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The Plane Shifter's Guide to Ancalen

An Introduction to the Ancalen Continent and What is Playable

Written by Jaedia

So you have found yourself in the magnificent world of Rania. On behalf of all the members of Rania’s primary wizarding academy the Aerida Spire, welcome! We know Plane Shifting can be quite a strange feeling, especially if you are new to it but hopefully, this brief literature will help you recover your wits and recognise just a little about the magical world you have found yourself in. Yes, whether you arrived with us by choice or by force (sorry about that), there is a place for you here, so allow us to at least explain the basic wonders of our own dear continent: Ancalen, and the amazing things you could see while you’re here.     The first thing you should be aware of is the world’s power structures, which often flummox new arrivals. The Axis would have you believe that they rule over much of the world, especially the continents of Ancalen and Khojan, but we at the Aerida Spire can assure you that they are quite mistaken. We are just one among a series of magical structures dotted throughout the known world, where folk from all walks of life come to learn the ways of the arcane, teach it to younger minds, and research it further, pushing it to new and glorious heights. This can be a lifelong undertaking for many, though others do take themselves to other avenues of life once they feel ready to, be that a life in politics, combat, entertainment, or even returning to a more “regular” avenue of life such as farming (with a little kick). Either way, magic use is the backbone of our world, and we see many quality of life advantages as a result that you will be able to enjoy during your stay!    

The Diverse Continent of Ancalen

  Take a jaunt through Ancalen, a huge continent made up of seven different nations! You will find there is simply no way to not find yourself awestruck by its scenic delights, dazzling magics, delectable culinary diversity and an astounding array of art and architecture.   Explore the rolling green hills and picturesque woodlands of Merridell, a land with a rich history of Halfing and Gnome-kin. From the tremendous Wizard’s Tower Brewery at Hywood to the technical Gnomish wonders of Gobberstop which boasts one of three major skyports from which you can buy a ticket to one of Rania’s incredible airships. The beautiful Emerald Bay renowned for it’s sparkling green waters, to the southern Dwarven town of Khuramun situated on the very edge of the ethereally titled Ghostlight Forest, you are sure to find something about Merridell that will take your breath away.   Heading south to Esterwick, you would be forgiven for mistaking this ancestral Dwarven country for being a simple range of mountains, forest, and wilderness. However, look a little closer and you’ll see the wonders and history of the place and perhaps find you wish to stay just a little longer. Go ghost hunting in the Ghostlight Forest, argued to be the largest stretch of evergreens within the known world and explore the underground marvel of the Dwarven mountain cities of Dun Thorum and Khordarul, both equally noted for their astonishing grandeur built into and beneath the peaks of the Storhjartad (stor-yar-tad) range itself, with thanks to the abundant mining and smithing culture that spans millennia in this area. And if you ever fancy a pub-crawl, do it with the denizens of Esterwick, you won’t regret it.   The wide-open plains of the Rhoavia midlands are truly something to behold. While you will find a lot of settlements within Rhoavia, it is also home to many nomadic peoples whose home is the land itself. While we do not advise paying these folks a direct visit, though you find yourself lucky enough to catch a tribe on the move. Visit the ruined city of Archt, once standing tall and proud but ultimately lost in a long ended war several centuries back. The monumental city of Khar Dragzud is one of the most incredible places on Ancalen being the Orcish races’ proudest architectural accomplishment. Of course, you would be amiss to not experience Rhoavia’s grand Human towns and cities along its charming Northern coast with their diverse cultures and vibrant populations.   On the westerly path, you’ll find yourself in Drutha, long perceived as dingy swamp country but in more recent years embraced by Ancalen civilisation as a diverse and rich land with some of the most stunning wildlife you will ever see in your life. Make sure you visit the Langcour Wetlands, one of the only remaining towns in Rania built over the water upon stilts in a beautifully vibrant ecosystem. And north to the colourful city of Ormont, upon Sharktooth island, where you can experience a lively culture of street performers, drag artists, and the Magician’s Circle (don’t let the name fool you, they aren’t REAL wizards, but their magic performance is certainly popular).   Formed around the Phoenix Gate which protects Rania from the entrance to the fire plane that has so scarred the nearby landscape, as well as the vital River Desbordant, Ankpur is a country made up of desert, jungle, and fertile green lands where vibrancy and life awaits. It is a very strange part of the Ancalen landscape, true, but if you get the opportunity to lay your eyes on the huge mystery that is the 30-metre tall obelisk in the centre of the desert, you absolutely should for it is truly a once in a lifetime thing. Known as the origin of civilisation as we know it today, Fort Embral has a history stretching back thousands of years. Lucky sightseers may be able to witness the Great Phoenix flying over the city while experiencing the kaleidoscope of colours that the Bazaar offers, the largest market in Ancalen. The Bronze Edge is the most fascinating of all of Ankpur’s cities, home to the grand guilds as well as being a city that has really sought to embrace how far technology can go in recent years, with another of Rania’s skyports. With shining mechanical golem guards, dazzling brass architecture, and a deep history and culture, it truly is quite a sight to behold.   If you only visit one place in Ancalen, make it the elven heartland of Andore, a land of poets, bards and artists. While visiting the lush green forests, make sure to stop by Eshoneos, the port town famed for its mouthwatering seafood, the jaw-dropping ancient city of Argellond, situated within a vast lake, with its long history and vivid mythology inscribed in the very walls of the city, and its beautiful jade glass bridge which has attracted travellers since time unknown. And of course, Fyrendorei is where we are, the prestigious Aerida Spire! We cannot reveal too much of our ways of course, but you should definitely get a glance at the eminent Mount Aerida, visit our café and gift shop downstairs, and make sure to view our floating islands. You won’t regret it.   The crowning jewel of Ancalen is most definitely Apultia, an independent island North of Merridell which is perhaps the most curious landmass you will ever lay your eyes on, and one of the most popular among the land’s artists! A stunning series of concentric islands, connected down the middle by what is called the “Spine”, this astonishing place, likely crafted by the hands of the gods themselves, features the world’s largest naval base and is purportedly the place where the fabled Exalted Blade was originally forged, so you can feast your eyes on some stunning art and architecture depicting these tales. And you absolutely must taste Apultian cider while on your travels through Ancalen.  

