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Mastering the Wild

The First World

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 128
Located before, between, and beyond the Material Plane, the First World is a dimension of extremes and unpredictability. While the Shadow Plane straddles the metaphysical gulf between the Material Plane and the Negative Energy Plane, the First World lies between the Material Plane and the Positive Energy Plane. The First World has been said to be a sort of “first draft” of reality—under a sky of whirling stars and moons that change shape and texture as they track their way through the vibrant heavens, inconsistent natural laws and wellsprings of primal magic and natural splendor create vistas unfathomable to mortal minds. Here stand ancient forests as tall as mountains, living lakes and rivers, traveling faerie courts alternately benevolent or sadistic, and landscapes of all manner that constantly shift and reinvent themselves. And ruling over all in this realm are those powerful entities known as the Eldest. It is from this realm that dread linnorms, fey creatures, the original gnomes, and far stranger beings hail.

First World Planar Traits

The First World has the following planar traits. For more information on planar traits, see Planar Traits.

Erratic Time: Time progresses faster in some areas and slower in others, often according to the whim of the Eldest or other powerful individuals. For most visitors from other planes, their own timestream clings to them like a protective shell, but it’s not uncommon for a creature who spends a day in the First World to find upon their return home that a year or more has passed.

Highly Morphic: The First World can be altered by strong-willed individuals, such as the Eldest.

Minor Positive Dominant: The First World grants fast healing to creatures only in certain areas where life is particularly potent and concentrated.

Mildly Neutral-Aligned: The First World does not impart alignment-based Charisma check penalties to anyone.

History of the First World

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 128
To account for the full history of the First World is to look back before the beginning of time itself, to a period in history before history when the Material Plane did not yet exist. Ancient legends hold that mortal life began in the First World. If these tales are to believed, in this early pregenesis period of all things, a coalition of deities decided to create a new form of life, but unlike existing servitors (outsiders such as angels and devils), these new “mortal” entities would serve a greater function, acting as filters for the fundamental life energy of the universe. The energy would be translated into discrete, self-directing portions called “souls,” which would use the experience of a finite lifespan to shape and expand the realities of the Great Beyond itself.

Of course, these new beings would need a place to live apart from the domains of the gods, and so the gods crafted the First World—a vast blank canvas where they could experiment with reality and try out different laws for how existence and mortal life could or should operate. After an age of experimentation, they had a fully functional model for the realm that would become known as the Material Plane.

And then, like so many great artists, they painted directly over it.

When the Material Plane came into being, the gods didn’t erase the original experiments. They did not destroy these original “doodles and blueprints” but merely abandoned them. Thus, this rough draft continued to grow and evolve on its own, eventually stabilizing, more or less, into the reality known today as the First World.

Whether these stories are true in totality or only in part, the fact of the First World remains: it is an ancient realm filled with mystery and danger and a reality where vast secrets and mind-expanding truths await discovery side by side with the ever-present opportunity for death and destruction. It is nature unrestrained—a primal and primeval wilderness where everything that exists does so on a grand scale.

Features and Inhabitants

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 129
While the majority of the Material Plane’s universe is empty space populated by a diverse and seemingly endless number of different star systems and worlds, the First World is simply that: a single world that seems to stretch forever in every direction. Everything in the Material Plane has analogues in the First World, but the First World versions are often exaggerated in some way. Mountains are taller, oceans are deeper, and forests grow at unusual angles. Colors are more vibrant, flavors more potent; everything is amplified to oversaturated extremes, the cause of which is the First World’s proximity to the Positive Energy Plane. Much as the Shadow Plane is a realm of muted colors and near darkness due to its proximity to the Negative Energy Plane, so too is the First World skewed in the opposite direction.

The flora and fauna of the First World both resembles that of the Material Plane and exceeds it. What entities resided on the First World in its fledgling moments remains unknown, but ancient dragons and other primal forces of nature are likely candidates. Since then, all manner of wildly alien and unimaginable creatures have come to call the First World home, themselves exaggerated in much the same way as the plane’s geography. Creatures are more vivacious, more energetic, and more fecund. The most widespread of the First World’s denizens are creatures of the fey type, making up more than half of the First World’s populace, but they are neither the first denizens of the plane nor the most powerful. Any creature found on the Material Plane could conceivably be found in the First World, different from their mortal cousins in subtle or dramatic ways. The easiest way to represent the differences between a Material Plane creature and its First World counterpart is to apply the fey creature template. But even something as simple as changing a creature’s appearance or abilities can transform a mundane specimen into a denizen of the First World.

