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Gamemastery Tools

While the core rules provides all the tools you need to be a Game Master, you may want resources to create original game content, whether it be new items, unique creatures, or a sprawling new world for adventurers to explore.

This section provides a variety of tools to help you quickly and easily build your own elements for your game, as well as some special types of rules you can incorporate in your game, such as more hazards and strange magic items. This page is organized into the following sections.

  • Building Creatures demonstrates a top-down approach for quickly and easily constructing the creatures and NPCs you want or need for any possible situation in your game.
  • Building Hazards gives rules and advice for creating your own brand-new hazards.
  • Building Items teaches you how to create new pieces of treasure to delight your PCs.
  • Item Quirks introduces simple but memorable quirks that you can use to quickly personalize an item and make its nature seem just as unique and exciting as its special abilities.
  • Intelligent Items includes rules for creating items with a mind of their own that are characters in their own right, as well as several examples to get you started.
  • Cursed Items examines items that have a nasty drawback or might be altogether unpleasant. The section includes specific cursed items and a list of curses you can add to an existing item, akin to a rune.
  • Relics are special magic items that increase in power along with the PCs, and that you and your players work together to build and enhance.
  • Artifacts are the most powerful and story-rich magic items in the game, and can only be destroyed in a specific way.
  • Gems and Art Objects expands the diversity of monetary awards given to PCs and includes 100 sample art objects.
  • Afflictions provides a plethora of curses, diseases, and drugs for use in your games, as well as drug and addiction rules useful in creating your own afflictions.
  • Building Worlds explains how to go about building your own entire world or setting from scratch. This section leads into the next three, which provide tools to help you flesh out the finer details of specific parts of your game world.
  • Nations includes a system to quickly encapsulate a nation in a stat block that contains all the information you need.
  • Settlements covers everything from tiny villages to incredible metropolises. The section explains the settlement’s role in a game and provides a system to describe a settlement in a stat block with all the important information.
  • Planes includes the various planar traits you can use to build your own planes, and explores all the planes of reality.

It’s up to you to determine how much of your game you want to customize.

Many GMs use the default rules and creatures, and set their adventures on an established campaign setting or another published game world. Other GMs devise and incorporate all-new creatures and places with strange themes that don’t fit in the standard game or world. Unless you’re building your entire game world from scratch, you can usually wait to implement any new rules creation until you think you’ll need it for your next session.

Contents

Building Versus Modifying

Many times, a small adjustment to an existing creature, item, adventure, or other part of the game can serve you just as well as building something brand new.

Before you delve into creating your own new content, ask yourself a few questions. First, does something similar already exist?

When answering this question, look beyond the surface level.

Maybe you want a 5th-level clawed centipede creature that can make Attacks of Opportunity and that regenerates unless hit by acid or fire damage. It might not look very much like a troll on the surface, but the statistics for a troll are going to get you most or all the way there.

Ask yourself what you’ll need to change between your idea and the existing material. This will help you decide between using the original rule with minimal modification, using the original with adjustments, starting with the original as a framework to build your own, or just starting from scratch. Finally, ask yourself how much time you have to prepare the content, what overall impact you expect it to have in your campaign, and how important any discrepancies from existing material are to the core concept. The less important an element is to your game, or the less time you’ll be using it at the table, the more likely you should modify something that already exists.

Building Creatures

Making your own creatures fleshes out your game world and lets you introduce concepts not yet available in published products like the Bestiary volumes. These guidelines help you customize creatures to your specifications and explore your imagination. From strange beasts to canny political rivals, you have the power to design creatures that fit the narrative needs of your story.

Creatures aren’t built the same way PCs are. The rules for building them are more flexible, and their statistics are based on benchmark final numbers rather than combining each individual modifier together. This is called top-down design, in which you consider the design process as a whole and select the details that reflect your intended result, rather than building statistics from the bottom up and hoping the finished creature matches your vision.

This guide provides a step-by-step process to build creatures, but as you get more comfortable with creature creation, you may prefer to use different methods.

You could start with one ability you think is cool, or you might look to create a spellcaster of a certain type. There’s no wrong starting place or wrong way to compile and present your creation; some GMs prefer to generate a stat block that is as similar to an official Bestiary entry as possible, while others prefer to compile just a brief set of notes.

Develop The Concept

To begin making a creature, you should first come up with its concept. You likely already have the basic idea. As you add details to the general idea, taking notes can help keep your creature on track. Consider the parts of your creature you find most compelling and that you want to emphasize when the creature hits the table. For example, in the Bestiary, demons are creatures of sin, and are designed to have weaknesses against specific virtues that oppose them. Harpies enchant creatures by singing, represented by their centerpiece ability, Captivating Song. Note your creature’s core aspects, and if you feel uncertain later, you can look back and ask yourself, “Does this emphasize a core aspect or not?”

Next, look at the creature’s role in your game. Is it meant to be a combatant? A social creature? A trusted ally? Figuring this out will help you determine whether to give it strong combat abilities or to focus on skills, spells, and special abilities. Think about how the creature might behave if it’s in a fight, if someone tries to talk to it, or if it’s in a social situation. Does it work better alone or with allies? What sort of character should be best at facing it or be particularly weak against it?

Consider also the complexity of the creature. This matters most when you plan to use a large number of creatures of that type. If you’ll use five at the same time, you’ll want their turns to move swiftly and avoid complex special actions. A creature likely to face a group of PCs alone can have more abilities, and it might need a more versatile set of defenses against PC tactics. Cut complexity as much as you can while retaining your desired theme.

Now, how do you want an encounter with this creature to feel? Should it be scary? Mobile? Confusing? A mystical duel or a knock-down, drag-out fight? What can you give your creature to convey those characteristics? Note that much of this feel will come from your choice of the creature’s special abilities or spells, rather than its raw numbers.

With all this in mind, think about the specific abilities your creature should have. Take a few notes now, and get to the details later. You can use abilities from the Bestiary or feats in the core rules, adjusting as needed, to save yourself time. It helps to think of a creature that’s similar to yours and see what makes it tick—and what you can steal from it. Maybe you can just reskin that creature, instead of making a new one from scratch.

Now that you understand your creature’s concept, it’s time to get to the statistics. Remember that you can always change your concept later on. Your creation might evolve and transform as you go, so be open to change and revisions.

Building Creatures Overview

This section details the creature-building process using the following steps.

1. Develop the Concept Think about your creature, and make notes you can use in future steps.

2. Build the Stat Block Pick all the statistics for the creatures, going through the list below.

  • Level
  • Alignment, Size, and Traits
  • Ability Modifiers Perception and Senses Languages Skills
  • Items, if necessary
  • AC
  • Saving Throws Hit Points
  • Immunities, Weaknesses, and Resistances
  • Speed
  • Strikes, including their damage
  • Spells, if necessary

3. Design Abilities Create the special abilities your creature can use.

4. Review Holistically Step back, take stock of your creature as a whole, and tweak as needed.

Trait Abilities

This section provides the abilities conveyed by certain traits, such as demon, dragon, and undead. You’ll also find abilities typical of creatures with those traits to help guide you as you plan your creatures.

Designing NPCs

Sometimes you’ll design a creature that’s meant to have abilities or characteristics similar to those of a PC. Maybe you need a bold champion, a sly rogue master criminal, or a wizened druid elder for your game.

You also might need a common baker, who has little combat ability but great skill with dough and an oven. This section provides ways you might modify aspects of the creature-building process to fit those needs.

Understanding and Choosing Statistics

Most of the statistics in this section use a scale of extreme, high, moderate, and low—some use terrible values as well.

Extreme: The creature is world class in this statistic and can challenge almost any character. Most creatures have no extreme statistics or only one extreme statistic, although some creatures might have additional extreme statistics and weaker related statistics elsewhere (a common example being a creature trading accuracy for extreme damage). Examples from the Bestiary include the succubus’s Diplomacy and the lich’s spell DC.

High: Extremely capable but not world class, the creature presents a challenge for most characters. Just about all creatures have at least one high value. Most combat-focused creatures have high AC and either a high attack bonus and high damage, or a merely moderate attack bonus but extreme damage. An ogre warrior’s attack bonus and a kobold scout’s Stealth are high values.

Moderate: A middle-of-the road statistic can cover anything unremarkable about the creature. Use this one often.

Low: The creature is actively bad at this. Choose these intentionally to represent the creature’s weak points. Most creatures should have at least one low statistic; an example is the goblin pyro’s Will save.

Terrible: Some statistics can dip even lower than low, to terrible. This indicates a truly awful statistic that still isn’t game-breakingly bad. A spider’s Intelligence is terrible, as is a dero stalker’s Will save.

Push and Pull

When it comes to statistics, a creature should be balanced overall. That means if you’re giving a creature an extreme statistic, it should have some low or terrible statistics to compensate. For example, if you were making a creature extremely hard to hit by giving it an extreme AC, you’d likely give it lower saving throws or low HP. If a creature is great at spellcasting, it might need several low statistics to be a balanced challenge. There’s no perfect system for making these decisions. If you’ve made a creature that has four high stats and nothing low, or vice-versa, take another look. A creature’s strengths and weaknesses change the PCs’ strategies for dealing with it, and that’s what makes playing the game fun!

Reskinning A Creature

Sometimes you need a creature with abilities that are almost exactly the same as those of a published creature. In that case, it can be more efficient to simply “reskin” the old creature rather than design a new one—that is, to change the description but keep the abilities mostly the same. Occasionally reskinning requires small mechanical adjustments. For instance, a fire cat that has immunity to fire, an aura that deals fire damage, and the ability to light people on fire with its jaws to deal persistent fire damage could be reskinned as a caustic animate tree that has immunity to acid, an aura that deals acid damage, and branch attacks that smear acidic sap on a creature’s body when they hit, dealing persistent acid damage.

Extreme Increases

At the higher levels of the game, PCs have more tools at their disposal, so the creatures they face need to hit back harder! At higher levels, give each creature more extreme statistics. Having one extreme statistic becomes typical around 11th level. A creature of 15th level or higher typically has two extreme statistics, and one of 20th level or higher should have three or four. Keep in mind that these should be relevant to the encounters you expect them to have—extreme social skills aren’t much use to a combat-focused creature. Be careful about giving multiple extreme statistics that are closely linked: a creature with extreme damage and Fortitude saves is one thing, but having an extreme attack bonus and extreme damage allows the creature to apply both extreme statistics to each attack.

Level

For most creatures you build, their level depends on the level of the party who will encounter it. Look at other creatures you think are similar in power to yours to determine its level. Note that level represents a creature’s combat ability, so a creature that’s more social might have, for example, 3rd-level combat statistics and 6th-level skills but remain a 3rd-level creature. Most such creatures are NPCs; for more information on this distinction and how to use it, see Non-Combat Level.

Some abilities are hard for PCs to deal with at low levels. For instance, creatures that can fly and have ranged attacks should typically appear around 7th level, when PCs gain access to flight. Natural invisibility or at-will invisibility as an innate spell should come at around 6th level, when PCs are more likely to prepare see invisibility in lower-level spell slots, or 8th level, when some PCs get the Blind-Fight feat.

The tables in here go up to 24th level—the highest-level extreme encounter a party might face.

Alignment, Size, and Traits

Fill out the trait line of your creature’s stat block. The alignment can be whatever suits your story, though some types of creatures must be or tend to be certain alignments.

Creatures can be whatever size you need them to be, though you seldom find Large creatures below 1st level, Huge creatures below 5th level, or Gargantuan creatures below 10th level. Generally, you don’t automatically adjust statistics for size, except for an exception to Strength modifiers for Large and bigger creatures, which you’ll find in Ability Modifiers on the next page.

Your creature will almost certainly have one of the following traits to define its type: aberration, animal, astral, beast, celestial, construct, dragon, elemental, ethereal, fey, fiend, fungus, giant, humanoid, monitor, ooze, plant, or undead. If you’re making a creature from an existing category of a type, such as demon, it also has that category as a trait. Creatures with a close affinity to elements—air, earth, fire, and water—or types of energy—like acid, cold, and electricity—have those traits.

Some abilities typical of creatures with the traits listed above can be found in Trait Abilities. As with the other steps, looking at similar creatures will give you an idea of what traits to use.

Add any traits that have detailed rules attached to them, like amphibious, aquatic, incorporeal, mindless, and swarm.

You can add traits related to the creature category, such as dinosaur or werecreature, but most of these traits are pretty self-evident in play. If at any point you realize during play that you didn’t add a trait the creature really should have, you can usually apply it retroactively.

Ability Modifiers

Next, figure out your creature’s ability modifiers, since these will suggest what their other statistics should be.

You don’t have to determine the exact numbers, but it’s good to avoid creating creatures whose ability modifiers are at odds with their abilities, like creatures with a terrible Wisdom modifier and very high Perception. Most of the time, you’ll just be using ability modifiers for untrained skills, so they’re useful as a guide but not crucial.

Table 2–1 shows some benchmarks for your creatures.

Use high for the creature’s best ability modifiers, moderate for ones they’re okay at, and low for the rest.

If a creature has a truly bad ability, you can go as low as –5. That’s the terrible range for ability modifiers, and doesn’t really change by level. This is most common with animals, which have an Intelligence modifier of –4 (for dogs, dolphins, and such) or –5 (for more instinctual animals like spiders), and for mindless creatures, which have a –5 Intelligence modifier.

Few creatures use the extreme column. A powerful, dedicated spellcaster might use an extreme spellcasting statistic, or a preternaturally charming creature like a succubus or nymph might have an extreme Charisma modifier. However, the most common way extreme numbers are used is for really big, really strong creatures.

This happens with only Large or larger creatures from 1st to 5th level, only Huge or larger creatures from 6th to 9th level, and only Gargantuan creatures from 10th to 15th level. Beyond that level, a creature doesn’t gain an extreme Strength modifier from size alone.

Table 2–1: Ability Modifier Scales
Level Extreme High Moderate Low
–1 +3 +2 +0
0 +3 +2 +0
1 +5 +4 +3 +1
2 +5 +4 +3 +1
3 +5 +4 +3 +1
4 +6 +5 +3 +2
5 +6 +5 +4 +2
6 +7 +5 +4 +2
7 +7 +6 +4 +2
8 +7 +6 +4 +3
9 +7 +6 +4 +3
10 +8 +7 +5 +3
11 +8 +7 +5 +3
12 +8 +7 +5 +4
13 +9 +8 +5 +4
14 +9 +8 +5 +4
15 +9 +8 +6 +4
16 +10 +9 +6 +5
17 +10 +9 +6 +5
18 +10 +9 +6 +5
19 +11 +10 +6 +5
20 +11 +10 +7 +6
21 +11 +10 +7 +6
22 +11 +10 +8 +6
23 +11 +10 +8 +6
24 +13 +12 +9 +7

Base Road Maps

You can use the following suggestions to set the baseline when creating your road map. For example, use brute for a big, tough creature like an ogre, and skirmisher for a darting enemy. Each entry is a starting point you can customize as you see fit. Any core statistic that isn’t listed should typically use moderate numbers.

You can set ability modifiers and add additional abilities as needed. To make a creature that resembles a character of a certain class, see Class Road maps.

  • Brute low Perception; high or extreme Str modifier, high to moderate Con modifier, low or lower Dex and mental modifiers; moderate or low AC; high Fortitude, low Reflex or Will or both; high HP; high attack bonus and high damage or moderate attack bonus and extreme damage
  • Magical Striker high attack and high damage; moderate to high spell DCs; either a scattering of innate spells or prepared or spontaneous spells up to half the creature’s level (rounded up) minus 1
  • Skill Paragon high or extreme ability modifier matching its best skills; typically high Reflex or Will and low Fortitude; many skills at moderate or high and potentially one or two extreme skills; at least one special ability to use the creature’s skills in combat
  • Skirmisher high Dex modifier; low Fortitude, high Reflex; higher Speed than typical
  • Sniper high Perception; high Dex modifier; low Fortitude, high Reflex; moderate to low HP; ranged Strikes have high attack bonus and damage or moderate attack bonus and extreme damage (melee Strikes are weaker)
  • Soldier high Str modifier; high to extreme AC; high Fortitude; high attack bonus and high damage; Attack of Opportunity or other tactical abilities
  • Spellcaster high or extreme modifier for the corresponding mental ability; low Fortitude, high Will; low HP; low attack bonus and moderate or low damage; high or extreme spell DCs; prepared or spontaneous spells up to half the creature’s level (rounded up)

Perception

Perception is a fairly straightforward statistic. Use Wisdom as a guide for setting it, and adjust to the high side if your creature has acute senses or extra training. If your creature has low Wisdom, for example, it would probably have a low Perception modifier, or moderate if it’s supposed to be a great hunter. Don’t make your creature’s Perception higher just because it’s often used for initiative; creatures with poor Perception could use a skill check for initiative instead, such as Stealth.

Senses

Choose or design any special senses for your creature, such as low-light vision, darkvision, or scent. If you’re making a sense from scratch, simply decide what it senses, whether it has a range limit, and whether it’s precise or imprecise.

For example, a sinspawn has “sin scent (imprecise) 30 feet.” This means it can smell creatures bearing its associated sin if they’re within 30 feet, and the sense is imprecise—about as acute as human hearing.

Table 2–2: Perception
Level Extreme High Moderate Low Terrible
–1 +9 +8 +5 +2 +0
0 +10 +9 +6 +3 +1
1 +11 +10 +7 +4 +2
2 +12 +11 +8 +5 +3
3 +14 +12 +9 +6 +4
4 +15 +14 +11 +8 +6
5 +17 +15 +12 +9 +7
6 +18 +17 +14 +11 +8
7 +20 +18 +15 +12 +10
8 +21 +19 +16 +13 +11
9 +23 +21 +18 +15 +12
10 +24 +22 +19 +16 +14
11 +26 +24 +21 +18 +15
12 +27 +25 +22 +19 +16
13 +29 +26 +23 +20 +18
14 +30 +28 +25 +22 +19
15 +32 +29 +26 +23 +20
16 +33 +30 +28 +25 +22
17 +35 +32 +29 +26 +23
18 +36 +33 +30 +27 +24
19 +38 +35 +32 +29 +26
20 +39 +36 +33 +30 +27
21 +41 +38 +35 +32 +28
22 +43 +39 +36 +33 +30
23 +44 +40 +37 +34 +31
24 +46 +42 +38 +36 +32

Languages

Think about what languages the creature would need to communicate with other creatures in its home. For instance, many intelligent undead speak Necril, and many creatures from the underground speak Undercommon. If you want your creature to be able to speak to the PCs, be sure it has Common; for a creature with no reason to speak the common tongue of your setting (such as most extraplanar creatures in a typical campaign), be sure it doesn’t. Some creatures can understand language but can’t vocalize; in this case, you can state that they can’t speak any language. For creatures that need to be able to infiltrate and communicate wherever they go, you might give them tongues or a similar ability as a constant innate spell.

Skills

You have lots of flexibility in setting your creature’s skills.

Pick some skills you think are appropriate, and consider how good the creature is at them. High skills are roughly on par with a specialized PC of the creature’s level, though they could be a little lower or higher. Most creatures have at least one high skill, but no more than three. The best skills should go with the best ability modifiers, and you might even want to estimate the creature’s proficiency rank for these skills. Some skills can get a high bonus for free to fit the creature’s theme, particularly Lore skills.

Most creatures don’t have an extreme skill unless they are world class for their level, like a succubus’s Diplomacy. Having an extreme skill is less impactful than an extreme AC or attack bonus, but still might warrant a sacrifice elsewhere, especially if the creature also has more high skills than usual. There’s no need for terrible skill modifiers, since an untrained skill usually represents that.

Table 2–3: Skills
Level Extreme High Moderate Low
–1 +8 +5 +4 +2 to +1
0 +9 +6 +5 +3 to +2
1 +10 +7 +6 +4 to +3
2 +11 +8 +7 +5 to +4
3 +13 +10 +9 +7 to +5
4 +15 +12 +10 +8 to +7
5 +16 +13 +12 +10 to +8
6 +18 +15 +13 +11 to +9
7 +20 +17 +15 +13 to +11
8 +21 +18 +16 +14 to +12
9 +23 +20 +18 +16 to +13
10 +25 +22 +19 +17 to +15
11 +26 +23 +21 +19 to +16
12 +28 +25 +22 +20 to +17
13 +30 +27 +24 +22 to +19
14 +31 +28 +25 +23 to +20
15 +33 +30 +27 +25 to +21
16 +35 +32 +28 +26 to +23
17 +36 +33 +30 +28 to +24
18 +38 +35 +31 +29 to +25
19 +40 +37 +33 +31 to +27
20 +41 +38 +34 +32 to +28
21 +43 +40 +36 +34 to +29
22 +45 +42 +37 +35 to +31
23 +46 +43 +38 +36 to +32
24 +48 +45 +40 +38 to +33

Special Modifiers

You can also add special, thematic modifiers for certain skill uses. For instance, you might give a creature that secretes adhesive “Athletics +7 (+9 to Climb or Grab).”

This special bonus should still remain at or below the extreme number, especially if it has a combat purpose like the Grab bonus above.

Items

If you gave a creature gear equivalent to a PC, your PCs would gain a huge amount of treasure by defeating a large group of them. Using Table 2–4: Safe Items can help you avoid that. A creature can have a single permanent item of the listed level without issue. For example, if a 6th-level creature has a +1 weapon, that item’s not worth so much that the PCs would be massively rich if they encountered many creatures of that type and sold everything they found.

You can give a creature several lower-level items too. Just pay attention to your overall treasure as measured against the guidelines in the core rules. At the lowest levels, a creature can certainly have multiple level 0 items, even though normally a creature should have only one item of the level listed in the Safe Item Level column.

Specific creatures or NPCs have more leeway to break these guidelines because you can plan the rest of your adventure’s loot around them. Also, giving a boss villain a powerful magic item makes the fight and its aftermath more interesting.

Table 2–4: Safe Items
Creature Level Safe Item Level
3 or lower 0
4–5 1
6 2 (+1 weapon)
7 3
8 4 (+1 striking weapon)
9 5 (+1 armor)
10 6
11 7
12 8 (+1 resilient armor)
13 9
14 10 (+2 striking weapon)
15 11 (+2 resilient armor)
16 12 (+2 greater striking weapon)
17 13
18 14 (+2 greater resilient armor)
19 15
20 16 (+3 greater striking weapon)
21 17
22 18 (+3 greater resilient armor)
23 19 (+3 major striking weapon)
24 20 (+3 major resilient armor)

Manufactured Weapons

As noted in Items, most creatures have less treasure than PCs, so those that rely on manufactured weapons are significantly weaker if you don’t adjust the weapons’ damage to compensate. The method for determining Strike damage abstracts over the sources of damage so you don’t have to worry about adjusting the weapon’s damage. If you do decide to calculate the weapon’s damage, give your creature weapon specialization or greater weapon specialization much earlier than a PC would get it.

