[Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

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willpell
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[Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

Post by willpell » Mon Oct 05, 2015 9:34 pm

1. Whiteleaf games take place upon a planet known as Terrestra. There is one very large continent which accounts for 90% of the world's known land mass, the rest of which never deserves a title more grandiose than "large island" (think Newfoundland or Sri Lanka, perhaps Madagascar at the most - no Australias or Greenlands or detached Indian subcontinents). Larger than Eurasia and both Americas combined, the vaguely heart-shaped continent needs no particular name. Human-populated lands form a more-or-less diagonal stripe across the continent, and historically served as a buffer zone between the pre-human kingdoms of the northeast and the monster-settled wilderness of the southwest. (Dwarves served a similar role in the vertical direction, protecting the surface from Underdark extrusions, well before the human race existed.)

2. Roughly half of the human-held region (ergo roughly one-sixth of the entire landmass, although possibly closer to one-eighth, as the Hinterlands are poorly-explored and may well exceed current estimates of their extent) is taken up by the "Federated Imperium of the Angelic Saxon Tradespeak of Human and Halfling Lands", more commonly known simply as "the Empire". Far and away the largest (in both land area and population) and most prosperous human nation that exists now, and possibly ever, the Imperium is a peculiar compromise between the Lawful and Chaotic viewpoints, whose day-to-day administration is done by a vast and sprawling bureaucracy - largely constituted of an "alphabet soup" of overlapping special-purpose agencies, with somewhat pretentious names that are abbreviated as catchy acronyms or 2-to-4-letter codes - but whose ultimate authority is centralized in a single Emperor, a high-level spellcaster of superlative mental acumen and faultless moral character. Technically the Emperor is an absolute tyrant, but aside from nearly always refusing to exercise his power in a way that even might seem questionable to the populace, he is also intentionally impeded by a variety of methods which he (or his predecessors) put into place himself, specifically to ensure that his rulership suffers frequent challenges, in order to protect against the result of himself being corrupted, possessed, impersonated, or otherwise compromised by inimical forces. Somewhere between the tied hands of a near-omnipotent sorcerer-king and the inexorable inefficiency of a governmental machine, the Empire does a surprisingly good job of running itself, and the overall contentment of its citizenry is very high; though it possesses great military might, its constant expansion takes place almost exclusively through economic flourishing which results in its neighbors being gradually out-competed and absorbed. Most of the nation's immense wealth is then directed back into efforts at improving the lives of its citizens (at least in theory), and their high standard of living then motivates them to be highly productive. While it would be absurd to claim this system never goes awry, a litany of checks and balances exist to minimize the damage on those occasions.

3. Historical records were not well-kept before the Empire's ascendancy, except by the elven and dwarven empires, both of whom retain extremely biased and semi-fictional accounts which are difficult to reconcile into a consistent narrative. Rumor helds that both giants and dragons maintained vast civilizations even before the Demi-Human Age (as slightly bigoted scholars within the Empire still get away with calling it), but the current state of both genera makes it hard to imagine that they could ever have been in the habit of building cities or constructing governments. Ruins of sufficient antiquity exist in more than adequate numbers to prove the existence of some civilization back then (the oldest elf or dwarf records go back about 20,000 years, and divinations indicate that some of these structures were built well over twice that long ago). The human race is well-known to have originated almost exactly 10,000 years before the current century, although a commonly-circulated story which establishes the exact moment at which the species miraculously appeared is probably fictional. Since the Empire is roughly 1,500 years old, it represents a distinct minority of human history, and many longer-lived individuals doubt that its current intention to "permanently civilize all life" is feasible...but it sure seems to be doing a good job so far.

4. The Terrestran year is exactly 366 days long. The days are arranged into eight-day weeks; there is no "leap day", but some systems recognize a "short week" or "day of transition" every fourth year, where the six-day final week of the 46-week year lines up with the first week of the next in some noteworthy fashion. The year is divided into either four or six seasons depending on culture, and the 24-hour day is divided into either four or six segments (a common version is "dawn, morning, noon, day, evening, night", and the corresponding seasons are "thawing", "blooming", summer, "harvest", "witching", and winter).

