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How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

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TentCrash's picture
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How to make the Inner Planes interesting?
I rolled 4d8, the result is 4, 7, 4, 4 = 19.

I've always been fascinated by the classical elements, and for whatever reason, I thought the quasi- and para- planes were quite cool, along with the Negative and Positive.

I know there's a lot of varied cities and strongholds in various planes, especially the four main elements, but these seem like they'll just make for city or castle adventures with an interesting window/sky view.

I'm sure that a skilled GM could make a fun and interesting "wilderness" adventure in the Inner Planes, but I'm not really sure how.

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Henrix's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

There was an interesting idea in one of the recent articles about D&D 5th where they touched upon cosmology.

Essentially there were different parts of the elemental planes, sort of radiating out from the prime.

Close to the material plane it was not that different. If we start moving into the Elemental Plane of Fire we could start out in a very hot desert, going through a plain of ash and volcanoes where there is more and more lava and fire, until we reach the fiery heart of it.

Just a thought that may make the elemental wilderness easier to play in.

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sciborg2's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

Check out the Inner Planes book, should be available on WotC's D&D Classics site.

They had a variety of landscapes created by the different inner planes coming into contact with each other.

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Palomides's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

I guess the question to ask is "What makes an adventure (wilderness or otherwise) exciting?"

Off the top of my head, the two things that come to mind are:
1) Interesting opponent with special abilities and/or intriguing motivations
2) Challenge

While motivations for the residents of the Inner Planes may not be as obvious as the motivations of residents of the Outer Planes, I don't think it is tremendously difficult (e.g. conflicts between greeedy dao trying to expand into each other's mines, the temperment of fire elementals reach a pitch where they start to stampeded, etc.)

That leaves the question of what makes things challenging.
In some ways, anyone who voluntarily journeys on the Inner Planes is going to be prepared to deal with the obvious challenge (i.e. if the party is going to the Plane of Fire, they probably have some forms of fire-protection in place so hitting them with sudden flame strike won't probably have much effect - and it wouldn't be memorable amongst all the other fire on the plane). So I guess I would recommend other things like perhaps:
-A canyon made of walls of flame to get the PCs lost and disoriented (perhaps parts of the flame walls create a hypnotic effect that increase the difficulty)
-Chaotic battle on the plane of air set in the middle of a hurricane/tempest
-Race against time to get through a carvern in the plane of ooze before all the ways out seal up
I'm sure there are many more but I'm not that creative at the moment

If you also factor in the 5E version where the terrain transitions from "almost like Earth" (the planet not the plane) to "hardcore pure element" it will add to the diversity and the possibilities

KnightOfDecay's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

The 2nd ed. adventure book 'Tales from the Outer Planes' also contains one adventure for each of the four Elemental Planes. While air, water and fire are quite dull, the earth-adventure is a bit more creative, featuring a ride on a river of rock and a spinning boulder with interlocking tunnels.

ripvanwormer's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

"Elemental Hazards" in Dragon #347 and "Arcane Botanica" in Dragon #357 both had amazing ideas for interesting elemental foliage and terrain. For example, ash willows fed on heat, transforming areas of the Plane of Fire into calm forests full of ash. The Plane Below for 4th edition had some good ideas too, even if it didn't use the Planescape cosmology.

Necromancer Games' City of Brass boxed set was also excellent. Besides the detail on the City of Brass itself it detailed a more mortal-friendly region where the planes of Fire, Earth, and Air meet with a lot of story hooks going on.

Palomides's picture
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Re: How to make the Inner Planes interesting?

KnightOfDecay wrote:
...the earth-adventure is a bit more creative, featuring a ride on a river of rock and a spinning boulder with interlocking tunnels.

This is a good example of what I was hinting at.
If one just makes an elemental copy of everything ("There is a tree made of fire next to a lake of fire where a deer made of fire is resting") or worse, just make it all uniform ("There is water in every direction as far as you can see") then the elemental planes will be exceptionally dull.

But if you think of challenges for your PCs and then try to twist that into an elemental theme; I think there is a greater chance of coming up with something memorable/unique.

**Challenge of navigating rapids ==> additional complication of what kind of damage a "river" of flowing rock/gravel does to one's ship or to one who falls in
**Having to time a split-second leap to reach a destination ==> moving on to or off of a giant, spinning, tunnel-filled boulder

I also like the example VanWormer brought up (ash trees feeding off and transforming the Plane of Fire) in that it is an unexpected element (no pun intended) interacting with the dominant feature.
For example, if a core of elemental flame could exist/survive in a pocket within the Plane of Water; would it create steam or super-heated water? Would this create some sort of vortex of movement for the surrounding water? What sort of beings would be drawn to or modified by this anomaly?

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