You might also need to add sneak attack or similar abilities to make the creature deal more damage.

On the flip side, you might want to use a one-off creature as a source of a particularly high-level piece of treasure, such as a magic weapon. In these cases, you might want to make the attack bonus higher for the potency rune or the damage higher for a potent striking rune so the PCs feel the weapon’s effect before they obtain it. This will make the treasure feel more powerful, since they’ve already been on the receiving end.

Armor Class

Because AC is one of the most important combat stats, you need to be more careful with setting this number for any creature you expect will end up in a fight. Low AC typically fits spellcasters, who compensate with their selection of powerful spells. Most creatures use high or moderate AC—high is comparable to what a PC fighter would have. Reserve extreme AC for a creature that is even better defended; these values are for creatures that have defenses similar in power to those of a champion or monk.

Table 2–5: Armor Class
Level Extreme High Moderate Low
–1 18 15 14 12
0 19 16 15 13
1 19 16 15 13
2 21 18 17 15
3 22 19 18 16
4 24 21 20 18
5 25 22 21 19
6 27 24 23 21
7 28 25 24 22
8 30 27 26 24
9 31 28 27 25
10 33 30 29 27
11 34 31 30 28
12 36 33 32 30
13 37 34 33 31
14 39 36 35 33
15 40 37 36 34
16 42 39 38 36
17 43 40 39 37
18 45 42 41 39
19 46 43 42 40
20 48 45 44 42
21 49 46 45 43
22 51 48 47 45
23 52 49 48 46
24 54 51 50 48

Compensating With HP and Saves

You might adjust your creature’s HP, AC, and saves in tandem. Almost no creature has great defenses in all areas, as such creatures often result in frustrating fights. A creature with higher AC might have fewer HP and weaker saves, and one that’s easy to hit could have more HP and a strong Fortitude to compensate. This depends on the theme of the creature. An extreme AC might mean reducing the creature’s HP to the next lowest category, or reducing its HP by a smaller amount and making another reduction elsewhere.

Saving Throws

You can often set saves quickly by assigning one high, one moderate, and one low modifier. Some creatures might vary from this, either because they have poor AC but better saves or because they should thematically have multiple good saves and compensate elsewhere.

You have more flexibility with saves, and having one save off the listed number by 1 is rarely a big deal. Pay attention to the creature’s Con, Dex, and Wis modifiers—these don’t have to correspond to the creature’s saves exactly, but should inform your choices.

Extreme saves often pair with extreme or high ability modifiers. Almost no creature should have more than one extreme save, even at high levels. Assign terrible saves to creatures that have a clear weak point—for example, a nearly immobile creature would have a terrible Reflex save.

Table 2–6: Saving Throws
Level Extreme High Moderate Low Terrible
–1 +9 +8 +5 +2 +0
0 +10 +9 +6 +3 +1
1 +11 +10 +7 +4 +2
2 +12 +11 +8 +5 +3
3 +14 +12 +9 +6 +4
4 +15 +14 +11 +8 +6
5 +17 +15 +12 +9 +7
6 +18 +17 +14 +11 +8
7 +20 +18 +15 +12 +10
8 +21 +19 +16 +13 +11
9 +23 +21 +18 +15 +12
10 +24 +22 +19 +16 +14
11 +26 +24 +21 +18 +15
12 +27 +25 +22 +19 +16
13 +29 +26 +23 +20 +18
14 +30 +28 +25 +22 +19
15 +32 +29 +26 +23 +20
16 +33 +30 +28 +25 +22
17 +35 +32 +29 +26 +23
18 +36 +33 +30 +27 +24
19 +38 +35 +32 +29 +26
20 +39 +36 +33 +30 +27
21 +41 +38 +35 +32 +28
22 +43 +39 +36 +33 +30
23 +44 +40 +37 +34 +31
24 +46 +42 +38 +36 +32

Hit Points

Give a creature HP in the moderate range unless its theme strongly suggests it should use another range. Spellcasters, for example, often have low HP. Brutish creatures usually have high HP, compensating with lower AC, weaker saves, few tactical options, or other limitations. As mentioned in the Armor Class section above, you don’t want a creature with extreme AC to have high HP too.

Hit Points are closely tied in with immunities, weaknesses, and resistances, so if your creature has any of those, look at that section before finalizing HP.

Regeneration and Healing Abilities

Your creature might have regeneration, fast healing, or some other ability to heal itself. These healing abilities can greatly affect the flow of a fight. Regeneration or fast healing heals some number of hits each round—usually one to one and a half hits. To determine the number of Hit Points it should restore, look at the high damage value on Table 2–10: Strike Damage and multiply that value by the number of hits healed. For instance, if the high damage is 20, regeneration between 20 to 30 makes sense. The value should be higher if the regeneration is easy to overcome—and remember that most regeneration gets easier to overcome at higher levels. Also, you might want to decrease the creature’s total HP by double its regeneration value. Fast healing follows the same rules, but because it can’t prevent a creature’s death and there isn’t always have a way to deactivate it, you might want to give the creature more HP instead of fast healing to keep things simple.

If a creature can use an ability that heals it, that ability typically restores more HP since it costs actions. An at-will healing ability should be based on a heal spell 2 levels lower than the highest-level spell a creature of that level could ordinarily cast (for example, an 11th-level creature can typically cast up to 6th-level spells, so you would base its healing ability on a 4th-level heal spell). If the ability both deals damage and heals, use that same baseline scale from above but with vampiric touch instead of heal.

Table 2–7: Hit Points
Level High Moderate Low
–1 9 8–7 6–5
0 20–17 16–14 13–11
1 26–24 21–19 16–14
2 40–36 32–28 25–21
3 59–53 48–42 37–31
4 78–72 63–57 48–42
5 97–91 78–72 59–53
6 123–115 99–91 75–67
7 148–140 119–111 90–82
8 173–165 139–131 105–97
9 198–190 159–151 120–112
10 223–215 179–171 135–127
11 248–240 199–191 150–142
12 273–265 219–211 165–157
13 298–290 239–231 180–172
14 323–315 259–251 195–187
15 348–340 279–271 210–202
16 373–365 299–291 225–217
17 398–390 319–311 240–232
18 423–415 339–331 255–247
19 448–440 359–351 270–262
20 473–465 379–371 285–277
21 505–495 405–395 305–295
22 544–532 436–424 329–317
23 581–569 466–454 351–339
24 633–617 508–492 383–367

Immunities, Weaknesses, and Resistances

If it’s highly thematic for a creature to have an immunity, weakness, or resistance, consider adding it. Table 2–8 lists the ranges for weaknesses and resistances by level.

Immunities are generally reserved for creatures made of an unusual substance (like a fire elemental being immune to fire).

You can also give an immunity if a creature’s biology or construction would logically cause it to be unaffected (like a mindless creature’s immunity to mental effects).

If the creature should be hard to affect with something but the conditions above aren’t true, give it a resistance instead. For instance, a giant octopus isn’t actually made of cold water, so it wouldn’t be immune to cold, but its life in the ocean depths make it resistant to cold. You’ll typically use the lower end of the value on Table 2–8 for a broad resistance that applies to a wide range of effects, like “physical 5 (except silver)” and the higher end for something narrower, like a single damage type. A creature with a resistance, especially a broad resistance or a physical resistance, usually has fewer HP.

Giving your creature a weakness adds flavor to it and greatly rewards effective player tactics once your players identify the weakness. The weakness should apply to one damage type or phenomenon and use the high end of the scale. Creatures typically have at most one weakness. If a creature has a weakness, especially to something common, give it additional HP. The amount of additional HP might depend on how tough the creature should feel if the PCs don’t exploit its weakness; a tough creature might have additional HP equal to quadruple the weakness value.

A creature with a hard-to-exploit weakness might have additional HP equal to the weakness value or less.

Table 2–8: Resistances and Weaknesses
Level Maximum Minimum
–1 1 1
0 3 1
1 3 2
2 5 2
3 6 3
4 7 4
5 8 4
6 9 5
7 10 5
8 11 6
9 12 6
10 13 7
11 14 7
12 15 8
13 16 8
14 17 9
15 18 9
16 19 9
17 19 10
18 20 10
19 21 11
20 22 11
21 23 12
22 24 12
23 25 13
24 26 13

The combination of more HP and a weakness has a different feel from standard HP with resistances. If the creature being an impervious tank really fits its theme, use a resistance with an exception, such as “physical 5 (except silver).” If, however, it makes more sense for normal hits to get through and the creature to simply have great staying power, use more HP and a weakness. Skeletons and zombies are a good example of the difference between these styles. Skeletons have resistances because they’re bony and hard to hurt. Zombies, on the other hand, have more HP and a weakness to slashing damage—they’re tougher, but their bodies aren’t built to deflect weapon attacks, and slashing attacks can rip them up quickly.

Speed

Your creature’s Speed should be 25 feet if it moves like a human. Beyond that, you can set the Speed to whatever makes sense. Remember that the creature can move up to triple this number if it spends its whole turn moving, so if you want the PCs to be able to chase the creature, its Speed can be only so high. Creatures at higher levels need ways to deal with flying PCs, speedy PCs, and PCs with more efficient actions that let them engage and retreat more easily. This might mean adding a fly Speed, giving the creature ranged attacks, and so forth. Creatures can have climb and swim Speeds even at low levels. While you can give your creature a fly Speed at those low levels, it’s better to wait until around 7th level (when PCs gain access to fly) to give your creature a fly Speed if it also has ranged attacks or another way to harry the PCs from a distance indefinitely.

Strikes

When building your creature’s selection of Strikes, use the following sections to set the Strike’s attack bonus and damage. Give the attack all the normal traits if it’s a weapon; for unarmed attacks or weapons you invent, give whatever traits you feel are appropriate. Note that these traits might influence the damage you give the Strike.

You might want to make sure a creature has an unarmed attack if you think it’s likely to get disarmed. At 7th level and higher, PCs might have the ability to fly, which makes it more important for creatures to have decent ranged Strikes to make sure they aren’t totally hopeless against flying PCs (though they could instead have fast fly Speeds or something similar).

Strike Attack Bonus

Use a high attack bonus for combat creatures—fighter types—that also usually have high damage. A creature could have a higher attack bonus and lower damage, or vice versa (for instance, a moderate attack bonus and extreme damage might fit a creature that’s more like a barbarian), instead of having a poor statistic in another category. Spellcasters typically have poor attack bonuses, potentially in exchange for extreme spell DCs.

Table 2–9: Strike Attack Bonus
Level Extreme High Moderate Low
–1 +10 +8 +6 +4
0 +10 +8 +6 +4
1 +11 +9 +7 +5
2 +13 +11 +9 +7
3 +14 +12 +10 +8
4 +16 +14 +12 +9
5 +17 +15 +13 +11
6 +19 +17 +15 +12
7 +20 +18 +16 +13
8 +22 +20 +18 +15
9 +23 +21 +19 +16
10 +25 +23 +21 +17
11 +27 +24 +22 +19
12 +28 +26 +24 +20
13 +29 +27 +25 +21
14 +31 +29 +27 +23
15 +32 +30 +28 +24
16 +34 +32 +30 +25
17 +35 +33 +31 +27
18 +37 +35 +33 +28
19 +38 +36 +34 +29
20 +40 +38 +36 +31
21 +41 +39 +37 +32
22 +43 +41 +39 +33
23 +44 +42 +40 +35
24 +46 +44 +42 +36

Strike Damage

Table 2–10 gives the damage a creature should deal with a single Strike.

You might use a lower category if the creature has better accuracy, or a higher category if its accuracy is lower.

A creature that’s meant to be primarily a combat threat uses high damage for its melee Strikes, or moderate for melee Strikes that have the agile trait. Ranged attacks more typically use the moderate value, or even low. A creature that’s meant to be highly damaging uses the extreme damage values, but might then have a moderate attack bonus. As with most statistics, extreme damage is more likely at higher levels.

You can also use the extreme value for special attacks that the creature can use only a limited number of times or under circumstances that aren’t likely to happen every round.

More versatile creatures, such as ones that can cast some spells and aren’t meant to primarily get their damage through Strikes, go one category lower: moderate for their main melee Strikes, low for agile and ranged Strikes.

Spellcasters and other creatures that aren’t meant to be competent in a direct fight might use the low damage value, or even less if they completely don’t care about their Strikes.

On Table 2–10, you’ll find a damage expression (a die roll or rolls plus a flat modifier) you can use as is, or you can take the damage in parentheses and build your own damage expression to hit that number. If you do the latter, remember that a d4 counts as 2.5 damage, a d6 as 3.5, a d8 as 4.5, a d10 as 5.5, and a d12 as 6.5. Usually a damage expression works best when roughly half the damage is from dice and half is from the flat modifier. If your creature deals special damage, like 1d6 fire from flaming attacks, that counts toward its total damage per Strike. Keep in mind that a creature using a weapon should have a damage value that feels right for that weapon. Extreme damage works well for two-handed weapons that uses d10s or d12s for damage. On the other hand, a dagger uses only d4s, so a dagger wielder would need something like sneak attack to deal extreme damage, or you might compensate for the dagger’s lower damage per Strike by giving the creature the ability to attack more efficiently or use other tricks.

Table 2–10: Strike Damage
Level Extreme High Moderate Low
–1 1d6+1 (4) 1d4+1 (3) 1d4 (3) 1d4 (2)
0 1d6+3 (6) 1d6+2 (5) 1d4+2 (4) 1d4+1 (3)
1 1d8+4 (8) 1d6+3 (6) 1d6+2 (5) 1d4+2 (4)
2 1d12+4 (11) 1d10+4 (9) 1d8+4 (8) 1d6+3 (6)
3 1d12+8 (15) 1d10+6 (12) 1d8+6 (10) 1d6+5 (8)
4 2d10+7 (18) 2d8+5 (14) 2d6+5 (12) 2d4+4 (9)
5 2d12+7 (20) 2d8+7 (16) 2d6+6 (13) 2d4+6 (11)
6 2d12+10 (23) 2d8+9 (18) 2d6+8 (15) 2d4+7 (12)
7 2d12+12 (25) 2d10+9 (20) 2d8+8 (17) 2d6+6 (13)
8 2d12+15 (28) 2d10+11 (22) 2d8+9 (18) 2d6+8 (15)
9 2d12+17 (30) 2d10+13 (24) 2d8+11 (20) 2d6+9 (16)
10 2d12+20 (33) 2d12+13 (26) 2d10+11 (22) 2d6+10 (17)
11 2d12+22 (35) 2d12+15 (28) 2d10+12 (23) 2d8+10 (19)
12 3d12+19 (38) 3d10+14 (30) 3d8+12 (25) 3d6+10 (20)
13 3d12+21 (40) 3d10+16 (32) 3d8+14 (27) 3d6+11 (21)
14 3d12+24 (43) 3d10+18 (34) 3d8+15 (28) 3d6+13 (23)
15 3d12+26 (45) 3d12+17 (36) 3d10+14 (30) 3d6+14 (24)
16 3d12+29 (48) 3d12+18 (37) 3d10+15 (31) 3d6+15 (25)
17 3d12+31 (50) 3d12+19 (38) 3d10+16 (32) 3d6+16 (26)
18 3d12+34 (53) 3d12+20 (40) 3d10+17 (33) 3d6+17 (27)
19 4d12+29 (55) 4d10+20 (42) 4d8+17 (35) 4d6+14 (28)
20 4d12+32 (58) 4d10+22 (44) 4d8+19 (37) 4d6+15 (29)
21 4d12+34 (60) 4d10+24 (46) 4d8+20 (38) 4d6+17 (31)
22 4d12+37 (63) 4d10+26 (48) 4d8+22 (40) 4d6+18 (32)
23 4d12+39 (65) 4d12+24 (50) 4d10+20 (42) 4d6+19 (33)
24 4d12+42 (68) 4d12+26 (52) 4d10+22 (44) 4d6+21 (35)

Spells

Your creature might have magical abilities that are best represented by spells. If you’re making a highly spellcasting-themed creature, give it prepared or spontaneous spells. For a creature that has spells due to its magical nature, especially if that magic isn’t its core focus, consider giving it some innate spells instead.

How many spells you should give a creature depends on how you expect it to spend its actions in combat. If it’s primarily going to be making Strikes, it might not have any spells, or it might just have a few to help it move around better or protect against certain types of magic.

When choosing spells, lean hard into the creature’s theme. While many PCs choose spells to cover a wide variety of situations, creatures are more evocative the more focused they are. Consider selecting about three-quarters of the spells based on relevance to the theme and the remainder for other things. However, make sure the spells aren’t one note—selecting fireball for most of a creature’s spell slots doesn’t make for a compelling fire creature in the way a diverse selection of fire spells would.

When choosing spells, some spells won’t be very useful if cast at an extremely low level compared to the creature’s levels. Most notably, damaging spells drop off in usefulness for a creature that’s expected to last only a single fight. A damaging spell 2 levels below the highest level a creature of that level can cast is still potentially useful, but beyond that, don’t bother. Spells that have the incapacitation trait should be in the highest level slot if you want the creature to potentially get their full effect against PCs.

Spell DC and Spell Attack Roll

Set the creature’s spell DC and spell attack roll using Table 2–11. Most creatures use the same DC for all their spells, even if they have multiple types, such as a creature with both prepared spells and innate spells.

Use the high numbers for primary casters, and the moderate numbers for creatures that have some supplemental spells but are focused more on combat.

At 15th level and higher, the extreme numbers become standard for spellcasters. A few creatures might use the extreme numbers at lower levels, but they tend to be highly specialized, with very weak defenses and Strikes.

Secondary spellcasters can go up to high numbers if they’re above 15th level and have offensive spells. There is no low value—the creature shouldn’t have any spells in the first place if it would be that bad at using them!

Prepared and Spontaneous Spells

Spell slots work best for creatures that are meant to play like PC spellcasters. Choose the magical tradition best suited to the creature.

You aren’t strictly limited to that tradition’s spell list, though sticking close to it will make your creature’s connection to that tradition more clear. The decision to use prepared or spontaneous spellcasting should align with the creature’s theme: a spontaneous spellcaster fits well as a one-off creature, since spontaneous spellcasting grants greater flexibility in the middle of battle, while a prepared spellcaster makes for a great recurring character who can change their spells between appearances.

For a creature that can cast as many spells as a PC spellcaster, the highest spell level the creature can cast is half its level rounded up. It gets five cantrips. If the creature’s level is odd, it gets two spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or three spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level). If its level is even, it gets three spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or four spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level).

Because creatures tend to be “on stage” for only a short time, you usually don’t need to fill every spell slot.

You can often fill just the top three levels of spells, pick cantrips, and slot in a few thematic backup spells in the fourth level down.

For a recurring foe, you might give it a full complement.

Innate Spells

Unlike prepared and spontaneous spells, innate spells can be of higher level than half the creature’s level rounded up, and you can choose how often they’re used—they can even be used at will or be constant effects. The most notable innate spells tend to be top-level ones that make a big impact but can be used only once, at-will spells that strongly reinforce the creature’s theme, and constant spells that give it an ongoing benefit. A spell that’s usable a limited number of times and falls at a lower level than the top tier is typically less likely to come up in combat; however, that’s a great spot for utility and recovery spells, such as dispel magic or restoration.

Sometimes a strongly thematic innate spell is of a higher level than the creature would normally be able to cast, but it’s so fitting that it belongs there. Be careful when doing this, as PCs might not have access to the appropriate countermeasures for the spell. This option works best for support, action denial, or battlefield control spells that change the odds of a fight without outright killing anyone, such as the succubus’s dominate spell. These should make the fight more interesting, not end it. Keep the number of such spells very low, typically just one.

Though you can achieve all sorts of things with innate spells, always start with the theme and an idea of how you want the creature spending its actions. and though you could give the creature a tool to counter every kind of PC attack or trick, remember that the players chose those options to enjoy using them, rather than to be constantly foiled by an effectively invincible creature.

Table 2–11: Spell DC and Spell Attack Bonus
Level Extreme DC Extreme Spell Attack Bonus High DC High Spell Attack Bonus Moderate DC Moderate Spell Attack Bonus
–1 19 +11 16 +8 13 +5
0 19 +11 16 +8 13 +5
1 20 +12 17 +9 14 +6
2 22 +14 18 +10 15 +7
3 23 +15 20 +12 17 +9
4 25 +17 21 +13 18 +10
5 26 +18 22 +14 19 +11
6 27 +19 24 +16 21 +13
7 29 +21 25 +17 22 +14
8 30 +22 26 +18 23 +15
9 32 +24 28 +20 25 +17
10 33 +25 29 +21 26 +18
11 34 +26 30 +22 27 +19
12 36 +28 32 +24 29 +21
13 37 +29 33 +25 30 +22
14 39 +31 34 +26 31 +23
15 40 +32 36 +28 33 +25
16 41 +33 37 +29 34 +26
17 43 +35 38 +30 35 +27
18 44 +36 40 +32 37 +29
19 46 +38 41 +33 38 +30
20 47 +39 42 +34 39 +31
21 48 +40 44 +36 41 +33
22 50 +42 45 +37 42 +34
23 51 +43 46 +38 43 +35
24 52 +44 48 +40 45 +37

Rituals

Since rituals happen during downtime, giving them to a creature is usually a purely thematic choice.

You can skip even looking at rituals in most cases. If you decide a creature needs to have a ritual for your story, add in the ritual whenever you need it.

Focus Spells

Some creatures have focus spells, especially when those focus spells clearly fit a creature’s theme. Simply give the creature the focus spells you like and between 1 and 3 Focus Points (you can also allow your creature to cast focus spells using spell slots). Use the same DC and spell attack roll as any other spell.

A creature that has just 1 Focus Point is likely to cast a focus spell only once, unless it’s a recurring enemy. If the creature has plenty of spells already, you might want to skip focus spells altogether, as they aren’t as strong as top-level spell slots.

Improvising A Creature

As you get more experienced, you might find that you don’t need to build some creatures in advance. In many cases, especially for simple creatures, you can just select values from the relevant tables on the fly and track its HP. When you do, track which value you used as it came up. For instance, let’s say you’re improvising a 2nd-level kobold soldier. When it’s time for initiative, you decide it has moderate Perception and jot down “Per +8.” Your group’s fighter beats it at initiative and attacks.

