Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Athasian Elemental Planes Part Three: The Plane of Earth

Symbol by Vedeskaja.
The Elemental Plane of Earth

Aarakocra would go mad on the Elemental Plane of Earth. The only way to get around is through tunnels and not many of them are very wide. Anyone even slightly claustrophobic wouldn't be able to stand the enclosed earthen walls.
That is not to say that the Plane of Earth is nothing but unyielding rock, there is variation. Every type of stone and dirt can be found here. Of course there's granite, slate, and sandstone; but there's also marble, pumice, and obsidian. There's even soil that is so rich, the plants on Athas could thrive on it for a millennia. Of course that soil is slowly being replaced by dead, dry dust, or is being melted into molten slag.


If a traveler is not claustrophobic, the Elemental Plane of Earth is not too difficult to traverse; as long as one is willing to dig. Also, a visitor would have to bring their own source of air, as the Elemental Plane of Earth does not have native air to breathe. On top of that, the Plane of Earth actively tries to fill in the tunnels that are made through it. Tunnels will eventually close at a rate of one foot per Athasian day. Anyone trapped in a closing tunnel will be crushed by the earth of the plane itself and take 1d2 points of damage per round. It is possible to prevent the plane from closing these tunnels, but only the natives of the plane know the secret.

It might surprise travelers to learn that the Elemental Plane of Earth moves. The plane itself is constantly closing up tunnels and attempting to crush anything that doesn't belong. This is usually a slow process, but sometimes there's a sudden slip that sends tremors throughout the plane. These earthquakes are not common, but they are quite dangerous.
The DM can use the following table to determine the intensity and effect of an earthquake to those caught inside of it. Earthquakes last 1d10 rounds and inflict the amount of damage listed each round to those inside it.
1d10 Roll Intensity Save Adj Damage
1-3 Tremor +4 2d6
4-6 Minor +2 4d6
7-8 Moderate 0 6d6
9 Major -2 8d6
10 Catastrophic -4 10d6
In order to escape serious harm, such as falling rocks and cave-ins, the victim must make a saving throw vs. breath weapon once every two rounds. Failure indicates the victims takes the listed damage, success indicates the victim takes half of the listed damage. The save adjustment on the table is applied to this roll. At the DM's discretion, travelers may also be separated form their companions.

Gas Pockets
Another danger when tunneling through the Elemental Plane of Earth are gas pockets. Gas pockets are similar to elemental pockets, but are actually completely natural to the plane. There are three types of gas pockets: Explosive Gas, Noxious Gas, and Toxic Gas.
In order to determine the size of a gas pocket, a DM should roll 1d100 for the radius of the pocket. Pockets tend to be spherical in shape, but can be any shape according to the whim of the DM.
Explosive gas pockets have the same effect as noxious or toxic gas, but not both. In addition, however, the gas is flammable and will combust if an open flame is nearby. Such a blast requires everyone in the area to make a saving throw vs breath weapon, or suffer 8d8 points of damage. In addition, the explosion has a 30% chance to cause an earthquake that is twice the size of the gas pocket in the immediate area.
Noxious gas has the same effect as a stinking cloud spell. While it is not deadly, it is something that a traveler does not enjoy being subjected to.
Toxic gas pockets have the same effect as a cloudkill spell. These are extremely deadly and caution must be taken to avoid these deadly natural traps.

Magma Pockets
Similar to gas pockets, but completely unnatural are pockets of liquid hot magma. Magma pockets are similar to elemental pockets, but on a much smaller scale. Also, unfortunately, they do not stay in the area where they appear. In fact, many of these magma pockets are purposefully placed in an area by servants of the Paraelemental Plane of Magma.
If an unlucky digger strikes one of these pockets, they are immediately subjected to the effects of a magma jet spell.

Silt Pockets
Similar to gas pockets, but absolutely unnatural are pockets of swirling silt. Silt pockets are similar to elemental pockets, but on a much smaller scale. Also, unfortunately, they do not stay in the area where they appear. In fact, most of these silt pockets are purposefully placed in an area by servants of the Paraelemental Plane of Silt.
If an unlucky digger strikes one of these pockets, they are immediately subjected to the effects of a sand spray spell.