That’s All From Us

  Now if you’d like to hear more about the other continents throughout Rania, those supplements are available from our gift shop, right next door to the café. We’re able to provide you with this introduction to our own continent but we have to make our coin somehow, you understand.    

DM’s Appendix:

  I hope you enjoyed this little introduction to Rania by way of Ancalen travel guide! I had a lot of fun putting it together and this is just scratching the surface on what we can build and explore, it’s very exciting. I hope you’ll enjoy this world as much as I’ve enjoyed building it!   We started off with a small adventure I built myself. How the game’s major conflict will play out, what it will become, and if you even get there is up to you as there is a lot in just Ancalen alone that could completely change the course of that and what you might decide to do along the road.   Please bear with me as I am always learning and deal with fatigue and brain fog - we're all human! Ask as many questions as you need to, get to know each other, and have fun! If you ever want to poke at something that feels “out there”? Do it! But please bear in mind that I want this to be a mutual storytelling experience, by all means, have fun and be a little silly but let’s enjoy some solid roleplay, too!   Anyway, I had to cut in with my own message about races and classes just to make sure it’s very clear what is playable and how it roughly fits in with our world.  

Available Ancestry

  (Playable Races)   Bear in mind that you are not tied down to these areas of the world, I have merely setup where each race originated, however in any city you will find people of all races, and even in some towns and villages. We are looking more at ancestry with regards to races, which should make for some interesting diversities. With this in mind, naming conventions may differ from those laid out in the PHB and we absolutely personalise things like racial ability score increases based more on culture than ancestry, as presented in the Ancestry & Culture pdf that Starspun kindly shared with us. There are also other continents within Rania so if you want a different flavour of fantasy culture than what’s on offer in Ancalen, speak with me and I can go over roughly what’s available.  
  • Elf: The ancestral homeland of the Elves is Andore on Ancalen and the continent of Khojan. Wood Elves would be most common among the Andore forest known as Nimloth Fen. Among High Elves, the Sun Elves are rarer and generally pretty snobby, Moon Elves are a little more common and tend to be more down-to-earth. Rania's Dark Elf population are divided between the sprawling Underdark and in the more northern/southern parts of the world due to their issues with the sun. Elven subraces not native to Rania are the Eladrin that Rania's Elves descended from are found in the Feywild among the four seasonal courts. Sea Elves are those who chose the wild beauty of the ocean over land and tend to be found in the Elemental Plane of Water. The Shadar-Kai are a mysterious subrace of Elves who exist within the Shadowfell and live in a state somewhere between life and death.
  • Human: Their ancestors generally evolved from other races so they are a younger race who don't have any specific ancestral home, but nevertheless, Humans have accomplished a lot from martial prowess to mastery over the arcane arts and advanced farming techniques.
  • Tiefling: This curious race evolved from Humans who made dark pacts with Asmodeus long, long ago, changing them forever. While modern Tieflings aren’t evil by nature, their ancestry still retains their cursed appearance and gifts.
  • Genasi: Generally hailing from their respective elemental planes (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), some Genasi have opted to live out their lives in Rania’s relative calm.
  • Aasimar: The Aasimar bear within them the light of the heavens. Descended from humans, they are born to serve the gods, births hailed as blessed events. As such, this angelic ancestry is supremely rare and those who meet an Aasimar are counted lucky indeed.
  • Triton: Guarding the ocean depths, the aquatic humanoids are mostly found as guardians of Apultia and in settlements beside deep oceanic trenches, as well as within the Elemental Plane of Water itself.
  • Dwarf: Descended from the mountains themselves, the Dwarves find their ancestral home with the Storhjartad mountains of Esterwick and northern Ustum, back when the continents were one. Duerger are Dwarves who ventured too deep and fell to darkness and cruelty, those who venture to the surface and go adventuring are usually exiles.
  • Halfling: Short, peace-loving homely humanoids, they find their ancestral homeland among the Merridell hills, alongside the Gnomes.
  • Gnome: Also hailing primarily from the hills of Merridell, Rock Gnomes have evolved alongside the Halflings of Rania, though have veered towards a love of tinkering and mechanics, this seen most prominently in Gobberstop, a Gnomish industrial paradise. All the clockwork and aetherpunk. Forest Gnomes originally hailed from the Balan forests though have emigrated over time, and are companions of nature and its animals. The Deep Gnomes, or svirfneblin, are the most pragmatic of the Gnome family though rarely come to the surface, so focused on trying to survive in the harsh environs of the Underdark and the precious gems and metals that they mine down there.
  • Orc: The most well known ancestral Orcish settlement is the Druthian city of Khar Dragzud, an impressive city many Orcs try to make the pilgrimage to at least once in their lives, to honour their very spiritual ancestry.
