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GameMastery Guide


Source GameMastery Guide pg. 170
Chapter 7

Elements of Adventure

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Past the elaborate details and fantastical beasts, beyond the schemes of villains and works of strange magic, lies the culmination of the Game Master’s craft: the development and harmonizing of numerous characters, plots, creatures, and settings into a single vibrant, dangerous, and enthralling experience: a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure. More than simply the sum of its parts, a great adventure transcends any host of villains, arsenal of cunning traps, legion of monsters, or stack of stat blocks. Brought to life by the interplay of a creative GM with dynamic players, a great adventure is something akin to a living fantasy story, thrilling and captivating in a way that—like an epic work of fiction— draws participants into the tale, makes them integral parts of the excitement, and leaves them yearning to see how the story unfolds. Such an adventure is both the pinnacle and the goal of the Game Master’s art.

Yet building such an adventure proves no mean feat, and it relies on a variety of factors. While the previous chapters of this guide have laid the groundwork to help GMs choose and create many of the elements that go into crafting a great gaming experience, these elements all come together in the adventure and the act of storytelling itself. To help GMs in the sometimes daunting task of pulling together a great fantasy adventure, this chapter presents a storehouse of advice, inspiration, and tools for GMs to plan and create adventures in a wide variety of settings. From advice on managing staple elements of nearly any plot, to helpful new rules elements to enhance campaigns venturing into classic RPG locales, to random encounter tables easily customized for use in nearly any setting, this chapter is designed to be a constant aid to GMs, no matter what types of campaigns they decide to run.

What Makes a Great Adventure

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The question of what defines a great Pathfinder Roleplaying Game adventure conjures to mind a wide variety of potential answers, from artistic ideas regarding the combination of great storytelling and enthusiastic players to more literal mixtures of planning, plot, and rules. In the end, though, the answer tends to be subjective: a great adventure is any blend of preparation, storytelling, roleplaying, and strategy that keeps both the GM and players involved, entertained, and coming back for more. Whether the adventure is custom-designed or drawn directly from printed products, there is no right or wrong way to play, as long as the entire group is having fun.

Yet as simple as this golden rule of gaming might seem, creating and running a fantastic adventure can involve lots of work and a significant investment of time. Even running a published adventure module can mean hours of reading to familiarize yourself with the content, as heading into a game session only half prepared and trusting in improvisation can lead a game into unforeseen and possibly undesired territory. The better prepared a GM is, or at least appears to be, the more time PCs can spend playing. The best GMs prepare for an adventure by doing what they must to present a seamless roleplaying experience. For those knowledgeable of a campaign’s setting and comfortable with creating content on fly, this might mean very little. For others, this could mean hours of reading and crafting ancillary plots and characters in case an adventure takes an unanticipated course. Neither course nor any other method of preparation is necessarily favorable over others, as each GM should find a method that keeps him entertained and lets him comfortably tell the stories he chooses. The major goal, though, is seamlessness, the appearance that the GM has accounted for every eventuality the PCs might arrive at or, even better, that the GM is simply the mouthpiece of a world where all things are possible. Such is always an illusion, though, a mask for the GM’s preparation and imagination. Yet, the less time a GM needs to spend digging through rulebooks, pausing to think up character names and traits, or not appearing to know what’s going on in his own game, the more believable and ultimately the more successful the adventure. To aid in all this, the current chapter highlights several general locations common to Pathfinder RPG adventures. Each section features considerations a GM preparing for his adventure might take into account, as well as a wide variety of tables to aid in making interesting and evocative choices spontaneously should the PCs take some unexpected route or to merely help add a bit more detail.

Choosing Your Adventure

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Specifics of storytelling style and ongoing plots aside, all adventures find common elements in the settings where their action unfolds. In the Pathfinder RPG, certain settings come up again and again: taverns where heroes meet for the first time and rest between adventures, dungeons rife with traps and monsters, untamed wilds full of mystery and danger, cities teeming with cutpurses and political subtlety, vast seas where swashbucklers and cutthroats sail into the unknown, and otherworldly planes where the impossible takes shape. While adventures certainly might occur in other venues, most conform in one way or another to the general settings described here—including the microcosm of the tavern, due to its traditional importance in the game. When planning or playing an adventure, it often helps to have an understanding of what type of locale forms the setting for your adventure. Most of the time this proves obvious—when the PCs are shopping and carousing, they’re likely in an urban setting, but when they’re exploring the back country, they’re probably in the wilderness. Such settings bring with them a variety of concerns and rules elements that the GM should be familiar with (or at least have on hand) as the adventure unfolds. If an adventure calls for the PCs to fight against privateers, for example, the GM should have the rules for swimming and drowning handy; it can also be helpful to know the parts of a ship and what creatures might randomly appear from the water. A major goal of this chapter is to collect these details and point the GM toward other useful pieces of information, providing much of the relevant details he needs to run a convincing adventure.

Just because an adventure takes place in a standard setting doesn’t mean that location always acts like a typical example of its kind. If the PCs find themselves slinking through the alleys of a drow city, the location likely functions much more like a dungeon than a city. By the same token, a forest under the effects of powerful fey magic might behave less like part of the wilderness and more akin to a plane unto itself. In such cases, rules not commonly associated with that type of setting might apply, driving home a sense of strangeness or menace that can help a setting feel all the more distinct. Thus, some of the most interesting and memorable uses of such elements might occur when they arise outside their typical settings.

Once the GM knows what type of adventure he wants to run, consulting the details and special rules in this chapter and the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help highlight those aspects that make the chosen location unique. Players should be able to feel that adventuring in a dungeon, underwater, and on the planes are all distinctly different experiences, presenting unique challenges and choices. Melding the descriptions of such settings with game components that help drive home the feel and personality of an adventure site can add variation and detail to any story. If the GM can meld both the descriptive and rules elements of the game—whether through creativity, rules knowledge, well-reasoned improvisation, quick reference, or a combination of these traits—the players’ roleplaying experiences will be all the richer.


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One of the most beloved and common adventuring sites in the game is the dungeon. In the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the word “dungeon” has a much wider definition than merely an underground prison cell—instead, “dungeon” in this chapter refers to a connected series of rooms and hallways within which are scattered numerous encounters with monsters, traps, and other challenges. A dungeon, under this definition, could be the underground levels of a fortress, the fortress itself, a series of caverns, a basement under a house, the house itself, a lonely tower in the woods, a shipwreck, a treasure vault, an abandoned crypt, or any other location that has a series of hard boundaries to limit exploration. Generally, these boundaries are represented by solid walls, but in some cases they can be dense vegetation (such as in a hedge maze), treacherous cliffs (for a series of mountain ledges), or even a fence enclosing a large area (like a graveyard). The key defining feature of a dungeon is simply that the encounter areas are connected and self-contained.

There’s a reason that dungeons are so common in the game—they represent the simplest method of constructing an adventure, since a dungeon map really is nothing more than a flow chart. At their most basic, the chambers of a dungeon represent decision points and the hallways represent paths between those points. The layout of a dungeon removes many variables from the game, allowing the GM to focus on a limited number of areas that he knows the PCs are likely to visit. Since you know what rooms and what routes are available before the game even begins, you can prepare for encounters much more easily than you can for an adventure set in a city or the wilderness, where the flow chart concept is no longer literally represented by the solid stone walls and becomes more of an abstract guide for plotting purposes.

The Dungeon Concept

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Just because dungeons are some of the simplest adventure sites to build and run doesn’t mean that they need to be simplistic. A dungeon can be quite complex, filled with intrigue and dynamic elements. The first thing to do when creating a dungeon for your players to explore is to decide on the dungeon’s basic concept—what kind of dungeon it is. Are you building an underground complex of chambers below a ruined castle occupied by a tribe of goblins? Is the dungeon a series of caves burrowing through a volcanic mountain ruled by fire giants? Is it an immense shipwreck at the bottom of the sea? A wizard’s tower that has sunk into a swamp? A haunted mine? A partially collapsed manor? A dragon’s lair? Choosing a basic concept for your dungeon at the beginning helps guide the creative process of mapping and populating it.

Drawing a Dungeon Map

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For the same reasons it’s good to outline a story before writing it, it’s good to create the map of your dungeon before populating it with encounters. The map is the outline of the dungeon adventure, after all—in drawing the map, you set the boundaries of what your adventure will contain. You should certainly have a general idea of the types of encounters your dungeon will need when you start, but don’t be afraid to let the dungeon drawing itself inspire you as well.

One important thing to realize at the outset is that your dungeon map doesn’t have to be pretty—it merely has to be legible and understandable to you or whoever will be using the map. Nonetheless, cultivating some skill at cartography can really help you keep yourself organized—it’s easier to come back to a legible map you drew years ago than it is to one that’s barely more than chicken scratchings.

A good way to build skill at mapping dungeons is to copy them from published products. Get yourself a big pad or notebook filled with graph paper. Whenever you see a nice map in one of those products, pick up a pen or pencil and try to duplicate that map. Before long, you’ll be drawing your own maps—and it can’t hurt to keep drawing maps even when you aren’t preparing for a specific game.

Sketching the Map

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Using a pencil, sketch out the basic shape of your map. You can indicate the position and relative size of rooms by simply drawing rough shapes and circles and then labeling each—“kitchen,” “library,” “owlbear lair,” and so on. If your dungeon is in an aboveground structure or other location with a definite border, draw this in to constrain your design. Once you’re happy with the basic shape, go ahead and start drawing rooms and hallways, then drop in symbols for dungeon features. Make notes in the margins or in rooms to remind you of ideas for the rooms’ contents as you create them.

Here are several things to keep in mind while you’re creating your map:

Map Symbols: Use symbols to represent common features found in most dungeons—doors, stairs, traps, pillars, and more. Using these standardized map symbols keeps your maps from becoming too cluttered with written notes and tags. Common map symbols are shown on page 175.

Avoid Empty Rooms: Unless you’re specifically designing a dungeon that is partially abandoned or you’re trying to lull your PCs into a false sense of security, don’t add too many empty rooms, as they can clutter your map.

Don’t Overdraw: If you have an idea of how many encounters you want or how long you want a session of dungeon exploration to run, don’t build a dungeon that’s too small or too big. Take note of how long it generally takes your group to play through an average encounter (whether 10 minutes, a half-hour, an hour, or whatever) and design with that timeframe in mind. If your group generally clears one room an hour and you want the dungeon to take up two 5-hour sessions, make sure the dungeon contains only about 10 rooms.

Leave Room for Expansion: Unless you’re certain you don’t want to return to your dungeon later or want it to serve as a truly enclosed area, it’s usually a good idea to include some sort of concession toward future expansion. A tunnel running off the edge of the map, a river or large underground pool, or a large pit can all lead the way to new areas just beyond the boundaries of your creation.

Avoid Symmetry: Refrain from creating symmetrical dungeons in which one half is an exact mirror image of the other—not only is this somewhat unrealistic, but it robs the players of the thrill of exploration once they realize that they only have to explore half of a dungeon to see it all.

Vary Room Shapes: Just as symmetry is bad, so is over-reliance on square or rectangular rooms. By including strangely shaped rooms, alcoves, multilevel rooms, irregular caverns, and other variations in room size and shape, you not only provide each room’s combat encounters with different tactical elements, but your map becomes a more interesting location to draw, look at, and play in.

Wide Corridors: Remember that combat in the Pathfinder RPG is based on 5-foot squares. If you fill your dungeon with 5-foot-wide hallways, you’re not only forcing many prospective battles to narrow down to one-on-one conflicts between one monster and one player, you’re also making it more difficult for monsters of Large size or bigger to live in or move about in your dungeon. Also keep the size of the dungeon’s inhabitants in mind—if your dungeon is a cloud giant’s floating castle, for example, the rooms and corridors should be giant-sized, not human-sized.

Inking the Map

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Once you’re happy with your map sketch, grab your pens and start inking it. You can use different pens to denote different features on your map; a wide felt-tip pen works well for thick walls, for example, while a fine-tipped pen works better for details like doors and map symbols. Once you’ve inked the map, erase extraneous pencil lines (keeping any notes you want to save, of course). Next, get your coloring supplies and add color as necessary—blue for water, green for vegetation, or whatever works best. If you color in nothing else, use black to fill in areas of solid stone to help define the actual parts of the map your players can explore.

You can scan your map at this stage as well and use a paint program to color larger areas. Scanning a map and using image manipulation software is also a great way to correct errors you made during the inking process.

Tagging the Map

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Once your map is inked and colored, it’s essentially ready for play. All that’s left is to tag it with number locations that key the map to the encounter descriptions in your notes. Using a number key helps to keep your map’s details from being obscured by descriptive words. If possible, use a pen of a different color than anything else on your map so the number tags stand out and are easy to see— alternatively, you can circle the number tags or mark them with a highlighter.

Adding Details to the Map

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While not strictly necessary, adding additional elements to your map can make it more attractive. Details such as furniture (tables, chairs, beds, and chests are all good examples), light sources (fireplaces or firepits, windows, skylights, and so on), and architectural features add a touch of realism to inhabited dungeons. Be careful not to add too many extra details to the map, however—not only can they clutter your map and obscure important information, but they can have a detrimental effect on combat as well. Remember that characters and monsters need room to fight and maneuver, and a room filled with superfluous furniture can make combat overly complex.

