To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Welcome to the jungle baby! The Beastlands is where animals and petitioners who want to protect/preserve nature go when they die on the prime planes. The inhabitants on this plane live in a kind of harmony, where every is expected to respect the balance of nature. Surprising most first-time visitors, animals on this plane are quite intelligent, and with the capacity to speak (although not all understand common, leading to the occasional miscommunication; you try sounding diplomatic when you’re a bear). Many berks wrongly see the Beastlands as a kind of hunting ground, and the plane has a name for them: “food”.
This plane is divided into three layers. The first, Krigala, is constantly bathed in a warm (although uncomfortable to be in after long periods of time) light and sees a small amount of rain daily. This place is therefore heaven to plants, many of which grow to incredible sizes without any magical aid. Nany herbavores can be found roaming here during the day. Brux is a layer where the light and temperature drops to more comfortable level, and the ample shade makes this a place where many animals relax and sleep in. Karasuthra, the final layer, is a realm of eternal night. The most dangerous predators exist here, hidden from sight by the layer’s insistence that only moonlight may shine in this plane.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Borders: Arborea, Elysium
Connected by: Faunel (Outlands), the River Oceanus.
Planar features: Normal gravity, time, and magic, although sources of light function badly on Karasuthra.
OK, first of all I gotta say, ‗cos I understand that this is going to be in print, so no-one will see me, that I‘m a fox. Reddish fur, four legs, in any other place would make noises a bit like a dog. But I‘m from the Beastlands, and that means I can talk, because all animals from the Beastlands can talk. Even dogs. Though I gotta say, why you‘d want to listen to a dog I can‘t imagine. Between you and me, they‘re not all that smart. Got you two-legged folk fooled, but they‘re really pretty dumb. Keep on talking about sticks for some reason.
So, you want to know about the Beastlands. The ultimate wildlife experience, with the emphasis on wildlife. I‘m gonna make one thing clear, just so no one sends any curses my way later. The Beastlands don‘t really care for visitors. Nothing personal, but here the best life is the one uninterrupted. Those that live here mostly want to be left to their own devices, and they see nothing wrong with keeping life simple. Natural. Some even regard anything too fancy or artificial as corruptive, good intentions or not, since it tricks people into thinking they need more than they do and losing sight of what really matters. I‘m not judging anyone, but outsiders better mind the plane‘s rules, as it‘ll fight you every step of the way if you try to introduce anything that don‘t fit in. Being a fox and all, I‘m pretty content with things as they are.
The Beastlands are unusual, even for the planes. First off, the petitioners are like me. Well, not all foxes. But animals of some sort. The souls of animals are drawn here when they die to serve their lord and learn the way of things before being reincarnated. What to eat, how to raise young, all that. Not sure how it works, but there‘s also spirits for the trees, rivers, mountains, and maybe everything else. They don‘t share the same proclivity for talking, but I know a few druids that claim to hear them in the rustle of leaves, flow of water, and stuff like that. Course, more than a few have gone crazy when they experience firsthand just how alive the Beastlands are, so believe what you like.
Anyways, most other petitioners are transformed into animals too, or at least lycanthropes. You could go weeks without running into a two-leg; those that survive here are the ones happy to live in the wilderness and show proper respect. Others… well, they‘re in trouble. Those are the ones who‘ve heard the other name for the plane, the Happy Hunting Grounds, and got the wrong idea. They think they‘re coming here to hunt some dumb animal. Well, there ain‘t any dumb animals round here. We can talk, we can think, and we‘re smart. We ain‘t gonna wander along and go “oh look, here‘s some meat just sitting on the ground with a rope lying around it, I think I‘ll go up and have a nibble.” As often as not, those folk find that they‘re the ones who get hunted. And the dumbest of the lot come to Karasuthra to hunt. Take it from me, there are things in the darkness that you don‘t want to meet. Round here, if something goes bump in the night, it‘s usually pretty closely followed by a scream.
Now then, there are three layers, each defined by the positions of the sun, Selera, and the moon, Noctos. Krigala‘s the first layer, land of eternal noon, and folks I‘ve met say it‘s always about midday there. Not sure how a day has a middle, but apparently it‘s important to you two-legs. I don‘t get there much because the temperature doesn‘t really suit me, but I can tell you a thing or two. The place is intense, with huge patches of desert and arid grassland taking up most of the layer, while on both sides of the River Oceanus are the thickest rainforests you‘re ever gonna find. Not even the darkest storm clouds will block Selera‘s light or the heaviest cover shelter against her heat, though, and Krigala has all types of odd beasts that have no right existing in the natural state of things as far as I can tell. Not all are bad, though; Ehlonna‘s realm, the Grove of Unicorns, and Skerrit‘s Glade, home to the centaur god, are peaceful places tucked deep in the forests with their share of friendly faces.
The second layer is Brux, land of never-ending twilight. There the sun and moon are evenly balanced in the sky; Selera is still visible over the horizon, but her brother Noctos can be seen as a half-moon opposite her, absorbing much of Selera‘s light. Thus, Brux is much cooler and there are long comfortable shadows everywhere. I‘m told that some people find that pretty disturbing, though I can‘t see why. Still, most of the native two-legs live here: the winged-elves known as the avariel have their nest-towns amongst the trees, while tribes of wild elves occupy the mist-covered land. There‘s also a fair number of hybrid and were-creatures with their own niche communities. You know, catfolk and werecats, bearfolk and werebears. I hear they‘re a rare sight on other planes, and I suppose it‘s natural they‘d feel most at home here. Never really spent much time with any of them, but I don‘t have any problems with the ones that aren‘t actually, you know, evil. Just ‘cause the Beastlands are one of the Upper Planes doesn‘t mean it‘s lacking some savage and downright malevolent creatures.
