- What Happens When A Mortal Dies?
- How are Souls Judged?
- What Happens After A Soul Is Judged?
- Are Petitioners Immortal?
- Where Do Souls Come From?
- What Souls Don’t Leave Purgatory?
- Is Death Always The Same?
- Role of the Divine
No greater question vexes the living than the mystery of death. Yet no sooner does a soul pass the border between life and death and glimpse the answer than the mystery reveals itself to be a part of a far vaster enigma.
For to the dead, the greatest riddle of existence is life.
These mysteries of existence are at once the best- and worst-kept secrets in the entire multiverse. Beyond the guesswork of evangelists there sprawls a vast and vital truth, a cycle of creation and dissolution responsible not only for every life, but also every death, and the endless transitions between the two. It is a cycle as old as existence, responsible for the stability of the planes themselves. It is nothing less than the pulse of the living multiverse, the answer to the questions that haunt both the living and the dead. All are destined to travel this mysterious route at the end and the beginning of their existence. Among the planes it is called the River of Souls, and all who live will someday journey upon its endless course.
For the purposes of this discussion, certain terms take on specific meanings, sometimes uncharacteristic to their wider use. These terms are used in impossibly broad contexts and are fraught with exceptions, but the following philosophical definitions apply to the vast majority of circumstances and do not change or undermine existing rules.
The point at which a mortal’s soul vacates its body and joins the River of Souls.
Any being that hasn’t yet been judged since receiving a soul. Not being mortal does not necessarily make one immortal.
The process of becoming a petitioner wipes away personality and memory from the soul, and in time a petitioner could ascend to a higher form of outsider life; gradually merge with the structure of the plane; or be destroyed by peril, misadventure, or predators. When a petitioner dies in this way, its body decays away, its energy recycled back into the quintessence of the plane.
A philosophically aligned material that makes up the Outer Planes. It has infinite potential for shape and state and is reactive to prevailing beliefs. It can recreate any material known to the Material Plane, and can react and change as though alive, though it has no innate intelligence. When merged with a soul, quintessence takes on the alignment of that soul and becomes an outsider, its shape typically following specific planar templates.
An invisible metaphysical energy that provides motivating force to mortal beings. Over the course of a mortal’s life, sentience, experience, and outside influences might realign a soul’s innate neutrality toward extremes of law, chaos, good, or evil. Souls retain the personality and memories of a mortal life for a period, though these fade over time and through transitions into other states.
What Happens When A Mortal Dies?
Mortals who have experienced death often describe the experience as a feeling of floating or lifting, being drawn toward a misty ribbon of light, or being swept along in an indistinct crowd. Some remember glimpses of unfamiliar faces and bits of conversations with strangers, accompanied by a sense of timelessness. But even those returned to life after centuries have little sense of what they were doing or how they occupied themselves during that time. The bodiless state following death proves difficult for most mortals to comprehend, much less accurately report on.
Metaphysically, though, what happens upon a mortal’s death is not so vague.
Death severs the connection between a mortal’s body and soul. The body becomes inert material, while the soul manifests nearby upon the Ethereal Plane, either invisibly or as just one more indistinct form in that ghostly realm.
In most cases, the unfettered soul departs the body, proceeding upon the legs of its journey along the River of Souls most discussed by scholars and theologians.
Eventually this progression reaches the Purgatory, the plane of absolute neutrality. There, psychopomps and emissaries from the various planes ensure that the newly arrived dead make their way toward the courts of the goddess. Each in turn, souls have the deeds of their lives scrutinized, considered, and recorded by the goddess’s servants. Those with clear destinations in the afterlife, such as those devoted to specific deities or clearly aligned with a particular plane, are sorted by lesser courts and directed toward their eternal fates.
Eventually each soul is directed through one of countless gates, emerging within its new home in the afterlife.
How are Souls Judged?
Although the death goddess keeps her own counsel regarding the sorting of souls, eons of examples suggest two primary factors that influence her judgments: faith and conviction.
Souls who have devoted themselves to deities typically pass through the court of judgment swiftly. If a soul is a true devotee, agents of the deity direct it to its patron’s realm. The plane in question typically matches the deity’s alignment, though there are exceptions.
