Shadowveil Divide

This is a write-up of a high-level system I've had sketched out for some time. I just wanted to share as I'm not sure I'll ever finish it let alone attempt to implement. Section 4 is detailed extensively in another text file I have but I haven't been able to find it yet (lot of text files over the past year to sift through).

The Elemental Chaos

Section 1.0 Premise

In the 4th edition all of the elemental planes have been merged into a single expanse of chaotic environs. It allows for a more realistic merger of the elemental planes while retaining the ability for pockets of the dimension to be dedicated to a single element (such as the homes of the primordials/elemental deities such as Akadi and Grumbar).

This is supported even in the 3.5 edition as the manual of the planes and planar handbook are rife with examples of locations where the planes bleed together. There are also numerous examples of creatures from the various sourcebooks that are composed of multiple elements (and even elements fused into atypical creature types such as undead or demons).

Throw in the positive energy plane, the negative energy plane, and the shadow plane and you have a largely untapped set of realms that are ideal for high level adventures among the cosmos without having to traipse around the demesne of various sundry deities.

The premise is to create a planar touchstone site with a chaotic portal that randomly opens to various planes. This will allow a wide variety of areas to be used, each with unique art, denizens, and environments. I've chosen to base this site within the plane of shadow as it makes a likely place for portals to exist to the material plane and for having access to the other planes based on the sourcebook lore.

Each area will be seeded with quests and will generally allow the player to eventually become neutral with one of the factions on a given plane (including access to a merchant specific to that plane for their attuned element).

Section 2.0 Areas

Areas will use VFX on placeables to give each area an "elemental" or "planar" feel to it. When also populated with a set of creatures appropriate to a plane I believe it will be possible to make any environment possible, even underwater (thanks to the RWS creatures and other work).

Section 2.1 The Shadowveil Divide

The shadowveil divide is a massive, bottomless cavern that has a small land mass in the center along with three small access walkways leading to to nearby zones. At the center of this zone is the planar touchstone site where the portal resides. Two armed encampments have set up at the edges of the area to ensure that the other side does not gain complete control of the portal.

The Order of Twilight Watchers is primarily composed of elves, humans, and dwarves and is dedicated to keeping the portals out of the hands of the drow or dark forces while allowing for research and discovery to occur to anyone willing to brave the dangers.

House (x'y) is a ruthless, mercantile band of drow similar in spirit to House Bregan D'Arth (sp). They seek to control the portal for financial gain as well as to limit the power of the other houses, the conclave, and the various worshipers of the drow gods. They allow access to portal to any underdark race, for a price.

There are three main areas around the shadowveil divide. One leads to the underdark portal, one leads to the surface portal, and one leads to the lair of a massive and timeless shadow dragon who seeks to drive out all outsiders and reclaim this area of the shadow plane.

Section 2.1.1 The Shadowcrest Caverns

The shadowcrest caverns are a series of long winding tunnels that lead to large open areas filled with warring tribes of shadow giants, Shadar-Kai, various races from the underdark that have acclimated (gaining the shadow or dark templates), and the minions of the shadow dragon. This is a two-zone area for levels 21-25 and 26-30. It is easier for the underdark races to reach the shadowveil encampment than it is for the surface races.

Section 2.1.2 The Shadowmarch Warrens

The shadowmarch warrens are the ruins of various cities that have been razed due to warfare among the shadow giants, the forces of the shadow dragon, and a powerful lich who seeks to carve out a realm for himself. The area is overrun with undead, various shadow/dark templated draconians, and the shadow giants. Each faction controls one of the three zones of this area. The shadow giants reside in the 21-24 area, the undead in the 25-28 area, and the draconian forces in the 27-30 area.

Section 2.1.3 Tamarith's Redoubt

Tamarith's redoubt is the large, sprawling lair of the shadow dragon Tamarith. There are four main zones that comprise this area, each dedicated to one of the forces which support the shadow dragon.

The shadow giants control the area closest to the portal which is a 23-26 area. The Shadar-Kai control the next area (a large temple area, levels 25-28) that also houses a pocket of Imaskari refugees who have settled here. Each of these races have accomplished artificers who have built construct armies to fight the bulk of their battles.

The third area is where the spawn of Tamarith reside and where various other draconic races serve their "deity" in her pursuit of power. This area is filled with various lizardfolk, kobolds, dragonlings, and dragonborn. A number of bardic dragon disciples sing chants in adoration of their maker and generally lead the other forces when not directed by Tamarith herself. This area is filled with level 27-31 creatures.

