To Chance with Hell (Planescape)
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The “prison plane of the multiverse”, Carceri has six layers dedicated to keeping petitioners and berks who would willingly enter this plane (at least, without a solid plan of escape) in. Aside from perhaps the group of Anarchists who have set up a base here on Orthrys, almost everyone here (especially the petitioners) live here not because they wish to, but because they’re trapped by the treachery that landed them here, even if few remember what exactly it was they did. The devilishness of this planes inhabitants and the Blood War keep most away.
There are six layers of Carceri, five of which are dedicated to particular types of treachery. Orthrys is for those who betrayed politically; Cathrys for those who gave into primal urges, Minethys who hoarded wealth and ignored the needy, Colothys for liars, and Porphatys for those whose vanity and selfishness harmed others. The one thing the members of this plane share is that they all resent the free, and will lie and cheat to harm them. The last layer is said to be the home of the god Nerull, the Reaper.
By Siclin Jade
I bet you hate me. I can see it in your eyes. That rage, that desperate need to hurt me like I‘ve done to you. But you‘ve already put me through far worse, and let me tell you berk, you don‘t know the first thing about real hate! What you‘re feeling now, imagine it like flame burning away at your insides for a hundred years, until all that‘s left is a toxic sludge where your heart and soul use to be. Now imagine swimming through that hate, breathing it in, living off plants and animals that have been nourished by it. It‘s everywhere, and there‘s no escape. The Tarterian Depths of the Red Prison of Carceri… the name does the prison plane no bit of justice. Bound by words, or deeds, or chains of iron, or even by ones very nature, it traps you at the same time it opens up the very worst in you. You‘re gonna see just what it opened up in me, and then you‘re gonna wish you were anywhere but here. And you‘ll be in luck, ‘cause I happen to know the prison plane has room for one more!
Six layers to the plane, six wards of the prison, six brands of sinners to torment. Oh, it‘s got something for everybody. Each layer holds a string of planets suspended in an infinite void, each orb isolated from the next by miles of empty space. Some say they stretch on forever, as many planets as layers of the Abyss. If that we‘re true, you‘d think the plane wouldn‘t be so sodding crowded! Betrayal, deceit, lies, hatred and treachery. All of these are the nature of the Carceri, and most of the beings that dwell there embody one or all of them. Yet few can leave, for the plane prevents its inmates from escaping, and even outsiders are hard-pressed to find a way out. The yelling, the fighting… sometimes the only thing resembling peace is to be found flying through the gulf between worlds. Then there‘s just the wind and your own demons to keep you company.
Each layer is nestled inside the orbs of the previous layer like some bizarre shell game, each layer embodying some further aspect of the plane. I know ‘cause I‘ve visited them all, one by one, in my quest to be free and set things right! For me, it started on Othrys, the first layer of Carceri, the destination of corrupt politicians, religious frauds, and other traitors to their people. My home was a planet called Dinor that was much like any other world on Othrys, the surface covered by insect choked swamps and quicksand, alternating with barren rocky planes and steep ranges of mountains. But Dinor, well… I knew the distinct pleasure of being trapped within an iron tower that stretched from the swamp bottom hundreds of feet into the air, yet that was so packed as to make it impossible to move anywhere without walking on top of someone else. The exits were guarded by nightmarish skeletons that saw through all deceptions, and who refused to free their captives even when the swamp waters rose to drown the unfortunate bashers on the lower levels. I guess that was their population control!
You can‘t imagine what it‘s like to wake in such a place, imprisoned by phantom guards immune to all bribes and appeals, with no memories of your previous life but the name of the blood who put you there ringing in your head. But I figured out a way out! It took me forty years, but I got as far away from that wasteland as the River Styx would take me. It‘s channels wind throughout Othyrs to other orbs with their own unique cages or to blasted worlds that serve only as battlegrounds and marshalling points for the Blood War. The yugoloth have made the first layer their home and they embody the principles of Carceri well, their mercenary armies fighting alongside the baatezu or the tanari‘ri, only to double-cross them at an opportune time. The plane‘s inhabitants know well enough to avoid the fiends as best they can, and by then I knew where the true powers of the layer were to be found: Mount Othrys, a mammoth fortress locked between the nearly touching spires of mountains on two adjacent orbs. There the titans, imprisoned millennia ago by the Hellenic pantheon, rage and brood in exile. Nearly gods themselves, even they are utterly powerless to change their positions in the Red Prison. Yet they know the dark of Carceri better than anyone does, and it is in the court of Cronus, greatest of the titans, that I wrested secrets as to how to regain my lost memories.