  • Goblinoid: Very common to Drutha and Ankpur on Ancalen, as well as parts of Balan and Adiana, Goblins, Bugbears, and Hobgoblins were looked down upon for so long that they have somewhat retained their skittish nature. They have proven to be firm friends to Rock Gnomes, however, and hard workers at that, leading to them becoming a firm part of Ranian society.
  • Goliath: These large folk have a similar ancestry to the Dwarves being mountainkin, though they have more in common with the Giants who call the mountaintops home. As a people, Goliaths have been part of clans and nomadic tribes but find themselves enjoying the benefits of settled life.
  • Firbolg: Like the Forest Gnomes and Wood Elves, the gentle giantkin Firbolgs are generally drawn to the forests, seeing them as sacred places they are sworn to guard, though are as widespread as any other ancestry.
  • Dragonborn: Many Dragonborn are still found in their own settlements, in service to a particular dragon or other, though many have since entered Ranian society whether through the death of their draconic patron or matron, or just generally through the wanderlust that settles with time. Unlike Half-Dragons, the Dragonborn do not have tails but they are still formidable. Amongst them are different ancestries of dragon, as well. We see the Chromatic Dragonborn who claim the raw elemental power of chromatic dragons, the Gem Dragonborn's scales gleam with the colours and mysterious powers of gemstones, and the Metallic Dragonborn lay claim to the tenacity of metallic dragons.
  • Kobold: The small dragonkin are often found in the service of adult dragons or in their own compounds around and beneath Rania, very similar to Goblins. And like their green friends, have found their way into Ranian civilization, though they generally do not like Gnomes due to some ancient and mostly forgotten slight.
  • Tabaxi: The lithe cat people have long since left their ancestral homelands in Adiana and Balan, instead choosing to exert their feline curiosity by exploring Rania.
  • Leonin: Mighty and fierce, the nomadic lionfolk of Balan's desert regions rarely roam, tied to their duty within the golden sands. Occasionally a Leonin will be overcome by wanderlust or some other quest that takes them away from their homeland.
  • Lizardfolk: These reptilian humanoids evolved in the same way as Humans, though they have more in common with iguanas or dragons. Their ancestral home is among the Slumbrous Swamps of Drutha where they live a different way of life, one of survival amid a hostile environment.
  • Minotaur: Known for their strength and courage, Minotaurs have been historically used in the Apultia military for centuries. Though they may seem intimidating, Minotaurs tend to be fiercely loyal and family-oriented.
  • Aarakocra: Humanoid birds who hail from the Plane of Air and generally live in colonies high in the mountains. Mostly found in Ustum, though occasionally they can be found searching for elemental breaches across Rania.
  • Owlin: Descended from the Feywild's giant owls, Owlin tend to be incredibly soft-footed, with great wings on their backs. Most still call the Feywild their home but a few have found comfort in the simplicity of the material plane.
  • Kenku: These small humanoid ravens fell victim to an ancient curse that robbed them of the power of flight and their voices. They can however perfectly mimic any sound they hear, allowing them to communicate through broken sounds and repeated phrases. They tend to live in the broken-down parts of society, wherever will have them.
  • Tortle: The bipedal tortoise-folk native to many parts of northern-Ustum, Balan, Adiana and the islands thereabouts are a peaceful people who crave a simple life, though many undergo a wanderlust to explore the wilds, becoming nomadic survivalists. As such, many of their tribes are hunter/gatherer in nature and they get along wonderfully with similar peoples. They strive to do everything within the balance of nature.
  • Centaur: Native to the Feywild, these half-horse/half-human folk live among their own tribal communities among nature. While there are a few living among the Material Plane, they are super uncommon and generally very territorial. The Dyn'kayru of the Feywild are their half-deer/half-human cousins.
  • Satyr: Also native to the Feywild, Satyr tend towards the arts and revelling, wishing to focus on joy and fun more than anything. Though they are not un-serious, boasting a prowess in battle that would surprise most people. 
  • Gith: Once a singular race who overthrew their Mindflayer captors, the Gith of the Astral Plane divided into two factions: the Githyanki, corrupt raiders and destroyers, and the Githzerai, a faction who stand up against the Githyanki and take revenge on the Mindflayers. Both have command over psionic powers.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Your Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, and beyond. The Ancestry & Cultures pdf outlines some interesting ways to make many mixed races work as, of course, romance happens between all sorts of ancestries in Rania and there would be many more babies of mixed ancestry.
    If you need more information or have ideas you're not sure will fit, let’s talk and see if we can make it work! I would like to stick to the books I have access to (Player’s Handbook, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Elemental Evil, Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, Ancestry & Culture, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, Fizban's Treasury of Dragons) partly because I have the information at my fingertips but also because I don’t want things getting too bloated, so if you have other ideas for your character make sure they have a solid reason to be adventuring and talk to me - we can discuss ideas and see how they fit in the world, if they do.  

