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Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

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Center of All's picture
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Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

I've been both anticipating and dreading this plane.  Bytopia is one of the hardest planes for me to renovate.  And yet, it is probably the one in the most dire need.  It is boring, it is needlessly contradictory, and it gives little to work with.  As such, I don't have a clear image about what to do here like I did with Arcadia.

So, let's look at some of the planar features as written:

  • Two layers, Dothion and Shurrock.  Dothion is full of industry, Shurrock is full of rugged wilderness.
  • Most natives hate adventurers.  They believe adventurers are lazy layabouts that contribute nothing of value.
  • Gnomish pantheon
  • Natives are generally very hard-working and industrious.  They tend toward craftsmen, merchants, and honest laborers.

Now, the problems that I see with it -- aside from the place being downright boring:

  • Adventurers unwanted?  Really?  That seems pretty dumb.
  • Shurrock's nature seems to encourage adventuring.  Rugged, untamed wilderness that exists specifically to challenge nature-types? It's also hard to reconcile with the rest of the plane and with places like the Beastlands.
  • Why would merchant-types abhor adventurers?  I'm sure adventurers are a huge source of income.  They always have lots of money and they always need supplies, gear, and all sorts of things.  You'd think a merchant or craftsman would want to sell his wares.  Not turn potential buyers away.
  • No real inherent source of conflict.  Everyone lives peacefully in a nice, orderly planar trading system and there's no apparent competition or dispute to make things interesting.

Okay, that's squared away.  Any other problems people see that need to be addressed?

Now, onto a couple of ice-breaker ideas.

Problem: The unwanted adventurers issue

Proposal: Adventurers are no longer discouraged.  In fact, the people of Bytopia like adventurers because adventurers help the money flow.  Adventurers always need things repaired, magic cast, healing done.  They need supplies and food.  Often they need a place to stay.  There's no reason not to let them in.  Plus, you can always hire adventurers to take care of things you can't do yourself.  You might need a certain reagent or a certain kind of wood.  Or you need something delivered to a customer on another plane.  Adventurers are usually reliable for that, especially when paid well, and especially on Bytopia.

This is not to say adventurers get preferential treatment.  While Bytopians no longer shun adventurers, the natives don't treat adventurers any differently from anyone else.  Adventurers are customers, but there are plenty of other folks whose money is just as good.  Thus, if something is going to take 6 days to arrange, it's going to take 6 days, and nobody cares if the adventurer has to leave in 4.  Bribes?  You don't sodding bribe a Bytopian, berk.  They just don't budge. 

Problem: Very little inherent conflict.

Proposal: Craft guilds and trade competition.  If I recall correctly, the Planar Trade Consortium has a good presence here.  I seem to remember mention in Planes of Conflict of Estavan coming to Bytopia.  I don't have my books here with me so could someone please double-check that?  Whatever the case, Tradegate is the merchant's and craftsman's town outside of Sigil.  It seems that competition is the best way to cause conflict -- at least in Tradegate and Dothion.

This makes a bit of interesting territory, though.  Trade competition and  guild disputes have potential to become very, very, very nasty.  How does this get resolved?  Too much nasty would send the plane plunging into wicked scheming and backstabbing.  While it's fitting for a trader's land, it's not so fitting for a plane so close to the pinnacle of goodness.

We know the Bytopians are generally honest and hard-working.  That is certainly a characterization we should keep.  The question is how to turn that aspect into something that creates conflict without completely breaking the plane's inherent goodness.

Problem: Shurrock.

Proposal: I don't really have one.  Shurrock is supposed to be more wild, untamed wilderness to complement Dothion's urbanization, right?  How can we make Shurrock a part of the plane?  Should it tie into Dothion's conflict or should it have a conflict of its own?  "Wild, untamed layer" has a basic conflict to it, but is woefully undeveloped by itself.  I think it makes a good dichotomy but like the plane as a whole, it needs development.

Come to think of it, the dichotomy is deliberate and is a very good fit for a plane called "The Twin Paradises of Bytopia."  So perhaps Shurrock should be quite different from Dothion.  Perhaps Shurrock encourages hunters, trappers, the types of "traders" and "craftsmen" that do most of their work away from civilization?

Comments?  And what else do we need?

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Gonna start tossing out

Gonna start tossing out ideas, as per what I did in the Arcadia thread. Criticize away!

Dothian is the layer that holds all of the artisans and craftpeople, the people who turn raw materials into finished goods.  In spots, it's downright cosmopolitan with the number of people coming and going, merchants selling their goods, deals being made.  I see the cities and towns of Dothian being dotted with ornate parks and gardens, filled with statuary or other artistic works.  People put their hard work and effort into the aesthetic side of things, rather than functionality.  Expect to pay for dinner and a night's lodging with hard coin, rather than just sweeping up the floors and washing a few dishes.

Outside of the cities, the landscape is fairly gentle, filled with small farming communities, pastures and soft wilderness (light forests and such).  The rivers have have all mostly been tamed and diverted into use for mills, irrigation or other pre-industrial uses.

In contrast, Shurrock is the layer that extracts all of the raw materials from the land and trades it to the people of Dothian in exchange for various foods, clothing, tools and other basic goods.  The people here make a living by lumbering old growth forests, mining the hills and what have you.  Communities are small and close-knit, but don't generally delve into xenophobia.  Outside of the communities would be homesteads, filled with rugged frontier folk living off the land.  I see Shurrock, rather than Dothian, as being the place where you can go up to any house on the layer and ask for a night's lodging in exchange for some hard work around the house/community.

The landscape of Shurrock remains rugged and the weather remains harsh. It would be easy enough to lose yourself on Shurrock for a time, but eventually, you'd come across a prospector and his mule panning for gold in a river (or something along those lines).

Why doesn't Dothian just import all of the raw materials it needs from off-plane? Things made from off-plane materials never quite seem to turn out as good as stuff made from Shurrockian materials.

Beyond that? I like the idea that Dothian would be the place of guilds and trade competition.

I'll post more as it comes to me.

Jem
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To be honest, I think

To be honest, I think Bytopia's largely okay.   Regarding the conflict problem: bear in mind that the Upper Planes are not meant to be places of travail.  Bytopia is meant to be a place where someone whose greatest happiness came from achievement in craft or labor can pursue that happiness.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for emphasis you might find useful.

In regards to adventurers not being wanted, I would simply interpret this more in line with the theme of honest industry that runs through the plane.  Purposeless wanderers and vagrants aren't wanted; armed mercenaries seeking any soldier-of-fortune employment or monster-slaying tasks around aren't needed.  The plane doesn't have that many monsters, and doesn't encourage armed conflict -- while mercs find it economically useful to fan tensions.  The natives like to resolve things without force of arms when possible.  You're perfectly welcome to come, on the other hand, if you are hired and under employment, or pursuing a definite objective.

Emphasize this by giving the plane a travel effect somewhat similar to Elysium's traveler's travail: travel on Bytopia requires a purpose.  The clearer your purpose, the faster you will get to your destination.  People who travel without a specific destination in mind rapidly get hopelessly lost.  "Explore new territory" is a perfectly good purpose of travel, but you should know where on the map you're headed and what you plan to do with the information.

Whereas the Beastlands are eternally wild, I would recommend emphasizing the nature of Shurrock as the eternal frontier.  It's just as big as Dothion, but much more wide open: whenever any area of it becomes thickly settled or sufficiently tamed, the region switches sides and joins the pastoral splendor of Dothion, expanding it on the edges.  The area in Shurrock is replaced by uninhabited wilderness, and Shurrock expands to match the size of Dothion.  Thus, the plane itself expands when settlers successfully explore and colonize new territory.  Vice versa, if an area in Dothion becomes depopulated or backward in development, it may switch back to Dothion, replacing a large uninhabited area and shrinking both planes to match.  The natives aren't generally thrilled with this happening, and so they are carefully custodial of their open spaces, making sure they are managed rather than wild.

An important area of Bytopia is little expanded in the core books, and might give you a chance to do a great deal that adventurers would enjoy, without making almost any changes at all in the canon material:

"Golden Hills... Pastoral Splendor... yeah, I've heard of them.  They're charming.  And most bashers don't look any further than that -- that's surface dwellers for you, never bothering to look past the outside.  No wonder gnomes are so good with illusions; when you live underground, it's easy to fool people concerned with surfaces.

"See, the real Bytopia is a lot bigger than the two sides you folks see up there.  The real Bytopia: it's underground.  The gnomes know it, and they protect it.  There are dwarves there, too, deep dwarves not even other dwarves talk about so much.  I've seen an ocean warmed by volcanic vents, dark as pitch but thick with life.  I've seen an underground town of kobold petitioners what turned to good ways in their lives.  You think they're going to poke their noses above ground?  Not very often, believe me.  They know there are too many bashers that'll cut down a kobold before asking what he's doing.  But some of that leatherwork you just bought from a gnome trader might have come from the tannery of a kobold craftmaster.