5. The name "Whiteleaf" applies to the cosmos as a whole, though it is frequently used by Terrestrans to refer to the world they live upon, since most folk have at best a purely-theoretical knowledge of any others. ("Cosmos" applies to both the physical universe, which contains other planets besides Terrestra and seems not to be meaningfully centered upon it, as well as the metaphysical array of co-tangent dimensions, which emphatically DOES revolve specifically around the Prime Material Plane planet, although it is sometimes theorized that other physical worlds may each have a "Great Wheel" of related planes themselves, which is either functionally or definitionally impossible for Terrestrans to reach.) The term comes from a persistent "monomyth", reflected in a statistically-significant percentage of cultures throughout the history of the entire panoply of realms (similar to the persistence of Great Flood mythology in Terrestrial societies). In its broadest form, this myth describes some primordial entity, such as a goddess, a culture's common ancestor-heroine, or a princess of the Fair Folk, who created a vast orchard or was charged with responsibility for it, until one day all of the trees died as a result of some error or character flaw on her part. The details vary, but a single image occurs with crystal-clarity across every retelling of the tale - the beautiful and sorrowful-looking maiden standing in a vast grove of identical trees, stretching to the horizon in every direction, all of them bleached bone-white and shriveled into skeletal husks, while the girl stares pensively down at a single ashen specimen taken from the carpet of fallen leaves which covers the ground. (If I were ever to publish Whiteleaf in book form, this would be the cover painting, and a significant percentage of the budget would be allocated to commissioning an absolutely perfect illustration from the most skilled artist available.)

6. Whiteleaf has a vast pantheon of deities, all of which are highly interventionist, but none of which are dependant on a physical existence (ie they cannot be hunted down and killed by even the most powerful adventurers, though "aspects" of them occasionally manifest and can be fought). Regardless of their alignments, portfolios, personal opinons, or historical relationship, all of these gods form part of a single "superstructure" which makes them largely cooperative - they bicker over details constantly, and they aren't above sending their churches to war over temporal concerns, but the idea of even the most Evil deity trying to annihilate reality entirely, or even the most Chaotic one disregarding the terms of whatever mutualistic pact they are all bound into, is as patently ludicrous as the thought of all sophonts worldwide simultaneously removing their own heads. (One exception does exist, but is a closely-guarded secret.)

7. The number 4 is considered sacred, lucky, or otherwise auspicious across a significant percentage of all documented cultures, much as with 7 in our reality. Other "magic numbers" are possible, but never so widely agreed-upon. Unlike with the real-world example, where 7 was upheld by a single culture whose ideological influence spread widely until it had at least slightly effected most of the globe, the persistence of 4 is a cosmic fact of Whiteleaf's very nature, reinforced by magical theory and extradimensional influences (e.g. there are 4 elemental planes and 4 energy planes, along with numerous other such patterns which, if counted and organized according to various theoretical systems, nearly always organize into a total which is some multiple or expontent of 4). The aforementioned pantheon is one of these systems - a sufficiently knowledgeable cleric could identify a grand total of 330 recognized major deities at one time, and could divide them by "divine rank" (similar to, but not exactly the same as, the concept detailed in the Deities and Demigods supplement) into four categories containing 4, 16, 64, and 256 gods of decreasing potency. (This is extremely difficult for anyone in-setting to actually do, due to some of the knowledge required to outline this system being carefully guarded. However, the numbers 16 and 64 are easily derived for the two middle ranks, who collectively have the greatest degree of influence - the Four are too remote to have much impact on day-to-day life, while the "Quarter-Thousand" are extremely weak, highly specialized, and fluctuate in membership often enough to frustrate efforts at counting them more precisely than with this sobriquet.)