Available Classes

  Almost anything from the Player’s Handbook (PHB), Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGE), Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica (GGtR), Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (TCoE), Elemental Evil (EE), Fizban's Treasury of Dragons (FToD), but I will also allow Wardens, Blood Hunters, Gunslingers. If the Homebrew/Unearthed Arcana is well tested and accepted and accessible to me, then I may consider it, but these are the few I have greenlit.   As with races, I’d like to keep to things I have access to in regards to classes and not go too off-rails, sticking with stuff that I am familiar with and can easily look up mid-game. If it’s from PHB/XGE/GGtR/EE/TCoE/FToD, go nuts! Bear in mind, if it’s illegal/taboo in Rania, you may need to consider being a little sneaky with how you play them but this could bring some great roleplay opportunities. If you have some other ideas, talk to me, and we’ll see if we can make it work or not, depending on balance and ease of management and such.    
Class and Sub-Class At A Glance:
  • Artificer - (TCoE) Alchemist, Armorer, Artillerist, Battle Smith
  • Barbarian - (PHB) Berserker, Totem Warrior (XGE) Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, Zealot (TCoE) Beast, Wild Magic
  • Bard - (PHB) Lore, Valor (XGE) Glamour, Swords, Whispers (TCoE) Creation, Eloquence
  • Cleric - (PHB) Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, War (XGE) Forge, Grave (GGtR) Order (TCoE) Peace, Twilight
  • Druid - (PHB) Land, Moon (XGE) Dreams, Shepherd (GGtR) Spores (TCoE) Stars, Wildfire
  • Fighter - (PHB) Champion, Battle Master, Eldritch Knight (XGE) Arcane Archer, Cavalier, Samurai (TCoE) Psi, Rune (Homebrew) Gunslinger
  • Monk - (PHB) Open Hand, Shadow, Four Elements (XGE) Drunken Master, Kensei, Sun Soul (TCoE) Mercy, Astral Self (FToD) Ascendant Dragon
  • Paladin - (PHB) Devotion, Ancients, Vengeance (XGE) Conquest, Redemption (TCoE) Glory, Watchers (Homebrew) Open Sea
  • Ranger - (PHB, Homebrew) Hunter, Beast Master (XGE) Gloom Stalker, Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer (TCoE) Fey Wanderer, Swarmkeeper (FToD) Drakewarden
  • Rogue - (PHB) Thief, Assassin, Arcane Trickster (XGE) Inquisitive, Mastermind, Scout, Swashbuckler (TCoE) Phantom, Soulknife
  • Sorcerer - (PHB) Draconic, Wild Magic (XGE) Divine Soul, Shadow Magic, Storm Sorcery (TCoE) Aberrant Mind, Clockwork Soul
  • Warlock - (PHB) Archfey, The Fiend, The Great Old One (XGE) Celestial, Hexblade (TCoE) The Fathomless, The Genie
  • Wizard - (PHB) Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation (XGE) War Magic (TCoE) Bladesinging, Order of Scribes
  • Warden - Guardian, Fanatic, Sage
  • Blood Hunter - Mutant, Lycan, Ghost Slayer, Profane Soul

