D&D Planescape

Archfey and Planescape

I hear a lot of hate for Wizards of the Coast reprinting various materials in new forms. People complain about Curse of Strahd and everything else that was updated, compiled, and released for 5th Edition. My argument has always been the majority of players have not ever experienced this content in any meaningful way. The amount of people participating in tabletop is continuing to grow (look at sales numbers, folks), and a lot of those people are relatively new gamers. Despite them being some of the best adventures of all time, most people have never experienced The Great Modron March or Dead Gods. I would be thrilled if I got a compiled Tenebrus Rising adventure book, along the same lines as the Princes of the Apocalypse.  

The funny thing about this is I see a huge number of people complaining about the state of the Archfey. There is not a lot of official content surrounding the Archfey at the moment, though it is a very popular topic for third party content creation at the moment. I’m happy to see it, because fey have always been something of a black hole of enjoyment for me. I don’t particularly find the “I’m so tricky and clever” nature of much fey content compelling, but that’s mainly because it’s so lazy. I’m all for wordsmithing, but most implementations remind me of the episode of Adventure Time when Magic Man stole Jake’s sandwich. I’m also not a huge fan of the magical seduction aspect, but again it’s from bad implementation. In short, look at most things in the Dresden Files books concerning the fey. While I like some of it, most of it is not for me. I’m not judging you if you like it, you do you. I’m just not about that life.

This said, I’m a big Oberon booster. Ok, I burgeon on fanboy. I also like some of the weirder stuff, like the unicorn god, and member of the seelie court, Eachthighern, and it’s both rad and bizarre that Oberon rides him around and they do bro stuff together, I guess. If you haven’t heard of Eachthighern, it’s ok. He appeared in the 1992 book Monster Mythology and then in one of the best books of the edition, the 1996 On Hallowed Ground. 

For everyone who has ever complained about stuff being republished and simultaneously desired more Archfey support, I submit to you On Hallowed Ground. This is no joke maybe the best supplement published for D&D, or damn close to it. It is a 200ish page book that covers a wide array for different pantheons, discusses the individual gods in depth, and provides information on how their planes appear in the Planescape setting. I’m not talking just the heavy hitters here, either. There is support not only for Egyptian, Greek, and Norse, but Babylonian, Celtic, Chinese, Finnish, Indian, Japanese and Sumerian. This is in addition to stuff like pantheons for the individual fantasy races, monsters, and prime material worlds. Yes, the fey have a pantheon listed here. These are your Archfey. Monster Mythology has in-depth entries, but On Hallowed Ground covers how to use them well, and presents a cohesive list. I’m conflating the two a little, but only because a modern printing WOULD combine them.

The book also has in-depth support for the Planescape factions, a discussion of the nature of Powers and Gods (a big part of Planescape play), what being a priest means, what being a proxy means, and what death and resurrection mean (for both god and clergy alike). I can’t stress enough how good this book is, and how much of the way it is presented is still great for everyday D&D use. The stats aren’t important. Sure, you can doggedly convert or whatever, but that’s missing the point. The information, presentation, and use is the real gold here.

What’s the kind of esoteric information you can find here? Well, what about Fionnghuala, the Archfey of the Swanmay, Communication, and Sorority? The swanmay are a secret sisterhood of rangers that can transform into swans. Fionnghuala has no clerics, and doesn’t present herself as a sole point of worship. Instead, she sees herself as the leader of this organization, and encourages other archfey, like Titania to be worshiped. That’s the kind of weird fey stuff that gets my sweet mind juices flowing.

If you don’t like that, what about Emmantiensien, the treant god? The coolest, and never defined, thing about him is that he has his roots twined around a magic crystal created by a different, unknown deity. With the crystal, he can call forth even more power than Titania. He appears as a giant treant with shiny bark. He’s friends with Corellon, because sure. I love how bizarre he is while still being something you would totally find discussed in ancient history books. Oh yeah, there was this tree and it was shiny and had a big ass crystal in the roots. It’s probably a magic god. Seems legit. I’m totally on board with this. Great room for expansion for any campaign.

This is the kind of stuff that gets lost to time. These two books 20-25 years old, with very few people ever owning them or reading them in-depth. While I love it, I don’t even care about the Planescape content getting reprinted. The other information is really just that good. New players should have the chance to experience this kind of stuff, and that’s what updating and reprinting does for the modern age. 5e is here for the long haul, folks. That’s what this edition is all about. It’s a relaunch of the platform, and so far, it’s doing great. Let’s just hope they continue down the path and hit some of the fantastic sources, like those mentioned here.

 

 

2 comments

  1. I do love On Hallowed Ground just from a D&D mythology standpoint. I got it on a lark from DTRPG a while ago and am pleased with how juicy the story hook bits are in there.

    One of the players in my Sunday game doesn’t know it, but she’s about to be approached by the Swanmays. 😀

  2. Hah, that’s pretty funny. I like how open-ended a lot of the stuff is. It’s pre-made to hook into anything, as is the nature of Planescape. It’s a very layered-setting in that way. I like the swanmay ideas a lot. It’s neat, fairy-tale rooted, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Ranger sisterhood that turns into swans and serves other nature-based deities? Sure! The lack of clerics is a really good change-up, too.

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