Still going through this but let me say what a great idea!
The Hidden Layers of Arborea
Eladrins have long kept a secret. Arborea is commonly believed to have only three layers. However, each of the other strongly aligned realms - Baator, Celestia, and the Abyss - have many more layers. Furthermore, each of those planes' layers becomes more strongly aligned - the heights of Celestia lead to the pinnacle of lawful goodness, while the depths of Baator plumb the horrid evils as the layers grow deeper. The infinite Abyss is just that - endless numbers of layers where depravity finds its home. But the meager layers of Arborea simply stop, ending in an uninhabited desert where few creatures venture.
This is all a ruse.
The plane of Arborea includes many more layers, where its primary inhabitants, the eladrins, hold sway. Long ago, the eladrins felt their power threatened by the presence of not one, but two significant pantheon realms. When the Hellenic pantheon established itself in Arborea, the eladrins concocted a complicated ruse to conceal all traces of the deeper layers of Arborea from non-eladrins. Now, the layers are home only to the eladrins, their allies, and those privelidged few who they deem worthy.
The eladrins pursued this course for several reasons. The first, and most obvious, was to preserve most of the plane for themselves. The second was to conceal the nature of the plane, and the effect the deeper layers have on mortals. The final reason was to prevent others from discovering and exploiting the nature of the connection between the eladrins and the fey.
The eladrins' ruse involved the use of the True Words, binding them to Mithardir. At the same time, the eladrins also started using other names (Olympus, Ossa, Pelion) for the three layers to further the ruse. The knowledge of Arborea's deeper layers was obscured from the multiverse, and most portals to the deeper layers were sealed. With Tenebrous' recent removal of the Last Word from Mithardir, this barrier has weakened, and the ruse has started to crumble.
The Nature of Arborea
All layers of Arborea are slightly curved, like the surface of the earth. In general, the temperature is mild, and pleasant smells permeate each layer. Most have a normal day-night cycle. The first three layers, Arvandor, Aquallir, and Mithardir, are described in the Manual of the Planes.
There are twelve layers of Arborea in all. Each set of three layers is ruled by an eladrin king or queen. Rulership of such chaotic creatures as eladrins tends to be mostly ceremonial in nature, but each king or queen is still accorded considerable respect.
No permanent portals exist between Mithardir and the next lower level, or between any of the deeper levels. Instead, a portal is constructed by a seemingly innocent ritual, as are all means of travelling deeper into the layers of Arborea. These hidden rituals are one of the eladrins' greatest secrets. Each layer has its own ritual to open a portal to the deeper layers, and a different one to return.
Another unusual trait of Arborea is that the layers of Arborea are somewhat fluid, and wander over the multiverse. They occasionally meet another planes, becoming coterminous with other planes or planar layers. When this happens, the layer forms temporary gateways where it overlaps with another plane or planar layer. These gateways are always inobvious or hidden, and the inhabitants of the other plane are not aware of the juncture. The eladrins, fey, and creatures of Arborea sometimes visit the other plane if it is not too hostile. At other times, the natives of the other plane accidentally stumble into Arborea, and have no clue where they are. Often, when a traveler returns from a hidden gateway, his mind is fogged as if he has been in a dream. Such a traveler will not remember details of his visit, and rapidly lose any recollection of what happened on the layer. A Will save (DC=20+ the planar layer number, e.g., 24 for Punathor) negates this effect.
Another odd trait of Arborea is known as the Youth Effect. This effect was one of the many reasons the eladrinsclosed the layers to others. As a mortal travels deeper into Arborea, the younger they will become. This will not affect the creature's intellect, though it will cause them to have more childlike attitudes. The Youth Effect occurs on all layers of Arborea, though it is so minor on the first three layers that it usually goes unnoticed.Each layer of Arborea has a maximum age. Whenever a mortal creature travels to a layer of Arborea where his age is above the layer maximum, he will slowly revert to the appropriate age, regressing one year per hour he is on the layer. When a mortal leaves a layer of Arborea for one that has a higher maximum age, he returns to his original age or the new maximum age, whichever is less. The same happens if he leaves a layer for another plane through the same means that he entered, typically through the hidden gateways. However, if a character enters Arborea from the first layer, travels deeper into Arborea, and leaves through a hidden gateway, he retains his new age. Eladrins and fey are unaffected by the youth effect.
