Intro and Travelogue

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape Campaign Expansion: The Planes of Chaos.

Intro and Travelogue

Ahhh, box sets. There was a time when TSR not only made boxes for the campaign setting, but for multiple supplements for the setting. Was it inefficient? Incredibly. But there was a certain je ne sais quoi to lifting up a box cover and finding an assortment of booklets, maps and other tools for you and your friends to play with. In Planescape’s case, the setting received five boxes in addition to the initial campaign setting. The first one was Planes of Chaos. As the name suggests, this box set provided further details for adventures on the Outer Planes associated with the right-side of the alignment grid: The Abyss, Arborea, Limbo, Pandemonium and Ysgard. The book includes new player options, detailed setting descriptions and rules with fold-out maps, adventure hooks and outlines, and new monsters.

A Xaositec named Sival...for today posted:

And enjoy my stay, to traveller! Welcome to

The first booklet in the box is the Travelogue. This book is meant for the Players to read. The first chapter goes over some of the difficulties in traveling the Outer Planes. While it’s possible to find a portal in Sigil that’ll take you right to where you need to go, things won’t always be that convenient. Instead, travel across the Outer Planes usually involves a series of short jaunts towards the intended destination. The book gives the example of travelling to Windglum, a town located on the third layer of Pandemonium. Instead of taking a portal directly there, a traveller from Sigil has to take a portal to the Outlands, then find a conduit to reach the Gate Town of Bedlam, go through the portal into Pandemonium, travel through the first layer to find a portal to reach the third layer, and then from there travel to Windglum. And while there’s probably a portal straight to your destination in Sigil, “given the politics of Sigil [finding it] might have taken even longer.”

I feel like whoever wrote this section missed the memo on the point of the Planescape Setting-that travel across the Multiverse is anything but inconvenient. Sure, there are some adventures where instant transportation is a detriment, like if the PCs were plotting to Ocean’s Eleven an Abyssal Lord or track down a Power that’s gone missing. But making numerous Random Encounter checks and seeing if the Outer Planes wreck your character is the reason Sigil is designed the way it is, so low-level characters don’t have to deal with what would be insurmountable obstacles to using this campaign setting.

Other than that the opening of the Travelogue has some general advice on how to survive on the Outer Planes. The short of it is to know the hazards of the Plane, know what the inhabitants are like, and don’t get into fights that aren’t necessary. That last bit is a common theme in Planescape, trying to discourage loot-and-smash gameplay. I suppose that’s a result of cross-pollination from White Wolf, but unfortunately the rules of D&D don’t support that style of gameplay very well.

The intro chapter introduces a new player option called sects. These are groups similar to factions, but they have no interests in Sigil. Instead, they tend to be more concerned with the Outer Plane they reside on. The Travelogue introduces 4 sects, including rules for PCs to join them or start as one. One or two sects are very pretty specific to their Plane, while others can be used in throughout the setting.

Each of the five chapters have a few things in common. They describe the environment and the general hazards that PCs can expect to deal with. They describe who inhabits the Plane, and what the best approach may be to deal with them. Each chapter has a general description of how magic is altered on the plane, and what Spell Keys are like (no specifics though-that’s DM only! ). A couple of locales that would serve as suitable starting-off point for adventures are are described. Finally, if the Plane has any sects, they are also described.

Tanar’ri photo-bomb!

The Abyss chapter introduces Rule-of-Three, a Tanar’ri who lives in Sigil. “For a Fiend, he’s almost a decent sort.” According to Rule-of-Three, a berk visiting The Abyss has three priorities: Surviving, finding a portal out, and leaving. Of all the Outer Planes, The Abyss is probably the toughest to survive on even for high-level PCs. The infinite (or near-infinite) layers are unique in their environmental hazards, all of them insanely fatal. And then you have the Tanar’ri and other native denizens. The trick to dealing with Tanar’ri, particularly when you can’t out-muscle them, is to play one Tanar’ri against the other. Using spells on the Abyss is especially hazardous. For one, the Abyss will twist the spell, making the end result somehow more evil. Second, use of magic draws the attention of the Abyssal Lord of a layer, and Tanar’ri especially hate spell-casters. Of course, if a layer has no Lord, it’s at least one less thing for spell-users to worry about. There are no factions or sects based in The Abyss-no Abyssal Lord would tolerate them.

Rule-of-Three posted:

In The Abyss, kindness is unnatural, mercy impossible, and power all that matters

The Plain of Infinite Portals is one such open layer. It’s the topmost Layer of The Abyss. The layer is riddled with innumerous craters. Each crater leads to a different layer of The Abyss. Between these layers are iron fortresses, each controlled by a Tanar’ri princeling trying to amass enough power to get their own layer. The best way to survive on this layer is to make oneself useful to these would-be Lords. The best place to stay is the fortress Broken Reach, which was built on top of the portal to Plague-Mort in the Outlands. It is ruled by a Succubus named Red Shroud. Her consort is a brain-damaged Nalfeshnee named Ygrax the Skullbiter. It’s not an easy place to stay by most measures, but it beats the other options on the layer. In what becomes a recurring pattern in Planescape, especially those in the Lower Planes, PCs can purchase weapons and other goods here but the prices are greatly inflated. The local cuisine is described, with items like fried lemure or grilled abyssal bat. The page for the Plain of Infinite Portals ends with a plothook-a Bleaker Dwarf has been seen meeting with Red Shroud for many hours, and rumors are abuzz that she’s about to make a big move.

The second locale described is Zrintor, the Viper Forests. This forest is found in Azzagrat, a set of three layers ruled over by the Abyssal Lord Graz’zt. The forest is located on Azzagrat’s first layer (the 45th overall in The Abyss). The dangers of Azzagrat are more hidden than in the rest of The Abyss, and the forest is no exception. At least that’s what the book says. Personally, if I came upon a forest made of trees that had snakes instead of branches, I’d at least keep my guard up. Zrintor will let some berks pass through freely, but bite the shit out of others. The trick, according to the Travelogue, is to go through the forest by night, because the serpent trees fear fire. Why you can’t just carry torches during the day isn’t brought up. Setting the trees on fire, however, is a bad idea, because the trees are very flammable and only the will of Graz’zt can extinguish raging forest fires. According to Rule-of-Three, there are three ways to get out of the forest (noticing a pattern with this guy?). One is to float down the River of Salt (literally just salt crystals) on a magic boat, which takes you to a different layer in the realm. Just don’t fall in, as the crystals will grind you into a red paste. The second method is to find the gates between the layers. These take the form of open furnaces, and passing through them do fire damage to the unprotected. Of course Tanar’ri will set up non-portal ovens because they are nothing if not dicks. The final way out is to travel to the realms’ capital city, Zelatar, which connects to the other layers of the realm and has a conduit to other layers and Lower Planes. Unfortunately, most of those conduits are anchored inside Graz’zt’s palace, and before even reaching the city, adventurers have to avoid hunting parties led by Graz’zt and his partners.

The final layer described is the 113th, Thanatos. The aptly named layer is dominated by the undead and ruled over by Kiaransalee, the Drow goddess of vengeance and the undead. Most locales here don’t even have air, but there are a couple of places where a living berk can stay relatively safely. Both are in the city Naratyr. The lower reaches are especially safe by Abyss standards-not even an Abyssal Lord will chase you there because they’re afraid of Kiaransalee. In truth, the goddess ignores this section of her realm. The only danger here are weak mindless undead, although there are a lot of them. There’s even a tavern here, presumably run by Dustmen. The upper reaches are more dangerous due to thinner-to-no air and patrols of vampires, banshees and ghasts, but with the right party it’s possible to do business here. The vampires and other intelligent undead are organized into warring bands. The city’s day-to-day ruler is Rauva Cormrael, a powerful priestess from the Prime. Her rival is Rotting Jack, but no more info is provided on him. Dustman are pretty common in the upper reaches, and can serve as guides. Above the city is Kiaransalee’s Winter Palace, who issues decrees “from her nightmare throne of zombies and skeletons”.

Hissboda of Naratyr posted:

The dead are more reliable than the living.

Next time: The Travelogue continued

Travelogue, part 2

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Travelogue, part 2

In contrast to the Abyss, Arborea is a pretty nice place. In fact of all the Outer Planes I’d say it has the best balance of opportunities for adventure and not having to worry about getting killed by IWBTG-level bullshit. There are still unusual dangers here. Arborea is a Plane of great heights and depths, and the petitioners reflect that in their behavior. So think the hammiest performance of Midsummer’s Night Dream. This description extends to the two Pantheons that dominate Arborea - the Olympians and the Seldarine - and the nature spirits in control of magic. Spell Keys on Arborea are offerings to nature spirits, and different schools and even specific spells will have its own associated offering. On the plus side, enchantment/charm magic works especially well on Arborea. As for the Powers, I think everyone here knows how the Olympians can be tremendous assholes towards anyone they think has slighted them. The elves are pretty much the same but with an extra dose of smug.

Along with elven and greek petitioners, Arborea is home to the Sensates and more unusual petitioners like satyrs and dryads. The aforementioned nature spirits are pretty much everywhere-there’s even a mountain spirit for Mount Olympus. Aside from controlling magic they’re just as fickle as the powers. There’s also Eladrin, but they aren’t introduced until the second Monstrous Compendium. One final inhabitant that deserves mention are the Bacchae. Bacchae are magic drunks. They roam Arborea in mobs and tear shit up like frat boys. The danger is if you start partying with Bacchae, you become one. Petitioners can even be forced into becoming Bacchae against their will. Since players aren’t petitioners, they never have to worry about that.

The Travelogue describes three locations in Arborea. The first is Grandfather Oak, the greatest and oldest tree in Arvandor. It’s home to several elf tribes and villages, who talk about the tree the same way sailors talk about their boat, attributing moods and wishes to the tree even though it’s not actually intelligent (but it would have a nature spirit according to the last page, so...). While it’s mostly accommodating to visitors, they sometimes force them into pumping water up for the ground “(if a sweet elven lass asks a cutter to help her, he’d best say no.)” Yes, there’s a paragraph on plumbing. The high-up of Grandfather Oak is a treant named Moss-Among-His-Roots, Wind-In-His-Leaves. He’s basically Treebeard, so the Elves have learned to look elsewhere for timely leadership. In Gradfather Oak, that’s either the half-elf warrior Trillamir Evensong or Labelas Thenorean, the grey elf High King. the High King’s warrior-priest keep the magic beasts out of Grandfather Oak, while everyone here is a competent archer (of course they are) which takes care of more mundane trouble-makers. Services that require the use of a fire (like metalworking) cost more than usual, but woodworking here is exceptional and affordable. We also get this line, “The oak was famed for spider silk eons ago, but the trade dried up after Lolth’s followers were banished.” Which I find amusing because it makes it sound like the Pantheon’s creation myths just happened yesterday.

The second locale described is none other than Mount Olympus. The mountain itself is tied for the highest point in the first layer (the other high-point is in Arvandor). Around the mountain are the temple-palaces of the Olympian powers. Further down the slopes are the store-brand versions of the classic Greek City-States. So you have Philosopher Town, Seafaring Town, Zack Snyder Town, and so on. Mount Olympus itself is a Planar Highway. The mountain has caves and other hidden paths that can lead to Carceri, Gehenna, the Grey Wastes, or any Prime World that is home to worshippers of the Olympic Powers. Some of these secret paths are only usable by worshippers of the Olympians, and the portals have mystic guardians (including the Per from the MC). Similar protections are on the homes of the Olympians, so only an actual worshipper can visit the gods. Which I think is kinda crap. This is Planescape. If a player wants to meet Zeus, he shouldn’t have to be a member of his fan-club!

Back to Olympus. The Temple-Palaces have both a public section and a hidden Inner Sanctum where the Power lives and do whatever it is Powers do. Each Power’s palace is designed to fit their domain - Apollo’s is an Amphitheater, Ares and Athena are fortresses, and so on. The biggest one belongs of course to Zeus and Hera. Other prominent temples not already mentioned belong to Aphrodite, Dionysus and Hermes. The other powers either have smaller temples or maintain a secondary shrine to their main realm.

The last place described for Arvandor is the Gilded Hall, the Sensates’ headquarters in Arborea. “Describing the Gilded Hall is a thankless task,” according to the book, but it tries anyway. It’s located halfway between Mount Olympus and Arvandor, and both pantheons claim their superhot-goddess was responsible for building it (meaning Aphrodite and Hanali) which is the reason the building is so beautiful and magical. Whichever party is responsible, the building is indeed magical. Least fiends are slain just by looking at the Gilded Hall. Stronger fiends are just pissed of by it, but thankfully there’s usually plenty of berks around to defend it. Also despite there being a giant party 24/7, the Gilded Hall never gets messy. And bacche will be well behaved when they’re in the Hall, and even bathe. When not partying, Sensates and other adventurers go looking for the Fountain of Youth. There’s a lot of flowery text describing the place, but they got the cartographers to draw the place instead of Tony, so who cares.

Aidan of the Sensates posted:

More wine? Thank you, I think I will

The next Plane covered by the Travelogue is Limbo. Now Limbo doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, especially not the rules of page formatting. I mean look at this:

Once your eyes have adjusted to the color vomit, the two pages tell you that aside from Slaadi and petitioners, surviving the elemental blender is accomplished by concentrating to make the walkable terrain and breathable air. In game terms, this is based on the Intelligence Score and requires continuous concentration. The higher intelligence can not only shape a larger area, but can make complex structures and even wildlife. A few folks in the Multiverse have the ability to shape unconsciously, known as Anarchs to the natives of Limbo. This is an innate ability (read: ask your DM), and requires training from a guild to use properly. This takes up a non-weapon proficiency slot (hey, remember those?). Once trained, an anarch uses his or her Wisdom score to determine the amount of terrain generated.

The guild I mentioned is actually a sect, aptly named The Anarch’s Guild (Chaos Masters, Groundsmen). They’re pretty powerful on Limbo because they’re literally responsible for the ground everyone else walks on, but are basically unheard of beyond the plane. Also they don’t adventure, because they’re basically set for life with their skills. The book doesn’t say that players shouldn’t join this Sect, but I think there’s enough here to discourage the reader.

Anarch’s Guild Proverb posted:

Those who control the terrain, control the battlefield.

There is another sect in Limbo that’s more usable by players, and is actually pretty powerful. They are The Converts (Chameleons, Turncoats). Turncoats believe that the only way to discover the Truth of the Multiverse is to try out an established philosophy of a faction or sect, decide what makes sense and what doesn’t, and when new info presents itself, move onto a philosophy that now makes more sense. Mechanically, this means that members of the Converts can freely join and leave a second faction or sect they meet the requirements for, and while they are in that faction they get all of its benefits, restrictions, allies and enemies. The main restriction on this is that once a player leaves a faction/sect, they can’t rejoin it. The Converts themselves have to be a non-lawful alignment, so factions like Guvners or Harmonium are off limits to them.

Permillon of the Convers posted:

Oh! I never looked at things that way. I see your point. Can I be a part of your faction now?

The Travelogue gives some more info on the two major inhabitants of Limbo, the Slaadi and the Githzerai. The Travelogue repeats some information from the MC, because the assumption in those days was players never read the Monster Manuals. One new info is that Slaad almost pathologically fight one-on-one with their enemies. While this has the benefit of travellers never having to worry about getting overwhelmed by Slaad war parties, it can get frustrating because just killing the leader of a group of Slaad won’t convince the others to flee from the fight.

Marivus Quince, merchant posted:

The Githzerai come in two types: hardheaded and stubborn.

The Githzerai get some elaboration from their MC entry and even a few retcons. Rather than a wizard, the ‘yanki-’zerai split occurred when Gith was challenged by a warrior named Zerthimon after the revolt succeeded. Zerthimon was killed, but his followers fled to Limbo, and hate the Githyanki as much as they hate Illithids. Today, the Githzerai live in large cities maintained by the Anarch’s Guild (it’s speculated that they have some trade secrets that let them get around the limitations of the mechanics. They are very suspicious of outsiders, so it’s generally a bad idea to wander from the visitor’s quarters. Many find it hard to think of Githzerai as chaotic because they’re pretty loyal to each other and their leaders, but the travelogue explains, “theirs is the loyalty of individuals, not the compliance of slaves. Having escaped from bondage once, they prize individual freedom above all else.” Well, considering that the alternative is places like Menzoberranzan, I’ll let that inconsistency slide.

The one site described in the Travelogue is the Pinwheel. The Pinwheel is an island of stability in the chaos of Limbo, 150 miles in radius and a branch of Yggdrasil at its center. A lot of speculation is given as to why the island exists. Too much in my opinion, but maybe you can base an adventure on figuring out how to create similar islands. The climate of the island is cool and mountainous at the center, but turns tropical at the edges. The island is pear-shaped, but in the indentation there’s an eddy where the island’s stability and the surrounding chaos form a swamp-like region. Despite real estate being at a premium in this Plane, no one lives here permanently because there’s lots of really dangerous wildlife to contend with. On occasion, the various factions in Limbo will use the Pinwheel as a neutral ground, and there are a couple of permanent structures that are sturdy enough to survive the attention of the native animals.

Next Time: Travelogue Concluded

Travelogue, part 3

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Travelogue, part 3

Twitching Orlando of the Madhouse posted:

Stop fighting the wind. It’s bigger than you.

Pandemonium has three hazards that both travellers and natives need to deal with: noise, insanity, and darkness. The noise is the most noticeable part. In most places, it’s deafening. Even in the few ‘quiet’ parts it never goes away The locals will know which routes will minimize noise, but the one thing no one can avoid is the madness. If you stay in Pandemonium too long, you go mad. There are ways to manage the insanity, but it’s impossible to explain until you’ve already gone batty. Finally, there are no natural light sources in Pandemonium. In fact, one layer even drains light. Thanks to the constant winds, torches are unusable, so a sod either needs a fancy lantern or a magic light source.

Once you figure out how to deal with these issues, Pandemonium actually has a surprising amount to offer. It’s mostly ignored in the Blood War and no fiend race makes its home here, so it’s probably the most accessible of the Lower Planes. Those that do live here are frequently exiles from other places in the multiverse, making it something of a second-tier Carceri. These unfortunates have formed communities, and a few are even receptive to visitors. Most are not, so the prudent thing is to be polite but always ready for a fight.

All four layers manage to distinguish themselves, which I got to hand to the writers since I imagine it’d be easy to just put down “caves....more caves...etc”. The first layer, Pandemous is the base-line Pandemonium experience. The second layer, Cocytus, not only manages to turn the noise level up to eleven, but it appears that the tunnels and caverns have been artificially carved from the rock. Normally you’d only notice this if, say, a dwarf tried using his or her tunnel sense abilities. But at a site called Harmonica in Cocytus, the artificial nature is unmistakeable. The Harmonica is a cavern 10 miles in diameter, filled with hundreds of giant columns on every surface. Since gravity on this layer is always to the nearest surface, even the columns on the “ceiling” are accessible. Between the columns are hundreds of tunnels that serve as entrances to the site.Each column is miles high, some reaching to the epicenter of the site, is pierced with holes, and has a cyclopean stairway winding around it. There are numerous rumors as to what purpose the site served, and just as many rumors as to magical boons (or curses) one might receive if you reach the very center of the Harmonica. No one has been able to confirm these rumors, as between the oversized steps, the hurricane winds that can blow in the cavern (and come blasting through a hole in the column), and being unable to see if a given column actually goes all the way to the center, it wouldn’t be surprising if a Greek Power assigns some cross-trader to the task as a form of punishment.

The third layer, Phlegethon, has a single gravity direction as opposed to the other layers. So there are cave formations here like those on a Prime Material Plane. Not that you’d notice, because the rock here actually absorbs light, making it even darker than the rest of Pandemonium. In spite of this, Phlegethon is home to the town of Windglum. The majority of the burg’s inhabitants don’t like outsiders, but they will direct visitors to the one place they are welcome, The Scaly Dog Inn. The place used to be a shithole, but it’s recently come under new management that has greatly increased the quality of service and the size of the Inn. The new owner, Hagas Grimcrack, is mad like everyone else on the plane, but he manages to keep it from showing. The inn itself is actually 3 buildings on a 3-way corner that are connected on the second floor. Overall, the inn is a perfect spot for adventurers to set off from.

Wilfin Stabile, ruler of Windglum posted:

Welcome to Windglum. When will you be leaving?

The sad saps that have been forced into Pandemonium are collectively known as the Banished. Some of these folks have decided that the best response to getting pushed around by the Multiverse is to start pushing back. These bashers have formed a sect known as The Dispossessed (Exiles, Chippers). The Dispossessed help those that have been pushed aside by life and get payback against those that have wronged them. They’re common in Pandemonium and Carceri, but have been slowly trickling into Sigil (since The Cage is frequently the home of their targets). There are no requirements to join save having been kicked out on your ass at one point. The Dispossessed naturally align with Fated, Indeps, Anarchists and Signers (despite them not fostering allies, or at least admitting to such), while the Harmonium finds them particularly antagonizing. Dispossessed get some pretty nice benefits. They get +1 to all saving throws against mental attacks, and get to roll twice to hit and take the best roll when making an attack. Their drawback is they have a -2 to their reaction rolls for all non-members.

Agnossus of the Dispossessed posted:

Who do you think you’re talking to? You wanna take this outside?

The last page on Pandemonium talks about the last layer, Agathion. This layer is air pockets surrounded by solid rocks. Deities and other powerful beings use this layer to imprison creatures or store away a powerful magical artifact. Since no one lives on this layer, descriptions come from sacred texts and the rare expedition to get ahold of artifacts that someone of immense power decided was best forgotten about. As you can imagine, these expeditions don’t go well. One famous example is given of a wizard named Shekelor that wanted to take on the Lady of Pain and set off to Agathion to find an artifact that might be the key to his plan. He disappears with a bunch of tough adventures for a year, and then after being assumed dead, Shekelor popped out of a portal in the Civic Hall, shouted “THE SPIDERS!” and exploded.

The last plane in the Travelogue is Ysgard, land of the murderhobos. All three layers of Ysgard are floating landbergs on rivers of fire, but how they are arranged is what makes them different. On the first layer (which shares the Plane’s name), the topside is magic-Scandinavia, but the bottoms are on fire. The second layer, Muspelheim, the fiery side is facing upward. The landbergs of Nidavellir, the third layer, are packed closely together, forming shifting caves and tunnels. Ysgard is the most violent of the Upper Planes. The petitioners, when slain in battle, return to life the next day, and they take advantage of this to fight constantly and with everyone they meet. They just assume whoever they fight also just comes back. Luckily, Ysgard is pretty sparsely populated. The weather is as wild and violent as the petitioners, which makes travel between Landbergs very difficult.

The intro to Ysgard assumes you’ll be spending most of your time on the first layer, which makes sense because that’s where most of the major attractions are. The Norse pantheon dominates Ysgard, maintaining four different realms (Alfheim, Asgard, Jotunheim and Vanaheim), where the Powers have great feasts whenever they’re not fighting. The Norse pretty much set the spell key system on the Plane. A spellcaster needs to utilize runes and sometimes kennings, which are word-plays that call ships “sea-steads” and eagles “vultures of battle”. The travelogue comments, “The Ysgardians may all act like warriors, but scratch the surface of a warrior and find a failed poet.”

The Fated have a big presence on Ysgard, and own a headquarters styled after the norse named Rowan’s Hall (or Heartless Hall), which is rumored to have a conduit leading to the Norns in the Outland. Ysgard is also home to herds of Bariaur. Bariaur don’t like staying in one place because a few petitioners will attack them unprovoked (forgetting they don’t get reborn every day). This also prompts them to shoot first, ask questions later when approached by strangers.

