To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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You can find quick information about the planes in the following pages:
A note to players: Yes, the D&D cosmology pre-4e is stupid complicated. That said, it’s also incredibly interesting, and for the purposes of the game, an excellent excuse to mix up the setting by dropping the players into a plane where the normal “rules” just don’t work.
Players will not be expected to understand all of these inside out. The most important to know are the Outer Planes, as they’re both the most hospitable to life, and the most varied and interesting. Planes such as the Elemental Plane of Fire are likely to be almost instantly lethal to PCs who aren’t prepared to enter it, so read up on them for your own curiosity. The chances of the PCs visting those planes are small. The “Prime” material planes are also something that PCs won’t generally need to bother with; we’ll probably visit one or two, but they’re honestly the most boring places to adventure in within the Planescape setting. Stick to the outer planes, and you’ll be fine (relatively speaking).
A description follows.
The cardinal planes are the three major groupings of planes. Like jewels on a ring, they are the most prominent portions of the multiverse. No one can say for certain the exact purpose of each group; some think they represent different stages of existence, while others say they simply exist to serve as appropriate homes for vastly different creatures. Of course, some just throw their hands in the air and say there isn’t any meaning behind it, but it cannot be denied that the Inner, Material, and Outer Planes are each very different places.
Inner Planes: The building blocks for the multiverse, the Inner Planes are composed of the elemental and energy planes from which material existence is formed. Here abstract thought is given little credence in face of the natural laws that govern the planes, and many inhabitants pursue wisdom in the characteristics of the most fundamental forces. Each plane consists of its element and little else; the Plane of Water is almost entirely water and inhabited by creatures that enjoy such an environment, while the Plane of Earth is formed of rocks and dirt separated only by sparse caverns and treacherous tunnels. Between each of the Elemental Planes are the Paraelemental Planes, border regions where two elements merge. Likewise, the Quasielemental Planes are the union of the Elemental and Energy Planes.
Collectively, the Inner Planes are exceedingly dangerous to anyone who is not properly prepared to survive the harsh environments beforehand. Naturally, they don’t seem to have nearly the population of the Prime Material or Outer Planes, though each plane has its fill of elementals and elemental creatures. A few planar societies do exist, either because some folk grew fond of the purity found there or because they wanted to exploit the seemingly infinite supply of natural resources. While the Inner Planes are mostly apathetic to ethics and morality as a whole, they feature their own conflicts and wars between opposing elemental forces as well as between variations in alignment on the same plane.
Elemental Planes: Air, Earth, Fire, Water.
Energy Planes: Negative, [Positive]].
Paraelemental Planes: Ice, Magma, Ooze, Smoke.
Quasielemental Planes: Ash, Dust, Lightning, Minerals, Radiance, Salt, Steam, Vacuum.
Prime Material Planes: Though a single plane, unbeknownst to most Primes the Prime Material Plane hosts myriad worlds locked away from one another in crystal spheres and suspended in an amber stream known as the phlogiston. A crystal sphere may contain anything from a single isolated world to a field of planets, moons, stars, and other astronomical features. These worlds often differ widely based on varying levels of magic, technology, and culture. Some have unique religions native to its people, while a couple pantheons are worshipped on numerous planets. It isn’t rare for the residents of a world to be unable to access the planes or to not believe in their existence altogether, while others often think their planet exists at the center of all creation. For these reasons and more planars tend to avoid the Prime Material, and quite a few primes are hostile to anything from beyond their own world.
Example Prime Worlds: Athas (DARK SUN), Eberron, Kyrnn (DRAGONLANCE), Oerth (GREYHAWK), Toril (FORGOTTEN REALMS).
Outer Planes: Home to fiends and celestials, mortals and deities, the Outer Planes are the center of planar activity in the Great Ring. Shaped by the thoughts and faiths of creatures throughout the multiverse, everything here has a bit of subjectivity and hidden meaning to it. Planars of every variety frequently travel countless miles through portals connecting the Outer Planes and the rest of the cosmos, leading to the formation of huge metropolises that act as melting pots for hundreds of races and cultures. Perhaps the most numerous are the petitioners – the souls of the dead who make their resting place on the plane most suited to their nature, whether its to live their afterlife serenely or in perpetual torment.
The Outer Planes are divided along ethical and moral lines: law and chaos, good and evil. Linked together in a wheel with the neutral Outlands as the hub, each plane is positioned based on its alignment relative to its neighbors. The inhabitants, deities, and features of a plane are closely tied to its overall ideology. Likewise, the planes move and conform to the beliefs of their residents. Though existing in an uneasy balance, each of the Outer Planes seeks to grow and have the philosophical outlook it represents spread to the rest of the multiverse.
Planes of Law: Acheron, Arcadia, Baator, Mechanus, Mount Celestia.
