View Full Version : The Road [Planar Setting]

2007-03-11, 03:07 PM
Alright, so, here's my shot at a bit of planar customization. I'm pretty new to D&D--I think I've played all of one quarter of a campaign--but I have some friends who were interested in starting, and they wanted me to try DM'ing, so I got to thinking about setting. This particular one is based partly off Bilbo's Walking Song from LOTR, a good bit of rhyme for an adventure setup like most D&D games. The resources I have available are a copy of the Manual of the Planes and the SRD, nothing more. I might be able to hunt down a friend with more, but that's all I have readily available.

The Road
A Planar Variant
This would be a viable substitute for the Astral Plane in the standard D&D cosmology system, if people wanted a more terrestrially oriented plane system, or could be used as the home plane for whichever God of Travel you happen to be using. Not gonna try to spell the default one from memory.
Gravity: Normal
Time: Timeless in respect to time flow on other planes and aging, not to hunger, thirst, or magic.
Infinite Size
Alterably Morphic
Mildly Neutral-Aligned
Normal Magic
As an additional option, movement enhancing magics, such as Freedom of Movement or Longstrider, may be enhanced. How that would be enhanced in game terms, I am unaware. Probably either greater duration or effect.

The Road is fairly self explanatory at its most basic level—it is an infinitely long road. Roughly 50 feet wide, although varying in width and composition as one proceeds down it, The Road is suspended in midair, varying in thickness from a few feet of dirt up to a quarter mile of stone and mud. It is the main street of planar travel—every other plane in existence has a connection to the Road, including dreamscapes, the only problem is finding where on the Road it is.

Each other plane is connected to the road via smaller offshoots—usually roughly as wide as the road itself, but coming to a finite end a distance away, ending in some variety of portal. Often, this is a large, ornate door, although some of the stranger planes and most of the dreamscapes simply connect with floating holes in reality. Some such portals shift in size to a maximum to accommodate for larger creatures attempting passage, although those that are fixed to doorways or other objects in the plane the Road connects to cannot stretch in such a way. Portals to the road are fixed in position, but may fluctuate in size as mentioned before. They remain dependably open, but passage is more often blocked by those who wish to control travel on the Road. Planes may have multiple connections to the Road, and, very rarely, those portals may happen to be near to each other on the Road itself, providing a quick means of travel between two points on the other plane. Oftentimes, the attributes of the planes the doors or portals connect to are visible in the scenery on the road around them or the door or portal itself. For example, the Elemental Plane of Water's path on the Road may be particularly wet, the door may be made of ice, or it may be simply a floating wall of water, suspended in midair. Doors and portals to the Road prevent passage of the planar essence of the various planes to the Road—in other words, a door to the plane of water would not be constantly pouring water onto the Road, as that water is the Plane of Water's essence. Objects being intentionally carried through the Doors, or borne on the person of creatures passing through, remain unimpeded, even if created from the raw essence of that plane. Portals between the Road and planes with constant gravity consistently have their portals oriented with the same absolute 'down', to the convenience of travelers, but planes with varying or subjective gravity tend to connect in more chaotic ways with the road. If an individual defined his gravity as relative down to the portal, he would come flying through—likely feet first—into whatever travelers were in the area, thus, one rarely finds people idling in these areas.

As new planes form, the Road grows, extending out in places to create new lanes. Correspondingly, when planes of reality or dreamscapes collapse, their paths on the Road collapse, falling downward until disappearing from view below the Road. It is a curiosity of the plane that such events can be witnessed despite the plane’s seemingly timeless nature, although to be more accurate, time simply passes infinitely slowly relative to other planes on the Road. If it were not, the Road would constantly be sprouting paths at a rate too great for travelers to establish routes as wizards create pocket dimensions to play in, towns and cities fall asleep (creating a mess of dreamscape portals), and gods become bored with the realities they already have to play with. Travel on the Road would essentially be impossible, and it would become infinitely larger in a very short amount of time. Due to its exceedingly slow time flow, the road seems to be in constant flux to those who leave and return—routes may become blocked between visits, gates may have fallen shut, sections of the road may have become overgrown with flora from other planes, and what have you. Groups split on the planes have thanked countless gods that one does not age on the Road, as it is thanks to this attribute that reunion is possible for the separated parties.

