Elemental Plane of Water
The Elemental Plane of Water is tied with Air for the most traveled and heavily settled of the Inner Planes. It’s got a vast connection network to Material Plane oceans, its habitat provides suitable living conditions for many aquatic species, and its primary method of travel (swimming) is one of the most commonly understood methods of locomotion. From bronze dragons to marid genies, from merfolk to sahuagin, the Elemental Plane of Water is full of settlements and nations populated by all manner of interesting folk in need of planar-hopping adventurers.
The Plane isn’t just a big mass of water stretching in all directions, bereft of land and solid objects. Even the natives need a common point of reference for travel, and many aquatic life forms need earth to survive; small prey animals need tiny tunnels to escape from larger predators, while coral and kelp need to anchor on a solid surface. Due to close proximity to the Plane of Earth, floating masses of rock and similar materials drift through the Plane of Water. These “islands” drift on the currents of the Plane at varying speeds; the largest masses are the size of small countries and move so little that they may as well be still, while the smallest masses are little more than scattered pieces of human-sized boulders. The latter can cause great devastation to settlements they come into contact with, and many natives use existing landmasses or artificial habitats as shelter against these “rock storms.”
Another common danger on the older rocks is limited visibility. Erosion of earth causes the particles to form into large underwater “clouds” of a brownish hue. Many creatures with blindsense and blindsight live in these clouds, using the terrain to their advantage to catch prey and hide from predators.
Aside from the rock islands, Zaratan fleets and airtight glass structures are two other popular forms of settlement for both colonists and natives alike. The Zaratan (see Arms and Equipment Guide) are colossal turtles easily the size of small islands. Using a combination of mussel glue, hooks, and other such means, small buildings can be affixed to their shells. Such homes are usually small and take the form of smooth bumps (to minimally impact the Zaratan’s mobility and not break off in close corners and narrow passages), but the more grandiose fleets have glittering palaces and spires rising up from the turtles’ shells.
Glass structures are the primary habitat of choice for visitors who cannot breathe in water. The fabled City of Glass is the most famous example. Glass structures are usually spherical and have alterable levels of transparency to ensure the occupants’ privacy. The structure is capable of travel, and contains a floating orb which serves as the pilot’s control panel. Although magically designed, the controls can be manipulated by non-casters and are often sold with instructions. The subjective dimensional gravity on the plane means that many glass cities are built in a circular ring on the inside of the sphere, although more imaginative architectural designs are possible.
The merfolk, aquatic elves, locathah, ixitxachitl, and sahuagin are the most prolific aquatic races on the Material Plane in terms of population and territory. The marid and triton are some of the oldest residents on the Plane of Water, and the oldest cities and civilizations on the Plane have their influence.
The sahuagin are the most vicious and militarized of the colonists, and they are in frequent conflict with the other groups. The marids’ magical expertise and economic dominance prevents the sahuagin from being the most powerful faction, although the genies’ individualism and frequent power struggles among the nobility result in sudden setbacks and loss of territory from hostile groups. The sahuagin show no signs of slowing down the war effort, and even the marids’ are barely keeping them at bay.
The merfolk are next most industrialized society on the Plane. Like humans, their culture and ways of life vary greatly. Some of them live in great citadels carved from rock, while others live as nomads with little in the ways of wealth or possessions. Their main advantage is their adaptability to new traditions. They have little qualms about adopting the worship of other deities or incorporating new forms of magic and technology. Many merfolk even live among the locathah, and vice versa. Both races commonly pay homage to Eadro, and there’s evidence to believe that the two share a common ancestral bond.
The locathah are nomadic and live simple lives. Most families move from island to island, using up and gathering resources before traveling again. The wealthier and more organized tribes can afford a Zaratan to provide protection and transport. Given the myriad dangers of travel, locathah fleets are usually heavily armed, and their more powerful Druids have altered their Zaratan to assist them in times of war. It’s not uncommon to see a giant turtle decked out with giant crossbows and javelin launchers on common locathah trade routes.
The Marid Kingdoms
The so-called “Marid Empire” is actually a collection of semi-independent city-states; in theory, the Great Padishah claims absolute dominion over his people, but the marid inclination for independence and their huge egos means that a lot of them prefer to do their own thing. Almost all marid view themselves as “royalty” and have the right to rule others, meaning that slavery and indentured servitude of non-marid is a common practice in their communities. Espionage and assassinations occur with a frequency that would shock outsiders, as the lust for political power is often all-consuming among the upper class.
