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Tripping on the World Tree: Reading the Warlock Guide to the Planes

Tripping on the World Tree: Reading the Warlock Guide to the Planes

The long-anticipated Warlock: Guide to the Planes is here. Written by Brian Suskind, with additional design by Wolfgang Baur, the booklet unlocked when Kobold Press’s Warlock Patreon hit eight hundred patrons. Warlock Guide to the Planes is a much-needed 5th edition reworking of material first introduced way back in 2012 for the somewhat outdated Pathfinder supplement Dark Roads and Golden Hells. Essentially, it is an overview of all the various dimensions that are strung upon the World Tree, as well as the Void beyond. As such, the guide now stands as the definite look at the cosmology surrounding Midgard.

And what a cosmology! Inspired loosely by Norse mythology, Midgard—the mundane, terrestrial world—is hung upon Yggdrasil, the World Tree, but a variety of other realms dangle from the great ash’s branches like Christmas ornaments. If I can continue the metaphor, strung upon this then like tinsel is the Ever River, an “ouroboros” waterway that flows throughout Yggdrasil’s branches and touches every realm. The Ever River alters its form as it moves through different realms, becoming sluggish or rapid, silt choked or pure, as befits its surroundings. In places, this transformation is enough to refashion the river into tributaries you might recognize from mythology, such as the Rivers Lethe and Styx, each with their own unique properties. After this overview of the cosmology comes a short piece on Midgardian afterlife and a section on traveling among the planes.

Next, the guide specifically details seven separate planes, specifically the Infinite Halls (Seven Heavens of Celestial Light), Silendora (Summer Lands of the Elves), Valhalla (including the Storm Court and Geirrhöth), Klingedesh (the Marketplace), Ravatet (Plane of Gears), the Evermaw (Plane of the Undead), and finally Ginnungagap (the Yawning Void). Each section describes locations of interest and personages of note associated with the specific plane. Did you know there was a super-intelligent, swashbuckling mimic, sporting a feathered hat and operating out of Klingedesh? Well, you do now. And he is fantastic! Finally, each separate section contains a brief suggested outline for an entire campaign from 1st to 12th level, revolving around the plane in question.

The booklet ends with a full fourteen planar-related magic items, which no self-respecting planes walker should be without. There’s also a map spread across two pages, depicting all the planes hung upon the World Tree and the path of the Ever River. (Which, dear Kobolds, I hope you’ll put out separately, so we can get it without the margin in the middle!)

Designer Brian Suskind says, “My goal in Guide to the Planes was to bring together as many of the hooks to the planes from the current Midgard books as possible. At the same time, as a fan of Planescape, I also added new material to offer a coherent picture of the planes.

“I basically combed through every Midgard book looking for references to the planes, planar travel, portals, gates, or interplanar travel. Then I wove those threads into the guide. I’m sure I missed some, but I did my best to grab all that I could. The guide really combines my love of Midgard with elements inspired by settings like Planescape.”

Of course, I asked Brian the impossible and unfair question: what was his favorite section in the new guide? His answer, “Oh man! That’s hard. I love the Marketplace, probably because I invented it back in Dark Roads and Golden Hells. I’d have to say my favorite bit is Vissool Gaggaarth, the gentleman swashbuckler mimic. Of all the NPCs I’ve created, he’s one I always go back to. I made him when I initially created the Marketplace for Dark Roads. Being able to update him for Midgard fills me with joy.”

Vissool might be my favorite too, though maybe he’s tied with Orerimong the Eater, a planetoid-sized mimic floating in the void. And speaking of the void, according to the guide, it is a lot more populous than I realized. In fact, there are three void-fairing empires trading, conquering, and quarreling across its dark reaches—the Folk of Leng, the spiders of Leng, and the Ahu-nixta (think, “You will be exterminated”). So if there are void-spanning empires looking for worlds to subjugate, there must be other worlds right? The guide talks about continent-sized chunks of rock with their own gravity and atmosphere. Beyond that? “If the other worlds/land out there are full-fledged other worlds or if you pass from the multiverse of Midgard to other realms/settings/dimensions is left vague on purpose,” says Brian.

But really, who needs other worlds when you have all this goodness to explore? The Warlock Guide to the Planes is everything we hoped it would be and more.

And speaking of more… not covered in this volume are the Shadow Realms and the Eleven Hells, as these were previously detailed in the Warlock Guide to the Shadow Realms (an earlier Patreon goal) and Warlock 16: Eleven Hells. Another resource worth pointing out is the article “Amid the Leaves of Yggdasil” by Richard Green, collected in the first Warlock Grimoire. This article talks more about the travel upon the World Tree itself, with locations like the Eyrie, Wotan’s Gallows, and the Squirrel Court. Brian Suskind also penned a recent series of articles on the Ratatosk, the squirrel folk who live upon the branches of Yggdrasil, which is as hysterical as it is essential. All of these resources, together with the Warlock Guide to the Planes, combine to make the Midgardian cosmology a truly unique place. It may have elements in common with previous mythology and fantasy, but it is a realm—or realms—all its own and well worth many a visit. Just watch out for Orerimong the Eater!

Lou Anders is the author of the novesl Frostborn, Nightborn, Skyborn, Once Upon a Unicorn, and Star Wars: Pirate’s Price. He has also done RPG design for Kobold Press, River Horse, and 3D Printed Tabletop, as well as the forthcoming Thrones & Bones: Norrøngard, a 5e campaign setting based in the world of his first novel. In 2016, he was named a Thurber House Writer-in-Residence and spent a month in Columbus, Ohio teaching, writing, and living in a haunted house. When not writing, he enjoys playing role playing games, 3D printing, and watching movies. He lives with his wife, children, and two golden doodles in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit Anders online at louanders.com, on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter at @Louanders.

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