Finally there are a couple of Powers here unrelated to the Norse Pantheon. Most of them are Moon Deities that hang out in a realm named Gates of the Moon (this includes Selune, Bast, Artemis, etc). The realm is connection to the Infinite Staircase, and is periodically connected to the River Oceanus. Aside from Moon Powers, this realm is home to flying snake-women named Lillendi and good-aligned were-beasts.

The trunk of Yggdrasil, the World Ash, is located on Ysgard, and is one of the most extensive Planar Highways in the setting. The tree is home to a species of intelligent squirrels known as Ratatosk. The Ratatosk supposedly know where every branch of Yggdrasil leads, even the one secretly connected to the rafters of the Carpenter’s Guild in Sigil (other stories say it leads to the gallows). Despite being intelligent, Ratatosk are still squirrels, so if you feed one they’ll follow you forever. Hiring a Ratatosk as a guide is recommended, because the branches of Yggdrasil are miles long and not every branch has a portal at its end. A huge ecosystem of creatures both mundane and magical spend their entire lives on Yggdrasil. The most legendary of these is the dragon Nidhogg, which guards/eats the roots which connect to Hel’s realm in Nifleheim, the second layer of the Grey Wastes. Yggdrasil also connects to Loki’s Hall in Pandemonium, the Norn’s realm in the Outlands, and every Prime world the Norse Powers have worshippers. Yggdrasil even connects to places with no obvious relation to the Norse, including the Pinwheel in Limbo, and other branches are connected to the Beastlands and the realm of Arvandor. Many would like to control the exit points of these branch, but unfortunately the branches shifts in the Astral, causing the portals to shift about. Using Yggdrasil doesn’t actually involve climbing. Instead, gravity always points towards the center of the branch you are on...unless you are approaching a portal. Near a portal, gravity switches to slowly match the gravity on the other side. This results in careless travellers either getting to their destination a lot sooner, or falling into the Astral Plane. If that happens, it’s possible for his or her companions to mount a rescue by tying off a rope and jumping after them, although the rescuer enters the Astral at not quite the same spot. Finally, travellers should bear in mind that since the branches shift from place to place, getting back to Yggdrasil may involve climbing a different tree than the one you came down.

Tisk the Ratatosk posted:

Down the tree is easy; back up is hard.

Ysgard is home to a sect that is the polar opposite of the Fated, The Ring-Givers (Bargainers, Beggars). Ring-Givers practice aestheticism. They believe that if you give away everything you have, the Multiverse will give what you need back. Through poverty, they claim, a cutter will receive their hearts desires. Thanks to the nature of the setting, this philosophy actually works. Ring-Givers are most prevalent in Ysgard and Limbo, but they are slowly gaining popularity across the Planes of Chaos, even The Abyss. Bards and Tieflings there give gifts to Tanar’ri which allows them to make pacts the Tanar’ri will stick to. As you might expect, the Fated hate the Bargainers. Takers will try to peel Ring-Givers, who are always happy to hand their stuff over, but the Fated always pay for it in the end. On the other hand, Beggars are allied with the Sensates and Ciphers. Anyone can join the Ring-Givers, although lawful and evil Beggars are rarer. The benefit of being a Ring-Giver is that anyone who accepts a gift from a Ring-Giver is obliged to them. This works out to a +1 to +4 on reaction rolls with the receiver of the gift, and can claim favours. On the flip side, Ring-Givers don’t own anything. They can still receive stuff, but they have to give it away ultimately. Evil Ring-Givers use their gift-giving as a pretext to get what they really want out of others.

I’m putting the favour power on it’s own because it bears special mention. Once per level, a Ring-Giver can claim a favour from an NPC no more powerful than twice the Bargainers level in HD. So take the Agathinon from the Compendium. He has 8 HD, so a Ring-Giver of level 4 or higher can get a favour from them. One of the Agathinon’s abilities is to turn into any magical item. So at level 4, which many campaigns start at because levels 1-3 are really terrible in 2nd edition, a Good-aligned Beggar can get a Holy Avenger or Staff of the Magi or any piece of gear below Artifact. At level 11, she can get a favour from a Solar. At level 17, you can force a favour out of the Abyssal Lord Pazrael.

Factol Ingwe of the Ring-Givers posted:

Give and others will give to you.

I think this is hands down the most powerful Faction/Sect ability so far presented. Of course, this comes with the usual DM discretion caveats, but at worse if you’re unsure of how much your DM will permit then play a Convert Ring-Giver. One idea I have for a campaign is for all my players to play as Ring-Givers and just do away with all inventory management.

There’s a short section on the High Groves of Alfheim. The grove is a strand of giant sequoias with platforms connected by rope bridges. There’s a bunch of elves here, and they have public parties as well as private parties that they’ll kill you dead if you interrupt. There are two great festivals here for the spring and autumn equinox, which attract all the elves of Ysgard. The spring festival honors Freya, while the fall festival is for Frey.

The travelogue has one of the Norse Power’s great hall: Briedablik, or “Broad Splendor”. This hall belongs to Baldur, the Norse god of Beauty and Charisma, and this section is pretty special. To understand why, you have to go back to late eighties and early nineties and read how TSR described goddesses of love and/or beauty, their temples and their priesthoods. It was all cheesecake, describing the deity and followers as vain and obsessed with sex, an abundance of bathing, and equating the charisma stat with sexiness. This was especially bad for TSR’s fictional gods like Sune or Hanali. The dumbest instance I know of was a piece of fiction where a cleric of Sune loses his spells because he got a scar on his face.

Briedabik has all those same tropes, except the deity in question is a man. I can imagine that at least a few nerd -fears were triggered from this, and I am glad of it. If the players and DM can accept the Fabio-vikings of Baldur’s hall, there’s an adventure hook for solving a dwarven murder mystery.

The final entry for Ysgard (and the Travelogue) is the Infinite Staircase. The Staircase leads to every city in the Multiverse, but the best known landing is in the Gates of the Moon. Legend is that if you climb the stairs long enough you will find your heart’s desire. The bad news is that the Infinite Staircase is, well, infinite. It also doesn’t just go one direction, but sprawls out in every direction, and travellers can walk on both sides of the stairs. The doors themselves require solving riddles and puzzles to solve from Lillends. It’s not a good idea to offend them, as they’ll knock you off the staircase. The stairway doesn’t have a uniform style, and the style is sometimes a clue to where the landing leads (if the passage is dark, it’s said to lead to a nightmare city).

Lillend Selenia of the Moon Gates posted:

The truth is only visible under moonlight.

Next Time: GM’s Guide Intro-I may need to re-read the campaign box

The Book of Chaos (Intro)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - The Book of Chaos (Intro)

The Book of Chaos is the DM’s section of the Planes of Chaos box set. In fact, it’s actually the first booklet in the box, as it comes with a “what’s in this box” section. Like the Travelogue, this booklet is separated by Plane, but with more details and rules that apply to each Plane. The Book of Chaos opens up with some in-setting fluff dissing on the Prime Material Planes. Which I guess is a symptom of the era Planescape was written, but it feels unnecessary. If a person has purchased this box set, he or she doesn’t need convincing that Planescape is rad compared to the other D&D settings. I also feel an opportunity was lost to give an in-setting blurb about how adventuring on the Chaos-aligned Planes differs from other places in the setting.

The actual text starts by explaining what’s found in the box. Emphasis is given that each Plane on its own would be at least as large as a single Prime Material world. So not every realm or town has been detailed in this set. In fact there’s a lot of empty space just on a single layer. Instead, special attention has been given to places that communicate the unique nature of each Plane. This way, a DM can create his own campaign and know how to make the bits he or she adds fit with the tone of the setting.

Factol Karan of the Chaosmen posted:

Beautiful is! Chaos too dim Multiverse. Is to notice most of the

After an inventory of the box’s contents, we get a section discussing what makes adventures on the Planes of Chaos (I’m just going to abbreviate them to PoC) different from the rest of the setting. There are a lot of words, but the gist of it is that it’s easier to sneak into the PoCs unnoticed compared to the Law Planes, but if adventurers get into hot water there are fewer chances to find safety. The booklet does give the implication here that the PCs should be allowed to prevail over obstacles that have earned a reputation for chewing up bashers and spitting them out, but I feel that this advice probably needs to be stated explicitly. Especially in this setting expansion, as the detailing of the hazards PCs had to deal with made me at a few points.

Since this is the first booklet in the box, we get some info that we already covered in the Travelogue. For example, it introduces the DM to Sects, and how they differ from Factions. The section does have this amusing line: “And then there are those folk who have heard of Sigil, but figure it’s just some pretentious madhouse that doesn’t hold much significance in their lives.” The next section describes travelling to and around the PoCs. Besides taking a portal from Sigil, each Plane has a Gate-Town in the Outlands (remember them?) that opens up to the first layer. In addition, there’s the Great Road which connects the 5 Planes to their neighbors. On the Chaos side, there typically are not any towns congregated around Great Road portals. In a similar vein, towns usually don’t appear around portals to Sigil. The reason for this is because it’s impossible to tell who’s going to come through it. And if those people happen to be assholes, there’s no recourse besides what they have on hand.

Lenore of the Converts Sect posted:

Am I a Dustman? Why, yes. Yes I am.

All four of the major Planar Highways are found on the PoCs. Mount Olympus and Yggdrasil are detailed in the chapters on Arborea and Ysgard respectively, while the River Styx and River Oceanus get new details about them. The River Styx is flows through the top layer of all the Lower Planes. It also has access to Stygia in Baator and a few of the layers in The Abyss. It doesn’t extend into the Astral, but there are portals on the shores that lead to the Prime Material Plane, which are used by Marraenoloths. The Styx flows in no direction, and has no apparent source or mouth. While it’s called a river, the Styx can at places be as wide and deep as any Prime ocean. A trip from Acheron to Baator can take just as long as a trip to The Abyss. If you plan on travelling on the Styx, it’s best to get a Marraenoloth guide. 10% of large craft and 20% of small craft have a chance of overturning (doesn’t say if that is per turn or per trip). Along with the risk of losing all your memories, a berk that is submerged in the Styx has a 50% chance of being swept to another plane. Also there are patrolling fiends that’ll attack travellers but generally know better than to mess with the Marraenoloths. Of course Marraenoloths are really pricy and like all Yugoloths they might betray you. By contrast, travel along the River Oceanus is pretty normal, or at least as normal as going down a universe-spanning river can be.

The book says that the following chapters elaborate on the rules of magic on the PoC. To the book’s credit, it says that if the DM can’t keep track of all the rule changes, he or she shouldn’t feel too bad. Which I like, because there are a lot of rules, and their wording isn’t always clear. One new general rule introduced is that if a spellcaster has a spell key to summon an elemental, then the summon spell doesn’t bring an elemental but a pseudo-elemental created from the essence of the Outer Plane he or she is on rather than the Inner Planes. What this means in practice is that the pseudo-elemental has the same alignment as the Plane, and its chance to break free is increased by how many steps that alignment differs from the caster’s. Also “if a caster is distracted when the elemental appears” then the pseudo-elemental will stay after the spell ends and attacks 100% of the time. But wouldn’t the caster getting distracted interrupt the spell to begin with?

Okay, I had to go back and look at the general magic rules from the main box set, because I found the way the specific rules written in this book to be confusing. Besides, it’s been 4 years years since I posted the general rules, and I didn’t include the full chart and spell last time. There are four rules, but the book clumps two together so they can do the whole “Rule of Three” thing. These rules are for Wizards and spells cast by magic items. 1) Spells meant to work against outsiders don’t work when they’re on their home plane. 2) Summoning spells cast anywhere other than the Prime Material can only draw creatures from the Plane the caster is on or adjacent Planes. 3) Spells that need access to the Inner Planes won’t work on the Astral and Outer Planes, and spells that need access to the Outer Planes won’t work on the Ethereal and Inner Planes. 4) Spells that create an extra-dimensional space do not work on the Astral Plane or other planes that have no extra dimensions. In addition to these general rules (that fourth one could have just been saved for the Astral), each Plane has their own special rules on magic. A spell school is either enhanced, altered, diminished, or nullified. To circumvent these restrictions and alterations, a Wizard can use Spell Keys that take the form of props or additional actions to cast the spell. Keys can come either in a general form or for a specific spell. But:

DM’s Guide to the Planes posted:

It doesn’t take a club to point out that keys have limits, and only a leatherheaded wizard’s going to think they’ll solve everything. Some schools and spells simply have no keys - most times that’s because the nature of the plane is too incompatible to the spell’s magic. No matter what’s done, a fireball won’t work on the plane of Water, and wild magic will never function in the rig-orously ordered universe of Mechanus.
So the question is what changes can be circumvented, and what can’t? On some of the chapter’s in this supplement, the way the changes to magic are written make it sound more like an inherent nature. Other times, the changes themselves read like Spell Keys. As much as I love Planescape’s Cant, I feel that things would have benefited from a clear indication of what effects can be mitigated with Spell Keys and what can’t.

Looking back, I also feel that the rules for Priests can be confusing. First, I’d always assumed that Priests had to deal with spell diminishment instead of worrying about the alterations to spells like Wizards do. But now I’m not so sure. The section introducing the rules simply says that Priests pray and receive spells without issue no matter where in the Multiverse they are, not that when they cast them it’s not impacted by whatever Plane they are on. Afterall, a firestorm spell will fizzle on the Plane of Water just as much as a fireball. On top of that, specific spell rules often mention changes to healing and resurrection spells, and before I’d assumed that they were there for completion sake-

Okay, I’m not going to figure this out right now. Back to the Book of Chaos. There are two wandering realms in the PoC. One belongs to Gorellik, a Gnoll god that has been usurped by an Abyssal Lord. He’s been declining in power over the years, and now he’s pretty much an incredibly strong Were-hyenadon. His ‘realm’ is just an area extending 100 yards from him. The only thing special about this is any gnoll (except priests of a different Power) are transformed into a hyenadon servitor. Gorellik mainly wanders between The Abyss and Pandemonium. The other wandering realm is the Seelie Court. It’s where Titania, Oberron, and all their annoying friends live. This realm moves between the forests of Arborea, Beastlands and Ysgard. It’s not really easy to distinguish the Seelie Court from the surrounding Plane, other than the increased frequency of fairies. There are a couple of special effects of the realm, ranging from irritating to “your DM is an asshole” Time moves strangely in this realm, sometimes faster and sometimes slower than outside. That’s the mild one. If a visitor eats or drinks anything offered to them, they get a permanent geas to the fairy that offered it, which only a wish can remove. Accepting any other gift lets the giver demand a favor, “and fairy demands are often cruel by mortal standards”. There’s pretty much no good reason to go here.

Before wrapping up, I’ll put in the list of spells that are generally impacted on the Planes, plus the table showing what spell schools are impacted on a specific plane.

Next Time: Fuck you

The Abyss (part 1)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - The Abyss (part 1)

The Abyss is an entire universe that wants to kill you. You need to be quick on your wits and sure of your strength, because this Plane does not fuck around. There are either infinite or near-infinite layers to The Abyss, and each one has its own way to horrifically murder you. And that’s before you meet the locals.

Tanar’ri saying posted:

Ah, the infinite wonders of The Abyss. If there’s anything you don’t like, you’ll find it here.

A lot of folks, particularly Primes, come to The Abyss on accident, either through fucking around with magic or as sacrifice victims. Or a dumbass mage (are there any other types? ) thinks they can outwit the Tanar’ri, with really predictable results. The book advises that if a berk absolutely needs to get a fiend to enact revenge or some silly nonsense, he or she should talk with the Baatezu, “who at least cheat her honestly.”

That's a minus 50 DKP you stupid fuck!

Assuming you aren’t a complete idiot, you can get into The Abyss by taking a portal from Sigil, travelling along the Great Road, riding in on the River Styx, or going through the gate-town of Plague-Mort. Any of these methods can be used to leave. The portal back to Sigil is usually the safest, assuming that the portal is stable and works both ways. Reaching Plague-Mort is probably the second best way, It could be a long journey there depending on where you start, but at least it takes you to the Outlands. Using the Great Road or River Styx will usually just take a berk from one bad situation to another (paths to Carceri are in caverns, while paths to Pandemonium require jumping from a cliff. Be sure you have the right cliff). Wherever you are, bribery is an extremely effective survival tactic, as is making oneself useful to the higher-ups. Tanar’ri hate each other as much as the rest of the Multiverse, and smart adventurers will learn to exploit that. Of course, there’s no telling when the Tanar’ri or Abyssal Lord they’re working for decides to smash the new toy they just acquired, so cutters need to keep their eye on the exit at all times, or working the betrayal angle as much as possible. It can be maddening trying to play fiends against each other, but the alternative is just waiting for Sword of Damocles to come down.

There are three priorities to survival: surviving the climate and terrain, not getting eaten, and having enough unspoiled rations. One thing to keep in mind when on The Abyss is that while every layer is nasty, some layers are much worse than others. It’s important to do your homework before venturing to the Abyss and know which layers are survivable and which are not. Obvious hazards on a layer include poisonous water, burning sunlight, no light, no air, noxious air, or no level ground. Other layers have dangers that are less obvious but no less deadly; stealing memories, rotting from the inside, or slowly turning a cutter’s alignment to Chaotic Evil. Still other layers don’t hurt a sod directly, but conditions are such that the natives will come down like a ton of bricks, like a layer where there’s no food but other sentient beings, or berks with good alignment shine like beacons (making it impossible to hide from Tanar’ri.)

Magic can alleviate some of these problems. The bad news is that Tanar’ri (and by extension The Abyss itself) hate mages because of their tendency to summon and enslave them. Not every wizard does this of course, but if you think a Tanar’ri would care about such nuances you haven’t been paying attention. As a result, just using magic draws attention on The Abyss, particularly from Abyssal Lords who don’t like potential challengers to their authority. Of course, not every spell is going to bring down the hammer, because that would be no fun. Instead, there is a priority as to what magic will draw notice. Spells that trick or inform (so illusion or divination) are the least likely to get noticed. Defensive magic and wards against evil are somewhat dangerous to use. Offensive magic is likely to get a reaction, and finally spells of binding or coercion will really rustle the jimmies of Tanar’ri. Aside from this, where a spell is used is also important. On open layers, the ones without an Abyssal Lord, there’s not likely going to be a response unless a True Tanar’ri is being affected. On layers with an Abyssal Lord, a spellcaster has to be more careful with magic, and direct challenges to a Lord’s authority will almost certainly get noticed. Finally, retaliation is based on what the spell targets. As strong as Abyssal Lords are, their power is finite, and going full blast on every caster would drain that power quickly. Spells cast on powerful Tanar’ri will have more severe effects than buffs or healing spells. You might have noticed that there aren’t any percentages or rolls to make. That’s because there aren’t. Instead, the book tells the DM that these responses should occur once or twice an adventure, and be tailored to the situation, rather than an excuse to wipe a party.

The Book of Chaos posted:

The best use of the Abyss’s magical backlash is an ever-present threat, and just the knowledge that spells may backfire or set off arcane alarms is enough to make smart players more cautious.
Finally, there are a whole slew of changes to spells both for The Abyss in general and on individual layers in particular. “Because of the extreme variety of terrain, the DM must arbitrate the effects of individual layers of the Abyss.” Let’s go over the changes to each school, because hoo boy, they are a doozy.

Master-Scriver Jarvel of the Guvners posted:

If there are laws that govern The Abyss, I don’t want to know them.

Alteration - When an alteration spell is cast, either the caster or recipient (if there is one) must make a saving throw versus spell. If the save fails, then the target is corrupted. Living creatures turn into a more evil form. So humans become tieflings, tieflings become Tanar’ri, githzerai become githyanki, elves become drow, bariaur become lamia, and so on. If the target is a Tanar’ri, it becomes either a stronger or weaker form of Tanar’ri. If the target is inanimate, it becomes useless goop.

Conjuration/Summoning - There’s a 10% x spell level chance that a Tanar’ri answers the summons.

Divination - True Tanar’ri and Abyssal Lords in The Abyss always know when they’re being snooped on, and can reach through the spell to retaliate. This retaliation takes the form of the divination spell used, and the counterattack is of lower or equal level to the divination spell cast. The exception to this is ESP, and this is more a rule for Tanar’ri than The Abyss. But basically NEVER DO IT! Of course since many Tanar’ri can shapechange, it’s possible to do so unknowingly. If you do try to mind read a Tanar’ri, you have to make a saving throw versus death magic. Succeed, then you are feebleminded for 2d6 hours and only remember fragments of useful information if you recover. And if you fail? Then the caster suffers from madness (of a type agreed by the Player and DM) until treated with heal, restoration, limited wish “or a more powerful cure”. The mage also loses spell-levels based on how powerful the target Tanar’ri is (so mind-reading a True Tanar’ri costs four spell levels, which means a loss of a 4th level spell, 2 2nd level spells, or however the mage chooses). Half the spell levels lost are permanent (the rest are restored when the madness is cured, I guess?).

Illusions - Tanar’ri love deceiving foes, so this magic is actually enhanced.

Necromancy - Reincarnation in the Abyss is always in the form of a Tanar’ri, mostly as least Tanar’ri too. Otherwise, necromancy works well on most layers. Notably on the layer Thanatos, however, there’s a flaw worked into the Animate Dead spell that allows Petitioners to hijack the spell.

Wild Magic - Wild Magic is enhanced, but when a wild surge happens, you roll twice and and take the worse of the rolls.

Elemental - Even when you have the right Spell Key, there’s still catches you have to deal with. Whenever a protective spell would prevent or reduce damage, the caster has to make a Breath Save to see if it functions (and that’s with a Key ). On the other hand, damaging spells do 1 extra damage per die.

Speaking of Spell Keys, on The Abyss Spell Keys are bribes, usually in the form of blood or money (often not the caster’s). As with anything here, a caster should mind who is giving the keys, and how much it costs. As a general rule, if the price is too good to be true, then it is. False keys usually cause damage to the caster and may even mess with their ability to cast spells. Conjuration keys are closely guarded, but again they take the form of bribes, in this case the spell level x 100gp. And stronger Tanar’ri require payment in gems or even magic items (did magic items have gp costs in 2nd Edition? I don’t remember). Divination spells require specific keys to cast, and sometimes require using a Tanar’ri’s True Name (not easy to come by for anyone). Fake divination keys are a surefire way to provoke a response. Power Keys are rarely handed out by Abyssal Lords, but when they are they take the form of shrunken Manes skull. Other Powers give keys that are basically unholy symbols.

The next part of the chapter explains what an Abyssal Lord is. Like the Baatezu, weaker Tanar’ri can advance into stronger forms, but unlike the Baatezu it’s left nebulous how this happens. Whatever the process is, once a Tanar’ri becomes True, the next phase of his transformation is to wrest control of their own layer. At this point, a Tanar’ri is now an Abyssal Lord. In order to gain even more power, an Abyssal Lord now has to recruit worshippers, particularly worshippers on the Prime. At this point the Abyssal Lord faces a challenge-it has to attract worshippers, but it has substantially less to offer Priests in terms of spells. At most, an Abyssal Lord can in person grant 4th level spells. Even a gullible prime is going to wonder what makes an Abyssal Lord special when he can be just as much a d-bag worshipping, say, Loki, and get the full slate of spells. To overcome this disadvantage, an Abyssal Lord has two tricks. First is to provide cultists with magic items and Tanar’ri servants. Second, an Abyssal Lord can corrupt the followers of actual Powers. Lords typically poach from evil deities, since it’ll be less obvious that who they’re following has changed. Corrupted priests still receive their spells from their original power until discovered, and an Abyssal Lord can hide the signs of the conversions. If an Abyssal Lord can keep this scam going long enough, it becomes an actual Power and is able to grant high level spells on its own. Abyssal Lords that have graduated to become Powers include Baphomet, Demogorgon, Jubilex and Yeenoghu. Other Lords named in this book include Fraz Urblu, Graz’zt, Kostchtchie, Pazrael, Sess’ink, Zuggtmony, and many more. Whether they have achieved godhood or not, Abyssal Lords can use Tanar’ri as proxies. These proxies serve out of fear, and have little loyalty to their masters.