Some souls aren’t spoken for by deities, though. Rather than going to the realms of specific divinities, the spirits of animists, polytheists, agnostics, and others who don’t worship specific divinities are sent to planes best matching their individual alignments and philosophies. The more virtuous souls often find their ways to the good-aligned planes, while wicked souls are sent to evil planes. This isn’t a reward or punishment, but rather an organizing of like souls. Wherever they’re sent, these souls become petitioners and are left to experience existence among those who share similar beliefs.
A soul’s judgment is not always so obvious, though. In some cases a soul’s alignment radically differs from that of the deity it worships. In such cases, the god employs visions from the soul’s mortal life to determine the greatest influences on the individual’s life. The gods employ diverse agents to investigate a soul whose fate has come into question, and agents of the opposing deities or planes also make arguments and present evidence. The gods or greater agents then rule on the soul’s proper destination, after which the soul is typically directed to either a deity’s realm or a plane of like-minded individuals.
In most such cases, the soul’s destination is unsurprising, based on the evidence presented. Yet despite countless judgments, the god still occasionally makes rulings inscrutable to other beings. Whether condemning a good-aligned soul to the Abyss or sending a neutral soul wandering the planes, the divine rulings are rarely disputed.
Rather, they’re left to wait until resurrected and allowed to progress toward their true deaths.
What Happens After A Soul Is Judged?
A judged soul emerges onto its new home plane, its memories and personality from its days as a mortal wiped clean. On the lawful planes of Axis, Heaven, and Hell, these souls tend most often to appear at particular entry points, whereupon they undergo additional sorting. Those sent to the neutral-aligned planes of Abaddon or Nirvana appear at the fringes and are allowed to find their own paths toward the plane’s more populous lands. Souls bound for the chaotic planes of the Abyss, Elysium, or Limbo can appear in or near any of those lands’ disparate realms, and are left to contend with the plane’s inhabitants as they will. If the soul is a worshiper of a particular deity, it might arrive in the deity’s realm, or that deity might have servants assigned to shepherd newly arrived souls to her realm from other parts of the plane.
Regardless of a soul’s final destination, upon receiving judgment, it finds itself changed. No longer a mortal being, the soul has become a petitioner, a true native of the plane it now inhabits. Petitioners are outsiders, and as they’ve begun new lives, they can no longer be returned to life by mortal magic.
Once transformed into a petitioner, a soul regains a physical body, though not necessarily one similar to that which it had in life. The Outer Planes are realms of philosophy rather than physicality, and the petitioner’s body is formed from quintessence charged with the fundamental tenets of its new home plane. Many petitioners appear as humanoids or vague shapes with only general similarities to their mortal bodies. Some planes subject petitioners to more radical transformations, like reconstitution into animalistic forms, script-covered humanoids, or maggotlike larvae. The prevailing philosophical forces of a plane itself determine the particulars of this form, with indirect influence based on the soul’s personality and experiences.
In some cases (typically when the soul worshiped a deity who maintains a realm not on the Outer Planes) souls are sent “inward” rather than “outward” to form petitioners on planes like the Shadow Plane, the Elemental Planes, or even in certain cases the Material Plane.
Once a soul takes up residence upon a plane as a petitioner, its existence is largely determined by the strictures and leaders of that realm. On lawful planes, a petitioner might be directed toward some labor, responsibility, or torment. On chaotic planes, they are often left to do as they will. Good-aligned planes are usually hospitable to petitioners, while evil-aligned planes are dangerous places where petitioners occupy the lowest rungs of vast hierarchies—or food chains.
Are Petitioners Immortal?
The existence of a petitioner varies dramatically from plane to plane. The details vary as widely as petitioners’ appearances, but most can expect to eventually face one of two fates: absorption or ascension. Although exceptions exist, like the potential for some beings to reincarnate, these cases prove exceedingly rare.
For a typical petitioner, no matter how long it survives, it cannot last forever. Some petitioners are destroyed, whether by planar forces or violent natives. Being formed of living quintessence aligned with the plane it now calls home, a petitioner’s body and soul form a single unit. Should a petitioner be destroyed, no soul is released, and it gradually deteriorates into quintessence, which is absorbed by the surrounding plane.