You decide the soldier has high AC—looking at Table 2–5, you see that’s 18—and add this information to your note.

The fighter’s Strike hits, and you select the low end of high HP: 36. Well, now it’s 25. Your note says “Per +8, AC 18, HP 25.” If it gets to take a turn, you can give it a Strike then.

Design Abilities

In this step, you’ll take the ideas for abilities you noted when you developed your concept and design these abilities for your creature.

You can look at existing creature abilities from the Bestiary and feats from the core rules and use them as is or modify them to fit your needs.

When choosing abilities, think about both the number of abilities and the diversity of abilities. Having a large number of similar abilities can make the creature tougher to run, and it probably can’t use them all anyway. Diversity of abilities gives the creature different ways to act in different situations, and helps guide you as the GM. For instance, a combat creature might have one ability it uses to get into position, another to use when it wants to focus damage on a single enemy, and a third that’s more defensive.

Basics of Ability Design

There are a few principles of ability construction that you’ll want to keep in mind. Some guidance for specific types of abilities will come later, but these apply to everything.

  • Respect the action economy.
  • Make sure abilities are level appropriate.
  • Avoid “invisible” abilities.
Action Economy

Understanding a creature’s action economy is key for making it work in play. Remember how short the lifespan of a typical combat creature is. Including a bunch of combat abilities might mean you spend time building actions the creature will never have time to use. Narrow your selections down to the smallest and most compelling set that makes sense. Also keep in mind that special actions will compete for time with any combat spells you gave the creature.

Reactions can help, giving the creature a way to act when it’s not its turn. See Reactive Abilities for advice on designing these tricky abilities.

Because of PC capabilities at higher levels, creatures at those levels should get more abilities that improve their action economy. For instance, creatures that grapple should have Improved Grab instead of Grab, Speeds should be higher, and many abilities that would have cost an action at a lower level should be free actions.

Level Appropriateness

The effects of an ability should be appropriate to the creature’s level. For damaging abilities, that means they follow the damage guidelines. For others, take a look at spells and feats with a similar effect to see if they’re level appropriate. For instance, say you’re considering giving a 6th-level creature the ability to teleport a short distance. Dimension door is comparable—that’s a 4th-level spell, normally cast by a 7th-level or higher creature. That means 6th level probably isn’t too low, but the creature shouldn’t be able to use the ability more than once.

You can also compare your creature to those in a Bestiary volume to see if the special abilities seem similar in power to those of other creatures of the same level.

Invisible Abilities

Avoid abilities that do nothing but change the creature’s math, also known as “invisible abilities.” These alter a creature’s statistics in a way that’s invisible to the players, which makes the creature less engaging because the players don’t see it using its abilities in a tangible or evocative way. For example, an ability that allows a creature to use an action to increase its accuracy for the round with no outward sign (or worse, just grants a passive bonus to its accuracy) isn’t that compelling, whereas one that increases its damage by lighting its arrows on fire is noticeable.

These both work toward the same goal—dealing more damage this round—but one is far more memorable.

Active Abilities

Abilities a creature uses on its turn have the most flexibility and scope.

You can use Table 2–11 to determine active ability DCs as well as spell DCs.

You can have an ability use 1 to 3 actions as needed (or be a free action in rare cases) and use just about any type of tactic. Feats, spells, and existing creature abilities provide a wide variety of examples, so look for something similar to your idea to use as a basis.

Consider how you want your creature to spend its turns.

Two-action activities pretty much define the creature’s turn, and single actions work best for supplemental benefits or normal Strikes. and as you build out your idea of a creature’s turn, don’t forget about movement! A creature often needs to spend actions getting into position, especially early in a fight. This is especially challenging with melee-only creatures.

You can give such creatures abilities similar to Sudden Charge or the deadly mantis’s Leaping Grab.

Use 3-action abilities sparingly, as a creature can’t use them if it is slowed or stunned—making a creature’s coolest or most defining ability use up 3 actions might mean the creature never gets to use it. These activities should be reserved for abilities that include some movement (like Trample) or that the creature is likely to use before engaging in combat. Don’t make an ability use 3 actions as a way to balance it—saying “This can be more powerful than other abilities because it is less likely to work,” is a recipe for frustration if you’ve made a cool ability that’s too hard or even impossible for the creature to use.

Be especially careful with activities when designing boss creatures. They’re likely to get targeted with the PCs’ most powerful detrimental effects, get grabbed, become slowed, or otherwise have their actions restricted. Bosses need to have solid options they can use with 1 or 2 actions.

This lets them use their remaining actions to get away, use a simple ability, or otherwise keep the fight dynamic.

Free Actions

Use free actions that don’t have triggers sparingly, and when you do, they should almost always be used for support or utility actions, not Strikes or movement. If you come up with a free action, consider whether it should be its own action or part of a combo, such as drawing a weapon and attacking. In cases like the latter, you might be better off making a single action that allows the creature to draw a weapon and then Strike.

Damage-Dealing Abilities

If a special action is a single action with only one target, you can often set damage using Table 2–10: Strike Damage. If it uses more than 1 action or requires setup in some way, it might deal higher damage than is typical; often, you can just use the extreme column in these cases.

For abilities that deal damage in an area, use Table 2–12 below. These numbers are based on a 2-action activity (e.g., most damaging spells). Single actions should deal much less damage. An ability that has another significant effect, like applying a condition, should deal less damage; for this, look at the damage for 2 or more levels lower, and judge which value would best match based on the severity of the additional effect. These abilities typically allow a basic saving throw. The table includes values for unlimited-use abilities (ones that can be used at-will) and limited-use ones (which can be used once or, like a Breath Weapon, once or twice but not on consecutive turns).

You can use the dice given or generate your own expression based on the damage in parentheses, as detailed in the Strike Damage section. If a high-level effect has a small area compared to similar abilities, you have it deal more damage.

Table 2–12: Area Damage
Level Unlimited Use Limited Use
–1 1d4 (2) 1d6 (4)
0 1d6 (4) 1d10 (6)
1 2d4 (5) 2d6 (7)
2 2d6 (7) 3d6 (11)
3 2d8 (9) 4d6 (14)
4 3d6 (11) 5d6 (18)
5 2d10 (12) 6d6 (21)
6 4d6 (14) 7d6 (25)
7 4d6 (15) 8d6 (28)
8 5d6 (17) 9d6 (32)
9 5d6 (18) 10d6 (35)
10 6d6 (20) 11d6 (39)
11 6d6 (21) 12d6 (42)
12 5d8 (23) 13d6 (46)
13 7d6 (24) 14d6 (49)
14 4d12 (26) 15d6 (53)
15 6d8 (27) 16d6 (56)
16 8d6 (28) 17d6 (60)
17 8d6 (29) 18d6 (63)
18 9d6 (30) 19d6 (67)
19 7d8 (32) 20d6 (70)
20 6d10 (33) 21d6 (74)
21 10d6 (35) 22d6 (77)
22 8d8 (36) 23d6 (81)
23 11d6 (38) 24d6 (84)
24 11d6 (39) 25d6 (88)

Defensive Abilities

Active offensive abilities usually fit creatures better than defensive abilities do. Save defense increases for creatures that are strongly defense-themed. For martial creatures, something as simple as a shield and Shield Block is usually plenty. Defensive abilities often run the risk of being invisible abilities. For examples of good defensive abilities, look at spells like sanctuary for ideas, or other spells that create interesting protective effects instead of just granting a bonus. If you do want to make a creature defensive, pick one defensive ability rather than several, since stacking up multiple defenses can make for a frustrating fight. One solid style of defensive ability is a mode switch, which causes the creature to get stronger defenses, but limits its attacks, spells, or other offensive options.

Reactive Abilities

Reactions and free actions with triggers can give a creature an impact outside its turn. This can make the fight more interesting, but may also be risky. It’s tempting to give every creature a reaction, but that’s not necessarily a good idea.

To decide whether your creature should have a reaction, first consider if the creature has the reflexes or insight to react well in the first place—for instance, an ogre doesn’t have Attack of Opportunity because it’s a big oaf. Oozes, constructs, and unintelligent creatures are less likely to have reactions than others for this reason.

Second, look at the complexity of the encounter your creature is likely to appear in. If you’ll have a large number of creatures, skipping reactions can make the fight flow faster. A creature that’s more likely to fight solo, on the other hand, might have a reaction to give it a way to continue to be dangerous amid an onslaught of attacks by the party.

When creating reactions, be careful with “gotcha” abilities—ones that punish players for making perfectly reasonable choices, for rolling poorly, and so on. If you include abilities like this, they need to reinforce the creature’s core theme and the play style you want it to use in combat. For example, a creature that Strikes as a reaction when someone fails an attack roll will encourage PCs to use their actions on other tactics, rather than attacking multiple times each turn. Is that what you want? Is this dynamic essential for making the creature feel like it’s supposed to?

This isn’t the type of ability you’d give to any old creature— only an incredible duelist or something similar.

Reactions should require something out of the ordinary to happen, or should be relatively weak if triggered by something ordinary. A reaction that triggers anytime someone tries to Strike a creature is likely to be perceived by the players as uninteresting because it’s so predictable.

The best reactions should be telegraphed so when they happen, it makes sense to the players. Think of one of the core reactions of the game: Shield Block. The creature raises its shield—an obvious action the PCs can see—so when it blocks damage from an attack, that makes perfect sense.

Similarly, if you made a crystalline creature, you might have it build up sonic energy in a low thrum, so when it uses a reaction to release a burst of sonic energy when hit, the players can say, “Oh, I should have seen that coming.”

Reaction Damage

Reactions should use lower damage, usually that of a moderate Strike. A reaction that deals area damage might deal low damage, though use such reactions with caution.

Constant and Automatic Abilities

Certain abilities shouldn’t use any actions. Auras are a common constant ability, with frightful presence, an adult red dragon’s dragon heat, and a xulgath’s stench as notable examples. An aura needs a range, and if it needs a DC, you’ll usually set it to the moderate spell DC unless the aura is one of the creature’s defining concepts. For example, the xulgath’s stench DC is significantly higher because the aura is such an iconic part of the creature.

Abilities the creature has no control over should be automatic. For example, the living wildfire fire elemental explodes into flame when it dies. It has no option not to, so this wouldn’t make sense as a reaction or free action.

Conversely, the Ferocity ability is a reaction because it requires the creature to give itself a last push to stay at 1 HP.

Constant and Automatic Damage

Much like for reactions, damage for a constant ability should be pretty low. Usually this value is just below low Strike damage. Automatic abilities like the living wildfire’s explosion ability tend to deal moderate Strike damage or unlimited-use area damage, and can deal even more if they happen only after the creature is dead or otherwise no longer presents a threat.

Skill Abilities

A skilled creature might have abilities related to its skills.

Skill feats make for a good baseline. Avoid giving your creature skill abilities that won’t matter in its interactions with PCs.

Review Holistically

Now it’s time to look over your completed creature as a whole and make sure it’s living up to your concept. Can it do everything you wanted? Does it fit its intended role?

Is there anything you could add or anything superfluous you could cut to get the creature where it needs to be?

If this creature is built for combat, run through a few turns in your head. Does it still work decently if it gets slowed? Can it move into combat against the PCs effectively given their mobility options compared to its own? Does it have any abilities it’ll never use given its other actions?

When you’re satisfied with your creation, it’s ready to hit the table. But that’s not necessarily the end! If you notice issues during the game, you can fix them on the spot. It’s your game, and you can freely change what you wrote if you think differently later on.

Trait Abilities

Creatures with certain traits tend to have similar abilities to one another. Many of them appear here, to help you make your creatures match the theme of the trait when you build your own creatures.

Aberration

Senses usually darkvision

Languages usually Aklo

Aeon

Traits LN, monitor

Senses Envisioning for true aeons

Languages Utopian and other planar languages

Weaknesses chaotic

Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.

Air

Languages usually Auran

Speed Many air creatures have fly Speeds.

Angel

Traits good (usually NG), celestial

Aura Angels each have a unique aura based on how they serve as messengers and how they deliver those messages.

Speed usually has a fly Speed

Rituals usually angelic messenger

Animal

Traits N

Languages none

Int –4 or –5

Archon

Traits LG, celestial

Virtue Ability Archons each represent a specific virtue, like courage or hope, and have a special ability based on the virtue they represent.

Astral

Senses darkvision

Azata

Traits CG, celestial

Weaknesses cold iron, evil

Freedom Ability Azatas each represent a specific freedom, like free expression or free love, and have a special ability based on the freedom they represent.

Beast

Int –3 or higher

Celestial

Traits good

Senses darkvision

Languages Celestial

Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic

Weaknesses evil

Damage Attacks always deal additional good damage.

Cold

Immunities or Resistances cold

Construct

Traits Many constructs lack minds and have the mindless trait.

Immunities bleed, death effects, diseased, doomed, drained, fatigued, healing, necromancy, nonlethal attacks, paralyzed, poison, sickened, unconscious if mindless, add mental

Daemon

Traits NE, fiend

Languages Daemonic, telepathy 100 feet

Immunities death effects

Death Ability Daemons each represent a specific kind of death, like death by disease or starvation, and have a special ability based on the method of death they represent.

Demon

Traits CE, fiend

Languages Abyssal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)

Weaknesses cold iron, good HP typically high to account for their multiple weaknesses

Sin Vulnerability Demons each represent a specific sin, like envy or wrath, and have a special vulnerability based on the sin they represent. This should be something the PCs can exploit through their actions, which should then deal mental damage to the demon. The amount of damage should be based on how easy the vulnerability is to exploit.

Divine Innate Spells usually 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door

Rituals usually Abyssal pact Sin Ability Demons also have a special ability based on the sin they represent, which either makes them better embody the sin or instills that sin in others.

Devil

Traits LE, fiend

Languages Infernal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)

Immunities fire

Resistances physical (except silver), poison

Divine Innate Spells usually one 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door

Rituals usually Infernal pact

Infernal Hierarchy Ability Devils each have an ability corresponding to the role they play in the infernal hierarchy, typically focused around control or being controlled, from the lowly lemure’s Subservience to the gelugon’s Tactician of Cocytus and the pit fiend’s Devil Shaping.

Dragon

Senses darkvision

Languages usually Draconic

Speed usually has a fly Speed

Breath Weapon Many dragons have the Breath Weapon ability, with specifics determined by the theme of the dragon.

Earth

Perception often tremorsense

Languages usually Terran

Speed usually a burrow Speed

Elemental

Senses darkvision

Immunities bleed, paralyzed, poison, sleep

Ethereal

Senses darkvision FEY

Senses low-light vision

Languages usually Aklo, Sylvan, or both Weaknesses cold iron

Fiend

Traits evil

Senses darkvision

Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic

Weaknesses good Damage Attacks always deal additional evil damage.

Fire

Languages usually Ignan

Immunities fire

Resistances cold

Fungus

Traits fungi without minds have the mindless trait

Immunities if mindless, mental

Weaknesses sometimes slashing or fire

Giant

Traits Large or bigger, humanoid

Senses low-light vision

Languages usually Jotun

Humanoid

Int –3 or higher

Inevitable

Traits LN, aeon, monitor

Immunities death effects, disease, emotion, poison, unconscious

Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.

Monitor

Traits neither good nor evil

Senses darkvision

Ooze

Traits Almost all oozes lack minds and have the mindless trait.

Senses typically motion sense and no vision

AC usually well below the low value for their level HP usually around double

Immunities critical hits, precision, unconscious, often acid; if it has no vision, add visual effects; if mindless, add mental

Plant

Traits plants without minds have the mindless trait

Senses usually low-light vision

Immunities if mindless, mental

Weaknesses sometimes fire

Protean

Traits CN, monitor

Languages Protean

Weaknesses lawful

Resistances precision, protean anatomy

Protean Anatomy Damage Attacks always deal additional chaotic damage.

Divine Innate Spells constant freedom of movement

Change Shape

Psychopomp

Traits N, monitor

Senses lifesense (typically 60 feet)

Languages Requian

Immunities death effects, disease

Resistances negative, poison Damage spirit touch

Rakshasa

Traits LE, fiend

Saves usually +2 status bonus to all saves vs. magic (+3 vs. divine magic)

Resistances physical (except piercing)

Change Shape

Spirit

Traits incorporeal, often undead

Swarm

Traits size based on the entire mass, usually Large or bigger

HP typically low

Immunities precision, swarm mind

Weaknesses area damage, splash damage

Resistances physical, usually with one physical type having lower or no resistance

Undead

Traits Almost all undead are evil. Ghostly undead have the incorporeal trait. Undead without minds, such as most zombies, have the mindless trait.

Senses darkvision HP negative healing

Immunities death effects, disease, paralyze, poison, sleep (or unconscious if it never rests at all); if mindless, add mental

Water

Languages usually Aquan

Speed usually has a swim Speed

Converting First Edition Creatures

If you’re converting creatures from First Edition, you won’t find a direct numerical conversion. Instead, use the original statistics to create your road map, giving a better AC to a creature that had a good AC in First Edition, and so on.

Here are the main areas of difference that you’ll want to keep in mind for your conversion.

  • Ability modifiers scale differently, so don’t copy them over exactly. The highest modifiers tend not to get as high in Second Edition. You’ll rarely see a +10 Strength modifier, for example. Creatures also tend to get better low statistics at higher levels than they used to, particularly for Dexterity and Wisdom. This is most evident in high-level First Edition creatures with awful Dexterity.
  • Low-Intelligence creatures, particularly animals, tend to have more special actions than they would have in First Edition. This is to make encounters with them more dynamic and distinct. Compare dinosaurs between the editions for good examples.
  • When converting spell-like abilities to innate spells, you might need to make some substitutions. Some spells will appear as heightened versions of spells (such as greater dispel magic now being heightened dispel magic), but others will require you to find something different. Also, don’t feel like you need to keep every spell; focus on the most thematic and potent ones. The Spells section has more advice on this subject.
  • Damage reduction has been replaced with two options: resistance to all damage (possibly with exceptions), or more HP and a weakness. Immunities, Weaknesses, and Resistances describes the distinction.
  • If you want to convert spell resistance, you can give the creature a +1 status bonus to all saves against magic, or +2 if it had abnormally high spell resistance for its level.

Designing NPCs

Creatures that are meant to cleave closely to character classes or intended to represent people rather than monsters are NPCs. They might face more scrutiny around their mechanics than creatures, because a player can more directly compare their rogue to an NPC who acts like a rogue. That doesn’t mean you have to build an NPC exactly like a PC, though.

You can build NPCs just like you would any other creatures. If an NPC should work like they have a class, use the class features and feats of a suitable class to pick abilities, and look at both the class’s proficiencies and ability modifiers to determine how strong the NPC’s statistics should be. Class Road Maps has prebuilt road maps for the core rules classes to get you started.

If the NPC isn’t meant to work like they have a class (a baker, for example), instead look at the NPC Gallery. Compare your NPC to the existing ones to determine the NPC’s level, and look for abilities that are similar to what yours should have.

You can also create new abilities as needed to get the NPC’s interactions with the PCs to express their theme and role in the story. These NPCs can be level –1 or level 0. Their capabilities are below those of PCs, and they should typically not use any class features or feats from PC classes. Creatures of these levels tend to be extremely simple, and usually you can just take one from the NPC Gallery and reskin it.

It’s highly recommended that you select NPC skills using proficiency ranks as you would a PC, though you don’t need to be precise about the number of skill increases you give the NPC.

You can give them earlier access to expert, master, or legendary proficiency if they’re a skill-based NPC, and better proficiency in narrow areas of expertise, like Engineering Lore for a tinker NPC.

Non-Combat Level

An NPC’s level should represent their combat prowess.

A common person might not be a combat threat, even if they’re important or highly skilled, and they consequently have a low level. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t present a challenge in other types of encounters. This is represented by a non-combat level, and tends to be specific to their area of expertise. For example, the barrister is a 4th-level creature in an encounter related to legal matters.

This can go the other way as well, such as with a powerful combat creature that’s not suited to social settings. This is usually the case with creatures untrained in mental skills.

You can improvise this as you run the game, or you can plan ahead if you have something particular in mind.

Building an NPC’s non-combat level is pretty simple.

Choose the level you want the NPC to be for the type of challenge you have in mind, and use the skill numbers for that level—typically high or even extreme. Some challenges, such as social challenges, require the creature to have a high Perception and Will DC, so in those cases, you should increase those values as well. These should be set at the moderate or high values for the non-combat level, usually, depending on how adept you want the NPC to be.

The Experience Points gained for besting an NPC depend on how the party overcame them, because XP comes from overcoming a specific challenge. If the PCs defeat the NPC in a non-combat setting of the NPC’s specialty, the party gets XP based on the NPC’s non-combat level. If they just beat the NPC up, the XP would be based on the NPC’s creature level. Quite often, that means 0 XP and failure at the PCs’ objective; for instance, during a baking contest, if the PCs murder the other baker, not only would they be disqualified, but they would likely be apprehended for their crime.

PC-Style Build

If you do choose to build an NPC fully using the PC rules, your NPC should generally end up being an appropriate challenge as a creature of their level. They will likely have lower statistics in some areas than if you had built them using the creature rules, but more options due to their full complement of feats and class features. This is best saved for important, recurring NPCs, especially if they’re meant to engage in social or exploration endeavors rather than just battles.

There are still some considerations and shortcuts that can expedite the process while ensuring the NPC works as you intend.

  • The creature’s treasure should follow the Treasure for New Characters rules in the core rules. You’ll need to account for this in your campaign’s overall treasure. You might even want to give the NPC a higher-level item appropriate as a treasure allotment for the level.
  • You can expedite ability score generation by making the starting ability modifiers add up to +9, with no more than one modifier at +4 (and typically no more than one negative modifier). You can skip adding a background if you do this, but you might want to give the creature two skills, which includes one Lore skill, to represent the skills granted by a background.
  • It’s not necessary to assign every skill feat, particularly for a higher-level NPC. You can just pick the most emblematic ones and gloss over the rest.
  • For general feats, Incredible Initiative and Toughness make good choices.
  • Most of the guidelines about choosing spells still apply, though you might want a few more utility spells that deal with non-combat challenges, particularly in low-level slots.

Class Road Maps

You can use these suggestions when creating your road map to emulate a PC class, customizing as you see fit. You’ll still need to look through the class to pick feats, weapons, and the like. Any statistic that isn’t specifically listed can use moderate numbers.