You might have noticed that one name is conspicuously absent from the list. At the start of Planescape, the Abyssal Lord Orcus is in the dead book. As part of one of Planescape’s big story-arcs, Orcus is eventually restored to power, so that when 3rd edition rolls along, he’s back in the Abyss, “clutching his terrible rod” ( ). What I don’t know is if TSR killed him off before they started writing Planescape or if they came up with the idea of an Abyssal Lord returning from death as a storyline for Planescape and picked Orcus to fill that roll.

Bieeardo posted:

The last Bloodstone module (which predates 2E itself by about a year) is mostly a trundle across multiple layers of the Abyss and through the stomping grounds of several of those named Lords, on the way to assaulting Orcus's palace and stealing his Rod so that it can be destroyed in the Seven Heavens. I always imagined that someone at TSR figured that the events of the module were Forgotten Realms canon, and that whoever got through it probably had to cut Orcus down to get the Rod out of his clutches.
I guess that answers my question.

The Tanar’ri and Abyssal Lords are not the only inhabitants of The Abyss. Depending on the layer, undead or sea monsters for example are more prevalent. Besides the Abyssal Lords, the most infamous Power to reside in the Abyss is Lolth. The one real-life god that I recognize living here is Kali. Most of the other deities are monster gods like Vaprak of the ogres or Grankhul, the Great Mother of the Beholders. The proxies of these Powers are more likely to be monsters associated they are associated with, like Lolth’s myrlochar and yochlol.

From an outsider’s perspective, Petitioner’s have a pretty miserable lot, but the truth is that they love it here. Abyssal petitioners not turned into Manes are a foul lot of thugs, killers, traitors and poisoners. They have to live with the Tanar’ri, so they’re surprisingly tough for petitioners. Like the Tanar’ri, they are suspicious of each other, so it’s not hard to turn them against each other.

There’s a small section on the Tanar’ri, in case you forgot what those are. No faction has a big presence here-no Abyssal Lord would tolerate them. Besides, the Tanar’ri and other inhabitants don’t care about philosophy, just power. Oddly, the Ring-Givers have a small foothold here. Abyssal Beggars believe that giving up physical things assumes that they receive power and stature in return. Most of the other inhabitants in the Abyss are scavengers, servant creatures, or creations of the Tanar’ri that they lost track of.

Norglemist the Nabassu posted:

If I don’t rend you limb from limb, who will?

The layers of The Abyss aren’t actually stacked on top of each other like the layers of other planes may be. Instead, each layer connects to the Plain of Infinite Portals. The layers are numbered in the order that it was discovered and then reported to the Fraternity of Order in Sigil (it can be assumed that several layers were “discovered” many times before ever being officially reported). Of the 679 layers that have been catalogued, 141 are habitable by by most planars. Realms and layers in The Abyss typically mean the same thing, since Abyssal Lords and other Chaotic Evil powers don’t like to share If a layer currently has two Lords, one will eventually kick out the other). There are a number of layers (including the topmost layer) that don’t have a Power or Lord ruling them. And a few layers have been sealed off. These layers are only known by reputation, and any attempt to summon from them fail. Abyssal Lords fear this happening to them, but would love to visit this fate on their enemies.

Describing 679 layers even briefly in one booklet would be absurd, so instead provides a summary of several of the more prominent layers and then provides further details on a small selection of layers. Think of it as The Abyss giving a small sampling of middle fingers before showing off the full

6th: Realm of a Million Eyes. Home of the Great Mother. I hope you like Beholders!

7th: Phantom Plane. The Ayssal Lord Sess’inek wants fuck all to do with the Blood War, and so he’s sealed his layer on purpose.

12th: Twelvetrees. Once upon a time, the Tanar’ri took twelve devas here and murdered the shit out of them. Their screams can still be heard here, and the Tanar’ri use this layer to make magic devices for the Blood War, like the Ships of Chaos described later in this booklet.

13th: Blood Tor. The Baatezu once invaded this layer and messed stuff up. Today, it’s home to two Forgotten Realms deities: Beshaba, goddess of misfortune, and Umbrelee, goddess of the seas.

23th: Iron Wastes. Lots of ice, cold and frost giants, little light. Ruled by Kostchtchie.

66th: The Demonweb Pits. Lolth’s realm! This layer is a giant, geography-warping spider web. Lots of Drow and spiders, and Lolth herself rides around in a big spider fortress. This layer actually has a lot of portals to worlds where Lolth has worshippers.

not DiTerlizzi art, but still pretty metal

74th: Smaragd. Trippy acid jungle. This layer is actually home to two deities: the previously mentioned Merrshaulk and Ramenos, god of the bullywugs. Both gods are lazy goons that sleep all day and only respond to direct threats.

88th: Gaping Maw. This layer is the domain of Demogorgon. Demogorgon is the lord of krakens, ixitxachitl, and other evil sea monsters. So of course his physical form is a 2-headed baboon with tentacle arms. Because what else would he be?

181th: Rotting Plain. This layer of dry savannah and shallow swamplands is home to the troglodyte god Laogzed. Laogzed goes about the layer eating everything that enters it.

222nd: Shedaklah Also known as The Slime Pits, it’s home to all the intelligent oozes, slimes and molds would ever want. This layer is the home of Jubilex. It also used to be the home of Zuggtomy. You may remember her from the Temple of Elemental Evil adventure. Currently, she’s imprisoned beneath the temple, and her realm is shrinking in her absence.

274th: Durao. This is an open realm which consists of makeshift piers on the River Styx. Tanar’ri use this layer to gather armies and shove them onto barges to go fight the Blood War.

303rd: Sulfanorum. “The 303rd layer is a place where Tanar’ri come to relax and smoke a pipe of dried flesh, dung, or whatever it is they smoke.” It’s almost unbreathable for most travellers, but Tanar’ri don’t care.

399th: Worm Reach This is a layer of endlessly twisting and changing tunnels. It’s home to Urdlen, the evil gnome mole-god. If the collapsing tunnels don’t kill you, then the fungal infections will.

400th: Woeful Escrand Newly arrived petitioners in The Abyss arrive on this layer, and are herded towards the Mountain of Woe. Once there, Nalfeshnee on flaming thrones decide what form of Tanar’ri the petitioner starts out as (or just eat them) and then boots them to somewhere else in the Plane.

422nd: Yeenoghu’s Realm. This layer consists of endless dry forests and savannahs. The grass is razor sharp and the water diseased and poisonous. As the name implies, the Abyssal Lord Yeenoghu lives here, ruling from a mountain-sized pile of bones. His gnoll followers hunt down lesser Tanar’ri and anyone else that visits this layer.

586th: Prison of the Mad God This layer is a swirling vortex of rocks and gas. At the center of the storm is Diinkarazan, the mad god of the duergar. He sits imprisoned on a stone throne. Once every 50 years he snaps out of his madness, but he’s so revenge obsessed that he’ll probably still kill visitors in these moments.

643rd: Caverns of the Skull. Hoo boy. This layer is the realm of Kali. It is “a place of perpetual blood sacrifices and suffering.” Petitioners run around murdering each other, but are reborn to kill again. Naturally, they’ll try to kill any visitors that stumbles in here. The only ways of leaving are to kill a proxy, because the gates are literally keyed to their death.

Next Time:

The Abyss (part 2)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - The Abyss (part 2)

damnit screenshot

It’s time to take a closer look at this shithole. The Plain of Infinite Portals is ruled by no deity or Abyssal Lord. Instead the layer is controlled by mobs of Tanar’ri deserters and outcasts. A mob’s goals are to kill anything they come across. Sometimes that’s Baatezu or adventurers, other times it’s the iron strongholds that dot the layer. If one of the Tanar’ri is competent enough, it can threaten the rest of a mob into setting up their own fortress. Aside from the fortresses, the big feature of this layer are craters as far as one can see. These craters are conduits to the rest of The Abyss. One region of this layer is aptly named the Lakes of Molten Iron, and it’s from here that the Tanar’ri get building material for their fortresses or just forge weapons. The lakes are often a target of Baatezu invaders, as control of them would let them set up a beachhead. So far, no luck. And of course the River Styx is present on the top layer of The Abyss. A word on running a smithy on this layer: “only a leatherhead tries to smelt iron with dried Tanar’ri dung.” Thanks book, I was really curious about that.

The largest fortress on the layer is Gallowsgate. It’s rule by a Marilith named Jaranda. Jaranda commands a sizable army of Tanar’ri and is also a member of the Doomguard, so mortal members of that faction are allowed to hang out without being eaten. Another important fortress is Styros, which is used by the Molydei as a barracks to herd Tanar’ri before sending them down the River Styx. Losing half of all recruits to them falling into the Styx is an acceptable casualty level. Any Tanar’ri, Tiefling or evil Planar within 50 leagues of Styros is considered a deserter by the Molydei. And of course there’s Broken Reach, which sits on top of the Gate to Plague-Mort and the Outlands.

Aside from the general desolation and lakes of molten iron, the Plain of Infinite Portals doesn’t have any hazardous conditions. Instead it’s the roaming gangs of Tanar’ri, over-zealous Molydei, and invading Baatezu armies that a berk has to watch out for. Two Molydei are identified; a pale, sickly Molydeus named White Shadow who is a proxy of Graz’zt, and Tarnshaff the Grim who is also a proxy but his high-up isn’t identified. Not only do they round up fresh bodies, but they also procure equipment for the Tanar’ri armies. Anyone these two meet is expected to contribute either themselves or gear to fighting the Blood War.

Finally, there are travelling caravans on the layer that sell blacksmithing supplies and tool if that’s something you’re interested in.

The fortress of Broken Reach was already discussed in the Travelogue, but the DM’s book provides some additional details. For example, Red Shroud is a member of the Fated, and she’s strong enough that she was able to defend Broken Reach from a minor Abyssal Lord. Her consort, Ygrax the Skullbiter, was originally a would-be usurper before getting Hodor’d. Most of the important bits of the town are underground. Broken Reach has the tomb of a Bleak Cabal Factol, which is why a bleaker dwarf has been poking around the place. It’s unclear how Red Shroud keeps order in the fortress, but she somehow manages it, Vendettas aren’t allowed to threaten her guests, and Molydei are told to look elsewhere for recruits. Of course Red Shroud is as capricious as any Tanar’ri, and will occasionally order someones execution for shits and giggles. Aside from overpriced supplies, Red Shroud sells off her Succubi and Incubi offspring. Again, thank you TSR for including demonic child sex slavery into Planescape. Really glad you covered all your bases.

Red Shroud of the Broken Shroud posted:

One dose of poison is worth twenty daggers.

The next entry is labeled a site, but more accurately it’s a ship. In particular it’s the Ship of Chaos. These are a joint project between the Tanar’ri and the Doomguards. Ships of Chaos produce an effect similar to dragon fear, but it’s effective against any level creature. It’s a minor advance for the Tanar’ri in their fight against the Baatezu, but for the Doomguard, who get 1 in seven ships built, it’s a huge achievement. The ships haven’t been tested yet, and mages of the planes (who know about this secret project how?) believe the range of the fear effect may be limited.

Now we get to Azzagrat, Graz’zt’s realm. And before we begin, I want to compare the introduction of Azzagrat to the Plain of Infinite Portals. For the Plains, we get:

Plain of Infinite Portals posted:

The gateway to the Abyss, the Plain is a site of constant activity, transients, and banditry. Few stay long, and those who do long to gather power to themselves. Everyone passes through sooner or later, but that don’t mean the trip’s pleasant. It’s all the universe’s bad parts of town put in one place.
As opposed to Azzagrat, where we start out with:

Azzagrat posted:

Hidden evil lurks, flaring into violence as a spark can flare into all-consuming fire. Let rage build until it must be released. Corruption is behind every facade, and no one and no place is ever trustworthy. Lurk like a viper, then strike. Bloodbaths are tools for rulership.
Planescape switches between dry descriptions and purple prose in these introductions, which is kind of off-putting for reasons I can’t really put my finger on. Graz’zt knows everything that’s going on in his realm. Usually he puts up a civilized front, but he has infrequent bouts of rage that reshapes his demesne, shifting towns between the three layers and flattening mountain ranges. Most of the time Graz’zt is busy gathering strength on the Prime Material. Azzagrat is the biggest destination for merchants looking to trade in The Abyss. The tariffs Graz’zt imposes are heavy and enforced by goristro (a type of Tanar’ri detailed in the Monster Supplement-basically living siege engines) but when the rest of the Plane view merchants as target practice, business continues to come to the Triple Realm.

Each of the three layers of Azzagrat has different conditions that make them distinct, but they interlink with each other in a confusing way, and some say the layers will eventually just fuse into a single layer. The River of Salt mentioned in the Travelogue gets some details. It runs through all three layers, and getting ground into red paste takes 1d6+2 rounds no matter what. So there’s that. Using the green furnace portals (or the fakes set up by Tanar’ri for lulz) does 2d6 fire damage. The best known towns of Azzagrat are actually connected to all three layers. While the towns are clean (or at least the fronts are-lots of screams behind closed doors), they are a confusing, shifting maze that only Tanar’ri can really make sense of So when visiting these towns, a cutter should hire one of the locals to be a guide. Zelatar, the largest city, shifts so much that rumors are that it’s trying to recreate the portals of Sigil. Zelatar’s town crier is a Tiefling Convert name Mefisto who’ll shout any news you pay him to deliver, whether it’s true or not. Tanar’ri find it amusing to figure out what’s true and what’s not. Somehow, no one has killed Mefisto or “injured him enough that he can’t make his daily rounds.” The Argent Palace is said to contain mature conduits to the Plain of Infinite Portals, Pandemonium and Gehenna. Don’t visit the Palace if you can avoid it, though, because Graz’zt lets mad bodaks and other monstrosities just wander about the otherwise “frighteningly clean” mirrored hallways. Getting invited to the palace usually means that Graz’zt’s not happy with you, and all the Tanar’ri in the realm are all too eager to make sure a berk never skips an invitation.

Graz’zt, Abyssal Lord posted:

Your pretensions are amusing, but futile.

The 45th layer is foggy, and it’s difficult to remember specifics on it. Move Silently and Move in Shadows get a 10% bonus and creatures have a +2 to their chance to surprise. On the 46th layer, light comes up from the ground instead of down from the sky, making shadows rise in stark columns. One would think this would mess with attempts to hide, but no rules indicate they are. On the 47th layer, hot and cold are flipped. In practice, this means fire damage now does cold damage and cold damage does fire damage. Since most Tanar’ri are immune to fire damage but take 1/2 cold damage, this effect can mess with a mage’s choice of spells. The 46th and 47th don’t have a direct link to the Plain of Infinite Portals, so a cutter has to get to the 45th layer (usually via Zeletar) to leave Azzagrat. Unlike the rest of The Abyss, there’s something of a society on Azzagrat. Specifically

Azzagrat posted:

Unlike other Tanar’ri, Azzagrat’s fiends form a superficial society of cruel alliances, betrayals, and intermarriages with a veneer of cosmopolitan politeness and beauty. The fiends are all jaded, cynical, and relatively loyal to Graz’zt, because the Abyssal Lord has personally destroyed all the disloyal fiends and all his opponents for generations.
In other words, it’s John Wick land!

Aside from Graz’zt himself, important NPCs in this realm include Karnacki the Quick a Tiefling Doomguard Conjurer that apparently commands Graz’zt’s forces? (the book just says he is capable of commanding the Tanar’ri of the Triple Realm. Since he has a tower here, I presume he’s got Graz’zt’s support). Karnacki wears a skull codpiece, so I give him points for style. The other important mortal here is also a Tiefling. Omaranna the Doomgiver is a Chaoswoman trapped in The Abyss thanks to a cursed silver ring stuck on her. While she hates being trapped, she’s making the best of the situation as a guide and source of info in Azzagrat. Two Tanar’ri are named along with Karnaci and Omarana. Maretta is a Succubus and Sensate. She watches over the revenues from Graz’zt’s pacts on the Prime Material. She also rules the city of Samora, a typical den of depravity and vice. Samora contributes to the Blood War with tribute instead of troops, so it’s a haven for anyone avoiding the war. Finally there’s Owartz. Owartz is a Goristro that wears a black crown of adamantite. Rumor is that Graz’zt possesses Owartz to go joy-riding and smashing shit up both in Azzagrat and beyond.

As stated in the Travelogue, Thanatos, the Belly of the Dead, is the 113th layer of The Abyss and the realm of Kiaransalee, the drow goddess of death and revenge. Kiaransalee actually took over the layer after Orcus was killed, although the booklet doesn’t specifically mention the Abyssal Lord. Kiaran has ordered Orcus’ name struck from every monument, slave collar and scroll. She wears a cloak of rattling bone that causes fear in all living creatures that hear it (save versus paralyzation at -4). “The petitioners of her realm are those she has slain”, which is not how petitioners work. Thanatos is a cold place of ice, thin air, and a black moonlit sky. There’s no life here save for some molds and fungi in the warmer parts. Like several layers, the River Styx runs through Thanatos. Despite being perpetually cold it apparently has seasons, because Kiaran maintains a summer and winter residence. It makes even less sense because drow are an underground race and wouldn’t give a shit about seasons. Most of the layer is a frozen necropolis, but there are two locations of note. There’s Naratyr, which was described in the Travelogue. Then there is the Forbidden Citadel, Kiaran’s summer residence. The Citadel is surrounded by a town called Lachrymosa, the Cauldron of Tears. The palace and town are kept warmer than the rest of the layer by series of rust-red geysers. Thanks to the extra warmth, this part of the layer smells of rotting flesh. Fleshy undead are common around the Citadel, while the undead in Naratyr are more often meat-free. Undead make up the majority of residence. Tanar’ri that are here are typically accompanied by large packs of useless undead servants (rented at a copper a day). As you might guess, the Dustmen are pretty prevalent in Thanatos. The undead will ignore parties accompanied by a Dustmen, and Dustmen charge accordingly (10gp or more a day).

If you die in Thanatos, you get turned into an undead after an hour. For petitioners, this effect is irreversible. For Primes and Planars, the process can be halted with raise dead or limited wish, and reversed with resurrection, shapechange or wish. All undead have regeneration of at least 1 hp/turn. Undead that already have regeneration start regenerating the same round they get wounded. Finally, the thin air reduces the Constitution of all living creatures by 2 while they visit. This effect can be reversed with heal or wish.

Kiaran’s most important servants are her two stewards. One we’ve already heard of-Rotting Jack, who runs Naratyr when Kiaransalee isn’t in town. Rotting Jack is a Babau, and his flesh is rotting as you might guess. Rotting Jack is plotting to overthrow Kiaran, and is trying to convince a few other Abyssal Lords to back him. Kiaran knows about Rotting Jack’s plotting, but lets him continue as long as it’s amusing. The steward of the Forbidden Citadel is Anista of Eight Eyes, a drider. Anista’s stat summary says she’s male, but the book uses female pronouns. Maybe Anista is supposed to be trans-gender, but I kinda doubt it. Anista wears a crown of many eyes, but is high strung and “any basher clearing his throat behind her is likely to make her jump”. Apparently she forgets that she has a crown that literally lets her see 360 degrees. Finally, there are identical twin Molydei on Thanatos that pretend to be one Guardian named Sleepless. Sleepless and Sleepless will kill anyone that figures out the truth.

The booklet drills down further and provides extra details about the city of Naratyr. Some additional details are provided about Rauva Cormrael. She’s a member of the Dustmen and is a level 28 priest, which I think is the highest level NPC so far presented. Rotting Jack takes over when Kiaran is not around, and the only reason why Rauva hasn’t just straight up murdered Rotting Jack yet is I assume Kiaransalee told her not to. When Rotting Jack is in charge, he brings in all his Tanar’ri buddies and makes things shitty even for undead abominations. Naratyr is described as “curiously silent”, even though the same paragraph explains why the town would be (it’s because undead are terrible shoppers). The town’s militia is called the Ivory Mace, named after the magic clubs carried by the Babau captains. 1/day, the captains can reproduce a banshee’s death song ability with their club.

For most of those unfortunate enough to have business in Naratyr, the only place to stay (well aside from the lower reaches mentioned in the Travelogue) is Bottomless Well. It’s run by a wight, and the clientele may be living but they look as dead as the rest of the layer. For intelligent undead, there’s the Last Meal, which serves energy levels. Entertainment at the Last Meal is provided by Ladislas the Cruel, a Tiefling bard who, by his description, is probably the most metal a pre-electricity musician is allowed to be. The adventure hook is that a priestess of Lolth has appeared as a banshee looking to work for Kiaran instead.

Moving on to places we haven’t covered in the Travelogue, the next layer is number 377, the Plains of Gallenshu. This is an independent layer dominated by huge herds of Armanites. Armanites a new Tanar’ri species introduced in this box set, and are basically centaur demons. The layer is like Mad Max if the warboys were fused with their car. The plains are shrouded in choking dust clouds penetrated by a harsh blue light. There is little water on this layer, and in fact instead of dirt or rock the ground is composed of flesh, bone and blood, ground into dust by generations of hooves. Gallenshu was also once home to huge flocks of Varrangoin, or Abyssal Bats (another monster this box set introduces). Now in decline, Varrangoin used to live in cities on this layer, and the surviving bats are trying to return to the cities. The only way to find these cities is to spot a Varrangoin trying to dig up the ground.

There are 24 towns in Gallenshu, although they’re more like fortified stables. The booklet list 17 of the 24 towns as “the most well-known”. The Armanites use these town to regroup, reshoe and rearm for their next attack against either the Baatezu or another Armanites herd. If the town comes under siege, all the non-Tanar’ri are rounded up and impaled on the ramparts. This slows down besiegers and eliminates spies and traitors (of course ignoring that Tanar’ri love to betray each other. The largest city, Blackmane, is older than any Armanite can remember. Blackmane is controlled by Rutterkin riders on enormous brass mechanical horses. Blackmane is a neutral territory for leaderless Armanites gather to be recruited by warlords. The other town detailed is Oxblood. The Armanites of this town are served by a clan of Rutterkin that ride atop their masters and fight with serrated sabres and “barbed crossbows that fire quarrels laced with arsenic.” Yes, the crossbow itself is covered in barbs.

Gallenshu’s dust clouds acts as a stinking cloud to anyone exposed to it for more than a round. Slow poison, neutralize poison, or even just a wet cloth over the nose and mouth are effective defenses against this effect. Spells that create wind are not effective on this layer. It’s also easy to get lost thanks to the dust. Travellers without a guide get lost on a roll of 1-8 on a d10. If the group has a ranger or the sense direction proficiency, this chance is reduced to 1-6. Finally, all non-metal goods not made in the Abyss decay here within a month.

There are two important NPCs listed for this layer. One is an Armanite warlord known as Amber Stallion, who is close to conquering several towns. There is also the warleader of the Varrangoin, Vis Narran Vis. Unbeknownst to the Armanites, Vis is gathering his kind for a counter-assault against 10 of the towns. Currently, he is looking for some inside help to assist in his plans. Like every other location, the section on Gallenshu has a part explaining what services a visitor can procure here. Usually these are just amusing in their laziness such as Thanatos “uh, you can rent undead cheap, but rations are triple cost” Gallenshu at least has some story hooks. Besides hiring guides/bodyguards (100gp/day), elder or lame Armanites are expert smiths. While they’re basically slaves, they’re greatly valued by their herds, and they get peeved when one is noticed and then poached by an Abyssal Lord. On the side of dumb details, “Armanites are also known for their colorful flags, standards, and puffed-and-slashed cloaks.”

