To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
Quick navigation: Main | Races | Factions | The Planes | Sigil | Characters | NPCs | House Rules
Some planes are not what they seem. Well, Pandemonium is exactly what it seems, a plane of insanity made manifest. It’s got all the features: no natural light sources, freeing temperatures, constant moaning wind that grinds on your nerves, and abnormal gravity which effectively prevents any notion of “up” or “down”. While that are other planes that are more immediately dangerous, Pandemonium is said to be the least inhabitable. After all, natural or magical protection will get you far on most planes, but losing yourself in Pandemonium is just a matter of time…
There are four layers in Pandemonium: Pandesmos, Cocytus, Phlegethon, and Agathion. Pandesmos is the most hospitable layer, thanks to the presence of the Madhouse, run by the Bleak Cabal. That said, they’re pretty much all barmies in there. A network of caverns work through the entire layer. The second layer, Cocytus, has even smaller tunnels — seemingly carved by hand — is stalked by fiends. Try and avoid it. Phlegethon has normal-enough gravity, and even a city known as Windglum, but it also contains the Citadal of Slaughter, to the god Erythnul. Uh, avoid him. Agathion can barely be called “traversable”; the tunnels disappear, leaving only an infinite number of cavernous pockets. Some are said to contain unfathomable treasure, some are said to trap the most dangerous of fiends, and some are even said to contain air. Huh.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Borders: The Abyss, Limbo
Connected by: Bedlam (Outlands), the River Styx.
Planar features: Normal time, and magic, but abnormal gravity save for in Phlegethon; gravity is normally orientated to the nearest wall.
You hear that, mate? That moaning, shrieking, whistling, sighing? You’ll hear that a lot here in Pandemonium. Matter of fact, you can’t really get away from it. At first, the constant sound of the wind plays tricks with a sods’ minds, makin’ ‘em angry, or depressed, or hysterical, or one after the other. After a while, though, you’ll get used to it. ‘Course, there are those who say the only way you get used to the wind is by goin’ completely sodding barmy. Now, Clurston an’ I, we’ve been here long enough, we don’t even notice the wind anymore unless we’re specifically listening for it. Who’s Clurston? He’s the basher standing right next to me; who do you think he is? What do you mean you don’t see him? He’s a seven-foot walking elephant shrew; he’s kind of hard to miss, ain’t he? Hey, don’t get sore at me, berk. It’s easy to get sore here. That’s just the wind gettin’ into your head. You’ll get used to it.
Yeah, all of Pandemonium’s like this, pretty much. Just endless caverns, with the wind whistlin’ through. Gravity‘s toward whichever side o‘ the cave you‘re closest to, so you can walk around a bit an‘ find yourself on what a minute ago you were seein‘ as the ceiling. An‘ the whole plane‘s dark as a loth‘s heart, if you ain‘t carryin‘ your own light source, which‘ll sure draw attention from anything nearby. Actually, if you’re claustrophobic, the lower layers are worse. Here on Pandesmos, the first layer, sure there are some narrow tunnels, but there are a lot o‘ great big caverns, too, huge enough to fit a good-sized burg in and have plenty o‘ room to spare, so most of the locales make kip here. But Cocytus, well, the rooms an‘ passages there are a little smaller, and a little twistier, an‘ the wind, it‘s a little louder, an‘ a little shriller. Well, a lot louder, actually; you think the wind here’s bad, go to Cocytus and you‘ll see it could be worse.
Phlegethon, the third layer, well, maybe it ain‘t much more cramped than the upper layers, and maybe the wind ain‘t as loud there as in Cocytus, but it‘s got issues of its own. For one thing, it‘s cold. Cold as a hag‘s embrace, it is—not like the Plane of Ice, maybe, but cold enough to make a body uncomfortable who‘s used to warmer climes. For another, there are rumors of all sorts of terrible beasts there, huge dragons and giant oozes and the Lady knows what else. Not that there‘s much to back those rumors up, so it could be all screed, but you won‘t catch me wandering around there tryin‘ to find out. Also, it might be worth mentioning is that the gravity there only works one way; you can‘t walk around on the ceiling like on the other layers—‘course, this means dripping water gets the chance to build up, an‘ you can see all sorts o‘ beautiful cave formations there—least, that‘s what I‘m told. I ain‘t been to Phlegethon myself, and like I said I ain‘t got much desire to go there.
Finally, Agathion, the lowest layer—well, it’s just a few little pockets of air in a great expanse o’ stone. Which makes it real hard to get around there, but it also makes it a good place for stickin‘ things a cutter don‘t want found. Chant is the bubbles of Agathion are peppered with imprisoned terrible monsters and hidden treasures and artifacts—though if they are, they‘re like to stay imprisoned and hidden for a good many long years yet.
What‘s the matter now, berk? Yeah, something‘s the matter, the way you‘re standin‘ there slumped. What? Oh, I‘m sure you‘ll be able to make a good report out of all this. You know what? You‘re just feelin‘ hopeless ‘cause the wind‘s gettin‘ to you. That‘s all. It‘s just the wind gettin‘ in your head. You‘ll get used to it.
So, yeah, like I was sayin‘, all the layers of Pandemonium are just solid stone with a few caves in ‘em. You know what, though? If you look closely at some o’ that stone, you can see what looks like the marks o’ tools. In the second layer, at least, it‘s obvious though here an‘ there I‘ve seen what I could swear looked like chisel marks on the other layers too—they‘re just hidden better.