Moving Around

Digging through the Elemental Plane of Earth is exhausting and can only be done by player character races, except Muls, for their constitution in hours, before an eight hour rest is required. Muls are able to dig for much longer, generally 36+Con hours for packed soil or very soft rock and 24+Con hours for other types of rock. Other races may dig for variable amount of time based upon the DM.
The DM can use the following chart to determine the type of earth a digger must dig through. For simplicity sake, the table uses generally descriptions instead of exact types of earth.
1d10 Roll Type of Earth Minimum Strength
1-3 Packed Soil 15
4-6 Very Soft Rock 17
7-8 Soft Rock 19
9 Hard Rock 21
10 Very Hard Rock 23
The minimum strength score indicate the minimum strength required to dig through a given types of earth. A digger with the exact score required is able to dig at a rate of 1 foot every 10 minutes. For every point of strength above the minimum, the digger is able to dig an additional foot. Thus, a Mul with a strength of 18 can dig at a rate of of 4 through packed soil every ten minutes. The Mul can keep this pace up for 36+Con hours before needing rest.
Tools make tunneling much easier. Employing the proper tools such as picks, hammers, and shovels, decrease the required minimum strength by 8. This would allow someone with average strength and tools to dig through all but hard and very hard rock.
Another problem visitors have is the inability to see where they are going. Digging tunnels is fine, but how would one know where to go? Also, there's no natural light sources anywhere, so it's pitch black. Hearing, however, travels very well through the Plane of Earth. It's even possible to hear someone, or something, moving through the border ethereal. There will be a hissing sound that can be heard for up to sixty feet. Creature with acute hearing, or the detect noise rogue ability, will hear the hissing up to ninety feet away.


A few animals native to Athas have somehow made their way to the Elemental Plane of Earth. How this happened is a mystery, unless it was easier to get the elemental planes long ago. Of course, these animals may have been brought to the Elemental Plane of Earth for some long forgotten purpose as well. Ants, standard, giant and desert; antlions; moles, both standard and brain; and rodents of all kinds make their homes on the Plane of Earth.

By Kate Pfeilchiefter
The Dao are genies native to the Elemental Plane of Earth. They once had grand, artistic palaces with thousands of slaves, most of whom were kidnapped from Athas, and large harems of the most beautiful Jann and Athasian women. However, those glory days have long since past. The Dao have turned away from their decadent lives in order to save themselves from extermination.
At one time, the Dao had a vast cavernous network of cities with tunnels that all connected to a major central city. A few centuries ago, the combined forces from the Planes of Magma and Silt invaded and razed the outer and inner cities. Tens of thousands of Dao were killed. Learning from their mistakes, the Dao now keep a series of unconnected strongholds throughout the plane. The Dao have slaves constantly digging out tunnels for new strongholds and fortifications.
Dao appear as very tall and well proportioned humans. They generally have brown or gray skin and dark hair, although Dao men are often bald. Even though their society has shifted from gaining wealth to fighting for their lives, the Dao still enjoy wearing jewelry when appropriate.
The Dao are ruled by a Khan, who is always male, and the most powerful and devious Dao alive. The Khan travels from stronghold to stronghold with a guard of no less than one hundred elite Dao fighters. The Khan rules by decree, but is wise enough to take advice from generals and seneschals. Seneschals and Generals run the strongholds, with the former seeing to civilian matters and the later seeing to military matters. Although he would never publicly admit it, the Dao Khan will bend knee to the Earth Elemental Lords and does so with regularity.
Dao soldiers prefer to fight with metal weapons, usually copper, when available, but most resort to using obsidian and stone. They rarely wear armor, as their natural armor class is impressive. When fighting, the Dao do not mix with soldiers of other races. They see themselves as disproportionately better than the Jann and Tari fighters. This is true for all Dao, not just soldiers. When speaking to a Dao, a character should feel that the Dao excessively thinks little of them.
Keeping harems is a long tradition among the Dao and nearly all Dao males of moderate standing will keep a few females for that purpose. These are usually enslaved Jann or, highly unusual, of the various races from Athas. The Dao are polygamist and may take many wives. Females may hold high positions in Dao society, but are always seen as below males. A male Dao will still take orders from a female Dao, but will do so reluctantly and may question the orders more than if they came from a male of the same rank.
How slaves are treated varies between Dao forts and their usefulness. Diggers can always be replaced, but a skilled stone weaponsmith is more difficult to find. Generally slaves are treated poorly by the Dao, who view all other forms of life as lesser beings. A common punishment for slaves is simply withholding food and water, or for greater crimes, work in a particularly dangerous area. Even the best behaved slave, however, will never have a chance to earn their freedom. Tari, lesser elementals, pech, tasked miner genies, and jann are the most common Dao slaves.
Dao may be encountered on Athas, but these are usually outcasts who angered the Khan or his advisors in some fashion.
Dao suffer the same restrictions as all spellcasters on Athas, no matter if they're on Athas or their home plane. In addition to the spells granted to Dao in the monstrous manual, Athasian Dao can also cast all divine spells from the domain of earth of levels three and lower three times per day.