Dungeon Ecology

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Once you’ve created your dungeon map, you’re ready to populate it. If you’re building a static dungeon, you can simply fill it with traps and guardians and other challenges as you wish, with little concern as to how each area interacts with the others.

But if you’re building a living dungeon, there are more considerations you’ll want to address. In particular, if your dungeon is the lair for a number of living creatures, keep in mind that they don’t just sit in their rooms in stasis waiting for a group of heroes to blunder into their clutches—at least, dungeon denizens don’t always behave this way. Usually, you’ll want to design your dungeon with its ecology in mind.

Food and Water: If there’s not a constant source of food in or nearby your dungeon, your monsters will need storerooms in which to stockpile their food. Even if there is a handy supply of food, monsters whose territories are blocked from access to these ready supplies will need some sort of concession toward food and water. A river running through a dungeon is a handy way to supply both of these necessities, as are magic items like decanters of endless water, rings of sustenance, and sustaining spoons. Finally, including a cleric of at least 5th level in a group gives that group access to create food and water spells.

Shelter and Access: All of your dungeon denizens need somewhere to live. The main thing to keep in mind here is that a monster’s lair should be sized appropriately for the monster. The larger the monster, the larger its lair needs to be. As a general rule, it’s good to give a monster living space that’s at least nine times its own space. And unless you want your monster to be trapped in its lair, make sure it can access other parts of the dungeon, including an exit (by squeezing, at minimum).

Encounter Archetypes

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Most dungeons feature a variety of encounter archetypes. By including encounters from as many of these archetypes as possible, you can keep your dungeon from feeling repetitive and give different characters the opportunity to shine. Even better, it’s a lot easier to keep your players’ attention if they’re not sure how the next room around the corner will challenge them. Listed here are seven different encounter archetypes.

Combat: In a combat encounter, the PCs are faced with a foe or foes that bar progress—in order to complete the encounter, the PCs must defeat the foes in combat. A combat encounter can be with a single opponent or a group of foes. In most dungeons, combat encounters are the rule. Rules and guidelines for building balanced combat encounters can be found on pages 397–399 of the Core Rulebook. Hazard/Obstacle: This kind of encounter presents the characters with a dangerous condition they need to navigate in order to proceed. A room filled with yellow mold, a chasm with a rotten rope bridge, a pool of lava, an unstable chamber with a crumbling ceiling, or even something as simple as a barricaded door can serve as a hazard or obstacle. Generally, a hazard or obstacle is an encounter that is solved not through combat but through a combination of skill checks, saving throws, attack rolls, and the application of magic spells.

Puzzle: A puzzle encounter presents the players, not the characters, with a challenge. These can be riddles, shifting tiles, mazes, word puzzles, or anything else that must be solved by brain power, logic, or experimentation. Often a puzzle encounter can be enhanced by giving the players a handout or prop that lets them directly manipulate or study the puzzle. A puzzle generally can’t be solved with die rolls, but if your group gets stuck on a puzzle, you should consider letting them make appropriate skill checks to learn clues (or even the solution) from you.

Random Encounter: A random encounter is an unusual encounter that isn’t tied to a specific location in your dungeon. The classic method of building random encounters is to create an encounter table of possible encounters (see pages 182–183 for several sample dungeon encounter tables). Then, when a random encounter is called for, you can simply roll the dice and let fate determine what the PCs run into. Traditionally, checks for wandering monsters from a random encounter table are made every so often (either once per hour, four times a day, every time the PCs rest, or whatever works best for you) by rolling d100. A heavily populated area with lots of potential encounters might have a 20% or higher chance of a random encounter occurring at each check, while a remote or relatively empty area might have only a 2% chance per check. It’s important not to let random encounters become the adventure, though—an endless parade of wandering monsters can quickly turn into a dull slog through forgettable combats, and a poorly timed or unlucky roll can impose a powerful foe on a party when they’re in no shape to cope with it. Random encounters should be used as sparingly as possible—they’re a great tool to use when play bogs down (such as if the PCs insist on resting after every encounter or exhaustively searching a huge, empty room), but they shouldn’t become the dungeon’s defining theme.

Story Encounter: Since story encounters rarely involve any actual danger or impediment to physical progress through a dungeon, they are often forgotten during the design process. Yet in some ways, story encounters are the most important encounter type of them all, for they allow the players to learn about your dungeon and world. There’s no point in creating a multi-page history for a dungeon if there’s no way for your players to learn about it! A story encounter can come in the form of a roleplayed conversation with a friendly dungeon denizen or talkative ghost, a carving on a wall, an old journal, or even just an opportunity for a player to make a Knowledge check when faced with a particularly unusual scene in a dungeon to learn more about the dungeon’s story.

Trap: These classic encounters are similar to hazards and obstacles in that they are generally dangerous and can be defeated with a combination of skill checks, saving throws, attack rolls, and the application of magic spells. Their primary difference from hazards is that traps are hidden from view and, unless the player characters are careful, can strike without warning. As a general rule, you should use traps sparingly, since randomly springing traps on a group only serves to slow down the course of play as increasingly paranoid players check every 5-foot square and every doorknob for hidden perils. Often, it’s a simple matter of giving the players some kind of warning beforehand that they’re heading into a trapped area— story encounters are great for this purpose.

Special Encounters: Finally, you can include special encounters. The easiest way to make a special encounter is to combine two or more of the archetypes listed above into a single encounter—a battle against fire elementals in a burning building is a combination combat and hazard encounter. A riddling sphinx that attacks any group that can’t answer her riddle within 24 seconds is a combination puzzle and combat encounter. A chase can serve as a special encounter, as can purely roleplaying encounters. One particularly important special encounter that every dungeon should have is the “climactic” encounter, where the PCs confront one of the dungeon’s rulers or reach the goal of their delve. A climactic encounter should usually be a deadly or epic encounter (typically with a CR of 3 or 4 above the average party level), and often combines three or more of the above archetypes (usually combat, hazard, and story).

Resting in the Dungeon

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It happens to every adventuring party—you power through half dozen or so encounters and suddenly the prospect of facing the tougher encounters at the end of the dungeon with your depleted resources seems foolish. Often, the party has progressed far enough into the dungeon that merely leaving the dungeon and coming back isn’t an option—especially if there are a lot of deadly hazards or traps along the way, or if the dungeon’s denizens are likely to repopulate rooms with reinforcements.

In such situations, a group of adventurers often chooses to rest inside of a dungeon. Don’t let this rattle you! In fact, you should consider putting a few rooms in your dungeon (especially if it’s a large complex) that can be easily defended or work well as campsites. When a group of PCs decides to rest in a dungeon, decide if the threats that remain will challenge the adventurers—if you know that they need to recover their strength, you should let them rest (but only after instilling a little bit of paranoia by getting a schedule of watches and details on how they fortify their campsite). But if you know that the group still has the resources to forge ahead, feel free to have wandering monsters come by to harass the characters while they relax.

If your PCs are habitual dungeon relaxers who rest after every encounter, the dungeon’s inhabitants should catch on after a few naps and set up some ambushes or assaults on the characters’ campsite. The goal is to keep the PCs challenged without making things hopelessly difficult, and to allow them time to recover when you feel they really need it—don’t let them dictate when they’ll have the luxury of a full night’s sleep!


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Beyond the mundane world of humans, elves, gnomes, and dwarves lie vast realms known as the planes of existence. Almost limitless in size and potential, the various planes embody the fundamental aspects of reality: alignments, elements, energies, and so on. Each plane is a universe unto itself; it follows its own natural laws and has its own unique inhabitants—the outsiders that occasionally visit or are summoned to the mortal world, be they gods, angels, demons, devils, or even stranger creatures. Literally anything is possible on the planes, making them a perfect location for exotic, terrifying, wondrous, and deadly adventures.

What is a Plane?

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The planes of existence are different realities with interwoven connections. Except for rare linking points, each plane is effectively its own universe, with its own natural laws. The planes break down into a number of general types: the Material Plane, the transitive planes, the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, and the demiplanes.

Material Plane: The Material Plane is the most Earth-like of all the planes, and operates under the same set of natural laws that our own world does. This is the default plane for most adventures.

Transitive Planes: These three planes have one important common characteristic: each is used to get from one place to another. The Astral Plane (although technically an Outer Plane) is a conduit to all other planes, while the Ethereal Plane and the Shadow Plane both serve as means of transportation within the Material Plane, which they’re connected to. These planes have the strongest regular interaction with the Material Plane and can be accessed using various spells. They have native inhabitants as well.

Inner Planes: These six planes are manifestations of the basic building blocks of the universe. Each is made up of a single type of energy or element that overwhelms all others. The natives of a particular Inner Plane are made of the same energy or element as the plane itself. The Negative Energy Plane, the Positive Energy Plane, the Plane of Air, the Plane of Earth, the Plane of Fire, and the Plane of Water are all Inner Planes.

Outer Planes: The deities live on the Outer Planes, as do creatures such as celestials, fiends, and other outsiders. Each of the Outer Planes has an alignment representing a particular moral or ethical outlook, and the natives of each plane tend to behave in agreement with that plane’s alignment. The Outer Planes are also the final resting place of souls from the Material Plane, whether that final rest takes the form of calm introspection or eternal damnation. Abaddon, the Abyss, Elysium, Heaven, Hell, Limbo, Nirvana, Purgatory, and Utopia are all Outer Planes.

Demiplanes: This catch-all category covers all extradimensional spaces that function like planes but have measurable size and limited access. Other kinds of planes are theoretically infinite in size, but a demiplane might be only a few hundred feet across.

Planar Traits

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Each plane of existence has its own properties—the natural laws of its universe. Planar traits are broken down into a number of general areas. All planes have the following kinds of traits.

Physical Traits: These traits determine the laws of physics and nature on the plane, including how gravity and time function.

Elemental and Energy Traits: The dominance of particular elemental or energy forces is determined by these traits.

Alignment Traits: Just as characters may be lawful neutral or chaotic good, many planes are tied to a particular morality or ethos.

Magic Traits: Magic works differently from plane to plane; magic traits set the boundaries for what magic can and can’t do on each plane.

Physical Traits

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The two most important natural laws set by physical traits are how gravity works and how time passes. Other physical traits pertain to the size and shape of a plane and how easily a plane’s nature can be altered.

Gravity Traits

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The direction of gravity’s pull may be unusual, and it might even change directions within the plane itself.

Normal Gravity: Most planes have gravity similar to that of the Material Plane. The usual rules for ability scores, carrying capacity, and encumbrance apply. Unless otherwise noted in a plane’s description, assume that it has the normal gravity trait.

Heavy Gravity: The gravity on a plane with this trait is much more intense than on the Material Plane. As a result, Acrobatics, Climb, Ride, and Swim checks incur a –2 circumstance penalty, as do all attack rolls. All item weights are effectively doubled, which might affect a character’s speed. Weapon ranges are halved. A character’s Strength and Dexterity scores are not affected. Characters that fall on a heavy gravity plane take 1d10 points of damage for each 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d10 points of damage.

Light Gravity: The gravity on a plane with this trait is less intense than on the Material Plane. As a result, creatures find that they can lift more. Characters on a plane with the light gravity trait take a +2 circumstance bonus on attack rolls and on Acrobatics and Ride checks. All items weigh half as much, and weapon ranges double. Strength and Dexterity don’t change as a result of light gravity, but what you can do with such scores does change. These advantages apply to travelers from other planes as well as natives. Falling characters on a light gravity plane take 1d4 points of damage for each 10 feet fallen (maximum 20d4).

No Gravity: Individuals on a plane with this trait merely float in space, unless other resources are available to provide a direction for gravity’s pull.

Objective Directional Gravity: The strength of gravity on a plane with this trait is the same as on the Material Plane, but the direction is not the traditional “down” toward the ground. It may be down toward any solid object, at an angle to the surface of the plane itself, or even upward. In addition, the direction of “down” may vary from place to place within the plane.

Subjective Directional Gravity: The strength of gravity on a plane with this trait is the same as on the Material Plane, but each individual chooses the direction of gravity’s pull. Such a plane has no gravity for unattended objects and nonsentient creatures. This sort of environment can be very disorienting to the newcomer, but it is common on “weightless” planes.

Characters on a plane with subjective directional gravity can move normally along a solid surface by imagining “down” near their feet. If suspended in midair, a character “flies” by merely choosing a “down” direction and “falling” that way. Under such a procedure, an individual “falls” 150 feet in the first round and 300 feet in each succeeding round. Movement is straight-line only. In order to stop, one has to slow one’s movement by changing the designated “down” direction (again, moving 150 feet in the new direction in the first round and 300 feet per round thereafter).

It takes a DC 16 Wisdom check to set a new direction of gravity as a free action; this check can be made once per round. Any character who fails this Wisdom check in successive rounds receives a +6 bonus on subsequent checks until he or she succeeds.