  • Alchemist low Perception; high Crafting; high Int, moderate or better Dex or Str; low to moderate HP; moderate attack with bombs; infused alchemical items, Quick Bomber if a bomber alchemist, a few other alchemist abilities; it’s usually easier to give the alchemist its bomb items rather than use Quick Alchemy on the spot.
  • Barbarian high Athletics; high Str, high to moderate Con; high AC; high Fortitude; high HP; moderate attack and extreme damage (when raging); Rage and a few barbarian abilities
  • Bard moderate Occultism, high Performance, high Charisma-based skills; high Cha; low Fortitude, moderate to high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; spontaneous occult spellcasting as a bard of their level; composition spells
  • Champion low Perception; moderate Religion; high Str or Dex, moderate Cha; extreme AC; low Reflex; moderate attack and high damage; champion’s reaction, devotion spells, Shield Block
  • Cleric (Cloistered Cleric) high Perception; high Religion, moderate or high skill themed to deity; low AC; high Wis; low Fortitude, high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared divine spellcasting as a cleric of their level; divine font; domain spells
  • Cleric (Warpriest) moderate Perception; moderate Religion, moderate or high skill themed to deity; high Str, moderate Wis; high AC; low Reflex, high Will; high spell DC; prepared divine spellcasting as a cleric of their level; divine font, Shield Block
  • Druid high Perception; high Nature, moderate or high skill from order; high Wis; high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared primal spellcasting as a druid of their level; order ability and order spell for their order; Shield Block; add an animal to the encounter for animal order Fighter high Acrobatics or Athletics; high Str or Dex; high AC; low Will; high attack and high damage; Attack of Opportunity, Shield Block, a few fighter abilities Monk high Acrobatics, Athletics, or both; high Str or Dex, moderate Wis; high or extreme AC; moderate attack and high damage; Flurry of Blows, a few monk abilities (possibly including ki spells)
  • Ranger high Perception; moderate Nature and moderate to high Survival; high Str or Dex; high AC; moderate attack and high damage (or for a simpler ranger, remove Hunt Prey and just use high attack and high damage); a few ranger abilities
  • Rogue high Perception; high Dex (or key ability score for a specific rogue’s racket); high Stealth and Thievery, plus more skills than usual; high AC; low Fortitude, high Reflex; low to moderate HP; moderate attack and low to moderate damage before sneak attack plus high or extreme damage with sneak attack; sneak attack, a few rogue abilities
  • Sorcerer low Perception; moderate bloodline skills and high Charisma-based bloodline skills; high Cha; low AC; low Fortitude; low HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; spontaneous spellcasting of a tradition based on bloodline as a sorcerer of their level; bloodline spells
  • Wizard low Perception; high Arcana; high Int; low AC; low Fortitude; low HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared arcane spellcasting as a wizard of their level; Drain Bonded Item, school spells and additional slots for a specialist (or additional uses of Drain Bonded Item for a universalist)

Class Abilities

You don’t need to give an NPC all the abilities from its class— especially those that just alter numbers. The following abilities are good quick choices that make for more interesting encounters.

Alchemist Feats 1st: Quick Bomber; 6th: Debilitating Bomb; 8th: Sticky Bomb; 10th: Expanded Splash, Greater Debilitating Bomb; 14th: True Debilitating Bomb; 18th: Miracle Worker

Barbarian instinct ability and related feats, raging resistance; Feats 1st: Raging Intimidation; 2nd: No Escape, Shake it Off; 4th Fast Movement, Swipe; 6th: Attack of Opportunity, Cleave; 8th: Sudden Leap; 10th: Come and Get Me, Knockback, Terrifying Howl; 14th: Awesome Blow, Whirlwind Strike; 18th: Vicious Evisceration

Bard muse feats; Feats 4th: Melodious Spell; 6th: Dirge of Doom, Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Quickened Casting; 14th: Allegro, Soothing Ballad; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 20th: Fatal Aria

Champion divine ally and related feats, divine smite, exalt, feats based on cause; Feats 1st: Deity’s Domain; 2nd: Divine Grace; 4th Aura of Courage, Mercy; 6th: Attack of Opportunity; 8th: Greater Mercy; 12th: Aura of Faith; 14th: Aura of Righteousness, Divine Reflexes; 18th: Celestial Form, Ultimate Mercy

Cleric Feats 1st: Harming Hands, Healing Hands; 2nd: Sap Life, Turn Undead; 4th Command Undead, Necrotic Infusion; 6th: Divine Weapon, Selective Energy; 8th: Channeled Succor; 12th: Defensive Recovery; 14th: Fast Channel; 16th: Eternal Bane, Eternal Blessing

Druid order feats; Feats 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 8th: Fey Caller (only the added spells); 10th: Overwhelming Energy; 12th: Primal Summons; 16th: Effortless Concentration, 20th: Leyline Conduit

Fighter bravery, feats associated with a combat style; Feats 1st: Power Attack, Sudden Charge; 2nd: Intimidating Strike, Lunge; 4th Knockdown, Swipe; 6th: Shatter Defenses; 8th: Blind-Fight, Felling Strike, Sudden Leap; 10th: Certain Strike, Combat Reflexes, Disruptive Stance, Fearsome Brute; 12th: Spring Attack; 14th: Determination, Whirlwind Strike; 20th: Weapon Supremacy

Monk metal strikes, mystic strikes, perfected form, stance and related feats; Feats 1st: Ki Rush, Ki Strike; 2nd: Crushing Grab, Stunning Fist; 4th Deflect Arrow, Flying Kick; 6th: Abundant Step, Ki Blast, Whirling Throw; 8th: Wall Run; 10th: Winding Flow; 16th: Quivering Palm, Shattering Strike; 18th: Diamond Fists, Swift River; 20th: Enduring Quickness, Impossible Techniques

Ranger Hunt Prey, hunter’s edge, nature’s edge, masterful hunter, swift prey, companion or combat style and related feats; Feats 2nd: Quick Draw, Wild Empathy; 4th Scout’s Warning; 6th: Skirmish Strike; 8th: Blind-Fight, Warden’s Boon; 10th: Camouflage; 14th: Sense the Unseen; 18th: Shadow Hunter; 20th: Ultimate Skirmisher

Rogue surprise attack, deny advantage, debilitating strike, master strike, rogue’s racket and related feats; Feats 1st: Nimble Dodge; 2nd: Mobility, Quick Draw; 4th Scout’s Warning; 6th: Gang Up, Skirmish Strike, Twist the Knife; 8th: Blind-Fight, Opportune Backstab; 10th: Sneak Savant; 12th: Fantastic Leap, Spring from the Shadows; 14th: Sense the Unseen; 16th: Dispelling Slice, Perfect Distraction; 20th: Hidden Paragon, Reactive Distraction

Sorcerer bloodline and related feats; Feats 1st: Counterspell, Dangerous Sorcery; 4th Bespell Weapon; 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Overwhelming Energy, Quickened Casting; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 20th: Metamagic Mastery

Wizard school and related feats; Feats 1st: Counterspell; 4th Bespell Weapon; 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Overwhelming Energy, Quickened Casting; 12th: Clever Counterspell; 14th: Reflect Spell; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 18th: Infinite Possibilities; 20th: Metamagic Mastery, Spell Combination

Building Items

Creating your own magic and alchemical items is an amazing way to customize the adventure and gameplay for your group and add unique elements without requiring quite the same mechanical depth as a whole new class, archetype, or ancestry.

New items make great mementos of previous adventures and tend to be one of the easiest elements for a character to begin using mid-campaign after receiving them as a reward.

This section explains the philosophy and numbers behind creating items so you can design your own in no time!

Concept and Role

First, come up with a concept for the item based on the role the item serves in your game and in the game’s world.

You might include a new item in an ancient ruin to hint at the its history and the people who used to live there. For instance, an ancient rune-oriented land might have an item based on rune magic, while a another might have an item related to golems.

A new magic item might be important later in the story, or its role might be as simple as a fun wolf-themed item for the monk that uses Wolf Stance. Keep your concept in mind to guide you through the rest of the process. Start thinking about what kind of magic item it will be. Each item type has its own niche, and some are less likely to be as useful to the PCs. For instance, new weapons and armor require the PC to give up the weapon or armor they already have, which might make them more reluctant to use the new items unless they’re noticeably better, while consumable items don’t have as big an impact on the story as permanent items.

Item Level

A new item is typically going to be within a few levels of the PCs. If it’s too low, it might not be interesting, and if it’s too high, it might be too powerful or too lucrative to sell.

Comparison

First, take a look at similar items. For example, if you want a permanent item that lets someone fly, look at the broom of flying, which moves of its own volition to a location and thus can’t be used to gain a huge advantage during combat, and winged boots, which can. This will give you an idea of the right level range and the different specifics and limitations of existing items.

You might even be able to just adjust one of those a bit to get what you want with minimal work.

Item Effects

Next, use the item’s concept and role to decide its effects.

This is where your creativity will bring the item to life. Make sure to have it do something exciting and roleplay-inspiring.

A magic item that does nothing more than deliver a bonus is far less interesting, even if the item does have a load-bearing item bonus, like a magic weapon. To determine the item’s power, take into account the special abilities you give the item as well as the item bonus (if any) that it grants.

For specific advice for the type of magic item you are creating, check out Designing by Type.

Special Abilities

When deciding what special abilities are appropriate for what level, it’s best to look for similar spells to gauge the effect. For most consumables, the effect should be less powerful than the highest level spell a spellcaster of the item’s level could cast. Scrolls are about the most efficient you can get—they’re the same level the spellcaster would be—but they require a spellcaster that has the spell on their list, and take the same actions as casting the spell normally.

The most straightforward choice is a once-per-day ability.

For this, the item’s level should be at least 2 levels higher than the minimum level a spellcaster could first cast that spell. For example, if your ability is about as powerful as a 3rd-level spell cast once per day (perhaps haste), then it should be at least a 7th-level item. A basic wand is a good example. However, a wand is flexible and can contain the most effective possible choice for its spell level (such as long-lasting spells where once a day is effectively permanent), so a specific item that doesn’t grant such a spell could have additional powers or bonuses at the same price as a wand.

If the item can be activated multiple times per day, it should be at least 4 levels higher instead—9th level in our example. Frequency could range from twice per day to once per hour and anything in between. Choose whatever makes sense to allow the characters to use the item more frequently without being effectively constant or unlimited.

The appropriate frequency, or whether it’s ever okay to have unlimited activations, varies wildly based on the spell.

Unlimited castings of a cantrip is fine, but an effect akin to a non-cantrip spell is rarely a good idea. Only attempt to build such an item when you’re certain of the consequences.

Items that can be activated less often than once per day don’t appear too often, and they usually fit best with abilities that make sense outside of encounters. It’s still best to stick to the guidelines for once-per-day abilities, but these items tend to have more properties—and often strange ones.

Constant Abilities

If you want an effect to be constant, set the level and Price accordingly. For instance, let’s say your group is 16th level and you want to give them an item themed around flying.

A 7th-level fly spell lasts an hour already, so one casting covers a significant portion of the adventuring day. To keep it simpler, you decide to create a 16th-level cloak that lets the wearer constantly fly. Remember, some effects were never meant to be constant and could warp your game.

Activation Actions Watch out when picking the number of actions an activation takes! A 1-action activation that casts a spell with a 2-action casting time is drastically more powerful in an encounter than an item with a 2-action activation would be. An item like that is typically much higher level, and it works best with “helper” spells or ones with limited utility rather than offensive spells. The safest bet is to use the same number of actions the spell normally takes to cast.

Scaling out of Usefulness Some spells aren’t appealing if their level is too low. For instance, an item that casts 1st-level burning hands three times per day might be 5th or 6th level. The problem is that spell scaling has the biggest impact at low levels, so the spell isn’t effective compared to other actions a character could take. Err on the side of fewer, more impressive activations.

Bonuses

If your item includes item bonuses, check the table below for the minimum item levels the game’s math expects permanent bonuses to be applied to. A lower-level item might give such a bonus temporarily, but keep track to make sure the item isn’t effectively permanent. If a character typically picks three or fewer locks a day, there’s no difference between a +2 item bonus to pick all locks and an activation that gives a +2 item bonus to Pick a Lock three times per day.

For attack bonuses, AC, and saves, the minimums match magic weapons and magic armor.

You can have other items with these bonuses (like handwraps of mighty blows), but keep in mind they compete with fundamental runes.

Skill bonuses come on a wider range of items. Some are more broadly useful, so an Athletics item might be more expensive than an equivalent Society item. Gaining a bonus to Perception is especially valuable compared to gaining a bonus to a skill. Just because an item is the minimum level for its bonus doesn’t mean the bonus should be the item’s only power. The item can and should have an additional interesting power beyond the bonus. Likewise, an item can come at a higher level than the minimum, but if it’s much higher, its abilities start to compete with the next bonus.

Table 2–17: Levels For Permanent Item Bonuses
Statistic +1 +2 +3
Attack bonus 2 10 16
AC 5 11 18
Save (resilient rune) 8 14 20
Skill/Perception 3 9 17*

* This is also the minimum level for apex items.

Designing By Type

The following guidance applies to items of various types.

Alchemical Items

Alchemical items are consumables. Because alchemists can make a large number for free, alchemical items tend to be on the weaker end for their level, with lower Prices. Avoid alchemical effects that feel too much like magic. Alchemy is capable of fantastical things, but should have its own distinct feel; where you draw the line depends on your game.

Alchemical bombs are like weapons for alchemists and should usually primarily deal damage, with small extra effects. Existing bombs are great models. Elixirs are varied; make sure not to duplicate potions, especially highly magical ones. Be careful with mutagen drawbacks; it’s easy to make one that doesn’t affect certain characters. Look at the serene mutagen. If its drawback didn’t affect spells, Wisdom-based casters who didn’t use weapons would have no drawback.

Poisons are one of the trickier alchemical items to make, and it’s usually best to just tweak one found in the core rules to avoid making something that’s overpowered; compare to poisons of the same type that have similar onset and stage duration, as longer onset and duration poisons tend to deal drastically more damage. Alchemical tools are best used for adding a little weirdness. They can be especially creative and interesting, but tend not to be powerful.

Ammunition

Magic ammunition is consumable; launching it destroys it. Pay attention to whether you give the ammunition an activation: any big flashy effect for its level should almost always have one, since otherwise the effect is essentially a free action on top of a Strike. This is particularly important for extremely low-level ammunition, since a high-level character could use that ammunition for every Strike without noticing the gold cost. If the ammunition doesn’t deal normal Strike damage on a hit, remember to say that!

Dealing damage is the default.

Armor and Weapons

Specific armor and weapons replace the opportunity to add property runes, so you have a lot of space to design. Choose abilities that feel attached to the fact that they are weapons or armor; for instance, a fiery sword that you point at an enemy to shoot fire bolts is more on theme than a fiery sword that casts wall of fire in an unconnected way.

The specific item should cost more than the base armor or weapon would with just the fundamental runes, but you can often discount the cost of the additional components significantly as part of the specific item’s special niche. Be careful about specific armor or weapons that include property runes in addition to unique specific abilities. If you discount the item, you might end up with an item significantly superior to one built using the normal property runes system. That’s not always bad, since it’s still giving up customization for power, and this can be appropriate if the item has an important place in your story. Just make sure the difference isn’t too drastic.

If you just want to create armor or a weapon with runes and no extra special abilities, you can do so. The Price of such an item is the sum of all the runes’ Prices, and its level is that of the highest-level rune on the item.

When picking abilities, you can also consider taking from the relic gifts. Even if your game doesn’t use relics, that section has plenty of choices sorted by theme. If you do, keep in mind that relic abilities are typically more powerful than usual for their level and that those abilities wouldn’t scale on a normal magic item.

Held Items

Usually, held items should require manipulation to use, with Interact activations. They are most often tools, implements, items that can be thrown, and the like. Imagine a PC physically using the item and what that looks like.

Remember that held items are more challenging for martial characters to use, compared to spellcasters or hands-free characters, like monks. A barbarian might have to give up a two-handed weapon to use a held item, and so is less likely to use one. This means you might want to design held items specifically for non-martial characters, or have them be items a martial character uses outside of combat.

Oils

Oils are consumables you slather onto items or, rarely, creatures. They provide an interesting opportunity to apply effects to other items. Just remember not to accidentally make something that should be applied topically into a potion; for instance, a petrified character can’t drink an anti-petrifying potion! The actions an oil takes to use depend on how thoroughly it needs to be applied. For one used outside of combat, it could take a minute or more.

Potions

Potions are consumables in the truest sense; you literally consume them. Since the action of drinking isn’t easy to split up, they take only a single action to activate. This advantage makes potions that replicate spell effects incredibly powerful, and it’s the reason potions are nearly always higher level than scrolls with similar effects.

Potions Vs. Elixirs

Alchemical items and magic items follow a similar price economy based on their level, but the effects of potions can be a bit broader and more directly magical. Alchemists can also make extremely large numbers of elixirs at an item level equal to their alchemist level, so if a 17th level elixir was competing with a 9th level spell for power, an alchemist would be packing the equivalent of over 40 9th level spells, and potentially quickened spells thanks to the single action activation.

Runes

Property runes are a fun and versatile way to customize weapons and armor without throwing away the previous items. Each should be fairly simple, especially at lower levels, because combining runes can make things overcomplicated.

Compare to other properties to determine the right level.

Scrolls

You’ll never need to design a new scroll, but use them as a comparison when designing other types of consumables.

If you’re designing a consumable that seems like it’s much better than a scroll of its level—or faster to activate—you should probably raise the item’s level or adjust the effect.

Shields

Use the sturdy shields as benchmarks for the best possible shield Hardness, HP, and BT for a shield of that level. Your new shield should have less than those benchmarks since it also does something else, and you can use the magnitude of the reduction to build room for creative defensive abilities.

Staves

You’ll need to come up with a theme and curate a list of spells that stay close to that theme, typically one to three per spell level, all on one spell list. A staff is always at least 3 levels higher than the minimum level for a spellcaster to cast the highest-level spell it contains, so a staff with up to 4th-level spells would be at least a 10th-level item.

Structures

Structures are evocative and make great tertiary items, quirky but not part of a combat build. This allows you to price them affordably, but make sure there isn’t some hidden abuse where the structure drastically alters encounters. The structure trait is intended to help as a starting point.

Talismans

Because talismans are affixed ahead of time but don’t take an action to retrieve, they reward forethought and planning.

Those that can be activated as a free action also have the best action efficiency of any consumable. In the same way scrolls reward specific spellcasters, talisman requirements reward particular types of characters. Talismans might grant a single use of a feat, with an additional effect if the character already has that feat. Think of talismans as martial characters’ answer to scrolls to expand on the options of the non-spellcasters at your table.

Wands

You won’t need to design basic magic wands, but you might want a special wand. When designing a new special wand, your wand’s level will usually be 1 to 2 levels higher than the basic wand, depending on the magnitude of the special effect. Remember that if you make the wand 2 levels higher, it’s now competing with wands of a spell a whole level higher, so the special effect should be worth that cost!

Worn Items

Worn items vary wildly in their effects, but they all take up one of a character’s 10 invested items. Remember to include the item’s worn entry, if applicable (or — if you could imagine someone wearing 10 or more with no difficulty).

Where the item is worn should usually match its effects or bonuses: shoes help you move, eyepieces affect your vision, and so on. As with held items, imagine a character wearing the item to picture how they use its magic.

Apex items are always at least level 17 and should have unique abilities on top of their bonus, just like other items.

Fill In The Numbers

You’re almost done! The final step is to fill in the numbers.

DCs

Choose any DCs for the item’s abilities.

You can’t go wrong with the typical DCs in Table 2–18. However, an item with a narrow function might have a DC up to 2 higher, and one that forces a save (such as with an aura) is typically 2 lower.

The lower the DC, the quicker the item becomes obsolete.

Table 2–18: Magic Item DCs
Item Level DC
1 15
2 16
3 17
4 18
5 19
6 20
7 23
8 24
9 25
10 27
11 28
12 29
13 30
14 31
15 34
16 35
17 37
18 38
19 41
20 43

Item Prices

Use the following guidelines for pricing items.

Permanent Items

Each item level has a price range. Based on the item’s role and abilities, decide where in that range to place it. There’s plenty of variation, and you primarily need to worry about Price only if you expect the PCs will be able to sell it.

Primary items cost near the highest value for their level.

They have a big impact on combat or player ability. This includes weapons, armor, and Perception items. The highest price is for items like magic weapons, magic armor, and apex items. So a +1 striking weapon is 100 gp at 4th level.

Secondary items, with middle values, give significant secondary benefits or enhance highly consequential noncombat or support skills like Medicine or Crafting.

Tertiary items, with low value, are weird or very specific items, ones not usually core to a character’s build.

Especially strange ones might fall into the gap between two levels.

Table 2–19: Permanent Magic Item Price
Level Price Core Item
1 10–20 gp  
2 25–35 gp +1 weapon
3 45–60 gp +1 skill item
4 75–100 gp +1 striking weapon
5 125–160 gp +1 armor
6 200–250 gp  
7 300–360 gp  
8 415–500 gp +1 resilient armor
9 575–700 gp +2 skill item
10 820–1,000 gp +2 striking weapon
11 1,160–1,400 gp +2 resilient armor
12 1,640–2,000 gp +2 greater striking weapon
13 2,400–3,000 gp  
14 3,600–4,500 gp +2 greater resilient armor
15 5,300–6,500 gp  
16 7,900–10,000 gp +3 greater striking weapon
17 12,000–15,000 gp +3 skill item, apex item
18 18,600–24,000 gp +3 greater resilient armor
19 30,400–40,000 gp +3 superior striking weapon
20 52,000–70,000 gp +3 superior resilient armor
Consumables

Consumables have a slightly narrower range, with top end items like scrolls, optimum healing potions, or super-useful consumables like a potion of invisibility at the high end.

Table 2–20: Consumable Price
Level Price
1 3–4 gp
2 5–7 gp
3 8–12 gp
4 13–20 gp
5 21–30 gp
6 31–50 gp
7 51–70 gp
8 71–100 gp
9 101–150 gp
10 151–200 gp
11 201–300 gp
12 301–400 gp
13 401–600 gp
14 601–900 gp
15 901–1,300 gp
16 1,301–2,000 gp
17 2,001–3,000 gp
18 3,001–5,000 gp
19 5,001–8,000 gp
20 8,001–14,000 gp

You can use the table found here to quickly apply a quirk to any item, such as items found as treasure or new items that a PC creates. Rather than rolling, you can instead choose one yourself or invent a new quirk. Item quirks don’t normally have any mechanical effect, since their only purpose is to be colorful and further flesh out the world, though you can add one if you so choose. Such effects should never grant more than a +1 item bonus or –1 item penalty, and even then the statistic or check it applies to should be narrow. For a quirk that grants an item the ability to speak, you choose the language based on the history of the item, or your best guess of what that history might be. It’s typically a language spoken by the item’s creator.