Pandemonium‘s where the headwaters are o‘ the Styx, too, incidentally. You‘ll see streams and tributaries runnin‘ all through the plane, along all the surfaces of the caves an‘ sometimes just through the air right down the middle. Fortunately, here on Pandemonium gettin‘ a little Styx water splashed on you won‘t hurt you none, though the stuff still ain‘t safe to drink. Ain‘t safe to take a dip in, neither, unless you twig to gettin‘ swept along in the current and endin‘ up in the middle of the Blood War on the Waste, or the moat of an evil titan‘s castle in Carceri. Now, I know Pandemonium may not be most bashers‘ favorite spot to be, but there are places I‘d like to be less.
Calm down, berk, calm down! I was just gettin‘ to that! No need to get so excited! Eh, but I can‘t blame you; it‘s not really your fault. It‘s just the wind gettin‘ into your head, that‘s all. You‘ll get used to it.
So, inhabitants. Yeah. Now, Pandemonium, it’s not home to any big planar race, like the tanar’ri or the yugoloths or the slaadi. I mean, you’ll see some of any of those in the plane occasionally, but there’s no race that comes from here. Not anymore, anyway. Unless whatever dug those tunnels is still somewhere out there, hiding. Clurston, now, he says he saw one once, a weird thing like a giant clawed hand with a face on it, that moved about on a mass of tentacles. But Clurston—well, don’t tell him I said this, but sometimes he sees things that ain’t there. I’ve even caught him talking to imaginary friends. Sad, really.
But anyway, even if there ain’t any big exemplar race that hails from here, that don’t mean there ain’t other creatures that do. Like the howlers, for one. You think the wind is bad? Wait till you hear one of those. Their howls are like the winds o‘ Pandemonium in concentrated form. An‘ there are the murska, giant carnivorous beetle things that can wear the skins o‘ their prey and imitate them to lure their former comrades within easy reach.
‘Course, like all the Outer Planes, Pandemonium has its petitioners. They‘re easy to tell apart from petitioners elsewhere, too—and I mean aside from the fact that they‘re all barmier than a drunken slaad. They‘re all real thin an‘ emaciated-like, the better to withstand the force o‘ the wind, an‘ they have claw-like fingers an‘ toes, an‘ clawed heels, too, the better to keep a grip on the cave surface when the wind blows hard. An‘ they don‘t wear much in the way o‘ clothing, seein‘ as the wind would just whip it around or tear it to shreds anyway.
And then, of course, there are the humans and other mortal planars who live here. Not as many as on some o‘ the other Outer Planes, but there are a few. Now, a lot o‘ the people here, they‘re exiles, banished to Pandemonium for one reason or another—there‘s even a whole sect o‘ berks, the Dispossessed, who mainly call kip in Pandemonium, an‘ spend their time stewin‘ about how they‘ve been wronged, an‘ how they‘re gonna get back at the people who wronged ‘em. Their main case is a burg called Windglum, in Phlegethon, but you‘ll find ‘em elsewhere, too. ‘Course, while we‘re on the subject o‘ factions with a presence in Pandemonium, I guess we‘ve gotta mention the Bleak Cabal. They‘ve got their own case in Pandesmos, called the Madhouse. An‘, having visited there myself, I can tell you the place earns its name. Oh, I‘m not sayin‘ the Bleakers are any barmier than anyone else here. Well, not much, at any rate. Most everyone you‘ll meet here is barmy as they come, from an outsider‘s viewpoint, though they ain‘t all barmy in the same way. Even Clurston here. I told you he‘s got an imaginary friend, didn‘t I? So anyway, I—
What‘s that you‘re doin‘, mate? I—don‘t know why you‘re drawin‘ things in your own flesh with your dagger like that. Don‘t look too healthy. But then, I guess that‘s your way of adaptin‘ to the wind, ain‘t it? We all got our own ways o‘ dealin‘ with it, and maybe that‘s yours. Like I said, the wind drives everyone barmy, in their own way. Nah, you don‘t have to believe me. Seems no one believes it when their own twitch is pointed out. Heh. Still, looks to me you‘ve finally got used to the wind. Welcome to Pandemonium, blood.
Bedlam (Outlands Gate-Town)
By Alicia De’Morlina
Bedlam‘s the kind of place where a body can never tell what‘s going to happen next, but can be pretty sure it‘s going to be bad. The place is as barmy as Xaos, but in a much more malicious way—the madmen of Xaos may be unpredictable and confusing, but they‘re as likely to mean well as they are to mean ill, while in Bedlam you can usually count on foul intentions.
The wind that howls from the gate to Pandemonium has the same effect in Bedlam as it does in its plane of origin, and no one in the burg is quite sane. Bedlamites jump at the slightest noise (other than the ever-present howl of the wind), and shuffle about arguing with voices that only they can hear. The price of earplugs here is heavily inflated, so you‘d best pick them up elsewhere, since you‘ll need them if you‘re going to Pandemonium.
Most of the people in Bedlam won‘t need much excuse to plant a dagger in a sod‘s back. They‘re peery to the point of paranoia, and usually figure they have to get you before you get them. Bedlam is a hotbed of plotting and treachery; a body‘s got to watch their step here if they don‘t want to end up in the dead-book or worse.