Time Traits

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The rate at which time passes can vary on different planes, though it remains constant within any particular plane. Time is always subjective for the viewer. The same subjectivity applies to various planes. Travelers may discover that they gain or lose time while moving between planes, but from their point of view, time always passes naturally.

Normal Time: Describes how time passes on the Material Plane. One hour on a plane with normal time equals 1 hour on the Material Plane. Unless otherwise noted in a plane's description, assume it has the normal time trait.

Erratic Time: Some planes have time that slows down and speeds up, so an individual may lose or gain time as he moves between such planes and any others. To the denizens of such a plane, time flows naturally and the shift is unnoticed. The following is provided as an example.
d%Time of Material PlaneTime on Erratic Time Plane
01-101 day1 round
11-401 day1 hour
41-601 day1 day
61-901 hour1 day
91-1001 round1 day

Flowing Time: On some planes, the flow of time is consistently faster or slower. One may travel to another plane, spend a year there, and then return to the Material Plane to find that only 6 seconds have elapsed. Everything on the plane returned to is only a few seconds older. But for that traveler and the items, spells, and effects working on him, that year away was entirely real. When designating how time works on planes with flowing time, put the Material Plane's flow of time first, followed by the flow in the other plane.

Timeless: On planes with this trait, time still passes, but the effects of time are diminished. How the timeless trait affects certain activities or conditions such as hunger, thirst, aging, the effects of poison, and healing varies from plane to plane. The danger of a timeless plane is that once an individual leaves such a plane for one where time flows normally, conditions such as hunger and aging occur retroactively. If a plane is timeless with respect to magic, any spell cast with a noninstantaneous duration is permanent until dispelled.

Shape and Size Traits

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Planes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Most planes are infinite, or at least so large that they may as well be infinite.

Infinite: Planes with this trait go on forever, though they may have finite components within them. Alternatively, they may consist of ongoing expanses in two directions, like a map that stretches out infinitely. Unless otherwise noted in its description, assume that a plane is effectively infinite.

Finite Shape: A plane with this trait has defined edges or borders. These borders may adjoin other planes or be hard, finite borders such as the edge of the world or a great wall. Demiplanes are often finite.

Self-Contained Shape: On planes with this trait, the borders wrap in on themselves, depositing the traveler on the other side of the map. Some spherical planes are examples of self-contained, finite planes, but they can also be cubes, tori, or flat expanses with magical edges that teleport the traveler to the opposite edge when she crosses them. Some demiplanes are self-contained.

Morphic Traits

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 186
This trait measures how easily the basic nature of a plane can be changed. Some planes are responsive to sentient thought, while some respond to physical or magical efforts. Others can only be manipulated by extremely powerful creatures.

Alterable Morphic: On a plane with this trait, objects remain where they are (and what they are) unless affected by physical force or magic. You can change the immediate environment as a result of tangible effort. Unless otherwise noted in a plane’s description, assume it has the alterable morphic trait.

Divinely Morphic: Specific unique beings (deities or similar great powers) have the ability to alter objects, creatures, and the landscape on planes with this trait. They may cause these areas to change instantly and dramatically, creating great kingdoms for themselves. Ordinary characters find these planes similar to alterable planes in that they may be affected by spells and physical effort.

Highly Morphic: On a plane with this trait, features of the plane change so frequently that it’s difficult to keep a particular area stable. Some such planes may react dramatically to specific spells, sentient thought, or the force of will. Others change for no reason.

Magically Morphic: Specific spells can alter the basic material of a plane with this trait.

Sentient: These planes respond to a single entity’s thoughts—those of the plane itself. Travelers might find the plane’s landscape changing as a result of what the plane thinks of the travelers, becoming either more or less hospitable depending on its reaction.

Static: These planes are unchanging. Visitors cannot affect living residents of the plane or objects that the denizens possess. Any spells that would affect those on the plane have no effect unless the plane’s static trait is somehow removed or suppressed. Spells cast before entering a plane with the static trait remain in effect, however. Even moving an unattended object within a static plane requires a DC 16 Strength check. Particularly heavy objects may be impossible to move.

Elemental and Energy Traits

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 186
Four basic elements and two types of energy combine to make up everything. The elements are earth, air, fire, and water; the types of energy are positive and negative. The Material Plane reflects a balancing of those elements and energies—all are found there. Each of the Inner Planes is dominated by one element or type of energy. Other planes may show off various aspects of these elemental traits. Many planes have no elemental or energy traits; such traits are noted in a plane’s description only when they are present.

Air-Dominant: Consisting mostly of open space, planes with this trait have just a few bits of floating stone or other solid matter. They usually have a breathable atmosphere, though such a plane may include clouds of acidic or toxic gas. Creatures of the earth subtype are uncomfortable on air-dominant planes because they have little or no natural earth to connect with. They take no actual damage, however.

Earth-Dominant: Planes with this trait are mostly solid. Travelers who arrive run the risk of suffocation if they don’t reach a cavern or other pocket within the earth. Worse yet, individuals without the ability to burrow are entombed in the earth and must dig their way out (5 feet per turn). Creatures of the air subtype are uncomfortable on earth-dominant planes because these planes are tight and claustrophobic to them, but suffer no inconvenience beyond having difficulty moving.

Fire-Dominant: Planes with this trait are composed of flames that continually burn without consuming their fuel source. Fire-dominant planes are extremely hostile to Material Plane creatures, and those without resistance or immunity to fire are soon immolated.

Unprotected wood, paper, cloth, and other flammable materials catch fire almost immediately, and those wearing unprotected flammable clothing catch on fire. In addition, individuals take 3d10 points of fire damage every round they are on a fire-dominant plane. Creatures of the water subtype are extremely uncomfortable on fire-dominant planes. Those that are made of water take double damage each round.

Water-Dominant: Planes with this trait are mostly liquid. Visitors who can’t breathe water or reach a pocket of air likely drown. Creatures of the fire subtype are extremely uncomfortable on water-dominant planes. Those made of fire take 1d10 points of damage each round.

Negative-Dominant: Planes with this trait are vast, empty reaches that suck the life out of travelers who cross them. They tend to be lonely, haunted planes, drained of color and filled with winds bearing the soft moans of those who died within them. There are two kinds of negative-dominant traits: minor negative-dominant and major negative-dominant. On minor negative-dominant planes, living creatures take 1d6 points of damage per round. At 0 hit points or lower, they crumble into ash.

Major negative-dominant planes are even more dangerous. Each round, those within must make a DC 25 Fortitude save or gain a negative level. A creature whose negative levels equal its current levels or Hit Dice is slain, becoming a wraith. The death ward spell protects a traveler from the damage and energy drain of a negative-dominant plane.

Positive-Dominant: An abundance of life characterizes planes with this trait. Like negative-dominant planes, positive-dominant planes can be either minor or major. A minor positive-dominant plane is a riotous explosion of life in all its forms. Colors are brighter, fires are hotter, noises are louder, and sensations are more intense as a result of the positive energy swirling through the plane. All individuals in a positive-dominant plane gain fast healing 2 as an extraordinary ability.

Major positive-dominant planes go even further. A creature on a major positive-dominant plane must make a DC 15 Fortitude save to avoid being blinded for 10 rounds by the brilliance of the surroundings. Simply being on the plane grants fast healing 5 as an extraordinary ability. In addition, those at full hit points gain 5 additional temporary hit points per round. These temporary hit points fade 1d20 rounds after the creature leaves the major positive-dominant plane. However, a creature must make a DC 20 Fortitude save each round that its temporary hit points exceed its normal hit point total. Failing the saving throw results in the creature exploding in a riot of energy, which kills it.

Alignment Traits

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 187
Some planes have a predisposition to a certain alignment. Most of the inhabitants of these planes also have the plane’s particular alignment, even powerful creatures such as deities. The alignment trait of a plane affects social interactions there. Characters who follow other alignments than most of the inhabitants do may have a tougher time dealing with the plane’s natives and situations.

Alignment traits have multiple components. First are the moral (good or evil) and ethical (lawful or chaotic) components; a plane can have a moral component, an ethical component, or one of each. Second, the specific alignment trait indicates whether each moral or ethical component is mildly or strongly evident. Many planes have no alignment traits; these traits are noted in a plane’s description only when they are present.

Good-Aligned/Evil-Aligned: These planes have chosen a side in the battle of good versus evil. No plane can be both good-aligned and evil-aligned.

Law-Aligned/Chaos-Aligned: Law versus chaos is the key struggle for these planes and their residents. No plane can be both law-aligned and chaos-aligned.

Neutral-Aligned: These planes stand outside the conflicts between good and evil and law and chaos.

Mildly Aligned: Creatures who have an alignment opposite that of a mildly aligned plane take a –2 circumstance penalty on all Charisma-based checks. A mildly neutral-aligned plane does not apply a circumstance penalty to anyone.

Strongly Aligned: On planes that are strongly aligned, a –2 circumstance penalty applies on all Intelligence-, Wisdom-, and Charisma-based checks made by all creatures not of the plane’s alignment. The penalties for the moral and ethical components of the alignment trait stack.

A strongly neutral-aligned plane stands in opposition to all other moral and ethical principles: good, evil, law, and chaos. Such a plane may be more concerned with the balance of the alignments than with accommodating and accepting alternate points of view. In the same fashion as for other strongly aligned planes, strongly neutral-aligned planes apply a –2 circumstance penalty on Intelligence-, Wisdom-, or Charisma-based checks made by any creature that isn’t neutral. The penalty is applied twice (once for law/chaos, and once for good/evil), so neutral good, neutral evil, lawful neutral, and chaotic neutral creatures take a –2 penalty and lawful good, chaotic good, chaotic evil, and lawful evil creatures take a –4 penalty.

Magic Traits

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 187
A plane’s magic trait describes how magic works on that plane compared to how it works on the Material Plane. Particular locations on a plane (such as those under the direct control of deities) may be pockets where a different magic trait applies.

Normal Magic: This magic trait means that all spells and supernatural abilities function as written. Unless otherwise noted in a plane’s description, assume that it has the normal magic trait.

Dead Magic: These planes have no magic at all. A plane with the dead magic trait functions in all respects like an antimagic field spell. Divination spells cannot detect subjects within a dead magic plane, nor can a spellcaster use teleport or another spell to move in or out. The only exception to the “no magic” rule is permanent planar portals, which still function normally.

Enhanced Magic: Particular spells and spell-like abilities are easier to use or more powerful in effect on planes with this trait than they are on the Material Plane. Natives of a plane with the enhanced magic trait are aware of which spells and spell-like abilities are enhanced, but planar travelers may have to discover this on their own. If a spell is enhanced, it functions as if its caster level was 2 higher than normal.

Impeded Magic: Particular spells and spell-like abilities are more difficult to cast on planes with this trait, often because the nature of the plane interferes with the spell. To cast an impeded spell, the caster must make a concentration check (DC 20 + the level of the spell). If the check fails, the spell does not function but is still lost as a prepared spell or spell slot. If the check succeeds, the spell functions normally.

Limited Magic: Planes with this trait permit only the use of spells and spell-like abilities that meet particular qualifications. Magic can be limited to effects from certain schools or subschools, effects with certain descriptors, or effects of a certain level (or any combination of these qualities). Spells and spell-like abilities that don’t meet the qualifications simply don’t work.

Wild Magic: On a plane with the wild magic trait, spells and spell-like abilities function in radically different and sometimes dangerous ways. Any spell or spell-like ability used on a wild magic plane has a chance to go awry. The caster must make a caster level check (DC 15 + the level of the spell or spell-like ability) for the magic to function normally. Failure means that something strange happens; roll d% and consult Table 7–16: Wild Magic Effects.

Table 7-16: Wild Magic Effects

01-19The spell rebounds on its caster with normal effect. If the spell cannot affect the caster, it simply fails.
20-23A circular pit 15 feet wide opens under the caster’s feet; it is 10 feet deep per level of the caster.
24-27The spell fails, but the target or targets of the spell are pelted with a rain of small objects (anything from flowers to rotten fruit), which disappear upon striking. The barrage continues for 1 round. During this time the targets are blinded and must make concentration checks (DC 15 + spell level) to cast spells.
28-31The spell affects a random target or area. Randomly choose a different target from among those in range of the spell or center the spell at a random place within range of the spell. To generate direction randomly, roll 1d8 and count clockwise around the compass, starting with south. To generate range randomly, roll 3d6. Multiply the result by 5 feet for close-range spells, 20 feet for medium-range spells, or 80 feet for long-range spells.
32-35The spell functions normally, but any material components are not consumed. The spell is not expended from the caster’s mind (the spell slot or prepared spell can be used again). Similarly, an item does not lose charges, and the effect does not count against an item’s or spell-like ability’s use limit.
36-39The spell does not function. Instead, everyone (friend or foe) within 30 feet of the caster receives the effect of a heal spell.
40-43The spell does not function. Instead, a deeper darkness effect and a silence effect cover a 30-foot radius around the caster for 2d4 rounds.
44-47The spell does not function. Instead, a reverse gravity effect covers a 30-foot radius around the caster for 1 round.
48-51The spell functions, but shimmering colors swirl around the caster for 1d4 rounds. Treat this as a glitterdust effect with a save DC of 10 + the level of the spell that generated this result.
52-59Nothing happens. The spell does not function. Any material components are used up. The spell or spell slot is used up, an item loses charges, and the effect counts against an item’s or spell-like ability’s use limit.
60-71Nothing happens. The spell does not function. Any material components are not consumed. The spell is not expended from the caster’s mind (a spell slot or prepared spell can be used again). An item does not lose charges, and the effect does not count against an item’s or spell-like ability’s use limit.
72-98The spell functions normally.
99-100The spell functions strongly. Saving throws against the spell incur a –2 penalty. The spell has the maximum possible effect, as if it were cast with the Maximize Spell feat. If the spell is already maximized with the feat, there is no further effect.

