D&D 5E [Let's Read] The Star-Shaman's Song of Planegea: Dungeons & Dragons, Prehistoric Style

Libertad

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Although most strongly associated with the feel of medieval times, Dungeons & Dragons is no stranger to settings going for far older or newer eras. From Pharaonic Egypt to Victorian Steampunk, official and third party settings alike created worlds of magic and monsters across time and space, trading in knights for gladiators or crossbows for muskets as befit the intended setting. But there is one particular era that rarely gets any significant play: the Stone Age.

Planegea is the brainchild of David Somerville, beginning as an idea pitched on the RPGnet forums but eventually got picked up by Atlas Games who saw promise in turning it into a proper published setting. Inspired by media such as the movie 10,000 BC and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal, Somerville aimed for a prehistoric sword and sorcery feel set during the mythical past of your Generic DnD setting. The planes of existence aren’t fully formed, the gods are local spirits holding sway over surrounding environments and haven’t fully ascended/descended to otherworldly realms, and common fantasy tropes are reimagined. A rural feudal settlement may become a stone-punk village of tent-platforms built on the backs of titanic beasts, a wizard’s tower may instead be a cavernous sanctum home to cave paintings brimming with arcane power, while dungeons can include pits housing Lovecraftian aberrations or thick forests home to an apex predator.

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Chapter 1: Welcome to Planegea

Apologies for the larger-than-usual images, Imgur kept giving “we don’t support that file type” error when using a compressed version even though it was PNG.

The first chapter, Welcome to Planegea, goes over the major points separating the setting from others on the market. It begins with the idea of the world being new and unexplored, with few things set in stone. The common fantasy races still bear the influences of their mythical creation such as dwarves bearing obvious marks of having been fashioned from stone, or mighty wyrms who gave the dragonborn their race’s name still being recent ancestors. As the Multiverse is still a singular contiguous entity, a traveler can physically journey from the world’s heart of Blood Mountain and its moon-birthing volcanic eruptions to the distant Sea of Stars encompassing the lands. Most civilizations are hunter-gatherer, with the majority of humanoid races settled in the relative center of the Great Valley. Each clan has a central fire that is kept burning throughout the day and night, serving as a social gathering spot, a place of light and warmth in the darkest of nights and the center for magical ceremonies.

Another common fixture of the setting is that the gods of the world aren’t omnipotent beings in remote extra-dimensional realms. Gods instead are spirits just coming to understand their powers and the world in which they hold sway, being closer to animist entities of the land tied to physical locations. Gods are bound to sacred spaces known as hallows where they can enact wondrous powers, but as they cannot depart such places on their own they must rely on mortals to influence their agendas in the wider world. Through mortals, gods can command their followers to seize more territory, destroy sacred sites of rival gods, and even devour the essence of other gods and take over their hallows.

Finally, there’s a concept known as the Black Taboos, certain forbidden technologies and concepts. Enforced by supernatural entities known as the Hounds of the Blind Heaven, those souls inventive and brave enough to rouse their ire have been met with calamitous misfortune that is most often certain death. The Black Taboos include a prohibition on the written word beyond the most rudimentary patterns, no numbers over nine (numbers beyond this value are referred to as “many”), and fiat currency and wheels with axles are banned. Planegea’s inhabitants are capable of mentally conceiving ways to understand these technologies and concepts, but most deliberately avoid their study or production to avoid the Hounds. Basically it’s only when an individual acts on this knowledge to produce or spread it do they invite disaster. The Hounds are more or less an unknown force whose specifics are determined by the DM, but they do appear to be intelligent and make their judgments based on keeping society in a sort of primitive status quo.

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Chapter 2: Clanfires & Wilderness

The next seven chapters are player-friendly. The first one of these takes a bottom-up viewpoint on the setting from the perspective of the “common people.” That is, the humanoid civilizations to which the PCs belong. The chapter starts out with covering the three primary themes of Planegea:

Kinetic Action, where combat should be over-the-top and take place in volatile locations where the environment can be a threat to avoid or be exploited to waylay one’s foes. Adventurers leaping across the backs of a herd of stampeding mammoths, outmaneuvering arctic predators on a river of cracking ice floes, and wild winds whipping through forests and pushing over trees are hallmarks of this theme.

Primordial Horror, where the unknown lands hold creatures that have yet to be named or seen by mortals, where humanoids are but one of many beings in a vast world and far from being the top of the food chain. Even in familiar lands, strange sounds at night outside the tent flap can signal a creeping threat, and most people live in a world where the surrounding lands are a great unknown.

Mystic Awe, which focuses on the positive side of living in a new world that has yet to take its final form. It is a world where the legends bards sing of are going to come about by heroes of the present, where common fantasy tropes taken for granted are made new again.

Speaking of old tropes being made new, this chapter notes that a lot of common fixtures in a Medieval Fantasy world need to be rethought in a Prehistoric Fantasy realm. We get a table of sample comparisons: for example, spell scrolls become enchanted talismans, gold and coins are replaced by salt and trade goods, the comfy inn and tavern becomes a village’s clanfire or shaded pool, and knowledge found in books are instead preserved in paintings and song.

The bulk of this chapter covers daily living in hunter-gatherer clans. With most being nomadic, they travel around the land to forage for food and find safe places to sleep at night. Most personal goods are crafted from what can be found in the wild, with a creative variety of combinations. For example, the leathery wings of a beast can be fashioned into a pouch, and blades and other weapons with sharp implements can come from reworked bone, scales, and teeth taken from the carcasses of dead animals. Clans often seek the protection of gods and their hallows, using shamans as interlocutors for negotiation. The central gathering spot housing the clanfire is known as a camp, and tends to be an arrangement of huts, tents, or other shelters that can be quickly dismantled when it’s time to get on the move. Some areas have more permanent dwellings, particularly dwarven stone buildings, which are left during seasonal migration and returned to later.

While just about everyone knows a thing or two when it comes to outdoorsmanship and acquiring food sources, there are roles with specialized labor: children are responsible for gathering clanfire fuel, cleaning up areas of detritus, and helping out adults and looking after younger children. Hunters are tasked with stalking and overcoming animals, and typically conserve their energy until scouts who report the location of prey back to the rest of the hunters. A gatherers’ eyes for detail scan areas for plants and other bounties of nature, as well as going along predetermined routes to check on traps and fishing nets. Shamans (reflavored clerics) often meditate for much of the day and make use of their spells as befits the situation, but often have nonmagical duties such as resolving disputes or meeting the local god in their hallow.

Crafters are the best when it comes to fashioning the bounties of nature into various tools, and tend to remain at camp the most as other people bring them things. Most clans have various leadership positions: this can take the form of a chieftain who calls all the shots but can also be a council of elders, and the other occupations have senior members with years of experience who pass on their knowledge to others and are looked up to for guidance. And of course the various character classes reflect specialized training for certain tasks. There’s a diversity of variation in how clans govern themselves and assign labor, and these details are meant to be guidelines rather than a universal rule. Explanations are also given for various cultural details, such as holidays taking the form of festivals based on important events, or that shamans name newborn babies rather than parents due to the belief that names carry magical power and thus shamans are best suited for this role.

Planegea gives several fantastical spins on the hunter-gatherer concept. For example, magical portals connected to realms of dreams and nightmares can let someone rapidly cross great distances. The more reliable portals are a favored means for migration, as clans who would otherwise be trapped in a realm of heavy winter can use such portals to arrive in warmer climates. Portals typically work only under dream-based logic, such as being open only to those under certain emotional states or being passed through only when a traveler least expects it. Additionally, a concept known as Clan Magic exists where people gather around the clanfire and are led by a shaman in a ritual ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the clan either gains a number of bonus spell slots to spend depending on the level of the shaman or strata (power) of a god. Alternatively, the ceremony can enchant a weapon whose enhancement bonus is also dependent on the shaman/god’s level of power. Only one such weapon can exist for an individual clan at a time.

The rest of the chapter focuses on the Wilderness, which is more of a series of unrelated articles. For example, much of the world of Planegea is mobile in more ways than one: trees of a forest may move of their own volition across the land, while stars are intelligent beings who move across the night sky and form into constellations based on the stories they wish to tell. The landscape at large is more or less fixed, but alterations both mundane and supernatural can occur at the smaller scale. People often use magic to direct their course but various skill checks and saving throws are listed for means of finding one’s way, such as History to recognize altered landscapes. Becoming lost isn’t necessarily a penalty as the book suggests that it can be used for plot devices: for example, some gods and dream-portals only appear to the lost, so it’s a custom among certain clans for individuals to intentionally wander off into unfamiliar territory.