Creatures who fall off of the road, unless they are lucky enough to be winged creatures or are otherwise able to fly, it is believed will fall forever. Some of the planar adepts who study the Road believe that, while the individuals will likely die of thirst or starvation before it happens, the planar essence of the road that composes newly formed paths to other planes will occasionally bear objects that were believed to have tumbled out of reality—including any such unfortunate individuals. This hypothesis is due to the discovery of several commonplace garbage items—snapped arrows, broken tools, etcetera—sitting on newly formed stretches of road. The idea is that individuals disposed of their waste in the most readily available manner—by tossing it from the Road—and they turned up sitting on top of the newly formed pathways years later.

The Road tends to stay fairly clear, thanks to its near-infinitely-slow time, as people quickly find their way to their destinations—if they know where they are going. If not, they will have to contend with any wandering beasts from other planes and the plane's natives. Countless bandit groups of varying species make a living here, preying on trade caravans between the planes. Tolls have been set up some of the better-traveled routes, such as between the Plane of Water and the countless desert planes. Some of the more Lawful-inclined planes have attempted to establish a patrol and escort system, but the profiteers and highwaymen that flock to the plane more often than not, outnumber the patrollers. The more exclusive or secretive planes often have border forts established on their lanes to prevent unwanted travelers from paying visits, and some have even built such forts across the Road itself, attempting to control travel between groups of planes. These rarely succeed, due in part to the shifting nature of the plane—lanes to newly-formed demiplanes or dreamscapes often sprout up behind the walls, forcing those who maintain the forts to quickly adapt to a new set of unwanted visitors.

Another large threat to travelers on the Road is starvation. As it is impossible to predict the distance one will have to travel between two given portals, it is a frequent problem that travelers find themselves running low on supplies. It is difficult but not impossible to find food on the road—the DC for hunting and foraging movement while on the road increases by 10, and the rate at which additional characters may be supported in such a manner doubles (one per every 4 the check result was beaten by) if not near a plane the character has hunted or foraged on. The DC is upped by 5 instead if within half a mile of a gate to such a plane, and the additional character support rate increases to 3. So, if a ranger is near to a portal to the Material Plane and is attempting to forage for himself and two friends, he would need to pass a Survival check of 21 (15 for himself + 6 for two people in support).

Although hunting for survival is harder on the Road, it is much more difficult to lose one’s way. As the central Road itself is essentially always distinct from the various offshoots, one always has a 50/50 chance of going the right way if lost. It is difficult to get lost on the Road in the first place, as any conscious, aware individual can keep walking fairly straight without much trouble. The trouble arises after fights, in which one may be easily disoriented, or especially if one is knocked out. In these cases, it will be necessary to test and see if one has become lost.

The true infinite or finite nature of the Road remains unknown to most scholars. With its connection to every plane in existence, some have hypothesized that, if any plane was ‘first’ in creation, it would have been the first plane on the Road. The Road would have been a simple pocket—a platform of existence. As more planes formed, the Road snaked forth from this initial platform, and so, some believe that there is an end to the road, or, at least, one end. A special order of Gatecrashers have dedicated their lives to searching for this First Door. What would be found if such a gate existed is unknown. Some suspect the God of Travel himself sits at the door, welcoming travelers to the end of the road. Others think that behind the door lies the plane of the eldest gods, beings so beyond mortal comprehension that simply gazing through the Door would cause the death of the observers. Immortality, riches beyond imagination, infinite knowledge, an accurate and self-updating map of the road—all have been guessed at being behind this Door. But whether the Door exists in the first place is unknown.