"Some people think there are monsters here.  Well, there are natural animals what like the dark.  And Urdlen ain't the only deep god down here.  But the deep gods on Bytopia, see, for the petitioners they're part of the natural way of things.  Greed is there, gnawing away under the surface, to be acknowledged but transcended.  The petitioners just know how it is, and they know their state of existence protects them somehow.  I don't fully understand it, but they do.  It's you lot, mortals come traipsing around in the lands of the blessed dead, what have more to fear from the chthonic powers.  For you, them and their servants are monsters, and you ain't one of the protected souls, so if you come down here, watch yourself.

"For a basher that can keep the secrets of the underground, there are reasons to come here, sure enough.  There are portals down here to the Prime, to the planes of Earth and Mineral and Dust, and even a few to places like the Abyss and Pandemonium thanks to some of them deep gods.  If you know exactly where you're headed -- and believe me, on Bytopia you always want to know exactly where you're headed -- the Core can make a good way to get there on some of them planes, maybe skipping past the gate-towns if you've a mind, or giving the laugh to some dao.  You can even get to Shurrock -- go down far enough, and you'll find you're going up, just like climbing far enough.  For the creatures down here, Bytopia's Twin Paradises 're just the two different sides of the Core.  If you look past the surface."

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I'll wander a little off

I'll wander a little off with this one, so be warned.

I think with the renovation of Arcadia we did as much as we could with physical conflict. I'll take that option completely off. And the guild wars could really get out of hand as you have suggested.

Instead I propose we implement another conflict; that between the two layers. The two layers are far from being twins: they are in opposition to each other in every way, geography included. Here's what I'm thinking: we'll take the bytopia=Planar china theme, cut it in half and develop it like crazy. Dothion will represent everything good about sub-urban life. Shurrock will do the same to the country life.

Here's my Dothion.

Dothion's people have always been hard working craftsmen and artisans. They were not known for the originality of their work, but for their consistent, high standards of quality. Small producers gathered around guilds. the guilds engaged in friendly competition. Competition lowered prices, because large buyers like PTC always bought from  the lowest price guild. 

Then some people realised that they were being ripped off. They were working like crazy just for the satisfaction of a job weel done , and that's OK, but that doesn't mean others should get rich from their work either. They decided to unite the guilds to better compete against outside influence on prices. There were hundreds of guilds, but there were more people suffering fromthe same problem, and they managed. 

Today, The Dothion is an entirely different place then what it used to be. For virtually every product that can be tied to a specific craft, there is a Corporation that sets the amount of production, trade limitations, prices, quality standards and everything else that comes with doing business in the Planar scene. (IN RL this is something equivalent of OPEC, whatever PTC wants, they deliver it but by their own rules: if the price of cooking pots drops too low, they decrease production until they rise again. If the destruction of Armory resulted in prices of swords going up, they decrease the prices so the sales can go up)

Companies are not enemies since they work in different areas. For example there is only a single company for steelworks, and it buys raw from Shurrock (merchants), processes in Dothion (craftsmen, artisan), sells on trademeet(merchants). These companies have grown so large and powerful that they have managed to gain blessings of certain gods, especially in their areas of expertise. They have also realised that their products are so sturdy that their users don't need a new one in at least a few years. Since they can't (no, they literally can't) even think of lowering their quality... They decided to spend some time, effort and money on R&D (remember, these are gnomes.) For those who are interested, they're hiring. Another problem they are trying to tackle down is brand management. Bytopian products are not preferred by those with a lot of jink. This is where adventurers and planewalkers come in: advertisement.  They travel the planes, carry their gear around, always find a way to draw attention to themselves and shamelessly boast about their brand new item. A number of the best craftsmen are even producing stuff intended for adventurers. Needless to say, they are welcome.

PTC and Merkhants are more than a little upset about this situation, but the companies of Bytopia stand firm and united. embargo on one of them will mean embargo on all of them, and while the Bytopians can find other buyers, they are still the largest factory in the outerplanes. If anything, their efficiency has gone up by a notch. 

I think I could go on about another page or two about dothion but that's all for now. More to come about Shurrock.

Center of All's picture
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Quote:To be honest, I think

Quote:
To be honest, I think Bytopia's largely okay.   Regarding the conflict problem: bear in mind that the Upper Planes are not meant to be places of travail.  Bytopia is meant to be a place where someone whose greatest happiness came from achievement in craft or labor can pursue that happiness.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for emphasis you might find useful.

I strongly disagree here.  If it were okay, in my opinion, then there would actually be good reasons to run adventures using Bytopia.  It sounds like it's one of the most under-used planes.  There's just no immediate, overt appeal.  As written in canon, it is a very frivolous, pointless plane.

Also, regarding the conflict problem.  Conflict does not necessarily mean fighting or armed encounters.  Conflict is just a point of contention, a spice to make a place more interesting.  For a story to truly be appealing, it needs some kind of conflict.  For a plane to be truly useful for adventure and to truly hold a purpose more than just being there, it should have an inherent conflict.  Most of the Upper Planes suffer from a lack of real conflict, which is part of why I started the renovation project.  The places have little to offer.

Quote:
In regards to adventurers not being wanted, I would simply interpret this more in line with the theme of honest industry that runs through the plane.  Purposeless wanderers and vagrants aren't wanted; armed mercenaries seeking any soldier-of-fortune employment or monster-slaying tasks around aren't needed.  The plane doesn't have that many monsters, and doesn't encourage armed conflict -- while mercs find it economically useful to fan tensions.  The natives like to resolve things without force of arms when possible.  You're perfectly welcome to come, on the other hand, if you are hired and under employment, or pursuing a definite objective.

This paragraph kind of outlines the actual problem I have with Bytopia.  I don't mind that there's no armed conflict.  But the rest of it?  There's little to make Bytopia any different from a boring Prime.  Simply put, world peace is boring and Bytopia as written is world peace.  Why go there at all?  If there's no reason to go, then there's no need for the plane to exist and I'd just as soon see it cut off from the Great Wheel.  One of the biggest criticisms I've seen of Great Wheel cosmology is that it has too many planes that have no point, and most critics I've talked to use Bytopia as the first example.  Even in the main PRP thread, most people said Bytopia needs the makeover. 

Now, I'm not suggesting we need to add monsters (though the Adamantite Dragon would argue against the "there are no monsters" philosophy Eye-wink).  What I am suggesting is we break up Bytopia's world peace.  We should give Bytopia something that works with its "hard-working laborer" concept but also something that makes it pop.  Whatever happens, renovated Bytopia should be a place that, at a glance, spawns adventure stories and ideas.  As written, it doesn't do anything.

The travel effect gives a good idea of a planar effect appropriate to Bytopia.  The Core also offers an interesting foundation (though more development is needed, I think).  However, the Core alone is not nearly enough to make the plane overtly interesting.  I like the idea of places switching between Dothion and Shurrock as they become more or less populated.

@Wicke:

How about if Shurrock inspires a sort of setting out on your own to make your fortune idea?  A sort of "gold rush" concept.  You know what you're looking for, you go out and try to stake your claim.

Also, it would make sense that Shurrock raw materials are higher quality than others. For an interesting twist, I'd suggest this applies only to Bytopian craftsmen.  That is, for the craftsmen on Dothion, Shurrock's raw materials enable them to produce the absolute best goods that they can.  For other, off-plane craftsmen, Shurrock materials are good but not exceptional.  Perhaps it's something in the plane's nature itself.

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Center of All's picture
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Quote:I don't think with

Quote:
I don't think with the renovation of Arcadia we did as much as we could with physical conflict. I'll take that option completely off.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean here.  Would you mind elaborating?  In the Arcadia thread if it is Arcadia-specific Smiling

As to the rest, I think it's a good start, but I still think there needs to be some kind of internal conflict within Dothion to make it really work.  As I read it so far, it seems like it's still "world peace" internally that's having to deal with the outside world.  Again, a good start but I personally feel there should be a little more.  Also, let's avoid giving Bytopia a craft monopoly. 

That being said, suppose Dothion is, on the surface, one large city?  A land full of streets and criss-crossing avenues.  Shops, inns, restaurants, and workshops lining every road.  No parks, I think, because parks have no "work" purpose.  The plane is about hard work, and so natives probably follow a regular schedule.  Get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, take care of the house, go to bed.  I'm sure there's a concept of relaxation, but I imagine most Bytopians are involved in their crafts because they actively enjoy those crafts.  So to them, their work may be their relaxation -- something I can sympathize with.  I often draw to relax.

I like the sort of "three-tiered" concept.  Shurrock is pastoral and "empty" by comparison.  The joys of country life.  Full of miners, hunters, trappers, farmers, loggers, and other sorts that work in open fields and/or rugged wilderness by choice or necessity.  It is a land of plenty, but only if you're willing to put in the work it takes to tame it.  Towns are small and built up depending on the nearby service.  So, one town may have sprung up at a convenient location for dozens of outlying farms.  Another town would be a mining camp or logging camp built up around the lumber mill or quarry.  Still another would be a frontier trading post or hunter's lodge.  There could (and maybe should?) even be some druid groves scattered across the plane.  Gods like Chauntea are avidly worshiped here, as well as other gods of agriculture.

