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Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

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Palomides's picture
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factotums
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Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

OK, I think I heard the most support for a renovation for Acheron. While not one of my favorite planes, I tolerated the standard material (with a few minor tweaks), so I don’t know that I’ll be contributing much to this one.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, the tumbling cubes (etc.) are a little hokey. When I read about the other polygons tumbling through the other layers, I couldn’t help but think of the multi-sided dice in front of me (and if I were doing a “Barmy to the Spire” type comedy campaign, I would have the actions of Acheron just be the attempts of some war gods trying to roll a natural 20 as the had their forces fight each other).
I’m not suggesting that the shapes be done away with as they are fairly integral to the design of the plane. I just felt that it had to be said. If anyone has suggestions to restore some grandeur to the cubes, please speak up.

So what’s the starting point (Note: I know this is far from being comprehensive):
This is a plane where the group-identity (and especially group-anger) ends up sublimating any individual compassion. People battle with other groups that their group identifies as traditional enemies, racial inferiors, or infidels. They fight because they believe they must to preserve (or spread) the traditions and culture of their own superior people.
No individual from an opposing group has his actions viewed independently; he is always judged as a member of that group and answerable to any sins committed (in reality or in gossip) by that group
An individual from one’s own group is always judged by how his actions affect the group. Did the soldier show mercy to an enemy? Then that soldier must not be shown mercy for what he did to his unit. Obedience is more important than initiative or personal judgment. No person is of importance unless he is willing to fight (and die) for the cause
Harsh disciple is accepted and expected. Mercy is not. Victory for the unit (even if a bloody Pyrrhic one) is more important than personal glory.

The floating iron cubes are pitted and scarred with cracks and dents from their collisions and craters from their many battles. These cubes may rust and fracture but are never completely destroyed.
The echo of colliding cubes and the ring of battle are always in the background.
Residents in tunnels, in self-sustaining communities, eating nasty fungi. Some are sustained by high magic, while others contain unfamiliar but fully-evolved ecosystems.
These meager supplies lead to communities with harsh, strict obedience and to constant warfare with other groups as the supplies of the various groups run low. For this reason, the various fortresses and compounds are almost constantly under siege.

There are four layers:
*Avalas
This one gets covered the most. It is the battleplains universe, where armies from all eras and all planes dominate societies that are always at war.
[Note: I intepret this as all current and past armies – so a typical DnD character might see “modern” crusaders and armies of ancient Sparta; but probably not WWII fighter planes (with some rare exceptions for color)]
Most of the listed gods reside here:
Bane
Militant goblin god, Maglubiyet, clashes with militant orc gods, including Gruumsh
Lei Kung, Chinese god of vengeance with his lightning infused petitioners. A haven for vengeance-seekers [Since he is on a LN/LE plane, I would suggest Lei Kung actually pursue “almost” justified acts of vengeance instead of commiting raw acts of evil under the cloak of “justice”]
Unique sites:
“Urbane” rakshasas control some of the cubes “where laws are tedious”
The Mercykillers headquarters is Vorkeham ("the City of Fumes"), made of titanium with acid fountains. Mercykillers are immune to the fumes and don’t have dry heaves
The Blue Cube is home to a blue dragon that forgets everything each morning and has taken to etching the things he wishes to remember into his cube (ala “Memento”?) Arrivals on this iron cube are badly shocked
Wreychtmirk with a branches to different Styx locations on each side (and a environment on that face influenced by the source (or destination?) of the Styx on that side)

*Thuldanin
The universal junkyard of battle where items turn to stone. Duegar heaven is here

*Tintibulus
A universe of basalt hexagons, with no life except visiting magic-users. This is an excellent place to do magical research. One gains a point of intelligence daily, and loses a point from every other ability, the usual penalty resulting when any drops to zero.
Wee Jas, the Witch Goddess of Death and Magic resides here. She tests spell-casters kidnapped from across the planes, though none ever pass her exams.
Wee Jas spends much of her time walking the boundary ice and mentally sifting it for memories of lost magic and the memories of death.

*Ocanthus
A universe of flying razors that travel the plane like flocks of birds; and the bladelings. In Zoronor, the bladeling city, natives impale captives on black ice or vines to create more of their kind (Do they worship the surrounding thorny woods as a protector god)

Here are some assorted notes of mine which I don’t recall being canon or created (by me or others):
-The Army of Purity
-Portals exist from block to block. Most are heavily guarded and may be inside military fortresses
-When cubes collide, they sometime splinter into smaller cubes
-The armies regenerate each morning (along with the floating islands, another parallel to Ysgard)
-Battle magic enhanced
-“Friendship” magic weakened
-Acheron’s terrain is “divinely morphic” and changes at the whim of its deities. Ordinary creatures must use spells and physical effort to change the infernal battlefield.
[NOTE: will a god of war attempt to turn his cube into a battleship of sorts?]

Palomides's picture
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factotums
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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Things that I think were my customization:
-Independent thoughts and actions attract living Fear spells that roam across the plane. Since I view Ysgard as a plane of bravery; it seemed to me that fear should feature in Acheron
-When petitioners die, it results in their later reappearance the next morning with no memories except that one must keep fighting. Often times, they join up with whatever unit is in the area even if it was the group the recently deceased had formerly been fighting. Each "death" results in a little bit more of the person's individuality being stripped away. [Another parallel/twist from Ysgard’s continual fighting]
-I placed the Norse giant realms of Jotunheim and Muspelheim here and then opened up dimensional rifts so that the groups could periodically raid each other and “pilage” a floating isle to one plane or the other (the captured island would transform over time to match the other islands of the plane)

Questions:
-How often do the cubes really collide? I cut back from what I felt was the official stance. While it happens, I felt it should be a momentous event with major ramifications; which I didn’t feel could be maintained if it occurred once a week.
-While there is a LOT of internal conflict on this plane, what motivation would a PC have to side with one army or another? Will all the “internal” adventure seeds involve trying to create accords between combating groups?
-How do we tie in Thuldanin (the junkyard) and Tintibulus (the place of isolated magical research) into the theme of the plane?
-What are some motivations and grand plans of the bladelings?
-What schemes do the rakshasas plot?
-Why did the Mercykillers set up in a city of fumes?

Potential adventure ideas:
-PCs dropped on a cube that will collide within a day or two. There is one passage to safety underground but two armies are fighting over it. PCs may need to pick sides or sneak past
-PCs asked to find magic item in the junkyard belonging to the leader of a now-lost legendary unit of fighters
-Planar rifts often open between Ysgard and Acheron and platoons often shift between the two planes without participants realizing. PCs ask to rescue an Ysgardian who got left behind before he becomes one of the mindless troops.

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factotums
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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I would also say that blind legalism and blind adherence to tradition would be commonplace here as well, though to be honest, I would have to brush up on the personalities of the natives, first, and Acheron can at least boast being stronger in this area (existing bestiary, that is) than Bytopia, which is mostly just "hey guyz, what monsters are associated with gnomes? Let's drop those in.". The blind traditionalism would manifest in the natives continuation of the blood war.

Acheron (though to a much lesser extent) holds a bit in common with Mechanus in that much of the plane and its inhabitants are inorganic. Though unlike Mechanus's natives (who I don't recall what they feed on), many of Acheron's natives can survive off of metallic elements.

The canon, I dare say it, will need a bit of overhaul for the 3 lower cubes, because as it is now, Acheron is depicted as being fairly devoid of life outside of the divine realms and Acheron's first cube. The 4th cube is depicted as being practically devoid of life. That doesn't make it very interesting.
I have no problem with the canonical idea that civilization only exists on the first cube, though.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

It would seem that Acheron would be home to dystopian societies to mirror Arcadia's utopian societies. So why not mirror what we've developed in Arcadia and have the first layer of Acheron be the layer of endless warfare and territory taking, and make a different layer the layer of dystopian societies? Maybe put them on the third layer, which is pretty much empty anyway and it's calling out for something to fill it. In fact, if you follow this line of reasoning, the fourth layer almost lends itself to being a Room 101 sort of place, where individuals are sent to be "re-educated" (or at least disappeared to). And the second layer becomes a sort of wasteland and a blasted, ravaged terrain between the front lines and the "motherland".

