Ad Astra Per Arcana
Primes and Planars
“Primes” is a polite way of naming them – more often they get called Outsiders (not to be confused with the outsider creature type) or Clueless. Primes are mortal travellers born on any world in the Prime Material Plane who have since ventured beyond their narrow realm. They’re usually humans, elves, dwarves, and the like, but don’t be too quick to label anybody as a prime or anything else. (Woe to the berk who calls a githzerai a prime!) Most primes are just visitors who journey to the planes for some particular purpose, but some are adventuresome types who’ve set up permanent shop on the planes, most often in Sigil. A few prime settlers are found scattered about the Outer Planes (mostly in the upper reaches), and wizard primes like to make demiplanes in the Ethereal, but neither’s very common.
Primes got one big advantage over the local folks: They’re not susceptible to planar-related magic. Seems that while planar folks are sensitive to spells that protect, summon, or banish, the primes are completely immune. A summon monster will never drag primes away at an unexpected moment, and a holy word won’t go casting them back to their prime-material world. Even a protection from evil doesn’t consider them extraplanar creatures.
It pays to treat primes with respect, even if they’ve got a load of peculiar ideas. Getting to the planes takes power, and more than a few primes could boil a sod’s blood just for looking at him sideways. ‘Course, not every prime’s powerful, but the problem is, with their funny habits, there’s just no way to know. Remember, most primes don’t know the lay of the land. They mostly think their tiny world is the centre of the universe, and they’ve never heard of the Rule of Threes or the Unity of Rings, either. They’re likely to think that just because a thing’s got horns, it’s evil. They can be easy conies for bobbers. but real touchy if they learn they’ve been had, so be careful around a prime, at least until he shows you what he’s got.
Primes do not gain the extraplanar subtype when off of their native planes, even native outsiders born on the Prime Material Plane. As such, they are not at risk of being whisked to another plane by a spell crystal containing a summon monster or planar ally spell, or assailed by incessant questions from a spell crystal containing a contact other plane spell. In fact, primes are never targeted by spell crystals at all. They cannot be driven back to their home plane by the effects of banishment, dismissal, blasphemy, dictum, holy word, word of chaos, and similar spells, although they are still subject to any additional effects these spells may have. (And if they’re lost in the Abyss, low on supplies, chased by a horde of tanar’ri, with no idea how to get out, they may well wish they could be driven back home by one of those spells.)
Most folks out here are planars, born and bred on the planes. Planars ain’t all horrible monsters or whatnot; that’s a mistake some green prime’s likely to make. Planars include all sorts of folks: humans, half-elves, githzerai, and the like, in addition to some more exotic types. One thought worthy of a prime is that those same humans and half-elves can’t be native to the Outer Planes. Some primes think their races are unique to the Prime Material Plane. Well, maybe that’s where humans and half-elves first came from, but these people have been living in cities and towns out here for millennia. Way back at the Beginning, humans were probably unknown out here, but with time the lost, the curious, the exiled, and the just blamed unlucky made themselves homes out here on the planes.
On the surface, it should be real easy to tell a prime from a planar, but it ain’t. A human – prime or planar – looks like a human. A body’s got to talk to them and know them to be sure what they are, which is another good reason to treat them all with respect. With others it’s pretty easy to tell; a githzerai, bariaur, or tiefling’s pretty easy to peg (but it pays to be respectful to them, too).
Planars do have powers that make them different from primes. It’s part of their extraplanar blood, something that just comes from being born a part of the extended cosmos. Planars don’t have a silver cord, that magical thread that ties a prime back to his or her prime-material world. Planars also have the power to see the gates between planes. ’Course, these crossing points are limited to certain locations. A planar can’t just will himself onto the Astral plane from anywhere. He’s got to journey to wherever the gate is.) Those meshes between the planes are clear to any planar. A prime won’t see anything, but a planar the glowing outline of a portal.
Planars got their weaknesses, too. They are, in fact, extraplanar and suffer from things like protection from evil, holy word, and planar ally. Almost as bad, planars can be hauled off to the Prime Material Plane without notice by summon monster and the like.
Planars gain the extraplanar subtype when off of their native planes. They do not have a silver cord when travelling the planes via an astral projection spell. Planars can be targeted by spell crystals, and driven back to their native plane by the effects of banishment, dismissal, blasphemy, dictum, holy word, word of chaos, and similar spells. Finally, planars are always able to see the gates between planes, whether or not the gate is active. They do not gain any information about the gate, such as where it leads or how to activate it.