Then Dothion is urban or suburban life at its finest.  It's not smoggy and dingy like Sigil.  Bytopia's an upper plane so the city that is Dothion should be beautiful and clean.  In fact, there could be an entire group of public laborers devoted to keeping the place looking nice.  Deities like Waukeen, Gond, and other gods of craft and trade have major temples that double as banks, large workshops, etc.  There are few "poor" people here because everyone works hard and enjoys working.  Production is always at least enough to provide for everyone's shop and personal needs.

Finally, Tradegate (the gate-town) serves as the primary fount for the flow of Bytopian products.  It is already described in canon as "the" merchant's town.  So anything in Bytopia would be sent to Tradegate to be sold and transported to the rest of the Multiverse.  Caravans meet in Tradegate, not Dothion.  The PTC and other merchant-groups have enclaves, bases, and independent operatives focused more in Tradegate than Dothion.  Not to say they have no presence on Dothion, but Tradegate has the best opportunities and greatest locations for dealing with Bytopian goods.

What do you think?

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That sounds like a good

That sounds like a good direction. Those were mainly my thoughts on the matter - Dothion is for the craftsman, Shurrock is for the resource-gatherers. On the surface the best internal conflict I see comes from things like guild misinteractions, arguments over mining rights, that sort of thing. I feel like there should be more, though, so if I come up with anything I'll be sure to let you know.

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Center of All wrote:The

Center of All wrote:
The travel effect gives a good idea of a planar effect appropriate to Bytopia.  The Core also offers an interesting foundation (though more development is needed, I think).  However, the Core alone is not nearly enough to make the plane overtly interesting.  I like the idea of places switching between Dothion and Shurrock as they become more or less populated.

I'm a fan of the travel idea.  It makes sense given the nature of the plane. 

Ooh!  Going with the idea of having land switch from one side to the other...IIRC, there's a sect on the Beastlands called the Wilders.  I could see an off-shoot of that sect acting on Bytopia actively trying to get land to switch back from civilized Dothion to untamed and wild Shurrock.

Quote:
How about if Shurrock inspires a sort of setting out on your own to make your fortune idea?  A sort of "gold rush" concept.  You know what you're looking for, you go out and try to stake your claim.

The place certainly establishes that sort of mentality. In my mind, there's a strong streak of individualism in the people who make Shurrock their home.

Quote:
Also, it would make sense that Shurrock raw materials are higher quality than others. For an interesting twist, I'd suggest this applies only to Bytopian craftsmen.  That is, for the craftsmen on Dothion, Shurrock's raw materials enable them to produce the absolute best goods that they can.  For other, off-plane craftsmen, Shurrock materials are good but not exceptional.  Perhaps it's something in the plane's nature itself.

It's the combination of the two working in tandem that produce the best and finest goods throughout the planes.  Imagine disrupting the flow between the two, and what sort of effect that would have on the Planar economy.  Provided we go with the idea, that's a potential source of conflict for the plane: Maintaining the supply lines.

Center of All wrote:
Dothion is urban or suburban life at its finest.  It's not smoggy and dingy like Sigil.  Bytopia's an upper plane so the city that is Dothion should be beautiful and clean.  In fact, there could be an entire group of public laborers devoted to keeping the place looking nice.  Deities like Waukeen, Gond, and other gods of craft and trade have major temples that double as banks, large workshops, etc.  There are few "poor" people here because everyone works hard and enjoys working.  Production is always at least enough to provide for everyone's shop and personal needs.

I'd change that to say that Dothion is civilized life at it's finest.  Dothion is the place where the land has been tamed and controlled. There would be grand cities on Dothion, yes, but outside the cities, I imagine that there would be a strong sense of it being the heartland, filled with simple hardworking people.  That means all the farm fields have ideal soil (no rocks or hard earth), the grass always grows lush for the various herds of domesticated animals.  The weather is always mild and fairly pleasant.

The cities are where you find all of the specialized craftspeople (jewelers, sculptors, weaponsmiths and armorers, weavers, glassmakers and other artists), rather than the everyday craftspeople (blacksmiths, millers, farmers and such).  It's because of this that I see the cities on Dothion places just brimming with artistic creations.  The streets are lined with statues, the archeitecture is unsurpassed, and there are mosiacs and other endeavors covering pretty much all the surfaces.  I would also think that the place would be wonderfully landscaped, representing yet another way that civilized life has come to tame and control nature.

Ok, I've tapped my head for the time being.  Gotta recharge.  hehe...

Jem
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I like the idea of the

I like the idea of the Wilders trying to de-civilize portions of Dothion. However, I'd need to be sold more on the idea of making it a layer-spanning city. There are a couple of those already on the Planes: Sigil, for one, and Dis in Baator. Urbia and suburbia really seem more like Arcadian themes to me. Suburbia's also a fairly modern concept. So, what would make it different?

When I think of Bytopia, I think of a very American sort of plane. Shurrock has a vivid image from that timeframe: the Old West, with far-flung small towns like Dodge City, San Francisco, Tulsa, and El Paso. It's a good plane for the afterlives of nomadic and semi-nomadic cultures like pre-Islamic Bedouins, African San and !Kung, and American Plains Indians. (The Beastlands were originally named the Happy Hunting Grounds, but TSR moved away from that stereotype right quick, and well they should.)  This goes along with what was previously pointed out: folks on Shurrock would be frontiersmen.  They'd have a strong individualistic streak.  Shurrock is the West before barbed wire: cattle drives, gold rushes, wildcatters, settlers who just want some land to farm and privacy to think in, getting passed by nomadic herdsmen moving to more open spaces as the regions get settled, and fur trappers and hunters following the game.  Arborea is said to be the breadbasket of the planes, but since you can't hunt the Beastlands very well perhaps Bytopia is its dairy and its tannery, the source of the best meats, cheeses, fur, and leathers (the latter, of course, being processed into luxury items on Dothion).

Given the time frame, and Bytopia's characterization as a craft center, you have Dothion functioning like the trade cities of New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia, so I'd want to know what made those distinctive in a medieval setting. There is one element of American society of the era which would, perhaps, make a great source of tension, purpose, and adventure: the Underground Railroad. Technically, Bytopia's on the lawful side of the Great Ring, but it's a Plane of Conflict -- it's mostly interested in doing good. If a law contradicts its dearly held principles, that law is rightfully and legally null. "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." and then the laws are derived from there. The Underground Railroad broke the laws in the Old South, and it did so with pride and courage, in the service of a greater good. How about, then, if Bytopia's cities and pantheonic laws universally agreed that everywhere in their demesnes, including Tradegate, were free soil, upon which any slave that set foot was a freeman, who can earn his way with honest labor like anyone else? We plant in Bytopia a sect with a significant interest on numerous Primes, and to a lesser extent contacts and safehouses across the Outer Planes: the Freedom Road, with its members called Abolitionists. Its most deeply held belief is the right of any sentient to self-determination, and they are willing to agitate for it in the streets, ask it of Pharoah, and risk their lives town by town staying one step ahead of the dog packs.

This idea really plays up the Bytopian concept of law as subordinate to good. There is still a theoretical legal framework involved, but it includes the idea of principles from which laws derive just force, and beliefs on when civil disobedience and even outright governmental revolution is justifiable. You could have a perfectly good paladin devoted to such a code, especially if he were given "rules of engagement" on when the code's notions were permitted to supersede unjust local laws. It would be a fine group for PCs to belong to, sometimes openly, sometimes hiding their allegiance in slave lands. Its interests would be primarily in its networks across the Prime, where the planar part of the organizations spends resources planting its ideas and recruiting local organizers to set up the escape routes and begin the process of local political change. Namers would run the safe houses and plane escapes; planar factioneers would cruise the Primes setting up chapters, troubleshooting at established roadways, and dealing with political ramifications of the sect's activities on the Planes. It would surely be on good terms with the Indeps (indeed, it could simply be a project of theirs, and perhaps originally was, long ago) and the Revolutionary League, though it would also appeal to certain viewpoints in the Fraternity of Order (the legal theories) and the Xaositects (freedom!). Not very often you see those two factions mentioned in the same breath...

Aik
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Are the craftsmen of

Are the craftsmen of Bytopia the solid hardworking-but-unimaginative type, or the mad-and-inspired Dwarf-Fortressy type who create great masterpieces? The canon gives the impression of the former - a very solid and steady bunch who do nothing very exciting - but a lot of inspired type projects could be interesting. Also, gnomes never seem to be portrayed as the down to earth sensible type - they're always Mad Inventors(!). Bytopia might be a nice fit for this sort of thing.

 

 'Efficiency is the enemy of craftsmanship.'

I've no idea what that quote's from, or how exactly it's relevant - but perhaps it sparks ideas? Maybe conflict between merchants trying to maximise profits and craftsmen trying to make excellent thingymabobs? Some sort of pre-industrial industrial revolution going on?

Bytopia seems like a pretty likely place for an industrial revolution to break out, actually.

Jem
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Some sort of pre-industrial

Some sort of pre-industrial industrial revolution going on?  Bytopia seems like a pretty likely place for an industrial revolution to break out, actually.

 

It's described exactly as such in Liber Benevolentiae: "A pre-industrial industrial society," constantly on the cusp of development, at least in Dothion. 

