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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    So my players are heading to my new homebrew setting, tentatively called the Haunted Seas. The main hook is that there is a barrier to teleportation and even detection covering the planet, and this barrier also interferes with souls moving on to the afterlife. It turns out that that's bad. So the party is starting at 13th level, and is being teleported in to fix it, with the understanding that the other side of the barrier is unknown, and punching through it is a one-time thing, so there's no help coming. But, I don't know what to put in the setting to reflect the trapped souls, either storywise or mechanically. Just a vague idea of "ghosts everywhere" and there's a lot of ocean, hence the name. Any suggestions?
    My Homebrew (Free to use, don't even bother asking. PM me if you do, though; I'd love to hear stories).

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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Well who put the barrier there, why did they put it there, and where are the barrier makers now? Working forward from the big barrier should step you through logical consequences that explain the current state of things.
    Martialsí concepts donít evolve past the mundane
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Well who put the barrier there, why did they put it there, and where are the barrier makers now? Working forward from the big barrier should step you through logical consequences that explain the current state of things.
    Haha I have answers to that, but I'm playing it close to the vest for now, keeping them in the dark; they may be lurking on these very forums
    My Homebrew (Free to use, don't even bother asking. PM me if you do, though; I'd love to hear stories).

    Avatar done by me (It's Durkon redrawn as Salvador from Borderlands 2).



    Nod, get treat.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Quote Originally Posted by sengmeng View Post
    So my players are heading to my new homebrew setting, tentatively called the Haunted Seas. The main hook is that there is a barrier to teleportation and even detection covering the planet, and this barrier also interferes with souls moving on to the afterlife. It turns out that that's bad. So the party is starting at 13th level, and is being teleported in to fix it, with the understanding that the other side of the barrier is unknown, and punching through it is a one-time thing, so there's no help coming. But, I don't know what to put in the setting to reflect the trapped souls, either storywise or mechanically. Just a vague idea of "ghosts everywhere" and there's a lot of ocean, hence the name. Any suggestions?
    There's no need to have a firm afterlife for this to work.

    Souls don't need to be eternal.

    You can leave as unknown what normally happens after death.

    SOMETIMES the soul of a devoted worshiper joins with the angelic choir of his or her patron god.
    SOMETIMES a vengeful ghost persists.
    SOMETIMES the dead return.
    SOMETIMES an ancestor spirit watches over a family.

    Nobody knows what happens to the rest of the dead, and that's why Lichdom and Vampirism are compelling options for those afflicted by the evil of cowardice.


    The ghost planet is weird specifically because you do know what happens to all of the dead -- they hang around, all spooky-like.

    Make several conflicting theories about what normally happens, each one which just happens to support the world-view of some powerful organization.

    ===============

    Anyway, ghostly pirate ships are an absolute must.

    How far down does the spooky stuff reach? Are there ghost dinosaurs? Ghost giant sharks?

    Ghosts should (partially) possess regular living people, making them stronger but also eviler. Perhaps some sort of "fulfill my personality trait in trade for power", like a more-limited Binder with fewer overt supernatural abilities.

    Magic items might be possessed, too. In fact that might be what makes items magical in the first place.
    Last edited by Nifft; 2021-02-24 at 03:44 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Quote Originally Posted by sengmeng View Post
    So my players are heading to my new homebrew setting, tentatively called the Haunted Seas. The main hook is that there is a barrier to teleportation and even detection covering the planet, and this barrier also interferes with souls moving on to the afterlife. It turns out that that's bad. So the party is starting at 13th level, and is being teleported in to fix it, with the understanding that the other side of the barrier is unknown, and punching through it is a one-time thing, so there's no help coming. But, I don't know what to put in the setting to reflect the trapped souls, either storywise or mechanically. Just a vague idea of "ghosts everywhere" and there's a lot of ocean, hence the name. Any suggestions?
    Well a lot is going to depend on the tone & atmosphere you want to create and how you expect the players to interact with the environment. Do you want them isolated in an alien environment completely, or do the ghosts have something resembling a society, or on a slider in between? Is the environment meant to be eery or deeply horrifying, or just slightly out-of-normal and thus easier to interact with? Is survival itself hard because it's a harsh environment, or is it a no-place where the rules of existence are suspended?

