Beyond Countless Doorways by Ettin
IntroductionOriginal SA post
This time, I'm going to do a book that more people should read.
Beyond Countless Doorways is a 3.5 "planar sourcebook" by Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur, Colin McComb and Ray Vallese, also known as "a bunch of the dudes who did Planescape".
This isn't a Planescape book, mind. You could drop them into Planescape, or your own setting, or even Spelljammer if you wanted to. They're just ideas.
The cosmology the book uses is outlined in Chapter One: The Countless Worlds , and it's really is pretty loose. Basically the multiverse is just a mass of planes, alternate and parallel worlds, heavens and hells, energy/elemental planes and the occasional really alien realm, drifting around the metaphysical plane like clouds in a sky.
Some worlds are closer than others, and if they're really close they form a "conjunction", which makes summoning creatures from one plan to the other or making gateways is much easier. Some planes tend to be in conjunction a lot and form "planar clusters", some are only accessible from few (or even one) other planes, and sometimes planes can form a "true conjunction", which makes them so close they practically merge. Thankfully they are temporary - there's a web enhancement adventure where a Prime world temporarily makes true conjunction with a wandering plane of magical electricity, and it isn't a pleasant experience.
After that it describes some special "hub" planes:
The Nexus a strange place "outside normal planar dimensions" filled with thousands of doorways to thousands of other planes, created by a mysterious being called the Wandering Architect when two arguing deities asked it to make them a "neutral ground" and it got
carried away. The two deities realised they actually had boners for each other and had a child which lives in the Nexus now.
The Underland, usually described as "the plane that exists below all other planes" even though that makes no sense. It is like the Underdark of the multiverse and its caves and tunnels eventually lead to caves, dungeons, abandoned mines etc. on all sorts of planes, provided they have an "underground".
The Silken Ship, a plane-crossing ship which has changed hands repeatedly since drow made it and is now captained by Javis, a human who makes bank off cross-plane cargo transport and knows more about the Countless Worlds than most experts. For some reason I thought of Black Lagoon, but that is probably wildly inaccurate.
The Ethereal Sea, a re-imagining of the Deep Ethereal as a special place where you can sail to the "shores" of other planes in magical ships. In the Countless Worlds cosmology, this also replaces the Astral.
The Celestial River, a multi-planar river of immense magical power shepherded by the Gods of the Celestial River, who get their power from it.*
*Oh, yes - sometimes, the book mentions things from other third-party books from Sword & Sorcery, Necromancer Games, Malhavoc Press and Green Ronin, like these Gods of the Celestial River, but you don't need to buy any other books to use this one.
After some stuff about how everyone speaks similar languages it gets into outsiders, Planar Wardens and Purveyors of Dichotomy!
Wardens are champions and protectors (sometimes rulers) of a particular plane, like Celestia-tans and Hell-tans for people who aren't anime as fuck. Each Warden is chosen by the plane's previous Warden and gains special powers based on the plane. Mechanically, they receive a special template, an open-ended one that lets the DM tailor its abilities as needed (so the Warden of a burning hellscape is not the same as the Warden as the plane of dicks). It's nice, but at LA +5 it's mostly an NPC thing.
After that are the Purveyors of Dichotomy, which are like embodiments of one particular multiversal "force" that has an opposing concept: law/chaos, good/evil, air/earth, etc. (Oh god, alignments! ) They are like Wardens, but appointed by previous purveyors or gods, can be up to one per concept per plane, and they always have an opposite, so if a god appoints you as the Purveyor of Fire you can bet your burning ass a Purveyor of Water pops up somewhere.
In fact, you know their identity, appearance, and if they ever come with 1,000 feet of you, their precise location. And vice versa. Also, they get more power depending on how strong their "concept" is on their home plane - a Purveyor of Fire does a lot better if the plane turns to worship of fire gods, gets generally warmer, enjoys volcanoes a little too much, etc. And if your opposite dies, you can start to spread your influence to another plane where your opposing influence is strong, and conquering that gives you more bonuses, including a +10 to ability scores! As you can imagine, Purveyors generally do not get on well.
The template (similar to Planar Warden's besides the table that tells you how boss your ability scores and powers get depending on how dominant your concept is) is once again mostly an NPC thing, because this time the LA is +10 . The PCs could easily be caught up in the machinations of a Warden or a Purveyor, though, and as the minimum requirement is 10 HD and 9+ in Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma, many could serve as formidable opponents.