Others have ages of new experiences. Gradually, though, petitioners lose their grip on individuality. The few lingering memories of their mortal lives, if any, fade quickly to vague shadows and half-remembered dreams, growing ever more inconsequential over the span of millennia. Across vast gulfs of time, even the wonders of the planes become commonplace, and boredom inevitably sets in. Many petitioners meet their ends pursing new sensations, while others turn increasingly inward. Eventually, some petitioners just find a place to settle and never move again. Slowly, the quintessence of these individuals merges with their home, suffusing the plane with their experiences and vital force.
But dissolution isn’t the only fate possible for petitioners.
Some might become higher forms of outsiders. Whether by the will of powerful planar beings, natural processes of a plane itself, or other exceptional causes, such a petitioner might be reborn and reforged. The methods of this rebirth vary between planes and beings, in terms of whether the process takes instants or ages, what sorts and how many souls are required to make such a transition, and so on. For example, in Nirvana, petitioners who achieve enlightenment might become agathions, while in the Abyss, larvae guilty of specific sins might be remade into specific breeds of demon. Regardless of how they’re created, these outsiders are true children of the planes, and any memory of a mortal existence is typically wiped away. These beings are sentient embodiments of their realms’ alignment, ethics, ideals, and objectives. Well suited to life upon the planes, such outsiders rarely lose interest in existence, and might live for vast spans, potentially growing in power or taking on new forms over the passage of ages.
Ultimately, though, the fate of the vast majority of outsiders is the same as that of petitioners. Though sacrifice or violence, all such beings are eventually destroyed. At that point, their signature quintessence is released to contribute to the power of their home planes.
Where Do Souls Come From?
Many planar scholars claim that souls come from the Positive Energy Plane. While this isn’t strictly incorrect, the truth proves more complex.
Amid the searing light and unbridled energy of the Positive Energy Plane drift sparks of formless, unaligned quintessence. Over time, the plane infuses this unaligned planar force with its vigor and potential, creating what are, in effect, unaligned souls, devoid of all will or sentience.
Gradually, at focal points and planar vertices, these souls seep from the Positive Energy Plane into the realms beyond.
Many pass first through the riotous expanse of the Fey World, sparking new growth, giving rise to radical changes, and sparking the creation of fey beings in their passage. (Fey prove somewhat exceptional in the manner in which they come into being, as, instead of being vessels that attract souls, their forms result from soul energy becoming mired amid the energies of the Fey World.) Eventually, souls breach the Material Plane and drift throughout the overlying Ethereal Plane, gravitating toward worlds already rich with life. On the Material Plane they imbue empty vessels suited to host them. When and how a soul enters a burgeoning mortal body remains a topic of debate, but by the time a creature can exist independently from a parent, it typically has a soul.
Souls are not created upon the Positive Energy Plane out of nothing, though. While the plane serves as the starting point of a soul’s journey, a soul’s existence is a cyclical process—and this cycle begins for one soul at the end of another soul’s journey.
Upon an outsider’s destruction—whether it be a petitioner naturally merging with a plane or the violent end of another planar native—its quintessence returns to its home plane. This transference of energies might be an immediate or a gradual process, depending on where the being’s existence ended. Beings of specific alignments destroyed away from their home planes have their energy released into the multiverse. While such energy gravitates toward the properly aligned plane, more often then not it becomes lost in Limbo. In the cases when an outsider’s existence ends on a plane of matching alignment, its quintessence infuses the plane in a manner similar to corpses on the Material Plane returning their nutrients to the soil. In this way, the plane is supplied with new quintessence, along with new ideas and beliefs from the evolving multiplanar zeitgeist.
At the same time that the Outer Planes are growing in this manner, they’re also being consumed. Limbo endlessly erodes the shores of other planes, breaking off quintessence by minute grains and vast bergs. This unfettered quintessence gradually drifts away, joining the eternal storm that is Limbo. Like a great stomach, Limbo then breaks down quintessence, shattering bonds, scouring residual memories, and purifying the essence of the Outer Planes back into unaligned potentiality. This insubstantial, purified quintessence follows the reckless courses of Limbo to a nexus within that realm, a column of shimmering energy known as the Antipode. Guarded by legions of aeons, this focal point collects the unaligned spiritual potentiality of the Outer Planes and sends it streaming back out into the Inner Planes, where it accumulates within the Positive Energy Plane like the grains of sand around which pearls form.