I do worry that this concept might be a little bit too modern for the core setting though. But there's something about it that just clicks for me.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I was trying to conceive of the layers as different forms of anger towards "others"

*Avalas - warfare; anger against the "traditional" enemies of the opposing army
I don't think layer needs much work except perhaps some details about what the more passive residents (e.g. rakshasas) are doing

*Ocanthus - bladelings and flying razors
Maybe this layer is all about anger towards the "racial inferiors" (namely any non-bladeling) or if you make the bladelings a theocracy, this could be anger towards all "impure infidels"

Perhaps make the bladelings the ultimate xenophobes. Due to a tragedy in the ancient past, they learned to NEVER trust anyone other than another bladeling. The race isn't evil so much as it is pathologically paranoid of outsiders
Perhaps the bladeling's spiky exterior is a physical manifestation of this defensive paranoia. If raised outside of the mental conditioning of the bladeling society, maybe the species wouldn't grow barbs. (Maybe, their well-adjusted brothers already exist somewhere on the planes but no one made the connection between the two "species" before)
Perhaps the "flocks" of razors that only attack outsiders is another manifestation of this extreme xenopohbia

Or perhaps (following Wicke's lead), the bladelings are so certain of their racial superiority that their "indoctrination" of other species into fellow bladelings is just a dark reflection of a Harmonium-style attempt to set the multiverse "right"

*Thuldanin - junkyard; not so much hatred as a symbolic of the perceived uselessness of an item or individual once the state/war machine has used it up

That leaves
*Tintibulus - lifeless realm where mages can increase their arcane power at the cost of the physical power

Perhaps this layer is in some way a sentient being (this would be easier in my campaign where I changed this layer into just a large irregular "cube" amongst all the others)
This sentient being/layer feeds off of vitality and from disappated magical energy. So it tempts wizards to come here with promises of increased power but with the hope that they get careless and waste away.

Maybe this sentient layer is actually the collective consciousness of an entire race that was subjected to its eternal formless existence by a wizard (or a cadre/nation of wizards).
Possible ironic twist: maybe this collective consciousness was the result of an experiment the group wanted as a way to unite their minds in a harmonius whole (a Harmonium-like concept that went wrong). Maybe the collective mind is composed of former wizards who did this to themselves; but they didn't anticipate the effects that would result when their collective fears/ids/"dark sides" combined. Sort of a "Forbidden Planet" side-effect.
Now the layer projects this hatred out to all wizards through the cosmos.
Rather than just kill mages outright, they (the collective mind of the plane) seek to prove their own superiority by demonstrating how foolish all wizards are as they grasp for just a little bit more arcane power.
This fits in with Wee Jas' "testing" of others and searching for memories of lost magic (produced when careless mages waste away)

-----------------------------------------

This may be too campy for most but I had one army force in Acheron that had infused their bodies with modron parts. Captured members of the opposing army were operated upon and likewise given modron parts. Something like clockwork-Borg assimilating new recruits

Evil's picture
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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Well at a glance, Acheron fills a gap as the plane where blind obedience to one's superior, without regard to logic or written law, is the norm. Are there specific rules that govern how a Orc taskmaster should treat his burrowing subjects? I think not. He says "Dig!" and they start digging and don't stop digging. How this would translate in other layers, I need to meditate on.

First layer:
I love cubes. I don't like that Orc and Goblin deities share the same cube, can somebody explain to me why that is? I think they are better of with one cube for every Orcish and goblinoid deity, and Gruumsh' and Maglubiyet's cubes being some of the most battered, massive, impregnable fortresses in the Multiverse (they are greater deities after all, if they want, they can just separate their realms into two separate cubes. Maybe not as convenient for planewalkers, and a little less flavorful, but makes much more sense).
Mercykiller city is a nice addition to the plane, always were. The city is probably in conflict right now, and the eternal warfare of Acheron may have spread to the city as conflict between Sodkillers and Sons of Mercy. Sons of Mercy try to move the city to an uppper plane, while the Sodkillers are happy where they are, and are willing to slaughter every last Son to make sure things stay like that. Mecrykiller loyalists, who are still in charge of city legally, are doing everything they can to stop civil war from breaking out. "Everything they can" include censures, curfew, arrests and public executions. Riots, clashes, assasinations are common on the streets, and city gates remain closed for weeks at a time. People who arrive from Sigil or through another portal is immediately taken into custody and interrogated by mecrykillers, as those who try to sneak out are. Famine is on the horizon along with the gathering armies who wook notice of the chaos in the city.
Ideas for strange, flavorful armies are as important for this layer as new cubes.Still definitely the layer that needs the least work.
Second layer:
... has a lot to do with war. What I don't get is what it has to do with evil and law. We know these two things aren't necessarily inclusive with war. I think we can come up with countless sites or encounters to make this a more attractive layer, but it is much harder to make it feel slightly evil lawful.
Third Layer
Ok we covered the warrior types with the first and second layer, so we need to make it interesting for spellslinging types too, right? Let's give them an intelligence bonus and they can research spells. Lovely. Problem is as the second layer. I have an idea. Let's have the wizards here make a will check every day, and if they fail, they enter somethig like a wizards rage where they only research destructive spells, and try it on any nearby object, including other wizards. As a result, there are ongoing battles between wizards' hexagons. Rakshasa only come after they have destroyed or exhausted each other to collect their spellbooks and other magical valuables, which they hoard in secret, even hidden enclaves. The Dark: it is actually through these giant collection of spells and magic items that the Rakshasa got their own spellcasting abilities and inherent magic immunity. By having stupid mortal mages do the work, they can relax all day long and enjoy being awesome. (Wow, I think I'm on to something here) In fact, it is actually these fabled great hoards of Rakshasa that Wee Jas (and others) is looking for in the layer. If any being, even a deity of magic, were to find such a vault, their knowledge and power would increase beyond measure.
Fourth Layer:
Ok, we have bladelings, not a race I'm a fan of, and they look so alone in this layer... Except they probably aren't. Rakshasa, masters of illusion and deception that they are, probably control the bladeling behind shadows, and use them to cover their own enclaves.
Chronotyryn, a much overlooked race with temporal powers, are "believed to be natives to Acheron" (Fiend Folio). If so, they could be in any layer except the first. However, I think the last layer needs their loving the most. These adamantine feathered eagle-humanoids are probably immune to the planes razor storms, or even linked to them somehow. More interestingly, it isn't known where they get their temporal powers from, so it could be that this layer has some temporal/chronomany enhancing properties. The layer's atmosphere of emptiness and timelessness creates a nice background for this. If anybody has more on these mysterious creatures (other than the FF entry), please share.
That's it for now

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Planes of Law actually is unclear on whether the orcs and goblins share a cube or not. 3e Manual of the Planes is clear their cubes are seperate; a third cube, the battlecube, is where they war.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I think when left to their own, the cubes of Acheron may collide as often as asteroids collide with each other in our world. Of course the armies on Acheron may certainly have an influence on how often the cubes clash too.

And weren't the Tso supposed to be living somewhere around Acheron?

And didn't Ravana actually have a realm their too? The presence of Ravana means their would be a lot of Rakshasa around, as he is their God.

And then their was that race known as the Reth Dekala introduced in Tome of Battle (the book also known as "that pre-4e testing ground") who were said to be from Acheron. Personally I'd think they'd probably be best found in the first two layers. But I'd have to look into that book to reexamine their origins as it's been a while.

Jem
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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

When Acheron came up in the Urban Planescape project, I proposed the idea of thunder engines, enormous crude rockets created by Lei Kung, god of lightning and thunder, master of the Firecracker Palace, which is on Acheron. By means of thunder engines a cube could be very slowly steered. Gradually, cubes near settled cubes got bashed together with struts and rivets, making huge flying fortresses out of the smaller cubes and clearing out swathes of the plane, making large fortresses relatively safe from strikes.

Why Acheron, and why Vorkehan? With the Harmonium on Arcadia and the Guvners on Mechanus, Acheron is the only plane Law-side of Baator or Mt. Celestia where the Mercykillers could set up shop, unless they wanted to share faction influence, and that doesn't strike me as their style. Once you're late to the party and realize Acheron is your lot, making the best of the situation would suggest finding a defensible spot, like a city that is survivable but not welcoming to outsiders (the fumes don't bother someone after a saving throw or two). It also doesn't hurt that Acheron is a plane where the Mercykillers don't have to answer to any local governments but themselves, and striking out to take over new territory is acceptable local behavior.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I snipped everything save that with which I take issue.

Palomides wrote:
Let’s get one thing out of the way first, the tumbling cubes (etc.) are a little hokey.

I’m not suggesting that the shapes be done away with as they are fairly integral to the design of the plane. I just felt that it had to be said. If anyone has suggestions to restore some grandeur to the cubes, please speak up.

The shapes are a representation of law as perceived of in a very Greek fashion (e.g. the nestled spheres and their associated polyhedrals). As each of the shapes involved has an equal volume (if my basic science knowledge serves me correctly), these shapes are representations of abstract, and arbitrary, order.

Palomides wrote:
So what’s the starting point (Note: I know this is far from being comprehensive): This is a plane where the group-identity (and especially group-anger) ends up sublimating any individual compassion. People battle with other groups that their group identifies as traditional enemies, racial inferiors, or infidels.