Earth Drakes dig through the soil and stone of the solid matter of the plane. They are sometimes tamed by Dao to dig tunnels and defend their fortresses, but most of them wholeheartedly follow the commands of the Elemental Lords. They too are used most often in the Elemental War to great effect. Although rare, earth drakes are brawny and tenacious combatants. The sight of one entering a battle can boost the morale of earth's allies and crush the morale of earth's enemies.

Elemental beings are the most common lifeforms on the Elemental Plane of Earth. In addition to lesser, standard, and greater elementals, this category includes fundamentals and elemental kin, like animentals and sandlings.
While some of the lesser elementals serve the Dao as slaves, the vast majority serve at the command of the Elemental Lords and are used as soldiers in the Elemental War. Their entire society is geared toward the defense of their home plane. When not in battle, earth elementals like to sit perfectly still and enjoy the calm serenity of their plane.

Elemental Lords
The most powerful beings in the Elemental Plane of Earth are the Elemental Lords. The Elemental Lords of Earth are made up of pure earth and have no distinct shape. They do not have names or titles, but all natives of the Elemental Plane of Earth show deference to their leadership. They reside inside solid stone and are serviced by other elementals, dao, and jann.
It is unknown if the Elemental Lords of Earth grow old. It is possible that the Elemental Lords are the same as they have been since the beginning of time. It is also a mystery how the Elemental Lords of Earth communicate with each other as no verbal or telepathic communication can be detected between them. However, they do telepathically communicate with their servants.
The Elemental Lords may travel anywhere in the Elemental Plane of Earth instantly, but cannot leave it. They can control earthquakes and move gas pockets within the plane, but not magma or silt pockets. The Elemental Lords of Earth can control all uncontaminated earth in their plane. They can also grant divine spells to anyone who makes a pact to serve the Elemental Plane of Earth. Lastly, they can cast any spell in the domain of earth at will, including wizard elemental earth spells as divine spells, and any spell in the sphere of cosmos three times per day. Elemental Lords are immune to psionics.
These powerful beings are not good or evil. They are the lords of earth and care very little for events that do not affect their realm. Their current dilemma is the war between their elemental plane and the Planes of Magma and Silt. The Elemental Lords of Earth have allied with the Lords of Air, Fire, Rain, and Water against the Paraelemental Planes of Magma, Silt, and Sun.

Galeb Duhr
Once solitary and contented to sit together and sing, the galeb duhr have been forced into a war that they did not choose. The galeb duhr understand that Magma and Silt will only be satisfied when the entire Plane of Earth is consumed by their madness, so they have chosen to fight in the Elemental War at the behest of the Elemental Lords. Galeb duhr soldiers are feared for the magical abilities they bring to bear.
When not engaged in combat, galeb duhr like nothing more than sitting with a small group of their own kind and singing their mysterious songs. Galeb duhr reproduce asexually, growing a new galeb duhr out of themselves after a very long growing process. Due to the war and incredibly slow reproduction rate, the galeb duhr as a species are in decline.

