How to incorporate the Maelstrom / Chaos?

Lost Omens Campaign Setting General Discussion

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The planes of Good and Evil have both most of d20 gaming's history and much of world mythology to serve as inspiration; we know that celestials bless the land while horrible demons blight it, what roles an Angel or Devil can play in a story. The forces of planar Law are somewhat less familiar, but fantasy, sci-fi, and comic books are all full of those who enforce codes, keep the balance, and impose structure on disorder - and of course, there's always robots.

But I find myself at a loss with Chaos when it isn't steered with Good or Evil, when it comes to the cosmic level. I'm not sure how to make Proteans relevant to anything the folk walking Golarion would interact with, and I don't know of anywhere in the setting where the place makes itself known in the material world. What's the use case? What plot threads am I missing out on?


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When in doubt, look to specific demigod-level proteans, what they profess over, and how they can come in contact with mortals.

The 1e Campaign Setting book Concordance of Rivals (the Neutral counterpart to the Book of the Damned and the Chronicle of the Righteous) might have some useful information as well.

Silver Crusade

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There's Holomog for a Golarion presence.

As a whole, kinda weighted term there, though they have Choruses they align with they kinda more or less do their own thing, randomly showing up is entirely in their nature. Maybe something interested them?

I wish there was a Worldwound-style place on Golarion for the Maelstrom.

Silver Crusade


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If I recall correctly, I believe one of the Salim novels (I want to say the first one, Death's Heretic) has interactions between Inevitables and Proteans. That might be a place to look.

Honestly though, the forces of pure Chaos probably won't have as much to do with Golarion as Good/Evil. The Proteans number one goal is to turn all of reality back into the Malestrom. But there's not much reward for that. Unlike Good/Evil, which promise rewards of various sorts, Chaos/Law basically just promises Chaos or Law. So I imagine that there'd be fewer people who are going to put a lot of effort into dealing with all that that entails.

That's just my perspective though, not something that has been officially written.

Good research stuff would be 1e stuff like Planar Adventures, Concordance of Rivals, and the article in End of Eternity by Amber Stewart (Keepers of Chaos).


According to the Pathfinder wiki: on the Material Plane, proteans have a reputation of being both madcap and subtle, and might do anything from engineering aeons-long schemes or just eating a roadblock on the spot. At the same time, they delight in mortals' capacity for true free will.

They can also be found in large empires like Kelesh and Cheliax, and, historically, Thassilon under the reign of Emperor Xin, seeking to break down their stability.

Grand Lodge

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At PaizoCon a few years ago Amber Stewart DMed a game in Galisemni in which I was a player. (Lots of fun!) I felt Galisemni -- as Stewart ran it -- (and is as you know, the creator, author, designer of all such things for Paizo) with an almost 'SIGIL-like' feel.
So, ....If you're in to Planescape at all,--

For me, I have The Maelstrom swirling around in a chaotic vortex (Galisemni somewhere within) around Sigil itself. So that, if you're staring up at the 'sky' from The Outlands, you could see The Maelstrom whirling around Sigil miles above your head.

I feel Concordance of Rivals is a good place in which to find powerful NPCs, the movers-and-shakers, but not really a good 'campaign setting-like' 'atmosphere' or Flavor book. Grab it for some big-time NPCs.

The Great Beyond -- also authored by Stewart, obviously -- is better for atmosphere, tone and Flavor. Though admittedly, it is not great as far as a "dripping with atmosphere" setting book. For that, grab the old Planescape sourcebooks. (Stewart wrote over 100,000 words for this 64 page book and the editors had to cut out, you know, 80% of her content to fit it in a 64 page book; so there you go.)

And then see if Amber Stewart will answer some of your questions here on the Boards. She used to be here all time, but I haven't been on the Boards as much the past couple years so I don't know if she still posts the way she used to. (I know she was gracious enough to answer many, many of my questions in her own 'Ask the Designer' Thread.)

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I think part of the reason is that presenting the plane itself is difficult. Axis is easy, it's a relatively livable place that operates on clockwork timing, and has some modicum of uniformity- this is the place you get in trouble for walking on the grass when there's a sign that says not to.

The Maelstrom doesn't get used so much because the naive conception a lot of people have of it is that it's dangerous akin to a torrential river of constant change. I think in terms of making the Maelstrom a place worth adventuring in I think the aspect of chaos that needs to be highlighted is stochasticity- the lack of any predictable order or plan. It should be a relatively comfortable space, but none of it makes any sense at all and it's not supposed to- it's all just noise you can try to fit a pattern onto but that pattern is ephemeral and only exists in your reckoning.

So part of the problem is that people who feel truly at home there are people who for whom "go with the flow" is part of their nature. Proteans aren't schemers since plans are the sorts of things that fall apart and resist their chaotic nature. They will sometimes do things, but there's no real reason or simple intention behind them. The older ones are likely keenly aware that the maelstrom is eventually going to consume everything anyway, and there's no point in being in a hurry about it.

Silver Crusade

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Oh, also I messaged Amber and she said she would would make an in-depth reply tonight when she gets home from work ^w^

So, hyped for that :3

Liberty's Edge

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I think part of the problem is that the First World already has a strong presence as the whimsical place were anything can happen. What it mostly lacks compared to the Maelstrom is the Eroding all of reality part.