Yeah...no, this is not what war or militaries on on Acheron are about. This ascribes a purpose and meaning to why people on Acheron engage in battle. There is no purpose in the warring factions' existence, let alone their conflicts. The difference between this plane and others is that it is about redundancy in it's most insidious and meaningless form. To give it a purpose would destroy the very essence of what makes the plane LN trending towards Evil. Bureaucracy isn't the issue, it's bureaucracy that grinds people under for the sake of the system in the guise of pointless militaries going through the motions that defines this plane.

Palomides wrote:
An individual from one’s own group is always judged by how his actions affect the group. Did the soldier show mercy to an enemy? Then that soldier must not be shown mercy for what he did to his unit.

Again, this would be giving meaning and purpose to the plane that slowly kills everyone by systematically grinding them down. It would seem to fit the plane's one-for-one notion of exchange, but this leads into the problem of trending towards purpose rather than an unfeeling, uncaring, and unbiased system.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Emperor Xan wrote:
Yeah...no, this is not what war or militaries on on Acheron are about. This ascribes a purpose and meaning to why people on Acheron engage in battle. There is no purpose in the warring factions' existence, let alone their conflicts. The difference between this plane and others is that it is about redundancy in it's most insidious and meaningless form. To give it a purpose would destroy the very essence of what makes the plane LN trending towards Evil. Bureaucracy isn't the issue, it's bureaucracy that grinds people under for the sake of the system in the guise of pointless militaries going through the motions that defines this plane.

Believe it or not, I stated from a similar concept of the plane. But then I read some descriptions of the plane online (as I couldn't remember how much of my take on Acheron was canon) and it seemed that group anger (or at least some form of hatred) was appropriate on this plane.
Look at the residents:
Bane
Ravana and the rakshasa
Clashing golbins and orcs (including Gruumsh who is CE and doesn't seem like he should be on this plane except for his desire to fight and act out on his hatreds)

My later post where I pictured the layers as forms of hatred (towards groups) was actually a re-imagining of the plane for me as I had never thought of it that way before.

But I guess the real point is what does the collective Planewalker community should be the core (or at least stronger direction) for this renovation?
Should Acheron be more about the tragedy of the individual losing all identity and significance under a war-machine that engages in conflicts over points no one remembers anymore
(Similar to themes of the conflicts between the great nations in Orwell's 1984 where the conflict is just used to keep the populace subjugated)
Or should there be more focus on irrational group hatreds where one is conditioned to fear and hate some abstract enemy even though the individual has no reason to actually hate that group.

Both themes could be present, but we should probably lean towards one as being the "main" theme. Or else break them up according to the levels (e.g. the first layer is about the pointless war while maybe the bladeling layer is more about group hatred)

I don't have any strong preferences as I see potential in any of these tracks

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I love the "characteristic" entry in Vorkehan's description... "When the number of martyrs are high enough, resistance crumbles" I can see this as being the mindset of pretty much every petitioner in the plane. Cold, not necessarily cruel as merciless, they know (or believe unquestionably, which makes it true) that "violence solves everything", as long as they keep applying it.

Adding to that, I don't think Hatred is something these people need. From what I remember, fighting endlessly, without any actual cause or motivation for battle (except fear of corporal punishments and peer pressure), is the norm for all these armies. Which is why they never manage to build a proper kingdom or other civilised culture. If they could, if a leader could come up and manage to unite even 5% of the armies in Acheron, they could conceivably dominate the rest and move on to the rest of the multiverse... But it never happened and never will. Also, hatred is more like a Tanar'ri thing from what I read on Hellbound.

I also don't like to see dystopian societies in Acheron, for the same reasons. And I think that Baator and Gehenna cover ultimate despotic and exploitative socieities. The third kind of major dystopic society is Acheron, so it doesn't need to devote a layer to make it more obvious.

I see the obvious Arcadia resemblance though, and agree there should be some contrasts. However, the contrast is already there if you want to go with the renewed Arcadia approach: we already made the first layer a place where wars are fought as humanely as possible, with terms, conditions and goals predetermined. I think just one layer of contrast is enough though, if we start going to lower layers, we should also come up with similarities between the 3rd and 4th layers... Which isn't something we want to do, is it?

Palomides' approach to the second layer really got to me:
"*Thuldanin - junkyard; not so much hatred as a symbolic of the perceived uselessness of an item or individual once the state/war machine has used it up"
On my post right after yours (I hadn't seen yours when I started writing mine), I was just asking for such an explanation. Used, and thrown aside: the ultimate reward for a mercenary. Even today, there are so many war veterans that suffer the same disillusionments, along with PTSD, which, just occured to me, should be a major effect of the plane.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Palomides wrote:
*Tintibulus A universe of basalt hexagons, with no life except visiting magic-users. This is an excellent place to do magical research. One gains a point of intelligence daily, and loses a point from every other ability, the usual penalty resulting when any drops to zero.

Can I ask where you're getting this from? I've looked through the books and I can't find any reference to the intelligence gaining aspect of the plane.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Because I didn't have my books handy, I went to Li Po's site
http://www.pathguy.com/acheron.htm
as he usually has pretty extensive write-ups and except for his preference for having the petitioners of the planes to moralize on the PCs actions, I've usually found his stuff to be close to the "official" work
But you're right; looking around the web (books still not handy) the only comment that supports this in any way is an occasional line saying something like "Tintibulus is...the best place in the Multiverse for magical research" and that's a big leap

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I have no problem with the idea itself, but maybe rather than just a literal quality of the plane maybe the source of the intelligence growth stems from draining petitioners? You'd end up with cities/towns populated by vacant-eyed petitioner-civilians headed over by supreme wizard-leader (or some such). There could be an extensive slave or prisoner trade between the layers: The leaders in layer 3 could hire the armies of layer 1 to capture people to bring back, so they could drain them. Having death marches through hostile environments (read: Thuldanin) seems well within the warfare concept of Acheron.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Perhaps in the theme of "crushed" soldiers, the wizard-leader could used such drained "soldiers" as extensions of himself. The leader could draw on the magical power of the minion and could mentally order the zombie-like minion to cast spells

Once the minion is zombie-fied, he has a lot of stored up magical power; but he cannot re-learn any spells. The leader then has the equivalent of a humanoid wand - lots of stored up magical power that can be used once
Once the minion is destroyed (either physically or all the spells/magical energy is used up), the husk of the victim crumbles to dust and the leader loses any remaining power the victim/vessel held - or more dramatically, maybe physically destroying a "zombie" with remaining spells unleashes a blast of magical energy)

I could easily see some some rakshasa lord sitting safely back in the oppulence of his palace as he commands his platoon of spell-casting zombies to attack a foe
So the rakshasa:
1) hires an army on layer 1 to kidnap people
2) takes the victims to layer 3
3) allows them to grow in magical prowess (at least those that actually survive the draining process long enough to gain magical power - maybe 1 in 5)
And perhaps rakshasa illusions could be used to prevent the captive from realizing the danger he is in
4) once those with magical power reach 0 in some attribute(s) they turn into a spell-weilding zombie
5) the rakshasa uses them for his own goals or hires them out as elite units that add tremendous power to a fighting force back on level 1 (perhaps the "zombies" start to lose power if taken away from layer 3 or Acheron too long)
6) takes the money gained from the magical mercenary units and go back to step 1

Of course, the rakshasa will periodically raise enough money, mercs (from layer 1) and zombie minions to strike out at a rival rakshasa

The petitioners would literally be pawns for which the rakshasa has absolutely no compassion, unemotionally seeing them as pieces to be used in it's "chess game" with a rival.
The rakshasas may not even care about ground gained or progress, they are only concerned with "winning" the game against the rival

If we follow this idea, the rakshasa should probably be immune to the draining effect of the layer. The layer is reported as being "unpopulated" because the rakshasas have no desire to expose their existence to the world.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

One of the realms that shows the cruel indifference of the plane is a wandering castle that kills the very beings that keep it moving. Those who succumb to the weight of the realm become a paste/lubricant that helps keep the whole thing in motion. As the victims are embedded in the base of the structure, no one ever sees their faces.

I think one of the things that helps contrast Acheron from Mechanus is that in the latter everything has its place and serves a function. Acheron, however function (e.g. live) so long as they serve a place in the system.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Emperor Xan wrote:
One of the realms that shows the cruel indifference of the plane is a wandering castle that kills the very beings that keep it moving. Those who succumb to the weight of the realm become a paste/lubricant that helps keep the whole thing in motion. As the victims are embedded in the base of the structure, no one ever sees their faces.
Not to nit-pick but doesn't Demogorgon or some other fiendish lord have such a castle that is constantly hauled through the plane with petitioners getting crushed under the wheels?

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Evil wrote:
Palomides' approach to the second layer really got to me: "*Thuldanin - junkyard; not so much hatred as a symbolic of the perceived uselessness of an item or individual once the state/war machine has used it up" On my post right after yours (I hadn't seen yours when I started writing mine), I was just asking for such an explanation. Used, and thrown aside: the ultimate reward for a mercenary. Even today, there are so many war veterans that suffer the same disillusionments, along with PTSD, which, just occured to me, should be a major effect of the plane.

