Post:Extraplanar Life - on 2/6/2010 - 00:52:55

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Extraplanar Life · on 2/6/2010 12:52:55 AM 51
From the desk of Fredrick Modah, Throne City:

Extraplanar taxonomy has come a long way from the days when we classified anything that looked strange and frightening as a demon. Yet given the nature of the task, we have an infinite distance to go before we can claim to have a perfect understanding of the spirits, creatures and gods which cross the planar void.

Before we examine specific kingdoms, some words should be spent on the common distinction between "greater" and "lesser" extraplanar life. Debate will continue in the years to come whether this is strictly a matter of pragmatism or an actual quality which all extraplanar life shares, but it cannot be disputed that we see both qualities represented in almost all kingdoms of extraplanar life (see Elementals, below, for a discussion on the exception).

Lesser extraplanar life is composed of "creatures" in the sense that the layman will understand the term. While they vary in size and nature from common familiars to Maeldryth, they are distinct entities which inhabit the planes in the same way that you or I do. They possess a form, be it gerbil or incorporeal shadows, which can be killed and they occupy space like anything else. These compose the vast majority of extraplanar life that we encounter in our lives.

Greater extraplanar life can be described crudely as "gods" in a descriptive (but not literal) sense. These are entities whose natures are so powerful or "cosmologically large" that they cannot be encapsulated in three dimensional space. When one of these entities manifest directly in the Plane of Abiding, its very existence ruptures the planar void to accommodate its "mass." It is impossible for a man to intuitively understand such a creature, and it is a reasonable guess that such encounters have led to folk lore of people being blinded by attempts to glimpse Heralds, or driven insane by contact with demons. Needless to say, you cannot stick a sword in one of these things either.

When greater forms of extraplanar life make their presence known in the Plane of Abiding, they usually do so by way of "conduits." An individual, object or location already present on the plane is impregnated with the essence of the entity and becomes a limited extension of its own existence. The greater this conduit, the more the entity exists within the Plane of Abiding. Entities can work through these conduits, grounding extraplanar forces into the Plane of Abiding in a fashion that is both less damaging and apparently easier than a direct manifestation.

With that division in mind, we can examine the four known kingdoms of extraplanar life. It bears mention that this is by no means exhaustive: we will doubtlessly refine our understanding of the universe and encounter creatures that defy our current understanding as the years go on. The planes are nothing if not creative.

While more commonly called "shadow creatures," conceptual life originates in the Plane of Probability. They are creatures which take the form of a facet of the Plane of Abiding, usually an abstract or non-physical concept, and exaggerate it into an animistic nightmare.

Most forms of conceptual life possess at least human intelligence, though bestial examples have been seen. By far the most common manifestation of a concept is in the form of living shadows, though this, too, is not without exceptions. Many of the lesser forms have unwholesome appearances which are easily confused with demonic life or even the undead. Combined with this are violent and destructive personalities -- though, strangely, directed at Moon Mages. Unless controlled by spells or driven by intense pressure, a concept's first goal in life appears to be to murder the people that summoned it.

Conceptual life has the hardest time of all four kingdoms manifesting in the Plane of Abiding. With exceptions such as the large planar breach beneath Taisgath, all living concepts that you will encounter in your day to day life were brought into being by a summoner. The manifestation of a greater concept is the stuff of legends, said to require rare stellar alignments or incredible examples of symbolic sympathy (such as Jon Illbani manifesting the greater concept of math on the road to inventing the geometry of teleportation).

Despite this, there is a, forgive the term, conceptual link between us that is hard to deny. While we can imagine a god or an elemental existing in isolation of us, what is a Voidspawn -- a lesser concept of anger -- if we were not sitting in an entirely different plane of reality, being angry? This has been fertile ground for mystics and philosophers for centuries.

Greater forms of conceptual life are usually called "great spirits," while lesser forms are "shadow creatures" or any other form of "creature" as their visible nature suggests.

Arguably the most important kingdom to understand in the past few years is, unfortunately, also the least understood. It is often theorized that all demonic life comes from a shared home on a unknown plane, but it is more accurate to simply say we have no clear idea where these creatures come from.

All creatures we classify as demons share a common feature: they are inevitably malevolent and destructive. From our limited understanding of demonic life, the Plane of Abiding appears to be a source of nourishment to them, and they regard our very existence in the same way we would look upon a fruit hanging just out of reach. Visually they share qualities which are often described as "nightmarish," either bizarrely organic or darkness shrouded in a way that can be visually confusing with lesser conceptual life.

Demonic life has a connection with necromancy and the undead which is poorly understood. While not all undead are of demonic origin, it is commonly thought that demonic patronage is required to perform necromancy, as the source of reality-defying "anti-life" which powers the mad art. However, we will be forgiven (and grateful) that we are unable to cite any "experts" in this field.

As a matter of modern terminology, we usually only call the greater forms of demonic life demons. The lesser forms are called demonic (as an adjective).

Life from the closely related Elemental Planes share substantial characteristics with each other, leading to the classification of a single Elementals kingdom. This leads some members of Gealeranendae College to propose novel theories regarding the nature of the Elemental Planes, but for our purposes we may ignore how Warrior Mages draw their maps.

With noteworthy exceptions, most elemental life is of animal intelligence, what could be described as simply extraplanar beasts. However, before we dismiss the elementals as beneath the other kingdoms, keep in mind that the exact same thing can be said of life on our own plane. Visually, most species of elemental appear to be composed wholly out of their native element, or they take on a common animal form which is then "colored" by their nature. Aether elementals in animal form are noteworthy for typically being indistinguishable from normal animals, since many manifestations of aether are invisible to the eye.

Of the four kingdoms, only elemental life has failed to produce a greater entity. Scholars are divided almost in half between whether this means that our greater and lesser distinctions are not universal qualities, or the planar travelers among the Warrior Mage Guild are keeping information to themselves. While planar conspiracies certainly keep the Bards awake at night, I encourage my colleagues to remember both the limits of our knowledge and the subjective nature of the greater/lesser classification system.

As there are no known examples of greater elementals, all forms of elemental life are referred to as "elementals."

Perhaps the first, and easily the best known, kingdom of extraplanar life is the divine. These are creatures which are directly connected to the spiritual and creative forces of the universe, poetically the "font of creation."

Of all the kingdoms, divine life has the easiest time interacting with the Plane of Abiding, either due to their privileged position in the universe or due to the frequent and heavy ruptures of the planar void that occur during sacred rites. In particular, gods alone of all the greater entities have the ability to manifest in the Plane of Abiding at will -- however, they usually do not. Theologically, we understand that the gods are acutely aware of the chaos these displays of power bring and that they limit such excursions to either matters of cosmic importance (such as the hatching of the World Dragon) or when, for some unfathomable reason, the damage is mitigated.

The relationship between the civilized species and divine life is poorly understood, but of great importance. The gods have clear interests in this plane, up to and including authority over what happens to our souls when we depart for the next one. A common theory suggests that the gods gain some tangible benefit from faith and prayer, but Temple doctrine is that the relationship is largely one way, and that worship is rendered to the Immortals simply because they are worthy of veneration.

Lesser forms of divine life are inevitably in service or the possession of one of the gods, forming a tightly hierarchical system. Theologically, we are informed that these are not creatures that are strictly native to "divine planes," but rather the souls of especially virtuous Elanthians who are awarded eternal life and a place in their god's entourage for exceptional acts of faith.

Greater forms of divine life are called "gods," while lesser forms are "divine" or "holy" as an adjective.


This message was originally posted in Events and Happenings in DragonRealms' Elanthia - Teasers - Events, by DR-ARMIFER on the forums.