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God is the ultimate world builder who designs various planes, which with their own worlds. He created human beings as living batteries in order to fuel him and give him power. Dea feeds off of the Mana in human souls, which grows in capacity with each new generation. This is what is behind the commandment of "be fruitful and multiply". More humans are born and die, their souls capable of storing more Mana for God to feed on, making it the ultimate racket. Eventually, God conducts a rapture like event which ends the world. During this rapture, he consumes the souls of human beings, both living and dead. The world resets itself and God re - seeds the earth with life. This process occurs every few thousand years.

Rather than focus entirely on one world, God has hundreds active worlds at one time, operating independently from each other. However, running these systems all at once requires a lot of energy and processing power. As a result, these worlds are broken down into three tiers:

  1. Paradise worlds: these worlds are luxurious with plenty of natural resources. Its inhabitants live in safety and security, as supplies are in abundance. These are the best planets to be born on.

  2. Normal worlds: these worlds are like our Earth, with a mix of safe and dangerous places. There are places in which inhabitants live in relative safety and comfort, (USA) as well as places where people live in poverty and destitution.

  3. Death worlds: life is brutish and short. They are in states of perpetual warfare, similar to the ancient world or middle ages. Death is constant, due to violence or disease, and will remain in this state for its entire running cycle. Advances in technology will cause imbalances of power and lead to more suffering.

Each tier of world gets a certain amount of processing power from God, which determines its state of being, with paradise worlds receiving the most and death worlds being on the shitty end of the spectrum. It would make sense for God to safe his energy and focus on a few key worlds, as they are the prime real estate which returns the most value, rather than diversify his resources across multiple ones. The level of diversification he puts into his projects seem counter productive. What would God gain from this?

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    $\begingroup$ Reminds me of a quote from Charles Darwin. When a pastor asked him what his studies had revealed to him about the nature of God he said “he must have had an inordinate fondness for beetles”. Perhaps it just keeps god busy or he finds it all amusing. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Oct 4 '20 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ That was J.B.S. Haldane, @Slarty, not Darwin. But your point stands. $\endgroup$
    – TRiG
    Oct 6 '20 at 8:24

15 Answers 15

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You Get What You Pay For:

Each kind of world is like a different type of stock. Each has it's own investment and risks. A mixed portfolio gives the most reliable returns.

  • Heaven is a high-investment world, but the return is guaranteed. Due to the high up-front investment, the profit margin is low. Occasionally, even the angels rebel, though, so having only this kind of investment isn't a sure thing either.
  • Normal worlds require a decent investment, and tend to give a higher yield. People provide the growth and have reasonably good conditions for it. Plagues, nuclear/magic wars, genocides, etc. create enough risk that you want to hedge the investment against market volatility.
  • Hell worlds are the penny stocks. Almost no investment needed, but usually they turn bad. However, occasionally they go well, and the return on investment is huge (think Arrakis from Dune, but with souls). Quality here may outstrip quantity, and the successful souls from here have transcended the worst to reach the heights.
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    $\begingroup$ A different, but related, spin on this would be heaven worlds taking a lot of resources upfront, but providing a stable output for a long time, while maybe the hell worlds are really easy to make and provide a quick burst of mana, but quickly die out. $\endgroup$ Oct 5 '20 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ your answer fits the analogy very well. however, if god is immortal, why would they care about profit margins? even if the odds of rebellion in a heaven-word are 1:1000 (which would be quite high, imo), the safe returns of the other worlds should compensate for that risk. more fundamentally: why would god need to make profit at all, instead of just running a sustainable operation? is there competition? a war of gods going on? (I realize that those questions need to be answered by OP, but they fit your answer) $\endgroup$ Oct 5 '20 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ "God created Arrakis to train the faithful" $\endgroup$
    – Sobrique
    Oct 5 '20 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ @nonthevisor questions about gods motivation? A sustainable operation would only provide continues existence of god - if he wants to grow and evolve he needs growing yields. $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Oct 6 '20 at 7:59
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Crop Rotation