I really like the idea of building some kind of "old soldier's home" on Thuldanin - tucked away somewhere obscure and remote amongst the piles of debris - a building full of sentient detritus, if you will.

This home is filled with old soldiers that cannot function anymore, due to missing limbs, PTSD, etc. This would not be a house of care however, as that just wouldn't fit at all. Rather, it is a place of punishment, forcing these souls to dwell on their uselessness and complete lack of meaning (which is prevalant on the entire plane) only here they are not even granted the release of physical exertion to take their minds off of it, as they would be up on Avalas.

Perhaps it's the final destination before merging with the plane? After eons of fighting on the cubes, you finally get sent here as one last little kick in the nuts to really break you down before being absorbed? Or is that hopelessness angle borrowing too freely from the Gray Waste?

I'm at work right now, so I can't devote much time to thinking this out. It's just the barest glimmer of a seed germinating in my mind at the moment. Help me out.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Not to nit-pick but doesn't Demogorgon or some other fiendish lord have such a castle that is constantly hauled through the plane with petitioners getting crushed under the wheels?
I think that would be the General of Gehenna, and it has mechanical feet (like an insect's) instead of wheels.

Let's look at the plane's personality by indigenous creature.

Achaierai (MM) (15 ft. tall flightless birds with 4 long legs. Its extreme cuteness belies it true nature. Evil, cunning, and predatory, with a taste for torture.)

Bladeling (MMII) (mostly Ocanthus) (Humanoids with metallic anatomy, believed to naturalized to Acheron *meaning they're indigenous to another plane*. Superstitious and xenophobic, their society is filled with strife towards one another except in the rare instances when non-natives intrude upon the cube. Planewalking Bladelings are more tolerant and amiable, and can be of any alignment)

Bonespear (FF) (this is simply a vermin)

Chronotryn (any cube; my guess is the first two cubes are by far the most likely, however.) (FF) (double-brained anthropomorphic birds of prey who claim to be masters of time. These birds hoard knowledge and magic items that they collect from victims which they hunt, and possess many sorcerous powers. They are very arrogant, and probably consume the bodies of their victims.)

Justicator (any) (MM3) (angel-like, gray-winged humanoids who fiercely battle against Chaos. The Justicator is to law what angels are to good, and are admired by Archon and Devil alike. Their psychological nature is similar to that of inevitables. Despite being natives of Acheron, they are pure lawful-neutral.)

Maug (FF) (Thuldainn) (amoral, self-replicating, sentient constructs built to be unflinchingly loyal mercenary soldiers, originally banished to Acheron's junkyard from a Prime world. It's likely that these creatures should be revamped using 3.5 rules into the Living Construct subtype.)

Siege Beetles (MM5) (Avalas) (these are simply really friggin' big vermin. They serve the ecological function of scavenger, and also hunt life meaty prey. Their ecological niche is very important on Avalas, as they clean up the bloody mess left after a battle. This is very interesting because Acheron is probably one of the few lower planes *beyond your token fiendish templated creature* possessing an indigenous creature which fills this role.)

Steel Predator (FF) (any cube) (More like a sentient magical beast, this is an inorganic creature with internal anatomy. It hunts the cubes for yummy enchanted metals to consume. Nothing is mentioned of its behavior or ecology beyond its combat capabilities.)

Steelwing (MM5) (Border bet. Ocanthus and Tintibulus) (A winged bird-of prey and fierce predator of semi-sentience with metallic, razor-sharp wings. It serves the functions of both predator and prey *feeding mostly on planewalkers and petitioners* and serves as a domesticated animal to Hextor's planar armies, and Champions of Gruumsh hunt them for sport. Steelwings are monogamous and extremely vengeful if their mate is slain.)

Sword Spirit/Ragewind (MMII) (any cube) (the wrathful spirits of warriors who perished in pointless battles. Appears as a whirlwind with dozens weapons suspended within. A rare type of petitioner.)

Now let's look at the powers (These lists helped in determining the canonical theme in the Gehenna topic)

AVALAS
Amatsu Mikaboshi (Japanese god of... evil?)
Bahgtru (orcish deity of strength and combat)
Bralm (Avalas/Hive Fortress)
Gruumsh (orcish king of the orc pantheon and god of war & territory)
Hextor (Greyhawk deity of war, tyrrany)
Ilneval (orcish deity of warfare)
Khurgorbaeyag (goblinoid deity of slavery and oppression)
Lei Kung (thunder, vengeance)
Luthic (orcish goddess of medicine, fertility, and servitude)
Maglubiyet (goblinoid deity of war and rulership)
Nomog-Geaya (goblinoid deity of war and authority)

THULDANIN
Deep Duerra (Duergar goddess of mental domination and psionics)
Laduguer (Duergar god of gray dwarves and craftmanship)
Wee Jas (Greyhawk deity of witchcraft, death, and vanity)

UNKNOWN, BUT PROBABLY AVALAS
Ravanna (god of Rakshasa)

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

"Or is that hopelessness angle borrowing too freely from the Gray Waste? "
not necessarily hopelessness, more like uselessness. Anger and shame diverted at self, for not being able to keep fighting, or having ever fought at all. I think such a site would be very interesting, as these half capable veterans are practically dying for a hope of being useful again. They have been tools for so long they have begun to crave it. Really evil adventurers, and desperate warlords, could come here to gather some ragtag band of seniors, hoping to use them as cannon fodder. Expendables, indeed. I think as a GM, I would play on the emotianal impact of this. If you ever visited a Senior's home, you probably get what I'm trying to say. What doesn't quite add up is how these vets end up here in the first place. If they leave an army by themselves, they will be caught and killed. Nobody is going to spend time to send them to another plane. So probably they are "those who are left behind" such as, too slow to keep on marching, wounds deemed to heavy to try and heal, thought dead and left on the battlefield. These people than try desperately try to join their comrades, maybe wandering aimlessly in the layer/cube, until their fear of being left alone, being left behind, being useless and unfit reaches to a point where they fall from exhaustion and wake up in the Vets Home

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"Or is that hopelessness angle borrowing too freely from the Gray Waste? "
not necessarily hopelessness, more like uselessness. Anger and shame diverted at self, for not being able to keep fighting, or having ever fought at all. I think such a site would be very interesting, as these half capable veterans are practically dying for a hope of being useful again. They have been tools for so long they have begun to crave it. Really evil adventurers, and desperate warlords, could come here to gather some ragtag band of seniors, hoping to use them as cannon fodder. Expendables, indeed. I think as a GM, I would play on the emotianal impact of this. If you ever visited a Senior's home, you probably get what I'm trying to say. What doesn't quite add up is how these vets end up here in the first place. If they leave an army by themselves, they will be caught and killed. Nobody is going to spend time to send them to another plane. So probably they are "those who are left behind" such as, too slow to keep on marching, wounds deemed to heavy to try and heal, thought dead and left on the battlefield. These people than try desperately try to join their comrades, maybe wandering aimlessly in the layer/cube, until their fear of being left alone, being left behind, being useless and unfit reaches to a point where they fall from exhaustion and wake up in the Vets Home

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Palomides:
Hmm one thing doesn quite add up with this 6-step Rakshasa racket; the 3rd layer is only said to have (and it is said to have, it turns out we so far have no official source on this) intelligence boosting powers. This doesn't make it magical energy boosting as well. Two entirely different things.

The demon lord with man drawn city is Yeenoghu, lord of gnolls, I believe.

Side info: in the related Hindu myth,Ravana and his army of Rakshasa was defeated by Rama and his army of Apelike humanoids, vanara, and their deity-comander Hanuman. According to "dead gods" list of Rip, it was reincarnated.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

My dead gods list is kind of sketchy. There are places where I didn't stick strictly to canon.

For a canonical take on Ravanna, see here. I wrote that article too, but I stuck more strictly to Dragon #84's backstory. According to Dragon #84, he was slain by Rama and his spirit reformed in Acheron, which is more like what happened to Graz'zt than true reincarnation.

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The castles hauled by slaves on Acheron are called hassitorium, and Planes of Law says there are eight of them, with the Mercykillers secretly trying to build another.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Perhaps the serious idea of forgotten/disabled soldiers can be merged with my silly/bizarro idea:
Those who are deemed "useless" due to lost limbs, etc. are tempted by the clockwork-Borg with promises of being restored with mechanical modron parts (taken from slaughtered modrons).
Unfortunately, the process strips away even more of the person's individuality.
So the options are:
1) be consigned to "uselessness" and a a loss of identity (as the person had always defined himself as a "fighter/combatant" and can't think of himself as anything else
2) become something that is more machine than man; but at least he would be a "combatant" again

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Evil wrote:
[O]ne thing doesn quite add up with this 6-step Rakshasa racket; the 3rd layer is only said to have (and it is said to have, it turns out we so far have no official source on this) intelligence boosting powers. This doesn't make it magical energy boosting as well.

