Origins of Planescape races

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Origins of Planescape races

Postby Sturm » Tue Jul 25, 2017 3:48 pm

This came up in a Threshold article I wrote in issue #15 Mystaraspace, (http://pandius.com/Threshold_15.pdf page 11) so I wanted to start a discussion about it.
If a DM uses various D&D worlds as part of the same universe (as in Planescape or Spelljammer) it could be assumed that all the elves of the universe has a common origin, and the same for all the standard races which appear in multiple worlds.
I cannot find a common origin story in Planescape looking on the internet, I do not recall now if Planescape Torment had one?
Something about a primordial war of the gods of which the various races were servants?
Did this ever come up in your Planescape game/campaign?
Did you ever need to integrate it with Spelljammer?

Here is the generic D&D thread in The Squishy Bits forum: viewtopic.php?f=85&t=18156#p199273
Here is also the setting specific thread in the Spelljammer forum: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=18158#p199276
Here is also the setting specific thread in the Mystara forum: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=18157#p199274
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby Big Mac » Tue Jul 25, 2017 5:31 pm

PHBR8 Complete Book of Elves contains a tree that shows the evolution of elves (but not the exact location of the place of origin). (There is a second tree to show the relationship between the elves on several campaign settings.)

There may be similar thngs in other books in the PHBR range.
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby Zeromaru X » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:16 pm

Well, we know that they retconned the elven place of origin to be Faerie in 3e (IINM), and Faerie was retconned as the Feywild in 4e. The Feywild is Planescape-compatible thanks to the Great Wheel 2.0.
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby zontoxira » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:32 pm

While this could stand true for the majority of "prime" races (dwarves, elves, gnomes etc.), the same can't be said for "planar" races. All aasimars point at the Upper Planes as their place of origin; bariaurs claim Ysgard as their homeland; rogue modrons come from.. well, where else? Mechanus; genasi owe their existence to the Inner Planes; githzerai hail from Limbo, even though they came from a plane far far away, after separating from the githyanki; and tieflings, while they will never admit it, bear some connections to the Lower Planes. The races introduced in Planescape come from various planes of existence, and not some Prime Material world.
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby ripvanwormer » Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:16 am

Planescape didn't deal with questions like this, especially where doing so would contradict the continuity of the various game worlds. As Zontoxira said, the various planar races have planes of origin, but the origins of prime races like humans, elves, dwarves, halflings, goblinoids and gnomes are outside Planescape's scope.

The Planescape book that discusses the origins of the prime races the most, On Hallowed Ground, doesn't attempt to ascribe a single world of origin to them. It even leaves it ambiguous whether the races were created by the gods or vice versa. For example, on dwarves (page 76):

The dark of it's that the dwarven pantheon sprang from the soil itself, though whether the powers created the dwarves or the people created the gods is still up in the air.


On the elven pantheon (page 92) the text has it both ways:

Long, long ago, as the multiverse spun and tumbled its way into being, the elvish powers arose from the beauty of the land, their aspects taking on all that was pure in creation. Some of them grew out of the beliefs and emotions of the elves, while others seem to have existed before the elves ever drew breath.


Zeromaru alluded to the idea that elves emigrated from Faerie. This was mentioned in 2nd edition's Demihuman Deities, page 112, which says that some myths claim that elves were created on Toril, while other myths said that at least some elves traveled to the Realms through magical gates from a world called "Faerie."

Some legends state that the first elves appeared in the Realms fully formed and shaped in Corellon's image, woven by magic from sunbeams, moonbeams, forests, clouds, seas, and shadows. Other myths claim that at least some of the elven subraces—the gold elves and moon elves, in particular—migrated to Abeir-Toril through magical gates from one or more other worlds, most commonly identified as "Faerie."