Day-to-day survival is of increased importance than in other campaigns, and further detail is given on rules for Travel, Gathering, and Hunting, usually taking the form of skill checks and skill challenges with stakes. These are more guidelines than explicit rules, but there are certain inedible foods that discourage eating just about anything you come across: the three “rules of food” are to not eat anything rotten, not eat anything that speaks to you in a language you can understand, and not to eat anything “made of many” which includes most bugs and are anything with more than 9 sets of eyes or appendages. A random table is given for those who violate such rules, such as the Poisoned condition or suffering a temporary madness effect.

Concurrently, there are suggested in-game rewards for a successful hunt. Prey animals successfully harvested and eaten can grant the effects of the Enhance Ability spell in line with its nature based on DM Fiat. And we get a variety of sample skill checks that can be useful for harvesting, such as Medicine to determine which parts are safe to eat, Sleight of Hand for nimble and careful handiwork, or Religion in preparing a meal in honor of a local deity.

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Chapter 3: Prehistoric Characters

Whereas other DnD settings and sourcebooks would provide the crunchy mechanics for PC building up front and leave the fluffier roleplay details at the end, Planegea does the reverse. This relatively short chapter provides a series of questions about major life events your PC experienced before the campaign’s beginning. They include things such as the circumstances of their birth and if it was in a place of significance, the first time they encountered a god, their nearest brush with death, or if a certain creature, number, or color has relevance to a personal superstitious omen. The omens in particular are a means for the DM to provide gentle nudges to get a PC’s attention or inform them of something of significance with meaning only to them. This chapter ends with a d100 table of Trinkets suitable for a Prehistoric Fantasy world, such as a necklace made of lion claws, turtle shell knee pads, petrified wood from a forest fire that still smells like it’s burning, or an inedible mushroom that slowly multiplies whenever it’s set down.

This chapter also has a page-long sidebar of Planegean Player Options as variant rules. The first one, Star Magic, lets a character spend an action to find a constellation via Nature, where the stars tell a story or song based on one of the six ability scores. At the end of the story the PC makes a Performance check, where if they succeed the story inspires them and grants +1d4 to a future check or save of that ability for the next 24 hours. Star Magic can only be used once per day. Also, stars being intelligent entities can communicate with people down on the ground, so via an Arcana check as an action a character may learn of news from them, albeit unlike some divination spells stars are fallible beings with their own biases.

The following three Player Options are specific to certain classes. Weapon Shatter is only available to the martial classes (Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, and Rogue) and lets them shatter a magical melee weapon once per short or long rest, turning a successful hit into a critical hit. Raw Magic is only available to arcane casters that aren’t subclasses (Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard) where they can cast a spell without expending a spell slot in exchange for giving up part of their own life force. For 1st to 5th level spells this is one level of exhaustion per spell level, but 6th level and higher causes them to suffer 5 levels of exhaustion, fall unconscious and automatically fail a number of death saving throws. A 9th level spell outright kills the caster. Blood Offering is only available to the remaining three divine classes (Cleric, Druid, and Paladin). Such a character can spend a bonus action to cut themselves, spending one hit die per spell level and taking that amount rolled as slashing or piercing damage which ignores resistance and immunity, and gain either grant advantage on the next spell attack or check, disadvantage on a target's roll against a spell you cast, or treat a cast spell as 1 level higher.

Thoughts So Far: Planegea is off to a strong start. While many people assume for good reason that prehistoric/stone age settings will lack details and tropes of more advanced eras, the author wisely realized this and came up with both new ideas and spins on existing ones to make the setting fit more easily into standard DnD adventures. Given that the emphasis on a primordial world is going to make people presume that Druids, Rangers, and the Survival skill will take prominence, giving various suggestions for other skills to aid in such matters is a welcome idea. While further chapters go into more detail, explaining the day to day operations of hunter-gatherer societies is also a wise addition, for unlike medieval fantasy settings where PCs are effectively wandering mercenaries who don’t have to enmesh themselves in the rigors of peasant life, in Planegea characters are more closely connected to their local clans.

As for the new Player Options, I love the concept of gaining power and knowledge from the stars, although for classes I feel that the martial options get the short end of the stick. As they can only shatter a magical weapon that must be melee, this is going to be either a rare resource rarely used or the party caster uses the Magic Weapon spell to grant effective critical hits to PCs. The book does specify that temporarily magical weapons can also be used this way, so this isn’t really an unintended exploit so much as an intended facet of the rules. As for Raw Magic and Blood Offering, exhaustion is much more deleterious than damage, albeit as it grants effective bonus slots it’s a good means of representing a caster drawing on desperate reserves to get a spell they ordinarily couldn’t cast.

For things I dislike, I am not exactly fond of the Black Taboos. While I understand these limits exist to keep Planegea in a relative state of primitiveness, the lines feel inconsistent like the use of salt as currency or how the Druidic and Code languages aren't "written" but still convey meaning in abstract patterns. The can't count over nine breaks down heavily when it comes to dwarven fortresses and that some NPC civilizations managed to transition out of hunter-gatherer society. Given how important mathematics is in architecture, this raises questions of how the Giant Empires managed to build long-standing structures, for example.

Join us next time as we get into the nit and gritty of character creation in Chapters 4 and 5: Kinships and Classes!
 
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Planegea is such a great setting. It's something similar to what you'd think WOTC would put out to capitalize on their 'prime world' concept that popped up in Fizban's and was alluded to in the Bigby's playtest stuff. In my own spelljammer game, one of my players is a dinosaur man trying to find his way home. His home sphere is a combination of Planegea and Dr. Dhrolin's and I'm hoping to throw in Book of Extinction before they get there.
 

i think the black taboos/hounds of blind heaven are pretty awful as just a part of the world the PCs have to deal with, but i think the hounds could make for pretty great ultimate villains in a campaign. i feel there's a lot of ways you could take them.

like, maybe the hounds are manifestations of the first god to ascend beyond the material, and he keeps most of society primitive in order to prevent other gods from achieving his position, and the non-hunter-gatherer societies are the ones who helped him ascend to that position (though they might not know it), so he lets them break the taboos. or maybe the hounds aren't supernatural at all - maybe the non-hunter-gatherer societies massively exploit the rest of the valley, and they fear that if the tribes grew out of hunter-gathering, that they might not be able to do so, and so they collectively formed the hounds to essentially oppress the rest of the valley.

i haven't read the book so maybe some of the details of those non-hunter-gatherer societies would make these examples not make sense, but still, the hounds could have a LOT of potential if you take them beyond just "welp, they're part of the world, and you have to deal with it".
 

i think the black taboos/hounds of blind heaven are pretty awful as just a part of the world the PCs have to deal with, but i think the hounds could make for pretty great ultimate villains in a campaign. i feel there's a lot of ways you could take them.

like, maybe the hounds are manifestations of the first god to ascend beyond the material, and he keeps most of society primitive in order to prevent other gods from achieving his position, and the non-hunter-gatherer societies are the ones who helped him ascend to that position (though they might not know it), so he lets them break the taboos. or maybe the hounds aren't supernatural at all - maybe the non-hunter-gatherer societies massively exploit the rest of the valley, and they fear that if the tribes grew out of hunter-gathering, that they might not be able to do so, and so they collectively formed the hounds to essentially oppress the rest of the valley.

i haven't read the book so maybe some of the details of those non-hunter-gatherer societies would make these examples not make sense, but still, the hounds could have a LOT of potential if you take them beyond just "welp, they're part of the world, and you have to deal with it".
From what I recall, the book encourages the dm to not actively use the hounds and to leave them nebulous.
 

Libertad

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Chapter 4: Kinships

This chapter covers the major races of Planegea, albeit they are known as kinships instead of races. Most societies don’t treat species and cultures as being inherently linked, prioritizing banding together for survival. Many clans are made up of different peoples who are willing to work, and while there are cases of groups being primarily made up of the same kinship this is more due to common ethos as opposed to active exclusion. But the book does make exceptions to this generality with some of the races, like with the halflings and saurians.

All of the base races exist in Planegea, albeit many are different from their medieval counterparts in reflecting a more primordial nature closer to that of their creation myths. There’s a sidebar mentioning that other races have a place in the world, such as the tabaxi and tortles (not named as such due to the OGL), but it’s up to the DM to fill in the details.

The dwarves are still freshly hewn from stone and look like they literally sprung up from the ground. For example, their hair might contain gems and minerals, their skin may be covered in scale-like patterns of pebbles, or their entire form may be a prickly layer of rocky spines. They have an obsessive need to build, which they channel into creating various structures across the land. However, they do not inhabit such buildings once finished, instead moving on to the next project. This causes Planegea to be filled with quite a number of abandoned dwarven structures. Additionally, dwarves do not yet have an enmity with giants. On the contrary, the Giant Empires are eager to welcome them into their lands in order to take advantage of their artisanship. A little too eager, some fear. The hill dwarf subrace are Hewn Dwarves, the generation that has been born naturally and not carved from the land’s foundations.

