The Seeds of Adanth

Adanth was originally conceived to answer the question, “How can all of these strange races and creatures come to exist in the same world?”

I don’t remember exactly when I first conceived of the basic premise of Adanth as a campaign setting, but it must have been between 1989 (when Stephen J Gould’s Wonderful Life was published) and 1995 (which I graduated from university and stopped playing D&D for a while).

I was, at the time, overly concerned with imposing logic and order on my campaign world, and it occurred to me that six-limbed beings like dragons and displacer beasts must have evolved on a different world than did four-limbed beasts like pretty much every vertebrate on earth. The same applied to other creature groupings, and I wondered how all of these creatures could end up on the same world as mundane creatures like horses and oxen, while being absent from our own world.

I had also played a bit of Gamma World, and enjoyed the premise of adventures such as “The City Beyond the Gate”, by Robert M. Schroeck, published in Dragon Magazine No. 100. As a result, I had a lot of worlds in my head that I wanted to be able to play in, and began to think of how I would pull them together.

My answer was Adanth, a world which bounced around the multiverse, and occasionally settled adjacent to another world for a period of time, allowing beings to cross from one world to another. Adanth would collect creatures from other worlds which had inadvertently crossed over, allowing for extreme diversity. At the same time, it facilitated adventures in other worlds or alternate universes.

For a variety of reasons linked to the cosmology, the first intelligent beings to establish cultures on Adanth were elves, dwarves and giants. Humans came later, most of which had come from our own Earth, or one very like it, and had crossed over at various times during our history. And that is where the ball really got rolling.

Creatures of Shadow (Adventure Log)

Like many of the fey, the creatures of shadow are the products of the unconscious minds of Immortals. However, if the fey are creatures of story and legend, the shadow are creatures of nightmare and horror. Constructs of the darkest reaches of the Immortal mind, like the fey they are creatures of story, and follow story logic: but the stories are ghost stories, and stories of horror. Motivations tend to be simple, even absent. They can inflict cruelty, or be consumed with desire to destroy life, for no other reason than that it is in their nature.

Meet the Primordials

Primordials stand outside of Creation. They are creatures of chaos and entropy, formed at the borders between the havens or Creation and the primordial chaos. They have absorbed just enough order to maintain a physical form, rather than being swallowed up by the chaos, but they are by their nature chaotic. Like chaos, they both create and destroy. They are not necessarily evil, and are no more likely to be cruel than any other creature, although with their penchant for frequent destruction they can be perceived as such.

Some Primodials came to being inside of Creation. Some were bound to the earth by Immortals, but other roam free. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a Primordial and an unseelie fey, and indeed the distinction may be a continuum depending upon how much of them is made up of the order of Creation, and how much is primordial chaos. But in general, Primordials are not limited to story logic, and if they have an agenda at all, it is likely to be in furtherance of bringing about a state of entropy. Some are motivated, for reasons they neither understand nor care to understand, to bring about an end to Creation, and reunite with the chaos. Others simply revel in the destructive forces of nature, like storms, earthquakes or volcanoes. Or in forces that both create and destroy, like tides and rivers.

Whatever their motivation or alignment, Primordials are universally dangerous and powerful.

Natural Creatures

Natural creatures are the first creatures of Creation. Unlike any of the other creatures of Creation, they were not created from the chaos, but evolved from Creation itself. Like the fey, they have existed nowhere but in Creation. Like the Immortals, they only came to be, and survived, through will and luck.

Unlike the fey, they are diverse, practical, adaptable creatures. Unlike both fey and Immortals, they have no innate ability to manipulate chaos; magic does not come naturally to them, and although some have a knack for it, it is possible this only occurs because of some unknown fey ancestor.

Humans are natural creatures.

Meet the Fey

The fey are the first creatures of Creation. When the Immortals built Creation, the fey were pulled from the chaos fully formed, according to the conscious or unconscious desires of the Immortals who created them. They and their descendants were the first to populate Creation, mainly in the land of Faerie, where all living creatures, from grass to elves, are fey in origin.

Because they were wrought from the minds of the Immortals, there is less diversity among the fey then among natural creatures, and they do not operate according to natural logic. As constructs of the mind, even an Immortal mind, the complexity of their personalities can vary greatly, from stereotypical to highly nuanced. Their motivations can be opaque: fey logic is story logic, and one cannot expect a fey to react to events the same way a natural creature, or to value the same things.

Some fey are immortal (note the lower case), others are mortal if extremely long lived. There is little to differentiate which will be which, except to the extent that one condition or the other better informs the story that is their lives, or their role in the story of Faerie.

Fey humanoids come in many shapes and sizes. Elves and dwarves would be the most common, but pretty much any non-human humanoid creature from a fantasy game system could be used to represent a fey creature. For the most part, these are all the same “species”, so two “elves”, for instance, could have a “dwarven” child. If the story called for it.

There are two main sets of division among the fey. One is of allegiance; that is the division between seelie and unseeliie, or light and dark, fae. The other is between high fey and low fey. The lines are often blurred, but in general, seelie fey are attractive to look upon, like elves or well groomed dwarves, and unseelie fey are ugly, like ugly dwarves, orcs, and goblins (although a good natured but homely hob could easily be seelie). High fey are served by low fey: low fey tend to be shorter than elves, or even dwarves; examples would be gnomes, hobs or pixies.

