This is a snapshot copy of Planewalker before our recent database crash. Please go to www.planewalker.com for the current site.

The Marketplace

Announcement!

We have moved to new, and hopefully better hardware! Along with this move came a bunch of updates to our code base. Please let me know if you spot something wonky.

5 posts / 0 new
Last post
ripvanwormer's picture
Offline
Factol
Joined: 2004-10-05
The Marketplace

One of the planes described in Dark Roads & Golden Hells from Kobold Press is the Marketplace, which does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: it's a place where merchants from across the planes come to trade. I hadn't really done anything with the concept since I bought the book ages ago, but I revisited it recently while I was paging through, trying to figure out ways to connect the book's often disjointed, unexplained ideas.

Now, the Marketplace is a pretty cool planar city. It's got a surreal, impossible geography (layer after layer of shops stacked up in a vast, three-dimensional maze connected by a web of haphazard rope and timber bridges winding around the surface of a comparatively small, deeply buried sphere), some vividly defined districts, lots of NPCs and intrigue and the whole thing watched over by a cabal of trade-obsessed inevitables who graft themselves with humanoid skin. It's definitely one of the better-detailed locations in the book.

But a frequent problem in Dark Roads & Golden Hells is that the different sections don't always fit together. There will be references to things in one section of the book that really ought to have been followed up on or at least explained elsewhere, and aren't, or something will get a different name (sometimes described using its Planescape name instead of the name given it for the Dark Roads and Golden Hells cosmology). That's not the only problem with the book by any means and not even the only problem with the Marketplace, but it's a problem.

Specifically, there are five main planar connections described in the Marketplace. There's the Ever River, which has a reasonable amount of detail on it on page 89 (basically, it's the Styx, Oceanus, and every other planar river if they were all different sections of the same waterway). There's also four gates, each with its own associated plaza. The Arbor Plaza leads to the World Tree, which is presumably the same thing as what page 20 calls Yggdrasill, but which is spelled Yggdrasil in the Midgard Campaign Setting. Planescape fans know all about Yggdrasil, but there's almost no information on it in Dark Roads & Golden Hells; the Midgard Campaign Setting only has three sentences on it and those sentences tell you more than Dark Roads & Golden Hells does. Shades Plaza leads to "the Shadow Road," which some page-flipping eventually identified as a reference to the Fey Roads on page 89. Purgatories Plaza is supposed to lead to the Underwalk and I don't even know what that is. There's nothing called the Underwalk anywhere else in the book - do they mean the Between, or maybe a road in the Underworld? More likely the latter, since the Between is a terrible place to trade with. The Underworld doesn't seem like a great place for trade, but there is a mention of a "moribund economy" and "busy chokepoints of the soul trade," so a connection to the Marketplace isn't out of the question. The last major portal, in the Weaver's Plaza, leads to "the Webways" and again I have no idea what that's supposed to be. The Plane of Gears (which is fascinating and ideal for Mechanus) has a Spinning Wheels Quarter populated by giant spiders and a race of silk-spinning hags, and there's also a plane called the Loom filled with the literal threads of destiny. It could be that the Webways are supposed to be the Loom but that would seem to contradict the statement that the only well-known way to the Loom was in the roots of "Yggdrasill."

Now, none of this is a big deal, since it's easy enough to just choose four planar paths to connect the Marketplace to regardless of the writer's intention, but it's slightly frustrating that it's written in such an ambiguous way. But as I was looking through this today and making notes, I suddenly made a mental connection.

The section on the Loom has this really cool part (that I borrowed for background on the mothmen in the Pathfinder RPG) that the threads of fate come from giant silkworms who burrow into Yggdrasil(l) and, as I wrote above, that this is the only well-known way into the Loom. So what if that's where the Marketplace is? What if it's actually built in the roots of Yggdrasil at the point where it meets the Loom, and the Underwalk is actually holes burrowed into the wood by the silkworms (and naturally, since it's Yggdrasil, there are all sorts of portals to other planes in those tunnels if you can avoid being eaten by the worms, including paths to the Underworld). Suddenly the area around the Marketplace becomes an interesting, exciting place full of giant moths and spiders. Marketplace is a trading burg, of course, so it's protected and the main trading routes around it are well-patrolled, but things could change in the future and PCs can wander off the path.

