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Planar Adventures

Source Planar Adventures pg. 8
The Great Beyond is a place of unmatched beauty, boundless opportunity, and overwhelming magic, but those boons are more than matched by the dangers that await travelers and explorers of planes far from their own. Those who seek to adventure in such treacherous realms would do well to prepare in advance, and this chapter presents numerous options for characters to do so through archetypes, feats, spells, and magic items.

The planes are vast, but their themes are also stronger than those on most Material Plane worlds. On a typical Material Plane world, one can expect to encounter a wide range of terrains, societies, civilizations, beliefs, and religions. This diversity is perhaps the Material Plane’s greatest strength, and it is certainly why models of the planes tend to place the Material Plane at the metaphysical center of reality. Here, elements from all of the planes of the Great Beyond mix. In contrast, the other planes of the Great Beyond tend to each exemplify a single specific theme, condition, philosophical conceit, or incarnation of reality. There is little fear of dying of frostbite on the Plane of Fire. One can expect to find plenty of representation of chaotic good faiths in Elysium but relatively little (if any at all) of lawful faiths. Color itself is a rarity in the Shadow Plane, and solid ground likewise in places like the Astral and Ethereal Planes.

As a result, preparation for planar travel is ironically easier in many cases than travel on the Material Plane—but this should not be taken to mean that other planes are safe places to visit. Most planes have dangerous, supernatural predators inimical to mortal life, and several are themselves deadly to merely visit. Arriving on a plane with the proper tools, already protected by the appropriate magic, and equipped with sufficient knowledge makes the difference between potential success and immediate failure.

When you run an adventure or campaign that features planar travel, you’ll want to keep this peril in mind. Further, you should consider the makeup of your player characters. Just as it can be frustrating for a druid’s player to face adventure after adventure set in a city, or for a paladin’s player to endure a campaign that frequently features moral quandaries and forces cooperation with forces of chaos or evil, it can likewise be annoying to play a character whose class features, goals, and necessities require the Material Plane in a campaign mostly set on other planes. You should make sure to alert your players at the start of any campaign that will take place on the other planes of the Great Beyond. You don’t need to completely spoil all your plans for the game, but letting the players know that they will be unlikely to spend much time in the implied “homeland” of most games is important.

A planar campaign is a great chance for your players to create characters of wildly diverse races. A number of suitable planar races are summarized below, including three new races appropriate for player characters that appear in Chapter 4 of this book. One thing to keep in mind when allowing players to play these races is that their powers tend to be a bit more significant than those of the game’s core races. As a result, you should consider using the race builder rules found in Chapter 4 of Pathfinder RPG Advanced Race Guide. Choose a target RP total for all the players, and allow them to purchase new abilities and options for their races so that each player is playing an equivalently powerful character.

Planar Terrains

Source Planar Adventures pg. 9
A staggering array of terrains await exploration in the Great Beyond. Some are akin to the forests, mountains, oceans, and plains of Material Plane worlds, but others are unlike anything found there, such as the ghostly reaches of the Ethereal Plane, the living and horrific reaches of the deep Abyss, the constantly burning inferno of the Plane of Fire, and the life-draining nothingness of the Negative Energy Plane.

Some classes, like the ranger, interact directly with terrain, and class abilities like favored terrain can become complicated in a plane-hopping campaign. In games that are largely limited to the Material Plane, the planes terrain category works fine, but if you intend to run a game set on another plane, you should consider breaking up that category into specific planes (thus, a ranger would choose Heaven or Ethereal Plane, or even a demiplane like Leng as a favored terrain), or simply doing away with the planes category entirely. With this latter solution, you should work with ranger players to help them anticipate the terrains featured in your upcoming campaign, with new categories like crystalline (for realms in the Plane of Earth or under Elysium, where immense crystal formations are common), living (for truly sentient realms like portions of the Abyss), or void (for empty reaches in the Astral Plane or the energy planes) potentially becoming new options for rangers to select from.

Planar Races

Source Planar Adventures pg. 9
The following races all have specific ties to portions of the multiverse beyond the Material Plane (note that not all of these are native outsiders, and in addition to being found on the plane indicated below, all of these races can also be encountered on the Material Plane).

Aasimar: Aasimars carry the blood of good-aligned outsiders in their veins. They can be found in Heaven, Nirvana, or Elysium, depending upon their heritage.

Aphorite: Aphorites were created by axiomites to facilitate their interactions with mortals. They can often be found on Axis.

Duskwalker: Duskwalkers are souls who have incarnated directly into the Material Plane from the Boneyard; as a result, most are now found on Material Plane worlds.

