The First World
Lurking within many of Golarion’s darker and more fantastical myths and fairy tales are references to the so-called First World. A place untouched by civilization and possessed of a life all its own, the First World is something more animate and dramatically distinct from the warped shadow presented by the Plane of Shadow. While the Shadow exists as a pale, mocking reflection of the Material, some hold that the Material does the same for the First World, or even that the First World was some manner of “rough draft” fashioned in the dim twilight of the cosmos, and later set aside or abandoned.
Regardless of its origin, the First World exists out of phase with the Material Plane, overlapping its boundaries yet existing entirely independent of the Ethereal and Shadow. Magic can provide transportation between the two planes, but only in places where their boundaries already run thin, such as in the wild places untouched by civilization, or those rare places the fey see fit to mark as theirs, placing mounds, stones, and rings of earth or mushrooms like boundary fences between the planes. Within the First World stand ancient forests as tall as mountains, living lakes and rivers, traveling faerie courts alternatively benevolent or sadistic, and landscapes of all manner separated by rolling, animate banks of memory-eating and time-shifting fog.
Among the denizens of the First World, two groups stand foremost in the collective body of Golarion’s mythologies: gnomes and the fey. The gnomes remember little of their ancient home, or even why they left, almost as if they voluntarily chose to forget the circumstances—and given how harsh the Material Plane has been to them at times, those circumstances must have been horrific. In any event, as a people the gnomes seem incapable or unwilling to return, and as such the realm’s other inhabitants, the fey, alternatively pity or resent them—though if the fey have a deeper knowledge of the conditions that predicated their egress, they uniformly refuse to speak of it.
Unlike the gnomes, the fey natives of the First World exist on the Material Plane only temporarily, stepping between it and their home plane with the ease of a child skipping across a puddle. As creatures that possess an intrinsic link to the natural world, their vision of nature
is one altogether more primordial and alien than that of the material world, something that even druids find confusing, if not disconcerting, to contemplate. Ranging from pixies to redcaps, sidhe to rusalka, and many others, the fey personify the wild excesses of nature.