The Great Beyond

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 188
In the cosmology of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, the planes are collectively known as the Great Beyond, and form a vast, nesting sphere. At the heart of the sphere lie the Material Plane and its twisted reflection, the Shadow Plane, bridged by the mists of the Ethereal Plane. The elemental planes of the Inner Sphere surround this heart. Farther out, beyond the void of the Astral Plane, sits the unimaginably vast Outer Sphere, which is itself surrounded and contained by the innumerable layers of the Abyss

The planes that make up the Great Beyond are briefly detailed below.

Material Plane

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 188
The Material Plane is the center of most cosmologies and defines what is considered normal. It is the plane most campaign worlds occupy. The Material Plane has the following traits:
  • Normal Gravity
  • Normal Time
  • Alterable Morphic
  • No Elemental or Energy Traits: Specific locations may have these traits, however.
  • Mildly Neutral-Aligned: Though it may contain high concentrations of evil or good, law or chaos in places.
  • Normal Magic

Shadow Plane

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 188
The Shadow Plane is a dimly lit dimension that is both coterminous to and coexistent with the Material Plane. It overlaps the Material Plane much as the Ethereal Plane does, so a planar traveler can use the Shadow Plane to cover great distances quickly. The Shadow Plane is also coterminous to other planes. With the right spell, a character can use the Shadow Plane to visit other realities. The Shadow Plane is a world of black and white; color itself has been bleached from the environment. It otherwise appears similar to the Material Plane. Despite the lack of light sources, various plants, animals, and humanoids call the Shadow Plane home.

The Shadow Plane has the following traits:
  • Magically Morphic: Parts of the Shadow Plane continually flow onto other planes. As a result, creating a precise map of the plane is next to impossible, despite the presence of landmarks. In addition, certain spells, such as shadow conjuration and shadow evocation, modify the base material of the Shadow Plane. The utility and power of these spells within the Shadow Plane make them particularly useful for explorers and natives alike.
  • Mildly Neutral-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells with the shadow descriptor are enhanced on the Shadow Plane. Furthermore, specific spells become more powerful on the Shadow Plane. Shadow conjuration and shadow evocation spells are 30% as powerful as the conjurations and evocations they mimic (as opposed to 20%). Greater shadow conjuration and greater shadow evocation are 70% as powerful (not 60%), and a shades spell conjures at 90% of the power of the original (not 80%). Despite the dark nature of the Shadow Plane, spells that produce, use, or manipulate darkness are unaffected by the plane.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells with the light descriptor or that use or generate light or fire are impeded on the Shadow Plane. Spells that produce light are less effective in general, because all light sources have their ranges halved on the Shadow Plane.

    Negative Energy Plane

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 188
    To an observer, there’s little to see on the Negative Energy Plane. It is a dark, empty place, an eternal pit where a traveler can fall until the plane itself steals away all light and life. The Negative Energy Plane is the most hostile of the Inner Planes, the most uncaring and intolerant of life. Only creatures immune to its life-draining energies can survive there.

    The Negative Energy Plane has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity
  • Major Negative-Dominant: Some areas within the plane have only the minor negative-dominant trait, and these islands tend to be inhabited.
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities that use negative energy are enhanced. Class abilities that use negative energy, such as channel negative energy, gain a +4 bonus to the save DC to resist the ability.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities that use positive energy (including cure spells) are impeded. Characters on this plane take a –10 penalty on saving throws made to remove negative levels bestowed by an energy drain attack.

    Positive Energy Plane

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 188
    The Positive Energy Plane has no surface and is akin to the Plane of Air with its wide-open nature. However, every bit of this plane glows brightly with innate power. This power is dangerous to mortal forms, which are not made to handle it. Despite the beneficial effects of the plane, it is one of the most hostile of the Inner Planes. An unprotected character on this plane swells with power as positive energy is forced upon her. Then, because her mortal frame is unable to contain that power, she is immolated, like a mote of dust caught at the edge of a supernova. Visits to the Positive Energy Plane are brief, and even then travelers must be heavily protected.

    The Positive Energy Plane has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity
  • Major Positive-Dominant: Some regions of the plane have the minor positive-dominant trait instead, and those islands tend to be inhabited.
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities that use positive energy are enhanced. Class abilities that use positive energy, such as channel positive energy, gain a +4 bonus to the save DC to resist the ability.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities that use negative energy (including inflict spells) are impeded.

    Plane of Air

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 189
    The Plane of Air is an empty plane, consisting of sky above and sky below. It is the most comfortable and survivable of the Inner Planes and is the home of all manner of airborne creatures. Indeed, flying creatures find themselves at a great advantage on this plane. While travelers without flight can survive easily here, they are at a disadvantage.

    The Plane of Air has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity: Inhabitants of the plane determine their own “down” direction. Objects not under the motive force of others do not move.
  • Air-Dominant
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the air descriptor or that use, manipulate, or create air (including those of the Air domain and the elemental [air] bloodline) are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the earth descriptor or that use or create earth (including those of the Earth domain, spell-like abilities of the elemental [earth] bloodline, and spells that summon earth elementals or outsiders with the earth subtype) are impeded.

    Plane of Earth

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 190
    The Plane of Earth is a solid place made of soil and stone. An unwary traveler might find himself entombed within this vast solidity of material and crushed into nothingness, with his powdered remains left as a warning to any foolish enough to follow. Despite its solid, unyielding nature, the Plane of Earth is varied in its consistency, ranging from soft soil to veins of heavier and more valuable metal.

    The Plane of Earth has the following traits:
  • Earth-Dominant
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the earth descriptor or that use, manipulate, or create earth or stone (including those of the Earth domain and the elemental [earth] bloodline) are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the air descriptor or that use or create air (including those of the Air domain, spell-like abilities of the elemental [air] bloodline, and spells that summon air elementals or outsiders with the air subtype) are impeded.

    Plane of Fire

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 190
    Everything is alight on the Plane of Fire. The ground is nothing more than great, ever-shifting plates of compressed flame. The air ripples with the heat of continual firestorms and the most common liquid is magma. The oceans are made of liquid flame, and the mountains ooze with molten lava. Fire survives here without needing fuel or air, but flammables brought onto the plane are consumed readily.

    The Plane of Fire has the following traits:
  • Fire-Dominant
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the fire descriptor or that use, manipulate, or create fire (including those of the Fire domain or the elemental [fire] bloodline) are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the water descriptor or that use or create water (including spells of the Water domain, spell-like abilities of the elemental [water] bloodline, and spells that summon water elementals or outsiders with the water subtype) are impeded.

    Plane of Water

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 190
    The Plane of Water is a sea without a floor or a surface, an entirely fluid environment lit by a diffuse glow. It is one of the more hospitable of the Inner Planes once a traveler gets past the problem of breathing the local medium.

    The eternal oceans of this plane vary between ice cold and boiling hot, and between saline and fresh. They are perpetually in motion, wracked by currents and tides. The plane’s permanent settlements form around bits of flotsam suspended within this endless liquid, drifting on the tides.

    The Plane of Water has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity: The gravity here works similarly to that of the Plane of Air, but sinking or rising on the Plane of Water is slower (and less dangerous) than on the Plane of Air.
  • Water-Dominant
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the water descriptor or that use or create water (including those of the Water domain or the elemental [water] bloodline) are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the fire descriptor or that use or create fire (including spells of the Fire domain, spell-like abilities of the elemental [fire] bloodline, and spells that summon fire elementals or outsiders with the fire subtype) are impeded.

    Ethereal Plane

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 191
    The Ethereal Plane is coexistent with the Material Plane and often other planes as well. The Material Plane itself is visible from the Ethereal Plane, but it appears muted and indistinct; colors blur into each other and edges are fuzzy.

    While it is possible to see into the Material Plane from the Ethereal Plane, the latter is usually invisible to those on the Material Plane. Normally, creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot attack creatures on the Material Plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible, insubstanial, and utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane.

    The Ethereal Plane has the following traits:
  • No Gravity
  • Alterable Morphic: The plane contains little to alter, however.
  • Mildly Neutral-Aligned
  • Normal Magic: Spells function normally on the Ethereal Plane, though they do not cross into the Material Plane. The only exceptions are spells and spell-like abilities that have the force descriptor and abjuration spells that affect ethereal beings; these can cross from the Material Plane to the Ethereal Plane. Spellcasters on the Material Plane must have some way to detect foes on the Ethereal Plane before targeting them with force-based spells. While it’s possible to hit ethereal enemies with a force spell cast on the Material Plane, the reverse isn’t possible. No magical attacks cross from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane, including force attacks.

    Astral Plane

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 191
    The Astral Plane is the space between the Inner and Outer Planes, and coterminous with all of the planes. When a character moves through a portal or projects her spirit to a different plane of existence, she travels through the Astral Plane. Even spells that allow instantaneous movement across a plane briefly touch the Astral Plane. The Astral Plane is a great, endless expanse of clear silvery sky, both above and below. Occasional bits of solid matter can be found here, but most of the Astral Plane is an endless, open domain.

    The Astral Plane has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity
  • Timeless: Age, hunger, thirst, afflictions (such as diseases, curses, and poisons), and natural healing don’t function in the Astral Plane, though they resume functioning when the traveler leaves the Astral Plane.
  • Mildly Neutral-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: All spells and spell-like abilities used within the Astral Plane may be employed as if they were improved by the Quicken Spell or Quicken Spell-Like Ability feats. Already quickened spells and spell-like abilities are unaffected, as are spells from magic items. Spells so quickened are still prepared and cast at their unmodified level. As with the Quicken Spell feat, only one quickened spell or spell-like ability can be cast per round.

    Abaddon (Neutral Evil)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 191
    A realm of vast wastelands under a rotten sky, Abaddon is perpetually cloaked in a cloying black mist and the oppressive twilight of an endless solar eclipse. The poisoned River Styx has its source in Abaddon, before it meanders like a twisted serpent onto other planes. Abaddon may be the most hostile of the Outer Planes; it is the home of the daemons, fiends of pure evil untouched by the struggle between law and chaos, who personify oblivion and destruction. Daemons, which are ruled by four godlike archdaemons, are feared throughout the Great Beyond as devourers of souls.

    Abaddon has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Abaddon can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Evil-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the evil descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the good descriptor are impeded.

    The Abyss (Chaotic Evil)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 191
    Surrounding the Outer Sphere like the impossibly deep kin of an onion, the layered plane of the Abyss begins as gargantuan canyons and yawning chasms in the fabric of the other Outer Planes, bordered by the foul waters of the River Styx. Coterminous with all of the Outer Planes, the infinite layers of the Abyss connect to one another in constantly shifting pathways. There are no rules in the Abyss, nor laws, order, or hope. The Abyss is a perversion of freedom, a nightmare realm of unmitigated horror where desire and suffering are given demonic form, for the Abyss is the spawning ground of the innumerable races of demons, among the oldest beings in all the Great Beyond.

    The Abyss has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic and Sentient: Deities with domains in the Abyss can alter the plane at will, as can the Abyss itself.
  • Strongly Chaos-Aligned and Strongly Evil-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the chaotic or evil descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the lawful or good descriptor are impeded.

    Elysium (Chaotic Good)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 191
    A vast land of untamed wilderness and wild passions, Elysium is the plane of benevolent chaos. Freedom and self-sufficiency abound here, personified in the azatas native to the plane. In Elysium, selfless cooperation and fierce competition clash with the violence of a raging thunderstorm, but such conflicts never overshadow the lofty concepts of bravery, creativity, and good unhindered by rules or laws.

    Elysium has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Elysium can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Chaos-Aligned and Strongly Good-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the chaotic or good descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the lawful or evil descriptor are impeded.

    Heaven (Lawful Good)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 192
    The soaring mountain of Heaven towers high above the Outer Sphere. This ordered realm of honor and compassion is divided into seven layers. Heaven’s slopes are filled with planned, orderly cities and tidy, cultivated gardens and orchards. Though they began their existences as mortals, Heaven’s native archons see law and good as indivisible halves of the same exalted concept, and array themselves against the cosmic perversions of chaos and evil.

    Heaven has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Heaven can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Law-Aligned and Strongly Good-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the lawful or good descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the chaotic or evil descriptor are impeded.