The last realm of the Abyss detailed is Torremor, the 503rd layer. This realm is ruled by the Abyssal Lord Pazrael. Pazrael is an absentee ruler, only coming around when he hears his authority is being challenged. Torremor is a place where anyone without the ability to fly or a flying transport can get fucked. The layer has no bottom, just rocky pillars connected by ramps and beams. Anything that falls continues to do so until they strike a beam. The inhabitants of the layer are flying Tanar’ri and other evil flyers like Perytons, harpies and gargoyles. There are waterfalls here that create continuous rainbows, which Tanar’ri from other layers make fun of. There aren’t any towns in this layer in the usual sense. The most important gathering place is called Onstrakker’s Nest, a ramshackle dwelling made of debris and fiend-droppings where the Nabassu lay their eggs. This part at least implies mature Nabassu don’t just fuck off to giant fortresses when they mature, so that’s good. Onstrakker’s Nest is ruled a bloated Nabassu named Keekaku. Chasme gather in the lower reaches, laying their eggs in the carcasses of the fallen. According to the booklet their courtship involves exchanging magic items, and scavengers will come here after the mating season to gather up the trinkets. Maybe it’s just me, but if your players are sorting through bug cum while playing Planescape, then something has gone horribly wrong.

Objects in Torremor have central gravity, so you can stand on any surface. While not on a surface, gravity has a single direction, which Pazrael can change to whatever he feels like.

Besides flying Tanar’ri, there’s a cult of petitioners called Wire-Stringers that set hazards to kill or maim careless flyers. Pazrael doesn’t care either way about these jerks, so there’s been no concerted effort to destroy them. There’s also a group of Tieflings that relay messages via huge drums. These drummers are led by Atlor Raithgarra, who is noticeably not a Tiefling but a Githzerai. TThe drummers are a neat details until you remember that Tanar’ri have telepathy and teleport without error as innate abilities, which calls into question why any would bother with drums.

Thankfully, Torremor doesn’t have any services.

And that’s it for The Abyss! Our next stop in the Book of Chaos is Arborea, the Big Frat House of the Planes. In the meantime, here’s the back of the poster I showed in my previous post. It lists a few layers not mentioned in the booklet and goes into more specifics on what spells are corrupted.

Arborea (part 1)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Arborea (part 1)

Arborea is a universe of deep emotions and violent moods. What this means is that while most of the denizens are Good-aligned, an adventurer here can still find enough to fight without looking all that hard. And it’s not just the current residents a cutter needs to worry about. There are a bunch of pantheons that had been violently displaced from Arborea in the distant past-Giants, Titans, and the Drow are the best known. All three want payback for getting evicted and frequently send minions to Arborea to mess shit up.

Xenophon of the Sensates posted:

I’d rather come home without my shield than on it.

Arborea’s environment is idealistically wild, if that makes any sense. There are few cities, even within the realms, but they really aren’t necessary. Instead, the earth just seems to offer up what a berk needs to survive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t natural hazards, but you have to deliberately be provoking the land spirits or Powers to fall victim to those.

Arborea’s charged environment extends beyond just frequent lightning storms. It’s emotionally charged, and that charge infects everyone that comes to Arborea. Here the booklet gives some great advice, telling the DM to encourage players to start hamming things up even more while in Arborea. Then it has the not-so-good advice of requiring a save versus paralyzation to not react strongly, but at least it says this should only be done as a last resort, and “failing a saving throw shouldn’t always be a bad thing for the characters.” It even says to give extra xp to players that that get melodramatic. Wow, I almost forgot I’m reading 2nd edition D&D.

While the wilderness will go easy on a respectful berk, but it’s damn near impassable. While the terrain isn’t obviously supernatural, it is massive, well beyond the scale of any Prime Material world. It’s fortunate that both the Greeks and Elves love ridable flying creatures, because you’ll need one to travel the plane.

Nature spirits range from sylvan creatures like dryads or sylphs, while others are guardians of a mountain, river, cloud, etc. And every mountain has a guardian spirit, even Olympus itself. How do you avoid pissing off the nature spirits, then? Dumping refuse, cutting a path through an unspoiled forest, or basically just doing an impression of a Captain Planet villain will piss off these spirits immediately, so for starters just don’t do those things.. But not being an asshole is just the bare minimum of decorum. The best way to picture it is to see yourself as a guest in the spirit’s home. If you’re just visiting for a few hour, you’ll be fine as long as you don’t start smashing dishes and drinking all the beer. But if you’re staying for any length of time, you might want to offer to do a couple of chores or make dinner one night.

Mirocollo the Satyr posted:

Nature spirits are like anyone else. They hate to be ignored and they won’t let you ignore them.

The bounty of Arborea also extends to its farms and ranches, and this is the booklet’s queue to start a fucking two paragraph tangent on the agricultural economy of the Outer Planes! Ugh, this sort of thing was super prevalent in 2nd edition. I don’t mind taking some time to describe details most players wouldn’t care about. But paragraphs like this, and dedicated sections to describing what sort of mundane goods are made well in a town leads me to believe there had to be someone at TSR thought that players really wanted to run a trading company in D&D. Not only is this dumb padding, but often it ignores the implications of the setting when these tangents include lines like “‘Course, as long as a basher’s bread isn’t made from poison grain from the Grey Wastes, it doesn’t matter.” What if I’m a Pit Fiend and like to eat poison food because everything else takes like cardboard to me? And if no one in the Multiverse would ever eat poison bread knowingly, who the hell would grow it, or is cheating food inspections the best idea that dark gods and fiends can come up with?

(And in case anyone is wondering, the reason I liked the economic stuff about Night Hags was because Planescape took a rather niche monster and said “actually, these creatures are important in this setting because they trade evil souls that are morphed into grub worms with faces”. It’s a fantastic concept that supports the idea of the realms of the afterlife having a unique society with concerns you’d find in this setting and no other. Food items that I can go and get from the grocery store right now does nothing for me.)

I’m being harsh of course, it’s just something I had to point this out and rant about after having to go through all the towns in The Abyss and read like 10 different variations of “normal rations and equipment are more expensive here”. Let’s move onto stuff players and DMs care about, Magical Conditions. This was where I had to stop myself and go back over the general rules from campaign setting box because I was sure I was missing something. What specifically tripped me up was the changes to divination in Arborea. Divinations spells don’t work without “entrails to read, omens to interpret, or signs or portents drawn from the stars”, which adds 1 round per spell level to the casting time. Now, reading signs and such sounded to me like what a Spell Key would be. But flip the page for the section on Spell Keys, and the ones for Divination are totally different.

After thinking about it, I think I figured out what the intent was. A caster can either take the slow method of casting a divination spell or with a spell key cast the spell like he normally would but pay up a lot either in the form of gold or magic items.

Overall, Arborea is pretty easy on casters. Conjuration has all the normal rules regarding summoning, but apparently just even thinking about summoning a fiend will cause the Furies to appear and mess your shit up. Spells that affect emotions are especially potent but have a chance to backfire. Necromancy spells that do damage, level drain or create undead don’t work. Healing spells (which are technically in the Necromancy School in 2nd Edition) normally work, but in Arvandor and Olympus they are the purview of the Powers. Unfortunately on Olympus that Power is Hecate, and she’s generally a bitch about granting access. So I guess that means healing magic doesn’t work on Olympus? That’s sort of lame, but OTOH it’s a pretty unique obstacle on the Upper Planes. One final note is that air spells in Arvandor and water spells in Ossa work without the usual Spell Keys.

Spell Keys in Arborea are offerings to the Nature Spirits. This is more involved than just forking over gp. Summoning spells require offerings of food at low levels, and requires the caster speak the creatures language at high level. Enchantment spells range from telling a joke to offering something the target desires. For elemental spells you have to offer a quantity of the opposite element proportionate to the spell level being cast. In a lot of cases, a caster may just want to deal with the changes. Arborean Powers are pretty generous with Spell Keys, but they also revoke them on a whim. The Olympians give Power Keys that are pretty obvious and anyone with a passing knowledge of Greek Mythology could guess who handed it out, while the Seldarine are more subtle with theirs and tend to be nature-themed.

Even though it’s on the Chaos side of the Outer Planes Arborea is steeped in tradition and superstitions (but in a belief-shaped reality, would superstition technically be a thing? ) The Powers engage in frequent dick-waving contests, and aren’t ashamed in involving their followers in them. The purpose of the rituals and traditions, then, is to distract the Powers as much as it is to appease them. The inhabitants from the Powers to Petitioners live and party hard, so it’s little wonder why the Sensates have a huge presence here. It’s a universe that eggs everyone on to greater acts of bravery and revelry, but when a cutter crosses the line into hubris the blowback is harsh.

As mentioned earlier, Arborea is home to the Greek and Elven Powers. They both make their primary home on the first layer, and their respective water-bros live in the second layer. The Seldarine pushed out the Giants to Ysgard, and the Greeks banished the Titans (save a few they like) to Carceri. The ruins of the former residents can be found throughout Arborea. Now the Rule of Three suggests that there would be another big Pantheon, but Rof3 is more of a trend than a hard law. In truth there isn’t a third Pantheon, at least not one commonly known. There are several individual Powers that live in Arborea, such as the Egyptian Goddess Nephythys, the Chinese deity Chih-Nii, the Aarakocra Goddess Syranita. Finally three Forgotten Realms deities share a party house on the first layer.

For Proxies, the Olympians either use the Furies, heroic demigods, and creatures associated with their myths. The Seldarine contract out their proxies from the Seelie Court. The Petitioners are varied, but are either and demihuman or sylvan. One phenomenon that occurs to Petitioners of Arborea is that they can turn into Bacchae. Where the Bacchae originated from is unknown-some blame Dionysus or Pan. The scholars of Arborea and Sigil have done a lot of theorycrafting about how Bacchae mobs form, but whatever the case they’re a rather unique danger on Arborea. Bacchae are the platonic ideal of the obnoxious drunk, so travellers are advice to avoid them (and for Powers sake don’t provoke them).

Annonymous Bacchae posted:

If they let you do it, it isn’t worth doing.

The Sensates love Arborea for its natural beauty and for the constant partying. The Factol Erin Darkflame Montgomery (that name is still dumb) frequently stops by the Guilded Hall to keep her position secure. When not partying or sightseeing the Sensates work as artisans and merchants. Arborea is also home to an offshoot of the Sensates known as the Children of the Vine. This group has abandoned the finer points of the Sensates beliefs and have indulged in full-on binging. The remaining inhabitants of Arborea include all the creatures of Greek and Elven mythology, including ones with evil alignments. There are also giant versions of more common species, though they are no more aggressive than usual. Some regions are controlled by rare and powerful creatures, and there are a few Greater Titans living on the outskirts of Arborea. Balaena, Asura, Baruq, Foo Creatures, and Aasimon round out the list of inhabitants on this Plane.

Ephesia of the Children of the Vine posted:

I want it, and I want it now.

Most of the general descriptions in the first part of the chapter apply to the first layer. I think that even TSR knew that few D&D groups were chomping on the bit for underwater adventures. And while the third layer isn’t going to constantly attacking adventurers, it also is really empty and doesn’t have much to offer save for a specific range of adventure ideas. The truth is when you mention Arborea to Planescape fans, I’d bet that it’s the first layer that comes to mind.

Next time: My Big Fat Elf-Greek Wedding

Arborea (part 2)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Arborea (part 2)

As I mentioned earlier, The first layer Olympus is where Planescape spends most of its time. The Greeks and Elves have their main kip here, but they aren’t exactly next-door neighbors. In fact, the two realms are separated by hundreds of miles of wilderness. The layer of Olympus (not to be confused with the realm of the Greeks) is actually slightly convex, so while Arvandor and Mount Olympus both occupy the highest points of the layer, neither realm can see the other. Apart from the massive scale everything lives on, Olympus is pretty similar to the typical D&D setting.

Arvandor is the home of the Elven Pantheon, the Seldarine. Corellon Larethian is the chief deity. Compared to the Greek Powers, the Seldarine live in more modest abodes. Arvandor is hues more to Lorien than Rivendell, and Gondolin and cave-strongholds are right out. The Elf gods allow ecology to do it’s thing, so there are enough natural hazards in the realm to make things interesting. Besides dire bears and ettercaps, the ruins of the giants are scattered throughout the realm, and the elves apparently never cleaned out Lolth’s old residence. So there is plenty in Arvandor to distract players with when they get tired of hanging around elves.

Elmoriel the Enchantress posted:

Arvandor is the only civilized wilderness

While there are no towns per se in Arvandor, the Elven petitioners and other servants of the Seldarine like to congregate in a few locations. Grandfather Oak was already mentioned in the Travelogue, and there are a number of other huge trees that are similar in broad strokes. Some of the deities have a structure or landmark that is pretty much their home. The aptly named Pale Tree is the center of Solonor Thelandira’s domain (what’s he the god of? I don’t know). Hanali Celanil has a crystal palace which is occasionally home to the fountain Evergold (more on that later). The Sparkling Sea links Arvandor to Deep Sashelas’s realm in Ossa. Erevan Illesre hangs out near a root of Yggdrasil that links directly to Alfeim. Other conduits include The Roaring Gate which leads to the Beastlands. And in a stunning display of planning, the portal to Arborea’s gate-town in Outlands (Sylvania if you forgot) is located near Lloth’s former domain, now home to huge spiders and banshees. Wee.

There are a couple special conditions in Arvandor. Time doesn’t flow linearly, although rules for this are given. Anyone who isn’t an elf or half-elf (the book contradicts whether half-elf are affected) entering Arvandor must make a Wisdom Check or become enamored by how awesome the realm is and basically behave like Sam Gamgee having a total elf-sperg. This condition lasts a number of weeks equal to the amount they failed the Wisdom Check. No word on how often this check is made or if those who succeed are immune afterwards. Finally, it seems that the Seldarine are totally cool with the Queen of Air and Darkness (the evil fairie deity) sending her proxies to wreck shit, and their rampages are heralded by howling winds.

The important non-god elves are the High Kings and Queens, “rulers of the entire races of elves.” As far as I know none of the other D&D campaigns with elves make mention of these people. The High Kings and Queens are elected, and their followers are shy about violently ejecting any fuck-ups. There is one monarch for each sub-race besides Drow, and the current bunch are fairly high level. Labelas Thenorean is the Grey Elf High King, and his court is usually at Grandfather Oak, so he’s probably the one PCs are most likely to meet. Alternatively, the High Elf High Queen, (that’s a mouthful) Marrisa Snowplover, is a bachelorette, in case a player wants to roleplay courting a noble or something. The entry for Arvandor ends with some bullshit on services. The most interesting one is that a High King or Queen will sponsor killing a big monster that’s wandered into the Realm.

Evergold is the Fountain of Youth. It’s a wandering site that rotates among the different beauty deities in Arborea (Aphrodite, Hanali and Sune). A player that bathes in the fountain for more than an hour has his Charisma boosted by 1 point for every 5 points of existing CHA (rounded up). This effect lasts one year. What the fountain doesn’t do is change Charisma into something other than a stat for poorly written rules that most groups choose to ignore outside of class requirements, so who cares.

The entry for Grandfather Oak doesn’t give much information that wasn’t in the Travelogue. There is a plothook involving an elf that’s actually a Doomguard who has apprenticed herself to the tree’s master woodcarver, so if the DM wants to run an adventure involving the Doomguard in Arborea then she’s a good starting point.

Now we come to the realm of Olympus in the layer of Olympus. For my own sanity, I’ll be referring to the realm as Mount Olympus. This is where most of the Greek Gods live. Like a lot of 90s RPGs, Planescape stays in character, so it assumes the reader doesn’t know any more about historical (or modern!) deities than the gods TSR made up. The booklet describes the Olympians as “a short-tempered, lustful, partying lot,” which sounds about right. There are seven big god palaces near the top of the mountain, belonging to Zeus-Hera, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Athena, Dionysus and Hermes. The rest of the deities have smaller-scale temples in the realm (smaller-scale is a relative term). Further down the slopes, the realm is mediterranean in climate, closely resembling a Sword and Sandals movies made by Ray Harryhausen and starring Steve Reeves as Hercules.

Minorus, Keeper of the Grove posted:

The gentle slopes of Mount Olympus hide a thousand silent deaths. The sacrifices to the spirits of Arborea have claimed many thousand more.

Mount Olympus has special magical conditions, although in practice they’re just the general conditions of Arborea repeated “respect the nature spirits or else” The main difference is that while in Mount Olympus it’ll probably be Furies delivering the smackdown. Important cutters in Olympus include Galen, a powerful centaur druid, a wood nymph named Greenfire of the Wormwood, and a Sensate “philosopher of hedonism” named Epiros Thuridiphon. The service section states that Mount Olympus only has items available during the Ancient Period. What that includes is in the DMG optional rules. I’m sure a historian can pick that list to pieces, but that’s neither here nor there. Ultimately, item availability in a particular region is pointless when a portal back to Sigil can provide a player with whatever he or she can afford.

Mount Olympus has three major cities. Arkenos is Sparta but with Amazons. Thalassia is port-town. Polykeptolon is Plato’s Republic, and is popular with the Guvners. Just outside of the Realm is literally off-brand Athens. Really: “Thrassos is a cosmopolitan petitioner’s burg modeled after a town on one of the Greek powers’ favorite prime material worlds.” Like historical Athens, only the male petitioners have the right to vote. But no need to fret, ladies, because the elections are in fact controlled by a zero-level petitioner named Helena Toliopolos. Thrassos has a gate to the Outlands for anyone that doesn’t want to walk past the abandoned domain of a banished power. The downside is that opening it requires the consent of the town elders. The Militia is your basic citizen army. Services are dumb, save maybe a guy that knows 18 languages. There’s an amphitheater for if the DM wants to rope the players into staging a play. And there’s a 12-headed hydra nearby for players to murder.

Now we get a whole section on the city-realm Brightwater, home to a trio of Forgotten Realms deities: Llira, Sune and Tymora. Okay, TSR, I get it. Your strategy was to connect all your setting together so players would buy material for every setting. As it turned out this was a bad strategy, and groups that were interested in one setting stuck to that setting, but the industry was still young, and you certainly weren’t the only publisher that tried to awkwardly connect all it’s different games together (*cough* White Wolf *cough*). Still, I have to ask, is there something here that would be of interest to players and DMs of Planescape and just Planescape?

It turns out there is. Winifred, a halfling priestess of Tymora, throws dinner parties that can include anyone who is anyone in Planescape. Since the invitees can be wildly divergent, a good DM could whip up plenty of opportunities for shenanigans. So good job TSR, you gave Brightwater a reason to exist for groups that would rather ignore Ed Greenwood’s Magical Realm. Also there’s this line in the description: “The city-realm of Brightwater consists of three sectors, one devoted to each of the three powers. Go figure.” That tells me all I need to know about what the Planescape writers thought about this entry.

That concludes the layer of Olympus. Next up is Ossa, a watery layer where Poseidon and Deep Sashelas spend most of their time. Unlike other water layers like Gaping Maw or Thalasia in Elysium, Ossa’s waters are shallow, only 3 feet, meaning it’s possible to wade through the water unless you are a gnome or halfling (anyone that ran Black Morass as a gnome is permitted to shudder). Unfortunately the actual realms occupy deep chasms, so bring your water-breathing potion and free movement ring.

Poseidon’s realm is known as Caletto. According to the description, it “is remarkably habitable for most travelers - those who can breathe water anyway.” I think that’s sort of a sticky point for even a low-level group of adventurers. There are only a few small rocky islands above water and the petitioners here pay no attention to them. There’s a group of islands collectively named Mymos, and at least Poseidon’s high priest lives nearby. Despite the lack of real estate, the realm is apparently known for it’s horses, because that was one of the things Poseidon held dominion over. The waters of Caletto may or may not have special qualities that restore a berk’s health-the booklet just annoyingly leaves it up in the air. Overall Caletto just amounts to a big “meh” for me.

The other location described in Ossa is the town of Elshava, which is pictured on the bottom half of the reverse side of Arborea’s map. Elshava sits on the border between Arvandor and Ossa (which the elves call Aquillor if you were curious). The section on Elshava is huge, taking up two pages (by comparison, Thrassos has approximately a little over a page’s worth of content). I won’t go into everything, but compared to Caletto Elshava is much more suitable for water and water-adjacent adventures. The town floats over the water and is built in a spiral pattern, resembling an ever-growing seashell. The water itself is very cold-you have to make a Constitution Check every 10 minutes or suffer hypothermia “resulting in drowning”. Despite this rule the water-dwelling creatures have no problem moving through the water. Elshava is described as one of the cities of the Sea Folk, “an ocean-going culture of mixed ancestry.” The book implies that Sea Folk are a half-breed of selkies and sea-elves, even though the NPCs are stated as either selkie or sea elf. Sea Folk are not mentioned anywhere else, and I’m not sure what the point of them are.

There is a simmering power struggle between the Fisher Queen, a selkie elementalist named Elothien the silent, and the marshall of the militia, a disguised sea wolf named Cinnabus. There are plenty of water monsters nearby for adventurers to kill. Unlike other places Elshava actually has a service players may need, A petitioner named Amarillis Silverton is capable of waterproofing anything (and will seal up anything she can’t), which I can see as being important even outside of underwater adventures.

The third layer of Arborea is Pelion, or Mithardir in Elven. This mostly barren layer is an open-ended mystery. The Greeks and Elves have their own legends about what used to be here. The Olympians say that Pelion was the original home of all the Egyptian powers, but the realm disappeared as their followers dwindled and now only Nephythys remains. According to the Seldarine, Pelion used to be inhabited by the Animal Lords until for some reason they shifted over to the Beastlands, leaving only badlands behind. Whatever the case, while the deserts of Pelion are by no means harsh (it even supports a desert ecosystem), a cutter can’t help but feel that something essential is gone from here.

Nephythys is the Egyptian deity of wealth and death. Her realm is named Amun-Thys. This realm matches the rest of the layer, but is dotted with forgotten tombs and lost treasures. The sense of loss is especially strong in this realm. Nephythys’ petitioners guard and maintain these monuments, and occasionally construct a new one. Breaking up the endless sand and dust are the carcasses of titans. Their remains have been repurposed into shelters and necropoli by the inhabitants. The booklet is somewhat inconsistent in its description of the principle necropolis, Bal-Tiref. On the one hand, the tombs are supposed to be thoroughly plundered after long habitation. But the ruins in the wilderness are less profitable. So...idk. If I were a DM and wanted my players to have an Indiana Jones adventure, I’d be sure to place something worthwhile at the end instead of telling them “sorry, this tomb was cleaned out centuries ago”. Within Amun-Thys, spells relating to sleep, dreaming and the dead either affect twice as many creatures or last twice as long. In addition, the spell Fool’s Gold is permanent within this realm. Petitioners are aware of this, and won’t take coin without first touching it with cold-wrought iron rod.

Tribes of lycanthrope-bandits roam the wastes of Amun-Thys, including werebats, werehyenas, werelions, and even werevultures. The greatest of these is a werebat named Osirem the Cruel. Osirem is also a level 17 Fighter, which should clue the DM in that this is ultimately meant to be a high-level zone. Assuming the PCs evade or more likely hobomurder the lycanthropes, they can reach the settlement of Scarab (the top-half of the map reverse). Scarab is run by Isiratet, the White Ibis, Nephythys’ high priestess. Isiratet will insist on all visitors swearing a magic Peace Oath. If you break this oath, you die of mummy rot in 24 hours (death save still leaves you with normal mummy rot). There’s also an ancient brass dragon in this realm named Argevar. Despite being a metallic dragon, he’s sort of an asshole, and the followers of Nephythys are looking to kick his shit in.