Item Quirks

Item quirks are peculiar characteristics that make items unique in unusual ways. These can make individual items—particularly permanent items—stand out from one another, and can give additional wonder to magical items beyond just their mechanical benefits.

Table 2–21: Quirks
d% Quirk Description
01 Melodic Faint music plays when in use.
02 Skin-altering The user’s skin color changes to a bright color such as blue or green.
03 Choral Repeats everything the user says in a singing voice.
04 Mood coloration User’s mood affects the item’s color.
05 Chatty Happily engages in small talk.
06 Spoiling Food within 1 foot spoils at twice the normal rate.
07 Friendly Requests to be introduced to everyone the user meets.
08 Muffling Nearby sounds are slightly quieter.
09 Runic Runes appear on the user’s skin.
10 Comfortable Can serve as a pillow or blanket.
11 Rain-blocking The user remains dry in the rain.
12 Clumsy When unattended, knocks over other small items within 1 foot.
13 Elemental appearance Seems made of flame, water, or another elemental material.
14 Magnetic Small, ferrous objects of light Bulk or less adhere to it.
15 Aberrant Has tentacles, teeth, or other off-putting features.
16 Dream-eating Creatures asleep within 10 feet do not dream.
17 Clean Remains pristine despite filth.
18 Hungry Needs daily meals, often odd things like wood shavings.
19 Smelly Smells like the last food the user ate.
20 Flamboyant Flashes of light, sparks of color, and other effects shower from it.
21 Verdant trail Small plants grow where the user walks, remaining for 1 hour.
22 Complaining Grumbles when not in use.
23 Detecting Aware of a specific animal or plant, such as squirrels or poison ivy, within 30 feet.
24 Fibbing Tells grandiose and obvious lies.
25 Compressing User is slightly shorter.
26 Attentive Turns to face the last creature to touch it.
27 Soprano User’s voice becomes higher.
28 Shrinking Decreases in size when used.
29 Aromatic Nearby air smells pleasant.
30 Temperate Slight warmth spills from the item.
31 Slime trail User leaves a trail of slime where they walk, remaining for 1 hour.
32 Tetrachromatic Colors seem more vivid to the user.
33 Resounding Nearby sounds are slightly louder.
34 Insect-attracting Harmless insects swarm around it.
35 Ancient tongue Speaks in a forgotten language.
36 Bloodthirsty The sight of blood causes it to quiver in anticipation.
37 Polished Highly reflective.
38 Scribing Absorbs ink for 1 hour, allowing its points to be used as a pen.
39 Dirty A layer of filth always remains.
40 Eye-altering User’s eye color changes.
41 Preserving Food within 1 foot spoils at half rate.
42 Leafy Small plants grow on or from it.
43 Wet It and its user are always damp.
44 Encouraging Offers encouragement when the user fails a check.
45 Loyal Remains within 5 feet of the user, as if on a tether.
46 Ritualistic Demands the user perform a simple act every morning.
47 Restless Slowly moves and fidgets.
48 Displaced Appears offset from where it is.
49 Caring Provides advice and reminders.
50 Projecting Light creates a kaleidoscopic effect.
51 Hair-altering User’s hair color changes.
52 Watchful Staring eyes cover it.
53 Generous Produces small, token gifts.
54 Bass User’s voice becomes lower.
55 Leaking Secretes a harmless liquid.
56 Taste-altering Food tastes different, such as tasting sweeter or saltier.
57 Bouncy Bounces on collision.
58 Lucid Creatures asleep within 10 feet see the item in their dreams.
59 Decorous Insists the user use polite language.
60 Junky Appears shoddy or made of scraps.
61 Cavorting Dances in place when not in use.
62 Furry Covered by a thin coat of fur.
63 Unusually colored An outlandish color, such as a bright purple suit of armor.
64 Sonorous Sounds a pure tone when struck.
65 Starry Seems made of night sky.
66 Compact Packs neatly into a smaller form.
67 Misting Constantly leaking mist or steam.
68 Chirping Coos and squeaks when used.
69 Balanced Always remains perfectly upright.
70 Sun-blocking User never receives sunburns.
71 Animal-attracting Harmless animals follow the user.
72 Flaunting Forces user to move dramatically.
73 Tracing Followed by thin trails of color.
74 Monologuing Recites long lectures or speeches.
75 Foretelling Makes mysterious predictions.
76 Adhesive Sticks slightly to any surface.
77 Levitating Floats slightly above a surface.
78 Slimy Covered by a thin layer of slime.
79 Commentating Remarks on its surroundings.
80 Numbing User is less sensitive to pain.
81 Time-telling Announces the current time.
82 Towering User is slightly taller.
83 Absorbent Absorbs up to one pint of liquid.
84 Faceted Appears made of crystal or gems.
85 Bubbly Creates bubbles when used.
86 Image-flipping User appears to be mirrored.
87 Hair-growing User’s hair grows at double rate.
88 Alternating Appearance slowly changes.
89 Sweaty Becomes damp and pungent when used extensively.
90 Glittering Shimmers and glows with light.
91 Molting Sheds a thick film every morning.
92 Echoing Sounds around the user echo.
93 Shadowless Item and user cast no shadow.
94 Storytelling Is inscribed with a story or knows a tale it can recite on command.
95 Chilled Slightly cool to the touch.
96 Color-washing User’s vision shifts to a given coloration, such as sepia or monochrome.
97 Growing Increases in size when used.
98 Floating Slowly descends when dropped.
99 Two quirks Roll twice on the table and apply both quirks to the item. Reroll any results of 99 or 100.
100 Three quirks Roll three times on the table and apply all quirks to the item. Reroll any results of 99 or 100.

Building Worlds

As a Game Master, you control the details of the world your players explore. Some campaign settings are lush worlds suitable for countless adventures, but you might prefer to adventure in entirely new worlds, where every aspect of the setting and story is yours to decide!

Building your own campaign world can be a deeply fulfilling creative process, as it lets you bring to life the exact setting you envision. It gives you great flexibility, in that you can build only as much as you need for the next few adventures, and you can adapt the world on the fly to meet the demands of your story. It also gives you great control, allowing you to build precisely the setting you need for the story you want to tell. Finally, it bypasses some of the issues that can come with playing within an existing campaign setting, where you might create a narrative that contradicts published canon, or your players might stumble across major plot or setting spoilers. Whatever your world-building goals, this section guides you through the design process step by step.

Design Approach

World building can be approached in many ways, but it fundamentally comes down to a simple preference. Do you start at a high level and zoom in, or do you start small and build up? This section outlines a largely top-down approach, but you can design from the bottom up simply by starting at the end of this section and working backwards. Either way, you may find yourself skipping between sections as inspiration strikes—and that’s OK!

When building a world, there’s a risk of becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions to be made. Remember that you don’t need to make every decision for every aspect of your world all at once. Focus first on the elements you need for your story and the game, then add as much of the rest as you’d like. You’ll also want to allow room for input from your players— gaming sessions are more memorable and engaging when the storytelling experience is shared between everyone at the table.

Before you decide anything else, however, you should establish your concept and your goals. Do you envision a high-magic steampunk setting where humans are a tiny minority? A world where the only magic derives from squabbling pantheons of gods whose followers are caught up in their wars for power? A quaint town isolated from an otherwise-unknown world beyond a vast, impenetrable forest of mist-choked, skeletal trees?

Are you designing a world for a multi-year campaign, or for a fast-paced one-shot adventure? Having an idea in mind will help steer your choices as you build your world, and knowing your goals will help you focus on building what you need.

Top Down

The top-down approach is great if you have a lot of time to dedicate to world building. When designing a setting from the top down, your initial focus is on the big picture.

You may already have an idea of the big movers and shakers of your world or your multiverse.

You may want to chronicle a thousand years or more of the setting’s history.

You may have already sketched out a world map with continents, nations, and trade routes spanning the globe. This approach begins with broad generalities that get more detailed as you design and during play.

Bottom Up

With a bottom-up approach to world building, you start small and local. Focus on the starting location and immediate needs of your campaign, then expand outward as the story unfolds. This strategy works well for those with less time to devote to world building, as you need to prepare only the minimum detail necessary to entice your players toward adventure, fleshing out your world only as the campaign requires it.

The World

While world building might include building much more than a single planet, most adventures occur entirely on one world. It’s a good idea to have a broad understanding of that world as a whole.

Planetary Basics

When designing the physical features of a campaign world, you’ll want to determine its shape and the general distribution of landmasses.

You can also establish the world’s size, though note the scale of a world generally has a fairly small impact on the adventures taking place there.

Shape

In a fantasy setting, the shape of your world need not be spherical as governed by the laws of physics. It could be any shape you desire, and it need not be a planet at all!

  • Globe: Barring some catastrophe, worlds in our reality are roughly spherical due to the influence of gravity.
  • Hollow World: What if the landmasses and civilizations of a world existed on the inner surface of a hollow sphere? In such a world, the horizon would climb upwards, permitting creatures to see landmarks at extraordinary distances. Light might emanate from a sun-like orb in the world’s center, from various other natural or magical sources, or not at all.
  • Irregular: What if your world is flat, a toroid, or shaped into a cylinder, cube, or other polyhedron? What if it’s something even stranger? With such an unusual shape, you may need to decide how gravity, atmosphere, and other details function.

Landmass

The next major step in world creation is to sketch out the planet’s oceans and major landmasses. On Earth, these geological features are the result of plate tectonics.

In a fantasy world, however, the oceans might have been cleaved from the land by the actions of titans, or the continents shaped to suit a god’s whims. The following are some common landmass types.

  • Archipelago: A stretch of vast ocean, dotted by chains of small island groups, atolls, and islets.
  • Major Islands: A region of seas dominated by large islands, each several hundred miles across.
  • Island-Continent: An enormous island nearly the size of a continent, surrounded by ocean.
  • Continent: A substantial landform that (usually) rests on a tectonic plate and gradually shifts in position over geologic timescales.
  • Supercontinent: An assembly of the world’s continental blocks into a single immense landmass.

Environment

The environment and terrain of a region can pose as much of a challenge to an adventuring party as any of the foes they face.

Common Environments

The following environments are common enough that they might appear in nearly any adventure or world.

  • Aquatic: Oceans, seas, lakes, and other large waterways are aquatic environments.
  • Arctic: Arctic environments usually appear near the northern and southern extremes of a world, though extreme elevation, unusually shaped worlds, and supernatural forces could result in arctic terrain elsewhere.
  • Desert: Deserts can appear anywhere on a world where precipitation is scant, even along some oceans. Any large landmasses that entirely lack bodies of water are likely to be deserts.
  • Forest: The composition of a forest depends on the climate and the elevation, with thick jungles more common near an equator, hardwood forests in more temperate zones, and evergreens at higher latitudes and elevations. Most worlds have a tree line—an elevation above which trees can’t grow.
  • Mountain: A world’s highest peaks can stretch tens of thousands of feet above sea level. This category also includes hills, which are typically no more than 1,000 feet tall.
  • Plains: Mostly flat and unobstructed, plains are usually at lower elevations, but they can also be found at higher elevation on plateaus.
  • Urban: Cities and settlements are urban environments. These areas are detailed in Settlements.
  • Swamp: Wide floodplains, shallow lakes, and marshes can appear at most latitudes.
Extreme Environments

Some adventures lead to fantastic reaches of the world or the multiverse that are seldom tread by mortals.

  • Aerial: A world might include windy realms of floating islands and castles in the clouds.
  • Glacier: Massive sheets of dense ice, constantly moving under their own immense weight, glaciers are frozen wastelands riddled with columns of jagged ice and snow-covered crevasses.
  • Volcanic: Hellish landscapes of molten lava, burning ash, and scorching temperatures pose immediate danger.
  • Undersea: A subset of aquatic environments, undersea environments are those areas submerged beneath the waves.
  • Underground: Some worlds have deep natural caverns, while others have extensive winding tunnels and expansive realms below the surface.

Mapping A World

Many Game Masters like to have an overland map for their local region, nation, or even the whole world. The primary goal of this scale of map is to designate sites of import to the campaign; you need not detail every hamlet or woodland grove, but having a sense of the major features can help you and the other players visualize the world in which they’re playing.

Step 1. Coastlines: The easiest first step is to separate land from sea. Regional maps may only have a single shoreline, if any. At larger map scales, consider the placement of major islands, archipelago chains, atolls, and islets. A world map should consider the size and placement of continents.

Step 2. Topography: Pencil in a rough ridgeline for each mountain range in the region. Mountain ranges are common along coastlines where continental plates push together. If extended into the sea, mountain ranges typically result in a chain of offshore islands. Indicate hills in the regions adjacent to the mountains and elsewhere as necessary to demonstrate elevation. Unmarked terrain on an overland map is usually lowland plains.

Step 3. Watercourses: It’s important to keep in mind that rivers flow downstream, from high elevation toward the sea, always taking the path of least resistance.

Powerful watercourses might carve canyons or gorges over millennia, but they should never cross through mountain ranges. On a similar note, watercourses don’t branch—tributaries join into rivers as they flow downstream.

Step 4. Terrain and Environment: Sketch in interesting terrain features such as forests, deserts, or tundra.

You may want to differentiate these environs, separating coniferous and deciduous forests from tropical jungles or arctic taiga.

Environs not specifically called out on an overland map are typically presumed to be some variety of grassland.

Step 5. Civilization: Now you’re ready to place the elements of civilization. Major cities should typically be located near fresh water and natural resources. Major roads connect larger settlements, circumventing forests and other difficult environs, but they may wind through mountain passes when lucrative commerce demands it. Add smaller settlements along your roads, further connected by smaller roads and trails. Finally, draw political boundaries and mark other sites of interest.

Civilization

With the major geographical features and terrain of your world decided, you’ll next want to establish significant nations and settlements.

When it comes to designing a world’s cultures, you might want to focus primarily on those areas the party is likely to explore first. This allows you to establish the details and depth of one region’s peoples before expanding out to address others. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have ideas about the cultures beyond your starting settlement—it just means you don’t need to decide every detail of every culture all at once.

As always, you don’t need to demarcate every realm on the globe or indicate every town, hamlet, and thorp.

Keep your focus on what you need for your story and your adventure—leaving terra incognita can lead to stories down the road as the party ventures further from home.

Societal Benchmarks

The following sections can help you establish certain truths about your world as a whole. From there, you can decide the details of specific cultural groups, including whether they deviate from these global standards.

Technology

Throughout history, a major driver of world culture has been the continuous advancement of technology in warfare, agriculture, and industry. The following categories roughly approximate real-world technological levels, but progress might vary on your world. What heights of technology have been achieved? Have any groups fallen behind or leaped ahead?

Primeval: Weapons and tools in this early era are crafted primarily from bone, wood, or stone. Knowledge of stonecutting allows early civilizations to raise stone walls and buildings.

Ancient: Advancements in mining and metallurgy lead to weapons and tools made from bronze. Crop rotation and storage in granaries ensure greater survival in times of famine. Trade between river and coastal settlements is aided by oar? and sail-powered galleys. Chariots come into strong use during warfare.

Classical: Superior military tactics and engineered roads allow for rapid deployment of infantry wielding iron weapons and aided by mounted cavalry. Advances in complex irrigation and construction of aqueducts lead to an abundance of harvest foods and dramatic improvements to sanitation.

Medieval: Warfare in this era is defined by iron armor, crossbows, and weapons forged of fine steel.

Enlightenment: The development of black powder and muzzle-loaded, single-shot firearms greatly changes warfare, making plate armor mostly obsolete. Larger ships permit ocean crossings and long-range trade to distant shores. The printing press speeds literacy and the dissemination of new ideas.

Steam: Steam engines replace conveyances drawn by animal power or sail, leading to a significant shift from wood fuel to coal. Further advances in science lead to dirigible airships and observation balloons. Simple firearms are replaced by repeating revolvers and bolt action rifles.

Divine Involvement

What is the nature of the gods? Do they even exist? If so, are they omnipotent and omniscient? How does a follower request their divine favor? The answers to these questions will help you determine how strongly divine faith impacts the cultures of your world.

None: Deities do not exist in this world, or if they do, they are oblivious to or completely unconcerned with mortal affairs. If they exist, they don’t make their presence known, nor do they grant power to their worshipers.

Limited: Deities exist, though they remain aloof from the mortal world and make their divine presence known only to a chosen few.

Accepted: Divine influence is an accepted fact of everyday life. Their will is enacted through priests and organized religions. Divine avatars may appear in the world during extreme circumstances.

Ubiquitous: Deities live among mortals, exerting their divine will directly. Gods rule entire nations, commanding absolute obedience from their faithful followers.

Magic

Does magic exist? If so, which traditions are available?

What are the sources of a spellcaster’s power, and how do they gain and channel that magic?

Campaign Reference

Before the campaign starts, you might want to begin the outline for a campaign reference: a living document that you can easily review and annotate during gameplay and that records the geography, factions, history, characters, and plots central to your campaign.

No Magic: Magic of any kind does not exist in this world. Spells and magic effects do not function.

Low Magic: Magic is mysterious and taboo. The few practitioners of the mystical arts are feared or shunned.

Common: Magic is an accepted fact of everyday life, though its mysteries are beyond the reach of most people. Magic portals and gates can whisk travelers “in the know” halfway across the world or to the other side of the multiverse.

High Magic: Magic and magical items are commonplace in society. It may be as easy to learn spellcasting as it is to learn a new language. Magical objects simulate various modern technologies.

Designing Nations

For any nation you establish in your setting, you’ll want to provide at least a minimal description—the core concept of that nation. The amount of additional detail you provide depends on the needs of your story.

You likely want to establish enough information to create a stat block for the nation your adventurers are from, any nations they’re likely to spend significant time in, and those nations’ main allied and enemy nations, if they are likely to become part of the plot.

When building a nation, remember that the various elements connect to the history of the land and its people, its relationships with nearby nations, and the current residents. This interconnectedness will help you build a wealth of story hooks and provide immersive detail for your players.

Beyond those basic details, the following considerations can help flesh out the nations in your setting.

Location, Size, and Population

Major geographical boundaries, such as mountains, seas, and large rivers, often present natural borders for a realm. Depending on its leadership, culture, and the resources available, a country may be as small as a city-state or as large as a continent-sweeping empire.

Barring widely available technological or magical travel and communication, most nations remain relatively small (only a few hundred miles across), simply because it becomes too difficult for a single governing entity to oversee and maintain the entirety of a larger state.

National populations ebb and flow due to a multitude of external factors. Advances in sanitation, medicine, and agriculture can spur dramatic population growth, while war, famine, or plague can devastate it. As a rule, smaller nation-states have a population around a hundred thousand, while a continent-spanning empire could swell to well over a hundred million.

Population size is only part of the equation. Figuring out the ancestry ratios of that population and brainstorming how the members of various ancestries interact can often lead to interesting story ideas, or at least give you some jumping-off points when dreaming up how the nation was founded and its later history.

Cultural Hallmarks

What elements of the nation’s predominant culture stand out? A nation might have an unusual stance on religion, a specific demographic, distinctive natural features, noteworthy political views, or any number of unique elements that differentiate it from other nations in your region. These hallmarks can inform your decisions about many other aspects of the nation.

History

How did the nation come to be? Has it stood since time immemorial, a bastion of stability while the rest of the world changes around it? Perhaps it was built over the ruins of another civilization, destroyed by some forgotten calamity. Or perhaps it is a young nation, born recently amid ongoing strife in your world. What remnants of the past can be found, or has the past been deliberately hidden? How have the residents of the nation adapted to change, and in what ways have they failed to do so?

Economy and Political Stances

Determine the key resources and industries that drive the nation’s economy. The availability of natural resources can establish national boundaries, local industry, and other elements of the resident society. For example, an area with few resources might have a nomadic society, while a nation rich in resources might develop an opulent mercantile class.

These resources can also affect international relationships.

An area poor in a specific resource might have a strong trade relationship with a nearby nation that has it, or they might be at war! Nations also disagree about political structures, public policy, religion, and any number of other factors.

You’ll also want to consider the significant NPCs of each nation. This includes the official ruler, but it also includes other major players, whether they act in an official capacity or entirely behind the scenes.

Building Settlements

Settlements are where characters can rest, recharge, retrain, and dedicate themselves to other downtime activities all in relative peace. Traditionally, an adventuring band comes together in some kind of settlement, be it a small hamlet nestled on the border of some wild frontier or a bustling port city at the heart of a nation. Some adventures take place entirely within a single settlement, while in others the party visits settlements only briefly between their adventures in the wilderness.

The first thing you should consider when building a settlement is its role in your story. Is this a major metropolis the heroes will visit again and again during their adventurers? A backwater village where their adventures begin? The distant capital from which an evil tyrant issues cruel edicts? The settlement’s campaign role will inform many of the other decisions you make about the place.

Once you know why you need the settlement, consider why it would exist in the world. Settlements are typically founded near sources of fresh drinking water; most commonly along a riverbank or a place with access to adequate wells or springs. They additionally require some kind of transit to other places, either roads or waterways.

While it may be easier to create a village or city merely to serve the characters’ needs, determining what function it has independent of the characters adds verisimilitude and can provide hooks for further stories.

Settlements describes the components of a settlement stat block, which you should create for any settlement you expect your characters to visit. The process of creating that stat block will help you further flesh out your community.

Mapping a Settlement

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of sketching a map of significant settlements, like the one where your adventure starts. This isn’t intended to be a picture-perfect rendition drawn to scale, but rather to outline the rough shape and size of the settlement. Be sure to highlight a few key structures useful to the campaign. For more inspiration, see the section on Drawing Maps.

Step 1. City Layout: The layout of a settlement is as unique as the terrain upon which it is settled. First, decide the major trade route for the settlement. This is typically a river, which brings fresh water, fish, and fast transport to the populace. Larger cities can sustain additional growth with access to a deep-water harbor or a major overland trade road. Even settlements conceived with a grid plan tend to stretch along established trade routes before expanding outwards.

Step 2. Districts: Towns with a population over a thousand typically have defensive walls. As a settlement grows further in size and population, additional stone fortifications are often constructed beyond the city center, which further segment the city into districts or boroughs. A metropolis, for example, might have several distinct neighborhoods: Castle Ward, Noble Quarter, Temple Hill, the Gardens, Scholars’ Court, Artisan Plaza, the docks, the slums, and so forth.

