Monday, October 26, 2015

Nefretic Cosmology

In my Nefret campaign, the souls of gods and mortals are inexorably tied to the structure of the planes they inhabit--for every being is composed of an aspect of each plane.  With a strong culture of life, death, and afterlife, it is important to establish the details of the soul and planar cosmology early on in the campaign.  The player experience interacting with these elements needs to be consistent.

Since I know my players follow the blog, I'll also point out that the information here isn't really privileged.  This is the basic knowledge that any character with 1 rank in an appropriate skill would know.

Nature of the Souls

All beings, mortal and immortal, are composed of several souls:  a body (khat), a spirit (ka), a mind (ba), a shadow (sheut), a heart (ib), and a name (ren).  In death, these components separate--and may be transformed and/or reunited in the afterlife.

Body - Material Form

A living body and a dead corpse both share the designation of khat. After death, the the corpse may be preserved as a mummy--which can be the result of natural forces or of artificial embalming.  The khat is a mortal, decaying body born of the mortal world of Gebeb.
Animated dead (skeletons and zombies) are simply khatu that have been awakened without any other soul component.  When a mummy is animated, it retains .  Without artificial animation, bodies do not act independently.
A second material form exists, the "spiritual body" or sah.  In the afterlife, the deceased may be permitted to inherit this new form if they are worthy of it.  The sah is an immortal body created from the immortal world of Duat.

Spirit - Ethereal Form

One's spirit, or ka, is both one's invigorating force of life as well as one's ethereal form.  The ka is created in tandem with the khat as an exact double.  After death, the ka remains near the body until judgement.
Wandering kau may act independently as undead ghosts.

Mind - Astral Form

One's mind, or ba, is one's individual, defining characteristics.  In death, it is the deceased's astral form.  It is the ba (along with the ib) which travels to Duat to seek judgement.

Shadow - Shadow Form

One's shadow is not one's dark side.  This sheut (or khaibit) is a constant companion--a protector and a reflection.  The shadow is primal, and driven by instinct and emotion.
Sheutu may act independently as undead shadows.  A heartless sheut is a greater shadow.


The heart, or ib, is the source and record of emotion, will, and intention. 
The ib is the key to the afterlife--where it gives evidence for or against, its possessor. If a heart weighs more or less than the feather of Maat, it will be immediately destroyed (consumed by Ammit or cast into a lake of fire).  Without a heart, the baka, and sheut will become restless.

True Name

One's identity is bound to one's name--a soul known as the ren.  Whether granted at birth or assumed later in life, the health of one's name is synonymous with one's health after death; in this way, it is also tied to popularity--for enemies of state may have their names removed from monuments.
Without a name, the baka, and sheut will fade away--becoming weak, or even ceasing to exist.

True names are a major component in Nefretic magic.

Other Organs - Elemental Centers of the Body

Other organs do not have the same importance as the heart, though four of them are still preserved when preparing a mummy. While the heart is left in the body during mummification, all others are removed.  Viewed as little more than the source of mucus, the brain is liquefied and discarded.  Four other organs, however, are viewed as essential to the creation of the sah in the afterlife--and are preserved separately in canopic jars.  These organs represent the elemental forces at work in the body:
  • Human jar - South - liver - fire - protected by Isis.
  • Jackal jar - East - stomach - water - protected by Neith.
  • Baboon jar - North - lungs - air - protected by Nephthys.
  • Hawk jar - West - intestines - earth - protected by Selket.

Souls Beyond Death

Some portions of the soul are meant to merge after death; in these cases, the results are outsiders.  However, when the merging of two soul fragments is against the will of Ma'at, the result is undead (some undead are described above).  In some cases, a portion of the soul may be merged with an inanimate object, forming a construct.

Akh (Outsider)

An akh is a fusion of mind and spirit as a perfected, shining being in the afterlife.  Specifically, it is the reunification of a ka and ba whose ib was found to be in balance with Maat.

Netjer (Outsider)

A netjer is an akh that has further fused with a sah: perfected soul and perfected body forming a perfect being.  To be such a perfect being, one's ib must remain pure, and ones ren must remain known.


Most undead are the results of messing with matters of the soul.  As noted above, some undead are natural (ghosts and shadows), while others are simply animated khatu (mummies, skeletons, zombies).  Other undead can be created through magic, or may occur as the result of losing one's ib and/or ren.
  • Ghouls, ghasts, and lacedons are the result of a heartless ka reanimating its khat.  While ghouls and lacedons are also nameless, a ghast is more powerful because it still possesses its ren.
  • Mohrgs are the result of a heartless and nameless sheut reanimating its khat.
  • Skeletal Champions are the result of a heartless ba reanimating its khat.
  • Spectres are a merging of a heartless ka with its sheut.
  • Wights are the result of a heartless sheut reanimating its khat.
  • Wraiths are a merging of a heartless ba with its sheut.  A dread wraith is one that has grown in power over time.
Other undead creatures are variations on this theme.