From there I journeyed to Carceri‘s second layer, Cathrys, a land filled with scarlet-lit grasslands and suffocating jungles. The air burns with the sting of acidic fumes and the poisonous forests are a source of obscured horrors that lurk beneath the verdant canopy. The layer is occupied by all manner of leatherheads who in life abandoned reason and humanity for bestial instincts, and now live as savage barbarians more wild and crude than most animals. Hill giants, fiends, and other horrid creatures roam many of Cathrys‘ orbs, but the world I visited was claimed by a horrid people who had learned to draw psionic power from their feral egos. They‘re considered the “wise” of the layer, and I lost half my arm in exchange for learning from them how to move deeper into the plane.
Minethys is a vast desert waste, devoid of resources and cut with windblown sandstorms to strip the flesh from ones bones. The layer is what remains when all is consumed and nothing is made, a fitting home for petitioners who were greedy bastards in life, hoarding everything they could even when they would‘ve been better served to share. This surely seems like justice to you, but they are not alone in their suffering. There are the Gautiere, an entire race cursed to reside in Minethys for some betrayal long forgotten. Watch their children live and die in the biting winds, and then dare think of justice!
Now Colothys is something quite different, a ragged, harsh land of jagged peaks, boulder-strewn valleys, and hidden vales. Those that reside there lie and cheat for its own sake, and many could bob a baatezu and give ‘em the laugh without a hitch. They are hardly alone, though, for the yugoloths and some other native fiendish race are often fighting it out there, while the Revolutionary League is making a lot of noise about busting free those trapped in Colothys and “making a hole in Carceri‘s chain” so as unlock the Red Prison itself. Whether utter screed or the genuine article, you‘ll be proud to know that the Anarchists were mighty keen on aiding my quest when I mentioned your name, not that I‘m surprised word of your crimes has earned you enemies so far away.
They gave me what I needed to make my way through Porphatys, the small orbs of which are partially submerged in a shallow, acidic sea of icy slush. The petitioners were condemned there for their vanity and self-centered apathy towards the troubles of others even when it was well within their means to help. Not that their punishment has taught them a thing. They mostly crowd around the cold and burning waters, hoping to feed off the remains of those that fall in and drown. In the end, the waters claim all, except perhaps for the lone, bone white Ship of One Hundred that crosses the layer without crew, carrying some deathly cargo, never to go to port, a prisoner like all others. Not foolish enough to step upon it‘s deck, I nevertheless followed the great vessel for weeks as it sailed across Porphatys, until it finally led me to my destination: the Midnight Garden, where frost-covered trees grow fruits that can restore lost memories, even those of a petitioner, if a costly sacrifice is made to the garden‘s matron.Yes, I know everything that transpired before you cast me into hell. I remember the plan that was to make us kings of that backwater prime world, just as I never forget the pain of your treachery. That is why I have no hesitation now in sending you to Agathys, sixth and deepest layer of Carceri, a frozen cage of false friends and betrayers of confidence. Yes, I descended into that nightmarish realm, but I will not speak further of it, or how I eventually won my freedom from the Red Prison. Suffice it to say that your actions that have led us here today, and that I wholly believe that you will fit in nicely with the backstabbers and turncoats that anguish in Agathys. This is not justice, nor will be the eternities of torment you will soon come to know. This is a gift in thanks for making me an instrument of revenge and hatred so pure as to only be found in Carceri, your new home!
Curst (Outland Gate-Town)
By Alicia De’Morlina
Curst is a pissy little blighter of a place. Everyone in this town is a backstabbing wrench blaming everyone else on the face of the planes for every reason they can think of for why they‘re staying in the accursed little place. Most of the sods there are there because they‘ve got an axe to grind with someone else and they refuse to leave until they exact their revenge. In the process of course, they trap themselves in this nasty little town, not that any of them are willing to take the blame for anything. Given my druthers it‘s not a place I‘ll ever be visiting again. Ever.
The land around the city is red clay, dry, and barren. Scrubby trees, and patchy grass surround the city and a single road leads out from it towards the Spire. There is very little around the city otherwise, and the Guard have made a point of clearing out any trees or brush within five hundred yards of the walls, leaving only the red dirt itself. The walls themselves are tall, with spikes pointed outward and inward. They‘re covered with razorvine inside and out too just in case they weren‘t intimidating enough as it was. Regular patrols of the City Guard along the tops of the walls make sure that no one comes or goes without permission, at least not easily. If they could figure out a good way to secure the air above the town they probably would.
The town is arranged in a series of rings, one inside the other and all centered on the Gate to Curst itself. There are five rings, which divide the populace of the town in terms of relative misery and power. The center ring nearest the gate is where the power of the city resides, and the outermost ring is where the worst of the downtrodden berks scratch out a living.