Imbued with the fundamentals of life but no philosophical alignment or predisposition, this potentiality starts the cycle anew. Through this course, the wills of mortals indirectly renovate and reshape the multiverse.
What Souls Don’t Leave Purgatory?
As the plane of absolute neutrality, the Purgatory serves as the destination of many neutral-aligned souls and those who worship the goddess of death. Upon becoming petitioners, many find places of quiet peace or serve in their god’s courts. But two other groups never leave once they arrive: dissident souls and failed souls.
The former not only unwaveringly believe that deities are unworthy of worship, but also actively refuse to participate in the cycle of souls. Their rejection goes beyond mere atheism or impiety, being a deliberate rejection of the metaphysical order. When given the chance to become petitioners and pass on to other realms, such dissidents actively refuse. Many mortal philosophies teach that all atheist souls meet this end, but in truth, most atheists and agnostics whose souls are judged can experience the full range of afterlives just as adherents of any other belief system do, passing on to the Outer Planes best aligned with their convictions.
Failed souls could be considered spiritually stillborn.
Whatever potential these souls carried onto the Material Plane was never stirred. They lived without convictions, passed through life without direction, and carried nothing with them in their passage. With no faith or passion to direct them to other planes and no will to further the Purgatory’s endless work, these souls are the flotsam of the River of Souls. The god determines whether such souls were not afforded opportunity enough to amass their own beliefs, or if they were fundamentally incapable of doing so.
For both groups, the results are the same. These souls are not transformed into petitioners; instead they are escorted into where they can forget and be forgotten. There, these lost souls wander until they find crypts and crevices where they can eternally brood on the failings of reality. Either willingly or because they lack the capacity to care, these dissenting and broken souls then spend eons gradually dissipating, forever excluded from future travel along the River of Souls. Eventually their memories fade, their personalities dull, and nothing remains but a handful of eternally stagnant quintessence. The spire the Purgatory perches upon is entirely composed of this soul debris, and is threaded through by vast crypts and catacombs.
These morbid structures once crisscrossed the plane’s surface, but are continually forced deeper and built on top of by the continual flow of new arrivals; over fathomless eons, the residue of hollow souls contributes to the Spire’s imperceptible but relentless growth. Within the vast cemetery-seas and the depthless crypts below wind archives of dwindling souls and the hidden bastions of psychopomp ushers. Whole legions of these psychopomps guard the Graveyard of Souls, as many sinister powers upon the planes would eagerly prey upon even such failed and fragmentary souls.
Is Death Always The Same?
While the forces that guide the multiverse are nearly impossible to resist, the path of every soul is not necessarily the same. Many belief systems inaccurately represent the experience of the deceased, but countless mortals cleave to these philosophies nonetheless. Some mortals believe their souls aren’t free until they receive a proper burial.
Some cultures say the soul has different parts with distinct postmortem functions. Some believe they personally have a purpose to fulfill before they pass on. Still others don’t believe in souls at all, expecting dissolution after death.
For most, these beliefs are peripheral to their greater being and don’t affect their souls’ greater journey. Yet for some, these beliefs are strong enough to temporarily divert their travels upon the River of Souls. Fixated on some aspect of life, such souls become temporarily stuck near the Material Plane. Some are vaguely conscious of certain details in the world, usually their bodies or individuals of particular importance, and linger near them upon the Ethereal Plane. Others follow paths outlined by their philosophies to eventual reincarnation. Still others loiter in wait for something to draw them back to life. But time weighs upon all souls. As passions and ties to the mortal world dull, most of these soul eventually slip away to join the River of Souls.
Fey also have an exceptional relationship with souls, being outgrowths of the Fey World clinging to young souls slipping from the Positive Energy Plane. When fey are destroyed on the Fey World, their souls are not lost. Instead, they resurrect as new beings there. On the Material Plane, though, fey are cut off from the generative power of the Fey World. When slain on the Material Plane, fey souls can be resurrected and returned to life, like any mortal. If they aren’t, however, they are drawn into the River of Souls like any other mortals, and their quintessence is lost from the Fey World. Fey visiting the Material Plane who understand this process prove more guarded and evasive than they do on their home plane.
