In the beginning…
Excerpts from THE MULTIVERSE AND HOW IT CAME TO BE by Torin Barrem, Professor of History at the Grey Tower, c. Imperial Year 4181:
The multiverse, scholars tell us, has always existed. There was no beginning, and will be no end. Our world however, which we in the West call Zerith, did come into being many, many thousands of years ago. The earliest records of our culture from some ten millennia ago speak of ancient civilizations long gone, even then. The Elves claim to have visited this world more than a hundred thousand years before they settled here (the latter was around the time of the rise of Western realms). The Dwarven cities of the Iron Mountains were abandoned more than 12,000 years ago. This world, then, is very old by human measure…
The basic structure of all of existence is said to be a vast web of energy, usually called Primal Energy by those who study such things. Everything — every world, every plane, every creature, every plant — is composed of Primal Energy. All sources of Primal Energy also constantly radiate a form of energy called Flux, in direct proportion to the size of the source…
Animate, living things (‘creatures’ we call them) are divided into two types: those that can directly manipulate Primal Energy (and therefore Flux), and those that cannot. The former, we call ‘Powers’ (or ‘Gods’), while the latter are simply people and animals. Abilities and powers that mortals call magic or divine are actually just manipulations of Flux, or more rarely, of Primal Energy itself.
Gods and Followers
Given the explanation of Professor Barrem regarding Primal Energy and Flux, it is possible to understand the relationship between a deity and their followers. Ordinarily, Flux is simply radiated away from a source of Primal Energy, and can be gathered and manipulated by those beings able to directly affect Primal Energy (i.e., what Barrem called Powers). This is why Powers covet the possession of planes of existence, because they represent huge, constantly replenishing sources of Flux. The largest and most significant planes are what we term the Material Planes, tightly bound matrices of vast quantities of Primal Energy, veritably pulsing with oceans of Flux. Unfortunately for Powers, the structure of the Material Planes is such that they cannot force their way inside their matrices, and most of the Flux is reflected back into the interior. The actual mechanism that keeps Powers from entering the Material Planes is often described as a physical limitation. That is, it is speculated that Powers are composed of so much Primal Energy that they can’t “squeeze” into the tight weave of the Planes. This is sometimes called the “Bigger Lumps” theory (although usually amongst scholars, and not where theists can hear), but no one is certain how true it is.
What is known is that we mortals, those who can dwell within the Material Planes, can use special rituals and other mechanisms to subtly affect how Flux is radiated from our environment, and even ourselves. Using divinely-inspired instructions , the very earliest of people of our world learned how to direct Flux in such a way that more leaked out of the Plane, presumably in a way that the guiding Power would know best how to collect. The effect then, is that worshippers can pray to cause Flux to be sent to their God. In return, the God grants special followers (i.e., clerics) powers. It is through a similar mechanism that sacrifices work, although of course, only dark and evil powers would sanction the sacrifice of an intelligent (and therefore having more Primal Energy) creature.
There are some consequences of these mechanisms that affect human worshippers. A God only has a “presence” on a Material Plane if they have sent an avatar there. Without an avatar, the God cannot perceive anything that happens within a Plane, and cannot receive prayers or provide aid. Avatars are very powerful creatures, but they are necessarily diminished shadows of the God that creates them. Therefore, they can in theory be slain, hiding a Plane from the sight of a God until he/she/it gathers enough Flux to create the avatar anew. Note though that there is nothing to stop a God from sending more than one avatar into a Material Plane at a time, other that the very significant investment of Flux that creating one involves.
The Nature of Good and Evil
The concept of Good and Evil as actual forces, as opposed to being simply philosophies or moral positions of intelligent creatures, has long been debated. Many scholars who have studied the nature of the multiverse believe that Good and Evil are mere reflections of some property of Primal Energy. By collecting observations and evidence, the best guess is that when Primal Energy is not bound into Material Planes, it can take on certain properties that we perceive as Good and Evil. This idea agrees with the notion of “positive” and “negative” energy, which is known to have been used in written sources of angelic or demonic origin. Similarly, certain types of ritual for releasing Flux, are predisposed to Good or Evil (or positive or negative, if you prefer) results.