    Secondly, you're going to have to start at the goal--the MacGuffin they're after--and work backwards to assemble the environment. For example...the actual size of the ocean is unimportant, but the size relative to what you want to do--how many steps to reach the endpoint, how many sideplots, how far the PCSs have to travel to reach things--has to be thought about.

    "Seas" suggests travel over water, so do you want the players in a boat, and where within the ocean would they be traveling to? But at the same time this is fantasy, so there's the option that interaction with the ocean is 3D: there are things underwater they have to be accessed, and the occupants of the ocean are within it. Are the characters going to be provided with a boat or crew?

    With that in mind, I propose:

    The barrier is the "water" of the ocean, but does not perfectly mimic the properties of water...but a largely undifferentiated, malleable mass of homogeneous material upon which things can float evokes the idea, so that's become the parlance. Things floating atop the barrier intuitively read the barrier as down, thus the liminal space into which teleported objects manifest before hitting the barrier becomes up and thus the sky. Whether or not there is a bottom--something not-barrier that can be reached by descent--is up for debate...for ghosts on the surface, what is below is hard to understand and incredibly risky to investigate. In the sky there are circles of light--some high up, some only a few stories above the water surface--that are the remnants of teleportation attempts: there are no celestial bodies, there are window panes to the material world that leak light and, sometimes, are close enough that details of the world can be made out. At the surface level, there is motion...waves and currents and wind...but why they are happening is a mystery. Some speculated that the other side of the barrier--that faces the afterlife--endures more drastic warp and weft that result in the sea's "weather."

    In spite of this analogy, the barrier is not really water: it cannot be consumed or bathed with. When touched or tasted it does not have the sensory qualities of water (I imagine as not really having a taste, just tingling the tongue like a battery or Sichuan pepper), when it is agitated it does not make familiar sounds (instead when touched by a living person it makes theremin-like warbles); there is no roar of waves or lapping of water. The "water" glows slightly, bathing everything in a harsh washed-out light (like an old halogen bulb) but is itself almost perfectly translucent...which means that you can see the trapped souls and detritus of failed teleportations trapped within it. There are places within the Sea where there are vast planes of color--monochrome and stationary, shifting and polychromatic--beneath the surface, and no one is sure why.

    When a soul attempts to pass on, it falls from the sky and strikes the water. Most souls pierce the surface and "sink" for a time, then become suspended like fruit in gelatin, seemingly rendered dormant by the barrier's magic. There are locations where the density of souls make them identifiable landmarks. However, for unknown reasons some souls "bounce" off the surface and become trapped, aware and functional, on the sea's surface.

    Teleported matter, though, tends to strike the surface and remain in place: why a thing sinks or does not is also not understood. Your PCs might find themselves initially swimming, but then realize that they're not being dragged down by equipment and, with some effort and practice, can walk on the surface (though the wave motion makes this very hard because it's hard to gauge what you're setting your foot down on).

    So that's the basics.

    But to make it an adventuring environment we need locations, people, and conflicts ranging from "random" to "plot resolving," for which I'd propose:

    Whatever the barrier's precise intended function, over time it has developed enough detritus and flotsam from teleportation and summons (and potentially from other-world incursion, as it's speculated that things drift in from the afterlife) that there's something equivalent to floating islands. Souls fear sinking, so over time they've created structures with any material on the surface...anything from raft-settlements cludged together from anything flat, to large material-world structures that were caught, whole, by the barrier, and re-purposed (again...and rumors are that at least some things present in the Sea are not detritus, but were intentionally brought into the space by unknown actors.

    This provides points of contact and sources of exposition, if required, as well as the basis for explaining locations and structures scattered through the environment. From this root idea, specifics can be pitch shifted or changed in scale to achieve the preferred tone and challenge level.

