To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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A plane where combat is sometimes considered to be a pastime, Ysgard is a place of untold dangers, but where a blood can fight his way to glory, riches, or both. Unlike Acheron, where organized armies clash, you’ll only rarely find small groups of individuals helping each other out for mutual benefit… and such alliances are usually always temporary. On this plane, the only person you can rely on is yourself.
Ysgard has three layers. The first is… called Ysgard too. It’s the most well-known of the three. Few settlements exist, pushed away by massive battlefields. The nature of the plane prolongs battles, and the dead are revived each morning to fight anew. As the plane is comprised of many floating islands, travel can be hazardous. The second layer, Muspelheim, is home to the giants. A dark reflection of Ysgard, this layer is where only the strong really do survive. The final layer, Nidavellir, exists below ground, where vast riches and secrets are fought over and between by its gnome, dwarf, and drow inhabitants.
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Borders: Arborea, Limbo
Connected by: Glorium(Outlands), the River Oceanus.
Planar features: Normal time, and magic, and gravity in general. The top layer, Ysgard, revives those slain heroically in battle every morning. Muspelheim, the second layer, if a fiery landscape that requires protection.
By Thorstein Skammlaus
Ah, Ysgard, now there‘s a plane where folk know how to live. Good people, great food, land unlike anything else on the planes, and adventure ready to be had around every corner. It‘s got the best of the Upper Planes without the boredom or the celestials breathing down your neck. Acheron may be where leaders make war and Elysium may be where champions find their rest, but Ysgard is where boys become men and legends are born! Fill up my mug, cutter, and I‘ll give you all the chant you need to know.
Smack between the extravagant Arborea and the rolling expanse of Limbo, Ysgard is a place of extremes. It represents the essence of freedom and chaos while not abandoning itself to madness or anarchy. A basher is not only given the right to make their own way, but expected to do so against all odds and come out stronger for it. The plane is a harsh and dangerous place, with rocky plains and jagged mountains combined with scorching summers and freezing cold winters. Giants, dragons, and other monsters roam the land and wage endless war against the inhabitants. The powers and proxies here intervene rarely, and even the help of a neighbor comes with the expectancy that the favor will be returned. All of this comes not out of cruelty, but from the genuine belief that a cutter reaches their peak only when they‘re truly challenged in life. Here a body‘s judged not by their abilities or their methods, but by their determination and strength of spirit. Even the weak of frame have a home in Ysgard, for the plane will always give you enough to get by; it‘s just up to you to make use of it. Sound a lot like them Fated? Yeah, well this is their home, and a good majority of the planars here are a member of the faction. The outlook of that faction is based on lessons learned on Ysgard, and anyone who thinks they‘re heartless prolly doesn‘t have what it takes to last long there.
The petitioners and other residents of Ysgard are about the hardiest, most stubborn lot you‘re going to find. They gotta be, else someone or something is gonna eat them up. I hear parts of the Upper Planes emphasize challenges and growth, but here folks aren‘t interested in giving you a helping hand and no one‘s pulling any punches. Heck, charity is just a sign that you think someone doesn‘t have what it takes to take care of themselves. Sure, most everyone follows some sort of honor code and bashers of all sort will band together to vike, but that‘s only because that‘s the best way they can make a name for themselves. Even the Valkyrie, who are the closest thing to exemplar the plane really has, are more likely to watch a berk meet his end than a lift a hand in aid. If you see one on their winged steeds on the battlefield there‘s a good chance you‘re about to be put in the dead-book.
Still, the Valks are a great lot, and can be real useful if you convince them to help you since their about the only ones who can get from one region to another without trouble. That‘s damn important considering how the plane is broken up. See, there are three layers to Ysgard, but the first two aren‘t actually single layers but more a collection of islands floating miles and miles above the third. The bottoms of these earthbergs are aflame and send a continuous jet of steam rising up along the rim, poising a dangerous obstacle to all but the Valkyrie and often blanketing the tops with heavy mist. These isles range in size from that of a small rock to that of a continent – what? No, I don‘t know why they float; do I look like a sodding Guvner? Keep your trap shut and listen – and get me another mug while you‘re at it.
The first and topmost-layer, which is also called Ysgard, or Ysgard proper, is where you‘ll find most of the plane‘s residents, including the Asgardian pantheon and their followers, the mysterious Vanir powers and their elven and fey ilk in Alfheim, and the nomad tribes of bariaur that call the hills and plains kip. Asgard seems to be the largest realm of the layer, and it’s here that even mortals can know the joy of glorious death in combat and rebirth in the morn‘. Whoever said that rule applies to all of Ysgard was spoutin‘ pure screed, and prolly looking to have a laugh at sending clueless to the dead-book. The River Oceanus also comes to an end along the realm‘s shores, which folk use to sail their longships to other earthbergs or to the Upper Planes when seeking trade or going viking.