|1||Arvandor||Absolute maximum age of race|
|2||Aquallor||Average of maximum age of race and Venerable|
|4||Punathor||Average of Venerable and Middle Age|
|6||Ardelir||Average of Middle Age and Adult|
|8||Terwazeir||80% of adult age|
|9||Drimogar||60% of adult age|
|10||Astravor||40% of adult age|
|11||Yumesar||20% of adult age|
|12||Womb||One year old or less|
From the seventh layer onward, all damage suffered by creatures in Arborea is automatically transformed into non-lethal damage. This applies even to weapon damage such as that from a sword or arrows. The only exception is that critical hits still inflict lethal damage. Eladrins may suppress this property for damage that they inflict, though they rarely do so.
The Hidden Layers
The fourth layer of Arborea is Punathor, composed mostly of rolling hills and small copses of trees. However, the realm is dominated by incredible machines and machine-like creatures. A visitor to Punathor might believe the layer is part of Mechanus instead of Arborea. Indeed, many of the creatures resemble machines. Steam-driven creatures and fantastical creations roam the landscape. Most of these creatures are not constructs at all, but simply fantastical versions of normal creatures. But rather than the uniformity found on Mechanus, each of the creatures native to this layer are unique and distinctive.
The eladrins use Punathor as a place of experimentation and inspiration. Technomagical vehicles seem to violate many laws of physics or magic, but successfully blend the two in unusual ways. Even the plants seem to be part machine, growing metal gear-like flowers or clockwork fruits. The land has numerous mineral deposits, which are easily obtained. Many of the minerals have unusual properties too.
Because of its novelty, Punathor is one of the least popular layers among the eladrins. Most eladrins avoid the layer, but a few are intrigued by the various features of the layer.Varakir
The fifth layer of Arborea is Varakir, a bizarre mix of hot and cold climates. Much of the layer is cold snow-covered hills, though the temperature is never much below freezing. However, the snowy lands are mixed with numerous natural hot springs, where the snow melts into a steamy pools. There are also frequent tiny volcanos, which melt larger areas of the snow into warm lakes. The volcanos never erupt violently, but most produce a small but steady flow of magma. In the transition areas between the steamy lakes and pools and the snowy lands, the ground is rocky and firm, and covered in brush, mosses and other plant life.
Many eladrins come to Varakir to relax in the pools, which they use as large saunas. The temperature extremes are never bitter, though they will freeze (or burn) someone who foolishly travels from a hot region to a cold region without letting their body adjust.Ardelir
The sixth layer of Arborea is Ardelir. This layer is a wooded paradise, eternally bathed in a warm moonlight from three different moons. It is also a layer of passion, where inhibitions vanish like the wind. Fey of all varieties are common in Ardelir, and this layer frequently borders on prime material worlds, forming gateways where the fey are common. Mortal visitors to Ardelir dimly remember being in a realm of faerie, where enchantment and mystery abound.
Ardelir is also the home of the court of King Oberon and Queen Titania. These two eladrin lords are closely tied to the Fey. They govern the layers of Punathor, Varakir, and Ardelir from their hidden palace among the woods.Karandur
The seventh layer of Arborea is Karandur. The layer is dominated by open fields. Small hills, copses of trees, rivers, lakes, and ruins are scattered through the landscape, providing a variety of terrain features. These terrain features actually move, traveling slowly across the landscape.
Karandur is used by the eladrins as a practice ground for combats. Here, the eladrins keep their combat skills honed without endangering innocents or each other. Taking advantage of the varying terrain and non-lethal characteristics of the plane, eladrins stage mock skirmishes and full-fledged battles. Visitors to the plane are frequently invited to participate.
Karandur occasionally borders evil realms, and thus Karandur also serves as a staging ground for actual combat. The eladrin use the gateways to stage raids into the lower planes. Any fiends which follow the eladrins back to Karandur are quickly dispatched - the eladrins are quite willing to suppress the non-lethal effect of the layer when dealing with fiends.Terwazeir
The eighth layer of Arborea is Terwazeir, a vast ocean dotted with island archiepelagos. The eladrins operate fantastic ships, sailing from one island to another as they see fit. Each eladrin who captains a ship tries to make it unique and flamboyant. Visitors are frequently invited to join crews, and sail around the layer in search of adventure.