    If the desired intent is to keep the players completely isolated, then the trapped souls are few in number and wary of contact with material beings that are clearly from outside. If the desire is...horror and conflict...then the trapped souls are the kind of people who'd do anything to persist (rather than sink into the uncertain fate of the sea) and are pirates and necromancers willing to live on barge made of other souls, absolutely gleeful at the possibilities of a physical, living beings as an instrument to work with.

    Three other things that you should consider:

    (1) Since this barrier is a deliberate magic effect, are there any "natural" features other than the sea itself, the equivalent of a control room or a security panel that the creator put in place. This would likely be the endpoint of this quest.

    (2) Are there ways for other things than souls to dwell in this place, and has an ecology...or a culture...developed of different kinds of beings with access to this place. A capture system for souls strikes me as something a necromancer or fiend would find utility in, and there would be people who specifically wanted to avoid the afterlife. There also might be extraplanar beasts that found the environment enticing, meaning that the "sea" has the equivalent of corals, shoals of fish, sharks, whales....

    (3) All of the above holds with the idea of a sea that characters interact with as mariners, but there's a case to be made for something more alien and submarine. I've alluded to the idea that there are things going on below the surface, but there's all kinds of options for interesting/disturbing images involving having to venture into the depths for something: pearl diving, bathyspheres, the underwater having mental/spiritual effects instead of pressure and "the bends."

    ETA: this doesn't really fit in with anything else, but I rather like the idea that this barrier sometimes interferes with summons, so one of the immediate dangers of the sea is broken-down astral bodies still operating on that base command to fight. Some still resemble the summoned form, others and vast chimeric swamps of merge astral bodies attacking and incorporating new bits over and over...
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2021-02-24 at 08:32 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    DwarfBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    The gods in D&D have always needed one or two things. Souls and/or worship. There isn't any real consistency in this. Blame it on 47 years of continuity slip ups. The best example would be that in 2002 WotC published Deities and Demigods which stated that the gods needed worshipers. In the same year they published Bastion of Broken Souls which introduced the ban of the unborn souls. (Gods aren't allowed to interfere with preincarnate souls.)

    Why is this important? The gods need petitioners to make more powerful outsiders such as Solars and Balors. They can't get petitioners without the souls of mortals, so that would be a great fit for your setting.
    For who would this be a problem? All of the gods.
    Who could have caused this? The god of undeath is the one who would benefit the most from this.

    I never got the whole gods need worship bit because there isn't a good reason for gods needing worship. Gods needing souls is still problematic, because it reduces gods to LE tyrants trying to Shanghai mortal souls for their infernal and celestial legions. There's no perfect solution for this, and at times it makes me want to run a campaign that destroys the Great Wheel so the players can invent an alternative with their characters as the new gods. But that's just my view on this mess.
    Last edited by the_david; 2021-02-26 at 06:26 AM.

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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Quote Originally Posted by sengmeng View Post
    So my players are heading to my new homebrew setting, tentatively called the Haunted Seas. The main hook is that there is a barrier to teleportation and even detection covering the planet, and this barrier also interferes with souls moving on to the afterlife. It turns out that that's bad. So the party is starting at 13th level, and is being teleported in to fix it, with the understanding that the other side of the barrier is unknown, and punching through it is a one-time thing, so there's no help coming. But, I don't know what to put in the setting to reflect the trapped souls, either storywise or mechanically. Just a vague idea of "ghosts everywhere" and there's a lot of ocean, hence the name. Any suggestions?
    When I saw "fix the afterlife" I wondered if this was a Forgotten Realms question.

    Regarding your setting, others have asked a lot of the questions that need to be answered.

    I'd ask how long the barrier has been up -- a year, a generation, a century, an "age of the world"? Is this something still new and shocking to the people, or have they learned to live with it? How long have the effects been building up?
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Two ideas: 1. Maybe one god has taken the world and hidden it from the others. The souls are being stored by some hidden and malevolent force on the planet. 2. Some catastrophe in heaven has caused the god acting as the psychopomp to enter a state of hibernation. Oh. Well. Here's a bonus 3. Maybe the gods went to war an age ago and the results were so costly that they agreed on a truce for a set period of time. When that time comes, all souls are released for an epic battle that will determine the nature of the next age. Various societies have different beliefs on why things are this way, but only a powerful secret society knows the truth. Maybe work in some kinda chosen one of the ancient prophecy kind of thing.
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Are new souls able to get in?
    If not does this mean the area has just run out of life, or people are being born without souls? You could have something similar to Ravenloft where most people don't have souls. Perhaps they are regularly/permanently possessed by the horde of dead souls that are floating around.
    If new souls are being created then is someone or something taking advantage of this and eating/farming/using them as a power source in their made experiment?

