An Introduction to Istralar in Istralar | World Anvil

An Introduction to Istralar

Step into these pages, and arrive in a world most unknown to even its inhabitants...
  Istralar is the central planet to its own high fantasy (yet not entirely light in tone) campaign setting. The world attempts to take on the task of feeling fundamentally real to those who dwell in it and to those playing characters from our own Earth - a task that it, thus far, seems to be succeeding in.   Players of campaigns in Istralar, such as the Lost Ones, are not expected to understand much of the world when they start aside from the world at their doorstep. For Ashlyn Alarian, this world was Serendel Forest and the towns around it; for others, it may have been more.   Readers, you have an advantage over my dearest players. You can read at your leisure, seeking only morsels of information, or you can dive into the depths of the work before you and uncover the secrets that lie within. There are lies in these pages; not every word is written with the ring of truth at its back. Deciphering what is true and what exists to mislead players and readers both is a task you can choose to take, if you so wish. Perhaps you will be the first to unlock the true secrets of Xaahra, or the Worldrend, or the Shards of the Void themselves. Perhaps you will find Avatar interference where no others have noticed it. Or perhaps you wish to simply have a giggle at gnome punting.   Whatever the case, I invite you to read on. Seek what you may, but remember - for every article there is, there are five unwritten. If you find a mystery that fails to explain itself to you, then feel free to ask! Perhaps you'll get an answer...  

The Importance of Magic

  With few exceptions, Istralar uses the system of Vancian Magic established by D&D and Pathfinder. Whilst Pathfinder does allow alternative magic systems, and has many adapted for its use, it was almost necessary to continue utilising the standard. Not only because it creates a level of instant familiarity for readers, allowing the use of terms like '7th-level spell', but because it naturally ties into the world's underlying narrative. You see, there are three distinct forms of magic in Pathfinder. Divine magic, arcane magic, and psychic magic. Each grants differing abilities. Each has shaped - or will shape - the history of Istralar in a different way. Perhaps it might be prudent to look at how, first.  
As far as mortals are concerned, Istralar's history began in the Era of the Divine, where magic was only able to be drawn from the gods. Nature-based powers, such as that druids use, was an extension of this. The amount of magic in the world was heavily limited - and nobody questioned the deities and their right to rule. Even ley-line magic was less powerful in this era.   And then one deity - the Forgotten One, the Nameless One, the forbidden seeker of knowledge - unlocked the secret of arcane powers. Magic that could not be contained, that drew from a wellspring of power unknown to the gods. Mortals and deities alike could pull on these new powers, changing their reality and warping it beyond recognition.   This arcane power both terrified and excited the Outer Planes - it was the spark that threw the pantheons into their second war. But what had been released could not be undone. This was not a power that could be denied to the gods. It was, however, one they could deny mortals. For a millennia, any mortal showing arcane power was removed from Istralar's surface and placed onto the smaller clone planet of Terra Arcana.   Until the Worldrend struck, and the imprisoned Forgotten One broke free. Istralar's surface was littered with arcane fallout, blighting some areas for nigh-eternity. The mortals at risk of dying were - in one perfect moment of unison between the Higher Planes - returned to their homelands. The intervention of the goddess of fate and death, Pharasma, was all that stopped a third war from breaking out.   The die was cast - now, mortals were to decide their own paths.   For over five thousand years, Istralar's mortal races - from humans to elves to dwarves and more - have found their way through life. The strong prejudices against arcane magic linger in the very social conventions that bind them, with some cultures even finding all magic to be the cause of their troubles.   You may notice that psychic magic has not warranted a mention.   Istralar's populace are entering a time of danger. As happened once before, psychic magic threatens to upset the fragile balance of the world - it is a new form of magic, after all, and danger awaits should mortals begin to wield it. The gods are not unaware of this threat. They watch with keen attention as their chosen Champions take action. They stand ready to act - to plunge mortal life into calamity once again for its own folly.   Only time can tell where this path will lead.

What is Istralar?