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Center of All

Center of All wrote:

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I        think with the renovation of Arcadia we did as much as we could with physical conflict. I'll take that option completely off.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean here.  Would you mind elaborating?  In the Arcadia thread if it is Arcadia-specific Smiling

 It sound OK when you remove the "don't" operative. Sorry for the cofusion, I rewrite too many times and sometimes miss little parts of what I've previously written Embarassed

Now for reading the rest of the topic Sticking out tongue

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Jem wrote:It's described

Jem wrote:
It's described exactly as such in Liber Benevolentiae: "A pre-industrial industrial society," constantly on the cusp of development, at least in Dothion. 

How appropriate would it be to set up a situation where an industrial revolution is starting to gain momentum due to the influence of non-natives?  Sort of like what happened to Arcadia's third layer, but before there was any immediate threat of Dothion slipping elsewhere.  Merchants demanding more and more goods by cheaper and faster means.  Toss in an increased demand for weaponry/armor due to the Blood War, and the BW might be indirectly responsible for Dothion eventually disappearing from Bytopia.  

 Ok, maybe not with the Blood War stuff (I doubt a Bytopian would be pleased to hear that their finely crafted sword ended up being lost by a fiend in the Gray Waste), but the other points could be an interesting source of conflict. Natives would see the writing on the wall, and might potentially protest the factories or even go so far as to sabotage them.  Toss in the Wilders as mentioned above and you set up a situation where there are basically eco-terrorists trying to save Dothion and Bytopia from itself.

Could be interesting.

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I'd be careful about going

I'd be careful about going down the Blood War path, and especially about "layer sliding."  First, while it's established the planes are fluid and can shift, it takes a LOT to pull it off, and if you use it too often, it loses its significance.  Making Nemausus slide is a major event.  I don't think we need to apply the idea elsewhere -- especially not Bytopia. 

I am fond of putting a bit more emphasis on innovation rather than industry.  Allow me to explain. 

To me, industry is strictly production.  It is producing more volume at lower prices.  It means factories or foundries and endlessly repeating the same construction over and over.

Innovation, however, is creativity.  It's inspiration made manifest.  It's seeking out new things and new ideas.  It's stepping up to a challenge.  That seems appropriate to Bytopia, especially with its streak of individualism and/or manifest destiny.  Craftsmen would be oriented toward developing new ideas and new methods than just production for production's sake. 

Or, perhaps Aik is onto something.  "Efficiency is the enemy of craftsmanship."  That could be grounds for conflict, at least on Dothion.  Those that prefer efficiency vs. those that want solid and/or innovative products. Then again, I want to avoid treading too closely into very bitter "money wars" that most mercantile societies run into.  Bytopia's a plane of goodness, so it should be something of a heaven for the people it's meant to accommodate.

One thing I do think should be tantamount here is function over form.  Bytopians are probably a very practical and maybe even pragmatic bunch.  They like new ideas but they'd prefer something that works over something that looks pretty.  Fine arts belong in places like Arborea, a place many Bytopians may consider frivolous and flighty.  Thus, while there can be art in Bytopia, it's always art with a purpose.  You don't see statues decorating the streets, but you may have a golem maker who takes pride in his creations' appearances.  If something's highly unsightly but does whatever it's supposed to do, then it's perfectly all right by Bytopian standards.  Though the good nature of the plane naturally inspires more appealing designs.

I like the conflict idea between Dothion and Shurrock.  Wilds vs. Society.  Or at least, "Hey, we need some of this land open so you people can have your raw materials, so give it back!"  Needs a little more finesse so it doesn't become a Beastlands vs. Urban Society fight.  Hmm...

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I like the idea of Shurrock

I like the idea of Shurrock as the eternal frontier. The landscape would be wild but not necessarily hazardous, and the climate harsch but not unfriendly. The layer could be home to many tight-knit communities that live on the land and trading their natural resources. They don't mind visitors, but they do not like people who use their hospitality for selfish needs. Due to adventurers having an occasional reputation of leeching the resources of communities they come upon often without thinking of the needs of the inhabitants the people of Shurrock are suspicious of adventurers, but warm up easily if offered trade or manpower.

A potential location on Bytopia would be a two tall spires from each layer meeting the middle. On the Dothian side the spire is full of tunnels that generations of gnomes and humans have dug out. The tunnels are home to a city that stretches from the ground level all the way up to where the layers change, with the upper levels getting less and less inhabited the closer you get to the top, and the underground tunnels stretching out below the spire being kept off-limits by the city guards.

On the Shurrock side the spire has several paths and trails that see enough use not to grow over, but the traffic is limited during most of the year. In the Spring and Fall several caravans and traders make their up the spire to the top where they sell their goods to the city before returning back down the mountain.

The city acts a sort of transportation hub between the layers, and sees a lot of traffic.

A lot of conflict could be added to that. Why are the lower tunnels closed? Why didn't the caravan from that settlement come this year? That villain has to pass through here to get to his destination on Shurrock, could you please stop him?

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I always saw there being a

I always saw there being a quite a steam-tech place in Dothion, being the more industrial half of Bytopia.   Though with my version of PS most places around the planes are somewhere around the industrial revolution in technology.

But really the only special unique place I thought of was a where one of my signature characters came from, as an Aasimar from Bytopia.  And the place I thought of was a nation called Mwatubu an African-inspired location with steam/magi-tech that's as industrious as the rest of Bytopia.  Though I never given much more thought beyond that.

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Okay, this discussion seems

Okay, this discussion seems to have stalled.  Partly my fault for not keeping on top of it and nudging it along.  Been really busy trying to finish my comic prologue and work's been busy too so I haven't had much time to get back to these boards for thoughtful discussion.  While I'm here, let's see what we have. So far, we've got three parts of Bytopia -- or rather, two parts and an extension -- Tradegate, Dothion, and Shurrock. Dothion - A large city or series of cities where industry and innovation are the key points.  Industry vs. Innovation may be a point of conflict, and different groups, guilds, and people compete to develop newer inventions or greater quantities.  Perhaps this could be something avidly followed, like modern-day sporting events.  That might help keep it friendly, as befits an Upper Plane.  - The more I think about it, the more I like a series of cities, kind of like the multiple nations on Arcadia.  Each city can have its own particular flavor, and almost all the terrain between urban centers is covered with farmland or gentle grazing pasture.  Cities and towns are not very far apart, close enough for most farmers living between them to reach the city in about a day's travel.  - Hard Work is Rewarded -- The central theme, it seems like.  Or perhaps it would be better to say Purpose is Rewarded.  Bytopia rewards those that set out with a purpose -- and it rewards innovation with a purpose.  Function over form.  One could work hard at the arts in Bytopia but would find little help from the plane because the plane does not consider the arts to be "functional."  Plus, it seems to me Arborea would be the best place to have a major planar arts center.  After all, the Sensates have their Gilded Hall there. - Planar Trade Consortium -- This hasn't been touched on, but I'm pretty sure they had a presence in canon Bytopia.  I'd like to see this continue. - Jem's idea of an Underground Railroad of some kind is very, very thought-provoking.  I could definitely see this being a major theme in Bytopia since Bytopia is the plane where Hard Work is rewarded.   Slaves that escape to Dothion get rewarded with being their own masters on their own labor. - Technology Level -- Personally, I think European Renaissance era would be about the appropriate technology level.  This is taking the entire scope of Planescape as a whole, which, despite its occasional steampunk and modern influences, still clings to the "swords and sorcery" playstyle.  Dothion should be a bit more advanced, but I would not go much further than Renaissance Europe and pre-modern China (up until around the time of the Maccartney Mission in the mid-1700s).  - Magic in Dothion -- New concept that we haven't discussed much.  Most people think of Dothion as pure technology, which makes sense.  However, magic is an inherent part of the multiverse and should never be completely discounted.  In a place where innovation and development are an important theme, I think magic definitely bears mentioning.  Gnomes, for example, are traditionally innately magical humanoids.  While many deities of knowledge and magic (Thoth and Boccob, for example) reside on the Outlands, there is nothing to prevent guilds of magi from forming on Dothion for the sake of studying and developing practical applications of magic.  This also opens the way for magipunk, magitech, and similar themes (pseudo-biopunk, for example).  The underlying theme here is purpose.  So all magical research would have a definitive purpose. - Academia -- Knowledge should generally be in the purview of the Outlands.  Knowledge itself is an entirely neutral force, which is why Oghma, Boccob, Thoth, Tvashtri, and many other knowledge deities have major realms on the Outlands regardless of where their pantheons dwell.  That being said, Bytopia supports knowledge in the form of R&D.  While Dothion may not have proper universities, it might have major sites of learning where engineering and other applied disciplines are taught.  It will also have trade schools since few (if any) trades are considered "beneath" Dothion.  You don't go to Dothion to learn about history or philosophy or geography.  But if you want to know how something's made, then Dothion can teach you. - Agriculture -- Does it belong here or on Shurrock? - Cleanliness -- Dothion is part of the Upper Planes, so its cities should feel much nicer, cleaner, and better than most other industrial lands.  How can we implement this?  Should we try to justify this?  I'm loath to include modern-day political concepts like "green energy" and so on because it doesn't seem appropriate to pin that on planar society, nor does Renaissance-era industry seem particularly concerned with "eco-friendly" technology.  Perhaps it is just a byproduct of living, working, and producing on Bytopia.  Wood naturally burns fresher, there's less trash because people are better able to use even their scraps, etc.?  Shurrock - Potential Wilders-like sect -- Dedicated to keeping parts of Shurrock on Shurrock?  Also maybe has a clause in their contract to make sure Shurrock's natural resources aren't misused?  Some rogue members might fall into the "eco-terrorist" theme, but as a whole the sect is devoted to proper management and protection of Shurrock's wilds. - Wild, rugged terrain, untamed land of plenty, extreme weather conditions.  Shurrock, as I recall, is meant to be something of an ultimate challenge in canon for those bashers that like the wilderness.  The best hunts, the tallest mountains, and the widest rivers are all on Shurrock just waiting to be conquered.  Great beasts are born to be hunted and the plane recreates them again to be hunted anew.  Terrain shifts to create new challenges as old ones are finally conquered.  Treasures await those that work hard enough toward achieving these victories. - Raw materials galore -- Shurrock is the home to almost all of Dothion's raw materials.  Lumber, ore, fresh meat, furs, skins, and so on all come from Shurrock.  All of it's waiting there for people determined enough to find it.  - Settlements -- The settlements on Shurrock are little more than villages and trading outposts.  A mining colony will spring up around a newly discovered motherlode, and then the layer quickly reclaims it when the stores are depleted.  Trapping posts and hunter's lodges are found throughout the forests and mountains.  Lumber mills dot the woods near rivers and streams.  Nomadic communities meet with more stationary folks at small trading hubs across the plains and passes.  Druids keep groves, glades, pools, and so on, quietly tending to Shurrock's wild beauty.  Occasionally, one will come across a house holding a person, a couple, or a family that has retreated to the wilderness to live among the rugged nature.  No communities are allowed to get too large -- everyone knows if things get too big and too regimented, the community shifts to Dothion.  The folks on Shurrock are there because they want to be. - Individualism and "Manifest Destiny" -- The people of Shurrock know that the layer is theirs for the taking, if only someone will go out and take it.  They know it won't be easy, but they know if they really get out there, they'll strike gold (sometimes literally).  Rather often, someone from one of the lumber mills or mining communities will set out on his own in search of his own operation.  Hunters and trappers are always on the move to find the next big game.  Nomads, too, travel in search of new grazing grounds, new hunting grounds, and new dwelling grounds.  Despite this, there is still a sense of camraderie.  The people of Shurrock are all linked by the layer.  They all know the difficulties their home presents, so even when conflict arises, they're still able to shake hands and nod gruffly in passing at the end of the day.  Folks help folks out, but it's a "teach a man to fish" kind of help, not charity work. Tradegate - Mercantile Heaven -- Tradegate, as the gate town to Bytopia, is the main outlet for Bytopian goods.  It is also a place of consummate mercantilism.  Money is important, though fair trade is considered more important.  Deals can be rough, but are rarely unfair.  Prices tend to be manageable because competition is everywhere.  Mercantilism also makes sense if we stick with a Renaissance-era theme for Bytopia since mercantilism became a prominent idea during the later parts of the Renaissance. - Sect Presence -- The Merkhants, the Arcanes, and the Planar Trade Consortium all have some presence in Tradegate.  The PTC also has some presence/influence in parts of Dothion.  The Merkhants and Arcanes not so much because Dothion is more about industry than raw capital. Not sure what else to say about Tradegate right now.  I think I melted my brain a little by expounding on Bytopia proper.  Thoughts?