Between the suffusion of positive energy throughout the First World and the unique qualities drafted into its planar tapestry, the cycle of life and death is not linear as it is on the Material Plane. Creatures native to the First World that die either are outright reborn anywhere from a day to a year after their death or are otherwise recycled into the plane and reconstituted as another member of their kind. Some creatures even lead asynchronous lives, having memories of versions of themselves that have not come to pass (or may never) rather than just memories of their pasts. As such, natives of the First World do not always understand the concept of death; this can lead to deadly misunderstandings with travelers from the Material Plane or natives of the First World stranded on the Material Plane. In the latter case, the death of a First World native on the Material Plane is the absolute end of its life, and the soul is instead subject to the rules of the Material Plane—often without realizing it until it is too late.

Notable inhabitants of the First World include creatures of the animal, fey, plant, and vermin types. Of the fey, the most legendary of the First World denizens are the members of the wild hunt, but all fey have ties back to this realm. Beyond animals, fey, and plants, the following creatures are among those most often encountered in this dimension: almirajes, animal lords, bandersnatches, blink dogs, catoblepases, cerynitis, delgeths, drakainias, drakes (all), elementals (all), elohims, ettercaps, fachens, faerie dragons, fey creatures, giant eagles, grodairs, grootslangs, jabberwocks, jubjub birds, leucrottas, linnorms, manitous, pegasi, sards, shining children, thrasfyrs, thunderbirds, unicorns, vishaps, wendigos, will-o’-wisps, worgs, winter wolves, and yeth hounds. Undead are incredibly rare in the First World, but those that do exist there tend to be powerful and unique.

The Eldest

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 131
Large swaths of the First World are carved up into fiefdoms and other such dominions by native inhabitants of great power. The demigods who call the First World home are some of the oldest beings in creation, and many have resided on this plane since before the Material Plane was woven into existence. Known collectively as the Eldest, they are as reclusive and secretive as they are ancient. The Eldest have relatively little interaction with the gods who dwell elsewhere in the Great Beyond, but like those divinities, they maintain cults and sects on countless Material Plane worlds. The religions of the Eldest are most commonly found in regions where the boundaries between the Material Plane and the First World grow thin. Fey often worship members of the Eldest, and many gnomes look back to their ancient roots in the First World and venerate the Eldest as well. Though the Eldest have nothing against cities or civilization, their worship tends to be less popular in heavily populated areas. Barbarians, druids, hunters, and others who live in the wild often venerate a member of the Eldest or the pantheon as a whole.

Table 4–3: The Eldest lists the most widely worshiped members of the Eldest, along with their areas of concern, domains, subdomains, and favored weapon for cleric and warpriest followers.

Table 4-3: The Eldest

NameALTitleAreas of ConcernDomainsSubdomainsFavored Weapon
Count RanalcCNThe TraitorBetrayal, exiles, shadowsChaos, Darkness, Nobility, TravelExploration, Loss, Martyr, NightRapier
The Green MotherNEThe Feasting FlowerCarnivorous plants, intrigue, seductionCharm, Earth, Evil, PlantCaves, Decay, Growth, LustSickle
ImbrexLNThe TwinsEndings, statues, twinsCommunity, Earth, Law, StrengthFamily, Home, Metal, ResolveDire flail
The Lantern KingCNThe Laughing LieLaughter, mischief, transformationChaos, Charm, Madness, TrickeryDeception, Love, Lust, ThieveryDagger
The Lost PrinceNThe Melancholy LordForgotten things, sadness, solitudeKnowledge, Madness, Nobility, ReposeAncestors, Insanity, Martyr, MemoryQuarterstaff
MagdhLNThe ThreeComplexity, fate, tripletsKnowledge, Law, Luck, RuneCurse, Fate, Thought, WardsScythe
NgNThe HoodedSeasons, secrets, wanderersKnowledge, Magic, Travel, WeatherExploration, Seasons, Thought, TradeGauntlet
RagadahnCEThe Water LordLinnorms, oceans, spiralsChaos, Evil, Scalykind, WaterAncestors, Dragon, Oceans, VenomWhip
ShykaNThe ManyEntropy, reincarnation, timeDeath, Destruction, Madness, MagicArcane, Catastrophe, Divine, InsanityLight mace

