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PathFinder Planes: Interview with Todd Stewart (Part 2)


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Clueless's picture

Welcome back! This is part two of our interview with Todd Stewart, the primary designer of Piazo's Pathfinder Setting Cosmology. If you haven't read part one yet - go read! Then get right on back here. Our second half of this interview focuses on the Inner Planes, and some overall questions about the cosmology and how to go about using it in a game. Settle back and listen up...

Clueless: What about the Astral between the Outer and Inner? Is anyone there?

Todd Stewart: Rivers and currents of mortal souls migrating to Pharasma's domain, astradaemons like sharks, and the occasional night hag (native to the Ethereal). Otherwise, it's a gigantic void, with few features (but demiplanes pop up near the fringes of the Outer Planes like crazy). Well, few features yet. I had precious little space.

Todd Stewart: The Astral is barren of discrete locations, but hardly unoccupied. It's filled with a constant level of tension and open fighting between various outsiders, all of whom have a vested interested in the souls transitioning to Pharasma's spire. Though there will be strange bedfellows and temporary alliances in the face of predation on those souls by either astradaemons or more rarely by night hags.

Clueless: What would the night hags do with the things?

Todd Stewart: The hags run a transplanar trade for souls. They're native to the Ethereal, with some presence on Shadow, but they travel through the Astral to sell their goods to anyone interested. Mostly fiends, usually but not always skipping the elemental planes, presumably via portals.

Clueless: Anything else of interest in the Astral then?

Todd Stewart: There are demiplanes near the border with the planes of the Outer Sphere - lots - of them. Golarion's planar structure allows for the Planescape style of Ethereal demiplanes, and also for the 3e'esque Astral demiplanes, except that unlike the 3.x treatment, there's an underlying common reason for the existence of each in those places. And there's one rather interesting location drifting through the Astral that will be expanded upon in the forthcoming Guide to the Multiverse.

Clueless: No hints allowed, huh? How about the Inner Planes - you mentioned those were arranged like Russian dolls one inside the other? The first being fire?

Todd Stewart: Air is closest to the material plane. Then water. Then earth. And finally fire which is then surrounded by the Astral, looking almost like a singularly massive star within that plane.

Clueless: Anything nifty going on in there? I assume they're not barren and boring.

Todd Stewart: The genie-kin aren't always the best of neighbors, though with Golarion's arrangement of elemental planes, the pairing of those conflicts is different from the WotC efreet versus djinn. Golarion's major pairing is the efreet versus the shaitans (dao being WotC IP). And also, the genie-kin aren't always the major powers on their planes. It's much more mixed. Some elemental dragons having their own empires, like the crystalline drakes of elemental earth who tend to be on suspicious terms with the shaitan any given day of the week. And elemental water has a truly massive number of sahuagin, all descended from mortal ancestors who travelled there and stuck around.

Clueless: Are the types of djinn and shaitan mixed across all the elemental planes or are they assigned to each plane?

Todd Stewart: Each is assigned one to an element, with the janni being the exception. They wander between them like gypsy-esque nations, usually acting in major mercantile, mercenary, and go-between roles between the various major powers within the elemental planes. So it's efreet for fire, shaitans for earth, marids for water, djinn for air, and the janni wandering between them all.

Clueless: What is the major conflict in the Inner Planes over?

Todd Stewart: For the conflict between the genie-kin it's race/element and presumably some history that will eventually be expanded upon. Not all of them are openly at war like the shaitan and efreet. Within the elemental planes it's about power, influence, perceived slights etc, the same fuel for political fighting anywhere else in the multiverse. The Crystalline drakes view all of elemental earth and its treasures as part of their own hoards, and anyone else, especially the shaitans, are just greedy little thieves. In elemental water it's a territorial issue (and a predation issue) between the marids and the brine drakes. While the sahuagin are mortals, so normal politics applies for their ambitions.

Clueless: Who are the top leaders of the races??

Todd Stewart: For the efreet it's Sultan Hakim Khalid Suleiman XXIII, Lord of Flame and Khan of Magma. The shaitan have Sultana A'shadieeyah bint Khalid of the Opaline Vault. The marids and others are yet to be detailed. And I'm only listing out the genie-kin rulers here. There are other leaders in the Inner Planes for non-genie-kin natives.

Clueless: Are there elemental princes?

Todd Stewart: Yes, there are critters like the elemental princes, but as of yet that's still in development. They aren't mentioned in the Campaign Setting book, but James Jacobs has been discussing this with me since the genies are involved in the Legacy of Fire adventure path for Pathfinder, coming out next year. There will be an elemental prince(ess) of fire, but what she is, and her alignment etc, remains to be seen. She may or may not be divine, or just a unique being, etc.