3rd edition's Grand History of the Realms was more definite that the elves of the Forgotten Realms setting are all emigrants from a world called Faerie. From page 8:

c. –27000 DR Continuing their work to undermine dragon rule, the Fey open new gates allowing the first elves to immigrate to Toril. These primitive green elves worship the Faerie gods (not the Seldarine, which were unknown at this time).


Big Mac mentioned 2nd edition's The Complete Book of Elves, which was pretty certain that all AD&D elves are descendants of "nomadic high elves" who scattered in what this book calls the Fractioning the wake of the Elfwar between the followers of Corellon Larethian and the Drow who served Lolth, although this is problematic in light of the fact that in the Realms, at least, elves were already living on Toril for 17,000 years before the Descent of the Drow. Here are some quotes from that book:

Page 11: "The rifts and turmoil created by the Elfwar have permanently scarred the elf psyche. Although many factions were appalled at the breaking away of the drow, some could not contain their discontent. Several such groups chose to strike out on their own: an event called the Fractioning. Thus, the division of the elves, begun with the drow, continued."
Page 12: "None are truly certain from whence the first elves arose."
Page 22: "Offshoots of the nomadic high elves who searched the worlds far and wide, the elves described below settled on worlds that struck their fancy. In time, they became new subraces of elves."
Page 24: "The high elves settled the world of Krynn long ago, and their history on this wondrous world is rich. Although analogous to the history of elves in the AD&D world, it is not exactly the same. Indeed, some misinformed historians argue that these elves are not related to the elf explorers mentioned earlier in this chapter. This theory seems highly implausible after reading the history of elves on this world."
Page 26: "Some contend that Oerth is the elven homeland, the place from which all others sprang. Contesting this claim, however, are the existence of the grugach and the valley elves. Although these two races may be merely offshoots of sylvan elves and grey elves, respectively, they are found nowhere outside the world of Greyhawk. Were Oerth truly the elven homeland, then these two variants would be found outside it. Perhaps the true birthplace of the elves is lost in the shadows of time, or perhaps it was destroyed during the great Elfwar. Whatever the case, it is likely that Oerth is not the origin planet."
Page 28: "Some say that the Elven Imperial Navy also protects the elf homeworld. They claim that they are a natural occurring race throughout the spheres, united in a common bond with the universe. Others point to the obvious similarities between elves on so many different worlds. These folk claim that the elves sprang from one world to spread across the spheres. If it were true that the elves did originate from one world, it should come as no surprise that they deny it. Having seen what other races have done to their worlds and how many of these worlds are now obliterated, the elves would naturally want to make sure that none of these races would discover and then destroy the elf homeworld. Conversely, another theory states that elves only learned to live in harmony with their new worlds through the destruction of their original home. This, the critics claim, is the elven shame, and they hide the planet because they don't wish it known that they weren't always as insufferably perfect as they are now."

Another 2e source hinting at how elves scattered through the worlds is The Gates of Firestorm Peak. From pages 4 and 5:

The beginnings of this story stretch far, far back into prehistory, back to the time of the Elder Elves, the now-legendary ancestors of the nomadic high elves... In ancient times, a small group of Elder Elves delved into the mountain, carving a magical research facility at its heart, protecting their labors from unfriendly eyes in the depths of the earth past great valves of enchanted metal. Here, the ancients applied their theories, disciplines, and the protocols of high magic, forging portals and gates which spanned all the lengths of the world. Not satisfied with such mundane distances, the Elders created new techniques and spells which allowed them to Bridge the far distances between worlds. The opening of gates to nearby worlds was a fabulous accomplishment for the Elder Elves. But in the flush of their success, they dreamed greater dreams. They soon became dissatisfied with the subjectively limited range of worlds accessible by the World Gates (only a few hundred of the uncounted millions of worlds they believed existed). With a new fire of determination, they set to work on their greatest gate of all: The Vast Gate. It was the Elder Elves' goal to power a gate which could Bridge any distance, to the outermost Crystal Spheres of existence, in both space and time... Three times in eighty-one years did the Elder Elves find worlds of strange delight and fresh beauty. However, on their fourth Bridging they found disaster. They opened the Vast Gate to a world so distant in space, and possibly even time, that it may not even have been a part of the cosmology of worlds and planes as it is presently understood. Instead, the Gate opened into a realm with its own closed geometry, a multiverse utterly unlike our own.


