The Questing Grounds are where stories and legends live. It is the otherworld, the neverland, a half-way point between the subjective, personal truths of the Dream Plane and the universal, terrifying naked truths of Good and Evil, Law and Chaos. It is where the myriad planes of the multiverse become comprehensible and familiar to the mortal mind. Every story that is retold has its echo in the Questing Grounds. If a story is retold enough to become a legend, then it will be a great and glorious part of the plane. The terrain of the Questing Grounds resembles the Material Plane, if exaggerated – mountains are taller, forests thicker, the seas are deeper and so on. It is a magical land, a fairyland, full of a child’s awe at the bright new world.
Getting there... and BackEdit
The Questing Grounds is the loom of hope, where the raw emanations and disgorgements of chaos are shaped into heroic forms by the light of the Firmament. Therefore, natural portals exist between the Firmament and the Questing Grounds, as well as between Tarassein and the Grounds. There are also the usual portals to the Astral Plane and the Vault of Stars. The relation between the Questing Grounds and the Plane of Dreams is odd; not only can a door be opened to the Questing Grounds when a creature on that plane is dreaming, but the door also works from within any dream about one of the great tales. Artificial portals to the Questing Grounds are uncommon, but not unheard of. Bards make them, mostly, to encounter the subjects of their Sagas firsthand. There have been occasional minglings between the Questing Grounds and the Material Plane, when a Saga needs heroes.
Survival in the Questing GroundsEdit
The Questing Grounds’ environment is not innately hostile, but dangers are everywhere. The woods are always full of wolves, every graveyard has ghosts, and its dungeons are always well stocked. The best tool for survival here is an understanding of myths and legends. As the shape of the Questing Grounds is affected by stories, any storytelling version of the Perform skill can be substituted for Survival.
Features & PropertiesEdit
|... to Astral||7||Coterminous|
|... to Firmament||7||Coterminous|
|... to Tarassein||7||Coterminous|
|... to Dream Plane||7||Coterminous|
The Questing Grounds can be divided into two regions; Stories and Sagas. Physically, both are similar – storylands are created from the stuff of everyday tales. They are immediately recognizable because they draw from the same common Archetypes over and over again; wise fools, greedy merchants, heroic knights, damsels in distress, and so on. They are a jumble of little stories and tales without true definition.
The lands of Saga look similar, but these regions are dominated by specific stories. Unlike the essentially generic, repetitive storylands, the Saga has a definite geography and much more recognizable characters. It also needs to be completed, over and over. Sagalands tend to drift, and a storyland can suddenly be enveloped in a Saga if conditions are right.
Creatures of StoryEdit
Most of the creatures and characters encountered in the Questing Grounds are manifestations of the plane, just like elementals are the stuff of the Elemental Planes; animated by an inherent spirit. Therefore, when one of the denizens or an item of story is removed from the Questing Grounds, it begins to dissolve. The creature (or holder of the item) must make a Will save each round (DC equals the number of rounds since leaving the plane) or have the item dissolve into nothingness. Otherwise, the creatures of story are identical to normal creatures, although they have the Extraplanar subtype and are as unaware of their status as characters in a story.
Archetypes & MasksEdit
Table: Archetype LevelsEdit
|Identification||Signs||Will Save DC||Suggestion Frequency|
|Faint||The character is taking on the Archetype's role in a story.||10||1/day|
|Moderate||The character is also dressed in the traditional garb of the Archetype.||15||1/hour|
|Strong||Other people think of the character in terms of his Archetypical role, not as an individual.||20||1/minute|
|Overwhelming||The character is so aligned with the Archetype that he self-identifies with the Archetype instead of himself.||25||1/round|
The various Archetypical characters that appear in tales have an independent existence in the Questing Grounds. The fools, hermits, innkeepers, knights, and dragons a traveller encounters as he crosses a storyland are simultaneously individuals in their own right, expressions of a common type of person, and Masks for a single being who lurks behind all the tales. Something exists that connects all fools, all hermits, all cruel stepmothers. These Archetypal entities are the true powers of the Questing Ground.
Any one of these Archetypes can attempt to ‘push’ a manifestation of itself. If the fool is ill-disposed towards the characters, it can try to make an individual occurrence of the fool type attack or hinder the characters. Jesters in courts feel the urge to throw things at them, village idiots set their dogs on them, third sons out seeking their fortune mistake the characters for brigands and so on. A ‘push’ works just like a suggestion spell; the DC for the Will save depends on how closely identified the character is with the Archetype.
What Are The Archetypes?Edit
The exact number and nature of the Archetypes has never been fully catalogued. Dungeon Masters with a knowledge of the Tarot can slot the usual suspects in here; otherwise, just use the normal fairy-tale elements – the Trickster, the Giant Killer, the Mother, the Crone, the Stepdaughter, and so on. Animals can also show up as Archetypes, like wolves, crows, or swans.