Getting to the First World

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 130
The First World is a coterminous plane and therefore overlaps the Material Plane, but unlike the Shadow Plane, the First World does not mimic the Material Plane’s geography. Ley lines, supernatural conduits that connect the planes and channel experiences, magic, memories, and the souls of the dead and the unborn through them, crisscross the First World just as they do the Material Plane. Unlike those on the Material Plane, ley lines found in the First World do not stay in one place for long and typically wander vast distances, writhing through the world like disquieted snakes. Where these ley lines penetrate the barrier between the First World and the Material Plane, thin spots known as breaches form, allowing passage between the First World and the Material Plane without the aid of magic. These breaches typically manifest as circles of mushrooms, puddles of water with a rainbow-hued surface, trees in a peculiar arch, or other seemingly innocuous patterns. Simply stepping through one of these portals is often enough to travel from one plane to the other, but breaches are not always two-sided. Some doorways to the Material Plane are one-way, stranding extraplanar travelers in a seemingly dull and lifeless world, while Material visitors to the First World could be stranded for decades or more as they try to find a way back home. Other means of traveling to and from the First World include powerful spells such as fey gate, gate, and plane shift.

Hazards of the First World

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 130
In the First World, the terrain itself can be as dangerous as any denizen. The following are just a handful of hazards found on the borders of or within this fey realm. These hazards can also manifest on the Material Plane in areas where ley lines from the First World cross over and weaken the boundaries between realms.

Phantom Ring (CR 9)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 130
Sometimes rings of mushrooms known as “fairy rings” mark thin spots that function as gateways into the First World. When fairy rings become corrupted due to pollution, the effects of curses, the machinations of evil fey, or other fell influences, they can become unstable and dangerous, becoming phantom rings. These circles of magical mushrooms function like a magical trap (Perception DC 25, Disable Device DC 30), though a character can use the Survival skill in place of Perception to notice the danger presented by a phantom ring.

A phantom ring typically occupies a single 5-foot square. A character entering a phantom ring must succeed at a DC 19 Will save or be drawn into a gap in reality between the Material Plane and the First World, caught in a fragmented shard of the Ethereal Plane where she is unable to fully pass into the First World or return to the Material Plane. The character is invisible and ethereal, and she can see a dim and warped image of the Material Plane she just left, but she is unable to move more than 30 feet away from the phantom ring, which remains the only thing that appears solid and real in this ethereal pocket dimension. The character is trapped within this realm as if she had been called with a planar binding spell.

After 1d4 rounds, a disembodied spirit emerges from the phantom ring into the pocket dimension to confront the trapped character. This spirit appears as a spectral fey version of the trapped character, and it is treated as an animus shade, save that it is chaotic neutral in alignment and can exist only inside the pocket dimension created by the phantom ring. The animus shade might be friendly and talkative, or it might be cold, aloof, and demanding. The trapped character can attempt to bargain with the shade for her release, either into the First World or back into the Material Plane, but she must succeed at an opposed Charisma check to successfully persuade her captor. If the trapped character succeeds at this check, she can return to the Material Plane or enter the First World, but if she fails the check, the shade immediately attacks her. If the shade manages to kill the trapped character, it can manifest in the Material Plane, whereupon it is free to spread mayhem and its phantom ring dissolves away into sludge.

A trapped character can bolster her chances of success when bargaining with the animus shade by offering a bribe of magic items or performing a service. Each animus shade’s desires for bribes or service should vary, generally representing strange distortions of the trapped character’s personality. For example, a trapped bard might be required to perform a humiliating display of self-mockery, or a barbarian might be required to undertake a diplomatic mission without resorting to combat. Services rendered to an animus shade take place in a mindscape and typically require three out of five successful skill checks to complete. Bribes must be in the form of a valued magical item worth at least 500 gp per character level of the trapped character. If the service or bribe is successful, the trapped character can roll her opposed Charisma check twice (applying a +4 bonus on each roll) and use the better of the two rolls as her actual result when resolving the opposed Charisma check against the animus shade.

A trapped creature can always opt to simply fight the animus shade, as both are on the Ethereal Plane, though neither can move more than 30 feet from the phantom ring. If the animus shade is slain, the trapped character reappears in the Material Plane and the phantom ring becomes inert for 2d4 days before becoming active again.

Once a creature escapes from a phantom ring, the hazard relocates to a random location within 1d6 miles.

Pixie Pollen (CR 2)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 131
When strange spores or magical seeds from the First World sprout up through the planar verge, they can graft themselves onto existing flowering plants. Such plants flower profusely and in vivid colors of unearthly beauty, even blooming out of season. While this may be seen as a mark of divine blessing for their fecundity, this fey influence also infuses their natural nectar and pollen with a dreamy, soporific quality that entices the unwary to drowsy contemplation.

