To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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Bytopia is a land of opportunity and freedom, divided into two sides: Dothion and Shurrock by about a one mile gap. Good-aligned beings dominate this plane, although danger still exists in its vast wilds. Dothion is where most live; Shurrock is where most adventure. On Dothion, good-aligned creatures (especially gnomes) have made peaceful, pastoral settlements, engaging in all manner of trade with their planar neighbours. Shurrock is a land of untapped resources, but its savage side makes it dangerous to those without preparation or resourcefulness. Still, each side can be thought of as paradise in its own manner, a reflection of how good can be both safe and thrilling.
Alignment: Neutral Good
Borders: Mount Celestia, Elysium
Connected by: Tradegate (Outlands).
Planar features: As normal (gravity, time, magic), although each “side” of Bytopia has its own gravitational pull.
By Bally Whitethroat
The Twin Paradises have been my home always. I have roamed many of its gullies and peaks, accompanying my master, Falliwinkle Greenstaff. A few times, we traveled to other planes, but I have never seen another plane like mine. My master used to say that the two layers of Bytopia, Dothion and Shurrock, are like the bread of a sandwich; when you look up into the sky, you can see the other layer facing you. All I know is that it makes me feel good and right. During the day it‘s like having a whole world as your neighbor, offering change and a fresh start. Familiar, yet new. Close, but unobtrusive. And when night comes, the sky is dotted by the flickering stars from the campfires and street lights of the layer above. Folk travel here for many reasons, but I think what they talk about most is the sense of opportunity and prosperity, which gives rise to its other title: the Bright Frontier. A basher can lose themselves in the land, forget their troubles, and make a new life for themselves with their own hands. Find friends, build a family, and be a part of something. Is there any better life?
All told, Bytopia is a place of balance, physically and spiritually. Those who live here show this balance in their lives of independence and civil duty, production and conservation. While those in Mount Celestia espouse individual enlightenment and perfection, the focus here is more practical. The gnomes and other humanoids of Bytopia believe in hard work and loving what you do. The thought goes that people tend to be happiest when they find something that‘s both fun for them and appreciated by others, something that actually contributes to making the world better. But even more than that, those who call the Bright Frontier home believe in struggle. Not the bloody conflicts that some planes see all too much of, but the kind that develops cutters to their full potential. They don‘t labor because they serve some master, or even for its own sake. Through work, practice, exploration, and innovation, they themselves are made better. Without opposition, there is only stagnation. There is no growth. So individuals and families run their businesses with pride, owing allegiance to no one save whatever guild they might belong to. Many of their creations or goods are developed for the benefit of the community as a whole. Sometimes this is a better tool, or an elaborate pulley system, or just something to bring a smile to your face. And while a degree of privacy is expected, no one hesitates to help a neighbor in genuine need. There are plenty of reasons for folk to form close communities, for the wilderness can be just as harsh as in the Beastlands, and savage creatures stalk it. Bytopia is an endless frontier, a forever unobtainable horizon.
Unlike the Beastlands, though, the plane doesn‘t resist progress. And the workshops, farms, and even the mines work with the landscape, rather than against it. The gnomes may put a mill beside a river, but they won‘t dam or divert that river. Wood workers and carpenters strictly monitor the felling of trees. This leads to a harmonious relationship between nature and society, producing some of the most industrial cities in all the Great Ring. Sometimes berks from other planes come and try to exploit our bounty, but the druids and their allies that roam the land keep an eternal vigil. Naturally, the residents here don‘t look well on lazy, shiftless types. They also don‘t believe in credit; it‘s cash on the barrelhead, or trade in service. While the trade bazaars use the coin familiar to outsiders for the most part, services, like inns or healers, actually prefer that visitors work for a meal or a bed. Chop some wood, clean out some stables, and then, when your brow is good and sweaty, you‘ll be treated like you deserve.
My master and I come from Dothion. Our home is of rolling hills and forests, spread with quiet farms and workshops while bustling towns and trading outposts sell the goods created throughout Bytopia. Masterwork objects of practically every sort can be purchased here, from weapons to fine rugs, and I understand that many merchants come straight to these bazaars when they can, rather than settling for inferior merchandise in Tradegate or Sigil. Gnome artificers sell wonderful creations such as clockwork animals, mechanical pranks, and alchemical goods. Many of these devices are unique, made more for the inspired love of invention than concerns of usefulness. The farmers of the Golden Hills and elsewhere bring their sought-after produce, such as cheeses, ales, fruits and vegetables, to market. My master‘s gods live there, in the Golden Hills, with gnome planars and petitioners. Such communities are like islands in the vast open wilderness. Though the layer is thought of as peaceful, settlers make sure not to migrate too far from established territories. There are towns and outposts out on the frontier which have been abandoned, some under mysterious circumstances.
Most outsiders see Bytopia as a sleepy, peaceful place, good for shopping and relaxing. But Shurrock‘s twisted mountains and dark forests, so often besieged by winds and rain, make an environment to challenge any rugged explorer. The layer is mostly the home of wild animals, but there are also deep mines where the gnomes dig for the gems and ore precious to them. They set up rough settlements surrounding the areas of industry, like the underground burg of Quarry. Even with the dangers, I prefer Shurrock to places like Yeoman, the largest town on Dothion. The threats there are trickier and less obvious, with the likes of the Planar Trade Consortium wheeling and dealing and the Order of Planes-Militant preaching against chaos and evil.