The Ancient Romans invented a form of 3 stage crop rotation called the food-feed-fallow system designed to optimise land use. In Agriculture, this is a way of optimizing how much nutrients you can pull from soil before you have to do something to replenish it; so, what they would do on year 1 is plant a crop like wheat. This was your high quality crop that provides your main human substance but depletes the most from the soil. Then you harvest your food, and plant your feed. This is a lower quality crop like oats or barley typically used as livestock feed, or for other forms of indirect consumptions like brewing. Then on the third year, you plant your fallow. An often useless crop just meant to replenish the soil in preparation for the next food cycle.

The advantage of 3 stage crop rotation is that it takes very little work to keep the soil good over a long period of time; so, what your God has done is he's created a system designed to recycle itself through passive mechanisms (like fallow replenishment) as opposed to actively rebuilding worlds from scratch each time (like having to manufacture and add industrial fertilizer each year).

How this Relates to Your Worlds:

Paradise Worlds (food): These worlds start off with a lot of consolidated resources. Places in the world that are plentiful in both nutrients other resources. No need to refine tons of rocks down into iron, when you find it in whole chunks everywhere. Farming is easy because soil all over the planet is naturally fertile, so on and so forth. These worlds quickly explode with overpopulation until the number of people rises into the hundreds of billions, then the God wipes the planet out and reaps a nice meal of joyful tasty souls for himself.

After the rapture, God then sends his plows and oxen (aka angles) to "till the soil" leveling the cites and destroying the crops of the old world making room for a new civilization to flourish. They don't bother consolidating the resources for another paradise world because that would be a lot of extra work.

Normal Worlds (feed): After the Paradise civilization is wiped out, the resources that they used are no longer so consolidated. They've been spread out across the world. Steel and concrete have now blended into iron ore that has to be laboriously refined. Large swaths of deserts have been formed where over farming and development once flourished. In short, the resources are still there, they are just blended together in such a way that it is more work to get what you need. This leads to a world with more scarcity where there is little enough resources to not want to share, but enough to build vast nations with periods of stability. These worlds grow more slowly, but still have the resources to achieve great populations. However, when these worlds mature, they are often in a state of runaway greenhouse effects and great social upheaval. These souls are typically so full of resentment and anger that God finds their taste unappealing. A bitter soul has a bitter flavor... but God does have livestock (angles) to feed; so, when this world is done maturing he sends his angels to feast on the bitter souls of this world, and then they till the soil again for the final stage.

Death Worlds (fallow): Now the resources are so spread out, and the environment so badly damaged that the formation of any true civilization is nearly impossible. Humanity becomes obsessed with war constantly slaying each other over scarce resources, but what happens in this world is that resources actually begin to re-coalesce. Humans scour great swaths of land and put great effort into forming weapons of war. And in one battle after another the landscape become littered with corpses and dense concentrations of lost and broken weapons. After several millennia of war, the world has actually renewed itself. The atmosphere has healed in the absence of large scale industry. Resources have re-collected into dense and highly accessible areas were great battles are fought, and no patch of Earth is left unfertilized by the piles of corpses left behind. By the end of this cycle, the world is actually a Paradise again, but the people living there are so full of hate from generations of endless war that they don't know what to do with it. These souls are so distasteful that even the angels don't want to consume them; so, this time the angels just come to destroy the human fallow making way for a new world where crops grow everywhere and refined resources are things you can just find lying around and joyful souls flourish.

By letting humans do all the hard work, God does not need to invest a lot of his own effort into the renewing of worlds; so, he can focus his energy into the truly laborious task of making new worlds and raising more angles to tend them.


A slight variation to this would be to do some kind of Mana rotation where you treat mana like soil nitrogen. If mana is generated from strong emotions (anger, hate, fear, sadness, etc), but God can only absorb mana from a rapture then Hell worlds would make tons of mana, but all the death leading up to the rapture would just pour it into the world where God could not consume it, but then a paradise world could absorb this mana back into a large and living population that does not have enough strong emotions of their own to fill their souls. Normal worlds would start off mostly depleted from the paradise world, but they would produce just enough mana for themselves to make their souls adequate for angels, but not enough to satisfy God's tastes.

