What makes the physical world tick, and how the other strange realms of existence is a question that might not get considered much in rpg games, but it is one of the silly things that I like to ponder so that when the players ask the broad questions there are at least some answers.
As my Ars Magica game is slowly spinning up momentum, I hope that some of the players stop to consider what paradigm the world uses, especially where supernatural powers are involved. I also hope that this creates a few paradoxes for them, so that the knowledge seeking players amongst them have material to baffle the other with.
The Realms Paradigm – For each of the essential powers (divine, infernal, magical, and fae) that touch and influence the material world there is a true realm (Heaven, Hell, Magica, and Arcadia). This true realm is similar to an alternate dimension in that it has its own laws of reality, powers, creatures and such, but it also touches the character’s world at many points. The areas where the connections are present are those places which are considered divine, corrupted, supernatural or unbound. In the core rules these are both places with supernatural auras, and also regios.
There is no strict rule that is common to any of the these supernatural realms, and little is known in Mythic Europe about most of them except what scholars have chosen to record as part of the shared experience.
The Realm of Forms – Like the powers, each physical object, thing, place also has an idealised true and perfect form, from which all other versions are derived. All the essential forms of all the objects are combined into their own set, called the Realm of Forms.
The physical examples that exist in the character’s world are reflections or shadows of the true form. This is not to say that they are inferior, but more like they could never be perfect. They are linked via their essential nature (a shovel is a shovel, a tree is a tree) back to the essential Tree and the essential Shovel.
Belief empowers, changes, destroys – The belief of a set of people can change the nature of the material world around them. Over an extended period if enough of the people in an area believe something, it can become (via one of the essential powers) a reality. The larger the change though, the slower it would occur, and the more followers and adherents would be needed to support the view.
This is a troubling concept to quantify in an RPG setting, especially as both positive and negative belief can fuel this change in the material reality. In settings like my Ars Magica game this is a generational change, where continued belief changes the reality into something different. What this means is that segments of the material realm’s reality can be totally different depending on where it is or what is happening.
The tricky thing about a reality that can change, and which is unknown is that nobody can really say what a place or power is really doing, or why it is there. Maybe the people created it, maybe a creature or entity did. The supernatural area might be maintained by the creatures themselves (such as a faerie forest) or supported by the belief of the commoners in the area (such as a chapel’s divine presence). Perhaps the mundanes think the aura is divine, but it is a cruel infernal ploy, which is subverting them for its own ends.