Bonus Material: Notes for Adventuring in the Far Realms

I know, I know, some of you out there are scratching your heads right now. In most games where the far realms appear, it isn’t a travel destination and certainly isn’t a place people purposefully travel to. As there are so few planar connections with the far realms, this approach normally works.
Every now and then, however, I see a request for ideas on far realms adventures. That suggests that there are some players who do end up traveling there (if there weren’t, the planar traits given to it in the manual of the planes were just for decoration).
Although it should be used sparingly, the far realms can make a decent place to travel, either for a brief “what-in-the-world-was-that?” excursion, a “let’s-get-to-the-root-of-the-problem” adventure, or even a “how-on-earth-do-we-get-home?” campaign.
That said, the far realms isn’t really described at any point as, well, infinite variety and wordless madness are hard to represent in a finite number of words. I wanted to just give people some inspiration or ideas and to give out alternatives to rules that might make traditional adventuring difficult. Everything is optional and I will even spoiler everything here to avoid upsetting the sensibilities of those who prefer vague expectations of what may or may not be out there. Let’s go.

REAL RAMIFICATIONS OF UNSTABLE ELEMENTS
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Although it is easy to forget, any given layer of the Far Realms is only very rarely filled with the oxygen needed to survive and speak through. However, even outsiders native to the Far Realms require air to breathe (as dictated by the outsider type). Therefore, it is helpful to assume that the far realms itself sustains creatures without the need for air. Even so, such an environment may be unsuitable for carrying out speech, imposing a 20% spell failure chance on all spells with verbal components.
Also, although players may welcome a layer of air or positive energy and run from layers of fire, water, or negative energy, how should one deal with layers taking the earth elemental trait? The easiest way to deal with them is as encysted layers (see below). However, if a storm of earth runs across the layers and overtakes the PCs (encasing their current layer with the earth elemental), treat them as being subject to a cave-in without the initial damage. Remember, however, that there is no barrier to them simply shifting to the next level (which requires but a mental action).
Lastly, remember that sooner or later, the party will need to sleep (the far realms has flowing time, not timelessness). It’s a big help to point out an occasional layer or two that seem a bit more stable (even if it’s just pure chance).


MOVEMENT AND COMBAT
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Travel through the amoebic sea is like swimming through molasses. The plane possesses no gravity but strong strokes of the arms and legs are sufficient to move you in all three dimensions. For the sake of simplicity, I always say that it is impossible to run unless you possess a swim speed and it is impossible to swim down into another layer. Instead, once per round, a creature can move a number of layers up to its speed divided by 5 as a free action requiring only a thought.
Non-natives generally exist on one layer at a time (although gargantuan and colossal creatures may occupy multiple layers if their dimensions surpass the thickness of a layer), but large Far Realm entities often exist upon several consecutive layers simultaneously.
Other than the elemental and energy traits that can change at a moment’s notice and the multidimensional aspects of this plane, combat is normal in the Far Realm. Against larger entities, however, combat is unsurprisingly brief.
If you think that swinging a huge sword in molasses seems a bit fishy, you are not alone. One more possible option is to penalize attacks as if underwater (fire effects would not receive special impediment, however).


A NOTE ON DIMENSIONAL TRAVEL IN THE FAR REALMS:
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One thing that some people may forget in the far realms is that dimensional travel doesn’t work. Apart from possibly planeshift (which may or may not work depending on the dm), most teleportation effects will fail as they rely upon an intermediate plane (such as the astral plane), none of which are connected to the far realms. It is quite possible that the only dimensional travel to occur out there is between layers.


A NOTE ON DIMENSIONAL MAPPING
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When using miniatures, it may seem difficult to remember which layer everyone is on, as this can change on a round to round basis. Mapping such an area seems counterintuitive as well. However, there is a simple way to map the far realms. Although it is a bit of a punch to the wallet, perhaps the best way to set things up is to obtain three battle grids (or, if you’re raking in the dough, one per player). Whenever a player or monster shifts from one layer to the next, they move themselves to the corresponding square on the next battle grid. Typically speaking, no encounter, battle or otherwise, will require more than two layers. The player’s aren’t going to spread among four or five layers when the focus of interest is on a mere one or two. If a battle starts going bad, though, a player may (foolishly) try making a run for it. That is was the third battle grid is there for, just-in-case situations.