    Hell (Lawful Evil)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 192
    The nine layers of Hell form a structured labyrinth of calculated evil where torment goes hand in hand with purification. A plane of iron cities, burning wastelands, frozen glaciers, and endless volcanic peaks, Hell is divided into nine nesting layers, each under the malevolent rule of an archdevil. Torture, anguish, and agony are inevitable in Hell, but they are methodical, not spiteful or capricious, and serve a deliberate master plan under the watchful eyes of the disciplined ranks of Hells’ lesser devils. The nine layers of Hell, from first to last, are Avernus, Dis, Erebus, Phlegethon, Stygia, Malebolge, Cocytus, Caina, and Nessus.

    Hell has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Hell can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Law-Aligned and Strongly Evil-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the lawful or evil descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the chaotic or good descriptor are impeded.

    Limbo (Chaotic Neutral)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 192
    A vast ocean of unrestrained chaos and untapped potential surrounds and is coterminous with each of the Outer Planes. This is Limbo—beautiful, deadly, and truly endless. From its unplumbed depths were born all the other planes, and to its anarchic deeps will all creation eventually return. Where the formless sea of Limbo laps against the shores of other planes, its substance takes on some measure of stability, and it is within these borderlands that travel is safest, though it is still fraught with danger from Limbo’s chaos-warped inhabitants. Deeper into the plane, Limbo’s native proteans cavort in the Primal Chaos, creating and destroying the raw stuff of chaos with unfathomable abandon.

    Limbo has the following traits:
  • Subjective Directional Gravity and Normal Gravity: On the few islands of stability within Limbo, gravity is more likely to be normal (down is toward the center of mass). Everywhere else, gravity is subjective directional.
  • Erratic Time
  • Highly Morphic
  • Strongly Chaos-Aligned
  • Wild Magic and Normal Magic: On the few islands of stability within Limbo, magic is more likely to be normal. Magic is wild everywhere else.

    Nirvana (Neutral Good)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 193
    Nirvana is an unbiased paradise existing between the two extremes of Elysium and Heaven. Its stunning mountains, rolling hills, and deep forests all match a visitor’s expectations of a pastoral paradise, but Nirvana also contains mysteries that lead to enlightenment. Nirvana is a sanctuary and a place of respite for all who seek redemption or illumination. Nirvana’s native agathions have willingly postponed their own transcendence to guard Nirvana’s enigmas, while celestial beings fight the forces of evil across the planes.

    Nirvana has the following traits:
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Nirvana can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Good-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the good descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the evil descriptor are impeded.

    Purgatory (Neutral)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 193
    Every soul passes through Purgatory to be judged before being sent on to its final destination in the Great Beyond. Vast graveyards and wastelands fill its gloomy expanses, along with dusty, echoing courts for the judgment of the dead. Purgatory is home to the aeons, a race who embody the dualistic nature of existence and who are constantly both at war and at peace with each other and themselves.

    Purgatory has the following traits:
  • Timeless: Age, hunger, thirst, afflictions (such as diseases, curses, and poisons), and natural healing don’t function in Purgatory, though they resume functioning when the traveler leaves Purgatory.
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Purgatory can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Neutral-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the death descriptor, or from the Death or Repose domains, are enhanced.

    Utopia (Lawful Neutral)

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 193
    Utopia is a bastion of order against the chaos of Limbo and the countless demonic hordes of the Abyss. A great city of eternal perfection, Utopia’s streets and buildings are paragons of architecture and aesthetics; everything is ordered and nothing happens by chance. While no one race rules Utopia, axiomites and inevitables make their homes here, forever striving to expand their perfect city.

    Utopia has the following traits:
  • Finite Shape
  • Divinely Morphic: Deities with domains in Utopia can alter the plane at will.
  • Strongly Law-Aligned
  • Enhanced Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the lawful descriptor are enhanced.
  • Impeded Magic: Spells and spell-like abilities with the chaotic descriptor are impeded.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    It’s an understatement to say that the tavern is a staple location in the fantasy genre. It’s the perfect place for the PCs to meet up, conduct business, and wind down after an adventure. Shady characters abound in taverns and all manner of activities, legal or otherwise, can take place beneath their smoke-filled ceilings. Unfortunately, the tavern’s ubiquity is such that players may treat it as something of a running joke. Unless you’re willing to inject some variation into your taverns, the PCs will continually run into the same staple of surly bartenders, busty barmaids, and drunken patrons itching to get into a brawl at the drop of a hat.

    This chapter looks at ways to add some variety into your campaign’s taverns, inns, and restaurants, making them into memorable experiences that can liven up the phrase “So, you all meet in a tavern...”


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    By definition, a tavern is a business where customers can purchase alcoholic beverages. Sounds simple enough, right? But just as with modern bars, a fantasy tavern can be far more than just a place to get a flagon of ale. Defining what characters can find within a particular tavern goes a long way toward giving the place a unique feel.

    Setting and Quality

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    One of the first aspects to determine is what sort of setting a tavern presents. Is it small and cramped, with greasy smoke obscuring the faces of the patrons? Perhaps it’s enormous, with vaulted ceilings and multiple fireplaces providing light and flame for slowly-roasting boars on spits. You can also play against stereotype and have a clean and well-appointed country inn in an otherwise destitute area, or a worn and spartan tavern, with merely a bench or two to sit upon, in a wealthy part of town. Consider that in some places, a tavern may very well be the only entertainment around, meaning that most of its regular patrons might consider it a second home and treat it accordingly.

    Table 7–32: Unique Tavern Traits table on page 200 can be used to give a tavern, inn, or restaurant some unusual flavor. Roll 1d3 different traits or simply choose a trait or two from the list.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    The vast majority of taverns serve drinks (whether alcoholic or not) made from local ingredients. In a temperate climate, wheat, hops, and barley are the most likely ingredients, and a tavern in such an area probably serves beer and ales. If bees are present, mead is another option. In more arid locales, grapes are more likely to grow well, and wine is probably more prevalent. In places where crops or arable land is scarce, however, a tavern may serve fermented goat’s milk, cactus juice, or even more exotic drinks.

    But why stop there? Perhaps a tavern stocks truly unusual or rare drinks crafted from unique plants or even monsters. A tavern along a swampy track may distill a special liquor from ambulatory plant creatures, which gives it a potent kick. Depending on how prevalent magic is in your campaign, it’s even possible that a tavern has an alchemist on staff who dabbles in the creation of remarkably strong, tasty, or even dangerous drinks. Drinks could be carbonated or flaming, could have an outward effect on imbibers (such as turning a drinker’s hair blue), or could contain mild (or not so mild) hallucinogenic ingredients.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    Many taverns, and certainly most inns, offer food to their customers. As with drinks, menus typically consist of local fare, although more upscale restaurants, particularly those in urban settings, may offer food from farther away—ranging from mildly unusual dishes from the barony a few leagues away to exotic dishes from the farthest reaches of the globe. See the Food/Drink equipment section for different types of common meals and their prices.

    Offering exotic or bizarre food on a menu is another great way to make a tavern or inn more memorable. The players will quickly forget the tavern that just serves mutton, but they will probably remember the inn that serves poached drake eggs in firebrandy sauce.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 198
    Taverns primarily serve local customers, and the best way to keep them coming back is to provide some form of entertainment while they quaff their beer and dine on mutton or quail. While a simple singing minstrel is the stereotype, a tavern could also host a full band of musicians or possibly even a house band.

    If the tavern is large enough, it may boast a small stage, allowing plays or other performances. Given the prevalence of magic, small-time illusionists can perform their coin tricks with full visual and auditory displays. Bards can tell tales of old or create new stories on the fly.

    Remember that tastes in entertainment vary wildly from place to place. One town’s tavern may boast extremely bawdy songs and “performances” that would make even a barbarian blush, while other, more conservative areas may restrict entertainment to hymns or morality plays. Taverns and inns often serve as convenient sites for prostitution, either from among its clientele or as a service of the establishment itself. Such services can be either open or covert, depending on the tavern’s location.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    With the possible exception of a back bedroom used by the owner, taverns generally do not provide rooms to their patrons (the exception being taverns that also tolerate prostitution). Inns, of course, make their income by providing a place for people to sleep for the night. Even then, the quality of an inn dictates the privacy and comfort of its rooms. Poor quality inns offer little more than a spot on the floor or possibly a large, straw-filled mattress in a communal room with other patrons. Average inns have individual rooms capable of hosting two people in a single shared bed. Superior inns have private rooms, often with an adjoining antechamber, sitting room, or balcony.

    Other Amenities

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    Taverns and inns serve as the focal points of most communities. The front of a tavern may boast a board with wanted posters, local decrees, available jobs, or requests for help, which the PCs might find of interest. The local sheriff or constable may use the tavern as second base of operations, deputizing any able-bodied citizens (or the PCs) as he sees fit.

    Staff and Patrons

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    Once you’ve determined the services of a tavern or inn, you need to populate it. Usually it’s not necessary to create game statistics for the staff or patrons. If your players have a penchant for starting brawls, however, you can find stat blocks for some common bar staff and customers in Chapter 9. To determine what staff and patrons are working at or patronizing a tavern or inn, use the Tavern random encounter table on page 213 and adjust the numbers according to the size of the establishment.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    Unless the business is closed, there is always at least one person running a tavern or inn (in most cases the owner of the business). Beyond that, the tavern needs bartenders, barmen, or barmaids, and, if it serves food, at least one cook. Most busy or popular taverns also employ one or more bouncers to keep the patrons in line. Depending on the size of the tavern, however, a single staff member could fill one or more of these roles—the owner might tend the bar and cook if necessary, or a barmaid could break heads if things get out of hand.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    Usually, the quality of a tavern or inn defines the type of people who patronize it. If a tavern serves as the hub of a community, its patrons are typically far more respectful of the staff and the facilities than those of a watering hole in a major city that caters to travelers or transients who come in for a single drink or bit of business and never return. Remember that not every tavern should be the headquarters of the local thieves’ guild—farmers, craftsmen, merchants, and even nobles all come to taverns just to have a drink or two and fraternize with their fellow citizens.

    Describing Personalities

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 199
    While every staff member of patron might not need a full stat block, it’s a good idea to come up with a list of personality types and quirks and assign them to the characters that the PCs engage with. Merely adding a lisp to the bartender or giving the waitress a severe limp while she hobbles around the tavern with numerous full tankards of ale can go a long way toward making a tavern memorable.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 202
    None would deny that opportunities for great adventure lie within the dank dungeons, winding caves, and sprawling wildlands of the world. However, the place where the PCs come back to sell their treasures, rest, and live their lives can hold excitement as well. Urban settings shouldn’t be overlooked as a place of adventure. Filled with people, businesses, intrigue, and secret locations, cities can provide adventure hooks on literally every street corner.

    This section looks at how settlements are put together, how the PCs move around them, what business can be conducted there, and how to craft your own adventures within a city, taking into account both real life elements and the incredible possibilities that magic affords to fantasy settings.

    The Shape of Civilization

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 202
    If you’re building a settlement from scratch, you’ll first need to determine how many people live there. Is it a tiny collection of houses along a lonely stretch of road? Is it a bustling village that sits at the crossroads of several major thoroughfares? Or is it a full city that serves as the hub for an entire region? Chapter 6 of this book contains a wealth of advice on how societies and civilizations function, but what happens when your PCs actually want to adventure in the city?

    Before running an adventure in your city, you must decide what it looks and feels like. The first thing your PCs see as they approach a new city is its skyline. Unless you have a reason to avoid it, consider giving your city’s skyline at least one notable landmark. If a city’s skyline is shown in silhouette, a knowledgeable traveler should be able to recognize it. The landmark could be an unusually shaped building, a huge tower (such as a cathedral’s bell tower), a castle atop a hill, an immense statue of a dragon, a decommissioned warship protruding from a too-small waterfront, or anything else you can imagine, but being able to remind the PCs what city you’re talking about by mentioning this unique landmark gives you an incredibly useful resource.

    The bulk of the buildings within any settlement are the homes of the people that live there. Many businesses merely present a storefront, with the rooms above or behind it serving as the owner’s home. If you’re following a medieval model for your city, then the typical home is host to a large number of people crammed into a relatively small space. The average peasant or freeman might only be able to afford a single room or two within a house, living cheek-to-jowl with his neighbors to either side and possibly above and below.

    Buildings themselves are products of their environments and are built from materials readily available in the area. The terrain and climate of the land surrounding a city determines what that city is made of. A city in a temperate coastal area might have mostly wooden buildings with some stone structures. A desert town would have adobe or stone buildings, or even structures dug into the earth itself to create dark, cool places for people to live. Cities built in swamps or wetlands might have massive levees and dams to keep the water at bay.

    If you’re having trouble visualizing the size and population of a village, town, or city, compare it to real-life locations and gauge accordingly. For example, at its height at the end of the 2nd Century, Rome boasted over a million people (although census records were sketchy—some report nearly 10 times that number!). During the 14th Century, Rome’s population had declined drastically to around 50,000 people. Although these numbers might not seem particularly impressive compared to modern cities, Rome was considered massive and teeming with people.

    A heavily populated city does not necessarily translate to urban sprawl. For example, when London reached the 80,000 mark in the 14th Century, the populace was still squeezed within the confines of the ancient walls built by the Romans several centuries earlier, resulting in atrocious living conditions.