Clueless: So, still in the works.

Todd Stewart: Very much so.

Clueless: What’s the coolest location on the elemental planes?

Todd Stewart: In my opinion? *ponders* Either the mysterious drifting bronze spheres in Elemental Air that nobody seems to recall the origins of and which the djinn avoid going near if they can help it. Or the fire mephit matriarchal-theocracy that exists in Elemental Fire.

Clueless: Fire... mephit... matriarchal-theocracy? Ok this I gotta hear more about. Do tell?

Todd Stewart: It's a nation of fire mephits who have much more presence in their plane than anytime under WotC. They tend to support and deal with the Shaitans of Elemental Earth against the efreet. Their capital is known as the Ninefold Towers of the Matriarch of Holy Sublimation, and as I said, it's a matriarchal theocracy / cult of personality based around their titular ruler. I'm going to have fun with her. Besides, it's mephits and they're awesome. Mephits with a massive azer slave population even. Much more open to outsiders, but they're diplomatically picky when it comes to protocol, cultural taboos etc.

Clueless: What are the top adventuring stomping ground or metropolises in the elemental planes?

Todd Stewart: There's the City of Brass in Elemental Fire. Vialesk in Elemental Water. The Opaline Vault in Elemental Earth. There's also the fire mephit capital, and numerous spots in Elemental Air - many built atop those enigmatic bronze spheres.

Clueless: Ok - so a pretty developed area with lots of mortals moving about in it - so a group of adventurers aren't terribly weird then?

Todd Stewart: In Vialesk no, not odd at all. Most of the population are mortal descended water-genasi, which will be renamed for IP reasons. Otherwise it's on a case by case basis. In many places they will still be objects of curiosity to natives who might have only heard about mortals, or seen one or two, etc.

Clueless: How much will fans of the quasi / para elemental planes be feeling their loss?

Todd Stewart: Those planes don't exist as discrete planes given the elemental setup for Golarion. However the borders between the elemental planes aren't discrete affairs, and they mix. A lot in some places. At times you might have a region of elemental earth break away and migrate into water or air, or water migrate to earth and them flame, and sometimes continent sized bubbles like a giant cosmic size lava lamp.

Clueless: I take it the information in the Campaign Setting focused to a much greater depth on the Outer Planes than the Inner - hence the scanter knowledge on this end of the 'verse?

Todd Stewart: My word limit was smaller for the Inner Sphere Smiling That's a determining factor in a lot of things here.

Clueless: Gotcha - that makes sense. Is there anything else nifty in the elemental planes that folks would be curious about?

Todd Stewart: I could say more, a lot more, but they're still in development for the full cosmology book.

Clueless: How about the Ethereal then? (see? Kidneys really don't get you much Eye-wink )

Todd Stewart: The Ethereal exists between the Material Plane and the Shadow Plane. For fans of the Planescape era Ethereal, I'm also a fan of its function w/ respect to dreamscapes (that's what the night hags are heavily there for) and also for its demiplanes. It's also still heavily in development.

Clueless: Is there a Wall of Color?

Todd Stewart: Yes, there's a region of budding dreamscapes around Golarion in the Ethereal, and presumably other planets as well. However the idea of transit through the planes to reach other worlds in the prime isn't a solid thing for mortals, though the Ethereal and the Shadow do have that function inherent.

Clueless: So no spelljammers yet Eye-wink Do we have a Far Realm and ether gaps?

Todd Stewart: Far Realm'esque stuff exists in its classical Lovecraftian sense more so than the Far Realm in the Bruce Cordell'o'verse which relies on lots of WotC IP. Paizo has even used a shoggoth in one module, and Leng exists as some manner of demiplane or non-classical pocket reality (to be developed...). I say Cordelloverse with no disrespect. I rather like his stuff

Clueless: It's just not allowed on the playing field so to speak.

Todd Stewart: Indeed. And we've got much more freedom this way. So, ether gaps exist, though not named as such. But they're hinted at.

Clueless: Any political groups or nations in the Ethereal? Major cities?

Todd Stewart: Not developed yet.

Clueless: What about the Positive and Negatives?

