D&D 5E Thoughts on Divorcing D&D From [EDIT: Medievalishness], Mechanically Speaking.

Considering that elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes are basically physical variants of humans, it wouldn't be too hard for them to hide in plain sight within an 'all-human' setting. ;)

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BRPD is an influence too, so weirdos, vampires, faeries and stuff are reasonable, too.
I had to look up the acronym − Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense.


In that case, I would emphasize the Feywild and Shadowfell as overlapping the Material Plane. So these are otherworldly spirit worlds. The beings of Fey and of Shadow are spirits who move thru the Human world. The Fey can sit in the Fey versions of Human chairs while watching Humans go about their daily business. Most Humans are unaware of them as they pass by. Some Humans with second sight can see them, seeing into the planar overlap.

Even Vampires would mainly be inhabitants of the Shadowfell, while stepping between worlds to vanish mysteriously travel via the Shadow then manifest elsewhere. Essentially, a Vampire is a kind of ghost that can drag and animate ones corpse.

Similarly, the Fey creatures would "manifest" similar to the way ghosts do, while walking thru the material world as spirits via the Fey overlap.

While Fey and Shadow are unaligned, because of the Positive Energy and Negative Void, any Celestials would enter via the Feywild and any Fiends would enter via the Shadowfell.

Only powerful magic or rare Crossings can enable a spirit to fully materialize as a creature in the Material Plane − viceversa enable a Human to fully dematerialize into a spirit to walk in the spirit world of Fey, Ether, or Shadow. The Crossings might be temporary, such as Brigadoon, and similar. Because of this, without magic, it is possible for a Human to become trapped as spirit in the spirit world, walking thru the Human Material Plane as ghost. Viceversa, the Fey and Shadow spirits can become trapped in the Material Plane as a creature of matter and flesh and blood.

All of these spirits are all around, every where in the Human world, in plain sight ... for those who have second sight.


All of these spirit worlds are made out of "ether", and they pervade the material world like gravity does. It is like saying, these spirits are made out of forces of gravity, except their physical influence is much weaker, and their presence within the material is more subtle. A Shadow being might cause a chill when moving thru a material Human. A Fey moving thru a Human would be more exhilarating and wondrous. Both kinds of spirits can feel "spooky" or benevolent. Only a powerful mind, or a desperate one, can exert more physical influence, such as poltergeisting material objects or manifesting temporarily in ghostly apparitions. (Spells handle most of these kinds of mutual planar interactivity.) Most of the time, these spirits interact with each other normally, via virtually physical bodies made out of ether, but can only observe the Humans of the material world going on around them.

All of these spirit worlds are the Ethereal Plane, greater, that overlaps the Material Plane. Except Fey and Shadow are different "frequencies" of ether. Because of this, the Feys at higher frequencies and Shadows at lower frequencies pass thru each other, unaware of each other, even tho both plainly engage the same material world. The "Quintessence" is the Ethereal Plane, proper, the part of the ether whose frequencies are the same as the frequencies of the Material Plane. The Feys are at the energy frequencies above the Quintessence, and the Shadows below the Quintessence.

Elemental spirits typically operate at the Quintessent frequencies, and are part of the natural features of the Material Plane. So the energy vibrations of a particular mountain would be an Elemental spirit that could manifest as a Giant. If poltergeisting the rocks, streams, and plants of the mountain itself, the mountain might be an Earth Elemental. Different features of nature tend to a have different personalities, and different spiritual influences, thus manifest differently when becoming atypically active.

The "Paranormal" researchers investigate reports about unusual spiritual activity. They have electronic equipment to measure the ethereal frequencies, thus can determine whether the spiritual energies that are active are Fey, Quintessent, or Shadow. Likewise they can attempt to negotiate and remedy the reasons for the disruptions. In this sense the researchers function as a kind of technological shamanic.

The electronic equipment of the researchers are casting the See Invisibility spell. Possibly some characters are using the "natural" (Martial) power source to do it. The spells ability to see into the ether also identifies which frequencies the activities are happening at. A slot 2 spell is actually a big deal in a subtle magic setting. The slot 1 "Planar Protection" spell (Protection from Evil or Good) is similarly a useful barrier to defend oneself against any hostiles, whether Fey, Quintessent, or Shadow spirits.