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    $\begingroup$ Crop rotation is a great idea :-) Fits the three worlds perfectly! $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Oct 6 '20 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ This is fantastic. Maybe it's not just physical resources / population that needs replenishing, but something about the mana? Perhaps short life expectancies re-concentrate it for later generations of humans to gather, and long lives allow God to eat more of it per human. $\endgroup$
    – Kofthefens
    Oct 7 '20 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Kofthefens That is a good thought, I've added a footnote to the answer explaining how a mana cycle might factor in too in a way that reflects crop rotation. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Oct 7 '20 at 15:15
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To prevent unionization.

The god you describe requires mana from human souls to survive, so the humans actually have some amount of power over their god. If all humans ”unionized” and agreed to stop making babies, they could mana-starve the god. Even if they don’t actually do this, they have leverage with which to threaten the god.

Of course, the god doesn’t want his humans to “unionize” and have power over him - what kind of wimpy god is controlled by its own subjects? Separating humanity into various planes of with differing qualities-of-life prevents humans from organizing against their god in a few ways:

  • If groups of humans are separated from each other by supernatural boundaries, then they cannot communicate enough to cooperate with each other.
  • The people in the heavenly realm are likely to love the god and be grateful to him/her/it, and they’re not going to rebel for fear of being ejected from paradise.
  • The people of the earthly realm might occasionally try to rebel, but most won’t (for fear of being cast into the hell realm, or because they hope to one day be admitted into the heavenly realm), and any rebellions that get off the ground won’t be strong enough to threaten the god, because he/she/it will still be receiving mana from the other two realms.
  • The people of the hell realm will be too busy fighting and dying to organize.
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  • $\begingroup$ Steven Brust had a definition of divine beings as gods or demons based not on power, but if the being was subject to the control of others. The "Demon Goddess" loved humans, so while she was independent, her love made her subject to others. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Oct 4 '20 at 18:01
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If God gets power from death optimal solution would be lots of brutal worlds. Lots of early teen pregnancy and murder by late teens.

However, were that all there is in the story - God wouldn't make humans. God would make Mayflies, which live for only 24 hours. The entire Earths biomass would be Mayflies and things Mayflies eat. He's not doing that.

This suggests there is something of value in consuming human souls. Raw death count doesn't matter. Life energy isn't what matters. Experience, spiritual growth, love, etc. gained by the human over their life increases their mama. This would imply God would create lots of paradise worlds. He's not doing that either.

So why variations?

  • It's unique experiences that contribute mana to God. Killing two humans who've had the same lives give the mana of 1. The more variations in the world, the more experiences, so the less diminishing returns there are.
  • It's "unknown" how much mana they contribute. God is experimenting to fine tune the environment for maximum mana.
  • It's "random" whether a soul has any mana at all. God is getting randomly reinforced by mana like a slot machine player, and is trying everything to get another hit of that sweet mana.
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    $\begingroup$ Or maybe human souls have different “flavors” or “qualities” depending on the quality of the person’s life. E.g. the soul of an enlightened octogenarian is like caviar, whereas the soul of an adolescent caveman killed in battle is like an egg mcmuffin. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 '20 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ Actually on God's timescale it's only the early births that matter. Once they're born people are going to die eventually so there's really no hurry. $\endgroup$
    – Kaz
    Oct 5 '20 at 12:26
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Evolution

Your God creates innumerable, subtle variations of the creature called "human."

As these variations live and die, God learns from them. Some versions create different amounts of Mana. Some create different flavors of Mana. etc.

God incorporates the beneficial changes into the next generation, and, like a good scientist, tests the results. Running hundreds of different versions, with different initial conditions, enables God to rapidly improve on his creations, always searching for the best possible power source.

Maybe God comes up with a catchy name for his Divinity driven Evolution, like: Intelligent Design.