The oldest among the fey, those created at the time of Creation, knew their creators, and may have met other Immortals. However, the Immortals have more in common with natural creatures than with their fairytale constructs, and much more of the Immortals’ attention is focused on natural creatures than on the fey.

Many fey resent this, and when a creature from story resents something, it can be a deep resentment indeed.

Meet the Immortals

The Immortals are the first beings of Creation, and the first creators.

Their first creations were themselves, constructed by force of will from the primordial chaos.

Their second creations were havens in the chaos, places where they could live for a time out of contact with the chaos that was ever trying to unmake them. These havens proved unstable, and were periodically breached by the chaos, leading to both tragic deaths and the creation of more Immortals, who emerged as order was imposed on the chaos and the breaches were sealed.

Their third creation was Creation, the multiverse, a place of stable worlds where they could live without the constant danger of the chaos that lay outside the borders of the havens. But even as the multiverse was formed, war came to the Immortals, between those who most valued order and security, and those who most valued freedom and liberty. Each denied the other passage to Creation, and continues to deny it to this day.

Now, no Immortal can physically travel to any part of Creation, although they may construct avatars or possess mortals in order to do so by proxy. War in the havens is dangerous because their havens are unstable, and war carries the risk of a breach. But the conflict continues by proxy in Creation, as each side battles for the hearts and minds of the creatures of Creation, in hopes of gaining an edge that will eventually win the war.

Welcome to the World of Adanth

The World of Adanth is a campaign setting that has been forming in my head since long before the phrase “campaign setting” came into general use. It is the setting I would likely be using had I not fallen in love with Eberron, and it shares many of the same elements – at least, the way I run my Eberron campaigns. I have decided to finally put it to writing here, so my friends can review and critique it as I go.

The inspiration for Adanth comes mainly from two sources. The lesser part is the cosmology, if you can call it that, which was heavily inspired by Steven Brust’s To Reign in Hell. The greater part came from an early, and at first immature, impulse which I think a lot of RPG games experience in their youth: the desire to play a modern character transported to a fantasy world.

But, I thought, if it happened once, it had probably happened before. What would a world look like if humans were periodically transported to it? And if creatures were periodically transported from our world, would they also be transported from other worlds as well?

Adanth is an alternate earth, still largely unpopulated by humans (or other humanoids), with an ecology mostly devoid of the impacts of civilization. It, or the plane it resides on, floats freely through the multiverse, occasionally coming into contact with other planes of existence. Among those familiar with the phenomenon, this occurrence is called “worldfall.”

When it does so, the barriers between the worlds grow less distinct; that is, it can become difficult to distinguish where one world begins and the other ends. This is particularly true in the wild places, untouched by civilization in wither world, and those travelling in the wilderness or at sea can cross worlds without knowing it.

The first humanoids to inhabit Adanth were the fey. It is possible that Adanth was once an outpost of Faerie, although that is not altogether clear. What is known is that there is a sizeable population of fey, who outnumber humans in most places, and that there has not been contact with the land of Faerie for a very, very long time.

Humans are newer on Adanth, as they are newer everywhere. Although Adanth experiences worldfall with Earth relatively frequently, it is less common to cross the boundaries between worlds than it is not to cross them, and the odd hominid that crossed over had little chance of survival without it tribe, let alone being likely to find a mate or create a culture. Those that did, being of limited technology, had little impact on the world.

Things changed with the age of sail. When a whole ship changed worlds, the shipmates had a much improved chance of survival. And if enough women were travelling on the ship, there was a possibility that a resulting settlement could survive beyond a single generation. These people often settled in the places where their destination ought to have been, so there are often human settlements at the same locations that boast large coastal settlements on Earth.

Another event in human history that had a significant impact on human populations was the great migrations of Germanic tribes in Europe. Families, sometimes whole tribes, travelling the wilderness with provisions and livestock could find themselves in Adanth. Since many of these groups had no specific destination in mind, other than space to live, the location of inland settlements is less predictable.

As human populations on Earth grew, and the wild places of the world began to disappear, crossing between worlds became less frequent. That happened first on land, as the forests of Earth were converted to farmland, but eventually occurred at sea as pollution changed ocean habitats. Those who did cross over tended to bring more advanced technologies with them tended to have little impact, if they found a human settlement, unless they knew how to build the technologies they carried, or unless someone else in the village could reverse engineer them.

So, culturally, many of the settlements are similar to ancient or tribal Earth cultures, and a modern human might be more comfortable (if bored) in an elegant faerie city than in a harsh pseudo-Roman settlement. Technologically, the human settlements will be more recognizable, as they have tried to advance as quickly as possible, building on what knowledge the odd new immigrant brought with them, in order to protect themselves in a land or monsters and magic-wielding fey.

The growth of certain technologies has been slow, because the small human populations limits the scale of any projects. At times they have acquired magic from their fey neighbours to replace resources they cannot manufacture or trade for, and adapted it in distinctly human ways. But for the most part, human settlements rely on primitive technologies to survive, and fey settlements rely on magic.

Upon this premise, nearly everything else was built. The portion of the world I have developed in my head is pretty Eurocentric, because those are the cultures and histories I am connected to and familiar with. You are unlikely to see a campaign in Asia or North America, because those are not my cultures to write about.


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