I might create other low tier spells for interactions, such as a Ward Room spell that would seal a room to prevent any ether spirits from entering wherever the spirit planes overlap it. This would also prevent Vampires from entering without permission, and other spirits as well.

To detect immaterial spirits, I would use skill checks. According to the "Study [Action]" entry in the UA Glossary the skills apply as follows:

• Arcana = Aberration, Construct, Elemental, Fey, Monstrosity
• History = Humanoid, Giant
• Nature = Beast, Dragon, Ooze, Plant
• Religion = Celestial, Fiend, Undead
• Investigation = gadgets

This arrangement is probably functional as-is, but thematically I want to finetune it. There is no "Humanoid" in this context. For example, a Human is a kind of sapient Beast, while an Elf is a kind of Fey. Something like:

• Nature = Primal = Material = Beast, Ooze, Plant, where Dragon evolved from a snake
• Arcana = Arcane = Ethereal = Elemental, Giant, Fey, Undead (Shadow)
• Religion = Divine = Astral = Celestial, Fiend, Aberration

• Insight = Psionic = Soul = ki bodily aura, personal ethereal telekinetic influence, mind
• Investigation = Physical Sciences = technology, electronics, math, structural engineering
• History = Human Sciences = cultures, languages, psychology


These skill checks allow normal Humans to detect and "hear" the spiritual activities of the corresponding Creature Types. A Difficult DC allows a Human to pinpoint and even see the spirit.

Alchemy relates to various skills − Nature, Arcana, Insight, Medicine, and Investigation − and is an ecclectic cross-discipline paranormal technology.

A Humanoid, Construct, or Monstrosity might be any of the above Creature Types depending on origin, such as Beast Human, Fey Gnome, Beast Owlbear, etcetera.

Many Dragon species are nonsapient, such as Drake.

Here Elemental and Giant exist at the "Quintessent frequencies" of the ether. Most animistic nature beings are a kind of Elemental or Giant, but can manifest in the forms of humans or other animals.

Undead stands for any kind of Shadow creature, whether actually formerly alive or not. Since Fey and Shadow are all part of the same ether, it is possible for an individual to migrate, thus immigrating into an other frequency. Probably Seelie and Unseelie are Fey and Shadow (aka Undead) respectively. Perhaps, the Shadar-Kai are by definition the Unseelie. Likewise, Goblin is Shadow rather than Fey, and are part of the "Unseely Courts". Conversely, occasionally the "ghost" part of the soul residue of a former Human becomes Fey rather than Shadow. Generally, forces of life and new possibilities are Fey, and forces of death and entropy are Shadow. The personality of ones own spirit causes what part of the ethereal frequencies one oneself is part of.

Aberrations are the part of the Astral thoughts that the multiverse fails to make use of, thus is more like a cosmic collective unconscious. These thoughts are unhelpful to the operations of the fabric of reality. New thoughts, rarely helpful, can emerge from there, especially when the thoughts of the multiverse are no longer functioning sufficiently, thus inviting paradigm shifts. I have two views: either Aberrations are the NE Fiend and the Yugoloth are a kind of Aberration, or Aberrations are entirely Unaligned albeit dangerous, like dreams becoming real. If they are "Evil", then they are part of the multiverse, thus a kind of Fiend. Or. They are unorganized by the multiverse, therefore are Unaligned and cannot be Evil, per se, just like a dream cannot be Evil.

The Paranormal Researchers are generally aware of these different ethereal frequencies as well as the mindscapes of the Astral. But most Human cultures think these Paranormalists are silly and superstitious verging on insane.
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I would normally make it this an all-Human setting, but the Martians introduce at least a second sapient species that might be playable. And of course, the Martians would be a subterranean species, living below the planetary surface. When on Earth, they probably created underground colonies.
Why would they be subterranean? To hide?


Why would they be subterranean? To hide?
To assuage my own suspension of disbelief!

I know perfectly well there are no signs of life on the planet of Mars. But if all of the water − and therefore the sapient species of Martians themselves − are all deep underground, then maybe, perhaps, that might be plausible.

Note, there can be places where the frozen water far from the sun can be heated geothermically when nearer to the molten core. Thus a subterranean layer of life is conceivable.

Meanwhile, when they form colonies on the planet of Earth, they would seek a similar subterranean habitat. These Terrestrial colonies would likewise be out of the way of Human contact and could plausibly hypothetically exist.