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I will do my additions to

I will do my additions to CoA's last post mixed within my own idea of the plane (the corporations idea). I know it didn't receive wide acceptance but let me do some thought excercise and perhaps you may find something you like Smiling1- I think Planar renovation should not be a complete overhaul of the old system, but rather a combination of revolutions/evolutions that change the planes. Perhaps the time of PCSC should be forwarded by a few decades or centuries even. Change takes time. please, think of what I will propose later in this post to be more of a basic outline of events that have happened or will happen in the plane. 2-Bytopia will be the first to be affected from this approach. Work for a purpose brings progress, progress brings change. Change brings conflict. 3-I honestly like my idea of corporations. So, please don't mind me when I do some thought excercise in my own Bytopia. PS: I didn't mean this as a craft monopoly. If you look at the cannon, Bytopia is already a monopoly. I simply refashioned it. It's not the Victorian era, but it is still the later reneissance. 4-The reformation of Guilds into Corporations is ongoing. Leaders unlike Bytopia has seen in a long time, are emerging. They are facing resistance from other guilds, who are backed up by interplanar traders and Shurrock communities. Corporations' increase in production creates a greater need for raw materials. While they have no qualms in what they sell, many corporations have the need for same raw materials. This forces them to competition on Shurrock. 5-Shurrock explorer/workers prefer to do business on their own terms, thus a number of them are against the long term contracts pushed by the corporations. This results in corporations sending in their own explorations in to Shurrock wilderness.  A new rush for new lands with rich raw materials ensue. 6-Great geographical discoveries shake the plane. Freed slaves are encouraged to settle in Shurrock so new found lands could be claimed. Large inter-layer land slides follow. This further causes territorial disputes between the residents and the visitors. Some prefer to use guerilla tactics, vandalism to drive off the invaders. It seems that even the layer itself is unhappy. Each frontier is more wild, difficult to tame than the last. earthquakes, volcano eruptions, storms etc. are common. 7-Dothion's cities become more distant from each other as new lands keep coming. Some of them are separated by harsh terrain. Corporations try to keep their unified look on the outside, but compete fiercely on Shurrock. 8-As travel gets harder and harder, Dothion is forced to think outside the box. Hot air balloons that make aerial travel possible are invented, used, and developed in to large airships. travel between the two layers are now done mostly by these ships. This has it's own dangers. Adventurers are high in demand. 9-By the way, yes, Dothion must have agriculture. Shurrock is keen to disown lands as soon as it is properly settled, cultivate, tended. Dothion has strong agriculture, but Shurrock is known for its shepherds, who sometimes act as guides on the mountains. -Guess that's all I have for now.

Jem
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I don't like the idea of the

I don't like the idea of the layer seeming unhappy.  It's an Upper Plane.  Conflict and tension are one thing, but this is the land of the blessed dead.  It's supposed to be Paradise for a certain type of personality.  Things certainly shouldn't be getting worse.  Bytopia should be the plane where the ideals of industrial progress and bootstrap self-improvement really work, no hidden dark side.  At most, living planars might be having a more difficult time there than the petitioners for whom the plane is designed. I think it would be in-character for Bytopians to adopt a Great Project, if you want a challenge there.  Let the population of the Plane labor not just to labor, but for a great purpose, chosen societally, perhaps renewed every so often when the petitioners instinctively know it's time for a great meeting.  This temporary, occasional merchants' city would be the biggest, most amazing tent bazaar across the Planes for just a few weeks, advertised months in advance as the various towns and pantheons select representatives to gather and discuss the direction the plane's efforts should take.  To tie it in to material we've discussed previously, you'd have the fairly simple laws that govern trade and guilds generally agreed to, inter-group disputes settled, and for the last few Convenings of the Bazaar, it has been agreed that the goal of the planes will be to fight slavery.  Crafters are encouraged to produce items that will serve liberators, groups organized to collect and spend funds on the projects, and intrepid adventurers hired to perform off-plan functions where the petitioners can't go. (Tidbit of color: at each Convening, while the diplomats natter on and the merchants hawk their wares, everyone who participates seems to know at the end of someone who made the greatest (not necessarily the biggest, but the best) honest deal at the Bazaar.  It's said the plane's inhabitants honor this dealer's skills in business, and great opportunities come his way until the next Bazaar.)

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I agree with Jem about the

I agree with Jem about the unhappiness.  Shurrock is rough, wild nature because that's what the petitioners there really want out of life.  They relish the challenges presented by the extreme weather, the great cliffs, and dark forests.  

I'm also still leery of the corporations theme.  It strikes me as too modern and also too close to the "corporate greed" and smacks too much of the really nasty money wars that this concept strikes close to.  Like Arcadia, Bytopia should, by and large, be a happy place for the people that choose to live there, be they petitioners or living.  The conflict should augment this rather than detract from it.  Given the rather antipathetic stance many Americans have toward the corporate world, it strikes me as something that does not belong on a place like Bytopia.  Corporations are very powerful entities and it would only be a matter of time before they consumed the plane.  On the other hand, I do not think the corporate concept is inherently evil. If anything, I think corporations, if/when they form on the planes, would be better suited for Outlands or Sigil.  Or even Mechanus (corporate/business law is a thoroughly complex and trying institution, no pun intended).  You might see a few benevolent corporations spring up on Bytopia, but Bytopia seems to lean more toward "nostalgic, pastoral industrialism."  Less big unifying groups and more "mom and pop" operations.  Whatever the case, I think the idea of corporations is too modern for a planar renovation.  

