The planes are a curious and strange place for adventurers. Homes of deities to witness, dangerous elemental terrain to explore, and more powerful creatures for your heroes to fight are all typical aspects of a visit to the planes.
However, the themes of your campaign shift when the planes are not a place that you visit, but the place you live. Planar campaigns are not just multiversal world hopping that is a high-level part of a standard fantasy campaign.
A planar campaign often focuses on more esoteric topics like philosophy, memory, perception, or the nature of reality. These campaigns often eschew traditional roles and alignments in favor of deeper worldbuilding. Ideas for planar adventures can be a challenge for those used to more traditional fantasy settings, so look here for hooks to inspire journeys among the planes.
The Planar Adventures series highlights aspects that make planar campaigns different, while adding new rules to make them unique.
Creating Planar Adventures
When coming up with an idea for a planar adventure or encounter, roll on the first three tables. Then use the fourth table to add flavor.
The tone of a planar adventure is not as heroic as a traditional fantasy adventure or as pulpy as superhero or space epics. Planar adventures explore the abstract made as real and dangerous as any dragon’s fire.
|The search for meaning leads to exploring dreams, both as a way transmit information and as a state of consciousness where planar experiences might be understood.
|Misconceptions of Roles
|The adventure features angelic warlords forcing order, charitable devils binding adventurers to contracts for the good of the multiverse, talking animals, or evil gods disguised as children. Focus on the idea of a non-standard role or alignment, and the misconceptions of adventurers from the Material Plane.
|The meaning of the multiverse isn’t just a theory, it is the life that planar beings live and put into action. If life is a plague polluting reality, a believer stamps it out. If reality is perfected when every inch is documented, believers build massive libraries and universities from which to send expeditions to the edge of reality.
|Power is a motivator on every world, but power looks different where belief transforms gods and willpower shapes the landscape. Religious converts, a focused mind, or even a legion of talented artificers lead to different kinds of power.
|Perception of Reality
|The senses of mortals limit the understanding reality. Cold fire, life-giving darkness, and other strangeness might be experienced, but what if there are beings walking around that can’t be seen, or only seen in mirrors? What if a character hears whispers sharing the dark secrets of their neighbors?
|Planar lands are different from those on the Material Plane: castles of brass raised upon solid fire, breathable water filling rooms of light, empty space where a creature can push itself with angry thoughts, or even a kingdom of sound where knights ride songs and fight with sharp compliments. So much to explore.
|The characters inexplicably lose memories or encounter recorded memories of an NPC that is long dead or that doesn’t believe those events ever happened.
|Since so many planar stories revolve around developed minds, it’s common to have sentient telepathic crystal items or telekinetic persons of all races.
While the tone of a planar adventure is massive, many encounters revolve around more manageable locations.
|Gate or Rift
|Holes in reality, whether made or naturally occurring, allow travel from one location to another.
|A village or a city, actively inhabited or a decimated ruin.
|A floating chunk of dirt and air with rules similar to the Material Plane makes for precious real estate when so much of reality is hazardous.
|Unlike temples on the Material Plane, this temple is home to a deity’s avatar, or at least some of the deity’s powerful angels or fiends.
|The bodies of dead gods or massive mythic creatures drift through the planes, made of unique materials like rare thoughts or the stuff of creation itself.
|The thoughts of sleeping gods and the nightmares of dread creatures made manifest, create unconventional landscapes.
|A demiplane created by a powerful wizard follows their will alone, or a pocket dimension used as a prison for dangerous creatures spawned by deity’s wish.
|Parked on the edge of a swirling chaos or above a sea of light, spellcasters frequently create places from which they can study more unpredictable locales.
A lot of strange people wander the planes. Some of them need adventurers to help them. Others just have something you want.
|The NPC is a member of a faction with a specific philosophy about reality. They want to know if the characters are a danger to the NPC’s multiversal viewpoint or if the characters might be persuaded to the NPC’s way of thinking.
|The NPC is exploring the planes or hunting for a specific person or thing.
|The NPC is lost, unsure how to get home.
|The NPC is building a contraption that uses a material from, or a feature of, the plane where it is found.
|The NPC lives here because they find it to their liking, or because their family is nearby.
|The NPC is spreading the word of their deity and wants to convert the PCs.
|The NPC is part of a warband or army.
|The NPC isn’t what one would normally think of as a “person,” such as a talking sparrow, an animate futon, a ball of light, or an infectious thought.
Try using these descriptive words to add planar flavor to your adventure.
Example: The Changing Path
Let’s create an adventure for a 5E planar adventure. I’ve rolled a 6 for the theme of the adventure. The characters are exploring a wondrous land. For the location, I rolled a 1 which means the main feature is a gate or rift. For the NPC, I roll a 2 and get an explorer. Deciding to generate a modifier for each, I add 5 (frenetic), 14 (allegorical), and 16 (lucrative).
Using these ideas, we generate a quick adventure: The characters encounter a land of shifting rifts that flicker into and out of existence, dangerously whirling about. Scenes of strange lands can be seen through each planar rift, but don’t make sense as the characters’ minds try to translate them into easily understood concepts. For example, one rift leading to a land of dangerous sounds takes the form of razor-sharp musical notes, while another rift that leads to a devil’s slave-run factory shows a shepherd with an iron-horned helm gazing sternly at his sheep as they chew blades of grass to exactly the same height. A rich explorer is trying to map the pattern of the rifts and will pay for help in learning the order in which the rifts appear and where each goes.