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What Is the Far Realm? A Timeless Land of Writhing Flesh and Elder Evils – Posts


The upcoming adventure Call of the Netherdeep promises to transport adventurers to the Netherdeep, a strange realm that has been described as a cross between the ocean’s darkest depths and the Far Realm. Little else is known about the Netherdeep at this time, but bits and pieces of information regarding the Far Realm can be found in Dungeons & Dragons’ various editions, and this esoteric, eldritch space is perhaps the most nightmarish setting in the entirety of D&D.

A place beyond the known multiverse

Mind flayer artworkForget what you know about the various planes of existence in D&D. The Far Realm is beyond the planes themselves, and according to the Dungeon Master’s Guide, might well be a separate universe existing outside of the D&D multiverse. Just as we can’t exactly fathom what exists beyond our own universe, the majority of denizens from D&D’s various worlds have no idea of the Far Realm. Learned mages or daring githyanki sailors of the Astral Sea might have an inkling of this unfathomable cosmic space, and even then, those who strive too hard to understand it risk shattering the limits of their sanity.

While information on the Far Realm in fifth edition remains sparse, D&D’s third edition Manual of the Planes delved into the impossible geometry behind this extradimensional space. In short, both gravity and time are absent in the Far Realm, and instead of the normal rules of physics, the Far Realm is composed of an infinite array of translucent layers that seemingly meld into each other. Inhabitants of the Far Realm can pass from one layer to another simply by willing it, and landmarks—encompassing everything from alien seascapes to forests of giant floating tentacles—might stretch across multiple layers.

Chances are, travelers to the Far Realm will be flummoxed by the place’s strange geometry, only comprehending bits and pieces of lifeforms and landmasses depending on which layer they stand on. It seems fair to expect the Netherdeep to combine both the bizarre architecture of the Far Realm with eerie thalassic vibes, particularly in the form of crushing pressures, giant rifts, and the utter darkness that fills the deepest reaches of the ocean.

Monsters of the Far Realm

The Far Realm first originated in the 1996 module The Gates of Firestorm Peak, for D&D’s second edition. There, adventurers learned of a portal that ancient elves had once opened to the Far Realm, freeing a host of deadly alien creatures. That portal has long since been closed, but the monsters born from the murky goop outside of the multiverse have over time found their way into D&D’s various worlds.

When considering creatures either indigenous to the Far Realm or touched by its energy, think of aberrations—including D&D mainstays like the beholder, illithid, and aboleth, as well as lesser-known entities like the neogi and the nothic. Third edition D&D also featured the kaorti, an alien race who had once been wizards of the Forgotten Realms but were transformed into unnatural, desiccated humanoids by one of the Elder Evils, the greatest of Far Realm creatures.

The Elder Evils of the Far Realm

The Elder Evils are hinted at in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes as “beings set apart from what mortals consider reality,” as well as the masters behind the sinister heralds of doom known as star spawns. Usually incapable of leaving the Far Realm, the Elder Evils’ influence leaks out into the worlds of the Material Plane, often influencing the actions of power-hungry cultists. Examples of these horrific, primordial forces include Tharizdun—the chained destroyed god who created the Abyss—and Kyuss the Worm that Walks, a giant supposedly composed of a mass of slithering maggots.

Fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos will find the Elder Evils familiar, since Lovecraft wrote of unfathomable titans that existed beyond the fringes of reality, dwarfing all human conceptions of good and evil. Call of the Netherdeep will likely feature gargantuan undersea aberrations similar to the Elder Evils in its pages, and any Dungeon Master looking to get a head start on portraying these immense beings might do well to investigate Lovecraft’s writing or read the sections on cosmic horror and fear and stress in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft.

Visiting the Far Realm

Far Realm artwork from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

The Far Realm is unkind to creatures from the D&D multiverse. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything includes a rollable table of environmental effects for the Far Realm. A character could suddenly find the ground has turned into writhing flesh or that they are compelled to complete a ritual that will conjure a death slaad.

“Rrakkma,” an introductory adventure to Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, includes a punishing mechanic that shows how quickly the Far Realm can warp a character’s mind:

“Each round the adventurers are in the Far Realm, they must each make a successful DC 15 Wisdom saving throw at the beginning of each turn or suffer the effects of confusion that round. The chart has been modified from the one in the Player’s Handbook to more accurately reflect the effects of the Far Realm.”

Confusion Behavior





d10

Behavior

1

The creature uses all its movement to move in a random direction. To determine the direction, roll a d8 and assign a direction to each die face. The creature doesn’t take an action this turn.

2–7

The creature doesn’t move or take actions this turn.

8–10

The creature uses its action to make a melee attack against a randomly determined creature within its reach. If there is no creature within its reach, the creature does nothing this turn.

Adventures in the incomprehensible

While the Far Realm might seem difficult to grasp, its nebulous nature also makes it a compelling sandbox for creative Dungeon Masters who want to make their players’ heads spin. Consider the following three hooks for adventures involving the Far Realm:

  1. The Far Realm’s most direct link to the characters is the Great Old One warlock patron. The reasons behind why this ancient entity might share its power could be the stuff of an entire campaign, particularly one starring warlocks who all serve the Great Old One. Perhaps this elusive patron is a benevolent deity of the Far Realm, and is in fact grooming the characters to eventually travel to its domain to defeat the encroaching forces of the kaort!
  2. Previous editions of D&D hinted that psionic power originated in the Far Realm. This is an excellent kernel to explore in an adventure starring character subclasses like the Psi Warrior fighter, the Aberrant Mind sorcerer, and the Soulknife rogue. Paint the characters as outcasts who are feared for their psionic skills, similar to mutant heroes like the X-Men. Then, dangle the possibility of them learning the origins of their power in the Far Realm. Perhaps a group of githyanki—who also specialize in psionics—are be willing to transport the characters to the Far Realm, but only if they first assist them in an assault on a mind flayer outpost in the Astral Sea!
  3. If you want to incorporate a smidgeon of the Far Realm into your game without making it the focus of an entire campaign, try crafting a single dungeon based on this esoteric dimension. The characters might stumble into this dungeon via a portal, or perhaps while fiddling with a cubic gate left behind in an aboleth’s treasure horde. Their quest to escape can easily take up several sessions at the gaming table. Reskin one of the levels of Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage for a quick start, replacing the monsters with aberrations and setting the dungeon in a multi-layered tentacle forest of the Far Realm instead of the hallways of Undermountain. Your players will be none the wiser, since they’ll be too busy trying to figure out exactly where they ended up!

Cosmic depths await you

While the jury is still out on how much of the titular region of Call of the Netherdeep will resemble the Far Realm, there’s no time like the present to start planning a dive into D&D’s most bizarre setting. Just remember to be humbled by the sheer insignificance of your place in the multiverse, for any who dare to investigate the Far Realm will quickly come face-to-face with cosmic truths not meant for humanoid minds!


Jeremy Blum (@PixelGrotto) is a journalist, gaming blogger, comic book aficionado, and fan of all forms of storytelling who rolled his first polyhedral dice while living in Hong Kong in 2017. Since then, he’s never looked back and loves roleplaying games for the chance to tell the tales that have been swirling in his head since childhood.



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