    Another way to help conceptualize such huge numbers of people is to look at sports arenas, some of which can hold the population of a small or medium-sized town within a single vast structure. The famous Coliseum in Rome could hold 50,000 people at a time. Modern Yankee Stadium can hold nearly 60,000 people.

    You should also consider the settlement’s level of sanitation and the presence of sewers. A city with decent sanitation copes with disease considerably better than those where people simply dump sewage in the streets. Settlements with sewers and other sanitation infrastructure also provide ready-made locations for your players to explore, hunting down criminals and cultists or searching for lost treasure, all beneath the feet of the unaware citizens walking the streets above.

    Streets and Traffic

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 202
    How do people get around in the town where they live? What are the streets and avenues of your settlement like? Is the town open, with wide avenues, or is it cramped, with houses crammed together, casting the streets and alleyways below into perpetual shadow?

    Assuming that the settlement doesn’t contain some sort of wide-ranging magical transport network, most people get around the old-fashioned ways—by foot, mount, or carriage. In most cities, these are the only options available. However, depending on the city and the level of technology and/or magic available, how the populace gets from Point A to Point B could be far more interesting.

    Adult humans have a walking speed of around 3-1/2 miles per hour. Thus, walking across a small, open town may take only a matter of minutes. Yet as cities grow in size, they become more difficult to swiftly navigate because of the density of people, animals, and vehicles on their winding streets. In large cities or metropolises with moderate-to-high population density, people on foot move at the rate of a single mile per hour.

    Rather than walking, those who can afford the fare may also travel in animal-drawn vehicles, such as wagons, carriages, or hansom cabs. They might also travel in rickshaws or something equivalent. This method is probably more common in places where people are plentiful and horses, mules, and other beasts of burden are either rare, expensive, or both. Does your city sit on a river, or is it interlaced with canals? If so, then gondolas, barges, canoes, or other flat-bottomed boats are probably used as a major form of transportation. Cities and towns built in confined spaces may be far more vertical than less densely-built cities; the populace might make use of bridges, ladders, and even lifts to haul people up and down the several stories they need to traverse.

    Beyond these mundane methods of movement, magic and technology can create truly bizarre or fantastic conveyances. In a high-magic game, magic carpets or the equivalent may be employed by the wealthy to travel within a city. Alternately, the city (or independent entrepreneurs) may possess its own “fleet” of specially trained griffons or other flying creatures capable of carrying one or more people to specific locations. In extreme cases, teleportation may even be relatively common, with special booths or “stepping portals” scattered throughout the city, allowing instantaneous transportation within the confines of the settlement or beyond. Take care to limit these magical methods in your game, though, unless you want a game where the wondrous becomes commonplace.

    Keep in mind that the PCs can encounter danger and excitement even as they travel through a town or city. Besides the occasional assault by thieves, gangs, or other ruffians, the PCs may have to deal with animals run amok, riots, duels (mundane or magical) in the streets, fires, agitators, and any number of other interesting events. If a pickpocket manages to snag an item from one of the PCs, a rooftop chase might ensue as the PCs pursue the thief. A procession of nobles may stop and question the presence of the adventurers in their fair city. A random corpse in the gutters bearing the signs of a ritual murder may open up an investigation or mystery.

    The city’s streets themselves bear consideration as well, for it is here that many of your urban-themed encounters will begin or end. A typical city street should be wide enough to allow two horse-drawn carriages to pass each other, with a little bit of additional room for foot traffic—as a result, well-traveled city streets should never be less than 30 feet wide, with major thoroughfares being 60 feet wide or wider. Back streets might be only 15 or even 10 feet wide—anything narrower than 10 feet will be difficult to navigate on horseback or via carriage. These narrow lanes are usually your city’s alleyways, only 5 to 10 feet across and often taking complex, winding routes between buildings.

    Additional rules for city streets, for moving through crowds or across rooftops, and for cities in general can be found on pages 433–437 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

    Settlement Population Ranges

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 203
    A settlement’s population is left to the GM to assign, but you can use a settlement’s type to help you determine just how many folks live in the city. Since the actual number of people who dwell in a settlement has no impact on game play, the number you choose is largely cosmetic—feel free to adjust the suggested values below to fit your campaign.
    Settlement TypePopulation Range
    ThorpFewer than 20
    Small town201-2,000
    Large town2,001-5,000
    Small city5,001-10,000
    Large city10,001-25,000
    MetropolisMOre than 25,000

    Settlements in Play

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 203
    The best way to handle a settlement in your game, of course, is to plan it out, placing every shop and every home, naming every NPC, and mapping every building. Yet settlements are the most complicated locations you’re likely to ever feature in your game, and the prospect of fully detailing one is daunting, especially if your PCs are likely to visit multiple settlements.

    Presented on the following pages are basic rules for a more streamlined method of handling settlements in your game. Essentially, these rules treat settlements almost as characters of their own, complete with stat blocks. Using these rules, you can generate the vital data for a settlement quickly and efficiently, and with this data you can handle the majority of your players’ interactions with the settlement.

    Note that for particularly large cities, you can use multiple settlement stat blocks to represent different districts within a city. This allows you to have neighborhoods with distinct characteristics inside one city’s walls. GMs should feel free to add other new elements to create the cities they desire.

    The Settlement Stat Block

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 204
    A settlement stat block is organized as follows.

    Name: The settlement’s name is presented first.

    Alignment and Type: A settlement’s alignment is the general alignment of its citizens and government— individuals who dwell therein can still be of any alignment, but the majority of its citizens should be within one step of the settlement’s overall alignment. Alignment influences a city’s modifiers (see page 206). The type is the size category the settlement falls into, be it thorp, hamlet, village, town (small or large), city (small or large), or metropolis. In most cases, rules play off of a settlement’s type rather than its exact population total. A settlement’s type determines many of its statistics (see Table 7–36: Settlement Statistics).

    Modifiers: Settlements possess six modifiers that apply to specific skill checks made in the settlement. A settlement’s starting modifier values are determined by its type. This value is further adjusted by the settlement’s alignment, government, qualities, and disadvantages. Note that introducing settlement modifiers to your game will somewhat increase the complexity of skill checks by adding a variable modifier each time the PCs visit a new town or city—consider the use of these modifiers an optional rule.

    Qualities: All settlements have a certain number of qualities that further adjust their statistics—think of qualities as feats for settlements. A settlement’s type determines how many qualities it can have.

    Danger: A settlement’s danger value is a number that gives a general idea of how dangerous it is to live in the settlement. If you use the urban encounters charts on pages 212–213 for random encounters in your city (or any similar wandering monster chart that uses percentile dice and ranks its encounters from lowest CR to highest CR), use the modifier associated with the settlement’s danger value to adjust rolls on the encounter chart. A settlement’s base danger value depends on its type.

    Disadvantages: Any disadvantages a settlement might be suffering from are listed on this line. A settlement can have any number of disadvantages you wish to inflict on it, although most settlements have no disadvantages.

    Government: This entry lists how the settlement is governed and ruled. The type of government a settlement follows affects its statistics.

    Population: This number represents the settlement’s population. Note that the exact number is flexible; a settlement’s actual population can swell on market days or dwindle during winter—this number lists the average population of the settlement. Note that this number is generally used for little more than flavor—since actual population totals fluctuate, it’s pointless to tether rules to this number. After the settlement’s total population, a breakdown of its racial mix is listed in parentheses.

    Notable NPCs: This section lists any notable NPCs who live in the city, sorted by their role in the community, followed by their name and then their alignment, gender, race, class, and level in parentheses.

    Base Value and Purchase Limit: This section lists the community’s base value for available magic items in gp. There is a 75% chance that any item of this value or lower can be found for sale in the community with little effort. If an item is not available, a new check to determine if the item has become available can be made in 1 week. A settlement’s purchase limit is the most money a shop in the settlement can spend to purchase any single item from the PCs. If the PCs wish to sell an item worth more than a settlement’s purchase limit, they’ll either need to settle for a lower price, travel to a larger city, or (with the GM’s permission) search for a specific buyer in the city with deeper pockets. A settlement’s type sets its purchase limit.

    Spellcasting: Unlike magic items, spellcasting for hire is listed separately from the town’s base value, since spellcasting is limited by the level of the available spellcasters in town. This line lists the highest-level spell available for purchase from spellcasters in town. Prices for spellcasting appear on page 159 of the Core Rulebook. A town’s base spellcasting level depends on its type.

    Minor Items/Medium Items/Major Items: This line lists the number of magic items above a settlement’s base value that are available for purchase. In some city stat blocks, the actual items are listed in parentheses after the die range of items available—in this case, you can use these pre-rolled resources when the PCs first visit the city as the magic items available for sale on that visit. If the PCs return to that city at a later date, you can roll up new items as you see fit. See page 461 of the Core Rulebook for the number ranges determining how many items can be found in a community.

    Table 7-36: Settlement Statistics

    TypeModifiersQualitiesDangerBase ValuePurchase LimitSpellcasting
    Thorp-41-1050 gp500 gp1st
    Hamlet-21-5200 gp1,000 gp2nd
    Village-120500 gp2,500 gp3rd
    Small town0201,000 gp5,000 gp4th
    Large town0352,000 gp10,000 gp5th
    Small city+1454,000 gp25,000 gp6th
    Large city+25108,000 gp50,000 gp7th
    Metropolis+461016,000 gp100,000 gp8th

    Table 7-37: Available Magic Items

    Community SizeBase ValueMinorMediumMajor
    Thorp50 gp1d4 items
    Hamlet200 gp1d6 items
    Village500 gp2d4 items1d4 items
    Small town1,000 gp3d4 items1d6 items
    Large town2,000 gp3d4 items2d4 items1d4 items
    Small city4,000 gp4d4 items3d6 items1d6 items
    Large city8,000 gp4d4 items3d4 items2d4 items
    Metropolis16,000 gp*4d4 items3d4 items
    * In a metropolis, nearly all minor magic items are available.

    Settlement Modifiers

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 205
    Life in a settlement is represented by six modifiers, each of which adjusts the use of specific skills within the city.

    Corruption: Corruption measures how open a settlement’s officials are to bribes, how honest its citizens are, and how likely anyone in town is to report a crime. Low corruption indicates a high level of civic honesty. A settlement’s corruption modifies all Bluff checks made against city officials or guards and all Stealth checks made outside (but not inside buildings or underground).

    Crime: Crime is a measure of a settlement’s lawlessness. A settlement with a low crime modifier is relatively safe, with violent crimes being rare or even unknown, while a settlement with a high crime modifier is likely to have a powerful thieves’ guild and a significant problem with violence. The atmosphere generated by a settlement’s crime level applies as a modifier on Sense Motive checks to avoid being bluffed and to Sleight of Hand checks made to pick pockets.

    Economy: A settlement’s economy modifier indicates the health of its trade and the wealth of its successful citizens. A low economy modifier doesn’t automatically mean the town is beset with poverty—it could merely indicate a town with little trade or one that is relatively self-sufficient. Towns with high economy modifiers always have large markets and many shops. A settlement’s economy helps its citizens make money, and thus it applies as a modifier on all Craft, Perform, and Profession checks made to generate income.

    Law: Law measures how strict a settlement’s laws and edicts are. A settlement with a low law modifier isn’t necessarily crime-ridden—in fact, a low law modifier usually indicates that the town simply has little need for protection since crime is so rare. A high law modifier means the settlement’s guards are particularly alert, vigilant, and well-organized. The more lawful a town is, the more timidly its citizens tend to respond to shows of force. A settlement’s law modifier applies on Intimidate checks made to force an opponent to act friendly, Diplomacy checks against government officials, or Diplomacy checks made to call on the city guard.

    Lore: A settlement’s lore modifier measures not only how willing the citizens are to chat and talk with visitors, but also how available and accessible its libraries and sages are. A low lore modifier doesn’t mean the settlement’s citizens are idiots, just that they’re close-mouthed or simply lack knowledge resources. A settlement’s lore modifier applies on Diplomacy checks made to gather information and Knowledge checks made using the city’s resources to do research when using a library.

    Society: Society measures how open-minded and civilized a settlement’s citizens are. A low society modifier might mean many of the citizens harbor prejudices or are overly suspicious of out-of-towners. A high society modifier means that citizens are used to diversity and unusual visitors and that they respond better to wellspoken attempts at conversation. A settlement’s society modifier applies on all Disguise checks, as well as on Diplomacy checks made to alter the attitude of any nongovernment official.

    Settlement Alignment

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 206
    A settlement’s alignment not only describes the community’s general personality and attitude, but also influences its modifiers. A lawful component to a settlement’s alignment increases its law modifier by 1. A good component increases its society modifier by 1. A chaotic component increases its crime modifier by 1. An evil component increases its corruption modifier by 1. A neutral component increases its lore modifier by 1 (a truly neutral city gains an increase of 2 to its lore modifier). Alignment never modifies a settlement’s economy modifier.

    Settlement Government

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 206
    Just like nations, towns and cities are ruled by governments. A settlement’s government not only helps to establish the flavor and feel of the community but also adjusts its modifiers. Choose one of the following as the settlement’s government.