Besides the dragon and lycanthropes there are a few other cool adventure hooks in Amun-Thys. The Minions of Set frequent Amun-Thys, hoping to persuade Nephythys to forgive Set for being a Lawful Evil prick. A phoenix has been sighted blowing itself up each night. And finally, there’s a tribe of Dark Sun elves that have somehow made their way into Pelion. Now that’s a tie-in I can get behind!

And of course there are services. Anything worthwhile, you ask? Well if a player ever wanted to be a mummy, it’s rumored that can be done here (and honestly, when have rumors not been true in some way?)

Last thoughts on Arborea: I can’t help but feel that an opportunity was missed in not describing what the relation are between the Olympians and the Seldarine. It’s one of the cool things about Planescape, and just off the top of my head I can imagine running an adventure where the PCs have to prevent a holy jihad because Hermes stole Corellon’s undies. What if the stereotypical elven attitudes about humans come from the fact that their gods live next to a frat house? If this had been a White Wolf product you’d have a bunch of side bars where each pantheon says snarky bullshit about their neighbors, and while I don’t need that, a few tidbits of how Powers relate to each other would go along way. As it is, we get told that the inhabitants of the Upper Planes fight amongst each other but it’s never fleshed out why this happens except “uh, gods compete for worshippers, I guess?” Okay, but most of the worshippers are on the Prime Material Plane according to Planescape-what purpose does escalating serve?

Finally, it was this chapter that I noticed that there is not a whole lot of art in this box set, especially compared later ones. So to make up for that, here’s a picture of a Per that I wasn’t able to find on GIS in my last review:

Time! random hope :you enjoy bullshit Next I

Limbo (part 1)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Limbo (part 1)

Despite being the embodiment of Chaotic Neutral in the Outer Planes, Limbo is still apart of D&D, and so there are rules to let DMs create adventures set on this Plane. This chapter in the booklet provides these rules plus advice that will hopefully keep a DM from frustrating players too much. For example, while the booklet says that portals to Limbo have a tendency to misfire, it tells the DM that this should only happen if it’s a part of the adventure he has planned.

Exasperated Planar to one of the Clueless posted:

Of course the place looks different from last time, you berk! We’re in Limbo!

A long analogy is provided to try to describe Limbo. The tl;dr version is “Element Stew where the chunks spontaneously form, mutate and dissolve.” The size of these chunks range from miniscule to continent-sized. And how long a chunk lasts can be for a minute to months or even years, but without support any distinct element dissolves back into the chaos. When chunks are a mix of elements, it can be as simple as burning air and up to complete ecosystems and even recognizable structures.

As the Travelogue mentioned, a cutter in Limbo can concentrate to create terrain for them to survive on. A lucky few can even do this without concentrating. Limbo is home to whole communities supported in this way. The biggest are the realms of the Powers in Limbo. These realms even stay up while a Power is cavorting about the Multiverse. There are also the cities of the Githzerai. Smaller communities may not have an Anarch to maintain the realm unconsciously, and use rotating watchmen to keep their town from melting back into the Chaos.

Knowing the dark of how to shape the chaos of Limbo is one thing, but actually doing it after a portal dumps you into the roiling chaos is another. When a party enters Limbo into unshaped terrain, the DM should have each player make a Wisdom Check to see if they get control of their surroundings. Once a character succeeds, no further checks are necessary (if more than one character succeeds, the controlling character is the one with the highest Intelligence, with ties broken by Wisdom). The booklet encourages the DM to keep in mind what the party would be able to survive when placing them in Limbo’s ‘wilderness’, and it even says to give the players a break if there’s a chance a character gets killed before they have a chance to stabilize the terrain. Specific rules are provided for getting caught in the various types of terrain.

While survival is simple enough once you know how, getting around is another matter entirely. That’s because where everything is shifts about constantly. Two locations may be close to each other one day, but hundreds of miles away the next. There are shortcuts and conduits, even pathways that usually indicate a separate layer (leaving some to argue that Limbo has layers, but like everything else with the plane, the nature changes so much to make these distinctions pointless). But these will also shift where they lead to and where they begin. Thankfully, there is a trick that’ll allow characters to navigate Limbo without having to hope the DM is in a good mood. Every town with an anarch has a magical obelisk in its center called a Guidon. A Guidon resonates with the locate object spell regardless of distance. A caster can even use a spell to see whether a conduit heads in the right direction. If a party doesn’t have a caster, some places sell trinkets with the spell permanently cast on them (no price). Unfortunately, these have a 5% chance of malfunctioning each day when deep in the soup.

Anarch Karsten Wholte posted:

What’s Limbo like? It’s always exactly what you expect.

Controlling Limbo

We get additional rules for how shaping Limbo works. A non-anarch needs to concentrate to maintain terrain. While concentrating, a berk can’t cast spells, attack, or use proficiencies, and if he’s attacked he gets no Dex bonus. Anarchs, as previously mentioned, can maintain terrain and act normally. To determine if a player can be an anarch, three things need to occur. First, a player has to be some chaotic alignment to discover whether or not she has the talent. Second, she has to get dumped into the unformed chaos of Limbo. Finally, she has to make a Wisdom check and fail a save-vs-paralyzation. That’s because less experienced, and presumably younger, adventurers are less set in their ways. If a player clears all three steps, she can be taught the chaos-shaping proficiency. One point here that wasn’t spelled out in the Travelogue is that while an Anarch uses her Wisdom score for maintaining terrain, she still needs to concentrate to initially form terrain, which uses her Intelligence score. Through the Githzerai-controlled Anarch’s Guild, an Anarch or group of them can maintain huge cities, but the book is pretty good about telling the DM that you shouldn’t have players messing with this.

Shaping the terrain doesn’t negate all the issues that emerge from visiting Limbo. The catch to shaping is that even the greatest Anarch can’t keep track of every detail. And while maybe the Powers could, the ones that inhabit Limbo aren’t the type to care about that sort of minutiae. As a result you get Miniflux. Items that are important to a character, even non-anarchs, aren’t subject to this, but tertiary things can be altered. Your two-handed sword is safe since you use it all the time, but the spare coil of rope in your gear pack is now a meat-pie. The DM may choose to have a character make a Wisdom check when they use an item on an infrequent basis.

In short, Limbo is the Elemental Plane of Kender. And if you thought all of this was bad, well hold onto your alignment chart, because now we get...

Magical Conditions

For starters, you’re going to need the Tome of Magic. Whenever a Wizard tries to cast a spell, he has to make an Intelligence Check. At least that’s his primary stat, but on a failure, the spell fizzles. If the wizard was in the chaos-soup and fails this check, a wild surge automatically occurs. In stable areas, wild surges occur if the wizard rolls a 20 on his check. Then there are the changes to specific schools:

Alteration: When casting an alteration spell, a player must make a percentage roll and consult the following table. This roll is modified by adding the spell-level and subtracting the caster’s level. So a level 9 mage casting polymorph (5th level, iirc) would have a net -4 to his roll.

At the high end, “DM fiendishness is encouraged in devising specific results” with the example of a spell meant to turn the target into a newt instead turning them into a Green Dragon.

yeah, fuck you too, 90s DM advise

Conjuration/Summoning: To start, DMs are encouraged to fuck with limited wish and wish even more. Otherwise, using the find familiar spell in Limbo attracts 1d4 creatures that the caster can choose, and the “no familiar” result instead brings a special familiar. The downside is if the familiar is intelligent, it’s also going to be some Chaotic alignment. Also, the familiar typically can’t reach the caster, so the wizard has to go to them, which makes selecting a familiar a bit of a pain.

Divination: On top of the general failure chances, a caster needs to make a Paralyzation Save. On a failure, the results are so chaotic that no information is gained. Hooray.

Illusion: There’s a 10% chance that an illusion becomes real and permanent (or at least as permanent as anything in Limbo).

Wild Magic: Wild Mages have to make the same Intelligence check as other wizards, except any failure, even in stable terrain, causes a wild surge. In addition, when a wild mage casts a spell in the chaos-soup, a wild surge occurs regardless of success or failure. On stable terrain, on a successful cast a wild mage rolls twice for level variation and takes the more extreme result. If either roll indicates a wild surge, then a wild surge occurs.

Elemental: Elemental magic is extra effective in Limbo. Spells with either duration or area of effect double their value. Instantaneous spells last 1d6 rounds, and single target spells have a radius of 1d10 feet. On the other hand, pseudo-elementals summoned are peak fishmalk.

Spell Keys: Given all this bullshit, having a spell key is all but required in Limbo, but as you might guess what the spell key is changes all the time. Thankfully on Limbo a wizard can figure out what the spell key is at any particular time by making a Spellcraft proficiency check. Once a check is made, a caster can create the component right there from the chaos by making a Wisdom check. All this analysis and creating takes time, but exactly how long isn’t mentioned by the book.

Power Keys: Rather than test followers and give worthy ones power keys, Limbo’s Powers hand out keys that are in themselves tests. What this all means is that these Powers can rescind their keys whenever they feel like it (read: the DM decides to be a dick). Keys are typically for Charm, Creation and Elemental. As an aside, I’ve always found it funny that Power Keys are included here because it describes what Powers give to their followers when they are travelling to other planes. Sure a key can enhance a spell even in a Power’s home plane, but otherwise a cleric that visiting Limbo and his god isn’t from Limbo, he’s not going to care what keys the Limbo gods are handing out.


Speaking of Powers, let’s talk about who lives here. Powers that are generally elemental in nature but don’t focus on a particular element tend to live in Limbo. In particular several “oriental” gods make their home here. These include Agni, Vayu, and Indra from the Indian pantheon and Shina-Tsu-Hiko and Susano-O from Japan. Of the TSR deities, there is the elf-god Fenmarel Mestarine and Tempus from Forgotten Realms. There are rumors of Slaadi Powers named Ssendam and Ygorl, but the Slaadi eat anyone that investigates. Whenever one of these Powers needs a proxy, they select a petitioner at random. The petitioners of Limbo are as chaotic as the universe they live in. They’re basically intelligent clumps of chaos matter, but unlike the background soup, a petitioner usually takes the form of something (even if that forms changes all the time). A petitioner can be persuaded to assist players, but the booklet tells the DM to go full “lolrandom” with these guys, so it doesn’t seem to be worth the bother. The Clueless usually confuse petitioners with Chaos Beasts, which are described in the Monster Supplement.

The booklet goes into more discussion on Slaadi behavior. Slaad are best thought of as barbarian hordes. In practice, they seem like a repeat of the Tanar’ri but less interesting. Paradoxically, Slaadi don’t betray their superiors thanks to their obsession with individual strength. If one Slaad can bully another, then that’s just the way it is. As mentioned in the Travelogue, Slaadi hunt in groups, but never cooperate in combat. It is possible for an outsider to earn the respect of a group of Slaadi by beating up enough of them, but they’re just as likely to find an even tougher Slaad to challenge him. Slaadi are anarchs by default, but they never form terrain, since they don’t need to. Aside from Flash Gordoning your way to the top of the Slaad hierarchy, there’s no way to deal with them outside of fighting them.

Jebeel Sloom, Limbo Guide posted:

Fight Slaad and lose, the story’s over. Fight a Slaad and win, there’s a thousand more standing in line just to prove they’re tougher.

The Githzerai technically aren’t native to Limbo, but they’ve been here so long they might as well be. ‘Zerai aren’t evil like the Githyanki, but they are very suspicious of outsiders. They are fanatical followers of an apparently immortal leader, a self-styled God-King named Zaerith Menyar-Ag-Gith. How Zaerith came to lead the ‘Zerai after Zerthimon challenged (and then was killed by) Gith isn’t explained, but at least the detail of him murdering ‘Zerai that get too high level seems to be forgotten (since I’m sure Githzerai PCs would not go along with that for a minute). The Githzerai frequently organize raids to fuck with the Githyanki. By the way, if you’re having trouble distinguishing Githzerai and Githyanki, so does the booklet. The ‘Zerai apparently haven’t noticed that the Githyanki are incredibly xenophobic, and so they generally distrust all non-’Zerai because they might be agents of the ‘Yankis. So every “Githyanki” (book’s mistake) city has a foreign quarter where visitors are confined and watched constantly. Outsiders are only allowed to visit the rest of the city with a ‘Zerai escort, and anyone trying to sneak in is open to being straight-up murdered. The book repeats the explanation for how Githzerai can be insanely loyal while also being Chaotic Neutral (“Loyalty of Individuals”), and again I find the explanation fine because otherwise you get dumb nonsense like Kender.

Xaositects are common in Limbo, since it’s basically what they want the rest of the Multiverse to look like. Being Xaositects they have no stronghold or overall agenda. Aside from the Githzerai, other PC races and more unusual races such as orcs and goblins have migrated to Limbo either intentionally or by accident. Like the Githzerai these races have formed cities from the chaos-soup, which are unusually cosmopolitan. The different races in these cities have an uneasy alliance, but the threat of Slaadi hordes coming and eating/raping/assimilating them is enough to keep these cities from exploding into racial violence.

Non-intelligent animals are either able to survive in the chaos-soup, or are transplants able to survive on stable terrain maintained by an intelligent creature. It takes an Intelligence of 19 and higher to form animals from chaos-matter. Maintained terrain with “natural wilderness” are especially protective about their wild areas.

Next Time:

Limbo (part 2)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Limbo (part 2)

So I mentioned earlier that Limbo may have layers, but only sometimes. What this means practically is that travellers will encounter a barrier that they need to find a planar pathway to cross. That’s it. In all other respects Limbo is a single layer plane. In fact for all the crazy shit you might expect in the plane of Chaotic Neutral, the number of detailed locations is surprisingly short. I feel that too much writing went to describing Limbo in general and rules that ultimately amount to “whatever the DM feels like”.


Only one divine realm is detailed. Fennimar is home to Fenmarel Mestarine, Elven God of Innocent Scapegoats and Outcasts. Which today seems like a weird choice to give the spotlight to (I’d have gone with the trio of Indian deities), but I guess it was the 90s and being a mopey loner was the in thing. Fittingly, Fenmarel is welcome to Arvandor at any time, but he just prefers to be alone and listen to his They Might Be Giants CDs. Fennimar is basically mini-Arvandor, a lonely forest walled off from the surrounding by giant mountains. It’s only concession to the rest of the Plane is that the weather is completely batshit. No rules are given if someone tries to enter this realm from above-presumably once they cross the border they just plummet to the sky. There are very, very few elves here, mostly hermits and victims of the elven tendency to be huge dicks, even to their own. Fennimar is “also a place for elves to come and grieve on the rare occasions when their equanimity abandons them.”

dictionary posted:

noun: equanimity
mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
Damnit, 90s! Overall Fennimar is thoroughly uninteresting. It’s got one NPC, a ranger and proxy to Fenmarel who strangely enough is a human. A whole paragraph is given to describing his tragic backstory that amounts to a whole big “so what”.

Shra’kt’lor and The Floating City

The Githzerai have two main burgs in Limbo. Shar’kt’lor is the largest ‘Zerai city (pop 2 million) and also the primary military stronghold. The Floating City is their center of magic power and Thief headquarters. Both are ruled by Zaertih Menyar-Ag-Gith, who we get some stats for. Zaerith is a multi-class Fighter 16/Wizard 23, although honestly he should be a Power at this point if the ‘Zerai revere him so much. Zaerith controls his generals by encouraging infighting. The whole “killing high-level Githzerai” thing from the Monstrous Compendium by limiting it to wizards in the Floating City, so PCs don’t have to worry about a high-powered NPC nuking them. Zaerith isn’t concerned about thief character, since he knows that in 2nd edition the Thief class was hot garbage.

The description for Shra’kt’lor is really bare-bones. It seems that the assumption is that since the Githzerai are so suspicious they’d never let PCs into the city proper, completely forgetting that one of the PCs might himself be a Githzerai. The Floating City gets a bit more attention-outsiders can go anywhere save Zaerith’s inner sanctum. Players can get magical items from the Floating City and potential anarchs can come here to get the proficiency. Unfortunately since The Floating City is a Thief haven, players will have to deal with potential robbers. Hopefully the DM would play this out as an encounter rather than just magically taking away a player’s gear.


So you want to guess what gets more attention than largest city of the Githzerai or the religious center of a God-King? A FUCKING HALFLING VILLAGE!!! Barnstable is an example of a community that has no anarch and so needs an active watch to keep the place from disintegrating away. Besides a low-level adventure seed in another booklet from this set, Barnstable has _nothing_ of interest for PC. I’m not even editorializing. Under services it says that players might be able to barter for a pony. Even under “local news”, which every other town has a couple of adventure seeds, here it says that unless you visit while another traveller is around, you won’t learn anything you didn’t already know.


The Spawning Stone

The last locale described is a site. The Spawning Stone is the closest thing Slaadi have to a home domain. The Githzerai call it Uzkrocl, while the Ysgardians call it “Slaadheim” ( ) The Spawning Stone is where Slaadi go to breed, taking turns based on the 5 different varieties. It honestly seems like an attempt to retcon out the gross and rapey parts of the Slaadi fluff. At least that was my thought until it explained why Death Slaadi leave the Stone for the weaker Red Slaadi:

The Spawning Stone posted:

(some say that it’s because the egg pellets of the red can hatch even within the hide of a death slaad)
Anyway, the Spawning Stone is the one structure that Slaadi bother to maintain, and when the more numerous species are at the Stone it expands to huge sizes. The Spawning Stone is the most fleshed out of all the places described here. Unfortunately, players can’t get here, because “No non-slaadi is allowed within miles of the stone, on pain of death”. This part does talk about a crazed Githzerai that somehow lives among the Slaadi, and can acquire poisons from their skin. No rules are given for how these poisons work.

Planar Proverb posted:

Never try to fast talk a Slaad


Of the 5 planes described in this box-set, the write-up on Limbo is the weakest. It feels like the writer forgot that Githzerai were now a player race, and the only hook for a DM is for battling Githyanki. Despite a lot of writing about them, Slaadi remain just dudes to fight. Compare that to how the Tanar’ri are described-DMs and players get a good idea of how to interact with them besides just attacking. And the one realm that gets describes is for such a niche deity. Give me Indra, or Susano-O. Hell, I’d take Tempus, because that would at least have lots of cool fights. As it stands, there’s not enough for me to craft an interesting adventure.

And to go back to my last post, there’s something about the rules for magic, how to get around, and terrain forming that rub me the wrong way. There were entire pages I skipped on getting around because they all amounted to “...but these can’t be relied on because KAYOS!”. Well thanks book! It’s one thing for a player to latch onto the Fishmalk role, but it’s entirely different if the book is encouraging the DM to take that role. I dislike that the rules require purchasing an unrelated supplement, but at least the 2nd edition Tome of Magic is a worthwhile addition. That doesn’t excuse that the rules explicitly encourage the DM to fuck with his players. Compare this writing to what we get for The Abyss. The Abyss is supposed to be the deadliest place to visit on the Outer Planes, but reading through the book it’s clear what to expect and the rules are written to so that the DM can be fair without sacrificing the feeling that things are dangerous. By contrast, Limbo goes full hog on being Chaotic Neutral to the detriment of being a worthwhile place to adventure.

On the other hand, “Slaadheim”

So that’s Limbo, the Garry’s Mod of Planescape.

Next Time: It’s a Mad, Mad Universe

Pandemonium (part 1)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Pandemonium (part 1)

If the Outer Planes could be described as video games, then Pandemonium would be the Silent Hill series-a place that will messes with your sense of reality, where everyone you meet is crazier than a Trump rally, and there’s some freaky-looking dude wandering around that will ruin your shit if he stumbles into you.

Physical Description

small talk in Pandemonium posted:

‘My God! The wind! The howling! It’s driving me mad!’
‘What” I can’t hear you!’

Pandemonium is best known for its howling winds. It’s always windy, ranging from a chill breeze carrying haunting echos to super hurricanes that screams louder than a god slamming a door on his finger. Typically, the wind is strong enough to extinguish unprotected fires, carry off unsecured items, and make communication difficult. There’s no rhyme or reason to when or where the wind will wax and wane, and relatively peaceful spots can be only a few paces from tornado-strength gales.

Pandemonium is as huge as the other Outer Planes, but it can be hard to appreciate that because it’s pitch black. So you might be inside a cavern the size of Texas and will probably not notice. Now a lot of PC races have infravision, but it’s not going to help much. For one thing, the walls absorb and dissipate heat, making terrain feature dim and difficult to see. Second, the Petitioners of Pandemonium don’t give off any body heat, making them invisible to infravision. So visitors need a light source, one that is magical or at least covered against the winds. Of course this will make them easy to spot by the natives, but there isn’t any alternative.

Pandemonium is entirely ‘underground’, and travelling across it is like normal spelunking, with a couple of differences. On the first, second and fourth layer gravity is oriented towards the closest wall. The booklet says that this can lead to “interesting combats” but 2nd Edition still used combat rules that abstracted positioning (at least the base rules did). While this somewhat removes the chance of falling (though getting slammed around by the wind more than makes up for it), the omni-directional gravity means that streams sometimes are directed into the center of a tunnel, spraying the walls with water and making them slippery. And if that wasn’t bad enough, some of these streams are part of the River Styx. Luckily, the River Styx doesn’t seem to run as strongly in Pandemonium as the rest of the Lower Planes, so just touching the water won’t cause memory loss (drinking it still has the same hazards). Also the usual denizens of the Styx like Marraenoloths and Hydroloths don’t venture into Pandemonium’s shallow waters.


A resident of Pandemonium posted:

I ain’t barmy! Don’t ever call me barmy or I’ll nick you-got that?

If you stay in Pandemonium long enough, you go mad. It’s this part of the chapter that the booklet gives the DM rules for handling it. There’s a lot of discretion here on the DM’s part, but the booklet at least advises to use caution and not use insanity as an excuse to take control from a player. Visitors to Pandemonium, including players, must make a saving throw versus paralyzation as called by the DM. Natives don’t have to make this roll, as it’s assumed that they’ve been here so long that you can assume they’ve fully progressed through the madness rules. The booklet suggests that the DM should call for a roll once a day, but modify it based on how intense the wind they are exposed to, shelter, sleeping, and getting into combat. It’s suggested that rolls should be done at dramatic moments, like at the end of a battle. I suspect these are the abridged version of sanity rules from another TSR game or an earlier edition of D&D.

If the player makes the saving throw, nothing happens. If he fails, then he progresses one step through the 4 stages of “wind madness” The stages are Frustration, Despair, Hysteria, and Resignation. The only way to fully recover from this madness is with the Wish, but at least the effects of the madness are only noticeable in Pandemonium.

1. Frustrated: The player is irritated by everything and generally impatient. The booklet is kind enough to warn the DM that some players might take this condition too literally and create a new post for the “Worst Experiences” thread. Rule wise, characters with this condition suffer a -1 Intelligence and -1 Wisdom while exposed to the wind’s noise.

2. Despair: At this stage, a character has gone full Eore. He’ll still follow the rest of his group, but can’t contribute anything to plan making. The PC is automatically surprised at the beginning of any combat. But on the flip side, he gets +1 to his attack and damage rolls. This is because, according to the book, the character is about to snap.

3. Hysteria: Take five, player, because your character can’t do shit. The character starts by running around gibbering for a number of minutes equal to how much the player failed the saving throw. Following this they curl into a ball and can no longer take any action. Others can lead a Hysteric character around, and if brought to a sheltered area, they revert to the previous stage. The one change is they’ll be extremely reluctant to go back outside-as soon as they’re exposed again they return to hysteria. To the booklet’s credit, it tells the DM to give a lot of leeway to characters in this condition, limit encounters, and get through this stage as quickly as possible.