Regarding the "time jump" idea, I'd prefer to keep the project as a revamp of existing Planescape.  Doing a timejump would not only mean rewriting history, but also making adjustments to keep all the planes in line.  Not all the changes are the same scope.  Plus, the scale of these changes would require either a multiverse-wide cataclysmic event or else centuries or millennia of evolution.  I think it's fine leaving it as an adjustment of the existing system.  

The Great Bazaar idea sounds really fun.  More on it after I take some time to chew on it a while.

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I appreciate Evil's take on

I appreciate Evil's take on Bytopia, especially the concept of corporations.  Though I have several ideas and twists to his views.  I would actually have the age of corporations and large-scale monopolies to be in Bytopia's past.  That long ago, mercantile extremists made up of say...mercane for example, came to Bytopia and lusted for Shurrock's natural wealth.  They attempted their traditional methods, mass production, strip mining, bringing with them unheard of quantities of frabricated goods and services.  Their methods allowed them to to offer the cheapest prices on everything immaginable.  But those native to Dothion would have none of it.  The very nature of the plane gives the people a certain mindset that clashes with corporations.  They would rather pay a little more for a well-made, honest piece of merchandise from a local craftsmen then to soil their lands with cheap trinkets and merchant tricks. Sort of like the backlash against Walmart in parts of America, except on a much greater scale and successful enough to rid Bytopia of the corporations.  In addition, their attempts to ravage Shurrock were met with extreme hardships as the plane did what it did best, resisted being conquered.   Over time, the corporations were forgotten and a more traditional lifestyle returned, but huge storehouses full of mercane goods and materials had been left behind, ripe to be scrounged through and reverse engineered for any number of remarkable innovations and devices made by dilligent inventors and mechanists.  This way, the people of Bytopia have it in their history that the honest hard-workers will win against a faceless corporation.  It gives them great pride in their accomplishments, and provided them with a near infinite collection of baubles and devices far more useful in part of a unique device then in a mercantile scam. This also gives Bytopia more connections to the multiverse at large, which it seemed to be almost unnoticable in before.  I can imagine Bytopia being shunned by evil merchants as the worst possible place to attempt business.  That the mercane, or whoever had corporations their long ago still hold a grudge and create all sorts of problems for natives of Bytopia found across the outer planes.  Also, it should be said that I know absolutly nothing of the Planer Trade Consortium so this might not work. As an entirely seperate point, I feel a good point of conflict between Dothion and Shurrock would be of inovation vs. stoicism.  That those on Dothion are always pushing to get new things done, to create a better way to do everything and once that works, to create a better way than that.  Natives of Shurrock prefer their tried-and-true methods that they've known for generations.  That if it doesn't work to get you over the mountain, you're not working hard enough.  That the old ways are the best ways.  It's not a violent conflict, but it's conflict nontheless.  I feel it would be particurly interesting to try to get the help of a guide in Shurrock while carrying around the latest in magical devices from Dothion.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

"Squaff" wrote:
@ Center of All: Yup, I've read the material and I like it. :)So I gave it a thought and came up with this new idea: new major conflict for Bytopia is this: it's in the middle of greatest secret war for territory the upper planes have seen it.War that is waged by dyplomats and emisaries, preists and prophets rather than swords and spells.Elisium and Mount Celestia are contesting for two layers of Bytopia for centuries and now they are on the verge of splitting Bytopia in half like warm bread. As you know belief shapes the planes and both planes have slowly shaped the aligment of Bytopian inhabitants to their liking trough various agents, events and emisaries.Shure, both Elisium and Mount Celestia bear no mlice toward Bytopia, they only think that Bytopians would be safer under protection of two mayor planes.Perhaps the layout of 2 current layers of Bytopia is final stage of long years of planing between Mount Celestia and Elisium, who knows maybe in distant past there was only one plane called "Utopia", or someting. In either case there is only matter of time when the peaks that conect two paradises snap and layers drift apart towards their new homes.That would mean that Bytopia as we know it would cease to exist and Mount Celestia and Elisium would gain each a new layer, mayor planar event that would not pass unnoticed, or would it... Eye-wink In either case I hope that this idea would put some fuel on fires of imagination.

While I think this makes a good campaign idea, I don't think it fits within the scope of the renovation project. My intent with this project is to make each plane individually interesting on its own merits. In other words, if you took a given plane out of the Multiverse and placed it on its own in the void, there should be enough for the plane to stand on its own as an adventuring locale.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Perhaps you could kill two birds with one stone here, and use the "we don't like adventurers" attitude as the overarching source of conflict. Certain people and groups on the plane are very suspicious of outsiders, seeing them as disruptive and potentially dangerous, while others are friendly and trusting to a fault. I think this plays nicely into the plane's location between Law and Good. The different sides could have heated debates about the fate of the adventuring PCs. Maybe some of the friendlier lot take a liking to the PCs and help to disguise them or smuggle them around. Maybe the PCs have to prove themselves to the less trusting contingent before they are allowed free reign.

It seems like the main complaint about Bytopia is that it's boring because it's not full of monsters and danger (...though I guess it is, in a sense, if you're an evil character). However, I think it presents a great opportunity for different kinds of adventures and challenges other than combat.

I really like the idea of terrain switching back and forth between the two sides of the plane depending on its use or disuse, and the general idea of an "endless frontier." It would be cool to find an old Dothian ghost town that shifted over to Shurrock after sitting abandoned for years. Now it's overgrown with weeds and the buildings are homes for spiders, but perhaps the former inhabitants left some vital clues to their disappearance scattered about. Of course, the players will have to trek through the Shurrock wilderness to find it. They'll need a guide, but the experienced hunter they meet with isn't interested in babysitting a bunch of outsiders and he seems insulted when offered money. Looks like they'll have to find another way to interest him...

Random thought - Everything made in Bytopia is top-notch and extremely durable: Tools, clothing, construction material, etc. However, they refuse to make weapons of war.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

I don't it has to do with lack of monsters and danger for Bytopia, what it needs is probably more of the fantastical and otherwordly beyond two layers been seen on top of each other.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Quote:
Perhaps you could kill two birds with one stone here, and use the "we don't like adventurers" attitude as the overarching source of conflict. Certain people and groups on the plane are very suspicious of outsiders, seeing them as disruptive and potentially dangerous, while others are friendly and trusting to a fault. I think this plays nicely into the plane's location between Law and Good. The different sides could have heated debates about the fate of the adventuring PCs. Maybe some of the friendlier lot take a liking to the PCs and help to disguise them or smuggle them around. Maybe the PCs have to prove themselves to the less trusting contingent before they are allowed free reign.

I like this idea, though I think it could also be extended to Dothion vs. Shurrock. Shurrock is portrayed as a sort of ultimate rugged challenge. Ultimate hunt, ultimate rock climbing, all that stuff. So native Dothion-ites might feel the people that go to Shurrock for the challenge instead of the resources (rock climbers vs. miners/loggers/furriers) are really not much better than other adventurers. Could lead to some clashes with intrepid Dothion entrepreneurs who travel to Shurrock looking for claims.

Quote:
It seems like the main complaint about Bytopia is that it's boring because it's not full of monsters and danger (...though I guess it is, in a sense, if you're an evil character). However, I think it presents a great opportunity for different kinds of adventures and challenges other than combat.

Not so much that as Bytopia canon offers little particularly exciting for adventures. It's just kind of a homey, pastoral plane where everyone just works and there's not much else to it. The object was to evolve what's in Bytopia into something more plot-inspiring.

Quote:
I really like the idea of terrain switching back and forth between the two sides of the plane depending on its use or disuse, and the general idea of an "endless frontier." It would be cool to find an old Dothian ghost town that shifted over to Shurrock after sitting abandoned for years. Now it's overgrown with weeds and the buildings are homes for spiders, but perhaps the former inhabitants left some vital clues to their disappearance scattered about. Of course, the players will have to trek through the Shurrock wilderness to find it. They'll need a guide, but the experienced hunter they meet with isn't interested in babysitting a bunch of outsiders and he seems insulted when offered money. Looks like they'll have to find another way to interest him...

Good thought! I like this idea, finding you need to go get something from a place that used to be a bustling village and is now sequestered in Shurrock's wilds...

Quote:
Random thought - Everything made in Bytopia is top-notch and extremely durable: Tools, clothing, construction material, etc. However, they refuse to make weapons of war.

I like this, too. This could make some of the best weapons be products of the Blood War (or the Sinkers).

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Kobold Avenger wrote:
I don't it has to do with lack of monsters and danger for Bytopia, what it needs is probably more of the fantastical and otherwordly beyond two layers been seen on top of each other.

I disagree. I think the plane's basic setup is fine but what's already there needs to be allowed to grow into something more developed.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

While their are plenty of role playing oppurtunities on Bytopia, actual combat during a gaming session must have some kind of cause dusted up, this being a celestial paradise kind of place and all.

Some suggestions collected from the above material and my own ideas too.

Dothion
1 PCs are hired by locals to rid their industrious little town of vagrants/theives/crinimals who have moved in and are too tough for the locals of the little burg to deal with

2 Gnomish pranksters/mad scientists gone bad.

3 agents of the deep/cthonic gods (in my milieu pandemonium is the home to the cthulhu pantheon, there seem to be some underground portals connecting there)

4 Blood war incursions of various size and severity

5 The PCs could be there to steal something precious from the locals, in which case they may come into conflict the native population.