That also helps solve the other major problem I had with the Marketplace's description, which is how exactly the Ever River interfaces with the city. The description in the book says "It flows out of the 'sky,' - falling like a waterfall at one end of the sphere - and splits to flow around the circumference until it meets at a harbor on the other side of the Marketplace where it flows up - like an inverse waterfall - to continue on its course through the planes." But wait, where exactly does this water flow? The city's just a bunch of buildings stacked up on top of each other for miles and miles, built on a sphere and connected by rickety bridges. Does the water flow on the rickety bridges? Does it flow through midair? Is the harbor on the sphere, which is buried deep, deep under the ground where "no one has successfully delved down and returned"? It seems unlikely, but where else could it be? Again, is there a harbor hovering in midair at right angles to the city's gravity plane? What if the river flowed down Yggdrasil's roots instead and it pooled into a hollow in the wood near the city? That could be close enough to be used to trade with the Marketplace without contradicting the city's description.

Imagining the Marketplace as a trading burg built into the roots of Yggdrasil also helps distinguish it from other planar marketplaces like the Marketplace Eternal in the Outlands, Union from the Epic Level Handbook, and of course Tradegate and Sigil. So, yeah... I think that's the best idea, and I'm kind of delighted at coming up with it as a solution.

I do like Dark Roads and Golden Hells, but sometimes I have to dig deep to make parts of it useable.

Palomides's picture
Offline
factotums
Joined: 2010-06-26
Re: The Marketplace

I haven't read "Dark Roads..." but I do agree that a planar marketplace should have some qualities to make them unique, otherwise what's the point. (For example, what little I've read of Tradegate makes it seem dull).
I also like your solution as "Dark Roads" seems like they went to the other extreme where they threw about every crazy idea they could think of together hoping it would seem cool.

While I prefer leaning a little to the later, I do like there to be some internal logic to explain some of the craziness. So, good job providing something of a frame for the setting

Since you are placing this site at the roots of the World Ash, are you going to have the city threatened or interacting with the Midgard Serpent (who according to legend bides its time gnawing at the roots)? Perhaps the forces weaving the Threads of Fate (and in/directly providing the pocket for this marketplace) are symbolic of the forces of Law trying to maintain the existing multiverse and thus stand opposed to the Midgard Serpent's effort to end it all.
If you go this route, would the market be subject to tremors (churning of the Serpent)? Would the city (or at least travelers trying to reach the city) be subject to other indirect attacks from the Serpent? Would Loki be an influence?
Are there any other (perhaps non-Norse) angles you are thinking of pursuing?

ripvanwormer's picture
Offline
Factol
Joined: 2004-10-05
Re: The Marketplace

Palomides wrote:
I haven't read "Dark Roads..." but I do agree that a planar marketplace should have some qualities to make them unique, otherwise what's the point. (For example, what little I've read of Tradegate makes it seem dull).

My thoughts on Tradegate deserve another thread, but yeah, I agree with you.

Quote:
I also like your solution as "Dark Roads" seems like they went to the other extreme where they threw about every crazy idea they could think of together hoping it would seem cool.

There's definitely a balance to be struck between between not enough unique ideas and too many, since both extremes can tend to make a settlement seem generic. It's like... I just bought like ten different kinds of salsa, and I was kind of tempted to mix them all together in a big bowl, but then I wouldn't have been able to taste the distinct flavors.

So right, I prefer the idea that it's just a city at the crossroads of four or five major planar trade routes (honestly, I could take or leave the river, which might make things unnecessarily complicated and doesn't really fit with the rest of the description - plus making a completely different city be the nearest river port encourages the PCs to have to move around and explore to get where they're trying to go). With the amount of major routes limited, there's a lot of variety but not so much that the individual flavors get watered down.

Quote:
Since you are placing this site at the roots of the World Ash, are you going to have the city threatened or interacting with the Midgard Serpent (who according to legend bides its time gnawing at the roots)?

In the Prose Edda, Yggdrasil has three major roots: one is in Asgard, one is in Jotunheim, and the last is in Niflheim. It's the Niflheim root that the serpent Níðhöggr (not the Midgard Serpent) chews.