Animals, humanoids, and monstrous humanoids that come within 30 feet of a plant that exudes pixie pollen must succeed at a DC 10 Will save or become drowsy and inattentive of their surroundings, caught up in the loveliness of the flowers. Creatures that succeed at their saving throws but remain within the area must each attempt a new save once per minute to stave off the effects of the pixie pollen.

Affected creatures take a –5 penalty on Perception checks and a –2 penalty on saving throws against sleep effects; each such creature must attempt an additional Will save at the end of each round it remains within the area or become fascinated and unwilling to leave. If the fascinate effect is broken by an attack or through the help of an ally, a drowsy creature must attempt a new Will save each round to avoid becoming fascinated again.

In addition, each minute a drowsy creature remains within an area of pixie pollen, it must also succeed at a DC 10 Fortitude save or become fatigued (or exhausted if already fatigued). An exhausted creature that fails this save falls asleep for 1 minute, after which time it can attempt a new Fortitude save once per hour to awaken. Creatures with the Endurance feat can apply that bonus on their Fortitude save against this effect.

The effects of pixie pollen are supernatural, mind-affecting sleep effects.

Weeping Waste (CR 10)

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 132
There are places of desolation and loneliness in the wild— trackless regions without a trace of intelligent habitation to be found. In such places, the sense of desperation and isolation can crush the spirit of a sentient being, reducing victims to tearful hopelessness and unending despair, but few such regions are as dangerous as the weeping wastes.

A weeping waste can be found in any kind of terrain, though they are most common in deserts and plains. Always sizable, they might be a few miles across or might stretch on for hundreds of leagues. Some weeping wastes are shrouded in an endless, gray drizzle that chills and soaks to the bone, while others are utterly cloudless, with no change in the vast and empty dome of the sky above.

The sinister influence of the weeping waste blurs the horizon in every direction both above and beyond the natural bleakness of the land, obliterating any trace of mountains or natural landmarks more than 1 mile away unless the viewer succeeds at a DC 20 Will save; this is an illusion effect. A creature failing this save takes a –10 penalty on Survival checks to avoid getting lost. Spells that aid navigation such as know direction, locate object, or find the path (or the ability to sense direction and distance from a status spell) function in a weeping waste only if the caster succeeds at a DC 20 caster level check. Natural tracks left by creatures fade with astonishing swiftness within a weeping waste, increasing the DC to track by 1 for every minute that has passed since the tracks were made, rather than increasing by 1 every 24 hours.

The privations of surviving in the wild are felt more keenly in a weeping waste. A creature that fails a Survival check to avoid getting lost or a sentient creature with Intelligence of 3 or higher that fails a Constitution check or Fortitude save to avoid taking nonlethal damage from a cold or hot environment, hunger or thirst, or a forced march or other exertion must succeed at a Will save against the same DC. Non-humanoids gain a +4 bonus on this Will save. Creatures that fail this save are driven to melancholy and are affected as if by crushing despair, which persists until either the nonlethal damage is removed or the affected creature spends 24 hours outside of the weeping waste, whichever comes first; if no save is allowed to avoid nonlethal damage, no save is allowed against this crushing despair either. In addition to the spell’s usual effects, affected creatures cannot benefit from morale effects.

Even for creatures able to resist the depths of depression, traveling through a weeping waste instills an insidious loneliness and melancholy that leaves sentient humanoids desperate for friendly contact. They become blindly trusting, taking a –5 penalty on Sense Motive checks and a –2 penalty on saves against charm effects, and they take a –5 penalty on initiative checks if combat begins directly after they converse with an intelligent creature. This lonely desperation persists for 1d4 days after leaving the weeping waste.

Echoes of the First World

Source Ultimate Wilderness pg. 132
The First World shares its place in existence with the Material Plane, and in some places, the boundary between the planes wears thin. The Material Plane’s influence on the First World manifests as regions of stubborn stability called “breach scars,” which the First World’s denizens regard with disgust. On the Material Plane, the fey realm’s influence erodes the laws of time and space and transforms reality in its wake. Sometimes, this influence manifests as an echo of the First World.

An echo of the First World functions (and is designed) as a haunt, but unlike haunts, they are damaged by negative energy and healed by positive energy. These echoes can be any alignment, but they are almost always chaotic neutral. Three sample echoes are Dimensional Tear, Enchanting Demise, and Following Footsteps, but countless others certainly exist.

Overcharge: Positive energy and healing effects heal echoes of the First World. If such healing would cause an echo of the First World to exceed its normal maximum hit points, it gains half the excess as temporary hit points until those hit points are spent or 1 minute has passed since it last gained temporary hit points in this manner. As long as an echo of the First World has at least 1 temporary hit point gained in this way, it also gains its overcharge ability.