FEATURES OF THE FAR REALMS:
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Much like the Abyss, the far realm is composed of infinite layers stacked upon each other. Unlike the Abyss (or any other plane, for that matter), the layers are thin. A layer can range from an inch to a mile thick, though the average thickness is 10 feet.
Travelers can see through many layers simultaneously, as if holding a stack of translucent parchment up to the light. I typically rule that under “normal” circumstances, up to 20 layers can be seen in either direction, all seemingly taking up the same space (and thus remaining within range of darkvision and low-light vision). Each layer is blurrier than the next, however, imposing a -1 penalty on spot and search checks per 2 layers. Special senses other than darkvision and low-light vision (such as scent, blindsight, or blindsense) fail to permeate into adjacent layers.
It must be remembered, however, that the far realms is a land almost entirely deprived of natural light, making it hard for those without darkvision to see. Also remember that normal fire cannot be utilized unless in a layer with the air elemental trait but magical fire and light spells do work, although they may attract unwanted attention.
Features and creatures of the far realm are often multidimensional and may exist on one layer simultaneously. As the multiple layers are like a stack of transparent parchment, multilayer creatures are like a dot marked upon each parchment, insignificant if just one parchment is looked at but forming a three-dimensional image when everything is looked at together. Such is the nature of much of the far realm, ranging from tentacled vegetation to the vast creatures that float in place, meaning that it may be impossible to meaningfully interact with multidimensional planar features without some clever thinking (for example, it may not be possible to uproot a far realms “plant” unless someone is placed on each of the five layers it occupies, all pulling at once).


SURVIVABLE ELDER EVIL COMBAT
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Although only the most powerful (and large) of far realms creatures actually occupies more than one plane of existence, I rule that such creatures do have a difficult time detecting and hitting creatures that occupy fewer layers. Against any creature that occupies at least four times as many layers as the PCs (at least 4 layers in most circumstances), all PCs gain a +10 bonus on hide checks, may make such checks without concealment or cover, and gain a 20% miss chance. Furthermore, all listen checks made against the PCs by such creatures take a -10 penalty.
The reasoning behind this is simple. First of all, it is rather difficult to detect a creature that occupies a layer in which only a small part of your eye or ear is located. Secondly, multi-dimensional creatures generally aren’t accustomed to fighting single-layer creatures. If such a grand creature attempts a slam attack, there is a chance that its tentacle simply isn’t on the same layer as the PCs.
Although this may make it a bit easier for PCs to survive if they accidentally attract an Elder Evil’s attention, that does not mean that they are harmless to those they do not notice. Several larger tentacles beings probably propel themselves along with large and powerful tentacles, more than capable of harming those who get in the way. Also, remember that the Kaorti were warped into their shape by the power of an Elder Evil before said being could reach them and take any conscious action against them.


POSSIBLE PLANAR PHENOMENA
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Encysted Layers:
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Although most of the layers in the amoebic sea possess a thick, syrupy consistency, exceptions to this rule pop up every now and again in the form of what is known as Encysted Layers. An encysted layer can take any number of forms from the apparent hardening or scabbing of a single layer to a layer composed of gelatinous green goo or disembodied eyes to gaping holed in the continuity of layers. No matter how they manifest themselves, an Encysted layers take a full-round action to pass, usually through forcing your form to simply “jump” past that layer (an otherwise impossible feat). One encysted layer generally pops up every 2d20 layers, although this merely an average. No multidimensional features other than the largest of elder Ones can Exist on both sides of an encysted layer simultaneously (effectively bulldozing right through it), leading the rare (doomed) attempt at far realms cartography to group all layers between two Encysted layers into a single mega-layer of sorts.


Far Realms Flux:
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Aside from the elemental and energy traits, all matter of activity could occur within the far realms, from a fire jet emerging from nowhere to a swarm of spider-like creatures bursting free from a random plant. At least once every 10 minutes, roll a d20. If the result is 10 or lower, the spontaneous event witnessed is magnificent (or terrifying) but is not overtly dangerous. If the result is 11 or higher, a random party member must make a DC 20 saving throw (using their worst save bonus) to resist taking (1d20)d6 damage as the event crushes their mind, destroys their body, or tries to blow them up.


Truewound Sections:
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Within some areas of the Far Realms, cause has been removed from effect by varying degrees. One of the more common examples is in sections of the Far Realms where injury has little to do with the cause of the injury. In such areas, all forms of damage are untyped, overcoming all damage reduction and resistances or immunities to energy damage. Typically, any form of damage, rather than leaving the normal wounds, simply open up weeping sores over the target’s body from which an eye occasionally blinks open, looks around, and vanishes (this last effect is, as far as we know, purely cosmetic).


