D&D 5E Enhancing Teleportation Circle/Planeshift/Gate Lore


Over the years I've built up some lore/modifications for my lore around the use of gates and teleportation circles. As I find it useful, I'm sharing it.

My lore draws heavy inspiration from Stargate and is designed to provide greater utility, consistency and balance. It has elements taken from 4E inspiration that allow non-spellcasters to make use of the teleportation circles if they have theright tools.

Characters: A Teleportation Circle contains 20 characters. I reference the charactres as characters, symbols, sigils and signs - all are fair game to describe the characters.

The first character (1) is a planar reference. It tells us what plane the circle is on. There is a different character for each plane and you must use materials from that plane to craft the first character so that the magic is attuned to the plane.

The next character (2) represents the magical aura of a major magical feature/location within that plane. It might be a powerful temple, a cursed forest, or the 'hiding' place of a powerful artifact. Each teleportation circle is dependent upon this feature/location. If the feature/location is desecrated, destroyed or significantly moved relative to the circle, the teleportation circles keyed to it will stop operating. A spellcaster must study such a location to devise the correct 'signature character' for the location if they wish to craft a circle that uses the location as a reference.

The next 9 characters (3 to 11) are devoted to the three dimensional distance from the reference feature/location. The 9 characters provide a three dimensional coordinate system with three characters each being devoted to each of the three dimensions of movement. The first of each trio establishes an approximate distance, with the second providing an exponential modifier, and the third simply identifying a positive or negative directionality. The first and third characters are very simple, but the second is very complex and precise - and most of the time spent crafting a teleportation circle is devoted to the precise crafting of these characters as the shape, size and orientation of the character all impact the exponential value.

The next character (12) describes the conduit used to power the circle. This is often blank in a 'basic' magic circle. However, some circles are empowered by permanent magic sources. This symbol directs the circle to draw power from these conduits. There are characters that tell the circle to draw from a local source (a battery, effectively), from the magic weave, or from the users themselves (dealing damage to the users in order to power the circle's use). There are other characters as well in my setting, but those are more campaign specific.

The next four characters (13 to 16) are effectively a combination lock for traveling with the circle as a starting location. They can be anything the creator wants, but they can be reoriented in different directions. You need to have all four aligned correctly to go somewhere using the circle.

The next four characters (17 to 20) are effectively a combination lock for traveling to the circle. These can't be changed once made.

If you want to travel to a particular teleportation circle you need to know runes 1 through 11 and 17 to 20. If you want to travel from the circle, you can see all the characters.

You may also superscript over runes 1 through 11 and 17 to 20. When you do so, you specify the coordinates of another circle in this superscript. While the superscript exists, the local circle can only connect to the circle described by the superscript. Essentially - your circle is limited to one destination.

Implications: The above has several implications.

First, a teleportation circle can be empowered to operate by anyone. A barbarian could operate the circle if they knew the right characters and the circle is empowered by a local source or draws from the weave.

Second, you can prevent people from using your empowered circle to travel away by using characters 13 to 16 as a lock.

Third, you can't block people from going to the circle without destroying it - unless you're tricky. You can put the circle on a cart or other moveable surface and then significantly move it when you want the circle to not be useful. Many teleportation circles built near major civilized locations are built in such a way - allowing them to be relocated when not in use to avoid being used as a destination by an invading army.

Fourth, you can't put a circle on a ship or other vehicle and expect it to continue operating after movement - UNLESS your reference feature/location moves with the ship. This allows you to place teleportation circles on a floating citadel that houses an artifact ... but not on a small merchent vessel without significant magic.

Fifth, a teleportation circle spell can be used to hastily create a temporary circle that can access a permanent circle, or to empower any unlocked circle (overriding the 12th character, potentially).

Gate: While I have the Gate spell as written, it is not the one I use primarily for NPCs and enemies when they want to create a conduit between two locations. The Homebrew version creates two teleportation circles that last for up to 8 hours and are directly linked so that you can only travel back and forth between these circles, and they are empowered so that they are open continuously through the up to 8 hour duration.

Why it matters: Having this level of lore has made a lot of rulings on these types of magics very easy to apply. It is also very helpful for immersion and has resulted in a lot of strategic thinking on the party in terms of how to protect against, and utilze, teleportation circle related magics.
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I've thought about similar, but not identical, things.....like I always want there to be gates and stuff, and if you know the right "code" you can control where you go. Otherwise, you go somewhere else....

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