The Jann of the Elemental Plane of Earth are generally used as troops by the Elemental Lords and slaves by the Dao. The Jann who serve the Elemental Lords have a tribal structure, where the Amir of the tribe receives orders from the Elemental Lords and leads his tribe accordingly. These free Jann have organized their society toward service in the Elemental War and defending themselves from Dao slavers.
In combat, Jann divide themselves into infantry, cavalry, archers, healers, and siege forces. The infantry is tje main bulk of the fighting force and fight in units of one thousand soldiers. A single army might have five to six infantry units. Cavalry fight on the backs of elemental beasts or sandlings. There is not a set number of cavalry troops for an army, but generals feel most comfortable if they have at least one hundred. Archers use longbows made of wood or bone and fight in units of one hundred archers. An army will have at least five archer units. Healers are earth clerics of various levels and serve the army in units of ten. Ideally an army will have at least five units of healers. Siege forces are generally made up of combat focused earth clerics, psionicsists, and siege engine crews who fight in units of ten. Most armies are lucky to have one siege unit.
Jann may be encountered alone or in pairs on Athas, carrying out the orders of their superiors.
Like the Dao, the Jann suffer the same restrictions as all Athasian spellcasters, no matter if they are on the Elemental Plane of Earth, or Athas. Jann generally wear non-metal scale or brigandine armor and use wicker and leather shields. Stone tipped spears are the weapon of choice for Jann, with obsidian scimitars as a backup weapon. Most carry an obsidian jambiya as a weapon of last resort. Jann do not suffer any penalty for dwelling indefinitely on the Elemental Planes and must travel through the Gray to reach Athas.

Earth elemental beasts are common on the Elemental Plane of Earth. They are frequently caught and trained by the Dao. The Dao frequently ill-treat the beasts and the earth elemental beasts are constantly seeking a way to escape. The Dao commonly use the beasts as weapons of war, driving groups of them toward their enemies.
Ankhegs and bulettes are the most common non-elemental monsters a visitor to the Elemental Plane of Earth is likely to encounter. These creatures dig through the plane, looking for food. Other burrowing monsters may be present as well.

Pech are small humanoids created long ago by the Elemental Lords for some unknown, or long forgotten purpose. Pech are thin and have long arms and legs. Their broad hands and feet are excellent for bracing and employing tools to work stone. They have pale, yellowish skin and red or reddish brown hair. Their flesh is nearly as hard as granite. Their eyes are large and have no pupils. Pech have infravision to 120 feet.
Many Pech are slaves of the Dao, who use them to dig tunnels throughout the plane. Free Pech form small tribal societies and are generally peaceful. However, they hate bright light and open skies, and are quick to ask others to douse lights. Their lairs are constructed with numerous choke points so that walls of stone can quickly stop intruders from the paraelemental planes.
While Pech are generally not soldiers, they dig tunnels and craft items for the further the defense of their native plane. They revere their creators, the Elemental Lords, and follow their commands without question.

Brought to the Elemental Plane of Earth as slaves, the Tari have made a home for themselves in the earthen tunnels. Those not enslaved have formed tribal structures, with the chief or chieftess being the most powerful earth cleric or psionicist. They generally do not take part in the Elemental War, unless forced to by the Dao or if an elemental chief leads them.
The Tari construct stone weapons and supplies to trade with the Pech and Jann. They grow caves of mushrooms for their food and search continuously for enough water to survive. Tari warriors protect their tunnels with stone weapons and disease carrying bites.

Like the Genies and other ruvoka, the Zathosi were created by the Elemental Lords around the time of the Rebirth. Unlike the genies, however, the Zathosi were created with the assistance of the three other Elemental Lords from the three other elemental planes. This cooperation grants the Zathosi powerful elemental spells, the same as a twentieth level druid with major access to the sphere of earth.
Zathosi are humanlike ruvoka with wrinkled gray-skin and rememble old humans. Zathosi wear stone-colored robes and the males often grow long beards. The Zathosi fight with stone mauls. Zathosi serve the Elemental Lords as powerful troops and may support members of the armies of Jann, but they never serve the evil Dao. They sometimes serve the Elemental Lords as guardians of important locations on Athas as well.
Zathosi organize themselves into tribes, but despite their tribal structure, the Zathosi are generally loners. If a traveler stumbles across a Zathosi, they usually find only a single individual on a mysterious task. Sometimes this Zathosi will approach trusted travelers to ask for help in accomplishing the Zathosi's goals. Those who offer their aid can expect to be rewarded with a minor bit of elemental magic, or perhaps even the Zathosi’s help in achieving some end of their own. However, they shouldn’t expect to learn what the Zathosi is up to, as they won’t reveal the ultimate purpose of their mission.
The Zathosi aren’t interested in any affairs that don't concern them or their elemental plane.