The most dangerous lingering souls become haunts or undead. Typically these souls were traumatized in the final moments of life, imbuing them with enough anger, confusion, or self-centered purpose to resist the pull to journey on. Such strong emotions allow them to influence the forces of negative energy acting on their deceased bodies. This might allow them to reinhabit their corpses, rising as types of undead creatures corresponding to the circumstances of their deaths. Others don’t reconnect with their bodies, either being too spiritually weak to do so— thus creating haunts—or manipulating negative energy into new insubstantial forms as incorporeal undead like ghosts or spectres. But even undeath is only a temporary diversion from the River of Souls. Inevitably, time and exterior forces act upon such delinquent souls, drawing them along their intended paths. The process might take millennia, but such gulfs of time mean little amid the greater workings of the multiverse.
Role of the Divine
The concept of free will hangs at the fundamental core of all living beings, even the choice to have faith in the gods or not. Whenever deities meddle directly in mortal affairs, they damage this agency and erode the concept of free will—what is the point of being able to make your own choices, after all, if an entity infinitely more powerful than you can simply ignore those choices and alter reality at its whim?
The gods understand the nature of this conundrum far better than any of us mortals can, and their greater understanding of these paradoxes is a large part of what causes them to move in their proverbial “mysterious ways.” Still, mortals are often driven to ask the question, “Why do the gods allow bad things to happen?”
The simplest explanation for this paradox is to equate divine intervention to an arms race. Were there one divinity, there would be none to question its actions or oppose its needs, but this is not the nature of the Great Beyond.
Countless gods, demigods, and quasi deities exist, each of which has interests spread throughout the multiverse and across all Material Plane worlds. This means that every god, even the most secluded or nonconfrontational, has competitors at best and enemies at worst. When a god takes direct action in a world, that god’s opposing forces take note and react. The resulting arms race, with opposing deities taking increasingly overwhelming actions to counter each other, can swiftly spiral out of control and destroy entire worlds, at which point all the hard work of creation is, in effect, undone.
And so the gods follow a largely self-imposed ban on direct interaction with the Material Plane. They leave their concerns and agendas in the capable hands of their faithful and allow their churches to represent the deity’s interests and decide their own fates. It should be noted that this element of self-imposed non-intervention does not extend equally to the ranks of demigods. These entities, while powerful, can be defeated by the mortals whose lives they manipulate, and they do well to keep that possible fate, however unlikely, in mind.
There are three levels of power among the divine, although divinities of all levels wield vast power, especially when compared to a lowly mortal.
The most powerful category among the divine are full-fledged deities. These divinities exist beyond the concept of rules, do not have stat blocks, and thus cannot be slain in simple combat. A deity can change reality, undo any mortal magic, restore or snuff out life, or do any other thing required for the story you wish to tell.
Deities grant their clerics access to five domains.
Unlike a deity, a demigod is represented in game with statistics, ranging in power from CR 26 to CR 30. Archdevils, demon lords, empyreal lords, and Great Old Ones are all examples of demigods. A demigod who controls a planar realm can effect physical change in that realm by thought, but such changes are not instantaneous. Beyond the reach of its realm, a demigod must rely upon its own abilities and magic to effect such changes.
Demigods grant their clerics access to four domains.
Quasi deities are the least powerful of the divine, and the most eclectic in their nature. A quasi deity has a stat block, and can be of any CR (although the vast majority lie in the CR 21–25 range). Nascent demon lords, the malebranche, and qlippoth lords are all examples of quasi deities, as are creatures like deep one elders, conqueror worms, and green men, who have the ability to grant spells to clerics.
Mythic characters who take the divine source path ability are also quasi deities.
Quasi deities have no inborn ability to shape and alter reality by thought alone, even if they somehow gain control of a planar realm, and must rely upon their own abilities and magic to effect changes of this nature.
A quasi deity grants from one to four domains to its clerics.
Elements of divine intervention occur when the GM steps in to change the flow of play, be it by arbitrarily assigning die roll results, reversing entire events, or even changing the nature of in-game reality, if only for a split second. The effects of a divine intervention are not bound by rules, and you can justify any sudden reversal of fortune or adjustment to reality you wish by categorizing it as divine intervention.