8. The four great "alignment forces" - Good, Chaos, Evil and Law - are very well-understood; their various breeds of outsider Exemplars are studied extensively by magical theorists, and this knowledge is disseminated Empire-wide through as much of the population as can be reasonably hoped to absorb it. (The average peasant still lives only barely above the subsistence level, and is probably not incredibly smart in spite of the best efforts of Imperial educators and "mind-expanders".) It is a well-proven fact that the force of Good is the strongest of the four, since it emanates directly from the general preference of all living beings to continue being alive, to seek happiness and avoid misery, and so forth (all of which applies even to sapient undead, elementals, Awakened golems, and other entities which are not strictly-speaking "alive"). Its opposite, Evil, obviously still exists, but plays a very different role in the setting - rather than an omnipresent threat to life and liberty which adventurers desperately struggle against for the fate of the entire world, it is a subtle and creeping cancer which consists mostly of nuanced deception and insidious apathy. Unable to win in a fair fight, Evil cheats every chance it gets; its ultimate goal is to force Good to destroy itself, but this reliably proves nearly-impossible (such fallen Good archetypes as the "Templar paladin" are very seldom able to flourish), enough so that even the smallest victory for the cause of Evil is treasured by its agents. There is a very good reason for all of this; if it makes the setting sound boring, well, that's exactly what Evil wants you to think. The key to Evil's success in this world, where the deck is so thoroughly stacked against it, has always been the capacity of people to freely make the wrong choices for all the right reasons. (The forces of Law and Chaos also have a complex and unusual interaction, which will be detailed further in a separate paragraph.) A third pair of opposing energies is sometimes postulated, although persuasive evidence of its definite reality remains lacking; one of these speculative forces is confidently titled Nature, while the other is poorly understood as some vague conceptual opposite thereof, whose most common nickname is "Madness" (although anyone who actually sides with it would reject that term - unlike agents of Evil, those of this power would not embrace their negative nature, but would insist upon the correctness of even their most seemingly-outrageous actions - if one did want to play the aforementioned "Templar", they would be most likely to end up in this category).

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Re: [Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

Post by willpell » Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:14 pm

9. The world as a whole is largely, though not unfailingly, monitored by highly interventionist archons, angels, aeons, and Animal Fathers, the four Exemplar races of good-aligned Outsiders, whose collective effort at keeping the world safe (in cooperation with the Good deities, who created them largely to serve as their agents in this regard) is referred to as the Celestial Overwatch. Similar tetrumvirates are found among the beings of Law and Chaos, including the Inevitables, Valkyries and Fair Folk, as well as such enigmatic beings as Quonsecari and Geomids, and outright monsters like the Formians and Spawnlings. Finally, among the forces of Evil, there are the Demons and Devils, engaging in a version of the Blood War (although for reasons very different than in a traditional setting), a shadowy faction known as Dreadlords who manipulate both sides (or, in a few cases, work to unite them in the service of Evil as a cause), and a fourth group of elusive and ill-understood beings known only as Dark Ones.

10. As part of the Empire's agenda of generally improving the lives of humans, halflings, and other sapients, it has pushed very strongly for a system of semi-formal education which is made available to all but the very poorest of the citizenry, or those unfortunate enough to live in remote areas far from the well-established center, where Imperial reforms have yet to spread. (Such areas exist in large part for the metafictional reason that they make good encounter zones; see below.) This has included the establishment of the famous Sixteen Schools and various lesser academies of magic, as well as a general recognition in most areas of society that magic tends to predominate over lack of magic. If the peasants in some Locales remain ignorant, superstitious, and distrustful of spellcasters, it is because the Empire's efforts have either not reached the area or have met with considerable resistance (often instigated by other nations, out of reactionary opposition to anything Imperial-scented, no matter how much "for your own good" it may claim to be). Even non-magi are taught to take pride in their craftsmanship and to uphold the worth of all humanoid beings, no matter how humble; nobody is "just a dirt farmer" or the like, and anyone who takes such a dismissive view of "lesser" folk, no matter how justified their arrogance may be by their actual actions, is flirting with the first steps toward an Evil alignment - and for a long history of conflicts with the well-meaning but meddlesome Imperial authorities, who often escalate conflicts rather than tolerate letting them simmer.

