Magical Mondays: The Table Primordial   Leave a comment

Hey all, still overcoming my disease *cough cough* but I think I’m almost healthy again.  In today’s Magical Mondays, I’m going to be presenting a bit of magical lore from my own setting, Cantadel.  It’s something that a certain group of players in my games have been working toward for years, indirectly, so I’ve been avoiding saying anything about it online, but I think it’s unrelated enough to the story that it’s not a spoiler.  Plus, I used it as an example of something to include in a dungeon in a recent Reddit post where someone was asking for ideas about a dungeon that uses a four elements theme.  More importantly, I think that Magical Lore is one of those elements of world building that we, as GMs, aren’t encouraged to do.  We have so many rules about balancing magic and working the numbers on items that classify them in ways that relate to level or challenge rating that there’s just not enough room in the book to talk about the imagination that we’re encouraged to use.  In the back of our head, sure, we all know that realistically we can say anything we want… but the game rule books don’t really talk about it much, so it’s not really something on our minds when we say “it’s time to build the world!”  So, I hope that by presenting a little something from Cantadel’s cosmology, it’ll help you to consider yours.

Consider now… The Table Primordial.

Samurai Jack Elementals

(Note: the above image is not an actual image of The Table Primordial, it’s merely a scene from Samurai Jack chosen to present a sense of, if not literal scale, then intended significance.)

The Table Primordial is a legendary device or location, and some consider it a plane in and of itself.  Whatever the true nature of the Table Primordial, the various reports about it suggest that it is a revered meeting place and neutral territory where opposing elemental forces may congregate peacefully to discuss matters of the utmost importance.  The table seems designed to accommodate “true” users, and it recognizes those who “belong” sitting around it, resizing either itself or those who sit at it so that all may see eye to eye as equals.  Mountain-sized primal dwarf creatures have sincerely debated issues of great importance with thimble-sized water sprites with each seeing the other as approximately their own height.  No one knows the true nature of this apparent size change… it may even just be illusory… but unwelcome humanoid adventurers who have found this place have reported a massive structure with colossal beings towering over it, and at least one ancient (and unconfirmed) tale speaks of a pixie recognizing an enemy, delighting in the momentary size reversal, and stomping the poor adventurer to death.  Clearly, the table did not recognize the exploring human as someone who “belonged” there.

The descriptions of the table have changed as well, and accurate explanations of its size have remained evasive.  Most agree that it seems to be constructed of crystallized and inert elements of raw elements, each divided into its own quadrant of the table; the fire portion is as still as the rock portion.  Some have suggested that this is merely a way for our minds to interpret the Table Primordial, as this seems to show a preference for earthen elements, and that it is merely a “safe zone” where all the elements are equal.  The Table Primordial is referenced in many cultures indirectly, and a few of the more significant gatherings are known:

Twelve times a year, Sun and Moon gather to discuss matters of importance to themselves in their eternal chase around the world.  Sun is an unimaginably massive fire elemental, with a massive amount of holy energy built in to its flames, radiating out from it (call it radiant energy, positive energy, or whatever you like for your game mechanics.)  The Moon is a smaller, but still unimaginably large stone elemental.  It radiates a darker energy, but also receives light from Sun to use in its own ways, generally affecting the minds of many, ranging from lunacy on its darker evenings to lovestruck feelings on its brighter nights.  The Moon may choose to use the sun’s energy to alter its own, up to and including making it holy in the same way that the sun’s is.  Some believe that the Moon is, in fact, an apprentice of the Sun, and that these monthly meetings are also educational in nature.  It is unknown if the timing of eclipses are related to their meetings at the Table Primordial.

Thrice a year, leaders of the elemental giants convene around this table to discuss the terms for elements of sport and leisure between their distant cousins.  While each form of giant has a different opinion on what constitutes an enjoyable activity, these meetings allow the leaders to find those events that will satisfy all of their appetites for hunting, wrestling, racing, jousting, and feasting.  More importantly, the leaders can address inter-clan conflicts before these times of sport arrive.

Twice a year, usually during the Solstices, the great elementals of Winter and Summer meet.  The frost elemental Winter and the heat elemental Summer both wish to remake the world as if it were entirely under their rule, but they remain locked in an eternal balance against each other, and when that balance is removed one may finally gain the advantage over the other.  (Note to any of my long time players who may read this: The Frozen One approaches you still…)  Whenever Winter and Summer meet, they are joined by two lesser trickster elementals, Spring and Autumn.  These two don’t see eye to eye either, but they each wish to ensure that Winter and Summer remain in check.  Two other times during the year, during the Equinoxes, Spring and Autumn meet without Winter or Summer’s knowledge and compare notes of what they’ve learned while observing the other elementals, who see the lesser two as minions without ever quite noticing that they both do work for the other at different times.  Sometimes, though, Winter and Summer get along strangely well, and then their meetings become great discussions on how to settle disputes between the various powerful fey under the control of each, something that Spring and Autumn are trying very hard to figure out how to trigger.

In general, only mortals with knowledge of the Planes, Religion or the Arcane will know more than simple stories about this place.  Many casters seek it out, knowing that their spells can be improved if cast while near the table.  Others still believe that they can increase the potency of their spells if they chip away fragments of the table to carry away.  An abjuration would be that much stronger with the sturdiness of elemental stone, would it not? An arrow or catapult would launch its ammunition farther if aided by purest wind, yes?  The “true” users of the table resent the mortal casters who view the table this way, however; it both does a great disrespect to a tradition that predates humanoids while also gradually eroding their precious table.

Having said this, it is not unheard of for some casters to become accepted by the table.  One story speaks of a great war being averted when a Pyromancer general and a Windwalker admiral met to discuss terms.  Some versions of the story, though, suggest that each had a genie along as an advisor, and that the genie persuaded the table to speak for them.  Or, perhaps the table merely recognized their elemental power.  No one knows for sure.

Elements Vs Azula

It was kinda hard to not end on that image, I’ll be honest.  Anyway, this is an example of some of the magical background of my campaign world.  A lot of things in the description I’ve left vague because, well, I don’t know what I want from the story yet, and other things I’ve not filled in because while I know what the truth is, I think it’d be more fun for my players to wonder about it as well.  Regardless, it gives me a background to set stories against, and a lot of potential story hooks that I could have the players engage in.  When creating your own game world’s cosmology, come up with a cool idea and then run with it… you don’t need all the details right away, but giving yourself a good starting point can help you inform other quick decisions down the line.

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays.  Seeya next time!

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