Overarching Themes

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Palomides
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Overarching Themes

This may be an unfair since I don't have anything to offer at present except for the question itself:

I was thinking about the Infinite Staircase as an example of an overarching theme that spans/touches several planes. Can anyone think of any other themes that could be used the same way and how do you suggest they manifest themselves?

KnightOfDecay
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Hmmm, I suppose the Infinite

Hmmm, I suppose the Infinite Staircase with it's 'creativity' theme is probably the most flexible.
All the other planar pathways are far more restricted.
Yggdrasil: Norse mythology / challenge / heroism
Styx: The Lower Planes, losing memory

The Great Modron March touches several Outer Planes and it's progress can be kind of a theme for a campaign. The Blood War as well.
The influence of certain pantheons (with different realms in the Lower or the Upper Planes) could be considered a theme too, for example a campaign based on greek mythology.

Hope I interpreted your question correctly.

Palomides
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Not to Be Picky...

I appreciate your taking a stab at it; but,I was actually fishing for new ideas for planar spanning pathways. For example, "death" could be a theme but that belongs pretty solidly with the Grey Wastes. By contrast, "creativity" is something that crosses a lot of different alignments thus the Infinite Staircase can touch a lot of places.
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I was hoping to take some idea (let's say "loyalty") and think of some new kind of pathway (although in this example, maybe it only touches on the Lawful planes). Instead of a staircase, maybe this would be some expansive bureaucracy with different offices and agencies (Not a great example, but as I said - I like the broad idea of new pathways but I haven't come up with much on my own)

Jem
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Redemption and Corruption:

Redemption and Corruption: the Path of Thorns and the Path of Gold. Each leads only around the outer edges of the Great Ring, not going through the Outlands or below the Astral. Each is one-way.

The Path of Thorns leads from more-evil planes to more-good planes. Going up the lawful side of the Ring, it represents the process of realizing that there are people beyond the self with individual worth. Going up the chaotic side it represents the process of learning to sacrifice and humble the self.

The Path of Gold leads from more-good planes to more-evil planes. Going down the lawful side it represents temptations to exploit others for gain. Going down the chaotic side of the Ring is represents the urge to aggrandize oneself through destruction of others.

Someone looking for this path would need to know the signs and keys for using it, a different type for each pair of planes:

Waste -> Gehenna: this step on the path appears in Niflheim as a stand of thorny trees with low, tangled branches. To use the path, you must enter and allow the thorns to draw a few HP of blood. In a clearing within the trees, so thick that that nothing else around can be seen, upon a large trunk write in your blood your name while pledging one service to whoever might come and take the bark to present you with it; the tree will disappear, and behind it is a path to Mungoth. A party can go if one swears.

The older trees where people have written their names are present; if you take one of the blood names from a tree, the thorn grove disappears into thick mists and the path is unusable, but you can use the rune to geas the writer, if you can find them. Celestials and good creatures with their own route out of Niflheim dare the trip to Niflheim sometimes to claim one of these, hoping to geas evil creatures into deeds for good. Hel's servants try to collect them and either use them or trade them away, and sometimes succeed, but rarely, for in order to find this grove one must be willing to pledge service to an unknown who earns the right to claim it.

Gehenna -> Baator: somewhere on Mungoth -- not necessarily near the outlet of the portal from Niflheim, but usually within a few days' travel at most, though sometimes it is there as soon as one steps out -- there is a path to the bog of Minauros. This time, it is marked by low, scrubby thornbushes in a cold wetland. Users must slosh through the water, keeping an eye out for signs -- arrows, marked stones, and the like -- that say which way to turn on hidden roots, all the while the thorns caressing their legs and leaving trails of blood in the water. The trick is, one must call out these signs to other members of a party. You don't get signs that apply to you. At least two people must travel the path (or a party split in two), and they must trust each other enough to give and follow instructions. The bog gets wetter and deeper until the groups find themselves in Minauros. On rare occasions, the two parties are widely separated, though if their bonds of trust are stronger they will likely arrive near each other.

The wetland is home to creatures that are fond of the smell of blood that the thorn bushes draw, and will approach a traveling party. They are fiendish, and likely to attack.

Baator -> Acheron: from Dis to Thuldanin. A wall of iron blocks held together with chains bars your path. Each somehow represents someone you have wronged or harmed. You must remove enough blocks to open a space and step through to the surface of an iron cube. The chains will hold fast around a block unless you recognize who it represents, and honestly regret the sin. You can try forcing your way through, but the block will glow red-hot. After it has inflicted enough damage to consider some atonement made (it's unclear who is the judge of this), the block will move.

Etc. Is that sort of thing what you were looking for?

KnightOfDecay
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Cool stuff!

Cool stuff!

Another theme could be "knowledge" - kind of network of interconnected planar libraries. There should be plenty of them, from the Outlands to the Lower Planes.

Jem
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Heh. L-space.

Heh. L-space.

A long time ago I suggested the Tree of Life, the Otz Chaim, as a planar pathway that led from the Inner to the Outer Planes. The theme here is the journey of the soul from the material world through progressive spiritual development. The Tree consists of ten sephiroth, which have traditional names; each has their own character. Each is centered on an actual tree, which appears to be a giant specimen (dozens of miles in diameter at the base) of some fruit tree with gnarled bark, probably an apple tree. However, no one has ever found a fruit of the Tree of Life, at least no one trustworthy who has told the tale.