Terwazeir opens onto prime material worlds somewhat frequently, and the portals are large enough to allow other sailing ships into the layer. Entire crews have appeared in Terwazeir without realizing it. The ships that are brought into Terwazeir also frequently include evil creatures, who are made less potent by the nature of Arborea and the youth effect. The eladrins enjoy poking fun at the hapless evil creatures, though their true goal is to reform such visitors.
The eighth layer is also the home of the court of the eladrin king who rules the layers of Karandur, Terwazeir, and Drimogar. He is known by many different names and wears many different guises. The king enjoys the company of mortals, and is known to visit other lands, always returning with a story or adventure. He is something of a scoundrel, and frequently leaves his court in chaos as he concocts yet another scheme. However, he is a likable rogue, and loved by his subjects.Drimogar
The ninth layer of Arborea is Drimogar, a realm of enhanced magic. The landscape is covered by a variety of biomes, including lush jungles, temperate forests, savannahs, and rocky hills. Plants on this layer frequently exhibit magical properties, and their fruit acts like a potion 50% of the time. Likewise, flowering plants sometimes have magical aromas, affecting someone who smells the aroma. Each plant only has a single effect for all of its fruit or flowers at any particular time, though the effect may change every few days.
This layer is inhabited by juvenile magical beasts of various types. These magical beasts have adopted the plane as their own. All animals become magical beasts due to the nature of this plane, awakening (as the spell), and gain the ability to learn class levels. Some who begin to take class levels also begin to become more anthropomorphic, gaining more human-like features as they gain experience.
This awakening effect only lasts as long as the creature remains on Drimogar. Once the creature leaves, it loses its intelligence and anthropomorphic features, and cannot access any class abilities which require intelligence to use. It does retain improved saving throws, abilities, base to hit chances, etc. Most awakened creatures are reluctant to leave Drimogar. If a creature leaves Drimogar and later returns, they immediately recover all abilities which were lost.
Drimogar is also the original home of the Dusklings (see Magic of Incarnum).Astravor
The tenth layer of Arborea is Astravor. This is also known as the Realm of Stars, and is the actual layer where the Court of Stars resides. Queen Morwel (who is described in Book of Exalted Deeds) rules the tenth, eleventh and (nominally) the twelfth layers from her realm here. Morwel is also recognized as the ruler of the first three layers. The sky of this realm is perpetually filled with luminous stars.
The realm is dominated by the beautiful architecture. In fact, the layer is entirely filled with fantastical architecture, lush gardens, elaborate palaces, beautiful parks, and so forth. The building style varies from region to region. A common feature of many buildings is that the rooftops are made from silver or other reflective materials, so that the stars can be seen reflecting from many buildings.
This layer occasionally adjoins the first layer, or even the planes of the Beastlands or Ysgard. When this happens, a part of the queen's palace appears on the layer, floating in the sky. The queen and other eladrins avoid calling attention to the true nature of the floating palace.Yumesar
The eleventh layer of Arborea, Yumesar, is also known as the Layer of Imagination. Any beings who travel to this layer discover that their thoughts shape reality. Anything imagined will appear, though it will only last as long as the being concentrates on it. These items (or beings) are real to the imaginer, though they are seen by others as wispy images.
This layer frequently borders the Ethereal plane, where it blends with the Region of Dreams.Womb
The twelfth layer of Arborea is known simply as Womb. Any mortals travelling to Womb have regressed to the age of infants or toddlers (or the equivalent), and barely able to move on their own. The layer is warm and dimly lit with a persistent ambient light. The aromas which permeates the layer produce a calming effect. Unlike other layers of Arborea, Womb is concave, shaped like a bowl.
At the center of Womb is a glowing lake. This lake beckons to all mortals within the layer, who must make a DC 32 will save to resist the urge to enter the lake. Any being who enters the lake is gone - they become reincarnated, reborn into the mortal world as an infant. The reincarnation effect even applies to eladrins, though the eladrins are not affected by the beckoning.