11. The ultimate power in all of Whiteleaf, greater even than the gods, is believed by a wise few to be what they call the Lords of Dream, beings who "spin the fabric of reality as a tapestry to warm their homes and hearts", to use one of the most common of their persistent metaphors. These dream-beings are believed to hold storytelling as the highest of all arts, and to be connected with the Celestine Fair Folk, who in turn are related (by something akin to ancestry, though perhaps metaphorical more than literal) to the Elven race. The fact that elves never dream would seem to make this connection a tad ironic. Many of those who have discovered the existence of the Dream Lords are questionable, unreliable, or out-right insane; they often speak of apparent impossibilities, and this has prevented their claims from being taken seriously by most of the setting's legitimate authorities. (In other words, being out of their gourds permits them to break the 4th Wall on occasion, though they are fundamentally incapable of persuading anyone that their world is *really* just a story or a game...still, a subtle sense of *some* such underlying truth to the world is a common symptom of ennui and malaise among humans on Terrestra.) Because of the importance that Dreaming holds in Whiteleaf, the Region of Dreams plane and the Lucid Dreaming skill are both used, albeit with significant game-balance adjustments (ie no Dreamheart-assassination).

12. A poorly-understood force known as the Celestial Bureaucray seems to oversee the financial affairs of Whiteleaf inhabitants, particularly those who "adventure" for a living rather than simply practicing some trade or craft. There are numerous aspects to this process of spiritual accounting, but a significant part of it revolves around ensuring that persons who come into immense, unearned wealth, through either blind luck or immoral actions such as theft, are usually quickly divested of it. Part of becoming successful in classes such as Rogue is learning how to manipulate this system of subtle interferences; successfully committing an act of (for example) pickpocketing not only relies on diverting the mark's attention so your fingers can do their work, but also rationalizing the act to yourself, in such a way that your own "conscience" or "sense of guilt" (there are various conceptualizations of this force within the sentient mind, which holds it emotionally accountable for deeds which the conscious mind can more easily forgive) does not send out a sort of "signal flare", which will mark you as a thief and attract the Bureaucracy's attention to you. Despite the term, there is no evidence that there are any actual Bureaucrats enforcing this system; it is sometimes believed to be the work of gods with portfolios related to Luck, Wealth, Balance or even Justice, but directly addressing those deities does not enable one to easily sidestep the mechanisms of Celestial adjustment. (While I hope to eventually add a variety of economically-based mechanics, such as a vastly expanded version of the Upkeep variant, the most immediate short-term effect of the CB is that it provides an in-setting justification for the use of a Wealth By Level cap, ensuring that a level 1 character who somehow finds a suit of +5 plane mail and puts it on will find that circumstances conspire to deprive him of it shortly, at least until he reaches a sufficiently high level that a 27K-gold armor suit is an acceptible percentage of his WBL.)

13. The cosmic forces of Alignment are interpreted slightly differently in Whiteleaf. An extensive dissertation on the topic exists as its own thread, so to briefly summarize - in Whiteleaf, Law leans away from Good and toward Evil instead of the other way around, whereas Chaos likewise tends not toward Evil but toward Good. This has to do with the essential nature of the setting - because civilization is inherently strong, and the monster-haunted wilds are fading before the march of progress, Chaos is less like a threat to be defeated and more like a high-yield energy source to be preserved. Meanwhile, the constant advance of society risks stagnation and decadence, in the relative absence of external threats. Law's compulsion to enforce a balance is more likely to favor the embattled forces of Darkness than the powerful champions of Light, and those who are compelled to obey promises are more likely to end up drawn into the Web of Lies, even as they fall afoul of the Celestial Overwatch's responsibilities, rather than the reverse. Meanwhile, Chaos is closely tied to the dominant Lords of Dream, who are benevolent enough (at least for the moment), and Madness is an independent force which is no more Chaotic than it is Lawful, so the Evil aspect of Chaos is not really an intensifier of its already-present dangerousness, so much as it is an insufficiently mitigating force upon villains that are too far gone to save (otherwise they'd be Chaotic Neutral, rather than Neutral Evil, on the basis of simply being selfish and contrary, since the universe will not punish them only for that, as it might in a more Law-dominated vision of "right"). The difference is well-illustrated by looking at the four greatest Exemplar races - Devils are the ultimate archvillains in Whiteleaf, claiming a sympathetic motivation as justification for the absolute worst of atrocities, whereas Demons are more nearly deserving of actual sympathy, albeit that their very nature makes them spectacularly toxic walking disasters. Conversely, while the Fair Folk are somewhat inconstant champions of the innocent, they are unceasingly vigilant in their defense of the ideals of virtue, which will constantly bring new Good into the world, no matter how many individuals succumb. In trying to save every life, even at the cost of allowing villainy to continue corrupting what it stands for, the Lawful end of Good is ultimately fighting a losing battle, throwing finite resources toward an impossible task and refusing to recognize when their sentimentality is unreasonable, refusing to bend even if the alternative is that they break. In every case, Chaos stands for infinite possibilities, which are good at least as often as they are ill - whereas Law is more likely to represent the chains of inevitability, forcing even its closest allies into untenable positions, where their obligations and refusal to compromise can force them to become the worst enemies of themselves or one another.