Amoebic Holes:
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Fitting the messed up geometry of the Far Realms, a good many layers have nearly invisible holes within them. Charging or running creatures don’t get any chance to see the hole but others are entitled to a DC 20 spot check. Anyone entering a hole “falls” onto the corresponding square of the next lowest (or in some cases, highest), layer. If multiple holes are placed over each other, a creature may end up “falling” for multiple layers, although such holes never appear on or adjacent to Encysted Layers. No amount of “falling” deals any damage to the creature however.


NOTE: OVER THE EDGE?
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As the Far Realms consist of multiple finite layers stacked on top of each other, one player may consider the ludicrous possibility of simply jumping over the edge of a layer (or simply tries to move from the edge of a larger layer to a smaller layer “below”). Indeed, few layers stretch more than a few miles to a side and a couple comprise of only a couple of five-foot squares. What is to happen in such a situation, when a PC is literally jumping over the edge of the edge?
The thing is, the layers of the Far Realms aren’t stacked perfectly. In fact, a better model for its construction would be a hundred decks of playing cards thrown into a haphazard pile (and even that would be insufficient). Although no two layers are parallel (if such a word can be used to describe the far realms), no matter what edge you jump over, there is another one waiting to catch your fall…somewhere.
If a player jumps over an edge, treat it as an amoebic hole that leads down to the next layer below the player’s position, typically taking 1d6 rounds, making new will saves against the plane’s maddening trait each round as the player feels their entire being falling and forcefully bypassing several encrusted layers. Upon “landing”, the creature takes 20d6 damage as if they had fallen, regardless of the plane’s lack of gravity or the actual distance “fallen”.
Note that due to the lack of gravity, several larger creatures or features may have edges that jut off of one or more layers. A player attempting to climb up such a jutting edge should be able to avoid “falling”


Layer Division:
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Layers of the far realms occasionally divide with little or no discernable reason (although some sages wander if certain creatures within the far realms influence such events). Divisions are rarely nice and tidy business, separating all items into one of the two new layers at random (although any creature can switch to the new layer as a free action on their next round). In the division of layers, the mystery of multidimensional features is at least partially explained due to eyewitness accounts of plants, rivers, and even creatures native to the far realms being equally allocated among the two new layers. Usually, the two new layers are generally each receive half of the original’s depth (although other allocations, including some that break the law of conservation of matter such as the creation of a new layer without any reduction to the former, have been observed).


Layer Fusion:
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The opposite of the aforementioned phenomena, some layers occasionally fuse together. When this occurs, all matter from both layers is placed together and the depths of the two component layers are (usually) added together. If two objects would occupy a single space, one of them (chosen at random) is shunted into the nearest open space. Any multidimensional features (including creatures) that occupy both of the combining layers are condensed to fit at least that portion of itself into a single layer (theoretically, if enough layers fused at once, even the largest of Elder Evils could be fit in a single, immense layer).


Layer Destruction:
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Every now and then, a layer of the far realms will simple be destroyed, leaving nothing behind. On the round before destruction takes place, the layer’s amoebic consistency becomes slightly more active, only noticeable with a DC 20 Wisdom check. If this warning is detected, any creature can take that round to move to a new layer as a free action. Otherwise, all creatures within the layer when it is destroyed must make a DC 20 fortitude save or be destroyed along with it (those who succeed are pushed to a random adjacent plane. Multi-dimensional creatures and features receive no saving throw, instead having part of their form obliterated (a process that strangely deals no damage).


Void Zone:
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If the far realms could be considered the border between reality and oblivion, void zones resemble oblivion far more than reality. When one or more layers of the Far Realm become void zones, all creatures within take 5d6 damage each round. Furthermore, any creature slain in this zone is completely obliterated. Lastly, the area inherits the dead magic trait. Fortunately, void zones are often very brief, lasting no more than 2d10+5 rounds.


Deadman’s Vine:
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When a nonnative dies on the far realms, their body may suffer any number of fates. They may be absorbed into the matter of the plane; their body may be eaten by one of the realm’s many inhabitants; or, the creature may act as the basis for far realms’ vegetation. Such vegetation manifests itself as writhing thorny vines growing from every orifice of the creature’s body, as well as fusing with the skin in several instances. Furthermore, several fruits (usually bright crimson in color) grow from these vines. Anyone foolish enough to eat one finds that the fruit is perceived as a scent rather than a taste and a rather rotten one at that. Within one minute of ingesting a fruit, a creature may ask a single question of the dead body to receive an effect similar to a speak with dead spell, except that the answer’s are imparted directly to the mind of the consumer. The process is highly unnatural for sane creature, requiring a DC 20 will save to avoid being stunned for 1 round. A random Deadman’s vine contains 1d8+6 fruit.