The final area is home to a clan of corrupted night hag druids who labor to infuse shadow and darkness into a variety of creatures. They have created a race of shadow and dark war trolls to serve Tamarith that are truly fearsome creatures. A number of other creatures have been infused with various planar essences capture from the planar portal as the night hags experiment with finding the deadliest soldiers possible. This area is filled with level 31-38 creatures.

Section 2.1.4 Undying Pyre (Plane of Fire)

When the portal opens a gateway to the plane of fire, several areas become available which lead to the Undying Pyre, home of Kossuth. These areas are filled with various groups of azer, giants, genies, genasi, creatures composed of the element, half-elementals, and fire elementals.

As with each of the four elemental planes, these areas support level 21-35 creatures. Each of the areas is led by an Archon seeking to carve out power for himself as a method to gain a seat at the court of Kossuth. Archons do not care about which elements or planes are harnessed to accomplish their goal, only that they become triumphant in the end.

Various hybrid elemental creatures exist, all of whom have the fire template at a minimum. These other templates can be drawn from any source, including water and the more exotic templates such as dark, shadow, vivacious, entropic, demonic, undead, and outsider.

Section 2.1.5 Sky Home (Plane of Air)

When the portal opens a gateway to the plane of air, several areas become available which lead to Sky Home, home of Akadi. These areas are filled with various groups of azer, genies, giants, genasi, creatures composed of the element, half-elementals, and air elementals.

As with each of the four elemental planes, these areas support level 21-35 creatures. Each of the areas is led by an Archon seeking to carve out power for himself as a method to gain a seat at the court of Akadi. Archons do not care about which elements or planes are harnessed to accomplish their goal, only that they become triumphant in the end.

Various hybrid elemental creatures exist, all of whom have the air template at a minimum. These other templates can be drawn from any source, including earth and the more exotic templates such as dark, shadow, vivacious, entropic, demonic, undead, and outsider.

Section 2.1.6 Root Hold (Plane of Earth)

When the portal opens a gateway to the plane of earth, several areas become available which lead to Root Hold, home of Grumbar. These areas are filled with various groups of azer, genies, giants, genasi, creatures composed of the element, half-elementals, constructs, and earth elementals.

As with each of the four elemental planes, these areas support level 21-35 creatures. Each of the areas is led by an Archon seeking to carve out power for himself as a method to gain a seat at the court of Grumbar. Archons do not care about which elements or planes are harnessed to accomplish their goal, only that they become triumphant in the end.

Various hybrid elemental creatures exist, all of whom have the earth template at a minimum. These other templates can be drawn from any source, including air and the more exotic templates such as dark, shadow, vivacious, entropic, demonic, undead, and outsider.

Section 2.1.7 Cresting Spires (Plane of Water)

When the portal opens a gateway to the plane of earth, several areas become available which lead to Root Hold, home of Grumbar. These areas are filled with various groups of azer, giants, genies, genasi, creatures composed of the element, half-elementals, aquatic life, and water elementals.

As with each of the four elemental planes, these areas support level 21-35 creatures. Each of the areas is led by an Archon seeking to carve out power for himself as a method to gain a seat at the court of Istishia. Archons do not care about which elements or planes are harnessed to accomplish their goal, only that they become triumphant in the end.

Various hybrid elemental creatures exist, all of whom have the water template at a minimum. These other templates can be drawn from any source, including fire and the more exotic templates such as dark, shadow, vivacious, entropic, demonic, undead, and outsider.

Section 2.1.8 Death Heart (Negative Energy Plane)

When the portal opens a gateway to the negative energy plane, several areas become available which are filled with entropy and chaos. The areas are overrun with undead, living spells, negative energy (entropic) creatures, dark constructs, demons, and creatures composed of the element. Various liches and vampires vie for dominion. Furthest from the portal lies the outskirts of Death Heart, a massive iron city that was overrun by undead and ruled by a vampiric minotaur.

Section 2.1.9 The Hospice (Positive Energy Plane)

When the portal opens a gateway to the positive energy plane, several areas become available which are filled with vibrant, vivacious energy. The areas are filled with constructs, living spells, positive energy (vivacious) creatures, and creatures composed of the element. The sheer power of life on the plane has led to many inanimate objects becoming animated which is why constructs (and animated weapons) are common.

An order of druids who harness the power of life to create new forms of plants and fauna continually try to drive back any intruders. Furthest from the portal lies the outskirts of the Hospice, a large walled encampment dedicated to healing those in need, even those of non-good alignments.

Section 3.0 Creatures

Creatures will vary extensively, even between identical races and CRs. For example, a medium fire elemental can be grown up to an elder plus a few levels of fighter to provide a deadly melee brute (hitting a CR of 30) or it can stay a medium sized creature and focus extensively on warlock levels (hitting a CR of 30). The difference between these two creatures and how players react to them will provide a great deal of variety among the creatures.