4. Resignation: The culmination of these awful, awful rules that even the booklet seems to hate is that the character gets a quirk while in Pandemonium. What this quirk is depends on the character, but the booklet gives some suggestions. Generally these are inoffensive, like impulsively polishing armor or looking over one’s shoulder every couple of seconds. NPCs that get to this stage have worse conditions, which is justified by them having spent more time on the Plane. But it has the benefit of letting players sample crazy town without being forced to be a jackass.

Now what would rules for madness be without sample insanities? I remembered that this was something in the booklet, and dreaded going over it, but honestly most of it is not offensive (the foreign accent one I could do without). The booklet describes these as being difficult but still playable, but, well, I’ll just let their suggestions speak for themselves:

Magical Conditions

As with the other Outer Planes, spellcasters have unique problems using magic in Pandemonium.

On top of this, spellcasters have to deal with the fact that they are trying to cast in a massive wind storm. In most places, everyone is under the effect of the deafness spell. Where the wind is at its harshest, players take damage as if attacked with the shout spell. The booklet suggests that the DM adjust the effects depending on how severe the winds are (I forget if the 2nd Edition DMG had rules for weather. If it didn’t then I’m sure one of the blue soft-covers had rules). In addition, spells that operate either in full or in part by sound may be negated. If a spell requires a material component, then the caster has to make a Dexterity Check or the component is swept away before the spell is complete (the spell is lost when this happens). Finally, spells that create clouds or flames are ruined by the winds.

Pandemonium’s Spell keys are thankfully uncomplicated: wind instruments carved from the stone of Pandemonium. To use the key, the caster has to hold the instrument up to catch the wind. The more powerful the spell, the more discordant a tune needs to be produced. The Powers of Pandemonium are pretty stingy with Power Keys. When they do give out Keys, it’s usually for the sphere of Charm, Guardian or Necormancy.

Pandemonium’s Inhabitants

Pandemonium is the least inhabited of the Outer Planes. Those that do live here, from Petitioners up to the Powers, are all crazy to some degree. Many of the inhabitants have come to Pandemonium specifically because no one lives here, while others have been banished here (though not to the same extent as with Carceri). If a body wants to be forgotten, Pandemonium is the place to go.

Powers: Loki maintains a realm in Pandemonium for whenever the rest of the Norse deities get sick of him. The only other real-world god here is a Japanese deity named Ho Masubi. On the other hand, quite a few of TSR’s evil deities make their home here. These include the wandering Gnoll god Gorellick, the Bugbear deity Hruggekk, the Derro god Diirinka, the Queen of Air and Darkness (an evil fairy goddess), and the Forgotten Realms powers Auril and Talos.

Proxies: Each of the powers mentioned above have their preferred form of proxies. Loki, for example, uses a combination of giants and thieves, while the Queen of Air and Darkness uses undead and evil fey like spriggans. Pandemonium’s Powers tend to be too reclusive to be regularly sending out proxies, so they’re rare outside their realms.

Petitioners: As I mentioned at the beginning of this update, Petitioners are invisible to Infravision. On the other hand, Petitioners can sense their surroundings using what the booklet describes as “akin to a bat’s radar”. This sense works up to 120 feet. In windy locations this sense is cut down to 30 feet. Petitioners are well adapted to the windy environments-they’re thin for their species, have few clothes, and have long toes and fingers. Finally, because Petitioners are supernaturally mad, they’re immune to spells that cause any sort of insanity, madness, or mental damage, and they get a save vs. spell to resist ESP

The Banished: The Banished were briefly mentioned in the description of the Dispossessed Sect. We get some more details here-most are goblinoid clans, because why not. Drow and duergar are also pretty common. Examples of just about every intelligent race can be found amongst the ranks of the Banished.

The Bleak Cabal: Bleakers are prevalent on Pandemonium because it matches up so well with their beliefs. The largest community they have is a burg aptly named THe Madhouse

Aside from those groups, you’ll have the general encounters that you find throughout the Lower Planes, but not as frequent. Most intelligent monsters not in the groups mentioned above are on their way somewhere else.

Next Time: The Powers Must Be Crazy

Pandemonium (part 2)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Pandemonium (part 2)

The first layer of Pandemonium is the least inhospitable layer of the four. It’s also where most of the Powers and major settlements are located.

The Madhouse: The Madhouse is the center of power for the Bleak Cabal on Pandemonium. It started out as an inn that expanded chaotically into a fortress. The Bleakers aren’t even the ones to come up with the name. The current ruler is a priest named Maris Warrow (Insanity: paranoid) who just walked in one day and started giving orders, and none of the Bleakers care enough to verify she was actually put in charge. While Bleakers normally can’t give enough fucks to have political intrigue, a fighter/bookkeeper named Jax Bleskril (Insanity: severe stuttering) acts as a counterbalance to Maris’ authority. The Madhouse started off as an inn, but grew chaotically into a fully-fledged citadel. The town is big enough to stretch the circumference of the cavern it occupies.

Maris Warrow posted:

Trust me, howl along with the rest. You’ll feel better for it.

Despite its expansion, the Madhouse remains an Inn at heart. Maris is referred to as the Matron of the Inn, while the head of security, Silas Malmanning (claws his forearms bloody) is called the Head Bouncer. Most visitors these days lodge in one of the adjacent inns (or else rough it in the streets). Staying at the inn proper requires being well liked by the Bleakers or doing something to impress the matron. The adventure hook is about a bunch of lawful-aligned berks following rumors of an artifact that would bring back the lost powers that once inhabited Cocytus. A DM can either make an adventure of finding the artifact or keeping the newcomers from getting killed.

Winter’s Hall: This is Loki’s home away from Asgard. If he’s here, it’s because he’s upset another Norse deity, probably several. Loki is always in a bad mood while here. The Halls of Winter include both the longhouse and the cavern it’s in, which is in a perpetual snow storm. The realm’s inhabitants are giants, unfortunate planars and petitioners they’ve enslaved, and wolves of every variety (including lycanthropes). The residents rotate through a cycle of mad partying and surly recovery. The Giants hate the Norse something fierce, and anyone coming to visit who doesn’t share the same sentiment is assumed to be a spy.

There are a couple of special effects in Loki’s realm. All rogue abilities (that includes Thieves and Bards in 2nd Edition) get a 10% bonus, but failing a roll draws immediate attention. In addition, all wolves, dogs, and canine monsters that enter the realm become servants of the Mistress of the Hunt, a frost giantess known as Ingrid the Serpent Tongued (always paces). Ingrid basically runs the Hall in Loki’s absence even though more the more boastful cloud giant named Starkad the Gnawer (bouts of uncontrollable singing) claims to be Loki’s appointed proxy. Ingrid’s lieutenant is an albino Yeth Hound called White Fang (always chewing something). White Fang leads Ingrid’s wolf pack, but he’s pretty chill if you can talk to him (need a Druid or Ranger). Assuming you can convince the giants of your Norse hate-boner, they’ll happily hire out to adventurers for the right price.

Pandemonium’s second layer is also called the “layer of lamentation” for the deafening wailing sound made by the wind. The tunnels and caverns are smaller in Cocytus than in Pandesmos, and the wind is louder and stronger. As mentioned in the Travelogue, there’s evidence that the tunnels of this layer were chiseled by hand. This has led to all sorts of stories of a forgotten, mad Power might have tunneled out the layer before expiring to the Astral Plane. Cocytus is mostly uninhabited, but there are a number of sites where the wind creates strange effects, such as the Harmonica from the Travelogue.

Howler’s Crag: Another site in Cocytus is known as Howler’s Crag. Howler’s Crag is a mish-mash of ideas, and the hearsay section doesn’t really have a coherent theme to it. The site looks like a jumbled pile of stones with a small platform at the top. Warrens run beneath the ruins. The platform is under the effect of the fairy fire spell, which makes anyone standing on the platform vulnerable to archers (assuming it’s not too windy to fire). Why would anyone go to the platform you ask? You can yell a message to anyone and it’ll reach them no matter where in the Multiverse he or she is. However, the effect isn’t reliable, and the recipient has no reason to think he didn’t just imagine the message. An inn has been set up near the site, which makes it the only rest stop on this layer.

Hruggekolork: This is a small realm maintained by Hruggek, the main bugbear god. While bugbears have an entire pantheon because that’s how you roll in 2nd Edition, like their worshipers these deities are reclusive, so Hruggek is all by his lonesome. Hruggekolork is a honeycombed area of Cocytus with a large number of heated pools. These pools support an underground ecosystem that in turn support villages populated by Hruggek’s petitioners. Hruggek himself lives in a grotto some distance from his petitioners. Surrounding his cave are the screaming skulls of enemies he’s killed. The bugbears are peery of visitors and the realm enhances defenses against them (-20% to detect traps, +2 to surprise rolls for ambushers). If you can get past this initial impression, you can hire bugbear mercenaries, I guess. Still, this is probably the most bugbears are talked about until Urban Arcana.

Phlegethon has a couple of features that distinguish it from the other layers of Pandemonium. First, it is somehow darker and colder than the rest of the Plane. The cavern walls absorb light and heat. Strangely, the rock itself is not cold. There’s some nonsense about contact and radiated heat, which is weirdly out of place in a fantasy setting. I assume it’s a holdover from the original Manual of the Planes. Also no rules are given for how this affects visibility, but the implication seems to be that light radii are cut in half.

The second difference is that gravity operates in one direction on this layer. This combined with dripping water leads to the formation of columns, stalactites and stalagmites. These formations can get to epic size, but appreciating them would be hard what with the super-darkness. Aside from the two locations listed, there are rumors of supermassive dragon hoards, with occasional loot hauls coming from this layer to support these rumors.

Windglum: This town was briefly mentioned in the Travelogue. It’s the largest community of folk who have been banished here from the rest of the Multiverse. Like pretty much everyone else in Pandemonium, they’re leery of outsiders. The current ruler, Lord Wilfin Strabile, (faints without warning) actually managed to leave Pandemonium for a while before pissing off a sorceress and getting booted back here. Strabile is now committed to making Windglum a planar metropolis, a goal everyone else in town realizes is dumb as hell. In short, Wilfin Strabile is a goon. Making sure Strabile doesn’t make the gatehouse out of drywall or something is a Dustman named Temet Rillander (shouts “eeYAGH” a lot). Rillander is one of the only good-aligned NPCs in Pandemonium, and while he’s as distrustful of outsiders as the rest of the townspeople (or Wndglummers), he’s probably the most likely person to give players a chance to prove themselves. As for Strabile, he’s at least publicly preaching tolerance because he knows he needs outsiders to make Windglum a worthwhile destination.

Windglummer to a planar traveler posted:

What are you complaining about? No one asked you to come here!

Windglum is located in a large cavern and is well protected from outside incursions. The town actually has some urban planning, at least initially. The streets are laid out in a radiating pattern from the Citadel of Lords at the center, and enough magic lights have been set up to deal with the supernatural darkness of the layer. And that’s it for planning. Hovels are set up next to mansions, bathhouses next to slaughterhouses, you get the idea. Many buildings straddle streets (such as the inn from the Travelogue). Socially, Windglummers are surprisingly caste-like, with families remaining in the same occupation for generations. While they distrust outsiders, the population of Windglum is very diverse, as they will welcome in anyone the rest of the Multiverse has kicked to the curve. How Windglummers can tell who’s been tossed aside and who hasn’t isn’t explained. As explained in the Travelogue, visitors are directed to the Scaly Dog Inn. We get some more info on the landlord Hagus Gimcrack, including that his madness is that he pants and howls. There are a couple of nearby monsters for adventurers to beat the crap out of.

The Unseelie Court: This is the realm of the evil fairy deity, the Queen of Air and Darkness. According to the booklet, “Whereas the Seelie Court is filled with laughter, friendship and loveliness, the Unseelie realm is filled with hatred, enslavement, and death.” And while my opinion is that the Seelie Court is full of hot bullshit, this place manages to be worse. That’s because anyone who visits is either instantly dominated by the QoA&D or destroyed. No save, just instantly gibbed. Almost a full page of text is given for a location that PCs would never go to.

Instead of caverns, this layer is made up of isolated holes surrounded by endless rock. Powers and other powerful goobers use this layer to stash enemies or powerful artifacts. Often, they stash both together to ensure an extra layer of protection. Going after these artifacts is generally a bad idea. It’s possible to travel here from the other layers via pathways that have cyclone-like winds blowing out from them. No entries are listed here, which I find disappointing.

The Wand of Orcus again

Next Time: We come from the land of the ice and snow

Ysgard (part 1)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Ysgard (part 1)

Ysgard is sort of special among the Outer Planes because of how much of its tone is set by one pantheon. Not only are most of the Powers from Norse Mythology, but the rules for the Plane are very thematic to vikings and Nordic mythology. That’s not to say it’s all Viking- . Ysgard is the CN/CG plane, and in Planescape that’s interpreted as ‘So libertarian as to give Barry Goldwater a shameful erection.’ Combine these two elements and you get a Universe that holds up a stark mirror to D&D characters. Welcome to Hobo: The Murdering.

Hrafnul the Bold, Ysgardian Petitioner posted:

It’s a perfect day to die - just like yesterday and the day before...

Physical Description
Ysgard is made up of continent-sized “landbergs” floating on rivers of fire and stone, their burning undersides lighting the skies of their neighbors. Despite the lights, Ysgard has a day/night cycle and seasons, because you can’t have Scandinavia Heaven without frosty winters. The landbergs sometimes collide into each other, causing earthquakes (dex check or fall down). The landbergs themselves are Scandinavia-fjords, coniferous forests, tundra, you know the drill. It’s actually possible to sail between landbergs. You don’t need a magic boat or anything, it’s just how you roll in Ysgard. Flying between landbergs is much more difficult, thanks to violent thermals that rise from the landbergs moving through the lava flows. Only the Valkries can fly through them without effort. That’s the first layer (also named Ysgard to confuse matter), where most of what’s of interest on the Plane lies.. The second and third layers are actually variations on the landberg rivers. On the second layer, Muspelheim, the ‘bergs are flipped on their back, making the terrain all fiery. In Nidavellir, the third layer, the ‘bergs are packed tightly together, simulating an underground environment.

Ysgard is where Yggdrasil is centered. The World Ash has shortcuts to many of the important locations in Ysgard on all three layers Yggdrasil’s branches also lead to the Grey Wastes (Hel’s Realm), The Halls of Winter in Pandemonium, Arborea, the Outlands (the Norn’s realms), and every Prime Material where the deities of the Norse are worshipped. There’s even a branch that connects to Sigil, though exactly where depends on the teller.

Magical Conditions
The Norse prefer physical prowess to magical aptitude, and so magic in Ysgard has a lot of restrictions attached. It’s this part that I suspect was c/p’d from the Viking Campaign Sourcebook, just because of how detailed it is.

Abjuration: Abjuration is controlled by Heimdall. To use these spells without a spell key you must be able to see Bifrost.

Alteration: Spells which enhance one’s fighting ability work normally, though spells related to elements need the appropriate key. Luckily Polymorph is in the former category. Transportation spells require rare keys that Loki likes to make fakes of. Sheltering spells need a key from Frigga. Metamagic spells need Odin’s permission. And weather spells are right out (Thor doesn’t want anyone else messing with it.)

Conjuration: Monster Summon spells always brings einheriar on the first layer, giants or ogres on the second, and dwarves or trolls on the third. Trying to summon a creature from a different Outer Plane fails 10% of the time.

Divination: Double range and duration, but only one creature can be spied on at a time. Scrying locations, events or groups fails.

Illusion: Loki controls these spells, so they work normally except in times of danger. At which point the spell fails unless the caster knows the key.

Necromancy: The Norse think that healing spells are for wimps. So every necromancy spell is treated as one level higher. Destructive necromancy spells may attract the attention of Hel if used on her followers.

Wild Magic: Wild mages roll twice for level variation, and take the more extreme result. If one of the rolls is a wild surge, then a wild surge occurs.

Elemental: Normally you need a key to use these, but there are a couple of exceptions for certain realms and layers. Fire spells don’t need a key in Muspelheim, ice spells work normally in Jotunheim, and “elemental light” spells work normally in Vanaheim.

Spell Keys: At this point the book just tells you to go get the Viking Campaign book. Each school has a rune that needs to be carved into the material components (or spoken if there isn’t a material component). However, certain spells require the caster to know a kenning, a word play. What spells require these, you ask? I dunno-I’m guessing it’s in the Viking book.

Power Keys: A priest of the Norse gods has to prove his worth to get a spell key. Odin, Thor, Frigga, Loki, and Heimdall are the most likely to grant spell keys, and these keys are typically in their area of interest. Of special note is that Thor will grant weather keys to his worshippers, making them the only non-Power berks on Ysgard able to affect the weather. Alternatively, Power Keys can be found by searching around the roots of Yggdrasil. And Priest of Loki are free to try and steal their patron’s key from the Well of Mimir (Loki doesn’t give a shit). Other Powers of Ysgard hand out keys when the mood strikes them. Typically they give keys for the Combat and Guardian keys, to protect their followers from the bat-shit crazy locals.

Svava the Valkyrie posted:

Paradise lies in the shadow of swords.


Like Arborea, the entire Norse myth-ecosystem can be found in Ysgard, regardless of alignment. You also have monsters common to all the Upper Planes like the Aasimon, herds of Bariaur, and Ratatosk.

Powers: The Norse are actually two groups of Powers - the Aesir and the Vanir. More than other Powers, the Norse love hanging out with their followers, usually in disguise You also got the related giant deities Surtur and Thrym. While the Norse dominate the Plane, there are actually a lot of deities that make their home here. The historical ones include Anhur and Bast from ancient Egypt, the Japanese gods Hachiman and O-Kuni-Nushi, the Chinese deity Shou Hsing, and the Indian deity Soma. The TSR gods that live here are the dragon deity Aasterinian, The elf goddess Aerdrie Faenya, and Selune of the Forgotten Realms. There’s actually a decent amount of detail for these realms here that was absent from the Limbo and Pandemonium sections.

Proxies: The most powerful servants of the Norse are the Valkyries, followed by Einheriar. Bast apparently has a deal with the Cat Lord of the Beastlands, and based on the description may be responsible for the “housecat vs commoner” meme. Aasterinian uses brass and copper great wyrms as proxies, while the Japanese gods use Kenku. Selune and Soma, as moon deities, have good-aligned lycanthropes to use as proxies. They also have some new monsters introduced in this box set, the Lillendi and Asuras.

Petitioners: Ysgardian petitioners are reborn each morning if they were slain the day before. So they’re allowed to be as kill crazy to their heart’s content. If that wasn’t bad enough, some of them can transform into werebears and wereboars, just because. In terms of particular gods, some of Bast’s petitioners are intelligent, winged cats.

The Fated: The Fated fucking love this place, and have built a big citadel on the first layer called Rowan’s Hall (or Heartless Hall). The Hall is built on a branch of Yggdrasil and is located near a conduit to the Norn’s Realm in the Outlands. Factol Rowan Darkwood stops by here whenever he feels he needs to take a break from Sigil politics or has to check in with his patron deity Heimdall. Besides the Fated, Sensates, Chaosmen, and Indeps are frequently encountered in Ysgard.

Shublik of the Fated posted:

If I can pry it out of a cutter’s hand, it’s mine

The Ring-Givers: In contrast to the Fated, the Ring-Givers are probably the most friendly group to run into in Ysgard. Now, you’re going to pay for their ‘charity’ eventually, but when everyone else here thinks wedging an axe into your face is an appropriate way to say ‘hello’ or, alternatively, won’t let you use the shitter without paying a fee, the Givers are a pretty good deal. They’re most congregated in the town of Skeinheim. Outside Skeinheim, the most famous Ring-Giver is a Bariaur named Kara the Forester.

Kara the Forester posted:

What cannot be taken, can be given.

Other Inhabitants
Bariaur herds avoid petitioners, since they don’t have the benefit of returning to life. If they think they might be in danger, the Bariaur will shoot first and ask questions later. There are plenty of giants and trolls for everyone to have cool Norse fights. These two monsters are generally smarter than their prime cousins, and frequently have magical abilities.

Next Time: Rip and Tear

Ysgard (part 2)

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Ysgard (part 2)

Ysgard is the most detailed of the 5 planes in this box set, and most of places described are related to the Norse. It’s hard to have too much viking, but this section makes the effort.

Most of the places of note are on the first layer, which shares its name with the plane. Y’know, the booklet briefly makes fun of Primes for calling the Plane something else (it’s kind of buried in the booklet-Gladheim, I think?), but at least that doesn’t give two places the same name. To be fair, Ysgard the layer is where most of the inhabitants can be found, and it’s what everyone thinks of when talking about the plane.

Alfheim: Alfheim is where Frey and Freya live. Most of the time it’s just Frey here. Frey is the deity of “neutral-leaning elves who want little to do with the Seldarine”. The elves of Alfheim are even bigger jerks to dwarves than the norm, and interestingly they aren’t fond of gnomes either. Unlike Arvandor, Alfheim has extreme seasons. During the summer, the elves are in full Spring Break mode, and welcome guests that aren’t on their shit lists “heaping them with gifts (elven chain mail and elven cloaks and boots are common gifts for those who do the elves a great favor)”. During the winter, Alfheim is blanketed in snow, and the elves basically hibernate in underground warrens.

Outside the winter season, the Alfheim elves live and sleep out in the open. Frey and Freya take after the petitioners while here, and it’s possible for a visitor to come across a Power just sleeping in the woods (queue text about whether Cagers believe these stories-a common theme in Planescape is that as incredible as the Multiverse is, it takes more than a berk’s say-so to impress people. Sometimes the setting lays the cynicism on a bit too thick.) There are a few permanent structures. The Alfheim have their own High King and Queen, which is an annual office elected by the Realms Barons and Baronesses (who are themselves former High monarchs). This ruler resides in Xeno’s Tower, a dwelling that can only be reached by elves. Finally, there is the High Grove, where the two festivals described in the Travelogue are hosted.

The elves of Alfheim glow as per the light spell, and cannot be blinded by any light source. Visitors can be charmed by fey creatures that live deep in Alfheim. No save is given, but the booklet says the only way to escape is to get the fairies to argue over who should take them. The current High King and High Queen are basically Bill and Hillary Clinton (I mean in a vague sense, not the Blindingly Obvious Terry Goodkind sense). A powerful half-elf ranger and member of the Ringivers lives in the forest with his band of followers, and will provide help to anyone that needs it. The last major NPC of the realm is an exiled valkyrie named Skogul. Skogul is trying to find a Giantess that has made off with a magic axe. Alfheim weapons have a +1 non-magical bonus (To hit? Damage? both?) while only costing twice their listed price.

Zwingli the mad Skald posted:

If a berk won’t raise his blade, he doesn’t deserve a warrior’s death.

Asgard: Asgard is the largest realm maintained by the Norse Pantheon. All of the Aesir make their home here at least part of the time, which includes Aegir, Baldur, Foresti, Frigga, Heimdall, Idun, Loki, Odin, Sif, Thor, and Tyr. Loki, as mentioned previously, keeps a bolt-hole in Pandemonium, while Tyr has set up a realm in Mount Celestia for his Forgotten Realms followers. As part of a treaty with the Vanir, Frey and Freya take turns living in Asgard for part of the year. Asgard probably has more detail than any other divine realm in Planescape. It certainly is the most detailed in this box set. The description goes into specific geographic features like Iving River, Lake Amsvartir, Vidi, and the plains Ida and Vigrid are mentioned, as well as the Norse myths they’re tied to (Vigrid, for example is where Ragnarok is fought). All the Aesir have massive halls that cover several acres, but the Powers themselves are usually mingling with their followers and petitioners in disguise. All the Halls have their own specific name. Baldur’s fabulous hall Breidablik was mentioned in the Travelogue. Other halls are Fensalir (Frigga), Glitner (Forseti), Thrudheim (Thor and Sif), Gladsheim (common), Valaskialf and Valhalla (Odin). Strangely for divine realms of Planescape, there are quite a few specific details about Asgard. The walls, for example, are 40 feet thick and 80 feet tall, and Valhalla has 540 doors for einheriar to pass through.