Womb is tended to by one eladrin noble drawn from each eladrin race. These eladrins watch for particular traits or abilities that a soul had in life. They may influence the soul's reincarnation, directing the soul to reincarnate as a particular creature or in a particular area.
Travel between the Layers
As mentioned before, a seemingly simple ritual allows passage between the various layers of Arborea. These secrets are rarely given to visitors, and an eladrin can never be compelled to reveal these secrets. A being must be thinking about travelling to another layer while performing these rituals - it is impossible to accidentally travel between layers with these rituals. Even when eladrin reveal the ritual, they may leave a crucial part of the information out.
To travel from Arvandor to Aquallor, the traveller must submerge themself in a lake. While submerged, the traveller must perform some form of underwater acrobatics - somersaults, twists, etc. When the traveller surfaces, they will be in Aquallor.
To travel from Aquallor, the traveller must float on the surface of the water. They may use magic to assist in this, particularly if the traveller is too heavy to float. To travel to Arvandor, the traveller must float face down and blow bubbles into the water. To travel to Mithardir, the traveller must recite a poem while floating face up.
To travel from Mithardir to Punathor, the traveller must construct a castle or other similar structure from the sand of Mithardir. A door must be drawn in one of the walls (and it must be a door on a vertical surface, not a trap-door in the floor). When the traveller knocks on the door, it will open to Punathor. If the door is drawn in the floor, it will open to Aquallor instead.
To travel from Punathor, a traveller must build a fire. They must then throw mineral salts from the layer onto the fire, which will immediately cause the fire to billow forth with a thick smoke. The smoke will have different colors based upon the type of mineral salts used. When the traveller steps into the smoke, they will emerge either onto Mithardir or Varakir. Which salts lead to which layer is part of the secret to this ritual.
To travel from Varakir, a traveller must make a large snowball from the snow. The snowball cannot be made artificially or magically, but must be made by hand. The snowball must then be dropped into one of the miniature volcanoes. If the snowball is at least 1 foot in diameter when it is dropped into the volcano, the heat will subside for 10 minutes. The traveller can then jump into the volcano, and will end up sliding down a chute. If the person is not holding an object in their hands, they will arrive on Ardelir. If they are carrying anything in their hands, they will arrive on Punathor instead. Of course, getting the snowball into the volcano is not easy, since the snowballs melt quickly.
To travel from Ardelir, the traveller must play a tune on a musical instrument. The instrument does not have to be finely crafted, but must have multiple tones (e.g., no drums). When the song is over, the traveller will be transported to Karandur if the tune is an energetic melody, or to Varakir if the tune is a relaxing melody. This travel will also include any willing being within 10 feet.
To travel from Karandur, the traveller must cut themselves enough to draw a little blood. If the wound is then touched to something wet (e.g., putting a cut finger into one's mouth), the traveller is transported to an island on Terwazeir. If the wound is touched to plant life (e.g., using a leaf to staunch the blood), the traveller is transported to Ardelir.
To travel from Terwazeir, the traveller must throw seven coins into the water from a ship, and then jump into the water. If the coins are made of the same material (e.g., all silver coins), the traveller will arrive in a lake on Drimogar when they surface. If the coins are different, the traveller will arrive in Karandur.
To travel from Drimogar, the traveller must play a game with one of the magical beasts on the layer - the exact game does not matter. At the end of the game, a doorway will appear, leading to either Astravor or Terwazeir. Wooden doors lead to Terwazeir, while silvery ones lead to Astravor. Which door appears seems to be random for mortals.
To travel from Astravor, the traveller must sleep alone while wrapped in a blanket which was made in Arborea. If they sleep under the open sky, they will wake in Yumesar. If they sleep inside a building, they will wake in Drimogar.
To travel from Yumesar, the traveller must cover their eyes with their hands. If the traveller starts crying (or even pretend to cry), they will arrive on Womb when they open their eyes. If they begin to laugh, they will arrive on Astravor.
