Certain places in the cosmos resonate with unique forms of energy. The cosmological association of linked planes, demiplanes, and connective dimensional realms creates a vast network over which the energy of existence itself is channeled. Less-connected demiplanes and planes are the nodes of this network, while the most highly connected planes are the hubs, where their many linkages to other planes suffuse them with excess energy. Those able to form a linkage with a hub are rewarded with a heady charge of supernatural power. These hubs, usually places already resonant with mythic possibility, are known as planar touchstones.
The Planar Touchstone feat described in Chapter 2: Classes and Feats allows those who possess some association (in the form of an object native to the planar touchstone) with a given planar location to forge a link. A link forged with a planar touchstone provides a base ability that is always active. The link also provides characters with the possibility of supercharging their abilities by making a personal visit to a touchstone site. Such a visit allows the power inherent in the touchstone to discharge directly into the visitor, granting the character a higher-order ability that she can call upon a limited number of times before it is exhausted. Additional visits to that planar touchstone (or any other touchstone) can revitalize her charge, as needed. If she visits a touchstone other than the one she originally linked to when taking the feat, she swaps out the base ability of the old site for the new, and gains the higher-order ability of the new site (while losing any remaining higher-order uses of the old site). For those intimately familiar with planar touchstones, visiting one or more touchstones is known as "taking the touchstone tour."
In addition to the benefits planar touchstone sites obviously provide to players, DMs are happy to discover that they make wonderful story elements to their campaigns. For instance, a "prophecy" can state that a particular scourge cannot be overcome, save by "one who looks upon the stars of Oxyrhynchus." (Oxyrhynchus is a touchstone site described in this chapter.) On a less dramatic scale, planar touchstones also make great alternatives to treasure -- when players overcome an encounter level-rated threat associated with a touchstone site, the higher-order ability gained makes a good reward.
The Burning Rift (Average EL 5)
The Burning Rift is situated upon a solidified plain of free-floating magma on the Elemental Plane of Fire, some 200 feet above the infinite expanse of fire and ash below. The floating plain is bisected, forming a great rift from which wells up a great river of fire called the Rift River. The Rift River flows out along the rift and into empty space, creating a magnificent cascade of fire. The "headwaters" of the Rift River are a magnet to native creatures.
Location: The Elemental Plane of Fire.
Initial Encounters:Roll on the Burning Rift encounter table when the characters visit the location for the first time, or for the first time in over a year. The elementals are randomly drawn to the site, while the magmin and salamanders have attempted to make a home there.
Burning Rift Encounters
|| 2 Medium fire elementals
|| 1 Large fire elemental
|| 1 magmin firehand
|| 1 average salamander
|| 1 noble salamander
Subsequent Encounters: Once the characters clear out the Burning Rift, it is theirs. However, if they fail to visit the location for more than a year, they must roll for encounters as if never having visited the site.
Base Ability: You receive a +4 bonus on saving throws against fire effects.
Recharge Condition: Drink from the "headwaters" of the Rift River (which inflicts 5d6 points of fire damage, no save).
Higher-Order Ability: Once per day, you can create a fireball (as the spell), dealing 1d6 points of fire damage per character level (maximum 10d6). Caster level is equal to your character level. Save DC 13 + Charisma bonus.
Higher-Order Uses: 5.