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I'm using Pathfinder and I'm a fairly new GM and I'm running my first campaign in a world I hand crafted. It's a planet in the material plane and has the usual characteristics that a real planet would + magic.

I've also been working on the planes and cosmology of my world, inspired mostly by the Planescape setting and Pathfinder's cosmology.

For encounters, I've been using creatures whose environments coincide with the area where the party is now. Since they are in jungles, I've been using jungle animals/bad guys.

I'm wondering though, those of you who run adventures and have played through campaigns in the past. On the material plane, do you sometimes run into creatures from other planes?

Like angles, demons, devils, daemons, planar dragons, elementals, genies, etc.?

I know that as the GM, I can do whatever I want, but I'm curious if campaigns made by other people, including D&D and Pathfinder campaigns and modules typically have interactions with these creatures without going to their native planes.

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3 Answers 3

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Ecosystems

Material plane creatures reproduce normally, how we would imagine - planar creatures, mostly, reproduce by being created - not all, but elementals, angels, demons, devils and the like all do. Most things with the Outsider type reproduce in this manner.

Therefore, any Outsider found on the material plane has a reason for being there. Planar breach, old malfunctioning Gate in jungle ruins, Planar Companion or Familiar whose master died, Planar Binding or Ally gone wrong, transformative magicks or something else.

They don't breed, is the point. So if they are there, there needs to be a reason. And you should include it in your game, because it's vastly more interesting than fighting another Dire Tiger or Bandit Lord. Any time you include a monster outside it's normal habitat it's the opportunity to tell a story - an opportunity you should seize with both hands. Both hands. The only thing players have an endless appetite for is interesting stuff - and the 'creature out of place', 'farm kid in the big city', 'martial arts master in detroit' tale is one that is potentially incredibly interesting for people. We understand how someone lives in their milieu, but taking them out of that milieu and how they struggle to understand and survive is vastly interesting to us.

So when you put a clan of bandits way out in the mountains where there's no-one to prey upon, there should be a reason. When the party comes across a Bearded Devil sitting on an ancient throne in a ruin with his pike across his knees, when a bebilith comes into the camp, picks up the halfling, SKREES at them and runs off with him into the night, you should have reasons for this stuff, and the reasons should become apparent during play (no-one likes being told long stories by NPCs or receiving boxed text descriptions) as the player fights this threat. Tales of hubris, arrogance, greed, failure, remorse, anger, pledges, oaths, sorrow, abandonment, confusion, wanderlust, fear - these tales are yours to tell, yours to invent, and yours to abandon on a whim for something more interesting - that's the role you have, as a GM.

You tell stories. And things like this shouldn't be viewed as restrictions, they should be viewed as opportunities - don't think 'could an earth elemental be in the forest', think 'WHY is that earth elemental in the forest? And how can I have him enter the PCs story in such a way that they tell stories about it later at the pub?'

In short, this is a fantasy world. Make it fantastical. There's a lot of terrible adventures and the like printed - ignore'em. Go with your gut, as someone who likes fantasy worlds enough to run a roleplaying game set in one of your own design, about what is bloody awesome enough for you to put in it.

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Where do you get that angels and demons don't breed? –  Matthew Najmon Jun 17 at 18:22

It depends on how common you'd like to make the magical and divine interactions in your setting.

Low Interaction

In this kind of setting, the divine powers of other Planes don't send entities or servants of their own accord - if they appear, it's because someone else summoned them there. The interesting part to this is that it means summoning is a big deal - you're pulling things into our plane that are exceedingly rare and very few people know enough about to have a bead on how to deal with them.

Obviously, no info makes combats interesting, but it also ends up opening up a lot of setting influence as well - imagine if someone in our actual world summoned the lowest of angels who could tell followers of a faith specific details about their afterlife awaiting them and the glory of their deity? Or to answer some ethical questions?

For arcane casters, imagine what kind of access to magical knowledge some of these beings have that they don't- they'd be able to advance their spell lore by generations... if they can get them to agree to share.

Old school D&D modules sort of go this route - although nearly every adventure had some kind of demon or elemental or something extra planar, it clearly didn't "hop over" on it's own accord and deities send in intervention rarely if at all.

High Interaction

The Prime Material Plane is an excellent crossing point, and maybe cosmologically important for it's own reasons, so all kinds of creatures are travelling through all the time. The important thing to remember is that all of these creatures need to have access by some means - something has to be able to Gate them in, and that might be a deity, wizards, more powerful angels/demons, themselves if they're strong enough, or they may have been able to cross over if there's open portals sitting around.

In this case, the Prime Plane might be an unregulated zone where everything crosses through and it's a violent free for all, it might be a battlefield of proxy wars, or it might be a place where you find normally opposed creatures working together or laying low. ("Wait, why is the a high angel and demon working together?" "They're lovers. It's quite romantic. Except the part where the forces of 2 deities both want them dead.")

As you go later into D&D, you see more and more high interaction settings and modules - where the extra planar creatures become more common - either sent by deities or having found their own ways over through portals.

My Personal Campaigns

I've run both types. At this point, I'm more of a fan of low interaction settings - I like the PCs to get a chance to feel like big players as they get to higher levels and if you have deities and outsiders constantly pouring in, it feels like the PCs are tiny grunts in a big war, even if they're pretty high level by all other accounts. It also becomes harder and harder to justify normal human survival if you've got all these uberpowered things just stomping about all the time.

This also almost always ties into how common you make magic in your campaigns as well - if every city has one or several high level casters, you have to assume planar travel and summons is relatively common. If, like in a lot of older modules, a lot of places have a single 1st through 3rd level caster, and anything higher is pretty rare, you don't have to ask how society isn't overwhelmed by magical options.

The questions you start ending up having to answer revolve around "So why hasn't a higher level caster already done X?" with "X" being some kind of massively overpowered world changing action. See this thread that details "Lunar Lich Wars" as an example.

The more gonzo you go, the more fantastic your world becomes, but it also makes it harder to justify how it works, which is a problem for some groups and not at all for others. Go with what works for you and your group.

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Yes, it's reasonably common. Though most of these creatures can't come and go as they wish from the Prime Material, there are usually a bunch of handwaving of gates, summons gone bad, blah blah that stock higher level areas with such things.

If you're new, you might want to at least buy the PDFs and read through an Adventure Path - seeing one example will answer 100 questions of this type.

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