Step 3. Markets and Shops: Designate one or more open spaces in the settlement for a market square. This marketplace typically grows in the city center, along a major road intersecting the settlement’s primary trade route. Lining the perimeter of the temporary tents and stalls of a bazaar are permanent retail shops offering pricier goods and services. Here in the beating heart of city commerce, adventurers can arm themselves for upcoming expeditions or sell their ill-gotten gains once making it back to the settlement.

Step 4. Inns: Heroes need a place to celebrate and recover between adventures. In addition to both public and private lodging, a settlement’s inns often serve food and drink. As with the town market, inns are commonly built in central locations where trade roads meet. In your campaign, inns are ideal locations to spread gossip, introduce notable NPCs, and initiate quests. For the right price, innkeepers might rent strongboxes to secure money and other valuables between adventures.

Step 5. Landmarks: To give your cities a sense of personality and local flavor, design a handful of iconic landmarks for the PCs to visit. Memorable names make these landmarks more interesting. A random observatory might be noteworthy, but the Celestial Watchtower has an air of intrigue that could lead to a fun adventure hook.

Conscientious Culture Design

Creating fantasy cultures is a delicate topic, as it can be all too easy to create a culture or a group based on damaging stereotypes or simplistic reductions of real-world groups.

Creating entire cultures out of harmful genre tropes such as “jungle savage” or “noble samurai” reduces real-world cultures to caricatures and perpetuates stereotypes about people from those cultures. Taking inspiration from the real world is wonderful—our world is filled with an incredible diversity of cultures and peoples—but you should do so with care and respect for those sources.

Religion

The greatest stories from myth and legend speak of immortals with incredible powers of creation and destruction. Some meddle in the affairs of mortals, shaping heroes and history at a whim, while others remain aloof or oblivious to the mortal world. Regardless of the world you’re building, religion (or even the absence thereof) shapes the people and the stories you tell.

Theology

Religious traditions are commonly categorized by their belief in one or more divine entities.

Polytheism: This belief system posits the existence of many gods. Polytheistic gods typically espouse particular areas of concern and often reflect the appearance of their worshipers. The primary religious philosophy of most fantasy campaign settings is polytheistic.

Dualism: This philosophy espouses an enduring conflict between two diametrically opposed cosmic forces; most commonly good and evil or law and chaos. Acolytes of each faith almost always see themselves as righteous, and those of the contrasting belief as false.

Monotheism: A monotheistic doctrine recognizes the existence of only one true god. The supreme deity may exhibit more than one aspect yet remain a single entity.

Pantheism: Divine power arises from the universe itself, or as a byproduct of the collective power of many deities sharing some common facet, either way forming a vast, all-encompassing divine entity. Worshipers sometimes appeal to or devote themselves to specific fundamental concepts or aspects of the universe.

Animism: Rather than worshiping gods associated with souls and spiritual essence from beyond, animism sees the life force in each part of the world, whether it be the trees of an old-growth forest or a towering waterfall.

Atheism: In some campaign worlds, the gods have all died, abandoned their worshipers, or never existed at all. Mortals of this world may still cling to belief and establish religions in the name of the divine, but there are no true deities to answer their prayers.

Pantheons

In polytheistic traditions, a pantheon is a divine hierarchy of multiple (or even all) deities.

Universal: All deities in the setting belong to a single pantheon. Different cultures might have their own names for the god of magic, for instance, but only a single deity answers their prayers.

Ancestral or Regional: Each ancestry or region worships its own distinct pantheon. These pantheons coexist in the same cosmology but establish control in separate divine realms. Across the cosmos, several gods from disparate pantheons may share the same area of concern, but they seldom compete for worshipers from rival pantheons.

Competitive: The world contains smaller regional pantheons competing for mortal worship. Only one deity of a specific area of concern may ascend to greater power across all the pantheons. As such, deities typically have little loyalty to their own pantheons and may actually switch to another pantheon if it earns them additional worshipers.

None: The deities of this multiverse act as individuals with no familial ties or common agenda binding them to each other.

Deities

These immortal beings command vast power and influence fueled by the faith and souls of mortal worshipers. Deities also dictate some of the abilities of those champions and clerics who channel their power.

When designing deities, you’ll need to include the divine statistics and devotee benefits described below.

Divine Rank

Gods are usually ranked in a divine hierarchy, from newly ascended godlings to almighty creator gods of unfathomable power.

God: Taking a position atop the divine pyramid, gods command near unlimited power and resources. Their mortal congregations are large and (usually) well funded.

Demigod: Demigods still possess a great deal of power, though often in subservience to another god or simply inferior to the power of a full god.

Quasi Deity: The weakest rank of divinity, many quasi deities are recently ascended mortals who attained their deific powers through ritual apotheosis, or planar natives who have amassed divine power of their own.

Divine Statistics

Deities are not only a narrative element of the world, but also a mechanical component of some classes.

Alignment: A deity’s alignment reflects their innate moral and ethical outlook. In the core campaign setting, most deities maintain realms tied to the Outer Plane that matches their alignment.

Areas of Concern: Each deity has one or more areas of concern they have divine influence over. These portfolios typically embrace universal concepts, such as honor, night, or tranquility. Deities with similar areas of concern may work in common cause or against each other, depending on their goals and divine rank.

Edicts: Every deity has edicts, which are those tenets they require their faithful—especially divinely empowered clergy like champions and clerics—to promote in the world. A deity usually has one to three simple and straightforward edicts.

Anathema: The opposite of edicts, anathema are those things a deity will not abide. Champions and clerics must avoid their deity’s anathema or risk losing their divine powers, and even lay worshipers usually feel guilty for performing such acts, as they will be weighed against them in the afterlife. Like edicts, a deity usually has two to three simple and straightforward elements to their anathema.

Follower Alignments: Champions and clerics can gain power from deities only if they share a compatible moral disposition. Usually these allowed alignments are chosen from those within one step of the deity’s alignments, with NG, LN, CN, or NE deities rarely allowing N champions and clerics. Less restrictive deities are rarer and occur most often when the deity has multiple aspects or a particularly wide view of things.

Devotee Benefits: Deities grant favored status and special power to the most fervent and influential of their flock.

Divine Font: Clerics channel a deity’s divine power as a font of negative or positive energy. Most often, good-aligned deities grant heal while evil deities grant harm, with neutral deities most often offering a choice between the two. However, there’s nothing inherently good about positive energy or evil about negative energy, so a specific deity’s divine font may vary based on their areas of concern.

Divine Skill: Champions and clerics automatically gain the trained proficiency rank in their deity’s divine skill. Assign the deity one skill that synergizes well with their areas of concern. For example, Intimidation would be appropriate for a god of tyranny, or Deception for a goddess of trickery.

Favored Weapon: Clerics gain access to their deity’s favored weapon as well as the trained proficiency rank with it; warpriest clerics gain additional benefits. Every deity has a favored weapon. Because the benefits of having an advanced favored weapon are very strong, you should assign simple or martial favored weapons unless a deity is so thematically linked with an advanced weapon that you need to give them one.

Domains: Each deity grants a number of domains that reflect their divine areas of concern. Champions and clerics can learn the domain spells from their deity’s domains. Deities each have four domains, and many have one or more alternative domains. Though this number is usually enough to convey a deity’s portfolio and give players sufficient options, you can give your deities as many domains as you like.

Cleric Spells: When preparing spells, clerics can choose from specific spells granted by the deity, in addition to those available on the divine spell list. A deity always grants a 1st-level spell and usually two others, all chosen from non-divine spell lists. The exact number of spells a deity grants can vary—a magic-focused deity might grant one spell per level—though this shouldn’t exceed one spell per level.

Cosmology

An enduring curiosity among many cultures is to ask what wonders lie beyond the night sky. Does anyone gaze back from the moon above? What realms do the gods call home, and what is it like to walk in their divine presence?

Is the mortal world at the center of the universe, or is all life utterly insignificant? Spiritual ponderings like these are central to belief systems across the globe. As a world builder, you get to answer those enduring questions by designing the multiverse in all its inexplicable grandeur.

The following are some aspects of your cosmology you might consider, but as you decide these, you should also consider how many of these details are known in your world—and by whom.

The Universe

The reality in which mortals live out their short existence is known to sages and scholars by many names—the universe, the Material Plane, or the mortal realm, among others. The structure of the physical universe might follow any of the following models, or it might be something completely different.

Vast: The universe is an unimaginably sparse void of infinite space, littered with stars, planets, and various bits of detritus.

Limited: The physical universe in your campaign world may be smaller in scope yet far more fanciful.

For example, in Hinduism, the cosmos is supported on the backs of four elephants, themselves standing upon the shell of a world-sized tortoise, whereas Norse cosmology describes nine worlds connected by an immense ash tree.

Bizarre: Sometimes the universe is more complex than the previous two categories, or possibly nested within multiple realities. What if the universe the PCs first know is in fact a magical or mechanical simulation of such complexity that its inhabitants are unaware that they themselves exist as an artificial consciousness?

Composition Of Outer Space

The spaces between the stars can also affect the stories told in that world.

Vacuum: In conventional astronomy, outer space is an immense void existing in a near-perfect vacuum. In some settings the trackless firmament between the stars is an ominous expanse home only to terrible beings of incomprehensible malice.

Endless Sky: What if the blue sky overhead extended outward forever? One need only fly high enough and far enough to reach another world.

Celestial Spheres: The ancient Greeks posited that planets, stars, are more were embedded like jewels within celestial orbs of quintessence nested within one another.

Solar System

What is the shape and structure of the solar system containing your game world?

Heliocentric: Physics dictate that all planets in a system orbit the sun.

Geocentric: What if your game world is in fact the center of the star system, or perhaps even the center of the known universe?

Dyson Sphere: Perhaps a solar system has been enclosed in an artificial structure designed to harness the power of the sun.

Planets and Moons

In antiquity, astronomers noticed that some of the twinkling lights in the night sky moved differently than the others. In time, these celestial wanderers would come to be known as planets, many with their own complement of orbiting moons. Are there other planets orbiting your world’s sun? Are they terrestrial, gas giants, or something less common? How many moons are there? The characters may never venture there, but celestial bodies can have a strong influence on a culture and help you describe your world in an evocative and distinctive way.

The Multiverse

The physical universe of your world is one plane within a much broader multiverse. The Planes details how planes work, but you can fit planes to your story and world, or even build a new multiverse from scratch!

Perhaps there are only two planes beyond the material universe, diametrically opposed and fighting over mortal souls, or the multiverse consists only of a series of infinite alternate realities. The options are truly infinite, limited only by your imagination and the story you want to tell.

Nations

From the smallest of city-states to a continent-spanning empire, nations define the political landscape of a setting and inform local culture and traditions. Knowing the details of a nation can help you as a Game Master, whether your game revolves around international disputes or you simply need to know what languages the common people are likely to speak.

Nations vary tremendously, from massive empires to isolated island realms, and their characteristics can give flavor and depth to your story and the PCs’ adventures. A nation working to overcome generations of xenophobia might have a different reaction to adventurers than a long-established empire. A journey into a new nation can introduce the heroes to a new people (if the party visits a hobgoblin nation), a new philosophy, or a new foe.

Nations can also provide adventuring inspiration and hooks. When the heroes are caught in the crossfire between two nations in conflict, national concerns become their own. Learning more about a nation’s history or practices might lead to a great finding—or a loathsome practice the characters want to eradicate. A party might get involved in the political machinations of a nation’s elite power mongers, or they might fall out of favor and find themselves on the run from the law!

Nations also influence a character’s story on a personal level. A nation can suggest a character’s ancestry, inform the languages they speak, and influence their choice of deity. As a GM, the relationship between a character and a nation can provide opportunities to better hook that character into your campaign. Has the character always lived there, or have they emigrated from elsewhere—and why? A character who fled due to political persecution might have long-standing enemies, while a hero who left due to ideological differences might have friends and family who seek to return them to the fold.

Nation Stat Block

The stat block for a nation presents the core information about a nation in a simple, streamlined format.

Nation Name

Alignment Other Traits

As with any stat block, a nation has a list of traits that convey its properties at a glance. The most significant of these is the nation’s alignment trait, which indicates the alignment of the nation and its government as a whole. This doesn’t necessarily reflect the alignment of its people, though—a nation is rarely monolithic, and the alignments of its people may differ drastically from those of the nation as a whole.

Any other traits in the nation stat block reflect overarching characteristics about that nation. For example, the elven nation has the elf trait, indicating that it was created by and remains almost exclusively populated by elves. Similarly, a nation with an extremely particular focus might have a trait to represent that, which has the revolutionary trait.

Following the traits is a brief summary of the nation.

Government This names the formal government and describes the nation’s governmental structure, such as a hereditary monarchy, an elected council, or a theocratic dictatorship.

Capital This is the established seat of the nation’s government, with the city’s population in parentheses.

Population The predominant ancestries of the nation are listed here, ordered from most to least common.

Languages The languages commonly spoken in the nation appear here, listed alphabetically.

Religions This lists the religions and philosophies commonly practiced in the nation. If a nation has a state religion, this is indicated in parentheses following that religion. If a nation has prohibited any religions, those are listed in a Prohibited entry following the common religions.

Other Characteristics A nation might have distinctive features that set it apart from other nations. Each such feature is detailed in this entry, though a nation rarely has more than one or two of these entries, and many don’t have any.

Primary Exports This lists the nation’s primary exports, such as raw materials, finished goods, services, and other resources. If the nation has no exports of note, this entry is omitted.

Primary Imports Much like primary exports, this entry details the resources commonly imported by the nation. Like exports, if the nation has no imports of note, this entry is omitted.

Allies This entry lists other nations, and occasionally large organizations, allied with the nation. It is omitted for nations with no significant relationships.

Enemies Other nations (and sometimes organizations) that oppose the nation appear here. This entry is omitted for nations with no enemies to speak of.

Factions Any significant organizations or factions operating within the nation are listed in this entry.

Threats This entry lists various threats the nation faces, such as aggression from neighboring nations, natural disasters, economic instability, magical anomalies, and so on.

Significant NPCs The final section of the nation’s stat block presents the most significant NPCs of that nation, including its ruler. These may not be the most powerful or influential individuals in the nation, and instead are those most likely to be known by people within and outside of the nation.

Sample Nations

Presented below are two sample nation stat blocks. You can use these as examples when building your own nation stat blocks.

Neutral Good Fledgling democracy in pursuit of freedom for all.

Government The People’s Council (parliamentary democracy)

Capital 76,600

Population humans, halflings, kobolds, dwarves Languages

Primary Exports ancient treasures and artifacts, financial credit, lumber, minerals

Enemies autocratic governments concerned about potential domestic revolts, slavers

Threats rising aggression from neighbor, retaliation from slavers, corruption among elected officials

Lawful Neutral Desert nation unified by a humanistic worldview and rejection of religion.

Government Council of Elders (representative council)

Capital 72,370

Population humans

Languages Common

Irreligious All worship of deities is prohibited by law. Religious symbols and items are confiscated and proselytization incurs a heavy fine. Citizens perform healing through only mundane means or non-divine magic.

Primary Exports base metals, fine cloth, gemstones, herbal remedies, mechanical innovations, produce, salt, tools

Primary Imports lumber

Enemies pirates and religious groups

Threats conflict among neighboring nations, desert-dwelling monsters, disease, rapidly accelerating desertification

Settlements

Adventures have to start somewhere, and everyone needs some semblance of a home.

Settlements are where characters can rest, recharge, retrain, and dedicate themselves to other downtime activities, all in relative peace. But settlements can also hold their own intrigues and dangers, providing adventure opportunities of their own.

For some players, a settlement may be nothing more than a convenient place to purchase gear and sell loot.

For others, a settlement might be a beloved home they’re willing to risk everything to protect. and sometimes, an entire campaign takes place entirely within the walls of a single city.

Given the variety of roles a settlement can play in an adventure, a Game Master should have a firm understanding of how they work in the game and how to best use them. Virtually every settlement uses the rules for urban environments. Those rules are primarily intended for encounter mode, however, and so the following guidance can help you best use a settlement in the broader narrative of your game.

Settlement Adventures

Designing adventures in a settlement generally follows the guidelines presented in Adventure Design.

However, a settlement’s greater population density also allows for a number of adventure styles and elements that aren’t as common beyond the city walls.

Social encounters are one of the most common interactions within a settlement, starting with the guards at the city gates all the way to an audience with the queen. The influence and reputation subsystems can facilitate these interactions in a more structured way. Chase scenes are an iconic component of a settlement adventure, especially in a larger city, where dense buildings and a variety of structures make for an exciting series of obstacles. A settlement is also an ideal place for a party to conduct an infiltration.

Since most libraries, archives, and similar repositories of information are located within settlements, you might make use of the research rules. Ambitious characters might want to build up their own organizations using the leadership subsystem.

Modes of Play Just like in other adventure locations, all three modes of play can happen in settlements. Since a settlement presents far more opportunities for noncombat activities than most other environments, characters likely spend most of their time in exploration mode. Downtime almost exclusively takes place within a settlement.

Marketplaces

Where there are people, there is commerce. The Buying and Selling section provides several sets of guidelines for handling commerce in your game, but it can also be helpful to have a sense of what items and economic power a given settlement has on its own merits.

In a given settlement, a character can usually purchase any common item (including formulas, alchemical items, and magic items) that is of the same or lower level than the settlement’s. Usually, fewer of the highest-level items are available—you can use Table 10–9: Party Treasure by Level as a guideline for how many of the highest-level items might be available, using the Permanent Items and Consumables entries for a level 1 lower than the settlement’s actual level. Inhabitants of a settlement can usually purchase items from PCs as long as those items are the same or lower level than the settlement, with limitations on higher-level items similar to those available for sale. If a settlement’s population is significantly smaller than its level would suggest, its ability to provide and purchase items may be more limited.

If a character’s level is higher than the settlement’s, that character can usually use their own influence and leverage to acquire higher-level items, as they convince shops to place specialty orders or artisans to craft custom goods, though it might take a bit of time for such orders to be fulfilled.

Spellcasting services are available in many settlements.

Barring a powerful spellcasting NPC in the city with whom the party could negotiate for services, a character can find someone to cast common spells up to a level that could be cast by an NPC of the settlement’s level. For example, a character in a 9th-level city can typically find and pay someone to cast a 5th-level common spell—the highest spell available to a 9th-level spellcaster.

Some settlements have access to uncommon items, formulas, and spells. If a settlement could reasonably be considered to meet the Access entry for an item or spell, that item or spell is available just like any common item.

For example, a dwarven settlement has plenty of dwarf weapons available.

Power Structures

Outside of city limits, adventurers spend much of their time operating on their own terms, accountable only to their own moral code. But in a settlement, the heroes become part of a larger system with its own codified laws, procedures, and enforcement. The details of a settlement’s power structures shape the party’s interactions within that settlement.

Government

The government of a settlement often reflects the nature of that settlement. A lawful, militaristic city likely has a hierarchical government with a single figure at the top, a crossroads market town might be under the control of its wealthiest merchant families, and a farming community might simply look to the oldest residents for leadership as necessary.

That said, the lawful and publicly recognized ruler of a settlement isn’t always the one calling the shots. They may merely be a puppet to a secret entity that silently pulls the strings from the shadows. Some settlements are ruled by hidden cabals, from strange religious sects to thieves’ guilds. A settlement might be swayed by politically powerful residents, such an occult vizier or a political savvy high priest. In some cases, the legitimate authority may seem to govern but has actually been replaced by a faceless stalker, a devil in disguise, or another powerful shapechanger.

Legal Codes

Most civilizations agree that laws are necessary to ensure a functioning society. The specific laws range from one settlement to another, and they might be as simple as a prohibition against murder and theft to exceptionally convoluted regulatory schemes dictating everything from clothing details to available confections. How well known these laws are can further flavor a party’s interactions with that settlement, as it’s likely easier to navigate a well-documented system than one in which the rules are learned only through experience and word of mouth.

Much like a government, the legal codes reflect the settlement’s alignment and overall nature. Generally speaking, a more lawful settlement is likely to have more complex laws, and a more lax locale to have fewer and simpler laws.

Law Enforcement

Most settlements have systems in place to enforce their laws. In a small village, the residents might just police themselves, holding one another accountable to their shared values. Towns and larger settlements usually have some system of guards, whether that’s a post filled by a rotation of volunteers or a city guard of professionals paid by the city’s government to maintain order. Most settlements have some way of dealing with criminals, from fines to public stocks to prison cells, as well as individuals responsible for meting out those sentences.

Organizations, Churches, and Factions

The government isn’t the only influential factor in a settlement. Prestigious organizations, prominent churches, and specialized factions all wield power as well, often in conflict with the official government or one another.

Religious congregations usually wield significant power in communities where faith is strong. A wizard, sorcerer, or bard of even moderate magical talent would be a rare and influential member of society in a small settlement.

An organization can wield overt influence over the community where they’re based, or subtle control. Other notable factions may include noble houses, wealthy merchants, innkeepers, and retired soldiers and adventurers.

Corruption

In any settlement, it’s possible for officials to put their own interests before those of the people they serve.

Corruption might be as simple as a clerk willing to accept a bribe to expedite some paperwork, or it might be as sinister as selling civilians into slavery.

Settlement Stat Block

A settlement’s stat block consolidates the basic information about a settlement into a centralized format.

Settlement Name Settlement Level

Alignment Type Other Traits

The first elements of a settlement stat block are its name and level. A settlement’s level represents its relative size and economic capacity, as well as roughly corresponding to the maximum level of NPC that can be found there, not counting significant NPCs listed below. In general, any common items with a level no higher than the settlement’s level are available for purchase (though a character of a higher level can usually ferret out or custom order higher-level items). In addition, the settlement’s level is used to help determine the maximum possible task level that could become available there to Earn Income. Both these are simply guidelines, however, and a GM should make exceptions at their discretion.

Following the settlement’s heading are its traits. The first of these is the trait representing the settlement’s alignment. This trait represents the alignment of the settlement’s government and overall society, and while it may indicate a trend, it doesn’t dictate the alignment of every individual citizen. After the alignment trait is the trait for the type of settlement: village, town, city, or metropolis. This trait generally reflects the size of the settlement, but it also tends to correlate to a settlement’s level. A village is usually level 0–1, a town level 2–4, a city level 5–7, and a metropolis 8 or above, though the presence of many higher-level or wealthy residents could easily skew the level of a village, town, or city upwards.

A settlement might have other traits in addition to its alignment and type traits. For example, a dwarven sky citadel has the dwarf trait, since it was built and is predominantly occupied by dwarves. Another city might have the academic trait, due to its focus around universities.