The homeland of the Elves is in the dreamworld of Nod, and their minds and bodies reflect this. They are given to flights of fancy, contemplating things unseen by others, and they do not sleep nor dream for they are never truly away from Nod in spirit. The various elven subraces reflect the dreamlike environments from which they came forth, such as the sea for aquatic elves. The high elves were a clan exiled from Nod for a terrible crime or sin, with only the oldest of the exiles knowing why but such knowledge isn’t shared with others.

Halflings are quiet people who prize discretion in all things. Their small forms make them seem easy prey to all manner of creatures, so they learned the arts of camouflage, stealth, sign language, and other ways of overcoming dangers. Their clans are the most likely to be single-kinship in demographics, where much of the day is spent in close to complete silence. But in times of safety, where they know there is no danger close by, there are few who laugh louder and party harder, knowing how rare such times can be. Lightfoot halflings are known as Quietkin and are more or less the default, but other subraces are known as Walkaway Halflings who disagreed with their quiet lives and went to live among other kinships.

Humans have remarkable adaptability and the willingness to live in all kinds of lands as in other settings, but that’s not the only thing that they have going for them. They have a specific niche in Planegea in being the race best-skilled in domesticating beasts of all kinds. In fact, they have an optional racial trait where they have double proficiency to Animal Handling checks when interacting with undomesticated beasts. This is added to and doesn’t replace any human racial features.

Dragonborn originated in the Venom Abyss, coming up the skybound waterfalls into the Great Valley via bamboo rafts. Claiming to be descended from hatchlings of the Worldheart Dragon, they consider themselves kin to true dragons and act as emissaries of the Worldheart’s will to the rest of Planegea. Most don’t intend on returning to their ancestral homelands, instead forming new societies elsewhere or joining other kinships. Dragonborn work hard and play hard, placing great emphasis on hunts leading to celebratory feasts and constant games of one-upmanship. They are a new arrival to Planegea, as the first ones who came up from the Venom Abyss are just now dying of old age. As Planegea doesn’t have metal, the metallic dragonborn subraces aren’t present.

Tieflings in Planegea are known as Godmarked, and have a variety of origins but all of which involve the touch of the divine in some fashion. Their physical appearances vary widely due to this, but tie into the god who influenced their heritage in some way. Unlike in typical D&D settings, tieflings aren’t necessarily distrusted for being viewed as “devilkin.” Their features still set them apart from other kinships, and societies’ reaction to them can vary depending upon their relationship with particular gods. That being said, there is a stereotype that godmarked have an ear to the divine, and are often petitioned for or trained in ways on how to please or avoid angering the gods.

Gnomes are considered some of the most brave and innovative kinships in Planegea. Their consummate curiosity on the world and its mysteries means that most of them discovered various means of distracting predators and enemies, and found various ways to make camp in places others regard as impossible or impractical in which to live. Such as huts dangling from the branches of incredibly tall trees or within the caverns of an active volcano. More than a few gnomish communities have been unexpected safe havens for travelers, filled with wondrous inventions and art. Rock gnomes are called Startle Gnomes and have variant subrace abilities: their double proficiency bonus is added to knowledge about alchemical objects, magic items, and stars, they gain proficiency in one set of artisan’s tools rather than tinker’s tools, and their three devices are reflavored to be less clockwork such as a jar that plays a single song when opened. Other gnomish subraces reflect different groups who found their own means of surviving in Planegea.

Half-elves are children of both human and elven parents, and are usually called Twilight Children to reflect this. The features of both races combine in rather unusual ways, such as a commonality of blue skin tones despite the fact that this isn’t a universal color for humans and elves. Humans and elves can raise families together for all sorts of reasons, so half-elves aren’t necessarily raised solely among one kinship group although it can happen. Some half-elves can change their appearance to be entirely elf or human at will, and are known as Blood Dancers. This replaces a half-elf’s Skill Versatility with a more limited kind of shapechanging they can do as a bonus action. Not worth the trade-off, if you ask me.

Orcs in Planegea use half-orc stats, albeit literal half-orcs still exist as they can have children with humans. Like in standard D&D settings, orcs are known as martial people who have earned names for themselves as hunters and conquerors. They view survival as a glorious struggle, and poetry is a commonly taught skill as orcs are expected to recount their deeds to others in inspiring ways. While they honor various gods like most other cultures, within the last few generations a growing movement has questioned the need to pay heed to the gods. This has taken various forms: some orc clans merely choose not to honor the gods and instead prove themselves by their own deeds without the powers of shamans, some are irreligious yet open to accepting a god who proves themselves worthy of worship, and some take a more antagonistic role and view the gods as competitors who must be fought and vanquished. Orcs who use the orc stats from a sourcebook that can’t be named in the OGL are known as the Doomed. These orcs consumed foul beings who tainted them with murderous, violent urges, making them more and more like the orcs we all know and love to hate.

Thoughts: I like how Planegea gives unique spins on existing races while also drawing from their basic tropes. Like how elves don’t need to sleep due to the ties to their dream-homes, or the dwarf-giant enmity having not occurred but is heavily implied to be in the works, or the eventual corruption of orcs from eating fell creatures. I particularly like the idea of making humans have a knack for rearing animals, given that it’s a good explanation for one possible reason for their eventual prominence in most DnD settings. The use of animal labor has been a great boon to the formation of agricultural societies, and remained an important facet for most of human history since then.

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But Planegea doesn’t just retread semi-familiar ground, for this setting has four new Planegean Kinships! All of these kinships have a base walking speed of 30 feet and use the variant ability score assignments from Tasha’s: +2 to one ability and +1 to another, as well as assignment of bonus language of choice. Variant features are given in sidebars, being more restricted forms for gaming groups who prefer all of their elves to be at least a bit dextrous and their dwarves to be sturdy.

Dreas are people who were once trees that chose to leave the forests and used magic to take on more humanoid shapes. They look quite similar to dryads and other “tree people,” such as moss and leaves substituting for hair or green or bark-like skin, albeit various Dreas can differ widely on the “plant-to-humanoid” scale of things. They are still getting used to the ways of non-plant kinships, trying to prove themselves to various clans of their value but often finding themselves held at arm’s length due to a mixture of misunderstandings and general fear of the unknown. They still have ties to the trees, often acting as mediators between clans and the forests.

For mechanics they are Medium size, have 60 foot darkvision, are plant type instead of humanoid, cannot eat solid food and instead feed on 1 hour of sunlight per day to avoid starvation. They begin play knowing the Druidcraft cantrip and learn and can cast Speak with Plants and Charm Person once per day each at 3rd level. Once per long rest they can enter a living tree and spend 5 feet of movement to teleport and exit another tree within 500 feet.

Thoughts: Being plant instead of humanoid is a nice feature as it makes them immune to a few humanoid-specific spells and effects, and needing only to eat sunlight is good for DMs who place heavy emphasis on rations and wilderness survival by having one less PC to worry about feeding. Their bonus spells are rather situational, as is their tree teleportation. Due to this, they are an okay race; not exactly a surefire choice for any particular build, and whose attractiveness in mechanics is dependent on what terrain takes prominence in the campaign.

Half-Ooze are not born in the typical way, instead being what happens when an ooze enters the body of a humanoid. The original humanoid dies, and the ooze partially absorbs its personality and memories by inhabiting their body which becomes more elastic and noodly. Half-oozes are capable of speech and higher thought, but they universally have a feeling of perpetual hunger that drives them to live in the moment and do what they can to eat and survive. Due to this they aren’t a universally accepted people, often finding themselves joining groups of the desperate, the outcast, and the violent. The originating ooze is known as an ooze sire, and the host body is known as an ooze dam. They reproduce when a half-ooze dies, where 1d4 ooze sires emerge from the corpse to seek out hosts.

In terms of mechanics they are either Small or Medium depending on their host but can fit in spaces sized for Tiny creatures, need twice as much food as Medium humanoids, and suffer 1 level of exhaustion for each day they go without eating. As an action they can extend either their arms or limbs and retract them to default as a bonus action. Both effects reduce their AC by 1 but extended legs increase their walking speed by 10 feet and extended arms grant any melee weapons they have the reach property. They also have their choice of one skill proficiency, one weapon proficiency, or two tool proficiencies based on their host’s former life.

Finally, Half-oozes can choose from one of 3 subraces based on the species of ooze sire. Acidic lets them deal acid damage equal to their character level to attackers in melee as a reaction once per short or long rest, gain resistance to acid damage, and are immune to ingested poisons from food or drink; Magical grants one cantrip from the wizard class, using their Intelligence for casting it, and proficiency in Arcana; Sticky lets them climb without costing extra movement and grants proficiency in Sleight of Hand.

Thoughts:Half-oozes’ base features are going to make them attractive choices for builds relying on fast movement and reach-based attacks. Needing twice as much food to eat is going to be a penalty in a setting like Planegea unless someone has access to Goodberry. As for the subraces, Magical feels underwhelming, while Acidic and Sticky feel more useful for a variety of builds and situations.