This is a tool you should use only rarely—if ever—in your game. The best reason to allow divine intervention in your game is when there is no other option for party survival and you and your players wish to continue the campaign. In such cases, divine intervention can not only allow the game to continue but can instill in the characters and players alike a feeling of gratitude for the sudden unexpected salvation.
Take care to not remove the threat of failure from your game, of course—if the players come to expect you to save their characters each and every time they fail, the suspense of the game will fade. As a general rule, divine intervention should only occur once per player per campaign, but of course you can alter this frequency as you wish to suit the preference of your table.
The gods do not need to wait for mortals to call upon them for aid to grant boons. At times, when a character performs a particularly devout act or completes a legendary crusade, that character’s deity may choose to reward her with a divine gift.
The timing and frequency in which divine gifts are granted is left strictly to the discretion of the GM. They can be given to a particularly devout worshiper in a time of need. They might be granted upon the completion of a significant quest that furthers the faith. Or they might be rewards given in return for a significant sacrifice made in a deity’s name or dedication shown to the deity. A divine gift can be granted to any creature, even to a follower of a different deity or to a creature who does not worship the divine at all. The only restriction is that a creature must be sapient in order to receive a divine gift, for a creature always has the option to refuse the gift if it so wishes—the freedom to accept or reject such a gift is part of the nature of this boon. However, at the GM’s discretion, rejecting a divine gift from a deity you worship (or accepting a divine gift from a rival deity) may have repercussions.
Divine gifts can be of any power level, but the example gifts presented in the following section focusing upon the core pantheon are all on par with effects that could be granted by a miracle spell—feel free to adjust this power level as you prefer for your home campaign. At your discretion, you can allow divine spellcasters to duplicate the effects of a divine gift (as appropriate for their deity) by casting miracle themselves.
Faith And The Divine
Divinities have immense power and can intervene in the lives of mortal worshipers to grant miraculous boons. They can raise up realms and create life on a whim. What use, therefore, do divinities have for mortal life at all? One use lies in the nature of the fundamental building block of the Outer Planes—quintessence. As detailed in The River of Souls, when a mortal dies, the soul eventually merges with the material of another plane (usually after spending time as a petitioner or outsider), expanding the plane’s size and counterbalancing its erosion by Limbo. Thus, the very existence of the Outer Planes depends on the constant influx of souls. When a deity’s religion is widespread on the Material Plane, her realm reaps direct benefits in the form of more petitioners, which can, in time, increase the overall size of the planar realm.
But there’s an even more important role that mortals play: they provide faith. When a mortal has faith in a divinity, that power increasingly ties that mortal’s fate and soul to that divinity. The divinity does not directly gain power from this interaction—a deity with only one or even no worshipers can be as powerful as a deity with trillions of worshipers.
A religion that is powerful and widespread, however, can expand a divinity’s influence in ways that the divinity cannot, due to the fact that the divine do not directly interfere in the affairs of mortals. A deity who has legions of worshipers will see her religion spread, and that spread of faith will directly translate into an increase of souls into her realm.
Deities with few or no worshipers will, over time, see their realms eaten away by Limbo, their armies dwindle, and their standing among the divine fade. Faith can meet a divinity’s emotional needs as well, be it the need for a self-centered deity to feel his ego bolstered, an extroverted deity to feel accepted and popular, a power-hungry deity to feel feared, or a benevolent deity to bask in the love of her children and family.
Some deities have no interest in faith. These divinities may seek widespread destruction or exist as a manifestation of the fact that all things must end.
And then there are the Outer Gods—divinities whose very existence predates the concept of existence as mortals understand it. Divinities like Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth are incalculably ancient, and they exist outside of the boundaries and restrictions of faith, souls, and the concept of quintessence entirely. Mortals still worship them, yet the Outer Gods have little interest in such worship, and in many cases these alien divinities may not even comprehend the concept of faith at all. Among the Outer Gods, only Nyarlathotep’s pursuit of faith provides a singular, ominous, and unnerving exception to this rule.
A divinity gains authority over a portion of a plane in one of two ways. The first is via simple conquest. Such conflicts may involve vast armies, clever traps, devious espionage, political subterfuge, or any combination thereof. Whatever form it takes, the resulting battles and confrontations are always the stuff of legend.