Yeah that occurred to me too. But I thought it was a borderline neat idea that I figured we could fiddle with to make it work if it caught on

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

The tso, from the second Planescape monstrous compendium, are supposed to be found on all the planes of law from Gehenna to Mechanus. The spelljammers they travel in make the most sense in Gehenna, Acheron, and Mechanus, where flying ships are really useful to get around. Elsewhere, because of the way movement works on the outer planes, spelljammers aren't any faster than walking over any significant distance. They can't use the Outlands to get between these planes, though, since Torch is the only town that has a gate you can get a ship through. Wreychtmirk allows them to travel between Acheron and Gehenna, so what's needed is a reliable ship-sized portal between Mechanus and Acheron that the tso can use. The main portals between those planes are in Regulus and Resounding Thunder, I think, neither of which is likely to welcome tso. So I've been meaning to invent a sleazy kind of piratey town in mechanus with a portal to a tso-controlled cube in Acheron.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Palomides wrote:
Perhaps the serious idea of forgotten/disabled soldiers can be merged with my silly/bizarro idea: Those who are deemed "useless" due to lost limbs, etc. are tempted by the clockwork-Borg with promises of being restored with mechanical modron parts (taken from slaughtered modrons). Unfortunately, the process strips away even more of the person's individuality. So the options are: 1) be consigned to "uselessness" and a a loss of identity (as the person had always defined himself as a "fighter/combatant" and can't think of himself as anything else 2) become something that is more machine than man; but at least he would be a "combatant" again

Perhaps I'm looking at this from a much too modern perspective, but, seeing that I am a disabled veteran, I resent the idea of any notion that smacks of uselessness on the part of the walking wounded. I also don't feel a loss of identity due to my service-connected injuries any more than I do my industrially-caused, state-rated disability. This is not to say that soldiers can't feel useless, but it does not require any injuries for such a state. One of the things that makes people feel useless is meaningless repetition, which means the activities of the soldiers before AND after their maiming must be devoid of discernible purpose.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

ripvanwormer wrote:
The tso, from the second Planescape monstrous compendium, are supposed to be found on all the planes of law from Gehenna to Mechanus. The spelljammers they travel in make the most sense in Gehenna, Acheron, and Mechanus, where flying ships are really useful to get around.

I'd suggest appending Carceri to the list of planes as it's the most Prime-like in regards to the world-shaped nature of the plane's land masses. Plus, it would make an optimal place to have slave pen for some of the more insidious spelljamming races, even if they're not necessarily of a lawful bent. Then again, Carceri is the prison plane.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

-Tso Spelljammers aren't retro fitted to planejam? That's surprising. While sleazy pirate town in Mechanus isn't such a bad idea*, I would house rule Tso ships to be able to planeshift.

*Even better, sleazy pirate city was actually on Arcadia's 4th layer, right under Harmonium's nose, and shifted to Mechanus along with the rest of the layer. For some reason, Tso in Arcadia sounds... surprising.

-Xan, I think you understand what I'm trying to get to perfectly. What makes these soldiers feel so useless and unnecessary and foolish even, is the lack of any real cause, purpose, meaning or passion of the wars they fought. What I envision is not a modern day veterans home, where old soldiers recount their tales and exploits. If anything, it is like an open prison, where the only bars are their own shame and fear.

-The more I read about Tintibulus, the stranger it gets. there are two more explanations I've found on the layer's "magical research enhancing effects":
1. "Magicians' libraries are scattered here, and is the best place in the Multiverse for magical research." (wikipedia/acheron): I don't know of any official material that states there are so many libraries here, can somebody clarify? As for flavor, it makes sense. If this is why people come here for research , than it is more of a library search than a research. This means that this layer is just a step advance from the second layer. Instead of looking through debris to find useful physical weapons, you look through libraries to find useful magic. We can make a ruling that these libraries only contain destructive spells. Also, we should add a chance that these spells have a high chance of misfunction(like the objects from the 2nd layer).
2. "Wizards come here to study the magic and mathematics of the plane" (Rip's entry in the Planewalker wiki): Since the plane contains multisided solids, which constantly crash and break into smaller solids, it is true for them to come to the layer for mathematical(geometric) studies. however, I don't know if this would make it the best place in the multiverse for magical research, except if you are from that prestige class in complete arcane. You know, the one which uses geometric symbols instead of spellbooks? For everyone else, it is just an empty plane that makes a lot of noise (the constant ring of solid crashes, -4 to listen checks)
Both of these explanations doesn't explain why Wee Jas is here, but than again, if this was really the best place for magical research there would be a lot more Powers of Magic around. So, maybe it isn't?

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Emperor Xan wrote:
Perhaps I'm looking at this from a much too modern perspective, but, seeing that I am a disabled veteran, I resent the idea of any notion that smacks of uselessness on the part of the walking wounded. I also don't feel a loss of identity due to my service-connected injuries any more than I do my industrially-caused, state-rated disability. This is not to say that soldiers can't feel useless, but it does not require any injuries for such a state. One of the things that makes people feel useless is meaningless repetition, which means the activities of the soldiers before AND after their maiming must be devoid of discernible purpose.

Let me be the first to apologize. I come from a long line of service men and I personally don't feel that anyone (particularly those who served their country) are useless or purposeless.
Because we are dealing with abstract ideas on the planes and because I was seeking someway to justify a junkyard on a plane of combat; I rationalized that it was OK to pursue this line of thought.

To take a step back; in the real world there are unfortunately instances of the intense evils that one might see in Baator or the Abyss (Nazis, Charles Manson, etc.) that but I think the majority of people in the world never steer to those extremes.
In the same vein, I think most servicemen and women (injured or not) are fully developed people that identify themselves in a vast number of ways (parents, business owners, etc.) instead of one signle narrow definition.
But even here there are a few unfortunate cases where a person returns from war and can't re-integrate back into "normal" society.

Because this is a serious issue, I can understand that one might feel it should be outside the scope of a frivolous RPG. I could see others maybe wanting to touch this topic through this medium like the way a medium like science fiction can often allow us a way to look at serious issues like racism, the arms race, etc.

Regardless of whether you accept this rationalization or not, please believe me that I am not trying to characterize you or the people with whom you've served as characitures or automatons. And I mean absolutely no disrespect. Sorry if it came across that way

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I think there has been some collective agreement:
The theme of the plane should be a focus on the expectation of blind obedience and the cruelty of a soldier being nothing but a pawn to be used. Pointless unquestioning service to a state involved in a pointless combat
I particularly like the idea that the “typical” solution to any problem is "violence solves everything", as long as they keep applying it.

It also seems that most people are mostly comfortable with two of the layers:
*Avalas – warfare. While there are some complaints about minor points (e.g. do the goblin and orc gods live on the same or different cubes), I think most people are fairly happy with this layer

*Thuldanin – warfare junkyard. I think the junkyard has enough appeal that it can be largely untouched. Some want to include some human victims of war; but either way, I think we are comfortable with this layer
[Note: if placing human (or other species) veterans here seems insensitive, one could instead replace them with disgarded warforged. They are machines; they were designed and educated solely for combat; etc. – might work better]

That leaves two layers for which we have nothing except for random ideas that no one has really clamored aroundr. I’ve restated some of these suggestions. Please note that they aren’t all mutually exclusive

*Ocanthus – bladelings and flying razors
[It seems to me that this layer can be fleshed out if we can come up with some goal/purpose/motivation for the bladeling existence]
-Bladelings are unknowningly the puppets of rakshasas that hide behind multiple layers of illusion
[Begs the question of “To what ends are the bladelings being manipulated? Do the rakshasa plan to use them as a personal army or do they intend to use them in another way?”]
-Layer of xenophobia; fear/hatred against outsiders
[Doesn’t fit in well with the main theme of the plane but does fit with the known personalities of the bladelings]
-Bladelings are sort of a dark Harmonium who sacrifice beings and turn them into bladelings in order to further the “unity” of their discordant race

Then we have the layer that is almost literally a blank slate
*Tintibulus – no life; good for magical research
-Magical equivalent of Thuldanin. But instead of junk, one can search the hostile environment for lost libraries of magic or lost items of magical power (possibly only combative/destructive types of magic)
[If we pursue this theme, what sort of scavengers (paralleling those of the junkyard) reside here?]
-Battle plane for spell-slingers; visitors might succumb to “wizard rage” where they focus only on destructive, war-like spells and later attack others
-Rakshasas working behind the scenes to scoop up magic from killed wizards. They have one or more vast collections of arcane lore tucked away (probably hidden behind layers of illusion) Wee Jas may be searching for this
-Would this be a good place for “living spells” to roam? Maybe they use mortal vitality to “repower” themselves

Assuming the layer drains physical power while granting an intelligence boost
[I personally like this suggested property as it gives some flavor to the layer and it sort of parallels the Thuldanin danger of petrification]
-Layer is sentient that feeds off of life forces; uses intelligence boost to lure victims in
-Layer hates mages and attempts to lure them to their dooms
-Layer is the collective mind of a group of mages who wanted to have a linked mind/intelligence. Now it seeks to absorb more intelligence or stored magical energy (which is all that is left after a visiting mage is physically drained)
-Hiden rakshasas use physically drained mages as “humand wands” or “zombies” to hold magical energy which the rakshasas then unleash through their unquestioning combat troops

I haven’t heard any cohesive support (or even strong preferences) for any of the ideas for these last two layers. What do people think?