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Flavors

It's not just sheer volume, but the details of each soul.
The mode of living and dying gives each soul a different flavor / resource / taste / trade value / whatever the author wishes.

Here are some examples for flavors:

  • A painful death gives flavor A, a peaceful death flavor B.
  • Or maybe the overall happiness during life. There are painful/happy, painful/unhappy, peaceful/happy, peaceful/unhappy(bored) flavors. Or maybe even more.
  • Or maybe all the details of life. Celibacy gives one flavor, sex another. Enforced vs. voluntary would be yet another flavor variation.

A very complicated system might give a story hook but shouldn't be explained in detail, just in enough detail that the reader understands that there are oh so many dimensions of variation that the God wants.

To justify the effort of creating paradise worlds, some flavors to be reaped there are either valuable enough (could give another story hook: hyper-paradises would be possible but not worth creating), or there are some flavors that are possible only with paradise worlds and God simply needs them for specific actions (a real-life material with a similar role would be diamonds: exceedingly difficult to create, but there are applications where they can't be replaced).

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There are three creatures wandering in the three tiers of the world:

  • Humans. They originate on the earthly realms. Their mana capacity is basically 1 (unit/baseline mana capacity for all creatures) but their belief and devotion on God is a multiplier of that mana capacity. Higher belief and devotion equals more mana, and humans with highest belief and devotion can even gain knowledge of and utilize that mana to perform miracles, bringing more people to higher devotion as well. Humans are main source of mana supply for God, since their individual and collective capacity can multiply greatly. God tries to make them believing and devoting more by giving breadcrumbs that there are "paradise world" for the believer and "hellish world" for the unbeliever.

  • Angels. They originate on paradise realms. Their mana capacity is like that of humans, but they are more expensive to make. Angels have higher starting belief and don't have belief and devotion multiplier. God does not need to pay attention to them as much as they are just janitors/maintainers of the paradise world. This sometimes make angels go rogue to "open the eyes" of humans that the world is larger than what they think.

  • Devils. They originate on the hellish realms. Their mana capacity and cost is the least. God does not like how devils taste to him, so he creates few of them originally, just to maintain the hellish realms. Because of the harsh condition on their home realm, they try to bring humans there via temptation, turning humans' taste like their own.


God is concerned with human's mana, and the other two tiers are just "incentives" so that humans will increase their belief and devotion (therefore multiply their mana capacity).

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Bootstrapping and failsafes.

The lowest tier worlds take the least resources to get started, rapture the quickest, but are also the least efficient in producing more resources.

A god starting out from low resources has no choice but to create low tier worlds and eventually use the gains from these low tiers to fund higher tiers.

The higher tiers produce much higher yields, but more slowly, so the lower tiers need to be maintained to fill any resource needs while waiting for the higher yields.

Once a god has enough higher tier worlds in place with raptures staggered appropriately to generate a steady income you might think the lower tier worlds are no longer needed, but they still provide a failsafe to prevent catastrophe. If an entire crop of high tier worlds fails the low tier worlds are still available or easy to set up again to get the resources flowing, especially if the god is hoping to use most of the resources from the higher tier worlds to invest in yet an even higher tier to come.

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"Got created Arrakis to train the faithful"

Harsh planets are training grounds. Brutal, nasty, but producing cadres of fanatics, some of which are extremely religious and passionate. Occasionally they produce someone like Paul Atredies - a product of a harsh environment over many generations.

More often? They produce elites. People who know what 'hard' looks like, what it is to be oppressed.

Due to the harshness of Salusa Secundus, it became the Corrino prison planet. Those who were deemed criminals of the Corrino Empire were imprisoned on the planet. Many in the empire have suspected that the harshness of this world was responsible for breeding Sardaukar troops. This was the theory maintained by Atreides generals, namely that the harsh environment of the planet was responsible for the development of a fierce, hardened people.

https://dune.fandom.com/wiki/Salusa_Secundus

But this might also lead to spirituality - utopia might lead to people getting too comfortable, and losing their faith. See the uptick in modern society - atheism is on the rise. Maybe that's science, maybe that's enlightenment. But in order to maintain a 'decent' level of faith, God would have to show up and be pretty obvious about the miracles right now.