Aberrant Glyph:
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Scattered throughout the far realms are any number of strange, glowing, three-dimensional glyphs, floating in mid-air. Thought by some to be involved in the prison of some captured creature and by others to be the result of an elder evil’s endless laboring, only one function of these glyphs are known. Any elder evil, from any location on the far realms, can tap into one or more glyphs as a standard action to experience the world through them like scrying sensors. While an elder one is tapped into a glyph, it’s glow increases, decreases, or slightly changes hue, requiring a DC 20 spot check to notice. It is thought that doing so causes elder evils discomfort, explaining why they do not do so more often.


Unnatural Absorption:
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In some ways, the far realms themselves act as a creature. Some say that they have seen eyes appear from out of the ether, felt the layers breathe, or fight extensions of the terrain itself. When a creature dies in the Far Realms, there is a good chance that the far realms simply chooses to consume the dead creature, increasing the validity of these wild claims. The absorbed creature receives no saving throw and can only be revived by a carefully worded wish or miracle. Whenever a creature is absorbed, the far realms gains new depth usually equal to about 5 feet per HD or level of the absorbed creature, either added as additional depth onto existing layers or used to create new layers.
Furthermore, each year or so of continuous contact with the Far Realms allows a single absorption attempt against a living creature, allowing a Fortitude Save (DC 20 + 1 per previous attempt) to resist.


Blasphemous Budding:
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According to a few half-crazed survivors, new far realms creatures are born from the very plane itself. Although it is uncertain whether all creatures or only certain beings can be spawned in this way (or if those certain beings can only be produced in this way), it is hard to deny that the plane has the potential to create new creatures. It takes one minute to create a creature, during which time it is invulnerable to all damage and effects. On the round of its creation, the creature is stunned, even if they would otherwise be immune to the condition. The budding process seems to rob the layer on which the creature is created of essence, reducing its thickness by 5 feet for every HD of the creature to be created.


Madness Matrix:
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In certain layers, the madness of the far realms coalesces into the form of special matrices. Shedding a good deal of light into the otherwise dark far realms, Madness Matrixes often inhabit entire mega-layers, apparently existing in equal proportion on each individual layer. If touched, the madness matrix submits the character to the warp touch disease (book of vile darkness) or permanently lowers the target’s wisdom score by 1d6 (DC 20 Will Save negates) if the BoVD is not used (or is unavailable). Either way, these effects are even applied to creatures without constitution scores, overcoming their normal immunities. However, Madness Matricies are one of the few things capable of punching a hole out of the far realms. Every time a spell targets the Madness Matrix for any reason, there is a 1% chance of a portal opening up into a random plane for 1d4+1 rounds. Spell-like abilities and supernatural abilities are incapable of punching open such holes, helping to explain why so few creatures can utilize them.


Eternity Quake:
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Whenever a new elder one appears within the far realm, the realms quake and tremble under the weight of the new multidimensional creature, requiring all nonnative creatures within the Far Realm to make will saves (DC 25) or have their Wisdom score changed to 0 as their minds are crushed under the mental image of the new creature’s presence.
Occasionally, an eternity quake is intense enough to affect all creatures on the plane, native or not. All native creatures who fail their saves are slain. Following such grand quakes are usually large waves of unnatural absorption and blasphemous budding.


Chaos Zones:
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A few areas of the far realms are even less stable than the others, continually boiling, dividing, combining, and the like. In such areas, called chaos zones, all magic is automatically affected by the wild magic trait and the layer’s composition can be controlled like raw Limbo (Manual of the Planes, page 93).


Safe Sectors:
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In the endless madness of the Far Realms, there are a few relatively safe and sane areas in which material creatures could potentially rest. In such areas, the maddening trait does not apply and there are few, if any, extra-dimensional features. A few of them have the remains of temporary shelters built by other past adventurers out of Far Realms refuse.


Cosmic Protoplasm:
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Spread throughout the Far Realms is a strange substance that is said to act as a cruel mockery of water. Sometimes seen flowing like a river across the layers, sometimes seen falling like waterfalls down amoebic holes, sometimes seen being drunk by natives to the Far Realms, this protoplasm is anathema to living creatures. Ranging from the clear in color to a highly reflective silver, anyone who drinks it must make a Fortitude save (DC 20) or take 1d4 constitution damage each round for one minute as their interior is contorted, sprouts thorns, is shredded, and is otherwise tortured beyond believe. Furthermore, any nonnative who so much as touches cosmic protoplasm is lit up like a beacon for all creatures of the Far Realms, visible sixty layers away in either direction (rather than 20) and automatically visible to elder ones.