Asgard is where the Plane reaches peak Murderhobo. Thankfully, players that embrace this attitude instead of trying to play it safe receive the same benefit Petitioners get. So if they die heroically, then they get reborn the following day. There are some caveats to this. First, simply dying in combat isn’t enough for a rez. A player has to be heroic, which means pushing through enemy ranks, defending allies and going after the biggest foes. I dislike this because it leaves too much room for a DM to screw a player trying to be as as the dice allow. Second, the effect works as the raise dead spell, which in 2nd edition meant the player has to make a resurrection survival save, and loses 1 point of constitution on a success. If a player does manage to prove himself, then Asgard will treat him or her like a rockstar, at least until someone new comes by and shows them up.

The most important non-Power NPCs in Asgard are the Valkyries. Now, there are no stats for Valkyries in the Monstrous Supplement that came with the box, nor are they in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium. It’s a pretty big oversight, but I suppose you could wing it by just re-flavoring one of the Aasimon. Anyway, the leader of the Valkyries is Reginleif, who is amusingly a member of the Fated. Sometimes I think the writers get a little carried away placing NPCs into factions, but I love the image of an immortal warrior-woman and Odin’s most important lieutenant carefully reading a libertarian newsletter. Besides Reginleif, there are two other named NPCs. Harald the Left-Handed, the de-facto leader of the Einheriar, and Thorval Barensen, a were-bear ranger and member of the Ring-Givers. Magic components cost 50% more in Asgard, if a DM actually keeps track of components.

Himinborg: Heimdall’s Great Hall, Himinborg, is located outside of Asgard’s walls, guarding Bifrost. Heimdall spends most of his time watching Bifrost, so the job of actually running the hall is left to Bjorn Hammarskold. Despite his importance, Bjorn isn’t actually a proxy. Bjorn is a true believer in the Fated philosophy, so if you get scammed in Himinborg then you’re S.o.L. Despite this, Bjorn is described as being “quick but fair” when judging disputes. Himinborg serves as a center of trade and Asgard’s first line of defense. The trade comes from traffic along Bifrost, which brings a lots of visitors from the Prime Material. This traffic attracts cross-traders ready to prey on newcomers. If a Prime can survive their schemes, then he might be worth watching.

Allvaldi of Himinborg posted:

Eternal vigilance is the most honorable duty.

Himinborg always has warriors of every stripe standing guard or passing through. If a player is going to spend any time here, it helps to build a reputation for being a tough bastard. The quickest way to accomplish this is by bribing a bard, assuming you can back up that reputation. Local news includes a rogue that wrestled a Cornugon in Sigil and won seven years of service, and now the hapless Baatezu is being made to stand in the hallway on display.

Bifrost: The Rainbow Bridge is a permanent conduit with one end anchored next to Himinborg and the other to one Prime Material world of Heimdall’s choosing. On the Prime, the rainbow appears as a particularly vivid rainbow whose base doesn’t move as one approaches it. Generally, Bifrost only appears during the day, though sagas say that Heimdall can summon the bridge at night in times of need. Trips on Bifrost take 1d6 hours from one end to the other. While on the bridge, the light it emits is so bright that it hampers combat (same as fighting in pitch darkness). The bridge cannot be destroyed by physical or magical means, and it negates the magical talents and items of anyone travelling on it. Undead and other creatures that harmed by sunlight are destroyed if they try to travel over Bifrost.

Jotunheim: This is the realm of the Norse Giants, and is one of the most hostile areas in the Upper Planes. In D&D, Surtr and Thrym are Powers in their own right. Mimir and the Well of Mimir can also be found here, although Mimir is merely a Proxy. Jotunheim is Iceland if all the Icelanders were replaced with 18-foot tall Hell’s Angels bikers. Even more than the rest of Ysgard, this place is hostile to visitor, especially those Size L and smaller. Though to be honest, distinguishing the Giant’s behavior as any worse than the Aesir is difficult, but maybe that’s the point the writers wanted to make?

Skrymir the Fire Giant posted:

You want it? I’ll arm wrestle you for it.

Jotunheim has three major settlements. Utgard is the biggest city and fortress. It is heavily defended, particularly with illusions. Thrym occasionally stops by to hold court when he’s not just wandering the glaciers. Otherwise the city is ruled by the giant king Utgard-Loki. The king has a council of jarls, and the rules of succession are “kill all other claimants, including the current ruler if you’re impatient”. Meerrauk is the ancient thronehall of the giants, built into an active volcano. Unlike his colleague, Surtr stays in one place, ruling from Meerrauk. Meerrauk is where the Skull-Throne of Ymir can be found. The smallest settlement in Jotunheim is a Ring-Giver enclave. It’s a beer-hall named Okalnir, and it’s where giants go to have fun when not battling the Norse. The River Iving runs through Jotunheim as well as Asgard, and a clan of mountain giants will ferry people between the two realms.

Aside from Utgard-Loki (who has wrestled-and beaten-Norse deities), there’s a wandering shaman that preaches on behalf the Abyssal Lord Kostchtchie. How this shaman has not been insta-killed by Thrym, especially because the core box explicitly says that sending preachers into another Power’s realm is a huge no-no, is not explained. There’s also a crippled deva that’s being forced to serve as a jester “in the city of Jotunheim”. There isn’t anything remarkable in the service section.

Gates of the Moon: This is the first location in Ysgard unrelated to Norse Mythology. The Gates of the Moon are interesting because the two deities here have a similar portfolio but are part of different pantheons. Selune is a Forgotten Realms deity, while Soma Indian deity? I remember reading Soma being the name of a drug used in pre-Hindu rituals, but anything else is guesswork on my part. Not that it matters-apart from the mention at the beginning, this section forgets about Soma and only really talks about Selune. They’re both Moon deities, if the name of the realm didn’t give that away. The booklet says that Selune has been wooed by Thor and Loki (damnit, Greenwood! ) in her hall Argentil. The realm changes with the phases of the moon. One of the most interesting effects of this is that periodically the River Oceanus during high tide.

The most important feature of the Gates of the Moon is that is has the best known access point to the Infinite Staircase. The Infinite Staircase is an interesting alternative to Sigil for getting around the Multiverse, although there are a few catches. The staircase will take its users to where they truly want to go. So if a group is travelling the staircase, they need to agree on the destination. Sods travelling alone are taken to the city of her heart’s desires-and at that point have a really hard time ever leaving that city. On the other hand, if she passes up the chance to go to said city, then she can never reach it again using the stairs. “The Staircase is a quick way to get PCs involved in an adventure, especially if they’re trying to reach someplace that the DM doesn’t want them coming back easily...”

Lillendi, werecreatures and shards (enchanted creatures made of fire and moonlight-I’m guessing they’re a FR thing) are the principal inhabitants of the Gates. The shards live in city named New Orleans Mahogany. Werecreatures are able to fully control their their transformations in this realm, and are never compelled to change their form against their will. The other magic condition of the realm is that daylight and light-based spells are subdued, and cannot cause harm to creatures.

There are two named NPCs of the realm. Ulena the Fox is an Lillendi and principal proxy of both Selune and Soma. She’s mostly interested in keeping out kill-happy Ysgardians. Ottar Long-Legs is a fat werebear that can serve as a good guide.

Merratet: Get your cat-ears out. Merratet is the realm of Bast, the Egyptian goddess of cats and everything cat-related. This entry is disjointed, with information and rules in places they normally aren’t in other Realm entries. For instance, whenever Bast is abroad (which is frequent) stewardship of the realm is held by a giant speaking panther named Skullbury “best known for stashing kills in the palace closets, wardrobes, and gardens.” In addition, Bast’s dreams are telepathically projected to everyone in the Realm. While her petitioners don’t mind this, visitors are disturbed by them. As a result, priests and wizards cannot regain spells unless they hire a dream hunter (20g a day, although towns in the realm will have one on retainer). Both Skullbury and the dreams are described in the first section of this entry, where normally important NPCs and special magical effects have separate sections in these entries. There’s also the catte-drawing below that screws up the formatting of one of the pages. Whatever I’m just being nitpicky again.

Merratet is located on the far side of a vast ocean on the border of Vanaheim. Bast’s personal abode is a vine-covered acropolis, and the rest of the realm consists of savannah, shrub-lands and desert. The realm has been a hiding spot for Loki and Bragi on occasions. Bast and her servants like to party, and many of Bast’s followers are Sensates. There are three towns in the realm, although the entry says that towns are rare because “petitioners rarely gather for fear of attracting notice of by prides or single stalkers.” The town of Rummm has discovered that great cats won’t attack you if you wear a mask on the back of your head, because they prefer to strike from behind. A “famous” pride of weretiger bandits called The Half Moon Tigers operate on the outskirts of the town. Their leader is called the White Shadow, and it’s at this point that I wonder if a freelance writer mixed up his submission to a White Wolf splatbook. The village of Eowr is run by celestial lammasu. The lammasu run a hospital, but they’re also really smug, and passive-aggressively encourage patients to switch to lawful-alignments. They’re certain that their irritated guests will return after they get into a fight with another soul-sucking fiend because what is healing magic? The oldest lammasu in the realm is named Shinora of the White Mane, and will talk the ear off of anyone who gives her the chance. The last town is Bresiris. It’s run by a rakshasa maharajah or a sorceress that turns visitors into were-panthers or both-it’s not really clear because a) the paragraph is being crowded by a cat picture and b) it’s written in that 90’s style of not even giving the DM clear information. In any case, dreams here are more vicious than the rest of the realm, though there aren’t any additional mechanical effects besides “eventually go insane”. Even the Dream Hunters are hard pressed to protect visitors, and whoever is in charge has killed or co-opted the ones in town.

Whether awake or asleep, visitors to this realm always have the impression of being stalked. If they don’t hire a Dream Hunter, then they’re constantly on edge. This causes their constitution to decline at a rate of 1 point a day. It also imposes a -3 to surprise rolls (the twitchiness makes distinguishing real threats from the background noise). Carnivores are not affected by this. Instead they dream of hunting and killing.

Dream Hunters are most often sphinxes, tabaxi, and a breed of house-cats called The Children of Bast. Besides guarding visitors from the effects of this realm, a Dream Hunter can “stalk and kill dreams, wyrds, fates, and prophecies. Mechanically, this works as a variant of the psionic powers Spirit Sense and Precognition. The best of the Dream Hunters is an Androsphinx named Mragatep. He’s described as relatively sociable for his kind, and is eager to find a Gynosphinx mate. So yeah, an adventure hook for PCs to get magic cats to fuck.

A dumb place overall, but it’s dumb in a fun way.

Vanaheim: Right, back to the Norse. Vanaheim is the home of the Vanir. This includes Frey, Feya, Uller and Njord. Frey and Freya of course are often hanging out in Alfheim or Asgard. There are a few subtle differences between the two Norse Realms. The inhabitants of Vanaheim are more into competitions and feats of strength than just straight murder-hoboing. Vanaheim is a foggy, coastal realm. There are two named sub-regions. Folkvang, or “Field of Folk” is where most of the petitioners’ hang out, and is where Freya’s hall Sussrumnir is located. Ydalir is a forest grove where Uller likes to hang out. Like Asgard, Vanaheim doesn’t have towns but great halls. Besides Sussrumnir the other great hall mentioned is Noatun, Njord’s hall on the shore of the ocean.

Vanaheim doesn’t have any special conditions. The sub-section simply reiterates that Petitioners are more into duels and formal competition than their cousins in Asgard. Of the named NPCs in the realm, the most unusual is Volund the Unruly. Volund is a dwarf with wizard levels, something that wasn’t allowed by 2nd Edition Rules. We’ll get into how he manages that later. The other NPCs are a ship-wright named Swanhild Prow-Gleam, and the Skald Torsten the Fair. The main watering hole for visitors is a shop/inn/bard college called Starry Night.

Skeinheim: Skeinheim is the stronghold of the Ring-Givers sect. The town is run by the sect’s factol, Ingwe Alting. There’s a long paragraph on who would be looking to succeed Ingwe, but these would-be successors aren’t trying to backstab each other and the factol isn’t old or anything, so it’s basically pointless fluff. Skeinheim is a testament to the strength of the Ring-Giver philosophy. While the hall looks unremarkable on the outside, inside the hall is lavishly decorated with gifts presented to the Ring-Givers over the years. In fact, the hall itself was a gift to the sect from the Fated! How the Ring-Givers pulled that off is a well-kept secret. However they did it, the Fated aren’t happy with the result, and so every man 13 and older are trained and armed to fend off attacks. Women will help in defense too “though they wield only kitchen knives and kindling axes.” Uhh, okay.

Geirmund of the Ring-Givers posted:

Strength to those who stumble, food to those who hugner.

Everything is free in Skeinheim, at least on the face of it. The dark of it is that giving shit out is how Ring-Givers get people in-debted to them. The Bargainers are actually insistent on giving stuff away, which results in them tossing about plot-hooks like Pinhead. The two adventure seeds involve finding an arsonist that has infiltrated the hall and finding out what is spooking the ratatosk on the nearby connection to Outlands.

Steadfast: The last location described in the first layer is an independent town located halfway between Asgard and Vanaheim. It is a fiercely independent town populated by those without ties to any other community in Ysgard. Steadfast is so independent in spirit that there is no formal ruler, and anyone that tries to make himself one gets scragged. There is an informal leader, a Bariaur named Arwen Ramsgate. Arwen is responsible for organizing a race for young rams and ewes of marriageable age. These races are Serious Business for the bariaurs. For instance, a week-long brawl once broke out because of a careless comment about the grooming of a contestant’s tail. The brawl destroyed 40 homes and set fire to the Red Stripe Stable and Tavern. “The tavern’s missed, but the smell of the stable still lingers.”

Ysgardian Proverb posted:

Better to wrestle a giant than lock horns with a Bariaur

Steadfast is in fact a Bariaur community. I think that’s something that should have been stated in the first paragraph. The town boomed chaotically once the Bariaur discovered that it was relatively safe from crazy petitioners. Steadfast is built with Bariaur in mind, so there are no chairs, and guests of any species have to make do with a bed of straw and a bucket of oats. The town can quickly be moved if necessary, and the Bariaur know how to defend themselves. The adventure seed involves a group of Hill Giants wanting to take a crack at the merchant life but think the best way to do that is kidnap a few Bariaur and force them to set them up in Steadfast’s makeshift markets.

On the second layer of Ysgard, the fiery underside of the landbergs face upward, creating a landscape that is perpetually on fire. This is where fire giants are most numerous in Ysgard The booklet describes this layer as one with “surly inhabitants, and warm, flat ale”.

Muspelheim: Like Olympus, the layer shares its name with the most prominent realm. In fact it is the only realm described. Surtr can be found here when he’s not in Jotunheim. Muspelheim has several conduits leading to the Plane of Fire, and efreeti and fire giants are on good terms with each other. Muspelheim is centered around a fiery mountain range (really, you can assume anything on this layer is fiery unless otherwise noted) called the Serpent’s Spine. Most of the fire giant clans make their homes in these mountains, constructing watchtowers and citadels for defense against both outsiders and their neighbors. Just below these peaks is Golden Mist, an unusually fertile region where giants actually engage in farming. Muspelheim has one body of ‘water’, the aptly named Lake of Lead. Muspelheim has one town of note, Njarlok, ruled by Svaling-Ofen the Fair. Svaling-Ofen’s beard is described as “lined with cunning.” Uh, what? The town is the source of a unique volcanic aquamarine. Finally there is the Spire of Surtr, an impossibly tall structure supported by magic. The one notable feature is that it’s inhabited by “soft, devout giant maidens” that are often the target of bridal rai-OKAY MOVING ON!

I dunno Tony, can you add more cunning to that beard?

So here’s the effects of the fires in Muspelheim the realm (and presumably the rest of the layer). Visitors suffer fire damage as they would on the Plane of Fire, although Muspelheim does have breathable air. The fires vary in colour, and this indicates how much damage they do. Black flames do 1d6 damage a round to the unprotected. Red, orange, and yellow are the most common hues, and these do 2d6 damage a round. Blue and purple flames do 3d6/round. Green fire, which is especially rare, does 4d6 damage/round, but also hardens the skin of any creature that can withstand the flames for 10 rounds (-1 bonus to AC). White flames do 7d6/round, and blind anyone that can’t protect their vision (such as a darkness spell or equivalent). Wounding and sharpness weapons lose their special qualities because wounds are instantly cauterized in the heat. Spells that create any amount of water instead have the combined effects of fireball and shout, releasing a concussive blast of steam in an area of 10 feet radius per spell level. The noise can be heard for miles around.

All the important NPCs in the realm are fire giants, or ‘fire’ giants for one. Crazy Ingmar is a barmy frost giant who believes he’s a fire giant. He wears a ring of fire resistance, and is accompanied by an old wolf named Rednose. Rednose is basically doing the second act of Ol’ Yeller, but he’s kept his master alive up till now. Glammand the Noisy is the Forgemaster of the Forges of Surtr, which supplies giant-sized arms and armor to the giants of Ysgard. Glammand oversees a huge contingent of slaves to make enough gear to meet supply. Like Jotunheim, there isn’t a lot here to interest non-giants.

Nidavellir means “Dark Home” and is the third layer of Ysgard. On this layer, the earthbergs are packed closely together, creating a shifting subterranean landscape. Nidavellir is home to two warring realms, Nidavellir (again with realms and layers sharing names) and Svartalfheim.

Nidavellir: Nidavellir the realm is the home of the Ysgardian dwarves and gnomes. While there isn’t a particular Norse deity that is their patron, Muamman Duathal from TSR’s dwarf pantheon, visits this realm and keeps an eye on the inhabitants. There are a few that claim that the actual power of the realm is Hod the Blind, a Norse god of smithcraft who was exiled after the Norns foresaw that he would make the mistletoe spear that would kill Baldur. Norse dwarves are basically regular D&D dwarves, although they’re usually chaotic aligned instead of lawful aligned-with no appreciable change in how they act. The major difference is that norse dwarves can become wizards. Their level cap is 16, which is the same as elves. The norse dwarves are divided into two sub-races, the Durin and Modsognor. Rule-wise there’s no different, but Durin dwarves will make make magic weapons for outsiders. While their prices are steep (10,000gp minimum), in 2nd edition being able to just buy magic items was a rarity.

Vinndalf of the Ysgardian Dwarves posted:

If you aren’t the hammer, some berk’ll think you’re an anvil.

All light in Nidavellir is dampened, so you need infravision to see. There’s some in-setting theorizing on why this is so that is actually a joke of quantum mechanics, so that’s worth the word count. The largest community in Nidavellir is the manufactory Ashbringer (also called the Great Bellows and the Chorus of Ringing Anvils). Ashbringer is supported by a network of mineshafts, the greatest of them is Verkelheim. After they are played out, abandoned mineshafts often become infested with underground monsters. The dwarves make regular sweeps to clear out these invaders, partly to protect the realm but mostly to test out their new weapons. There are three important NPCs named in this entry. Albreich the Fire Tamer is the king of the dwarves. He’s ruled for seven hundred years and has kept his subjects from killing each other over petty rivalries despite being a duplicitous bastard in his own right. The booklet comments that Albreich would fit right in if he ever moved to Sigil. Audumla the Giant Slayer is a priestess of Dumathion. Despite her name, Audumla is probably the most reasonable of the high-ups. Finally there is Bergelmir Fire-eye, the most fanatical of the raiders sent to attack Svartalfheim. His company is called the Ice Born, for how ruthless they are.

Svartalfheim: If you took Drizzt Do'urden and changed him into a place, you’d get Svartalfheim. The dwarves of Nidavellir are convinced that the drow are a vanguard for an invasion by Lolth, but the truth is these drow just want to be left alone. Svartalfheim is a secretive realm, and as such it’s unclear who the resident Power is (if their is one). Most likely though it’s Eilistraee, the goddess of Drizzt clones good-aligned drow. Svartalfheim is warmed by sulphurous springs and underground geysers, which supports an ecosystem of strange trees that do not need sunlight. Unlike Nidavellir, the realm is filled with a silvery light, dimmer than the glow of Alfheim but enough to illuminate the tunnels and caverns. Svartalfheim magically enhances acoustics. Bards can use their abilities as if they were 3 levels higher, and all visitors can sing ‘adequately’ in the realm. The drow have decorated the realm extensively with semi-precious gems and metals like mica and pyrite. So everything looks pretty but has no monetary value. My theory is the residents don’t want to give murderhobos any extra reasons to crash the realm.

is unbound by alignment

Svartalfheim has two capitals. Dokkar is the commercial capital, and is crowded even compared to Sigil. The most interesting quirk is that none of the merchants haggle. Instead they examine each buyer before giving a price from which they will not budge. Visitors can’t help but suspect that there’s some secret way to bargain with them. Dokkar is home to the realm’s leaders, a fighter/thief named General Jan Thorisen and his consort Dagmaer Atheling. While Jan is respected, Dagmaer is beloved by the drow for representing peak OC donut steel the best aspects of their race. Yggwyrd is the spiritual capital, and in contrast to Dokkar isn’t inhabited by any living residents save for a powerful witch-mistress named Ingrid Liansdottir. Yggwyrd means “City of the Ancestors” and contains shrines to every elven god, hero, master bard and saint. When a Drow of Svartlfheim dies, he’s brought to this city to be interred, and here their spirit can be communed with by his descendants. Yggwyrd is guarded by a variety of spectral undead (banshees, haunts, ghosts), who will attack any non-drow that tries to enter the city. Svartalfheim does have a conduit to the Lower Planes called Elkhound’s Gate. It is guarded by two fighter/mage brothers named Leif and Olaf Persson. Leif and Olaf prevent fiends from entering the realm, but don’t care if bashers use the gate to reach the Lower Planes (though they do give advice to anyone that looks really clueless.) The one other notable NPC is Majarenna the Dancing Priestess, the greatest of the realm’s raider against the dwarves. Majarenna has never killed an opponent, but instead pulls off thefts and pranks on the humorless residents of Nidavellir.

And that’s it for the DM’s guide! There are two additional booklets in the box. One is a collection of adventure seeds, and the other is the Monstrous Supplement.

Next time: It’s just a fraction of a box set and I already miss Tony

Chaos Adventures

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Chaos Adventures

We’re in the home stretch of this box set. The next booklet presents fifteen adventure ideas set in the Chaos Planes. There are three for each Plane, one low-level, one medium, and one high. Of course since this is 2nd edition, “medium” is defined as levels four through seven and “high” means levels 8 and higher. Unlike stand-alone adventure modules, these are not fully detailed adventures that a DM can run out of the box. Instead they are somewhere between those modules and L5R’s “Challenge-Focus-Strike” plot summaries (or CFS).

The intro pages reiterates that Planescape should not just be explorable by characters of any level, but that such characters have something to do while visiting and not just be spectators. Another point that the intro emphasises is that the Upper Planes have as many opportunities for adventure as the Lower Planes.

As mentioned, these aren’t fully fleshed out adventures. What’s provided are the general plot points, the ways to get players involved, what motivates the NPCs, and what likely choices the players will make. Not included are the stat blocks for monsters and NPC, maps, or treasure. The adventure ideas are presented with the assumption that the DMs are experienced enough to fill in these details. It’ interesting choice of what to prioritize. While these outlines take up less space than the usual D&D adventure module, they’re still pretty lengthy compared to the CFSs mentioned above. If a DM is experienced, than needing motivations or identities of NPCs laid out for him won’t be necessary, because he’s more likely going to change them out to characters he’s already introduced to the campaign. On the other hand, the booklet seems to think that DMs have all the tools they need to make their own custom NPCs. If it had been up to myself, I would have used the space here to flesh out NPCs that probably won’t be mentioned in any other module.