Of course, the Oceanus doesn‘t connect to every island, or even most of them, so most rely on airships made specifically for that purpose (few in Ysgard proper trust magic or beasts enough for the task, and neither provide the benefits of a sturdy ship). These vessels supposedly only work in Ysgard, though I‘ve heard a tale or two of ships manufactured to travel across the planes. Once past the curtain of steam along the edges these ships need only worry about the strong winds and occasional storm in traveling to the other earthbergs. If for some reason the airships aren‘t an option there‘s always the World Ash, Yggdrasil, whose branches reach many Ysgard‘s corners, as well as those of other planes. I won‘t tally on the great tree save to say you should see it just for the sight, but navigating its paths can be tricky at best.
The second most notorious earthberg of Ysgard proper is Jotunheim, land of the giants, a frozen wasteland where the big prey on the small and valor gives way to power, pure and simple. The frost giants, led by their god Thrym, are the uncontested rulers of the land, though the fire giants also dwell in Jotunheim‘s massive volcanoes. The island is surrounded by a river of huge shards of ice that‘s nearly impossible to navigate safely (severely hampering the giants‘ ability to spread to other lands, thankfully). Planar towns are barely able to survive in the realm‘s endless winter, and those that do have no choice but to offer fealty to the giants and pray that they won‘t be destroyed on a whim. As if that wasn‘t enough to keep a sod busy, I‘ve heard tales of packs of vampires migrating from town to town or setting themselves up as jarls, their nature protecting them from most of the realm‘s natural hazards. Planars in Jotunheim expect everyone to do whatever they can get away with and act accordingly, but they‘re truly not evil or vicious, they just do what‘s required of them to survive.
Now park your ears to me cutter, for if yer going to Ysgard, you need to know this. What good there is in Ysgard dies on its second layer, Muspelheim. There the earthbergs float upside down, with flames scaring the ground and smoke choking the air. There are endless storms of ash and soot, and even the rocks will cut your feet to ribbon. Trust me, it‘s all the worst the Elemental Plane of Fire has to offer with none of the amenities. Only the fire giants and their beasts can survive that hell. Surtur, their god, lays claim to all of Muspelheim, though I‘ve heard tales of other powers that inhabit a few of the isles unbeknownst to him. It is a rare planewalker who has journeyed to Muspelheim and escaped the patrols of giants long enough to explore far, and I have heard tales of places where no magic or gear can protect you from the flames. It is said much of the multiverse was once forged from the flames of Muspelheim, and that Surtur guards the dark of its creation and eventual destruction. Screed or not, I have little doubt there are many things of power and value hidden there, but there‘s more than enough excitement to be found on the first layer if you ask me.
Nidavellir, Ysgard‘s third layer, isn‘t the most welcoming place either, but it‘s a far shot better. While it possesses a surface like most other planes, if pretty desolate, most of the plane is hidden underground. Freedom is the most important thing here, and the inhabitants have little interest in the conflicts of the planes beyond what it takes to ensure their own independence and livelihood. Its tunnels and caverns are split mostly between the warring realms of Nidavellir proper, populated by the dwarves and gnomes, and Svartalfheim, the underground forests of the dark elves. The dwarves and gnomes are obsessed with the acquisition of wealth for its own sake, believing that it is the only thing that can guarantee their freedom and protect them from any hard times ahead. Though the two races are rivals, together they provide some of the finest crafts and magics this side of the Great Wheel, and they remain united against the dark elves.
The elves for their part seem to want little more than to hide away in their strange caverns, where trees and other plants that don‘t require sunlight grow. Supposedly they make an existence of hoarding secrets and making pacts with the Court of Unseelie fey, as well as even less savory beasts, but you‘ll hardly get a word out of them to prove it one way or another. All in all they‘re nothing like stories of drow I‘ve heard from the Prime, but they‘re no more trusted. No one‘s quite sure why either realm wars with the other, but it wouldn‘t surprise me if the whole thing was just out of paranoia of what the other side would do if left unchecked. Racial wars aside, the gods only know what you could learn from the folk of Nidavellir if you could convince them to let down their guard for a bit. But hey, if they‘ve survived this long the way they have they must‘ve figured something out right.
Glorium (Outland Gate-Town)
By Alicia De’Morlina
One of the smallest of the gate-towns, Glorium is little more than a village perched within a valley formed from the same mountain ranges as the Dwarven Mountain. It can be reached in two ways, by water through the fjord or by land through a road that snakes its way through the rough mountains. Most folks travel by water to this town, for in addition to the poor upkeep of the road, large predators roam the forests of these mountains, and there is always the risk of petitioners of Illsensine or Gzemnid causing trouble along the way. The realms of both of these monstrous gods are somewhere within the tangled caverns beneath the mountains. The fjord is an inlet of the Oceanus, deep enough to accommodate the longboats that are favored in Ysgard.
This is a small place, where everyone knows each other. Outsiders are welcome, though they will find few accommodations for themselves. Glorium has no inns or bars, and visitors who intend to stay overnight will need to make friends right fast with one of the residents. Luckily, they‘re a hospitable people and they generally have room to spare within one of the long houses of the town. Guests of Glorium had better observe their manners, though, as the locales are not the type of people to put up with attitude.