The Gods

Your character may be religious and looking for a god. I have created my own pantheon for Rania. They once walked the earth, though they did not create it, but they may have shaped things here or there until they left and humanity was left to carve their own destiny. They did leave behind some help, tidying up a lot of encroaching planar energies, and can still be reached and spoken to by the very devout, but for the most part, they do not speak with mortals. You can find the pantheon over here if any of you would like to pick a deity or a few for your characters, but if not feel free to skip past this. I have divided them into “lawful, neutral, and chaotic” instead of “good, neutral, evil” as it fits much better, and our “Lesser” gods are those that either weren’t as big in the pantheon when on Rania, or have dwindled over time and have such tiny followings that they don’t really make the main pantheons anymore.  

Where You Come In

The Dragon's Shadow campaign   I have put together a campaign page on DnD Beyond so that you can connect up your characters over there if you use the service. It doesn’t have to be final and it certainly is not a necessity as we use Roll20 (currently) and I don’t plan on using separate apps when one would do. I will run through character creation with everybody in Roll20 to make sure I know your characters, we’re all on the same page, and everything’s minimal stress. That’s also a good opportunity for us to discuss knives and ideas you may have!   Our campaign's starting point:  
We will be starting out in a village in the nation of Drutha. This village has lived for decades under the shadow of an adult Black Dragon though they have not seen any sign of the creature for several weeks now. Concerned for their safety, the village have posted job notices to noticeboards around nearby towns and cities calling for aid to work out what may have happened and this is how you four have come together, whether you answered one of these notices or an order you may be a part of has sent you on their behalf.
Your starting point:
A darkness is stirring in Rania. People have been going missing across Ancalen, bizarre monsters have been seen roaming the wilds, and an entire town was wiped out completely in just a day. What's more, there are rumours of cultists, the dead rising, and a missing Black Dragon. As Samhuinn comes and goes, marking the beginning of Winter, people are beginning to worry.
  So please stew on why your character might be where they are and what motivates them or drives them in life, what would drive them to a life of travel and adventure. Gimme your knives! Don’t worry too much though, I assure you, whatever you come up with will be great and if you want some help or ideas, that’s what I’m here for. If you really struggle, I have a few rolly tables we can go through or even randomise on. S’all good, we’ve got time and options.   We currently play weekly on Tuesdays at 6.30pm UK time, though that is not set in stone if it's not good for everybody.   As for stats, we can roll for stats (roll 4 d6, take the three highest numbers, do this for each stat and place these wherever you want), preferably when we do character creation on Roll20. I will allow rerolls if the numbers are really bad, though. We are using milestone levelling, so you guys don’t need to worry about how much XP you have, I will let you know when you level up. For dice, you can roll your own physical dice or you can use the Roll20 dice roller, I don't mind either way. We're currently at level 4.   If you have any triggers or lines, please let me know what these are so we can avoid upsets, privately or with the other players, whatever is most comfortable for you. We do have some set up already so if there's more to add, let me know, also there are some lines that will never be crossed (sexual abuse, suicide, etc.) but if there is anything else, tell me, it won’t be crossed. These are all posted in the Lines and Veils Handout on our Roll20 game for our continued reference. And if anything ever makes you uncomfortable this open door still stands - let’s make sure we’re all having a good time! After all, while we are telling a mutual story, D&D is a game and we don't want to ruin anybody's fun.

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