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Emperor Xan wrote:
Perhaps I'm looking at this from a much too modern perspective, but, seeing that I am a disabled veteran, I resent the idea of any notion that smacks of uselessness on the part of the walking wounded. I also don't feel a loss of identity due to my service-connected injuries any more than I do my industrially-caused, state-rated disability. This is not to say that soldiers can't feel useless, but it does not require any injuries for such a state. One of the things that makes people feel useless is meaningless repetition, which means the activities of the soldiers before AND after their maiming must be devoid of discernible purpose.

Emperor Xan,

I'd like to mimic, more or less, what Palomides said. I've no doubt that you, and the majority of returning servicemen/women are able to reintegrate back into society (injured or not), and we are in no way taking a cheap shot at any veterans.

There is however an undeniable truth of war - and that is there are unfortunate individuals who succumb to their scarring (physical, emotional, or some combination of the two). Now, what overall % do these broken souls represent of a nation's armed forces, I'm not informed enough to hazard a guess.

I just thought it was a compelling issue and I've always found injecting such into a campaign adds a gritty, believable, and relatable amount of verisimilitude to the story.

And besides, maybe it's not even the old soldiers themselves who feel used up and obsolete. Belief = Reality on the planes, so perhaps if the rest of his company feels a soldier is too old, too tired, too wounded to fight on, it becomes so. In this manner, soliders are condemned to the home by their own comrades (if such a term is applicable here). Perhaps being consigned to the home is enough to plant that seed of doubt in their mind, making them now feel useless when previously they did not. Lingering in the home, with no hope of even the release of physical exertion to take their mind off the overall lack of meaning on this plane, sets them further on this downward spiral of self doubt.

So, I just wanted to reiterate that nobody was making a blanket statement about disabled war veterans, and I personally apologize if it came off in such a manner. If I can find the time, I'd still like to develop this location, though I will keep it confined to my personal notes if you find the idea distasteful.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Some clarification on my part is needed. I apologize if I gave off the impression that I was irked by the comments in regards to disabled vets. Rather, what I was trying to point out is the problem of purpose that such people lack. But the cause is important in answering the question. People are forced to make a choice between terrible things all the time. Orson Scott Card wrote a book on this subject called "The Terrible Choice" (his name for a situation in which a characters forced to choose between two goods or two wrongs). Dramatically, this is satisfying. In reality....no so much. But there is a gravitas behind the situation that lends such weight, and meaning, to whatever decision is made. Justification for one's actions springs from such severity of action. This generates meaning and purpose.

So, what's the problem with Acheron? Part of it is a categorical collapse we have in relation to what the plane is supposedly emphasizing. Western society stresses order as being good and chaos being evil. When you add Judeo-Christian values, you greatly increase this view. But law can be evil, as embodied by the Baatezu. This isn't even truly an argument for whether the spirit of the law v. the letter of the law is a stand-in for good v. evil.

A good example of pure law would be math. It doesn't care whether the answer hurts or bolsters a person's care. It's completely neutral, which is why it fits in so well for Mechanus. The law of Acheron is what I liken to a place where law has done its job too well. In effect, the entire bureaucratic structure has done what it was supposed to: force everyone to be the same. Having crushed the desire for expression that does not serve the system of laws, the plane is the ultimate extrapolation of a monolithic culture: any deviance from the system is a punishable offense. It doesn't matter if the laws have meaning, only that they're consistent and that you follow them. Acheron is a totalitarian state without a functioning government that could at least provide some pithy slogans people could cling to.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Some old thoughts of mine on Acheron:
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19556046/Acheron:_a_po...

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Evil wrote:
-Tso Spelljammers aren't retro fitted to planejam? That's surprising. While sleazy pirate town in Mechanus isn't such a bad idea*, I would house rule Tso ships to be able to planeshift.

I don't think the PSMCII actually specifies, but spelljammers in general can't (at least, in 2e) automatically shift to other planes. If you'd like to have the tso as a significant presence in the Astral Plane (which they aren't, in the official materials), then they should definitely have that ability, but personally I'd rather they didn't. The reason why is that I think portals and planar paths are among the most useful ways to develop the planes. Planes feel more coherent if there are fixed trade routes and towns built around permanent gates, and figuring out where the portals are, and where they lead, helps inspire the design of those towns. I feel like both Acheron and the tso become more interesting if they're handicapped in this way; it connects the tso with the geographical features of the setting, where a race of "true" planewalkers, untethered by a need for portals or paths, becomes untethered from the campaign setting to some degree. There will still be places they favor, of course, but it's not as obvious and natural to determine where those places will be.

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I disagree with this, Rip. From what I've gathered in the various materials and interviews with the setting's designers is that beings gravitate towards their alignment's niche. They travel out to other locales to promote trade and their own beliefs. Community is important in Planescape because of the infinite expanse and gives a being a place to retrench if an enterprise goes awry. Even if the species in question has a tendency to loath its own kind it's better to have a sense of the familiar than complete isolation. The great thing about Planescape is that what fits as natural depends on the DM's conception of the planes and the species therein.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Oh, I'm not claiming tso are going to show up an equal amount of time on completely random planes of existence. They're lawful evil, so they spread throughout lawful evilish planes, primarily. But that goes without saying, and it's not really very helpful in detailing a single plane, which is the point of this thread.

The benefit of detailing portal towns and migration routes is to map out the plane in greater detail. Tso have a big handicap, which is the size of their spider-ships, which limits the portals they can use (assuming they want to bring their ships along). This is a good thing, since it means that figuring out how they deal with this handicap helps flesh out the campaign setting... unless they can just phase into the Astral at will, in which case it isn't a handicap and adds nothing to the geography of Acheron. They're untethered to the geography of the setting, and any tso-specific locations you dream up can just be plomped in any random part of Avalas. If they're limited to a few specific gates, though, that inspires specific communities along the tso commerce routes, places the tso are motivated to try to conquer, protect, or maintain the status quo in. It gives them story goals, and it gives them weaknesses the PCs can exploit - the PCs know where to find them if they want to deal with or confront them, and if they can take one of these settlements away from them they've dealt a real and lasting blow to the species. In short, the campaign setting has more detail and meaning.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Okay, this makes it clearer where you were going with your ideas. I can't find any fault with this since it is the areas of civilization where most of the official material generally concentrates. I realize that this is partially to let DMs make up their own stuff as much as it is a way to provide a microcosm of a plane's themes.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Rip, let me state at once: what you say makes perfect sense.
However,
The reason why I proposed that was to give the Tso an edge over other merchant groups. They are planefaring traders after all, but they operate independent of P.T. Concortium and Merkhants. (At least, this is what I would expect.) They need that extra edge to compete with the two larger groups.
If I introduce the Tso to my campaign, I would make them opposed by other trade groups, not because of their evil nature or their disgusting mating habits, but because they are able to planeshift.
And besides, even if they didn't have to use portals, they would still have to maintain a presence on major trade hubs. Trade is a matter of transferring goods to those who have money or other goods, and planar hubs are places where you can find both. But, in addition to hubs, Tso vessels jam into isolated or hard to reach places. For example, a Tso spider ship transferring slaves to Zoronor for sacrifice, and buying Acheronean ice in return would be a surprise for PCs.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

So, what's the problem with Acheron? Part of it is a categorical collapse we have in relation to what the plane is supposedly emphasizing. Western society stresses order as being good and chaos being evil. When you add Judeo-Christian values, you greatly increase this view. But law can be evil, as embodied by the Baatezu. This isn't even truly an argument for whether the spirit of the law v. the letter of the law is a stand-in for good v. evil.