Saurians are humanoids with dinosauric features. They are the oldest kinships and tend to have a rather arrogant view of the “soft-skinned, hairier” peoples who came into the world relatively recently. They have four distinct lineages who tend to keep to themselves and not mix among each other, and their more limited facial muscles means they primarily express emotions via changing the colors of their scales. Such colors differ depending on the lineage. All four lineages lay eggs, and eggs are kept in a communal nest who are raised collectively upon hatching by the community. Saurians have an innate ability to tap into the memories of their ancestors to a limited extent, summoning the spirits of the dead to impart their knowledge. Many saurians encourage individuals to wander the world so that they may learn as much of it as possible in order to add to this genealogical knowledge base. They don’t keep such findings to themselves, and more than a few saurian burial grounds have spirits who are willing to impart what they know to other families and kinships…provided that inquiring minds know how to contact them.

In terms of mechanics Saurians are Medium and their ancestral memory takes the form of spells. They begin play with the Sense Whispers cantrip detailed later in this book (detect the presence of friendly undead) and can cast Bless and Augury once per long rest each at 3rd and 5th level. They have four distinct subraces: leatherwings are descended from pterosaurs, gaining a fly speed of 45 feed that requires both arms but they can grapple targets of Medium size or smaller with their talons when flying, and count as one size category larger for carrying capacity while flying provided they have at least half the weight carried by their talons; Hammertails are descended from ankylosaurs and gain +1 AC and have a tail unarmed strike that has a 10 foot reach and deals 1d4 + Strength modifier bludgeoning damage; Sharpfangs are descended from carnosaurs and gain +10 speed and double their jumping distance when they Dash, and their unarmed strikes can include claws that deal 1d4 + Strength modifier in slashing damage; Webfeet are descended from various aquatic dinosaurs, gaining darkvision of 60 feet, swim speed of 30 feet, can breath air and water alike but need to breathe air at least once every 4 hours to avoid suffocating, and as an action they can make a trumpeting blast that can be heard from a mile away and counts as a musical instrument with which they are proficient.

Thoughts: Bless is a pretty good spell in general, with Augury and the cantrip being a lot more situational. As for the subraces, leatherwing wins out as a fly speed is good for just about anyone. Hammertails are quite nice as +1 AC goes a long way for just about any build, albeit the Sharpfangs are only really good for Monks and Rogues who don’t have to give up their main Action for a Dash. The Webfoot, like most aquatic races, is very situational on whether or not the campaign is located next to any large bodies of water.

Starlings are our final new race, being literal stars who fell to the earthbound realms from the night sky. This most commonly happens during the Dawn Duel, when they try to knock each other into the Sea of Stars with the one remaining aloft claiming the right to be tomorrow’s Day-Star. Most starlings fall into the Sea of Stars, but a rare few fall into the rest of Planegea. Most starlings view places such as the Great Valley as alien, frightening realms, and are too few in number to have distinct communities and cultures in these places. Many embarked on journeys to find ways of returning to the night sky, but not a single one has yet to succeed and all who tried have since given up hope. Starlings tend to either live lives of isolation, while others join clans to find safety in numbers. And a rare few are charlatans, using their beatific nature and origins to masquerade as gods and build their own religious followings.

In terms of mechanics they are Medium size, shed natural light in a single color chosen at character creation, add double proficiency to Performance checks for dancing, don’t need to sleep for 8 hours if they have a view of the night sky and remain aware of their surroundings, have advantage on their next Arcana or Nature check for checks related to weather and celestial bodies when spending a long rest in such a manner, can spend an action to try and blind a touched creature until the end of the starling’s next turn should they fail a Constitution save, and by spending 10 feet of movement and a bonus action can briefly become incorporeal and pass through creatures and objects, taking 1d10 force damage and forcefully pushed out if they end their movement in a solid object. The last 2 abilities can only be used once and require a short or long rest in order to use again.

Thoughts: The short-duration ability to phase through objects is incredibly useful for all manner of situations, albeit costing movement just to activate and being one-use prevents them from using it to scout ahead too much. As for the blinding attack ability, it imposes a powerful condition but really depends on what they’re giving up for their main Action and if other characters can immediately take advantage of it like a Rogue with Sneak Attack. The advantage on Arcana/Nature checks may sound situational, but due to the new rules for gaining blessings and knowledge from the stars using these very skills in the prior chapter, this makes starlings quite useful in gaining minor bonuses and GM Fiat-based general information. The former still doesn’t hold a candle to Guidance, however, although it can stack for when a starling absolutely has to get a passable roll.

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Chapter 5: Classes

Each of the core PHB classes have representation in Planegea, albeit all of them have setting-specific reflavoring to be more appropriate in a Prehistoric Fantasy era than a Medieval one.

Ascetics are renamed monks, representing those who willingly forgo sustenance so that the rest of their social group can partake of their share. They learn to channel this self-denial into a strength, gaining enhanced physical and spiritual conditioning by pressing themselves to the limit. Sometimes these self-imposed limitations can take other forms, such as wearing a blindfold for a year or finding ways to sleep while standing.

The Way of Abnegation is a new subclass representing those who deny themselves physically in multiple ways to attain new powers. At 3rd level they get Ward Blows which is basically Deflect Missiles but for melee weapon attacks and can make a melee counterattack by spending a ki point, and Abstention lets them subsist on half the normal amount of food and water and reduces their Exhaustion Level by an additional 1 whenever they complete a long rest. At 6th level they gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage until the end of their next turn whenever they take the Dodge action. At 11th level they gain more powerful uses of earlier class features, such as being able to spend a reaction to intercept an attack for an adjacent ally and use Deflect Missiles or Ward Blows as part of that same reaction, and make attack rolls from these counterattack abilities with advantage. At 17th level they can make the Dodge action for free whenever they spend a bonus action to make one or more unarmed strikes.

Thoughts: This subclass makes the Monk a lot tankier when they get up close and personal in combat by reducing the damage of melee and physical damage in general. Once again we see rules pointing to food/sustenance tracking, which is useful in Planegea but may be more situational in other campaigns. Or again, if the party has access to Goodberry. The subclass’ major weakness is that it doesn’t have a lot of out of combat or mobility options like the Way of Shadow, and it doesn’t have useful directly offensive abilities like Open Hand. When facing off against foes who primarily deal physical damage types or where the monk can occupy one foe’s attention, Way of Abnegation is a pretty good subclass. But outside of these circumstances they suffer a bit in comparison to more broader ones like Astral Self.

Barbarians are a common discipline in Planegea, of those who find a way to take into their inner rage to better survive in a dangerous world. There are a variety of ways in which such rages are channeled, such as sheer mental discipline or holding themselves to moral codes, and typically find prominent roles in clans as lead hunters or raiders due to their power.

The Path of the Farstriker is a new subclass focusing on thrown attacks, and this may come from a variety of sources such as giant heritage or growing up in a region where the boundaries between magic and the natural world are mutable. At 3rd level they can treat any melee weapon as having the Thrown property with a range of 20/60 feet, double the range if a weapon already has said property. They can draw and throw a weapon as part of the same action, add Rage Damage to ranged weapon attacks (not just thrown ones) and apply the Brutal Critical to ranged weapons as well as melee ones. Also at 3rd level while raging they can throw a creature no more than one size larger than themselves* up to 30 feet away once per turn instead of making a weapon attack. Unwilling creatures must succeed on a Strength save to avoid this, and take 1d6 + Strength modifier + Rage damage and also fall prone should they fail. Friendly creatures thrown take no damage, instead able to make a melee attack as a reaction. At 6th level they can Dash as a bonus action and double their jump distance whenever they throw a weapon or hurl a creature while raging. At 10th level they can choose for any weapon thrown to boomerang back into their hand, and at 14th level they can channel the power of the wind into a thrown weapon attack. This last feature is an AoE line attack that deals the thrown weapon damage to all caught in its path, and those who fail a Dexterity save by 5 or more suffer the effects of a Brutal Critical.

*2 sizes at 11th and any size at 17th.

Thoughts: One of the Barbarian class’ weaknesses is that they’re built first and foremost for melee, and if they can’t damage an opponent their rage ends early. Therefore, foes that can fly or are speedy enough can easily get out of reach of a Barbarian. The Farstriker solves this weakness by making them good with thrown weapons and grants a situational bonus action Dash, and gives them some battlefield control with a special hurling ability. The reaction-based melee attack for hurled allies is a good combo for certain builds, such as a Rogue whose Sneak Attack can trigger a second time per round if they’re attacking with advantage. Overall a pretty good subclass IMO.

