The Elemental and Demonic Planes of Kulthea
A Shadow World Supplement
By Stephen "The Harlequin" Churchill
Edited by Lowell R. Matthews for The Guild Companion
The Shadow World of Kulthea lies at the centre of a rift between multiple planes of reality or existence, although it itself still exists within the Prime Material Plane (PMP). Presented below are descriptions of many of the planes adjoining the Great Rift.
1. The Elemental Planes
As their name suggests, these are realities wherein a single alchemical Element (i.e., Air, Fire, Earth, Water, and four blends) is dominant rather than existing in relative balance as is found on the PMP. The Elemental Planes are at relative peace with each other except with the directly opposing Element. The eight Elemental Planes are all alien environments, in some cases hostile to PMP life forms. Each can defy the PMPs laws of physics in its own unique ways. Elemental beings are generally vulnerable only to magical weapons (and sometimes not even then). Attacks based on opposing Elements generally cause double damage and inflict Slaying Criticals. No matter on what plane of existence an Elemental is, if slain, it ceases to exist.
1.1. The Elemental Plane of Fire or Heat
This Plane is filled with flames and heat. Highly unstable, this Plane, like the others, is home to many strange Elemental beings, some similar to those found on the PMP but most alien to it. Shifting allegiances and constant hungers drive these beings both here at home and when they travel to the PMP. Fire opposes Water and Ice; it causes Heat and Plasma criticals.
1.2. The Elemental Plane of Ice or Cold
This is a Plane of constant freezing cold and ice. Its inhabitants are loners by nature but relatively passive unless threatened. Ice opposes Fire and Electricity; it causes Impact and Cold criticals.
1.3. The Elemental Plane of Light
This Plane seethes with constant fluxes of light and radiation. Its inhabitants are generally well organised and open-minded; alliances with PMP life forms against Demon-kind and the Element of Darkness have occurred on numerous occasions. Light opposes Darkness; it causes Radiation and Heat criticals.
1.4. The Elemental Plane of Darkness
This Plane is a void with a near-complete lack of light and energy. The inhabitants of Darkness hate Light and seek to destroy all its sources; alliances with the forces of the Unlife are common. Darkness opposes Light; it causes Depression and Cold criticals.
1.5. The Elemental Plane of Earth or Matter
This Plane is a realm of rock and earth of many densities. Its inhabitants burrow through it or merge with it. They are generally peaceful and often make alliances with members of the Underground Races on the PMP like the Deep Gnomes and the Dwarves. Earth opposes Water and Ice; it causes Impact and Krush criticals.
1.6. The Elemental Plane of Water or Liquid
This Plane features constantly moving liquid. The inhabitants swim through its reaches and frequently into the PMP, but avoid interaction with non-liquid-dwellers whenever possible. Water opposes Earth and Fire; it causes Impact criticals.
1.7. The Element Plane of Wind or Gas
This Plane is an airy realm of floating kingdoms. Its inhabitants are often considered flighty or "air-headed," but they simply think along different lines than others. Air opposes Electricity and Earth; it causes Impact or Vacuum criticals.
1.8. The Elemental Plane of Electricity or Energy
This Plane surges with limitless energy. Its inhabitants are aggressive, arrogant, and domineering. Electricity opposes Air and Water; it causes Electrical and Neuro criticals.
2. The Demonic Planes
The Demonic Planes are strange realities that can vary widely in environment from ones almost identical to the PMP to ones completely alien. There are three primary Demonic Planes. One is subdivided into a series of Levels or Pales, another consists of many interconnected miniature planes, and the remaining one is so alien that no one from the PMP truly understands it. The Demons that dominate each realm are violently opposed to those from the other two realms; the wars fought between them are legendary. A fourth category of Demons includes those spirits who arise out of the Essence itself; they are tied to the PMP in some fashion.
2.1. The Demonic Plane of the Pale
This Plane is subdivided into Levels or Pales, which have the appearance of being separate planes or worlds. Demonic society in this Plane as a whole is highly ordered and stratified. Members of each Demonic Class (i.e., I-VI) dwell in the Class' own Pale-hence their name. Seven to nine Pales exist; the exact figure is unknown on the PMP due to the Pales' increasing alienness. Each Pale is dominated by the relevant Demonic Class but also has other, lesser, species, the members of which are generally the Pale Demons' servants, slaves, or prisoners. At the top of the chain of command are the Balok, "Demons Beyond the Pale," who dominate their lesser kin and are encountered with their lieutenants and armies on the Sixth Pale or beyond.
Demons of the Pale can move up in rank (which is linked to individual power) by gaining more Essence, thereby growing and changing into the next Pale. To gain Essence, they visit other Planes to defeat and consume opponents, thereby absorbing their Essence, or by making pacts with such creatures for tributes or sacrifices.
Demons of the Pale are essentially immortal incarnate beings like Elves that only die by violence, but they breed even slower than Elves and, so far as is known, feed only on the Essence of consumed prey. Outside the Pales, they are usually vulnerable only to magical weaponry and if slain are simply expelled back to their own Plane. This makes them lose power (i.e. one level of experience); they can eventually therefore even go back down the Pales. Furthermore, they cannot return to that other Plane for at least one hundred of its years. If slain on another Plane by a Holy weapon they lose twice as much power (i.e. two levels) and can never return to that particular Plane again. Slaying weapons can actually destroy them altogether. On their native Plane of the Pales, they are more vulnerable; they can be harmed by normal weapons as well as magical, and if slain they cease to exist.
It is believed that the Demons of the Pale have waged war on the Demons of the Void (see §2.2) since before the Second Age of Kulthea. Although individually many are not quite as powerful as their opposite numbers, they are better disciplined and operate in larger numbers. (The Balok, on the other hand, are more powerful than their individual counterparts.) The two groups actively oppose each other whenever encountered on other Planes, and will only co-operate if facing Agothu (see §2.3).