Planes of Conflict: The Beastlands, Bytopia, Carceri, Elysium, Gehenna, the Gray Waste, the Outlands.
Planes of Chaos: The Abyss, Arborea, Limbo, Pandemonium, Ysgard.
Upper Planes: Arborea, the Beastlands, Bytopia, Elysium, Mount Celestia.
Neutral Planes: Acheron, Arcadia, Limbo, Mechanus, the Outlands, Pandemonium, Ysgard.
Lower Planes: The Abyss, Baator, Carceri, Gehenna, The Gray Waste.
Between each of the cardinal planes lies an intermediate plane, a transitional realm between two different forms of existence. The intermediate planes connect two of the cardinal groups together, forming a pathway for travelers, magic, and other more forces to move from one to the other. Because of this they are sometimes referred to as transitive planes, but confusion often arises over what is and what isn’t a transitive plane. There are three and only three intermediate planes: the Astral Plane, the Etherial Plane, and the Ordial Plane. They’re all coexistent to their respective cardinal planes, none of them touches another intermediate plane, and they all have their fair share of mystery to them.
The Astral Plane: A silvery expanse of thoughts and ideas where time and space are just concepts. It is a graveyard of dead gods and the passageway for dead souls traveling to their final resting place. It connects the Outer Planes and the Prime Material Plane.
The Ethereal Plane: A mist-filled sea where raw materials give shape to possibilities both real and left unfulfilled. The Border Ethereal touches every Prime world, while the Deep Ethereal is home to countless demiplanes and stranger things lost in its murky depths. The Ethereal connects the Prime Material Plane and the Inner Planes.
The Ordial Plane: The ultimate enigma, a land known only through theory and powerful divination. Perhaps the true home of the gods, or powers greater than they. Maybe the next stage of evolution, or where material and spiritual matter is finally broken apart and purified. It connects the Inner Planes to the Outer Planes.
The Pseudo Planes
The pseudo planes fill a unique niche in the Great Ring, as they are coexistent with virtually every other plane. In fact, pseudo planes are not truly separate planes at all; they have no existence of their own. Rather, they are additional dimensions of the Great Ring, much like how height and width are different dimensions that are fairly universal. Aspects of the multiverse rarely seen, each fulfills a special purpose and each operate very different rules than the rest of the cosmos. The pseudo planes overlap one another just as they overlap most other planes of the Great Ring, making them extremely convenient routes to use when planewalking from different parts of the multiverse. Most planars steer clear from them, however. In the past the pseudo planes were thought to be much smaller than they are known to be now, and it’s only recently that planars have begun to realize their true scope. Its clear that there’s a lot that is unknown about the them, and no one can be quite sure what they’re getting into when traveling through them.
Dream: The Region of Dreams is a place you can get to when you’re not thinking about it, but will have the hardest time reaching when you actually try. It exists wherever resting minds are found, and it is a realm where anything is truly possible, making it both grand and dangerous. Few natural pathways connect to the dreamscapes there.
The Shadowlie: A place of many names, the Plane of Shadow is a realm of dark secrets and terrible prophecies, where the things we try our hardest to deny are locked away. It exists as a mock mirror of each plane it touches, highlighting that which seems contradictory and wrong about them. The Shadowlie is said to hide what we choose to not believe in, even gods and entire planes of existence, and its true nature may be similarly forever hidden.
Temporal Prime: A plane where most people will only ever move in one direction, the Temporal Energy Plane is beyond the understanding of most folk. Supposedly powerful mortals known as chronomancers could use it to travel to points both near and far in history, but it’d be a foolish act to trust anyone who claimed to be one.
One burg deserves special attention, for it’s unlike any other place in existence. Atop an infinitely tall mountain known as the Spire in the center of the Outlands rests Sigil, the most prominent crossroad of the Great Ring. The City of Doors is said to have portals leading to every place in the multiverse; it just requires finding the right door and key. The portals themselves move around, and recent shakeups have taught planars that even Sigil isn’t completely reliable, but there are few planewalkers who don’t pass through it on a regular basis. Its also one of the most common spots for creatures from the Prime Material Plane to end up after accidentally leaving their plane, and some might say the best place to start before exploring the cosmos.
Of course, with portals leading to every realm in creation, you can bet there’s no limit to the number of forces that want to control it. Yet Sigil has remained neutral ground since time remembered, thanks largely to its one ruler, the Lady of Pain. She has protected the city for millennia, controlling its portals and ensuring the planes’ most powerful and dangerous creatures, even the gods themselves, cannot enter. It is Her will that keeps Sigil running and ensures that anyone who causes too much trouble is thrown into the Mazes, making the City of Doors one of the safest locales for people of every race and creed. A force beyond scrutiny, the Lady speaks to no one, but seeing Her robed form adorned in glittering blades quietly float through the streets is enough to keep most in line.