Other Races
It is possible that other intelligent races exist on the Elemental Plane of Earth, especially if they burrow, but they do not take a major part in the Elemental War and are not present in great numbers.

The Sites

The Grinder
Where the Paraelmental Plane of Silt slowly erodes the Plane of Earth, you'll find the battleground called The Ginder. Swirling vortexes of silt threaten all creatures who dare to defend the Elemental Plane of Earth. Silt creatures and paraelementals assist in the erosion process, along with attacking anything that dares to resist them. Anyone entering The Grinder takes 10d10 damage, unless immune to silt damage.
Defenders of earth fiercely fight to defend their home and hunt down the silt creatures that slip past the front lines. At all times, there are thousands of soldiers, elementals, drakes, and other creatures fighting for dominance. The forces of earth are steadfast, but the forces of silt are unrelenting and slowly encroach a little more every year.
An Elemental Lord is said to stay close to The Ginder, defending it with its great power. Of course, since the Earth Elemental Lords look just like the surrounding rock, it's impossible to know if this is true.

The Ruins of Gorignak
A huge cavern with many adjoining tunnels house The Ruins of Gorignak. Once the center of Dao society and home to tens of thousands of genies, Gorignak is now ruined and, where the magic has failed, is slowly being crushed by the elemental plane. The Dao were content in their control of the elemental plane and did not venerate their creators, the Elemental Lords. So, when the forces of silt and magma attacked the poorly defended city, the cries of the Dao were ignored by their makers.
The Dao were nearly exterminated on that day and their once ostentatious city destroyed. The remaining Dao abandoned their ruined city and now live in separate fortresses, spread throughout the Plane of Earth, so if one is attacked, the others may endure.
It is possible that some of the treasures of the Dao remain in the ruins of Gorignak and buried close by. So much of the Plane of Earth's wealth was concentrated there, that there were not enough Dao survivors to carry it all away. Now, the Dao ignore the ruins, for it is a testament to their greatest failure.

The Volcano
A huge pocket of toxic gases provides the space needed for a super volcano that leads to the Paraelemental Plane of Magma. In addition to the spewing gases, there are rivers of magma that pour from the volcano. These magma rivers flow into the walls of the cavern and heat them up, turning them into magma as well. The forces of the Paraelemental Plane of Magma travel out of The Volcano to fight the forces of earth and melt as much soil and rock as possible.
Defenders of earth fiercely fight to defend their home and hunt down the magma creatures that burrow past the front lines. At all times, there are thousands of soldiers, elementals, drakes, and other creatures fighting for dominance. Magma creatures fight with wild, chaotic abandon, while the forces of Earth are disciplined and unwavering. Magma is seeking to gain an upper hand at all costs.
An Elemental Lord is said to stay close to The Volcano, defending it with its great power. Of course, since the Earth Elemental Lords look just like the surrounding rock, it's impossible to know if this is true.

Typical Dao Fort
A typical Dao fort is constructed in a pocket of mined elemental earth. The mined material is used to reinforce the walls, ceilings, and floors of the compound, along with Dao magic. The Dao have learned well from their past arrogance and keep soldiers on watch at all times.
Forts are built with a layered defense in mind. Three sets of outer walls provide buffers for the soldiers of the fort to mount a strong defense. These walls are built with three dimensions in mind, so they appear as floating cubes in a pocket of air. Every wall of the fort has small arrow slits for archers and magic users to attack from safety.
Just inside the second outer wall is the home of the Dao slaves, who are lead out of the fort each day to mine the surrounding rock and soil. These slaves are guarded by Dao and tasked genies.
In the center of the cube is the main keep, which houses soldiers, the general, and the seneschal. Just outside of the keep are the craftsmen, who build everything the Dao need to wage war. The forts keep in touch with each other using tasked messenger genies and are always prepared to assist the other forts if they fall under attack.

Part Four will cover the Elemental Plane of Fire.


  1. As on Athas, so on the Elemental Planes. Loving this series so far mate, definitely a keeper!

    1. Thank you. It's good to know that someone is enjoying my work.