Getting between the two layers is tricky. There aren‘t many portals, and the one‘s that exist have people in charge of them, either merchants or guardians. The first protect their money, the second protect the towns from creatures that might wander through them. Most folks physically travel between the two layers. There are several mountains that connect the two layers, reaching from the surface of Dothion all the way to the surface of Shurrock, with the biggest and most used being Centerspire. Climb up it, and in the middle, get ready to start climbing down. Once you pass the area between the two layers, gravity reverses towards the other layer. Yes, that‘s right; it‘s more than a little confusing. Flyers usually adjust quickly. Climbers better figure out which direction they‘re going real fast, unless they want to fall a good ways.
There are many creatures who call the Paradises home. The gnomes, both planars and petitioners, make up a fair chunk of the humanoid people of the plane. They‘re hardy, industrious folk who love to work. There are also many animals, many of them touched by good (and occasionally law), and a lot of them enormous, dire types. The gnomes especially befriend those of us who burrow, and the ones that roam the tors of the Golden Hills are tinted with gold themselves, as you can see in my own coat. The gnomes and we consider each other family. Now, on Shurrock, the beasts tend towards being dangerous and wild, sometimes attacking travelers and even settlements. The gnomes say that Urdlen, the Crawler Below (may I never see its pale snout) burrows deep under that layer from its realm in the Abyss, and other evil outsiders make their way up to our peaceful lands from those tunnels. Many of them are fiendish burrowing animals, but sometimes worse creatures break through.
Of course, we see any number of Upper Planar creatures, like hollyphants and a celestial or two. Some peculiar creatures call Bytopia home, like the tiny empaths called ethyks, many of which have been tamed for their ability to redirect the anger of others and can now be found throughout the planes. The skies are the hunting grounds for packs of the vicious, wormlike ni‘iath. The horrid things evolved in the space between the layers; they are immune to the force of gravity, with four eyes spaced around their heads, and they use their tails to fling hapless, disoriented victims into the surrounding mountains. But the skies above Shurrock, at least, are protected by air sentinels. And the plant world is represented by the treants that protect the wild spaces. They are as aloof as their prime cousins, only making themselves known when the need arises.
But let none say there is no excitement here. Adventurers can prove their worth by protecting caravans, rooting out nests of evil beasts, and undertaking other quests (remember, favors and service are as good if not better than jink to Bytopians). Twisted things burrow from beneath; plunderers seek its treasures and invaders hunt its beasts; mysteries hide within the thick forests; miners uncover things buried for millennia. There is an organization, made up mostly of gnomes from Dothion, known as the Society of Shurrockian Cartographers, dedicated to exploring the uncharted depths and heights of the layer. They are commendable for their spirit, but they often find themselves in difficult situations. They have recently fallen afoul of one of the tso raiding parties that have begun to plague Bytopia. The tso have gotten a taste for hard-working gnome slaves and seem to have found portals to help them in their accursed trade.
I have also heard of dark rumors of a blight growing in the heart of gnome society, made up of those who have been seduced by the Crawler Below. At first, the cult known as the Small Crawlers were found only in the wilderness, but now some isolated towns have reported that cultists have been found amongst the inhabitants. They claim to have no leaders and forsake their names and identities amongst their fellows while performing strange rites underground, wearing masks and bathing in the blood of animals. What is to be done about these misguided souls? Their god is one of evil and chaos, but how do the individualist gnomes remain true to their own beliefs by forbidding the beliefs of others? They have no answers yet, not as a group. Some call for the conversion of their wayward brethren, while others demand imprisonment and even death. Meanwhile, fear takes hold, as the gnomes become wary of their own neighbors. Those who spend too much time alone or shirk good, honest labor are suspect. There are times ahead which will surely test the spirit of the Bytopians. But this is the way it has always been; this is the way it should be.
Tradegate (Outland Gate-Town)
By Hajzeek Gnarl-Hoof
As one might guess by the name, Tradegate is a city o‘ commerce, dominated by a grand bazaar in the center o‘ the star-shaped city. The inhabitants hope to make their burg a mercantile center the equal, or the better, o‘ Sigil itself, and they ain‘t all that far from that goal. Tradegate even mints its own coins, but most o‘ the town‘s merchants accept barter as well as jink.
Tradegate is one o‘ the most commonly used towns for adventurin‘ parties to hole up in. Nice an‘ safe, without much to disrupt it, the town has plenty o‘ cutters from Bytopia or the Indeps to trade wit‘ an‘ not too much trouble. Lately, though, ye may want to keep an eye out, ‗cause Estavan‘s Planar Trade Consortium has been makin‘ waves in this peaceful burg.
The law in Tradegate ain‘t as oppressive or judgmental as some people find it in Excelsior or Courage. For the most part, as long as a body doesn‘t do anything obviously evil or harmful— murder, stealin‘, an‘ the like—they won‘t be bothered. The one thing that the locals do get uppity about, however, is sloth. A berk who likes to loaf an‘ take advantage o‘ others instead o‘ workin‘ ain‘t goin‘ to make many friends here, an‘ there are strict laws against vagrancy an‘ loiterin‘.