Petitioners, Planars and population

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glaucon
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Petitioners, Planars and population

Bear with me...

I've been running a PS campaign since the Fall of '95. Over that time, there's been one sticking point that has confounded me, and has therefore caused me to do my best to steer clear of as much as possible. Despite perusing all the source material, I've never been able to identify a definitive answer. And so, I appeal to the collective knowledge here:

Are petitioners corporeal?

I've always figured that, on any given plane, the vast majority of the population are going to be petitioners. Actual planar natives are going to be substantially represented of course, contingent on the plane in question, but, petitioners would have the edge given that they're essentially immigrants coming through welcoming borders from inexhaustible sources.

So it seems to be the case that petitioners are everywhere; the 'common people' on any given plane. But, they're essentially the relocated spirits of the once alive persons from wherever it was they lived their life. So, the source material simultaneously made me think them to be either corporeal or non-corporeal. Being unable to pin down the answer to this has vexed me for years.

Sure, I've always been able to deal with it, or, more accurately, avoid it, given that it's typically easier to make use of planars but, there are cases where I've thought it would make more sense to use a petitioner.

So, taking it as granted that it's difficult to do so, given the diverse nature of all the planes, generally speaking, do you treat petitioners as corporeal or non-corporeal?

Or, have I simply missed the actual concrete answer in a text somewhere?

TIA

D_E
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Petitioners are as you

Petitioners are as you described, the common folk of the Planes. Descriptions of the general characteristics of petitioners on each Plane can be found in the Planescape Campaign Setting (In the DM Guide to the Planes), and general rules of all petitioners can be found in the Players Guide ("The majority of bodies on the planes are petitioners, which are the departed spirits of primes and planars whose bodies reformed on the plane that matches their previous alignment or devotion. [etc.]").

Petitioners are definitely corporeal, as a rule, and even be killed (in which case they merge with their home plane if killed there, or fade into oblivion if killed on some other plane. Shockingly enough, it is noted that they don't like to travel).

In 3e, the Manual of the Planes has brief templates that can be used to create petitioners for each plane. 3e petitioners are not able to leave their home plane, as a general rule.

glaucon
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Thanks for the response D_E.

Thanks for the response D_E.

I suspected as much, given my familiarity with the material you reference. My quibble was that it's never made explicit anywhere that they're corporeal. Thus, my concern.

Your comments have reminded me of another question that arises then: what would you say would be the time delay between corporeal death and corporeal reformation with respect to the death of a planar?
Assuming they die on the plane/layer/realm that they're spirit would be directed to, I've always wondered what the interim non corporeal state interim would be...

Palomides
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Miles to Go Before I Sleep

I suppose it depends on how your campaign deals with death.

For example, I take inspiration from tales of dead souls having to pass through a number of barriers and/or judgements to eventually reach their final afterlife. I also say that this limits how long a soul can be called back from death (haven't gone through the last gate = can be resurrected; already a soul in Mt. Celestia = too late, short of divine intervention)

So for my system, a mortal soul who died on the planes will still go off on his underworld journey for a couple of weeks before reappearing as a petitioner (even if he eventually re-appears back on the same plane on which he died). This also prevents a planar dying in combat and then simply rising a moment later as a fully-healed petitioner ("It was only a flesh wound!")

Regarding how long the journey of the soul takes? My system grants me some flexibility. If one of the PCs die and the rest can't raise the funds to resurrect him for two weeks, I don't say "Gosh darn, you missed the deadline by 15 minutes"; I just say that the dead PC hadn't moved on to his final reward yet.
For NPCs, pick whatever length of time makes sense. Perhaps the pious move through their tests a little faster and the heretics get lost and waylaid for longer periods. But ultimately, make up whatever length of time serves your narrative the best.

D_E
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Quote:My quibble was that it

Quote:
My quibble was that it's never made explicit anywhere that they're corporeal. Thus, my concern.

Ah, my take on that would be that it would be more likely for the petitioners to be fully corporeal, and for the text to never explicitly mention that, than for incorporeality to go unmentioned (since incorporeality would have radical implications for interacting with petitioners). In 3e incorporeality would definitely need to be explicitly conferred by the petitioner templates, so by 3e the petitioners are definitely corporeal.

However, by my memory there are very few petitioners actually featured in 2e Planescape adventures. I know there's a cat petitioner from the Beastlands in The Great Modron March, and Factol Whats-His-Name in... Faction War? The Factol's Manifesto? I checked over the Great Modron March adventure, and while I don't think the cat ever does anything that definitively implies he's corporeal, there are paper-pusher-petitioners mentioned in passing that would have a hard time pushing paper if they couldn't touch anything. As for the other thing, for the Factol-is-a-petitioner thing to be a secret, he more-or-less has to be corporeal, since otherwise the game would be up the instant he needed to open a door or pick up a book or something.