An interesting take on Chaos IMO was in Exalted, where the Fae (Chaos denizens) were IIRC something like sapient places, with their own rules, that they tended to impose on their environment. And with the weakest dissolving back quickly in the cosmic sea of potential that is Chaos.

I think the Proteans would hate strictures, because these are inevitably contraints and limits on them, on their ability to change as they wish. And they would be fascinated by the ability of mortals to effect change while living within a reality full of stability and rules.

Grand Lodge

It also may help just to metagame your interpretation of ‘Chaotic’ out loud. What is a CN character in your opinion.

If it’s more whimsical and mischievous, then make Proteans, The Maelstrom, and Galisemni more Fey-like.

If your idea of gaming Chaotic is more destructive then make it bend a bit more toward evil.

Or, maybe the Proteans are more like those folks that don’t like the status-quo of society and want revolution without any idea of the consequences.
….Or those same folks who would even hope for a zombie-apocalypse-like situation, kinda ‘super-extreme-revolution’ so they could start their lives over from scratch.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a handle on the CN Outsiders, perhaps just start with considering a CN PC.

Has anyone ever played a character who was a devotee of a protean lord? I'd love to hear about them.


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First things first: all of my statements here are my opinion only rather than canonical unless something I say appears in print.

That out of the way I think the one thing you need to keep in mind about proteans is that they don't really have a single overall goal*. Instead each individual chorus will have their own specific philosophy/goal/obsession, and that each chorus may radically change to something else as the Maelstrom/Speakers of the Depths so inspires them.

*[Yes, dissolve the rest of non-CN reality back into the true freedom of the Maelstrom is a 'goal' but it isn't necessarily the immediate driving force of every single protean. Likewise 'go nuts and wail on any demon or qlippoth because they're the original corruption of true chaos and yeah, sure, we'll get to those dumb LN axiomites eventually, we guess if opportunity strikes' is also a 'goal', but same caveat there.]

One chorus like the Chorus of Malignant Symmetry may have had the focus of 'Crack open a doorway to the Abyss because that would be cool! *chaotic crushing of chaotic beer cans into chaotic foreheads*' while the Chorus of the Lambent Moon and Broken Spire has the notion of 'tear down Pharasma's spire' while another might be focused on 'close the Worldwound because demons suck' and another 'create demiplanes full of a amazing living creatures as living art forms', and another 'inspire mortals to make chess sets, and sometimes murder lawful chess players as a bonus'.

There's really no rhyme or reasons behind what a particular chorus might be doing, but there's the haunting notion that -all of them- are working towards a gigantic butterfly effect, contrived and coordinated by the Speakers of the Depths. Maybe. If they actually care about anything that happens in existence. Whatever.

Tailor it all to your own campaign and have fun! :D


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keftiu wrote:
Has anyone ever played a character who was a devotee of a protean lord? I'd love to hear about them.

My PC in my last campaign that I was a player in, I played Il'setsya Wyrmtouched aka D'zenirusiphia the Pink Exhalation of Wanton Whimsy. She was a devotee of the Watching Se7en of Galisemni (who may or may not be the original keketars who comprised the Chorus of Malignant Symmetry), and she was also a self-appointed fan-girl of Ssila'meshnik the Colorless Lord.

I once played her in a one-shot PaizoCon game that Erik Mona ran, and every time she introduced herself to a new named NPC I had her ramble out a completely new protean name/title each and every time (about 5 times).

She was -VERY- CN without (as much as I could) derailing the campaign or making things un-fun for the other players. She was scatterbrained, focused on the moment, random, and hedonistic, yet brilliant. She was goals. :3

She later showed up in print in 'Planar Adventures', as an in-character source of information in the gazetteer of Gluttondark in 'Extinction Curse: Siege of the Dinosaurs', and later she shows up as an NPC in 'AoE: Ruins of the Radiant Siege'.

I wrote the following that should give a good idea of her personality as both a ganzi and as a follower of a protean chorus (sometimes known as 'The Mad Chorus' if that says anything): So You Want To Summon Il'setsya Wyrmtouched - A Guide to Alcoholism and Catastrophe in 12 Steps. [Warning, it has potentially naughty words]

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Appreciate the replies, Amber! You’ve given me a lot to chew on.

Grand Lodge

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Amber_Stewart wrote:
One chorus .... may have had the focus of...sometimes murder lawful chess players as a bonus'


And now, as a Lawful chess player -- I'm going to go murder-hobo some damn Proteans. (Maybe even feed them to some Axiomites.)


[ Threadjack ]
In one of those bewilderingly weird, completely unrelated, outrageous coincidences, last night in our Greyhawk campaign we took a trip to Sigil (as a favor to Mordenkainen) to check on his 'permanent' Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion there (that Mordenkainen uses as a base of operations when he visits The City of Doors). We the PCs were doing Mordenkainen a favor by getting rid of some squatters from his 'mansion' there in Sigil. ...And, not knowing about this Thread, our DM mischievously threw us through a Gate to Limbo -- the (oldschool) Chaotic Neutral Plane! So, after we kicked out the squatters from Mordenkainen's mansion in Sigil and went to a tavern to get a mug-o-ale, we spent the rest of the session in what was effectively The Maelstrom fighting our way through Slaadi, Proteans and other Chaotic Neutral Outsiders. All the while the ground was morphing under our feet and random crap was falling from the 'sky'!
[ / Threadjack ]

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