2.2. The Demonic Plane of the Void
This Plane is divided into many smaller interconnected planes, each one ruled by a "Demon of Might" or "Ordainer," a fearsome creature similar in power to Demons of the Fifth Pale or beyond. These planes often closely resemble the PMP more than do any of the Pales, but appearances can be deceiving. Most inhabitants of this Plane were originally the fallen spirits of sapient races from the PMP who were seduced by this Plane's rulers, the Ordainers or their lieutenants the Noble Gogonaur. This Plane is believed to have been artificially created during Kulthea's First Age, or was at least first encountered during this period; its present Rulers are thought to be fallen Lords of Essence.
Besides the demonic recruits seduced here by the Ordainers, there are many "native" animal species that roughly correspond to those of the PMP, but are almost all aggressive omnivores or carnivores. Demons of the Void require meat and liquid to survive, and can even breed in the same way as mortal races of the PMP. The Void is dominated by two main factions of Demonkind called the Elf-Demons and the Man-Demons (the former are believed to have once been members of a variety of Immortal races; the latter, Mortal races). Other demonic groups exist but are fewer in numbers (e.g., the Demonic Hounds and the Neng).
The various Demons of this realm are as chaotic and divided as the Plane itself. Groups serve (or are dominated by) particular masters as and when they wish; unlike the Demons of the Pale, they constantly war with each other for dominance. Like the Demons of the Pale, Demons of the Void can increase in personal power by gaining Essence, and they use similar ploys. The Incubi are a notorious species of Void Demon that have combined their feeding habits with their mating habits; they use sapients from the PMP both to gain Essence and to produce Half-Demons enslaved to their demonic parent's will, which will supply them with even more Essence.
On other Planes than the Void, Demons of the Void are generally vulnerable only to magical weaponry; if slain they are simply expelled back to their own Plane of the Void and cannot return to the other Plane for at least one hundred years. If they are slain on another Plane by a Holy or Slaying weapon, however, they are actually destroyed altogether. On their native Plane they are more vulnerable and can be harmed by normal weapons as well as magical; if slain there, they cease to exist.
Demons of the Void can be created from the spirits of PMP creatures seduced or otherwise closely allied with the Void's rulers. Depending on a PMP creature's power and experience, it can be transformed into a Void Demon of up to Class V (using equivalent power levels to those of the Demons of the Pale). The Pale-Void War continues as described above (§2.1) with only the Agothu (§2.3) inspiring any co-operation.
2.3. The Demonic Plane of the Agothu or Elder Ones
This Plane is the most alien of all the Planes described herein, and is in fact alien even to the Essence itself. (All the other Planes are tied together to some degree by the nature of Essence.) The Agothu themselves are believed to be a kind of collective intelligence. Most exhibit Mentalism-style powers-in fact, true Psionics-although individuals often work independently with only subconscious contact with others. Although they are not as actively hostile as the other Demon Races, the alien nature of the Agothu is such that they do not operate well with other beings; meetings often result in conflict. This inability to relate to other races, and the fact that they claim prior ownership of the PMP, has meant active opposition from most other races. The hatred of the other Demon Races for the Agothu is well known, although the Agothu themselves do not seem to feel the same; they do not really care either way.
Like the other Demonic Races, the Agothu are generally vulnerable only to magical weapons when on other Planes, but unlike the others they are destroyed when slain by such. Killers of an Agothu become marked by other Agothu as such, and are attacked whenever encountered. The Plane of the Agothu is so alien that other races, even other Demons, have great difficulty operating there for any length of time, but Agothu are vulnerable to all weapons there. (The chances of intruders escaping before being overwhelmed by other Agothu are slim, though.) The Agothu are particularly vulnerable to Arcane Essence on other Planes; Arcane-Users count all spells used against an Agothu as Slaying and inflict double damage; they also count the level of the individual Agothu as being half normal for purposes of RRs. Essence- and Channelling-Users cause double damage and count level as three-quarters normal for RRs. Mentalism-Users have no advantages but are themselves more vulnerable to Agothu mental attacks; the Mentalism-User is counted as being half his normal level for RRs.
Traces of the past Agothu presence on Kulthea are very rare, even more so than those of the Lords of Essence from the First Age. However, these traces seem to indicate that Agothu presence on Kulthea predates the First Age and the appearance of Essence-which may have driven them back to their native Plane. The Illithid encountered deep under-earth are thought to be descendants of a later humanoid species crossed with Agothu. As the Illithid still worship the Agothu, they are the key agents of the Agothu in Kulthea.
2.4. Demons of the Essence
These "Demons" may actually be Elemental beings who have become trapped in the PMP and driven mad by it. Like Elementals, they are tied to one of six primary Elements (Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Light, and Dark) or to a particular emotive state (e.g., Hatred, Lust, and Greed). They are sometimes mistaken for Elementals but they are not (at least no longer). They are vulnerable to all weapons on the PMP, but like other Demons, they are harder to kill on other Planes (magical weapons only, etc.). Since becoming trapped on the PMP, these Demons of the Essence have adopted it as their own and have become hostile towards all other Demons, especially Agothu, and to their Elemental cousins. Loners by nature, they rarely interact with others not of their Element. They are controllable by the normal spells that affect demons, but because the PMP is their native Plane now, they resist such spells at +25.
* Original material Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Churchill. Rolemaster and its component parts are the property of Iron Crown Enterprises. Shadow World and its component parts are the property of Terry K. Amthor. Both are used by the author in the context of producing a role-playing game supplement.