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Re: [Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

Post by willpell » Sat Dec 12, 2015 8:44 pm

14. Although pretty much everyone knows that Magic tends to beat Non-Magic, there is still a strong cultural tradition in the Empire of respecting the contributions of all members in a group, including the stereotypical "adventuring party" that somehow keeps gathering together in order to spelunk some long-abandoned tomb, or put down an uprising of savage humanoids in some border province. The Wizard in such a party does not seek to single-handedly dominate the battle, nor does he mock the Fighter for having no defense against an invisible Pixie sniping him to death; the two are expected to work together, using their skills to cover each other's weaknesses, and maintaining a good relationship even in times of peace (when the wizard likely spends every waking moment on further magical research, and the fighter might well take his share of the treasure straight to the nearest whorehouse and stagger home drunk three days later, not remembering any of his amusements - somehow, such behavior never seems to inflict any long-term harm upon the carouser). It is pretty well-understood, across the dozens of professional organizations which work to train and support the "hero economy", that if the greatest Wizards invariably outclassed the most elite fighters and made them look foolish, then those with ambitions of studying wizardry would face relentless discrimination from their more physically-adept peers. Unable to find anyone to watch his back while he's still limited to casting Magic Missile three times a day, the budding young student of arcana would end up impaled on an orcish spear (if not beaten to death by superstitious townfolk who see him as a threat), and the practice of mysticism would die out; nobody wants this. Therefore, even if Wizardry has the potential to shake the foundations of the cosmos, its practitioners are expected to remain humble and to socialize appropriately, sharing their spells with a combat-trained colleague rather than replacing him with a summoned extraplanar minion. (And the latter strategy often backfires anyway; a mage who gets into the habit of Planar Binding a djinn to solve all of his problems will eventually find 50 of that djinn's equally puissant friends, hell-bent upon teaching him a lesson and/or simply getting revenge, ambushing him at some especially vulnerable moment. He'll be lucky if he survives to repent the mistake, but enough of them have that this tale is pretty regularly repeated in tavern-halls and arcane academies alike.)

15. When alignment debates break out, certain definite trends become clear. For example, Lawful Good agents tend to advocate for the belief that too much of a good thing is dangerous, and that it's better to avoid sources of temptation; their counterparts on the Evil side have a tendency to cooperate with this perception, by using promises and addiction to sucker the vulnerable into inescapable traps which they could have simply said "no" to, if they didn't mind living like cloistered holy men their entire lives. By contrast, Chaos believes that pleasure and indulgence are sources of power, and so they encourage hedonism and experimentation; they see evil as a straightforward contaminant which is easily rejected, without there needing to be any great anguish associated with the decision. Put another way, they figure that if a psychopathic madman wanted to torture you to death, and had the ability to do so, then that would just be your hard luck; there would be no point in thinking that you had "asked for it" by some level of carelessness on your part. Whereas the same madman, if both he and you were Lawful-aligned (or if even one of you was, and the other knew it), would likely portray your horrific death as "just punishment" for some word or deed on your part.