The only way for a mortal to leave Womb (without being reincarnated) is to be carried by an eladrin. Any eladrin who travels to womb can only leave if they are carrying a mortal. Even the eladrin avoid Womb unless they have a specific reason to travel there.The Role of the Fey
The Fey are tied to the eladrin by bonds which go beyond physical similarity. The fey are magical spirits - the essence of a strong feeling or emotion - which dominates in an area. For instance, dryads are fey who originated from the feelings of awe and reverence toward the towering trees. When an area consistently inspires feelings of wonder, the fey will appear.
The eladrin created the various fey races from the spirits of the deceased that come to Arborea. Most spirits of the deceased eventually make their way to Womb to be reincarnated. But at times, the eladrin select a number of the deceased to form new fey, and send the group of spirits to the Material plane when a gateway next opens.
Usually, this creation of a fey race goes unnoticed by other beings. Unfortunately, the process is occasionally corrupted when the spirits arrive in an area tainted by evil. The redcaps are an example of a fey race which was corrupted by fiendish energy when it formed.
When untainted fey die or are slain, their spirits usually return to Arborea, where they may automatically reincarnate as a young eladrin child. Eladrins are one of the few great races who can produce offspring naturally. This natural cycle of reincarnation allows the souls of Chaotic Good beings to eventually become Eladrin. Rather than merging with the plane (as archons aspire to), or having their soul consumed in the Abyss, the spirits of the Chaotic Good beings eventually join the ranks of the eladrin host.
Arborea always seemed like it lacked uniqueness. The paltry 3 layers were largely underdeveloped. Meanwhile, Baator, the Abyss and Mt. Celestia had many more layers, each of which were more developed and interesting. The Chaotic Good alignment was being short-changed. In addition, the eladrins also seemed to lack any real hook to make them more interesting. Thus, this expansion of Arborea attempts to address both problems.
The hidden layers of Arborea represent freeing oneself from responsibilities and burdens. As travelers delve deeper into Arborea, they should feel an increasing freedom from worry. At the same time, the reversed aging effect slowly reverts the travelers physically to childhood, where they have the least responsibility. The layers also individually represent Play. Each layer is a place where a being can truly relax and enjoy themselves, if the mode of play is to their liking.
Each of the layers has a particular style involved in its design. Punathor is a good place for a Steampunk fantasy scenario, Varakir is basically a layer for relaxation. Ardelir is based upon the realm of the faeries from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and so forth. A gamemaster can pull characters into a layer through a hidden gateway, let them explore and enjoy, and when they return, the characters will remember only a vivid dream.
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Brilliant, this is precisely the itch I was meaning to scratch by coming here. Chaotic good is the most philosophically challenging concept in the alignment system, if not all of D&D, especially in the Planescape setting, and of course is probably the self-identified alignment of most game designers and ardent game players. So Arborea definitely merits more layers - your idea of a benign conspiracy hiding its true nature recalls the mystery traditions of secret societies from Mithras to Mensa (you never know what those Mensa people are up to). The reverse aging attribute is definitely clever.
My critique of your extra layers is similar to my critique of the Abyssal layers and most of the in-between planes: these geographies do not evoke an escalating series of cerebral contemplations for me. All the lower planes sound like war zones and all the heavens sound like resort brochures - Planescape should be waaay more trippy than those late 80s designers wrote it, still light-headed with hangover from Forgotten Realms and Tolkien. Since then fantasy has seen His Dark Materials (a chaotic good answer to CS Lewis' or Tolkien's lawful good worldview), A Song of Ice and Fire (True Nuetral or Chaotic Nuetral in slant), dark reimaginings in film of old fairytales (and superhero narratives deserve a mention); meanwhile general culture has a late re-flowering of ethneogen culture on the internet, the rise of data culture, some interesting experiments in combining the two to create new forms of art like the Electric Sheep screensaver or fractal music. So let's imagine some really tripped out, ontologically interesting physics and geographies for our chaotic good layers that epitomize the alignment. As far as I can tell, only Mechanus, Limbo, Sigil, Bytopia, Celestia, the Grey Waste and the Abyss have interesting ontologies behind them, and I'm being generous with the last 3.