The cosmology is filled out a bit with inter-planar wars (they are kind of a pain in the ass), reality quakes (caused by a flaw in the multiverse, entire planes are affected at once and all kinds of weird magic shit from curses everywhere to mass True Resurrections can happen), cosmic shifts (the same flaw causes planes to sever ties with nearby planes and move into conjunction with other planes, potentially screwing with magic), conceptual alterations (plane becomes more chaotic or evil or fiery or whatever, probably a purveyor's fault), planar storms (more varied effects than reality quakes and sometimes even beneficial ones, like boosting spells), and bam.
So basically, the Countless Worlds is a multiverse of planes of all kinds, from Prime worlds to hells and heavens to elemental planes, an endlessly shifting web of connections and severances with the embodiments of various planes, alignments and multiversal concepts having slap-fights behind the scenes just because they can.
None of that is actually needed to use any of these options. I just thought it was cool.
NEXT TIME: The very first plane! It is a bright and charming place, where elves dance in the haha just kidding it's a dead star's core in a post-heat death universe.
Avidarel and CarrigmoorOriginal SA post Beyond Countless Doorways: Avidarel and Carrigmoor
I don't feel like reprinting the entirety of BCD, and since it's more "obscure" than "mockable" there's not much to say anyway, so instead I'm just going to summarise each plane and any ideas from them I particularly like.
Deep within the void—a nearly dead universe once filled with planets and stars—lies the corpse of a star called Avidarel. Within the shattered pieces of this cold, dead sun lie a wealth of strange treasures ripe for the mining, if one can survive the harsh physical environment with its hideous cold and utter darkness. And, of course, if one can deal with the undead spirits, hungry for light and life, of those who once worshiped Avidarel as a god.
Avidarel was an alternate world (or alternate Prime plane, depending on how you look at it), but it has long since had its heat death. The only thing that remains is Avidarel itself, the star some inhabited world orbited.
Avidarel is dead too, leaving behind chunks of "black glassy stones" orbiting the star's dodecahedral core (because if asked to imagine a polyhedron which represents dying things, everyone thinks of d12s!). The stones are dense, and the place is littered with retarded amounts of precious metals and gems.
There are reasons the place isn't crawling with miners looking for diamonds the size of their heads, though. For one, it turns out post-heat death universes are cold - if you don't have magical protection, you'll freeze solid in minutes. Two, it isn't just dark, the concept of light itself is fading from the plane, and light spells and lanterns only barely work. In a third of a century, Avidarel will be dark forever. Third, gravity is decidedly unfriendly here, penalising your Strength and Dexterity and slowing flying creatures.
Oh yeah, and out there in the darkness are undead, often of the incoporeal kind, and "alien things too awful to die even when the world fell apart and the sun's fires faded away." Enjoy!
So why come here? Well, aside from the gem hunt and a few other adventure hooks (there's a tower of wizard cross-planar smugglers, some creatures will pay well for gems from this plane, and what happened to the world and its moon?), the main adventure here is finding the starsoul - a powerful artifact resembling a delicate, glowing crystal which could potentially be used in a magical ritual to reignite the star and "reincarnate" the plane. Wandering the void are creatures of light and song called Memories of Starlight which know how this was supposed to go down - the starsoul is activated, they converge on it and boom, new plane. Unfortunately, the death of the star spawned a nightshade (specifically a nightcrawler), which hid the starsoul because he's a dick.
So, high-level characters could theoretically come here, study Avidarel's secrets, research the ritual, and find their way through the darkened void to defeat the nightcrawler and retrieve the starsoul could reboot the plane, and as a reward they have a hand in shaping the new world that results. Not a bad deal!
If I do one plane a post this will take forever, so... Carrigmoor!
Times change. Fortune blows good tidings to some and ill winds to others, and every coin that lands heads up has a tail pressed hard to the ground. Ask any old sphere-skipper, and she’ll tell you that there were bright lights among the nexii in her day, planar hubs that spilled forth riches every time a doorway opened. And every time she remembers them, she’ll remember that one of the brightest was Carrigmoor, the Jeweled City, the place that made every traveler who walked its streets richer. And then she’ll heave a sigh. Carrigmoor doesn’t shine so bright now, and what spills out of the doorways these days is best avoided. No, a traveler doesn’t want to visit Carrigmoor. It’s full of thieves and bandits, and if you’re lucky, it’s only your purse you’ll lose.
