife based on the above metaphysics,
but I think it is best left for further developement at a later date.

As for how we plan to implement a lot of this, well, that's still very
much up in the air.  We'd like a system that allows us to set out a lot
of the basic rules, and has a lot of the stuff described in the latter
paragraphs be emergant behaviors.  Or at least appear that way.  I
don't think we can call it emergant if the underlying system was
designed such that (at least) those behaviors manifest.

-Greg





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