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Re: [Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

Post by willpell » Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:28 pm

16. Fantastic racism is at a minimum in Whiteleaf; while tensions linger between the once-dominant elf and dwarf empires and the "upstart" human nations which have largely overtaken their former territory, most folk have enough respect for diversity that they avoid blaming an entire species for the actions of one onerous individual. (As a corollary to this, humans in particular are so actively attracted to that which is unlike themselves, due to a combination of Empire propaganda and Celestine meddling with their very dreams and definitions of beauty, that the formerly distinct human races have almost completely intermingled over their hundred or so centuries of life, making the average Terrestran human resemble a member of real-world cultures which are descended from centuries of interracial breeding, such as Hispanics and the people of India. Identifiably "white" or "black" or "yellow" humans are all but unheard-of...and nobody would ever call a dark-skinned human "black" anyway, given that the Drow exist.) An additional effect of this attitude is that the "monstrous" races are often treated with as much respect as any humanoid; goblins and orcs and Yeenagh and the like continue to be regarded as pestilential savages and warmongers, because their behavior reliably proves these stereotypes true, but many documented examples prove that this is inherent in their cultural conditioning rather than their inborn nature - and meanwhile other traditionally-maligned races, such as lizardfolk and minotaurs, have proven themselves simply misunderstood and have worked to earn a place within (or at least adjacent to) the civilized world.

17. While elves and dwarves both tend to have highly egalitarian societies which regard the sexes as little different (a few clans and enclaves are exceptions, but these only serve to prove the rule elsewhere), humanity on Whiteleaf has always embraced its gender-dimorphism. This does not mean women are content to remain the kitchen, of course; there has never really been a monolithic patriarchy on more than the most localized of scales, and women across Terrestra are ambitious and capable just as often as males are. What it does mean is that nobody really questions the idea that if even the plainest village girl finds herself in distress, five gallant swains will rush to be the first to aid her...while a male who ends up needing to be rescued from some peril will be roundly mocked whenever he's safely returned, assuming anyone even notices he's gone. Among the rapidly-dwindling noble dynasties, it is well understood that a female scion's power and position is almost entirely dependent on her ability to bear children to carry forward the lineage, and that taking multiple partners will only lead to questionable parentage and the resulting succession crises, while a male aristocrat can freely sow his wild oats and will only gain more prestige from incorporating his heritage into multiple bloodlines. Few Whiteleavians ever regard this system as remotely unfair or undesirable; the simple fact that women can produce life is regarded as a tremendous advantage on their part, to say nothing of their far greater ability to trade on simple good looks for their financial security, and a sometimes better social position for males seems to be reasonable compensation for these biological tradeoffs. All of this is peculiar to humans in and near the Empire, of course; the various "savage" races (and a few isolated pockets of humanity) run the gamut of all social systems, from the strict patriarchies of the orcs, the minotaurs, and the barbaric realm of Tor, to the equally ironclad matriarchies of the Drow and hobgoblins.

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Re: [Whiteleaf] Basic Setting Information

Post by willpell » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:55 pm

Since I have decided to stop keeping high-level cosmology details to myself, it's time for a couple more updates to this thread.

18. The demiplanes of Astral, Ethereal and Shadow are joined by a fourth, among so many other mystical quadruplications; similar to Shadow in many ways, but lacking the sense of pervading gloom, the brightly-lit Mirror Realm is appropriate for encounters with "evil twins" and the like. Unlike its description in the Manual of the Planes, the Mirror Zone is a global phenomenon, not merely a link between a small number of physical mirrors; the described process of a visitor being "reflected" does not happen automatically in all cases, as that book describes, although such an encounter is possible. Any reference in the canon to 'alternate material planes' being reached through the Shadow plane is transplanted to the Mirror plane instead; the Shadow Realm is now understood to be more like a "fundamental" version of the world, which is if anything physically "smaller" than the Prime Material plane. The Shadow Walk and Shadow Conjuration spells, the abilities of Shadowcasters, and the like all remain unchanged; the Mirror Realm has few monsters, spells, magic items, adventure sites, etc. specific to it, as Shadow does, but it is a tremendously appropriate place to explore slightly warped versions of things that exist in the Material Plane, or which could exist in a different version thereof. (Among other uses, this is one of the ways that a DM who disagrees with my preferences, but for some reason still wants to use my setting, could run the monsters which I have ruled are too stupid to exist on Whiteleaf, such as the Phantom Fungus; they could simply be aberrations from some other cosmology who have stumbled Through The Looking Glass into whatever dungeon their players are exploring.) Among the handful of specific creatures that do inhabit the Mirror Zone are the Nerra, as described in the 3E Fiend Folio, and a creature known as a Kyoma Demon which is straight-up lifted from one of the Castlevania games. (As an aside, for those interested in working with 4E's cosmology, the Shadowfell and the Shadow Plane are probably the same, but the Feywild is almost certainly some combination of the Chaotic Good outer plane of Arcadia, the Region of Dreams, and the Protean Sea of Limbo. Thusly, the two realms are not analogous to each other to the same extent, although they can both still be used.)

