This setting was initially inspired by the visualization of Hell, and of travel to it, in the movie "Constantine." I was intrigued with the idea of parallel worlds that are like our own, but devoid of people and overwhelmed by the elements. My goal is to use this idea as the core of a new mythology for modern magic games, but I just don't have the time to do it justice. I'm particularly hoping that others will add to the list of elemental spirits; drawing from multiple authors will give the Triptych bestiary a wildly eclectic feel.
The Elemental Realms
The material sphere is composed of four elements: Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. No living being can sever its connection to Air, for it is the Breath of Life, but breaking one's bond to any of the other elements allows one to "step sideways" into one of three elemental realms.
The Great Gale - The realm without Earth is a place of eternal storm and flood. Black clouds roll across the sky, split by constant spider-webs of lightning. Tornadoes ravage the muddy landscape.
The White Waste - The realm without Fire is a place of eternal night. Glaciers cover the landscape, scoured smooth by blizzards of razor-sharp ice. Even the oceans are frozen solid.
The Blasted Lands - The realm without Water is a post-apocalyptic desert. Scalding winds tear through the burned out shells of buildings and clouds of smoke fill the sky. Nothing casts a shadow.
Before a living being can step sideways, it must endure three trials. They are initiated by ingesting an alchemical mixture that unbalances the elemental forces within the body. First, the initiate's lungs fill with water; it wells up out of their mouth and nose as they struggle to breath. Then, their entire body erupts into flame! The fire only extinguishes itself when body turns to stone. If the initiate survives, the stone eventually crumbles to dust, leaving them cold, naked, and gasping for air.
Now, they are one of the Broken. The elements of their being have been unbound from each other, making it possible for them to acquire many amazing abilities. The first of these is stepping sideways. The stepper stands inside a set of concentric geometric shapes and lets go of one of their component elements. A hot, cold, or wet wind blasts through them and the entire world changes around them. Trees wither, traffic stops, buildings crumble, and people disappear. They can return to the material world at any time and, when they do, no time will have passed at all.
Through repeated exposure to these realms, the Broken can increase their bond to one of the elements. This grants them psychic control over that element when in either of the two realms that contain it. When stepping into the one realm that does not, they manifest only as an insubstantial "ghost." This can have advantages and disadvantages. In the material world, the Broken can exert only subtle control over their chosen element.
A more immediate path to power is to forge alliances with the strange creatures that inhabit the elemental realms. Every breed can step sideways at will, but only between the two realms that contain its native element. They can only venture into the material when summoned by the Broken, and even then their powers are greatly reduced. This is dangerous for the Broken, as an angry or malevolent spirit can take control of their body. Broken who have bonded themselves to an element are particularly vulnerable to possession by spirits of that type.
The realm without air is the land of the dead. No one knows for certain what it looks like or if the souls of the departed truly dwell there because no living soul can travel there. Ghosts do occasionally manifest in the material world and the elemental realms, but they give conflicting accounts of the afterlife.
- Earth Spirits - Native to the White Waste and Blasted Lands.
- Fire Spirits - Native to the Blasted Lands and Great Gale.
- Water Spirits - Native to the Great Gale and White Waste.