The two hidden layers I was thinking of, I dub "Glossolalia" and "Psychedlia" - the first being an amalgam of illusions and language at the vortex of Mithrandir's air, Arvandor's wood, and Aquallor's liquidity, the second being a cosmic nebula warp where thought creates reality and the self can manifest in it's pure form after it's quest through succor (Arvandor), wanderment (Aquallor), dissolution (Mithrandir) and redefinition (Glossolalia). My geography for Glossolalia is like a combination of Limbo, Yggdrasil, and occlusive clouds that prevent any comprehensive map, with a tint of the Ethereal plane), while my geography for Psychedelia combines the most interesting aspects of positive and negative planes, the Astral, and I guess the prime-based space travel of Spelljammers - but I'd prefer to forget about Spelljammers.
So to reconcile your idea with my idea, Gloss combines some aspects of your steampunk world, hot springs world, and probably a hefty dose of the last two episodes of Evangelion (tv series), and way, way strong influence from Celtic myth and the Fae kingdom. Oberon and Titania would make their home here for sure, as would Finn Macool and perhaps Odyssues, having outwitted even the Greek pantheon who would deign to dictate his terms of eternal bliss on Arvandor. Psychedlia sounds like it almagamates your final 3 layers, the idea of womb and reincarnation being associated with Chaotic Good makes intuitive sense for me, though be cautioned that in some traditions (ranging from "New Age" crystal spinners to Buddhism) reincarnation is associated with the "Left-hand Path" and basically a failure to evolve, while my sense of Chaotic Good is to evolve and synthesize whenever possible.
I really dig notion that Arborea is an ongoing process, trying to figure out if it's half a tree, half a rhizomatic root network, in its ontological relation to the rest of the multiverse. There are tips of Ygdrassil that reach to the lip of Glossolalia, allowing a quester to mix nectars and fruits, meditate on the alphabet soup of True Words at the base of the layer, and transcend into Psychedlia - these tips cannot be defined as either ending branch or root. Indeed, the entire plane may be constructed as a tesseract or hyper-cube, constantly changing it's relations to other planes and elements. Hence, when you understand that Ygdrassil simultaneously makes its sustenance and/or it's leafy canopy at the edge of Glossolalia, you realize it may well be the basis for the structure of all post-Far Realm/Obyrnth existence in the outer planes. Speaking of the Far Realm, I'd suspect spending a few Aleph numbers worth of "time" in Psychedlia may allow one to see out there, or even make expeditions.
Arborea could be considered a microcosm of the inner planes in their creative recombinance, hence Arvandor is wood and emergence, Aquallor is flow and dynamism, Mithrandir is sand and the passing of all things, Glossolalia is rainbow dust and the exhaust-less but futile gasp for description of the cycle, and Psychedlia is Ether, a synthesis of Positive and Negative planes with a slight skew that makes it habitable (provided you're willing to dissolve prior ego on the quest - all but Greater Powers included).
I see each layer as skimming against strongly aligned planes, as extremes define the passion of Chaotic Good - but not including Lawful planes. Hence Arvandor is skiffs on Elysium, Aquallor on Limbo, Mithrandir on the Outlands, Glossolalia on the Abyss, and Psychedlia on Arborea itself or the entire multiverse or maybe just looking out to the Far Realms - opinions vary among the few who have a frame of reference to form an opinion.
I'd love to develop these ideas further in an actual product, since WotC has pretty much wasted their ontology in 4e I think I'd do it with poetic license only, actually doing a license deal with them doesn't seem quite worth it. The game would have to be mobile, involve some puzzles mixed with role-playing, including socially triggered role-playing puzzles, and would focus on gaining power/wisdom in the multiverse, with an expanded CG plane being integral to the whole quest.
Great post 99th. In fact, I'd urge you to start a new post on developing Arborea in the forum section - will see a lot more traction there.
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Arborea is an interesting topic you choose for this post. I read many articles about it. I read many articles about it. Arborea has two main types of petitioner, the first of which are the spirits of the eleven dead. Some take the form of celestial creatures or others simply merge with the plane itself, as a final reward after death. The second main type is the Bacchae, drunken revelers who perpetually indulge in wild celebrations, enticing visitors to join with them. http://atlanticmarinedepot.com