If the stories of the Material Plane in your campaign have common characters or elements, these may also manifest as Archetypes. The Archetypes are not intelligent or sentient as most creatures understand it, but they do have a will and can have overarching desires or goals. They cannot be the target of spells or effects.
Characters from other planes can become caught in an Archetype. This has some benefits – as the plane is Narrative Morphic, a character who is ‘fitting into’ the story will find his path is smoother, and will come to encounter what he expects to encounter in the story. A little-known side benefit is a protection from scrying and divination – spells tend to confuse the character with the Archetype, so characters gain a circumstance bonus to saving throws against Divinations equal to the Will Save DC for avoiding suggestions from the Archetype. A character wearing a Mask designed to look like the Archetype automatically moves up one level, from Faint to Moderate, Moderate to Strong, or Strong to Overwhelming.
The Sagas are the great tales, the stories of epic heroism, of quests and valor and true love. The bards recount them; they are written in the books of history and enshrined in marble, bronze, and stone. Unlike the petty stories, the Sagas have true meaning all their own instead of being merely Masks for the Archetypes. Some Sagas have their own regions in the Questing Grounds where their events play out over and over again. Other Sagas move like storms across the face of the plane, manifesting with sudden, violent and dramatic need – the ordinary folk of story are torn from whatever Archetype rules them and instead begin playing the parts of the characters in the Saga. The Archetypes therefore hate and despise Sagas, which diminish their influence over the Questing Grounds.
Sagas do change over time, as the way they are recounted changes. A barbarian princeling clad in animal fur becomes a young noble dressed in finery when the tale becomes popular in a more civilized area, but this does not alter the true nature of the Saga. This is a two-way process; if a character travels to the Questing Grounds and murders the prince, then bards spontaneously begin singing an alternate version of the Saga. The events of history are immutable, but how we remember them can be changed.
These are more than mere tales; the Sagas inspire future heroes and future acts of good. They are therefore blessed and sanctified by the light of the Firmament. Each re-enactment of a Saga produces a Guerdon, a divine reward that is channelled by the retellings to the Material Plane. The Sagas are therefore an engine of good; the raw creativity of chaos is shaped by the deeds of mortals who are guided by the light of the Firmament; the light is then reflected out by the tales to inspire more.
Reinforcing the SagasEdit
Travellers can consciously try to become involved in a saga. For example, if the tales of Robin Hood exist in a campaign world, then a band of travellers who dress in green and carry bows and include among their number a superlative archer, a big man with a quarterstaff, a fat cleric, a beautiful maiden, and a rogue in scarlet could trigger the saga and play all the roles. Having living creatures instead of story-folk acting out a Saga creates a positive feedback loop – if the saga is completed successfully, then the original victory of the Saga might be replicated again in the mortal world. For example, if our travellers overthrow the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Questing Ground, then cruel and usurping lords across the Material Plane might also be overthrown by fate.
Travellers in the Questing Grounds who enter or are enveloped by a Saga may find themselves taking on roles within the story. The creatures of the story instinctively know what roles they are to take, while the characters have no such instinctive knowledge. A traveller in a Saga cannot leave the Saga until it ends, and the Saga cannot end until the character plays his role. A Saga unable to complete itself has disastrous consequences for the lands around it; earthquakes, storms, darkness, and disease run rampant and the characters are driven mad until the traveller discovers and plays his assigned role.
At the end of a Saga is the guerdon, the prize. This manifests as a shining sphere of light or a haloed object. If touched by the protagonist of the Saga, it vanishes and is dispersed throughout the Material Plane. If touched by a traveller, it can be broken apart and harvested as spiritual energy. A guerdon is worth between 2 and 10 quintessence per character level, depending on how important the Saga is.
Archetype Creep (CR5)Edit
Travellers in the Questing Grounds run the risk of being absorbed into one Archetype or another. This process is known as Archetype Creep. It manifests as a series of events that try to move the character up the Archetype Levels table. For example, a travelling mage might find a pointy hat and set of starry robes, and then something – a spill, a flood, a swarm of rabid moths – would happen to his travelling garb to force him into the robes. Then, he might find an empty mage’s tower, or have a false beard stuck to his chin. Slowly and surely, the Archetype maneuvres him into a situation where he falls under its spell.
Mechanically, Archetype Creep is a series of skill or ability checks or saving throws at DC 15 + the Archetype Level (for example, a mage unaligned to the Wizard Archetype would make the initial Reflex save to dodge the spill at DC 15). The Archetype will try three times for each level, using its Suggestion ability to force the character to comply.
If the character reaches the Overwhelming level, his will is subsumed into that of the Archetype and he becomes a Non-Player Character until rescued. Other characters can try to counter Archetype Creep by having the endangered character act in ways incompatible with the Archetype.