Shurrock

1 natural animals of tremendous size and ferocity. Either along the way to get some material, or valuable for their pelts, feathers etc. It would be safer to get these things here than in the beastlands.

2 xenophobic, isolationist Aasimons

3 Other incursions, from modrons, arcadian zealots or even slaadi

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Tossing ideas out again. Just seeing where they lead me (if anywhere).

I wonder if the approach we've been taking towards he Upper Planes is the right one. Look at the Lower Planes. Despite their dedication to Evil, good still finds a foothold. And it's more than just singular incidents of goodness on the Lower Planes. Whole towns or villages that are good-aligned (or at least neutral) are established. Organizations devoted to fighting against the Evil inherent in each plane can be found if one looks hard enough.

So, with that in mind, it seems to me that the Upper Planes shouldn't be entirely absent of evil. They're still Good, but the edges are always being tested and different plots and schemes are always playing out. I don't know. I guess I'm thinking of somehow mirroring how the Lower Planes are portrayed, only in reverse.

Maybe on Bytopia, there's a plane-wide ring of thieves and they traffick in stolen goods, or there's contraband being smuggled into or off the plane. Something that plays to what's already present in Bytopia. I mean, why would the population be suspicious of outsiders if they hadn't ever had problems? It would make sense for there to be some measure of subtle and soft...maybe not outright corruption, but...well, things have been stolen in the past and that means that things might get stolen again.

Certainly there's a bit of dodginess going on with weapons production and having them being shipped off to fight in the Blood War (or other conflicts for that matter).

It's the influence of the rest of the multiverse which is a good source of potential conflict. I mean, none of the Planes exist in isolation, so there are bound to be external influences that muddy the waters for the absolute purity of each plane.

Anyway, just wanted to keep this alive and get some of my thoughts out. Take them for what they are: just brainstorming.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

I would say a good place to start is to look at the Gnomish pantheon's manifestations/powers and see if any of them can be turned into hazards or phenomena of the plane itself.

"So, with that in mind, it seems to me that the Upper Planes shouldn't be entirely absent of evil."

I would say that a better idea would be that some groups take good too far (e.g. lacking forgiveness or leniency, or make the punishments too harsh for the crime, such as a smiting for a petty theft) or, as we have seen in the Blood War, allowing evil so that good may come of it. The latter is likely to be what constitutes most of the conflict on the upper planes-- even among like-aligned deities of the same plane, there will be disagreements as to what constitutes "good". While others will take a "know when to pick one's battles" outlook and allow or even help evil to flourish in one area or in one form in order to quell it in another.
We see this with the celestials of law and chaos: they would rather that like-aligned fiends triumph in the Blood War than those of opposing alignment components.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Based on some ideas that were tossed around here, I've overhauled Bytopia along these lines:

Dothion is still the domain of inventors; but now Shurrock is an embodiment of the pioneer spirit (the romanticized ideal not the historic reality).
Dothion needs materials for its inventions and Shurrock has those materials. But here's the rub: Shurrock rewards the pioneer spirit. So that means that if a lone prospector goes into the wilds of Shurrock, he'll strike it rich provided that he survives the dangers. In fact, the more dangers and hardships he willingly endures, the bigger the payoff will be.
This also explains some of the danger of Shurrock. The plane WANTS to reward those who are brave, resourceful, etc. So it HAS to provide threats – dangerous (but probably not evil) wild animals, viscious storms, natural hazards, etc.
However, if an extensive mineralogical team goes to Shurrock with plenty of equipment and lots of hired muscle for protection, then they'll find nothing of value, as this plan of attack doesn't embrace the spirit of rugged individualism.
So those who want to succeed in Shurrock have to balance things: if they go in as a "too formal" expedition, then they will be safe but won't profit. If he or she goes it alone (or in a small group), then riches are to be had but there's a good chance you'll die from exposure to the elements or from wild animals.

Even after the lucky prospector finds a rich lode, he has to balance things carefully. If he goes it alone, he will extract ore slowly and might risk having his claim jumped (the plane might be good, but that doesn’t mean that everyone passing by is). However, if the prospector turns his simple mine into too big or formalized an operation, then Shurrock will decide that the site “doesn’t belong” and the next morning, the entire operation will be shunted to the layer of “civilized” layer of Dothian.
[Adventure idea: just because the settlement was deemed “too civilized” for Shurrock, it doesn’t mean that everyone/thing in it is civilized. Perhaps some wild beast (who was digging through their trash) got shifted to Dothian along with the settlement and it’s now rampaging (either due to being frightened by the new surroundings or due to the easy picking on this layer)]
Ironically, a site that shifts to Dothian might be abandoned (as there isn't a gold mine here for them to mine). At which point it might be deemed "wild enough" again to be shifted back to Shurrock (but probably not to the same location as where it originally was). So people exploring Shurrock might come across many of these ghost towns and maybe the explorers that find it will find some things of value [not all the rewards of Shurrock are in the wild]

By the same logic, if a settlement in Dothian can become "too wild”, it and its few remaining occupants might wake up trapped in the wilderness of Shurrock.
Why would a settlement in Dothian go “wild”? There are lots of possible reasons:
-The town isn’t sustainable: river dried up, supply chain from Shurrock is disrupted, rival town takes away all their business, etc.
-Malign force (ghost, sabeotuer, etc.) convinces people it’s not safe to remain
-Powerful evil person takes over. He was too strong to drive out so the locals abandon the town to the unsuspecting evil stranger (assuming he comes from elsewhere since he’s evil). This leaves him trapped in the wilderness with nothing but an empty town to rule over.
-Maybe an invention went wild and scared away most of the residents. [Adventure idea: An invention went haywire and most fled to safety. The inventor stayed in town hoping to deactive his device. Unfortunately, the town shifted to Dothian in the night. Now the inventor’s brother asks the PCs to venture into Shurrock, find the town, get past the dangerous malfunctioning machine, and find his brother and his family– none of whom have the wilderness skills they need to survive on that layer.]
As another adventure idea, if a Dothian town was abandoned and shifted to Shurrock, perhaps someone realized that some important information was left behind so that now the PCs are asked to find the lost town in the wilderness and to get past any occupants who have moved in (wild animals, mad savages, etc.).

The conflict on the plane arises from the various groups trying to maintain these precious balances. The people of Dothian need the supplies from Shurrock. If they invest too little in it, their sources will be lost (prospector dies from the elements or animal attacks, or has claim jumped) or will be slow in producing supplies (a single miner can only dig so fast). But if they invest too much into protecting or expanding them, the plane will shift a profitable wilderness settlement into Dothian where it is largely useless.
While everyone agrees that they want to balance the conflicting interests, there is disagreement over where the correct balance point lies.

This might also take the edge off of the “Don’t like adventurers” attitude. It isn’t that the locals dislike adventurers as people; it’s just that they fear the effect their presence will cause.
On Dothian, having too many devil-may-care hire-swords in town might tip the scale towards the town being “too wild” causing their settlement to be suddenly stranded in the wilderness.
On Shurrock, having a team of mercanaries set up and provide “security” might cause your site to become “too civilized” and then all the hard work of the prospector/trapper/logger/etc. will be lost.

However, there will still be situations where a small adventuring party would be sought after in Bytopia.
E.g. A person wants to strike off into Shurrock to seek her fortunes. While bringing the PCs along will slightly diminish the returns, she might deem that the small team would provide enough protection that it would offset the losses. If the PCs are new to Bytopia and the way things work, they might be confused and frustrated that their boss always wants to take the most difficult or hazardous direction she can find once they reach Shurrock.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

I'm really late to this thread. While I have a lot to say , I thought I'd add a few ideas.

Appearance. One quality of Bytopia's not often remarked on is that it glows. There are no celestial bodies in the plane, of course, unless one counts the distant sight of fires on the opposing layer at night (or the occasional sun god), so the plane's daylight comes from the layers themselves. This means, more than any other upper plane, Bytopia shines. The ground itself glows with the light of Paradise. The leaves of the trees sparkle as if touched by an invisible sun. The mountains glow like benevolent gods (which they sometimes are). Even at night, when the earth's radiance dims, prominent landmarks glow like moons and stars. More even than the surreal vision of an inverted landscape above your head, the earthglow is an immediate sign that this is not the Material Plane.

Celestial exiles. "Celestian" is the proper adjective for beings from Mount Celestia, but unfortunately shares the name of a deity. Mount Celestia is infinitely merciful and infinitely good, but it is also infinitely lawful, and therefore must punish crimes against its nature. Being as merciful as it is orderly, it does not commonly invoke the death penalty except in dire need. Rather, both crimes against Good and crimes against Law are often punished with exile from paradise, the convicted being denied the glories of the plane until such a time as they can repent and atone for their sins. Those archons who sin against goodness often, tragically, end up drifting inexorably toward Baator, where the devils welcome them and sew them new flesh, lovingly adorning their new friends with accouterments of horn and scale. Those archons who sin against law are transformed into asuras, where they are welcomed instead by the shining hosts in their eternal, obsessive campaigns against evil. Asuras are creatures at war with evil, but also at war with themselves, longing for their home planes but too wild to fit in there. They burn, wreathed in fires of celestial penance. This is not painful, but having one's soul physically on fire is something one can never get used to, and it means that unlike the archons they once were they are no longer immortal. They burn so bright, with such vibrant need, that eventually they will burn themselves out. Bytopia is the first plane most asuras see, and though they roam the Upper Planes far and wide, many of them dwell there, attracted by benevolent gods of war such as Kiri-Jolith, the solar gods of the Vedic pantheon, and the gods of the Land of Fate.