I mostly live on the third layer, Karasuthra. This is Noctos‘ domain, and here the moon sits in the middle of the sky reflecting only a faint amount of his brother‘s light and absorbing the rest. How much illumination there is depends on the phase of the moon; decently bright at full moon, but more or less pitch black when the moon‘s dark, and not much can change that. Noctos doesn‘t like competition, and he‘ll drain the energy out of most other light sources. I told ya what‘s isn‘t natural don‘t belong, and here that includes torches, campfires, and certain magics too. Which is fine by me. I guess the layer is the most unpleasant of the three for other folk, though. There‘s a lot of things here that hunt in the dark, and most of them, you don‘t want to be caught by.
Well, that‘s the general layout. Getting around the plane is pretty easy. There‘s lots of portals on each layer to all over the place, mostly the Outlands and various prime worlds. I‘ve wandered into a couple by mistake, as the keys are often pretty simple. Actually, gotta tell you, it‘s a great laugh. Wander onto a prime world, find a local, and start talking to them. The look on their faces just before they start running, it‘s fantastic! Some folk I know, they do it on a regular basis for the kicks. It‘s a great laugh, though I guess not as funny if you‘re not an animal. Anyways, there‘s also plenty of paths between the Beastland‘s layers. Best trick is to keep your eye on the sky, because if you see Selera or Noctos start to move and it begins to get lighter or darker then you‘re probably wandering over into another layer. Sometimes it can happen pretty quick though, so you don‘t always get enough warning to avoid it. Brux has the most of those, of course, being in the middle and all. There‘s few direct pathways between Krigala and Karasuthra, which is just as well because many of the creatures that live on one of those layers would be very badly out of place in the other.
Let‘s see, what else might you want to know. Gods? Hey, glad you asked, I‘d nearly forgotten. You two-legged folk set a lot of store by powers don‘t you? Well, we don‘t have that many in the Beastlands. A few, mostly of nature or hunting, or some kind of animal. But we got plenty of the next best thing: the Animal Lords. There‘s one Animal Lord for each broad group of animals. So there‘s a Spider Lord for all spiders, a Cat Lord for all cats, and so on. They‘re not powers, so they can‘t do the things that a real god can, but they‘re pretty powerful. Tread carefully around them because if you really annoy them, the chances are that you won‘t make it off the plane with all of your limbs attached. Heck, even the Lords who have pretty inoffensive followers, like the Mouse Lord, can probably tear most of you two-legs to pieces if they really want to. Now think of the Cat Lord, who‘s not only tougher in her own right, but can also stick anything in the cat family on you. Ever wanted to be eaten by a pack of lions? Here‘s your chance.
Yeah, you‘re right, I eat mice sometimes. And no, it doesn‘t get me into trouble with the Mouse Lord. See, you gotta play the game by the rules. I eat what I need to survive. That might be mice, it might be berries, it might be some bird, it might be something I come across that some other creature had killed. And I hide from the bigger creatures that might want to eat me. That‘s the balance, that‘s OK. Now if I went around just killing loads of creatures for the fun of it, then I‘d be a menace and I‘d get into trouble. That‘s how come some of you two-legs get to live on this plane for decades, and others get themselves killed within hours. Live within the rules, take what you need and no more. That‘s why the fiends and shadow creatures that occasionally come to Karasuthra get themselves killed fairly quickly. I‘ve heard tell from you two-legs that we‘re all “good” creatures in some way. It ain‘t really that, we‘re just natural. And killing for fun, that isn‘t really natural, so we don‘t tolerate it. That‘s the way things are.
Faunel (Outland Gate-Town)
By Hajzeek Gnarl-Hoof
Faunel resembles nothin‘ more than a broken-down city abandoned thousands o‘ years ago. In fact, that‘s probably what it is. Some even think the town absorbs ruins from throughout the Prime, an‘ there are a fair number of gates in Faunel leadin‘ there. If the gate-town were intact an‘ full, it could probably house around fifty thousand people, which gives some idea o‘ the sprawlin‘ size o‘ the place. Now it‘s a ruin, overgrown wit‘ plants an‘ animal life. I wouldn‘t suggest tryin‘ to build up a real case here though; it‘s a wild place an‘ the town an‘ its residents don‘t have any appreciation for construction on their turf.
The town can be split broadly into three main areas, each showin‘ a different face o‘ nature. Along the spire-facing side, from the route through which most visitors to Faunel approach, the terrain is dry an‘ arid, an‘ the wind blows dust through an abandoned desert town. Off to the right part o‘ town, swamp is slowly taking back the buildings, most o‘ which are at least partially submerged. It‘s still warm, but much damper, wit‘ a constantly high humidity. Mosquitoes buzz through the air, an‘ all manner o‘ insects an‘ other small creatures scrape a living in the undergrowth. The remainder o‘ Faunel is jungle, wit‘ vines an‘ creepers growin‘ on the remainin‘ stonework, an‘ trees pushin‘ their way through roofs.
Most o‘ the humanoids reside in the jungle or desert parts o‘ town, though there is a small community o‘ lizard folk that have taken to the swampy areas. Most folk make their case in town under multicoloured tarps, each one distinct enough that there‘s no real risk of getting‘ lost among the tents. But the majority o‘ Faunel‘s residents are animals or beasts o‘ one variety o‘ another. Many are petitioners from the Beastlands, an‘ they tend to live in the area that most suits their temperament an‘ pattern o‘ life.