Bards are known as Chanters in Planegea, those who use songs to shape the world around them with magical powers. It is said that chanters use the power of song to bring to mind possible realities and timelines, showing people possible futures through storytelling. Chanters are simultaneously loved and feared for this as they hold in their hands the destiny of their clans, so they have great pressure to use their powers for good. Those who stray from honorable paths find it all too easy to earn the enmity of former friends. Bardic Colleges are instead known as Traditions, reflections of how chanters exchange knowledge of techniques in bringing about new stories into the world.

One might think that Druids would be a beloved class in Planegea, but this is not the case. Divine power is not an endless bountiful resource, as is evidenced by how many gods fight each other over their hallows and territory. While shamans gain divine power from gods as part of a willful pledge of service and paladins gain it in a similar manner, druids instead opt to steal such power from the gods. Some druids are simply opportunistic thieves who want the benefits of the divine without the sacrifice of service, while others view themselves as sort of magical Robin Hoods returning magic back to the natural world that the gods so greedily hoard. As so many clans make use of gods and shamans, druids are driven into exile if not slain outright, forced to band together and come up with their own secret language to communicate with each other. Druidic has no written form, instead being transmitted through irregularities in the natural world such as specific arrangements of leaves and stones or branches bent in certain ways. Orcs are the most likely of the kinships to accept druids in their society, given the growing trends of anti-theism and secularism among some orcish clans.

The Fighter is a straightforward and universally-understood path in Planegea. They may take the forms of warriors who train themselves to fight enemies of the clan, or hunters who would much rather use their talents to fell beasts for sustenance. Many can find themselves fulfilling both roles based on the needs of the community.

Planegean Paladins are known as Guardians, those who swear an oath with a god as a witness to uphold an ideal or accomplish a great goal. While their powers come from gods, unlike shamans their origin comes from commitments of such forceful will that the gods themselves have no choice but to grant them such power. Guardians commonly have prominent positions in clans, from outright leaders to advisors, bodyguards of shamans, or even travelers who venture into unknown territories as part of their oath’s fulfillment. Many clans seek to train those in the path of the Guardian from young ages, although many Guardians find their calling well into adulthood from all manner of circumstances.

Rangers are those who have an innate gift for magic tied to nature, which unlike the learned ways of druids subconsciously draws power from the gods rather than deliberately. As their powers usually aren’t as great in magnitude as druids, clans and gods alike have a more varied reaction to them: some treat them like druids and kill or exile them, while others allow them to exist if they can use their talents in serving the interest of god and clan.

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Scavengers are reflavored Rogues, representing those who rely on stealth to take from others, often waiting for an individual or group to show weakness in order to swoop in and claim a prize or kill. While the need to survive is a universal concept in Planegea, they are vilified by clans for flouting social conventions and “honorable” behavior in order to gain any advantage. But there is an honor of sorts among thieves: an informal group known as the Scavengers’ Vow has crept its influence across the clans of Planegea, creating a secret language known as the Code whose non-verbal form is rudimentary enough to avoid the wrath of the Hounds of Blind Heaven yet still terrifies those for being close enough to the Black Taboo. The Scavengers’ Vow is said to have a leader known as the Rat King, who in exchange for being part of a greater community of outcasts demands a tithing of scavenged goods to be left at predesignated locations.

Shamans are the Clerics of Planegea, the middlemen between gods and mortals. While they can owe allegiance to more than one god, most have a single deity they pay the most attention and reverence, and it’s not uncommon for shamans of clans that migrate to have a revolving set of patron deities based on where they currently camp. Most clans place shamans in prominent leadership positions, often serving alongside or in place of a chieftain, and larger clans may have multiple shamans who have their own hierarchies.

Sorcerers are the most common type of arcane spellcasters in Planegea, their powers arising from primordial magic infusing mortals. As sorcerous powers are usually imbued rather than consciously attained, they often need to work hardest to prove themselves to their clans. Chanters, shamans, and spellskins are commonly apprenticed, while guardians represent a level of trust and respect from the gods. A sorcerer can arise from anyone, and so they are judged based on how they use their powers in the furtherance of their clan. Planegean sorcerers are allowed an optional class feature at 1st level, where they can use a free hand to cast material components as if they were holding an arcane focus. This represents the fact that their own bodies are effectively arcane foci given their inborn power.

Dream Sorcery is a new subclass representing sorcerers who draw on unconscious minds to bring dreams and nightmares into reality. Their bonus spells are strongly geared towards enchantment and illusion such as Calm Emotions, Major Image, and Confusion. Each time they end a long rest they can choose a number of allies they can see equal to their Charisma modifier to gain a random benefit from a d8 table representing a shared dream, such as adding double the sorcerer’s proficiency bonus to a damage roll. Such a benefit can be used one to three times per character based on the Sorcerer’s class level. At 6th level the Sorcerer can roll twice on the table and choose which applies (same number lets them choose from any on the table), and they can expend a sorcery point to grant a character another use of an expended dream benefit, and as part of a long rest the sorcerer can communicate with a creature on the same plane via Dream but cannot appear monstrous so they cannot damage creatures in such a way. At 14th level the sorcerer can teleport up to 30 feet to a place they can see once per turn, spending that same amount of movement from their movement speed. At 18th level they can spend an action to cast the Simulacrum spell, which only lasts for an hour, can only cast spells of up to 5th level, can use any metamagic known without spending sorcery points, and can take on any appearance but can’t be more than one size category larger than the sorcerer. This Simulacrum can only be used once per long rest unless 10 sorcery points are spent. The text also notes that a simulacrum dream sorcerer cannot use this class feature, which basically closes a loophole in the rules of simulacrums using spell slots to “clone” themselves.

Thoughts: A lot of the Dream Sorcery spells are Concentration, which prevents the Sorcerer from making full use of them at any one time. While random, the bonuses to rolls for party members from the shared dream are broad enough in usefulness to not feel like total waste, so you shouldn’t have cases where only narrow roles such as Rogues or arcane casters will appreciate some but not others. The long-range dream communication is more situational, and the at-will short-range teleportation and Simulacrum can be very powerful but kick in at levels most campaigns won’t see.

Spellskins are reflavored wizards who create artistics patterns from observation of stars and living creatures. Once they gain understanding of a creature’s shape and magic, they fasten a likeness onto their own body as a tattoo. As a body can only hold so many tattoos, spellskins rely on cave paintings in a secure place to scribe such designs that their own forms cannot physically hold. Spellskins by their nature tread close to violating the Black Taboo of writing, and there is many a tale of spellskins who courted the Hounds’ attention, leaving their magical caverns and canyons unattended and ripe for the taking…should their magical defenses and guardians be overcome. Spellskins are regarded by clans as a necessary evil at best, if not outright exiled. Most spellskin paintings are banned from being made within sight of the clanfire, causing most of them to spend much of their days in isolated sanctums and gatherings of the like-minded.

Instead of spellbooks, Spellskins require a 10 foot square of space per spell level on which to paint or carve. Mana tattoos are shorthands for such spells placed on their bodies by working as a memory aid, so in order to learn another spellskin’s magic one needs to find their full artwork. Spellskins who do this can copy one spell over 2 hours and suffer .5 levels of exhaustion (rounded up) per level of the spell upon completion.

Warlocks represent those who enter into pacts with entities other than gods whose powers and nature aren’t yet well known in Planegea. The only thing that warlocks have in common is that they are often socially adept given the force of will and cunning of the tongue to derive their powers from such entities. And also the fact that their magic comes from…elsewhere, be it an Archfey of Nod or some unknowable entity from beyond the stars. In a way, warlocks and shamans often understand each other, as fellow mere mortals who petitioned a higher power for magic. Pact of the Tome and Book of Ancient secrets are reflavored as patterned scarring.

The Dark Forest is a new patron subclass, representing some malevolent entity existing deep within a forest who is hostile to mortals but has decided on a temporary alliance with the warlock. While the Dark Forest is a broadly-named patron, in the context of the Planegea setting it is Duru, one of the major villains detailed later in this book. The expanded spells have a common plant theme such as Entangle, Barkskin, and Tree Stride. Their 1st level features include the ability to have moss grow over the wounds of a target struck by an attack roll for 1 minute a number of times equal to their proficiency bonus per long rest. As a bonus action the warlock can make the moss bloom, dealing 1d6 necrotic damage to the target and creatures within 10 feet if they fail Dexterity saves. The other 1st level feature lets them cover a slain foe in plant growth and the corpse transforms into a larger tree in one minute. The warlock can choose to bind a number of such trees up to their proficiency bonus: the trees are friendly to them and the warlock can speak telepathically and project their senses through such trees (which allow for free uses of detecting poison, disease, and magic) provided they’re on the same plane of existence. And since there’s technically only one plane of existence in Planegea, this last part isn’t much of a limitation! At 6th level a warlock effectively gains the AC bonus of barkskin permanently and has advantage on checks and saves vs movement-based conditions and effects. At 10th level their moss bloom attacks can also reduce a marked creature’s speed to 0, and at 14th level once per long rest they can cause a number of ghostly trees equal to their proficiency bonus to spring forth from the ground, dealing damage and causing forced movement on those above them when they erupt, and they also impose selective difficult terrain and concealment that don’t affect the warlock and designated allies.