Aside from vicious marid nobles and warmongering sahuagin, there are other common dangers for PCs to face:Ixitxachitl:
These creatures look like manta rays and live in the deep caverns of Material Plane oceans. Capable of mentally enslaving others and evolving into more advanced “vampiric” forms, ixitxachitl are one of the most maligned aquatic civilizations (think of them as the orcish equivalent of underwater folk).
Ixitxachitl on the Plane of Water usually lair in abandoned ruins and island caverns, regularly making raids on nearby settlements for slaves and wiping out entire habitats and ecologies of all life forms, sapient and non-intelligent alike. This policy of total warfare and ecological devastation has earned them a particular enmity which eclipses the sahuagin (who are more than willing to accept terms of surrender in exchange for servitude). The other aquatic civilizations temporarily put aside their differences to push back the ixitxachitl into isolated and remote regions. But these creatures can hold a grudge like no other, and still regularly attack settlements. It’s said that they’re mobilizing their forces in hidden pyramids and rebuilding their numbers with necromantic magic; it may not be long before another war breaks out…Krakens:
The Krakens used to be the dominant aquatic power on the Material Plane before the forces of good (and more than a few evil civilizations) drove them to the darkest corners of the ocean. Many Kraken fled into the Elemental Plane of Water, and from there they built a new civilization.
There are no Kraken settlements per se: most of them are solitary or with one mate, ruling over a settlement of weaker creatures. Most of their slaves are trapped in caverns or otherwise isolated from the outside world, knowing of no other life than that of servitude. They’ve also got a stake in the Lower Planes soul trade, breeding and raising slaves in cult-like conditions and entrusting their souls to a powerful fiend. Many Krakens often have the backing of fiendish entities, and it’s not uncommon for them to have demon or devil bodyguards.
The vast majority of aquatic life on the Material Plane (and in the real world) lives close to the ocean’s surface (10-600 feet). The subjective directional gravity and clear lighting of the majority of the known Elemental Plane is unsuitable for sea life accustomed to living deeper and in the trenches. Fortunately, there’s a place for them on the Plane as well. Their habitats are known as “Dark Zones.”
From the outside, Dark Zones appear as a massive expanse of blackness; even nearby light sources get dimmer as they approach. The pressure of the area increases as well, making the regions highly dangerous to those without magical protection or environmental adaption. The regions are a favored spot for deep sea fish, krakens, undead, aberrations, and alien forms of life unknown to even the most learned of sages.
The Dark Zones have a sinister reputation among the aquatic civilizations. People capable of seeing the environment reported sightings of strange rock formations and creatures that look bizarre at best, the stuff of nightmares at worst. Incredibly brave adventurers have also reported finding strange civilizations deep inside these areas, made of identical square blocks strangely resistant to the pressure and decorated with runic carvings impervious to divination spells. No visible entrances or exits were present on the buildings, but strange rumblings could be heard from within.Adventure Hooks on the Elemental Plane of Water:
• A demon lord or archdevil is in need of mortal worshipers to bolster his ranks for an upcoming Blood War siege. He’s entrusted one of his agents to open a portal on the River Styx into the middle of a major metropolis on the Elemental Plane of Water. Such a plan would create mass amnesia among the populace, and the fiend’s minions will use that opportunity to replace their historical and religious records with something more befitting the lord’s agenda.
• A nearby Dark Zone experienced a massive growth surge. Several nearby merfolk settlements got engulfed in the darkness, and all methods of contact and incursion into the zone have been met with hostility from the area’s strange inhabitants. The PCs are hired and outfitted with magical protection to explore the zone and discover the fate of the merfolk.
• A traitorous marid noble has committed the unthinkable: he’s brokered a deal with the sahuagin and a powerful kraken to help him seize the throne! The sahuagin army and the kraken’s minions of brainwashed slaves assault the City of Glass while the PCs are there. Planar travel has been blocked, and the surrounding army has several methods of detection (blindsight, divination magic) to know if anybody’s trying to break through the blockade. If the party hopes to win against this mighty force, they have to prevent breaches in the glass, safeguard civilians, and assist the city’s defenders. Otherwise, future battles may prove to be overwhelming as the sahuagin and kraken seize key areas and powerful magical items.