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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    I had a similar setting once, though it didnt' see much play.

    My idea was actually that ghosts "decayed" over time. They lost their coherent memories and personality traits, but strong feelings and instincts remained. That made them more dangerous. Eventually, they would coalesce into large clouds of ectoplasms and angry feelings, that formed a kind of storm, with the main effect of driving people insane that were caused outside of warded buildings.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-03-12 at 10:00 AM.
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    Quote Originally Posted by sengmeng View Post
    So my players are heading to my new homebrew setting, tentatively called the Haunted Seas. The main hook is that there is a barrier to teleportation and even detection covering the planet, and this barrier also interferes with souls moving on to the afterlife. It turns out that that's bad. So the party is starting at 13th level, and is being teleported in to fix it, with the understanding that the other side of the barrier is unknown, and punching through it is a one-time thing, so there's no help coming. But, I don't know what to put in the setting to reflect the trapped souls, either storywise or mechanically. Just a vague idea of "ghosts everywhere" and there's a lot of ocean, hence the name. Any suggestions?
    A few different ideas for the implications of the "trapped soul" concept.

    1: Suppose souls require a constant infusion of spiritual energy to survive, without which they gradually fade away and wink out of existence. When attached to a living body, they can draw on that body for energy, and the normal afterlives have a functional spiritual food chain set up to sustain the souls of their inhabitants. But with souls trapped on this side of the planar barrier, they've been forced to cannibalism, souls attacking and devouring each other to steal the spirit energy they need to survive. And of course the living are positively bursting with energy compared to the dead, so many souls will materialize and try to devour the living. Or possibly make it so that souls can't cannibalize each other - the metaphysical frequencies are off or something - so the only way for these ghosts to get the energy they need is to devour the living. Either way, go with the idea that you always have to be behind wards or wearing charms against ghostly attacks, or else you get swarmed by ravenous ghosts. Or perhaps the ghosts can't materialize under Sun, so it's only at night that you have to be someplace protected from ghostly invasion.

    2: Alternately, you could have the ghosts be harmless, but ubiquitous. Maybe make it so that ghosts are mindless, reenacting their living actions like automatons. So everywhere you go, there are ghosts wandering around, reciting lines that no longer mean anything, wandering through walls that weren't there when they were alive, walking on what is now thin air but was once the deck of a ship, and so on. Maybe even have it be that certain areas are so thick with ghosts that it's difficult to even see, like a perpetual fog of phantasmal shapes.

    3: Another option would be that the soul barrier doesn't cause you to linger after your death... it means you can't die in the first place. Make it so that no matter how badly someone's injured, they don't die. Really severe stuff, like cutting off someone's head or burning them to ash, can't naturally heal, of course, but even then they are still alive and can be restored with magical healing. Of course, they still feel pain, and probably most of the population is some degree of crazy from their wounds by this point.
    Last edited by ReaderAt2046; 2021-03-13 at 12:53 PM.
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  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fix the afterlife: looking for suggestions on my setting

    So, assuming that it's a spiritual closed system, one thing I'd suggest is going with unpleasant reincarnation as a norm for the local living populace. Plentiful body dysphorias and intense "talents" and everyone being born with close-held beliefs marking the fact they're all living on souls harshly over-used, with exotic abilities being utterly commonplace as factors build up over time. If you're working in 5e, you might introduce a Fetch "open" subrace, so that if there's any player death they can roll up a new local character, or even wake up halfway dead with the nuances of their former race gone for the touch of the grave.
    Last edited by Morphic tide; 2021-03-14 at 07:20 PM.

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