19. As promised earlier, an expansion on the relationship of Law and Chaos. The Outer Plane of absolute Law, which loosely resembles the canon plane of Mechanus, is occasionally spoken of here with the spelling "Mekanos", but is more commonly referred to as the Cosmic Clockworks; it exists "around" and "inside" the physical planet in an ideological sense, serving to protect Terrestra against its opposite number, the Protean Sea of Chaos (also known as the Flux Realm of Limbo, the Limbo Realm of Flux, the Elemental Chaos, and various similar names). The Clockworks is infinite in size, despite having a finite outer border; anyone who travels "deeper" is effectively miniaturized, as the realm compacts in on itself in a fashion that is founded in basic mathematics, though they are not usually so literally applicable to the world of matter and the fabric of spacetime. At the "center", which cannot be reached by any amount of directional travel, but only through the equivalent of teleportation, exists the ultimate deity of Law, the Mathematarch (equivalent to Primus, the lord of the Modrons in the Great Wheel of Planescape and so forth); also present at the center, yet paradoxically somehow distinct, can be found the Realm of Temporal Energy, which is similar to what is described in Manual of the Planes. Beings of Mekanos believe that reality must be protected against all contact with the ultimate cosmic source of Chaos, the Protean Sea, and for good reason - similar to the description of Flux given in the Steven Brust novel "To Reign in Hell", although not as exclusively a force for destruction, the Protean Sea destabilizes and unpredictably mutates everything it touches. If it were to touch the physical Prime Material plane even for an instant, literally anything could happen, from an entire city with a million inhabitants being created ex nihilo, to an explosion that would crack the continent in half and knock the planet out of a stable orbit. Given this, the Archons and devils and The Mathematarch and so forth all believe that zero risk of this occurring is acceptable, and thus the Clockworks maintains a hermetic seal around the Material Plane, its Lawful nature insulating itself against the constant battering of the Sea's energies. Contrary to what these agents of Law believe, however, the Protean Sea isn't all bad, and more importantly, it is only the surface-level manifestation of Chaos; one who is strong enough to "swim" through the chaos unharmed, or who crosses it in some sort of ship or other vehicle, will eventually find that no matter how far he travels, in any direction, he eventually reaches a much more hospitable realm known as the Dreamheart. To visualize the Dreamheart as a setting, just look at pretty much any painting by Boris Vallejo and/or Julie Bell; it is a realm where reality bends to desire, and those who manage to reach it can effectively become demigods just by deciding to, although it carries correspondingly intense dangers even for such bold souls.

20. Ideology is a very measurable force on Whiteleaf, represented by a fairly major goddess, and in particular plays into gender relations to a significant extent. The bardic tradition throughout the Empire (which differs significantly from standard Bard fluff, and deserves an article of its own when I get that far) constantly spreads the favorite stories of the people, and of course one of the most popular narratives is that of the "badass chick"...but many such tales neglect to mention that the "chick" in question might well have been a doppelganger, a succubus, or a young gold dragon shapeshifted into human form (such infiltrators take female forms about 60 percent of the time, since the lack of a strong history of chauvinism, and yet the persistence of chivalry as a concept, makes appearing as a woman often seem simply better to these nonhumans, regardless of their true form's gender). As a result, many girls grow up with less-than-realistic role models, and while many of them are able to succeed in an adventuring career, many others find that the reality doesn't measure up to the stories they were so eager to emulate. Those who die ignominiously in this way may well be completely forgotten afterward, as the bards are not eager to depress their audience by pointing out how dangerous and unglamorous the dungeoneering lifestyle actually is.

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