Conflict-based conquests are only rarely carried out by lawful or good divinities. The planes are vast, and for every realm currently ruled by a divinity, there are thousands, if not millions, more locations spread throughout the plane ripe for the picking. Thus, the most common method by which a divinity claims a realm on the planes is by challenging the plane itself. The divinity selects the realm it wishes to be its own, then exerts its will upon that realm and reshapes it to suit its needs. The more closely aligned a divinity is with the plane and the type of region it has chosen, the more quickly that territory transforms into a realm suited for rule.
While a demigod’s power within its realm is immense, a deity’s is nigh absolute. Yet even in deities’ realms, the concepts of free will and noninterference remain. Just as a divinity leaves its worshipers free to express their faith and set their own fates as they wish, it also does not oversee and police every facet of life in its realm. This means that non?worshipers, or even enemies of a faith, can travel through a deity’s planar realm without fear of immediate reprisal.
A paladin among a group of adventurers on a mission into the Abyss will likely feel unwelcome and meet strong resistance from that region’s denizens, but would not need to fear direct punishment.
Likewise, a devil-worshiping priest who infiltrates an enclave of azatas in Elysium to chase down an escaped petitioner from the pits of Hell would not be immediately crushed by the offended god. Only in the most significant of incursions or when a divinity is directly called out or confronted will a deity or demigod take note—and even then, the most common response would be to send a powerful minion to handle the situation.
Souls are formed from unaligned sparks of potentiality in the Positive Energy Plane, which are then released into reality to begin mortal lives. Upon a creature’s death, its soul is released again to travel along the River of Souls toward the Spire, cascading down into the plane to arrive at the edge of the Purgatory, after which it begins the journey inward toward judgment. Though souls are preyed on by many evil creatures throughout the multiverse, interacting with them is not an easy feat. Souls are not creatures and cannot be affected by anything aside from magic and abilities that specifically interact with souls. Even these powerful soul-binding abilities are often limited to extracting a soul from its mortal shell.
Likewise, souls are unable to affect anything, including other souls, without some manner of external magic or energy giving them the power to physically manipulate the world. Negative energy transforms a soul into a ghost, haunt, or other undead, while a plane’s raw quintessence turns a soul into a petitioner. Souls are otherwise unable to use any magic or abilities they might have had in life, as they have no means to actualize their will upon reality. They retain all of their knowledge and skills and are capable of hearing and speaking to any creature that can perceive them, though they cannot naturally be seen except on the Astral Plane and in the Purgatory. Visible souls typically appear as idealized ghostly images of their mortal bodies, although souls who died particularly violent deaths may show the wounds of their death as a sort of psychic scarring.
Souls are incorporeal, though they are not affected by most magic or by ghost touch weapons. They gain a fly speed of 90 feet with perfect maneuverability, but when traveling the River of Souls, they move much faster. They have no weight or mass, though they instinctively avoid passing through other souls or incorporeal creatures. They cannot be detected by mortal magic, even true seeing, as they do not have auras. Souls are unfettered from the limitations of flesh and do not need to eat, breathe, or sleep, nor can they age.
Adventurers or loved ones can seek out individual souls within the crowds of the Purgatory, but picking out a single soul from the crowd of millions upon millions is no easy feat. Desperate or determined creatures can either ask after their target among the other souls, gain access to and search through the Purgatory’s records, or take up the long and arduous process of looking themselves. Finding a specific soul in the Purgatory requires 1d4 weeks of searching and a successful DC 45 Diplomacy (gather information), Knowledge (planes), or Perception check. Possessing an item that was important to the soul in its mortal life grants a +4 bonus on this check. Creatures can also attempt to gain the aid of psychopomps or other non-native outsiders for this search.
Each outsider who grants assistance adds a cumulative +2 bonus on the roll. Finally, spells that directly interact with or locate souls, such as speak with soul or soulseeker can aid in tracking down a specific soul.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Planar Adventures © 2018, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Robert Brookes, John Compton, Paris Crenshaw, Eleanor Ferron, Thurston Hillman, James Jacobs, Isabelle Lee, Lyz Liddell, Ron Lundeen, Joe Pasini, Lacy Pellazar, Jessica Price, Mark Seifter, F. Wesley Schneider, Todd Stewart, James L. Sutter, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.