The Tree is attended by both elementals and celestials, especially celestials whose duties concern them with the proper functioning of physical law. These spirits guard the pathway and attempt to prevent its usage by entities opposed to their goals. They will always protect the physical Tree from digging or carving; the Tree grows back when damaged. There are also environmental hazards. The Tree takes several days to hike through a given plane, and offers no protection from the ambient effects where it passes through them. Teleportation magic does work, however, and some secret societies have teleportation circles prepared that will take someone to the other end of a sephira. On planes with gravity, the Tree grows upwards. Its bark offers many handholds. To exit the Tree, follow a branch, which will lead into an open space in the surrounding plane.

1.) Malkuth: this sephira is intertwined with the Positive and Negative Energy planes. Its roots consist of wavelike patterns that a savvy planewalker must ride. Where they join together, the sephira thunders with interference patterns, energy pouring from one to the other. Strange runes and words of power have been seen or heard here; people are also regularly burned to a crisp, deafened, or blown into the Negative.

2.) Yesod: Real wooden roots emerge from the Energy Planes here, and wind their way through the mists of the Ethereal. Wisps of protomatter cling to the Tree and can spontaneously react to the thoughts of passing entities, taking shape from their fears or desires. Roots sometimes lead to the open Ethereal and sometimes to demiplanes. Sleeping and dreaming here can lead to strange insights.

3. - 6.) In Hod, Netzach, Tiphareth, and Geburah, the Tree grows through the four primary elemental Planes, in the order of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. It appears to be mostly roots in Earth and Water, growing through areas of soil in the former; and mostly the base of a trunk in Air and Fire. In Fire its bark appears to be tough and fireproof. Secrets of summoning and commanding elementals and genies of respective planes can be found in areas where the Tree is undisturbed, although they are written in large scale in its form and must be studied for some time. Clever planewalkers who try to go directly between Hod and Geburah by crossing Magma find that the trip between the physical locations of the two sefiroth is longer than the hike the right way! Roots or branches which seem to be near active process areas (where rock is grinding or magma is cooling, where ice is melting or the like) can take the traveler to associated paraelemental or quasielemental planes relatively quickly, even without a native guide.

7.) Chesed: Chesed is coexistent with the Prime Material, where all the elements mix. On each Prime, a huge trunk rises from an apparently deep-buried root system, always in a far distant and mostly inaccessible region, sometimes one not apparently hospitable to trees. The area around it is always a sacred place. The Tree rises for miles, with branches splitting off just before it disappears from view. Although fruit buds never seem to bear, the wood and leaves of the Tree carry some of this sacred power, with different effects on different worlds. Too much harvesting, however, can make the Tree shift position to some more hidden place. On some worlds it is hidden entirely by some divine force. Portals from Geburah to Chesed split off innumerably, and one must be diligent to find one that leads to a desired Prime. Few are close together, and Fire is an inhospitable environment for travelers, or Sigil might have had a competing base of travel. Natives of Fire on the Geburah side know of a track that links various portals to Chesed, particularly well-trafficked Primes.

8.) Binah: this sefirah winds through the Astral, seemingly endlessly, although color pools enter and leave it at many places. It has many leafy branches terminating in color pools to the Upper Planes. These are always guarded by celestials and psychopomps of the appropriate alignments and deities. Many souls follow it in their journey to the afterlife; it seems to be something of a shelter from astral phenomena such as storms or predators. Dead gods never come near it, nor does the Bonecloud. Memories of the deceased are shed in huge quantities here, and one who waits on the Tree in Binah can experience world after world and life after life in bits and pieces. Seeking particular memories, though, can be extremely challenging.

9.) Chokmah: In the Upper Planes the tree manifests as leafy branches thrusting from rocks, waterfalls, or other environmental features. These are always guarded by celestials whose sole goal is to protect their petitioners and deities. They will question or fight challengers who do not seem worthy of passage. On Mt. Celestia the Tree constitutes a suitable route up the mountain, for those petitioners who understand its presence. In areas near the Tree the lawful or chaotic traits of planes are lessened. Nearby there often congregate celestials for whom the conflict between Law and Chaos is not as important as Upper Planar entities' common goal of goodness. They sometimes make items of wood from branches or leaves, which they generally claim the Tree gave them willingly, which express this belief and help smooth over ideological conflicts. These objects vary greatly in form from plane to plane.

10.) Kether: It's unclear what this sephirah actually does or is. Logically, it seems like it should reach to some spiritual realm even higher than the Outer Planes. However, it's only known to exist because there are portals to it that are visible from high points in Chokmah on each Upper Plane. Those who travel to these portals never seem to have access to the correct key, or to any magic that opens them. The sole clue as to what Kether might consist of is that, on Mt. Celestia, the portal to Kether seems to be contiguous with the border of Chronias. Legend has it that, once and only once in the recorded histories of the archons, a soul given permission to ascend the Bridge of al-Sihal instead flew toward this portal, and entered freely.

sciborg2
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Great stuff!

Great stuff!

Palomides
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Good job

Clever ideas and a surprising amount of detail!