Istralar is primarily a high fantasy world built for a Pathfinder 1e game that has since overflown the Pathfinder bucket to become more of its own thing.   It uses and features all playable races in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, incorporates most of Paizo's bestiary, utilises the existing planar structure and deities - and then on top of that sit my own custom demiplanes, dimensions, races, and gods. All references to Paizo's content will be linked to either the d20pfsrd, Archives of Nethys, or the Pathfinder Wiki.  

Why does Istralar exist?

Istralar is primarily written as the setting for the various adventures that the Lost Ones and their allies set out on. This group of adventurers started their journey early in 2016 as a disconnected band of misfits that happened to meet in Port Amarin - four years and many changes in number and character later, they fight as Champions against looming catastrophe, seeking to untangle deific secrets and protect their newfound family.   But with reality-altering Shards tampering with their minds, the lingering threat of lich Ludrissiel, and the devastating forces commanded by Riven Drast working against them, even having an empire on their side won't give them an easy win.   The journals of Aniks Aliforn provide a fantastic player-perspective view of how their adventures have gone so far!  

What should I read first?

Start with a location, if you can! Those are typically good points to start off with.   But if you want to know the core, then read the key articles for my campaign, like the following!  
Champion of the Divine
Rank/Title | Oct 25, 2023

The mortal realm is not to be the plaything of gods. However, certain events require divine intervention of a more direct kind, and thus, the gods may select their Champions.

The Types of Magic


Divine Magic

Magic drawn from the gods, or from the world itself. These powers focus largely on healing and protection - or in the case of evil deities, their opposites. Spells vary based on a given deity's domains, but remain less destructive than arcane magic by nature alone.   Its exact source - and how deities are able to manipulate it - is unknown, but few divine spells require components. Instead, they often rely on deific foci or talismans to access divine power.

Arcane Magic

Magic drawn from an unknown source, manifesting in effects that go beyond the limits of what divine magic could manage - often at serious cost to the caster. Spellcasters tap into arcane magic through powerful connections in their blood and through careful study.   Unlike divine magic, working with arcane energy requires no deific approval and some gods are known to frown on arcane spellcasters, even now. Arcane spells are often considered challenging to cast, and many nations hold some level of stigma against those who make the attempt.

Psychic Magic

A mostly-unknown third strain of magic, psychic magic focuses on manipulating mental energies into physical effect. Psychic spellcasters are thought to manifest from particularly emotional or wilful individuals, though this phenomenon has yet to be studied.   Many psychic spells focus on exploring the boundaries of one's mind and dreams rather than effecting reality in any significant way, and it's rare for a psychic spellcaster to require physical elements for their spells.
Whilst arcane magic is stigmatised, psychic magic is so rarely heard of that most existing spellcasters keep their talents very quiet. Those who don't are often killed: either out of fear, or out of anger. To announce a second departure from divine will would be blasphemy of the highest order.

The Geography of Istralar

Repeating one's self is folly. Perhaps some explanation will do you good.
The continent of Iskaldhal is a wild place. Witch-Tribes rule in the shadows as dragons soar overhead and mysterious artifacts from lost millennia lurk in distant icy reaches.
An explanation of Istralar's geography has already been given, though the exact geographical structure of the planes around it remain a mystery to the Codices of Istralar and Beyond - an in-world series of books representing the majority of this codex. Please find this explanation below.  
Geography of Istralar
Geographic Location | Jan 15, 2024

A discussion of Istralar's five continents and some of their significant geographical features.

The continent of Takawaoku shelters its people under thick rainforests and around the life-giving waters of the Sea of Souls, ever resisting the Starsear's burning touch.
  Unless stated otherwise, the planes and dimensions of Istralar currently resemble that of Golarion, the Pathfinder official setting. This is very likely to change in the near future as my first campaign draws to a close... keep an eye on Deities of the Great Beyond, for instance.

Cover image: Istralar Generic Header by Hanhula (ft. photos from Phil Botha, Jonny McKenna, and Luca Bravo)


Please Login in order to comment!
Feb 14, 2024 16:08 by spleen

this is a great explanation of the magic of istralar, and the conflicts between them. I enjoyed the out-of-world introduction to the campaign. i'm loving the focus on both magic and on theology - those are by far my two favourite aspects of worldbuilding. I love seeing your version of them

Have a wonderful day!