On the artwork front, there are some drawing from previous books by Tony Di’Trezelli, but a majority of the artwork here is from Dana Knutson. His art ranges from unremarkable to pretty dire. At least it provides an easy

Since these are just outlines, there’s no point in running a hypothetical party through them or pick them apart for inconsistencies. Instead I’ll just provide a summary of the adventure (which are actually included in the booklet), with a few extra comments if I feel like it.

The Abyss
Arsenic (low) “The owner of an Abyssal inn has set out poison to get rid of a pack of cranium rats, but now the rats have stolen the poison and are using it on the unsuspecting guests.” The summary recommends at least one PC know the slow poison spell. The set up is that the PCs arrive at the inn (somewhere in the Abyss or near Plaguemort, probably Plain of Infinite Portals) after dinner has been served but before the poison takes effect. There’s some leftovers for the PCs to poison themselves, but the booklet just assumes that the PCs will take the food. It seems this hook only works if the players have already made it a habit to eat at whatever inn they stop at. And if I was a player and the DM suddenly began focusing on how hungry my character was, I’d just hide in my room with my dry rations. Now to the adventure’s credit, it recommends not following the rules for poison in the DMG since the PCs didn’t receive a full dose. Now back to the plot. As the patrons start feeling the effects of the poison, their suspicions turn to the few Tanar’ri present, the adventure now suggests that the PCs may jump to this conclusion and join the mob in attacking the fiends. The booklet says to have NPCs get between players and the Tanar’ri, but unless these are Dretches the more likely outcome is the entire inn gets wiped. Putting that scenario aside, eventually the PCs should spot a cranium rat dragging a powder from one of the sacks of flour, and from here they can solve the mystery. Or they could just let the place burn to the ground.

Wicked, Wicked Ways (mid) “A githzerai member of The Fated asks the PCs to help him get to The Abyss “to destroy an evil amulet.” Once there, the githzerai strings the the PCs along while secretly consolidating a new power base for his people. It falls to the PCs to realize what he is doing and to escape before his machinations get them into a planeful of trouble”. The githzerai, named Silonius Greél, plan is to seize a Tanar’ri Fortress and hold it long enough to get other ‘zerai to come to his aid. The amulet is the key, which he peeled off a Tanar’ri Lord dwelling in Sigil. Now he just needs to get to the fortress before the Lord (named Volisupula) catches up to him. Now if you ask me, usurping an Abyssal stronghold sounds like a pretty rad idea, but the adventure seems to assume that the PCs would rather make themselves scarce before Greél gets scragged. At least the summary leaves open the possibility that the PCs stay and ‘zerai reinforcements arrive, but it also suggests that Greél can just be delusional and the PCs get captured “leading to further adventures.” If you ask me, this reads like an adventure that’s meant for a much higher party than suggested.

The Book of Lies (high) “The PCs ‘acquire’ a magical tome from the Dustmen. Titled the Book of Lies, the tome contains every untruth ever uttered. But the PCs learn such knowledge can be less a boon than a curse.” At the start of the adventure, the Dustmen are keeping the book in a fortress on Thanatos, the 113rd layer. A Convert has recently left the Dustmen and joined the Sensates, and has both the means and motive to steal the book. The Convert is named “Mefisto the Bald”, who has the same name as an NPC from Azzagrat but it’s unclear if they’re supposed to be the same character. Mefisto offers to sell what he knows to the PCs-a map to the destination, disguises, and passwords to get into the fortress. The portal from Sigil to Thanatos leaves them some distance from the fortress, which is a pretty common trope in Planescape adventures. The point of this conceit is to show off each of the weird locations. Whether it has the desired effect probably depends on what DM is running it. The book itself is not particularly well guarded inside the fortress, and the Dustmen are not fanatical about protecting it. The Book itself works by saying someone’s name out loud and opening the book, wherein it lists all the lies that person told in chronological order. Assuming the Book doesn’t cause an impromptu game of Paranoia to break out, if the PCs are canny enough to check the name of their contact, they’ll discover that Mefisto sold the fact that the PCs have retrieved the book to everyone in Sigil. In fact, the adventure suggests that due to the divisiveness it engenders, the PC’s best course of action would be to return it to the Dustmen. No info is given if the PCs want to destroy the Book instead.


Nuts (low) “The PCs are caught unexpectedly between two local tribes of creatures. How they respond to the situation will shape the very future of the region.” Specifically, a bariaur clan living in Arborea near a branch of Yggdrasil have become the target of pranks by a target of ratatosks. The PCs arrive at the Bariaur village (why are the PCs here?) to see a group of armed bariaur angrily waving weapons at chittering ratatosks perched on the roofs. The two groups notice the PCs and ask them to arbitrate their dispute. It’s pretty railroad-y, as the PCs are surrounded by both groups as they each explain their side of the story, and the two parties will run them down if they try to leave. Now earlier the adventure stated that the ratatosks were trapped on the rooftops by the bariaur, so I would have them run the fuck away when the bariaur ran up to the PCs. As for the specifics of the dispute, no details are given as to what pranks the ratatosks were playing, instead the argument never gets beyond a typical day on the I/P Discussion Thread. The default assumption is that the PCs will leave one group unhappy, but it leaves open the chance the players can find a solution that makes everyone happy.

I regret leaving the Monster Supplement for last

Party Reservations (mid) “While traveling in Arborea, the PCs come across a band of bacchae and are faced with the choice of running from them, fighting them, or joining them.” The book notes right off the bat that if the PCs go with the murder-hobo option, then this just becomes a particularly hard encounter. Presumably, the PCs are traveling through Arborea to a location that they’d rather not see trashed by bacchae (as well as a place the bacchae could trash). The outline says the Bacchae crash the PC’s camp at night, and amongst other frat-like behavior, the bacchae will aggresively pursue party members of the opposite sex. Okay, I’m done with this outline.

Treasure For The Taking (high) “The PCs discover a Titan’s ruined stronghold, filled with loot for those bold enough to take it from the guardians inside. Unfortunately, their invasion causes the Titan himself to escape his age-old imprisonment in Carceri and head back to punish those who robbed him.” This is basically a dungeon crawl set in a secluded region of Arborea. The Titan’s name is Polyphemos, not to be confused with Polyphemus from The Odessey. The crawl climaxes with the PCs inadvertently releasing the Titan and either giving back all the loot they took (hah!) or fighting the Titan.


Street Crew (low) “The PCs must discover the secret behind the mysterious changes in a halfling’s hamlet.” Remember that place I briefly ranted a few entries back? That’s the setting for this adventure. One of the dissatisfied youth has discovered that she’s an Anarch, and after leaving for a while to learn how to use her powers, she’s returned to throw the hamlet into chaos. Of course, the PCs get wrapped up in her mischief, which culminates in a Chaos Beast sneaking into the village. The idea is that the PCs can try to fight off the monster for a while but ultimately the Anarch has to defeat the beast by giving away her abilities. The problem with this is that a Chaos Beast is a pretty big fuck-you encounter even at the intended level. Against a low level party, the Anarch has to act right away or the party is going to be crippled if not wiped. Ultimately, the only agency the PCs have is talking the villagers and the Anarch from going full Carrie.

Deliverance (mid) “Most trips to Limbo involve traveling to some stabilized terrain. But in this adventure, the PCs have to slog their way through the ‘soup,’ trying to find a particular slaadi chieftan in order to deliver a message of power.” The premise of this mission is balls. A town is being attacked by Slaadi, and hope to stop the raids by killing their leader, a Gray Slaad. The PCs are not that hero. Instead, it’s some other guy that doesn’t want to be bothered with going cross-country through Limbo. The PCs part is to deliver a magic device that summons our lazy DMPC to the Gray Slaad. Really, fuck this adventure.

Steal Town (high) “The PCs must travel to the Floating City, spiritual home of the reclusive and humorless githzerai people, to discover the source of disruptions on the Astral Plane”. It’s a well established back that Wizards have no sense of Right and Wrong, and Githzerai are no different. These wizards have created a special guidon that draws Githyanki from the Astral Plane into a Courtyard in the Floating City where they can be conveniently killed by waiting soldiers. The device has the side effect of creating unprecedented numbers of conduits in the Astral that dump travellers randomly about the Outer Planes. The PCs can either discover the disturbances from rumors or get hired to destroy the guidon. The whole thing is meant to culminate in a big fight against the Githzerai while trying to figure out how to destroy the Guidon. But its is rather pointless because if the PCs fail but manage to escape, the Githzerai shut it down to prevent its discovery. So a PC just has to show up the Floating City, yell “ ANYONE KNOW WHERE I CAN FIND A DEVICE THAT MESSES WITH THE ASTRAL?” and then leave.


A Mouse-Eye’s View (low) “The PCs land in Winter’s Hall - Loki’s Realm - and must find their way out before the giants there wake.” The adventure starts with the PCs lost in Pandemonium (not hard) and wander into the above realm. A pack of ravenous wolves drive the PCs towards The Trickster’s great hall. When the PCs get in, they discover that it’s inhabited by giants, wolves, and various canine monsters. The adventure outline assumes that the main concern of the PCs will be surviving the cold, but rules for hypothermia are neither in this adventure or the realm’s description in the last book. I guess they may be in the the DMG. In any case, the PCs will eventually meet a normal-sized petitioner that can give them suitable clothing. The final part of the adventure is sneaking out without waking the Giants, but the rules don’t seem to favor the PCs-too many Dexterity Checks in an edition that tries to guilt you into making character by rolling 3d6 down the line and the Thief Class is absolute garbage. And unlike other adventures, no consideration is taken to if the PCs fail to get out.

Hoards of Treasure (mid) “The PCs travel to the town of Windglum on Pandemonium’s third layer to investigate an unexpected “gold rush” of treasures coming from that area.” Spoilers: It’s dragons. Specifically young Green Dragons that inherited their hordes after their mother got killed by a native of Pandemonium. Now right off the bat the adventure says that a green dragons’ alignment matches the Plane, which is wrong (greens have been Lawful Evil since at least 2nd edition). Then it suggests that even a young dragon’s hoard is too much treasure to give characters- OH FUCK YOU, TSR! IT’S YOUR FAULT THAT EVERY GROGNARD AND THEIR NECKBEARD CAN’T STOP FELLATING 3RD EDITION! AS BROKEN AS THAT SYSTEM WAS, WHEN IT CAME OUT IT FELT LIKE THE FUCKING ENLIGHTENMENT COMPARED TO 2ND EDITIONS INSISTENCE ON STINGY REWARDS AND DICKING PLAYERS AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY! *breath* Sorry bout that. So yeah, a dragon hunt on the Outer Planes, which here means lots of trekking through Pandemonium and surviving the environment before getting to the actual monster.

Mad Dog (high) “The PCs learn that battling even a forgotten god down on his luck is more than most mortals can handle.” This adventure outline pits the PCs against Gorellik, the declining Gnoll god who wanders between The Abyss and Pandemonium, fighting whoever he encounters. Recently he’s ranged too close to the Madhouse, and the Matron has put out the call for adventurers to investigate the recent upswing in violent killings near her burg. The identity is meant to be a surprise, and I guess in pre-internet days it was possible for an adventuring group to not know what they were getting into. Now despite the set up, this is not an opportunity for the PCs to get the Deicide achievement. See this is just the Avatar of Gorellik, and if it’s defeated he’ll just form a new one some time later. That-that feels like such a cop out. No one fucking cares about Gorellik! I know this was the kind of gameplay you wanted to avoid, Planescape writers, but you can spare a couple pages for some high-end Murderhobo action. Speaking of which...



Snipe Hunt (low) “The PCs are sent from Sigil to Ysgard by their factol. Their mission is a strange one: They are to bring back a yule log from the hearth of three different halls in Asgard. Trouble is, the Asgardians don’t want to give up their logs.” So in this adventures the PCs go Christmas shopping! And to start them off, the portal from Sigil puts them in a bear cave complete with bear. Each three hall has a different challenge associated with it, some more achievable than others (one requires the party having a combined 60 strength-hope your party is all fighters!) The most interesting is killing a hall full of petitioners, then as they try to return to Sigil dawn comes and the petitioners pop right back up to fight them again. As for what the Factol needed 3 yule logs for is left to the DM

The Hammer and the Serpent (mid) “When the PCs learn that Minions of Set have stolen an item from one of the Norse powers, they are sent to prevent the item from reaching its destination in Nephythys’s temple.” I feel like if this had been written 4 years in the future it’d be a jab at John Wick “Our samurai viking honor says we must show hospitality to these obviously evil people. Oh no, the obviously evil people took advantage of our hospitality, who could have known?” Overall not a bad adventure, but a sad lack of murderhoboing.

The Fires of Ysgard (high) “The PCs must stop a mad valkyrie who intends to make a pre-emptive strike and begin Ragnarok.” I’ve seen the ‘prevent Ragnarok’ plot in multiple media and it always strikes me as strange. “Hey Odin, someone trying to start Ragnarok!” “Is Balder dead yet?” “Uh, no.” “Does this plot involve stabbing Balder with Mistletoe?” “Nope.” “Nothing to worry about, back to drinking!” One twist I would add to the Norse in Planescape is that the Powers benefit from the Plane’s resurrecting powers, only its spread out over centuries instead of the next day. Back to this adventure. There are no stats for a valkyrie in this box’s monstrous supplement, and I don’t remember there being one in the Monster Manual. Where a DM can find their stats isn’t mentioned anywhere in this box set.

Conclusion: None of these adventure ideas are unsalvageable. With some modification, I’d include them. But that just gets back to the point I made at the beginning of this update. A DM is already going to be customizing these adventures to fit their campaign, so going into details about what NPCs should say when is pointless. Compare this to a typical Challenge-Focus-Strike from L5R, in which the PCs are visited by the fortune Osano-Wo who tells them to investigate a temple being run by a corrupt monk. It takes 1/9th of a page to explain, depending on the formatting, and the story can incorporated into any L5R game, no matter the edition, the time it takes place, or what sort of game the GM is running. The extra details these outlines have add nothing that a good DM wouldn’t already be doing, and while one of these outlines might help a bad DM get better, 15 of them aren’t 15 times more effective.

Next Time: Just put ‘chaos’ in front of the name and call it a day.

Monster Supplement

posted by SirPhoebos Original SA post

Planescape: Planes of Chaos - Monster Supplement

Abyssal Lords are unique Tanar’ri of incredible power, usually controlling an entire layer of The Abyss. Abyssal Lords are better able to hold back their tempers than your typical Tanar’ri, and can plot and scheme as well as any Baatezu. The Monster Supplement for Planes of Chaos has two Abyssal Lords: Graz’zt (43,000 xp) and Pazrael (38,000 xp). Graz’zt is a tall humanoid Lord with six fingers on each hand, and Pazrael is a bird dude. Both have a full list of base attributes in their entries. Graz’zt’s combat abilities are geared towards spellcasting, while Pazrael’s are meant for melee combat. There’s a description of their followers and resources,which is basically a summary of their realm’s entries in DM’s booklet. Finally it talks about their long term goals. Graz’zt has several schemes on the Prime Material, including fathering the demigod Iuz from the Greyhawk setting, and is more interested in messing with other Abyssal Lords than participating in the Blood War. In contrast, Pazrael doesn’t have much of anything going on except being wary that Graz’zt is trying to take over his layer.

Asrai (120 - 420 xp) are water nymphs that live in Beastlands, Arborea and Ysgard. Evil aquatic creatures and Slaadi hunt them because they’re dicks. They can use hypnotic pattern in self defense. Can’t say that I find them all that interesting.

We’ve heard a lot about the Bacchae (270 xp). The number appearing is 8d8. They can tear away items if they succeed on an attack roll by 4 or more (their THAC0 is 19, which is about +1 base attack in later editions), but there’s no rule to determine what items get torn away. Items that are torn away must make a saving throw versus crushing blow or be torn to shreds, and this save must be rolled twice. Bacchae can go into a blood frenzy, which gives them +2 to damage and attack and +1 to initiative. Bacchae are immune to enchantment and charm spells, and can shadow walk as a group. Overall they seem like a pain in the ass to fight. Alternatively, adventurers can join the Bacchae in their revelry, but risk becoming Bacchae themselves. It takes level 6 spells and higher to change PCs back.

Chaos Beasts (2,000 xp + 1,000 per additional HD) do not have any particular form. Chaos Beasts inflict a condition called Corporeal Instability. Any time another creature contacts the flesh of a Chaos Beast with its own, it must make a Save vs Death Magic. This includes any attacks by the Chaos Beast and even attacks on it by melee weapons (though these get a bonus to the saving throw). Chaos Instability has numerous effects that can be summarized with “roll a new character.”

So who wants more fishmalk monsters? Nobody? Well too bad, meet the Chaos Imp (175 xp), who have a brief fiction where they screw over a Mercykiller. They can meld with non-living objects and can change their form to anything else as long as it’s non-magical. Magic items target by imps get a saving throw based on the bonus they confer or powers they have) Also they can talk while in this form. Chaos Imps seek to escape from Limbo, and once they think they’ve left, they play pranks, like turning weapons into party favors just as combat begins, because that’s so hilarious

The trolls of Ysgard are known as Fensir (xp varies, 35 for young to 2,000 for lvl 12 mages). They are more intelligent and cultured than normal D&D trolls. The monster entry is mostly about their lifestyle, and it’s actually pretty interesting, if poorly organized. I wouldn’t be surprised if this entry was originally from a Dragon Magazine article. I’d linger over them, but we have nine more entries to go

The entry for the Howler (975 xp) is broken up by an insane bubber trying to find meaning in their baying. Because it’s the 90s and fuck formatting! They are dog-like creatures native to Pandemonium that can be tamed and mounted, as the picture shows. In combat, they can charge for an initial combat bonus, and can stick opponents with quills that impose an attack penalty until removed (which takes 1d6 rounds). When a Howler howls, it immediately forces a check on the Madness rules, although this doesn’t move the madness past Stage 3 since it isn’t as strong as Pandemonium’s winds (which doesn’t make any sense since the last step is the character learning to cope with the noise, not descend deeper into madness).

Lillendi (9,000 xp) are half angel, half snake. Their top half can be male or female, but I’ve only ever seen them depicted as naked chicks. Go figure. Lillend are native to Ysgard, but can be found in Arborea, Limbo and the Prime Material. They’re mostly found around the Gates of the Moon and act as servants to various Moon Deities. have the abilities of a 7th level bard along with a number of spell-like ability (including Otto’s Irresistible Dance 1/day). Lillend have a bunch of immunities, including all enchantment/charm spells. Physically, they get a tail constrict attack and have rules for picking up and dropping enemies, even though I’m sure rules for falling damage are in the 2nd edition DMG. There are rules for Lillendi over-eating. Yep.

Another creepy monster from Pandemonium, the Murska (1,400 xp). Murska are large carnivorous beetles that not only wear the flesh of their last kill, but also absorbs part of its intelligence, including mannerisms and memories. If it’s last prey was sapient, a Murska can become a very dangerous predator. Their pincer attacks for 2d12 and holds a victim, doing 2d6 on subsequent rounds. Murska cannot be charmed or dominated, and are immune to gas attacks (not that those are effective on Pandemonium). They take half damage from fire, but suffer a -2 penalty for saves against cold attacks.

Oread (420 xp, or 10,000 xp for Snowhair) are the guardian spirits of mountains, serving a similar role that dryads do in forests. They are found in Arborea, Beastlands and Ysgard Oread have a song that has an extra potent charm effect on anyone that hears it (spell save at -3). Aside from these servants, Oreads befriend mountain creatures to fight on their behalf. Besides their song, most of an Oread’s magic abilities are for escaping combat. The Snowhair are an elder variant of the Oread that protects an entire mountain range. Snowhair have a bunch more HD, additional spells powers, and can petrify with a touch. A group of seven Snowhairs is said to be the guardian spirit of Mount Olympus itself.

Ratatosks (175 - 650 xp) are intelligent, humanoid flying squirrels that live on the branches of Yggdrasil. They attack in groups, and can use a dive to attack with its front and back claws for double damage. While gliding, Ratatosk can dodge missiles by rolling their current hit points or less on a 1d20. Ratatosk can fight with weapons. Ratatosk packs are lead by an alpha male and female that are bigger than their kin (they get an extra HD and do more damage). These leaders are called Fireholders, as they care for the pack’s single firepot. Ratatosks can also become priests of Yggdrasil and can reach 7th level. Ratatosk worship Yggdrasil as a god, and have their own legends surrounding it and tell every other mythology to go stuff it. These are definitely my favorite new creatures.

There are two new types of Tanar’ri in the Monster Supplement. The first one is the Armanite (2,000, 7,000, and 14,000 xp), a lesser Tanar’ri that resemble undead centaurs with bull horns. Armanite act as mobile shock troops in the Blood War. They can fight with weapons or charge with their horns. Once per day, Armanite can gallop into the sky for an hour. Standard Armanite can charge their ranged weapons with electricity, adding 2d8 electrical damage. Armanite pack leaders are known as Kneecht, and can add this damage to its melee attacks as well. Above Kneecht are Konsul, who can also cast an 11d6 lightning bolt 3/day and can become 8th level mages or 5th level priests. Armanite have the standard Tanar’ri spell powers immunities and resistances, but suffer 3d6 damage from holy water and 1d6 damage from the splash. Armanite packs are often selected to undertake special missions for Abyssal Lords.

Goristro (23,000 xp) are custom designed to be servants of Abyssal Lords-big enough to act as siege engines, enough detection magic to be bodyguards, but too dumb to do anything else. Goristroi get two attacks for 6d4+6 each, and can make a stamping attack that does 5d8 damage to everything within 6 feet. A Goristro has 20 HD, and gets +6 hp for each dice. A Goristro’s hp is pretty implicitly it’s meat - sorry theironjef - since a Goristro with more hit points is not only taller but needs stronger than normal magical weapons to hit. Goristro usually have a means for their master to directly control them. Without direct command or supervision, a Goristro will just wander off and break stuff.

Also known as the Abyssal Bat, Varrangion are intelligent bat-like creatures native to The Abyss. They come in six Roman numeral types, with types I through IV being lesser (2,000 xp) and type V and VI are greater (6,000 xp). The difference between the lesser types is the type of breath weapon they have. Lesser Varrangion are vulnerable to sunlight and light-based spells. The type V Varrangion can go beserk and have spell abilities, resistances and immunities that allow it to fly up to an adventurer’s face and rip it off, while type VI Varrangion can cast spells as a 9th level wizard and even use wands. Both greater and lesser Varrangion have their own custom treasure table.

The Viper Tree (420 to 7,000 xp) is a tree with snakes in place of branches. They are most common in Graz’zt’s realm, but can be found in Carceri and the Grey Wastes too. Viper Trees have between 2 and 9 HD, and get one attack per HD. Each attack has a powerful venom that has -3 on poison save checks. A failed save reduces dexterity by 4 permanently and immobilizes for 48 hours. On a success, the victim loses 4 dex for 48 hours. Viper Trees are immune to cold, venom and acid attacks, but take double damage from fire. If attacked from range, Viper Trees can detach its branches. These die after an hour, but have the same hp as their parent (even though it had only a portion of its hp while attached). Viper Trees will attack Baatezu armies, but allow Tanar’ri to freely pass. For whatever reason, the Harmonium somehow polled Viper Trees to find out what they like to eat. It’s an amusing entry (“Only 1 in 10 Viper Trees was able to overwhelm the Harmonium Questioner”) I think someone mixed up their factions. This seems more like something the Fraternity of Order would do. Hardhead would just torch Viper Trees without a second thought.

And that conclude Planes of Chaos. What I do next I’ll discuss in a separate post.