Campaign World Design Diary Day 1.

Imagine the perfect world, heaven, Utopia, paradise. Now, picture it descending from that state down into the world of 13th or 14th century Earth. It seems like the change happened almost overnight. Now your character must cope with this frightening new reality.

Game stats be damned. Full speed ahead.

I’ve decided I’m going to stop ruminating on which system to use and just do the thing. Tentatively it’s going to be a Cypher System Game. The first few days of this project are going to be a massive lore dump, anyway. System doesn’t matter when we’re just writing some basic fiction and creating a setting bible.

My goal here is not to give too much of the setting away as I am planning on selling this thing. It’s part labor of love and part loving detachment. Part of the reason I think many of us have so many unfinished projects is because sometimes it’s hard to release something into the world after we’ve spent so much effort to make it cool. This series of articles is to share some of my thoughts about the design process and why I did some of the things I did. Maybe it will help a fellow Game Master/Dungeon Master somewhere along the way.

Starting premises. What is the 5th Dimension?

(*Apologies in advance. This first part is pretty esoteric.) Simply put: the 5th Dimension is a realm currently ascended and evolved compared to the one we live in here in the real world. Some believe it is a higher frequency, higher vibrational realm that overlaps the one we’re in now.

When people talk about the 5th dimension, one hears of great crystalline cities in the sky. Everyone has the ability to create or manifest anything they desire almost instantly in most cases. There is no toil or suffering. Beings are free to come and go as they please and get around by thought. Pleasurable endeavours such as art, music, literature, poetry, theatre, and dance are emphasized.

There is no need for currency. Everyone’s basic needs are met or manifested automatically as not to cause discomfort. It’s a Utopian vision of heaven. Every day is sunny and pleasant. There is no war, sickness, hate, lack or death. No worries, ever. Just thought, creativity, peace and comfort.

Picture a world where you can have any super power you could ever want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. *Not that anyone would ever dream of hurting anyone. There is literally no need to do so, ever. No governments, banks, currency or jobs to go to. Sounds wonderful, huh?

Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on

Nothing that perfect can ever stay that way.

Now, imagine what would happen if an enormous 5D world came crashing down gently into a 4D/3D state such as we see in most fantasy TTRPGs. What would that look like? What happens when an entire generation or two on this world live through a change from a perfect world to the one that existed on the real Earth in the 1300-1400s in Europe.

Imagine what a shock it would be to one’s system to go from manifesting a perfect dwelling out of the Earth itself to having to live in a crude wooden structure with a thatch roof. Imagine going from never being hungry to having to be a maid making just enough coins to buy bread on a given day. Imagine being friends with animals and trees only to find out they’ve changed. The trees are not as much a companion as a resource. The animals are doing terrible things to one another. (By eating smaller animals for sustenance for example.)

Survival became a major concern for the beings. Animals began attacking people. This was very confusing because the beings had always been friends with all in their surroundings. The split became more divisive as time came to a slower crawl. Some animals came to life as monstrous beasts. Soon creatures known as giants, dragons, hydras, and ogres roamed the land.

Courtesy of Openverse.

It’s all about the beings.

The most difficult part of the descent into this harsh physical realm for many is remembering the reality of being true, timeless, peaceful light and not being able to return to it. A veil of forgetfulness fell upon the physical plane for most. Beings on the spirit plane escaped this veil. Spirits of the plants and earth remember all too well which is why they speak very slowly and lovingly. The fae retained their own metaphysical corner of the new world, as did dragons.

Harsh new reality extended to some beings. They became twisted, evil, cruel, and inhumane in exchange for the powers on the 3D plane. They called themselves the “Old Ones.” Creatures from a much darker, negative space called “demons” and “devils” began to portal into the new world as it became solid. Other beings that came down from the 5D space were almost immediately subjugated or destroyed.

Destruction or death is such a double edged sword for the beings that descended from the higher plane. Most don’t remember the 5D realm They ALL return to 5D, but some choose to come back to experience these short, “mortal” lives all over again. Many choose different roles and agree to “forget” their immortal powers for a time in the mortal realm beforehand.

Fortunately, some remember a portion of their amazing abilities from before the descent. Some are gifted with what others would learn to call “magic.” It is strange and almost painful for those who still remember the higher realm. The descent was a massive blur. But they can still speak with the spirits and channel amazing energies.

Here’s where the TTRPG part comes in.
Courtesy of Openverse.

Your character is either one who remembers, or one who has come back with a tiny fraction of the divine power they once held. Your character could also be one of the ones born to the 3D reality who has managed to adapt physically to the harsh, brutal, new existence. Some are just born to explore.

All of the characters are Human. No one has ever seen or heard of Elf, Dwarf, or Gnome. Most beings have never run across the fae, the spirits, giants, or any negative entities. Stories of powerful beings circulate, but few have actually encountered one. The characters know they exist, along with the treasure they might happen to guard or secrets they might remember. (Cyphers.)

However, the PCs are like a magnet to the unnatural, unusual, and paranormal experiences of the world. The planet is enormous. Settlements are scattered far and wide. Riches and artifacts lie buried in cairns, caches, and even dungeons from the time before the descent. There is an enormous amount of land to explore outside of the village where the group starts out.

Other beings.

There are rumors floating around about beings trapped in their divine, Luminal forms. Some might be severely disturbed by the Great Descent, unable to process the crash into a plane of time and gravity. These beings might appear as Titans, demigods, or something much more malevolent if encountered.

Wow! Covered a lot of ground with not a lot of TTRPG stuff mentioned. This planet has existed in my head for so long, it’s almost like living there. Putting it all down on paper is like downloading a novel.

Thanks for stopping by. Much more to come. Have a great day.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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