    Autocracy: A single individual chosen by the people rules the community. This leader’s actual title can vary— mayor, burgomaster, lord, or even royal titles like duke or prince are common. (No modifiers)

    Council: A group of councilors, often composed of guild masters or members of the aristocracy, leads the settlement. (Society +4; Law and Lore –2)

    Magical: An individual or group with potent magical power, such as a high priest, an archwizard, or even a magical monster, leads the community. (Lore +2; Corruption and Society –2; increase spellcasting by 1 level)

    Overlord: The community’s ruler is a single individual who either seized control or inherited command of the settlement. (Corruption and Law +2; Crime and Society –2)

    Secret Syndicate: An unofficial or illegal group like a thieves’ guild rules the settlement—they may use a puppet leader to maintain secrecy, but the group members pull the strings in town. (Corruption, Economy, and Crime +2; Law –6)

    Settlement Qualities

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 207
    Settlements often have unusual qualities that make them unique. Listed below are several different qualities that can further modify a community’s statistics. A settlement’s type determines how many qualities it can have—once a quality is chosen, it cannot be changed.

    Note that many of the following qualities adjust a town’s base value or purchase limit by a percentage of the town’s standard values. If a town has multiple qualities of this sort, add together the percentages from modifiers and then increase the base value by that aggregated total—do not apply the increases one at a time.

    Academic: The settlement possesses a school, training facility, or university of great renown. (Lore +1, increase spellcasting by 1 level)

    Holy Site: The settlement hosts a shrine, temple, or landmark with great significance to one or more religions. The settlement has a higher percentage of divine spellcasters in its population. (Corruption –2; increase spellcasting by 2 levels)

    Insular: The settlement is isolated, perhaps physically or even spiritually. Its citizens are fiercely loyal to one another. (Law +1; Crime –1)

    Magically Attuned: The settlement is a haven for spellcasters due to its location; for example, it may lie at the convergence of multiple ley lines or near a well-known magical site. (Increase base value by 20%; increase purchase limit by 20%; increase spellcasting by 2 levels)

    Notorious: The settlement has a reputation (deserved or not) for being a den of iniquity. Thieves, rogues, and cutthroats are much more common here. (Crime +1; Law –1; Danger +10; increase base value by 30%; increase purchase limit by 50%)

    Pious: The settlement is known for its inhabitants’ good manners, friendly spirit, and deep devotion to a deity (this deity must be of the same alignment as the community). (Increase spellcasting by 1 level; any faith more than one alignment step different than the community’s official religion is at best unwelcome and at worst outlawed—obvious worshipers of an outlawed deity must pay 150% of the normal price for goods and services and may face mockery, insult, or even violence)

    Prosperous: The settlement is a popular hub for trade. Merchants are wealthy and the citizens live well. (Economy +1; increase base value by 30%; increase purchase limit by 50%)

    Racially Intolerant: The community is prejudiced against one or more races, which are listed in parentheses. (Members of the unwelcome race or races must pay 150% of the normal price for goods and services and may face mockery, insult, or even violence)

    Rumormongering Citizens: The settlement’s citizens are nosy and gossipy to a fault—very little happens in the settlement that no one knows about. (Lore +1; Society –1)

    Strategic Location: The settlement sits at an important crossroads or alongside a deepwater port, or it serves as a barrier to a pass or bridge. (Economy +1; increase base value by 10%)

    Superstitious: The community has a deep and abiding fear of magic and the unexplained, but this fear has caused its citizens to become more supportive and loyal to each other and their settlement. (Crime –4; Law and Society +2; reduce spellcasting by 2 levels)

    Tourist Attraction: The settlement possesses some sort of landmark or event that draws visitors from far and wide. (Economy +1; increase base value by 20%)

    Settlement Disadvantages

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 207
    Just as a settlement can have unusual qualities to enhance its statistics, it can also suffer from disadvantages. There’s no limit to the number of disadvantages a community can suffer, but most do not have disadvantages, since a settlement plagued by disadvantages for too long eventually collapses. A disadvantage can arise as the result of an event or action taken by a powerful or influential NPC or PC. Likewise, by going on a quest or accomplishing a noteworthy deed, a group of heroes can remove a settlement’s disadvantage. Several disadvantages are listed below.

    Anarchy: The settlement has no leaders—this type of community is often short-lived and dangerous. (Replaces settlement’s Government and removes Government adjustments to modifiers; Corruption and Crime +4; Economy and Society –4; Law –6; Danger +20)

    Cursed: Some form of curse afflicts the city. Its citizens might be prone to violence or suffer ill luck, or they could be plagued by an infestation of pests. (Choose one modifier and reduce its value by 4)

    Hunted: A powerful group or monster uses the city as its hunting ground. Citizens live in fear and avoid going out on the streets unless necessary. (Economy, Law, and Society –4; Danger +20; reduce base value by 20%)

    Impoverished: Because of any number of factors, the settlement is destitute. Poverty, famine, and disease run rampant. (Corruption and Crime +1; decrease base value and purchase limit by 50%; halve magic item availability)

    Plagued: The community is suffering from a protracted contagion or malady. (–2 to all modifiers; reduce base value by 20%; select a communicable disease—there’s a 5% chance each day that a PC is exposed to the disease and must make a Fortitude save to avoid contracting the illness)


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
    Water is both a great enabler and great destroyer of civilization. Life can’t exist without it. Trade and travel are made much easier by its presence. Yet water can also kill, from drowning on a personal level to floods and tsunamis on a mass scale. Terrestrial life is dependent on water but at the same time fears it, as evidenced by tales as old as the sea itself, of monsters and the hideous fates that await travelers who dare to sail out of sight of land. What better place to set an adventure than on a twisting river, upon the high seas, or deep in the briny world below?

    Aquatic Adventures

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
    An aquatic adventure can take place anywhere that water is the primary terrain feature. This includes marshlands, rivers, lakes, pools, oceans, the Plane of Water, and the like. Aquatic adventures don’t require the PCs to have the ability to breathe water, of course—the inclusion of water hazards for lower-level adventurers to navigate can add a nice bit of suspense and peril to an adventure.

    Adapting to Aquatic Adventures

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
    The rules presented in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook for underwater combat apply to creatures not native to this dangerous environment, such as most PCs. For extended aquatic adventures or for particularly deep explorations, PCs will doubtless need to use magic to continue their adventures. Water breathing is of obvious use, while endure elements can help with temperature. Pressure damage can be avoided entirely with effects such as freedom of movement. Polymorph spells are perhaps the most useful in water, though, if the form assumed is aquatic in nature.

    Natural Adaptation: Any creature that has the aquatic subtype can breathe water easily and is unaffected by water temperature extremes that are found in that creature’s typical environment. Aquatic creatures and creatures with the hold breath ability are much more resistant to pressure damage; they do not suffer damage from pressure unless they are moved instantaneously from one depth to another in the blink of an eye (in which case they adapt to the pressure change after successfully making five successive Fortitude saves against the pressure effects).

    Nautical Adventures

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
    Water can also provide the setting for a different and unique game experience—the nautical adventure. In such a scenario, the effects and dangers of underwater adventuring are replaced by surface hazards as the PCs and their opponents use vehicles like ships and boats to navigate the terrain. For the most part, shipboard adventures can be resolved normally, with a combat taking place aboard a ship functioning almost identically to one that occurs on land. If the combat happens during a storm or in heavy seas, treat the ship’s deck as difficult terrain. Remember to take into account the effects on spellcasters’ concentration checks due to weather or the motion of the ship’s deck.

    Fast-Play Ship Combat

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 214
    When ships themselves become a part of a combat, things get more unusual. The following rules are not meant to accurately simulate all of the complexities of ship-to-ship combat, only to provide you with a quick and easy set of rules to resolve such situations when they inevitably arise in a nautical adventure, whether it be a battle between two ships or between a ship and a sea monster.

    Preparation: Decide what type of ships are involved in the combat. Use a large, blank battle mat to represent the waters on which the battle occurs. A single square corresponds to 30 feet of distance. Represent each ship by placing markers that take up the appropriate number of squares (miniature toy ships make great markers and should be available at most hobby stores).

    Starting Combat: When combat begins, allow the PCs (and important NPC allies) to roll initiative as normal— the ship itself moves and attacks on the captain’s initiative result. If any of the ships in the battle rely on sails to move, randomly determine what direction the wind is blowing by rolling 1d8 and following the guidelines for missed splash weapons .

    Movement: On the captain’s initiative count, the ship can move its current speed in a single round as a move-equivalent action for the captain (or double its speed as a full-round action), as long as it has its minimum crew complement. The ship can increase or decrease its speed by 30 feet each round, up to its maximum speed. Alternatively, the captain can change direction (up to one side of a square at a time) as a standard action. A ship can only change direction at the start of a turn.

    Attacks: Crew members in excess of the ship’s minimum crew requirement can be allocated to man siege engines. Rules for siege engines can be found here. Siege engines attack on the captain’s initiative count.

    A ship can also attempt to ram a target if it has its minimum crew. To ram a target, the ship must move at least 30 feet and end with its bow in a square adjacent to the target. The ship’s captain then makes a Profession (sailor) check— if this check equals or exceeds the target’s AC, the ship hits its target, inflicting damage as indicated on the ship statistics table to the target, as well as minimum damage to the ramming ship. A ship outfitted with an actual ram siege engine inflicts an additional 3d6 points of damage to the target (the ramming vessel suffers no additional damage).

    Table 7-49: Ship Statistics

    <Raft910+015 feet01d611/4
    <Rowboat920+230 feet02d6+611/3
    <Keelboat860+430 feet*12d6+624/15+100
    <Longship675+560 feet*14d6+18350/75+100
    <Sailing ship6125+660 feet* (sails only)23d6+12320/50+100
    <Warship2175+760 feet*33d6+12460/80+100
    <Galley2200+890 feet*46d6+244200/250+100


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 215
    A ship gains the sinking condition if its hit points are reduced to 0 or fewer. A sinking ship cannot move or attack, and it sinks completely 10 rounds after it gains the sinking condition. Each hit on a sinking ship that inflicts damage reduces the remaining time for it to sink by 1 round per 25 points of damage inflicted. Magic (such as make whole) can repair a sinking ship if the ship’s hit points are raised above 0, at which point the ship loses the sinking condition. Generally, nonmagical repairs take too long to save a ship from sinking once it begins to go down.

    Ship Statistics

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 215
    A vast variety of boats and ships exist in the real world, from small rafts and longboats to intimidating galleons and swift galleys. To represent the numerous distinctions of shape and size that exist between water-going vessels, Table 7–49 categorizes seven standard ship sizes and their respective statistics. Just as the cultures of the real world have created and adapted hundreds of different types of seafaring vessels, races in fantasy worlds might create their own strange ships. GMs might use or alter the statistic above to suit the needs of their creations, and describe such conveyances however they please. All ships have the following traits.

    Ship Type: This is a general category that lists the ship’s basic type.

    AC: The ship’s base Armor Class. To calculate a ship’s actual AC, add the captain’s Profession (sailor) modifier to the ship’s base AC. Touch attacks against a ship ignore the captain’s modifier. A ship is never considered flat-footed.

    hp: The ship’s total hit points. In addition, all ships have a hardness rating based on their construction material (hardness 5 for most wooden ships). At 0 or fewer hit points, a ship gains the sinking condition as described above.

    Base Save: The ship’s base save modifier. All of a ship’s saving throws (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will) have the same value. To determine a ship’s actual saving throw modifiers, add the captain’s Profession (sailor) modifier to this base value.

    Maximum Speed: The ship’s maximum tactical speed in combat. An asterisk indicates the ship has sails, and can move at double speed when it moves in the same direction as the wind. A ship with only sails can only move if there is some wind.

    Arms: The number of siege engines that can be fitted on the ship. A ram uses one of these slots, and only one ram may be fitted to a ship.

    Ram: The amount of damage the ship inflicts on a successful ramming attack (without a ram siege engine).

    Squares: The number of squares the ship takes up on the battle mat. A ship’s width is always considered to be one square.

    Crew: The first number lists the minimum crew complement the ship needs to function normally, excluding those needed to make use of the vessel’s weapons. The second value lists the ship’s maximum crew plus additional soldiers or passengers. A ship without its minimum crew complement can only move, change speed, change direction, or ram if its captain makes a DC 20 Profession (sailor) check. Crew in excess of the minimum have no effect on movement, but they can replace fallen crew members or man additional weapons.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
    Game Masters frequently use wilderness travel simply as a means for the PCs to get from point A to point B, with an occasional random encounter thrown in to liven up the proceedings. But the wilderness has more to offer than just a path through the wasteland and a few wandering monsters. The GM’s responsibility is to bring the wilds to life. Once he has a living, breathing wilderness, the GM can start to set a variety of adventures in the wild and across the world.

    What sets a wilderness adventure apart? First, the obvious answer: the terrain is more open and traversable. The party may travel through declivities, valleys, and gorges, but in general, they’ll have a wider, broader range for their trek. They will not be constrained by dungeon walls or cavern tunnels, and can choose their own pathways to their destination, but with these benefits come a wide variety of additional hazards and a potential for adventure.