Even the second coming? Likely to have ended up debunked, and the prophet committed to an asylum. Maybe that's subversion by evil in your setting, maybe that's just the human condition. Either way, it's clear that faith is driven by adversity. And a 'low tier' world gives you that adversity.

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All worlds start from a Garden of Eden

All worlds are initially created the same and then seeded with "soul starter" (similar to sourdough starter). Unlike bacteria, however, soul starter is very unpredictable. The outcome of the starter determines which type of world is most appropriate for optimal mana harvesting.

There is a brief incubation period in a paradise-like state, and God gives his classic commandment to not eat the fruit of a particular tree. This can go one of three ways:

  • The starter souls do not eat the fruit, even after being tempted repeatedly by a snake introduced later. Therefore the world evolves into a full-blown paradise.
  • The starters do not initially eat the fruit, but succumb after some time of being tempted by a snake. Therefore the world evolves into a normal world.
  • The starter souls immediately go and eat the fruit without needing to be tempted. Therefore, the world becomes a death world.
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1) Delegation

Each good business man might have to delegate tasks someday, your god may have created some overseer which now have to maintain the balance in the worlds you gave them. Maybe it's a challenge for your servants or just the fear of a future rebellion. Your god is no fool, he knows the risk if you give them a powerful worlds full of life and opportunities, death world are perfect for this matter.

2) Hell and Heavens

The existence of death worlds could maintain your subject at bay, if your humans don't follow your "fruitful" commandments, if they reject the gift you gave them, a life full of pleasure. If they no more see a purpose to their existence remind them that some darker places exist, maybe once their life are in danger they will try their best to survive and finally stick to your commandments.

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Paradise world souls are too rich (in flavor) to have all the time

Paradise souls are like wagyu beef or caviar. They are, of course, of the highest quality, but even if you can afford to have those all the time, it probably doesn't make sense to do so. Fancy food loses its specialness if it's all you eat.

Normal worlds produce the meat and potatoes of souls. This is your common, everyday healthy food.

Hell souls are junk food. After all, even the richest people enjoy potato chips and pizza.

Continuing with the food analogy, there's also a clear difference in level of effort. Paradise worlds require a lot of effort for a relatively small quantity of souls, but are highly satisfying to consume on occasion. Normal worlds require a moderate amount of effort for common, every day food. Hell worlds require very little effort to spawn and maintain and can be raptured without warning without affecting the flavor of the souls. Meanwhile, a large deal of preparation is required prior to the rapture for paradise worlds and a moderate amount of preparation is required for Normal world rapture.

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Experimentation

God experiments with lots of different world setups to find out which setup produces the ideal mana per processing capacity ratio.

It's not just the amount of processing capacity which matters. There are also a lot of other parameters God can tweak during the creation of a new world which affect how well the humans in it will do.

And God has not yet figured out how exactly all of these parameters affect the humans and how they interact with each other. God has not even figured out if a few paradise worlds or lots of death worlds are better. Or perhaps it's a moderate amount of balanced worlds which works best? God needs more data! Further, there were some very interesting anomalies during these trials. There were a few paradise worlds which failed pretty badly. Like the one where the humans discovered pleasures far greater than sex and died out within a few generations. But even more interesting were a few death worlds which produced surprisingly good mana yield. Like the one where the humans created a pretty stable society based on slavery and ritualistic cannibalism. Were those random flukes? Or is there perhaps a trick to consistently create lots of mana with very little processing power?

So God experiments with lots and lots of different setups to figure out which strategy consistently delivers the highest mana yield.

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You tacitly assume that "many worlds, all alike" is possible.