Following the settlement’s traits is a simple sentence that provides a short description of the settlement and its role in the story or region.

Government This entry describes the settlement’s governing entity, such as a mayor, the town elder, an elected council, and so on.

Population The settlement’s total population is listed here, followed by a breakdown of the population by ancestry in parentheses.

Languages The languages commonly spoken in the settlement are listed here, ordered alphabetically.

Religions This entry lists the religions and philosophies commonly practiced in the settlement. If the settlement has an official religion, that is indicated in parenthesis. If the settlement has prohibited any religions or philosophies, those are listed in a Prohibited entry following the Religions entry.

Threats This entry lists the major threats facing the settlement, such as ongoing drought or famine, political uprisings, criminal activity, and the like.

Other Characteristics A settlement might have distinctive features that affect its residents or visitors entering the city, such as a particular trade that makes certain items more available.

Significant NPCs The final section of the settlement stat block presents the most significant NPCs of that settlement.

This usually includes the settlement’s official leader, if it’s a single person. It also includes other movers and shakers, local celebrities, and persons of particular interest to adventurers.

Sample Settlement Abilities

Here are some common settlement abilities you can use to customize a settlement of your own creation.

Artists’ Haven: Residents of this city have a deep appreciation for fine art. It’s easier to find higher-level tasks involving Performance or art, as well as buyers willing to pay more for art objects.

City of Artisans:

Items of up to 4 levels higher are available from a particular category the settlement is famous for, such as armor and weapons.

Magical Academy: The settlement prides itself on teaching magic, and its residents are skilled at teaching others. Choose a magical tradition or traditions suitable to your settlement. When a PC pays an NPC to teach them a new spell of that tradition in the settlement, the NPC assists the process and provides an additional +2 circumstance bonus to the check to Learn the Spell.

Religious Bias: This settlement has a strong affiliation with a particular religion. Anyone who is visibly a worshiper of that deity gains a +1 circumstance bonus to Diplomacy checks to Make an Impression, Request, and Gather Information. Characters who visibly worship one of that deity’s foes take a –1 circumstance penalty to the same actions.

Scholarly: An abundance of public libraries or other accessible places of learning within this settlement means that with 1d4 hours, a character can access a scholarly journal on a relevant common subject before attempting to Recall Knowledge.

Changing A Settlement

Sometimes the characters spend a long period of time in a single settlement.

Perhaps it’s their home base, where they spend their downtime between adventures, or perhaps the entire adventure takes place there. In these cases, you might find you need to update your settlement stat block as it changes over time.

Several elements of the settlement stat block are simple to update; you change the population as it grows or shrinks, and you change the leaders on your stat block as different people move between those positions. But you also might make changes that reflect the results of the PCs’ adventures. If the heroes eliminated a major threat facing the settlement, you should remove that threat from the stat block—but if they drew the wrath of a new foe in doing so, you might add that new threat!

You can also update the stat block’s abilities, should the PCs’ actions have that large an influence on the city. For example, if the party (using the leadership subsystem) built up a wizard school focused on crafting magical items, you might add an ability to the settlement stat block that increased the availability of magic items in the settlement’s markets.

Example Settlements

Port City Settlement 11

CN Metropolis

Pirate city and black-market capital

Government Overlord)

Population 43,270 (65% humans, 10% half-elves, 8% half-orcs, 5% gnomes, 5% halflings, 7% other)

Languages Common

Threats Anti-pirate policing, opposing pirate forces, supernatural storms

This city thrives on black-market and stolen goods.

Items that might be difficult to acquire or dispose of in other settlements due to legality can be purchased and sold more easily in Port Peril. NPCs begin with an attitude one step worse than usual toward characters openly displaying insignia of law-enforcement agencies, religious iconography of lawful deities, or affiliation with a lawful nation.

(CN female elf troubadour) Merchant master and joint overseer of the port city.

(LN male human administrator) Accountant and joint overseer of the port city.

(LE male dwarf wizard) Harbormaster and joint overseer of the port city.

Lumber Town Settlement 4

N Town

Diverse lumber town and trade port with a storied past and a fair share of sinister secrets.

Government Mayor (elected leader)

Population 1,240 (60% humans, 8% halflings, 7% half-elves, 6% elves, 5% dwarves, 5% gnomes, 3% half-orcs, 2% goblins, 4% other)

Languages Common, Dwarven, Elven, Gnomish, Halfling

Threats aberrant horrors, eerie hauntings, kobolds, smugglers

(CN male human soldier) foul-mouthed and short-tempered captain of the town guard

(N male human mayor) current mayor, patriarch of one of three local lumber companies

(NG female halfling cleric) chatty priestess and unusually knowledgeable town historian

(CG female tiefling merchant) eccentric occult items dealer, artisan, and collector of stories and rumors

This town has a long tradition of catering to adventurers, and consumable items of up to level 10 can be purchased in its markets ands shops.

The Planes

Beyond the normal world the void of space beyond it lie the vast planes of existence referred to as the Great Beyond. Often alien and dangerous, most of these planes embody some foundational aspect of reality—one of the chief elements that make up the rest of the multiverse, a kind of fundamental energy, or an alignment. Each plane is a reality unto itself, with its own laws of existence and its own native inhabitants.

Exploring the planes offers several opportunities for high adventure, as well chances to discover the secrets of creation.

Planar Traits

Each plane, dimension, and demiplane has its own properties and attributes. Planar traits can be broken down into six categories: alignment, scope, gravity, time, morphic, and planar essence. Combined, those traits describe the laws and makeup of the plane. These appear in the plane’s traits entry, though any trait that matches the Material Plane (described in the Normal entry in each section below) is omitted.

Enhanced and Impeded Magic

Some planes enhance certain magic and impede opposing effects. A plane that enhances a particular type of magic grants anyone Casting a Spell with that trait a +1 circumstance bonus to their spell DC or spell attack roll with that spell. Impeded magic means a character who Casts a Spell or Activates an Item with the specified trait must succeed at a DC 6 flat check or lose the spell or activation.

Alignment

Certain planes, particularly in the Outer Sphere, are attuned to an alignment. Most inhabitants share that alignment— even powerful creatures such as deities. Planes with the neutral alignment trait are more often a mix of alignments than strongly neutral, and planes with no alignment affinity simply don’t have an alignment trait, rather than being neutral. Alignments are given as an abbreviation, which appears first in the plane’s list of traits.

Spells that share any of the plane’s alignment traits are enhanced, and those with opposing traits are impeded. For instance, in the chaotic evil Abyss, chaotic and evil spells are enhanced, and lawful and good spells are impeded.

Scope

Most planes are immeasurable, so immense they are impossible to quantify. Which immeasurable planes, if any, are infinite is a subject of debate among philosophers and scholars alike. Since so many planes are immeasurable, those planes omit a scope trait. Otherwise, the plane likely has either the finite or unbounded trait.

Finite: Finite planes consist of a limited amount of space.

Immeasurable: Immeasurable planes are immeasurably large, perhaps infinite.

Unbounded: Unbounded planes loop back on themselves when a creature reaches the plane’s “edge.”

Gravity

Many planes have unusual gravity.

Normal: Bodies of great mass are the centers of gravity, and objects fall toward those centers with a measured amount of force relative to the size of the body.

High Gravity: As in normal gravity, bodies of great mass act as centers of gravity, but the force relative to the size of the body is greater than on the Material Plane. The Bulk of all creatures and objects is doubled, meaning creatures acclimated to normal gravity can carry only half as much. Creatures used to normal gravity move at half Speed and can jump only half as high and far. Physical ranged attacks are impossible beyond the third range increment (instead of the sixth). Creatures that fall in high gravity take bludgeoning damage equal to the distance they fell.

Low Gravity: As in normal gravity, bodies of great mass act as centers of gravity, but the force relative to the size of the body is less than on the Material Plane. The Bulk of all creatures and objects is halved, meaning creatures acclimated to normal gravity can carry twice as much and jump twice as high and far. Physical ranged attacks are possible up to the twelfth range increment (instead of the sixth). Creatures that fall in low gravity take no damage for the first 10 feet of a fall, and then take bludgeoning damage equal to a quarter of the remaining distance it fell.

Microgravity: There is little to no gravity on this plane. Creatures float in space unless they can push off a surface or use some force to propel themselves throughout the plane.

Strange Gravity: All bodies of mass are centers of gravity with roughly the same force. A creature can stand on any solid objects that is as large as or larger than themself.

Subjective Gravity: All bodies of mass can be centers of gravity with the same force, but only if a non-mindless creature wills it. Unattended items, objects, and mindless creatures treat the plane as having microgravity. Creatures on a plane with subjective gravity can move normally along a solid surface by imagining “down” near their feet. Designating this downward direction is a free action that has the concentration trait. If suspended in midair, a creature can replicate flight by choosing a “down” direction and falling in that direction, moving up to their Speed or fly Speed. This pseudo-flight uses the Fly action.

Time

Time flows differently on many planes.

Normal: Time passes the same way it does on the Material Plane. One hour on a plane with normal time equals 1 hour on the Material Plane.

Erratic: Time slows down and speeds up, so an individual may lose or gain time as they move between planes. When a creature moves from a plane with erratic time to one with normal time, roll a DC 11 flat check. Creatures that leave an erratic time plane together share the same result.

Success Time passed normally on the erratic time plane.

Failure For each hour spent on the erratic time plane, 1 day passed on the normal time plane.

Critical Failure For each round spent on the erratic time plane, 1 day passed on the normal time plane.

Flowing: The flow of time is consistently faster or slower. A creature may travel to one of these planes, spend a year there, and find that only an hour passed on the Material Plane; alternatively, they might spend a minute on this plane and find out an hour passed on the Material Plane.

Timeless: Time still passes, but the effects of time are diminished. Creatures on these planes don’t feel hunger, thirst, or the effects of aging or natural healing. The effects of poison, diseases, and other kinds of healing may also be diminished on certain timeless planes. Spell energy and other effects still dissipate, so the durations of spells and other effects function as normal. The danger of this trait is that when a creature leaves a timeless plane and enters a plane with another time trait, the effects of hunger, thirst, aging, and other effects slowed or arrested by the timeless trait occur retroactively in the instant of transition, possibly causing the creature to immediately starve or die of old age.

Morphic

This trait describes how easily the physical nature of the plane can be changed. The Material Plane is the norm, but other planes can warp through the plane’s own sentient designs or be manipulated by extremely powerful creatures.

Normal: Objects remain where they are (and what they are) unless affected by physical force or magic. Creatures can change the immediate environment as a result of tangible effort, such as by digging a hole.

Metamorphic: Things change by means other than physical force or magic. Sometimes spells have morphic effects. Other times, the plane’s nature is under the control of a deity or power, or the plane simply changes at random.

Sentient: The plane changes based on its own whims.

Static: Visitors can’t affect living residents of the plane or objects the denizens carry in any way. Any spells that would affect those on the plane have no effect unless the static trait is somehow removed or suppressed.

Essence

Planar essence traits describe a plane’s fundamental nature. For example, many of the Inner Sphere’s planes are infused with an element or energy, each of which affects magic on those planes, and the Shadow Plane is awash with shadow. Outer Planes are fundamentally made up of quintessence, a philosophically aligned material with infinite potential for shape and state that conforms to powerful and prevailing beliefs.

Air: Planes with this trait consist mostly of open spaces and air of various levels of turbulence, though they also contain rare islands of floating stone and other elements and energies. Air planes usually have breathable atmospheres, though they may include clouds of acidic or toxic gas. Air magic is enhanced, and earth magic is impeded. Earth creatures often find themselves at a disadvantage within air planes, which tend to at least make them uncomfortable, as there is little solid ground for them to gain their bearings.

Earth: These planes are mostly solid. Travelers arriving upon an earth plane risk suffocation if they don’t reach a cavern or some other air pocket within the plane’s solid matter. Creatures who can’t burrow are entombed in the plane’s substance and must attempt to dig their way toward an air pocket. Earth magic is enhanced, and air magic is impeded. Air creatures are ill at ease, as they rarely have the space to move freely through even the most lofty warrens.

Fire: Planes with this trait are composed of flames that continually burn with no fuel source. Fire planes are extremely hostile to non-fire creatures. Unprotected wood, paper, cloth, and other flammable materials catch fire almost immediately, and creatures wearing unprotected flammable clothing catch fire, typically taking 1d6 persistent fire damage. Extraplanar creatures take moderate environmental fire damage at the end of each round (sometimes minor environmental damage in safer areas, or major or massive damage in even more fiery areas). Fire magic is enhanced, and cold and water magic are impeded. Water creatures are extremely uncomfortable on a fire plane, and any natural resistance they have against fire doesn’t function against this environmental fire damage.

Water: These planes are mostly liquid. Visitors who can’t breathe water or reach an air pocket likely drown. Water magic is enhanced, and fire magic is impeded. Creatures with a weakness to water take damage equal to double their weakness at the end of each round.

Negative: Planes with this trait are vast, empty reaches that suck the life from the living. They tend to be lonely, haunted planes, drained of color and filled with winds carrying the moans of those who died within them. At the end of each round, a living creature takes at least minor negative environmental damage. In the strongest areas of a negative plane, they could take moderate or even major negative damage at the end of each round. This damage has the death trait, and if a living creature is reduced to 0 Hit Points by this negative damage and killed, it crumbles into ash and can become a wraith. Negative magic is enhanced, and positive magic is impeded.

Positive: These planes are awash with life energy. Colors are brighter, fires are hotter, noises are louder, and sensations are more intense. At the end of each round, an undead creature takes at least minor positive environmental damage. In the strongest areas of a positive plane, they could take moderate or even major positive damage at the end of each round. While this might seem safe for living creatures, positive planes present a different danger. Living creatures regain an amount of HP each round equal to the environmental damage undead take in the same area. If this would bring the living creature above their maximum HP, any excess becomes temporary HP. Unlike normal, these temporary HP combine with each other, and they last until the creature leaves the plane. If a creature’s temporary HP from a positive plane ever exceeds its maximum HP, it explodes in a burst of overloaded positive energy, spreading across the area to birth new souls. Positive magic is enhanced, and negative magic is impeded.

Shadow: Planes with this trait are umbral with murky light. On a shadow plane, the radius of all light from light sources and the areas of light spells are halved. Darkness and shadow magic are enhanced, and light magic is impeded.

Planar Stat Blocks

Each of the planes includes a short stat block of key information. The plane’s type— whether it is a plane, dimension, or demiplane—appears in the stat block’s heading, followed by the traits that define that plane. The following entries also provide important information about each plane.

Category: This indicates whether the plane is an Inner Plane, Outer Plane, Transitive Plane, or dimension.

Divinities: A list of all of the deities, demigods, and other powers that call this realm their home.

Native Inhabitants: A sample of typical inhabitants of the plane. Also listed are the plane’s petitioners, the souls of dead mortals who have been judged and sent on to whichever plane reflects the life they led.

Inner Sphere Planes

The planes of the Inner Sphere form the heart of the cosmos. They are the home of mortal life, the focus of divine attention, the source of mortal souls, and the origin point of the great cycle of quintessence that fuels the motions and stability of reality itself. Arranged in a nested series of shells, like layers of an onion, the planes of the Inner Sphere include, from outer to inner: the Elemental Planes of Fire, Earth, Water, and Air; the universe of the Material Plane; and at the very core of this cosmological ensemble, the raw forces of creation and destruction of the Positive and Negative Energy Planes.

Material Plane

N

Category Inner Plane

Divinities Elder Mythos pantheon

Native Inhabitants dwarves, elves, halflings, humans, gnomes, goblins, and countless other ancestries

The Material Plane is the prosaic universe and the home of mortal life. Innumerable galaxies play host to countless stars and their planets, each housing unique settings for any campaign. Other worlds exist, and then beyond this, orbiting other distant stars or in other galaxies still, worlds swirl within the Material Plane’s vast and silent void.

Yet for all the profound wonder and diversity of life that the Material Plane houses, in the dark places between the stars, known as the Dark Tapestry, lurk the inimical gods known as the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones, the sinister collective known as the Dominion of the Black.

The Material Plane serves as the destination for pre-incarnate souls, each mortal life born, living, and dying before sending it’s spirit toward the planes of the Outer Sphere for judgment. The Material Plane is likewise the focus of the gods, each of whom is invested in fostering their own particular portfolio among mortal worshipers and the material world at large.

Negative Energy Plane

N Negative Subjective Gravity Unbounded

Category Inner Plane

Divinities none

Native Inhabitants sceaduinars, wraiths, and other undead

The vast void of the Negative Energy Plane is a merciless, lightless expanse of manifest destruction and nothingness. Sapping and consuming the life force of any living creature exposed to its energies, it corrodes and disintegrates material objects to rubble, then dust, and then nothing at all. Yet the Void contains its own form of anti-life. At their densest concentration, the plane’s energies aggregate into bizarre, black crystalline snowflake structures, and these irregularities spontaneously generate the plane’s resident sceaduinars. Dwelling in beautiful, deadly cities drifting in the vacuous darkness, these so-called void raptors are incapable of true creation and blame this flaw on some ancient betrayal by their rivals on the Positive Energy Plane. Sceaduinars react violently not only toward creatures sustained by positive energy, but also toward undead, whom they view as unnatural parasites unworthy of their plane’s energies.

The black depths also swarm with undead, creatures doomed to a mockery of life by the interaction of their souls with the plane’s entropic energy. Yet for all the horrors posed by the plane’s environment, inhabitants, and its undead victims, its depths nevertheless hide rare refuges for planar travelers.

Positive Energy Plane

N Positive Subjective Gravity Unbounded

Category Inner Plane

Divinities none

Native Inhabitants jyoti, petitioners (enlightened)

The Positive Energy Plane is at once the source of life-sustaining positive energy, the origin of all pre-incarnate mortal souls, and paradoxically the most innately hostile of all of the planes. While positive energy is deadly to undead and beneficial to living beings, such is the intensity of the plane that unmitigated exposure ultimately incinerates any extraplanar beings without sufficient magical protection. The most apt comparison for the plane’s interior is that of the heart of a burning star, and indeed the stars of the Material Plane each house natural portals to the Positive Energy Plane within their glowing, potent cores to foster the movement of pre-incarnate souls in their first steps in the great cycle of life and death.

Brilliant and blinding, the plane’s interior is sparsely populated, and the resident phoenix-kin jyoti are intensely xenophobic.

Dwelling in glimmering, radiant crystalline cities, they view themselves as gardeners and guardians of souls spawned from their realm’s burning quintessence.

Intensely distrustful of gods and their servitors, jyoti can nonetheless be bargained with, and they have frequently taken into their custodianship any number of artifacts and imprisoned beings considered too dangerous to house on any other plane.

Plane of Air

N Air Subjective Gravity

Category Inner Plane

Divinities elemental lords of air

Native Inhabitants air elementals, cloud dragons, djinn, petitioners (air pneuma)

The Plane of Air, innermost of the Elemental Planes, is a vast realm of wind, storms, and skies. Illuminated by great artificial globes of flame and distant starlight from the material universe, the plane is populated by air elementals, dragons, mephits, and a great empire of djinn. Though mostly clouds and empty skies, the plane is not entirely bereft of solid ground, including rock and ice created by the residents or dragged into their realm from the distant Plane of Earth or neighboring Plane of Water, and bizarre, drifting spheres of brass and iron. While the former are aggressively fought over, most housing the cities of the vast djinn empire, the latter are almost entirely abandoned and shunned by the plane’s inhabitants, who believe them cursed, entrapping forgotten, ancient enemies who once ravaged the plane.

The djinn rule from their shining capital city, built atop a series of seven floating islands. Their vast trade network crisscrosses the skies and ventures to other planes, kept aloft by natural and magical flight, including great airships that allow visitors to quickly and safely traverse the skies. The djinn are welcoming and gracious hosts to extraplanar travelers and adventurers, a perspective not shared by the evil elemental lord of air.

Plane of Earth

N Earth

Category Inner Plane

Divinities elemental lords of earth

Native Inhabitants crystal dragons, earth elementals, petitioners (earth pneuma), shaitans

A great and rocky shell situated between the Plane of Fire and Plane of Water, the Eternal Delve hosts a unique and varied ecology of creatures at home in its rocky depths. Far from an endless, solid expanse, the Plane of Earth is riddled with great caverns and cave systems, excavated artificial vaults, vast crystalline geodes, and underground oceans and springs of magma where it borders its neighboring planes. Housing untold riches in gemstones and veins of precious metals, the Plane of Earth is an attractive setting for planar travelers seeking wealth and willing to risk danger and the wrath of elementals, shaitans, and other inhabitants who resent the plunder of their home.

While elementals have little organized society, the shaitan genies’ Peerless Empire rules much of the plane from its capital, the Opaline Vault—a rainbow-lit city within a 30-mile-wide geode cavern. The shaitans have long been at war with the efreet in the neighboring Plane of Fire, and while the earth genies are less prone to slavery than their rivals, the shaitans brook little dissent, and their rule can be harsh. They are downright welcoming, however, compared to the evil elemental lord of earth who rules a great expanse of rock from his radiation-poisoned domain, the Blistering Labyrinth.

Plane of Fire

N Fire

Category Inner Plane

Divinities elemental lords of fire

Native Inhabitants azers, efreet, fire elementals, magma dragons, petitioners (fire pneuma)

Like a great, gleaming ball of flame situated at the heart of the Astral Plane, the Plane of Fire is the outermost plane of the Inner Sphere. A perpetual ocean of fire with skies of smoke, storms of raining cinders, and lakes and rivers of magma flowing along its border with the Elemental Plane of Earth, the plane is incredibly hostile to those unprepared for its natural hazards. Yet it houses one of the most well-known and traversed cities in all the planes: the City of Brass, capital of the Dominion of Flame. Floating above a sea of fire upon a great hemisphere of magical brass, the City of Brass is a monument both to efreet cosmopolitan grandeur and tyranny, the latter embodied by the grand sultana of the efreet.

Outside of the mercantile districts and the palaces and temples of the fire genies, the city houses a vast enslaved underclass of salamanders and others, including creatures from other planes.

The efreeti domain is not absolute, and elsewhere in the plane are nations of fire mephits and the remains of an ancient azer empire. While they don’t form any cohesive, organized nations, the plane’s fire elementals are ruled over by the plane’s most powerful entity, the evil elemental lord of fire whose reign has gone unquestioned since the imprisonment of her good-aligned rival eons ago.