Dark Forest warlocks gain 4 new Eldritch Invocations: Duru’s Gift lets them not have to subsist on food provided they are exposed to sunlight for at least an hour; Eldritch Lash grants them Thorn Whip as a cantrip, and they can add their Charisma bonus to damage and reduce the speed of a struck target by 10 feet; Entangling Rebuke lets them spend a reaction to deal bludgeoning damage and restrain a creature within 60 feet who just damaged the warlock once per short rest; and Form of the Forest lets them transform creatures into plants as well as beasts whenever they cast Polymorph.

Thoughts: This subclass’ expanded spell options are a useful variety of battlefield control. Entangle is one of the druid’s best low level spells, and granting it to a warlock who can recharge it on short rests is a very attractive option. The bonus action damaging bloom can stack nicely with Hex: the class feature can automatically apply on a successful attack roll with no action and Hex costs a bonus action, while activating the moss costs a bonus action and the Hex’s subsequent damage rolls apply automatically. Turning corpses into trees you can sense through and communicate with is very situational, but the 6th level AC boost is really nice as most warlocks won’t have 16 AC barring good Dexterity and studded leather. The 14th level’s selective difficult terrain and cover is downright amazing. With good features at just about every level, this is a great patron. Sadly the unique invocations aren’t so great: the sunlight sustenance doesn’t feel worth picking over invocations like False Life, and Eldritch Lash acts against type by bringing enemies closer in melee to warlocks with their squishy d6 Hit Die. And since it’s cast as an action, a Hexblade is giving up attacking with their pact weapon to cast it. The entangling counterattack is nice use of reaction, and makes it the best of the new invocations.

As for adding the plant type to Polymorph, there aren’t a lot of worthy options barring two really good ones. A shambling mound is slower and less damaging than a brontosaurus (both CR 5) although its ability to heal from lightning damage can make it a sturdy long-time form if someone has Shocking Grasp or Lightning Lure to heal it; a Tree Blight is much more fragile than a Giant Ape (both CR 7) in terms of hit points even if its AC is better and it doesn’t have a thrown rock attack; a Treant (CR 9) is less damaging than a T-Rex (CR 8) but its ability to animate trees may be a nice means of adding more allies to the battlefield. The Bodytaker Plant (CR 7) may seem initially useful in minion creatures it can see through, but the process to create podlings is too slow and the spell’s duration will run out by then. The yggdrasti (CR 7) strikes me as a great option, given its fly speed and ability to hold creatures in its cavities can be useful for letting allied archers and spellcasters have a flying mount to which they can take cover from enemy attacks. A character with Shocking Grasp or Lightning Lure can use it on the plant to use a longer-range and more damaging lightning blast attack. The other abusable option I can see with this is Polymorphing into a Corpse Flower (CR 8) and using its ability to quickly create zombies whose only limit is the amount of corpses to which the party has access.

Thoughts So Far: I love the flavor and reimaginings of common races and classes to better fit in the world of Planegea, sacrificing little other than some era-specific flavor to work in Prehistoric Fantasy. I am a bit iffy on making druids widely vilified; while they aren’t the most popular class, it sort of puts gaming groups in a dilemma in a manner similar to a token evil PC or a career criminal Rogue with a Lawful Good “tough on crime” Paladin in the same party. As for spellskins, the trading in of spellbooks for a stationary form makes them a less attractive option for more mobile parties vs ones who are mainly confined to one location. The new subclasses all seem strong but the Dark Forest Warlock is a clear winner. As for the new races, I feel that they aren’t as well-balanced: the Dreas could’ve used more broadly useful features, and the half-ooze and saurian subraces aren’t balanced among themselves.

Join us next time as we cover the rest of the Player’s Section with the Chapters for Backgrounds, Equipment & Trade, and Spells!
 

Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 6: Backgrounds

I’m not sure why the backgrounds chapter has someone conducting a magical ritual in the shadow of a kaiju deer or goat, but the artwork’s cool enough that I’ll take it.

While most 5e backgrounds can work in Planegea with some minor changes in terms of starting equipment and tool proficiencies, we get 20 new ones fitting a more prehistoric setting. Thirteen of them are related to some kind of trade or general background, while seven indicate a character coming from a certain clan or settlement: for the latter, four of them cover the three major Clans of the Great Valley plus the Whale Clan, while the other three focus on the setting’s largest settlements of Edgegather, Free Citadel, and Seerfall. I found this last part a bit confusing: if a PC wants to be part of the Lion Clan but also a Crafter, are those mutually exclusive? I presume not, but the way the text for the settlements and clans are worded indicates otherwise.

Much like their standard versions, all of the new backgrounds are “balanced” in giving out two skill proficiencies, a variety of cheap equipment, either a total of two language and/or tool proficiencies, and a unique Feature. There is one exception with the Caretaker, a background for someone skilled in looking after children or the elderly and infirm as a variant; said background grants three tool proficiencies, albeit the text contradicts itself by giving out 2 in the background table (Cook’s Utensils and Mender’s Tools) but later on the entry itself also adds in one Gaming Set.

Naturally some backgrounds are more attractive than others either in giving out useful skills or Features that have explicit benefits rather than generic “your character has a cool NPC mentor or is well-liked in a particular area.” These include Captive (represents someone who was kidnapped as a hostage and/or slave) which grants proficiency in Perception and Stealth; Gatherer (find food in the wild’s that doesn’t involve hunting) has a Feature where you can forage double the normal amount of food and can automatically notice objects within your line of sight if you are familiar with said objects in the past or had them described in detail; Hunter’s feature grants contacts that let you learn general information about an area ranging from common animal life, weather patterns, geographical features, and environmental dangers; Keeper of Beasts lets causes beasts you approach in a non-aggressive fashion to earn that creature’s trust as its first instinct, but other factors can mitigate this; Outcast gets proficiency in Stealth and Survival, and its Feature lets you build concealable shelters that can protect inhabitants from weather conditions that are sized for one by default but can grow room with time and materials.

One of the backgrounds has a Feature that I honestly can’t see coming up all that often in Planegea: Edgegatherer represents an inhabitant of Edgegather, the troperific “lawless city” settlement of Planegea. The Feature makes it so that the PC knows their way around large settlements, being able to easily maneuver through crowds and find particular establishments in cities (taverns, resting places, ruler’s dwellings) easily. They can quickly get a contact in newly encountered cities and large settlements who can give broad knowledge about the area.

While this background includes “large settlement” in addition to the more explicit definition of a “city,” Planegea isn’t exactly brimming with large population centers. Edgegather, Free Citadel, and Seerfall are the closest, with the rest being territories of the Giant Empires which are pretty dangerous places for PC races to visit. Of course, it can be handy for campaigns centering in such areas, but it’s a lot more situational and won’t come up that often.

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Chapter 7: Equipment & Trade

This short chapter has a smattering of new gear, but much of its page space is dedicated towards reflavoring existing technology. Planegea’s lack of mass industry and fiat currency means that crafted items are more likely to have sentimental value, with weapons and armor in particular prone to being given names in line with the deeds of their wielders. Metals of all kinds do not exist, so material that would ordinarily be used is given a variety of alternative sources. We get tables for converting currencies, metal types, and even common gear. There’s even a table in back for reflavoring artisan’s tools to be more Stone Age, along with 3 new types: ceremonial supplies for divine rituals, butcher’s tools for harvesting animal parts, and gatherer’s supplies for foraging in the wilds.

Regarding weapons and armor, material is much more versatile than they would be in most medieval fantasy settings. For example, a shield could be the shell of a large turtle or similar creature, or made out of stone-lined wood taken from a petrified forest. Stone, bone, antler, and wood are common metallic substitutes, while more exotic metals have specific replacements like polished wood replacing silver or adamantine replaced with divine ivory taken from the corpse of a god. Even heavier armor types like chainmail and plate armor can exist albeit reflavored: chainmail can be made from interlocking pieces of bone, antler, or shell; splint armor may be made from wood or chitin, tusks, and other curvy hard body parts taken from monsters and animals; and plate armor might be made of stone and/or dense bones and natural plating of thick-skinned monsters. Swords tend to not be giant knives so much as clubs and blunt weapons studded with lots of smaller sharp objects such as teeth, obsidian, and/or knapped stone.