Quote:
Your comments have reminded me of another question that arises then: what would you say would be the time delay between corporeal death and corporeal reformation with respect to the death of a planar?

What Palomides said sounds like a good way to explain delays between death and petitioner formation. I would also add that, since planes are infinite and petitioners lose their memories, it's probably pretty hard to tell how long it takes for a petitioner to form, since the odds against meeting one of someone you knew must be astronomical.

Quote:
Assuming they die on the plane/layer/realm that they're spirit would be directed to, I've always wondered what the interim non corporeal state interim would be...

Regardless of where the planar dies, they probably go through the same process as anyone else, whatever that process is. I think it's canon that the person's memories end up in a memory core on the Astral Plane, suggesting that all dead souls pass through the astral. If their soul needs to be judged by their pantheon, that process would still need to happen, even if they are ultimately returned to the plane they died on. Basically:

Death->memory separation on astral->pantheon-based-judgement or natural like-attracts-like sorting process->petitioner forms on appropriate plane, which may be the same plane the person was on before they died.

glaucon
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Thanks

Thanks to both Palomides and D_E.

Thanks for the confirmation Palomides. Your answer pretty much is how I've been playing it out. However:

Thanks to D_E for your response. Which also raises questions...

Yes, I too noticed how oddly absent petitioners were in the majority of the modules. That's what got my wheels spinning around these questions. I was recently re-reading all the modules and couldn't help but notice the absence. Particularly when contrasted with how frequently petitioners are mentioned in the various rule books.

Regarding the cat: again, yep, it's that vagary that was my cause for concern.

Regarding last paragraph: lots to unpack here. I'd never assumed that every soul must pass into the Astral and then back. Just off the top of my head, wouldn't that throw a bit of a kink into the Blood War? I mean, the fact that Tanarri, Baatezu and even Yugoloth all avoid, in their own ways, the 'final death' of being killed on their home plane at least seems to indicate that their reformation is pretty much instantaneous ( though problematic for each in their own way).
Alternatively, what about the Modrons, or, I think, the Gehreleths, which always have a constant finite population?

hmm
Got my wheels spinning again...

D_E
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Oh, I was thinking of "planar

Oh, I was thinking of "planar" as "plane-born mortal" rather than "exemplar" there. The exemplar don't lose their memories after death, so the above reasoning doesn't really apply to them.

I think that exemplar reformation (or replacement, for the Modrons at least) is pretty much instantaneous, but I don't know of any canon sources on the matter. Sciborg's Blade of Innocence has a depiction of the process that I really like; however, the story seems to have disappeared off the 'net due to the great WotC forums debacle.

glaucon
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Ditto

Yeah, I was using it in your second sense as well: "plane-born mortal".
What do you mean by "exemplar"?

D_E
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It's a catch-all term for the

It's a catch-all term for the major outer-planar outsider types: the Tanarri/Baatezu/Modrons/Archons/etc. They exemplify their alignments, and typically arose directly from their home planes in some way. I'm not sure where the term originated, I can't recall if it's used in any 2e or even 3e material.

Here's a slightly longer reference: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/80408/is-there-an-iconic-monster-or-creature-for-each-alignment

glaucon
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Nice

Thanks again D_E.

Interesting.
Way back when Planescape just came out, but after all 4 main boxed sets were released, I put together my own list of what I called the predominant planar native, for each plane. Basically I wanted a quick reference for each plane that identified what creature a PC party would, in highest likelihood run into if they ended up on that plane. The reference you link is quite similar, though based on the concept of Alignment as opposed to 'birth' location.

So you'd say that, for each exemplar race, assuming they die on their native plane, there's no memory loss?

Palomides
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Memories

Even if it isn't canon, I'd recommend that exemplars keep their memories. That way, any fiend the PCs kill can hold a grudge

Quickleaf
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Yeah, I've always run it

Yeah, I've always run it closer to what Palomides describes. Most petitioners (except where noted, such as in some realms of the Gray Waste) are corporeal. Most petitioners have some recollection of their past lives, but it's dream-like and vague. In my campaign, the more mature/advanced/closer to transcendence a petitioner became, the more of their past life memory is available to them. I also applied this to ranks of exemplars like devils, where lemures had dreams of their past lives but couldn't even remember their own names, while pit fiends remembered their past lives in astounding detail (albeit often choosing entirely new identities as lords of the pit).

heal41hp
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Planars and petitioners in Arvandor

I've been wondering how elf petitioners from Arvandor work. Prime elves are called to Arvandor when the time comes, and they leave their prime home either (apparently) wholly or just in spirit, leaving behind a body. In Arvandor they can choose whether they want to lose any memories or not. They don't technically die (barring violence, of course). But how might that work with planar elves born in Arvandor? Would they still be called and then just wander off into the forest, to be transformed into a petition that could well just be the same personality with the same memories?