Fetchling: Descended from humans who became trapped on the Shadow Plane, most fetchlings treat that sinister plane as home.

Ganzi: Infused with strange energies and entropic legacies, ganzis are mortal incarnations of the myriad and mutable forces of chaos. They are typically encountered in the Maelstrom, but can also be found in Elysium or the Abyss.

Gathlain: Rarely encountered on the Material Plane, the fey gathlains are most often found in the First World.

Ifrit: Ifrits trace their lineage back to creatures from the Plane of Fire. They can be encountered on the Plane of Fire.

Oread: Oreads boast the influence of shaitans and other earth creatures in their veins. They can be found on the Plane of Earth.

Shabti: Shabtis are broken bits of mortal souls made flesh. They are encountered only on the Material Plane.

Suli: Sulis are descended from the unions of mortals and jaan. They can sometimes be encountered on the Elemental Planes, but the majority dwell on the Material Plane.

Sylph: Sylphs are infused with the blood and power of creatures of elemental air. They can often be found on the Plane of Air.

Tiefling: Tieflings are mortals who have fiends in their ancestry. They can be found in Hell, Abaddon, or the Abyss, depending upon their heritage.

Undine: Undines are the descendants of those who have mingled with creatures of elemental water. They can be found on the Plane of Water.

Wayang: Wayangs originally came from the Shadow Plane, but are rarely found there today— most dwell now on the Material Plane.

Role of the Divine

Source Planar Adventures pg. 70
The concept of free will hangs at the fundamental core of all living beings, even the choice to have faith in the gods or not. Whenever deities meddle directly in mortal affairs, they damage this agency and erode the concept of free will—what is the point of being able to make your own choices, after all, if an entity infinitely more powerful than you can simply ignore those choices and alter reality at its whim?

The gods understand the nature of this conundrum far better than any of us mortals can, and their greater understanding of these paradoxes is a large part of what causes them to move in their proverbial “mysterious ways.” Still, mortals are often driven to ask the question, “Why do the gods allow bad things to happen?”

The simplest explanation for this paradox is to equate divine intervention to an arms race. Were there one divinity, there would be none to question its actions or oppose its needs, but this is not the nature of the Great Beyond. Countless gods, demigods, and quasi deities exist, each of which has interests spread throughout the multiverse and across all Material Plane worlds. This means that every god, even the most secluded or nonconfrontational, has competitors at best and enemies at worst. When a god takes direct action in a world, that god’s opposing forces take note and react. The resulting arms race, with opposing deities taking increasingly overwhelming actions to counter each other, can swiftly spiral out of control and destroy entire worlds, at which point all the hard work of creation is, in effect, undone.

And so the gods follow a largely self-imposed ban on direct interaction with the Material Plane. They leave their concerns and agendas in the capable hands of their faithful and allow their churches to represent the deity’s interests and decide their own fates. It should be noted that this element of self-imposed non-intervention does not extend equally to the ranks of demigods. These entities, while powerful, can be defeated by the mortals whose lives they manipulate, and they do well to keep that possible fate, however unlikely, in mind.

Traits of a Plane

Source Planar Adventures pg. 58
Reality is not the constant a rational creature might like to think it is. Even on different worlds of the Material Plane, fundamental aspects of life vary—planets can have lower or higher gravity, atmospheres that are poisonous for most species to breathe, or other deviations from what might be considered normal.

These deviations expand greatly when traveling in the Great Beyond, for as you leave the Material Plane, you leave behind many of the constants of our reality. Each and every plane defines its own reality, and in some cases this reality is far from stable on its own. Aspects like the nature of gravity, the flow of time, and the size and shape of the region can vary wildly. On some planes, not even the gods can effect change, while on others, thoughts spring to truth and reality itself is alive. Even philosophical ideals like good or evil or the underlying nature of magic itself can become warped or physically manifest in such outlandish regions.

There are seven categories of traits that summarize the nature of reality within each realm of existence: gravity, time, realm, structural, essence, alignment, and magic.

Building a Planar Campaign

Source Planar Adventures pg. 82
The typical adventurer can readily secure fame and fortune within a single dungeon, nation, or continent, and for many campaigns, sticking to an easily grasped fantasy world of goblins, knights, and near-Earth conditions is the right move. After all, traveling the multiverse increases the possibilities and dangers by untold orders of magnitude. In capable hands, a planar campaign can inspire stories unlike any other. But if handled poorly, a romp across the planes can turn into a disjointed series of accidents or sudden endings that could potentially harm a long-term game. So how can you as a GM convey a creative, fun, and memorable experience?