The majority of bodies on the planes are petitioners, which are departed spirits of primes and planars whose bodies reformed on the plane that matches their previous alignment or devotion. A petitioner retains the mannerisms, speech, even general interests of his or her former self, but all memories of the past are wiped completely away. At best, a petitioner has a shadowy recollection of a previous life, but little or nothing useful can be learned from these fleeting images. Petitioners mostly desire to attain some ultimate union with the powers of their plane. this can be accomplished in a number of ways: good works, serene contemplation, steadfast faith, or vile notoriety, depending upon the petitioner’s alignment.
Petitioners hate leaving their home plane, as “death” outside that place results in oblivion. Fact is, they can’t be resurrected if slain at home, either; once dead, the petitioners’ essences are merged with the plane, but they figure that’s better than nonexistence. Still, a power’s got to raise an army now and then, and it may be petitioners that fill out the ranks, but that’s the only way they’ll ever leave their home turf – on the boss’s orders. Petitioners tend to view all things as a test of character. They ain’t eager to die, but they’ll take that risk in order to further their own goals. For example, a petitioner warrior on Ysgard will fearlessly rush into battle, since combat is the glorious and right thing for him to do.
Petitioners are never player characters, but they often appear as 1st-level nonplayer characters. They can’t gain additional levels or abilities unless elevated to the station of proxy. In a Planescape campaign, petitioners fill the roles played by commoners in prime-material worlds: landlords, grooms, spies, farmers, guards, etc. Petitioners aren’t identical to commoners, though, for they always have a greater goal in mind (i.e., to merge with the plane on which they reside).
Some Outsiders think every planar’s a proxy, but that just ain’t true. Proxies are those beings – primes, planars, and even petitioners – specially chosen to act as agents of the powers. Usually, the body chosen is transformed into a creature favoured by the deity – into an evil rutterkin or a good deva, for example. On rare occasions, the being isn’t transformed, but is bestowed with special powers. Proxies are absolute servants, obeying the wishes of their deity as fully as is appropriate to that alignment. Those of good powers are unswervingly loyal and obedient, and those of evil powers are utterly difficult and tricky, even for their masters. On the Upper Planes, a proxy knows he can rise even higher through good service. On the Lower Planes, a proxy usually prospers by finding some clever and nasty way to create an opening for his high-up man.
Proxies are never player characters unless a power intentionally makes them one. Normally they are elite nonplayer characters who serve the powers. Their abilities are specifically granted by the deity who makes them a proxy, so their skills will vary according to the scope of their assignment. Proxies may join the player character party for a short while, or they may oppose it.
Finally, there’s the powers. Make that Powers: the deities that preside over the planes. Now, the Athar claim there just ain’t no gods, but it don’t matter if they’re right or wrong because the powers definitely exist. Once more, they’ve got more might in their thumbs (those that have thumbs, that is) than any mortal’s ever going to have, so be careful what you call them, berk, as the powers can have mean tempers. They can turn a man inside out and leave him still alive, or drop him off in the deepest layer of the Abyss with only half a map.
Actually, the powers don’t take as much interest in the goings-on of the Outer Planes as they do in the Prime Material (excepting the Blood Warriors). It seems they get their strength mainly from the worlds on that plane, sucking up energy from their worshipers there. Without this energy they’ll die – as much as an immortal can die. Getting a god killed ain’t easy, though, since first there couldn’t be a single worshiper left on a single prime-material world. (Not a simple task, eh?) Long before it dies, a power weakens to the point where its body is cast out of the Outer Planes to drift in the Astral Plane. It might cling to life forever or it might fall into an immortal decay – and depart for the realm of some ultimate god. That’s not a fate most powers look forward to or allow, if they can help it. (‘Course, they’re used to being the biggest fish in the sea, so who can blame them?)
It’s not that the powers ignore their worshipers on the Outer Planes. A deity’s got to protect itself from the dealings of its fellows, so its plane-wandering clerics also get spells and granted powers, and they may even get called to help with a special mission. It’s supposed to be a great honor to get chosen for a quick raid on Baator, just to recover a flower or whatever nonsense is required. Still, there’s a bigger price for saying “No,” so it’s an honor most priests don’t refuse.
Pathfinder Conversion By Guile