The root associated with the Loom in Dark Roads & Golden Hells is the Jotunheim root, since that's the one where the Well of the Norns (called the White Well in this book) is found. So Níðhöggr won't be nearby.

According to the poem Grímnismál there are other serpents beneath Yggdrasil, but the Norse word for "serpent" is vague in my understanding and can also mean worms. I definitely want giant worms burrowing through the wood - that's where the Underwalk comes from, literal wormholes that wind through the planes - but they might not be serpents as such. They might be giant silkworm larvae.

Now, if travelers use the Underwalk to journey from the Marketplace to Niflheim, they're definitely going to have to worry about Níðhöggr.

Quote:
Are there any other (perhaps non-Norse) angles you are thinking of pursuing?

Yeah, I've been meaning to follow up on my first post.

The Loom is a difficult plane because as written there's not much there. There's the Well of the Norns, there's a lake inspired by the Lady of the Lake and the Holy Grail, and there's a kind of prison but there's not much reason for anyone to want to trade there. I'd make it the homeplane of Pathfinder's aeons; it seems to fit them better than the Outlands. And I linked both the aeons and the Loom to Pathfinder's mothmen.

Quote:
Mothmen Drawn to disasters across the planes like moths to a flame, mothmen are enigmatic agents of fate.

Somewhere in the multiverse is the Loom of Fate (Dark Roads & Golden Hells), page2 19-21), where the multifold gods of predestination - Istus, Shekinester, Rava, the Norns, the Moirai - weave threads of destiny into mortal lives. But mortals aren't the only slaves of Fate. In the roots of Yggdrasil, in the depths of the Astral Plane, titanic silkworms grown bloated on the flesh of dead gods of chance spin the silk from which destiny is woven, harvested by ruthless spiders of time.

There is another set of beings who occasionally intervene and break this cycle - the aeons (Pathfinder Bestiary 2), particularly the thelatos, who believe that some destinies must be protected and others must be defied. Other aeons occasionally intervene as well: the akhana, who cut Clotho's threads of birth and repair the damage done by Atropos's scissors; the bythos, who guard the Loom of Fate from non-aeons who might molest it; even the pleromas, who protect and alter the destinies of entire worlds. Often, they intervene through agents, planar silkworms that they liberate from Fate's yoke and shape into humanoid form. These creatures, descended from the worms of destiny but metamorphosed through the aeons' magic, are the mothmen.

The mothmen are not creatures of order. Their connection to fate is instinctual, and the aeons set them free to follow their instincts wherever they might lead. Some, sages believe, have gone mad thanks to the aeons' warping of their bodies and minds and pursue irrational, destructive destinies with the intensity of fanatics. They fly toward times of great crisis and opportunity - natural disasters, wars, planar rifts - and guide Fate not toward where the gods planned, but toward where they believe it would have gone had the gods not interfered. In their deep racial memory they believe they can recall a time before there were gods of fate, when the silkworms determined the course of history on their own. The aeons believe that this animal instinct more closely matches the will of the Monad that guides them than the whims of the great powers. The gods themselves have difficulty acting or even locating these pests, as their bodies feel identical to the threads of destiny to divine senses. They require mortal agents to find them and oppose these creatures who seek to thwart their will.

In Sigil they work as they work elsewhere in the planes, searching for disasters and calamities and changing the course of events in their alien, inscrutable ways. If they join a faction it is usually on a temporary basis only, until the current crisis is settled one way or another, before moving on to another event on another plane. Although created as agents of the aeons, they serve no will but their own.

Mothmen have another use for disasters: they take the opportunity to lay eggs in the fabric of the universe, where their grubs feed on the energy of time, chance, and fate to grow into silkworms. The silkworms then crawl through the planes back to the god-corpses drifting among Yggdrasil's roots to begin the cycle again.

But as for the Loom itself, it's not actually clear why anyone would want to trade with it. What's produced there? Where does it connect to? As written, the only well-known connection is with Yggdrasil.

But Dark Roads & Golden Hells actually has two planes associated with goddesses of fate. The other realm, the Plane of Gears, has a whole district ruled by hags that weave the threads of destiny. But there's no indication that these two planes are connected. Could the Plane of Gears be located within the Loom? Possibly, but since it fits so well in Mechanus I'd rather just have a reliable route between the two. The Plane of Gears is a thriving metropolis that produces textiles, alchemical products, and machinery of all sorts, so it might be worth it to venture through the Loom to bring goods between the Plane of Gears and the Marketplace.

