Hey flumphs, let's talk worldbuilding! Stay a while and listen.
Elanor was inspired by fantastic works of fiction like Dragon Age, Stormlight Archive, Avatar: Last Airbender, and more. The idea of spirits in a D&D world fascinated me, and I haven’t seen it executed before, so I decided to explore it with the community. That’s you flumphs.
200,000 words later, we have learned a thing or two about design. I’d like to share some of these insights, and the changes that will follow in the world’s lore to accommodate them.
Words are Powerful
And we stole one from you. The word “spirit” can be used in countless ways when playing D&D, but in Elanor, it always meant our type of spirit – a creature that manifests from emotions. This is confusing, so we renamed our spirits; we now call them “animar”. The animar are spirits, but the word “spirit” can also be used to refer to a ghost, an ethos, an alcoholic beverage, or any other use your dictionary might suggest. You may have other kinds of spirits in your world that aren’t animar, now you can accommodate them without stumbling on definitions.
When it’s O.K to Stray from the Base Lore
D&D established the concept of the Ethereal Plane, and we’ve taken it into our design from day 1. It was established as the realm of spirits (or animar), and we developed it thoroughly; we added new phenomena, we sent people adventuring in it, and added a slew of creatures that reside there. But the more we wrote, the more we strayed from the original concept. Our Ethereal Plane did a lot more than the one presented in the 5E core book, and even though the two are compatible, we felt it’s necessary to emphasize it.
Our Ethereal Plane is a place of memory and emotion. It remembers the collective experience of sentient creatures and echoes it. Some of those memories and emotions manifest as animars, while others literally shape the way the plane appears and behaves. It still overlaps the Material Plane, and is used for every spell or ability that mentions the Ethereal Plane (like blink, or etherealness). In fact, for all game system purposes you could still call it the Ethereal Plane, but we are going to call it the Everlast. Other names for it include the “spirit realm”, and the “mistlands”. If you see any of those names in our books, they all refer to the same place.
When it’s NOT O.K to Stray from the Base Lore
Early in our design we decided that we need a new creature type for spirits. This, however, generated compatibility issues with numerous spells and class abilities. Even though we were able to close most gaps with the core classes and spells, that new creature type made Elanor incompatible with other homebrews, which is not something we can stand for. We want you to take Elanor and make it your own. We want you to mix it with other 3rd party content. So we are going to step back and change the spirit type into elemental. When you think of it, the animar are quite primal in nature, especially in a world where emotions are magic.
When we first started, we based our work on Robert Plutchik’s emotion wheel, but we’ve changed it. The emotions we ended up using were: hope, serenity, fear, wonder, despair, hate, wrath, and valor. We felt that that covered the spectrum of human emotion, and it did a decent job at first. But there are some things that are missing, for example, where does joy fit in? And trust? It’s a good mental exercise for sure, but we feel that Robert’s original design had merit to it, and we want to go back to this source. In the next Ethereal Menagerie, we will start using: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation.
That’s all for this post! What do you think about these changes? Let me know in the comments.