I registered just to ask. I'm embroiled in some serious elf research for 2e.

D_E
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2E vs 5E?

I think the "calling to Arvandor" bit is from a 5E source (Mordenkainen's Guide to Foes)? If so I don't think there's a canon answer.

If I'm remembering the 5e source right, called elves are reincarnated after a period of time ranging from "instantaneous" to "the entire age of the multiverse." The best way to mix the two is probably to have planar elves enter the same reincarnation system as everyone else. They might be reborn on the planes, they might go to the prime. Alternatively, they could alternate between planar and prime lives, with planar elves reincarnating on the prime when called and prime elves reincarnating as planars.

I'm not sure how the Eladrin would fit into that scheme. If you wanted to tie them closely to elves, then maybe they're just part of the same reincarnation system the other elves are. If not they might be almost totally separate.

heal41hp
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Definitely 2E, too

That's an intriguing concept. I don't have much knowledge of 5E; I've almost exclusively played 2E over my D&D career.

The call to Arvandor is definitely a 2E concept as well, though it's typically referenced as a call to Arvanaith in sources addressing it from a prime perspective (e.g. Complete Book of Elves, Demihuman Deities). On Hallowed Ground in no uncertain terms says they're the same, though. In 2E, reincarnation is optional, and seems to be the uncommon (even rare) choice. And when it is taken, animals seem to be the usual reincarnated form. CBoE seems to suggest most elves just while away eternity in Arvandor after they're called there.

Not only am I researching elves in depth for a writing project, I'm also playing a planar elf from Arvandor, and I'm curious what might happen to him if he survives to the age of being called.

I know next to nothing about Eladrin. I'll have to add them to my growing list of research subjects.

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Ah, interesting. In that

Ah, interesting. In that case, if Prime elves are just called to Arvandor and don't technically die then Planar elves might never be called at all, at least those that are already living on Arvandor.

heal41hp
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I want to argue, but...

My DM had suggested that conclusion, too. I feel like I want to argue--as much as I love elves--but the more I think about it now, the more it makes sense.

I wondered, Well, how can there be petitioners in Arvandor then? Because plenty of elves die by violence and accident.

I just read about an elf at Grandfather Oak who's "more than 1,000 summers," which is far beyond the typical age any elf is called (around 600).

Petitioners tend "to the good of the woodlands and meadows," whereas called elves "can experience anything they've ever wanted for as long as they want."

So... called elves probably aren't petitioners. Planar elves might just reach an age where they want nothing more than to just kick back and enjoy themselves in Arvandor. That's the typical attitude of venerable elves, but with the added desire to do so in a particular location. Those planar elves not from Arvandor (and who venerate the Seldarine) might be called/compelled to journey to Arvandor to live out their retirement.

I'm wondering now if there's any sort of transformative element to retirement in Arvandor. It would kind of suck to live out eternity as an old, wrinkly, slow venerable elf. Upon reviewing the Complete Book of Elves, though, I saw this: "In Arvanaith, all things are possible. Anything elves might want, including forgetfulness or even oblivion, is available." So it seems they could be young again if they wanted. Problem solved I guess.

But that suggests there's still some threshold that elves cross. And it also suggests that Arvandor is just bonkers. But it is elf heaven, so... what else might you expect?

heal41hp
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Updated ideas

First, I must correct (kind of) something I posted earlier. The elf at Grandfather Oak that is "more than 1,000 summers" is specified to be a petitioner. I just noticed that earlier today. Oops.

So I read up on petitions in On Hallowed Ground and the process by which they're "made." When a prime dies, they travel through the Astral to the realm of their god(s) or the plane/layer that most suits their alignment. In the Astral, their memories are stripped from them. When planars die, their memories are similarly siphoned off into the Astral as they wander to their proper place. And so petitioners have little to no memory of their past lives.

I think the Seldarine have found some sort of back door in the process by calling elves to Arvandor while they're still alive. They circumvent the memory-stripping, thus allowing elven petitioners to remain themselves and to keep whatever memories they want. They're still transformed into petitioners, but they're not the fanatical and single-minded sort focused solely on melding with their god or plane.

However, when elves actually die, they go through the normal route and become "normal" petitioners. They lose their individuality. That's why elves so dislike actual death and why it is so mourned. That individual is lost, probably forever--a great and terrible tragedy.

Huh. I just realized a funky consequence of this idea. On Hallowed Ground specifies that when you use Speak with Dead and such spells, you're actually speaking with the memories left in the Astral, not the petitioner. So if an elf is called to Arvandor, no one could communicate with them via such spells. So those trying to communicate could be led to believe the called elf is still alive wherever it is they went.

glaucon
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Nice.

Nice.
That last part where you note that consequence could actually be a really good adventure hook. Essentially, it would force anyone seeking knowledge from an elf that had been called to Arvandor to travel there...