In Roger E. Moore's article "Legacies of the Suel Imperium" in Dragon #241, he considers the existence of derro and skulks on both Oerth and Toril, and concludes that all derro are ultimately native to Oerth (created as slaves by the ancient Suel), while the skulks of Toril are an unrelated species with different origins from the skulks of Oerth. On the other hand, Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark speculates that the derro of the Forgotten Realms are the result of illithid breeding experiments between duergar and humans.
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby Sturm » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:06 am

Thanks ripvanwormer, very informative post as always.
In the case of elves, I would be inclined to give them an origin in Faerie and then some prime material world, maybe now destroyed or hidden, where the Imperial Fleet was created.
Still Planescape wise, Faerie/Feywild is just part of the Seelie court across Arborea, Ysgard, and the Beastlands? Or could be another not widely known outer plane?

The story should be similar for all the other races which appear in multiple settings, i.e. some planar origin for them too. Maybe the dwarven immortal could have been originally beings from the elemental plane of Earth who somehow travelled elsewhere..
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:12 am

Sturm wrote:Thanks ripvanwormer, very informative post as always.
In the case of elves, I would be inclined to give them an origin in Faerie and then some prime material world, maybe now destroyed or hidden, where the Imperial Fleet was created.
Still Planescape wise, Faerie/Feywild is just part of the Seelie court across Arborea, Ysgard, and the Beastlands? Or could be another not widely known outer plane?

The story should be similar for all the other races which appear in multiple settings, i.e. some planar origin for them too. Maybe the dwarven immortal could have been originally beings from the elemental plane of Earth who somehow travelled elsewhere..


I've seen speculation that the "Faerie" mentioned as a possible elven homeworld is in fact Faeriespace, a crystal sphere detailed in the Spelljammer module Crystal Spheres. It's filled with an enormous tree, planets and suns hanging from its branches like fruit. Elves and fey are common there.

The Seelie Court, in Planescape and Monster Mythology, is a realm—the home of the fey gods—that wanders the outer planes that you mention. Alfheim in Ysgard is also a center of primal elven culture and very influenced by faerie myths. Planes of Chaos even suggests that the elven gods originated in Ysgard (The Book of Chaos, page 39), so it's possible that Alfheim is the original home of the elven gods, though it's also suggested (page 109) that Alfheim was part of Arvandor that slid into Ysgard when it became too chaotic. Still, neither are necessarily the Faerie mentioned in Forgotten Realms sources, which could as easily be a demiplane or alternate prime material plane.
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby Zeromaru X » Thu Aug 03, 2017 1:38 am

The Faerie mentioned in FR was retconned to be the Feywild of 4e World Axis, that was later ported to 5e Great Wheel 2.0.

The Feywild is said to be unique to all material planes in the multiverse: there is one Feywild connected to all the different mortal worlds, according to Heroes of the Feywild (sourcebook). The eladrin (playable 4e race, not the outsiders) claim to be the first elven race, though if we go by 4e elven creation myth this is not true (the current eladrin, the "wood" elves and the drow are descendants of an unnamed elven race that existed before the corruption of Lolth).

As for the Vast Gate... mmm, that's like the destruction of Cendriane...
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Re: Origins of Planescape races

Postby Sturm » Thu Aug 03, 2017 8:42 am

As in Mystara faerie folks are defeated Immortals of Chaos who ruled the multiverse before the Immortals of Order, probably Faerie/Feywild as another plane or even a dimension is the way to go for me.. the 4ed idea indeed is interesting and probably could be easily merged with Planescape lore..
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