Questing Beasts (CR Varies)Edit
When a traveller arrives in the Questing Grounds, a Questing Beast is spawned. Groups of travellers may spawn packs of beasts, or else share a common quarry. The Questing Beast is a monster that exemplifies the desires and fears of the traveller, often preying on their hopes. A traveller who fears a pursuer might find a Questing Wolf hot on his heels; a traveller who suspects his lover is unfaithful might be haunted by a Questing Succubus. The Challenge Rating of the Questing Beast should be equal to the character level of the character who spawned it. Select an appropriate monster, then apply the Questing Beast template to it.
Laments (CR 10)Edit
|Table: Lament Effects|
|Failed Will Saves||Effect|
|First||Affected by crushing despair|
|Second||Affected by a version of hideous laughter that makes the character weep instead|
|Third||Affected by enervation|
Death is the end of every story. Every tale of woe, every keening for the dead, every eulogy scrawls patterns of sorrow and loss into the Questing Grounds. These laments manifest as black storms that tear through the storylands, leaving only dry black dust in their wake. A character caught in a lament must make a Will save every minute (DC 15) or suffer from the noted effects. Furthermore, every lament is accompanied by 2d4 lesser banshees (treat as spectres, but increase their CR to 9 and add the ability to cast wail of the banshee once per day as a spell-like ability. The DC for the Fortitude save is 15).
Most of the locations in the Questing Grounds are repeated over and over, being nothing more than Archetypes. The few permanent locations are either leftovers from degenerating Sagas, or else constructed by extraplanar visitors.
Agency of TalesEdit
The Agency of Tales is the one outpost of the Halls of Order that borders on the realms of Chaos. It is a small metallic tower with eight green windows. It has the curious property that it cannot be spoken about in tales; anyone trying to tell a story of the Agency finds their tongue tied and their quill dry. The inevitables of the Agency of Tales are responsible for ‘unjamming’ Sagas that lack a key player. If the Tale of the Dragonslayer lacks a dragon, a slayer, or a maiden because one of the storyfolk has been subverted by an Archetype or a traveller, then the inevitables scour the multiverse for suitable replacements. This close to chaos, the inevitables have become rather… quirky.
The House of Many ChimneysEdit
The house is so named for the great number of fireplaces, for everyone knows that tales are best told by the fire. It is the home of a sect of bards and scribes who seek out lost tales. They delve into the most dangerous Sagas and piece together fragments of story into the histories of ancient days. The master of the house is a half-elf named Istobel. As the efforts of the house reach into more dangerous stories, she has begun to seek out adventurers who can escort her bards deeper into the Questing Grounds.
The Hunter’s Lodge is the home of certain very powerful barbarian shamans and dreamers. Part of the tribe’s ceremonies involves vision-hunts in the Questing Ground. Using certain rituals, the shamans cast astral projection on the initiate barbarians and then send them to the lodge. In the lodge, they are instructed by the shamans and then sent out to hunt their Questing Beasts.
‘Questing Beast’ is a template that can be applied to any creature (but usually to animals and magical beasts), referred to as the base creature. The creature gains the ‘story’ subtype. It uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
HD: +2 HD
Speed: Same as the base creature
AC: +2 unnamed, applies to normal AC as well as touch and flat-footed
Attacks: Same as the base creature
Damage: Same as the base creature
Special Attacks: Same as the base creature, and add:
Phantasmal Strike (Su): Three times per day, a Questing Beast may adopt a terrifying guise for one round. Any creature in combat with the Beast may make a Will save (DC 10 + ½ Beast’s Hit Dice + its Charisma modifier) to see through the guise. If the Will save is failed, then anyone injured by the Beast’s attacks this round must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + ½ Beast’s Hit Dice + its Constitution modifier) or die. Even if the Fortitude save succeeds, the injured character takes an extra 3d6 points of damage.
Special Qualities: A Questing Beast retains all the special qualities of the base creature, and adds:
Discern Location (Sp): A Questing Beast can discern the location of the character who spawned it at will.
Greater Teleport (Sp): A Questing Beast can teleport to the vicinity (within 10 miles) of the character who spawned it at will.
Plane Shift (Sp): A Questing Beast can plane shift at will, but only to follow the character who spawned it.
Integrity (Sp): As long as the character who spawned it lives, the Questing Beast is exempt to the restrictions on unreal creatures leaving the Questing Grounds.
Saves: Same as the base creature
Abilities: Add +2 to all ability scores. If the creature’s intelligence is lower than 6 after the noted adjustment, raise it to 6
Skills: Same as the base creature
Feats: Same as the base creature
Climate/Terrain: Questing Grounds
Challenge Rating: See above
Treasure: Standard, plus killing your Questing Beast gives a character a limited wish
Alignment: Always chaotic. The moral part of the creature’s Alignment is always the opposite of its spawner