Encounters on the Road are inherently unpredictable. For every hour of travel on the Road, a traveling group will run into something on a D% roll greater than 90. It’s a hostile group on a d20 roll of 11+. A final d20 roll tells you which plane it is originally from, a 1 being Plane of Fire, 2 Plane of Earth, 3 Plane of Water, 4 Plane of Air, 5 Negative Energy Plane, 6 Positive Energy Plane, 7-13 Material Plane, 14-15 Astral Plane, 16-17 Plane of Shadow, 18-19 a Dreamscape, and 20 a demiplane. Roll on the appropriate plane’s encounter table to find what you’ve stumbled into. For objects or things that do not make sense, reroll or call it a nonhostile encounter. Nonhostile encounters roll another d20. A 1-7 is a trading caravan, 8-13 a fort, 13-14 a travel house (such as an inn), 15-20 a planar traveler of some variety.

So, what do people think? This idea’s been bouncing around in my head as a campaign setting for awhile now. Anything I missed? I'll change the random encounters into table format when I figure out how it works.

Fuum Bango
2007-03-12, 03:16 PM
No ones commented on this but I think its great! A search for the original door could be amazing, and also pretty anti-climactic if they find out nothing is behind the door. :)

2007-03-12, 04:02 PM
A couple questions:

Just how much does time flow differ betwen the road and say, the prime material? Is there any sort of pattern as pertains to WHEN a given portal leads to, or does each person who enters the road exit at the same moment in absolute time as when they entered (this makes it easier to explain the emptiness of the road since only those who enter at the exact same moment will see each-other). Also if the road snaked out from this fabled first door, it would likely simply be a matter of following the road backward (if that direction could be deciphered). Another possibility is that the road is not the only one, and that when a portal falls from this road it may attach itself to one below...

2007-03-12, 08:53 PM
I love it. It reminds of something from "the Quintessential Halfing" from Mongoose publishing. Their is a god called "The Road" and a class called "Knight of the Road" who's highest level abilty lets them summon a road. This class is great all around.

2007-03-12, 09:08 PM
The way I envisioned it, anyone who enters it leaves at the exact same point in absolute time (or, since time cannot 'stop', an infinitely small time later). Having doors lead back or forward in time is an interesting idea, but then, if you simply doubled back, would you return to the same section of Road you left from, or would you enter the Road according to this earlier time? I think there's less room for paradox with the absolute time setup, but it would be simple to integrate it into a given campaign if you wanted to set it up that way. It would mean, though, that the Road would always be--and would always have been--infinite, and the First Door would likely be un-discoverable, since doors would simply form with planes that don't exist yet.

The idea of multiple levels of 'road' occurred to me, as well--maybe in certain sections, it snakes back over or below itself. That gives the potential for fights in which people get knocked off of the Road, only to luckily (or unluckily, depending on where specifically they fall) land on a lower section. That could give DMs the option of giving players another shot, if they felt so inclined. It could also mean, though, that people ambush other travelers from these spots. If you meant different planar levels in the sense of the Nine Circles of Hell, then I would be inclined against. It would probably make the Road too easy for players to take advantage of--especially if the portals were organized by layers. Then again, if your god is all about the convenience of travel, then it's not likely to stay too hard anyway.

Since the Road can also get pretty thick in places, it would not be hard to imagine some subterranean races working out a small tunnel system to use as a base, although all it would take is one of the nearby planar portals to close, and you would get compacted between the rocks as the Road squishes back together.

One thing I realized I forgot--according to how inhabitants on the plane perceive time, the Road has a 24-'hour' 'day'--there isn't a sun, per se, as otherwise the plane would never have anything other than day--but instead, the essence of the plane shifts in brightness in a 24-hour, relative-time pattern, with roughly equal parts 'night' and 'day'.

EDIT: Simu'ed, and EE, sorry to say, but it isn't a class. Although I was also thinking of a class when designing it, namely, the Gatecrasher.