I don't think the concepts here are difficult to fathom at all. Looking at the various Acheronian sites and races, it becomes obvious that Acheron represents the evils of legalism ("it's right because it's the law"), mindless conformity (represented both literally and abstractly-- e.g. the metallic nature of Acheron and many of its inhabitants, and the pointless crashing together and floating/movement of the cubes), empty/pointless wars, and traditionalism for tradition's sake.
This is as opposed to Mechanus, which is a plane of pure conformity, logic and lawfulness-- emphasis on the logic.
Acheron, OTOH, is mindless adherence-- this sets it apart from Mechanus and emphasizes a more merciless and pointless nature. Acheron embodies law and conformity without logic or goals.
Those on nearly all other plane have an ultimate goal as far as the wars they fight go-- this is not the case on Acheron.
Acheron is the hell for those, particularly soldiers, who fought wars without purpose, or returned home and were unable to adapt-- then began preying on the people of their own community (or innocent wayfarers, a nearby elf village, etc.) because they are unable to re-adapt to civilian life and have developed a taste for bloodshed (although I believe most such individuals, particularly those who become predators in their own communities, end up on Carceri, instead). It's also the hell for soldiers who felt a senselessness or vanity in their death, or even in their participation in war.
Likewise, it's the hell for groups who have warred for decades if not centuries, but no longer remember their reason for fighting one another-- they do it simply because their fathers warred against the other side, as did their fathers, and their grandfathers' fathers, and so on.

Acheron is different from Baator in that Baator represents tyrrany, (as does Acheron), and tricking people into aggreeing to/signing convoluted, deceptive, contracts and pacts. Unlike the Yugoloths of Gehenna, the Baatezu NEVER actually break the law-- they merely bend it a bit or make it so complicated that it confuses or distracts people from its true stipulations.

Whereas on Gehenna, the natives are all about doublespeak, bluff, deception, and facade, as well as mercilessness in the form of trickery, exploitation, and inflicting unrelenting misery-- usually from afar, behind the shadows. Yugoloths don't bend the law-- they break it in secrecy, while maintaining a lawful facade. Only the fear of being caught keeps them from turning on their superiors. This of course is nothing like the Abyss, where the only thing to keep the Tanar'ri in line is brute force and the threat of brute force-- on the Abyss, might makes right. It's also for those who love carnage and mayhem, and fcor those who enjoy destruction for destruction's sake.

Carceri of course is the plane of betrayal and for those who surrender themselves to their base, primal desires. This is where the typical serial killer ends up, along with the ex-soldier who developed bloodlust during his service and now preys upon innocent wayfarers, villagers, or even his own countrymen, simply for the thrill of the hunt and the kill. This is the plane where the CE barbarian who loves the rush of ripping his opponent's heart out with his bare hands goes. That includes the barbarian who does the above to others of his own species, and then consumes said heart RAW. This is the plane where CE lycanthropes typically end up.

Pointless unquestioning service to a state involved in a pointless combat
It's not just that. As we see with bladelings and (to a lesser extent) Achaerai, traditionalism for tradition's sake is also represented here. This is not defined as cultural inertia, but rather, adherence to malignant traditions and cultural values. For a real-life example, consider the pro-segragationists in the south who argued against the Civil Rights act because racial segregation was "southern tradition", and therefore was right and good (also known as the "Appeal to Tradition" logical fallacy.)
I believe the anecdotal story in the PS monster compendiums about the Achaerai was to display both their sadism and their malignant traditionalism. The woman in question was definitely in the wrong for what she did (autopsy of a new species), as anyone in the D&D world should be aware that the "dead animal" they encounter might actually be a sentient species, and therefore their dead deserve some basic respect.
On the other hand, she also had no way of knowing that the dead achaerai WAS a sentient species, and therefore the achaerai should have shown leniency towards her. Instead, they inflicted upon her a worse punishment than the standard for her cultural ignorance (the standard punishment of course was death.) Of course, this was partly due to THEIR xenophobia-- they were disgusted that this alien, repulsive creature was cutting open one of their dead bretheren.

You know, I'm seeing another theme here, but really, xenophobia is just another evil side of traditionalism.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

In the Arcadia renovation, between the first and second layers there was a shift in how petitioner societies treated one another. On the first layer, societies fought. On the second, societies debated. I could easily see there be a similar sort of shift in focus between the different layers in Acheron, going from the hot wars of the first layer to a sort of Cold War stalemate on the third layer. This would fit in with the sort of themes which are emerging with regards to the third layer of Acheron - open wars aren't fought there, and there's a focus on magical research. It wouldn't be hard to imagine the different societies, groups and factions in Tintibulus each engaging in research with a specific focus figuring out a way to get the upper hand on all the other groups on the layer (see the earlier comments made about Rakshasas). The first and second layers could easily act as a sort of testing ground for any new weapons, spells or war machines.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

There should also be areas which represent the destructive property on civilization that war has. It would be a decent-sized cube plagued with rust and crumbling away. The petitioners and even fiends living there possess only stone-age technology and knowledge, and for millennia, have recycled tools and items from the previous civilization. This region is riddled with ancient, crumbling, rusty ruins of a highly advanced civilization-- perhaps one of modern or even futuristic technology.
However, at this point, the tools of THAT civilization have all long since worn away, and the structures of said civilization are so eroded that little knowledge can be gleaned from them-- signs of an advanced written language and artistic creativity can be found, but they're so badly eroded that they are no longer the least bit legible.
The region has a strange effect on those who stay for too long-- it seems to sap their vitality-- body fat and muscle mass are lost at incredible rates, as though the subject is slowly starving to death-- in reality, it makes no difference what or how much you eat. While on this cube, you will starve. Realism-wise, you'll suffer the effects as though you had consumed only 1000 calories per day (assuming you're active), and 500 if inactive. The inhabitants, be they mortal, petitioner, or fiend/outsider all look emaciated and frail; many suffer from chronic infections. They toil among the barren ruins to carve out a meager existence, using only unwrought iron sticks and unwrought iron chunks as their tools. They wear loincloths made from piecemail garbage, if anything at all, and are incredibly superstitious.
The Doomguard take great interest in this area. The eldest fiends, those few who were alive when this cube still had some advanced civilization, all seem to be afflicted with senility. This cube is stationary-- it never moves. Wayfarers who stay long tend to suffer frequent, terrible nightmares of war when they sleep on this cube.
There is no non-sentient animal, plant, or even aberration life on this cube (in real life, war-torn areas inhabited by refugees are quickly stripped of plant and animal life as displaced refugees devour all edible organic matter and use the rest of the plant matter for fuel. The destruction of all plant and animal life-- e.g. "Slash and Burn", is also a common war tactic, and always has been.) Wayfarers must be on their guard, as a healthy creature is likely to be cannibalized by the starving inhabitants.
The eyes of these inhabitants are devoid of hope, and full of bitterness towards the entire multiverse. They often look longingly and nostalgically towards the oxidized ruins.
There should be a portal to the Grey Waste here, not surprisingly.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

In my mind, I'm starting to thematically translate the first three layers in this manner:

Avalas: The horrors of endless warfare. Since armies are always on the march, you're always at risk of being swept up into a conflict or being targeted.

Thuldanin: The aftermath of war. The junkyards make for a great backdrop for how scavengers come out of the woodwork to pick over whatever was left behind when armies fight. Beyond the junk, I see the place filled with burned out ruins in a blasted landscape. I can also easily see lines of refugees wandering the land, coming into conflict with one another over the limited resources present. The refugees would also highlight the emerging concept of the uselessness for the layer; like the broken or forgotten weapons and war machines, the refugees are people who have been discarded because they can't/won't fight. This might make for an interesting focus for good-aligned planes: rescue the lost people here from joining the endless wars, or even from simply being turned to stone.

Tintibulus: States engaged in almost-fanatical research and espionage. Individuals are made to work on perpetuating the war machine, or are used as test subjects for new developments. Of course, this sort of arrangement would necessitate there being a larger population throughout the layer.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

I was about to propose what Wicke just did for Tintibulus but he stole the idea from my brain...which is not a nice thing to do to a rilmani.

Anyhoo, Acheron serves as a dark mirror of Arcadia. Arcadia has many high-functioning, orderly societies with governments that have reached near-utopia. The primary conflicts come from between societies, not within. The first layer is orderly warfare between different societies. The second layer is intellectual warfare.

Acheron could do it too. But where Arcadia is an engine of harmony, Acheron is an engine of dissonance.

Avalas is covered in endless warfare between societies that seek utopia, but a very different sort of utopia from the Arcadian ideal. Acheron's utopia is formed from rigid rules, ruthless authority, the power of conquest, the steady beat of the war drum, and the endless march. I think many keys can be drawn from Rigus here, with its unrelenting caste system and hierarchy. But what's the point of the conquest? Where does it end? New armies constantly come up and devour old ones. Warlords fall and are replaced. Incompetent successors lose their fathers' kingdoms and the battle never ends.