The book is still nice enough to give us tables of Stone Age Armor and Weapons, with the armor being pretty much identical to the PHB but renamed in places, but the weapons include some new entries. The more notable weapons include antlerclaws which are basically daggers that do slashing damage and can’t be thrown, hammerstones which are basically stone spheres that are treated as two-handed heavy weapons which can be thrown, the saw which is also two-handed and heavy but deals 1d6 piercing and 1d6 slashing damage, and bolas which are thrown weapons that have a pretty poor range (10/30 feet) but can automatically restrain Large and smaller creatures it hits. It also does damage unlike nets, which it has going for it. Boomerangs are the other thrown weapon, having the range of javelins at 30/120 feet but deal a respectable 1d8 bludgeoning damage and can return to the thrower’s hand at the end of their turn if they miss with the attack.

Some weapons feel underpowered in comparison to existing PHB ones. The clubsword deals 1d8 bludgeoning and has the Versatile property where it deals 1d10 slashing. So like a warhammer but with 2 possible damage types, right? Well, it costs prohibitively more, being the equivalent of 50 gold whereas a warhammer is 15. Similarly, a warclub deals 1d12 bludgeoning and costs the same amount as a maul, but as the maul is 2d6 it has a better floor of minimal damage and more consistent bell curve of average damage, not to mention works better with Great Weapon Fighting rerolls.

Moving on to gear that isn’t explicitly for killing and resisting being killed, technology that would’ve been advanced even in a medieval setting is reflavored as magic items. For example, a spyglass becomes a wood or bone hoop enchanted to “zoom in” when one views things through it. As coins and other fiat currency don’t exist in Planegea, barter is the dominant means of economic resolution. As the writers realized many gamers may not want to role-play out every little trade, they came up with a gold piece equivalent: salt portion, or ps for short. A salt portion represents a coin-sized portion of salt, and is more of an abstraction given that salt’s value can be different based on its rarity in regions. It can thus represent various knick-knacks a character has on their person ranging from spare food and tools, handcrafted goods, and hours’ worth of everyday labor and chores. The book also provides a new form of reputation-based currency in the form of names and scars. PCs who commit deeds of note can find their reputation preceding them, which can take the form of “salt portions” from completing quests. Scars are also signs of someone who overcame a dangerous foe, telling people at first glance their possible “worth” in deeds.

Sticking out like a sore thumb, we get a half-page article on languages that has nothing to do with equipment. There’s honestly not much to add beyond the fact that almost all the PHB languages exist in Planegea but don’t have written scripts, some are renamed like Thieves’ Cant being the Code, and Abyssal, Celestial, and Infernal aren’t yet separate languages but dialects of the same language known as Divine. Common has four dialects which serve as trade languages based on a region’s resident Giant Empire and are appropriately elemental such as Airspeech or Stonespeech.

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Chapter 8: Spells

This chapter provides us with 28 new spells along with general information on the understanding and workings of magic in Planegea. Magic is still a relatively new discovered art, so certain kinships and groups have progressed farther in certain schools. For example, the dwarves are creating many common abjuration spells, conjuration was taught by the genies, and saurians made use of their spiritual links to ancestors to gain awareness of necromancy. While this doesn’t have any specific restrictions on what spells can be learned by PCs, the book instead provides guidance instead of restrictions by how a mage character’s kinship and school may be flavored based on spell components. There’s also an optional rule suggesting that all spells of 5th level and higher have yet to be invented and codified, so PCs who “learn” such spells are in fact their original inventors! Spells of this magnitude possessed by NPCs and monsters are instead reflavored workings of great magic that haven’t yet entered common understanding. As for spells with the names of famous mages such as Bigby’s Grasping Hand, they still exist or can exist in Planegea. They are instead rediscovered techniques that have since been lost to prehistory by the time their respective settings become the present day.

But while Planegea provides open options, it does have some restrictions and changes to spells to work within setting parameters. Heat Metal is renamed to Heat Stone and instead effects stone, while Plane Shift is a more limited form of teleportation that transports people to broadly named regions. This is due to the fact that each “plane” is geographically linked and thus can be traversed the regular way rather than being counted as entirely separate realities. In this case, the “Material Plane” is considered to be the Great Valley, Wintersouth, and the four Giant Empire regions, with the Elemental Wastes, Sea of Stars, Nod, and Kingdom of the Dead to be other specific “planes” for the purposes of this spell. There are new creatures in this book that have two unique tags, God and Defiant, that limit how existing spells can interface with them. Creatures with the God tag cannot be transformed into by any magic, including Wish, while creatures with the Defiant tag are similarly limited in terms of transformation but also can’t be affected by Animal Friendship or Dominate Beasts unless they are cast with higher level slots. Defiant is a tag most typically applied to Beasts, as Planegea is home to quite a bit of high-CR dinosaurs and other animals that I feel the authors didn’t want to place in the laps of players.

Regarding material components that have explicit costs in gold pieces, an alternative in paying the cost is known as Blood Magic. A mage who has access to liquid blood can substitute it for material components, where 1 hit point worth of shed blood substitutes for one gold piece/salt portion’s worth. For non-consumable components that specify objects, the blood is smeared on an appropriate object which then serves as the component. Blood shed this way doesn’t have to come from the caster and can be stored for later use, but blood that is “spent” to use on an object cannot be repurposed for another object. While I like this in terms of concept, it is easy prey for Bag of Rats style tactics such as using Conjure Animals to slaughter and thus gain “free gold” in order to gain pricy material components.

On the flavor side of things, spells that bring the dead back to life work as normal, but its practitioners are prone to being hunted by Nazh-Agaa who is one of the setting’s major villains and seeks to make all dead souls his subjects.

Now we get to the 28 new Spell Descriptions. 18 of these spells fit within the “4th level or lower” parameters as set up in the optional rule for invented spells, and in regards to class the ones that get the most include the Druid and Sorcerer who both get 13 of the spells. The Cleric and Wizard are next up in having access to 12 of them, while the Bard and Warlock have access to 11 and 10 respectively. The Paladin and Ranger predictably get the least at 7 and 8. When it comes to new spell schools a good portion are Transmutation (7), followed up by Conjuration (6) and Enchantment (5). The remaining schools have middling to low representation, with only a mere 1 Abjuration spell and 3 Evocation spells, the rest being 2 each. Due to the volume I won’t cover every spell in detail, instead highlighting the ones I find most interesting or worthy of note.

Aggravate Wounds is a 3rd level necromancy spell where should the target fail a Constitution save, they take 1d6 additional necrotic damage whenever they’d take bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage. When cast at higher level slots this bonus damage increases. Due to its nature it’s competing with Hex, as since it’s concentration it can’t stack with that spell, and Hex’s bonus damage isn’t so limited by damage type. But it can apply multiple times per round rather than once, so it is of great use in a party that has a lot of physical attackers. Otherwise Hex is better in most circumstances.

Bite Back is a 1st level spell cast as a reaction to being damaged by a melee attack. It summons a spirit beast that bites the attacker, forcing them to make a Dexterity save or take 2d8 damage (half on success) and be restrained until the end of the caster’s next turn if they’re no more than one size category larger. The spell’s competing with Shield as a 1st level reaction spell: as Shield can also apply to ranged attacks and outright negates damage, Bite Back is best used by a caster who has hit points to spare and wants to lock down an attacking enemy. Fortunately the designers realized this, as Bite Back is learnable by Druids, Paladins, and Rangers, whereas Shield is typically learnable only by squishy arcane casters, so this spell works out for the classes that have access to it.

Bolt of Ush is an 8th level spell that is basically a damaging version of Teleport that transports the casters and willing targets via lightning strike to a location. It deals 10d8 lighting damage in a 20 foot sphere and deals 50 points of lightning damage to objects and lights flammable objects on fire. I honestly can’t see this being used unless the caster knows that a group of hostile opponents are gathered in an area and wants to surprise attack them with the party once they arrive. However, such an effect can be similarly accomplished via lower-level slots such as an upcast Invisibility spell to affect multiple targets in order to ambush a place. It also requires a 2,000 gp material component to cast, and while it’s not consumed upon use it loses out to regular Teleport which doesn’t require such an expenditure.

Deflect Magic is a 5th level spell cast as a reaction, which is similar to Counterspell in that it can let the caster avoid the effects of a 5th level or lower spell cast upon them but instead redirects the targeting effect back at the caster. Unlike Counterspell its range is “self” instead of 60 feet but technically has the “range” of the reflected spell, meaning it can also apply to longer-range spells such as Fireball. Overall a pretty handy thing to have, and like Counterspell it can block higher-level spells when cast via higher level slots.

Disorient is a multi-target 4th level spell that causes up to 10 creatures who fail a saving throw to become lost and suffer disadvantage on checks to discern location and direction, which is like a highly specific and situational multi-target Bestow Curse. Maybe it can be of use when the PCs are running from foes and don’t want to be tracked down, but otherwise I can’t see it coming up that often.

