The people of the Empire know that they are not alone (in the universe). The universe is made up of countless spiritual realms that overlay the world that a human can touch and feel. Sometimes an average person might move through or unconsciously touch another realm. Only those who gain large amounts of positive karma (by doing good things) are considered to pass into a higher realm, until their karma is used up and they fall back to the mortal coil.
Some of these planes (colloquially referred to as realms) are so different that they barely resemble the world at all. These realms have their own populations, called spirits, that occasionally cross over into the human world. Some of these beings are so foreign that normal weapons cannot affect them, and others pass right through objects. It is believed that all monsters (yokai) originate from another spirit realm.
Some realms are said to be close to others. This is less of a physical distance and more of a similarity in form or philosophy. Realms that are said to be distant from one another are unlike one another in a certain dramatic fashion. For those spirits that are able to pass from one reality to another, traveling between close realms is far easier than leaping from one distant realm to another (similar to coterminous planes in normal DnD cosmology). Some realms are actually closed off to one another.
Travel Through the Spirit RealmsEdit
Traveling between spirit realms is a risky business, but it is possible. Portals can be created between realms, though it is far easier to create a portal between close realms than between distant realms. For those without such powerful magic, there are a small amount of legendary places where the realms brush against one another more closely than normal. Those who know what they're doing can take advantage of these passages, stepping in between realms.
Of course, the dangers adventurers may find by wandering the Spirit realms are as wide and varied as the realms themselves. Creatures visiting a spirit realm may gain damage reduction 10/(jade, crystal, or weapon from home realm) at the DM's discretion. For spirit creatures such as ghosts and demons, this is already taken into account.
Death and the Spirit RealmsEdit
When mortals die, they are distributed in one of the other realms in accordance to what they did with their lives. Those who led evil lives are reincarnated in one of the lower realms, while those who led extreme good and honorable lives are reborn in a higher realm. Many times mortals are simply reborn in the mortal realm once again.
Each spirit realm has a life, mentality, and consciousness of its own, even if this is fairly small. Some of the more powerful realms are even said to be jealous and protective of their inhavitants. These jealous realms want more outsiders for their "collection," as it were, and often bring new beings into the foil. Travelers to a jealous realm must be careful, unless they find themselves unable to leave.
The Spirit RealmsEdit
The following are the largest and most well known spirit realms.
Ningen-Do, the Realm of MortalsEdit
Ningen-do is the realm which the denizens of the Empire perceive, the lands in which humans dwell. Being reborn in Ningen-do is seen as very advantageous, for it is only in Ningen-do that one can attain spiritual enlightenment. It is also very strange in that, unlike the other realms, suffering and bliss are both common occurences.
Ningen-do is, ironically, one of the most jealous realms, and it has trapped powerful kami before (though they eventually returned to Tengoku), as well as many animal spirits. Spirits that are clever or very powerful are able to enter and exit Ningen-do without difficulty.
Like the other realms, Ningen-do has its fair share of strange creatures, though there is no true authority of what was originally spawned by Ningen-do and what was made by celestial offspring (humans, goblinoids, elves, and many other races are seen as the offspring of the Kami, trapped in the mortal world.)
Close Realms: Chikushudo, Gaki-do, Meido, Yume-do
Distant Realms: Ashura-do, Tengoku
Ashura-Do, the Realm of GiantsEdit
This realm is for those who commited actions based on jealousy, struggle, or combat. They may have had good intentions, but performed bad actions such as harming others. Ashura loosely translates to giant, and it is from this realm that the large beings such as Titans and the various races of Giant are from. It is also possible that trolls and ogres are from this realm. The denizens of Ashura can perceive the denizens of Tengoku just as easily as animals can perceive humans, a fact that makes them eternally jealous.
The members of Ashura-do are almost always involved in senseless battles, where spirits kill each other only to rise up and kill again. Fortunately, Ashura-do is not close to Ningen-do, for its inhabitants are an angry, cruel lot. Instances of spectral armies destroying entire towns are, in fact, visitations from Ashura-do.
Ashura-do is extremely jealous, eternally craving for more members of Tengoku to become trapped so its inhabitants will have less anger. Those reincarnated in Ashura-do are usually one size category larger then normal, but this is because of Ashura-do's effects, not because of hit dice advancement. Visitors to Ashura-do are not affected.
Close Realms: Gaki-do, Tengoku
Distant Realms: Ningen-do, Jigoku, Yume-do
Known Passages From Ningen-do: Any site where senseless carnage occured on a grand scale is a possible passage to Ashura-do. Such places should be avoided, lest the spirit armies appear and destroy all foolish enough to get in their way.
Chikushudo, the Realm of AnimalsEdit
This realm is remarkably similar to Ningen-do, in both form and function. All ordinary animals and most magical beasts exist is Chikushudo and Ningen-do simultaneously, though powerful magical beasts usually originate from Ningen-do. Chikushudo is seen as an unadvantageous realm to be reincarnated in, and all souls reincarnated as animals begin here.
Close Realms: Ningen-do
Distant Realms: Jigoku, Meido
Known Passages from Ningen-do: In the depths of some old forests one can find portals into Chikushudo, but they must have the blessing of the animal spirits to find the way.
Gaki-Do, the Realm of the Hungry DeadEdit
This realm is punishment for those who led a dishonorable, selfish existance. This spirits are called gaki (literally hungry ghost), and they live to feed. While gaki usually appear invisible to the mortal eye, they can be seen in certain states. Gaki-do is somewhat compareable to the ethereal plane in standard DnD cosmology.
Those reborn as gaki are in a constant state of hunger and pain. Some find it hard to find food, while others can find food but have a hard time swallowing, and, to some gaki, food bursts into flame when they look at it. In addition, gaki are burned by the moon as if it were the sun, and the sun does little to warm them during the winter.