    Climate and Weather

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
    Any world that supports life should contain a wide range of environments: diversity in the ecosystem helps support a diversity of life, though of course a fantasy world is subject to its own governing rules of physics and ecology. Still, to maintain a believable fantasy setting, a world-builder should make some effort to ensure the world conforms to known reality: most rivers should flow downhill, toward the sea, and boiling, sunbaked deserts should not be situated next to glaciers. Use common sense when transitioning between environments to retain believability in an adventure, unless you purposely want the party to notice the abrupt transition due to some localized arcane or metaphysical phenomenon.

    The GM might consider penalizing PCs for wearing inappropriate attire in various climates and terrains: increased DCs on Acrobatics checks or additional movement penalties for heavily armored PCs in bogs, for instance, or even Survival checks with increasing DCs as the party moves into ever-more inhospitable climes. Suggested encounters are listed with many of these sections.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
    Each of the standard terrain types varies by climate. Climate differs from weather, though it affects the weather significantly. Climate describes the generally prevailing atmospheric conditions of a particular region on a planet and usually defines the seasonal temperature extremes. Note that weather and temperature can change dramatically between terrains even within a particular climatic zone—a warm summer evening in a temperate grassland may be a bone-chillingly cold night on a temperate mountain. The following climatic zones are therefore presented as guidelines, from the poles to the equator.

    Arctic: The coldest climates surround the poles. These arctic regions are frequently frozen and covered with snow; they have with bitterly cold, dark winters and cool summers. The types of terrain found in arctic climates range from the taiga (the northern or southernmost forests, which extend to the farthest limit trees can grow) to tundra to trackless snowy steppes. The terrain types can be mountainous and glacier-bound, thickly forested, or flat and snow-covered. Despite the harsh conditions, a variety of hardy creatures live in the arctic.

    Temperate: The temperate zone consists of two major subgroups: oceanic and continental. The coastal oceanic zones enjoy a largely steady temperature, regulated by the weather patterns across the ocean, whereas the inland continental zones are warmer in the summer and colder in the winter. How much warmer and how much colder depends on the various landmasses and prevailing weather patterns. The temperate zone covers fertile farmland, high mountains, verdant forests, grasslands, swamps, and many more terrain types. Temperate lands are highly desirable and travelers must be on the lookout for more than just monsters—brigands prey on caravans, armies wage war, and the politics of kingdoms and duchies make their own troubles.

    Subtropical: Warmer than the temperate zone, the subtropics also vary widely in terrain type, from hot deserts to vast savannas to dense, broadleaf forests. Rainfall patterns vary widely in these regions, from dry to humid, and while the subtropics rarely see snow or frost, they can suffer intense cold snaps. As the climate tends toward moderation, the weather in the subtropics depends on the terrain to a greater extent.

    Tropical: The tropics are the hottest part of a planet; lying along the equator, they come directly under the sun’s glare for the entirety of the year. Rather than winter or summer, the tropics have a dry season and a wet season, based on the movement of the rain belt from south to north and back again. Again, however, terrain makes a difference: lush, verdant jungles enjoy frequent rainfall, enormous mountains can sport snow at high altitudes, and the sands of massive deserts shift back and forth on the winds.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
    Weather is a topic that rarely receives much attention in adventures, but it can make encounters much more memorable. A fight while ascending a cliff becomes more treacherous if the party must climb a mud-slicked donkey path. Perhaps the ominous chants of savage cultists rise above and intertwine with the thunder, and rain spatters in the blazing torches as the fell worshipers prepare their living sacrifices. The weather itself can be an enemy, as the party races for shelter in the face of a roaring tornado or frantically steers a ship to safe harbor as a hurricane lashes the waves higher around them. Snowfall erases the tracks of kidnappers, and fog hides the breath of a dragon lurking in the brackish waters of a swamp.

    A good GM considers the weather as an addition to regular adventures. How many days are routinely sunny, partly cloudy, or even merely overcast? How frequently does it rain? What are the major weather events that take place in a particular region, and how can travelers avoid them? These considerations include rain, thunder, lightning, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, and more. The weather can also combine with terrain to create truly deadly conditions, such as bogs, mudslides, and avalanches.

    Another question to consider is what the locals do to protect themselves. Note that in a fantasy world this doesn’t necessarily entail just dressing more warmly or finding shelter—it may also mean appeasing the spirits of nature or the gods through propitiatory sacrifices. Safeguarding oneself from the weather—be it scorching sun or howling blizzard—is a crucial part of traveling or living in the wilderness, and the best protection against the weather may not be the best defense in combat.

    Types of weather that may factor into encounters include blizzards, severe cold or extreme heat, fog, hurricanes and typhoons, monsoons, dust storms, hailstorms, sandstorms, snowstorms, and thunderstorms (with or without lightning), tornadoes, and windstorms (see the Weather section from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook).


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 221
    In addition to climate and weather, the environment itself can have an impact on adventures. The environment includes both landscapes and ecosystems. Landscape varies widely and is generally a function of both geology and geography—that is, the natural structure and substance of the land, and the physical features within a region. An ecosystem refers to the type of biological life in a region, rather than topology. The following terrain types can appear in virtually any climate, and each has its own unique hazards and considerations to take into account when used as the setting for an adventure. Remember that the possibility of becoming lost (Core Rulebook) exists in any terrain!


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 222
    Deserts are defined not by climate, but rather by the amount of rainfall a region receives; they can be cold, temperate, or hot. They exist in weather shadows, blocked from ordinary precipitation patterns. Desert vegetation is tough and sparse, able to store water for long periods, which means in turn that the soil in a desert is loose and barren, if not entirely rocky. Desert animals tend to be smaller insects, arachnids, mammals, and lizards, with some predatory birds. Venomous creatures are common. In hot deserts, the days are scorching; but at night the heat dissipates quickly, and those who don’t have proper cover or clothing can suffer from exposure.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out desert terrain. Desert terrain is described here, but encounters in the desert might also include exposure to either severe heat or cold; storms, whether blizzards, sandstorms, or thunderstorms, which can lead to flash floods in the higher deserts in particular; and thirst, when water stores eventually vanish.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 222
    Forests and jungles are, in the broadest possible terms, places where a significant number of trees grow and where a wide variety of other plants and animals live and thrive. The type of forest changes by latitude and terrain, ranging from sparse evergreens and other conifers in the coldest and highest parts of the world to dense, broadleaf jungle in the tropics. The strength of a forest’s canopy should be determined—if the canopy creates too much shadow on the ground below, it can prevent the growth of underbrush. Leafier and more mature trees cast greater shadows, and thus more of the forest’s inhabitants may live in the trees.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out forest or jungle terrain. Forest terrain is described here, but when adventuring in the forest or jungle, some possible encounters might also incorporate darkness, falling branches or trees, fog, forest fires and smoke, or swampy terrain. In addition, trees and undergrowth can provide cover and concealment.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 222
    Hills can be of many different types. They might be rolling hills in a broad grassland, or they can be the transitional point between plains and more rugged mountains. They could be small, craggy bluffs or smooth, gentle slopes. Much depends on the terrain surrounding the hilly area. Streams or rivers may wind between the hills, cutting their banks. If the hills are the tallest features in an area, they are of immense strategic value: anyone who occupies them can see farther than would-be enemies.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out hills terrain. Hills terrain is described here; hills also provide a good setting for both natural caves and dungeons. Additional environmental hazards for hill encounters include avalanches, the danger of falls, icy terrain, inclement weather, rivers and streams, and rubble. Hills used as defensive positions might also incorporate trenches and berms.

    Marshes, Swamps, and Bogs

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 222
    Swamps are forested lowland marshes that sit at the junctures of multiple sources of water, maintaining a constant seep and flow that filters water from higher elevations. Bogs differ from swamps in several important regards: they lie in declivities that do not drain easily, and they are fed by rainfall, snowmelt, or acidic springs rather than by active streams or rivers. Bogs form when dead vegetation is prevented from fully decaying by the surrounding acidic water, forming a layer of peat, which inhibits further drainage of the area. All swamps support a huge variety of plant, animal, and insect life, though trees tend to be less plentiful. Swamps are humid, dank, and full of treacherous footing: shallow pools give way quickly to deeper pools, and woe to the heavily laden traveler who steps into quicksand without companions nearby.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out marshes, swamps, and bogs. Marsh terrain is described here. When traveling through swamps, one should always be wary of rotten vegetation, which can break suddenly under too much weight and cause falls, as well as quicksand and deep pools of water, which can be spotted in the same manner as quicksand. Falling into such a pool requires a DC 10 Swim check and carries the possibility of drowning. The deep water in swamps, while providing cover, can also hamper movement.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 222
    As with hills terrain, mountains come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In places where tectonic activity has for the most part stabilized and the rock is exposed to the upper air, the mountains are smoother and more eroded. In places where the earth is still relatively unstable, the mountains are harsher and more jagged and pose a greater (and more dangerous) challenge to climbers. Caves, chasms, cliff faces, and dense rubble are all common in mountains, to say nothing of the animals and monsters that make their homes in the peaks. Mountains flank strategic passes and overlook fertile valleys, which makes them common locales for fortresses and brigands.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out mountain terrain. Mountain terrain is described here. Remember the effects of high altitude on those not acclimated to it. Mountain encounters might also include rockslides or avalanches of snow, mud, or rock, low clouds that function as fog, and ice sheets. Volcanic mountains add dangers of smoke and lava.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 223
    Plains are large swaths of flat terrain with few trees. Several types of plains exist in different climates: prairie, savanna, steppe, and the like. The most common place for people to live, plains serve as farmlands, enabling the growth of culture on a huge number of levels. Because plains are so valuable, they are frequently contested, and those who rule the plains defend their turf ferociously. Because they are relatively flat and easy to traverse, plains also make convenient battlefields, as they afford the room needed for large-scale maneuvers. Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, and other natural and man-made features divide plains and serve as impediments to travel.

    The following sections of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook can help flesh out plains terrain. Plains terrain is described here. With few terrain features to shield them, plains are often beset by high winds, causing dust storms and even tornadoes. Grassfires are also a danger (treat as forest fires), and they can cause normally placid herd animals to stampede, effectively granting them the stampede and trample special abilities.


    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 223
    Caves form under a huge variety of circumstances: by the action of waves along the shore, internal erosion from underground streams, or acidic air and water, as well as by tectonic action. Unless frequently used as a passageway by cave dwellers, a cave has rough and erratic floors, and its passages expand and contract along their lengths. Drop-offs are frequent—travelers without safety lines are almost guaranteed to suffer falls. Even worse are cave-ins, which come with little warning and are occasionally the result of traps set by cave-dwelling creatures. Movement underground is difficult without a light source, and subterranean creatures will either be attracted to the light or squirm away from it as quickly as possible. Food is difficult to find in caves unless a creature has evolved specifically to eat subterranean lichens and molds—a prime reason for most creatures to live aboveground. Creatures that have adapted to the perpetual darkness learn to navigate by touch, smell, taste, and sound, and they are extraordinarily aware of intruders in their realm.

    Dungeons are described in greater detail here in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and here in this book. Hazards in the Core Rulebook that can help liven up underground encounters include cave-ins, suffocation, falling rocks, darkness, and dangerous molds and fungi.

    Encounters on a Journey

    Source GameMastery Guide pg. 223
    Depending on how they’re handled, cross-country journeys, voyages by sea, or treks between communities can be time consuming and difficult to run. Properly managed, though, they can be an integral part of an adventure, or even adventures unto themselves. In general, there is little reason to require the party to live through each moment of a long journey, leaving GMs to judge when to focus on day-to-day minutiae and when to fast forward to the next encounter. Adopting elements of the following techniques can help make a long journey more interesting and eventful.

    Nothing Happens: Rarely should a day of travel pass where nothing happens. Some GMs and PCs in the midst of an intense story line might seek to rush past unrelated encounters on the road, glossing them over as an author might summarize a trek of days or weeks with a few words. While glossing over whole journeys should probably be avoided—what’s the benefit of spells like teleport after all if travel by foot is no different?—GMs shouldn’t feel like they have to slog through weeks of extra encounters just because the PCs chose to visit another city.

    Daily Checks: If a GM chooses to have encounters occur during a journey, but doesn’t want to run every step along the path, he might make a number of checks per day to keep the players on their toes. Occasional Perception checks as the party travels might allow them to notice specifics, from interesting landmarks and other travelers to dangerous beasts and ambushes. Each time they make a check, describe the area in a few quick words, and be ready to discuss the area further if they choose to investigate. Other challenges might call for the use of other skills, such as Climb, Handle Animal, Ride, Survival, or Swim, as appropriate. GMs should be mindful of when they call for checks to be made. Should a journey’s narrative only pause for ambushes and dangers, the PCs will swiftly begin to dread every stop and description of the path ahead.

    Ongoing Encounters: While definitely the most labor-intensive route, a GM might create specific encounters for a trip and have secondary spin-off adventures available for the party to pursue or ignore. This requires significantly greater preparation time but has the added benefit of creating new stories for the campaign and cutting down on the GM’s need to craft impromptu content. The party might even choose to come back later to revisit interesting sites or plot lines.