Consider elementary particles. In some sense, more than one electron (or photon/gluon/etc.) does not exist. This seems a bit counterintuitive, because we observe multiple electrons all the time; nevertheless, those multiple electrons are physically equivalent to a single electron entangled across multiple locations.

The key idea here is that there is no property that we can use to distinguish one electron from the other. And we have no definition of the concept "is the same" that does not in some way involve a method for distinguishing objects. This has real consequences: the probability distributions for phenomena involving multiple elementary particles is different from that of distinguishable particles.

From God's perspective, two identical worlds might really be just one world. Or, more to the point, two identical worlds might produce only one world's worth of souls. This is a key plot point for an excellent sci-fi novel.

Of course, God is divine, so this answer can always be circumvented by some resolutions to the Omnipotence paradox.

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  • It is a natural occurrence of the refinement process of the souls.

It takes energy to create the worlds, but it also takes energy to create the souls to populate those worlds.

Most of the worlds have similar starting conditions focused on a normal world, resources are scattered around everywhere, some areas are better and some are worse, etc.

This is because creating paradise worlds which tend to promote healthy soul development takes to much energy. Hell worlds which take the least energy, promote soul degradation.

God therefore creates 1 paradise world and 1 hell world for every 10 normal worlds.

Souls themselves have a sort of Karma value, which influences how much mana they produce, with the highest karma producing the highest mana. God can actively affect the karma value of souls, at the expense of additional energy above that of the soul creation - damn that free will clause.


Good souls provide a lot of mana, and bad souls are just plain bad.

Good souls are the ones that have morals, obey the laws, worship the god, and actively try to make the world a better place.

Bad souls are the ones that become criminals, lack morals, selfish, etc.

Average souls will generally follow the laws and try to remember to go to a place of worship on the holy days, but will still sometimes be tempted to darker acts such as stealing, adultery, murder etc. This is sort of like the average person you can think of.

It seems like it would be better to only create souls that are good, creating souls that are guaranteed to be good souls takes a lot of energy, so the net gain is zero. (good souls provides average of 100 mana points, but takes 100 to create.)

Bad souls take very little mana, but also have a net loss. (10 to create, 1 harvested)

The Average souls generally have a zero net gain, as it takes the same amount of energy to create as is harvested on average. 50 to create, 50 average harvest.

As none of these are really ideal, god leaves the soul karma value on random, (this keeps the energy to create a soul at a value of 1) which creates a neat spread of a bell curve graph, some souls are plain horrible (Hitler), some are great heroes(Gandi, Mother Teresa) and a majority are sort of normal average Johns.

From there, the active souls, known as humans, go through a process called life. During he life process, all the souls actions will affect the karma values. Good deeds increase the value, and bad deeds reduce it.


Each of the world tiers also has a karma restriction tier set to it, limiting Souls with different karma values to certain worlds.

Paradise worlds have a high karma restriction, so only those souls with karma values above 100 can exist there.

Normal worlds have the middle range, from 25 to 100 karma values.

Finally, Hell worlds have the worst of the worst, with karma restriction of below 25.

Upon death, each soul gets its Karma values gained and lost through life calculated, and then given the final score, which is what they start off with the next life. Get a bad score, and you will move down to a lower tier, get a high score and you can move up a tier.


After a few hundred run throughs, most of the souls will have separated into 3 tiers, the true saintly ones in paradise, the absolute irredeemable ones in hell, and the remainder on the average worlds. The whole batch is then harvested, with the ones in hell at least providing their cost of production back, the ones left in the average worlds providing not only their production cost back, but also the cost of having created the worlds in the beginning, and finally the paradise ones, providing all the profit made, up to 100 times the full initial costs of the creation.


Bonus material

The actions of the inhabitants can change the very world, have an unlucky streak of generally more bad souls, and they can take a world from normal down to a hellscape with all the toxins, nuclear waste, radiation poisoning, global ice ages or global warming, etc.

Occasionally though, a normal world could be elevated to a paradise world by having lots of people all trying to do their best, and actively curing diseases, correcting environmental imbalances, geo-engineering deserts into forests, etc.

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