So, I have this idea about building encounter tables around the world, the border planes, and the outer planes by tier: it works a lot like encounter difficulty increasing as you descend deeper into a dungeon.
The farther you get from the material plane, the tougher the baddies get.
Pretty simple on the surface, but it requires sufficient baddies to fill an encounter table, and enough reason for them to be there (theming, etc) to allow for more complex agendas.
It was for that reason I started looking at the githyanki in earnest, even though I’ve always thought of them as pretty silly. I’ve actually had cause to reexamine some Material Plane baddies in light of what I’ve realized about the outer planes.
Pirates and bandits for instance, don’t have to be terribly high-level, and it’s probably better if they aren’t because they do the best in large numbers. Like stupid large numbers. Fifteen. Thirty. Fifty. A hundred.
Close to the point where an encounter moves from zoomed-in to uh, slightly zoomed-out, I suppose.
It’s a significant encounter, but doesn’t necessarily move to the hex map, even with a hundred baddies to track.
And that’s kind of where the githyanki fit, ironically enough. I mean, it’s hard enough to justify humanoids of a higher level without giving them class levels. Then there’s trying to ruin am encounter with four or more classed NPCs. It gets stupid for other reasons.
Oh sure, simplify the mechanics of the class into the most broad-strokes vision you can imagine: then realize than a hundred monsters using magic missile on the same PC will instantly kill… pretty much anyone. Two to five hundred damage.
Even dividing things up equally, say ten PCs and henchmen, ten missiles each, that’s only thirty damage apiece on average. ‘Cause you know, a hundred magic bandits probably aren’t all that well-coordinated.
So, I’ve been reading and re-reading the different incarnations of the Fiend Folio, the Manual of the Planes, and so forth. I feel like I’m getting there, but slowly.
I mean, I can see why a lot of the Outer Planes are themed.
The standard outer planes creatures aren’t really standard because there isn’t much of a standard. But if you’re using like, the Great Wheel, them you have the sixteen-or-so themed afterlife destinations to choose from.
I’m actually kind of surprised there aren’t more death-worlds among D&D’s outer planes. I mean, it’s one thing to astrally project to a world like your own, but you know… backwards somehow, but there seems to be a lack of star empires.
Maybe that’s what Spelljammer was about? “Medieval-themed Star Empires?” I’m poking fun, but I’m also kind of serious.
It’s important to have those afterlife destinations out there, but Star Wars and Star Trek are out there somewhere too. I mean, so is StarCraft and Warhammer 40k, I guess. And Doctor Who (while we’re at it).
Somewhere there must be a whole world of CR 15 monsters just itching for a fight. That was the premise of the first Avengers movie, wasn’t it? And Guardians of the Galaxy?