Empty Singularity:
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Every now and again, a hole within the very fabric of the far realms open. These holes act as spheres of annihilation (Dungeon Master’s Guide), except that they are immune to any attempt to control them and that they move 30 feet toward the nearest creature each round. An Empty Singularity is capable of shifting one layer each round (or overcoming an encysted layer) to aid it in its pursuit of a target. Empty Singularities cannot destroy elder evils or beings of similar power. The destination of the shredded and destroyed matter taken in by the singularity, ironically, is the sane multiverse.


Alternate Multiverses:
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A few survivors of the far realms have remarked seeing gigantic translucent globes, thousands of layers large, in which stars, planets, and (some say) entire planes are visible. Some scholars think that these adventurers have found our multiverse, floating in the middle of the madness. Others claim that the descriptions do not describe our world, suggesting the existence, perhaps, of other multiverses.


Winds of Heresy:
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One of the more dangerous features of the Far Realms is the occasional “wind” that passes through the amoebic sea, knocking everything off kilter. All creatures caught in the wind are blown 1d20 layers in a random direction (ignoring encysted layers) furthermore, anyone caught in the winds is confused for one hour, or for one minute if they succeed on a DC 20 will save.


The Amoebic Consumption:
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some areas of the amoebic sea are more dangerous than others for non-natives. In such layers, creatures take 10d6 acid damage each round, have their speed reduced to 5 feet, take penalties for combat as if underwater, and can only leave the layer with a successful concentration damage (DC= damage taken this round). Furthermore, because natives to the far realms are unaffected by such areas, many tend to congregate, waiting for new targets so that they may feed. It is to such areas that the finger of expulsion spell (Dragon #330) sends targets.


NOTE: A DISORIENTING ENTRY?
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Let’s face it. Whenever an enemy gets banished somewhere like the far realms, we picture them standing there in a daze as thousands of terrifying and insane creatures slowly approach and bite off their face. That, my friends, is satisfaction.
The thing is, that probably won’t ever happen. The enemy will instead teleport to a new layer almost immediately (if they didn’t go insane upon entry) and probably put up a pretty valiant fight against the beings of beyond.
If you think that being thrown into an alien world should be a bit more…jarring than a single sanity saving throw, simply render the creature dazed (or even stunned) for 1d4 rounds upon entry. Whether this should occur every time or just the first time that a creature enters the far realms is up to the DM.


FEATS FOR FAR REALMS EXPLORERS:
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Through Space Alone
Your teleportation effects do not use other planes of existence.
Prerequisites: Spell Focus (Conjuration), Caster level 11th
Benefits: Your teleportation spells do not use other planes of existence unless it is part of their primary function (as with planeshift). As such, teleportation effects not leading to other planes of existence may be used while under the effects of a dimensional anchor or in the area of a dimensional lock.
Special: this feat allows for teleportation within the far realms of insanity.

Resilient Mind
Your mind resists attempts to break it down.
Prerequisites: Iron Will, Wis 13
Benefits: You gain a +1 bonus to Will saves made against mind-affecting effects. This bonus is doubled against confusion and insanity effects.
Lastly, the first time each day that you roll a natural 1 on a Will save, reroll the saving throw.

Encysted Walker
Whatever barriers the Far Realms bring forth, you can pass through with ease.
Prerequisite: Burrow Speed or Character level 9th
Benefit: You may pass through encysted layers and travel within them just like any other layer as a (or as part of a) free action used to change layers. While on an encysted layer, your sight and movement is not inhibited by any substance that it is made up of.
If the encysted layer manifests itself as a gap between layers, you may occupy that gap, although any movement in the three dimensions while in the gap results in a “fall” (see above).
Normal: Encysted layers cannot be traveled to and must be skipped over.

Speedy Swimmer
You can pass through the water at extreme speeds when required.
Prerequisites: Improved Swimming, Swim 9 ranks
Benefit: Once per minute, you may run through the water, using your full land speed as your base speed (a swim check is still required, however).
Special: this ability allows you to run within the far realms once per minute.

Wild Caster
You can control more chaotic forms of magic.
Prerequisite: Spellcraft 4 ranks
Benefit: Once per encounter, while you are in a wild magic zone, you may take a swift action to make your next spell manifest itself naturally as long as it is cast within the next round, ignoring the wild magic zone.
However, ignoring wild magic has a price. For the remainder of the encounter, all magic is automatically subjected to the wild magic trait, not allowing for the normal spellcraft check.