I except to use a lot of sorcerer and warlock levels for arcanes as "will" based magic seems quite appropriate for those dwelling on the planes. You can also take the most unassuming of creatures and turn them into a deadly encounter with the proper mix of templates and classes (for example: a shadow-template, half-elemental war troll with bardic levels).

The idea is to keep away from just using "base" creature levels. Undead, for example, are a low BAB/saves creature that is generally just fodder for players. Mix it up a bit by taking your typical player race/class combo (including BAB, saves) and toss on Revenant plus a template such as spellwarped. You now have the potential for a truly deadly and nasty enemy that players will respect quite a bit more than "just another zombie with 30 HD."

3.1 Templates

Various templates will be used to create a truly wide spectrum of creatures. Each will be applied by the OnSpawn script and is based on localvars set through the toolset. These templates include: half-elemental, element, shadow, dark, vivacious (positive), entropic (negative), lich, vampire, outsider, swordwraith, curst, revenant, construct, spellwarped, draconic, and elemental.

3.2 Azer races

The Azer race will be used as a template for other elements (not just fire) with identical stats (+2 all stats except Cha, -2 Cha, +1 damage bonus of their element, Immunity/Vuln to the appropriate elements, and racial SR.

3.3 Genie races

The Efreet race will be used as a template for other elements (not just fire) with identical stats. These are outsiders with 10 HD plus player classes for the rest of the levels. They utilize all player classes to emulate a living ecosystem.

3.4 Giant races

The various giant races (fire, stone, storm, cloud, frost, eldritch, shadow, ocean, mountain, death) will provide a common base race to extend with a wide variety of player classes. This will allow giant encounters to be challenging and varied as the players will have difficulty in determining what type of foe they are facing (as the prospect of a mid 30s plus strength rogue or gish with a high con can be mildly challenging).

3.5 War Trolls

War Trolls (MM3) will come with the full range of templates and player classes. This will provide a durable base creature to employ as a shock trooper for smarter, less durable boss types.

3.6 Constructs

The existing golems along with templated golems will be used including a few unique golems from the sourcebooks such as the hellfire golem. Constructs will provide a solid (albeit unremarkable) opponent that is strongly resistant to one form of combat (melee, energy, magic, etc) that will help reinforce the need to group up when they are mixed in with other parties.

3.7 Shadar-Kai

This fey race from the plane of shadow has the ability to spend almost all of it's levels on player classes as the creatures only have a base HD of the 3.

3.8 Elementals

This will be one of the widest range of creature types encountered. The element template allows for any creature to be composed entirely of a single element (flame bears, air dragons, water wolves). The half-elemental allows for a race to be deeply infused with a single element. Multiple elements can be combined to provide for strange beings or para-elementals. There are also numerous stock creatures in the sourcebooks that mix elements such as the living holocaust (fire, air) or the emberguard (fire, earth).

3.9 Genasi

The genasi races will also be used extensively to give a full range of player classes to the encounter set. These will often be the minions of the genies or archons.

3.10 Draconic

Led by the shadow dragon Tamarith, there are numerous reptillian and draconian races dwelling on the shadow plane. There are also numerous dragons on the elemental planes with their own agendas (often vying with the genies and archons). The kobolds, dragonborn, lizardfolk, dragonlings, and various draconic templated creatures.

3.11 Demons

All manner of demons, half-demons, anarchic, and fiendish creatures can be found among the planes.

3.12 Undead

All manner of undead can be found among the planes.

4.0 Drops, Rewards, and the Elemental Attunement System

4.1 Drops

Each time an opponent is killed is has a 25% chance of dropping an essence based on it's challenge rating. These essences will be used for three things: crafting, fueling the elemental attunement system, and temporary buffs. The essence is based on one of the planes (fire, air, earth, water, negative, positive, shadow).

The essence drops are:
Faint Essence of (x) (CR 21-23)
Weak Essence of (x) (CR 24-26)
Glowing Essence of (x) (CR 27-29)
Shining Essence of (x) (CR 30-32)
Radiant Essence of (x) (CR 33+)

10 essences are required to transmute the lot into a single essence of the next stage.

4.2 Crafting - The ability to create elemental weapons, armor, and misc equipment (including potions/flasks for tactical grenades).

4.3 Buffs - Damage (all but positive) or Regen that last 30s per tier and provide a +1 bonus per 2 tiers.

4.4 Elemental Attunement System - Essence based "epics" that boost/buff the party (or deal damage, etc) and are base class specific.

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