2007-03-12, 09:47 PM
Wow, cool idea. I could also see this be taken into a smaller context.

How about a world with a similar planar road, created in ancient times by mages, to cross the realm itself? Kingdoms would war over these roads, as they would be a great military and economic asset, and perhaps some roads would be broken, needing rebuilt, and others may lead to areas that nobody has yet returned from.

Brings up an idea of a world that consists of floating islands in space, all connected by roads too.

2007-03-12, 10:49 PM
That would be a good use of it. There are a lot of points to consider how travel in this way would affect the growth of civilizations, the development of religions, and the progress of technology. How would roads of planar essence be rebuilt? Would a quick fix (a sturdy set of boards, for example) work for most, or would you be forced to use the long, slow work of restructuring an alterably morphic plane? Although, a plane in the way you're describing would probably be magically morphic, and so, of course it would be the magic solution.

Another random thought--the idea of sentient planes has always intrigued me. What if the Road itself was sentient? And if it was, who better than the God of Travel himself as its personality? His worshippers would get in contact with him more than any others, but not know it. He would be on good terms with his followers, because through them, he would find out about other planes. He loves people who open up planar portals, because that means there are more places for him to see from the Road. And he doesn't like those who build on the Road to block it off or control travel...

Thanks for the compliments, guys. Still think it needs some more points nailed down, but it's come a long way from 'hey, what can I do with Bilbo's Walking Song'?

2007-03-31, 11:51 PM
Realized one of the points that needed nailing--a party entering the Road would be massively separated as they went from an area of normal time flow to slow time flow (the relative waiting time for the ones in front would be reaaally long). The way to solve this: portals to the road have bubbles of 'slow time' around them, shifting gradually from normal speed for the plane to the Road's time. This effectively makes people near a portal to the Road appear to be moving faster. In game terms: time flow is halved at 400 feet, and again every 40 feet closer to the portal to the Road. Creatures moving at double speed essentially get an extra round between the rounds of the other creatures.

Would this make fighting near portals to the road too much of a massive headache to work out in game terms? Would it be making them too much of an impregnable defensive point? What other means of solving this problem could be employed?

2007-04-01, 12:28 AM
This is highly reminiscent of the Infinite Stairs. Except it's a road. Not stairs.

2007-04-01, 01:40 AM
I much prefer a road to stairs. Reminds me of the waygates from wheel of time, though those didn't lead to other planes. I could have sworn I posted here last time around, oh well. Vote of support.

mabriss lethe
2007-04-01, 04:41 PM
Read Roadmarks by Roger Zelazny. He handles a similar concept superbly

2007-04-01, 04:58 PM
Hmm... I'll look it up when I've got the chance.

Anyway, thanks for the words of support again, but I'm more interested in what you guys think of how I'm trying to solve the time distortion problem.

Working on the Road has given me some excellent ideas for other organizations, character types, and things like that that would only work because of the existence of the Road. I'll stick the PrCs up here a bit later. For now, I'll give you the working name of one of the campaigns I'm puzzling over: the War of the Mind. I'm gonna be rewriting the rules for Dreamscapes (didn't much care for how the Dream was styled in the Planes manual, and yes, I know OF Occult Lore, but I'll be damned if I can get my hands on a copy) and throwing mindscapes into the mix, as well as adding two divine domains (Dreams and Mind, blurring the boundaries with psionics) and a closely-related branch of magic. And the Road is going to be central to all of this. Of course, I'd be a fool to think that I could come up with all possible variations of spells in the branch of magic and the domains I'm cookin' up, so those'll be opened up to you guys when I get around to putting more work into them.

Anyway--back on topic.
1. Is that method for time distortion feasible?
2. Any other problems involving the Road that I've missed?
3. What about this (http://www.reallifecomics.com/archive/050818.html) for the plane under the road in a less serious campaign, rather than having the stuff just randomly reappear on newly formed streets?