Carrigmoor is an old trading city nestled in the remains of a planet destroyed centuries ago by our old fantasy plot friend, Wizard Fights. Now the world is a collection of millions of asteroids orbiting the hot magma core, held together by "some arcane magic or technological marvel" and inhabited mostly by insects, leathery winged beasts called afghûl. The sky is polluted with sulfur, smog and acid rain.
Carrigmoor itself is built in a glassy "ruby- and emerald-colored dome" held together by alloyed metal and an intense desire to not inhale acid rain. It used to be a massive trading hub which serviced hundreds of worlds, thanks to "thaumaturges of the Door Opener's Guild" who could turn doors into portals to almost everywhere in the multiverse with magic and . Fortunes were made and lost here, and powerful families ruled everything with the power of money. Then a plague forced them to close doors and reroute traffic for a century.
Now Carrigmoor is falling into disrepair, the Doormakers are either moving on or forgetting (also, the door controls are rusting. !), the only merchants who still use it are desperate or criminals, and the city is lousy with thieves and power-hungry jerks.
So yeah. That didn't go well.
The book briefly describes the districts of Carrigmoor: the Seven Great Portals (edge of the city, permanent portals to seven worlds of the DM's choosing), Central Market (merchants), Tirragaunt (calm residential area), Upswich (lower-class residential), Traitortown ( really lower-class), City Center (administrative stuff, guards), Sackend (warehouses and slaughterhouses, not a nice place to live), Cavall (upper-class district, full of scheming nobles) and Temple Row (churches and temples, many of them deserted ruins, place is a little eerie now).
There are a few exiles living outside the town, staging raids on mining operations and breathing with the aid of magical symbiotic spiders which cram tentacles in your lungs. Inside the city, power is divided between the Door Openers' Guild (actually all their mages and technicians left, leaving behind descendants of the guild's treasurers who play the ruling families off against each other while gathering their power), the Phrengals (slavers, douchebags, have made a deal with a fiendish patron from a place called the Hellwell to get a portal not owned by the Openers, are slowly becoming more fiendish), House Cavendish (used to be royalty on the now-dead world, run a drug trade and want to control the city's portals), the Sorpics (the town guard and judicial system, bribable as fuck) and various gangs among the lower class who fight for contrl of the actual streets. There's a solitary group of vigilantes who dispense justice where the town guard don't, and they are the only glimmer of hope in town.
Carrigmoor can be used as a portal nexus, a place for hack-and-slash gang fights, political intrigue, a quest to clean up the city, or just a villain's lair. It is pretty fun, and we're only two planes in!
I swear the rest of the book isn't as dark and sad, though.
NEXT TIME: Where angels go when they die.
... okay, maybe a little dark and sad. The one after that has xorn though!
Curnorost and Deluer, and also why angels are moronsOriginal SA post Beyond Countless Doorways: Curnorost and Deluer, and also why angels are morons
More of the planar book I think is pretty cool! (I promise to find more disturbingly sexual RPG books after this one.)
Even the angels die. But where is their heaven? Where is their hell?
Curnorost is where angels go where they die.
There's even a backstory! It goes like this: Aeons ago, when celestials were having a great time and none of them had died, two angels decided there was a first time for everything. One betrayed the other, and naturally that did not go down well. They discovered violence and killed each other, and their spirits moved on... only to discover there wasn't actually anything waiting for them, like someone had totally forgotten to make an angel afterlife. The pair of angelic spirits decided "Well, fuck that " and made Curnorost.
Curnorost is generally only accessible through other heavenly plains, not that anyone really wants to go there. As a product of betrayal, anger and sorrow, it's not a happy place:
It is a dark place of brooding, weeping, and regret. Celestials never like to speak of Curnorost, and they do their best not to even think about what it holds for them.
Death offers an angel only torment and sadness — an unfair end, but not an inevitable one, thanks to their immortality. In fact, the dire nature of Curnorost makes the bravery of angels who risk death all the more poignant.
So why the fuck does anyone go there? Well, because they're fucking dead, obviously. A slain angel appears in the central wastelands in incorporeal form with all its belongings - which become corporeal if he ditches them - and eventually gets a compulsion to some distant peaks called the Mountains of Eternal Grief. Nobody knows what is beyond them, though I am guessing the Lake of Crawling In My Skin. Angels don't die that often, but this place has been around long enough to see billions of them.