The Plane of Gears is both trading partner and rival to the Marketplace. The Marketplace is the headquarters of a plane-spanning organization dedicated to freeing clockwork beings from slavery no matter what the cost, which might be interpreted as terrorism on the Plane of Gears.

It would also make sense to create a connection between the Loom and the Demonweb in the Abyss. Lolth seems to permit travelers to use her portals as long as they are no threat to her schemes; she dreams of the conquest of entire worlds, so what does she care for a few mortals? Not that she'll do anything to prevent her demons from devouring anyone within their sights.

In theory, the Loom is supposed to connect everywhere, since the threads of Loom are the literal threads of fate. But just because there's a connection doesn't mean the connection can easily be used for travel. I imagine there might be some danger in disturbing the strings of fate too much and causing disasters on other planes: reality quakes and planar storms.

Travelers on the Loom would be well-advised to summon a paracletus aeon (Pathfinder Bestiary 2) to use as a guide to help divine the safe paths and ensure they don't enrage the aeon's superiors.

And Marketplace is probably somewhere on the path between Samhain and Yule. It should be possible to avoid Marketplace, but not inconvenient to stop there along the way.

Palomides's picture
Offline
factotums
Joined: 2010-06-26
Re: The Marketplace

ripvanwormer wrote:
Yggdrasil has three major roots...It's the Niflheim root that the serpent Níðhöggr (not the Midgard Serpent) chews. The root associated with the Loom in Dark Roads & Golden Hells is the Jotunheim root [with the Well of the Norns]

When I write these up, I forget how much my mind jumps ahead and that I actually have to go back and explain my mental leaps.
Since this town had a "moribund economy" and is a "busy chokepoints of the soul trade"; I immediately jumped to the idea that one anchor for the city was tied to the Jotunheim root, and another was tied to the Niflheim root (thus providing a link to both the themes of fate and death) plus whatever other "permanent" anchor threads you want to connect to other locations (although, I would include minor threads to just about everywhere - but these are unstable and may not be present the next time you visit)

But, I'm definitely not trying to push any particular idea; just trying to stir the pot for possibilities.

One thought that occurred to me was that there might be a potential industry of people claiming that they can either
1) "read" the gathering threads to predict major upcoming events (nothing completely certain until the thread is collected and woven by the "three sisters" (or whatever deities of Fate you use)); but these business people claim to be able to interpret lumps or tangles in the thread as likely major future events
2) manipulate the threads in an effort to affect one's destiny (E.g. add an imperfection to create a "disturbance" in a life-line, add something to partially smooth out a lump or tangle, or add something to weaken the thread of one's enemy)

If I were to use this, I don't know if I would actually grant them these abilities (particularly the later); but, I could definitely see a lot of coin changing hands for those who can convince others that they have these abilities

Another one that occurred to me. When one's thread of life is cut (i.e. when you die); what happens to the small remainder from which it was cut? Perhaps, something can gather these remainders and do something with the power within? (Also strengthening the tie to the Niflheim root I suggested)

I know I'm stretching the poetic imagery of the Fates weaving one's life a little too literally; but again, just trying to play around with some ideas

sciborg2's picture
Offline
Factol
Joined: 2005-07-26
Re: The Marketplace

Hmmmm...I was only a brainstormer patron for the project, but the way I remember it Dark Roads was meant to be a giant grab bag of ideas loosely connected to the Midgard multiverse.

So that might explain of why it feels disjointed, as each of the planes aren't necessarily supposed to be connected.

But regarding the locations that don't seem to be in the book, I'll double check the old notes I still have and see if I can offer some suggestions as to how it was supposed to fit together.

__________________

Health Resources: Register family with 911 services, so providers will have info prior to emergency/disaster. Also mental health info & hotlines, articles, treatment assistance options, prescription assistance, special needs registries, legal aid, and more!

Planescape, Dungeons & Dragons, their logos, Wizards of the Coast, and the Wizards of the Coast logo are ©2008, Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc. and used with permission.