Generally, gaki are seen to be little more than a nuisance, unless their hunger is after something vital, like blood (in the case of reincarnated vampires). Some gaki believe it is their mission to keep others from eating as well, and use magic, illusions, or disguises.
Close Realms: Ashura-do, Jigoku, Ningen-do
Distant Realms: Tengoku, Meido
Known Passages from Ningen-do: Amaterasu's Cave leads to Gaki-do, but it was sealed in the time before time by the gods. But really, why would you want to go to Gaki-do?
Jigoku, the Realm of EvilEdit
Jigoku (lit. Hell) or Naraku, as it is sometimes called, is a realm of utter corruption and evil. If you took all the worst aspects and denizens of the lower planes and wrapped them up in one super-evil sandwhich, you would only come close to how bad Jigoku is. Only souls beyond redemption are cast into Jigoku upon their death (and usually they sold their soul to some sort of lower power anyway).
Jigoku is the home of the demons, devils, yugoloths, and any other sort of evil outsider. Of course, due to their close proximity, Jigoku is constantly fighting a war on two fronts: one against Ningen-do, the other against itself. The internal wars between the different species in Jigoku is arguably the only thing that has kept it from taking over Ningen-do.
Jigoku contains all the worst aspects of all the lower planes, and is roughly divided into two sections: 'hot' Jigoku: realms of fire and burning, and 'cold' Jigoku: realms of freezing punishment. Jigoku is the most jealous and sentient of all the Spirit Realms, and it hates the purity of Ningen-do. The Realm of Evil shall not rest until the Realm of Mortals is destroyed.
Close Realms: Ningen-do, Gaki-do
Distant Realms: Ashura-do, Chikushudo
Closed Against: Tengoku, Meido
Known Passages from Ningen-do: As with other demonic planes, great evil, suffering, or permanent portals created by worshippers of the Darkness create pathways and places where the foul creations of Jigoku can slip through to the mortal realm. Located deep in the heart of the Burning Sands is the Steep Slope of Shadow; at the very bottom of this deep crag in the earth is a path to the heart of Jigoku, though only the truly mad would wish to go there, and only the truly powerful would survive the journey.
Meido, the Realm of the DeadEdit
Meido is the realm where spirits stay while they wait to be reincarnated, as well as the resting place for those souls who did nothing good nor evil with there lives. It is a domain of waiting — a sad, lonely, gray place. Occasionally, confused spirits slip through the gates to Ningen-do in an attempt ot resume their former lives. Though these ghosts mean no harm, they can cause great pain and confusion (especially to themselves) if left wandering.
Meido is a very jealous realm, for those who set foot in the Realm of the Dead have renounced life and may not leave until the Karmic Wheel permits.
Close Realms: Ashura-do, Ningen-do
Distant Realms: Chikushudo, Gaki-do, Tengoku, Yume-do
Closed Against: Jigoku
Known Passages from Ningen-do: There are no known ways to reach Meido quickly, other than death.
Tengoku, the Realm of GodsEdit
This realm is the home and birthplace of most of the spirits (kami), the Great Dragons, the Sun, the Moon, and many other divine entities. Tengoku is the realm of bliss, and only beings with high amounts of karma are allowed to be reincarnated here, though few mortals are allowed to see it without dying. Tengoku itself is divided into levels, with the denzins of the lower levels not able to acknowledge the existance of higher levels. Those in Tengoku can appear to those on lower levels and realms; indeed, it is necessary to talk between levels.
The inhabitants of Tengoku sparkle like the greater Kami, and thus are attractive additions to any realm. Denzins of Tengoku need to be especially careful when travelling to other realms, for any jealous realm wants to add members of Tengoku to their "collection."
Close Realms: Ashura-do
Distant Realms: Ningen-do, Gaki-do
Closed Against: Jigoku
Known Passages from Ningen-do: Passages to Tengoku can only be created by the Elemental Oracles.
Yume-do, the Realm of DreamsEdit
This is the only realm that ordinary mortals regularly perceive. While sleeping, human minds wander to this world. Nightmare beasts, dream eaters, githzerai, and, if you want, quori all originate in this realm. This is the realm from which many of the Jumon gain their power from. It is said to hold the power of Name magic, and also holds the Transcendant Spirits.
Close Realms: Ningen-do, Tengoku, Meido
Distant Realms: Ashura-do
Known Passages from Ningen-do: All one must do to enter Yume-do is dream (Kalishtar need not apply).
Boido, the Realm of VoidEdit
Boido, or Void, is a realm that is not actually a realm. It refers not only to the space between realms, but also the space between the elements. Void is like the silence between notes of music, which gives the overall song form and flow. Whenever something travels from one realm or another, it passes through Boido. Boido is the home of the Githyanki.
Close Realms: All
Distant Realms: All
Known Passages from Ningen-do: Anytime someone uses a spell to transport themselves to another spirit realm, they pass through Boido, but it is harder to actually be transported to Boido itself. There are no known passages from Ningen-do, for Void is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
Role of the Ethereal PlaneEdit
You might notice that a lot of the standard DnD planes don't even have an equivalent here. Now, this isn't too big of a problem, except when it comes to the Ethereal Plane. So how does that plane (of which many beasties, spells, and cultures use) fit in with this campaign setting? Read on to find out.
The Ethereal Plane presents a problem, since it is where ghosts who walk the earth live. And because gaki are doomed to wandern the earth in search of food, Gaki-do works nicely as a fill-in for the Ethereal Plane. If you don't want to do that (mostly because of Ethereal spells and monsters and effects), you could keep the Ethereal plane. Seriously, there are supposed to be an infinite amount of realms, right? So there's obviously one like the Ethereal Plane.
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