Todd Stewart: The Positive and Negative exist at the metaphysical core of the Material and Shadow planes respectively. They are very similar to the Planescape incarnations. I'll be trying to present Positive as less empty and sterile (but still hellish to anyone not protected), likewise with Negative. There's one place in the Negative that's pretty cool. A continent sized mirrored black sphere deep in the Negative Energy plane. Inscribed with a mocking warning at points on the surface, that seems to attract and devour mortal souls - a large hazard to certain types of undead. The only real source of detail on it comes from a mad planewalking lich who also resides in the Negative Energy plane. He'll be expanded on in the full cosmology book.

Clueless: What sort of plot would the Ethereal or Inner Planes be open to in a game?

Todd Stewart: There's strong elemental influence in Golarion's nation of Osirion, and strong genie influence in the nation of Qadira. Crossplanar politics can be fun, as well as old elemental linked threats that might pop back up in the future. For Shadow, one of Golarion's major evil gods, Zon-Kuthon, was imprisoned in Shadow for many years, and his presence there is still felt even free of his former prison domain.

Clueless: How would you - as an old Planescaper - use or adapt the setting to get that Planescape feel in your home game?

Todd Stewart: A lot of locations can be ported over to a Planescape campaign, and the same with gods, monsters, planar lords, etc. Or you can use Golarion's planar setup as an alternate reality accessed via an ether gap, etc. You could adapt Golarion's material to Planescape or Planescape's material to Golarion. I try to make it possible either way.

Clueless: That’s good to hear.

Clueless: So - if you weren't allowed to use daemons (as your obvious first choice) what would be the second race/species to feature in your ideal home game? What holds the nifty for you?

Todd Stewart: Proteans. Slaadi on crack. Without any sense of silliness involved. People will see them next year in a few places. I just finished writing them up, all three major subtypes, and the stats are drafted as well, in collaboration with Jason Nelson.

Clueless: Is there anything nifty that we missed that we just shouldn't miss out on?

Todd Stewart: Golarion has one of the coolest gods there is. Cayden Cailean, the god of freedom, ale, wine, and bravery. He became a god seemingly by accident, while on a drunken dare. There's an object/ artifact/ mystery/ meteor fragment known as the Starstone heavily involved in Golarion's history that has by ways currently hazy, elevated several mortals to godhood. Sean K Reynolds will have more on him and the other gods in the 'Gods and Magic' book later this year.

Clueless: What were your non-Planescape inspirations? Music and literature?

Todd Stewart: Not sure if they're inspiration, but I was listening to a metric ton of VAST, Boy Hits Car, Rammstein, and NIN while I was writing, and recently the new Toadies album. I reread Looking For Jake by China Mieville recently, and I read the most recent F Paul Wilson book, and Ancient Images by Ramsey Campbell. Have gone cold turkey on FR novels for the most part.

Clueless: And last question - how many Diet Code Reds do you think were sacrificed to your work on Pathfinder's planes - to date?

Todd Stewart: ... *ponder* I have 16 empty bottles sitting in a tower next to me right now from the past two weeks or so. I estimate 300 liters while working on the PCCS (Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting) and the current book.

Clueless: Singlehandedly keeping it in stock I see. I want to thank you again for the chance to sit down and look at the cosmology in depth. It's been a pleasure chattering with you. Best of luck with the projects you've got coming out! I look forward to seeing them.

And that concludes part two of our two part interview. Again, I want to think Piazo, and Todd for this opportunity to peek under the hood of their planar cosmology. If you're curious about Paizo, Pathfinder, or any of the other Piazo products coming out - check out these websites:

Paizo Website

Pathfinder Products

Pathfinder Chronicles: Campaign Setting

Todd, aka Shemeska the Marauder, is a bashful soul so if you see our favorite cross-dressing arcanoloth around, say hi for me!

Jadis's picture
Joined: 2008-08-20
Great I

Great I can't wait to see the Pathfinder cosmology book! I would love to see more things like this on Planewalker.

sciborg2's picture
Joined: 2005-07-26
Agreed. A James Jacobs or

Agreed. A James Jacobs or Erik Mona interview would be incredible, discussing the past/present/future of D&D cosmology development....I drool at the thought...


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Clueless's picture
Joined: 2008-06-30
I'm currently seeing if I

I'm currently seeing if I can talk to anyone over at WotC on their end of things - but that's not a b ad idea for an interview either. Any other suggestions for folks to talk to and what to talk to them about?

Kieldargan's picture
Joined: 2013-09-26
Re: PathFinder Planes: Interview with Todd Stewart (Part 2)

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Celiciatenta's picture
Joined: 2014-03-05
Re: PathFinder Planes: Interview with Todd Stewart (Part 2)

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