Ze planes boss, ze planes!

Here’s the thing with world building that vexes me; if you play a 30 level campaign, you spend huge swathes of it not in the world you’ve designed.

Let me explain. It seems to me that the default campaign will have your party heading off to the shadowfell and/or the feywild by the end of heroic and well into paragon. Then there’s the deeper planes, accessed by Sigil as presented in the DMG II. After that you look to epic tier and it’s all about the astral sea and the abyss. I love all that, don’t get me wrong.

So how come all the settings I see, whether homebrew or published, tend to be all about the ‘normal’ world? what used to be called the prime material plane. Eberron and Dark Sun kind of cut them off really, and encourage parties to stick with the main event, but they are going against the grain of the DMGs in that regard.

My dilemma is this; as I ponder building my own world, what I really need to be doing is building a campaign, and that’s not necessarily the same thing at all. I want to get into the ‘fell and the ‘wild with my group, it’s cool there. Yet, I want them to be my own versions just as much as homebrews make their stamp. Usually this is done by exclusion; ‘no divine classes in my world!’ or ‘no psionics or martial characters allowed!’. What I’m struggling with is how to use those ideas with the planes. What exactly do you cut to make it your own?

One idea I’ve already made inroads with is the idea of the ‘fell and the ‘wild overlaying the natural world properly, not just metaphorically. They would be places you could visit just by walking there. They would have borders. For extra fun, I thought it would be cool if they were at war with each other, making the natural world a kind of contested territory or no-man’s land. That way I would be writing up notes for the shadowfell as if it were part of my setting proper rather than some place you visit occasionally, and when you get there it’s just like WotC says it is in the sourcebooks.

I guess what I’m saying is, where are the setting books that make changes to the cosmology? I want to know how other people use the elemental chaos (and I’m not talking about just cutting it out completely). I know all about Planescape before you all get started, but for me that just did it all for you, not sure it added to the homebrew pot.

Lastly, I guess I should explain what brought me to this subject. I’ve been ploughing through the Gamemastery guide for Pathfinder. In the planar section, the one thing that really grabbed me was the notion of demiplanes. They include Cathus (for intelligent cats), Caglin (for insect collective intelligence), Kinara (for sentient living tumours) and Marrowmal (for forgotten words). They get nothing more than a notation in a random demiplane table, but nevertheless, I really like the notions.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Ze planes boss, ze planes!

  1. Dan

    I’ve seen movies and games where dimensional shifts happen dynamically, either triggered by a specific action (Legacy of Kain – PC & PS1) or at a point in time (Silent Hill – Movie). If you’re world building and campaign writing you can script the shifts to the ‘wild or the ‘fell at key moments, or lock them out as plot points. Should work well with points of light too with each point having different flavours.

  2. Arbanax

    I love the idea that the Prime plane is so connected to the planes around them that its not hard to rationalise the heroes fighting at the borders of those crossing points at heroic and paragon before taking the fight into ‘enemy’ territory at Epic level – perhaps bringing about what we know the situation to have been in previous editions where the Prime material plane is within a discrete area removed from the easy incursions of the shadowfell or Feywild etc.

    You are right to spot the elephant in the room in which most campaigns do assume that the Prime Material is cut off and so you have to be a higher level character to get to such places. Although when 4e was just being talked about I thought the Feywild was much more connected to the prime plane than might now be the case. I don’t know much about it beyond the core books.

    Anyway I watch with interest.

    Ab

  3. Cathus, for intelligent cats!? Are they for real?

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