!!WORK IN PROGRESS!!
Foldstair is a setting designed for classic fantasy pen & paper roleplaying games. It consists of several unique planes inhabited by various fantasy races, connected by an interplanar vortex.
A long, long time ago, a great ship fell from the sky. The impact caused a massive explosion, which, together with the ensuing impact winter, wiped out all life on the planet. Almost.
While most of the gigantic vessel was utterly wrecked, and all passenger killed, the ultrahard core survived, and in this core the ship's highly advanced AI. Once it had operated the machines, complex beyond human understanding, that caused space to 'fold', piercing a way through other planes of existence in order to travel vast distances in the blink of an eye. These machines, though damaged, still operated. A vortex was created, which connected many strange planes, previously unaware of each other, with a pathway that later became known as the Foldstair.
The AI summoned survivors on the planet to it, sending them through the vortex in search of a new world to escape to. They found not one, but several, some already inhabited by beings, similar to them, but not quite alike. In time their numbers grew again.
The twin worlds of Frost and Flame became the new centre of human civilisation. At first they traded peacefully with the other races. Their power, however, aided by the AI, grew more rapidly than anyone could have guessed. Trade turned into conquest. Demihuman races became tributaries at the best, slaves at the worst.
For many years the Empire of Frost and Flame ruled supreme among the worlds of the Foldstair. Many slaves were brought in to build new cities, and to mine the dark, subterranean realm of Fear that separated the two worlds. In the end, however, the slaves, together with monsters from Fear and from the other planes, swarmed from the caverns and laid ruin to the Empire. Although the tide was eventually stopped, the world would never be the same.
The balance of power between the planes and races is now fairly equal. Frost and Flame remain independent kingdoms, but have lost much of their former glory. Many of the towns of the old Empire now lie in ruins, the populations centred around the capital cities.
Commerce has become the supreme power. The unique nature of each plane means they all have something to offer to others.
The planes of the Foldstair exist somewhere in the region between the material plane and the elemental planes. It is debatable whether they are, like the elemental planes, inner planes in their own right, or more independent demiplanes. While many of their features resemble the material plane, they are more uniform in nature and often strongly influenced by a particular element or elements.
Unlike the material plane, the other planes do not consist of planetary systems in a vast expanse of space, but feature more unique geography.
Read more about the planes here, or click on the names in the chart below.
- Fold (Material Plane) - The last remaining settlement on an otherwise dead planet, now known just as the First World. Guarded from the elements by a force field put up by the AI.
- Floor - A mysterious flat and almost empty plane, watched over by a great Eye in the empty sky. Mostly a neutral meeting place, with few permanent inhabitants.
- Fall - A world consisting of a great river, forming a great, endless loop. Settled by humans, but also home to merfolk.
- The Twin Kingdoms - A flat plane made up of two highly contrasting worlds on its opposite sides. Settled by humans. Original inhabitants were either wiped out or driven to Fear.
- Frost - A world of perpetual winter and twilight.
- Flame - A dry desert world.
- Fear - A subterranean world between Frost and Flame. Home to many monstrous creatures, including the drow (descendants of elves enslaved by the old Empire).
- Fang - A great volcanic cavern, the bottom part of which is a sea of magma, with great caves in upside down mountains hanging above. Home to gnomes, as well as dragons and other flying creatures.
- Fuse - A metallic world of gigantic gear wheels, a seemingly infinite machine of unknown purpose. Home to dwarves.
- Fen - A dark world of primeval marshlands, on the inside of a hollow sphere. Home to goblinoids, orcs and other monstrous creatures.
- Fey - A world of great forests. Home to elves, fairies and other fey creatures.
- Frail - A crystalline palace, which literally hangs in thin air. Home to halflings.
The Outer Planes
- Fate - The gateway to the outer planes, and the terminus of the Foldstair. The destination of the greatest heroes, where they will face the greatest challenges of all. Most never return.
- Far - The vast realm of the gods of Law.
- Fool - The plane of madness, demons and gods of Chaos.
- Merchants' Guild - Possibly the single greatest political power in the world today.
- Assassins' Guild - A major player in a world where open warfare is rare due to difficulty of interplanar travel.
- Priesthood of Far - Priests of the Lawful gods.
- Cabal of Claws - A shadowy organisation serving Chaos and Evil.
- Fools Errant - A loose organisation of devotees of Chaotic gods, though not necessarily evil.
- Order of the Eye - Worshippers of the Great Eye of Floor.
Mana is the magical energy that flows through the planes of the Foldstair. It is the source of power for arcane magic.
Mana does not exist on the material plane. Arcane magic users are powerless in Fold, and magic items become ordinary. It is not known whether this has always been the case, or whether mana disappeared when life on the planet was wiped out after the Falling.
Manasynthesis and Mankton
The plants of the planes rely on mana rather than sunlight for energy. Like photosynthesis, the manasynthesis process also creates oxygen and purifies the air.
Mankton are tiny organisms in the air and water that feed on mana. Like larger plants, they also manasynthesise, creating oxygen. Many are microscopic in size, but some are visible as luminous, colourful flecks drifting on air currents. They are crucial to the ecosystems of the planes, particularly in places where plant life is scarce, forming the first link in the food chain.
Manktonite is a crystalline mineral imbued with magical power, believed to have been born from fossilised mankton. Crystal shards are used to power dwarven machines.
Two forms exist. The so-called true manktonite is very rare. It is used to power the largest machines, like the Stairships. Semimanktonite is an impure form, more common but limited in power. Its perhaps most important use is in manacompasses, although several crystals can together produce enough power to power other small gadgets.
While the early travellers of the Foldstair were forced to walk great distances from on plain to another, these days large mechanical vessels glide above it, powered by manktonite crystals. Although passage is not cheap, any of the planes from Fold to Frail is reachable in a matter of days.
The laws of physics are different in the Foldstair. If brought into any of the planes, they instantly become much too heavy to fly.
The AI did more than open the Foldstair. It used some of its machines to change people on a genetic level, making them stronger, more apt at utilising their innate talents. These people, and some of their descendants, would become the greatest heroes of all.
Tradition holds that great heroes must eventually test their skill in the mysterious world of Fate. While not all venture there, the name Fatebound is frequently used to describe those exhibiting the hero genes.
The material on this page is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. You are granted permission to distribute and modify material, as long as you credit me, Ben B. Bainton, as the original author and distribute it or any derivative works under a similar license.