Thuldanin is where places go once they've been razed. If a location is just plain wiped out instead of conquered and annexed, it slides into Thuldanin. Thuldanin is full of scavengers, looters, and chop-shops. A lot of people come here hoping to get a quick buck. If anyone's familiar with Warcraft lore, this place makes me think of a goblin's paradise. Thuldanin has the remains of keeps and fortresses, the wastes of long-abandoned battlefields, and the waste cast off from the layer above. Its main inhabitants are refugee camps, tiny scavenger settlements, and scrapyards. All sorts of people hoping to make a quick buck come here, but many of them get stuck working for a scrapyard king. Many people living in Thuldanin's settlements are good at repairs, largely because they have to learn how to get what they need off the waste they find. You can usually pay someone to fix your gear, and sometimes soldiers come down from the first layer to visit repair shops. These settlements never get very big because if they do, they run the risk of sliding back into Avalas.

Open warfare rarely occurs on Thuldanin. There's not enough population and Avalas is the layer of battles. Thuldanin is just the leftovers. Acheron, for all its war, is more than lawful enough to respect this sort of rule.

Tintibulus can be the dark mirror of Arcadia's second layer: Intellectual warfare. Arcadia's second layer deals with intellectual debate. It uses culture to support the society it represents. Tintibulus deals with intellectual prowess. Debates are solved by who can build the biggest boom. Research academies spend years developing new weaponry to take to Avalas and use against enemies. "Corporate spies" are all over the place, and ideas constantly get stolen. If we wanted to take a more business-like angle, many of the academies could be independent and willing to sell their developments to any Avalas army that will pay.

Open warfare is also rare on Tintibulus, but that's not to say the layer is a haven. Safety protocols are rare in the research academies. If several workers die in an explosion, that's a small price to pay for developing a big weapon. Of course, that means academies are prone to self-destructing when they reach for something too big to be contained. The ruins then slide up to Tintibulus. This helps keep the weapons research from growing too big and overwhelming the rest of the multiverse. Once an academy get to a certain breaking point, it explodes and most of its advances are lost. Combined with the constant rise and fall of armies on Avalas, this helps accentuate the pointlessness of the conflict and keep the military power in check.

EDIT: I think one big way we can make the pointlessness of conflict on Acheron stand out against the pointlessness of everything on the Gray Waste is this.

Everyone in Acheron thinks they're a part of the bigger machine. Whether they're important or not, whether they're abused or not, they're a part of a greater whole and they know it. From the lowliest peon to the highest commander, they all try to operate as one greater entity. While the battles they fight may be pointless, nobody thinks they are and that's what's important to them in the end.

It would reflect Arcadia nicely since on Arcadia, the natives are all linked to a greater whole for the greater good of everyone else. On Acheron, everyone is linked to a greater whole, but for everyone else's ultimate detriment. It also opposes Ysgard well because Ysgard is about individuality, while on Acheron the individual is typically subsumed into the greater whole.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

One of the problems with pointless warfare is that there's nothing guiding what the armies do, and little to motivate player involvement short of, say, short-term mercenary work. If there is something the armies are fighting over, there's something to get players involved. A couple of thoughts:

Tactical refinement. If there's a place to test new weapons, tactics, and formations, Acheron is it. Tricks and strategies tried out here could make their way into the lore of war on the Prine. The orc and goblin armies engaged in endless racial warfare might have been working at this since their creation.

Resources. Few cubes on Acheron seem different from the others, with the exception of a few like Wreychtmirk, the Blue Cube, or the one that the Mercykillers are on. All of them seem to be able to grow provender cubes. Few have extractable valuables. The best resource that seems to be scarce and desirable is inter-cube portals, offering a general the chance to destroy enemy communication bottlenecks, or surround and cut off his opponent's territory, then grind them down under siege.

So here's a thought: petitioner arrival points. At the dawn of the wars on Acheron, the powers there were interfering with each others' domains and petitioner collections. In order to prevent the soul-collection system itself from being damaged the powers agreed to make it an iron law that petitioners of a given species not within the direct purview of a given deity would arrive only on specific, mostly-whole cubes. The only way to disanchor the arrival point from a cube like this is to painstakingly destroy the whole thing, whereupon the arrival point reanchors somewhere else. Armies protect their own petitioner arrival points, and eagerly attempt to capture rival species' arrival points in order to slaughter newly-forming petitioners as they arrive. If the garrison holding such a cube is under siege, it can destroy the cube if it can hold out for long enough, forcing their enemies to scout for the cube where the arrival point re-anchors. It's the dream of many generals on Acheron to control enough arrival points to starve their enemies of troops, passing a critical threshold where they will eventually be able to take all of them outside of a god's own domain.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

The layers seem to be organized in order of age.

Avalas is the present, more or less. The current age. Hot wars, as they happen. Though there's also a cool thing where cubes separate too far from the others and time stops for them, so armies remain frozen in a single instant for millennia until the cubes return from their long cycles in the timeless void and history resumes in a clash of iron against iron, forgotten soldiers continuing their forgotten wars. Perhaps the chronotyryn, born from disjuncted time, can fly into time-frozen cubes and communicate with the inhabitants there. Maybe incubating eggs in the far shoals where time doesn't move is essential to the chronotytyn life cycle. But even for the frozen warriors outside time, it's now, and their wars are happening now, even if they're slow.

Thuldanin is then. The wars are over, with only discarded remnants remaining. It's past wars; maybe some of them haven't happened yet, might never happen, but in Thuldanin they're done. Even Laduguer is done, his time battling alongside the other dwarven gods long finished, himself an old soldier in forced, bitter retirement. Again, the chronotyryn, their multilimbed avian bodies reminiscent of their cousins the achaierai,flit between eras, scavenging old time to rear their young and empower themselves.

Tintabulus is a far more ancient era, so old present-day beings don't have a reference for it. While boxes are similar to humanoid homes, the dodecahedrons of Tintabulus are reminescent of insectoid nests. The secrets of this era are long-forgotten. Perhaps the weapons they used then have disintegrated after eons of entropy, perhaps this was an age before weapons, or perhaps the dodecahedrons themselves are weapons. Nothing else is known to remain except curious scholars, chronotytyn nests, and the hidden abodes of maug archmagi. Wee Jas and her daughter Bralm, goddess of insects, dwell here, creating labyrinths and hives in the archaic geometry. Both prefer to be isolated from the noisy, quarrelsome powers of the upper layers, and both seek the power of ancient mysteries. Isolated colonies of insectoid creatures like spell weavers, tso, and formians may be hidden here as well.

If Tintabulus is ancient, Ocanthus is primordial. There are no iron shapes here; if there ever were, they've long since disintegrated. The flying shards aren't native to the layer; they're shards of ice from the River Styx, which flows here from the upper layers. Wee Jas has a secondary, or primary, realm on this layer, built into the sheet of ice at the bottom where the ice collects, so she can harvest the memories frozen within. With no solid forms native to the plane, all that remains is the terrible winds of vanished rage, the idea of war itself without context or substance, perhaps the winds of the first war there ever was, when the Wind Dukes stirred in their early conquests, in the time of draedens and emptiness, or before the inchoate concepts of the planes ever took solid form, in the chill dark before heat and light or so long ago that the layer's heat and light have faded. Two non-native races, the bladelings and the pain-seeking n'gathau, thrive in the isolation, though they may be preparing for war with one another.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Since I'm still not getting a clear picture of the last two layers, I looked into one of the promenent residents, Wee Jas.
Not being familiar with her I looked her up and found the following:
-Arguably, she tends closer to LN
-She is a goddess of magic, death, vanity and law
-She is a relatively benign goddess of death although she sees no harm with the creation of most forms of undead
-She is the daughter of Lendor, a god of time, tedium, patience and study
-She was romantically linked with he opposite/sibling, Norebo a god of luck, gambling and risks (although she also hates him)
-She supposedly has a realm in the layer of Tintibulus called the Patterned Web and one in the layer of Ocanthus called the Cabal Macabre
-The Arcane Well: This myth claims that Wee Jas is secretly a greater goddess, the majority of her divine power hidden in a magical well. Although this is supposedly a secret held from the greater gods themselves, mortal followers of Wee Jas all seem confident of the tale's veracity. The well is said to be somewhere within the Stern Lady's realm in Acheron, guarded by powerful servitors and at least one bound demigod. Great wizards are said to be born with a drop of power from the well granted them by the Witch Goddess.

The myth of the Arcane well seem like it should suggest some idea for Tinibulus; but I've got nothing. Any suggestions?

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Think of Raistlin, his body is wracked by his trials in the Tower. The Elric brothers in Full Metal Alchemist are good examples of the price of power. In White Wolf's Mage: The Awakening, characters face a similar fate psychologically. The closer you get to the source of power, the more your body or mind pays for it. Raw, unmitigated power is destructive to the wielder as much as to his targets. One of the most visible examples of power's chilling and corrupting influence is the Sith in Star Wars. While they think there is meaning in the pursuit of power for its own end, it is a fruitless effort that leads only to a quicker death.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Just as Thuldanin contains the ruins of physical weaponry, Tintabulus might contain the ruins of spent magic. Ocanthus is spent memories.

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