Form Weapon is a cantrip for Clerics, Druids, and Sorcerers, letting them draw from surrounding natural elements to form a simple weapon with which they have proficiency and is treated as magical. It lasts for one minute, is cast as a bonus action, and doesn’t require concentration. Given that weapons in general aren’t hard to come by and it can’t mimic martial weapons, this isn’t a very good spell, with its primary use most likely being to overcome non-magical damage resistance and immunities at lower levels.

Fury of Twr causes a 120 foot radius of extreme heat to radiate from the caster, dealing 5d10 damage upon initial casting and causes any water within range to turn into superheated steam, dealing 3d10 damage to those within at least 1 inch of water each round for the next minute. It requires concentration to persist, and while potentially very damaging is only useful when cast in wet environments and requires a consumable 100 gp material component per casting. This makes it lose out to more broadly reliable AoE duration-based spells such as Wall of Fire.

Gaze of Glelh is a 6th level ritual spell that consumes a 200 gp equivalent of pigments used to create a ceremonial square portraying lion-themed artwork. Any creature within the square can perfectly see anything up to 10 miles away as though they had a high-powered telescope, and as an action creatures seen within this range can be targeted to approach the square on a failed Wisdom save. Upon reaching the square’s location they lie down and gain the Paralyzed condition until the spell ends. The spell lasts for 24 hours or until it doesn’t have any conscious creatures with Wisdom scores of 4 or greater remaining within it. While it sounds quite situational, I can see some clever gaming groups coming up with uses for it by luring far-away targets from an area.

Heart of Urhosh is a 6th level spell cast as a reaction whenever the caster or a creature they can see within 120 feet would die or drop to 0 hit points. They drop to 1 hit point instead and cannot be reduced below this value until the end of their next turn. Instadeath effects also can’t affect them for this duration. While it consumes a high-level spell slot, its long range plus the short-duration “KO immunity” means I can see a lot of players picking it up.

Lava Leap is a 3rd level spell where the caster makes a standing leap to any point they can see within 30 feet, and a plume of magma explodes behind them as an AoE radius dealing 3d10 fire damage that cools into difficult terrain. In comparison to other 3rd level spells such as Fireball the damage is rather paltry, and unlike Misty Step which is 2nd level it’s cast as an action rather than a bonus action. The spell’s text doesn’t note whether or not movement from this spell provokes attacks of opportunity; if it does not which I presume, it can be a useful means for a caster to escape elsewhere but also wants to do appreciable damage that turn which they can’t ordinarily do with Misty Step (you’d only be able to cast a cantrip as an action vs a leveled spell this way). If it does it’s not very useful as an escape spell, and for vertical movement the Fly spell is better and longer-lasting.

Mage Skis is a 2nd level ritual that creates magical foot-strips that allow up to 6 people to move over snowy and frozen terrain at a speed of 60 feet and ignores difficult terrain penalties on them. Once again, highly situational to certain adventures and locations.

Nightmare Bind is a 2nd level spell cast on a sleeping creature within 10 feet over the course of 1 minute, where if the target fails the save they cannot benefit from a long rest for 8 hours, and when cast at higher level slots the duration increases exponentially. As the target wakes up should they succeed the save, this is only the kind of spell a hostile NPC would cast on the party while sneaking around but doesn’t want to kill them for some reason. Most PCs who have 1 minute of access to a helpless foe would either kill them or do something else. There’s not a lot of cases where I can think of PCs needing to rob an NPC of the ability to long rest.

Possess Steed is a 5th level spell that targets up to 10 willing creatures touching up to 10 separate willing steeds, where for the next 8 hours the non-steeds meld into the bodies of the steeds and take control of them…which brings to mind in what circumstances a character would do this if the steeds are willing and can otherwise be ridden on. Maybe it’s for exploits like someone wanting to apply Battlemaster maneuvers to the natural weapons of a dinosaur or something. Which can be cool, but again feels really situational in comparison to something like Polymorph.

Quillburst is a 2nd level spell that causes magical quills to explode from the caster in a 20 foot radius, dealing 2d6 piercing damage. The effect is Concentration and can last for up to a minute, and any time the caster would take damage from an attack they can unleash a second burst of quills and end the spell. So this spell can deal up to 4d6 damage based on situational use, but for a 2nd level slot it’s not very strong. Scorching Ray can deal more and is more reliable in not needing the caster to be damaged, and Shatter is also AoE but has a much less resisted damage type. Heat Metal, or Heat Stone in this case, is concentration-based damage and single-target but can deal much more damage over time and is activated as a bonus action.

Senses Whispers is a cantrip that detects the location of friendly undead creatures within 30 feet and has a casting time of 1 minute, making it all but useless for 99% of campaigns.

Smoke Breathing is a 3rd level ritual spell that affects 10 creatures for up to 24 hours, letting them safely breath nonmagical harmful gas. As this doesn’t work for magical gas such as Cloudkill, this can only really be reliably deployed by PCs who manage to get their hands on inhaled poisons like burnt othur fumes. Even then, most savvy PCs should be able to avoid its effects.

Song of Mala is a 6th level spell where the caster sings a song that can be heard by creatures up to 10 miles away, and the caster can make the selective nature differ such as particular individuals or creature types rather than affecting everyone within range. It is basically a multi-target one-way Sending spell that can communicate a message up to 25 words in length, and while concentrating on the spell (1 hour duration) creatures who can hear it can pinpoint the caster’s location. Such a spell is bound to be compared to Sending. That spell is 3rd level and single-target, but what it has over Song of Mala is that its range is unlimited and the recipient can reply back. Song of Mala also requires a 750 gp non-consumable spell component to cast, so it’s really only useful for sending out a multi-target long-range communication with a much higher slot than multiple 3rd level slots. Due to this, its usefulness in a campaign is much more nebulous and harder to gauge.

Spellbinding is a 9th level spell that requires 1,000 gp component that is consumed, and when cast on a target makes them invisible to all spellcasters: any creature that can cast a cantrip or 1st level or higher spell is unable to see the target unless the spell’s dispelled, and magical means of detecting the target also fail. This is a very powerful feature but since it’s 9th level this means that it won’t see use on the PC’s side of things for most campaigns.

Stormscrying is a 2nd level ritual spell that basically turns the caster into a weather anchor, letting them detect the current time, temperature, and weather of a named location with which they are familiar, and can even include large regions but have more general information. Druidcraft more or less does the same thing but only in regards to weather and the caster’s current location. It’s usability may depend on how broad a DM interprets “location.” If PCs travel overland, can a new area they enter be sufficiently different that Druidcraft won’t apply but Stormscrying can? I can see some DMs interpreting the cantrip to mean any location the PCs can reach in a short amount of time, which would make Stormscrying useless save for predicting the weather in far-away locations. And even that may be situational.

Time Slip is a 1st level spell where someone who fails a Wisdom save becomes confused about time for the spell’s duration of Concentration up to an hour. They believe it to be whatever hour the caster designates and rationalizes any changes in lighting or environment. I honestly can’t think of any reason to use this spell in a typical D&D adventure.

Thoughts So Far: When it comes to the chapters, I like the new backgrounds and equipment, but am not really fond of the new spells. A lot of the spells are the kinds of things that aren’t really geared towards adventurers and more like “everyday magic” to make the world feel more plausible. But as such effects are competing with other more immediately useful and broad spells, they end up quite underpowered. I really like how the book goes into detail for equipment and shows quite the imaginative ingenuity, even if I feel that some of the weapons just don’t stack up against existing versions which can still be reflavored to fit the setting. I like that the book provided enough new backgrounds to fit a Prehistoric Fantasy feel rather than just doing a few or taking the lazy way out in going “just refit the core rules.” I will say that I don’t like the idea of tying backgrounds to specific communities or clans, given that such places are broad enough and likely where most PCs will come from. The text implies one needs to take such backgrounds in order to be an inhabitant/member/citizen of them, which blunts their appeal.

Join us next time as we delve into the DM’s side of things in Chapter 9: Stone Age Adventures!
 


J-H

Hero
This looks like fun. I'd love to play in a campaign in this setting! How did they handle the weight of Stone full plate armor?

Lava Leap looks like it competes with Thunder Step.

Bolt of Ush is like Teleport but without error and with Style! I'd take it. This is what you use when you're showing up to try to intimidate an enemy army into running away, or when it's time to confront the bad guy. Situationally awesome.
 

How did they handle the weight of Stone full plate armor?
From memory (i could be wrong here), they didn't really grasp that nettle, instead just basically assuming that full plate exists with its PHB stats, but that it's made of something other than metal. Purely a cosmetic change.

I found it a bit unsatisfying, but I don't entire blame them. The armour mechanics are so deeply baked into the D&D system that it's REAL hard to make major changes without breaking a great deal of stuff (I've been tinkering with a fantasy Napoleonic-era D&D setting, so i've spent a lot of time scratching my head about this one!)
 


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