Not all exiles from Mount Celestia are archons, however, and law-criminals of other races end up exiled to Bytopia as well. These aren't burning creatures of prophecy and battle, but ordinary beings of various shapes and forms, united by their shared longing for the taste of ambrosia, the heavenly choirs, the presence of their just gods, and the purity of the radiance of the exalted peaks (Bytopia has its own radiance, but to them it seems somehow contaminated, dirty, reminding themselves of their own fallen nature). So they join together in ghettos throughout the plane, not because Bytopia's natives don't welcome them but because they enjoy the company of those with a similar past. Some follow asuras as if they were living gods, the greatest remaining evidence of the glory they once knew (whether the asuras like it or not; instances have been reported of freedom-loving asuras being captured and physically bound to hidden shrines so that Celestian exiles, like desperate junkies, can bask in their flames). Some concentrate on atoning for their sins, acting as sentinels of intolerant purity and law in Bytopia's communities or concentrating instead on self-denial and flagellation, cutting and burning themselves in response to every impure thought. Some of the most enthusiastic of the Order of the Planes-Militant, which makes no secrets of its desire to drag pieces of Bytopia into the glories of the Mount, are exiles and the children of exiles who are just looking for a way back home.

There are Elysian exiles as well, but Elysium casts no one out. Rather, those exiled from Elysium are those who came too close to its ecstasies and were nearly trapped there, pulled out just in time. They desire nothing more than to return, and - unlike the Celestians - they could return, whenever they wanted. But they dare not. Like recovering drug addicts, the only thing keeping them from relapsing is force of will. Unlike the Celestians, they tend not to congregate together, instead doing their best to integrate into Bytopia's population and forget.

Twins. The theme of dualities and opposites is obvious in Bytopia. The plane itself is a pair of twins, one wild and one tamed like Enkidu and Gilgamesh of legend, or Prometheus and Epimetheus, or Kiri-Jolith and Habbakuk, or Jascar and Phaulkon, or Zilchus and Kurell. It should come as no surprise, then, that Bytopia's natives are often born as twins, and not always from the same womb. Rather, it is said that every inhabitant of Dothion has a double somewhere on Shurrock, a person exactly like them but wild instead of tamed. And unfortunately, because even in the Upper Planes the multiverse is in a fallen state, sometimes these doubles are not happy with their conditions.

Other instances of twins include chimerical creatures like two-faced angels, their faces on the backs of their heads or emblazoned on their chests.

The dvati, a race of twins found in Dragon #271 and the Dragon Magazine Compendium, Volume 1 would be appropriate for Bytopia as well.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Wow... those are some really nice ideas, Mr. Vanwormer. I especially like the bit about twins.

Since one of the overarching themes of Bytopia is honesty, perhaps it should be literally impossible to lie while on the plane? (Or perhaps just very difficult-- apply an appropriate penalty to rolls or whatever.) I imagine that the residents of Bytopia are very trusting folks, and a planar honesty effect would prevent interlopers from manipulating them too easily. I don't know that I even really like that idea, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Perhaps keeping with the "doubles" theme: when a person tells a lie on Bytopia, one hears the liar and then hears a ghostly voice repeat the truth that should have been said.
[Not married to this idea, just throwing it out there]

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

(Re: illusions: Mechanus is already a plane where illusions are impossible.)

Twins is a good theme for Bytopia. Perhaps even to the point of a mechanical effect with the Twin Spell feat from Complete Arcane?

Bytopian Life Insurance: One reason folks come to Bytopia is for the backup. A cutter who comes here and bonds with the plane for a while can find, make, or buy himself a life preserver: a magical item that will act as a clone spell whenever he needs it.

Bonding with the plane always takes the form of a productive task employing a basher's greatest skill -- and the more skilled the character, the tougher the challenge. He'll have to wander Bytopia, advertising his services, until he finds someone in need. The natives say the plane will direct someone whose intent is honest, pairing up need with provider. Someone whose best skills are Spot or Listen will find work as a scout, say, while someone good at Balance or Climb will have to make they way to an inaccessible place, and someone with Knowledge skills may come across a party in urgent need of a consulting expert. The sign that he's found what he's looking for will be a natural feature of the plane, like a standing stone or a gnarled tree, which bears an obvious resemblance to the basher himself. If he takes an oath, right then and there, to serve faithfully through the completion of the task (of course he can still get paid! This is Bytopia, berk), then upon successful completion, even if it was off-plane, he can return to this spot and touch whatever it was he found. Part of the plane becomes part of him, and vice versa.

The next time the cutter dies, assuming it wasn't when his mortal time was up, the landscape feature turns into him for real. It acts just like a clone spell, only it takes about a week to fully transform. It's even said that at some blessed sites, a particularly challenging task will result in a Bytopian clone that will avoid the typical level loss of a resurrection.

Back at the cutter's old body, there will be a visible sign upon death, like a hand that turns into a piece of wood, or an eye that fades into white stone. If his enemies recognize the sign, they might be able to find the clone, if they hurry, but it's a big plane, and hopefully he has friends to protect the site while they wait.

Having an active Bytopian clone is worth 2700gp as equipment.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Illusions and deception have to be possible in Bytopia. It's where the gnome gods live, after all, including the gnomish gods of deception and illusion. I wouldn't make honesty a theme of the plane at all. In fact, I had the idea that gnomes have a shadow heaven, a paradise of illusion that petitioners have to see through before they earn their way to their true afterlife.

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

I think steering away from being unable to lie is probably for the best. This is the plane between LG and NG. It seems like they would be honest most of the time but willing to tell "little white lies" if it served a greater good or helped protect someone
If someone feels that the plane should punish liars; maybe just lies with malicious or selfish intentions have side effects

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Re: Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Apologies for the relatively ancient bump. I had an idea that popped into my head that pertained to the below directly (plus, I don't think the renovation threads are really ever truly dead):

ripvanwormer wrote:
Twins. The theme of dualities and opposites is obvious in Bytopia. The plane itself is a pair of twins, one wild and one tamed like Enkidu and Gilgamesh of legend, or Prometheus and Epimetheus, or Kiri-Jolith and Habbakuk, or Jascar and Phaulkon, or Zilchus and Kurell. It should come as no surprise, then, that Bytopia's natives are often born as twins, and not always from the same womb. Rather, it is said that every inhabitant of Dothion has a double somewhere on Shurrock, a person exactly like them but wild instead of tamed. And unfortunately, because even in the Upper Planes the multiverse is in a fallen state, sometimes these doubles are not happy with their conditions.

Along with the idea of twins, I could easily see how Bytopia could be home to two more distinct instances of a sort of twinning: Half-breed and dual-natured petitioners.

Half-breed races - A lot of half-breed races are described as not really belonging to one race or another. Half-elves are specifically what I had in mind, but I could easily see the concept expanding into all sorts of other half-breed races. Lets see if I can expand on this without making it completely confusing (and I'll stick to half-elves for the moment):

Upon death, a half-elf bound for an afterlife on Bytopia (due to tension in their souls between their human and elf sides) finds that they have been spiritually split in twain. They have become two different petitioners who share one soul: a human and an elf. The human-half lives out their afterlife on Dothian amongst the humans as just a normal human. The elf-half lives out their afterlife on Shurrock amongst the elves as just another elf. Both halves are aware of one another and share the same memories, thoughts, dreams, etc (since they're literally the same person). But they each live their own distinct (and racially appropriate) lives on their respective layers.

This same approach could be done for a number of half-breed races. Half-orcs, split into their human-side on Dothian, and orc-side on Shurrock (which will, naturally, lead to groups of orc-half petitioners doing what orcs typically do when they gather in numbers). Imagine trying to track down their human-half on Dothian to stop them from rampaging on Shurrock.

Dual-natured petitioners - This is more or less an expansion of the above idea. Instead of dividing a petitioner up along racial lines, these individuals would be the people who sacrificed what was in their hearts for the betterment of others and society. A person who denied their wanderlust to help their family, or the soldier who dutifully served their kingdom but sometimes just wanted to settle down.

The idea is that Bytopia would give those people with that inherent tension between desiring their own individuality and their desire to serve society a chance to live out both in the afterlife. Upon finding themselves in Bytopia, those petitioners would have a chance indulge both sides without worry. And in much the same way I outlined above, both sides would be well aware of the other. My natural inclination is to divide these petitioners up into one living on Dothian, one living on Shurrock, since the magic of Bytopia is the sandwiched layers. Plus, I imagine there would be a bit of weirdness that would happen if both petitioner-halves ever met up face to face.

Anybody else have any other ideas on this concept? Did I overlook something obvious somewhere?

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