And they dropped all their shit here. Between the wastelands and the Mountains of Eternal Grief (which only dead angels can get to. Why? Because fuck you that's why) lies the Field of Broken Avengers, where the angels have dumped so many weapons on their way through (they won't need them where they're going) they form a two-foot-deep layer across the plains. You can search them once a day with a DC 30 Search check - you have a 1/4 chance of getting a magic weapon off the table, and a 00 lets you roll on a "Special Weapons" table which gives everything from +2 silver weapons to holy avengers to +5 dancing greatswords .
The downside? Well, the Fields also have nightwalkers, which search for angelic weapons just so they can destroy them. This is the second time nightshades have appeared in this book for the specific purpose of being dickheads. Also, sometimes fiends visit this plane just to see it, because "they gain an almost erotic pleasure from the despair of the place."
Oh yeah, and there's this guy:
He eats angel souls!
Other than that, there's the Garden of Afflictions (a garden full of plants which are literally made of diseases surrounding a 300ft. angel statue that weeps bloody tears of "the amassed pain and suffering of the dead angels in the far-off Mountains of Eternal Grief"), the Citiadel of Reminiscence (an ice castle full of frozen copies of the memories of dead angels which disappear forever once you thaw them out and listen to them once, guarded by a celestial stone giant who is writing them all down), and the Psychomanteum, a fortress of bone built around a giant pool where you can call up a dead angel and ask 10 questions. Except you probably shouldn't, because:
Once the angel is finished, or even if the questioner leaves before the 10 questions are asked, the angel gives a mournful howl of anguish that permanently drains all within the Psychomanteum of 2d6 points of Constitution and Wisdom, plus 1 point for every angel called upon in this way in the previous seven days (usually, this number is not known to visitors to the fortress).
A pretty steep price to pay for half a game of 20 Questions.
And that's about it. I can't help but ask: What the fuck , guys? How do you fuck up designing your own afterlife this bad? You're fucking angels! You literally lived in heaven, and you come up with a mysterious place of eternal sorrow where the desperate and foolhardy search through dead angel weapons while avoiding powerful undead and demons who came here to masturbate?
Angels are dumb.
In a universe where everything is a precious substance, nothing has value.
—Adamar Courein, The True Explorers
Not really. It's an elemental plane of earth, only instead of being made of caves and tunnels it's a wide, cloudy weatherless void filled with miles of clear,white (or occasionally coloured) crystal pathways, 30ft. wide and 6ft. thick, anchored to floating "planetoids" of precious minerals. So basically it's Earth Rainbow Road.
This place is ruled by xorn, those weird things in the last image. Unlike most xorn they have an organised, lawful society. There are also elementals, stone giants and mephits, most of which the xorn do not like as much as other xorn because they can't remember all the xorn rules and stay in the cool xorn club. Xorn. Deleur sits adjacent to a heavenly plane called Justiral, and they've made an alliance with the angels there too.
Aside from some mephits who worship a demigoddess of stone they think lives at the heart of the plane, most of the possible encounters detailed here are either earth creatures, passing angels and xorn, or xorn who murder miners. They get really upset about miners. Mephit magic keeps people from entering the plane except at specific "access points" where angels and xorn interrogate and search you for pickaxes, and if they catch you mining the golden planetoid or something they will kick you off the pathways. Falling into the void shunts you into a random adjacent plane.
Non-natives are generally unwelcome except at the Mithral City, where dwarves, deurgar and pech work together grudgingly when they're not murdering people. They mine out a mithral planetoid and are only allowed there because the xorn king is secretly forced to by a magical compulsion. I'm not going to talk about it any more, because instead I'm going to talk about these guys.
These ae the NPCs it provides as part of the plane's description. There's Iyuxical, the king of the xorn, who is too fat to move. He is selfish, greedy, paranoid, and frankly kind of a dick. He lives in a hollow diamond planetoid, which he may have eaten out himself. He is Jabba the Xorn.
Kellek the Elder is Iyuxival's earth elemental advisor in the back there. Nobody gives a shit about him because holy shit look at that angel!
That is Targon the Angelic Merchant. He is an astral deva. The angels of Justiral appointed him to be an "ambassador to nonheavenly realms", and he basically oversees angel activity on Deleur.
The angels actually appointed this guy to be their face.
I take what I said earlier back. Angels are awesome.
NEXT TIME: Formians that don't make me think "man, remember when we had modrons instead?" and also murdering fey in a TARDIS.