Plane of Water

N Subjective Gravity Water

Category Inner Plane

Divinities elemental lords of water

Native Inhabitants brine dragons, marids, petitioners (water pneuma), water elementals Beyond the skies of the Plane of Air, the clouds grow darker and condense into the vast, spherical, liquid shell of the Plane of Water. Its nearly limitless stretches of saline, fresh, and brackish seas teem with all manner of oceanic life, lit by light from the border with the Plane of Air and descending into black, benthic depths where it borders the Plane of Earth. While the plane is perfectly amenable to water-breathing creatures, air-breathing travelers must provide their own supply of air or magical means to breathe. Bubbles of breathable atmosphere are relatively rare and securely guarded, anchored over places of trade and commerce with outsiders, founded by immigrant undines. The plane’s oceans, dotted by vast forests of kelp, magical currents, and strange phenomena, play host to empires of merfolk, predatory and expansionist sea devils, and the holdings of the plane’s great brine dragons.

While marids once claimed nearly absolute dominion over the plane of their origin, their empire long ago fell into deterioration and disunity. Their ravaged cities sank into the depths, and their present-day holdings remain a shadow of their former grandeur.

Unlike other subjective gravity planes, on the Plane of Water, a creature moves based on its swim Speed and must use actions to Swim if it doesn’t have one.

Transitive Planes

At a minimum, each Transitive Plane coexists with one or more other planes, a relationship oversimplified by stating that Transitive Planes are just used to get from one plane to another. The mists of the Ethereal Plane overlap the planes of the Inner Sphere, while the Astral Plane borders every other plane in existence like the backstage of the cosmos.

Bright and dark mirrors of the Material Plane, the Fey Plane and Shadow Plane overlap the mortal world, albeit often in bizarre ways such that a short distance in one might be a vast gulf in the other. The daring, wise, or desperate can utilize these planes to bypass barriers in the Material Plane or rapidly cross vast distances through much swifter travel.

Astral Plane

N Subjective Gravity Timeless

Category Transitive Plane

Native Inhabitants petitioners (untethered), shining children

The Silver Sea surrounds the planes of the Inner Sphere, separating them from those of the Outer Sphere. The Astral Plane provides the backdrop against which the River of Souls flows from the Material Plane, ushering departed spirits toward final judgment. Far from an empty void, the Astral’s silver substance churns with currents and storms from the metaphysical heat of the Plane of Fire, and where it touches the chaos of the Maelstrom, the resulting eddies interact with the memories of the dead to produce fleeting simulacra and even demiplanes.

The River of Souls draws the attention of soul-hunting daemons and opportunistic night hags like sharks drawn to the scent of blood. Led by psychopomps, a cross section of nearly every type of celestial and monitor in existence, along with some fiends, defends the proper flow of souls against such predators.

Running opposite the River of Souls is the flow of raw, unaligned quintessence spun off from the so-called Antipode, channeled by aeons back toward the Positive Energy Plane.

Travelers within the Astral find the plane untouched by the passage of time, a property exploited by many mortals fearing old age. Time, however, is not easily escaped, and upon exiting the Astral Plane, a creature finds this debt catching up to them, potentially aging to dust in moments.

Ethereal Plane

N Subjective Gravity

Category Transitive Plane

Native Inhabitants ether spiders, night hags, petitioners (terrorized)

The Ethereal Plane is a vast, misty realm overlapping each of the Inner Planes. Formed by the interacting tidal forces of creation and destruction from the Positive and Negative Energy Planes, this plane swirls with currents and eddies of fog, lit only by erratic pulses of soft green luminescence and dimly visible light of those planes it overlays, visible but ever intangible. While mortals most often use the Ethereal as a means of transit, moving by force of will in the absence of gravity to bypass barriers on their own plane, the Ethereal hosts dangers and wonders, things lost or abandoned in the mists, and things spun from local eddies in the ethereal protomatter. Predatory monsters, ether spiders, night hags and their goddess, and all manner of incorporeal undead roam the Space Between Spaces.

While travelers can easily become lost in the mists with little to guide them, the plane does host some permanent structures, drawing adventurers or dissuading them. One such location, the House of the Itinerant Soul, houses wayward or lost souls, offering visitors shelter and a way to avoid turning into undead while avoiding the pull of the River of Souls. The grand cathedral also serves as a focus for mortal planar travelers, given its safety and the presence of friendly spirits willing to serve as guides in the surrounding mists.

Fey Plane

N Erratic Metamorphic

Category Transitive Plane

Divinities the Eldest

Native Inhabitants fey, linnorms

The Fey Plane was a first draft of the Material Plane, crafted by divinities to test their metaphorical crafting materials and palettes of colors before setting it aside to create a second, final version of their work. A realm of extremes—savage, primal, and beautiful—with colors and sensations brighter and more intense than the mundane world created after it, the Fey Plane is populated by fey and the divine entities known as the Eldest.

Mirroring mercurial fey whimsy, the Fey Plane’s laws of nature constantly and unpredictably change. Distance and time are wildly inconsistent, such that mortal travelers might spend an hour or a day within the Fey Plane, only to find a century or only a few seconds passed once they return to their own plane.

The Fey Plane stands outside the cycle of souls, save for rare worshipers of the Eldest whose souls incarnate here as fey. However, the plane’s proximity to the Positive Energy Plane provides an environment bursting with all manner of strange life and a general absence of true death for its native fey unless they leave—as did gnomes.

Natural gates in wild places of the mortal realm connect to the Fey Plane, which fey often use to visit the Material Plane or ensnare mortals for their own capricious desires.

Shadow Plane

N Shadow

Category Transitive Plane

Divinities velstrac demagogues

Native Inhabitants caligni, d’ziriaks, kayals (fetchlings), petitioners (the mutilated), umbral dragons, velstracs

A murky, distorted, and imperfect mirror of the Material Plane, the Shadow Plane overlaps the Material Plane and serves as a buffer or conduit between it and the Negative Energy Plane. The Shadow Plane exists in a state of perpetually dim half-light, the landscape containing similar features to the overlapping Material Plane, but in warped or twisted fashions. Cities on the Material Plane might exist on the Shadow Plane, sometimes in ruins and sometimes as terrible, frightening replicas. The darkness also holds points of beauty and relative safety.

The Shadow Plane is populated by dark, altered versions of creatures from the Material Plane, many of them immigrants that have adapted to the shadow after being trapped in the realm for generations. The shadow natives known as kayals—also known as fetchlings—were originally humans before thousands of years of exposure to the Shadow Plane and breeding with strange beings forever altered them. Velstracs, who long ago fled from Hell, have since adopted the Shadow Plane as their home. In contrast, d’ziriaks originated within the Shadow Plane itself, as have the fearsome umbral dragons ruling self-crafted fiefdoms within the shadows.

Outer Sphere Planes

The planes of the Outer Sphere are the manifest realms of alignment: chaos, evil, good, law, neutrality, and their admixtures, populated by celestials, fiends, monitors, and others who promote these moral concepts. These planes are the backdrop upon which the mortal afterlife reaches its apparent conclusion, and the end destination of the River of Souls. The Outer Planes are regions of stability adrift in the raw, chaotic quintessence of the primordial Maelstrom, its tides forever gnawing at their edges even as mortal souls sustain them. The Abyss manifests as cracks in the Outer Sphere’s fabric, while rising from the metropolitan Axis is the Boneyard’s spire, the location where mortal souls are judged and then sent to their final destinations, be they reward, suffering, or oblivion. The Outer Planes are places of majesty, wonder, terror, and danger outstripping anything mortal adventurers might encounter anywhere else.

Abaddon

NE

Category Outer Plane

Divinities daemon harbingers, Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Native Inhabitants daemons, night hags, nightmares, petitioners (the hunted)

A perpetual eclipse looms above the bleak wastelands of Abaddon, shedding an eerie half-light over a landscape of toxic, disease-ridden swamps, volcanic wastes, fog-shrouded forests, and the glittering, memory-devouring ribbon of the River Styx.

An unnatural silence blankets the plane, cut only by the wails of petitioners falling from the sky like screaming, falling stars, or those already condemned upon the ground, desperate to find safety that doesn’t exist. Daemons, the physical embodiments of death and oblivion, roam unchecked, owing allegiance only to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War. In the courts of the Horsemen and the neutral grounds of trade cities such as Awaiting-Consumption, the soul trade serves daemonic hunger and industrialized oblivion. Night hags and other creatures ply the trade or make their way along the margins of daemonic society, eager to avoid consumption themselves by the plane’s nihilistic masters. Abaddon’s perpetual eclipse may be nothing less than the lidded, comatose eye of the Bound Prince, the First Horseman, betrayed and cast down by the Four, forgotten by the cosmos at large, but far too powerful for them to destroy—waiting, watching, and hungering.

Abyss

CE

Category Outer Plane

Divinities demon lords, goblin hero-gods, nascent demon lords, qlippoth lords

Native Inhabitants demons, petitioners (larvae), qlippoth Like a corrosive rot in the roots of the Outer Sphere, or an antithetical, rival reality run aground into the Maelstrom at the dawn of time, the Abyss is a place of horror and destruction fed by mortal sin. Each of its innumerable regions is a unique iteration of chaos and evil, each with its own terrible and twisted environment, with one driving maxim: the strong survive, while the weak suffer and are destroyed. Ruled by demons, and before them by the alien, nightmarish qlippoth, the Abyss and its native beings seek only to ravage and destroy. While demons routinely rampage out into other planes when the Abyss manifests a great planar rift, the denizens of the Abyss are fractured and self-destructive. Demon lords and even gods including ascended demon lords, fight for dominion over the Abyss as much or more than they threaten the other planes. Though dangerous, not every realm of the Abyss is immediately hostile to the prepared traveler. Those who survive a journey through the Abyss inevitably must resist being deeply corrupted by the experience.

Axis

LN

Category Outer Plane

Divinities halfling pantheon, primeval inevitables

Native Inhabitants aeons, inevitables, petitioners (remade)

Axis is a realm of pure, absolute law, unhindered by the moral concerns of good or evil. The plane takes the form of a vast, gleaming, perfectly structured city. The Perfect City is a bulwark against the chaos of the Maelstrom and Abyss, with vast mechanical armies of inevitables marching forth to explore, define, and pacify an imperfect, unruly universe. Axis is also home to axiomites: beings composed of living mathematics and equations who helped create the first inevitables. Axiomites continue to work on the maintenance of the inevitables, but increasingly turn their attentions to the planar city of Axis itself; as with any city, Axis requires non-stop maintenance and improvement in order to resist the march of time.

Axis’s natives are far from the only inhabitants of their cosmopolitan realm. Devils and archons often visit along with petitioners, mortal travelers, and smaller numbers of most every other kind of extraplanar being. Many lawful deities make their homes here.

Boneyard

N Timeless

Category Outer Plane

Divinities psychopomp ushers

Native Inhabitants petitioners (the dead), psychopomps, The Boneyard spans an impossibly tall and ever-growing spire of gleaming quintessence that rises up into the silver void of the Astral Plane. As the destination of the River of Souls, the Boneyard is where the souls of the mortal dead arrive for judgment and for psychopomp servitors to direct them to their respective afterlives. This domain is separated into eight courts, each corresponding to one of the other planes of the Outer Sphere and collecting the souls due to that plane. Not every soul goes unchallenged, and proxies of gods and planes argue and debate over souls.

Elysium

CG

Category Outer Plane

Divinities elven pantheon, empyreal lords, giant pantheon

Native Inhabitants azatas, petitioners (the chosen)

Verdant, wild, and unrestrained by law, where passion and creation are fostered and rewarded, the plane of Elysium is a place of wild, idealized natural beauty. The so-called Promised Land and its inhabitants represent a wide variety of freely given benevolence, often willing to directly aid visitors but more often serving as inspirations and muses to foster positive change and self-realized success. Elysium’s petitioners, known as the chosen, appear as idealized versions of their mortal selves, each pursuing their own self-determined actions and finding their own unique paths to join the ranks of the plane’s celestials.

Azatas—the plane’s primary denizens—organize into fleeting, competitive courts, each rewarding heroism and creativity above all else. Elysium hosts a number of resident deities, including the elven pantheon, and various empyreal lords. Visitors from across the planes are drawn to Elysium’s Wandering City of Emerald Song, a mobile, impermanent, and ever-changing city of lillend azatas organized by their princess.

Heaven

LG

Category Outer Plane

Divinities dwarven pantheon, empyreal lords

Native Inhabitants archons, petitioners (the elect)

The great mountain of Heaven is the realm of structured benevolence made manifest. Organized into seven tiers, the mountain’s solid appearance is actually malleable, making way for a vast assemblage of varied environments to accommodate both its own celestials and the souls who migrate there. Devoted to defending the innocent and crusading against the wicked, Heaven’s archons marshal into vast armies, commanded by their own empyreal lords. Angels collaborate with the archon legions but typically act in more direct service to Heaven’s resident deities.

Petitioners known as the elect manifest at the mountain’s base, and their subsequent climb up the seemingly endless, unreachable heights is both a literal and figurative journey. Progress is about personal growth and spiritual purification as the petitioners grow more and more attuned to the plane. Likewise, progress from one layer to the next is often impossible without permission from the archons or spiritual alignment with Heaven itself. Most visitors arrive at the city of Heaven’s Shore, a place open to both traders and to pilgrims of good intent. Access beyond its heavily guarded walls is difficult, to say nothing of scaling the mountain. At its pinnacle is the Garden, Heaven’s ultimate layer. Unattended and empty, the Garden is a beautiful, transcendent mystery even to its resident deities, and the source of the plane’s call of self-perfection to its petitioners.

Hell

LE

Category Outer Plane

Divinities archdevils, Asmodeus, infernal dukes, queens of the night

Native Inhabitants devils, hellhounds, petitioners (the damned)

Hell is the realm of devils, the multiversal seat of tyranny and malignant law, and the divine domain of Asmodeus, the Prince of Darkness. Here every act is authorized, calculated, recorded, and set like perfectly ordered clockwork within a vast machine driven on methodical suffering and greased with pain and purification. The nine inverted layers of Hell violently oppose the surrounding fabric of the Maelstrom, each layer shaped to reflect the nature of its ruling archdevil. Avernus’s volcanic wastes, ruled by Barbatos, are the marshaling place of Hell’s armies, and where newly damned souls are shackled and shuffled off to their assigned torment. Dispater’s layer of Dis is a great iron city: brutal, beautiful, and terrible. The layer of Erebus comprises both the sewers of Dis and the vaults and treasuries of Hell, ruled by Mammon, a great genius loci embodied by the very wealth locked within Hell’s coffers. Ruled by Belial, the layer of Phlegethon hosts Hell’s forges, while Geryon’s watery realm of Stygia houses Hell’s libraries. Moloch’s smoldering, ash-draped forest realm of Malebolge is the training site of the infernal armies, and Baalzebul’s frozen layer of Cocytus torments the imprisoned, starving damned. Mephistopheles rules the layer of Caina, a realm of cages and torture suspended above a pit of hungry darkness, while at the very bottom of Hell’s infinite pit, Asmodeus rules unquestioned from his throne in Nessus.

Maelstrom

CN Metamorphic

Category Outer Plane

Divinities orc pantheon, protean lords

Native Inhabitants proteans, petitioners (the shapeless)

The Maelstrom, infinite and ancient, spawned the other Outer Planes in cosmological prehistory and surrounds them like a vast metaphorical—and at times literal—ocean of raw, chaotic quintessence. Where the Maelstrom borders these other planes, its structure takes on their characteristics, albeit in an unpredictable, chaotic fashion. Beyond these so-called Borderlands, however, the Maelstrom reverts to its true nature, the Cerulean Void: a trackless, liquid infinity devoid of stability and permanence where serpentine proteans create and destroy with profound frivolity. The proteans are paradoxically organized into discrete choruses, each with its own philosophy and goals in service to the Maelstrom. Swirling with oddities and wild magic, bereft of laws and structure, the Maelstrom also serves as a conduit between the other Outer Planes utilized by armies of extraplanar beings, hordes of demons spilling forth from the Abyss, and the innumerable protean choruses seeking to return the rest of the planes to the true freedom of the chaos from which they emerged. Sufficiently powerful magic can stabilize the chaos for a time, allowing for the creation of demiplanes and stable islands. A massive planar trade city is most prominent among these, drifting through the chaos.

Nirvana

NG

Category Outer Plane

Divinities empyreal lords

Native Inhabitants angels, petitioners (the cleansed)

The pastoral paradise of Nirvana is the realm of purest good, a plane that promises sanctuary to the weary and enlightenment and transcendence to those who seek it out. Filled with beautiful wilderness of all types in perfect harmony with its occupants, Nirvana’s wilds are home to angels and others. The plane’s petitioners, known as the cleansed, most often take the forms of glorified, sapient wild animals, though many eventually leave their carefree existence to aid others, ascending to assist the benevolent works of angels. Devoted to guiding and assisting mortals, angels are often charged with delivering important messages that reflect the will of benevolent deities.

Various divinities make their home amid Nirvana’s wilds, including a host of empyreal lords. While great cities welcome visitors, most mortals visiting Nirvana witness the plane’s beauty and supernatural feeling of peace but rarely encounter many of its residents, as the plane itself protectively hides much of its contents from any but the most selfless and pure of heart. The plane’s hinterlands hint at hidden mysteries, including legends that the plane shelters the vanished heroes of innumerable mortal worlds, peacefully sleeping until their peoples’ times of greatest need.

Dimensions

Existing in the metaphorical space between the Transitive Planes and smaller, finite demiplanes, dimensions are a category unto themselves, defying the neat categorization of planar scholars and adventurers. Seemingly infinite in scale, not necessarily spatial in the same way as a plane, and overlaying every other plane at once—including one another—dimensions and planes are most significantly differentiated in how each of them breaks the commonly held rules of the other. Although some scholars include other extraplanar realms within the ranks of dimensions, only two such realms are uniformly agreed upon and classified as such. The Dreamlands, also known as the Dimension of Dreams, is readily accessed by mortal dreamers, while the Dimension of Time is notorious for the near impossibility of accessing it as well as the bizarre, often deadly restrictions upon travel to and within its bounds.

Dimension Of Time

N Erratic Static

Category dimension

Native Inhabitants hounds of Tindalos, petitioners (the unbound)

Among the most obscure planes of existence, the Dimension of Time is virtually impossible to access by conventional methods of planar travel. Instead, travelers much perform complex and difficult rituals described within the pages of such monstrously rare tomes as the Necronomicon and the Book of Serpents, Ash, and Acorns: Shadows of What Was and Will Be. Compounding the plane’s obscurity, each traveler’s experience seems to be unique, and most who attempt the journey never return. Every manner of magic that interacts with the plane invariably draws the attention of creatures such as the hounds of Tindalos. The proper flow and continuity of time seems to self-correct for any attempted meddling, often with violence.

Those few who have gained entry and returned describe the plane as a swirling storm of blurred images, the composite of millions of interwoven timelines around their own, with a single doorway allowing access to one’s own past. Travelers appear as transparent images of themselves, but the plane seems averse to any attempt to alter the past, no matter the means or the intention. Such attempts often end in the offending individual erased from existence or trapped within closed time loops to limit the damage they inflict upon the overall flow of time.

Supposedly, like an eye in a storm, at the dimension’s heart is a legendary realm. Tales of this realm speak only of a great city, a vast green meadow, and the rushing sound of an ocean emptying over an immense and terrible waterfall.

Dreamlands

N Flowing

Category dimension Divinities Elder Mythos pantheon

Native Inhabitants animate dreams, Denizens of Leng, Leng spiders, petitioners (dreamers)

Created and sustained by the collective dreams of sleeping mortals, the Dreamlands (also called the Dimension of Dreams) overlays the Ethereal Plane. When a creature dreams, regardless of the location of their physical body, they interact directly with the Dreamlands. Sleeping creatures cast themselves into the plane in idealized avatars known as lucid bodies, and their dreamscapes are immune to outside entry by standard magic such as plane shift, requiring obscure, more specialized spells to access. The dreamers of each mortal world generate a cluster of dreamscapes, like drifting bubbles atop a deeper ocean of permanent dreams formed from the collective mass of slumbering desires, dreams of especially powerful dreamers, and the dreams of ancient, obscure entities—including the gods of the Elder Mythos. While most dreamscapes are safe, travelers in the deep, permanent Dreamlands face living, animate dreams and the predation of night hags from the Ethereal Plane, as well as stranger beings spawned within the core itself.

Some scholars postulate a distinct region within the dimension for nightmares, much as the more stable inner portions of the dimension exist separately from the transient, ever-forming and evaporating mortal dreamscapes at its edges. Others conflate this nightmare region with the demiplane of Leng, while still others dismiss this notion but speculate that Leng is somehow accessible to dreamers who intentionally seek it out.

Demiplanes

Demiplanes are much smaller and more limited than planes or dimensions, and they come into being more easily. They may arise naturally where the raw chaos of the Maelstrom churns at the border of the Astral, crystallize around shed memories of dead mortals on their way to judgment, or coalesce within the mists of the Ethereal set into motion by the forces of the Positive and Negative Energy Planes. They can also be crafted by will and powerful magic to suit their designers’ whims.

Almost innumerable, each is distinctly finite, with their own nature and rules set at their creation.

Other demiplanes are crafted by mortals, created by archmages seeking respite and solitude.

Created not by gods or mortals, the Akashic Record is a demiplane thought to exist deep within the Astral as a repository of the collective knowledge and memories of the cosmos, secure and unchanging, but so difficult to access that most doubt its very existence. Other demiplanes serve darker purposes and are perhaps best left forgotten, though their mysteries often tempt the ignorant, the foolish, and the desperate. The Prison of the Laughing Fiend serves to bottle enigmatic and godlike occupants, bound by nameless divinities whose nature and reason changes with each telling of the story, while the Dead Vault was crafted by the gods themselves.

Section 15: Copyright Notice
Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide © 2020, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Alexander Augunas, Jesse Benner, John Bennett, Logan Bonner, Clinton J. Boomer, Jason Bulmahn, James Case, Paris Crenshaw, Jesse Decker, Robert N. Emerson, Eleanor Ferron, Jaym Gates, Matthew Goetz, T.H. Gulliver, Kev Hamilton, Sasha Laranoa Harving, BJ Hensley, Vanessa Hoskins, Brian R. James, Jason LeMaitre, Lyz Liddell, Luis Loza, Colm Lundberg, Ron Lundeen, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Jessica Redekop, Alistair Rigg, Mark Seifter, Owen K.C. Stephens, Amber Stewart, Christina Stiles, Landon Winkler, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.