As a happy coincidence, these subterranean colonies would be, defacto, old school D&D dungeon crawls.
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I LOVE this part of the design process, when I am discovery writing and finding the thing.
Test Vignette
The Delivery

Henry threw himself to the ground and covered his head with his arms. He had lost his helmet somewhere between jumping off the back of the transport truck and rushing toward the oil fields of Lima, Ohio. He did not take aim with his rifle. He knew it was useless. Mostly, he prayed. Or tried to. The screams of his fellow Ohio National Guardsmen as they died drowned out his prayers.
The tripod turned its triangular head slowly. There was no beam of horrible light from its face, but its gaze brought burning death nonetheless. Those soldiers who had not taken cover simply combusted, screamed, and fell as the invisible heat beams of the monstrous machines arced across the oil field. All around, oil wells exploded into flame along with Henry’s fellow soldiers.
There he lay, face buried in the dirt, sobbing against the screams, praying for salvation or maybe just a quick death, at the very center of a conflagration only Hell itself could possibly rival. His own back burned as his wool jacket burst into flame and melted itself into his skin. “Mama,” was all that escaped his lips.
And yet he lived.
Henry limped across the yard, yelling and waving his arms as he did so. Few people took notice, but among those that did was Dabney, the truck driver. “What?” yelled Dabney. “If not here, where?”
Henry threw up his hands. “How the hell should I know, Dab! If it isn’t for the shop, I don’t want it in my yard.”
Dabney leaned his bulk out of the window of the truck cab and shook his fist. His walrus-like mustache quaked as he yelled, “They said bring it to you, so I'm bringing it to you!”
“Who said?” demanded Henry, now at the side of the truck. He reached up with a muscular, scarred arm and grabbed Dabney by the collar.
“I don’t know! Whoever signed the delivery!”
A few minutes later, they were in one of the warehouses. Henry was sure to scoot the laborers out and close the doors behind him. There were too many curious folk around these days, and no matter how little he trusted Dabney, he trusted his day workers even less. Ever since the war, the yards were full of spies.
It took some doing -- and swearing -- for he and Dabney to get the large crate unloaded from the back of the truck. It was stamped with a large burnt symbol, something like a five pointed star that Henry did not recognize but guessed was trouble.
“Well, ain’t you going to open it?” asked Dabney.
“Hell no.”
‘Why not?”
“You were hired to bring it here, to me, right?”
“Were you hired to make sure I opened it up?”
“Well, there’s your reason, then. I didn't even know it was coming, and whatever it is, I don’t want any part of it.”
Dabney mopped sweat from his fat brow and cocked an eyebrow at Henry. “Aren’t you curious, though?”
“Not even a little bit,” said Henry. He lifted himself up into the truck cab quickly -- too quick for Dabney to complain. He came down with a stack of papers. He sorted through them until he found the one he was looking for and pulled a pen from his shirt and signed the form. He shoved the handful of papers into Dabney’s hands and said, “There. You’ve delivered the damned thing and I have signed for it. Now get lost.”
Dabney argued for a bit more but Henry would not move and finally the fat man had to drive his truck out of the warehouse, his curiosity unsatiated.
Henry flexed his shoulders. The deep burns scars on his back resisted and pain shot through him. He flexed again. Pain was good. It kept you sharp.
He sipped from the flask he always carried but almost never drank from. He stared at the crate in the dim lantern light. He did not know what it was but he did not like it one bit. He ran a shop at a steel mill. Why was it here? Why was it addressed to him?
As Henry took another swig he heard the doors of the warehouse creek open -- even though he had definitely set the bar on them. He slipped the flask back into his pocket and picked up the heavy crowbar he had definitely not intended to use to open the crate.
He stood and gripped the bar. “Shift’s over, boys. Get on home,” he warned the darkness.
The figure that entered the pale glow of his lantern was not one of his laborers, or even one of the sneak thieves that prowled the yard at night looking for scraps to steal. It was a woman, dressed in a gown of all things, wearing a veil that sparkled like it was made of pearls and gossamer.
“You lost, ma’am,” he said with menace and warning in his voice.
“No, Henry James,” she answered in a voice that at once made Henry’s heart race and his skin crawl. “I am here to see you. More importantly, I am here to see you open that.” By the time she was done speaking she was just feet from Henry, well within reach of his crowbar had he meant to swing it. She showed no sign of tension or fear in her posture.
“Oh yeah,” he said with his best attempt at bravado. “I think it was delivered by mistake. I didn’t order it.”
“Surely not,” she said with a hint of a smile in her voice. “I ordered it for you, and I would very much like to see you put it on.” There was something more in her voice then, something frightening and arousing and disconcerting.
This close, Henry could see her face through the strange veil. Her skin was porcelain and her eyes were black. Something in her thin smile suggested a predator, like a hunting cat. Her eyes darted to the crowbar. “You should use that. You could open the crate, or my skull. What do you think would serve you better?”
Henry had no answer to that. He swallowed, which took more effort than he expected, and nodded. Turning, he shoved the flat wedge of the crowbar into the gap between the crate’s lid and side. After a few grunts of strain and pain as his burn scars stretched with the effort, the lid cracked and popped open.
As he reached to pull the lid from the crate, she reached out a hand and touched his arm. Her skin was cold and seemed to crackle or vibrate with an energy that stopped Henry cold. “Once you open it, you can’t go back,” she said.
Henry peered through the veil into her black eyes. He did not see anything in them, but the memories of that day in Lima, the fire and the screams and the prayers, came back to him. He could have died there. He should have died there. In a way, he had died there.
“Never one for looking back,” he said. She released his hand and he pulled the lid of the crate with all his might.
“Is that what I think it is?” he said, peering inside as he held the lantern high.
“What do you think it is?”
“It is one of their frames, the things they used to get around on Earth because they were soft and weak.”
“You’ve seen one before?”
“Yeah,” Henry grunted. “In the war.”
She smiled at him and again he felt the contradiction between arousal and terror. “You are almost right. It is one of their frames, but it has been modified.”
“Modified?” he asked, peering closer. Even as she explained, he could see it.
“Altered, to fit not one of them, but one of you. You, in fact, Henry James.”
“Indeed,” she answered, her voice almost a song but one out of harmony. “For you to wear as we continue the war.”
“The war is over, lady.” he said it immediately, intensely, desperately wanting it to be true.
“No,” she said, once again placing her hand on his arm. “It isn’t. Not for us, and certainly not for you.”
Henry stared at the machine in the crate, understanding how he would wear it and what strength and speed he would gain doing so. “Not over,” he muttered.
“No,” she said, “not yet. Perhaps, not ever.”
Something deep inside Henry shifted, an acknowledgement that was equal parts mourning and rage, but he nodded anyway. “Okay,” he said.