Lich (Undead)

A lich is a living mummy--created with a variant version of the mummification ritual that is performed on a living being (willing or not).  The lich's viscera remain intact, but its ka is bound to a phylactery.

Vampire (Undead)

Vampires do not exist in the Nefret campaign.

Golem (Constructs)

In Nefreti culture, golems take on a different significance:  they are vessels prepared for use by the ka in death--and are often called ka statues.  Typically, they are constructed from stone or wood--but other items are not unheard of. While a ka may temporarily inhabit a golem, it is not destroyed when they golem is; in fact, it may reawaken in another golem set aside for its use.  A ka may only inhabit a single golem at a time, however.
A mummified body cannot be used by a ka as a flesh golem.  Instead, the flesh golem must be prepared from multiple bodies.  Given Nefret's culture of mummification, flesh golems are uncommon.

Planes of Existence: The Souls of the World

Gebeb - the Material Plane

The River and Land of Nefret--and the cultural Empire they represent--are but a portion of the greater world of Gebeb.  As Nefret is the name of the River and its Empire, so is Gebeb the name of the world and its dominant continental mass.
Gebeb is the mortal khat of the campaign world.  It is the mummified body of the world, with its organs preserved in the stars.

Duat - the Outer Plane

Gebeb is accompanied by a single "outer" plane, which is called Duat.  As the "underworld," Duat exists on the underside of Gebeb--like the reverse of a coin.

Duat is both the realm of the dead and the dwelling place of the gods.  It is also the region through which the sun travels during the night.  During the Twelve Hours of the Night, the sun passes through the regions of Duat, and back again to rise at dawn in the Material Plane.
Duat is the immortal sahu of the campaign world.  Duat is not yet a perfected being--but is a vessel awaiting its akh--for the ba and ka of Gebeb remain seperate.

Transitive Planes

As a reflection of the mortal soul, the transitive planes are the non-physical souls of Gebeb-Duat.

Akhet, the Horizon (Ethereal Plane)

The Horizon separates the Material Plane of Gebeb from the Outer Plane of Duat.
[So, Gebeb-Duat is less of a coin, and more of a Oreo with a creamy, ethereal filling.]
Akhet is the ka, the spirit, of the campaign world. 

Niwet, the Upper Regions (Astral Plane)

The Upper Regions surround Gebeb, but are coterminous with Duat. 
Newet is the ba, the mind, of the campaign world.

Khekhu, the Nighttime Sky (Shadow Plane)

The Nighttime Sky exists inside the Upper Regions, ever opposite of the solar barque.  It is the great shadow of Gebeb-Duat upon the dome of the heavens.  As with mortal shadows, Khekhu remains in constant contact with Gebeb-Duat.
Khekhu is the sheut of the campaign world

Inner Planes

The "inner planes" are celestial bodies that orbit the Gebeb-Duat "disk." In Gebeb, they wander above the known world in the Upper Regions--but once they pass the Horizon, they must be carried across Duat by the gods.  The Energy planes are among the souls of the campaign world, while the Elemental planes are the elemental organs of the world.

Anet, the Solar Barque (Positive Energy Plane)

Anet is the santuary of the sun, the boat in which the Sun travels in the sky during the day and through Duat at night.  The Sun does not wander the sky of Duat at night, but sails on that world's western waters, is dragged across the sand, and then again sails the eastern waters before reentering the horizon.
The solar barque is the ab of the campaign world.

Iah, the Moon (Negative Energy Plane)

The moon shines through the nighttime sky as a beacon in the dark.  Ever changing, ti is both shadow and light.  When it is black, the world does not exist; when it is bright, the world is ever remembered.
The moon represents the ren of the campaign world--for one's name is the key to their ultimate destruction.  The moon is not the actual true name of the world--that is a secret closely guarded by the netjeru and the sphinxes.

Sopdet, the Star of the Flood (Elemental Plane of Water)

The beginning of the year is marked by the helical rising of the star Sopdet in the east--which coincides with the annual flooding of the Nefret River.
Sopdet is the preserved stomach of Gebeb.

Akhemsek, the Pole Star (Elemental Plane of Air)

The imperishable star which does not disappear until dawn.  It is associated with the northern winds which come off the mountains.
Akhemsek is the preserved lungs of Gebeb.

Behes, the Evening and Morning Star (Elemental Plane of Fire)

The star which fades with the Sun in the evening and alights with it again every morning--though it appears daily in the east ans west, it is associated with the south.
Behes is the preserved liver of Gebeb.

Neskef, the Wandering Star (Elemental Plane of Earth)

A bright green star which has been seen to regularly zigzag across the sky.
Neskef is the preserved intestines of Gebeb.

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