:unsure: Veeeery interesting. Quite the fan of War of the Worlds, especially the Jeff Wayne musical version (Thunderchild!).

All Quiet on the Martian Front, although a war game, has some interesting backstory for the 2nd Martian War, and hints of a looming Venusian, Jupiterian and Plutoian (Mi-go) forces who might have their own plans on Earth (think the colonization of the new world, with Earthlings as the one on the receiving end of the otherworldly invasions).

Also, I think it would be interesting if the rising supernatural resurgence is the fault of the Martians. Like the "alternate reality" conspiracy theory around the Haydon Super-collider, perhaps the Martians did something that opened ancient doorways to alternate dimensions of magical and supernatural creatures that had been closed during the Renaissance by Galileo, Nostradamus and a handful of others. Maybe, it's Tesla's fault...

To assuage my own suspension of disbelief!

I know perfectly well there are no signs of life on the planet of Mars. But if all of the water − and therefore the sapient species of Martians themselves − are all deep underground, then maybe, perhaps, that might be plausible.
Sure there are! We just couldn't see them in 1898. :)

To assuage my own suspension of disbelief!

I know perfectly well there are no signs of life on the planet of Mars. But if all of the water − and therefore the sapient species of Martians themselves − are all deep underground, then maybe, perhaps, that might be plausible.

Note, there can be places where the frozen water far from the sun can be heated geothermically when nearer to the molten core. Thus a subterranean layer of life is conceivable.

Meanwhile, when they form colonies on the planet of Earth, they would seek a similar subterranean habitat. These Terrestrial colonies would likewise be out of the way of Human contact and could plausibly hypothetically exist.

As a happy coincidence, these subterranean colonies would be, defacto, old school D&D dungeon crawls.
As a fringe benefit, living underground especially deep underground would have some benefits in alleviating the differential effects of the stronger gravity on Earth.

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